How Many SmartTrack Stations Will Survive? (I)

On March 16, 2017, Metrolinx released a series of studies dating from July 2016 containing the “Initial Business Case” reviews of proposed new GO Transit stations. The list came from an earlier process in which Metrolinx began with every conceivable location for new stations on the planned Regional Express Rail (RER) network  and winnowed this down to those that were, broadly speaking, workable. The New Stations Analysis from June 2016 explains this process and the outcome, the choice of whether a station is “in” or “out” of the network, is summarized in the following map:

I asked Metrolinx why the detailed reports on each station were only released now rather than concurrently with the Board report.

Q: … the station analysis reports were only released [March 16, 2017] although they are dated July 2016. Moreover, the Board considered a report on this subject in June 2016 but the detailed reports have not been summarized nor presented to the Board publicly at this or any following meetings. Why has it taken so long for these reports to be published?

A: Upon approval from the Board last June, we engaged with our municipal partners and other stakeholders to finalize the documents. Metrolinx requested formal confirmation of funding from municipalities by November 30, 2016. Once that was received, we worked to get the business cases posted as soon as we could.

If one reads only the summary report presented to the Metrolinx Board, one might have the impression that many of these stations show a positive benefit for the network. However, the detailed reports tell a different story and beg the question of how Metrolinx planning staff got from the business cases to the conclusions in the Board report.

The posted reports are dated over six months ago, and their date does not reflect more recent work, if any, with “municipal partners and other stakeholders”. Whether this is only an editorial oversight, the basic issue is that the case made in the station analyses is not as rosy as the one presented in the summary report to the Board.

A key issue here is that many of the stations form part of Mayor Tory’s SmartTrack plan, and a Metrolinx report throwing cold water on their effectiveness would run contrary to the claims made for SmartTrack’s potential. One might ask whether the Board was misled about the potential harm the SmartTrack stations could bring to GO/RER’s goals.

As reported in both the Globe & Mail and the Star, many of the new stations are projected to have a negative effect on the network. The analyses can be summarized in a few points:

  • Any new station adds travel time to a GO Transit corridor.
  • Demand models are sensitive to travel time, and they predict a loss of ridership if trips are slower.
  • New stations could bring new riders, but these are not necessarily sufficient to offset the loss of longer trips which are the raison d’être of the GO network.
  • New riders from stations close to Union make shorter trips at lower fares leading to a net revenue loss even without considering the SmartTrack proposal to charge “TTC fares” for travel within Toronto.
  • The loss of longer trips drives up the modelled use of autos for commuting compared to what would have happened without these stations. This has a compound effect through the business case analysis because many factors depend on reduced auto mileage.

There are three fundamental issues here. First is the problem of repurposing the regional GO/RER network to provide local service within Toronto. Although SmartTrack as proposed in John Tory’s election campaign included very frequent service, what is actually to be implemented is considerably less ambitious thanks to constraints (both physical and financial) on GO’s investment in additional capacity. Planned peak period services are:

  • Stouffville (Scarborough) corridor: 7 trains/hour with an average headway of 8.6 minutes
  • Kitchener (Weston) corridor: 6 trains/hour with an average headway of 10 minutes
  • Lake Shore East corridor: 11 trains/hour with an average headway of 5.5 minutes

The only corridor to receive service at the level foreseen for SmartTrack is the Lake Shore, and this is applicable only to stations from Danforth (at Main) to Don (at or near the Great Gulf East Harbour development). This higher service level results from the combination of trains on both the Lake Shore East and Stouffville corridors serving these stations. Any new ridership due to SmartTrack has to fit within capacity planned for GO/RER.

Second is a problem of assumptions in the modelling. In all cases, a new station is seen as slowing down GO service, but a major benefit cited for GO/RER electrification is the ability to serve more stations with no increase in trip times over diesel operations. The business case models assume a 1.8 minute delay for each additional stop, and this translates to ridership loses for the long-haul travellers whose trips are affected. However, this analysis does not take into account the possibility that new, electrified service would be implemented concurrently with the new stations thereby eliminating the delays.

Depending on the corridor and the degree of electrification, some trains could remain with diesel power, typically those running to the outer ends of routes beyond electric territory. These long trips would suffer more delay than the shorter electric-propelled ones. However, if the diesel trains run “express” past some or all of the new stations, the resulting service levels will be less attractive to riders, and the wait for a train to Union from an inside-Toronto station would be a substantial portion of the total trip.

I asked whether electrification had been taken into account:

Q: In the studies, there is a reference to the extra time needed to serve a new station on the line, and in the case of Lawrence East this adds 5% to the upstream travel time. Has this number been adjusted to reflect operating characteristics of electric trains? One important point in the electrification study was that these trains could sustain more stations with the same running times as existing diesel trains having fewer stops.

A: Electrified vehicles were assumed in the calculation of delay time.

This does not address the issue that if stations are added concurrently with electrification, there may be no change in travel time and still possibly a net improvement.

Also:

Q: For corridors with multiple proposed new stops, there is the question of the cumulative upstream effects which, I suspect, are not additive.

A: The business cases analysed stations individually and independently. Effects of adding multiple stations to a line would be cumulative, creating trade-offs between end-to-end trip time and the journey time of individuals taking advantage of new stations. This limited the total number of stations that could reasonably be added to a corridor.

That last comment is telling in that it effectively says there is a point where making a route more “local” is counterproductive. This is no surprise, except possibly to SmartTrack advocates.

A related issue acknowledged in the studies, but apparently not in the modelling, is that other factors will influence the choice between driving and taking a GO train – increased road congestion, the difficulty of obtaining parking at one’s destination, and a reduction in car ownership levels over coming decades. A large component of the negative analysis for some stations arises from a ridership loss than may not materialize.

The third problem is the proposed “TTC fare” on SmartTrack services, and the parallel efforts by Metrolinx to change the TTC fare structure for “rapid transit” services to more closely match its own fare-by-distance model. Demand studies for the Scarborough transit network have shown that a TTC fare (defined as the current flat fare with free transfers between routes) combined with very frequent service (12 trains/hour) contribute substantially to potential ridership for SmartTrack. Without these, less demand migrates from the TTC network to GO/RER.

To put these issues another way, there is little point in adding stations to the GO network if the combination of location, service level and fare attracts little ridership inside Toronto, while extra travel time for trips originating outside of Toronto drives riders back to their cars. That said, I believe that the unattractiveness of GO as an alternative to TTC would be a more serious effect than the anticipated ridership loses because other factors would affect a decision by long-trip commuters to move away from GO.

Indeed, if capacity on GO services were compromised with large volumes of short-distance riders, this could be as much of a deterrent to GO ridership as the extra time spent at inside-Toronto stations. The Business Case reports do not address network capacity issues because they review each station proposal in isolation except where station catchment areas overlap.

Almost all recent controversy between Toronto and Queen’s Park centres on capital subsidies for a number of projects, and operating costs are left for another day. However, the position of GO and SmartTrack in the network is intimately linked to operating costs as this will affect the sharing of incremental expenses for new station operation, pressures for additional capacity and service, and fare subsidies by Toronto to bring GO fares down to “TTC” levels.

The current studies do not address the relationship of SmartTrack to existing GO stations and the question of whether “TTC fares” will be available at Milliken, Agincourt, Kennedy, Danforth, Bloor, Weston and Etobicoke North stations, let alone stations on other GO corridors within Toronto. Why should a rider from a SmartTrack station travel downtown for a “TTC fare” while those at Rouge Hill, Cummer, York University, Kipling or Long Branch be forced to pay on the GO Transit tariff?

How much is Toronto, a city that refuses to properly fund its own transit system, prepared to subsidize travel on the GO network within its boundaries?

