Metrolinx Previews The Next Big Move

Updated August 23, 2017 at 11:15 am: The full deck for the Metrolinx AMO presentation is now online.

On August 14, 2017, Metrolinx attended the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference in Ottawa with a presentation “Connecting the Region”. Although this was not a formal unveiling of the next iteration of the GTHA’s “Big Move” regional transportation plan, it gives a sense of Metrolinx thinking and what might be in the pipeline.

Compared with the original plan in 2008, this iteration is much more about building what is already in the pipeline as opposed to a grand vision with more lines than anyone could ever hope to see. This is an important evolution for Metrolinx from a purely planning agency to construction and, eventually, to operation of a large transit network.

During the past decade since the 2008 plan was developed, the GTHA has evolved in both its population and in the type of development that “growth” implies. Although the original plan foresaw a great deal of new transit, even that ambitious scheme would only barely keep up with growth in travel demand. Even this would be uneven with better transit in some of the “easy” corridors such as the rail lines, but much less to serve region-to-region travel.

That was always an issue with The Big Move – at best it would cap the growth in auto travel provided there was a massive, sustained investment in infrastructure and service, but a real decline in “congestion” and all that entails would be much more challenging. The pols put a brave face on the plan talking of reduced commute times, lower pollution, more time for families, but the benefits are not spread equally through the region, and much work remains to be done. Some of that is comparatively “simple” in the sense of one-shot, big-ticket construction projects like The Crosstown and the GO Transit upgrades for RER. But the more complex issue remains the need for local service to feed the new corridors, and for service in the large areas where there is no new infrastructure.

[An aside: this is the only graphic in this presentation in Metrolinx’ new black and white colour scheme for reports that arose from its adoption of a new brand/logo. Wiser heads appear to have prevailed for the remainder of the deck. More on that folly in another article.]

Projected population growth outside of the City of Toronto is substantial, and on a percentage basis is highest in areas where there is a great deal of empty land. What this might say about our ability to grow “sustainably” is a topic in its own right, but it shows a huge problem facing any transportation plan – growth continues to occur in a way that makes transit a difficult if not impossible alternative for much travel.

Many projects are underway, but we are in the difficult phase where comparatively little has been completed, and the government’s fading popularity could change the entire context for transportation debates and investments in the near future. Metrolinx listed what is already done or in progress.

Yes, you read that correctly: the Sheppard East and Scarborough RT projects are still in their list even though we know that both have been sacrificed on the altar of “Subway Champions”. To say that these are even being “planned” is a real stretch.

As for the rail plans, we know that GO/RER is supposed by be completed by 2025, but there is no published roadmap showing when each component will be available to riders.

The map of a future network is equally interesting for what it includes, but moreso for what it excludes. The first map shows many new GO stations, some of which only exist because of John Tory’s SmartTrack project. City Council has agreed to these in principle, but there is a further “stage gate” to pass through once cost estimates for “SmartTrack” have been firmed up.

Although the Eglinton West LRT extension (itself part of the SmartTrack package) appears in a later map, there is no mention of a scheme for a regional hub at Pearson Airport.

Also missing from the rail corridors is the “High Speed” link to Kitchener-Waterloo and London, and the “missing link” freight bypass project that will free up capacity in that corridor. These are not Metrolinx projects per se, but the future of service in the KW corridor depends on what happens with both of them.

The subway extension map shows the Yonge extension to Richmond Hill and the Relief Line to Don Mills & Sheppard, and includes but does not flag the Scarborough Subway as a “future” expansion.

Although the Sheppard East LRT is on the map, it is not flagged. The Eglinton East LRT extension is nowhere to be found. I checked with Metrolinx about this, and they refer to it as a City of Toronto project, hence its exclusion. This is a bizarre attitude for a “regional” agency that must plan for a transportation network to be provided by multiple investors and operators. Leaving routes off of the map because they are not “your own” projects is rather odd, especially when the same presentation includes references to lines few people believe will ever be built.

This network, whatever it might include, must be viewed in the context of travel demand.

It is no surprise that the demographics of the GTHA’s population are changing as the Baby Boom ages out of the workplace.

However, these percentages are not the whole story because population overall is growing, and with it demand for work, school and recreational travel.

The total trips taken rise and with them, almost lock-step, the shares for each mode. There is a hope that auto travel can be shaved by a few percentage points and that transit can hold its own relative to 2011, but these changes are well within the level of accuracy of projections. There will be more trips to be accommodated by each mode, but no big shift in share to transit. And that presumes that all of the projects on which the projections rest are actually built.

