New SmartTrack/GO Station Designs

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.

St. Clair Old Weston Station

This station lies north of St. Clair Avenue West and east of Weston Road. The design is being co-ordinated with a transportation master plan now underway for this area which includes options for modification of the underpass at the rail corridor. Any changes must be co-ordinated with the future station design to the north.

In its infinite wisdom, the City allowed townhouse development on the northeast corner of St. Clair and Weston Road which makes any work in this area difficult. Allowing the development was clearly more important than protecting for future road or rail infrastructure.

There is no direct connection between the station and the St. Clair car, although one might argue that this is an unlikely spot for transfer traffic. The closest access would be from the stop east of the underpass at Old Weston Road (just off the map at the top).

The station includes provision for a bus loop west of Union Street, and this would likely replace the function of Townsley Loop which is now used only by the 127 Davenport bus. It is very unlikely that other routes on Old Weston Road such as 41 Keele would be diverted to serve this station as this would add to travel time. As we know from Metrolinx’ own studies, delaying through riders is a bad thing and should be avoided in service design. Service on 89 Weston would connect with the station via a walkway from Weston and Gunns Road.

King Liberty Station

King Liberty station faces design challenges because the right-of-way is already crowded with multiple tracks and nearby buildings. The design has been modified by shifting the platforms further west and staggering them to fit available space and planned developments. The original single centre platform has been replaced with two side platforms to fit with the new Metrolinx service plan. Although not explicitly stated, this implies that this station would be served only by “local” trains with the central tracks being used for “express” trains. Considering that Liberty Village is a major destination for commuters, this is an odd strategy.

The station would have its main entrance north of the rail corridor, but would include a plaza spanning the tracks to link both with the GO platforms and to an entrance south of the corridor. Another connection would be provided from the north side of King Street at Atlantic Avenue to the westbound platform.

An outstanding problem is the integration of the Rail Path. Two alternative routes are shown above in dotted orange lines. Residents of the area are concerned about the possible loss of parking spaces if a dedicated bikeway comes along Sudbury Street.

Bloor Lansdowne Station

This station is on the Barrie line and not part of SmartTrack per se, but Metrolinx has proposed to build it at least in part as an outcome of the Davenport Diamond project. Ironically, the new station is not universally loved by its future neighbours who worry about noise from diesel locomotives (pending electrification) and warning bells that are sounded at stations.

The station has two entrances. The primary access is from Bloor Street, and this will also include provision for pedestrians to cross to the north side and walk north to Wade Avenue as the route to Lansdowne subway station. The west end of the Lansdowne station structure is just west of the existing entrance, and the subway runs in a bored tunnel west from there to get under the Weston rail corridor. This means that there is no existing structure under Wade Avenue to which a connecting passageway could be built, and a protected connection is unlikely to exist until the property facing onto Bloor and Lansdowne is redeveloped.

There is a loop for a bus connection to the station from St. Helens Avenue, but this is intended only for use by WheelTrans. The 47 Lansdowne bus would not divert to and from the GO station.

There is no provision for an express bypass track in the design above although this is a “local” station in GO’s service plan despite its connection to the Bloor subway. Express trains would not stop here.

Although attention to a connection to the Bloor GO station and UPX was an issue in an earlier round of meetings, nothing is shown here. The distance from the north end of the GO platform at Bloor Lansdowne to the rail underpass at Bloor UPX station is about 410m. As with a connection to Lansdowne station, there is no existing structure which could form part of a walkway westward.

Spadina Front Station

A station at this location was originally conceived as a terminus for trains from the Barrie and possibly the Weston corridors to offload demand from Union. Travellers would walk east from Spadina to downtown or, possibly, ride on the Relief Line which at one time was expected to come past the site.

All of that has changed, and now the Barrie trains will use this as a line station enroute to Union. This reduces the number of tracks required, but also means that only the southerly part of the Bathurst Yard can hold the platform to allow for through east-west operation. The westbound station track is now a storage track while the eastbound station track is an existing through track. Tracks between this and Front Street would continue to be used for train storage.

In turn, this requires access between Front Street and a platform some distance to the south as shown  in the diagram above. An underground link to the main entry building might be built from the development to the north, “The Well”, on the former Globe & Mail site. This would be part of a western section of the underground PATH network.

This is an express station and all Barrie line trains would stop here.

A design issue related to this station is the planned Rail Deck Park which would cover this area. Access to the platform would be integrated with the park structure.

Multi-Use Path Extensions and Modifications

There are plans to provide a path northward along the east side of the Barrie corridor both south of Bloor, and to the north as part of the Davenport Diamond project.

North of the Davenport Diamond project, there will be a connection across Davenport Road to Earlscourt Park.

