Transit City Update December 2009 (Part 1)

On December 16, the TTC will receive an update on the status of the Transit City projects.  This post is a brief synopsis along with my own comments on the progress, or lack thereof, on this plan.

This is a long post, and I have placed the break here for those who don’t want to read the whole article.  The Eglinton LRT is covered here including comments on the December 2009 version of the design presented at recent open houses.  I will deal with the remaining lines in Part 2. Continue reading

What Shall We Do With Don Mills (2)?

When I talk about taking a Downtown Relief Line north to Eglinton, some people, including some at the TTC, look at me as if I had at least two heads.  That’s a shame, considering that the TTC itself did a preliminary design for this 35 years ago.

I offer these tidbits from my archives not to reignite a discussion we have had here extensively before, but to put to rest any claims that this line was only ever intended to stop at the Danforth.

DRLAlignment19740112cBack in October 1974, the TTC was considering various proposals for new rapid transit lines, one of which was the Queen Street subway. This line would have run from Roncesvalles and Queen east to somewhere beyond Broadview, then turned north past Greenwood yard and continued via Donlands to O’Connor. At that point, the line would cross the Don River to serve Thorncliffe and Flemingdon Parks winding up at the CPR crossing north of Eglinton. The map linked here is a bit fuzzy in places because the original is not clear, but it shows the alignment (including an alternative via the CNR corridor) quite clearly.

 

DRLBrochureCovercTen years later, the TTC was working on the Downtown Rapid Transit Study, and the route had morphed into an ICTS line to Union Station. 

 

 

 

DRLBrochure1cA brochure advertised this study and explained the growing problem of central area subway congestion complete with a suggestion that passengers transfer at St. George rather than Bloor-Yonge.

 

 

 

DRLBrochure2cThe DRL was never built because politics of the day favoured suburban projects, and instead we got the Sheppard Subway.

What Shall We Do With Don Mills?

Recent planning and political activity focussed on the Weston rail corridor studies and the potential effect of substantially increased train service there.  Meanwhile, work is about to start on reviewing one aspect of an eastern corridor, a the so-called “Downtown Relief Line”.

The eastern leg of the DRL has a long history, but in the modern (post WW2) era this began as a Queen Subway proposal.  Before the Bloor-Danforth subway, Queen was regarded as the next logical part of a subway network after the Yonge line, but this status was quickly overtaken by the northward shift of population in the growing suburbs.

One early version of the Queen line would have gone north to Don Mills and Eglinton.  When the Network 2011 Plan was published in 1985, its priority list was

  • the Sheppard Subway from Yonge to Victoria Park (to be completed by 1994)
  • the Downtown Rapid Transit line (using ICTS) from Pape to Spadina (to be completed by 1999)
  • the Eglinton West line from Scarlett Road to Eglinton West Station (to be completed by 2004)

Although the Netwok 2011 background studies showed a DRL would have substantial effects on peak point demands on the existing subway network, this wasn’t enough to save the scheme from a strong political bias against building more subways into downtown.  We all know that the actual priorities became Sheppard and Eglinton West.

In December 2002, the Don Valley Corridor Transportation Master Plan was launched to consider ways of improving travel in the entire corridor from Steeles to the lake, and roughly from Leslie to Victoria Park (swinging further west in the southern section to follow the river’s alignment).  That study arose from a scheme to increase capacity on the Don Valley Parkway, but the study was to consider transit as well as road options.

The study reported in 2005 with a recommendation for BRT on the DVP and various ways to route such a service either to downtown or to the BD subway at Pape, Broadview or Castle Frank.  (The scheme for BRT to Castle Frank prompted an alternative proposal using Swan Boats early in the life of this blog.) 

By 2007, the Transit City scheme had shifted planning focus to Don Mills Road itself and to LRT away from BRT.  However, old studies die hard, and the LRT study persisted in reviewing that same trio of southern destinations for the LRT line.  Major problems include how to thread an “LRT” service through an established neighbourhood on a four-lane street.  We have seen one possible approach with the redesign of Roncesvalles Avenue, but the Don Mills route is quite another matter.

