How Many SmartTrack Stations Will Survive? (III) (Updated)

This is the third and final installment in my review of the Metrolinx Initial Business Cases for new GO Transit (and SmartTrack) stations.

Part I reviewed stations on the Stouffville and Kitchener corridors.

Part II reviewed stations on the Lake Shore and Barrie corridors.

Updated March 24, 2017 at 11:00 am: Additional information including replies to some of the questions I posed to Metrolinx and a report of GO Transit’s current ridership added at the end of this article.

Regular readers here will not be surprised at my skepticism regarding the methodology found in Metrolinx reports to perform comparative evaluations of projects. Much of the information is presented at a summary level, important details are omitted, and the underlying assumptions for some calculations are dubious. That said, these reports are the documents Metrolinx relies on to justify its decisions. Understanding how their methodology works is an important part of any critique of the outcome.

What these calculations do not consider is the political context where the “value” of a station is more strongly linked to its perceived delivery on a campaign promise, or to give the impression that transit service will substantially improve where the station is located. This is quite different from how the new facilities will actually affect the transit network or improve the lot of transit riders.

Most of the proposed stations actually do not fare well in the evaluations, although that could well be due to pessimistic projections of the effect of added stops on other “upstream” users of affected GO Transit routes. The evaluation process is very sensitive to the ridership estimates, and if the underlying assumptions change, then so do all of the outcomes.

The new stations to be funded by the City of Toronto have approved as a package, and the detailed IBC reports were not available to Council at the time. A smaller set of stations might make more sense from a financial or planning perspective, but they were sold as a package that is unlikely to be broken up unless some projects prove to be unexpectedly difficult or costly.

Ridership

A fundamental part of any analysis for a transit investment is the effect on ridership. There is no point in spending millions on a project that would only minimally improve transit demand, provide better service for existing riders, or divert trips from road to transit modes. Transit dollars are limited, and they should be spent where they do the most good.

Contrary to the outlook in some political circles, transit spending should not be primarily a stimulus program for the engineering and construction industries. Too often, notably during the recession of the 1990s, providing good transit at reasonable cost can be a distant, secondary consideration. This outlook still appears in some Metrolinx analyses where the economic spin-off value of spending on construction is treated as a “good”, and therefore more expensive options score more highly because they generate secondary and tertiary economic benefits. That the same money could be spent more productively (“bigger bang for the buck”) or split with other projects or portfolios is not part of the equation. In the case of the new station analyses, this element is not present, and the skew it brings is refreshingly absent.

However, the assumptions behind ridership estimates, let alone details by which the numbers can be evaluated, are consistently missing from the reports, including:

  • What is the existing demand on GO Transit corridors, and what are the planned and practical capacities in a decade after the RER network and all-day services are in place?
  • What capacity for growth will exist, and to what extent would this be consumed by riders attracted to GO by the new stations?
  • What is the assumed elasticity of ridership relative to fares and service? Are these relationships linear (e.g. 10% lower fare generates 10% more riders)? What other factors (e.g. the comparative attractiveness of auto use for specific types of trips) will influence a rider’s mode choice?
  • What development effects have been included in the demand model, and what percentage of trips to the expected development will be captured by transit? In effect, does a new station “do its job” in keeping or improving transit’s market share where there is population and job growth?

Some of these questions require decisions/assumptions about “alternate futures” where population and job growth may not be identical, or at least not identically distributed. For example, it was planning gospel for decades that job and population growth had shifted to suburban Toronto, if not to the 905, while downtown was moribund.

This assumption underlies the planning behind what we now know as “SmartTrack”, that more transit to the near suburbs of Milton and Markham was needed, and that growth in the core (and hence the need for more transit service) had stopped. This was a biased view of a study with a strong skew to real estate development in the suburbs, but it went unchallenged, buried as it was in the hype of a mayoral election campaign. Similarly, there are hopes for large-scale growth at the Scarborough Town Centre, just as there have been dreams of suburban centres since the 1960s that simply have not materialized.

It is important, therefore, not to say that “this projection is based on the xyz model of future growth version 3.14”, but to explain what that model actually entails. Only then can a reader evaluate whether the projections might be sensitive to a different outcome and ask what happens with a different set of assumptions.

For the new station studies, ridership is reported in comparison with the “do nothing” option where the station does not exist. Any ridership gains that would occur as a course of other network changes are, therefore, filtered out. The remaining effects are:

  • A station attracts new riders as an origin of trips because it is located in a dense residential neighbourhood, or can easily be fed by good transit service from density nearby.
  • A station attracts new riders as a destination because it is located in or close to new or existing jobs.
    • In both cases above, there is a caveat that some “new” GO Transit riders could be attracted from existing services (TTC or other GO stations) by convenience, and they do not represent a net improvement in transit market share or reduction in road traffic.
  • A new station on an existing line adds time to existing trips that could deter riders who would otherwise use the service.
  • Additional riding could trigger congestion effects on transit that could limit the rise in demand or even deter some existing users sending them back to alternative travel routes or modes.

These are not the only factors affecting a travel decision. Two important elements are the cost of a journey and the practicality or availability of an alternative choice.

  • Fares will affect travel choices, especially where there are significant differences between options. This is at the heart of the Metrolinx “Fare Integration” study which seeks to eliminate “fare boundaries”. That study, however, is hamstrung by a desire to preserve GO Transit’s revenue stream and avoid additional subsidy from Queen’s Park. That is a separate subject, but any new fare scheme will affect how riders choose between routes and modes. The IBCs make no attempt to model an alternate tariff’s effects.
  • Practicality is an issue at both ends of a potential park-and-ride or all-auto trip. There is a limit to how much parking GO can provide, and the facilities represents both a capital cost and a loss of development opportunities at large station sites. Parking lots can induce considerable local traffic which is a disincentive in its own right both to drivers and to neighbours. Conversely, an auto trip to a destination may face traffic that is more onerous than taking transit, and there might not be parking available at the end of the trip. This is especially true for trips into the core area.
  • Availability is an issue for travellers who cannot afford to drive, or to have a 1:1 ratio of cars to commuters in their families.

The elasticity of demand for suburban travel does not necessarily apply to urban trips, nor is the value identical for peak and off peak journeys where considerations listed above will change quite substantially.

None of this is discussed in the IBC reports. Also absent are specifics on the time of day (peak/offpeak) and directionality (peak/counterpeak) of modelled changes in demand. These do not affect raw counts (numbers of riders), but do affect peak capacity as well as showing how well or poorly the expanded GO network is expected to do for trips that are not the classic peak period commutes.

In all but one case (Spadina station on the Barrie corridor), Metrolinx predicts that a new stop will add 1.8 minutes to a trip from the combined effect of slowing to a stop, handling passengers, and accelerating to the original speed. Each station is evaluated independently, and so the cumulative effect of having more stations is not part of the studies. For example, riders bound to Union from Markham would face four new stations (Finch, Lawrence, Gerrard and East Harbour) if all of the SmartTrack proposals go forward. This would add at least 7.2 minutes of travel time, possibly more, if the station spacing is close enough that trains never get up to full speed over the entire journey. This is actually a more substantial change for 905-based trips than used in any of the modelling.

Conversely, if a change adds only one station, then the effect may not be as great relative to other considerations, and the riding loss could be minimal.

The structure of a service plan is important here, too, because some trains might run express thereby avoiding the time penalty for long distance riders. Losing those riders would run counter to GO’s purpose both in the revenue they represent (longer trips pay higher fares), equipment utilization (empty seats run for miles only to serve short inside-416 trips) and congestion (shifting longer trips away from GO translates to more kilometres of auto use). For most of the new stations, the number of new riders does not offset the projected loss of longer trips “upstream” from the stations. The question, however, is how the factors of practicality and availability will interact with demand and with the change in travel time by corridor, not by station. Fewer extra stations, or the availability of express trains, could limit the loss of riders and make the business case better for some new station sites, especially those with built-in demand like East Harbour.

However, if the political imperative is to add all of the “SmartTrack” stations because that’s what the mayor promised, then comparative evaluations are meaningless (indeed they may never be carried out). The details in the IBCs were available to Metrolinx last summer, but their publication was withheld until after Metrolinx demanded that Toronto Council commit to funding construction of the SmartTrack stations. Several of these stations perform poorly because they are located in low density areas, many industrial, around rail corridors and they are unlikely to stimulate a substantial change in land use.

Two notable exceptions are Gerrard and East Harbour, but even at these sites, some redevelopment is likely to occur whether GO stops at them or not, especially considering that they are also likely spots for stations on the Relief Line which could link the Don Mills and Thorncliffe areas through eastern Toronto to the core. Liberty Village has already developed, and additional residences and jobs here are not dependent on a GO station. The three remaining ST stops (Finch, Lawrence, St. Clair) will not generate substantial demand or development. They are at best alternate routes to the core for residents in their catchment areas, and their attractiveness depends on trip speed (including transfer times) outweighing whatever fare penalty might be involved.