Station Reviews

The following sections review each of the proposed stations on the GO network as presented by the corresponding Interim Business Case report, grouped by corridor.

Toronto Council has agreed to fund eight stations, six of which lie on the “SmartTrack” corridor from Scarborough (Stouffville line) through Union Station to Weston. Two stations are part of the Barrie corridor.

Several scenarios were used to evaluate the stations, although not all options were considered in each case because local circumstances ruled them out.

Beyond the question of demand models and potential for ridership gains or loses discussed above, other factors appear commonly through these station reviews. Notable among them is the difficulty of attracting new riders to stations on the rail corridors within Toronto. These lines tend to lie in industrial districts well away from major residential or job markets. They are dependent on walk-in trade, to the extent that any exists, as well as connections from TTC routes. Unlike the typical 905-area GO station, the new sites within Toronto will not be surrounded by acres of parking and cannot depend on park-and-ride as their primary source of traffic. This makes the combination of service frequency, speed and fares even more important if GO/RER is to provide a credible alternative to or supplement of the TTC network.

A recurring problem with the reports is that selective data such as daily gains or loses of riders are sprinkled in the text, but the consolidated numbers are given only for a 60-year evaluation period. Where changes are reported, they are not given in context relative to the base numbers of projected riders, nor, as mentioned earlier, with any reference to the available capacity on each corridor. All of the financial effects (hard and soft) flow from these ridership numbers, but it is unclear how they were derived or how alternate assumptions might affect them. To avoid repetition, I will not mention this for each study, but statements regarding ridership, revenues and costs should be treated with caution.

I have asked Metrolinx for additional data on existing and projected demands so that these can be compared with the effects reported from the station modelling exercises. I will add this information when it is available.

Finally, there is an odd viewpoint about what constitutes a “nearby” station in several of the studies where the distance from a potential station to residential density is seen through the eyes of a suburban driver, not as by a city resident who measures trips in blocks, not kilometres. This is especially troubling when access to a station would require going out of one’s way or a difficult walk where where local geography interferes with a “crow fly” access path.

This article deals with stations in the Stouffville and Weston corridors. In a second installment I will turn to the Barrie and Lake Shore corridors.

Stouffville Corridor

This corridor branches off of the Lake Shore East corridor at Scarborough Junction, just west of Scarborough GO station (at which Stouffville trains do not stop). It runs north between Kennedy and Midland with existing stops at Eglinton (Kennedy station), Sheppard (Agincourt station) and Steeles (Milliken station). The line is single track, although a project to double-track it north of the portion of the corridor GO shares with the SRT is now underway.

The reports claim that several options were considered for some or all stations in this corridor:

  • Base case: RER network, no new stations, no fare integration, 2031 demand projected from 2013.
  • Option 1: Base case + one new station, a 1.8 minute schedule effect, all trains stopping, the SRT has been removed.
  • Option 2A/B: A 3rd track is added to provide express operation skipping the new station.
  • Option 2D: TTC fare at new station
  • Option 2E: Addition of demand from major development proposals

Despite this list of options, the reports do not actually contain information on how each of these options performed in modelling or costing. Only Option 1’s results appear in the text.

Each of the stations is evaluated in isolation, and so the effect of building more than one (Finch East and Lawrence East) will be different from a one-station addition.

Lawrence East

This station is included in the list of six SmartTrack stations to be funded by the City of Toronto. It is key to provision of mid-Scarborough access to “rapid transit” following the shutdown of the SRT’s station at the same location.

The station design below is a preliminary one for the purpose of this study, but it gives some idea of the physical layout a station here will involve. Of particular note is the need to remove the SRT before this structure, including its double track, can be installed. This begs a question about how soon this station could actually come into service given that the SRT is supposed to continue operating until the Scarborough Subway opens in 2026. This implies that GO would have to continue operating over the shared section of the corridor until that date, and the Lawrence East GO station would open at best in 2027 depending on the complexity of construction. Note that the study assumes an opening date for the SSE of 2023 [p. 13] even though the later date was well known by the timeframe in which this study took place.

The bus loops now included with the station are abandoned and are replaced by parking access, just the sort of madness that infect so much GO planning, even though integration of this “SmartTrack” station with the TTC is an essential part of the plan. Transit passengers would use stops on top of the overpass, and this report uses a rather sunny description omitting the fact that riders now have direct access from the bus loop to the SRT platform.

The placement of the station’s entrances and accessible mini-platform allow an improved, more direct transfer to be made between Lawrence Avenue TTC bus services and the proposed GO station. Access would be facilitated from atop the Lawrence Avenue road bridge overpass down to the station’s central platform via new elevators/stairs. TTC bus stops currently located east and west of the road bridge footings would be relocated onto the bridge itself. No lay-bys would be provided. The mini-platform is positioned directly between the two sets of elevators/stairs, minimizing travel distances for passengers with mobility needs. All station entrances would be accessible. [p. 7]

Current TTC plans for the revised Scarborough bus network do not include any routes terminating at this station. This might be a SmartTrack station, but there no effort is made to create either a “mobility hub” (as Metrolinx would call it) or an attractive, well-served connection to the TTC.

The additional stopping time for this station is forecast to cause Stouffville GO ridership to drop by 490 passengers [p. 10, Table 4-1]. This translates to a substantial negative value for this site by the loss of long-haul trip revenue and associated effects of additional driving and congestion. The transit feeder service will only be attractive to riders living directly on the Lawrence East bus route.

Ridership forecasts indicate that Lawrence East would attract an estimated 495 new passenger trips in the AM peak period in the 2031 scenario, or approximately 1,405 new trips per day. The station would serve predominantly as an origin station (rather than a destination station), with virtually no passengers expected to alight at the station in the AM peak period. Additionally, an estimated 60 existing GO rail passengers would be expected to use the new station, instead of their current station, to enter the GO rail system during the AM peak period (175 passengers daily).

While the introduction of this station would have the potential to attract a number of new riders to the system, it would also result in an additional delay for a significant number of existing riders destined to Union Station and beyond. An estimated 5% increase in overall travel time would be experienced by upstream riders as a result of trains stopping at Lawrence East. Any delay is expected to deter some existing upstream riders, in this case, resulting in a loss of approximately 665 passengers is anticipated in the AM peak period, or almost 1,895 riders per day, in the 2031 scenario.

When balanced against the estimated new ridership that the station would generate, an expected net loss of approximately 170 new AM peak riders (490 daily) is anticipated to result from the introduction of a station at Lawrence East. [p. 20]

The projected loss of riders and fares over a 60-year evaluation period is shown in the table below. As detailed earlier, these numbers must be taken in the context of the study assumptions, notably the loss of riders through additional stopping time. If this is offset by faster electrified operation, or if the actual effect on riders is less than projected, then the fiscal situation may not be as gloomy. That said, a concerted effort would be needed to ensure that the station has a good transit catchment area, and in that regard it would be competing with the many routes that will feed into STC station. Moreover, STC station will probably open well before the Lawrence East GO station and will establish demand patterns based on a network with no rail station at Lawrence East.

The report is contradictory on the potential for nearby development saying that the station has “Insufficient densities and moderate development activity” [p. 10] and yet listing several possible development sites [p. 13]. However, the phrase “The station is … not well-situated” appears repeatedly in the section on Real Estate Market Demand [p. 18] in respect of current and future residential (condo) and commercial developments.

The capital cost of the station is estimated at $23.2 million (2015).

Ellesmere

Ellesmere Station was evaluated as a potential future RER station, but did not make the cut due to low demand and development potential.

Like the station at Lawrence East, an Ellesmere station assumes the removal of the SRT structures. Access would be provided from bus stops on top of the bridge over the corridor rather than from stops at the end of the approach ramps as is the case with the SRT station. Unlike Lawrence East, there is no existing bus loop. This is a very lightly used SRT station.