Of particular concern is the future distribution of trips by mode within and between various parts of the GTHA.

(In the chart below, note that the values are shown as percentages, not as absolute numbers and so one must infer the actual volume of trips each component represents.)

Travel for work within downtown Toronto is only a small part of the regional travel, and it will continue to be dominated by transit and active modes (walking, cycling). Similarly, travel to downtown is mainly the preserve of transit, but there is no decline forecast in the percentage of auto trips. With the total demand to downtown rising, this is a troubling situation given the lack of available road capacity.

Travel from outside of Toronto into the city as a whole will continue to be over 80% by auto, and the percentages for travel outside of Toronto are similarly high. An important issue once one gets away from downtown is that travel is a “many-to-many” problem that is not easily served with a few high-capacity corridors. Even the 400-series highways and the major arterials are full, and there is limited growth for auto travel. One good example lies at Pearson Airport where road access constrains intensification of development, and yet the network serving the area is overwhelmingly road-based. A transit network linking a broad catchment area to the airport will be challenging to construct. The situation is even worse for areas with less potential for concentrated development.

By even the most rosy of political posturing, this is not a “Big Move”.

Employment growth will continue modestly in Toronto with a downtown focus, but is projected to rise substantially in the regions. It is not at all clear how the proposed regional network addresses the volume and location of projected growth.

Another major source of travel demand is for trips to large academic campuses. This follows a different pattern both in space (many campuses are not located in the areas well-served by job-oriented transit lines) and in time (travel occurs at a different time of day, and travel can be counter-peak to “conventional” commuting). This is a particular problem because students are more likely to be transit customers if only the transit exists to carry them.

An important aspect of any large-scale planning is engagement with the public and with the many municipalities and agencies that will be affected by any new transportation network.

The photo intrigued me because the presentation boards clearly refer to the Fare Integration Study that has been underway for a few years, and which has been the subject of much debate as to the appropriate way riders should pay for transit service. The AMO presentation is silent on the issue, but Metrolinx advises that an updated study report is expected at the September 14 board meeting.

What is particularly striking through the AMO presentation is the absence of local transit operations and funding. Queen’s Park continues to steadfastly say they are not in the business of paying for local transit beyond the gas tax now assigned for that purpose, and mainly used for capital, not operating costs in most cities. This leaves cities on the hook for the operating cost of feeder services to Metrolinx’ network improvements, not to mention the operating costs for Metrolinx-funded capital facilities. One might argue that “increased provincial funding” is a big shell game where any new money “given” to the cities is clawed back by various schemes to force their support for operating provincially built lines, not to mention using the provincially-mandated fare system, Presto.

The draft “Next Big Move” will be released in September for consideration by the Metrolinx board followed by public meetings. If they run true to form, we can expect a preview through selected media. The public face of the plan will be rosy – that is how Metrolinx works – even though the political and financial future of regional transit is murky.

All of this wraps up by year-end, just in time for a revised plan to become fodder for the 2018 election.

31 thoughts on “Metrolinx Previews The Next Big Move

  1. In the first panel “The Big Move – Record Investment” under GO Expansion is the line “Lakeshore “Lines – 30 minute service”. I thought the RER goal was 15 minute service.

    Steve: I think that refers to what has been done already, although the document has a bad habit of slipping back and forth from completed to planned works.

    I’m interested in any suggestion of switching to EMU’s. For high density zones, EMU’s perform better acceleration and stopping than the locomotive/coach trains, with more doors and raised platforms have reduced station dwell times and have half the operating costs. Any indicators?

    Steve: From what I have heard coming out of GO, in the short term it will probably be a mixture of equipment because some lines will remain diesel, or at least won’t be electrified all the way to the end. I suspect we will eventually see EMUs, but with GO not publishing a rollout schedule for service improvements (itself subject to the whims of future government funding), it’s hard to plan for a large scale fleet changeover. It is entirely possible that they will be caught half-way through RER.


  2. I’m assuming that the Pearson Transit Hub is a “federal” project? Which is why it, and the City of Toronto projects (IE. Eglinton East LRT), are not included in the “provincial” list of projects.

    Steve: I’m not sure Pearson is even federal given that it’s run by a separate authority. But Eglinton West IS included. Meanwhile in Scarborough, the whole package of the SSE plus the LRT to UTSC was supposed to be built with provincial and city money combined.

    I really think Metrolinx is a tad out of touch, or there’s something going on they’re not telling us.


