Recycling the SRT

The ink was barely dry on the TTC’s recent proposal that service on the SRT end in mid-2023 when the inevitable question was posed: what should be done with the infrastructure and right-of-way afterwards?

A scheme floated several years ago would have converted the elevated structure between McCowan and Midland Stations to something like the High Line park in New York City. That is certainly an option once the line is no longer needed to carry transit vehicles.

At the City Council meeting of February 3-5, 2021, Councillors Josh Matlow and Paul Ainslie, never fans of the Scarborough Subway, proposed the following motion. Council ran out of time and debate was deferred to a future meeting. However, the issues here deserve attention now, specifically at the TTC Board meeting planned for February 10, 2021.

Councillor Josh Matlow, seconded by Councillor Paul Ainslie, recommends that:

1. City Council request the City Manager to report to the June 1, 2021 meeting of Executive Committee on options for Scarborough transit that includes a:

a. technical assessment of moving forward with the Scarborough Light Rail Transit, including length of construction time and new platform location at Kennedy Station;

b. feasibility study and cost estimate of converting the elevated Scarborough Rapid Transit structure to an above-grade Bus Rapid Transit; and

c. feasibility study and cost estimate of removing the elevated Scarborough Rapid Transit structure and operating a Bus Rapid Transit at-grade.

2. City Council request the Toronto Transit Commission Board to release the “Integrity Assessment for Life Extension/Continued Operation” report by Bombardier, in partnership with WSP Canada Inc. and CH2MH, referenced in the Fleet Life Extension – Line 3 Scarborough report to the Toronto Transit Commission Board on May 8, 2018 to City of Toronto residents as a public attachment to the aforementioned item on the Toronto Transit Commission’s website.

The likelihood that Council would approve another study of the LRT option for this corridor is dim, at best. This is an extremely contentious issue debated many times under clouds of conflicting information about various technologies. While I have always supported the LRT option going right back to its origin fifty years ago, I have no illusions that we are about to see it emerge soon, if ever as a contender.

Doug Ford’s government took control of the Scarborough Subway Extension project and will bull through with it no matter what. According to the most recent Infrastructure Ontario update, the contract for tunneling will be awarded in spring 2021, and it is hard to think of anything that will derail this. Cost overruns and delays may be in the future, but far too much political ego is on the line to change course today barring a financial catastrophe that prevents the SSE (and many other projects) from going ahead.

At this point, a review of the work involved to reactivate the LRT proposal would be a diversion. That ship has sailed. Also, to be quite blunt, in the current political climate it is likely than any LRT study would be tweaked to present a worst case scenario.

However, the BRT proposal is worth study, and this should begin immediately to inform the plans for a bus replacement service. Conditions on segments of the line differ, and this should not be seen as an “all or nothing” situation.

Kennedy Stn to Lawrence East Stn

The southern portion of the SRT runs in a fairly open area bounded on the east by GO Transit’s Stouffville corridor and on the west by a wide Hydro corridor and park.

Here is a satellite view of Kennedy Station. If there were a BRT corridor from the north, buses could access the station without any traffic conflicts on Eglinton Avenue. This is important not just to avoid the turns to and from Eglinton, but to bypass the effect of subway construction east of the rail corridor.

Source: Google Maps

The area east of Kennedy Station will be used as a tunnel boring launch site and for removal of spoil as the project digs east and north. Eglinton will be reduced and will not be conducive to frequent, fast bus service. This issue has already been raised in the context of the Eglinton BRT project which ends short of Kennedy Station in anticipation of subway work. The extent of the disruption is clear in the map below.

Cut-and-cover work will occupy Eglinton to east of Midland Avenue making an eastern approach for a Scarborough BRT fraught with congestion and disruption as conditions change. Anyone who has watched the Eglinton Crosstown project knows that this is not the environment for reliable bus service.

An important question is whether a BRT roadway would fit in the corridor where the SRT is today. Here is the line midway between Eglinton and Lawrence.

On the east side of the corridor is GO Transit’s right-of-way where double-tracking will add to the capacity for Stouffville service. On the west is the SRT.

The SRT itself occupies roughly 7 metres. By contrast, the York University bus roadway, a model for a BRT here, is roughly 11 metres wide. Buses are wider than the SRT trains (2.4m vs 2.1m) and they are not tethered to a track requiring more room for dynamic clearance and safe passing of opposing traffic. A bus roadway in this corridor will require more space than the SRT occupies today, but at least there is some elbow room.

Source: Google Maps

Here is the view north from the pedestrian/cycling bridge at Tara Avenue showing that there is room for a wider structure than the existing track slab.

Source: Google Maps

South from the bridge, however, there is a row of mature trees, a planting that was added as a sound barrier between the SRT and the housing west of the Hydro corridor. An important design issue will be retention of these trees.

Source: Google Maps

At Lawrence East Station, a connection to the road network could be made using the existing bus loop. A direct link right at the station is not possible because the street crosses the rail corridor on an overpass, nor is one to the east because this would require crossing the GO corridor.

Running buses through Lawrence East (and any other SRT station) would be complicated by two factors: the buses and their lanes are wider than the space taken for the SRT, and the roadway would have to be raised for buses to align with the platform.

Source: Google Maps

Lawrence East Stn to Ellesmere Stn

This is a difficult segment of the SRT to convert to a busway because the SRT is constrained between the rail corridor and the industrial properties to the west. Moreover, there is a grade difference to the west with a retaining wall hard by the SRT right-of-way.

Source: Google Maps

Ellesmere and Midland Stations

This portion of the line includes the turn east into a corridor running parallel to Highland Creek and behind industrial properties to the south.

Road access to the corridor from Ellesmere is possible using the existing roadway link west of the station, but the problem of the narrow right-of-way south of Ellesmere remains.

To the north, the RT crosses under the GO corridor in a tunnel which is almost certainly too small for buses. An alternative route one might think of looking at the map would be to continue north to Progress Avenue. However, GO Transit plans to build a grade separation here as part of their corridor upgrade, and what would be a simple connection today becomes complex, if not impossible, with Progress at a different grade from the rail corridor and any bus roadway.

Source: Google Maps

Midland Stn to McCowan Stn

There are several problems with using the elevated structure between the GO corridor and McCowan Station.

First is the extra space needed for buses and their dynamic clearance. The SRT cars are narrower, and they fill the structure in which they run. The guideway is actually a pair of U-shaped concrete “lanes” for the SRT track, and could not be used “as is” for buses.

Second, the station at Midland is integrated with the bridge, and could not be easily modified. (This problem came up during consideration of other modes on the corridor including a subway.)

Third, access to and from the elevated would require ramps just like the Gardiner Expressway, and these would increase the structure’s footprint at ground level.

Fourth, operationally it would be much simpler for buses to serve Scarborough Town Centre at grade than to run via the elevated (leaving aside other problems) because they would not be constrained by access points to and from the structure.

If this segment were to be used for BRT, the existing elevated structure would have to be demolished and a new roadway built at ground level. There would still be problems at Ellesmere Station and the narrow right-of-way south from there.

Summary

The SRT corridor is seductively “available” for recycling using another mode, but the change is not straightforward or even physically possible in some locations.

Without waiting for a Council motion, the TTC should undertake a review of what could be done with a focus on the southern segment from Lawrence to Eglinton. This would give a traffic-free access to Kennedy Station, a location that is likely to be the most difficult in any BRT replacement for the SRT.

There will be a challenging interval between the start of SSE construction and the shutdown/reconstruction of the SRT for BRT and this cannot be avoided.

So much of the planning for whatever might happen is constrained by the effects of years of delay and the elimination of any flexibility that might have existed for project timelines. The problem now is to make the best of a very bad situation.

