Metrolinx Board Meeting: February 7, 2019 (Updated)

Updated February 10, 2019 at 9:00 am: Notes from the Board meeting have been added at the beginning of this article.

Relief Line Business Case

When the agenda was released, the Relief Line report created quite a stir with an apparent shift in Metrolinx’ position on the staging of subway expansion projects. Where “relief” taking precedence over the Yonge north extension only referred to the southern section (Pape to Osgoode), Metrolinx now shows a shortfall in capacity if the northern section (Danforth to Sheppard) is missing from the network.

This prompted a letter from Frank Scarpitti, Mayor of Markham and Chair of the York Region Rapid Transit Corporation Board. The heart of Scarpitti’s objection is that the Metrolinx report uses a mixture of demand models and assumptions to arrive at its conclusion, and that this is out of step with previous studies and approvals.

The Relief Line Business Case Development presentation paints a flawed picture of the ridership modelling work being undertaken by Metrolinx, in conjunction with York Region and City of Toronto staff. The vague and contradictory information being used to update the public on slide 7 regarding Line 1: Ridership Demand and Network Effects has, once again, pitted two critically needed infrastructure projects against one another, namely the Relief Line against the Yonge Subway Extension. This positioning is not supported by the ridership modelling analysis and is at odds with the advice and information presented by Metrolinx at a recent meeting.

On June 25, 2015, Metrolinx released the results of the Yonge Relief Network Study to the Board. Supported by a Stakeholder Advisory Committee and a Peer Review Panel, the Board endorsed the finding that “With the Yonge North Extension, the Yonge Subway will still be under capacity.”

The Relief Line Update uses a blend of data and methodologies to make broad assumptions about future ridership. Each subsequent ridership model claims to have better information, more detail and more sophisticated analysis. Some models include independent findings and more recently, to our objection, some have been relying heavily on market driven employment and population data, contrary to the required obligation of all municipalities to follow the Provincially-mandated “Growth Plan” numbers.

The Relief Line Update being presented to the Metrolinx Board on February 7, 2019 has, according to Metrolinx staff, blended the findings of at least three different models and does not accurately represent any of the individual modelling analyses. Slide 7 suggests that, in 2041, Line 1 will be below capacity and then over capacity when the Yonge Subway Extension is added. This is completely inaccurate – current Metrolinx modelling shared as recent as January 21, 2019 demonstrates that the Yonge Subway Extension adds a relatively minor number of riders to the peak demand location and, in no case, is it the cause of Line 1 becoming over capacity.

The facts are that only 20% of the new riders on an extension of the Yonge Subway line would be headed south of Bloor. Ridership growth on Line 1 is directly related to population and employment growth in Toronto. In fact, models show that ridership on Line 1 will exceed capacity regardless of whether the Yonge Subway Extension is constructed. We believe that by promoting the shift of as little as 10% of people from peak hour travel from the Extension to the Richmond Hill GO Line, and by using fare structure and level of service incentives, that substantial relief on Line 1 can be achieved while the Yonge Subway Extension is being constructed.

Modelling also shows that the majority of riders (80%) on the Yonge Subway Extension are headed to Toronto’s uptown employment centres north of Bloor, including St. Clair, Eglinton and York Mills. Furthermore, the Yonge Subway Extension will also serve a large number of Toronto residents that work in York Region Other initiatives are underway, or should be underway, to alleviate Line 1 capacity problems. Metrolinx’s 2015 study concluded that a number of planned and funded initiatives such as Automatic Train Control, more Rocket Trains, GO Expansion, and the opening of the Line 1 extension to Vaughan Metropolitan Centre will add capacity and offload the Line 1 demand.

These are serious challenges to the professional quality of work presented by Metrolinx planners.

The June 2015 report cited here was the Yonge Relief Network Study and it contains the quotation about the subway remaining under capacity even with the Yonge North extension. However, this depends on a number of factors:

  • The model year is 2031
  • Then-current projections for population and jobs
  • Assumed diversion levels for ridership to TYSSE and GO RER, net of demand added by new projects especially the Crosstown LRT at Eglinton

The reported projected that the volume/capacity ratio would have been 96% (2031) over the peak hour meaning that the super-peak would be above the line. The claim that the subway would still have capacity is “true” only on average and with no headroom for growth. Metrolinx planners should have known better to make that statement in 2015.

Metrolinx staff pointed out:

  • They are modelling for 2041, ten years later
  • The 2016 Census shows that core area employment is growing faster than predicted
  • Modelling now includes factors for latent demand and safety considerations at stations and platforms
  • If there is no alternate relief in place by 2041, the Relief Line North will be required

Staff also reported that although the Relief Line South approved concept (Pape to Osgoode via Carlaw and Queen) has a positive Business Case, the value is only slightly above 1.0. All six of the options were close to 1 and so the distinction between them is not as strong as the simple over/under status in the report might imply. With only a small positive margin, factors such as cost control and encouragement of Transit Oriented Development along the line will be important to maintain the supposed benefit.

CEO Phil Verster argued strongly that building the Relief Line does not preclude building other projects. His concern is to build more transit and build faster. Metrolinx is looking at (unspecified) new technology and innovation from industry to speed up the process. More than one line could be built concurrently, but the critical point is to open them in a sequence that causes the desired redistribution of demand.

Verster admitted that Metrolinx has not done enough to look at the Richmond Hill GO corridor for its potential contribution to relief.

A Board member asked whether the staff have identified a “tipping point” in safety for their studies. There is not a single value, but rather a variation from one location to another depending on local demand, station geometry and passenger flows.

Unspoken through all of this was the years of delay in admitting that a problem even exists, let alone of doing something about it. GO’s ability to provide relief has been downplayed for various reasons including the need to regrade the south end of the line to make it flood-proof, the winding valley route’s limitation of travel speed, and operational conflicts with CN’s freight traffic that limit GO capacity to Richmond Hill. Meanwhile, candidate John Tory’s SmartTrack campaign claimed that his scheme would eliminate the need for a Relief Line, and TTC projections did not raise alarms about capacity and safety issues until the situation at Bloor-Yonge could not be ignored.

“Relief” will not come from any one line or project, but from the contributions of several.

Financing and deliverability studies will be reported in spring 2019 for the Relief Line South, and a preliminary business case for the Relief Line North will be available by year-end.

This entire exchange shows the problems brought on by oversimplified presentation decks for the Board. In their oral remarks, Metrolinx staff displayed a more extensive grasp of the issues and details than contained in the Powerpoint deck.

Drivers of Ridership and Revenue

The presentation began with an astonishing admission that ridership stats existed separately within parts of the Metrolinx organization – GO Transit, Presto and Union Pearson Express – and they are only now being consolidated.

Staff explained that there are three different metrics for ridership: boardings, trips and customers. One person (customer) takes multiple trips (a journey from “A” to “B”) and within each trip may board multiple lines and vehicles. Each measure has its purpose. [The TTC is wrestling with the same problem in “ridership” tracking due to the effects of Metropasses and the Two-Hour Fare.]

Fine-grained behaviour shows up in the stats such as at Aurora Station where counts are affected by its being a terminal during off-peak periods. When all-day service was introduced, station usage shot up.

Research showed that families value free children’s fares and this generates more full-fare adult trips. However, the free-fare communication program could have been better because some riders did not know of it and paid for their children even though free rides were available.

Metrolinx clearly needs to understand how its riders think about using the system because growth cannot be driven forever by a park-and-ride model. This type of work is long overdue, and it should be reported publicly as an essential part of shifting how politicians think about transit’s role beyond classic suburban commuting.