  3. The first graphic refers to “projected population growth rate”. Rate per what? Annual?
    If it means the period “2011-2041” it should just be “growth”.

    Steve: Yet another goof in a poorly put together presentation.


  4. I wonder Steve, if they think the Scarborough subway extension is going to fall through. It also seems odd to not focus on trying to encourage more growth within the existing confines of Toronto, more easily accommodated with those LRT projects. Also projects to better connect both GO and Toronto transit to the regions carriers.

    Pearson and/or Renforth gateway area hub combined with a Eglinton LRT and some kind of north south rapid transit in the Kipling /Renforth area like the reviving the original notion of an LRT connection anchored at the Kipling Station – running to an airport area gateway makes all too much sense. This northwest connection would then provide a rapid transit connection to most of Toronto – especially if and when a Finch LRT was extended through to connect as well.

    This sort of thinking also makes sense on the east side – Durham – BRT to STC, if there is a SSE or LRT for instance makes sense, however this makes a lot more sense if it connects to more than just a subway running to core. Are they showing a Sheppard LRT – as a subtle way of keeping what they see as a better plan alive? Would we not want that Durham BRT and even Lakeshore East Go, to be able to take riders bound to a lot more places that the core? If there was even a BRT connecting that Sheppard LRT to STC that could be quickly accessed by transferring Durham riders.

    Lord forbid, that GO Train riders also be able to connect with a broad network in more places than Union. It is frustrating that they do not show projects to create those sorts of connections. If you want to reduce car traffic, you need to support more journeys on rapid transit, and that starts with an inter-connected network.


  5. I still have yet to go through the whole presentation but the slides you’ve excerpted that mention LRT give me serious pause. Not because Scarborough RT and Sheppard East are mentioned despite being cancelled and stillborn respectively, but because the Mississauga and Hamilton lines which actually are supposed to be going ahead aren’t. You’re right about the whole process finishing up just in time to become mired in the provincial election next year and I’m not keen on the idea that Metrolinx could be laying out cushions already so that any regional LRT project cancellations by a future government have a soft landing.


  6. “Lakeshore Lines – 30 minute service”.

    Steve said:

    “But Eglinton West IS included. Meanwhile in Scarborough, the whole package of the SSE plus the LRT to UTSC was supposed to be built with provincial and city money combined.

    I really think Metrolinx is a tad out of touch, or there’s something going on they’re not telling us.

    Yet another goof in a poorly put together presentation.”

    I would suggest the poorly put together presentation reflects weak management cobbling a poor strategy.

    If they put Lakeshore Lines to 30 minute service, it indicates that despite upgrading the tracks, their signalization decisions, which should be ATC, are the limiting factor. No doubt they are afraid to concede that the money spent on current Union Station renovations is purely cosmetic and are afraid to fix Union Station properly.

    I don’t follow the funding trail closely but have attended so many transit meetings that explain in the following way. The Federal government puts up funding as a financier, they leave to the other two levels of government on what is to be built. There are rogue Federal MP’s who publicly back particular projects, they appeal to the partisan nature of politics, not the government policy of pure funding.

    Metrolinx is operated by the Provincial government and much of its management is selected through partisan politics of the party in power. Metrolinx has absolute jurisdiction over GO projects and as far as I know, the Eglinton Crosstown project is the only local project that is totally funded by Metrolinx.

    The Toronto City Planning Department plans the TTC projects (TTC gauge equipment such as the SSE) and has the ultimate say in projects built by Metrolinx (all LRT projects, Finch LRT, Sheppard LRT, Eglinton East LRT).
    Funding for this projects comes from all three levels of government. Until recently the Sheppard LRT was fully funded, somehow Finch got started first. There is no funding for the rest, including the DRL.

    I stand to be corrected, these are impressions from the meetings I attended.

    For me there is no doubt that Metrolinx is out of touch. They have no expertise in local demand flows. The Eglinton Crosstown in Scarborough and the Lawrence East GO station design are complete failures, with no consultation with the residents of Scarborough. They have never described to the public the need to build dual track routes, select and install a modern signalization system and properly build the Union Station hub. They are only accountable to the political party in power.


  7. Looks like the Jane LRT has fallen off the table. Why bother with these long term plans anymore…

    Steve: Also missing, of course because they are “city” projects, is any mention of the Waterfront. Remember when Glen Murray, then Minister of Transportation, was going to dedicate proceeds from the sale of the LCBO lands to the waterfront?