For stations generally, Metrolinx uses a fairly large zone as the catchment area (an 800m radius) as this is “standard” in planning circles. Well, that may be, but a lot of plans using this radius deal with stations dropped into a relatively poor transit environment where the zone of attractiveness will be enhanced by the absence of alternatives. This is not true for an urban setting with a well established local transit network, especially where service on competing buses is already more frequent than the trains will provide, once one gets to the station.

In the case of East Harbour, we know (because the report says so) that additional demand created by future development has not been included in the projections. At the very least, the study should have presented a “before” and “after” East Harbour simulation to show its effect, possibly with a 50% and 100% buildout rather than simply mentioning, in passing in the text, that this development would add riders. This is half-baked work and the report’s conclusions are meaningless.

Fare Structure

The studies talk of TTC fare integration, but as we know from Metrolinx studies, this has yet to be defined. As sold in the SmartTrack scheme by then-candidate Tory, and as assumed by everyone who heard him, the “TTC” fare meant full, free-transfer integration between the existing local network and “SmartTrack” at current fares. That is not what Metrolinx has discussed in the context of fare integration where a fare-by-distance model would apply at least to rapid transit services (subway and LRT) on the TTC, and these higher fares would be the same as for GO trains.

Further unanswered questions include:

  • What is the effect on demand of a “TTC” fare at existing stations in the SmartTrack corridor (Milliken, Agincourt, Kennedy, Main, Union, Bloor, Weston, Etobicoke North)?
  • Will the “SmartTrack” fare be applied to trains in other corridors within the City of Toronto (Lake Shore, Richmond Hill, Barrie, Milton)?
  • How much of the difference in fare revenue will be expected as a City contribution to GO’s budget?

It is self-evident that as GO Transit morphs into a local service provider with a cheaper inside-Toronto fare that demand will rise, and this will occur on the most congested part of its routes just as the TTC subway is overloaded the closer one gets to the core area. What has not been explored is the location of the “knee in the curve” where the combination of cheaper fares and more frequent service causes a non-linear change in travel shifts to the GO network.

Financial Evaluation

Metrolinx financial evaluations can make frustrating reading because so many components are rolled together into a single metric that “value” can be meaningless. The premise is that various schemes and options are reduced to a single number alleged to represent the long-term benefit or cost ratio. However, evaluating a project is rarely this simple.

Any scheme will entail both capital and operating spending, plus the financing costs of any debt or leaseback strategy. These costs are rarely borne by a single agency or entity, and the situation is further complicated where a municipally sponsored project is cost shared with the province. Benefits flowing from a project do not necessarily flow to the same governments in proportion to their investment or ongoing costs, and moreover the soft benefits (such as imputed time savings for transit riders) generate no revenue.

Although the studies consider projects over a 60-year lifespan, they do not break down the cash flows for elements of the life cycle. This is important for financial planning because no matter how much we may want “everything”, it may not be practical to undertake every project in the same time frame. This consideration affects the City of Toronto’s plans to control the growth of debt and associated servicing costs, and it has affected provincial decisions about the timing and number of projects, notably their on-and-off commitment to various elements of Transit City. Notable by their absence from all of the projections is any provision for capital financing whether this be through direct borrowing, or by third party arrangements such as a PPP where financing costs show up as an ongoing operating charge against a project.

The soft benefits produce “savings” for society in general, but a good deal of this occurs in the latter years of a project’s lifespan, and in any event cannot be recouped by governments to pay down debt or offset day-to-day operating expenses. A project may have a positive “value” on paper, but this is in the wider sense that public investment creates a future public good. However, this investment still has to be paid for.

Secondary costs and benefits such as additional network capacity costs or avoided expenditures through redirection of traffic rarely show up in these evaluations, particularly when individual projects might combine to trigger effects beyond those of any one in isolation. A very large example of this is the provision of “relief” capacity which can make a network more robust and avoid the need for upgrades to other network elements. On the scale of added GO stations within the 416 and encouragement for transit riders to use GO as a local “rapid transit” link, the effects of many changes – numbers and locations of stations, service levels, fare policy – will be different from the sum of individual station projections.

Finally, the use of a long time frame, 60 years, for evaluation encounters two problems. First, it assumes that the short-term change attributed to a project will continue more or less as is over the entire period, and second it brings imputed soft savings from the distant future into calculation of the present worth of a hard investment.

To be fair, those future savings are discounted, but the problem with long term forecasts is that they are sensitive to assumptions about inflation and discount rates. However, the combination of several factors usually masks how this works. There is one example in the station studies where this is easily visible, however. The Park Lawn Station replaces Mimico station, and its only effect  on ridership is to add 10.3 million trips with no offset for lost riding elsewhere. The projected additional revenue is $13 million, or roughly $1.30 per trip, well below the minimum GO Transit fare. This is the result of discounting future fare revenue to a present value at a rate higher than the presumed rate of increase in fare levels. This revenue is at least “hard” money in the sense that riders will actually pay to use the trains, as opposed to the “soft” money that will be their imputed future time savings.

Ridership effects are central to these projections because they are related to:

  • fare revenue
  • the imputed value of time saved or lost in travel
  • changes in vehicle kilometres with riders shifting to or away from transit
    • the value of auto operating costs
    • the imputed value of reduced road congestion
    • the imputed value of environmental benefits

Central to Metrolinx work on “The Big Move” has been the concept that transit investment will reduce road congestion. This is a myth that even Metrolinx has long acknowledged. Getting more people on transit will stem the growth in demand for road travel, but it will not reduce congestion. In fact, there will be areas where congestion gets worse because the Metrolinx network is so strongly focussed on travel to downtown Toronto and does not address the suburb-to-suburb travel needs that produce some of the worst congestion today.

Similarly, environmental benefits assume a reduction in pollution and secondary effects such as health benefits. At best, the growth of emissions will be lower than it might have been without the Metrolinx projects.

In many of the station analyses, there is an assumption that an extra station stop will drive away riders, often more than are gained by the new station. Moreover, the lost riders will have been making longer trips, and so factors such as road congestion take a bigger hit from losing these transit riders than the benefits of the new short trips. There is also a good chance that many of the new GO trips were already on the TTC and they do not represent a net gain for transit.

Media and political coverage of these studies emphasized that the new stations meant a net loss for GO, but I am not as convinced as the study’s authors that a small added travel time would actually do this. The effect might be stronger where multiple stations combine to make trips longer especially if the new stations are added simultaneously after riders are used to faster trips. Then there is the question of the offsetting benefit of electric versus diesel hauled trains on travel times, and how a change in motive power could offset the additional stops.

At the very least, the station proposals should be reviewed to determine their potential effect as groups, not as single projects. A better understanding of just how added travel time might drive away riders at the projected level is needed. What will affect their decision? Do they have a practical alternative end-to-end? A simplistic elasticity factor does not reflect these considerations.

On a network basis, understanding of capacity is critical to evaluation of any proposed change. I have asked Metrolinx for current ridership by corridor, and for the projections cited in footnotes in their studies, but have yet to receive them. If new stations reorganize ridership demand and discourage long-haul travel, this is counterproductive. The idea of using the rail corridors as rapid transit lines is a strong one in theory, but only if sufficient capacity will be provided for both long haul and local trips. The potential cost of lost capacity is not included in any of the evaluations.

The following section summarizes the elements included in the calculation of a station’s “value”.

“Financial Case”

Metrolinx calculates these values over the 60 year life of a station allowing for inflation and with future values discounted back to 2015.

  • Incremental ridership gain or loss together with the associated change in fare revenue over the project life, discounted to present value
  • Capital costs including major renewals, but not including ongoing financing or leaseback charges
  • Operating costs over the project life (discounted)
    • Station operation and maintenance
    • Incremental train operating costs
    • Leasing revenue at stations, if any
  • Land value capture

It is unclear whether train costs are adjusted only for fuel/power consumed for an extra stop, or if there is an assumed extra cost for the train crew. The latter should only apply where the extra time needed for stops is sufficient to trigger a change in the number of trains required to provide service.

Land value capture is a concept that has underlain the SmartTrack scheme with the assumption that new stations will generate development, an uplift in property values and more tax revenue that would offset the cost of the ST system. This was a dubious claim when ST was first proposed, and is even more tenuous now that the service level and station count is well below the level in election claims. In any event, there remains the question of how any uplift in property value and tax would be shared between Queen’s Park and Toronto given that both will invest in the stations, line, service level and fare discounts such as they may be.

Various possible sensitivity analyses are listed that could affect the projected costs and revenues, but these receive only superficial discussion, not worked-out examples. This affects scenarios such as alternate station sites, service levels and fare structures. Only a single set of numbers goes forward to the next step.

“Economic Case”

This group of costs and benefits depends strongly on the projected changes in ridership, travel time and travel mode.