As with the Relief Line presentation, the details reported orally provided a better understanding of the issues staff raised than the superficial information in the presentation deck.

Brand Campaign

Regular readers will know that my attitude to “marketing” is that it is often a substitute for providing service riders want and need. The most brilliant campaign can be undone by an empty shop window, or chronic shortages of popular items. One can “market” service that does not exist, but would-be riders catch on fast, especially if they have already been “shopping” elsewhere by driving.

The idea behind the Brand Campaign is to create a key message and focus for each part of Metrolinx, but a statement quite early in the presentation (and like so many other pearls revealed orally, not in the printed text) brought this gem – GO Transit is a long-established brand, and Metrolinx should be careful not to mess with it.

I would go further and say that the branding exercise has a fatal flaw in attempting to keep a separate focus for what were originally four separate organizations.

  • GO Transit is well established, over a half century old. Both the name and the green colour scheme are well-known throughout the GHTA.
  • Metrolinx was created as a planning agency with no operational responsibility, and it has suffered for years from an identity crisis. A rebranding exercise a few years back produced the “Metrolinx squiggle” and a black and white colour scheme.
  • Presto was originally independent of Metrolinx, but later became a division. GO Transit green set its original colour scheme, but with the Metrolinx change to black, Presto soon followed.
  • UPX was originally to be a private company, and for several years operated as a separate, pretentious, bloated entity within Metrolinx. The colour scheme is an unhappy attempt to look like part of a GO Transit family while staying separate from it.

The union of operational entities – GO, UPX, Presto – with a planning agency has never been a happy one, and this continues with the battle over the reigning corporate identity of GO green or Metrolinx black.

On the marketing side, the idea that a separate set of slogans and goals is needed for each division preserves a structural view that was never relevant, but simply reflected individual fiefdoms. A great deal of time and organizational effort could go into preserving those unique views rather than integrating them.

Meanwhile, with the lessons to be learned from analysis of actual riders, Metrolinx might more profitably turn their “marketing” efforts to actual service rather than corporate fluff that adds no value to a rider’s experience.

The original article follows below.

The Metrolinx Board will meet on February 7, 2019, with the public session beginning at 12:15 pm. The agenda contains several items of interest, although the presentations are thinner than one might hope. I will update this article after the meeting and add any salient information that comes up in discussion.

In a piece of bitter irony, a report on branding strategy is a public document, but one on “2019 Service Increase” is in the private agenda. So nice to know we will have a good marketing campaign, but not what they will be trying to sell us.

More substance and less fluff would be a welcome addition to Metrolinx agendas.

Relief Line Business Case Development

There are two parallel studies underway of the south and north sections of the Relief line. The dividing point is Danforth Avenue.

The southern routing is now set, but the northern portion in the map below is a placeholder pending final route selection (see below).

Six alternatives were considered for the southern portion of the Relief Line. Of these, option “A” (orange in the map below) was chosen. It begins at Osgoode Station and runs east on Queen with stops at Yonge (Queen Station), Sherbourne, King/Sumach, Broadview (East Harbour), Queen/Carlaw, Gerrard/Carlaw and Pape Station. Detailed information about the proposed route is available in the Environmental Project Report.

Of the alternatives, only options “A” and “F” (with a downtown alignment via King rather than Queen) were considered to have a benefit-cost ratio greater than 1, and they are the only options that serve the East Harbour (Unilever) site where a major office development is proposed.

The northern section of the route has not been nailed down yet. This is a provincial project under Metrolinx. Work on it, at least from a public point of view, ended with the call of the provincial election in spring 2018, and there has been no further public consultation. At this point, several routes and permutations of routes are under consideration.

None of this is news, but one key slide in the presentation puts the relative priority of regional subway plans in a new context. This shows the projected demand in 2041 on the Yonge subway relative to capacity under five scenarios.

  • The base case includes only the existing Yonge subway and the anticipated extra capacity that will be possible with automatic train control (ATC) and more trains. The demand will match the available capacity.
  • If only the southern portion of the Relief Line is built, there will be a slight decrease in demand on Yonge, but a larger total ridership because some demand that is now constrained can flow via the RL to the core.
  • If only the Yonge extension to Richmond Hill is built, demand on the existing subway will considerably exceed its capacity.
  • If the Yonge extension and the RL south are both built, the existing subway will still run over capacity.
  • Only with the RL south and north can the added demand from the Richmond Hill extension be handled on the Yonge line.

This creates a considerable challenge for subway planners and funders regardless of who will actually own the subway over coming decades. Richmond Hill has been waiting for a subway, and the project Environmental Assessment has been on York Region’s website for some time. The Mayor of Markham, as quoted by Ben Spurr in the Toronto Star, is a tad upset by this situation.

In an interview Thursday, Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti, a vocal proponent of the Yonge Extension, called the new Metrolinx report “an about face” and said the agency has “some explaining to do.”

He suggested Metrolinx was kowtowing to the interests of Toronto and its mayor.

“Maybe Metrolinx has become ‘Torontolinx,’ I’m not sure. Maybe Mayor (John) Tory got appointed to the chair of ‘Torontolinx’ overnight,” he said.

Scarpitti asserted the “Yonge subway is not going to take a back seat to any project in the GTA” and called on Premier Doug Ford to publicly confirm the provincial government will proceed with both projects.

This puts Metrolinx and their political masters in a difficult situation. With the planned provincial takeover of (at least) subway planning and construction responsibility, any decision regarding project timing will be 100% in Queen’s Park’s lap, and they will not be able to blame wrangling at the municipal level for hold-ups. With their own planners telling them a Yonge extension will demand the construction of the full RL to Sheppard, there is a large bill sitting on their table, and regional jealousies to be managed.

The Metrolinx report is contradictory because it states:

Transit network forecasts show that Relief Line South needs to be in operation before the Yonge North Subway Extension. Relief Line North provides further crowding relief for Line 1. [p. 2]

Presumably, there would be an interim point before 2041 where the extension and only the RL south could co-exist without overloading the subway, but it is clear that demand growth will eat through any headroom and return the Yonge line to a crisis situation in the 2030s. In turn this raises the issue of how much demand for Richmond Hill to downtown travel can be shifted to GO Transit through service expansion. That GO corridor is challenging because of its topography, but bettering its ability to parallel the subway deserves consideration.

GO’s fares are a high-cost option for commuting to downtown compared with a subway extension which, like the Vaughan extension, is presumed to operate with “Toronto” fares. GO service suffers both from poor frequency and from GO’s chronic problem of charging high fares for shorter trips. Although reductions in short-trip fares were proposed in the Liberals’ 2018 budget, this would have applied to Langstaff GO Station, but not to points further north. The current Presto fare from Langstaff to Union is $6.53, more than double the TTC fare even though the travel time would be roughly comparable to a subway journey over the same distance. The Presto fare from Richmond Hill is $6.62 and would not be reduced in the proposed tariff.

There is no word from the Ford regime on whether any of that scheme will be implemented.

Trips to midtown on the subway would be shorter than on GO because riders would not have to double back from Union. However, GO should seek to handle as many of the end-to-end trips as possible to reduce subway demand. Discussions of RL planning are silent on this issue.

This is an example of the problem with many planning reports regardless of the agency. They consider the end state, in this case 2041, but offer no discussion of the interim stages by which we might reach that point two decades away. It is precisely the interim states that transit riders will have to suffer through if subway congestion is not relieved, and especially if the end state is never actually reached.

Metrolinx owes us all a much more thorough examination of alternatives and the stages through which the network would evolve over coming years. Only then will we know the criticality of interim steps and the timing of funding needed to minimize subway congestion.

