Norm Kelly on Eglinton-Crosstown

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.

3 Responses to “Norm Kelly on Eglinton-Crosstown”

  1. W. K. Lis Says:

    We NEED a Downtown Relief Line. Wanting a Sheppard Line is not enough, where NEED beats want every-time.

    Cal’s comment: When I hear much of the garbage that comes out of people’s mouths about why subways are better than LRT, what really pisses me off it that virtually NONE of those speaking say anything about a DRL. Without a doubt, an eastern leg of a DRL, with connection at Yonge AND University downtown that continues north of the Danforth to Don Mills and Eglinton should be the top of ANY subway talk.

  2. a a Says:

    I too originally wanted a subway for a variety of reasons but apparently they will be using light-rail spec which are slower? I don’t understand the point of spending the money to get across town only slightly faster than a bus would.

    Cal’s comment: It is not just slightly faster than a bus. LRVs can move as fast as subway cars, but when it comes above ground, it is more affordable to have stations that are closer together. While this lowers the average speed across the line, it actually improves the overall time the average commuter would need as they can catch the higher order of transit in more places, which eliminates the need for more time due to walking or taking a bus (and the transfer it causes). LRT will be far less costly to operate than buses as more people can be carried with the use of a single operator, not to mention the lower energy cost.

    A significant benefit of using LRT over full subway when the numbers warrant it is that it will be far easier to justify extensions to the line in the future. Building a full subway line means that the higher cost of extension makes it harder to justify that extra kilometre or two. If the numbers do warrant a full subway line (as they do for a Downtown Relief Line), then it should be built as such, but there comes a point where it will become difficult to justify further extensions fo that line.

  3. Robert Says:

    I note one otopin for left turns is not explored proceeding through the junction then right-turn/right-turn/right turn. It wouldn’t work everywhere but it’s a safer otopin than u-turns. Along Eglinton East there are some open lots with parking where a loop could be contemplated.

    Cal’s comment: I agree that the plan for Eglinton seemed to overuse what is similar to a Michigan Left. Though they seem awkward at first, they tend to be better at keeping traffic moving. What would be different on Eglinton is that the U-turn location would be traffic-light controlled, so the issue of safety is maintained. That said, there are some locations where it may be better to consider the right-turn/right-turn/right-turn approach. As they say, “Two wrongs don’t make a right, but three rights makes a left!”