  • Time savings in millions of person hours
    • This translates to an imputed value of time saved
  • Auto distance savings in millions of kilometres travelled
    • This translates to hard savings in vehicle operating costs (the primary component of this factor), plus a value for decongestion of the road network, safety benefits of less traffic, and environmental benefits of lower emissions.

In each case, costs and savings are inflated to future years, and then discounted back to present values. These values are weighed against the capital and operating costs listed under the Financial Case above.

Other factors considered include:

  • Deliverability of a project – could it actually be built, and what effect would there be on operations either for GO or other agencies
  • Strategic fit of a project with factors such as:
    • local and regional planning policy,
    • potential for development,
    • effect on the natural environment,
    • effect on the GO network,
    • station access, and
    • social factors such as the type of neighbourhood served.

These are evaluated on a broad scale of “Supportive”, “Neutal” and “Not Supportive”.

For a full discussion of these factors, refer to the appendices of any of the IBC reports.

Updated March 24, 2017 at 11:00 am:

Questions and answers from Metrolinx:

Q: Do you have current ridership counts (say daily or weekly) by rail corridor? The quick fact sheets only give values for the full system.

A: Attached is a report detailing ridership for September 2016. The document reflects current rail service patterns, excluding weekend Barrie rail service and Richmond Hill service extension to Gormley GO Station.

The corridor and route breakdowns provide interesting reading, but the important issue here is to compare current daily and monthly ridership with the projected gains and losses over the 60 year span of the station studies.

The Stouffville corridor, the 2nd least used of GO’s rail services, carries 333k riders/month. If there were no increases for the next six decades, the total would be 240 million rides, and we know that the numbers will be higher thanks to planned improvements in frequency and hours of service. Ridership changes of 20m over 60 years represent less than 10% of this number, and the proportion will be smaller when future growth is factored in.

While any loss is a subject for concern, it should be stated in context especially if, as I have argued, the change in trip times may not be sufficient to trigger the projected losses.

Q: In the IBCs for Lawrence East and Ellesmere, the effect of adding 1.8 minutes to the running time is shown as a loss of about 49 million rides over the 60 year timeframe of the study. However, the IBC for Finch, which would incur the same penalty, shows a loss of only about 20 million rides. Since most riders on this corridor originate north of Steeles, most of them are affected by the addition of one station no matter where it might be. Why is the effect so much lower at Finch East?

A: Impacts to upstream riders are similar at all three stations. Ellesmere and Lawrence would delay Agincourt GO passengers. Since Finch is north, it would not impose the same delay to Agincourt passengers.

Finch also anticipates higher potential for new boarding, both locally and through bus transfer, which offsets the loss of ridership in the calculation of overall impact.

Tables in the reports clearly show riders lost due to extended travel times separately from new riders attracted to the stations. If the effect from stations at Lawrence or Ellesmere would be so much greater than at Finch, this implies that Agincourt is already a major source of trips and that these trips would be discouraged by the addition of one stop further south. This does not make sense.

Q: Park Lawn station is unusual in that it involves the loss of no existing riders because there is no time penalty in moving the stop from Mimico to Park Lawn, and there is no projected drop in ridership. Over the course of the 60 year life estimate, the change in station locations is projected to generate 10.3m new trips, but only $13.1m in new revenue, or $1.31 per trip. This is lower than any fare GO charges.

A: The Park Lawn analysis was a unique case in the set of IBCs, as it was evaluated as a replacement station, not an additional station. No time penalty for upstream riders was incurred because it was assumed the time impact of Mimico station would simply be transferred.

There would be some loss of existing riders, particularly due to a loss of parking at a Park Lawn station, which is currently a significant source of ridership at Mimico. New ridership at Park Lawn was based in part on assumed higher residential densities near Park Lawn vs the existing Mimico site.

The table speaks to 10.3M new boardings and alightings, not net new trips. Alighting riders at a replacement station would not be considered to add to fare revenue. Also, a discount rate is applied to financial calculations throughout, so “fare revenue” does not directly translate into 60-years of farebox payments.

If only new boardings count as a revenue gain, then this understates the network effect. Everyone who boards as a new inbound rider also becomes a new outbound alighting, and they pay fares both ways even though only one of the fares is paid at Park Lawn. A trip that shifts from Mimico to ParkLawn (regardless of direction) for convenience is clearly not a net new rider.

As Metrolinx states, some riders who now park at Royal York may be lost if the station shifts, but they do not appear as lost “upstream” riders. The problem here appears to be that too simplistic a representation of the various rider classes and changes has been used.

As for the low average value of a new ride, this is likely due to the combined effect of presumed future inflation of fares and discount rates to bring future revenue to 2015 dollars. The discount rate is higher than the inflation rate, and so future revenue generates less money expressed in 2015. This drags down the average value of a fare. Other factors may be at work too due to Metrolinx’ consolidation of multiple ridership effects in a single number.

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

  1. Steve said: … how the new facilities will actually affect the transit network or improve the lot of transit riders.

    I totally agree. For me the business case must start from first principles. A definition of the problem. A discussion of how well the proposal addresses the defined problem, from the strictly transit flow perspective. Then the factors that these reports cover, cost benefit, financial costs, economic and “soft benefits”.

    Steve has always stressed demand flow analysis. So they should define current demand flows and the severity of current bottlenecks and also define anticipated demand flows. They can then discuss the suitability of the SmartTrack to addressing the demand flows.

    They should point out conditions to ensure a successful SmartTrack. For me, critical are an improved signalization system and Union Station upgrades. As a personal issue, I would include changing the rolling stock to EMU’s.

    It is my personal opinion, that the “benefits” outlined in the report do not address the true public transit bottlenecks which the report fails to define.

    I admire how Steve can make sense of these reports. He really is doing a heroic public service. I do try to read these reports. There should be a law saying that these important government reports should pass a readability index for high school citizens. The civil service should be providing a considered review of the project at hand and communicate in clear wording the benefits, limitations and costs. The obfuscation is truly a failure of public service.

    Thank-you Steve.

    Steve: You’re welcome!

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  2. If they insist on using bilevels, the only way to maintain speed for upstream users would be to build a third track on each line. Instead of double tracking the RER sections, they would triple track it. This way, trains from outside of Toronto can run express inside Toronto. For example, heading south on the Barrie Line, the train would make a stop at Downsview Park and then direct onto Union Station. For passengers travelling to Caledonia GO, they would get off at Downsview Park and wait for a local train.

    In reality, triple tracking might not be possible. The other alternative would be to run an express train, say on the hour. This would be followed by a rapid (stops at more stations) at :05 and a local at :10. Of course, the allure of Smart Track is service between 10 to 15 minutes. If people have to time their trains based on which stops the train will be stopping, it will reduce its attractiveness. The pros of a metro is that the trains run often and it stops at every station. There is no thinking involved.

    Stations should be built in a way that maximizes private investment. This is why one passes through a few department stores and a hotel before reaching the main gates of Osaka Station. Even in the suburbs, a station is always surrounded by shopping. Parking lots do not pay for themselves as GO do not charge for parking. If people have to pay for parking at GO stations to make it break even, most would not park there. People always complain that the connection to GO stations are poor. If there are shopping malls and hotels at the GO stations, would local bus service not terminate there frequently?

    The Metrolinx reports do not focus on development potential. Take Dundas West (UP Bloor)as an example. When RER is implemented, it will be a major gathering point for people coming from Pearson International, Kitchener, Brampton and more. It makes sense for a company to locate there as talents can come from many places. Companies want to attach as much talent as possible by increasing the radius in which people can reasonably be expected to come to work. A 70km radius around Dundas West is 5 million people. The same radius around Waterloo brings less than a million. There will be more talent inside a bigger pool of people. More stations inside of Toronto means more places that companies can locate to.

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  3. Benny Cheung said: “It makes sense for a company to locate there as talents can come from many places.”

    Except that they achieve the same thing by being located near Pearson and the land is cheaper there.

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  4. Benny Cheung said: “In reality, triple tracking might not be possible. The other alternative would be to run an express train, say on the hour. This would be followed by a rapid (stops at more stations) at :05 and a local at :10. Of course, the allure of Smart Track is service between 10 to 15 minutes.”

    The service configuration will differ from one corridor to another. In the Uxbridge corridor, all trains should be local IMO. That will inconvenience some riders from Markham, but a much greater number of riders from Scarborough and North York will get a reliable connection to downtown.

    The greatest concern is Lakeshore East corridor, between Union and the Scarborough Junction. It will have to handle the Uxbridge RER / Smartrack trains, Pickering / Oshawa RER trains, and fairly frequent VIA trains to Montreal and Ottawa. It is unfortunate that neither Metrolinx nor John Tory’s team looked at the possibility of tunneling the tightest sections of this corridor. Now we can only hope that at least 3 tracks will be consistently available, and that VIA trains and Oshawa express RER trains can operate both ways on the central track while the two outer tracks are used for all-stop trains.