Ridership

The Operations Quarterly Report advises that ridership grew by almost 7% on the train network and 4% on buses during Q3 (October-December based on an April 1 fiscal year). UPX ridership was up 12% over 2017. These numbers show strong growth of the system overall, and any corridor or station-specific jumps should be considered in that context.

The “Drivers of Ridership and Revenue” report could have been an interesting piece of market research on how riders react to fare and service schemes. However, the presentation deck is a superficial review of a few changes made by GO, but without any sense of concrete lessons learned or a plan to apply these to the system. Except for a reference to a pilot for free rides for children, revenue is not mentioned anywhere.

The presentation recommends that the Board:

… endorse the insights, strategies and actions set out in the Director of Customer Insights February 7, 2019 report

The report itself is not linked from the agenda. When I asked Metrolinx where the recommendations were, they replied:

At the bottom of slides 5, 6, 7 & 8 there is an action item. The resolution is to approve all 4 of those action items. For clarity they are:

  • Identify, pilot & validate new service & customer trip purpose opportunities.
  • Expand off-peak service to build customer trip purpose opportunities, and strengthen construction service & communication mitigation plans.
  • Identify & pilot station access, parking and municipal service provider collaboration opportunities.
  • Monitor new station ridership & station access performance (e.g., Guildwood Station).
  • Leverage Uber pilot learning to improve customer communication
  • Identify expanded TNC opportunities, collaboration and pilots [email of February 4, 2019]

“TNC” is Metrolinx shorthand for “Transportation Network Companies” such as Uber.

A map of the GO system shows the growth of ridership at each station on the network over the period April to November 2018. This appears under the pretentious title “From Data, to Insights” with the heading:

Ridership data dynamically generates summary maps that, together with new analytic tools, validates performance drivers and highlights key learning and insight to build future ridership.

Exactly what those tools, drivers, learning and insight might be is a mystery, and we must take it on faith that the Metrolinx planners will produce rabbits out of their hat at a suitable moment. Metrolinx might be glad to have detailed riding counts, but far more is involved in understanding why people chose or avoid transit.

The presentation gives little sense of how service plans will interact with whatever Metrolinx might discover from this exercise. It is no secret that GO, like the TTC, is capacity constrained by several factors, and cannot absorb additional demand during peak periods. They eye the off-peak, but their service design (including feeders such as commuter parking and local bus services) are strongly oriented to peak travel.

Total ridership data only tell us how many people use the service at each station, but the “why” is more complicated, let alone knowing what might encourage new riders or growth in usage by existing customers.

The detail of the map on page 4 of the presentation is obscured when viewed at “normal” size, but the map scales up revealing the details for each stop. [Click to expand maps below.]

The numbers shown at each station are:

  • total ridership for the eight months from April to November 2018,
  • the daily count (based on the number of days when service was provided at each station), and
  • the percentage change from April 1 to November 30.

The methodology has the effect of diluting the weekday demand on line with weekend service that pull down the daily average. For example, at Allandale, there are 74,000 rides at 301 per day, or about 246 days (rounded). At Gormley, there are 104,000 rides at 597 per day, or about 174 days. Because the Barrie corridor has weekend service, the level of weekday demand at each station is understated relative to a corridor like Richmond Hill where there is less service, but all on weekdays.

The presentation states that Barrie corridor ridership went up:

  • By 3.0% comparing January-April 2017 to the corresponding period in 2018 (increased train frequency)
  • By 7.0% comparing May-August 2017 to 2018 (Kids GO Free project)
  • By 0.6% comparing October-November 2017 to 2018

However, overall ridership rose by 20.8% from April to November 2018 including a 30.5% increase at Aurora even though parking there is fully utilized.

Analytics validate a strong correlation between parking capacity, municipal service providers and station access design with ridership performance. [p. 7]

Each component is not broken out, and these probably vary by site. For example a rise of 17% at Mount Pleasant is attributed to better bus service and new design. Riding counts from local transit could give insight into the transit feeder contribution to station usage. At Cooksville, a drop of 7.2% (with a shift to neighbouring stations), is linked to reduced parking due to construction.

At Weston, UPX growth “accelerated from 6.5% to 15.4%” during a pilot with Uber providing last mile service (September-November 2018), but overall Weston Station growth was 23.2% for April-November. Was this a one-time gain, in effect setting a new base, or will there be continued growth. The catchment area for Uber trips shown in the report is huge: Steeles to St. Clair and Caledonia to the western boundary of Toronto, but there are no trip counts or details about trip origin/destinations.

Getting to Weston Station is a challenge for anyone attempting to use transit given its location in the transit network and the available local services. This is a problem shared by many GO stations which often lie in old industrial areas. To what extent can or should local transit routes be gerrymandered to serve GO rather than overall demand?

With GO Transit reaching the limit of growth through provision of parking spaces and structures, alternates to the park-and-ride model are essential including the ability of local transit to provide substantial capacity. This has both the peak commuting aspect of bringing riders to stations in the morning and home again at night, as well as providing last mile services for off-peak and counter-peak trips.

On the Lakeshore corridor, ridership rose by 30,000 from September 24 to November 30, 2018, the period after service was improved. This is not expressed as a percentage, nor does the presentation clarify if this is a per day value, or over the course of two months. The maps show that Lakeshore East and West rose by 53,400 daily riders over the April 1 to November 30 period on a base of 13.1 million.

By contrast, the off-peak service cuts during construction are claimed to have cost 12,480 passengers per day over the nine weekend shutdowns. This is a huge proportion of the weekend demand, and the citation should be verified.

The presentation’s author mixes counts for single days, periods of varying lengths, weekdays and weekends with no consistency. Percentage changes are cited in some cases, while in others absolute counts are used. There is little discussion of the interaction of factors such as convenience, lower fares, and station accessibility (by walking, transit, etc.).

There is little to document the research and rationale behind what the Board is voting on. It is simply not credible that there is no background report with further information, but Metrolinx has not made it available.

Operations Quarterly Update and Customer Experience Committee Report

Metrolinx crows about a recent service expansion to Niagara Falls:

In January, Metrolinx brought new GO train service to commuters in Niagara, several years ahead of schedule. The GO rail network now offers year-round weekday GO train service between Niagara Falls and Toronto. [p. 2. Operations Update]

To call this “weekday GO train service” is a bit of a stretch by comparison with the level and frequency people expect from GO Transit. The only weekday train from Niagara Falls to Toronto leaves at 5:19 am arriving in Toronto at 7:50 am. The return leaves at 5:15 pm from Union arriving in Niagara Falls at 7:42 pm. This may meet the letter of a campaign promise, but the majority of trips to Niagara Falls will continue to be provided by buses with a transfer to trains at Burlington.

Metrolinx managed to screw up service on the Kitchener corridor while attempting to improve it. The goal may have been laudable, but the implementation failed. Moreover, Metrolinx had strong pushback from their customer base about the way in which the change was implemented.

The January service changes had two primary focuses: provide Lakeshore West extensions to Niagara and extensions from Georgetown to Kitchener. To achieve this—while also adhering to CN spacing requirements for train services that operate over the territory they own near Bramalea GO Station—the afternoon Kitchener line schedule was adjusted to provide service approximately every 30 minutes from Union Station between 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. This meant trips were spaced further apart to provide more consistent departure options for customers and to enable us to run our services in parallel with CN, which owns the rail corridor from Bramalea to Georgetown.

