In two previous articles I review new station plans for the Weston and Stouffville corridors that are part of the SmartTrack scheme. This article turns to stations on the Lakeshore East corridor at Gerrard/Carlaw and at East Harbour.
At a public meeting on March 21, 2018, there was a large crowd who raised many of the same issues from residents along other parts of the corridor.
Cost: Capital, Operating and Future Fare Integration
Metrolinx’ recent report on new stations included a capital cost estimate of $1.195 billion for the construction of six SmartTrack stations. A report on the overall financing of SmartTrack, which also includes the proposed Eglinton West LRT extension, is expected to be on the April 2018 Executive Committee agenda.
However, there is no information yet on an operating agreement for SmartTrack service or for the cost to Toronto of “fare integration” between the TTC and GO/SmartTrack services. Metrolinx representatives tend to be evasive when pressed on these issues for the simple reason that they don’t have any answers. If there are concrete proposals on the table between Metrolinx and the City, there has been no indication of any details. This is likely to be a very delicate matter heading into an election at both levels of government and a possible change in provincial transit policies.
If fare integration requires additional subsidies, this will probably be substantially at Toronto’s cost, and could represent a diversion of transit operating dollars from other needed improvements to the wider TTC system. There is also the question of whether integrated pricing will eventually extend to all GO services within Toronto, and the potential for cost increases if the amount of service is expanded from planned GO/RER levels to the claims made for SmartTrack at recent public meetings.
The current peak service levels planned for parts of the corridor, as described on the Metrolinx website are:
- Weston corridor: Four trains/hour between Bramalea and Union overlaid by four trains/hour to Mount Pleasant of which two/hour in the peak direction would extend to Kitchener. The Bramlea trains would provide the “local” service stopping at the new SmartTrack stations.
- Stouffville corridor: Four trains/hour between Unionville and Union overlaid by three trains/hour to Lincolnville in the peak direction. The Unionville trains would provide the “local” service.
- Lakeshore East corridor: Four trains/hour between Oshawa and Union.
If express trains on either corridor, including the Oshawa service, stop at any of the new stations, this would be at East Harbour given the projected demand.
The original service design proposed in June 2016 was for all trains to run local, but Metrolinx has revised this to a mix of local and express trains. The claim of 6-10 trains/hour (corresponding to headways of 10 to 6 minutes) at SmartTrack stations which has been made at all three of the public meeting simply does not line up with current Metrolinx plans. It is misleading to claim that SmartTrack will in any way be “subway like” at this service level except at the express stations, which do not even include all of the existing GO stations.
Metrolinx has talked of trying to increase the local service, but the infrastructure has not been designed for this. Moreover, it is unclear who would pay the cost of more local “SmartTrack” service and the added infrastructure this could require.
Noise and Pollution
A major issue for residents along the Lakeshore corridor west from Scarborough Junction is the potential for noise and pollution as the level of GO service increases. Metrolinx is less than honest in its discussion of this issue because the context of the new station studies takes a narrow view of the station effects, not of the wider issue of the accumulating increase in all types of service.
At the currently planned service levels, there will be the following trains on the Lakeshore corridor from East Harbour to Scarborough Junction:
- Four trains/hour each way on the Oshawa service
- An unspecified number of extra “express” trains in the peak direction to/from Oshwas
- Four trains/hour each way on the Unionville service
- Three trains/hour in the peak direction to/from Lincolnville
- VIA service including possible future upgrades to train frequency
This gives in the range of 20 trains/hour in total, or one every three minutes. Some of these will eventually be electrified, but not necessarily all of them, and in any event Metrolinx is likely to improve service from existing levels before the electrification is in place. (There is also the possibility that a new regime at Queen’s Park will derail the electrification project.)
If SmartTrack service were provided every 6 minutes (10 trains/hour), and assuming that this would be achieved in part by having the “express” trains stop at SmartTrack stations, this would add a further three trains/hour each way. It is quite conceivable that the corridor could see combined service with a train passing every two minutes on average, and two trains passing at the same time is a likely event.
Any noise studies must take into account the cumulative effect of all services, their stopping patterns, the possible mix of propulsion technologies including a worst case all-diesel configuration, and the effect if service is improved beyond the planned levels to achieve the claimed SmartTrack frequency.
Metrolinx and the City owe us all a thorough, public discussion of service and technology plans, and the implications for the neighbourhoods through which GO/RER/SmartTrack will operate.