  8. All those proposed rail additions on three CP lines gone, but the ridiculous route to Bowmanville over the wrong line retained. And when is Leslie Woo going to give us that freight movement strategy that was promised a decade ago? We’re still waiting to hear about that piece-of-cake HSR line and the CN freight bypass, too.


  9. I’d like to make one correction. The SSE is funded to $3.4 billion. There are many doubts if this means “fully funded” because there is much work that has not yet been broken down for costing.

    Greg Gormick said: when is Leslie Woo going to give us that freight movement strategy

    I’ve met Metrolinx staff at public meetings. They talk transportation lingo and there was one expression I didn’t understand at all. I would ask about a specific milestone in a project and get the response “Oh, that’s been elwued.” I then would ask other Metrolinx staff what “elwued” meant. They would laugh and explain that it means putting off a decision past its due date. It appears elwued stands for L. Woo who has been promoted through Metrolinx because he/she has never made a decision. It appears the to get ahead at Metrolinx you have to know how to stall.


  10. I certainly agree with all those who have criticized the sloppy nature of this presentation. TTC Passenger mentioned the omission of the Hamilton and Mississauga LRT lines that are currently being planned. I will add to that the KW LRT line that is actually under construction.

    Another rather amusing item is the inclusion of “new” GO stations in St. Catherines and Niagara Falls. GO is currently using the existing VIA stations in those cities for their weekend “Bike Train” excursion train. I presume that constructing these “new” GO stations will involve little more than adding their sign to the front of these existing little-used VIA stations. Because building a new station would be a massive waste.


  11. Bill R: “If they put Lakeshore Lines to 30 minute service, it indicates that despite upgrading the tracks, their signalization decisions, which should be ATC, are the limiting factor. No doubt they are afraid to concede that the money spent on current Union Station renovations is purely cosmetic and are afraid to fix Union Station properly.”

    I have it on good authority that they are putting in place CBTC (Communications Based Train Control) a form of automatic train control but they still need to maintain standard CTC signals because CN, CP and VIA operate over some of their lines and they will not do CBTC without a fight. They have to maintain the legacy system for operating rights of other railways and because when they run on CN or CP controlled track it will not be CBTC or any form of ATC or PTC unless the feds force them as has happened in the US.


  12. I just had a chance to review the full “deck.” Thank you to Steve for putting it up.

    Steve: It was Metrolinx who put it up on their site. They had held back until the French version was also available.

    Some interesting things that I saw include:

    1. On slide 4, the Six Nations Reserve was excluded from the “Greater Golden Horseshoe,” although it is almost entirely surrounded by territory that is included in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

    2. Slide 5 states, “Congestion costs our economy.” But there is no dollar cost given. In 2008, Metrolinx estimated the cost of congestion at $6 billion annually. What happened?

    Steve: It has probably dawned on Metrolinx that as the best they can hope to achieve is to prevent congestion from getting any worse, the only “savings” one might impute are relative to an even worse situation without their projects and service in place.

    3. Slide 9 brags of “6 New Stations.” Does this include using the existing VIA stations in St. Catharines and Niagara Falls? Where the only thing “new” will be the GO sign out front?

    4. Slide 10 includes all the LRT projects that were omitted from Slide 9. Specifically, Hamilton, KW and Mississauga. Bizarre…

    5. Slide 13. What is “Social procurement?”

    Steve: When contracts are let for construction work, they include a requirement that a certain percentage of workers will be apprentices from within the local area of the project.

    6. Slide 15 brags about an “Ambitious TDM Program” being 1/3 complete. I have seen no sign of the completion of such a program.

    7. Slide 30 seems completely irrelevant and should be deleted. Sloppy.

    Steve: I suspect they were speaking to the way in which public outreach has changed and continues to evolve. What worked even 5 years ago is not necessarily the way to reach all segments of the population today. Even so, I find the claim that Facebook is a rising medium a bit hard to believe.

    Overall, Metrolinx has a bad habit of making presentations to people (including their own Board) who have only a passing familiarity with the topic, and so they get away with this sort of thing.


  13. No, no, no, Steve! You’re obviously working from a preliminary draft here because it still includes GO electrification. At a Bombardier-sponsored party at MARS over a year ago, the humble and modest Metrolinx chairman told me he still thought electrification was a waste.

    Across the room, knocking back some of that fine French wine and those scrumptious canapes (love those crab meat puffs), was Glen Murray. He told us electrification was on because he needed it for his HSR dream scheme, which he intended to ram home. He emphasized that he was still running the HSR gong show, even though he had changed portfolios.