During the technical review, we were not aggressive enough in challenging restrictions that had been previously imposed around the length of our trains and we were optimistic in our mitigation plans for identified risks related to the increased spacing between trains and the removal of the popular 4:50 p.m. express trip. These gaps were further exacerbated by the timing of customer communications launch for the service changes, with the public announcement occurring only days before the seasonal holiday period. The timing of the change occurred on what was, for many of our customers, the first day back to work. [pp. 1-2 Customer Experience Report]

Riders were not impressed:

Key Issues Identified by Customers:

1. Timing of the announcement, schedule change and communication to customers: The initial public announcement coincided with the start of the Christmas Holidays, with the change taking effect January 7th.

2. Express train conversion to all stop: The conversion of the 4:50 p.m. train from an express to all stop and the change in trip time to 4:35 p.m. was perceived as a removal of service by customers. With the trip no longer stopping at Kitchener, those customers moved to the 17:02 train.

3. Crowding on Trains: The time changes and trip extensions to Kitchener resulted in customers migrating to different trains. Previous restrictions at Georgetown prevented the conversion of this trip to 12 coaches to add seating capacity.

4. General dissatisfaction with schedule: Customers in general did not like the new schedule. Kitchener-bound customers did not like the 90-minute service gap in the evening. With the removal of the express train, the timing of the 3:35 p.m. Kitchener-bound trip was not seen as a viable option for many customers. Kitchener customers on the 5:02 p.m. train were now arriving at 7:11 p.m. versus the previous express train scheduled arrival before 7 p.m.

5. Bus connections: Reduced timeframe from announcement to implementation did not allow for sufficient coordination with GO Bus Planning and municipal service providers, resulting in poor connection times.

6. Platform crowding at Union Station: Track changes created additional confusion that extended to customers on other corridors, namely Barrie. These adjustments created excessive crowding at platform level. The impacts at Union were underestimated. [Customer Experience Report, p. 2]

A few quick fixes were implemented to deal with crowding, although these were stop-gaps:

1. Effective January 8th and continuing through the end of January, Metrolinx has increased the number of staff at platform and concourse level in Union Station. Staff- including senior leadership – were on hand to direct customers safely to the right platforms and to engage directly to hear their concerns.

2. Effective January 14th, two coaches each were added to the 7:56 a.m. and 9:13 a.m. trips departing Kitchener and the 5:02 p.m. and 5:27 p.m. trips. The addition of 600 seats during peak periods alleviated crowing both on trains and at platform level. [Customer Experience Report, p. 3]

The express train will be restored soon:

Our customers were clear in telling us that the removal of the 16:50 express train created difficulty for them. We have worked with our partners at CN to find a solution that allows us to re-introduce this trip effective February 13th. [Operations Update, p. 2]

This shows the degree to which service in the Kitchener corridor is constrained by the needs of the host railways, in this case CN. Such problems also exist on other corridors where portions of the routes must be shared with freight traffic. Recently the proposed freight bypass project that was to improve capacity by eliminating the CN conflict on this corridor (and a CP conflict on the Milton line) was cancelled with a claim that Metrolinx has found a way around the problem, but there are few details or timelines for improvements.

Metrolinx will improve its analysis of planned service changes with a more detailed review of their potential effects:

The following principles have been embedded into our readiness process going forward:

Customer impact assessments will be conducted in addition to operational readiness. These assessments will incorporate customer analytics to understand and predict ridership patterns and shifting demand.

Changes will take effect mid-week, allowing for targeted reminder messaging to be in place immediately up to the new schedule date. Changes will not take place immediately following a holiday period.

Union Station will undergo an independent readiness assessment to identify collateral impacts. Platform assignments will undergo detailed risk assessments, incorporating pedestrian flow modelling into the review process.

Proposals will be brought to the Customer Experience Advisory Committee for review and debrief.

We will critically analyze and challenge restrictions that could have detrimental impacts on the customer experience (where we can safely do so).

In preparation for this upcoming change, we have begun weekly Executive Review panel sessions to add the unbiased perspective of 3 non-Operations Executives to the readiness process. [Customer Experience Report, p. 3]

It is unusual for a service change to trigger substantial negative publicity and this extensive a review in the public agenda. Was there a political imperative to implement the changes to provide “good news”? If so, this certainly backfired. The problems all speak to a last-minute change where proper co-ordination was not a priority.

Presto

Presto usage is up substantially over the corresponding period in 2017, and the ratio is growing likely reflecting the shift of TTC riders to Presto in advance of the end of Metropass sales. The monthly transaction counts were:

  • October 43.6m, 51% above 2017
  • November 46.4m, up 55%
  • December 40.6m (a seasonal dip), up 60%

Although Presto use is still building on the TTC, in December more than half of all Presto boardings were on the TTC network.

Two changes are in the works:

In addition to selling PRESTO Tickets from Fare Vending Machines at TTC subway stations, Metrolinx plans to sell the single-ride, two-ride, and day pass Tickets from its retail partner locations (i.e. Shoppers Drug Mart) beginning late spring.

Metrolinx has been working with York Region Transit, Mississauga Transitway (MiWay) and the TTC on a PRESTO solution for customers who ride on the select bus routes that cross between York Region and Toronto or Mississauga and Toronto, and require two separate fares. Starting this spring, customers will be able to use their PRESTO card to pay both transit agency fares on these select routes. [p. 3]

The fare boundary fix eliminates the annoyance of separate fare media, but it does not address the larger question of fare integration or subsidies that might have come into effect with the May 2018 provincial budget.

29 thoughts on “Metrolinx Board Meeting: February 7, 2019 (Updated)

  1. Any idea on what they mean by “communication mitigation plans”?

    Steve: I think they’re talking about telling you there’s a big snafu so that you won’t try to use service that isn’t there or is overloaded. In other words, you will be ticked off before you get to the station rather than on the platform. The underlying problem is that this sort of thing should only really be needed when there is a major service disruption like a snow storm, not for a scheduling screw-up.

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  2. If they ever build this line all the way up to Richmond Hill town centre, how long realistically would that trip take to get all the way to Union vs the current GO train in the area.

    Steve: The extension would be 7.4 km long from Finch to Richmond Hill. By comparison, Finch to Eglinton is about 6 km with a travel time (assuming normal station dwell times) of about 12 minutes. This will probably improve slightly when they move to ATC because some of the existing speed restrictions are left over from older trains, but are “baked in” to the existing signal system. This means that Richmond Hill to Finch will be about 15 minutes given that station spacing is similar. To Union is about 16 minutes more during peak times without delays, and so that makes a total of roughly 43, call it 45, minutes from Richmond Hill to Union if service runs at track speed.

    This is roughly the same running time as the GO train.

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  3. I know Metrolinx recommended to build that relief line first before Yonge extension. I really think the transit infrastructure within the city should improve more before they extend it further north west or the east. Do you think it is possible to have relief line before the extension??

    Also, it looks like the west side of Toronto is absolutely ignored in pretty much every transit debates. I really think transit infrastructure lacks more in the west than the east.

    Steve: The reason that the “relief line” gets priority on the east side is that it already has a west side mate called the University Spadina subway. The question remains of just how much “relief” on the west side is possible with GO service in the Weston corridor, and for those living close to the lake, the Waterfront West LRT.

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  4. With the billions possibly involved in this “relief’, (tho we need something or many things), I really wish we could honestly and open list/develop of options, including the less-satisfactory for some short-term options or less-than-full-train options, such as surface routes/busways, including on the Don Valley Parkway. Why can’t we have a full exploration of expanding the Richmond Hill GO corridor, and with a stop or two ahead of Union? (And yes, we need sub-regional vs. milk run for everyone’s sake). There was also a Smart Ride LRT proposal c. 2002 using a similar routing, and for me, with the Curitiba example, it’s possible to get a lot of capacity with buses in busways, though they’d be large buses, yes.