46 thoughts on “Recycling the SRT

  1. This blog episode might be more timely than Steve allows his rationale to believe. I asked the ‘recycle’ question a week or so back, as to LRT adaptation for the line and Steve gave a brief but well-considered response as to LRTs needing more clearance than is possible.

    I Googled voraciously to find details, and Steve addressed details over a decade and a half ago:

    AUGUST 26, 2006 BY STEVE
    SRT Final Report — RT Or LRT?

    […]

    The tunnel at Ellesmere was intentionally downsized to prevent the TTC from backing out of the change from LRT to RT technology during the initial construction. The tunnel needs to be replaced by something big enough to accommodate larger cars. At first it was thought that even Mark II’s would not fit, but they seem to think now that this is not the case. If that turns out to be wrong, it adds considerably to the RT option’s cost.

    The curve at Kennedy must be replaced no matter what. This is common to both LRT and RT.

    The power supply for the RT is unique to that system and must be replaced for LRT technology. The RT uses two feeds each of which is about 275 volts above or below ground. Since the maximum difference to ground is only 300 volts, the amount of insulation (and hence weight) needed in the car is less than in a conventional 550VDC car.

    The track gauge is standard gauge, and we then get into the debate of whether the Scarborough network should be built separately from the “downtown” network that is TTC gauge. This would prevent through service on a Kingston Road line, but I’m not sure there is much of a market for such a service given that it parallels GO. The gauges are close enough that you could have a common car design sitting on appropriately gauged trucks for the two systems.

    […]

    There are options, albeit few, that could be used, but only as an investment long-term, such that it be part of a ‘Scarborough LRT Network’.

    Needless to say, that would mean cancelling the subway option.

    Steve states in this string:

    “Doug Ford’s government took control of the Scarborough Subway Extension project and will bull through with it no matter what. According to the most recent Infrastructure Ontario update, the contract for tunneling will be awarded in spring 2021, and it is hard to think of anything that will derail this. Cost overruns and delays may be in the future, but far too much political ego is on the line to change course today barring a financial catastrophe that prevents the SSE (and many other projects) from going ahead.”

    Perhaps it’s wishful thinking on my part, not that rationale counts for much in this whole debate…but with the massive debt Ontario now faces, and even the City in an historical deficit, and the peons of Scarborough smarting from the consequence of their own foolish political choices…is there now a way to put the brakes on the political inertia for the SSE?

    I detect a change in the wind…

    Excellent blog episode Steve!

    Steve: I looked at the 2006 article and realized that the link to the reports was now dead. I have scanned the documents and linked them to the article.

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  2. It seems like a BRT running along the hydro corridor to the west of the rail line would probably be a reasonable option. Plus it leaves the Uxbridge sub available for GO Expansion/SmartTrack. Once the SRT tracks are removed that could mean three or four tracks available.

    Toronto has experience building BRT in a hydro corridor and using that BRT to safely cross a railway corridor.

    The BRT in the hydro corridor can use existing access roads to get to Kennedy and Lawrence East Stations. Access to Brimley Road could be via the Gatineau Hydro Corridor, but they would have to decide if there would be a full crossing of Lawrence or just enter/exit at Lawrence and then use Brimley or McCowan to get up to Scarborough Centre Station.

    Of course, bus lanes on Kennedy, Lawrence, Ellesmere, Brimley, and Midland would probably be even cheaper and help riders sort of maintain existing trip patterns but I don’t know how well they would be received by certain councillors.

    I could see the TTC having to employ many different bus routes for this RT replacement service. They can call them Line 3, Line 3A, Line 3B etc.

    Moaz

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  3. Since the SRT stations aren’t accessible, other than STC, it might be easier to just remove most of the existing station and replace with a simpler, step free BRT structure rather than worry about whether buses line up to platforms at current height? (I am not counting Kennedy on the assumption that the existing platform/ramp would be removed.)

    I note that Google Maps shows City agencies occupying the land immediately north of Lawrence East – relocation of these would allow a temporary bus platform to be built immediately north (west of the slight kink in the alignment there), as part of a quick stage 1 startup, or even a permanent one if shifting it and allowing an easing of the kink in the Stouffville track facilitated future GO service.

    The other question would be what role McCowan Yard might play, perhaps as an electric bus depot both for this service and others?

    Steve: My concern in writing this review and in looking at any alternatives is the cost and length of time needed to implement something, especially at the south end. We do not need another garage just for the SRT/BRT, and McCowan is a small property. If it’s going to be electric vehicles, those will not be in service soon enough to take over from the SRT quickly. Later on, yes.

    Station reconstruction is also more lengthy, and it does not eliminate the pinch point south of Ellesmere.

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  4. “According to the most recent Infrastructure Ontario update, the contract for tunneling will be awarded in spring 2021, and it is hard to think of anything that will derail this.”

    I can think of something that will derail this. I vividly remember Conservative Party premier Mike Harris filling in the tunnel for an Eglinton Subway. The SSE project is so profoundly financially unsound that a rational and sensible decision of a newly-elected Liberal government would be to follow this example and build LRT instead.

    Steve: There is a huge difference. The Eglinton Subway was a project proposed by the Liberals and kept alive by the NDP. It was not Harris’ project and if anything his ego would revel in cancelling something launched by his opponents. The Scarborough Subway is a Doug Ford show all the way, and money is likely to play no role in the decision. What it will leave for any other projects is another matter.

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  5. Steve, if we assume this busway proposal is adopted, and let’s say with only the Eglinton to Lawrence section needed, what would you offer as an estimate of the conversion time? Obviously, you cannot shutdown the SRT one day and then have the busway running the next day. If all the City departments and agencies involved coordinated and planned to execute this change as efficiently as possible (coordination which I know is a big ask in Toronto) how many days/weeks/months would they need to pull that off?

    Steve: Ideally by late 2023. Unlike the York U Busway which ran into construction snafus, this is an existing corridor. What is needed is to widen and pave it for buses. No complicated studies. No new technology.

    I know that will be a challenge 😉

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  6. I hope Toronto City Council is paying attention to this. It strikes me that even just converting the Eglinton-to-Lawrence section to a busway could present considerable improvements and possibly savings to the total cost of replacing the SRT in 2023 with shuttle buses. And as Moaz points out, the hydro corridor could perhaps take the BRT to the Lawrence/Brimley intersection, giving them a protected run to Brimley Avenue, and a decent run from there to the STC terminal.

    It’s a shame that the section north of Lawrence is too narrow to work, or that the Progress crossing/off-ramp would be too complicated, but what can you do? Well, grab what you can. The Lawrence-to-Eglinton run seems an obviously superior access point to Kennedy station.

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  7. I live in Scarborough and I know the SRT well, here is my suggestion about the SRT, instead of talking about putting buses on the same route, they should make the necessary repairs to the track to keep the SRT, and replace the train itself with something maybe a little bit more modern, and maybe build a plecy glass tube around the entire length of the SRT, and to also put heat controlled devices in there to keep the track operational through all types of weather with no problems, so essentially the SRT would be running through a climate controlled tube from one end to the other!!!

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  8. James Bow wrote:

    “And as Moaz points out, the hydro corridor could perhaps take the BRT to the Lawrence/Brimley intersection, giving them a protected run to Brimley Avenue, and a decent run from there to the STC terminal.”

    I was wondering how long it would be until someone suggested using the Gatineau hydro corridor. There are many reasons that have been extensively discussed on this blog why this has many problems. For this proposal, one of those many problems is running the BRT through the intersection of Lawrence and Brimley. A bridge would be very expensive. And look… up in the sky… it’s a bird… it’s a plane… no, it’s hydro wires.

    In theory, if one wanted to keep throwing vast wads of money at the problem, one could engineer some approach that would lift the wires up higher. Which of course, would make life, shall we say “interesting” for the Hydro One engineers who are responsible for the line. And are just so thrilled (not!) at the idea of having structures underneath it. But since SSE is a provincial government project, Doug Ford could just overrule all objections from those pesky Hydro One engineers.