The East Harbour station is part of a complex of three linked transit services at the planned new development east of the Don River.
- The Relief Line subway with a station on Eastern Avenue
- The Broadview streetcar extension linking north to the Danforth subway, and west (via Commissioners, Cherry and Queens Quay) to new development in the eastern waterfront and Union Station
The station is designed to bridge the river so that there is pedestrian and cycling access to existing and planned development. Platforms are on the outer two tracks leaving the inner pair for express trains. Development of the East Harbour site will be concentrated to the north edge closest to the new transit stations. This assumes, of course, that all of the planned transit will actually be built.
The circulation patterns for pedestrians are intended to allow the station to be used to move between the east and west sides of the Don River whether one is a transit customer (holding a paid fare) or simply passing through.
The Gerrard/Carlaw station extends along the rail corridor from Pape Avenue to west of Carlaw with three separate entrance structures. Local SmartTrack service would stop here, but not the express trains. The site will eventually also have a Relief Line station although this will lie across the GO station on a more north-south axis as the subway line makes the transition from Pape to Carlaw.
The existing overhead pedestrian bridge on Pape could be replaced with a shallow underpass.
Creation of a transit junction here will inevitably bring pressure for redevelopment of the existing retail plaza, but there has been no discussion of how that might be integrated with the station design.
An earlier version of this station included a transit terminal with a loop for an extension of the Dundas streetcar service east from Broadview, but this has been dropped.
On the map, this appears to be marked as a “Multi-use path.” So I presume that there will actually be both pedestrian and cycle access across the Don River to existing and planned development. Hopefully we will get decent cycle parking as well, such as is seen in the small commuter railway station at Zaltbommel in The Netherlands.
Steve: Yes this also provides a cycling link across the river. I will update the article.
How does it make sense to add a handful of stations, for a solid portion of what the Scarborough RT lrt replacement would cost? Would it not make more sense, to double track, grade separate and focus only on integration of transit in existing stations on lines like Stouffville? Would not the diversion of this money, plus electrification, plus the subway money, not actually build an entire network in Scarborough of LRT and BRT as well as support additional buses. that would do a better job of delivering commuters to the Stouffville line, and diverting load from the subway? Is the most pressing need for relief in terms of transit today, not the eastern side of the city, and connecting downtown, but still the forecast here for peak load is what 8000 riders peak hour? Would not focusing more on more frequent service and better integration, not achieve more?
Steve: Because John Tory sold us this SmartTrack fantasy in the last election and he’s sticking with it. It is a complete crock originally intended to aid landowners in Markham and the Pearson airport area with additional transit, and Tory was sucked in. He is a mayor who is utterly unable to say “I was wrong” and lately has been crowing about how much money Ottawa will will contribute to the program.
Yes, but Metrolinx is an “arms length” agency of the provincial government. It is both sick and sad, that this pandering is done to a city politician, that is in effect from the other party. The reality is, the failure to actually govern as opposed to pander has been the core of the issue for Toronto Transit since well, about 1978. This would include Harris, who chose to stop, not entertain projects that would have helped. The Eglinton Transit way, in the TTC plans since when? The stupid of building a subway in Sheppard – because “real cities” don’t use streetcars from Lastman – who again, was a lot of things, but a friend of the then NDP – not so much. I wonder how much harder cancelling the balance of an LRT would have been? Whether if it had been built as LRT, it would have been completed, had the pandering not happened?
The province either needs to be in and driving the process, or out and ensuring the city is totally responsible – too many cooks, too many parties can claim it is someone else’s choice. The province took lead – Tory should not have mattered, nor should Ford. Province either needs to fund only and leave council in total charge (so they are seen to be the issue) or take total charge.
Steve: “Arm’s length” my ass. The Minister’s hand is well inside that particular puppet as we saw with project announcements that were dictated by the Minister’s office despite the recommendations from the supposedly independent agency.
If I am reading you correctly, the eastern extension of the Dundas car is now cancelled?
Steve: That is correct.
This is a shame, as it would have been an added trip generator for the Gerrard/Carlaw (subway) station (if not necessarily the GO/SmartTrack one), and would free up a platform at Broadview station for the “Broadview South” streetcar running from Danforth to wherever it ends up well south of Queen. To say nothing of the fact that Dundas should have more service east of Broadview (though maybe not much farther than Carlaw/Pape).
That was the reason I put the quotes around that. The political games being so openly played in the pandering, is a large part of why it is so sick and sad.
