Metrolinx Updates News Stations Business Cases

In anticipation of its board meeting on March 8, 2018, Metrolinx has released a report updating its analyses of various proposed new GO stations, some of which are intended to serve John Tory’s SmartTrack scheme.

The whole question of new stations has been under a cloud recently thanks to reporting by the Star’s Ben Spurr who has documented political interference in the evaluation process. Metrolinx is very sensitive to this and tries to dodge questions both by characterizing such reporting as “conspiracy theories” and by saying that they want to go forward rather then looking back on how we reached the current situation. It’s water under the bridge, dirt swept under the carpet, pay-no-attention-to-that-man-behind-the-curtain territory. And if you don’t buy that, well, politicians make decisions all the time, and the staff’s job is only to provide advice. That the advice might be tailored to fit a desired conclusion is simply beyond discussion.

In a set of analyses conducted in mid-2016, Metrolinx reviewed several stations and found some of them wanting in the contribution they might make to the network. Notable among these was Kirby Station on the Barrie line which was not originally recommended. Magically, the numbers changed after Ministerial intervention. We have no way of knowing how many other Metrolinx staff recommendations have been perverted in this manner, but the problem will not go away. Already the newly minted Minister is musing about stations in her political territory, the Milton corridor.

The new report seeks to justify continued spending on many stations, but with the focus on individual station analyses, important details are buried or simply not included in the published information. We are supposed to read the summary and look no further.

The status of stations still actively under review is presented in one chart.

In a marvellous piece of newspeak, Metrolinx refers to stations where “Benefits are Positive but Less Than Costs”. In other words, the costs outweigh the benefits, but this is presented as if it were a positive state of affairs.

One would generally expect that the presence of new stations would be positive, and the only case where this does not apply depends on the presumed effect of adding a stop on the attractiveness of service to existing and potential riders. A large proportion of the “benefit” in Metrolinx analyses arises from the imputed value of reduced travel times and diversion of trips from auto to transit. The model is very sensitive to changes in travel time, and so the addition of stops tends to hurt ridership whose trips are lengthened by adding stations.

Back in June 2016, Metrolinx evaluated four models for future service on its network including the new stations to be added by SmartTrack. The service plan at the time was quite clearly to provide a 15 minute or better service on most of the network except some outer sections which would receive a lower level of service, possibly peak only. With respect to service inside the City of Toronto, the report observed:

All seven GO corridors run through the City of Toronto, stopping at 19 stations, and meeting at Union Station. … the GO corridors largely run through Etobicoke and Scarborough, providing downtown access opportunities to neighbourhoods located at a distance from the subway. By bringing fifteen minute or better two-way service to five of the GO corridors, … GO RER will bring more flexible travel options for residents and jobs within the City and to the broader region. [pp 18-19]

This information is echoed on the “How Will You Benefit” pages such as the Stouffville Corridor page where it is quite clear the intent is for all trains to stop at all stations.

This echoes the conclusion of the June 2016 report in which four possible service plans were considered:

• Option A: Increased frequencies, 5 new stations
• Option B: Express and local service, 8 new stations
• Option C: Committed GO RER frequencies, 7-8 new stations
• Option D: Committed GO RER frequencies, 4-5 new stations

The first two options, notably the one including express service, were dropped because of the infrastructure needed to provide for SmartTrack and GO/RER co-existence.

GO RER is expected to utilize the available and planned track and corridor capacity. In this light, integrated GO RER-SmartTrack options were screened to determine the extent of additional infrastructure that they would require over and above that which is required for GO RER. Through this analysis, it was determined that Options A and B would each require extensive additional track infrastructure, resulting in the need for corridor widening, extensive property acquisition, consequent community impacts, and other deliverability challenges. In light of these findings, Options A and B were screened out and detailed analysis focused on Options C and D. [p 19]

Option D makes the cut because with fewer new stations, it creates less delay for riders on the outer ends of the corridors and hence less imputed value from lost time and potential lost ridership.

In summary, based on business case analysis, Option D is the stronger performing option for integration of SmartTrack with GO RER, striking the optimal balance between advancing local access within Toronto while preserving service quality for medium and longer distance passengers. Consistent with the findings of the new stations analysis, this report recommends six new stations for GO RER-SmartTrack integration: St. Clair West, Liberty Village, Don Yard/Unilever, Gerrard, Lawrence East, and Finch with an estimated cost of $0.7 to 1.1 B ($2014, costs do not include escalation, financing costs, lifecycle and operating and maintenance). [p 20]

Times have changed at Metrolinx, and they now regard a mix of express and local services as best service design.

An all-stop service (as in the IBC) means that the upstream riders are delayed at every new station, which is a negative economic benefit. This negative benefit is compared to the positive economic benefit from the new riders joining at the station and the time savings they will make from using GO. It is much more optimal to have an express service (rather than all-stop) that selectively stops at those stations and at those intervals when the new riders joining would be substantial enough to justify the stop. This is best practice in service planning in all jurisdictions. [p 2 Staff Report]

CEO Phil Verster was quite adamant on this point during a media briefing and was quite dismissive of the idea of stopping trains for comparatively few passengers. There is only one small problem – it is precisely this type of stopping pattern and service level at every stop that was used to “sell” SmartTrack as part of GO/RER. No amount of managerial swagger can undo the very real position taken by Metrolinx and by municipal supporters of SmartTrack less than two years ago. A train every 20 minutes is not what riders in Scarborough and elsewhere along the ST corridor expected in place of their existing transit service, especially when SmartTrack is touted as a substitute for stations on the Scarborough Subway Extension.