    The Kitchener corridor is wide, and should easily allow for both local and express operation, especially if Metrolinx does not insist on using 2 tracks exclusively for the UPX train.

    Steve: A significant problem with UPX is the platform it uses, that “premier” slot at the north side of the corridor. This forces every train to cross over the tracks used by the Barrie and Kitchener trains to reach the south side of the corridor and the airport spur. But moving UPX further south takes it away from the purpose built station at the west end of the train shed. Thanks you Metrolinx for screwing up the flexibility of Union Station to make room for your pet train.

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  5. First off, thank you Steve for the marvelous job of taking this report apart. Now we know when politicians come at us saying “the experts analyzed it and made an informed decision bla bla” that those analyses aren’t exactly all they’re made out to be.

    For me, it’s ridiculous that each station is analyzed only on its own, with the effect of only adding that station taken into consideration. If I was the boss of these report writers, that alone would be enough for me to toss the entire report in the dustbin. We all know ST is about adding multiple stations. Are not effects of changes in systems like these often highly non-linear? Is it not the case that a station that does not make sense on its own makes perfect sense when paired with another? Could it not be that the stations that are identified as having the best impact and those which are identified as having the worst impact when taken on their own, swap places once we consider the effect of adding not just one station, but three or four at once? I mean, we’ve no idea, this report does nothing to tell us anything to that effect, but such situations are possible in general.

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  6. My comment seems to have been eaten by WordPress, so I’ll re-submit.

    Steve: It appears that something in your original post triggered one of the many anti-spam filters I have in place to frustrate a troll from Scarborough. I have merged some of the text from the first version in here because your two comments are not identical.

    (a) The “downtown stations will crowd out outer-suburban ridership” argument appears asinine, because it only looks at those stations as a means for downtown commuters to go further downtown, putting them in competition with commuters further out. What is ignored is the possibility for outer-suburban commuters to use inner-city stations to transfer to services to other places in Toronto than Union Station. Thereby giving people and companies greater flexibility where to locate. However, addressing this would have required studying addition of GO stations in conjunction with improved/reorganized local transit service. In the end, a true regional transit system for Toronto would inevitably be oriented to supporting commuting patterns that *do not currently exist in the GTA*. This is very hard to examine in a study that simulates incremental changes to existing ridership patterns.

    We’re reduced to conjecture: for example, should GO trains stop at St Clair? I dunno. Is it plausible that there will be destinations on St. Clair 10 years from now that would benefit from being reachable from across the GTA? Will it become more plausible if we build those GO train stops first? Would as many commuters eventually get off at St Clair as would get on? Whose job is it to think about these things?

    What I definitely know is that a transit system focused on moving 90% of commuters to a single downtown hub station is intrinsically limited in its growth potential. The fact that the GO study turned inner-city stations into a zero-sum-game against outer-suburban commuters is a clear illustration of this.

    Ironically, the Paris RER (namesake of the GO RER) precisely served to spread suburban-to-downtown commuters out among a large number of transfer points that connect to more places within the city of Paris, instead of dumping all suburban train commuters at a tiny handful of rail terminals which become a bottleneck in the system.

    (b) Are people High Up seriously contemplating including GO service in the current TTC fare? Or is this just a scenario included “for the sake of completeness”, like an early GO electrification study comparing electrification to maglev trains? I have a hard time believing this will happen.on.

    The best-case scenario I would hope for is something like a flat $5 fare for GO travel within the City of Toronto, with travel on the TTC included. (I think GO has a similar arrangement with some outer-suburban bus operators, with a ride on the local bus system included in the GO fare. Of course, these operators depend on GO for a large chunk of their demand whereas the TTC would be far less interested in such an arrangement.)

    Thus, $3something to travel within Toronto on the TTC, or $5something if a GO train is involved. Honestly, the operational subsidy needed to reduce the current $5something fare to TTC levels and roll GO into the TTC fare zone completely would probably be better spent on increased TTC surface transit service.

    Of course, since we are on the verge of burying $3billion+ in the Scarborough money pit, questions of prudent investment in transit are rather academic at the moment.

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  7. Michael Forest said: we can only hope that at least 3 tracks will be consistently available

    Metrolinx June 2016 approved the construction of a 4th track, which appears underway. The railroad guys (but not Metrolinx employees) want a grade separated junction for the Stouffville line into the Lakeshore line.

    Steve: The problem is that a grade separation will be messy and expensive, and Metrolinx can’t fob the cost off onto Toronto as part of SmartTrack, although I am sure they would love to do so.

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  8. “It appears that something in your original post triggered one of the many anti-spam filters I have in place to frustrate a troll from Scarborough.”

    Most likely my post contained vitriol and mentioned Scarborough. It made me reflect somewhat on the tone I used in my original comment.

    Of course, it was hard to be anything but vitriolic. From what I see, the government has gone from doing nothing to putting money into short-sighted capital projects that will make it much harder to build a world-class transit system in the future. (*On top of* the fact that money from previous projects could have been spent much more effectively, future investment would actually have to put money into *taking out* badly-planned infrastructure such as the UPX alignment, just to make room for a properly designed system.) Thus, whenever I check back on the state of transit planning in Toronto nowadays, I nearly always find something new to be upset about.

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  9. I was wondering about how they would do that grade separation at Scarborough junction. The tracks are currently at-grade and level with Danforth Road and Midland. Would Metrolinx have the tracks descend from the Kingston sub and pass under Danforth in a trench? I can’t quite wrap my head around how they’re going to work around the site constraints in the area.

    Steve: As things stand, Metrolinx does not plan to grade separate this junction. This is one of the constraints that prevents the 10-12 trains/hour that John Tory and the brains trust who concocted SmartTrack claimed we would see.

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  10. Steve: How many SmartTrack stations will survive?

    Answer: All of them except any new Scarborough ones. They are saying that adding even one station in Scarborough will dramatically reduce ridership upstream.

    Why don’t they say this about the Yonge line? Let’s add another stop say between York Mills and Lawrence (they are far enough) and that will reduce upstream ridership enough to make the Downtown Relief Line redundant. On the one hand, we are told that we don’t need the Scarborough subway because SmartTrack duplicates service. On the other hand, we are also told that we don’t need SmartTrack stations in Scarborough because that will reduce upstream ridership. I don’t believe this ridership prediction PSEUD0SCIENCE.

    “By 2031, the proposed stop on the Stouffville GO line at Lawrence Ave. East would attract 495 new passengers during the morning peak period. That works out to 1,405 new riders per day.”

    My God, they don’t even know anything about significant digits, I mean they claim to have the prediction right down to the very last passenger.

    If another stop were added to your subway line, will you really stop taking the subway altogether? Furthermore, can you really predict that 100% precisely down to the very last passenger? These so called ridership studies can be used to cherry-pick any project you want and reject any project you don’t want.

    We are told that we don’t need the Scarborough subway because an LRT will allegedly serve us better but there is also a movement by the Toronto Star to then reduce it down to simply changing the trains (no extension, no LRT, just change the trains or repair existing ones). Furthermore, Toronto Star is repeatedly speculating with ZERO evidence whatsoever that the $3.35 billion cost could easily get past $5 billion. I don’t understand how they could be 100% precise in ridership predictions down to the very last passenger and then have such vast ranges for cost prediction but of course, the more than $5 billion is NOT a number from any study but from Toronto Star alone. I would gladly have accepted the LRT as originally proposed (extended to at least Centennial College) but I knew that if we compromised on that, then we would NEVER get anything more than changing the trains or simply repair existing ones (FORGET about any extension). Downtown Councillors + Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, etc are repeatedly trying to cancel the Scarborough subway saying that only one new stop won’t serve Scarborough residents better but they are the ones who reduced a perfectly good three stop subway extension down to a single stop extension and they are now using that to try to cancel it altogether.

    We are told that we don’t need the Scarborough subway because most trips in Scarborough are not Downtown oriented but then we are told that Downtown Relief Line really helps Scarborough the most even though they are trying to claim that most trips in Scarborough are not Downtown oriented when trying to cancel the Scarborough subway.

    Steve: I agree that the math behind ridership projections related to the proposed stations is suspect, and on two counts. First, I agree that a small change in travel time will not affect ridership. GO Transit has changed running times simply to make schedules more reliable (and avoid some fare refunds for late operation), and there has been no talk of how this might drive away riders. Second, the amount of the change for some locations is small relative to overall ridership begging the question of whether the effects are within the margin of error of the model.

    That said, adding four stops between Milliken and Union could probably have more effect than a single new stop. That’s where electrification comes in. GO has always claimed that a benefit of electrification is that it could offset the delays from extra stops. Metrolinx appears to have ignored this in the projections.

    I believe that the $5 billion potential cost is an exaggeration, but this number appears to be based on counting the large contingency present in early project estimates twice. The $3.35 billion estimate includes a 30% contingency provision. This means that the base cost before contingency is $2.345 billion. It is unclear whether the 50% possible swing should really be applied to this lower number. A related issue is that some components of the overall project have much better defined costs, for example new subway cars and the signalling system. The contingency should be selectively applied to project components based on the degree of confidence we have in each component.