Projected peak demand on the Don Mills LRT is 3,000 per hour, about 35% higher than the current design capacity of the King Streetcar.  Moreover, the 504’s peak point is not on Roncesvalles, and future increases in capacity through Liberty Village will likely be achieved with service entering the line at Sunnyside and possibly by diversion of demand to a Waterfront West line (depending on the path it takes east of Dufferin Street).  There will never be a requirement to operate more frequent service than today on Roncesvalles Avenue.

The total of all bus services to Broadview and Pape Stations from the north is 62 vehicles/hour or a combined design capacity of 3,100 passengers.  Many, but not all, of these would use a Don Mills LRT especially if they had no choice to transfer because of new route structures.  (Broadview — 2, Flemingdon Park — 15, Mortimer — 4, Cosburn — 11, Don Mills — 17, Thorncliffe Park — 13).  However, any existing demand diverted to the LRT plus any new riding would now be placed on one rather than two subway interchanges.  Neither Broadview nor Pape has room for substantially increased traffic and a proper junction would almost certainly have to be underground.  (The 1985 DRL design included an underground interchange at Pape Station.)

All of this is a perfect example of a project with a narrow scope, one that considers only a single problem, not the larger context of the transit network. Continue reading

Sheppard East / Don Mills Station Design

The TTC has confirmed that the Sheppard East LRT will come west into Don Mills Station rather than terminating at Consumers Road, but the design at Don Mills is still under review.

Just to recap from the previous article on this topic, the preferred design at Don Mills would have seen the LRT at the same level as the subway.  The track layout would have given a staggered layout with the LRT pulling into a stub track that was cut into a lengthened subway platform (see illustration in the TTC report).  The actual track and platform layout (not shown) would have had a second platform further back for use when the stub track was occupied.

This was an alternative to both of the layout options in the EA document (see pages 6 and 7 of part 2 of the EA Report).  The first version shows a connection on the south side of the concourse level at Don Mills Station, while the second is at the same level as the subway.

For the concourse connection, it is important to note the relative position of the existing subway station and structures at its western end.  From TTC staff, I have learned that there is a potential conflict between a fan shaft and a  future north-south Don Mills LRT tunnel, but that the TTC believes this tunnel can be fitted in.  Any junction between the Sheppard and Don Mills LRTs at concourse level must deal with this constraint.

For the subway level connection, the original scheme placed the LRT platform well east of the subway station, and created a long walking transfer for passengers.  The revised design with the stub track cut into the subway platform shortens the distance by offsetting the LRT and subway tracks and reducing clearance requirements for buffer zones.

When Queen’s Park announced that the Sheppard East line would be through-routed via Don Mills to Finch, this completely changed the parameters for Don Mills Station.  TTC staff are reviewing design options for this scheme, and it will likely place the LRT station at concourse level.

The discussion by Commissioners also included a desire that any designs for this first wave of LRT lines take into account integration with the second set of Transit City lines.  At Don Mills, there is the obvious problem of how the station will operate once there is a Don Mills LRT providing through north-south service, and how combined Finch/Sheppard and Don Mills services will fit on the surface between Sheppard and Finch.

Transit City Status Update

This month’s TTC agenda includes a long update on the status of the Transit City plans.  I will not attempt to précis this report, but will touch on points of particular interest.

Funding is in place to allow continued work on Environmental Assessments [sic] and other engineering work, but the real challenge comes later this year when construction is slated to begin on Sheppard.  The fog may clear a bit once the provincial budget is announced and we know just how much money will flow to Metrolinx and to transit in general.

A related problem, of course, is the question of new LRVs for the existing and future streetcar/LRT networks.  By the time the budget is out, the TTC should know what the bids for new cars look like, and Queen’s Park will have to decide whether they are serious about paying for them. Continue reading

Where Would a Don Mills Subway Go?

There has been a lot of discussion here about potential alignments for the eastern leg of a downtown relief line.  On occasion I have mentioned a route rather different from the commonly discussed one via Pape, the Leaside Bridge and Overlea, and I am sure this has caused some confusion.