14 thoughts on “New SmartTrack/GO Station Designs

  1. It is critical to start a campaign *demanding* electrification and *rejecting* the hydrogen scam.

    Hydrogen powered trains are a scam. A fraud. A lie. A way to waste money while making sure that diesel-powered trains continue. If they are built (unlikely) they will end up being ripped out in favor of electrification — after costing far more than electrification for years on end.

    The fake study which claimed that hydrogen trains were viable? Lying. The consultants were clearly saying what someone wanted to hear — because they’re not viable.

    This garbage has to be nipped in the bud. It’s worse than the Scarborough RT fiasco.

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  2. I guess I don’t understand why they would build a bridge instead of a tunnel to connect the north end of King/Atlantic to the Liberty Village station. That would be a significant accessibility challenge, and unless the bridge is covered, would be pretty terrible in the winter time.

    Steve: Either way, they have to include an elevator or a ramp, and it’s cheaper when this is above ground.

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  3. Not sure where Nathanael gets his information from however, it would appear hydrogen powered passenger trains is NOT fake news!

    Steve: The difference is that this is a relatively small unit intended for service on light branch lines where the cost of conventional electrification is not justified by the service level. Scaling this up to a 12-car GO train is quite another matter.

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  4. Raymond, you will have my respect if you are proposing a hydrogen service between Moncton and Halifax. For an infrequent route, a hydrogen train will be much better than a Budd RDC. It will be quieter and be emission free. For a corridor like the Kitchener and Stouffville, future signal systems might allow 120 seconds headways. That is 30 trains per hour per direction, do we want to use such an expensive energy source?

    If Metrolinx is sticking to 15 minutes headway in the 416, it will not add much capacity regardless of how many new stations are added. Using ballpark numbers, a 12 car GO train carries about 2000 people. This means that on the Stouffville line, it will only add 8000 people capacity. This is not much relief for Bloor Yonge. I am hoping that Metrolinx would up the ante and bring CBTC signals to the table.

    For a “surface metro” to work, it will need to bring at least 20000 people per hour capacity. Even if 8000 people can be diverted from Bloor Yonge, there are latent demands and organic growth on the line. This is not to mention that York Region is pushing for a Yonge North extension. For Smart Track to work as a “surface metro”, it has to have 300 seconds headway at the start. Otherwise, it will not be credible. Who is going to wait for a 15 minute train when the 43, 57 and 131E can take one from Lawrence to Kennedy Station in that time frame.

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  5. Regarding the Alstom hydrogen trains in Germany:

    June 2016: “A pilot locomotive will be delivered in 2018 in Lower Saxony”

    September 2016: Alstom planning to have it enter passenger service on Buxtehude lines in December 2017

    January 2018: First test in “first quarter of 2018”, no mention of regular revenue service

    January 2018: Manufacturer press test; two prototypes to run in passenger service on the Buxtehude lines “from 2018”; full deployment “from 2021”

    Look like any other wondertechnologies you’ve heard of?

    And as has been pointed out: those are two-car multiple-units for small-scale regional service. It’s much more of a Stratford-to-Kitchener line than a Lakeshore West.

    No doubt it’ll run for a while eventually (maybe like the TTC’s first hybrids), and will be an improvement on regional lines between smaller cities. In Canadian circumstances, I’d love one of those for an hourly Kitchener-to-Guelph service. But you’re kidding yourself if you expect it to replace electrification on mainlines.

    We know what works for metropolitan service in large cities everywhere else. For once could we just do that, instead of trying to be super amazingly innovative?

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  6. Even if they conquer all the challenges, we’re years away from an alternative to diesel-electric traction for VIA and GO. Despite my frequent public endorsements of GO electrification in the past, the key issue is just increased service and we don’t absolutely require electrification to deliver it. It has become a kind of Frankenstein that allows Metrolinx to endlessly drag their feet on service intensification and sidestep significant infrastructure improvements to enable incremental frequency improvements using diesel traction. The still-under-study CN Bramalea-Milton freight bypass advocated by MTO and the HSR brigade is yet another means of avoiding reasonably-priced capacity expansion that they’re still going to need even if they do pull off this $8-billion, eight-year (their targets) fantasy project. Just get on with the diesel-powered service expansion.

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  7. With regards to hydrogen powered trains, the roll out of conventional overhead lines would not be a quick nor easy undertaking. The build of all the new poles wiring and electrical sub station to support the network will likely impede service more so than simply replacing carriages and locomotives. Perhaps hydrogen technology won’t be able to satisfy all electrification targets in the next 5 years, but to not give it a shot will also mean years of painful service interruptions on top of existing GO issues. Had electrification started with UP Express, I doubt hydrogen would even be considered if there was already a build out in progress. I’m all for electrification, and the quicker we can get there the better.

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  8. How about just using diesel electric trains until good service is established before electrifying or hydrogenizing? Focus on station locations, close to where people live and work. Easy access including easy to use ticket systems. Quick loading and unloading. On time schedules, less excuses like weather and signal problems. We NEED better service, which is number 1 priority.