Stops that would be affected by the new service design include: Bloor-Lansdowne, Kirby, Park Lawn, Mimico, Finch-Kennedy, Lawrence-Kennedy, Gerrard-Carlaw, St. Clair-Old Weston. This list may not include all affected locations as only those in or directly related to the new station analysis are mentioned in the report.

(As an aside, one cannot help wondering what the Toronto subway network would look like if subjected to the Metrolinx outlook. Many stations would close for much of the day, if not permanently, because there simply is no justification to keep them open for very low demand.)

By reversing course and reinstating express trains in the service plan, Metrolinx avoids the travel time penalty of adding new stations, but with the offsetting effect that these stations get much less service. The problem is so acute for the SmartTrack corridor that Metrolinx is now trying to figure out how to squeeze more trains onto the line, and even talks of a separate “relief” function for a U-shaped Unionville to Bramalea service. The infrastructure to support this does not exist, and the scheme is a far cry from the idea that “SmartTrack” could simply be implemented using existing infrastructure. A further problem lies in the Union Station Rail Corridor (USRC) where track, signalling and platform configurations combine to dictate how many trains/hour can operate there without substantial upgrades.

In a media scrum at the Board of Trade, CEO Verster stressed that service was the most important factor, the one with the biggest effect on ridership. GO Transit and Metrolinx have planned within the limitations of their corridors including the USRC, but there may now be a recognition that what is planned simply is inadequate to address region-wide needs.

Two other factors were touted as improvements to GO operations and travel speeds:

By the same logic of minimizing the time of every stop at every station, implementing level boarding (as opposed to low platforms and a delay from stepping up/down and positioning the train) reduces the negative impact of the station on the economic benefits of the upstream riders.

The business cases now assume that all fare barriers have been removed with an integrated fare system in place. The economic benefits of fare integration is estimated to exceed the cost by a factor of 12 (ie a BCR or Benefit Cost Ratio of 12).

There is no question that level boarding will speed things up at GO stations, but this is a matter of reducing the time spent at all stations, including any added ones. Not mentioned at all were the travel time savings possible with electrification. In earlier studies, these were counted as an offset to the extra delay of added stations.

The question of fare barriers is rather odd because it is unclear whether the barrier is physical (a turnstile or limited access streams past Presto readers) or psychological (a double fare). The technical report notes:

As a starting point, the base fare structure as of December 2017 is assumed for the PDBC analysis. A future looking full fare integration scenario was also tested to examine impacts on ridership and the overall economic case for each station where no fare barriers exist. [p 10]

Elimination of physical barriers or congestion points at platform access will only speed travel for riders who show up at the last minute and could face a missed trip if their path from parking space or connecting bus were longer than a “crow fly” distance, or delayed by queueing at fare machines. Otherwise, fare validation occurs during the wait time before a train arrives. From a demand modelling perspective, there is also a “barrier” inherent in extra fares for each stage of a journey. Metrolinx has long talked of the need for “regional fare integration” without getting into the specifics especially as they might affect riders of local transit systems. If the analysis mentioned above shows a benefit cost ratio of 12, or extremely high, this must be based on some specific mix of tariff and subsidy changes.

A major failing of the New Stations report is the omission of much detail such as the derivation of claimed demand at the various stations, notably a split of new and existing riders, a breakdown of boarding and alighting passengers, the effect on conditions at nearby stations, and the specifics of the modelled service plan. Some of this information was included in the initial round of evaluations in 2016, but only summary values are published in 2018.

The chart above shows numbers for AM Peak and All Day boardings and alightings, but there are large differences in the behaviour which are mentioned in the individual station analyses. During the AM peak:

  • Some stations are primarily “boarding” locations either from local transit or from parking. Indeed, it might be argued that in a few cases, the primary function of a new station is to host a new parking garage that might not fit at an existing site.
  • Some stations are primarily “alighting” locations in that they are destinations, not origins, of trips. This is strikingly true for the Liberty Village and East Harbour stations who primary function is to bring people to work in the immediate vicinity, not as an origin point for “in town” travel.
  • Demand at stations could be new GO riders, or it could be from trips that are more conveniently served from the new station. For example, a new station might shorten the access trip to GO by car or transit, and this translates to an imputed benefit from time saving.

For the SmartTrack stations, the 60-year benefits are shown as outweighing the capital costs by a factor of almost 4:1. However, almost all of those benefits are the notional value of time saving, and to a lesser extent, reduced auto travel. Operating costs, including that of any additional local transit service or of fare integration subsidies is not included in the analysis.