    Alternatively, one could construct a tunnel. Again, the cost would be prohibitive for what is intended as a temporary BRT until SSE is up and running.

    And that’s just one problem with one intersection.

    Anything is doable if one throws enough money at it. And the SSE is a project that already flushes billions of dollars down the toilet. So to misquote C.D. Howe, “what’s another billion?”

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  9. The SRT was an orphan from Day One. The TTC didn’t want it. Borough councillors (that was Scarborough’s designation at the time) didn’t like it. Metro Toronto didn’t want to touch it. The only people who seem to like it are the 30,000 who use it every day. But what do THEY know anyway. The best and cheapest solution is to keep the blasted thing and extend it to the U of T campus and Malvern. Since it is well above grade, engineers have greater flexibility in where to put it, even along the middle of a thoroughfare. Trouble is, this would make too much sense.

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  10. I suspected the previous post would discuss options, but I saved it for this thread.

    Keep the SRT elevated structure. At some point in the future extend this to Centennial and Malvern. Another branch from Centennial to UTSC (and maybe Guildwood GO station). To the East continue elevated, with a new Ellesmere GO station, and then all the way to Vic Park.

    This could either continue to York Mills/Don Mills for an Ontario Line station, or it could make it’s way to Don Valley and head all the way downtown.
    That transfer from STC (or is is McCowan) to the B-D Line is not great, so this line would have to have multiple options and not force that transfer at this inconvenient location.

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  11. Kevin Love: I was wondering how long it would be until someone suggested using the Gatineau hydro corridor. There are many reasons that have been extensively discussed on this blog why this has many problems. For this proposal, one of those many problems is running the BRT through the intersection of Lawrence and Brimley. A bridge would be very expensive. And look… up in the sky… it’s a bird… it’s a plane… no, it’s hydro wires.

    I suggested using the Hydro Corridor to the west of the rail line first. That can take the buses up to Lawrence with easy access to and from both directions of Lawrence. Using the Gatineau Hydro Corridor was suggested as a secondary possibility, an extension of the Eglinton to Lawrence service. It’s obviously complicated (especially with the rail crossing) but it’s not something that the city could never do. The Finch Hydro corridor busway crosses a railway crossing and makes awkward intersection crossings too.

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  12. Instead of converting the RT into a busway The TTC should paint the bus lanes red and maybe put bollards to seperate the bus and car lanes on Kennedy from Eglinton to Progress and on Progress Ave to STC and designate them as BRT/RapidTO Lanes (bus only lanes) and should also designate the 60 buses needed as a Line 3 BRT/rapidTO bus service from Kennedy Station to STC stopping at Lawrence and maybe Ellesmere.

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  13. Brian Kirk suggests “replace the train itself with something maybe a little bit more modern”. Unfortunately when this was on offer, with something more modern being the LRT (like the one now creating a property boom along Eglinton), it was torpedoed by much of the political class of Scarborough, of Toronto, and of Ontario – among others the current premier.

    And there isn’t a drop-in replacement for SRT trains as they exist now because it’s a proprietary technology (forced on the TTC by a Progressive Conservative government nonetheless) and an early, now-unsupported version of it to boot. You can’t just buy a replacement train.

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  14. Kevin Love wrote, quoting James Bow:

    >> “And as Moaz points out, the hydro corridor could perhaps take the BRT to the Lawrence/Brimley intersection, giving them a protected run to Brimley Avenue, and a decent run from there to the STC terminal.”

    > … For this proposal, one of those many problems is running the BRT through the intersection of Lawrence and Brimley. …

    A careful reading of the proposal would reveal that it doesn’t in fact suggest running BRT _through_ the intersection of Lawrence and Brimley, only _to_ this intersection. If your goals are to get to STC and to avoid subway construction, crossing the intersection to continue along the hydro corridor towards McCowan is not a great idea considering the subway construction planned along McCowan.

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  15. “The Scarborough Subway is a Doug Ford show all the way…”

    Very true. But there is an election coming next year. Deo volente, Doug Ford will no longer be premier and we will have a Liberal government at Queen’s Park next year. I keep having this recurring fantasy where rationality and common sense suddenly take hold and next year a newly-elected Liberal government looks at the ballooning price tag and cancels the SSE.

    Yes, I know. Silly Kevin, believing that people will suddenly start believing in arithmetic. In reality, even a Liberal government will be getting political pressure from The Usual Suspects in Scarborough to keep flushing billions of dollars down the SSE toilet.

    Which all goes to show that Sir Winston Churchill was right. Democracy is a lousy form of government, because of the large number of people who are fundamentally irrational and/or immoral. The only thing that democracy has really got going for it is that the alternatives are worse.

    “Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…”

    Winston S Churchill, 11 November 1947

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  16. Moaz Ahmad wrote: “The Finch Hydro corridor busway crosses a railway crossing and makes awkward intersection crossings too.”

    Very true. It has a level crossing of the GO Barrie line and transit signal priority at the intersections with Tangiers Road and with Alness Street. It also carries a fraction of the demand that Metrolinx has forecasted for the SSE corridor in the 2023-2031 time frame.

    The number of buses required to carry that demand makes a level crossing infeasible for a Gatineau hydro corridor BRT going through the intersection of Lawrence and Brimley.

    If you reply that the Metrolinx demand forecast was estimated on the high end in order to justify the SSE, then I will not argue with you. Pick your own demand forecast. God knows there are enough of them! If that demand forecast is from a reputable source, try to figure out how to make a level crossing work pushing through that many buses without severely impairing all other traffic on Lawrence and Brimley. Hint: The arithmetic just does not work out.

    Of course, it is possible to build a bridge or tunnel. At massive cost for a temporary structure that will not be used when the SSE is completed.

    As Steve correctly wrote in his article, a BRT route from Lawrence to Kennedy Station makes sense. As Steve has also wrote many, many times in response to Hamish and others, there are serious problems with operating public transit vehicles in the Gatineau hydro corridor that render such proposals infeasible.

    Steve: The TTC’s planned BRT capacity of 3,800/hour and this requires a 75 second headway both ways, assuming standard-sized buses with pre-pandemic loading standards. Even if the service were operated with artics, the headway would still be under two minutes. There is no way that buses could get anywhere near the projected future corridor demand of 8,000 or more/hour.

    The service design has many routes that feed into STC through-routed to Kennedy Station. This will relieve STC of the overhead of much transfer traffic, but this does not eliminate issues along the way with all those buses on whatever streets are used. Shifting the BRT traffic off of, say, the Kennedy-Eglinton intersection will certainly help, but Kennedy Station’s bus loop is going to be very congested.

    So much effort and resources will be expended on making the BRT work that there is a danger the need for travel anywhere else in Scarborough may be ignored, although this is a not new problem.

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  17. What will be the cost of maintaining the structure. More wear and tear because of the friction on the structure with buses and maintenance downtime from things like snow removal or weather conditions. Are there safety measures that match those of a train or the increased chance of human error due to the singular control of a bus versus the automation of a full train system. There is also the increasing cost of drivers and maintenance workers. Train maintenance crews are usually smaller than road maintenance crews.

    With the continued lower ridership due to the lockdown or fear of being in closed public spaces how will these changes be justified? Is this all just a way that the province is trying to inflate job numbers and not deal with fixing the other existing roots? Why has there not been an in depth analysis of how to gain rider confidence and have incentives to use the transit systems.

    Why is there a decrease and lack of buses on the current roots? This is an increasing concern since the working class still have to get to work to get to factory jobs, service workers or even grocery jobs and there is an increasing need for more buses so that people can socially distance safely. The routes like Jane Street, Victoria Park or Markham Road are all prime examples of this lack of ability to create a proper solution to the ‘new norm’.