    These folks really should get their stories straight.

    Now, with Queen’s Park’s favourite bloviator gone to his reward at the Pembina Institute, I wonder who is playing Edgar Bergen to Steven Del Duca’s Charlie McCarthy. And where do all the second-round promises in this edition of the Big Snooze really stand?


  14. It seems poor Kevin hasn’t heard that GO can’t just use those existing VIA stations in Niagara that have already been equipped with regulation GO accessibility ramps. No, they need monsters parking lots and lots of other goodies. I’m sure the Metrolinx brigade is peeved by the fact that these VIA stations are right in the towns, not out in a cow pasture they can redevelop to serve the automotive monster.

    Stick with us, Kevin. We’ll get you learned up Metrolinx style.


  15. What I can’t get over is since 1991………….. Transit Ridership percentage is down.
    Great job Metrolinx.
    Since 1991…………………… Car ridership percentage not dropped.
    Another win for Metrolinx.
    Can’t wait for a change of Government !

    Steve: Don’t hold your breath for an improvement. The Tories don’t care about transit, and the NDP for all their environmental “concerns” are dominated by members from areas where transit isn’t a real option and the political pressure is for road building.

    All three parties face the fact that transit costs a lot of money, and for much travel in Ontario it simply isn’t an option with any political credibility.


  16. I wonder why Eglinton East LRT is not in the deck, but Eglinton West LRT is?

    Steve: According to Metrolinx, the lines they show are only those which the province is paying for (i.e. Metrolinx projects). This does not square with the fact that Eglinton East was supposed to be part of the Scarborough package which was to be jointly funded by all levels of government.


  17. If you’re looking for a change, don’t count on the provincial election to provide it. The HSR fantasy offers a preview. The Wynnies originated it and they are fully committed, so there’s little more to say about that.

    Andrea Horwath flip-flopped and made herself look foolish. She started out by telling the London media she didn’t see HSR as the only rail-based mobility solution for Southwestern Ontario. When those sentiments appeared on the London Free Press website, she demanded the piece be retracted. The Freep pulled the piece and then ran another one about the NDP’s demand and their sudden HSR boosterism.

    It seems the NDP got the HSR religion because all the Southwestern Ontario mayors are guzzling the Liberal Kool-Aid. They think HSR is just down the track and it will turn each of their towns into another Manhattan. As well, the NDP’s federal counterparts have been running all over the place endorsing every rail proposal that comes down the pike without analyzing any of them, including HSR.

    Horwath might have tested the public mood and found she needed a different approach, which yours truly did supply to them – for all the good that did. The rising tide of HSR opposition in the agricultural community is an indication of the true public mood. Good luck to those NDP candidates when they knock on farmhouse doors.

    As for Patrick Brown, he’s fence sitting on HSR and every other transportation issue. But not to worry. The Conservatives have a big policy development project going and StrategyCorp is guiding it. What has emerged so far is enough to make even the mildest transit advocate throw up.

    Change, you say?


  18. The provincial Growth Plan and Climate Change Plan offer hope for better regional planning. It looks like Metrolinx planners aren’t following the Growth Plan. Density pays for transit and transit allow for density. It looks like this plan is providing way too many stations in low density areas.

    Will 24 new stations make the GO train faster? Unlikely but it will provide new places for mixed use developments. The new provincial Growth Plan sets density targets around major transit stations for employment and housing. But if the last ten years of the Growth Plan and Big Move is any indication of the future those targets will not be met. The province must find a way to tie transit funding of projects and new stations to municipalities actually meeting intensification and density targets in the Growth Plan.

    Go buses Via stations in towns should be multi-purpose, Via and GO. If having a liberal government federally and provincially can’t get it together what hope do we have of coordinating a networked system.


  19. Is there still any chance for Scarborough subway to be built on SRT corridor? That will bring the cost down to almost the level of original LRT plan. I don’t understand why from the beginning of transit city they didn’t consider this option instead of LRT on that corridor. That would have saved a lot of political hassles and not to mention a lot of money!

    Steve: Moving the subway to the LRT corridor is a very complex project requiring:

    • Reconstruction of Kennedy Station to point tracks to the north rather than to the east.
    • Reconstruction of the tunnel and curve between Ellesmere and Midland Stations including, possibly, southerly relocation or abandonment of Ellesmere Station.
    • Reconstruction of the elevated structure to accommodate wider trains including reconstruction of STC and McCowan Stations (assuming the line would stay on the same vertical alignment). If underground, construction would be challenging because this route parallels Highland Creek.

