Some Subway Thoughts

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.

2 Responses to “Some Subway Thoughts”

  1. City Boy at Heart Says:

    Calvin, Just to let you know, the looping routes that the TTC has are the 69WARDEN SOUTH, 99ARROW ROAD, the new 171MOUNT DENNIS, and if you ignore the missing two blocks,98WILLOWDALE-SENLAC. In Mississauga, I think it is route33 that they have going around in a circle through and by the Erin Mills Town Center.I hope this provides a little info. CBatH

    Cal’s comment: In the context of what I was discussing, 98 Willowdale-Senlac wouldn’t count, as there are definite ‘A’ and ‘Z’ endpoints to the route (pardon my telecom industry terminology). In fact, to suggest that it is “almost a loop” is to fall victim of what I call a “fetish” with displaying a route in its geographical representation rather than a linear representation.

    Some others may add routes that exist, or have existed, on other systems. It has also occurred to me that there are some Community Bus routes that may or may not qualify as a loop route. Here’s the criteria: a loop route has the bus pass everything in sequence, never reaching one point again until it has reached
    all the others first. 98 Willowdale-Senlac fails this test. Using Sheppard/Willowdale and Steeles/Willowdale as two test points, the bus heading out from the Subway will pass the first point, then the second point, and after it loops and heads back it passes the Steeles/Willowdale point before passing Sheppard/Willowdale again. Of course, the fact that the bus must use a loop is a clear give-away that the route itself is not a loop!

  2. Andrew Says:

    I find the single line actually more confusing, especially when making line connections in a new city. In Buenos Aires I found it confusing to locate myself along the line using the straight line above the doors….since the station names and lines are unfamiliar to me. I was happy to locate myself on the hand-out free Subte map, which is geographically oriented with streets and water. I think with simple systems like BA and Toronto, there is ample room to show ALL the information such as geographical features without cluttering things up. I can agree in a place like Tokyo perhaps the straight line maps can clear things up in an otherwise caotic geographical representation. Nice system in BA though!

    Cal’s comment: I’m not saying do away with geographical system maps, just keep them separate. BsAs is a little remiss in providing full system maps. On some trains, they appear next to the doors, though many I saw did not show the new H line. Stations were also a mix of good and bad displays. In planning your full trip, you need to see the whole system and how it fits geographically. The place for the straight line map for the route is above the door. If on a train and you arrive at a station, a quick glance above the door to find that station and you know what is coming up because the direction of the train tells you so. One can also see at a glance where one can connect to other lines, without information overload about the details of the other lines. One can refer to the full system map to plan the next part of the trip on the next line.