    There is also a need of new blood in the governing body of the transit system. People who use the system should be on the board. They have a real view of the problems and should have more of a say of how this affects them and their fellow riders.

    I have many other concerns about the transit system and how it is run and these can be held for another time.

    Steve: The structure would not be used “as is”, but as a foundation for an expanded roadway with proper paving. It would be a two-lane road, and we have plenty of experience with that sort of thing. Yes, there will be operating costs, but these are less than the cost of keeping the SRT technology alive.

    There is definitely an issue with crowding on bus routes, and this would extend to any SRT replacement service, although to be fair it will not even begin operation until mid-2023. If we still have issues with transit and and covid-19 by then, there will be much bigger problems for transit and for the city overall.

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  18. I’m so sorry if this has been covered Steve… I just don’t understand why a suitable standard-gauge, high platform LRV/Streetcar that fits the Kennedy curve and the Ellesmere tunnel cannot be procured – with stringing up streetcar-like overhead catenary? What am I missing? So frustrated by Scarborough Transit!

    Steve: There is no such thing as a “suitable LRV” that fits the Ellesmere tunnel. Also, there are other locations including, but not only, stations where there would be clearance problems.

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  19. I remember Minister of Transportation Glen Murray offered Toronto a three stop subway extension for free. To ease the curve in the track, needed at Kennedy, he was going to tear down the existing station and re-build it. At the time, the SSE was going to cost the City $1.9 billion.

    City Council rejected the offer. Andy Byford pointed out that the budget didn’t include the cost of shuttle buses that would be needed. In reality the TTC engineers opposed making the turn at Kennedy, that is why the SSE costs $5 billion, it is as straight as possible and much longer than need be. Mayor Tory took this cue and insisted that the SRT must remain operational until the SSE is completed. This decision would add tremendous cost to the Lawrence East SmartTrack station and hence its cancellation.

    Glen Murray was a Liberal and offered Toronto a good deal. Two other Liberals used public transit for personal benefit, Sorbara’s property interests in the Vaughan subway extension and Del Duca’s finances in the Kirby GO station.

    Mike Harris, a Conservative, stopped construction of the Eglinton subway. Worse he cancelled provincial subsidies to TTC operational costs (all other cities in North America are subsidized). Ford has stated he is building the SSE in memory of his brother even though it costs $5 billion and serves 105,000 rides a day (about what Finch bus service carries). The Ontario Line will use odd ball technology. Orphan technology like UPX and SRT end badly.

    The City Manager, a city staff position also plays a role. Former City Manager Joe Pennachetti worked with Byford on the TTC’s version of the SSE against the LRT alternative. Former Manager, Peter Wallace, berated City Council for approving so many unfunded transit projects and wasteful city spending like paying for an SSE report but not releasing it to the public. Current Manager, Chris Murray, has decimated the public transit section of the City Planning Department so no strategic public transit plans can be developed.

    A sad history.

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  20. Does the narrow right of way of this corridor make it a good candidate for an Australian-style guided busway?

    Steve: Possibly, but I would prefer that we not mess with a new technology as a pre-requisite and just get on with using the southern portion asap. Definitely I would not want to see this attempted on the elevated section as the results of a “derailment” would be severe. Remember that we would be building this only for the period from roughly 2024 to 2030.

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  21. I’m very encouraged to see so many reader replies to this topic. It seems that Ford et al’s convictions that a square peg fits into a round hole are coming up against reality.

    Kevin Love writes: I keep having this recurring fantasy where rationality and common sense suddenly take hold and next year a newly-elected Liberal government looks at the ballooning price tag and cancels the SSE.

    I do too, and had given up hope, until realizing that the ‘square pegs’ have come up against reality. It’s not just incredible cost of the SSE at a time of diminishing transit need (even amidst the blue collar class), but that the alternatives to make this happen appear impossible, in so many ways.

    Steve writes: The TTC’s planned BRT capacity of 3,800/hour and this requires a 75 second headway both ways, assuming standard-sized buses with pre-pandemic loading standards. Even if the service were operated with artics, the headway would still be under two minutes. There is no way that buses could get anywhere near the projected future corridor demand of 8,000 or more/hour.

    Imminent Calamity has Political Peril as a cohort. And Groundswell isn’t a construction consortium. Ford’s inertia to climb the hill of his own making is starting to slip.

    Many excellent posts!

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  22. <blockquote>Chris writes: Does the narrow right of way of this corridor make it a good candidate for an Australian-style guided busway?

    Even if clearances allowed (and similar has been done in the UK and at least one of the Scans) at best, it’s a fair weather solution, and at least one of those from memory has been converted to LRT.

    Steve is right about it being (gist) ‘untested technology’…I realized after posting a suggestion for adding a third rail shoe on LRTs with a lowered pantograph that it would entail all sorts of expensive and potentially problematic tinkering, as if the SRT hasn’t seen enough over the years.

    Even for a short-term investment, I see a busway being problematic.

    I have growing faith that the absurdity of the SSE and a massive uprising of Scarberians with scabbards unleashed might force a rehash of previous decisions.

    By investment standards, a new long-term rebuild of the SRT, with some new tunnels and connections still makes the most sense.

    Steve: That ship will sail (or maybe something like a horse a wagon would be more appropriate) the moment Ontario awards the SSE tunneling contract, supposedly this spring.

    I still prefer the LRT alternative to avoid the need for separate carhouses for the SLRT and the Eglinton East extension.

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  23. Dear TTC Commissioners:

    I have a number of questions about the proposed closure of the Scarborough SRT line which I’d like to ask you:

    1. Have the TTC estimated the amount of green house gases and traffic congestion which would be created by a fleet of buses deputizing for retired SRT vehicles?
    2. Noting by 2023 that although the SRT vehicles will have reached the end of their fatigue lives, the track bed, stations and electrified third rail will still be intact. Have the TTC assessed whether light rail vehicles (LRV’s) could use this valuable infrastructure?
    3. After all, there are LRV’s presently in service which have high level boarding and use standard gauge tracks (4’ 8-1/2”). The Bombardier M5000 streetcars used by Manchester Metrolink in the UK is such an example.
    4. Have the TTC reviewed whether streetcars such as these could run on the SRT? Could they negotiate the (existing) horizontal and vertical curves of the line and switches? Would they be compatible with the platform heights above top of rail? Where are the side door apertures in relation to the edges of the platforms? Could they be adapted to operate with third rail current collectors?
    5. If not, could the existing third rail current collection system used on the line be removed and replaced instead by an overhead catenary operating at 750 V DC? Do electrical clearances with existing overhead structures permit this (more expensive) approach?

    Before yet more traffic congestion with the attendant green house gas emissions is created, I ask that the Commission carefully study whether there are LRV’s on the market which could use the existing infrastructure of the Scarborough Rapid Transit Line, a line which has served the north-east corner of the city well.

    Yours truly,
    I.A.Johns P.Eng.

    Steve: I am not a member of the Board, but I will answer a few of your questions, to a point.

    1. Depending on when the TTC buys more buses, they could very well be electric buses, not hybrids, and they certainly won’t be diesels. Your point about traffic congestion is well taken, and is a good reason to shift the BRT operation as much as possible off of congested streets and particularly on the approach to Kennedy Station.
    2. The TTC conducted a study in 2006 on the future of the SRT, and I reported on this at the time. My article includes links to the study which I recently scanned for reference as the original link to the City of Toronto site is now dead. There are basic problems with any replacement mode. Specifically for LRT, the tunnel at Ellesmere must be rebuilt because it is not high enough (let alone wide enough) for a taller car, let alone one using overhead power collection. There are also issues with the elevated structure from there to McCowan, among other things. The conversion is doable and was estimated to require three years. Note that this was during an era when exaggerating this time was not an imperative of making the subway alternative look as appetizing as possible.
    3 & 4. Although there are high floor LRVs, they probably have higher floors than the existing platforms which were designed for the SRT cars. Also, they are wider and this would require platform modifications. Another issue at stations is that they are not accessible except at Kennedy and STC. Original plans called for the SSE to open in the same timeframe as accessibility requirements kicked in, but that is no longer the case. Any permanent conversion to LRT would require an accessibility retrofit.
    5. There would have to be a new power distribution arrangement because the SRT uses ±300VDC while any new LRVs would probably be at 750VDC, the standard for new LRT lines in Toronto. There would definitely be clearance issues at the Ellemere tunnel, but also probably in some of the stations that were designed for the lower RT profile rather than for LRVs and overhead.