Much of the text in this report is similar or identical to the corresponding sections of the Lawrence East report. The demand section for Ellesmere

Ridership forecasts indicate that Ellesmere would attract an estimated 400 new passenger trips in the AM peak period in the 2031 scenario, or approximately 1,140 new trips per day. The station would serve predominantly as an origin station (rather than a destination), with no passengers expected to alight at the station during the AM peak period. Additionally, an estimated 154 existing GO rail passengers would be expected to use the new station, instead of their current station, to enter the GO rail system during the AM peak period (554 total daily boardings).

While the introduction of this station would have the potential to attract a number of new riders to the system, it would also result in additional delay to a significant number of existing riders destined to Union Station and beyond. An estimated 1.8 minute increase in overall travel time would be experienced by each upstream rider as a result of trains stopping at Ellesmere. Any delay is expected to deter some existing upstream riders In this case a loss of approximately 660 passengers is anticipated in the AM peak period, or almost 1,880 riders per day, in the 2031 scenario.

When balanced against the estimated new ridership that the station would generate, an expected net loss of approximately 260 new AM peak riders (740 daily) is anticipated to be generated by the introduction of a station at Ellesmere.

The 60-year projection for riders and fares is shown below.

The projected capital cost is $23.2 million (2015).

Finch East

The station at Finch East is included in the list of six SmartTrack stations that would be funded by the City of Toronto. Its design is considerably different from the one used at Lawrence East and at Ellesmere. The station plan below shows a “future grade separation”, but in fact this work is part of a separate project GO plans to undertake separately from work on SmartTrack.

Finch East station is estimated to have 621 boardings in the AM peak period and 1,777 boardings daily in 2031. There are no AM peak period alightings estimated for this station. In 2031, it is expected that ridership at Finch East would increase to 3,743 trips daily.

After subtracting the approximately 4% of upstream riders that would be lost due to the additional travel time to serve the new station, there would be a net loss of 42 daily boardings in the GO system in 2013 and 89 daily boardings in 2031. This net loss would occur because the ridership gained at the station is expected to be less than the upstream ridership lost. [p. 33]

The plan includes a large bus loop, but the TTC projects that only two routes (39 and 199) will pass the station. It is unclear why such a large facility is required, and unlike the large terminal at STC station, this will not be a location fed by outside-416 operators who can connect to GO further north.

The projection of rider and fare losses for Finch East are substantially different from those for Ellesmere and Lawrence East stations. Notably the change in “upstream boardings” is only 40% of the level shown for the stations further south even though the delay to the trip is the same 1.8 minutes for the addition of one station. It does not make sense that 60% of the lost riding would occur at Agincourt (the only station between Finch East and Ellesmere or Lawrence), and so there is something fundamentally different in the demand model for Finch East as it relates to travel time and lost ridership.

I have asked Metrolinx to clarify the difference in these estimates. Quite clearly if the expected ridership and revenue losses are under- or overstated at any of these stations, this will have a big effect on the financial projections.

The station’s projected cost is $108.9 million (2015). This does not include the cost of a grade separation which is estimated at $56 million [City report on RER grade separations].

Kitchener (Weston) Corridor

The Weston corridor branches off from the main Union Station corridor west of Bathurst Street and travels diagonally northwest. This is the same corridor used by the Kitchener GO service and the UPX to Pearson Airport. There are existing stations at Bloor, Lawrence (Weston) and Etobicoke North. A new station is planned to link with the Crosstown LRT at Eglinton (Mount Dennis). It is not yet certain whether this will be in addition to or as a replacement for the existing Weston station.

New stations have been proposed in two locations. One, broadly speaking, is at Liberty Village which lies south of King and west of the corridor. Alternative sites for this have been included in the IBC report. The other location is at St. Clair Avenue.

As with stations in the Stouffville corridor, the studies make reference to optional configurations, but do not include results from examination of the options.

Downtown West/Liberty Village/Queen Dufferin/Lansdowne Cluster

A station generally in the Liberty Village area is one of the six SmartTrack sites that will be paid for by the City of Toronto.

Three locations were considered for a station serving this area:

  • Northeast of Liberty Village
  • Old Parkdale Station (Queen & Dufferin)
  • Lansdowne south of Dundas

Liberty Village and adjacent areas are high density neighbourhoods where development is still in progress. Would-be travellers to downtown are faced with existing transit services on Queen, King and Fleet/Queens Quay depending on which route is closest to their homes. The lack of capacity on the streetcar routes is a chronic condition brought on both by the TTC’s streetcar shortage, but also by City Council’s refusal to adequately fund service. Whether this is appropriately “fixed” by a new GO/RER/ST station is a question not addressed by this study.

The Lansdowne station was rejected as having little potential because it is in a low density neighbourhood far from the developing areas south of Queen.

The Queen-Dufferin station is something of an anomaly because it is projected to generate more new ridership than the Liberty Village station further to the southeast. This may be because the commercial segment of Liberty Village is toward the west end of the district at Dufferin. This emphasizes how the primary function of either station site will not be to move residents to downtown, but to bring workers to the offices in Liberty Village. It is clear that this station has regional benefits, and yet its construction will be on the City of Toronto’s account thanks to the original outlook that it would provide an alternate way for people to travel from Liberty Village to downtown.

The proposed station at the west end of the King Street underpass below the rail corridor is the most centrally located of the three to existing and planned residential development. Access would be entirely by walk-in trade although transfer traffic from the streetcar service on King is conceivable in a unified fare environment. The station is designed for access from the south via a tunnel opposite Atlantic Avenue and from the north by an entrance near the south end of Dovercourt Road.

The combination of access path and service frequency is important because, for all their problems, the streetcar services will be closer to many riders and operate more frequently. In terms of convenient access, the Liberty Village station is only close by the northeast corner of its namesake district and the southeast part of a development area now building up along Queen Street. Many who live south of King would be closer to Exhibition station on the Lake Shore West corridor, and the new Liberty Village station does little or nothing for those living east of the railway overpass (from Sudbury eastward).

Although the station is located close to potential residential developments, it is unclear whether it would actually attract riding from parallel TTC routes especially if there service is improved, and a premium remains for riding the GO trains. The commercial district of Liberty Village is to the southwest and would not be well served by any of the proposed stations.

Ridership projections for this station are described as:

Ridership forecasts for Liberty Village indicate that a new station would attract an estimated new 1,735 passenger trips in the AM peak period, or approximately 4,945 new trips per day, in the 2031 scenario. This station would predominantly serve as a destination station (rather than an origin station), with approximately 94% of new riders alighting at the station. An estimated 50 existing AM peak passengers (140 daily) would also alight at this station.

While the introduction of this station would have the potential to attract a number of new riders to the system, it would also result in additional delay to a significant number of existing riders destined to Union Station and beyond. An estimated 5% increase in overall travel time would be experienced by upstream riders as a result of trains stopping at Liberty Village. This delay is expected to deter some existing upstream riders, resulting in a loss of approximately 270 passengers in the AM peak period, or almost 770 riders per day, in the 2031 scenario.

When balanced against the estimated new ridership that the station would generate, an expected net gain of approximately 1,465 new AM peak riders (4,175 daily) is anticipated to be generated by the introduction of a station at Liberty Village.

This is a very different situation both from the stations in Scarborough and the general pressure for a “Liberty Village” GO service for residents. The station would primarily be a destination, not an origin, and would therefore be serving people coming from other parts of the GO network to the commercial buildings in the neighbourhood. It would not be attracting riders away from the TTC. The degree to which it would attract SmartTrack fares depends on where the people commuting to this area live. If they are “in town” trips from other Toronto locations, then these are SmartTrack fares. Otherwise, they are GO transit customers from the 905.