    This is one of those ideas that looks good drawing a line on paper, but not when one examines the details. Moreover, the LRT conversion would have been part of a network of LRT lines in Scarborough including the SRT to Malvern, Eglinton East to UTSC and Sheppard East to Meadowvale. Using subway in the SRT corridor would have guaranteed that it never went north of the 401 just as it turns out the one-stop subway extension won’t either.

    The political hassles arise from misrepresentation of the relative value of the transit options first by Rob Ford and then by politicians at Queen’s Park, in both cases to curry voters’ favour with the idea that Scarborough “deserves” a subway.


  20. Susan’s comment about this pointless competition and lack of coordination between GO and VIA strikes at a major issue.

    This foolishness has been avoided in several U.S. jurisdictions through multi-community agencies, such as the California joint powers authorities, that are responsible for the planning and delivery of rail and connecting transit services with federal and state funding. It helps explain why operations such as the San Jose-Oakland-Sacramento Capitol Corridor rail service has succeeded to such a high degree and without wasteful duplication and rivalry.

    Asking why two governments of the same political stripe in Ottawa and at Queen’s Park can’t resolve this is at the heart of our mess. It should be a prime question regarding the GO Kitchener Line/VIA North Main Line. Of course, a quick look at the federal and provincial electoral maps will give some indication as to why the world seems to end at Kitchener as far as the Liberals are concerned.

    Nothing like a multi-billion-dollar high-speed fantasy to prop up Deb Matthews, Kate Young and Peter Fragiskatos in London (they hope) while bypassing all those blue ridings on the two existing VIA routes from Toronto to London.


  21. Regarding the subway on SRT corridor and the complexities you mentioned, study done by Metrolinx in 2006 show that the project is feasible to be extended all the way to Centennial College and after that Sheppard/ Progress with the cost of 2.3b$ including contingency and allowances. Still much cheaper than one station extension with the cost of 3.5b$. It will also serve more riders since it exactly covers the original LRT route.

    Steve: Careful with the cost comparisons. $3.5 billion is cost to completion (2026) in then-current dollars.

    The Metrolinx study dates from 2013, not 2006 (the earlier date would be difficult as Metrolinx was only created midway through 2006 and Transit City was not even announced until 2007). That study cites a cost of $2.388 billion in 2011 dollars (see p22). Taking that out to a construction period in the early 2020s would add about 50%. Moreover, the estimate does not include any provision for rolling stock or storage space, costs that are part of the SSE estimate (or at least were originally).

    I never said that the project was unfeasible, but that it was not straightforward and the issues I mentioned are cited in the 2013 study.

    The proposed alignment through STC remains on an elevated structure in this study, and I strongly doubt that this would be looked on favourably. Also, of course, using the SRT alignment would require an extended RT shutdown, one of the bugbears about the LRT conversion proposal often cited by subway advocates as a reason for taking a different route.

    Finally, a surface alignment for the subway and particularly for Lawrence East Station would almost certainly prevent the expansion of GO facilities in the corridor, notably the “SmartTrack” station at Lawrence. Of course that station would be superfluous if there were a subway stop, and that’s part of the whole gerrymander of demand projections to preserve ST’s credibility as a viable proposal.


  22. Well, it sure seems like a Big Mess at times, with ongoing political influences shaping the ‘plan’. Do we really need evermore sprawl on good farmland in the same old patterns, or is it helping landowners and donors instead? Also, the realities of climate change are such that we’re past a tipping point or two, so still having a large increase in car travel is deepressing, especially as we are not doing the smarter things in the denser urban cores ie. new transitways and routes, and I favour surface options first, with a semi-express focus. (Sadly some of this may be too built upon now; thanks to OMB and the City never thinking of transit eg. DRL west and having a transitway on Front St. extending over to Strachan just north of tracks, where the lowering of the railtracks of the Weston corridor could have made a surface crossing of some mode very affordable (relatively). Similarly, I think there are routes for a surface-oriented DRL using a part of the Don Valley with links to Thorncliffe and beyond, but the TPAPs etc. are ‘any type of subway as long as it’s here’, so options aren’t considered, though the one option is – like the Sheppard stubway ahead of it – almost certainly going to blight the system in both operating and capital costs.

