Archive for September, 2009

Another Extension to the Sheppard East LRT?

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

The original concept of the Sheppard East LRT was for a surface median line from Don Mills to Morningside, estimated at $550 million in 2007 dollars. After the first round of public open houses, two substantial changes were added. The first was placing the line underground from Consumers Road to Don Mills station, and the second was an eastward extension of nearly 2.5 km to Meadowvale Road. These changes plus two years of inflation has brought the price-tag of this line up to $950 million, and this funding is secured.

One of the motions that city council will address today, is the following:

City Council request Metrolinx and the TTC to report back to the Scarborough Community Council by April 2010 on Scarborough Community Council’s position that the Sheppard East LRT will terminate at the Toronto Zoo. 

This extension makes sense. The zoo is a major trip generator that is within 2 km of the intersection of Sheppard and Meadowvale. I suspect that if approved, this would not hold up the rest of the line, but instead would be treated as a separate project that would need funding in place before it began. Hopefully, it could get such funding and be started before the current project is completed similar to the way the Bloor-Danforth subway extensions to Islington and Warden were begun before the line opened from Keele to Woodbine, and the way the Yonge North extension to Sheppard was underway when they added a further extension to Finch (though, due to delays with the initial project, it initially opened to York Mills and then to Finch).

Possible Zoo Extension AlignmentThe one thing with the current project that may be altered by an extension to the zoo is the alignment at Meadowvale. Instead of staying in a median on Sheppard all the way to Meadowvale, I can see an advantage with leaving the median a short distance west of Meadowvale and heading north to northeast towards the zoo. Considering that a maintenance facility may be built around there, having the alignment leave the median would provide a small benefit of having the connections to the facility off road.

The downside of this is that the stop at Meadowvale and Sheppard would not be there, but further west on Sheppard. Of course, there could be a separate branch to the intersection for when service does not need to go to the zoo, or when it need not go there as frequently.

End of day update: the motion before council about this extension was ruled out of order and was withdrawn. It was ruled out of order because the meeting’s purpose was to discuss funding of current city development. Thus, new proposals are out of order. This does not mean that new projects cannot happen, just that Thursday’s meeting was not the place to launch motions on them.

LRT Conversion of the SRT

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Scarborough RTLast October, I wrote about the possibility of the SRT being converted to true LRT. Since that time, open houses dealing with the extension of the SRT had display panels that were showing only ICTS technology. However, at the open house held back on June 2, there was one question on the FAQ in the handout material that addressed the possibility of converting the line (see this post for the details).

Last week, Steve Munro had reported that there was a “SRT Conversion and Expansion project” that was mentioned on page 6 of the July Chief General Manager’s Report. Steve also reports today that city council today will deal with a couple of motions one of which reads:

City Council request the Toronto Transit Commission and Metrolinx to report back in November 2009 on a process to implement LRT Technology to match and work with Transit City, on the extension of the Scarborough Rapid Transit line, and request the conversion of the existing line between Kennedy and McCowan stations from its current I.C.T.S. Technology to LRT technology, matching the extension, consistent with Transit City.

I have expressed my support of this idea, both here and in written comments at a few open houses related to the SRT. The SRT was originally intended to be an LRT line, and we may finally see that happen. I have even suggested (both on this site and on Steve Munro’s site) that the funding that is in place will only be enough to extend an upgraded SRT to Sheppard, but would be enough to extend a converted line all the way to Malvern. This morning, TTC Chief General Manager Gary Webster stated to council:

TTC now feels that LRT is the appropriate technology for the route and is working with Metrolinx to define the technology and scope for the Transit City projects generally.

The funding announced by Queen’s Park is not sufficient to carry the SRT north from Sheppard to Malvern.

This second statement backs up what I have suggested.

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Eglinton-Crosstown LRT to Pearson Airport

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

Eglinton-Crosstown LRT

The display panels from the Martin Grove to Pearson Airport public consultation held on September 2 are now available along with an updated FAQ. There are five proposed routes, four involving an alignment west of the 427 and one east.

The route east of the 427 provides the most direct and fastest route, likely cutting a one-way trip to the airport by about four minutes. It is also the most expensive route that involves a tunnel below the 401.

The routes west of the 427 have two southern variants, one heading north at Renforth Drive and the other heading north at Commerce Boulevard, and two northern variants, one using Silver Dart Drive and the other using Carlingview Drive. The actual alignment into the airport itself is still to be determined.

The options using Commerce Boulevard would be most useful as this is where the Mississauga Transitway will have a major terminal. The one really bizarre thing about the proposals is that the LRT would be in a median on the road while the Transitway terminal will be next to the road and grade separated. This has the potential to be an extremely useful connection point with connecting services into Mississauga and to the Kipling Subway station, but why on earth should people have to go up a level of stairs and cross a road to an LRT platform on a median?

The whole point of the Commerce Boulevard alignments, which are rather out-of-the-way, is to provide a useful connection. Why mess it up with an awkward connection?

If there is not going to be a useful benefit, why bother with any of the western alignments? Otherwise, forget the Renforth Drive alignments as they don’t make the connection, and its bridge across the 401 is longer and more expensive. Use the Commerce Boulevard alignments, provided the LRT moves to the north side of Eglinton (perhaps at Renforth) and follows the Transitway alignment to Commerce. From there, it can curve underground and come up to the surface in the median of Commerce, or perhaps just south of the 401.

I haven’t decided whether the western options should use Silver Dart Drive or Carlingview Drive. Steve Munro pointed out an odd irony in his review of these proposals. He notes that in the past the idea of electrifying the Dufferin bus route was shot down because the overhead wires on Wilson beyond the end of a runway at Downsview was a show stopper. Now, two of the route choices involve using Silver Dart Drive, which is right at the end of runways 6L and 6R.

One last note: the plans at this point only suggest that this line will only server Terminal 1. While I believe that LRT service should also involve Terminal 3, I would suggest that when the plans for a western extension of the Finch LRT have it coming into the airport, that its alignment might be better to serve Terminal 3 on the way to Terminal 1. Hopefully, the design of the Eglinton-Crosstown alignment into Terminal 1 will take this into account. I suspect that LRT operations could become the preferred way to transfer between the two terminals. A good example of using LRT for intra-terminal movement can be seen in both Minneapolis and St. Louis. LRT fare is free between the airport terminals.