Of the six SmartTrack stations, East Harbour, the site of a proposed massive commercial development east of the Don River, is by far the major contributor to the positive comparison for SmartTrack. It accounts for 84% of the travel time savings and 55% of the passenger activity at the six stations. The analysis did not include the presence of the Relief Line, and the service plan assumes that Lake Shore East trains do not stop at East Harbour.

Because the individual station cost estimates are not broken out, it is impossible to know the performance of the StartTrack stations, but we know from the summary that only East Harbour and Liberty Village have benefits which outweigh their costs.

This is an almost meaningless analysis.

Metrolinx claims that it will produce an updated analysis and recommendations by the end of 2018 in time for an RFP for the implementation and operation of GO RER and SmartTrack. At this point, a huge amount of detail is missing, especially the degree to which the original GO service plan from 2016, on which a great deal of infrastructure work now in progress is based, must now be revised. It is quite clear that Metrolinx is struggling to come up with credible plans, and they are quite defensive about the changes they are now making.

All is not sweetness and light, and the unseen hand of political interference to justify many of these stations is clearly at work.

In a future article, I will turn to the individual stations and discuss the issues affecting them.

25 thoughts on “Metrolinx Updates News Stations Business Cases

  1. What is the matter with Kathleen and her [remaining] gang at Queen’s Park? Don’t they realize that similar past mistakes have cost them just about all the voter good will they once had?

    This kind of manufactured-facts-to-get-the-results-we-desire-with-your-money is an insult to voters, and will deliver our unfortunate province to the conservative yahoos, if Kathleen doesn’t smarten up, now.

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  2. Mr. Verster said on the Feb 1 interview with Urban Toronto that Union Station is not a capacity constraint. The gist of it is that there are 9 access tracks from the east and the west. There are more capacity at Union than the Paris equivalent.

    At yesterday’s luncheon with the Board of Trade, Mr. Verster said that the Stouffville Line and Kitchener Line would form the outer U just like Line 1 is the inner U for rapid transit. Reading from these two articles, bypassing stations does not seem to make sense. How can these two GO lines function as the outer U if it does not stop at every station? There is no credibility in that.

    I will talk about the Stouffville Line. There is some scope creep as Smart Track was added to the RER plan and perhaps Mr. Tory will pay for it. This corridor does not have room for triple tracks. However, if money is available, there is room to add sidings to certain stations. Smart Track Finch East is located on a road under bridge where the station is on top of the bridge. Metrolinx can build a wider bridge if they are willing to take space from the nearby parking lots and self storage business. Milliken GO is located on a bridge as well. Taking land from nearby businesses and parking lots are not hard. When Line 3 is decommissioned, there will be land to build a 4 track dual center platform stations at Smart Track Lawrence East.

    If CBTC signalling is used, running 10 trains per hour per direction is possible. Mount Joy GO is only suppose to get 20 minutes single direction service per hour (rush) and 60 minutes bi directional (non rush). If 7 trains are local to Unionville GO and 3 goes express to Mount Joy, it is possible as long as stations have sidings. On midday, for every 5 trains, only 1 has to run express to Mount Joy GO, while the remaining 4 runs local to Unionville GO.

    Here is another curve ball. The federal budget just approved a few million dollars to study VIA Rail’s High Frequency Rail project. If it proceeds, a service from Toronto to Quebec City via Peterborough will be built. Those trains might use the Stouffville Line as well. Even if it is an hourly service, there will be more traffic on that line.

    Steve: There are a few issues in the inconsistencies in Verster’s remarks. In the Feb 1 interview, he talks about EMUs, but makes no mention of hydrogen trains. The recently released report on that technology makes it fairly clear that an “HMU” will have its limitations because of the space lost to the power storage and generation system. When asked about electrification at the Board of Trade, Verster launched into praise for “the hydrogen economy”, but then reverted to the claim that the technology decision will be up to the DMFOM bidders. There will be more details in the article about Hydrail I am partway through writing, but Verster seems to switch between praising hydrogen and attempting to give the impression Metrolinx has outsourced the decision.

    As for Union Station, yes, the tracks per se are not the constraint, but how they are used is a big problem as Verster’s remarks make clear. The platform width problem is easy to address by selective track removal, but whatever is left must be capable of sustaining the future demand for platform time. There will also have to be hard decisions about which service uses which platform so that anomalies like the UPX’s need to traverse all of the Weston sub’s tracks to reach the north track at Union is eliminated. There is also the matter of signalling to allow more closely spaced trains as you note below. That will prove tricky on the portions of routes Metrolinx does not own and is another factor in deciding what the minimum service frequency can be on each branch of the network radiating from Union.

    The recent embrace of the local/express service design fundamentally changes the track layouts needed to operate the service so that at a minimum there are passing opportunities and ideally separate tracks at least for peak direction operation. That also affects station design because at express stops all tracks must have access to platforms.

    Yesterday in the media briefing, Verster was talking about dealing with grade crossings by putting that U-shaped line in a trench. Why he is not simply considering road-under crossings is beyond me, and there is no published report on this option. I cannot help thinking that he has heard fragments of ideas, but does not understand the details of where or how they would be implemented. The classic problem of a senior manager answering questions that should be left to the subject matter experts and, in the process, destroying his credibility and getting defensive when called out for it.

