Revised June 9, 2022: A section has been added at the end of the article based on the discussion at the Executive Committee meeting.
Two reports are on Toronto’s Executive Committee Agenda for June 8, 2022. Between them, they provide updates for various rapid transit projects around the city.
- Advancing City Priority Transit Expansion Projects – Eglinton East Light Rail Transit and Waterfront East Light Rail Transit
- Metrolinx Transit Expansion Projects – Second Quarter 2022
- A related report recently at Planning & Housing Committee: City-Initiated Zoning By-law Amendments to Implement Ontario Line – Final Report. Note that the recommendations in this report were amended to strip out two sections of land, notably the Osgoode Hall property, as well as some lands near East Harbour Station.
Rather than attempting a single, omnibus article covering all of the projects, I will break the review apart on a line-by-line basis. This is the first in a series of articles.
I will update this article if any further details come out in the Executive Committee meeting.
A Scarborough Network
Several projects over coming decades will change the transit map in Scarborough including the Line 2 Danforth Subway extension to Sheppard, the Line 4 Sheppard Subway extension to McCowan, the Durham-Scarborough BRT, GO service expansion on the Lakeshore East and Stouffville corridors, and the Eglinton East LRT.
Eglinton East LRT
This version of the plan has changed since the last report to Council on the subject. See Eglinton East & Waterfront LRT Updates for the December 2021 iteration.
- The EELRT as shown in this plan includes a leg west to McCowan where it would connect to the extended Lines 2 and 4. The report speaks of “the future transit hub at Sheppard and McCowan” [p. 7] and implies that plans for a subway extension east from McCowan have fallen off of the table.
- The planned Maintenance and Storage Facility (MSF) has shifted back to the site on Sheppard at Conlins originally proposed in Transit City. This would have been a joint carhouse for the Sheppard, Scarborough-Malvern and (possibly) Scarborough LRT lines. In the December 2021 report the MSF was to be near the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus (UTSC), but they now eye this land for development.
- The connection at Kennedy Station has been substantially modified to be on the surface east of the GO station. This is needed because the scheme to stack tunnels for the Line 2 extension and the EELRT proved unworkable.
- Because the EELRT will operate as a separate service from Line 5 Crosstown, it can operate with 50m trains compared to the 90m that Crosstown is built for. This reduces the space needed for stations, and allows the EELRT to stay on the surface through the Kingston Road & Morningside intersection where the original plan had an underpass.
- The northeastern terminus of the EELRT will be at Malvern Centre. The previous plan had an option of ending a first phase at UTSC with the inevitable question of whether a second phase would ever be built.
The “Distinct Service” Model
With the EELRT split off from the Crosstown Line 5, it will have its own fleet and service design that are no tied to requirements west of Kennedy Station. Two options for Kennedy terminal were considered:
- An at grade link with the EELRT swinging south out of the Eglinton Avenue median to terminate on the east side of the GO corridor.
- An elevated link that would rise from Eglinton and swing south to use the space now occupied by the Line 3 SRT station on the upper level.
The at grade option has an estimated cost saving of up to $650 million (2022$) compared to the elevated scheme, and it will not require demolition of properties along Eglinton. Travel time for the elevated option would be approximately 30 seconds shorter than the at grade option.
The fleet would be specific to the EELRT and would be designed to operate on steeper grades than the Line 5 trains. This would avoid the need for a new bridge over Highland Creek. The TTC is “assessing the market” for suitable vehicles, and the report cites examples used in “Kitchener-Waterloo, Edmonton, Calgary, Portland, and New Jersey”. The option of a separate fleet disentangles the EELRT from the Metrolinx consortium building and maintaining Line 5, and this could be a return to a “TTC” line after the business models used for the Crosstown and Ontario Line projects.
The Conlins MSF property can accommodate the needs of the “distinct” option to 2051 and beyond.
The projected cost, at a low level of design, is that the “distinct” model would run to $3.9 billion 2022$ for the Kennedy to Malvern portion, compared to about $6 billion for a through-routed design with Line 5 Crosstown.
The cost savings are mainly attributed to the alignment remaining at-grade along its entire length, using existing road infrastructure, requiring less property acquisition, and using shorter trains and platforms. [p. 10]
Construction would be faster with no grade separations, and the line could open “in the early or mid-2030s” or 3-to-4 years sooner than a Line 5 extension.
It is mildly amusing to see a simplified LRT proposal touting the benefits of at-grade construction with service scaled to likely demand, an argument that is usually fought over subway vs LRT proposals.
