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.