In two recent articles, I wrote about new stations that are proposed on some of the GO corridors, and their recently updated evaluations and designs:
The reports did not include any illustrations of the proposed designs, but these are starting to appear through the SmartTrack station consultation meetings. As they become available, I will post excerpts in this article.
The March 1 meeting dealt with four stations on the west side of the old City of Toronto. The presentation materials are not yet online, but I have included excerpts from them here.
Among the issues discussed in an earlier round of meetings were:
- Noise during the construction period, and later from trains including the bells which sound as they enter and leave stations.
- The service plan – what will be the frequency of service through and at each station?
- Fare integration – what will the fare be for a combined TTC/GO trip?
A Metrolinx representative was somewhat evasive on the issue of noise on two counts. First, there is the question of how long it will be before the majority of service will be electrified. If one believes the original electrification plan (cited by the Metrolinx rep), some trains will always be diesel on some lines because they will run into territory owned by other railways where electrification will not occur. Conversely, if one believes the optimistic claims of the hydrogen train study, all GO trains will convert to hydrogen-electric operation, although on exactly what timetable is unclear.
The noise of the bells raises two concerns. First is the question of whether there can be an exemption so that neighbours are not constantly annoyed by the bells of passing trains. The other is the methodology by which an “environmental assessment” treats transient noises like this. Past EAs have dismissed transient noises because they average out with lots of quiet time between trains, but this does not address the problem of occasional noises such as roaring engines or ringing bells. Moreover, with the planned increases in service levels, these noises will be present more frequently.
SmartTrack was described broadly in the following slide:
A pressing issue for most stations is the recently revised service plan that Metrolinx announced in its updated stations report.
Express (non-stop) and tiered service patterns typically have trains serving outer stations. They typically run non-stop past inner stations which are served for by other trains. Such tiered service patterns impact business case assessment in the following key ways:
- Reduces the number of upstream riders that need to travel through the station. Upstream users that are travelling through may now choose to use a faster express train to reach their destination. This reduces upstream delays and the number of riders that switch to other modes. This will have a positive impact on station performance.
- Reduced train frequency at stations without express service (i.e. trains that previously stopped at the station can now skip some stations). Riders may also divert to stations with express services resulting in a negative impact on station performance.
As the GO RER service plan is still evolving, a conceptual service plan has been developed for modelling purposes only, which considers the following express or tiered inner/outer service concepts on the Lakeshore West, Barrie and Stouffville corridors.
- Lakeshore West corridor: Alternating trains with bi-directional 15 minutes service on the corridor with stops at Mimico and Park Lawn stations. Mimico and Park Lawn stations would therefore receive 30 minutes service inbound and outbound all day.
- Barrie corridor: Outer service stopping at all stations between Allandale Waterfront and Aurora; trains will also stop at Downsview Park and Spadina stations, otherwise, express to Union Station. Inner services will serve all stations between Union Station and Aurora.
- Stouffville corridor: All-stop peak direction outer service between Lincolnville and Unionville stations; trains will also stop at Kennedy and East Harbour stations, otherwise, express to Union Station. “Inner” services will stop at all stations between Unionville and Union Station.
This does not match the service plan adopted for RER in June 2016 where all trains would serve all stations, although that appears to be the plan staff at the March 1 meeting were working from.
The claim of “all-day two-way service, with more frequent trains during peak periods and every 15 minutes during off-peak periods” can be read to mean quarter-hourly service all day with even better peak service, or it can be read as “better service than you have today” during peak periods, but not necessarily every 15 minutes, let alone 10 minutes or below. As things now stand, the difference between Metrolinx’ updated service plan and the claims of SmartTrack service levels border on misrepresentation.