Archive for February, 2012

Transit City Back On the Rails, Sort Of

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Today, Toronto City Council voted 25-18 in favour of the one part of a motion brought to a special meeitng by TTC Chair Karen Stintz. This part of the motion dealt with returning to more or less the previous design for Eglinton, subject to engineering recommendations, returning to an SRT conversion to LRT that included an extension to Sheppard with looking into the further extension to Malvern Town Centre, and a return of the Finch West LRT route from Keele and Finch to Humber College.

The second part of her motion asked for a panel to be created to investigate what is best for Sheppard East, and this was also passed.

My “Sort Of” in the title comes from making the point that ‘Transit City’ involves a plan for eight LRT corridors. Four of those corridors were identified by Metrolinx in their “5 in 10 Plan” (the fifth is the YRT/VIVA rapidways). Three of the corridors have been restored and Sheppard East will be under review that must report back to council by March 12, 2012.

One comment of note was something that Councillor Raymond Cho said (ward 42 - Scarborough-Rouge River) when speaking in favour of the motion. He said that originally, he was in favour of Rob Ford’s plan of a Sheppard subway as he thought that meant the subway would go all the way along Sheppard to Morningside (or Meadowvale). Now, if a city councillor thought this, just how many people in Scarborough thought this? Worse yet, how many STILL think this?

Norm Kelly on Eglinton-Crosstown

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Update: the interview mentioned here is available on Newstalk 1010’s website by downloading the February 2 Jerry Agar show. To save you going through the whole show, I have a copy of just the interview by clicking here (this is 5.2 MB).

This morning, Councillor Norm Kelly was on the Jerry Agar show on Newstalk 1010 speaking on why the Eglinton-Crosstown line should be underground for the entire route. He outlined five factors that are looked at to decide whether something should be underground or at grade. For a councillor who is in his second term on the TTC commission, he quite clearly doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground, but what do you expect from the city’s number one flip-flopper?

Allow me to go through he points he made:

  1. Speed. He claimed that the underground option is 70% faster.I don’t know where he gets this figure from, none of our other subway lines have an average speed that is 70% faster than the expected average speed of the original plan for the LRT on Eglinton. Perhaps he is comparing the average speed of the original plan with the top speed the vehicles are capable of doing. Top speed means nothing if you have to stop to pick up passengers, something that is rather important for a mass transit system.More importantly, speed of the line itself means nothing without the bigger picture of what the typical commuter’s average travel time will be. The underground option will eliminate a number of stops on the line, which helps increase the average speed of the line, but dramatically increases the average amount of time the typical commuter takes to get to where they are going as they now need extra time to get to a stop that is farther away from where they are coming from or where they are going.
  2. Capacity. Underground can carry more people than a road median surface alignment. Yes and no. Underground, we could easily run five-car trains, but the practical upper limit to train length for a road median alignment is only three cars. The trouble is, the underground stations are being designed for only a three-car length. There is a “utility” section at each end that will likely still have level track, so it is conceivable that the stations could be expanded for four-car trains, but that is it.The underground section can move faster with the use of ATO, but one must consider just how much capacity is needed where. The central core that was to be mostly underground in the Transit City plan needs higher capacity capabilities for future needs, but does that mean the expense of that capacity should be spent for the entire line. One of the big advantages of LRT is the ability to move from an area of high capacity in a dedicated right of way, to a reserved median or side-of-the-road right of way, to even a mixed with traffic operation. This latter example is not part of any of the Transit City plans, but is a viable way of extending a line further out in the suburbs at a lower cost where the need warrants.
  3. Building for Today or for Tomorrow. This is always a biggie, particularly with arguments for full subway. The claim that need for the line will outgrow capacity at some point. This often ignores that there is a significant amount of overlap in capacity between different modes. Just because we need to justify 10,000 ppdph to say that a full subway is needed today does not mean that LRT falls apart the day the needs reach that figure.Furthermore, the lower cost of building at-grade LRT allows us to meet the needs of today and for a significant time in the future economically while allowing the construction of parallel LRT services on other corridors to cover future growing capacity. Instead of spending X dollars on a single line that has a huge capacity that will not be needed for some time (or maybe not ever), spend X/3 dollars to build a line that meets today’s needs and the needs for the next couple of decades. During that time, another X/3 dollars can be spent to build a parallel line 4 km away on another main corridor to double the capacity AND be more convenient to people closer to the other corridor. The bonus is that WHEN a problem shuts down a line, there is a back-up available for commuters.
  4. Impact. A median right-of-way has a significant impact on the street.Sure it does, but this is sometimes a good thing. Certainly at Yonge and Eglinton, it would be a bad thing, but Transit City recognized that and placed the line underground there. Out in Scarborough, Eglinton was designed as a major artery with a minimum 7-lane road allowance. Median right of way has a very positive impact in this environment, and it is often overlooked that the elimination of buses taking up road space improves this impact even more. An underground line with longer station spacings will still require buses to clog up traffic.
  5. Cost. Underground costs more, but Kelly claims that operational savings will outweigh this in the long run.What operational savings? There may be some when it comes to station maintenance, since there will be fewer stations to maintain. Longer trains does reduce operational cost, since more people can be carried with a single operator, but don’t forget the underground stations will only be three cars long.Does Kelly expect the east end of the line to grow in capacity to the point that the masses will cry to have it put underground? The money to put this part of the line underground should be used to provide rapid service to other parts of the city that need it now.

The Transit City plan for Eglinton-Crosstown was not perfect. The TTC was very pig-headed about some issues, such as ballasted tie construction at the side of the road where practical. It is true that there are very few places in Toronto where this is practical, but parts of the Eglinton-Crosstown route are ideal for it. From the east portal of the underground section to Don Mills, the line should be built along the south side of Eglinton and not down the middle. Don Mills station was to be underground, and the line may remain underground to just east of the Don Valley Parkway. Between there and Victoria Park, it is possible to place it on the north side of the road and have it move to the middle of the road on an elevated structure at VP.