    Many of the necessary changes are possible, but Metrolinx has farted around for too long without addressing the technical issues of how RER will actually operate. They have actually taken decisions (notably setting 15 minutes as the lower bound for any service) that avoid the need to plan for greater capacity they now may find is necessary.

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  3. I’ve always wondered if there is a way to rearrange the tracks at Union so that they’re more efficient. From a novelist bird’s eye perspective, the ladders on the east side are incomplete and the layout on the west is incomprehensible.

    Steve: The USRC track layout should be thought of in the context of its original function with intercity trains and large passenger train yards on the south side of the corridor where the CN Tower and Rogers Stadium are today. Trains had to move to and from every platform at Union as opposed to a future layout where services arrive and leave on dedicated tracks for most lines.

    On a lighter note, re: one cannot help wondering what the Toronto subway network would look like if subjected to the Metrolinx outlook –

    Timeline:

    – Metrolinx acquires the subway network
    – Line 4 closes entirely
    – Minister changes to ward representative
    – Line 4 reopens with express and local service and trains every 6 seconds from Bramalea Civic Centre to Oshawa Town Centre, via Sheppard and Scarborough Town Centres
    – Minister changes to non-representative
    – Line back-filled to Don Mills; service every 5 minutes with 4 trains until the end of time

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  4. I thought I read somewhere that “road under” grade separation was safer . . . It’s unfortunate that the Minister doesn’t know that. That said, a trench through Markham/Scarborough and Weston/Etobicoke/Mississauga would be beautiful, and may offset the flood plain downtown!

    Steve: To be fair to the current Minister, I doubt the trench idea has moved up the line from Metrolinx to her office.

    Yet.

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  5. “The problem is so acute for the SmartTrack corridor that Metrolinx is now trying to figure out how to squeeze more trains onto the line, and even talks of a separate “relief” function for a U-shaped Unionville to Bramalea service.”

    Could you expand on this? It sounds like an interesting idea.

    Steve: Metrolinx seems to be contemplating a “big U” analogy for the Relief Line that would include dedicated, grade separated trackage. This is a huge change, and a technical challenge depending on the degree to which they would segregate a Unionville to Bramalea service from roads and other rail services. I got the impression at the media briefing that this has not progressed much beyond a doodle on a map. Even the pros draw fantasy maps, but their problem is that occasionally the Minister gets hold of one and suddenly it’s government policy.

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  6. I think you have to look at different stations differently, and I look forward to your station-by-station review. In South Etobicoke, I’ve spoken to many people over the years about Park Lawn GO, and none has ever thought that alternating service between Mimico and Park Lawn would be bad. Why? Because it’s a 30 min. service now, and after service on Lakeshore West doubles, both stations would still receive 30 min. service. Will you need to check a schedule? Sure, and it’s pretty easy to do. But Park Lawn GO would not in theory or in practice be replacing frequent subway service.

    Also interested in Bloor-Lansdowne. That location is already 5 min. or less walk to Dundas W and Lansdowne subway, and Dundas GO with both GO and UP Express service. I’m sure there will be a few upstream commuters looking to alight to Bloor subway, but enough to justify it? Seems ludicrous.

    Steve: I just replied to a Tweet where the writer said “30 minutes is fine by me” making two distinctions. First, when someone lives close to the station such as the new condos at Humber Bay or the buildings at Port Credit, then access time to the station is fairly predictable and would usually be a walk. “If I leave home on the :15 or :45, I will catch the train” sort of thinking. For riders coming from further away, the access time is less predictable unless there is a protected, timed transit feeder connection. By contrast to the stations on LSW with nearby development, stations on the Stouffville corridor, which are seen as replacements for rapid transit access via the SSE, a wide headway connecting with a frequent bus service is far worse than the existing bus-to-RT connection. A lot depends on what standard one judges a “new” service against.

    A big issue in southern Etobicoke is the glacial and unreliable service on Queen as a route to/from downtown. Eventually, this area might get a more direct and faster streetcar route via the Waterfront (Lake Shore, Queensway, Colborne Lodge, Lake Shore to CNE, bridge over the railway to link up with the planned streetcar extension from the current CNE Loop to Dufferin Street, and thence to Union Station), but I fear this won’t happen quickly.

    There is certainly a place for a Park Lawn Station, and Metrolinx has been making contradictory claims about how and whether this would work. Now they can live with a shorter platform (8 cars), and propose alternating service that does not delay riders from further west. Remember that at one point, they claimed new stations could be added at no penalty because of the performance possible with electric trains. The skip stop service plan is a recent change in their position.

    Re Bloor/Lansdowne: That station really only exists as a political tradeoff to mollify folks in the fight against the Davenport grade separation project. It’s a fair hike to the subway, but certainly not impossible. The length of the walk will be in part affected by the platform placement which will be south of Bloor for reasons having to do with grades especially on the approach to the grade separation at the CP North Toronto sub.