    And if we charged the private cars more appropriately, as useful as they are, we might have a different view of costly subway extensions etc. One area – if we could trust those doing any analysis – is in the relative costs of modes to the health care system. Transit usage has to mean less health care costs than all these cars, right? And because Ontcario is a province of ‘votorists’, odds are very few to near-zero politicians will touch this topic.


  23. Steve:

    Moving the subway to the LRT corridor is a very complex project requiring:

    • Reconstruction of Kennedy Station to point tracks to the north rather than to the east.
    • Reconstruction of the tunnel and curve between Ellesmere and Midland Stations including, possibly, southerly relocation or abandonment of Ellesmere Station.
    • Reconstruction of the elevated structure to accommodate wider trains including reconstruction of STC and McCowan Stations (assuming the line would stay on the same vertical alignment). If underground, construction would be challenging because this route parallels Highland Creek.

    Basic engineering and concrete? Sure sounds much cheaper than the geological challenges the McCowan alignment faces just to get one stop.

    Steve: I agree, but the decision to go via McCowan was based on avoiding any shutdown of the RT during subway construction.

    Steve: This is one of those ideas that looks good drawing a line on paper, but not when one examines the details. Moreover, the LRT conversion would have been part of a network of LRT lines in Scarborough including the SRT to Malvern, Eglinton East to UTSC and Sheppard East to Meadowvale. Using subway in the SRT corridor would have guaranteed that it never went north of the 401 just as it turns out the one-stop subway extension won’t either.

    The Transit City LRT network was poorly integrated to what exists, it was inferior for the future of Scarborough Centre and created extra inconvenience to riders on most of Sheppard with the transfer to the ridiculous subway line that exists. Surely Transit City is one of those things that looked good drawing lines on paper, bit not when one examines the details.

    Steve: We will have to disagree on that one. There will always be an issue with transfers wherever a high capacity line ends and lower capacity ones take over. The problem is to design these to be as convenient/smooth as possible. Also, the subway does nothing for eastern and northern Scarborough, and only continues the fantasy that STC will become a major development node for something other than condos. The rest of Scarborough suffers for this blinkered planning.

    Steve: The political hassles arise from misrepresentation of the relative value of the transit options first by Rob Ford and then by politicians at Queen’s Park, in both cases to curry voters’ favour with the idea that Scarborough “deserves” a subway.

    In the end a spade was called a spade, the head scratcher Sheppard mini subway to LRT was a bad design. I believe Ford even agreed to integrate the SLRT to the Eglinton Crosstown and combined it with a Sheppard subway moving forward. That would have been a much better start for Scarborough than Transit City or the current single stop subway and far better relative value. Although at this stage if they can get the Eglinton East LRT built in unison with GO RER it’s also a far better starting point than the poorly integrated LRT scheme. The biggest political misrepresentation right now is coming from those who can’t see their own failures and have the idea the Scarborough “deserves” poorly placed transfers and can’t get over themselves. But choose to mock and cause problems instead of working with the well known shortcomings of the previous LRT plan.

    As the previous poster point out there were certainly better options, one believe it or not Ford & McGuinty, another was the subway on the old RT corridor and is now in conflict with Smarttrack, and another would be to treat North York residents like Scarborough resents and abandoned the Sheppard subway tunnel and build surface LRT. Scarborough doesn’t “deserve” the mockery caused from the repercussion of previous design mistakes with the RT and the North York Sheppard subway.

    Steve: The subway “design” on Sheppard was a case of a project having a limited budget that was choked off by QP/Harris and a city that would not spend to build more on its own dime. The cutback from Victoria Park to Don Mills was a direct result. A better subway/LRT interchange would actually be possible if the subway were extended to VP and a purpose-built interchange station provided there. As for Eglinton East, there is no money to build it now that every dollar and then some is going to build the one-stop subway.

    “Poorly integrated”? Three lines – Eglinton East to STC, Sheppard to Meadowvale, SRT replacement to Malvern – would have given Scarborough very good coverage.


  24. If this much space can be wasted on the SSE debate, I am obliged to note that a cut-and-cover construction up Midland Ave is much cheaper, shorter and would permit a Lawrence Ave East subway station.


  25. I still don’t understand the need for a DRL at Pape – there is no density there, no jobs, no tourist destinations, nothing at all.

    Steve: Pape and Danforth isn’t the focus of the DRL, although too much has been made of it by the TTC who didn’t want to take the line further north. However, what is important is that the line can link together:

    • Downtown
    • The East Harbour (Unilever) site at the Don River and Eastern Avenue
    • Gerrard Square between Carlaw and Pape
    • The Danforth Subway
    • Thorncliffe and Flemingdon Parks
    • Don Mills and Eglinton including both new development (the Celestica site) and the LRT line
    • Don Mills and Sheppard

    That’s a rather respectable list of nodes of existing and planned development for a rapid transit line to start off with.


