Metrolinx Benefits Case Analysis for the Richmond Hill Subway

Metrolinx has published a study of the proposed subway extension to Richmond Hill updating a Benefits Case Analysis done in 2009.  The new report is dated May 2013, but it has only recently been publicly released.

Background information in the study gives an indication of the demand challenges facing the transit network in coming decades.  The study itself shows many of the shortcomings of Metrolinx analyses in the selective use of information and limited scope of alternatives comparison.

The study looks at four options for the Richmond Hill line:

  • A Base Case assuming substantial additions to existing subway capacity, leaving things as they are with buses serving the existing terminal at Finch Station.
  • Option 1: Full subway extension to Richmond Hill Centre close to the existing GO station.
  • Option 2: A two-stop subway extension to Steeles with buses serving the area beyond.
  • Option 2A: A Steeles subway extension accompanied by improved GO service on the Richmond Hill corridor.

Notable by its absence is an option of both a full subway line to Richmond Hill and improved GO service or any analysis of how demand would divide between the two routes.

The study notes that the Metrolinx Board, in response to earlier analyses, requested additional information:

  • Possible adjustments in project scope, timing or phasing;
  • Consideration of the extent to which improved service levels on the parallel GO Richmond Hill rail corridor off-loads some of the demand on the Yonge Street subway; and
  • The cost impacts of the various options on the subway yards strategy, Yonge-Bloor subway station improvements, and a future Downtown Relief Line to bypass the Yonge-Bloor congestion pinch point.  [Par. 1.12, page 3]

The 2013 report does not address these requests because it does not include any option where both the subway and improved GO service operate to Richmond Hill.  Although parallel studies (such as the TTC’s own subway yards needs analysis) do look at some aspects of the third point above, this information is not integrated into the analysis, nor is there any review of configurations that could avoid some of the cost of increased subway capacity.  This should follow in the Metrolinx study now underway of the Relief Line and associated alternatives, but that sort of network-based review is years overdue.

Continue reading

Another DRL Proposal or Just Another Gerrymander? (Update 2)

Updated August 2, 2013 at 6:00am:

André Sorensen has written a commentary in today’s Star expanding on his proposed use of the rail corridor for express airport service and a quasi Downtown Relief line.  I’m with him on a more intelligent use of the rail corridor, especially to the northwest of downtown, but not with the premise that this could replace the proposed subway from Don Mills & Eglinton to the core.

Continue reading

Metrolinx Board Meeting of June 27, 2013

The Metrolinx Board met on June 27 with a full agenda.

There is a great deal of duplication between various reports, and I have consolidated information to keep like items together.  Some reports are omitted entirely from this article either because the important info is included elsewhere, or because they simply rehash status updates with no real news.  Metrolinx has a love for “good news” to the point that each manager stuffs their presentations with information that is already well known, or which parallels other presentations.

Among the more important items in these reports are the following:

  • Metrolinx is now conducting various studies all of which bear on the problem of north-south capacity into downtown Toronto.  This involves the (Downtown) Relief Line, the north-south GO corridors and the Richmond Hill subway expansion.  A related study involves fare and service integration across the GTHA.  It is refreshing to see Metrolinx taking a network approach to planning, rather than looking at projects in isolation, and recognizing that some of their own, existing routes can be part of an overall approach to solving this capacity problem.
  • The Metrolinx Five-Year Strategy includes dates for the beginning of service on various projects including the LRT replacement for the Scarborough RT.  Previous versions of these dates cited “by 2020”, and Metrolinx has indicated a desire for as short a construction/shutdown period of under three years.  However, the new strategy paper talks of an “in service date” of 2020.  Metrolinx is aiming for a three year shutdown at most, but the SRT might continue operating beyond the originally planned September 2015 date, possibly for one additional year.  This could lead to an earlier reopening than 2020.  (Correspondence from Metrolinx on this issue is included later in the article.)

Continue reading

Service Changes Effective June 23, 2013 (Updated)

Updated June 13, 2013:

Contrary to the originally announced plans, the 31 Greenwood bus will not divert to Donlands Station during reconstruction of the bus loop at its home station.  Instead, the  buses will loop via Greenwood, Strathmore, Linsmore and Danforth stopping outside of the station.

Major service changes for June 23, 2013 include:

  • Service removal or rerouting for several York Region contract operations by the TTC.  These were proposed as part of YRT’s 2013 Service Plan.  (Specific changes for Vaughan and for Markham.)
  • Seasonal changes to many routes.  The summer cutbacks are generally in line with 2012 although in a few cases routes or periods that had cuts last year are not affected in 2013.
  • Construction changes including:
    • Revised service on many routes in the Beach and in southwestern Scarborough caused by the reconstruction of Kingston Road.  Streetcar service will turn back at Woodbine Loop, and bus service will be provided eastbound only from Queen to Victoria Park.
    • Rerouting of 31 Greenwood to Donlands Station for construction at Greenwood.