Planning is underway for a surface LRT east from Sheppard-McCowan Station.
City staff have initiated discussion with Metrolinx to begin planning for an at-grade EELRT interface with the SSE at Sheppard-McCowan Station. Subject to City Council approval of the recommendations in this report, City staff will continue planning with Metrolinx to identify a preferred EELRT interface design at Sheppard-McCowan Station and will submit a formal request in fall 2022 to the Metrolinx SSE project team to accommodate the design plans accordingly. [p. 11]
With the EELRT going across Highway 401, it is important that infrastructure capable of handling an LRT line is in place. The Province plans to rehab the Morningside Bridges at Highway 401 in 2025, and they will incorporate EELRT requirements into this project.
Public consultation for the EELRT would take place in 2023Q1 with an updated status report to Council in Q3.
Kennedy Station Options
The drawing below shows the original proposal for both the SSE and EELRT to be underground at Kennedy. The two tunnels (SSE in black, EELRT in red) would have run side-by-side, although at different elevations, but would be on top of each other as the EELRT swung into the middle of Eglinton Avenue and surfaced. Note that the Midland Station on the EELRT would be underground in this scheme.
There are several points where structures are too close together either tunnel-to-tunnel, or tunnel adjacent objects.
Two “families” of options, one at grade (blue) and one elevated (red) were examined (left diagram below) and the best of each was reviewed in more detail to compare them (right diagram below).
The at grade option has a surface station at Midland with a three-track section to the east. This is to provide storage that would not be available at Kennedy Station where the surface LRT dead-ends east of the GO corridor. The LRT would swing south from Eglinton into its own corridor, and the station at Kennedy would connect into an existing underpass.
The elevated alignment would swing to the north side of Eglinton and serve Midland with an elevated station on the northeast corner of that intersection. The line would climb further and its Kennedy Station platform would be roughly where the existing SRT platform is today. Tail tracks beyond the station would provide for train storage.
Notes from the Executive Committee Meeting
Several people gave deputations at the meeting with a focus on the proposed 25-metre long LRVs for the “distinct” option of the EELRT, and more generally on the speed and capacity of the future line.
Although the report discusses the reasoning behind the change from 30m to 25m vehicles, it does not do so with worked examples, and there was no staff presentation to illuminate the issue.
The problem originates in a design change made by Metrolinx in the design at Kennedy Station. When the line would have had through running to STC via an LRT replacement for the SRT, the Eglinton Crosstown LRT was to be at the same depth as the existing subway with a common mezzanine above for transfers between the two lines. With the decision to extend the subway, the Crosstown’s elevation was changed to be at mezzanine level to reduce the cost of excavation for the new station.
If the EELRT was to through-run with the Crosstown, it would have to cross under the GO corridor just above, but to the north of the subway tunnel. The geometry of the situation was such that the EELRT, instead of surfacing east of Kennedy Station, would have to run underground through a Midland Station and then rise to the surface.
The subway tunnel was not designed by Metrolinx to carry the load of an LRT line immediately above it, and there were also clearance problems with the southeastern abutment of the Eglinton Avenue bridge over the GO corridor. The lack of a joint tunnel design for the two services says something about the lack of commitment to project integration.
The revised scheme keeps the LRT line on the surface saving the cost of a tunnel from east of Midland to Kennedy, but the surface terminal imposes space constraints of its own. The diagram below (which also appears earlier in the article) shows the layout. Key areas are:
- the platform at Kennedy Stn (left image, in red)
- the crossover track east of the platform
- a stopping areas between the crossover and Eglinton Avenue and west of Midland (orange) Midland
- station platforms at Midland and at Falmouth (red)
- the storage track between Midland and Falmouth stations
Each of the areas listed above must be able to hold a train. Stations obviously are sized for the trains, but with the crossing from centre-running west of Midland into the station area, a train must be able to stop on either side of that crossing without blocking traffic.
There is not enough room for these areas to be 90m long, particularly in the section west of Midland.
At other locations on the route, the use of shorter trains will likely simplify the station layouts, notably at UTSC and at Kingston Road/Morningside where some underground construction was part of the original plan. It would be worthwhile for City staff to illustrate what design changes are enabled by use of shorter trains.
The shorter trains obviously will carry fewer riders per train than the 90m trains planned for the Crosstown. The real question is whether they will be able to handle future demand. Scarborough RT riders suffered for years from the limitations of the SRT fleet which constrained the line’s capacity. The technology could have carried more riders, but the fleet limited the amount of service. As it aged and trains became less reliable, the number available for service dwindled with nothing to replace them. The last thing we need on the EELRT is a service that is fleet-constrained for capacity.