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  9. “How about just using diesel electric trains until good service is established”

    I think the concern is with air quality that is already on the decline along the train routes. Some of those who live and work in the rail corridors were already upset when UP Express decided to go diesel EMU. If we are to say double the diesel locomotives to improve service (not even considering shelf life of new trains or their costs), it would surely be opposed to by those living in the area. Thanks to the recent scandals by diesel car makers using underhanded practices, no matter how clean they advertise diesel to be, there should be public backlash on further expansion of diesel fleets.

    More stations and express services would definitely be welcomed. I would definitely vote for more frequent express trains during crush hour. And ones with varying express stations to help spread the load, might not be easy for non-commuters to figure out, but if they have time, take a local train.

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  10. @Greg CN Rail owns the tracks between just south of Bramalea and Georgetown. Based on your push for more GO service, how would you actually make it happen without the Bypass CN Rail wants? Are you suggesting the federal government use its powers to force CN to allow for more service and maybe some third or fourth tracking? Is that realistic?

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  11. The province needs to bite the bullet and complete the third main line track, which will require the demolition and replacement of a low-rise office building that sits atop the Brampton Transit/GO bus terminal in downtown Brampton. Vehicular access to Railroad Street will also have to be forfeited, but all the buildings on its south side belong to a developer and have been vacated pending demolition for his project. The rest of the remaining sections of the required third main and a fly-under or fly-over west of Mount Pleasant to get GO and VIA over to GO’s Georgetown Station facilities and the connection with the Metrolinx-owned Guelph Sub. would not be difficult to build. Waiting eight years for the $8-billion CN freight bypass (those are Metrolinx guess-timates) is not an option in my book. To use the new pet phrase of the Liberal MPPs along the GO Kitchener Line, this corridor needs to be liberated — now!

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  12. @Greg you dodged my question. CN owns the tracks between Bramalea and Georgetown. What if (they probably have already) said “NO” to GO on allowing a third track to be built? What then? What specifically are you suggesting the Province/Feds do to force the issue?

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  13. Warren Rumak said: I guess I don’t understand why they would build a bridge instead of a tunnel to connect the north end of King/Atlantic to the Liberty Village station.

    GO builds enclosed bridges. There is less total grade change with a bridge than a tunnel. A tunnel is much more expensive.

    Raymond said: …it would appear hydrogen powered passenger trains is NOT fake news!

    Just to be clear, that’s a LRV, whereas GO runs HRV.

    Benny Cheung said: Using ballpark numbers, a 12 car GO train carries about 2000 people. This means that on the Stouffville line, it will only add 8000 people capacity.

    Are you sure hydrogen is going to provide any net improvement in capacity? The whole premise of using xMU is to provide marginal capacity expansion via faster acceleration, but if you are reducing the capacity per coach due to an inefficient fuel source, then at best you are treading water; at worst you are trading peak capacity for a “green” fuel that increases the greenhouse gases produced by the rail network.

    Greg Gormick said: the key issue is just increased service and we don’t absolutely require electrification to deliver it.

    Correct.

    Greg Gormick said: …allows Metrolinx to endlessly drag their feet on service intensification and sidestep significant infrastructure improvements to enable incremental frequency improvements using diesel traction.

    Here we disagree. Since 2009 when Metrolinx bought their first subdivision (Weston), there has been continual significant infrastructure improvements: Hagerman Diamond and West Toronto Diamond were eliminated, and Davenport Diamond is next. Lower Galt sub was twinned and Weston is still under work to get to 4 tracks. Newmarket and Uxbridge subs are currently being twinned. A new tunnel is being dug under Highway 401. The USRC has basically been rebuilt, and Union Station added platforms 24-26 plus all the below surface works.

    Metrolinx has been taxing the local engineering and construction firms with rail experience to keep up. It’s only the more recent obsession with PPP that’s slowed the flow into what will be one giant tsunami.

    Greg Gormick said: The still-under-study CN Bramalea-Milton freight bypass advocated by MTO and the HSR brigade is yet another means of avoiding reasonably-priced capacity expansion that they’re still going to need even if they do pull off this $8-billion, eight-year (their targets) fantasy project. Just get on with the diesel-powered service expansion.

    The freight by-pass is needed for passenger service increases past Bramalea, regardless of locomotive power. HSR to me is a pipe dream that probably gets cut back to track upgrades along the Guelph subdivision. Widen the corridor and you can mix local and express service, so that you aren’t pissing off everyone in between stations.

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  14. Greg Gormick said: The province needs to bite the bullet and complete the third main line track, which will require the demolition and replacement of a low-rise office building that sits atop the Brampton Transit/GO bus terminal in downtown Brampton.

    Beyond being CN’s corridor, the biggest pinch point is the historic building at 45 Railroad Street (Mill Street) that would need to be jacked and relocated a la Kodak Building.

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