One issue not addressed here is that a second track is planned for the Barrie corridor, and this will crowd uses on the north side of the combined Weston/Barrie corridor at this station. This affects not just the station but also the West Toronto Rail Path.

The projected capital cost is $30.8 million (2015), but the plan below does not include the required second track for the Barrie corridor’s planned service level. How this affects the cost of a Liberty Village station remains to be seen.

St. Clair West (Kitchener)

The proposed St. Clair station on the Weston corridor is one of the six SmartTrack stations that would be built at the City’s expense. It has a difficult location at St. Clair and Keele hemmed in by existing streets. This is a location where the City is studying the expansion of the street underpass below the rail corridor to improve traffic conditions. Any new station at this location would be built as part of a project to expand the underpass.

There is a rather odd statement in the study:

The station would also serve nearby lower-income residents, but overall transit benefits would be limited due to the lack of a direct connection to the St. Clair streetcar line and the potential for duplicated service at Mt. Dennis GO. [Executive summary]

Considering that the St. Clair car has a stop at Keele Street, the remark about a “direct connection” is hard to understand. Whatever was needed would be designed into a revised underpass and station. Mount Dennis station is more of an issue because it will intercept potential transfer traffic further north leaving only local demand for a station at St. Clair.

The area around the station is low density with much underutilized land and big box stores. Whether it would redevelop with a GO/ST station is a difficult question.

The St. Clair West (Kitchener) station is located in an employment and commercial district, near the western end of the 512 St. Clair streetcar line. The station is relatively isolated from its surroundings, cut off by the rail corridor to the west, the St. Clair Avenue underpass to the south, and an existing Hydro corridor to the north. With the exception of a new townhouse development west of the station site, the station’s immediate surroundings consist primarily of bigbox retail developments, industrial buildings, warehouses, and parking lots. Surrounding this predominantly commercial area is a ring of established residential neighbourhoods. [p. 6]

The plan below does not include all of the proposed tracks for this corridor, and therefore the property requirements maybe greater than shown. Also, St. Clair is shown in its current configuration, not with any widening of that road or extension of the rail underpass to make room for more tracks on the corridor.

The location is not well suited for future commercial development, and the degree to which residential development might occur is difficult to say. The study makes an odd observation about this:

The station is acceptably situated relative to current residential market demand. While there are no actively marketed condominium units within the catchment area, the broader Roncesvalles/Junction condominium market has approximately 1,000 units being actively marketed. Demand (i.e., sales) have averaged 200 units per annum over the past five years, and average sale prices ($5,683 per sq. m) are sufficient for market viability. [p. 20]

This is an example of the sort of outlook I mentioned earlier. It is unclear why someone in the Roncesvalles/Junction neighbourhood would travel north to St. Clair & Keele to board a train that will stop at Bloor & Dundas.

Ridership potential here is limited:

Ridership forecasts for St. Clair West (Kitchener) indicate that a new station could attract an estimated 455 new passenger trips in the AM peak period, or approximately 1,295 new trips per day, in the 2031 scenario. This station would serve more as an origin station (rather than a destination station), with approximately 87% of new riders boarding at the station. An estimated 110 existing GO passengers would be expected to use the new station to enter the GO system (instead of their current station) in the AM peak period, or 310 passengers daily.

While the introduction of this station would have the potential to attract a number of new riders to the system, it would also result in additional delay to a significant number of existing riders destined to Union Station and beyond. An estimated 5.1% increase in overall travel time would be experienced by upstream riders as a result of trains stopping at St. Clair West (Kitchener). This delay is expected to deter some existing upstream riders, resulting in a loss of approximately 298 passengers in the AM peak period, or almost 850 riders per day, in the 2031 scenario.

When balanced against the estimated new ridership that the station could generate, an expected net gain of approximately 160 new AM peak riders (460 daily) are anticipated to be generated by the introduction of a station at St. Clair West (Kitchener).

Over its lifetime, there is a slightly positive net fare revenue, but as with many other stations, this would replace longer trips originating further out on the corridor with short trips inside Toronto. Even though the fares balance out, other evaluation criteria show a net loss because longer trips are diverted, in the model, back to autos.

The projected capital cost of the station is $27.4 million (2015) exclusive of any cost of widening the corridor for additional tracks or replacing/expanding the St. Clair underpass.

33 thoughts on “How Many SmartTrack Stations Will Survive? (I)

  1. I work and socialize in Liberty Village. And I have the pleasure or should I say pressure of taking the King car downtown. There absolutely is demand to get downtown from Liberty Village.

    In terms of St. Clair with the station on Union Street it will be a fair walk to Keele, uphill, for a lot of people. The stop at Old Weston would be easier for people with mobility issues.

    Steve: There is no question that there is a demand for travel between Liberty Village and downtown. The problem is whether the proposed GO/ST service will actually address this. As for the station at St. Clair/Keele, yes access from the east will be easier for many. I’m just not sure how many would actually make the 512-to-ST connection.

    Like

  2. I would add that there has been considerable interest from Liberty Village, Friends of Railpath, The Cyclists Union, politicians, and developers to complete Railpath (stage 2 expansion) by having it go over the station from Abell at Sudbury to Liberty Village on the south side by the LCBO to continue the trail and better connect users to the station. This would also allow better intermodal connections to the south of Liberty Village and the inevitable new street and on street bike lanes.

    Steve: I forgot to mention (and will update the article) that the design shown for Liberty Village Station does not include the planned second track for the Barrie corridor. This impinges on the space shown for the proposed Rail Path extension.

    Like

  3. I’m repeating myself but the Lawrence East Station is misunderstood. Metrolinx and City “planners” do not understand the high volume of bus ridership on the 54 Lawrence Bus. Lawrence is one of the longest streets in Scarborough. The Lawrence, Kingston Road, Morningside triangle is very dense. There are apartment complexes growing at Birchmount and Lawrence.

    With the removal of the Scarborough RT, there is no Lawrence service. The Lawrence subway station was removed because planners don’t know the passenger volumes that can be produced – Hilary Holden admitted they were only looking at the “walk-in catchment”. One reason there are so many buses going into the Scarborough Town Centre is that a great number of those buses should feed the Lawrence East station.

    Because of the stop subway, the 54 buses have to be diverted off Lawrence and sent down to the Kennedy subway station. This is truly absurd – lengthening the 54 ride!

    It is very true that SmartTrack service of 8.6 minutes will not attract 54 Lawrence bus passengers to transfer to SmartTrack.
    Metrolinx mentality for RER is a suburban commuter line, with lots of parking. They have no concept of city volume rapid transit with bus headways of 1.5 minutes. They only see walk-in catchment.

    What Scarborough needs is rapid transit to shorten bus routes. RER, SmartTrack and the SSE do not address the core problem.

    Like

  4. In this opinion, I am speaking well out of bounds of my expertise. The expectation that electrification would increase service speeds (shorten headways) is misplaced. Replacing a diesel locomotive with a electric locomotive only marginally increases acceleration and stopping times. You still have to contend with huge dead weight of locomotive and coach. Shorter headways will be achieved with lighter equipment like EMU’s where significant gains in acceleration and stopping times can be made.

    The other major problem is block signaling on the GO lines. PTC signaling can significantly increase performance. Oh yeah, then there’s Union Station (platforms and yard) slowing things down.

    Like

  5. Is it possible for some trips to be express, ie bypass the interim stations to preserve shorter durations for longer commutes while still providing local service at some times or between nearer stations and downtown? Would the cost of the necessary double-tracking put this out of the question?

    Steve: Generally speaking, there is not room for an extra express track at most locations. The bigger problem is that if the “express” trips skip the “local” SmartTrack stops, the service at these stops will be quite infrequent and of no interest to riders even at a TTC fare.

