Back on March 27, I stated here that there would be no funding for the Yonge Subway extension to Richmond Hill. Today’s issue of the Richmond Hill Liberal has a story that starts on the front page about how this project has had its brakes slammed on because of lack of funding.
Hopefully, this will give the chance to reconsider how best to serve York Region by looking at LRT as a viable option that can meet the needs of the Yonge corridor and at the same time reach a far greater area, and people, for the same money.
This subway extension was being touted as the first subway project in the province to go through the new EA process. The level of zeal by the municipal politicians was akin to children jumping in excitement about getting a train set for Christmas. One of the telling quotes that suggests this is from York Region chairperson Bill Fisch. The City of Toronto placed some caveats on its support for this extension that were related capacity issues of the Yonge subway. Fisch commented, “I think they went overboard.”
If this does not show the “Wow! Once we have our train the world will be wonderful” attitude, then tell me what does. Does he not realize that a system that is bursting at its seams in its core cannot simply be extended further and further out and expect to attract more people. Does Fisch think that the system will magically just handle more?
The TTC has received funding to upgrade its signalling system. This is needed over the next few years because the current system is getting harder to repair, but this has been cited as being the panacea to increase capacity by decreasing head-ways. This will increase capacity, but not by as much as one might expect. Current rush hour head-ways are about 150 seconds and it is said that the new signalling system can bring that down to 90, for a capacity increase of about 66%. The trouble with that is, that leaves no room for any minor delay (think of that guy who grabs the door because he just has to get on this train). Minor delays of even 15 seconds will drastically effect the entire line’s operation. Let’s say to account for such problems, the headway can be brought down to 115 seconds. That gives us an increase in capacity of 29%. One problem with that: terminals such as Finch and Downsview require close to 140 seconds to turn a train around. The way around this is to short-turn trains, but that means that the ends of the line will not be used for its full capacity, even though it costs just as much.
Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti said he understood the approval (of the funding for the signalling upgrade) would lead to a green light for the subway, but now wondered if that money could have been better spent elsewhere. News to Frank: this upgrade is needed without the extension.
The new Toronto Rocket subway trains, that will begin to operate later this year, will add about 3% to the capacity of the line. This is mostly due to the space between each car that may be occupied by passengers, but it is partly due to the ability for passengers to spread out throughout the entire train. There is a possibility, though not funded yet, of adding a 50-foot trailer car to the middle of a train to add some more capacity. This would add another 11% capacity.
Capacity of the trains themselves is not the whole issue. Can the stations downtown receive a significant increase of people arriving on trains? The simple answer is ‘no’. The Bloor-Yonge station alone is bursting at its seams. The TTC has plans of renovating this station to increase passenger flow and capacity, but this may not be enough. Worse yet, some parts of those plans may not be physically possible as the north end of the Yonge line platform sits within the foundation posts of the Hudson’s Bay tower. Many of the other stations lack a second exit as required by current fire code. Imagine an emergency need to evacuate with 20% more people on the system? Imagine it now!