    If the option were to replace the subway with something else, then LRT makes the most sense in the context of a future Scarborough where there would also be an Eglinton East line that could share the carhouse with the SLRT. The 2006 report predates Transit City, and so the economy of scale for having only one technology was not a factor in the evaluation at the time. Please read the 2006 report.

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  24. If the tunnel at Ellesmere is too narrow for a light rail, it would definitely be too NARROW for a bus. Most modern full size buses needs wider real estate for allow for bus sway and manoeuvring at at very SLOW speed.

    Convert it to a bicycle highway instead.

    Steve: That could well be done for the northern part of the line with cyclists shifting over to the Hydro corridor south of Lawrence (the wide corridor ends just to the south of Lawrence East Station because there is a substation there). Save the SRT corridor from there to Kennedy Station for buses.

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  25. Anyone who has used the Eglinton bus routes through the LRT construction zone knows that it is not an efficient ride. So the conversion of all or part of the SRT to BRT makes excellent sense.

    Several contributor’s have made a case for the lower section (stage 1 – Kennedy to Lawrence) as a fairly straight forward conversion to BRT. Just for the simple (no construction delays) access to Kennedy during SSE construction this is worth the effort. As I see it there are two options here; carry the route north to Ellesmere and run a BRT ROW across Ellesmere, or use the Hydro ROW. Several colouring artists want to use the Hydro corridor to swing over to Brimley. Probably the most economical solution is to adapt Lawrence station to facilitate use of the BRT, leveraging the existing links to Lawrence. Transit priority for the left turn onto either Midland or Brimley would be fairly straight forward.

    Stage 2 (Lawrence to Ellesmere) is more constrained. Options exist to carry the BRT route north to Ellesmere; expropriate the needed width or “borrow” it from the GO rail corridor for the duration of the SSE construction.

    Stage 3 (Ellesmere to Midland) Due to the tunnel and raised ROW this section will be prohibitive to convert. Even if a single bus would fit the tunnel, this would become the choke point on the run.

    Stage 4 (Midland to STC) Due to elevation, again we are looking at an expensive conversion, however removal of the elevated ROW and replacement with a paved BRT ROW from Midland Ave to an interchange with Triton Rd after the SRT is shut down could shorten the run to STC and cut the overall trip time.

    Stage 5 (STC to McCowan) Two options exist here due to low ridership. Shuttle buses or keep the SRT running a one stop service till the cars finally die. It should be possible to keep smaller two car consists running by cannibalizing the rest of the fleet, until the SSE opens.

    The question becomes one of connections to STC. Is Ellesmere or Progress the best way into STC. Do you cut across Lawrence to Midland or Brimley? Which offers the shortest running time?

    So as a “plan” – Prior to the SRT closure, Marked BRT lanes on existing routes will have to work. Once the SRT is shut, immediate conversion of the section from Kennedy to the Lawrence gives easy access to Kennedy station. Transit signal priority for left turns onto Midland or Brimley would give you a construction free run. Adding the converted stage 4 section might speed the routing if Midland is the route chosen. How cost effective would this be is the main question, if it is even possible – that is a tight section.

    Additionally, the TTC/Metrolinx needs to undertake a study of ridership patterns along the STC now. As Steve often points out, not everyone wants to go to Kennedy station and head downtown. Would a BRT route from STC north to Sheppard, then west to Don Mills be of use? Would an express shuttle to Agincourt GO draw off ridership, if GO set the Agincourt to Union fare at TTC levels for the duration of the SSE’s construction? Is there a “Better Way”?

    Steve: I think you get a bit carried away with your staging plan although your observations, especially about riders who are not part of the STC to Kennedy demand, are valid. Assuming that the SSE will hit its opening date of 2030 and the earliest we can get something new in place of the SRT is early 2024 (assuming the SRT shuts down mid-2023), then there are diminishing returns for any work that will take substantial time and incur substantial cost. Anything that is built should be cheap enough to be treated as an eventual throwaway (just as the York U Busway was intended). There is also a desire among some in Scarborough to repurpose the elevated structure, and so tearing it down to make way for a bus roadway might encounter opposition.

    As for an STC to McCowan shuttle. No. That would require keeping the maintenance facility and a minimal fleet operating for a relatively unimportant part of the line. It’s toast unless there is an extension, LRT of course 😉 , to Malvern.

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  26. “There is no way that buses could get anywhere near the projected future corridor demand of 8,000 or more/hour.”

    Yes they can, but the cost is insanely prohibitive for what is intended as a mere temporary stopgap for 2024-2031. Chris has already mentioned the guided busway in Adelaide, Australia. I see that this has a capacity of 18,000 passengers per hour. Source is page 11 at this Metrolinx backgrounder.

    Not only would the cost be insanely high, but this would be a piece of “orphan” technology that exists nowhere else in Toronto. As the SRT vividly demonstrated, such “orphan” technology is a Very Bad Idea.

    Steve: Could we have just a teensy bit of a reality check here? What Metrolinx might claim and what actually happens are quite different things. The line in Adelaide carries a tad over 30k riders per day, and it certainly is not going to have a peak hour capacity of 18k. In theory? Well assume we are dealing with larger than usual buses with a service design capacity of 100. That requires 180 buses per hour, or one every 20 seconds. Given the capabilities of automated control that might actually happen, but life gets really interesting when you come to a station, let alone a terminus. Frankly I am fed up with huge capacity claims for various modes (including ATC on a basic subway line) that do not take station, terminal and interchange operations into account.

    Anyone following the link to that Metrolinx backgrounder may also want to look at the subway capacity on page 7. At 25,000-40,000 passengers per hour capacity, a subway has far, far too much capacity for forecasted demand. As has been said over and over again by Steve and anyone else with transit knowledge, the SSE is a multi-billion dollar boondoggle. It delivers far too much capacity, will take forever to build and comes to an abrupt end at Scarborough Town Centre. The rational solution is to build the Scarborough Malvern LRT to provide service all the way to Malvern at a fraction of the cost and time to build.

    Steve: I should also mention that Metrolinx cites daily passenger counts on various lines/modes. These are utterly meaningless out of the context of each line’s characteristics including uni/bi-directional demand, off peak attractions, service levels and their role in a wider network. The Coxwell bus carries fewer passengers than the Finch bus because the route is much shorter, and the Coxwell bus does not run as often, just for starters. That has nothing to do with the technology.

    There are similar problems with talking about passengers per day on the King car without recognizing that it is really three or four overlapping routes from a demand perspective, and it has strong off-peak demand and good service.

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  27. I’d thought of guided buses as a potential solution to some of the dynamic envelope issues, too. But knowing Ontario, we’d manage to come up with some unique system that costs 50% more, and only works half as well…

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  28. Assuming there is no room to fit two bus lanes from Lawrence to Ellesmere, what would be wrong with a single reversible bus road along the lines of the Jarvis St. centre lane. It could run southbound during the AM hours and northbound during the PM hours (perhaps the switch could happen around 2pm). So a bus heading southbound at 9 am from STC would run west along Ellesmere, use the single lane bus road to Lawrence and then the two lane bus road to Kennedy Station. A northbound 9am bus would use the two lane bus road to Lawrence and then use Midland instead of the single lane bus road. This would be simple and temporary without the use of the elevated section. Ellesmere and Midland could have bus-only curb lanes with transit signal priority. It would lessen, but not eliminate, the impact on residential areas.