PS – and adding a puppet at “arms length” when they are anything but appears to be only to make the political maneuvering and finger pointing easier. It is made in effect everyone’s responsibility so that it is nobody’s responsibility – but good for the political campaigns of all. It is that it has been just a political game since about 1978, where there is no real plan, or more to the point no meaningful execution in 40 years that is so painful and transparent.
Four trains/hour between Bramalea and Union overlaid by four trains/hour to Mount Pleasant of which two/hour in the peak direction would extend to Kitchener.
Steve: What is the “peak direction”? Do they go to Kitchener and not come back?
Steve: They originate in Kitchener in the morning, lay over through the day, and come back in the evening. This is how the KW service works today. Peak direction only.
If I remember correctly, Doug Ford had dismissed SmartTrack during the last mayoral election. If the next provincial government cancels SmartTrack/RER and offers to fund the Sheppard East subway extension and any Scarborough subway cost increases, then it would be hard for Toronto to turn down all that money away.
Steve: That may be, but who knows whether Ford would attempt to restructure commitments already made. The piece of “SmartTrack” that is most vulnerable to his intervention is the LRT extension on Eglinton West that goes right into Ford territory. That would lop a big chunk off of the total project cost leaving the GO portion. Don’t forget that from the province’s point of view, the new stations are all paid for by Toronto. The GO improvements are being done for GO/RER which serves the 905, and these are not going to be cancelled.
Also, don’t forget that in the last election he was running against Tory, and anything Tory stood for on the municipal spending front. There was good reason to dismiss “SmartTrack” as it then was (including the heavyrail corridor along Eglinton West), and as it still is (stations in areas where there will be limited demand, and a fare structure and subsidy arrangement that are still complete mysteries). It’s ironic that if Queen’s Park makes a deal to subsidize SmartTrack riders with some sort of co-fare and/or reduced inside-416 tariff generally, this would be a new subsidy. Would Ford be game for this, or force Toronto to pick up the cost?
As for the Scarborough Subway, the kicker there, and one we won’t know up about until late 2018 or early 2019, is the estimated cost based on a 30% design. Ontario already has $1.9 billion (including inflation) in that project, and I cannot see them shelling out more if the cost goes even higher than the current estimate. It will be up to Toronto Council just how badly it wants the SSE, although the likely tactic if costs go up will simply be to extend the lifespan of the SSE property tax (1.6%).
I hope they have second thoughts on this.
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There was not enough riding to justify it. There are already streetcars on Gerrard and Queen and as such buses will provide much better service on Dundas further east.
P.S: I am using TTC WiFi which is very poor.
Worth noting that the Weston corridor is also served by the UPX trains, though they won’t stop at any of the new “Smarttrack” stations. Given that Metrolinx was willing to implement a co-fare for TTC riders transferring between the TTC and UPX, I wonder if we might see any further subsidy also shared with those vehicles as well.
I suspect the reason we got a UPX co-fare (unlike Brampton or Mississauga, where riders can potentially transfer at the airport but pay full freight) is logistical, since GO can’t tell which vehicles riders board at Bloor, Weston, or Union if they’re not headed to the airport, but I would not be surprised in the slightest if that messy system still hadn’t been cleaned up at all by 2025.
Or maybe Metrolinx uses the RER roll-out as an excuse to jack the fares on the UPX back up and force everyone to only use the silver UPX tap stations. I think they should just re-brand UPX as a limited stop branch of RER, but running mostly empty “premium” trains past waiting riders sounds much more Metrolinx-y to me.
I wonder if this was a TTC request or another unilateral planning department decision!
For me I’m not so concerned about service on Dundas through the area as I am about opening up more platform space at Broadview for planned future services or even future port lands services which might travel down Carlaw and would need a terminal somewhere on the subway.
I’m rolling my eyes at the future TTC wanting to run new streetcar service to the port lands but getting held up waiting on redevelopment of Gerrard station lands (a la Warden or Islington) before starting a dig on a new underground terminal.
So so so short sighted!
Steve: Actually, the situation is quite different from what you describe.
First off, the TTC has been a major block to quick action on the waterfront east LRT, and their lack of strong support at the staff level is in part responsible for the lack of priority on this file. City Planning has been far more of a driver on this. A related problem is that the TTC keeps provision for the “Bremner Streetcar” alive in plans for an expanded Union Loop even though it is clear this will never be built because key parts of the route are unworkable. This makes the Union design, not to mention operational planning for it, more complex than necessary.