    And if we accept the need for Relief being up to Eglinton, which should be done ahead of this new line opening up, right? – how many ways do we have to provide this?

    Overall, another big mess, and feels like another drain on the core for suburban benefit. And our TTC/poliicians remain keen on extending the Danforth line and the drawings/design for Yonge is apparently now being done, thanks PTIF. (Sarcasm – and yes, where to find the $$$ for developing options eh?)

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  5. Pardon me missing a point – one of the surface options is the spur line that Metrolinx owns right beside the Don valley, with the Half-Mile bridge leading up to Leaside/Throncliffe area and the Hydro corridor/Don Mills. Pardon me for wanting to squeeze the billions, but since it’s already in public hands, is clearly a transport corridor, how can we actually use it for good transit? (And I really hope that there’s been a bit of maintenance spent on the bridge, though those supports will likely last for millenia). With the bridge, at times we see two directions of tracks condense to one track only with signals – and I’d hope this would be possible in Canada.

    Steve: Actually that bridge is in no fit condition to carry trains and a new structure would be required for a new service including BRT. A big issue with your oft-proposed link to downtown is that there is no road capacity for a high capacity BRT to use as a distribution route downtown even assuming that physically the BRT line up the Don to the Gatineau corridor could be built (there are pinch points along the way that would make this difficult).

    With the comments from Jay Lee and Steve’s response, there are still some real issues of east-west mobility/transit through the core and out to Mimico and beyond that are ignored, and no, WWLRT is a milk-run, not a robust transit service as is needed for a sizeable number of people, who at times, come up to Bloor to crowd the Bloor line given unreliable surface routes in the lower core (noted in the 1992 WWLRT EA), So yes, Relief West ??? And with most of the new TTC board politicians being East of Yonge, it’s as if the west-side issues aren’t real.

    Steve: There are west side issues, but not at the scale of a subway. Indeed, one could argue a parallel with the Scarborough situation where multiple connections to the west with other technologies are preferable to a single subway extension.

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  6. Steve said: “Actually that bridge is in no fit condition to carry trains and a new structure would be required for a new service including BRT.”

    That and CP has made it clear that they will accept absolutely no disruptions of their freight operations at the north end of the line. This means that any rail service will require an expensive fly-under which hopefully Metrolinx is aware of when it comes to the recently abandoned Leaside yard.

    Steve: I believe that Hamish’s proposed BRT alignment to Scarborough stays south of the CPR and then veers into the hydro corridor. However, there are a few places where existing structures could create pinch points. However if the intent were to continue further north, this would have to be done via an existing road such as Don Mills which already is grade separated from the railway.

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  7. Steve said: “I believe that Hamish’s proposed BRT alignment to Scarborough stays south of the CPR and then veers into the hydro corridor. However, there are a few places where existing structures could create pinch points. However if the intent were to continue further north, this would have to be done via an existing road such as Don Mills which already is grade separated from the railway.”

    Well, I wasn’t sure if he was talking about BRT or not and I’ve heard people previously suggesting using the Don Branch and a reconstructed Leaside Spur to create a “surface DRL” linking Leslie station with Union.

    Steve: There are various schemes floating around, but any that involve using or crossing the CPR are non-starters.

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  8. Re: the Relief Line and the Yonge ridership demand. One option missing from the Metrolinx analysis is the Relief Line reaching Eglinton, but not Sheppard.

    Treating Relief Line North as a single project makes sense at the route-selection stage. However, the length of RL North defined that way would be about 12 km, and very unlikely to receive all funding at once. Splitting it into “RL North A” from Danforth to Eglinton, and “RL North B” from Eglinton to Sheppard, will result in each section being about 6 km long and easier to fund.

    The question is whether RL South + RL North A to Eglinton would sufficiently relief Yonge to make the Richmond Hill extension doable.

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  9. The Ridership Demand and Network effects slide is too simple. I would be interested in seeing graphs for Line 1 + DRL North and for Line 1 + DRL Don Mills to Eglinton and the effect of adding in the new riders generated by the addition of the Crosstown in 2021.

    Obviously not everyone wants to go all the way downtown, so a second N/S route should bleed off ridership from Line 1. The western side has a ready made relief valve in the existing Spadina Line 1 section, though greater strain on both Spadina and St. George should be anticipated.

    The eastern side is different. If we divide the DRL into 3 sections for reference; South (Queen to Pape), North (Pape to Don Mills) and RH Link (Don Mills to Markham?) we can look at each section. The South section is key to providing relief to Yonge-Bloor transfer overcrowding. Hopefully when the Pape-Danforth station is built, proper planning for future capacity and passenger circulation Extra wide stairs and redundant (2+) elevator paths should be a minimum.
    Building the North section next (or preferably at the same time) will bleed ridership from Line 1.

    However, the idea of repurposing the Don Viaduct as either a busway (or an LRT) link to the core would provide a faster short term option. With the 2021 Eglinton riders, an eastern bleed point to keep them off of Line 1, until the DRL north gets built will be crucial. As the Eglinton Crosstown plans to use Laird station as a turn back point, a transfer to a downtown express bus, local to Redway Road, jump to the Don Branch & Viaduct (or Bayview extension at Nesbitt) and express to core could make sense. This should be easier and faster to build than the DRL North and would provide Line 1 ridership relief during the DRL North build.

    While York Region is pushing for a Line 1 extension, perhaps a northern extension of the RL would be easier, cheaper and a better solution to the Line 1 overcrowding. Richmond Hill currently has a GO link to the Toronto core. And while that line has issues, improving to full day service and matching (or competitively pricing against) TTC fares would provide a long term safety valve for riders. Duplicating this link with Subway seems redundant, and a link point further east mid-way between Yonge St and the Stouffville line might be more effective.

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  10. Steve, on a separate note, reading between the lines, Metrolinx is the one planning the DRL North?

    City of Toronto did the DRL South and the whole line is inside City of Toronto Boundaries.

    Is the control of planning the first step in the Ford Subway grab?

    Steve: Metrolinx started on the RL North back in the Liberal days under Wynne. It has nothing to do with DoFo’s planned takeover.

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  11. Thanks for ‘air’ time, though some might think it ‘err’ time, and that’s why it’s good to have such an open forum to kick things around.

    I’m relatively agnostic about mode of transit ie. bus or rail; there are advantages to both. Heck, even a subway technology, though most of it might be above ground, and there’s a host of other costs/issues. The main interest is getting up to Thorncliffe, and then to Eglinton near the Don Mills Road, as we need to provide a faster way for Eglinton Line 5 users to get to the core and avoid getting on the Yonge line. Thorncliffe to core would be faster, and likely cheaper, but yes, where to get in to the core at the lower end, where excess water is an issue, and if only we had the political will to start up a drainage fee for all that asphalt in North Toronto/watershed. So my priority area is south of Thorncliffe for priority/RoW transit, and that also includes having reversible transitways like Jarvis as in afternoons, Don Valley Parkway is full going north, but on the much lighter side southbound.

    And yes, if we use that spur line, it can’t interfere with the railway traffic, so it would have to be south of the tracks with some expropriation/elbowing and/or tunnelling. But we have to keep the construction interests somewhat happy right? And it’s still likely going to be cheaper than a full bore subway in to sprawl, especially if we do surface priority in existing corridors elsewhere.

    As for the condition of that Half-Mile bridge, odds are high that the deck is in trouble, but those piers look incredibly solid, and in better shape than the concrete of many of the existing rail bridges over roads in the core.
    I’m sure there are issues, but also am sure that if engineers with imagination approached it we could readily figger out some adaptation and re-use of this structure for some transit/real use.