    However, the question remains of whether $3.35 billion (or whatever number) could be better spent in Scarborough. That’s where the LRT network comes in. It would reach considerably more of Scarborough than the subway and better serve the range of trips made within Scarborough. The DRL benefits suburban riders in eastern North York and western Scarborough by providing a route to downtown that avoids the Bloor-Yonge interchange. These are different riders than those who would use the Scarborough LRT or subway line(s), and this distinction is not made in claims about the DRL.

    The Star (Royson James) argues that an original plan to re-equip the SRT with new cars is the plan that should be pursued, but he cites a TTC proposal out of context, namely that this predates the LRT network plan. In the context of that plan, converting the SRT to LRT made more sense (and was cheaper) than getting new equipment and extending the line to Malvern. Having a network of one technology (LRT) yielded savings on maintenance facilities and ongoing operating costs, and allowed more flexibility in the placement of any network extensions than would be possible with the SRT technology.

    BTW James erroneously claims that the RT technology was picked up by Vancouver and Calgary. Yes, Vancouver has the Skytrain network, although the Canada Line to the airport uses a different technology from the SRT. Calgary has a network of LRT lines (the C-Train) that opened its first line five years before the SRT started running and has been expanding ever since. That’s what Scarborough could have had starting back in the 1970s, but Bill Davis and Queen’s Park knew better, and they strong-armed Scarborough Council, Metro and the TTC into using the SRT. That system was expensive and unreliable, and plans for expansion never went forward.

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  11. I wish to share my observations at a town hall meeting dealing with the Scarborough Subway Extension.
    One panelist was from a university. He proposed a framework for discussion. He suggested that the audience consider a hierarchy of transit needs. A city needs a base express grid to get citizens across and up and down a city. The next level is land use planning. Sectors within the city are segregated, economic activity, cultural activity, typical residential and challenged residential. Is it necessary for citizens to travel so far for a job? Is it possible for a similar industry nearby? Transit planning for the various geographic sectors impacts the lives of citizens. An economically challenged neighbourhood benefits greatly if there is expansive public transit. An expansive public transit in a typical residential area could encourage usage of public transit and reduce the habit to drive.

    This panelist acknowledges that the transit debate in Toronto is still at the highest level, the need for a base rapid transit grid. There was a post on Steve’s blog discussing Metrolinx’s transit plans. RER is primarily an exercise to double track a grid. Upgrading signalization and Union Station are necessary next steps. SmartTrack was a recognition for the need of a base rapid transit grid. Unfortunately, there were no transit experts consulted, so it was not technically realistic.

    The discussion so far sounds great for a business case analysis. I noticed that not one politician comprehended the presentation. It was totally over their heads. I now understand Steve’s frustrations with making deputations at Executive Committees. He’s too good for the idiots on the committee.

    Then came the question and answer period from the public. What I noticed is that people were very emotional about their positions, but they truly lacked full information. It seemed pretty hopeless to fully inform them. There were emotional stories of how long their bus rides were. There were unusual expectations of what improved public transit could do – create jobs. One person said just because one station has a high usage is not necessarily the way to gauge how adequate transit service is. Maybe it is because bus service to the adjacent station is poor. Another person felt that transit decisions should consider operating costs. Someone questioned how numbers were thrown around as convincing points, yet what are relevant measures to make transit decisions?

    What was truly absent from this meeting were the visionaries, those who decided to build in the subway track under the Bloor Viaduct and build the Queen east/west subway station under the north/south subway station.

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  12. Bill R: I suppose these people look to the mayor to inform them; you know, the way he and the Toronto Sun were able to do today. That was, basically; Metrolinx has no idea what it would entail or cost to provide Scarborough with a light rail alternative, so why should we even think about anything except my happy shining subway.

    Metrolinx, of course, has no idea because the Ford/Tory administration has shown no interest in anything but the subway. So Tory, and all those dopey people at The Sun are telling the citizens of Toronto to ignore light rail because they, in their open minded way, have been opposed to it from the start. Nice front page though. I bet no one at that centerpiece of kneejerk stupidity knows that 1326 is the only surviving, restored TRC double truck car.

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  13. I took my first ride in over 30 years on the Stouffville line today. It strikes me as a project with a finishing date of 2027 as an RER, or 2040 as SmartTrack. Today, it bumps along at an average speed of 45 KPH, thanks to the large number of stations. The area it services has little greenbelt protection, so new housing is still going up; and that will necessitate more trains and more stations. It feels more like the Bloor-Danforth than a high speed commuter train.

    I’m not blaming GO; they are coping well with a difficult situation, which will become an impossible one if Tory’s ‘plan’ is implemented before triple tracking much of the line, and separating grades at Scarborough Junction. Express trains of any kind would be impossible without both of these very expensive changes.

    As it is, some of the station platforms aren’t long enough, and there appears to be some kind of desultory plan to double track, here and there. Desultory is a great keyword for the whole idea!

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  14. Steve writes:

    Thanks you Metrolinx for screwing up the flexibility of Union Station to make room for your pet train.

    Did Metrolinx give a reason why upx trains shouldn’t use the other tracks? I mean, there’s a enough staff at the dedicated terminal anyway to show confused travelers in the regular concourse where the airport train would be boarding. Here’s also a chance to sell the naming rights to individual platforms! “Attention all passengers. Now boarding on the CIBC platform…”

    Steve: The basic problem for UPX is that it is a fairly frequent service that takes up a track’s worth of space for a two or three car train. Moving it further south would present problems, not to mention making it impossible for UPX to have the current dedicated departure lounge. At best it would have something like the old Via 1 lounge.

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  15. Benny Cheung said: If they insist on using bilevels, the only way to maintain speed for upstream users would be to build a third track on each line.

    What does the use of bilevels have to do with the price of tea in China? Please explain how they’d run express service on twin tracks which would be precluded by consist length, height, engine type, or energy source.

    Benny Cheung said: The other alternative would be to run an express train, say on the hour. This would be followed by a rapid (stops at more stations) at :05 and a local at :10.

    So why doesn’t your express train at :15 not catch up to the local at :10? Three levels of service is insane to attempt with two tracks. You can get away with two levels bidirectional if you have the occasional well placed switch to resolve your time-space conflicts. Now you’ve got me interested in looking at something like a local-express inbound AM peak service and local only outbound. It’d depend on the split between volumes, but it’d be easier track-wise, if not platform wise.

    Benny Cheung said: A 70km radius around Dundas West is 5 million people. The same radius around Waterloo brings less than a million.

    Distance is less important than travel time, so more stations isn’t always better. 90% of Mississauga/Brampton and all of Burlington, Oakville, Hamilton, and Guelph are within 70km of Kitchener, that puts it easy over 2M and probably closer to 3M. Even then, raw population numbers aren’t very important.

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  16. Andre S said: Is it not the case that a station that does not make sense on its own makes perfect sense when paired with another?

    It’s a question of the complexity of the model. They have 5 cases to begin with, and looking at the east side there are 5 potential stations (3 with 1 location, Don with 3-4 locations, and Gerrard with 2-3 locations). To model the combinations, that’s 5*2*2*2*4*3 = 480 states. That’s a recommendation requiring a flow chart and probably has many states that are of very similar value.

    serhei said: What I definitely know is that a transit system focused on moving 90% of commuters to a single downtown hub station is intrinsically limited in its growth potential.

    A large part of the RER is to build connections where rail crosses subway.

    serhei said: Are people High Up seriously contemplating including GO service in the current TTC fare?

    Only John Tory. The latest way to “deliver” this campaign pledge is to raise TTC fares to match GO somewhere in the middle.

    Steve: Or for Toronto to pay the difference in subsidy to GO. Meeting in the middle is the stealth component of Leslie Woo’s scheme to shift the TTC rapid transit fares to distance-based. I just wish Metrolinx were honest enough to say that’s what they were doing. But of course if you believe Tory, and his boffins (one of whom is a Metrolinx board member), SmartTrack was going to be totally self-financing. Total nonsense, of course, but the Mayor is sensitive about criticism and only believes selected experts. Meanwhile, the “lived experience” of SmartTrack is that TTC fares will have to go up.

    Bill R said: The railroad guys (but not Metrolinx employees) want a grade separated junction for the Stouffville line into the Lakeshore line.

    A grade separation at Scarborough Junction (assumed to be between Kennedy Station and under Corvette Park) would do three things: remove the need for trains to slow when approaching the junction (by removing the two of the three bends); allow Scarborough Station to be expanded both in number of tracks/platforms as well as to meet GO safety standards; and it would remove movement conflicts between the two lines. There is a desire at Metrolinx to eventually remove all grade junctions, but Silver is definitely higher on the list.