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  7. Hi Steve,

    This PDF “Hydrogen Rail Infrastructure Report (Ergebnisbericht Studie Wasserstoff-Infrastruktur für die Schiene)” was posted on Urban Toronto back in October 2017 and thought you and other readers might be interested. In someways, this German report is the Coles Notes for the Metrolinx produced reports/presentations.

    Unfortunately it’s all in German but Google Translate has made it very readable. Within the report it outlines:

    • Hydrogen technology is leaning more towards small single level trainsets instead of the current 12 car Bilevel consist GO Trains.
    • The technology is similar to hybrid cars; storage batteries and regenerative braking which means that it is more economical for frequent stop-go operations.
    • Issues of hydrogen supply and the technology available to produce it (and the carbon price to produce/transport it).
    • Safety standards and regulations for storage, handling and shipping (I’m sure there will be issues with the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act and Transport Canada/FRA).

    On page 98 there is a chart that compares Alstom’s LINT 54 diesel and fuel cell versions and the diesel LINT 41 (EVB).

    Steve: I am part way through writing up the Hydrail report and will do this in two parts, one introductory and a second on the more technical stuff (if I get that far). It is very clear that Metrolinx is leaning to locomotives, not “HMUs”, both as a matter of scale, and because this would allow them to continue use of their existing fleet of coaches. Whether the technology can actually scale up is another matter.

    Stay tuned. The “stations” report pre-empted work on the Hydrail article.

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  8. I know this seems rather backward – but would not simply doubling the track and electrifying the line upgrading the signalling system, and running short trains – ideally EMU – but even electric locomotive with 6 car sets, not bring the possibility of a huge increase in service. Would this not enable 10-12 trains per hour – limited by the capacity in the USRC anyway?

    Given the existence of stations at Kennedy, on Steeles, and on Sheppard, do more stations in the outer area actually offer significant improvements in the outer 416? Would this not be better served by running buses on the adjoining major road that also served the GO? Does adding an additional station between Steeles and Sheppard really add that much?

    Steve: First off, you have to talk to the Mayor about SmartTrack because that’s where all of the extra stations come from, and they complicate planning immensely.

    The problem with very close headways (5-6 minutes as you propose) is that you need a completely new signalling system, and there are big issues when you hit Union. These are not insurmountable, but you must be prepared to spend more money than Queen’s Park has seemed ready to shell out. Now with the extra distraction of hydrogen trains, who knows what we will get, if anything.

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  9. You mentioned only East Harbour and Liberty Village pass the smell test – that is incorrect. Park Lawn passes with flying colours, and just shows how much Metrolinx cannot be trusted to operate independently. Without politicians’ support, the community would not have been able to fight this bureaucracy.

    In fact, Phil Verster said the following about Park Lawn:

    “Toronto city council recently approved asking Metrolinx to consider a Park Lawn stop, and Verster says its potential exceeds that of seven additional stops municipalities had suggested.

    “Park Lawn has just arisen in terms of its benefit-cost ratio above any of the other stations,” he said.” [Source: CBC]

    I know you were not a fan of this station due to competition with the Waterfront LRT, but to be fair, that LRT is over 20 years out, and will be about as fast as the Queen car. We need rapid transit in HBS, not another tram line.

    Steve: I believe you have misinterpreted what I wrote. I was speaking of the SmartTrack stations in those paragraphs, and Park Lawn is not part of that service. East Harbour and Liberty Village are, and ironically, neither is really on the “arms” of the SmartTrack route but rather along the south side of the city. Moreover, they are primarily destinations, not origins, for AM peak trips.

    Another issue I have with the Metrolinx numbers is that they do not give details of the service plan which was used when modelling demand. Park Lawn is shown as having 2,600 passengers in the AM peak, almost all of whom would be boarding. This has to be spread over trains every 30 minutes for, say, a two hour period, trains that will be well-loaded from points further west. It is not even clear whether the claimed riders for various stations will actually fit on the trains because they don’t show the cumulative demand (ons and offs) for the entire corridor.

    As for the LRT line, that’s a separate issue, and I do not agree that it will be as slow as the Queen car. We may live long enough to find out. As for the Park Lawn station, I agree that it is a good idea. The question is why Metrolinx has done an about-face including significant changes in station and service design and managed to get the numbers to come out right.

    For an organization whose new management motto is “getting to Yes”, they are very good at saying “No”.

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  10. It seemed to me that Stouffville RER must still service railroad freight trains, in a grandfathered provision of sale. It has been pointed out on this blog that raised platforms are incompatible to the freight train envelope. Also they must consider dual track signals to support freight trains. These are not show stoppers but an intelligent discussion should address how these matters are dealt with.

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  11. Steve said “As for the LRT line, that’s a separate issue, and I do not agree that it will be as slow as the Queen car.”

    I just wanted to follow up on this point. Although this is being called an “LRT” project, I gather this Waterfront LRT would use the TTC’s regular streetcar vehicles. Based on the reporting so far, would you say this is envisioned to behave more like a “local” service (i.e. such as on Spadina, St Clair, etc) with frequent stopping and low top speeds, or is this going to behave more like the LRTs under construction on Eglinton and Finch (and hopefully other parts of the city)?