    As for entry in to the core, if on surface, yes, almost issues with surface routes, except for the Richmond/Adelaide pair of roads. If buses, then likely issues with turning to go back up again so University Ave. or Spadina likely best end-points.

    With west-end, King streetcar has c. 80,000 people using it – how is that not ripe for a subway as there’s also considerable transit demand from Mimico/Parkdale, some of which goes up to Bloor, and there’s a HUGE # of cars on the Lakeshore/Gardiner too, that if better transit were given, cold be tempting, plus having a back-up/relief of the GO Lakeshore trains too, and if a RoW, the GO buses could also use it, and there might still be a ghost of a chance of a surface RoW aligned somewhat with the DRL of 1985, north of railtracks Parkdale to core. Relief West should absolutely be remaining a priority, including limiting the traffic harm/kill rate.

    Steve: The King car has 80k people using it over various parts of the line at all times of the day. The peak capacity operated on the route tops out at about 3k/hour as I have shown in numerous past articles, and this is nowhere near subway level. To put this in context, the Bloor-Danforth streetcar was carrying around 8k/hour at peak before the subway opened, although the demand was also served by parallel routes into the core such as Bathurst via Adelaide to Church, the Dundas car from Runnymede, the Bay car from St. Clair to downtown via Avenue Road and Davenport (until the University line opened), and of course the Harbord car. A lot of this traffic was rerouted into the subway.

    Please do not confuse all day usage over a route that is busy all day and has many overlapping demand patterns with peak point usage.

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  12. The ex-CP bridge over the Don can be rebuilt and this has been known for ages. The last estimate I got back in the days when there were still some pros at GO and they didn’t bury all their data was about $10 million. But why do anything with this idea when you can keep yourself and your friends employed and well paid for the rest of your lives by always opting for the most expensive and most time consuming options?

    What’s need most right now is an executive enema at Metrolinx. If they screw the minister one more time with yet another service “improvement” gone awry, there may just be a flushing out of the Metrolinx executive suite. Here’s hoping!

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  13. Steve wrote in the article:

    “Richmond Hill has been waiting for a subway, and the project Environmental Assessment has been on York Region’s website for some time. The Mayor of Markham, as quoted by Ben Spurr in the Toronto Star, is a tad upset by this situation.”

    Is this going to be another boondoggle in terms of operational funding like the Vaughan extension where Toronto has to pick up the entire tab for operating expenses? Does the mayor of Markham actually want to pay, not only for the construction, but also for the service he expects?

    Also, who is here the contracting entity that will provide funding (besides the provincial and Toronto governments) north of Steeles? The City of Markham, York Region, or both? Is there any way to demand that as a condition of the Richmond Hill extension, York Region pick up the tab for the operating expenses of the Vaughan extensions that Toronto is currently paying? Can the city block a subway expansion (even if uploaded to the province, say by refusing to issue permits for the part of the extension on city territory) if it feels the funding arrangement is unfair?

    “GO’s fares are a high-cost option for commuting to downtown compared with a subway extension which, like the Vaughan extension, is presumed to operate with “Toronto” fares. GO service suffers both from poor frequency and from GO’s chronic problem of charging high fares for shorter trips. Although reductions in short-trip fares were proposed in the Liberals’ 2018 budget, this would have applied to Langstaff GO Station, but not to points further north. The current Presto fare from Langstaff to Union is $6.53, more than double the TTC fare even though the travel time would be roughly comparable to a subway journey over the same distance. The Presto fare from Richmond Hill is $6.62 and would not be reduced in the proposed tariff.”

    So essentially, people in the GTA want subway extensions to solve what is basically a GO/Metrolinx problem. I just don’t know how someone can expect the subway to be eternally extended and maintain a $3.25 TTC fare. Isn’t it cheaper to subsidize GO fares and TTC/GO fare integration than build a 7.4 km extension of a subway line?

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  14. There’s more than one suggestion here in the comments that RL modelling should show the effects of going north to Eglinton as interim state.

    I agree with that.

    Likewise, I think looking at Yonge North in 2 sections makes sense, to Steeles and then on to RH later.

    I’m not advocating any particularly priority or timeline here, just better data sets with which to draw conclusions.

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  15. So I was at a South Parkdale traffic meeting last night, and Councillor Perks said King St. was “the busiest surface route in North America”. King is also close to Queen St., often crammed, and also the car-clogged Gardiner and Lakeshore, which – if faster and more reliable transit were available – could be somewhat eased with robust transit, and then it could be tolled. Also, in that 1993 WWLRT EA, it indicated some west end folks in Etobicoke went up to the subway on Bloor, and took it, then tripped south again, so upgrading the east-west transit in the King corridor or environs to something sub-regional/faster seems also overdue, and there have been a set of plans over the decades to get past the pinch point at the base of High Park. So “where is Relief West?” is a valid point; and yet we’re not hearing a darned thing about it, even though the clogging of the core is such that heaven forbid there’s actually an emergency.

    Steve: The updates to the Waterfront Reset Study are supposed to be out soon. There is already a route chosen from Etobicoke to the core, although you may not agree with it, and the outstanding issue is the connection to Union Station. As for “relief” further north, a lot depends on what happens in the Weston corridor with “SmartTrack” and/or GO improvements, plus decent fare integration so that it doesn’t cost the earth to use GO in place of the TTC.

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  16. How much money can be saved if the Metrolinx Board assumed the responsibilities of the TTC Board in addition to it’s own? Less board members to pay, more money saved, a win-win for all.

    Steve: Considering that the Metrolinx Board does almost nothing, whereas the TTC board actually has real debates, I think you propose getting rid of the wrong board.

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  17. Steve: you propose getting rid of the wrong board.

    Well, get rid of them both. And cut the number of seats at Queen’s Park in half. We don’t need that many seat warmers. Amalgamate transit systems as well as amalgamate municipalities. Balance the budget and reduce our debt (think about future generations).

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  18. P Kumar said:

    “Well, get rid of them both. And cut the number of seats at Queen’s Park in half. We don’t need that many seat warmers. Amalgamate transit systems as well as amalgamate municipalities. Balance the budget and reduce our debt (think about future generations).”

    Right, and in so doing, create unmanageable unaccountable behemoths. While we’re at it, eliminate the provinces and territories and have the entire country ruled directly from Ottawa.

    This is a classic fallacy where people focus on things they can easily wrap their heads around (some people in QP or the TTC board getting paid thousands of dollars) instead of things they can’t (like budgets in trillions of dollars, TTC investment requirements in billions of dollars – these things go over most people’s heads, the numbers are too large and thus too abstract).

    The cost of Metrolinx/TTC board members, MPPs, city councillors and so forth is essentially minuscule in the grand scheme of things. Toronto’s operating budget for 2019 is $13.5 billion. Councillor’s salaries (not including the mayor) are about $2.9 million. That works out to 0.02%. Meanwhile Ontario’s budget is about $150 billion, while MPP salaries (not counting extra payments for those MPPs which are government ministers, just the base pay) is about $14.5 million. That works out to about 0.0097%. Not exactly a dent in the deficit.

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  19. So I feel like we have essentially 3 projects on the go….and it seems to me that rather than getting complicated tri-partide agreements in place we can just fund them as follows: 1) DRL South – City of Toronto and Feds 2) DRL North – Province/Metrolinx 3) Richmond Hill – Markham/Vaughan and either the Province or feds…

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  20. Lord, how I wish we had a mayor and a council that would just say “F*ck the 905.” They’re not paying for the subway in any meaningful way, yet they clog it up with thousands of trips every day that span Finch to Union, blocking the people of Toronto who actually pay for the system from getting on. They fill the Gardiner and DVP while not paying a penny for their upkeep and flip their lids when we DARE to try to toll those roads. They elect politicians that have a pathological hatred for Toronto (Is there any victory too Pyrrhic for Doug Ford when it comes to the humiliation of Toronto?) . They gloat at any indignity or injustice we suffer. It’s time to be a province.

