Archive for November, 2008

Some Subway Thoughts

Saturday, November 22nd, 2008

I have been in Buenos Aires this week on business and have been working on an LRT page for this city. I will likely be putting the page up with the downtown Celeris LRT in the next few days as that material is nearly ready. I spent much of today photographing and making notes on the Premetro LRT. Having rode it outbound and walked most of the 7.2 km route back in, I managed to get some good photos and notes. This will take a week or so to put together, though the 11 hour flight home a week from now will give me some time to put it all together.

Buenos Aires Subte LinesWhile taking the Subte (subway) back downtown, I rode on the newest line, Línea H. The line as it is now only has five stations on it and is 3.5 km long. I couldn’t help make the comparison with the Sheppard Subway (five stations, 6.4 km long). Despite the fact that this line is just over half the length of the Sheppard line, it is far more useful because it is a network enhancing line, while the Sheppard Subway is really more of a Premetro. Now, if the Sheppard line had been built as far west as Downsview, it too would be network enhancing, meaning that is gives commuters multiple rapid transit options since it connects to the existing network in more than one place. An extension to an existing line, or a line like the Sheppard Subway is just a feeder to the subway line, and feeders never need the same capacity that one gets with a full subway line, even though one must pay the same cost.

View at CaserosConstruction on this line was started in 2001 as a four-station line from Plaza Once, where it connects with Línea A, to Inclán, one stop south of the connection with Línea E. In 2003, the project was extended one stop south to Caseros. This five stop portion of the line opened on October 18, 2007, however in 2006 construction began on extensions at each end of the line. One adds a stop at the north end where it will connect with Línea B, and the other adds two stops to the south end. Speaking of the south end, trains turn back south of the station next to an underground service facility. The photo to the left shows this along with the “grand hall” that the stations on this line have. There is an open mezzanine leading up to the exit (or transfer to other lines) in these stations. All of the stations on this line are fully accessible and they all have washrooms.

There is one nice thing we could learn from Buenos Aires, for both our Subway system and for Transit City lines: how to make a route map that is useful. Why is there such a fetish in Toronto with having maps that, though not to scale, must somehow show the major alignment of a route? Such a layout is perfectly fine for a system map, as this is basically a map of the city showing transit routes instead of every road. A single transit route is either a straight line or a loop. We have very few loop routes (trivia game idea: how many loop routes are in the GTA - I’ll start: YRT Route 244 - Beaver Creek Shuttle), so a simple line will suffice. For the most part, the TTC and YRT sort of follow this on their bus route documents, but there are jogs in the line to reflect geographical features of the route.

The Bloor-Danforth Subway is east-west, but why is this not simply shown in stations as a straight line? Why do we need to see the curve east of Main? The Sheppard Subway just happens to be a straight line in reality, but the SRT is shown as an upside-down “L”. Don’t get me started on the Yonge-University-Spadina line! Take a look at the six lines in Buenos Aires shown above. On many station platforms, there are system maps that show everything like that, but many platforms will have a drawing of the line that uses the platform that is a straight line, oriented so that the terminal is at the same end of the display as it is in real life. Línea H Onboard MapsOn board every train, the route map is displayed also as a straight line and oriented with the terminus at the correct end. This means that the maps on the left and right side of the train are mirror-orientations! Naturally, this means that vehicles have to be assigned to a particular line, but the TTC currently does this with its Subway fleet. I can see this being an issue with Transit City lines, but it shouldn’t be a hardship. Most vehicles will likely do duty only on a certain route, but is it the end of the world if one has to be put into service on another route for a day or two and it has the wrong route’s map on board?

One of the best advantages with this is for the new user (or visitor, having experienced this first-hand!) who can see what stop they are at, and find it on the map, but are not sure which direction on the map they are going. With this method, the map reflects the direction of the vehicle, whether you look at a map on the right side of the vehicle or you look at a map on the left side of the vehicle.

I will note that VIVA has a route map on its articulated buses showing its Blue route (a north-south route) as a horizontal straight line. Of course, being a bus the map only represents the true direction only when the bus is travelling in one direction, but at least they didn’t try to squeeze or piece in the route in a vertical orientation.

Public Meetings: Yonge Subway Extension and Highway 7 Rapidway

Monday, November 17th, 2008

Wonder of wonders, I actually received an invitation nine days before a YRT/VIVA event. Unfortunately, I am in Argentina until the end of the month (watch for the new LRT page on BsAs coming soon - that’s short for Buenos Aires, for those not familiar with the local nomenclature!). If there’s anything not already presented at previous open houses, I would appreciate it if you posted a comment here.

The first is the York Region meeting to be held on Wednesday November 26. Once again, it will be held at the Premier Ballroom and Convention Centre at 9019 Leslie Street (one block north of Highway 7) in Richmond Hill. According to their notice, there will be an open house on the Highway 7 Rapidway from 5 pm to 7 pm, an open house on the Yonge Subway Extension from 5 pm to 7 pm, and a presentation on the Yonge Subway Extension from 7 pm to 9 pm.

The second meeting will be in Toronto on Wednesday December 3,  at Mitchell Field Community Centre, 89 Church Avenue in North York. This meeting will only be for the Yonge Subway Extension with an open house from 5 pm to 7 pm and a presentation from 7 pm to 9 pm.

LRT Without Overhead Wiring?

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

In the early days of this site, the rendering of a possible TTC LRV created by Matthew Blackett of Spacing was added. It wasn’t long before I received an email from someone asking how these LRVs received their power, as no overhead can be seen in the image. Naturally, I explained that the rendering was for the purpose of showing what an LRV might look like and the overhead power infrastructure was not shown to keep the image simple.

However, Matthew may have been a little ahead of the times. Recently, Bombardier has been testing its PRIMOVE Catenary-Free Technology. (Thanks to Josh in Australia and W.K. Lis for bringing this to my attention - also see this brochure)

This system is currently undergoing testing at Bombardier’s site in Bautzen, Germany.

 While I don’t believe that this system will be considered for any LRT implementations in the GTHA,  there are three concerns I would have if this were a possibility:

  1. Going with something that is new without a track record has caused us pains in the past. The testing in Bautzen might prove successful, but what happens when a heavy snowfall hits the GTHA? Think ICTS.
  2. Transferring a significant amount of power through induction requires a very strong magnetic field. How does this affect something sensitive to this? Pacemakers come to mind as a very serious issue, but there are others that are not life-threatening such as watches and electronics. We know how one cannot listen to an AM radio on board or close to a CLRV or ALRV that is accelerating or braking, but would the public accept the same sort of noise on their MP3 players? On the other hand, in the interest of energy efficiency, the system might very well concentrate the field to where it is needed and not have any noticeable leakage that could affect other things.
  3. The question of energy efficiency is my third point. How much energy is expended to get the power on-board using an induction system compared to overhead wiring? Bombardier’s material mentions its MITRAC system, which is basically a regenerative braking with storage system to recover energy during braking for reuse during acceleration. Perhaps this system will make up for energy lost in the PRIMOVE system, or perhaps it will provide a net gain.