As for the Dundas extension, I do not agree that it makes sense in the grand scheme of things, and indeed Gerrard station itself only works in the context of redevelopment of the low rise commercial site there, something that is not universally loved in the community. The original plan for Gerrard station’s interchange included not just the Dundas car, but provision for a bus loop, and there was even talk of extending service south from Pape station to Gerrard, a nonsensical idea unless one assumes that there is no DRL, and that Don Mills bus riders would be happier using SmartTrack to reach downtown. Eliminating the loop reduces the property requirements for Gerrard station.
The DRL is unlikely to be completed in this half century, given the rate of progress on all other big buck TTC projects. The current swing to the right of many Ontario voters, if it is even sustained only as far as one election, will also retard the planning and construction of the DRL.
So, maybe the Dundas extension and other adjustments south of the Danforth will emerge as important 30 year stopgaps.
@Harrison – The DRL will suck all available funding and so, there is no money left for any streetcar extensions such as Dundas, Queens Quay, etc.
Steve: Queens Quay, if it goes ahead, will be done before the lion’s share of spending on the DRL even hits the budget.
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They can tell and there are separate “GO” and “UPX” PRESTO terminals at Bloor/Weston. Until the fare drop, it was more expensive to use UPX than GO to those stations and the new fares are matched, which is why their changes this year were different than other similar located stations. When they check your fares (more common on UPX), it will be invalid for the other vehicle.
Metrolinx takes the blame for PRESTO and UPX, but really they are other political ugly ducklings that they’ve seen through to the end. The high price on UPX came from the original premise of running it as a P3 project that wouldn’t cost the government any money. Once the scandal of empty trains outweighed the scandal of operational subsidies, the political pressure to “break even” was removed and a more reasonable fare resulted.
Last I heard the TTC does want a bigger loop at Union. Is this really something City planning can take credit for given some of the creative Union solutions they’ve moved along? (Which haven’t been taken off the table?)
Steve: During the EA process for the eastern waterfront LRT, the TTC could not be described as “enthusiastic”. More recently, with the proposal from Waterfront Toronto to replace streetcars in the Bay Street tunnel with a “funicular” link to Queens Quay, the TTC has favoured retaining the streetcars, but again without the sort of passion one might expect. City Planning has kept the proposal alive as an option because of Waterfront TO’s pushing this option.
The design of a new loop requires thinking about just what transit services will come into Union, and in particular a formal deletion of the “Bremner Streetcar” from TTC plans. Also needed is a construction plan that can keep existing operations running for as long as possible while new platforms and tracks are built outside of the existing structure.
Not true anymore. The silver UPX PRESTO terminals are only required if you are travelling to/from Pearson. If you’re travelling between any two of the other three stations, you can use the green GO PRESTO terminals instead, and then you have your choice of boarding either a GO or UPX train. In theory that means you just hop on whichever train comes first, but in reality you have to choose in advance at Union based on boarding locations, and it’s almost always a UPX train first at Bloor or Weston.
So if you tap on using a green terminal at Bloor and tap off using the same at Union, PRESTO has no idea whether you rode the UPX or a GO train, but your fare is still legitimate. They could revert to forcing customers to use the silver terminals for UPX, but that would be user hostile.
As an aside, it would be interesting to be at a community consultation when they show the community along the Weston corridor that even after electrification they expect to run eight diesel trains per hour, plus VIA, Milton trains, and potentially freight. Somehow I don’t think they’ll be thrilled.
There are some goodies in the budget. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-ontario-budget-slashes-go-transit-fares/ GO fares will only be $3 within Toronto. With the $1.50 cofare and the TTC Times Two with Metrolinx, it will only cost $4.50 using GO with TTC on the beginning and end of the trip. Compare to the standard TTC fare of $3 (Presto), it is not much of a premium.
Steve: But the co-fare only applies to those who pay a full adult equivalent-to-token fare on Presto, NOT to monthly pass holders, and the co-fare benefit is lower for seniors and students.
Don’t believe the hype. Calculate the actual outlay for various types of riders and riding habits.
@Colin, I did say “before the fare drop”. Presto knows what vehicle you took by the time of your tap, unless you are waiting around for the Kitchener train to roll in.
As for Weston, unless you are very liberal with your neighbourhood definitions, Milton trains don’t go that far north, the tracks are buried between John and Church, and the 8 daily trips to/from Kitchener could be done with dual locomotives (or EMUs pulling a diesel loco). Freight won’t increase from what it’s always been (since Metrolinx was created) with the CP MacTier sub plus one weekly CN local deliveries trip.