The City’s report speaks of a five minute headway of two-car trains, in other words 12 trains, or 24 cars per hour. What is not at all clear is whether this is a maximum, or whether the surface configuration and priority signalling will be able to handle more frequent service, say every 3 minutes or 20 trains per hour. This would inevitably present more opportunities for conflict with other road traffic because the LRT would require priority at intersections more often. This will also affect future fleet size and carhouse space requirements.
A related issue is the service design on the Malvern leg of the route. Assuming that the full proposal west to Sheppard/McCowan station is built, there will be a desire for through service to Malvern from both the western and southern lines (i.e. from both the Line 4 terminus at McCowan and from UTSC). Such an operation could pose limitations on the service level on each branch because they would have to merge for the run to Malvern.
Some deputants spoke of the 25m cars as if they were some sort of experiment, yet another generation of the SRT folly imposed on Scarborough. Manufacturers commonly produce their products in varying lengths (and widths) to suit local needs. The real concern will be whether Toronto might face a significant price penalty for a small order of vehicles, especially as future add-ons to the fleet. However, to give the impression that the shorter car is somehow experimental misrepresents the actual state of the LRV industry.
Service capacity is determined by the space on a vehicle and the number of vehicles per hour. Problems commonly emerge in debates comparing vehicles and technology because there are three ways possible loads are calculated:
- Crush capacity: This is the maximum number of people who can be jammed onto a vehicle, and it is not unusual to see this used by vendors. It is totally impractical for day to day operations because this leaves no circulation space, and can lead to very long dwell times at stations. (Note that if trains are packed, it is likely that the same condition exists on platforms and passengers movement to/from trains is difficult.)
- Peak capacity: This is somewhat less than the crush level and might be thought of as comfortably full. This is the level that service should reach at peak-within-peak conditions from surge loads or after delays, but it cannot be sustained for extended periods both for comfort and dwell times.
- Service design capacity: This is an average load on which service levels are designed. Typically this leaves room in vehicles for circulation, although pinch points within vehicles could be problem areas.
The TTC service design capacities (from their Service Standards at p. 10) are:
- 30m streetcar: 130
- 12m standard low floor bus: 50
- 18m articulated low floor bus: 77
An important distinction between buses and rail vehicles is that the latter tend to have more standee space and can handle a higher load in peaks than buses relative to the service design values.
Scaling from the streetcar value, a 25m LRV would hold about 110 passengers for the purpose of service design.
A service of 12 two-car trains per hour would have a design capacity of about 2,600 per hour. If headways were reduced to 3 minutes, or 20 trains per hour, the capacity goes up to 4,400.
The EELRT corridor is now served by four routes: 86 Scarborough, 986 Scarborough Express, 116 Morningside, and 905 Eglinton East Express.
Here are the current AM peak service levels for these routes, as well as the January 2020 pre-covid levels.
|Route||2022 Hdwy||Veh/Hr||Cap||2020 Hdwy||Veh/Hr||Cap|
|905 Eglinton East Express||9’15”||6.5||325||10’00”||6||300|
|986 Scarborough Express||6’00”||10||500||5’00”||12||600|
A planned EELRT service capacity of 2,600/hour is only modestly higher than that provided by the four bus routes in January 2020. It is not clear whether all bus service in the corridor would be replaced by the LRT and what would happen with routes that branch off such as 86/986.
According to the Business Case for the EELRT, travel times for buses in reserved (red) lanes and LRT will be similar. This is not a ringing endorsement of LRT. The Business Case notes that the bus values are based on covid-era travel times and may be higher when traffic returns to normal.
In previous articles, I have reviewed the effects of both the covid era and the red lane implementation on travel times for 86 Scarborough and 116 Morningside. These were routes where implementation of reserved lanes was comparatively easy because they were already in place during peak periods for part of these routes.
There was a drop in travel times at the onset of covid (early 2020) and again when the red lanes went into effect in fall 2020. However, the latter change also included some stop eliminations and so the effect is not strictly due to the red lanes. The effect at the time, and the behaviour of the routes over the past two years varies with direction and time of day, but there is little sign of a return to congested conditions spilling over on this route up to May 2022.
An important issue in BRT vs LRT comparisons will be whether the BRT values are based on express (906/986) or local (86/116) operations as the LRT will run local. Also, if any new transfer connections are added compared to existing routes, this will affect end-to-end travel time for some trips. A more detailed review of travel time benefits by route segment, direction and time of day is required.