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  21. The update (thanks) has brought more content, and discontent, and comment, some thanks. I’m both disappointed and happy with you Steve.

    Let’s do the disappointment first – the Relief West/WWLRT aspect. The WWLRT EA of 1993 found two types of transit demand in their study area from High Park to core: a milk run to multiple destinations along the waterfront, and a lot of commuter transit wanting speed to get to the core in a direct way eg. sub-regional or even express, which we don’t seem to do here, and even GO as it gets to the core, gets to be a bit more of a stop/start service. We never got the second study of the more robust demand that the WWLRT urged, and when the City started up its Reset process, only went as far back as 25 years, conveniently ignoring decades of real plans including the DRL of 1985, and also avoiding mention of this second study, and much of the content of this good EA. And it seemed very obvious to me at the time of the Front St. Extension that a transitway would be far better, and aligned with OPs and policy statements and need, but nope, no consideration given, and to suggest linking up to the Queensway with robust/faster transit, including use of the bank of the railways that has all those ads on it, was ‘out there’. And then, a few years in to that FSE fight, I found the WWLRT, and the 1985 DRL plan doing the same route. So now, the City – as dominated by the suburbs and devoid of imagination/resource for planning – has opted to look the other way in limiting thinking to maybe a milk run. Some decade. (And gee, how did the TTC’s 2012 idea for a King St. subway get ignored? Or is the right wording ignored again?” – and it’s p. 197 Ed Levy’s book)

    And pardon me, by supporting the inferior and limited process, you’re kinda saying that the west end near-lake core doesn’t deserve robust transit and an upgrade to RoW or subway. Even with a massive growth in Liberty Village and now in Mimico, and it isn’t being served by new transit, and nor should GO necessarily dilute its service, and no, the proposed Liberty Station is NOT going to be that good given how its kinda removed from much of that dense area, and to get to it from Parkdale seems to be a longer walk too, especially hazardous in the only underpass on Queen St., and so much of that oval to describe the catchment area should be cut, unless there’s a new access made under the tracks, and do that first please (now).

    Steve: I really have to jump in here. It is absolutely the most two-faced argument imaginable to call for a subway to serve the Humber Bay condos when this would have even lower demand than the Scarborough Subway which neither of us supports. As you probably know, the proposed RL West line does not go to Humber Bay, but veers north to Dundas West Station, and there’s quite a debate to be had about just how much transit we can put in that corridor. If we were not besotted with SmartTrack and could concentrate on useful, practical services, we might have a better conversation. Also, the proposed WWLRT does have a right-of-way from (probably) a new loop at Park Lawn GO Station, right-of-way on Lake Shore to Humber Loop, then east via The Queensway, and into downtown over the planned WWLRT. The way the City will screw this up will be to have “transit priority signals” that delay the streetcars at every possible opportunity. As you probably know, travel times from Roncesvalles to Humber are higher now than they were before this section was “improved” thanks to the traffic signals and operating procedures at intersections.

    By not recognizing the two demands, we’re now a bit stuck in thinking the only way to get the east-west transit is on the waterfront, and that means both extra costs with all the lake fill, but also a real challenge to deal with Union Station. Whereas with going to robust/faster E/West aligned with the DRL/Relief West ideas, we could be on the north side of the rail tracks, and even manage to skirt the north side of Union Station perhaps on Wellington, and deliver many loads of people directly to the destinations as that’s the intense core.

    Steve: What lake fill? Also you know quite well that the RL alignment through downtown was shifted from Wellington/King north to Queen, in part to avoid competing with SmartTrack. At Union streetcar loop, the problem is the endless delay in addressing its capacity problems including a mad scheme to convert the Bay Street tunnel to some sort of shuttle operation with a forced transfer at Queens Quay.

    Having robust transit and more robust transit is necessary for the redundancy of resiliency to make the tolling of the Gardiner and Lakeshore easy.

    And we are getting to a real trouble point with all the car congestions too, and that’s the climate crisis as well.

    As for being unhappy with the Reset, yes, that’s true, and it’s partially because no ideas seem to be entering in to things, and I did have another one in the last couple of years. Pushing a single tracks worth of extension between Wilson Park and the core along Front St., and with it mostly north of the tracks, with the crossing of the Weston tracks enabled by being lowered. Take an idea from Jarvis, and make it a one-way according to daily demands. Send the extra vehicles back to the start of the loop via King/Queen, thereby improving service there a bit.

    Sadly, I think we’ve likely been building our options shut on this one again, as per usual it seems.

    Steve: Front Street is a total non-starter for the LRT link. This might have been possible many years back before the whole area was planned and built, but that horse left the barn a long time ago.

    On the positive, thanks very much for hauling down to the Metrolinx meeting and updating, and it’s very important to have this reported: “Verster admitted that Metrolinx has not done enough to look at the Richmond Hill GO corridor for its potential contribution to relief.”

    While it’s all complicated, (and that’s why it’s so wonderful to have such great memory and plain blunt truths from you and readers/commenters), this avoidance of a logical surface route for some Relief is appalling. This includes how Mr. Tory led us all away from tackling one major reason for the floodings at the lower end – the excess amount of storm discharge from the huge areas of asphalt upstream that the City drains for free in to the Don, and why don’t we start to have drainage fees, and asphalt disconnection programs in North Toronto? Oh, Mr. Tory and Ms. Robinson et al likely didn’t want to ruffle any feathers with extra costs and work in the wealthy North Toronto area, just as we likely will have issues with having the shortcut of the old rail line (now a bike trail) revert to a needed robust transit function, and what’s a few billion to dig something anyways? (And for the record, that bike trail shortcut could be readily taken back to a highest/best use of transit – so toss it in to the mix of options)

    Steve: Dare I point out that plans for the Don River realignment and flood control predate John Tory’s mayoralty by years? Waterfront Toronto has been working on this for a long time. You might argue that storm water discharge can be mitigated, but I have not seen anyone claim that we could avoid the Don flood control that way, only reduce total flow.

    So what happens if we start thinking of busting the silos a bit – GO thinks of upgrades to get a few more trainloads in to the City from the north end, perhaps ultimately aiming for Leaside area, and the City of Toronto works on a different mode – even a subway – up the Don Valley on-surface, but not being constrained to go in to the core to meet at Union, but perhaps diverting as early as say Gerrard?

    Our ‘planning’ and EAs are pretty rigidly set up so having options is never an option, or so it feels, including say, Smart Spur in to the STC as one example, but most of the east-of-Don area is readily bike-to-core distance, like Liberty Village, so given that the pressure of the Danforth starts at Donlands/Greenwood/Coxwell, if not further east, then why build for Pape? and let’s think of the Main/Danforth connection first, and foremost.

    Steve: The reason for Pape is that it’s a good jumping off point to continue north into Thorncliffe and then jog a bit east to Don Mills itself.

    Pardon length; and it’s a shame we haven’t had better planning, along with the screwing over of both plans and the core by a lot of politicians, of all levels, and this includes the federal level too, as they don’t seem to always have standards or care when giving millions through PTIP, though yes, sometimes invaluable assistance, thank$.

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  22. Bill said: It’s time to be a province.