    (Relatively new to Toronto, and to these issues. If I’ve missed a critical report/source, apologies).

    Steve: A bit of both. Don’t forget that speed is affected by stop spacing and degree of transit priority. From Park Lawn eastward, the route would be on its own right of way (conversion of the shared lanes on Lake Shore east of Park Lawn is already planned for 2019, I think). At Colborne Lodge Road the route would turn south under the railway and then east in the median of a realigned Lake Shore Boulevard eventually crossing north over the railway near Dufferin. All of this would be private right-of-way with relatively few stops and intersections. Through the north side of the CNE grounds, the line would be on its own right-of-way with no crossings (the link to GO’s Exhibition Station will move to an underpass). East of Strachan Avenue, the line would use the existing 509 Harbourfront alignment to Union, although changes are planned at Bathurst to remove some of the traffic conflicts. The slowest part of the trip would likely be from Bathurst to Bay where there are frequent crossings and higher conflicts with other traffic. It will most certainly not be Queen Street.

    This planning is part of the “Waterfront Reset” work now underway. The main unresolved issue is the detailed design of the connection at Union Station which needs more capacity.

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  12. Bill, on all the GO owned corridors, CN still has freight rights. For example, the Oakville Ford plant still gets train delivery of car parts. Look at how many mid day Barrie trains that do not make it to Aurora GO due to CN freight trains. With enough track, this will not be a problem. I am going to get flamed for saying this. Metrolinx should use its own locomotives to haul freight on its own corridor. Running freight trains without positive train control in a corridor with CBTC will either slow every one down or make it more dangerous.

    Jeff, hydrogen trains have regen braking and batteries for other reasons. It is not for energy efficiencies. Hydrogen conversion cannot ramp up or down quickly. The battery exists to smooth out the peaks and valleys. A diesel engine can increase its RPMs quickly and spin the generators to produce large amount of electricity. It is electricity that drive the traction motors. When accelerating out of a stop, you want full power right away so that it leaves the station quickly. The inability to provide large amount of electricity instantly is why battery packs exist.

    Liquid fuels are the best for transportation. I am trying to visualize what a hydrogen locomotive would look like. Not only would the locomotive be supplying traction power, it will also need to provide head end power for the 10 coaches as well. I am thinking of a locomotive with a hydrogen tank trailer behind it. It will be just like the coal trailers on the back of steam locomotives.

    Steve: The proposed hydrogen train power system also includes supercapacitors to provide the very high acceleration current required which is a strain on the batteries. These capacitors also act as the sink into which the regen power is dumped. There are three stages to power generation in the Hydrail proposal (which I will go into once I dig out from under the New Stations report). First is the fuel cell, next the battery, finally the supercapacitors. Each has a different capability in terms of power production and storage.

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  13. Benny: The reason that most mid day ‘Barrie’ trains don’t make it past Aurora has nothing to do with freight. Daytime freight trains that originate in Barrie go west on the former Collingwood line to be transferred onto the CP main at Angus. A few 3:00 AM freights still go through Aurora, but GO’s schedules are designed around traffic demand, not one day freight per month.

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  14. Steve said: “The problem with very close headways (5-6 minutes as you propose) is that you need a completely new signalling system, and there are big issues when you hit Union. These are not insurmountable, but you must be prepared to spend more money than Queen’s Park has seemed ready to shell out. Now with the extra distraction of hydrogen trains, who knows what we will get, if anything.”

    Yes it strikes me as odd that while doubling track however you would not make the investment to go with the more advanced signaling systems. This is also a fairly clear indication of the real issue in the Toronto situation – that is better to talk, than act. I am not a huge fan of the notions of ST. I also am not convinced that trains every 5 minutes are the answer, and that 15 minute headway would do it. However today this also would represent a huge improvement in service, that one starts to question ever happening – as the plans change in a way that it almost seems a choice to ensure that nothing can be completed. I am still quite convinced that from a within 416 perspective, the real answer is really Transit City + DRL. However, this also requires a real commitment and actually on-going execution. It almost feels as though at times this is more about keeping issues alive for election purposes is the most important thing.

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  15. Harrison, I said the trains do not make it to Aurora GO. Here are the Twitter feeds for the Barrie Line. Due to freight, some of the mid day GO Trains only made it to Maple GO. These are some from the past two weeks.

    I do not know who is making a delivery or picking up freight. However, between Aurora GO and Maple GO, it is a Metrolinx corridor.

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  16. Benny: You got me! So much for what I know re mid day trains. It does seem to be a not too well thought out piece of planning by Metrolinx.

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  17. Also in terms of the real value of the Stouffville line, would it not be much more valuable connected to a rapid transit system, than with more stations? Does not an LRT from Kennedy to at least Sheppard and a Sheppard LRT that stretches east and west beyond that also connects have a massively larger impact? Does this not provide both better connectivity to core, and locally than adding stations to the GO line? Does this not also do a much better job at spreading the effect while also producing real in Scarborough development support? Would this not make the single line create a real connection all the way to the east end? Would this not also mean creating a much more valuable nexus at Kennedy, and make preferred GO fares have a larger impact. Would this not also mean diverting more ridership from Yonge ? Is not the goal to produce the broadest impact for the largest number of trips and commuters?.