    Steve: Yes, in a pinch, so to speak, that could work too.

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  29. The platform height of the Manchester M5000 cars is 900 mms whereas the SRT floor height is 778 mms.

    Ian Johns

    Steve: I should also mention that it’s not just a case of realigning the platform to whatever vehicle will serve it, but of changing the stair and escalator landings to match.

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  30. I came across a copy of Engineering and Construction of Jan 1971 which has an article by Norman D. Lea titled ‘Transportation corridors’. He’s stressing how it’s wise to think of linear corridors even without less apparent immediate demand, and ‘reserving wide corridors in and between existing centres and, perhaps, even along routes for which there is now no apparent transportation demand, and by planning for them to accommodate modes of transport as different from each other as electric transmission lines, freight capsule pipelines and automated guideways.” Of most note to me is the transmission lines reference and yup, that the Gatineau, which I strongly believe is the key, eventually to superior transit through most of Scarborough, for relatively modest cost, comparatively. (Yes, there may well be some cost to some parts of it, but where there’s a will there’s a way, and one bridge/construct at say $400M – picking a number – is 1/10th of $4 billion, let alone $6B of the SSE as a guesstimate.

    Also quite important to me at least is how the Gatineau is centred within many Scarborough Neighbourhood Improvement Areas, and if it could mean faster trips to where-ever, as well as letting express buses from say Eglinton/Vic Park zoom to UTSC/Centennial, great!

    As for biking, might be a far better and smarter thing to dust off the 2001 Bike Plan and do all of it rather than focussing only on a ‘highline’ of an unused linear corridor. Paint-only bike lanes as proposed might be $10M as a guess c. $30,000 a km for laneline repaintings, and with e-bikes blossoming, we can have much better mobilities within all of Scarborough for some, but it needs to be safer than it is now, and bike lanes are also a form of traffic calmings.

    Steve: A typo in the original version of this comment which referred to “now apparent transportation demand” has been corrected to “now no apparent …” at Hamish’s request.

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  31. My friend Hamish wrote about:

    “…the Gatineau, which I strongly believe is the key, eventually to superior transit through most of Scarborough, for relatively modest cost, comparatively.”

    No it is not, for the reasons that Steve and I have repeatedly mentioned here. But I think that I have figured out why you keep bringing it up. That is because the things that make the Gatineau hydro corridor unsuitable for the operation of TTC vehicles pose no problem to it being a very effective route for mass transportation cycling. So let’s look at those.

    1. No local demand because nobody lives on the Gatineau hydro corridor. This is a “last kilometer issue.” Nobody lives on the Gatineau hydro corridor, and it is quite a long walk from where anybody would live in any of the nearby communities to get to any potential Gatineau transit stop. But on a bicycle, that is not an issue. A bicycle is a vehicle that travels door-to-door at a planning speed of 20 km/hr. I ask everyone to restrain themselves who is now about to write, “But I can ride faster than 20 km/hr.” No doubt you can ride faster than 20 km/hr, but “planning speed” is the 8 – 80 speed. Dutch grandmothers ride at 20 km/hr.

    At 20 km/hr, one kilometer takes 3 minutes. Which would be a typical time to ride to the Gatineau corridor from one of the residential neighbourhoods next to the corridor.

    2. No major traffic origins/destinations on the Gatineau hydro corridor (GHC). There are plenty of major traffic origins/destinations that are nearby the GHC. For example, Kennedy Subway Station is 1.2 km south of the GHC. A major industrial employment area is along the existing SRT tracks north of the GHC. Scarborough General Hospital is right next to the GHC. And Scarborough Town Centre is 2 km north of the GHC. Again, those are just a few minutes on a bike, but forever to walk.

    Conclusion: The Gatineau hydro corridor has the potential to form a major component of a bicycle transportation system. But not a public transit system because of the issue of getting people from the transit vehicle to their homes and destinations.

    Cycling does have a role to play in mitigating the transportation chaos after SRT shuts down in 2023. I will comment further on this, but will warn that neither cycling nor anything else will be a “golden bullet” that prevents a severely impaired transportation system in 2023 when the SRT shuts down.

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  32. No local demand because nobody lives on the Gatineau hydro corridor.

    Nobody lives on the York University busway but nevertheless it was a useful bus corridor for getting from where people were to where people were going. The advantage of buses in this case is they can drive on the busway express and with no traffic holding them up, and _then_ go to places where people want to go. Are there such origins/destinations in Scarborough? I don’t know the area well enough to comment.

    Steve: An important issue with the York U Busway is that it connects two points that generated very strong demand before the subway extension opened. The demand pattern in Scarborough is more diffuse. An important point about the Gatineau corridor is the distinction between using it as an SRT replacement rather than a wider role across Scarborough.

    The corridor runs more east-west than north-south and only covers part of the distance between STC and Kennedy Stn.

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  33. Well, thanks, but I will continue to suggest that this GTH is key to improving much Scarborough transit. It’s a rather large area; but this GTH intersects virtually all N/S corridors in the east, and can link well with Eglinton LRT etc at Golden Mile/Vic Park in the west. Stops within the GTH seem pretty unwise to stupid of course, but from major road to major road will be faster, and it’s not only off-road to speed transit, but it’s on the diagonal, an inherent shortcut. And if parts are built, it could be that near-express route to UTSC/Centennial from either Eglinton/VP or the end of line, if one looks at a map of it all, and of note/import to me is that many of the NIAs in Scarborough are aligned with GTH, so surely faster transit is an equitable support measure?

    I won’t agree so much with Kevin that biking is the fix for Scarborough as it’s fairly large and until that 2001 Bike Plan is done, and speeds reduced, it’s less-OK. But bikes are, or would be, very good for solving that first/last-mile issue to enhance catchment to the GHC stops, and I don’t see why Kevin doesn’t mention it. The blossoming of e-bikes may well make it an even greater catchment area, though some of these e-bikes are waay too fast/heavy for some cyclists and if on sidewalks, totally Wrong.

    My sense is that we need far more sub-regional transit, and we need to squeeze the billions and now there’s a real gap, not just in the planning/politicians, but in the service provided.

    Ignoring what this corridor could provide, (though it would need some real limitation to only be for transit, with clean buses), is more folly. The ‘planning’ of trans*it here is such that I’m not so convinced it can be looked at with good enough integrity however, even though there would have to be some larger expenditures and concrete pouring for the vehicles. It’d be a far wiser use of $$ than the SSE, and should be possible to have it built in a quick time, if we were a bit smart about it, and wanted to squeeze the billions for smarter use elsewhere, including Hamilton.

    I do see, and have seen a way to connect the GTH over to Thorncliffe, and via Thorncliffe in a mostly surface faster route to the near-core via Don Valley, one facility or another. By doing so, there’s a Relief function, though likely a transfer to a heavier mode at Thorncliffe, especially needed if we made connection as per last OP of Metro to the GO near Eglinton/Don Mills. So we could have more-surface-oriented newer network leg, and it could be a real value for dollar, in the triage that may be needed, both for network and climate. But mostly surface, some bridge and tunnel may be required, but that’s part of the transit theatre, I mean process, isn’t it? ‘Tis Moronto, so maybe we’ll; see — some studies….which would be a start.

    Steve: OK. Now we’re miles away from an SRT replacement, and I would like to end this Gatineau sidebar here. I’m not going to repeat my comments about problems with Hamish’s proposal or reopen that debate.

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  34. The work to convert it to BRT beyond Lawrence sounds almost as difficult as an LRT conversion.