  26. At one point, wasn’t the Sheppard subway going to have unfinished stations and no trains?

    Steve: That was a peevish proposal from Howard Moscoe to “balance” the project budget.


  27. The nodes may justify the routing of the DRL, but we have to be careful with the implication that nodes can justify the construction of the DRL. The DRL is being built because the Yonge line is completely overcrowded, and any interruption in service creates a disaster. The need for another N-S subway to the east of the Yonge line justifies the construction of the DRL; after that, the nodes suggest a routing.

    (This is to forestall cries of “Scarborough Town Centre is a node! It deserves a subway!”)

    Steve: Yes. The important thing about the nodes is that this means the subway will have demand that is not simply as an overflow, the “relief” that is so often cited. Some of those nodes did not exist until comparatively recently and, combined with the need for more N-S capacity, they strengthen the case for the line. Scarborough by contrast has only one node, and the degree to which it will develop is still a matter of debate. This has always been a problem with the suburban “city centre” concept because they were free-standing plans, not part of an evolving network.


  28. The new Alstom Citadis light rail vehicles with 48 meters length and capacity of 340 max is a game changer in transit planning. A train consisting of three LRVs has the capacity of a subway train. Imagine a Don Mills LRT from Highway 7 all the way to dt (Partly underground) can be a huge relief not only to dt, but also to yonge line. About 17km of this relief line is not underground and costs similar to maybe Finch LRT and only last 5-6km require to be underground and we will have one mode of transportation from Hw7 to dt. Your thoughts?

    Steve: The Alstom cars will only be run in two-car trains by Metrolinx. Once a line surfaces and runs on street, there are physical constraints on train length (station platforms) and on the volume of pedestrian traffic that can walk to and from the platforms. There is, however, a good argument for running a short turn service as far as Eglinton and less frequent trains from there north to Sheppard. However, I doubt this segment will be on the surface.

    As for going further north, I can hear the arguments now about how York Region “deserves” a subway and passengers could not possibly be forced to transfer from a surface line to a separate subway at Sheppard.


  29. Steve wrote, As for going further north, I can hear the arguments now about how York Region “deserves” a subway and passengers could not possibly be forced to transfer from a surface line to a separate subway at Sheppard.

    That wouldn’t surprise me, but it should be noted that on the back of the Don Mills LRT Transit City plan, York Region did some preliminary design work of extending that line from Steeles up to Highway 7, with plans for an extension to Major Mac.

    I can’t say for sure, but the plans may have gone as far as completing an environmental assessment.

    Steve: I am of course being a tad snide here, but given York Region’s love for extending subways, one never knows. The big distinction would be that the cost of extending the Don Mills line from Sheppard to Steeles would be a lot more than taking the Yonge line from the Hydro corridor north of Finch to Steeles.


  30. There was a reference to Amtrak and joint powers administration. You don’t even need joint powers administrations, in its constituting legislation, any trains up to 750 miles is the responsibility of the states. Meaning that Amtrak acts as a contractor to the states. The states fully fund those trains and of course get to negotiate with Amtrak what it wants (routing, stations, services, etc…). Hence coordination is so much simpler because the US Federal government is not involved at all.

    This explains why the Cascade service between Seattle and Vancouver is fast with few stops on the mainline compared to the Adirondack which eschew the nearby mainline for regional railroads at 35 mph between Montreal and Albany with a ton of stops at stations that barely see any passengers. At Albany, that train joins the joint Metro-North/Amtrak mainline and goes 100 mph. So even when the state specifies a train, you get weird things. Meaning that even if VIA and GO cooperated in a similar fashion we are always at the mercy of politicians.

    But it would help a lot if there was a more flexible legal interpretation of the powers of our respective orders of government when it comes to transportation. This is of course more a political statement than a strict legal interpretation even though that has always been the excuse.


  31. There is still the problem that railways are a federal responsibility in the British North America Act and as such the province cannot do anything to CN or CP to force them to be kinder ot commuter service. Even the Ontario Northland ended up as a federally incorporated railway because it ran a branch into Quebec. Railways could be incorporated provincially as well but the federal government could always deem them essential to national needs and make them federally regulated. The provinces cannot force a federally regulated railway to do anything.


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