    Steve: You are asking questions that assume SmartTrack and the Scarborough transit plans in general are designed to build an optimal network for passengers, not for stroking a misplaced sense of “Scarborough deserves a subway”, and then gerrymandering the network so that the demand projections sound reasonable.

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  18. Steve said: “You are asking questions that assume SmartTrack and the Scarborough transit plans in general are designed to build an optimal network for passengers, not for stroking a misplaced sense of “Scarborough deserves a subway”, and then gerrymandering the network so that the demand projections sound reasonable.”

    Actually Steve I am asking the questions because I am fairly sure of the answer. I am fairly sure this is about politics and not service. I think it is valuable to make the difference clear to as many as possible. I would argue that the politics in Scarborough do not serve Scarborough, let all alone the rest of the city of province. It feels nearly as though they will not actually build even what does not make sense, simply to keep the issue alive.

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  19. I’ll reply to more in another batch tomorrow… Catch-up is hard with so many committed commenters.

    Steve said: This is a huge change, and a technical challenge depending on the degree to which they would segregate a Unionville to Bramalea service from roads and other rail services.

    It seems like every time a bad idea gets put to bed, a new leader comes on board and someone forgets to do a “we’ve thought of that” debrief.

    Some basic design challenges that should crop up:

    1) Piles and Lagging at Union make it basically impassable underground (unless you are going for a deep, deep station).
    2) Metrolinx doesn’t own most of the USRC air rights.
    3) An aerial route would require land take or track removal between Queen and Strachan plus the longest curved elevated structure in the world.

    Malcolm N said: Would this not enable 10-12 trains per hour – limited by the capacity in the USRC anyway?

    Given the existence of stations at Kennedy, on Steeles, and on Sheppard, do more stations in the outer area actually offer significant improvements in the outer 416? Would this not be better served by running buses on the adjoining major road that also served the GO? Does adding an additional station between Steeles and Sheppard really add that much?

    It seems like the plan is shifting to a “border and bypass” system. So Unionville would be a transfer station, anything south of that would be “local” service only between Union and Unionville while anything north of that would be “express” service skipping everything to the south until the end of the line.

    SmartTrack never was that smart of a use of track. Better to build a few LRT lines that would provide net new service to the boroughs. Even enhanced bus service probably helps people more on average.

    John said: Park Lawn passes with flying colours

    Are those colours black with white or just plain brown?

    To take Steve’s point one step further, Park Lawn generates next to no net new passengers. It’s existence is predicated on cannibalizing ridership from Mimico.

    Bill R said: It seemed to me that Stouffville RER must still service railroad freight trains, in a grandfathered provision of sale.

    Correct, it’s call Running Rights. However, it only runs north daily to Mile 54 (more or less Finch).

    Bill R said: It has been pointed out on this blog that raised platforms are incompatible to the freight train envelope.

    The new consideration as part of wasting billions on raising platforms is that gantlet tracks will be installed to allow freight/express bypass without running as close to the edge of the platform.

    Bill R said: Also they must consider dual track signals to support freight trains.

    This has already been accounted for without reference to freight specific trains. The less mentioned embarrassment to GO is the need to run bus service between Maple and King/Aurora on Tuesdays due to missing the freight requirements and not being able to have rail passenger service.

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  20. I don’t think anyone is pushing for Park Lawn simply to “cannibalize ridership from Mimico”.

    All the new development around Park Lawn and Lake Shore is not within easy access of Mimico GO. It’s a fairly long walk with various blockages. There is no direct TTC service*. And Park Lawn/Lake Shore is congested enough already, so we don’t want residents trying to drive to Mimico station (which has insufficient parking anyway). So Mimico has a big “last mile” problem attracting residents from all the new condos. Park Lawn would be within easy and obvious walking distance, which takes care of that problem.

    * There is a new TTC Mimico GO shuttle that is planned for September 2018.

    It will be interesting to see if this shuttle actually does anything useful.

    Steve: A related question in all of this is the amount of redevelopment that will occur around Mimico station as opposed to being just far enough away that it’s not in walking distance.

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  21. Yes, developers are proposing massive developments all around Mimico GO station, including to the west, where Metrolinx is fighting the proposals. They don’t want residential buildings preventing future expansion of Willowbrook yard.

    This is why the current Mimico GO station can’t just be closed and a new one opened over on Park Lawn.

    A station spanning Mimico Creek would have sort of reasonable access at the ends, from both the Park Lawn and Royal York areas. I don’t think anyone is going to propose that.

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  22. Ed said: I don’t think anyone is pushing for Park Lawn simply to “cannibalize ridership from Mimico”.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the whole premise for Park Lawn Station is that it is better placed in relationship to the Humber Bay Shores neighbourhood than Mimico Station.

    Looking at the original IBC for Park Lawn, it suggested 162 net new peak riders (463 net trips). Over a 60-year period, they suggest less than 100K would get off at the station.