    I wonder if Council support for an LRT conversion could be found by positioning it as an add-on/quick win for the Eglinton East LRT, and complementary to the politically-decreed subway?

    You’d use the same vehicle as the Crosstown, as an add-on to the existing vehicle orders to avoid delivery delays, and they are standard gauge and have known specifications.

    Stage 1 would be the conversion of the existing SRT, including power system, replacing the turn into Kennedy with a N-S platform, rebuilding the other platforms and expanding the tunnel.

    Stage 2 would extend it along the 1992 SRT Malvern extension route by Centennial College to Sheppard, then up to Malvern Town Centre.

    Stage 3 would be linking with the Eglinton East LRT when it makes it to Malvern.

    You’d take advantage of the capacity increase from the EE bus priority lanes to push the LRT work on Eglinton back, and then schedule/fund the RT conversion as the first stage of the EELRT.

    I feel like there’s a narrative there that avoids poking the SSE bear, ties into an existing Council-approved project, avoids asking certain councillors to vote to build more priority bus lanes, and minimizes the time spent running and riding shuttle buses.

    Steve: I think that the SSE bear has already been poked, and it appears to still be alive with a tender call for tunnelling already in progress. Your proposal is not much different from simply doing the LRT conversion, and that is absolutely beyond what Council would approve. An important point, by the way, is that the new carhouse at Bellamy for the SLRT is beyond the current line, and so work would have to begin on this part of the extension asap so it would be available when the rest of the line’s conversion finished. Current plans, however, will see a carhouse on Morningside north of UTSC, and we don’t need two of them.

    There is no point in building an LRT in the SRT corridor unless we are going to ditch the subway plan. If you can figure out how to slay that dragon (mixing our animal metaphors), good luck to you.

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  35. Steve said: I think that the SSE bear has already been poked, and it appears to still be alive with a tender call for tunnelling already in progress. Your proposal is not much different from simply doing the LRT conversion, and that is absolutely beyond what Council would approve. An important point, by the way, is that the new carhouse at Bellamy for the SLRT is beyond the current line, and so work would have to begin on this part of the extension asap so it would be available when the rest of the line’s conversion finished. Current plans, however, will see a carhouse on Morningside north of UTSC, and we don’t need two of them.

    There is no point in building an LRT in the SRT corridor unless we are going to ditch the subway plan. If you can figure out how to slay that dragon (mixing our animal metaphors), good luck to you.

    Yep, I am essentially proposing the already studied SLRT route. I think the important point is repositioning it as part of the EELRT project, because that last bit is where we disagree.

    Too many politicians for too many years have committed to some type of Kennedy to STC subway, and they won’t cancel it no matter how bad its cost/benefits get or how far into the future it recedes.

    Yes, using the SRT corridor & extension for LRT (or BRT) would siphon off transfer ridership from any subway station that eventually gets built. But otherwise it serves different & more areas, by keeping station locations in the industrial zones, connecting to Centennial College, and providing a much faster route from Malvern (both in opening date and travel time). Could some extra space be squeezed out of McCowan Yard to hold trains until the EELRT with its Morningside yard gets built?

    If the subway’s unavoidable, why not do both (but SLRT first)?

    Steve: Because once a subway is a sure thing, no Council will commit money to the LRT line as well. We are already looking at maybe $6 billion for the subway, and another $2 or so for an LRT just takes things right off the charts. If LRT, then SLRT and Eglinton East, and I can even dream of Sheppard. But if that, then no subway. Politically that is an utter non-starter.

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  36. I’m no fan of the cost/benefit of the SSE, but the SRT has always struck me as a really bad route. Much of it goes through industrial areas. The grade separation bridges hinder foot traffic. It’s right in the middle of Kennedy and Midland so it’s not a good replacement for either buses. As I think Steve has put it, it’s basically just an STC shuttle. Things would have been different with the original SLRT plan, but that’s not what got built.

    If I could magically cancel the SSE, I wouldn’t necessarily want to further invest in the SRT route as is. I wonder if it has ever been considered to split it into it’s east/west and north/south components. Re-use the STC to Midland guideway and then continue the route westward along Ellesmere at grade. Remove Midland station which sees no ridership anyway, and replace Ellesmere station with a GO interchange which would help drive the needed GO ridership and justify higher GO frequencies. Ellesmere has significant pockets of density and is a busy bus. Lawrence East (SmartTrack) station could be brought back.

    I’m sure there would be billions of dollars left over for more transit in Scarborough like the Eglinton East LRT. You could extend this “Ellesmere LRT” East to interchange with the EELRT at UTSC.

    Other than the fantasy of cancelling SSE, is this a crazy idea? Otherwise I wonder why no one talks about it.

    Steve: The basic problem with any route from Kennedy Stn to STC is that there really isn’t much in between the two of significance.

    As for linking to GO, the fundamental problem is that GO simply is not the kind of service one would use to substitute for the RT. It is infrequent and GO is not planning to operate frequent stopping service to every station. There are already existing or planned stops at Finch, Sheppard and Eglinton. Adding one at Ellesmere assumes that you would be force feeding riders there as opposed to taking them into Agincourt or Finch stations directly without a transfer at STC. After all, STC is an artificial node that only exists because it’s a major transit interchange. Change the route structure and the passengers would vanish, especially those originating north of the 401.

    Remember also that about 40% of the peak period travel within Scarborough is NOT going downtown, and using GO as the backbone of a plan would disservice those trips.

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  37. I feel for so many people searching for a solution.

    Steve is as tired of my proposal as Wilson’s Gatineau line, (I held the record for “I would like to end this sidebar here.” but Wilson has beat it.). So, one more time …

    SmartTrack Reset.
    Operate simultaneously, three passenger trains (HFR, RER, EMU) on the Stouffville tracks as well as freight, after hours by modernizing the signal system and RER rolling stock.

    HFR-Via Rail service Peterborough to Union Station
    RER-GO service Lincolnville to Union Station
    EMU-SmartTrack Finch to Kipling

    Define SmartTrack Reset as EMU trains, 5 minute service, stations at Finch, Sheppard, Ellesmere, Lawrence and Kennedy down along the Lakeshore, diverted off at Eastern Ave to run under King St to meet the UPX and up the UPX line. 5 minute service attracts 308,000 daily rides at single fare [according to Eric Miller’s SmartTrack Report].

    Union Station’s anatomy is not built for frequent service trains, so we are forced to use King St.

    The UPX is a money losing sink hole but is EMU compatible, so this section becomes as much a financial bailout as a transit solution.

    The tracks will use modern ATC signaling so the RER trains will have to be replaced but the EMU and HFR equipment will be new purchase. Station platform height must be standard among all three HFR, RER and EMU. Platform gap width may be a challenge, not only among passenger trains but also for freight trains which may suggest retractable platforms or gauntlet tracks.

    To accommodate the different flow rates of the trains, stations should have three tracks as well as bypass sidings placed between the pair of tracks along the route. The middle track allows trains to pass in either direction.

    Upgrading the Stouffville line allows a reasonably isolated initiation for GO to modern signal systems.
    Union Station will have two tracks with elevated platforms for HFR and RER service. Only a short portion along the Lakeshore line will have to be modernized, not the whole network. GO will develop a body of expertise which it can roll out across the network.

    Steve: Much as I would like to shrug and say “not again”, I will raise some key points.

    Installing a new signal system on any part of the network forces upgrades to any equipment that will share the trackage such as Lakeshore East and the Weston and Milton corridors. You cannot have two separate signaling technologies managing the same lines. That’s how the TTC got into such a mess with their first attempt at ATC on Line 1. Also note that Metrolinx does not own the Milton corridor, and the probability that CPR would consent to this scheme is minuscule. Remember that any freight train traversing the CPR’s mainline through Toronto would need to handle the new signalling system on the branch of your service to Kipling Station.