    Like

  6. Yes its much better to have a Lawrence stop on the Scarborough subway extension than a Lawrence “SmartTrack” station

    Like

  7. The Liberty Village area does need improved connectivity and transit, but the real fix is/was having a transitway of some description on Front St. and its extension, and not making a more regional network serve a relative milk run, which is a bikeable distance as well (to the core). As we don’t do/plan for robust transit in the core, just for the suburbs, the easy option of having a surface transitway is now getting kinda buggered by a set of condos just east of Strachan: we need, and could have possibly a version of the DRL linked along a Front St. axis over to the Parkdale area and the 501/King car near Wilson Park, some costly construction needed to bridge over railtracks etc., or remove advertising for transit. This all was pushed for a decade ago instead of the Front St. road-based Extension, and in the 1993 WWLRT a faster Front St. route was modelled out to be far faster than the Queen car or an even worse milk run along the Waterfront. And the Clowncil just approved a new road between Strachan and Dufferin with not a hint of worry about providing transit instead despite the DRL vision of 1985. While all (or many) tracks lead to Union, not all of our transit should.

    Like

  8. And will there actually be room on the trains at the proposed Liberty Village stop? We’ve sunk so low, some basics need to be asked.

    Steve: This is one of the significant shortcomings of these studies. They are looking at stations, not routes, and there is no analysis of line capacity.

    Like

  9. BILL R: I agree with your suggestion that elapsed times after electrification will not improve as much as present estimates. Even EMU’s will have only marginal effects as they accelerate away from stations because the present MP40’s, with the aid of field shunts, push a 12 car train up to 140 KPH, 2 kilometres after leaving the Aurora station northbound.

    Like

  10. Bill,

    The Merolinx RER Business Plan assumes an upgraded headway capable signalling system (CBTC), at least on the high frequency EMU sections of the electrified network.

    Also, the switches were upgraded in 2015 but awaiting new switch-pusher mechanisms completing 2019 to permit a higher speed limit (25mph on the ladder diagonal) in the USRC corridor. Right now trains have to go 15mph. Reportedly, there is a progression to allow trains to approach at double speed really close to Union before slowing down to a crawl — so significantly more Union train throughput will occur beginning after 2019 when platforms renovations are complete, platform 28 is built, and USRC speed is raised. Probably twice as many tph as at this moment.

    Like

  11. Bill R: In this opinion, I am speaking well out of bounds of my expertise. The expectation that electrification would increase service speeds (shorten headways) is misplaced. Replacing a diesel locomotive with a electric locomotive only marginally increases acceleration and stopping times. You still have to contend with huge dead weight of locomotive and coach. Shorter headways will be achieved with lighter equipment like EMU’s where significant gains in acceleration and stopping times can be made.

    The other major problem is block signaling on the GO lines. PTC signaling can significantly increase performance. Oh yeah, then there’s Union Station (platforms and yard) slowing things down.

    That’s why the Scarborough subway is the real SmartTrack and LRT, etc are DumbTrack. Scarborough subway is a done deal but it’s your freedom of speech to wastefully keep debating it on this site.

    Steve: And you have the freedom to waste your time with such meaningless replies to comments.

    Like

  12. Metrolinx clearly does not know how to run a rail road operation. For a service as frequent as Smart Track, Bombardier bilevels are a liability. With two doors on each car opened, it will take a long time to embark and disembark. This is why the train is dwelling at the station for a minute. With 4 doors per train car like metros, this can be brought down to the 30 seconds range. If Metrolinx wants to emphasize comfort and maintain 2 doors per train, it must use EMUs or DMUs to make up for the lost time. There is a difference between running a suburban line and an urban line. We will be the laughing joke of the world if we run bilevels on an urban line.

    Bill asked about the time differences between locomotives and EMU operations. Let’s travel to Japan where they run many different types of equipment on the same line. The run from Hakodate to Sapporo is 319 km. This track is non electrified and has been upgraded for high speed operations (banked turns etc). There are ten major stations on the line, which all the limited express trains stop. Station spacing is about 30km on average.

    The Cassiopeia is a diesel locomotive pulled sleeping train. Even though it is about the length of the VIA Canadian, it is pulled by dual locomotives to ensure fast service. It takes 4 hours and 26 minutes for the run. Pulled trains cannot be tilting trains. The Super Hokuto which uses tilting DMUs complete the same run in 3 hours and 40 minutes. JR Hokkaido assigns tilting DMUs the same time block as EMUs. This means that their operational and performance characteristics are identical. So, we know that the base line and ideal situation. JR Hokkaido document shows that using regular non tilting DMUs, it would take 3 hours and 50 minutes.

    This shows that locomotive trains are the slowest. Even if electric locomotives are used, at best it will close the gap with DMUs, but still significantly slower. For trains heading to non electrified section, tilting DMUs would be ideal as it will not slow down the trains in the electrified section. EMU and DMU operations also allow for more operational flexibility, but that is another topic.

    Looking at the station designs, lunacy is the nicest word to describe it. There is no need for parking lots. A train station should have a passenger pick up and drop off section. The space around a station is prime land. Surely a condo is better use of the land. Even if there is 500 parking space at Smart Track Finch East, that is only 750 passengers at best. Most motor vehicles only carry on average of 1.5 passengers. There are at least 12 199 bus per hour. Basically, we are wasting the space of 500 cars so that we can carry the equivalent of 12 199 bus worth of passengers. What happens to the people who come at 10AM with their cars? There is still no space for them.

    The strange thing is that the Steeles grade separation project includes the construction of bike lanes. Here we are encourage cycling and public transit to the station, but we are building parking lots to get more people to drive. One can argue for a taxi stand, but no where in the Official Plan calls for more parking lots.

    Like

  13. Mark Rejhon said: The Merolinx RER Business Plan assumes an upgraded headway capable signalling system (CBTC), at least on the high frequency EMU sections of the electrified network.

    … Reportedly, there is a progression to allow trains to approach at double speed really close to Union before slowing down to a crawl

    The verbs are very important. “assumes” doesn’t mean will happen. In fact, signalization upgrade is not scheduled. There is no implementation plan, only that it will happen after RER. This is the official Metrolinx message.

    “Reportedly” is another way Metrolinx creates false hopes. There is no coherent plan outlining Union Station upgrades.

    Metrolinx makes promises, but scratch the surface and you will discover they have not plan. The only thing they promise is RER will be completed in a certain number of years.

    Like

  14. Living in the area, it seems odd that the proposed design at St. Clair and Keele does not initially include pedestrian access from the west side of the rail corridor. This cuts off a lot of residential riders from a short walk to the station since there is no access across the rail corridor between St. Clair and Rogers.

    Like

  15. This whole Smart Track thing seems to be an excellent demonstration of what happens when you try to turn something into something it is not and was not designed to be, i.e. a suburban/intercity rail corridor into an urban/intracity rapid transit line. “Too bad” TTC gauge is different from standard gauge, otherwise they’d be selling us on tram-trains – look, in Milton it’s a GO train but at Liberty Village it becomes a streetcar!

    Like

  16. Joe M says: “Yes its much better to have a Lawrence stop on the Scarborough subway extension than a Lawrence “SmartTrack” station”.

    I would argue that it depends on what you are looking for. If your criteria are strictly based on local connectedness then yes the subway stop is the better of the two. However if you base your criteria on a thorough analysis of the region then you will find that socio-economic polarization is a critical issue that can be dealt with in a far better way with the SmartTrack station. By substantially improving the region’s connection to the province’s primary economic region you can substantially improve local prosperity and labour utilization, and it can be all done with less up front cost.