    L Wall said: The tracks are currently at-grade and level with Danforth Road and Midland. Would Metrolinx have the tracks descend from the Kingston sub and pass under Danforth in a trench?

    One of the better concepts would be to start a descend on the Kingston sub near Kennedy Road on the south side of the tracks at a maximum of 2% slope. From there it would swing Scarborough Station and run north under Laurel Ave., then begin ascending under Corvette Park and be back at grade by the time you reached Kennedy Station. This would allow the Midland/Danforth intersection to remain open and at-grade. The whole thing would be between 2.0 and 2.7 km, which would put it at the same scale as the West Toronto Diamond Grade Separation.

    Harrison said: As it is, some of the station platforms aren’t long enough, and there appears to be some kind of desultory plan to double track, here and there.

    Stouffville double tracking has been chugging along for 3-4 years now. They finished the EA in September 2014. One thing they learned doing Georgetown South is trying to do too many parts at once raises the prices and add a lot of complications. We’ve just been in a period where political planning has outpaced physical construction.

    Giancarlo said: Did Metrolinx give a reason why UPX trains shouldn’t use the other tracks?

    Adding to Steve’s response, UPX also is a high-platform train, so it needs dedicated platforms. The south side of the rail corridor is very built up, so it would have meant losing mainline tracks, while placing it on the north side allowed them to use/build the A1/B track. There is still a crossing conflict near Bathurst North Yard, but it had the least impact on existing services. Also the “ARL” was planned prior to electrification being seriously considered; in the same timeframe as the “RailPath” was donated to the City as it was unneeded future capacity. Both are bad decisions in hind sight (although I do enjoy the RailPath).

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  17. This is a reply to Mapleson. Bilevels are heavy and have no traction power motors. It is very hard to run a frequent service with close station spacing. To put it another way, one does not take a knife to a gun fight. An urban service is much different than a suburban operation. A diesel locomotive is carrying a lot of weight versus a EMU. The electricity produced comes from a diesel generator. And the fuel for that generator comes from the diesel fuel tank. 1000 gallons of low Sulphur diesel fuel is not light. A EMU does not store any energy aside from capacitors used to smooth out power demand. In addition, internal combustion engine is only about 45% efficient. Only 45% of the energy contained in a gallon of diesel is converted to movement. Add that to the energy loss of converting engine movement to electricity, the number is ever lower. Acceleration speed is based on weight. The more weight the slower the acceleration.

    What does it mean? To generate 1000 hp, one also produces another 1000 hp (approximately) worth of heat. This is why internal combustion engine requires a lot of cooling. Notice all the air vents and fans on top of a GO locomotive. Any time a vehicle is sucking in air to cool something, it is adding to drag. An EMU does not have that as the electric motor is pretty efficient in converting electricity into motion. While a GO locomotive might have a coefficient of drag of say 0.50cd at a stand still. At 100mph, that drag might be 1.0cd and above. (These numbers are simply used to illustrate physics). Now with a higher cd, it takes even more energy to overcome the drag and keep the locomotive in motion. This is in addition to the added weight of the diesel motor and the fuel tank.

    This is why a locomotive pulled train is so slow at acceleration and lower top speed. We have not even discussed that only the locomotive wheels have power. Now back to the bilevels. With two doors to disembark and embark, there will be more dwell time. Think of the efficiency of a metro train vs the bilevel. At Yonge Station, the T1 can unload and load the same amount of passengers as a bilevel in half the time due to 4 doors per car. Think of this as a bank branch. Having 4 tellers means less waiting than one with 2 tellers. This is why the dwell time of a GO train is much longer.

    With all these factors working against the locomotive pulled bilevels, this is why running close station spacing (such as adding the Kirby Station) will affect the travel time so much. The easiest way to operate RER would be EMUs or tilting DMUs which have comparable block times on double tracks. But we do not live in an ideal world as we have signal limitations. So adding a third track would allow certain trains to bypass certain stations.

    If one looks at certain lines in Japan such as the Tokaido Main Line near Nagoya, having multi levels of service is possible as long as one is willing to give priority to certain travelers. The Tokaido Main Line is double tracked and electrified. At certain stations, the local train would pull into a separate track, while an express or rapid train would stop at another platform. Once the express or rapid train finishes loading passengers, it would leave the station first. The local train will leave after. It works, but what ends up happening is that certain stations will only see service once every 30 minutes or so, while the express or rapid services will see more frequent service. It works, but people will need to move trains. At the express stops, the local train passenger would run across the platform to board the express train. This is not what Mr. Tory promised when he talked about Smart Track. He promised sub 15 minutes service at every station.

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  18. One of the better concepts would be to start a descent on the Kingston sub near Kennedy Road on the south side of the tracks at a maximum of 2% slope. From there it would swing Scarborough Station and run north under Laurel Ave., then begin ascending under Corvette Park and be back at grade by the time you reached Kennedy Station.

    Running mainline rail under a residential street isn’t going to be popular with the locals… How does this concept get around St. Clair which at the moment descends and passes under Scarborough station and the Kingston sub?

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  19. Mapleson writes:

    UPX also is a high-platform train.

    Then UPX and VIA could share nicely! To my mind it would have been much easier to upgrade tracks 16-17 and 20-21 to high-level. These don’t see GO service anyway. You could have Montreal/Ottawa service on the same platform as UPX. VIA already does double berths e.g. 76 from Windsor is no longer through to Ottawa but it arrives on the same track that 48 is on so passengers making the connection simply walk down the platform to the next train. VIA 48, last time I saw, was running push pull with two engines. This would easily mesh with the UPX trains Then, yes, Steve, we could have put the UPX lounge in the old VIA 1 spot.

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  20. Giancarlo says: “Then UPX and VIA could share nicely! To my mind it would have been much easier to upgrade tracks 16-17 and 20-21 to high-level. These don’t see GO service anyway. You could have Montreal/Ottawa service on the same platform as UPX.”

    The UPX platform at Union is 3 cars long and has platform edge doors that would not mesh with VIA’s doors on its current service. Also VIA’s equipment tends to stay in the station for longer than 15 minutes and would interfere with the UPX service or are you suggesting extending the high platform for the length of the station? This would cause more conflicts as you would have VIA trains crossing over the entire set of GO east services.

    The upgrading of platforms to high level will not be easy at Union as the current stairs and elevators would all need to be re-done. According to my source Metrolinx is contemplating lowering the track by directly attaching it to the concrete underneath to get more clearance for electrification. They may also raise the level of the entire platform to handicap level and widening it to meet the edge of the GO train doors. This would make the stop location easier to move as they would not need to spot the accessible coach as accurately and it would reduce the probability of someone stumbling getting off any coach.

    Metrolinx has a RFP to build a concourse under the southern tracks to put in stairs and elevators for GO service.

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  21. Steve said: The basic problem for UPX is that it is a fairly frequent service that takes up a track’s worth of space for a two or three car train. Moving it further south would present problems, not to mention making it impossible for UPX to have the current dedicated departure lounge. At best it would have something like the old Via 1 lounge.

    Would it make sense to move VIA to platforms 3/4 and make them all high-level platforms (lower the track if you have to). UPX stays where it is? Via and UPX can share a lounge. GO keeps 5-27? I can imaging conflicts with Richmond Hill line on the east side of Union but this might alleviate conflicts on the west side? I am not sure how many platforms VIA needs to be honest. If it needs more than 2, the conflicts on the east side may not make it worthwhile.

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  22. Benny,

    You seem to string together unrelated facts and consider it to a cogent argument. Bilevels are intrinsically heavier than single-level carriages. DMUs and EMUs have traction power motors on each carriage, whereas locomotive hauled electric and diesel trains do not. These are independent facts.

    1000 gallons of ultra-low sulfur diesel has a maximum weight of 3,316kg according to ASTM D4052. That seems a lot until you put it in context. In comparison, the 12-car consist has 600,000kg of mass plus passengers (average Canadian is 77.55kg) up to 450,000. So on a fully loaded train, 1000 gallons of diesel is 0.3% of the weight (ignoring the mass of the locomotive).

    The MP40PH-3C is a 4000hp engine (with an additional 1000hp for electrical use) and a 1850 gallon fuel tank. This brings the fuel up to 0.6% of a full train or 1.0% of an empty train. We are shifting to the even more powerful MP54AC.

    A diesel-fueled locomotive-pulled train does have lower acceleration, but the top speed as appliable on our network is the same. It takes slightly longer to reach it. In a system with many closely spaced stations, these become more important factors as the train cannot reach peak velocity between stations. However, that’s not the type of system we have. Even at it’s densest parts, stations are still 3-4km apart (40km from Union to Milliken with 11 possible stations).

    The number of doors on a bilevel is not fixed by law or regulation, but a balancing of dwell times, seating capacity, standing capacity, and historical investments. If you or anyone else has looked at this balance to say more doors = more train capacity, where the potential savings in boarding/alighting time is sufficient to squeeze in one more train (rather than just arriving at Union and either waiting for a platform to open or opening the doors and queuing for the stairs preventing these extra doors for actually reducing alighting time). If not, fewer doors means more seats. Beyond that, boarding times are a function of train capacity. As the train nears capacity, the time for each addition change in passenger increases.