    A five minute headway would dominate service on the shared corridors and there is already an issue with available track time there.

    The proposed shift from the rail corridor to Lakeshore/King at the Don River has echoes of some Relief Line proposals. The geometry would be tricky given that one would have to thread through not just GO trackage but also the Ontario Line which switches from surface to underground running west of the Don. There would be gradient issues making the switch east of East Harbour Station, and we already know that crossing under the Don requires a deep tunnel.

    From the Relief Line work, we know that King Street would be a challenging location due to underground utilities, and a downtown station would be deep into bedrock. You are silent on the location of stations downtown, and indeed on whether this line would supplement or replace the Ontario Line’s capacity. Do we really need two tunnels across the core? The junction station at King and Bathurst would be quite a challenge.

    The transition back to the Weston rail corridor would have problems too as there is little room to fit a portal into the existing right-of-way. This area is already constrained, and the proposed Liberty Village station was difficult to shoe-horn into the available space.

    There is also the question of combined service levels and their effect on neighbouring communities who are already up in arms over GO expansion and the Ontario Line.

    I am really fed up with grand plans like this that require not simple, incremental, changes, but a massive upheaval to technology and operations. We would wait years for them to be completed and go through a lot of expensive construction just to suit where the lines are drawn.

    Any alternative proposal should first deal with the rail network as it is and figure out how to best utilize the corridors. For example, a good case can be made that Metrolinx limited its own growth by aiming low at service frequencies in many places that are barely on the edge of “rapid transit” convenience. The travel time savings will be offset by potential wait times. That is one reason Eric Miller’s projections were so strong for a very frequent service.

    The whole RER process has been mired for years in the tug-of-war between the concept of regional and local service, and I don’t think that this debate has really been settled yet within Metrolinx. Their heart really is in longer journeys and the votes their masters count on lie there too.

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  38. So it’s complex, beyond the politics, to a host of technicalities, and what is the better fix to what Simon H observes Steve maybe saying that it’s basically a shuttle between STC and Kennedy? To limit our options for service-gap-filling is a major diss and time-stealer and we must be including a bit of the Gatineau in possible routes to at least have those express journeys go faster as well as limiting the incursions of transitways on the north-south streets. How? We seem averse to doing any splitting up of northbound and southbound trips on to different roads as one eg, and maybe – if 2-way is essential, the Gatineau can act as a shortcut between N/S roads as well as lightening the imposition of busways so one road doesn’t have to be so transformed to busway for such a long distance, in case a conversion of former SRT to busway doesn’t happen. And in this case it would be good to get a little pregnant with Gatineau as maybe that’s the way to a faster-done/fast route up to Malvern and UTSC and Centennial, just to think within Scarborough demands, which may not appreciate the centralizations of routes to a single shopping mall, which may be over-brittle like Union now is.

    As with many other ‘ideas’ however, it’s not necessarily ‘new’ – I’ve heard that Jack Layton was saying ‘Gatineau’ in mid-90s, and Steve’s site had a ‘nice’ old map of Davis-era usage. If it’s health worries about being under hydro lines, a gaussmeter on most transit vehicles might be instructive for our exposures.

    Squeezing the billions should be a concern for educators, parents, health care providers, etc. so in continuing to ignore the potential for transit in this wide, long, direct corridor vs multi-billion of another Suspect Subway Extension, It’s a gross disrespect to taxpayers and transit users everywhere. Good value and transit is the side I’m on; and much of this smells badly, though of course we need improved transit in Scarborough, but everywhere else too.

    And how wide is this Gatineau corridor anyways? 400 meters? 600? 350M Of course locals would be and should be nervous about possible transport usages ie. a road, but transitways should be easily done.

    Steve: For the segment of concern – STC to Kennedy Station – the Gatineau covers only the segment from Brimley westward, and does not address the problem of getting across the CN corridor. The SRT corridor exists today as a transit corridor between Lawrence and Eglinton, and it already has a road interchange at Lawrence East Station. At Kennedy it provides direct access without becoming entangled in traffic on Eglinton.

    Nobody ever said we are averse to splitting up the north-south trips. Indeed this has already been suggested in this thread as a way to deal with the narrow SRT corridor from Lawrence to Ellesmere – use it in the peak direction only. The corridor is completely grade separated and could operate non-stop over the 4km distance from Ellesmere to Eglinton. Lawrence East traffic could be served by feeding in a branch of the 54/954 service rather than forcing a transfer.

    Nobody has raised radiation levels under the hydro corridor as an issue. If that were a problem, then years of travel on the SRT, not to mention the York U busway, would have been a problem long before this.

    There are two separate issues here. Replacement of the SRT and provision of service generally within Scarborough. If we are talking about, in effect, a UTSC busway, then the Gatineau would get you to Ellesmere & Orton Park which is a decent distance. Service could feed in via Ellesmere fro UTSC and from Malvern via Nielson.

    However, it is not clear that this would serve all of the demand that now feeds into STC and hence to Kennedy while also improving local travel within Scarborough. There would be some distortion of the network to get routes onto the corridor (where there is little or no local demand or stops) rather than having them run on city streets where there are riders and destinations. I cannot help thinking of the Mississauga busway.

    The corridor varies in width generally between about 140 and 180 metres. This is easy to measure off of Google Maps. Not all of the corridor is available for a roadway, notably the location of existing hydro pylons, a few other structures along the way, and whatever we are going to leave for recreational uses. If we were to build such a road, it should include a cycle path, but there should also be pedestrian space that is not right beside a high-speed bus roadway.

    I do not agree that the Gatineau is an alternative for spending billions on a subway. It would be part of a network that could well still include an LRT line, but these things are not either-or decisions. That’s how we got to the SSE, the one line to rule them all, to solve every problem. If the SSE project somehow goes belly up, then obviously we should examine all of the options for moving people in Scarborough. But in the immediate future the problem is the SRT replacement, and a busway in the SRT corridor is a straightforward way to achieve this.

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  39. I hadn’t considered the artificial nature of STC being a transit node in my east/west north/south split of SRT route. Thanks for pointing that out Steve.

    I’m still holding out hope that GO service in urban areas eventually reaches frequency levels that are acceptable for local rapid transit trips. I don’t expect subway level frequencies, as I understand the network can’t support that, but 15 min bidirection frequency is compelling to me personally. I’ve used several bus routes over the years that were worse than that.

    It just feels like a waste if GO lines can’t help out in areas like Scarborough to fill out a network, as opposed to just focusing on a saviour line. Much of urban GO feels like it’s caught in a chicken and egg situation where the ridership doesn’t justify the service, and the service doesn’t create the ridership. I can’t help but look for ways to build out a network to generate ridership.

    GO system aside, I completely agree with Steve that in the meantime a busway at least connecting Kennedy to Lawrence is a great idea. I used to ride the YorkU express before the busway. That was absolutely horrible.

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  40. Instead of demolishing it, would it not be better to repair the bridges, stations, etc while at the same time converting it to LRT but NOT as a subway extension replacement, rather to replace the Eglinton East LRT extension to UTSC? I mean Kennedy station is much farther from UTSC than McCowan station. This would also solve the problem of yard space as the existing RT yard can be upgraded to serve new LRT vehicles.

    Steve: The route via Eglinton and Morningside is intended to do much more than serving UTSC. It is also intended to improve transit along Eglinton and Kingston Road. The original plan was to have a network of LRT lines: Sheppard East, the RT replacement running to Malvern, and the Eglinton/Kingston/Morningside route.

    The carhouse space at McCowan is too small for the fleet of LRVs that would be needed, although if the line ran through to UTSC, it could be served by the proposed carhouse north of the campus.

    As a general note to readers: This thread is not intended as a repository for a further debate over the LRT vs subway issue, and if it starts heading in that direction, I will shut down the comment thread.

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