    Like

  17. dobsonic said:

    I would add that there has been considerable interest from Liberty Village, Friends of Railpath, The Cyclists Union, politicians, and developers to complete Railpath (stage 2 expansion) by having it go over the station from Abell at Sudbury to Liberty Village on the south side by the LCBO to continue the trail and better connect users to the station.

    You realise that the RER basically requires losing part of the Railpath for mainline track. Developers are happy to have bells and whistles, if it doesn’t actually affect their developments. I’ll eat my shoe if they can actually build this station (including all the enabling works) for $31M.

    hamish wilson said:

    And will there actually be room on the trains at the proposed Liberty Village stop? We’ve sunk so low, some basics need to be asked.

    If you assume “land acquisition” like they do, there is always room.

    Steve: I think Hamish was asking about capacity on board, not for the physical station.

    Benny Cheung said:

    Metrolinx clearly does not know how to run a rail road operation. For a service as frequent as Smart Track, Bombardier bilevels are a liability. With two doors on each car opened, it will take a long time to embark and disembark.

    Are you saying two doors is a lot or a little? GO Transit knows how to maximize what capacity there is while we transition to something new. If you can get peak demand below capacity, you can look at reducing the size of vehicles (bi-level vs uni-level). So long as headways are constrained by track/signal/station configuration, bigger vehicle consists make sense. It doesn’t make a difference if the engine is out front/back or under each carriage, nor if it’s diesel or electrically powered. Check out the Highliner bilevel EMU.

    Benny Cheung said: Pulled trains cannot be tilting trains.

    Wrong. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diesel_Tilt_Train

    Bill R said:

    There is no implementation plan, only that [signal upgrades] will happen after RER. …
    There is no coherent plan outlining Union Station upgrades.

    Actually, there are plans, just that they are not public facing documents, but rather internal “living documents” that are adjusted according to the shifting winds. We’re about a decade into expansion plans (starting with the purchase of the Weston subdivision) and it’ll be at least two more until we have resolved or reduced the worst problems of the system.

    Like

  18. Mapleson said: it’ll be at least two more until we have resolved or reduced the worst problems of the system.

    I was wondering about the priority of the problems. It seems to me, it is most important to set Union Station up properly because it is the hub. I’d like Mapleson’s opinion on how critical he considers station dwell time and dedicated platform/track layouts (instead of switching) would improve operations? I have no expertise but feel these structural issues should be dealt with first (now) instead of the cosmetic activity going on now. Widening platforms and re-doing the Union Station yard are enormous undertakings.

    Like

  19. bill r said:

    I’d like Mapleson’s opinion on how critical he considers station dwell time and dedicated platform/track layouts (instead of switching) would improve operations? I have no expertise but feel these structural issues should be dealt with first (now) instead of the cosmetic activity going on now.

    First, Metrolinx is shifting to a dedicated platform design, but there will always be some level of switches/ladder tracks required for operational flexibility (imagine if Lakeshore East had to wait for every outbound train to clear the Don before entering the USRC).

    Next, there are all the external constraints. At least one track needs to be maintained to allow for through freight. VIA trains have two dedicated platforms (here I’m referring to double platforms in respect to how they are numbered at Union) due to their baggage handling equipment.

    With minimal clearance, that’s enough for 11 tracks and 10.5 platforms of 6.63m width (the USRC is roughly 120m between the Station and ACC), meaning 9 platforms and 8 track being available to GO. If you assume two platforms for Richmond Hill, that’s 6 platform tracks for the combined Stouffville/Lakeshore East.

    There are only 4/5 mainline tracks between Miles 0.6 and 3.5 once you dedicate the northern lines to Richmond Hill. You could expand to 6 mainline tracks by converting the Don Yard Lead and first storage tracks plus a new bin wall system extending south (or 8 tracks maximally if you were willing to close Jarvis, Sherbourne, and Parliament).

    However, the question becomes how far you will be willing to move a disabled train. Assuming you’ll keep some storage/maintenance at the Don Yard, you can only lose the redundant ladder tracks (one in each direction) plus that oddball switch between the southern two tracks at Mile 0.9.

    Station dwell time becomes the greatest value of one of three numbers: train-track occupation time, train-alighting/boarding time, and platform clearance time.

    Returning to our 6.63m wide platforms, you have a 2m wide stairwell with 1.6m and 2.4m (accessible route) passing width on each side. This can allow for a 3-1 split for bi-directional pedestrian flow. 0.55m/s. Let’s assume 1 stairwell per 50m (2 bilevel coaches – around 920 people on a packed train). With a Level of Service “C” (peak fluid motion), you need 13’44” to clear the train or else 9’9” with Level “D” (intermittent shuffling). Using two platforms to alight or doubling the number of stairwells would bring you into the level of 5 minute headways.

    The bilevel design on the GO Transit system often is disparaged as being a critical slowing factor. However, with 2 doors per side per coach, that packed coach would easily pass within 3’30” at a LOS “E” (intermittent stopping) so long as there is sufficient platform queuing space.

    Finally, you have the trains on the tracks. If you assume the Kingston subdivision to have two dedicated inbound and two dedicated outbound tracks (presumable one each for Stouffville and Lakeshore East), then the pinch point is the signal/switch block at Mile 2.6. At 15mph, that’s 10’24” travel time. The block itself is 0.7 miles long plus the 0.2 mile long train is 3’36”, just to clear the signal. That means you can’t have service below 7’12” (ignoring normal safety buffers). Here you could increase the operational speed, reduce system flexibility, or reduce safety precautions.

    Metrolinx has a much more detailed report of this style analysis, which basically worked backwards from first principles. Smaller vehicles do reduce the pressure on stairwells, but they increase the pressure on track occupancy. A full rebuild is only a marginal improvement over the current technique of parallel stairwell accesses (East Bay St. Concourse, and theoretical Yonge St. Concourse plus Simcoe St./Skywalk connections).

    If you look back, there has been a lot of incremental work at Union to improve capacity (platforms 24-27, Track A1/B, Weston fly-under, etc.). People just notice the trainshed more because it’s over their heads.

    Generally, I think we need the “Union West” and “Union East” stations to act as satellites to increase train frequencies and allow the eventual migration to short trainsets. That will be predicated by more trackage outside the USRC as you need 2 tracks for bi-directional service, but 3-5 tracks if you are running mixed speed service.

    Like

  20. Mapleson says “Generally, I think we need the “Union West” and “Union East” stations to act as satellites to increase train frequencies and allow the eventual migration to short trainsets.”

    You are right to say that there are operational benefits to having the East and West satellite stations. I would add that one of the greatest opportunities to having the satellite stations would be to help accelerate the growth of the financial district around these hubs.

    Like

  21. Thank-you Mapleson for taking the time to make such a thoughtful post. It is very enlightening and is taking a lot of time to digest.

    Your lesson on station dwell time is very much appreciated.

    Like

  22. Bill R says: Replacing a diesel locomotive with a electric locomotive only marginally increases (don’t you mean decreases?) acceleration and stopping times. You still have to contend with huge dead weight of locomotive and coach.

    Because the electric locomotive has a much higher power rating it can accelerate at its maximum rate to a higher speed before acceleration starts to drop off, and since it has AC traction motors it also accelerates at a higher initial rate. It can also hit a higher maximum speed if track conditions and station spacing allow it. From the 2010 GO electrification study the Lakeshore West Line would save 7 minutes with electric hauled locomotives over diesel. True EMU would save more time at 17 minutes. The Richmond Hill line would save only 1 minute with electric locomotives, probably because the speed up the valley is limited by curvature, and EMUs would save only 4 or 5 minutes. (page 27 or pdf page 43 table 4)

    Benny Cheung says: We will be the laughing joke of the world if we run bilevels on an urban line.