    Kirby Station would be almost exactly in the middle of the 7km stretch between Maple and King City Station. Acceleration and dwell time are the only additions to the overall schedule. Dwell time is more a factor of train loads and acceleration to maximum is easily less than 1 minute slower than an EMU.

    Looking at Japan is an exercise in navel gazing. The Tokaido Main Line near Nagoya has four or more mainline tracks (between Tokyo and Odawara, Nagoya and Inazawa, Kusatsu and Kobe). With 4 mainline tracks and additional pocket tracks, yes, you can easily run multiple levels of service. That’s a function of track capacity, not locomotives or carriage configurations.

    Tory also promised “22 new station stops”: 8 were existing and of the 7 new that we will get, 4 were already in the works. So long as he gets one train and one station with the words Smart Track attached to them, he’ll claim it a victory. It doesn’t mean what he promised made sense.

    RER on a three-track corridor is much better regardless of every other factor. I’d rather we spend the money there first and then rebuild every station, signal, and switch block on the system to finally switch to DMU/EMU. I also believe we’ll build our electrification infrastructure before all that.

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  23. L Wall said: Running mainline rail under a residential street isn’t going to be popular with the locals… How does this concept get around St. Clair which at the moment descends and passes under Scarborough station and the Kingston sub?

    Linden/St. Clair is the point where the road-rail underpass really begins, so by placing it there it’s avoiding it on the nearside. If not, the next best location is running along Midland, which has all the current problems.

    Running under the street is much more popular than under houses, and there approximately half as many houses that would love not to have trains running past their backyards, and a “naturalized trail” could be a nice off setting point. Not closing Midland/Danforth is also a nice talking point, which would push a lot more traffic onto Linden Ave, as they seek to make their way out of the neighbourhood. With vibration plates, they’d have less noise/vibrations than currently even with the drastic increase in train volumes.

    Politically, I believe I could sell it to the residents.

    Giancarlo said: Then UPX and VIA could share nicely! To my mind it would have been much easier to upgrade tracks 16-17 and 20-21 to high-level.

    VIA trains would have a 6″ gap between the train and platform! Platform 16/17 is only accessible from North Ladder track 2. With the configuration of the fly-under, the best you could do then is not fouling tracks A1 and B. If not, you need to cross the Weston corridor to Track 1, which becomes Track C2, and only Track C1 to the Newmarket sub is unconflicted.

    Saurabh said: Would it make sense to move VIA to platforms 3/4 and make them all high-level platforms (lower the track if you have to).

    There is no platform 3/4. Or are you talking about raising platforms 3 and 4/5 (platforms 1 and 2 are for the TTC subway)? There are two tracks between platforms 3 and 4/5. UPX is already in line with platform 3, so really you are just moving the VIA trains. Raising platform 3 is the hardest of all of them due to its proximity to the station building and consequently heritage features. Beyond that, I’m not really seeing any savings on movement conflicts as you are pushing Richmond Hill trains down into conflict with VIA. Right now it’s straight in/straight out. On the west end, VIA trains would foul most mainline tracks to reach the Oakville subdivision (Track B, A1, A2, A3, C1, C2) when using South Ladder 1.

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  24. @ Saurabh (@twitting_sg)

    The problem with putting in high level platforms, about 48″ above the rail head is that all the stairs and elevators would need to be re-done and the narrow sections beside the stairwells and elevators would be a lot higher. This could be extremely dangerous in crowded conditions as one would fall a lot farther if they were knocked off the platform.

    Also VIA is going to obtain, hopefully, new equipment and it would make more sense to have it low platform as they only have 2 high platform stations now, Montreal and Quebec City, with the possibility of Ottawa going high platform at one end. Every other station in Canada is low platform.

    All high platform stations on main lines with high speed freight (> 15 mph) need to have the platform set back to the same location as GO’s Accessibility Platforms. This requires that there be a movable gap filler on the coach or the railway platform; both of these are problematic in our winters. The other alternative is to have a Gauntlet Track that allows passenger trains that stop to move closer to the platform.

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  25. Mapleson said: a balancing of dwell times, seating capacity, standing capacity, and historical investments… the potential savings in boarding/alighting time is sufficient to squeeze in one more train …boarding times are a function of train capacity. As the train nears capacity, the time for each addition change in passenger increases.

    Robert Wightman: All high platform stations on main lines with high speed freight (> 15 mph) need to have the platform set back …The other alternative is to have a Gauntlet Track that allows passenger trains that stop to move closer to the platform.

    I would like to further my education. In another thread, Mapleson discussed station dwell time. Before his post, I was under the impression (from reading posts on the internet) that the solution to reducing dwell time was widening platforms. I had learned that the tracks at Union Station (US) are set on a string of pillars. Mapleson’s post explained to clear US platforms more quickly, more stairwells would be added.

    The other thing that internet posts lamented about dealing with extended dwell times were the delays required to step up or down off the train to the platform. Subways have the vehicle floor level to the platform. Robert Wightman’s explanations make a lot of sense.

    So educate me. For SmartTrack to work better, how much difference would rolling stock with more doors, whose floor is level to to the station platform with a small gap, significantly reduce dwell time?

    I also remember one SRT configuration which made use of both platforms. Passengers alighted from the left side while passengers boarded on the right side. Would Union Station dwell times be reduced if every other platform was for boarding and the other platforms would be used for alighting?

    Steve: The SRT uses double-sided loading at Kennedy Station. This is not practical at Union because traffic there is (mostly) going in one direction, either off and pouring down into the PATH system or street, or on and queuing many deep waiting for a train to come in. The dwell time will be governed by the majority flow. The situation is different, for example, at Bloor-Yonge and at St. George where traffic is much less unidirectional. At Union, reserving half of the platform space for boarding only would take a good deal of platform an stairway capacity out of service during the AM (inbound) peak, and conversely for the PM (outbound) peak.

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  26. Saurabh said: “Would it make sense to move VIA to platforms 3/4 and make them all high-level platforms (lower the track if you have to). UPX stays where it is? Via and UPX can share a lounge. GO keeps 5-27? I can imaging conflicts with Richmond Hill line on the east side of Union but this might alleviate conflicts on the west side? I am not sure how many platforms VIA needs to be honest. If it needs more than 2, the conflicts on the east side may not make it worthwhile.”

    The problem is that VIA needs the longest platforms for the Canadian and those aren’t #3/4.

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  27. Bill R says

    “I would like to further my education. In another thread, Mapleson discussed station dwell time. Before his post, I was under the impression (from reading posts on the internet) that the solution to reducing dwell time was widening platforms. I had learned that the tracks at Union Station (US) are set on a string of pillars. Mapleson’s post explained to clear US platforms more quickly, more stairwells would be added. “

    Dwell time is a function of 2 things at Union Station:

    i) the length of time to empty the train,
    ii) the length of time to clear the platform enough so that it is safe for the train to leave.

    Since GO uses low level platforms adding more low level doors would do nothing to affect dwell time because the stairs down from the mid and upper levels restrict passenger flow to one passenger at a time. Next time you are on a GO train watch the passenger flow at the doors. Once the lower level is empty the flow rate through the drops drops to about one half.

    The only way to decrease dwell time for passenger flow is to put the doors over the trucks on the mid level and use high platforms which are not possible on the GO network because of the need to accommodate freight train on many corridors. GO gets away with it for the UP Express because it owns the corridor and can limit the odd freight that goes by to < 15 mph. They cannot do this on the Lakeshore, Milton and Richmond Hill lines because they do not own all the track corridors and CN still has running rights.

    @Mapleson

    You say: Beyond that, boarding times are a function of train capacity. As the train nears capacity, the time for each addition change in passenger increases." It is also a function of the coach design. More doors on the lower level would do nothing. Moving the doors to the mid level would speed up loading and unloading but be impossible on our system so we are basically stuck with what we have as the optimum arrangement.

    Caltrans running out of San Francisco is up in arms because California High Speed Rail, if it ever gets built, will use high platform loading which will force Caltrans to put high platform doors in their bi-levels over the trucks. This will eliminate at least 16 seats, four quads, one for each door.

    I also remember one SRT configuration which made use of both platforms. Passengers alighted from the left side while passengers boarded on the right side. Would Union Station dwell times be reduced if every other platform was for boarding and the other platforms would be used for alighting?

    Are you talking the subway or GO trains? Most GO trains use both side of the train for loading or unloading. Since 95% of the passengers are exiting in the morning and boarding in the afternoon using only one side for each function would be counter productive.

    Mapleson says: The MP40PH-3C is a 4000hp engine (with an additional 1000hp for electrical use) and a 1850 gallon fuel tank. This brings the fuel up to 0.6% of a full train or 1.0% of an empty train. We are shifting to the even more powerful MP54AC.