The service budget for September 2013 will be about 3.4% higher than the budget for the corresponding period in 2012, and 1% higher than for March 2013.

2013.06.23 Service Changes

TTC Rediscovers the Downtown Relief Line (Update 4)

Update 4 October 21, 2012 at 8:30 pm:

It’s intriguing to look back at coverage of the DRL the last time this was a major issue.  Mike Filey passed along a clipping from the Star from December 2, 1982 that makes interesting reading.  My comments are at the end in Postscript 2.

Update 3 October 20, 2012 at 3:20 pm:

A postscript has been added discussing the various demand simulations as a group rather than individually.  Charts of total demand southbound from Bloor Station as well as pedestrian activity at Bloor-Yonge are provided to consolidate information from several exhibits in the background paper.

Update 2 October 19, 2012 at 11:00 am:

This article has been reformatted to merge additional information from the background study as well as illustrations into the text.

At its meeting on October 24, 2012, the TTC will consider a report on the Downtown Rapid Transit Expansion Study.  The full background paper is also available on the TTC’s website.

A study by the City of Toronto and TTC, including consultations with Metrolinx, concludes that transit demand to the core by 2031 will grow at a rate that exceeds the capacity of all of the current and planned transit facilities.  Ridership will be 51% higher than today.  The residential population south of College from Bathurst to Parliament will grow by 83%, and employment by 28%.

Capacity is an issue today as Table A-1 in the background paper shows.  Several corridors into downtown are already operating over their design capacity.  This is particularly the case on GO where the target is to have few standees, and there is more room for additional passengers in the design capacity than on the TTC subway services.

Table A-2 shows the projections for 2031.  All of the shortfalls are on GO, but the TTC lines are close to saturation.  This presumes a considerable increase in the capacity of various lines.  For example, the YUS goes from a design capacity of 26,000 to 38,000 passengers per hour (pphpd), an increase of 46% which may not actually be achievable.  Similarly, the BD line goes to 33,000 pphpd, an increase of 27%.

Exhibit 1-10 shows the components of projected capacity increase including 36% from running trains closer together.  As discussed at some length on this site previously, the constraints on headways arise at terminal stations.  A 36% increase in trains/hour implies a headway of about 100 seconds as compared with 140 today.  This cannot be achieved with existing terminal track geometry, not to mention the leisurely crew practices at terminals.

On the GO lines, the projected capacity on Lakeshore West doubles, and smaller increases are seen on other routes.  It is worth noting that the projected capacity of the north-south corridors to Stouffville, Richmond Hill and Barrie are nowhere near the level of service implied by The Big Move, probably because these lines are not targets for early electrification.  This contributes to the capacity shortfall in the northern sector.  Recommendation 1 of the study includes encouragement that Metrolinx review the possibility of increased capacity in those three corridors.

The full list of lines included in the modelled network can be found in the background study at section 1.2.1.

Continue reading

TTC Meeting Review February 29, 2012

The February 29th meeting of the Toronto Transit Commission was one of the shortest in my long memory of these events.  The agenda was trivial with an utter absence of meaty issues for debate, and the real action would follow in press scrums.

Accessible Transit Services Plan: 2011 Status Report

This generally upbeat report was approved without debate.

Notable by its absence is any mention of the operating budget challenges faced thanks to cutbacks in funding by the City of Toronto.  Recently, the Commission diverted $5-million intended to support regular bus service quality into the Wheel Trans budget.  For the long term, Council must address the fact that cutbacks to the Wheel Trans subsidy have much more severe effects, proportionately, than cuts to the regular system.

The TTC may be improving its accessibility, slowly, but basic questions about whether the service is adequate to meet demand receive little public debate.  This is not just a question of Wheel Trans for those who cannot use the conventional system, but of recognition that mobility affects many who are ambulatory, but whose neighbourhoods and destinations may not be well served by surface routes.

What’s In A Name?  Stations on the Spadina Extension in Vaughan

The Commission adopted “Highway 407” and “Vaughan Metropolitan Centre” as the names for the two stations north of Steeles on the Spadina subway extension on a 5-2 vote.

For some time, staff and some Commissioners have pressed for the simpler “Vaughan Centre”, but the City of Vaughan Council prefers the longer (and somewhat more pretentious) name.  Sadly, the opposition to the long version came from Commissioners whose credibility leaves much to be desired, although their comments might in other circumstances be cogent.