    You may get over 50% of people to vote yes in a referendum in the old City of Toronto, but no way you’d get anything close to that percentage in the other former cities/boroughs like Scarborough and Etobicoke. They have far more in common with our 905 neighbours and they know it – there’s no way they’d side with the city to become a separate province. We’re stuck with this situation forever, with no way out that I can see.

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  23. Michael Forest talks about the DRL to Eglinton.

    First, if we had the Eglinton-Scarborough LRT as a continuous, grade-separated transit line – it would have been the perfect impetus for extending the DRL to Eglinton. Within a few years after this was announced in early 2011, there were a few proposals about elevating the portion through the Golden Mile to reduce the cost, but maintain the speed. Also, the Benefit-Cost study from June 2012 found this option to be the best – but the Liberals hid it for 18 months.

    But, in the end, City Council made it their mission to kill this plan and resurrect the Transit City for a brief few months before they, and the Scarborough liberals forces the B-D extension. The B-D extension, like the SRT/LRT, generally forces all travel to be on the B-D line – with a transfer at Pape or Y-B. I think with either of those 2 plans, going to Eglinton will just not do that much for relief, because people have been funneled away from Eglinton. Either we change the ECLRT back to the grade-separated plan (too late), or the DRL needs to go to Sheppard.

    By the way, do we know how much extra the switch to Carlaw added to the DRL cost? It’s an extra couple of turns, and it requires a much deeper route due to the storm sewer on Carlaw. I was sort of hoping some type of Value Engineering would be done to improve the design.

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  24. Thanks for the air/err time Steve.

    It’s not merely King car loads, but Queen, GO, and Lakeshore/Gardiner cars that could use a more robust transit option, and yes, subway might well be very good, but a faster LRT, with a near-express route to core would be also good, especially if it was also helping Liberty Village and while the road where the DRL was to go is now approved, apparently no $$$, so yes, it could be used for surface transit, and why not? (One reason is how we fail to plan transit and thus let buildings erupt everywhere yes, and signal non-priority is another problem).

    With the lakefill remark, most everything south of Front in the core is lakefill, and less stable, and less easy to dig through, and even have weights upon it, and no, we don’t include our concrete use in any EA of anything, oops.

    I strongly favour looking at surface routes for sub-regional transit east of Yonge for both Yonge Relief (the stubway does naught for NofBloor and we need something really soon for deflecting the loading of Eglinton at Eglinton to get to the core), and also for Danforth/Scarborough.

    We don’t want to squeeze the billions to provide faster-done, and faster surface service. Yes, I would be happy at adjusting the DVP in portions, and bypassing intersection with Line 2 until we do have an easier situation, but with transit, not with climate. There is real urgency to do smarter things for more people sooner to trim emissions; it’s over-shoot time.

    Steve: You confuse your arguments by using the term “subway” when you actually want surface transit of some form. Most readers equate the term with a tunnel which brings high cost, widely spaced stations, and a lot of money spent on a single corridor that cannot serve all of the demand patterns you cite.

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  25. A real complaint from me about the west-end transit proposals, and upgrades, is that by using the cheaper way to get south of the railtracks at the base of High Park, this means we cannot have any speed-up of the King car using Roncesvalles in to the core, and as we could manage to get to the Ex if we used the old DRL routing, we’re missing another opportunity to actually have a functional and faster network.

    Steve: Sending any Waterfront West LRT line into the core via King and Dufferin would force the very “express” service you advocate to push its way through one of the most congested parts of the King route. As for service on Roncesvalles, it is simply not practical to treat the King car as a “relief line” for the subway. Its demand accumulates along Ronces and King West, and capacity should not be consumed by filling up streetcars at Dundas West Station which, btw, does not have the capacity to handle a substantial increase in transfer traffic.

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  26. I recall seeing this report. It stated a through route to STC would have been beneficial in relieving the exodus at Kennedy for line 2. The people would have transferred at the Yonge/Eglinton or Don Mills/Eglinton to head down town instead, thus, maintaining a robust crowd using the Eglinton LRT from Kennedy to Yonge. The TTC screwd up demanding to separate the lines at Kennedy, pissing off the Scarberians and behold, the pissing match from mayors, councilors and the province creating the Line 2 extension to STC. It would have been better that they continued to tunnel the LRT to Kennedy or elevation through the Golden Mile and merged it with the RT.

    I’ve been told that a full extension Sheppard subway to STC would cost the same as a line 2 extension, using some cut and cover construction with simple spartan style stations like Greenwood, Christie, Chester, Bessasrion etc… The report even mentioned using MARK III RT cars instead of LRT to run this line, thinking about it today that idea would of been better. The Mark III are nice reliable intermediate rapid transit cars with a good track record running in Vancouver.

    Steve: The new Skytrain cars in Vancouver have the same problems as our SRT fleet in snow. This is a design problem because snow and ice accumulate on both the power rails and on the LIM reaction rail. The difference in Vancouver is that they get snow accumulations quite rarely. When the TTC looked at buying new cars for the SRT, they concluded that this would be cheaper than conversion to LRT only if the line was not extended, and there would still be an “orphan” mode in the middle of a planned LRT network.

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  27. Steve, I think you’ve got the lengths backward. Eglinton to Finch (Bishop Ave) is 8.5km. The distance from Bishop to RHC is 6.6km. Both stretches add(ed) 5 stations.

    If Eglinton to Finch station is 12 minutes, we would expect the Yonge North extension time to be about 10 minutes. So our ‘ideal’ running time from RHC to Union would be about 38 minutes – call it 40.

    This makes the subway very competitive with the Richmond Hill line – which is scheduled for a 40 minute run from Langstaff GO at RHC to Union.

    Given GO’s higher cost and much longer headway, GO doesn’t look too attractive.

    By 2040, Richmond Hill Centre is shaping up to be quite the transit hub, with the VIVA Yonge BRT, Hwy 7 BRT, 407 Transitway, RH GO and Yonge North subway. By then I wouldn’t be surprised if VIVA blue is bursting and ready for LRT conversion to Bernard.

    Steve: The length of the extension according to Vivanext’s website is 7.4 km. Yes, this is a tad shorter than Eglinton to Finch, and might shave a few minutes. However, the nub of my position about the role of GO is in your comment about GO’s higher cost and headways. Do we base the credibility of a subway extension on the speed of the Yonge today, or on what the service could be? Too much of the subway’s lure is based on the premise that GO will be an expensive way to get downtown and will take longer than a subway journey particularly when wait time is factored in.

    What happens if GO runs more frequently and if fares on GO are set to be competitive to the subway? Obviously, someone bound for midtown at, say, Yonge-Eglinton will not have to backtrack from Union at, potentially, an extra fare if the deck is stacked against that type of trip. But those bound for the core could be diverted to GO and, frankly, should have been getting better service already but for GO’s reticence to upgrade the corridor through the Don Valley.

    Subway capacity relief will come in many forms, and for too long we have pursued the one “solution” of stuffing more people into the existing line. GO should be part of this.

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  28. Steve said: “But those bound for the core could be diverted to GO and, frankly, should have been getting better service already but for GO’s reticence to upgrade the corridor through the Don Valley.”

    Is it actual restraint to upgrading the line through the Don Valley or is it more a case of there not being any real need until the Doncaster Junction/Diamond is replaced?

    Steve: I will throw that out to those familiar with details of CN’s operations and plans, but Metrolinx has always played down this corridor and is only now re-examining it for interim subway relief from the north. It is somewhat amusing to consider that Metrolinx must think a lot of people from Richmond Hill want to go to the core when the Mayor of Markham claims that riders on the subway extension will be headed for mid-town. The whole question of what demand pattern(s) GO and the subway would serve needs a public airing.

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