    What do you define as urban? GO RER seems to be more inter and intra regional than urban but Sydney Australia City Rail does operate a lot of electrified bi-level equipment with only two doors but these are over the trucks and the mid level which makes for more even loading and unloading from the other two levels. These also provide local rapid service in the core.

    Mark Rejhon | March 17, 2017 at 9:26 pm says: The Merolinx RER Business Plan assumes an upgraded headway capable signalling system (CBTC), at least on the high frequency EMU sections of the electrified network.

    Communication Based Train Control (CBTC) will not significantly improve headways because of the capacity limit at Union. In theory it can increase headway but it is no good if the station cannot handle the extra trains. Even if GO RER even gets down to 8 trains per hour on 2 tracks the trains are still farther apart than the minimum that the CTC system allows. Once you get into the Union Station Rail Corridor the CBTC system will not function if it is like the US ones because the train density is too great for the limited radio frequencies to handle. This is why they have had a couple of stub station over shoots in the North East Corridor. The speed can be limited by what GO calls GEO-fencing where the double decker buses are kept from going off route by the GPS system. CN uses GPS to advise its locomotive engineers the best speeds to operate over various sections of its mainline. A similar system could be used to limit maximum speed in various areas and drop it to a crawl inside the station proper.

    Like

  23. Robert Wightman: Once you get into the Union Station Rail Corridor the CBTC system will not function

    Firstly, I’ll be the first to admit, I know nothing. It annoys me no end, to be told of the limitations of what can be done in face of transit needs for the GTA. Japan, Europe, New York, Philadelphia have very dense station utilization. Why are we not targeting to get into the 20th century, let alone the 21st? I blame Metrolinx for being too secretive.

    Capacity is met either with big long trains, or more frequent service with smaller equipment. There is the big surge rush hour demands and light volume off hour service. Urban traffic needs EMU, high frequency, many stops, high platform service while the hinterland service is the lumbering long, heavy haul big batch equipment.

    In my ignorance, I can only understand that designing the ultimate Union Station is a huge juggling challenge. To improve basic dwell times, Metrolinx ought to design wider platforms (despite the challenge of the string of pillars for each track), go high platforms and use EMU cars with many doors. This is daunting because every station along the line would have to be changed and all equipment has to be changed, at once. Sharing the lines in off hours with high speed freight trains is solved with retracting platform extensions. It would take some smart people to figure out how to change line by line. With sophisticated track switching, trains platforms would serve several lines based on platform height. I know it’s hard, but feel it’s necessary. These problems have been solved many years ago in other cities.

    It is obvious to me that the Stouffville junction into the Lakeshore should be a grade separated. Metrolinx does not disclose such decisions.

    It’s so frustrating that Metolinx only offers bandaids with no “big picture” solution.

    Like

  24. Bill R said: Why are we not targeting to get into the 20th century, let alone the 21st? I blame Metrolinx for being too secretive.

    GO Transit was a “tenant” on our rail system until a decade ago. Their first big purchase of trackage was the Weston subdivision. They’ve been working non-stop to update the network since, but to blame them for neglect to transform a freight network into an urban commuter system isn’t justified. We’ve spent a decade and a bit making the biggest steps possible, being track upgrades (higher maximum speeds), track expansion (allowing more trains and two-way service), and signal and platform upgrades.

    Your complaint seems to be that a multi-billion dollar annual investment isn’t enough and didn’t start soon enough.

    Bill R said: It is obvious to me that the Stouffville junction into the Lakeshore should be a grade separated. Metrolinx does not disclose such decisions. It’s so frustrating that Metolinx only offers bandaids with no “big picture” solution.

    It’s funny because most people have the opposite reaction. Metrolinx is too focused on “big picture” plans: The Big Move, 5 in 10, Regional Express Rail, Fare Integration, Moving Ontario Forward, First Wave, Next Wave, etc.
    Scarborough Junction is low on the list of rail-rail grade separations. There were Snider, Hagerman, and West Toronto Diamonds. Davenport Diamond is in progress. Doncaster Diamond is on the list, and Halwest and Silver Junctions are probably higher up it.

    It is obvious that a grade separation would aid the junction, but it’s less obvious that it’s a low priority that needs a lot of supporting infrastructure to be in place first, such as the Kingston subdivision fourth track and the Uxbridge subdivision second track.

    Like

  25. Mapleson said: … to blame them for neglect to transform a freight network into an urban commuter system isn’t justified.

    Bill R said: I blame Metrolinx for being too secretive.

    I am grateful that Mapleson takes the time to clarify issues and I certainly respect his competency, and own up to my own incompetency. The people Metrolinx put out to deal with the public are not confident enough in their knowledge to answer any question. There are just to many issues in play. Metrolinx doesn’t have the answers (yet) but is afraid to say so.

    Metrolinx should learn to message to address the frustrations citizens feel.

    But also, I feel there are important issues that should be publicly explained.

    The Stouffville second track is being designed as well as the 4th track on the Lakeshore. These two projects converge and I fail to see why the proper junction isn’t included.

    Steve: Mapleson already addressed this issue. It’s a question of priority and need among many other grade separation proposals. I hate to say this, but Scarborough is not the centre of the universe.

    Like

  26. @ Bill R:

    Go out to Scarborough Station, look at the track and road layout and tell me where you would put the under/over pass and still have the train back to grade level for the station or would you propose a multilevel station? The cost is way too high for any benefits that might be obtained.

    I asked Mr. Percy [Greg Percy, Metrolinx Chief Operating Officer] about this at a public meeting and after muttering some incoherent comments about the stupidity of the idea, he was muttering to probably hide the impolite words he was thinking, he then said it would be one of the worst possible uses of the money it would take to build it.

    Like

  27. @Robert Wightman :

    We both understand, I’m way over my head on this, but I never stop trying.

    For me, we have to know whether the 4th track is pass through east, or if it is a dedicated turn off for the 2nd Stouffville track.

    If it is dedicated, I would call for the elimination of Scarborough Station (close enough to Kennedy/Eglinton). We back up west along the Lakeshore corridor enough to create enough clearance under the track we need to cross and tunnel under it rising where the Scarborough Station is.

    As I wrote this, I see what you mean, that it’s a lot of money. You comments are always valid. Two railroaders had told me it should be grade separated. I’ve lost touch with them.

    I was wondering, do you know how they plan to deal with the Danforth Road level crossing?

    Like

  28. Bill R asks: “For me, we have to know whether the 4th track is pass through east, or if it is a dedicated turn off for the 2nd Stouffville track. “

    Since the Right of Way is narrow and there is residential development along the south side and a good section of the north side from the Don River to Kennedy I don’t know if they will be able to get enough width for a fourth and hopefully fifth track for the entire length to Scarborough Junction. I did not study civil engineering but I think that the right of way is too narrow. If you could get five tracks then you would run the Stouffville on the northern two track and the Lakeshore on the southern three but I doubt that is possible. Perhaps Mapleson who is a civil engineer would know how many tracks could be accommodated.

    The alternative is to have a series of 45 mph crossovers along the line east of the junction so that trains could change tracks to get the Stouffville trains to the north tracks. This is not as good operationally as a grade separation but is a lot cheaper and would accommodate the maximum headways that they could run into Union.

    “If it is dedicated, I would call for the elimination of Scarborough Station (close enough to Kennedy/Eglinton). We back up west along the Lakeshore corridor enough to create enough clearance under the track we need to cross and tunnel under it rising where the Scarborough Station is.”

    If you eliminate Scarborough Station then you remove the ability for transfers between passenger to or from the north going to or from the east until you get to Main. Granted there is almost none at the moment but if we are to believe that this is to be a Regional Express Rail it would be handy to be able to make these transfers or do you want the passengers to take the TTC from Kennedy GO Station to Eglinton GO Station?