Norm Kelly mentioned the “conceit” of former cities within Metropolitan Toronto which created “town centres” such as in Scarborough, Kelly’s home turf.  This is deeply ironic considering that it is the failure of Scarborough Town Centre to attract employment that is part of the argument against the Sheppard Subway extension which Kelly supports.  Frank Di Giorgio worried that everyone will make a case for special consideration on station names.  Di Giorgio, it should be remembered, is the advocate for total obedience to Mayoral fiats by city staff, and if Rob Ford had a position on station names, it would take precedence over everything.

Meanwhile Maria Augimeri had hopes her “Black Creek” would get equal consideration when it comes to formally naming “Steeles West” station.

After the meeting, a group of my colleages agreed that one of my local stations, Chester, should be renamed as “Riverdale Metropolitan Centre”, although I might add the word “Organic” in deference to the neighbourhood.

It is unclear how the TTC will handle placing the long version of “VMC Station” on its maps and other signage.

St. Clair at Keele/Weston

Commissioner Palacio asked for a report on improving traffic conditions at the St. Clair and Keele intersection where, because of the rail underpass just to the east, traffic is constrained to a single lane by the streetcar right-of-way.

Restructuring the Commission

In a scrum after the meeting, Chair Karen Stintz announced that she had reached a compromise for the proposed change in the makeup of the TTC.  A report coming to Council on March 5 (whose origin lies in the machinations of the Ford camp to enhance control of all agencies by the Mayor) recommends a nine-member Commission (as at present) with five citizen members and four Councillors.  The Chair and Vice-Chair would be a Councillor and Citizen member respectively.

The new proposal would see an 11-member Commission with six Councillors.

After the firing of Gary Webster by Ford’s Gang of Five, many Councillors have talked about restructuring the Commission to be more representative of Council as soon as possible, including at the March 5 meeting.  Stintz feels that she has the votes for the compromise arrangement, and that a major shuffle of the Commission would not occur until June when the citizen appointments are confirmed by Council.

The next move is up to Council itself on March 5.

Subways and only Subways

While the TTC was meeting, across on the other side of City Hall Mayor Ford was hosting a bevy of developers for a luncheon discussion of subway funding.  After the TTC meeting completed, there was a scrum outside of the Mayor’s office (with Chair Stintz nowhere in sight) in which the Mayor and his circle claimed that there was broad support in the development industry for subways.  When pressed about funding, Mayor Ford didn’t want to get into the details beyond pointing to the Chong report, but claimed that the development community was totally onside.  Onside maybe, but the developers all slipped out the side door and avoided the media lest they have to go on record supporting or, worse, opposing the Mayor.

Of course developers love subways because they offer an opportunity to squeeze higher densities out of the city than they would get otherwise.  We have been down this path before with the Sheppard Subway.  However, don’t ask the developers to pay for subways, certainly not through development levies that would make their brand new condos uncompetitive with buildings downtown, the really hot part of the condo market.

See Robyn Doolittle and Royson James in the Star (the photo suggests Ford is less than engaged in the event), and Elizabeth Church and Kelly Grant in the Globe.

The strangest part of the whole scheme is that funding the subway depends on new revenue sources many of which Ford is on record as hating, and one (the vehicle registration tax) which he killed early in his term as a swipe at Toronto’s alleged appetite for higher revenues rather than reduced expenses.  Even the normally supportive Toronto Sun cannot believe what their hero is up to.

All of this leads up to a March 15 21 special Council meeting where the “expert panel” convened to look at Sheppard options will report that LRT is the preferred option.  Will Mayor Ford have a credible financing scheme in place, or will this be more smoke and mirrors, more claims that the money is there without any commitment to actually raising the levies needed to build the project?

Service Changes Effective February 13, 2011

The following service changes take effect on February 13:

6 Bay: With the beginning of construction at Bay and Front for the Union Station Second Platform Project, various lane closures will increase traffic congestion.  The Bay route will be adjusted by adding running time to the route, and by cutting back the short turn service now operating to Queen’s Quay and Yonge (6A) to the Dundas short turn (6B) during the PM peak.  The AM peak short turn already operates only to Dundas.

One bus will be added to the route during the AM peak, midday and early evening service weekdays, and on weekend daytime periods.

Headways are unchanged except during the PM peak when the combined service north of Dundas drops from 5’15” to 4’30”, but from Dundas to Queen’s Quay it widens from 5’15” to 9’00”.

This change is expected to last for three years.

145 Downtown/Humber Bay Express: The running times for this route will be lengthened in the AM peak to reflect actual traffic conditions.  The route will continue to operate five trips using three buses.

191 Highway 27 Rocket: One bus will be added to the PM peak service to reduce the headway from 6’30” to 6’15” and reduce the average load/bus from 49 to 47.

41 Keele and 107 Keele North: Road construction at York University requires a considerable addition to the running time, and a route diversion is already in place.  From one to three buses will be added at various times on 41 Keele to maintain the pre-construction headways.  On 107 Keele North, one or two buses will be added.