    With an initial budgetted cost of $189.4M, it would be cheaper to buy a Metropass for the next 60 years for all the Humber Bay Shore residents that currently use Mimico Station or would use the new Park Lawn Station.

    Steve: An issue that has been raised by the Humber Bay Shores folks is whether the Metrolinx demand estimate was based on population figures that predate most of the condos. From my experience with Metrolinx planning, this would not surprise me one bit.

    Ed said: Yes, developers are proposing massive developments all around Mimico GO station, including to the west, where Metrolinx is fighting the proposals.

    Actually, the City is fighting the plans as well because they exceed the neighbourhood standards. The Mr. Christie’s Factory site proposed over double what is allowed to shoehorn in as many units as possible.

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  23. Mapleson asks “Correct me if I’m wrong, but the whole premise for Park Lawn Station is that it is better placed in relationship to the Humber Bay Shores neighbourhood than Mimico Station.”

    That is correct — as far as it goes.

    Mimico GO station is not at all conveniently located for Humber Bay Shores. It’s easy to lose track of the scale of things. Having HBS people make the trek to the current GO Mimico would be like telling people in East Liberty Village to go to GO Union. The distances are the same scale.

    But having said that Mimico GO is not at all usefully located for HBS, we have to remember that Mimico GO has existed for years and years. I would figure it was one of the original GO stations back in the 1960s. Some of its current business might shift to Park Lawn, but not all of it. And there is more development coming which will be convenient to Mimco GO and therefore inconvenient to Park Lawn GO.

    Adding a new GO station in the middle of some intense residential development may cost money, but it seems to me a more sustainable use of money than building a parking palace in an industrial wasteland.

    Giving HBS residents a Metropass – and having them actually use – is only a recipe for grossly overloading the streetcar and the 66 PRINCE EDWARD bus. The former can be upgraded to an LRT, which hopefully will be done. The 66 bus is essentially a local bus running on collector roads at best. There is no easy or sensible way to upgrade it. Further west, Islington and Kipling are relatively quick links to Bloor and the subway. But there’s nothing really good on either side of the Humber.

    Given that Humber Bay Shores is right by the Lakeshore line, it makes sense to try to get residents to use GO, rather than trying to figure out how to make TTC routes more attractive for them. Because the residents also have quick access to Lake Shore and the Gardiner, and they will probably default to trying to drive where they have to go.

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  24. To Ed’s point about distance and scale, it’s about a 3km walk from the middle of the motel strip to Mimico GO. Could be a little longer or shorter depending on which building.

    Regarding development around Mimico GO, the Mimico-Judson Secondary Plan already calls for “transit supportive mixed use development” including two 30-storey towers surrounded by 4- 6- and 8-storey buildings. However, developer proposals going before the OMB would massively exceed the scale of the plan. One development proposal alone would add more residential units than the entire secondary plan called for, and the entire north side of the rail corridor would be lined with 25-30 storey buildings from Royal York Rd. to Grand Avenue Park. Also relevant is that proposals call for less parking than would normally be incorporated – precisely because of the proximity to Mimico GO. So whatever ridership is “cannibalized” will quickly be added back.

    As for the “162 net new peak riders” it simply defies logic. Humber Bay Shores will be adding close to 30,000 residents (not yet including the Mr. Christie’s site*) by the time all the development is completed. Given how difficult it is to access Mimico GO currently, and how little parking is available there, it’s difficult to see how residential of that scale will add only 162 net new peak riders, particularly since the alternative transit options are so poor.

    Moreover, what is consistently overlooked is the value of a Park Lawn GO to the wider South Etobicoke community. Mimico GO is also difficult to get to for residents of New Toronto and generally would involve transferring from 501 to 76 bus. With a joint fare and a convenient transfer point between 501 and GO at Park Lawn, there would be a significant incentive to transfer there, particularly during peak hours – certainly until the LRT is completed. Yes, timing the transfer to a 30-min GO will be tricky, but even if you give yourself an extra 10-15 min buffer to avoid a missed connection your overall travel time could be reduced, depending on your destination.

    * Note that there are no development proposals from the owner, First Capital, yet. They held a public idea fair recently. Mondelez prepared a “concept plan” which went for absolute maximum density with 27 towers (no that is not a typo!) on the site but it was withdrawn.

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  25. Ed said: Having HBS people make the trek to the current GO Mimico would be like telling people in East Liberty Village to go to GO Union. …

    Given that Humber Bay Shores is right by the Lakeshore line, it makes sense to try to get residents to use GO, rather than trying to figure out how to make TTC routes more attractive for them. Because the residents also have quick access to Lake Shore and the Gardiner, and they will probably default to trying to drive where they have to go.

    To be fair, I say King-Liberty Station is a bad idea as well. Just because HBS is adjacent to a rail line, doesn’t mean it makes sense.

    Spending $190M (and probably more) because the TTC network sucks in the area is not ideal. It’s a marginal station and near the core have next to no space in the rush. As for my Metropass solution, you could buy 5 extra buses and rent garage space as well within the budget.

    Mimico Station, beyond ridership, is next to the Willowbrook Maintenance Facility and is where all the crews use to start/end their shifts.

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