Metrolinx’ Ill-Considered Don Valley Layover (Updated)

Metrolinx will be holding an online consultation on Tuesday, June 29, for its Don Valley Layover scheme. There is a lot of misinformation on this proposal coming from Metrolinx, but as with so many of their schemes, they are bulling ahead.

Full disclosure: I live immediately adjacent to the proposed storage and servicing facility on the east side of the Don River north of the Prince Edward Viaduct. I have a direct interest in the effect of Metrolinx plans and the effect they will have because of the potential for noise and light pollution.

First, it is important that readers understand Metrolinx plans and the supposed function of what they wish to build.

Updated June 29, 2021 at 8:00 am: Additional drawings regarding sound level measurements have been added as well as a commentary on peak versus averaged sound levels.

GO Transit New Facilities

The plans are part of the GO Transit New Track and Facilities scheme which includes new layover yards in various locations around the system. This plan already has Ministerial approval and could proceed at any time to detailed design and construction.

GO Transit plans two new facilities in what they broadly refer to as the Richmond Hill Corridor. The purpose of the two are sometimes confused in Metrolinx presentations with the result that the debate becomes tangled thanks to one plan’s being confused with the other.

As the corridor leaves Union Station, it runs along the north edge of the rail embankment and then swings north along the west side of the Don River. This corridor actually contains two separate railways as they then were.

  • One is the former Canadian National Bala Subdivision. This takes a meandering path north and is owned by Metrolinx to the point where it crosses the CN York Subdivision, the east-west freight route parallel to Highway 7. North of that junction the line is still owned by CN. The Richmond Hill GO service uses this route.
  • The other is the former Canadian Pacific Don Branch which linked Union Station to the CPR’s main line at the former Leaside Station. The line was abandoned decades ago for rail service, but it was bought by Metrolinx. It splits off from the rail line on the west side of the river roughly at Rosedale Valley Road, crosses to the east side, and runs beside the DVP to Pottery Road where it crosses on a high bridge.

The map below shows the corridor from the south end of the Don River (left) to Pottery Road (right). (For a high resolution version of this plan, click here.)

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TTC 2022 Service Plan Consultation

Updated June 28, 2021 at 6:10 pm:

The TTC has filled in some of the details on 51 Leslie, 88 South Leaside and 354 Lawrence East Night. See the individual sections of this article for details.

The TTC has launched public consultations for its 2022 Service Plan. This will be a difficult year in which ridership is expected, at best, to climb back to 75 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. Budgets will be tight because the transit system plans to be operating close to 100 per cent of is former service (building up gradually on the buses for January 2022, then streetcars and finally the subway) even though fare revenue will be at a lower level. The TTC recognizes that it needs to provide good service to attract riders back to the system.

For the week of June 4-11, boardings on each of the TTC’s networks by vehicle type are still below 50 per cent of January 2020 values:

  • Bus: 40%
  • Streetcar: 27%
  • Subway: 23%
  • Overall: 31%

Trip occupancy for buses is generally below the target level.

  • 4% of trips are over 50% full
  • 0.6% of trips are over 70% full
  • 0.3% of trips are over 80% full

An important distinction about crowding measurements is that as ridership recovers, a the definition of a “full” bus will rise from 25 riders today, to 35 and then to the “standard” full load of 51. Service levels and crowding in 2022 will be measured and allocated against this shifting target. In the short term, service will be provided at a crowding level below pre-pandemic times.

Crowding levels reported now are all day, all route, all week values, and they hide problem areas in the system. The TTC still does not break out reports on crowding or service quality by route, location or time of day. Their “On Time Departure Report” has not been updated in several years, and although there is still a link to it from the Customer Service page, the link is dead.

The 2018 Customer Charter is still linked and it includes a commitment, carried forward from the 2013 Charter:

Posting the performance of all surface routes on our website so you know how your route is performing.

One might ask why Rick Leary, the man Andy Byford hired to improve service, is incapable of producing reports of service quality beyond the extremely superficial level found in his monthly CEO’s Report. The TTC have detailed crowding data and use them internally, but do not publish them. As for on time performance or headway reliability, I have written extensively about problems with service quality and these metrics. Even though service is the top of riders’ desires, it is not reported by the TTC probably because the numbers would be too embarrassing.

This is a gaping hole in TTC Service – the absence of meaningful reporting and measurement of service quality as experienced by riders.

Although the TTC plans to return to 100 per cent service, this does not mean that the service patterns will match those of early 2020. Demand patterns have changed both in daily patterns (peaks or their absence) and location (heavier demand to suburban jobs in sectors where work from home is impossible). To the extent that peaks are smaller or non-existent, this works in the TTC’s favour by allowing a higher ratio of service hours to driving hours (buses spend less time, proportionately, going to and from garages). This also, of course, spreads out demand and can reduce crowding.

A new phenomenon is the early morning peak caused by commutes to jobs outside the core. This produces crowding even on some Blue Night Routes, and the TTC is looking at how this can be resolved.

There is a page on the TTC’s site including a link to a survey about planned changes including some new and revised routes, as well as the plan for route restructuring to accompany the opening of Line 5 Eglinton Crosstown. Tentatively, that line is expected to begin running on July 31, 2022 according to the TTC, but that is simply a planning target, not a hard date.

In this article, I have grouped the planned changes geographically to pull together information on related routes rather than numerically as they appear on the TTC’s site. I have also included information on some changes planned for later in 2021 to put the proposed 2022 route structure in context.

There is a separate consultation process launching soon regarding the future service design for the period between the shutdown of Line 3 Scarborough RT in mid 2023 and the opening of the Line 2 Scarborough extension in fall 2030.

There are three major components in the 2022 plan:

  • Optimize the network to match capacity with demand.
  • Restructure the network for the opening of 5 Eglinton Crosstown.
  • Modify the network to respond to customer requests, evolving demand patterns and new developments.

All maps in this article are from the TTC’s website.

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