    Are you sure about this? I asked Bruce Percy about this and he said the MP54AC was a turkey and they would not be getting any more. The body with two prime movers is too difficult to work on easily and the electronics to generate the Head End Power complicate the maintenance. He did say that they have 16 MP40ACs on order but did not know their delivery date. AC locomotives should give a better initial acceleration rate but no increase in top speed unless they could get the MP54ACs which put about 4700 hp max to the traction motors.

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  28. Robert Wightman: Why didn’t Anne Marie mention level 4 exhaust standards when U of T dropped it that some GO cars are receiving more diesel crud than anyone except a Republican would tolerate? I had thought that some MP 40’s already met the standard. Her silence says no!

    This is the second time you have mentioned that we may never see another MP54. That’s unfortunate since they conform to level 4. Since you have the inside track on GO locomotive information, I would appreciate hearing your comments on these topics before we all buy it on the front car [pulled trains only, of course].

    Like

  29. @ Harrison:

    The MP40s GO has are tier 3 compliant. The 16 MP40ACs on order will be tier 4 compliant and use AC traction motors. I doubt that you will ever see DC traction motors ordered again for commuter rail service.

    IIRC the level of pollutants going into the first car is still relatively low compared to driving on an expressway and that GO is going to change the cabin filters to remove more particulate matter and do some other changes. Tier 3 is still a lot better than the older tier 0 locomotives.

    I asked Greg Percy at a meeting what GO was doing with their lone MP54AC, #247, and he said nothing. It was an experiment and it was not successful. Maintenance on it was too difficult as everything was crammed into the body space to fit the two prime movers and the head end power electronics.

    A diesel salesman said that the Cummins diesel it used do not produce full torque at lower rpms where the Electro Motive 710 series produce maximum torque at lower rpm and can accelerate better than Cummins equipped locomotives. I don’t know if it is true but it makes sense and he is retired so has no stake in the outcome.

    If you can load the alternator up to full current at lower rpm then you get better acceleration sooner. I don’t remember the exact numbers but the Cummins requires about twice the rpm as the EMDs to get the same current when starting.

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  30. I was wrong about one thing; the EMD 710s in the MP40-3Cs are only tier 2 not tier 3 compliant. If Metrolinx wants 16 new single engine diesels they are probably waiting for another prime mover to become available. EMD has a 4400 hp 1010 series four stroke 12 cylinder engine that is tier 4 compliant without using Diesel Exhaust Fluid.

    GE has a 12 cylinder 4400 hp evolution series Tier 4 prime mover and Cummins makes the 4,200-hp (3,132 kW) QSK95 prime, a 16-cylinder high-speed diesel, vs 12 cylinder lower rpm engines from EMD and GE. It will be interesting to see what ends up in GO’s new tier 4 engines.

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  31. Robert Wightman writes:

    The UPX platform at Union is 3 cars long and has platform edge doors that would not mesh with VIA’s doors on its current service…. Are you suggesting extending the high platform for the length of the station? This would cause more conflicts as you would have VIA trains crossing over the entire set of GO east services.

    Well, you’re not allowed to wait for VIA train on the platform at Union. You have to queue downstairs. The escalators are physically turned off and there’s a barrier placed in front until it’s time to board. I personally don’t agree with this, but it obviates the need for platform doors. Yes, extend the high platform the whole way. Conceivably, these VIA trains already do make the crossover. In fact, nearly everything boards and arrives on 16-17 or 20-21 except occasional use of 3 and 12. 78 used to come in on platform 12 when I was on it frequently a year or so ago. I believe, however that was because of construction.

    Mapleson writes:

    VIA trains would have a 6″ gap between the train and platform!

    Is that big? What is the gap at Central Station? I feel like 6″ is comparable. VIA usually puts down a little yellow bridge that you can roll your suitcase over. It’s kind of like what GO does with the accessibility platform. Unless you mean the floor of the coach will be 6″ above the platform. That’s a problem.

    Robert Wightman writes:

    Also VIA is going to obtain, hopefully, new equipment and it would make more sense to have it low platform

    New equipment? HA! I’ll believe that fund has already been spent on the LRC revamp. New leather seats, less legroom and half the seats are backwards so they don’t have to turn the trains. Stupid, but that’s a complaint for another blog … if it ever does happen. I would imagine its not that expensive or onerous to make coaches that work with both. Anyhow, VIA’s current stock already has the folding staircase.

    Mapleson Writes:

    Platform 16/17 is only accessible from North Ladder track 2. With the configuration of the fly-under, the best you could do then is not fouling tracks A1 and B. If not, you need to cross the Weston corridor to Track 1, which becomes Track C2, and only Track C1 to the Newmarket sub is unconflicted.

    Aha.

    If I’m eager to tack VIA on to UPX’s high platforms, it’s because I find it very ironic that the only people who have access to high platforms in Toronto are those who are fly to their destination anyway. While VIA has personnel and machines to help those who can’t climb the stairs, high platforms would be more humane and faster for everyone involved.

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  32. Giancarlo says

    “Well, you’re not allowed to wait for VIA train on the platform at Union. You have to queue downstairs. The escalators are physically turned off and there’s a barrier placed in front until it’s time to board. I personally don’t agree with this, but it obviates the need for platform doors.”

    I never said that platform edge doors are needed, just that they exist on Platform 1 where UPX stops. As Mapleson has said putting VIA onto Track 1 would cause a lot of cross track conflicts. Also I don’t think that track 1 (the old numbering system) is accessible to or from the west so it really is only good for train movements to the east though it should be possible to put a switch in joining track 2 to 1 west of the station.

    “New equipment? HA! I’ll believe that fund has already been spent on the LRC revamp. New leather seats, less legroom and half the seats are backwards so they don’t have to turn the trains. Stupid, but that’s a complaint for another blog … if it ever does happen. I would imagine its not that expensive or onerous to make coaches that work with both. Anyhow, VIA’s current stock already has the folding staircase.”

    The VIA stock, especially the renaissance and LRC stock is getting old in the tooth and wearing out. VIA may make cosmetic changes to the LRC stock but it is a light weight vehicle and the basic body structure is getting to the point of being worn out. The renaissance equipment was a mistake just like the Navy’s submarine purchase from the Brits. Don’t buy anything used from them.

    VIA is desperately in need of new rolling stock. The Renaissance equipment was built in 1995/96 to European loading designs and were poorly suited for Canadian operations as they did not originally meet the requirements for accessibility standards. The LRC equipment is from the mid 70’s and is now 40 years old. Its most reliable equipment is the Budd stainless steel equipment from the 50s. To say that VIA needs new, modern equipment is an understatement,

    Most European intercity rolling stock is going to this type of seating as it speeds up terminal operation and reduces cost. You may not like it but it will be on almost all new stock as turning trains or rotating seats takes too much time and money.

    The current folding step system is a major problem with the current rolling stock. It is both expensive and onerous to make a system that works effectively with both systems, high and low platform.

    “While VIA has personnel and machines to help those who can’t climb the stairs, high platforms would be more humane and faster for everyone involved.”

    Except that high platforms are an extremely expensive retrofit at Union and most railway stations across Canada. Most European systems are using a low floor low platform design for their trains. GO RER is going to carry many more passengers than VIA so the system has to be suitable for the majority of the passenger and equipment that uses it and that will be GO style. Besides, they own the station.

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  33. Robert Wightman said: Are you sure about this? I asked Bruce Percy about this and he said the MP54AC was a turkey and they would not be getting any more.

    You are correct. I haven’t been following results of the MP54AC refurb closing recently. I knew one had been delivered on an order of 16. The MP40AC will still close the gap on acceleration compared to a generic EMU. My general point was that diesel wasn’t a very limiting factor in travel times and acceleration is more of a factor in load to power ratios than propulsion type.

    Giancarlo said: Is that big? What is the gap at Central Station? I feel like 6″ is comparable. VIA usually puts down a little yellow bridge that you can roll your suitcase over. It’s kind of like what GO does with the accessibility platform. Unless you mean the floor of the coach will be 6″ above the platform. That’s a problem.

    6″ is big enough that it’s a trip hazard. Any wheelchair would be hard pressed to pass it without assistance (the front wheels are 8″). So you’ll still need a bridge and support people, so what exactly is the benefit? Even if you fix the issue at Union, the staff will still be needed for all the other stations enroute.

    Giancarlo said: Well, you’re not allowed to wait for VIA train on the platform at Union. You have to queue downstairs. The escalators are physically turned off and there’s a barrier placed in front until it’s time to board. I personally don’t agree with this, but it obviates the need for platform doors.

    I actually did a study of platform edge doors/gates at Union. They aren’t actually as safe as they seem (there have been several deaths and injuries of individuals trapped between train and PED). The fact that they’d occupy 0.6m of the platform width and could not be placed at the actual platform edge due to clearance restraints, means they have a negative net safety implication.

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