These changes are expected to last until early May.

52 Lawrence West: The running time on the first inbound trip from Martin Grove at 4:54am will be extended by 5 minutes to reflect actual requirements.

School Trip Adjustments:

44 Kipling South: Two school trips in the PM peak will be adjusted to operate at times better suited to actual dismissal times at the sites they serve.

112E West Mall Express to Eringate: A school trip now scheduled to leave Kipling Station at 7:52am will be moved back to 7:48am so that it falls midway between two local trips.

Toronto Zoo Seasonal Changes:

86 Scarborough and 85 Sheppard East: Effective March 11, the last trips from the Zoo will leave about an hour later than on the winter schedule, shortly after 7pm.  Weekday service is provided by 86 Scarborough, and weekend service by 85 Sheppard East.

York Region Transit Service Reductions: The following changes will be made at York Region’s request.

102D Markham Road to Mount Joy GO Station: The trips leaving Anderson Avenue and Markham Road at 6:12am, 6:47am, and 11:50pm will no longer operate.  They will be replaced with trips on branches within the City of Toronto.

129A McCowan Road North to Major Mackenzie: The 5:48am southbound trip will be replaced with a trip operating only to Steeles Avenue.

24D Victoria Park to Major Mackenzie: The northbound trip leaving Victoria Park Station at 9:56pm with a return trip southbound at 11:01pm will now operate only to Steeles Avenue.

A Grand Plan: 2011 Edition

Back in the early days of this blog, I wrote a long paper about the role of transit and what a truly regional plan would look like.  To avoid extensively quoting myself, I suggest that any newcomers to this site read that as a starting point as it contains not just a list of routes, but a philosophy of how one should look at transit.

Since 2006, we have seen Transit City, MoveOntario2020 and The Big Move.  The GTA appeared well on its way to real progress in transit although problems, notably the question of local service funding, remained.

Now we have a new Mayor in Toronto, and plans that came from years of work and debate lie in pieces on the floor.  Metrolinx and Queen’s Park seem content to “plan” by carving up funding that’s already committed and redrawing their map to suit the whims of a new regime at City Hall.

The fundamental problem in this exercise is the phrase “funding that’s already committed”.  When you draw a map with a half empty pen, you make compromises, and you run out of ink leaving huge areas bereft of service.

If redraw we must, then let us do so with a view to a transit network and to a view beyond the end of next year.  What does Toronto and the GTA need?  How much will that cost?  How do we pay for it?  If we start with the premise that we cannot afford anything, we should stop wasting our time on planners, engineers and the myth that transit can actually transform travel for the next generation.

The discussion below is Toronto centric because this is a Toronto blog, and that’s where most of the GTA’s transit riders are.  All the same, the philosophy of what transit should be affects everyone, especially in those areas where so much transit growth is needed just to catch up with the population.

Some of the info here will be familiar to those who read my commentaries regularly, but I wanted to pull it all together as a starting point.  My comments are not intended as the one, definitive “solution”, but to show the need for debate on a large scale, integrating considerations from many parts of various schemes.

[While I was writing this article, the Pembina Institute published its own critique of the Ford transit plan.  I do not intend to comment on that document here because it addresses only one part of a much larger collection of transit issues.]

Continue reading

Metrolinx Board Wrapup for May 2010

The Metrolinx Board met on Wednesday, May 19 for an unusually long public session.  Rather than post separate articles, herewith a compendium report.  The major topics are:

  • The Board Speaks!
  • The Managing Director Reports
  • We Have A Vision, We Just Don’t Know What It Is Yet
  • Achieving 5 in 10, or Transit City Rescheduled
  • GO Rail Service Expansion Benefits Cases
  • A Question of Advocacy

The Board Speaks!

Probably the most astounding thing about this meeting, the first anniversary of the “new” Metrolinx, is that the Board members finally found their voices.  I was beginning to wonder if they were ever going to show some indication of earning their keep and actually asking hard questions of staff in public.  We’re not quite there yet, but at least the discussion gave an indication that the Board is thinking about its role.

As regular readers will know, I believe that organizations such as Metrolinx should be publicly accountable through an electoral process and through direct access to one’s representatives.  Boards that answer to nobody but the government which appointed them, and entertain no criticism from the public, can leave much to be desired.

To be fair to Metrolinx, even when it had a political board, much of the “public participation” was managed to achieve concensus with, more or less, what Metrolinx planned to do anyhow.  That other well-known transit board, the TTC, is elected, but has succumbed to the disease of being cheerleaders for the organization right-or-wrong.

Metrolinx has not had to actually do much (as opposed to GO Transit which was simply merged into its new “parent”), and we have yet to see how the Board and the Government will react if Metrolinx badly fouls up any of its projects.

Continue reading