As for $3 GO fares, you need the Liberals to win first or moreso Doug Ford to put his foot in his mouth and shoot himself in the foot.
So, if the system cannot tell whether one used a UPX or GO train, then all co-fares possible used within 3 hours will apply.
I can only speak for YRT’s co-fare, but transfer point does not matter. The co-fare applies automatically if one taps on YRT within GO’s 3-hour limit (starting on YRT, the co-fare applies if GO is used within a 2-hour time limit). For instance: take a GO train to Union, board TTC to take subway to Finch, then tap on a YRT bus at Finch, and the co-fare of $1 is charged. I haven’t tried this since the TTC co-fare was introduced, but I suspect that one would get the co-fare on both the TTC and YRT.
Why should the co-fare matter if one is using a monthly pass on the TTC? Assuming one is using the pass for more than the break-even number of fares, one is getting a “free” $1.50 fare using the pass instead of a “free” $3 fare.
Steve: The co-fare benefits those who are regular commuters but not much more, that is, they are riders for whom a Metropass would not be worthwhile in the first place. Frequent TTC riders will have a pass, and will not get the discount. The following discussion assumes the current fare structure.
If someone commutes from Mimico to Union, they pay $177.70 per month based on the Presto discounts and fare capping. If their only use of TTC is to begin or end their trip, they will also pay 40 discounted TTC fares at $1.50 each or $60. Total cost $237.70.
If this commuter takes additional TTC trips that are not linked with a GO trip, they will pay $3 for each trip.
If the same commuter buys a Metropass on the Monthly Discount Plan (which will be renamed the “Annual Pass”), they will pay $177.70 to GO and $134.00 to the TTC for a total of $317.70.
The difference is $80, and so the Metropass user would have to make 27 trips above those taken for commuting to be ahead of the game. For frequent riders, this is not much of a challenge. This calculation will change with a move to the two hour transfer which will change the economics of pass ownership versus paying “single” fares. For example, it could take more travel to rack up those 27 individual trips, and a pass might not be appropriate for some riders.
My point is that people who think they might be saving money with the co-fare might not actually do so. The co-fare is aimed at the commuting market, not at the existing frequent TTC traveller. That’s a policy decision, but people should recognize who the beneficiaries are.
If GO fares within Toronto move to a flat $3, there is first the question of whether capping would apply, and second whether there would still be a co-fare discount, that is a total GO+TTC fare of $4.50. John Tory sold people on SmartTrack as having no premium to transfer between services, but that’s a separate argument.
There are many permutations here, and I don’t think the whole thing has been worked out it detail.
PRESTO can make educated guesses as to which vehicle you’re boarding, but it can’t know for sure. And if it can’t know for sure, then it can’t be programmed to apply the co-fare only at the right times. Hence my point that the co-fare could not have been applied to GO only and not UPX within Toronto with the current system. If they’d kept the old system (silver terminals only), then that wouldn’t have been the case, but unless they were willing to walk that change back, they had no choice.
The same will apply if we see $3 GO fares within Toronto.
Here I wonder whether the TTC maintains the fantasy because they cannot imagine managing this service really. The reality that this would in essence require closing Bremner to other traffic, except perhaps buses to the south side of Rogers makes it seem clear that this is not on. However, to what degree can the Union loop be made to work, even with massive reworking? Could it be made to make two sets of platforms work?
Steve: The revised design involves building two new outer tracks outside of the existing structure. These would be located roughly under the curb lanes of Bay Street, and the platforms would extend under the existing teamways. Cars approaching from the south would have the option of taking the outer track and serving the platform on the east side, or taking the inner track, looping around at the north end and then switching to the outer track and the west platform. Cars that had served the east platform would circle the loop and then take the inner (existing) track southbound. This would require some decent signalling to manage, but it’s not impossible. The platforms on both sides would be long enough to hold two of the new LRVs (at least 60m). The worst pinch point would likely be Queens Quay Station and the “T” junction with the west and east branches of the Waterfront LRT, particularly when there is a lot of traffic to/from the ferry terminal causing longer dwell times in the station.
I agree – thanks for the example given. I was thinking about the two extremes of people who are regular Metropass users who get the added value out of using it well beyond the break-even point, and those who are not Metropass users. It hadn’t occurred to me that the break-even point has such a significant shift with the co-fare.