    “I was wondering, do you know how they plan to deal with the Danforth Road level crossing?”

    This is a problem with Midland Avenue next to the train tracks. There are two options:

    1. Run Danforth Rd. over or under the railway tracks and Midland Avenue and use Greystone Walk Drive as a connector for turning movements. This would probably require the closing of the intersections of Granger and Danforth. Or

    2. Start dropping the track down for an underpass as soon as it leaves the station. There appears to be about 1600 to 1700 feet so at a 2% grade you could drop 32′ which should get you under Midland. Also Midland could be raised slightly to get more clearance. Going over would require less clearance but there are houses north of Danforth next to the tracks who would scream about the visual intrusion.

    Having Danforth go under the tracks and Midland would probably be the least expensive and disruptive but I have not been to that area in years so I am just making a wild ass guess using Google Maps and we all know how well that works. The next time I am in that area I will take a drive around there, interesting question though.

    In Mississauga they dropped Cawthra Road under the CP Galt Sub and Dundas Street and put in a connector road between Cawthra and Dundas. This seems to have worked well and would be similar to the last suggestion I made above.

    Like

  29. @Robert Wightman

    You and Mapleson teach me a lot. I love how you guys talk through the analysis, sharing your knowledge. You add in things that I didn’t know and never thought of.

    I never considered that elliminating Scarborough Station (SStn) would have any impact. I just think of all the time, the many passengers on the Stouffville line will save, not stopping at SStn. I dislike stations that are too close together (SStn & Kennedy), the same on the SRT.

    I’ve just learned about the demand for capacity in the inter regional network. Scarborough Station is in the intra network. For me it doesn’t serve much purpose in the intra and delays the inter regional network. What are your thoughts on the inter/intra battle for track? Do you think the tracks can serve intra needs given the demand requirements of the inter?

    Steve: I’m going to jump in here to observe that a lot has been said about what the urban rail network could do if it were more like some European systems. The problem we have is that Toronto’s network was not built to handle that volume of trains and it requires major upgrades across the network, not just a few local tweaks, to repurpose the corridors. Running on the surface is a nice idea in theory, but there’s a point where train frequency requires grade separation which, combined with space for stations, can be quite intrusive. Then, of course, there is the problem that all of our lines converge on one station which was originally designed for infrequent intercity service.

    Changes are possible, but there has been too much one-sided hype, primarily around SmartTrack. Oddly enough, ST was pitched as a route to serve all of the city while eliminating the need for a “Downtown Relief” line. Now that the limits of ST are acknowledged, the “DRL” is getting more support, but faces an uphill battle after years of being denigrated by politicians and professionals including the TTC.

    Like

  30. Bill R says

    “I never considered that elliminating Scarborough Station (SStn) would have any impact. I just think of all the time, the many passengers on the Stouffville line will save, not stopping at SStn. I dislike stations that are too close together (SStn & Kennedy), the same on the SRT.”

    I just checked to GO Stouffville schedule and there is only one outbound trip that stops there and zero inbound trips so how much time are you going to save. Those stations were eliminated to keep local Scarborough Station riders from over filling the Stouffville trains.

    I realize that destroys my argument about transfer at Scarborough but with 15 min. RER service it might become more important. I gather that you do not use the Stouffville line.

    Check all the facts possible before making suggestions as it weakens your argument when you state things that are incorrect. I try to do that but sometimes I forget and when I do it usually bites me in the butt. I didn’t check out the north south road spacing in Scarborough accurately last night and posted some incorrect information in “Has John Tory discovered life after SmartTrack.” I mistakenly assume that Scarborough used one of the standard patterns used elsewhere. Making any assumption about Scarborough is unwise; I know as I used to live there.

    There are lots of useful sites on the internet and even more useless ones. If you want information on these sites or answers to other questions ask Steve to send me your email and I will help. While you have pre-conceived ideas, as do all of us, you realize that they may not all be right and you want to learn. I can only support that attitude as there are too many out here who have their minds made up and do not want to be bothered by facts.

    Keep on questioning for when you stop your mind starts to die.

    Like

  31. Robert Wightman: Those stations were eliminated to keep local Scarborough Station riders from over filling the Stouffville trains.

    This is a symptom of the intra-inter conflict. The Scarborough station service used to be much more frequent. With the current housing market, Metrolinx can make a killing selling the parking lot land at the Station.

    This is what I’ve learned on my personal journey to improve transit for Scarborough.

    Provincial Metrolinx and City TTC cannot mix property — you can’t put a TTC subway on the Stouffville line even though both entities are owned by the “public”. There is TTC track gauge and standard gauge. Third rail equipment like subways and RT’s require enclosed tracks. Overhead powered equipment (locomotive/coach, LRT’s and EMU’s) routes do not have to be enclosed so they cross streets more cheaply. Better signaling gives better headways, shorter headways puts pressure on reducing dwell time, high, wide platforms and more doors reduces dwell time.

    Steve: Nothing prevents regular railways from co-existing with rapid transit in the same corridor, they just cannot share the trackage. Even without the question of power source or track gauge, the two types of vehicles have different crash standards and cannot run on the same line. One might get away with this with a more sophisticated train control system, but why bother? As for grade crossings, certainly any technology using overhead power supply can have grade crossings, but GO Transit is getting rid of these wherever possible because of service frequency.

    hamish wilson said: So it again seems that we need new corridors, with some degree of capacity. And given the complexities and huge costs of diggings, the surface fixes – a silver buckshot approach (and some imagination in developing them, with presumption of a good budget to ensure quality and some bridging/tunnelling) – should be the way forward.

    For me, Metrolinx corridors are the best we can hope for. As I am interested in Metrolinx helping intra needs I would favour EMU – many doors, high platform, quicker performance. The inter needs are with the current fleet, locomotive bi-level coach. These are incompatible.

    As a dreamer, I would like to know if this is possible. We use a super powerful signal system like in Japan that practically controls every unit on the tracks.

    We use one track system but mix the equipment. The intra stations are for EMU the inter stations are traditional fleet. Certain intra stations are switched off the track so the inter or intra trains can pass. We have sidings where inter trains park to let intra trains pass.

    Instead of spending money on tunneling we buy selected surface properties where we build offline stations and sidings.

    Like

  32. Bill R says: “As a dreamer, I would like to know if this is possible. We use a super powerful signal system like in Japan that practically controls every unit on the tracks.”

    The signal system cannot make up for design differences in the equipment operating on the line. Heavy Rapid transit trains are designed to accelerate to a maximum speed of about 50 mph while the bi-levels have a maximum speed of 80 mph but accelerate at a slower rate. When (if) GO gets EMUs then they will accelerate at a rate closer to that of the subways but still be able to reach the higher maximum speed.

    It is not possible to operate equipment with such divergent design parameters on the same track at what the combined headway would have to be. There are two chances that Union will get high platforms and Slim just rode out of town.

    “We use one track system but mix the equipment. The intra stations are for EMU the inter stations are traditional fleet. Certain intra stations are switched off the track so the inter or intra trains can pass. We have sidings where inter trains park to let intra trains pass.”

    The current Lakeshore schedules have a headway of around every 10 minutes for the peak hour and carries about 52,000 per day and Stouffville is adding around another 16,000. There really isn’t enough track capacity on the Lakeshore to add much more in the way of trains and even less in the way of passenger capacity at Union Station. Stouffville could handle more trains but its average station spacing from Kennedy north is about 2.5 miles. Putting stations at every major cross street in Scarborough would cut average station spacing to about 1.3 miles and would greatly increase running time for those coming in from the north. It is very difficult to make one line provide both local rapid transit service and commuter rail service as it ends up doing neither well.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s