One advantage of having been at this transit advocacy business for a long time is that I have a long memory and archives to match.  For your delectation, here is a proposed route from Don Mills and Eglinton to downtown.  It is a TTC Subway Construction Department drawing dated December 12, 1973.

donmillsalignmentdec73c

A few things worth noting about this drawing:

The route north from Danforth is via Donlands, not Pape.  This provides access to Greenwood yard via the connection shown.  It also aligns the route further east to simplify the valley crossing north of O’Connor.

The route passes through the middle of Thorncliffe Park and proceeds north to Eglinton.  This is more or less the sort of alignment I have been talking about for the east leg of a DRL (or, for that matter, for the Don Mills LRT if it came south of Eglinton).

Two alternative alignments from the CNR line to Queen are shown.  One goes straight south while the other runs along the rail corridor.  Going west along Queen brings its own problems, and these were discussed in an earlier, 1968 report that I will present in a separate post.  (Please don’t clutter up the comments thread here with questions about that part of the alignment.  You will get your chance.)

I present this information mainly so that people can see that the idea of a subway to Eglinton and Don Mills is hardly new, and it’s not even mine — I simply resurrected an old TTC concept.  When we discuss transit plans, it is useful to know some of the history.

Transit City — The Movie

Today’s TTC meeting brought us an update on the various parts of the Transit City plan.  You can read the full report yourself, and there is a quick review of the status of various lines and studies below.

Meanwhile, the TTC is starting a media campaign to tell people about Transit City and about LRT.  You can watch the video on the TTC’s website.  Although it is a breath of fresh air to see the TTC promoting LRT after all these years, there are a few oddities in this piece (the timings where they occur are included below).

  • (0:39) “Work on Transiy City is already well underway.”  Hmmm … a few traffic barriers does not make a construction project.  I wonder why they don’t show the upheaval on St. Clair?  Shortly later we see a new car mockup superimposed on the westbound stop at Yonge Street.
  • (0:55)  “What is Light Rail Transit?”  We learn that LRT is used around the world including, wait for it, in Vancouver!  Er, ah, there’s a heritage streetcar line running with a former BC Electric interurban car, but no LRT.  This is a howling error.  Other cities shown on the world map are many fewer than the actual inventory.
  • (1:15)  “LRT can operate in a street, but has the flexibility to operate underground like a subway.”  LRT advocates will be amused to hear that their chosen mode has the “flexibility” to be just like a subway, when the real issue is the inflexibility and cost of 100% grade separated modes.
  • (1:50) Light rail is bigger than standard streetcars, and allows level boarding from platforms.  It’s nice to hear how LRT is a streetcar, but not a streetcar.
  • (2:10) LRT cars don’t need loops!  Amazing what you can do with modern technology.  See also Kennedy Station Loop.
  • (2:20) All door loading … but wait .. it’s a subway car!
  • (2:38) LRT will be separated from the effects of traffic congestion, not to mention pesky “transit priority” signals if the animation can be believed.
  • (3:32) Streetscaping.  Aside from the gigantic, fast-growing trees (maybe they’re from Vancouver too), note the typical suburban layout with wide setbacks of buildings from the street.  Contrast this with later illustrations of dense suburban redevelopment.
  • (4:05) Transit will be an even better travel alternative.  With a new subway train?  What’s that doing here?

The map of projects reflects the original Transit City announcement because many possible changes are still under study by both TTC and Metrolinx.

Transit City project updates follow the break.

Continue reading

Don Mills LRT Open House (Updated)

The first of the Don Mills LRT Environmental Assessment open houses came to my neighbourhood at Rosedale Heights School, and I dropped by to see where the project is headed.  The crowd was modest compared to the well-attended music and arts fair the school was holding just down the hall.

The Don Mills study is an odd duck having evolved out of the Don Valley Corridor study that, in turn, was triggered by a hare-brained scheme to widen the Don Valley Parkway for BRT.  Some of the alignment options are leftovers from the earlier study.

Update:  The presentation materials are now available on the project website. Continue reading