SRT Extension

Scarborough RTI made it out to the open house on the extension plans for the SRT on Tuesday evening.

None of the display boards made mention of choice of technology, but on the hand-out materials, this question in the FAQ sectin on technology appeared:

Q. Could the entire SRT be replace with LRT technology?

A.  Yes, the SRT right of way (and existing stations) can be modified to accept LRT vehicles. This would require major changes to the existing stations and the replacement of the third rail with overhead power. This will require additional construction works and will significantly extend the period of service disruption and require shuttle service. A conversion to LRT has advantages as a consistent fleet and opportunities for centralized maintenance facilities.

I filled out a comment sheet that encouraged the conversion to LRT and make it part of the Transit City network.

The open house focused on the chosen alignment and station locations. Since the technology has not yet been decided, the alignment places it on its own, totally segregated right of way. Should LRT conversion be in the cards for this line, I would not want to see a change to this alignment by placing any part of this extension in a road median simply because it can be. While LRT has this flexibility, there are some places around the city where an LRT line could be a true rapid transit operation if operated on a separate right of way, and this is one such place.

While I understand the intent of the Transit City plan to support “The Avenues” plan for the city, we should not go overboard and stick to this idea at the detriment of how the public will perceive LRT. I am thinking of some reactions to the idea that a Don Mills LRT might be underground south of the valley, perhaps with only one or two stops north of the subway: some people actually balked at how this made it more of an express operation and didn’t support “The Avenues”.  Why should we not take advantage of some part of the LRT network providing a faster service where possible?

That said, while I would not want the alignment changed, there are some parts of the plan that could be non-segregated but remain on its own right of way. I will comment on this after describing the alignment.

The Alignment

The plans for the alignment had been divided into two sections: one south and west of Highway 401 and Markham Road, and the other north and east of there. Different options were presented last year for each part, and the recommended selection for each, along with the criteria used to select them, were displayed.

The recommended alignment has the line proceeding from the current terminus at McCowan where it would follow the ground level alignment through the current yard facility. This facility would have to be replaced with a new facility that would be built east of Bellamy Road for ICTS/ART technology, or simply wouldn’t be needed for LRT conversion as this line would share the car house to be built for the Sheppard East LRT. The line would curve to the north east, following the current tail track of the yard, roughly on the former Canadian Northern Railway right of way. Just beyond the current tail track, the line would return to an elevated structure. The first new station would be located at Bellamy Road, where the line curves to head east, curving slightly northeast before reaching Markham Road.

Still elevated, the line would diagonally cross the intersection of Markham Road and Progress Avenue and follow close to the alignment of Progress Avenue where the next station would be located south of the 401 at Centennial College.  Continuing on an elevated structure, the line would cross over the 401 next to the Progress Avenue bridge. About half way to Milner Avenue, the line would descend into a shallow cut and cover tunnel where it would travel beneath Progress and cross under Milner. Just north of Milner, the line would leave the alignment of Progress and basically once again follow the former Canadian Northern Railway right of way up to McLevin Avenue. This former right of way is mainly green space and the intent of placing the line in a tunnel is intended to retain the current use of the space and minimize the impact of the line. There would be one station in the tunnelled section at Sheppard Avenue. This would provide a direct platform-to-platform transfer with the Sheppard East LRT line.

The line would leave the tunnel just before reaching McLevin, in a stretch between Pearson Collegiate and homes on Shepmore Terrace. The line would climb to an elevated structure on the south side of McLevin Avenue and cross over Tapscott Road to a terminal station northwest of Malvern Town Centre. This terminal will have 14 bus bays for Wheel Trans, local and inter-regional bus services. Possible tail tracks would extend past this station to about halfway between Tapscott and Neilson Road. (I previously mistakenly described this as descending back to a tunnel that curves under McLevin and aligns parallel with Neilson Road. The map shows this in a dashed line, but the small dashes are for “possible future extension” and not the same as the longer dashes for “below grade”)


For the most part, I like this fairly direct route. If converted to LRT, I question the need to have all of the tunnelled section. The tunnel from south of Milner to north of Sheppard makes sense. North of Sheppard, an at-grade LRT can exist in a park-like environment. The station at Sheppard would benefit from the grade separation as well, though it would complicate connecting tracks with Sheppard. If the SRT were converted to LRT, both this line and the Sheppard East line would benefit from a west-to-north connection and a south-to-east connection.

If the line were to be at grade slightly north of Sheppard, there would be two or three grade crossings with roads. The first at Mammoth Hall Trail may or may not be needed, depending on where the line returns to grade. The second at Greenspire Road could be like a level railway crossing. The third is where the line crosses Tapscott Road and since this is right next to McLevin, would have to be like the crossings next to Hiawatha Avenue in Minneapolis. The parking lot entrance/exit from the school to McLevin would either have to be signalled or removed.

3 Responses to “SRT Extension”

  1. K Says:

    I was at the open house as well, they never mentioned that the tail track would go below grade, who told u that? I left around 7:30 pm so maybe I missed something. Did they have an open discussion about the project later on? Anyways my only comment about the line is that I don’t like how it flanks the college, there should be a more direct connection, same thing with Malvern Town Centre. (Its going to be a long walk in the winter for students trying to get to the station.)

    Cal’s comment: I mistook the dashed line beyond the tail track on the map of the preferred route to mean “below grade” when in fact it means “possible future extension”.

    The location of the station is not all that far from the mall itself, but I believe that its distance to an actual entrance might be an issue, and a new or upgraded entrance might be in order (which would be the mall’s concern, not the TTC). Thinking about it, is there a mall besides the Eaton’s Centre that is physically closer? Fairview Mall and Yorkdale appear to be closer because of a parking structure.

    Ps. why does everyone seem to hate Mark II trains in Toronto? I think they’ll be a great improvement from the Mark I plus it will work better in snow. To be honest I also commented on the line telling them to choose ICTS technology. Yes Yes Yes I know some will argue ridership doesn’t justify exclusive ROW, but to be honest that shouldn’t be the only element to determine what technology to use.

    Where do you base the fact “it will work better in snow” about Mark II trains from? It is my understanding that this has never been tried in a comparable environment. The installation at JFK comes closest, but New York does not get the same frequency and extent of snowfalls as we do. Mark II is far superior to Mark I, but they still share the principals of linear induction motors with a small gap between the bottom of the car and the reaction rail. This small gap is just as susceptible to clogging with snow with both car types.

    Exclusive ROW is not the issue, in fact, I support the exclusive ROW for LRT. In most cases, LRT can be built for less money on an exclusive ROW comapared to a median, because it won’t necessarily have to be set in concrete.

    Besides the possibility of the snow issue, it is the sheer cost of ICTS that is the issue. While the cost of converting the existing line to LRT will be about the same or slightly more than making the conversions for Mark II, the cost difference becomes very significant when new line is built for the extension. ICTS adds to the cost because of its infrastructure: it not only needs an exclusive ROW, but an isolated ROW, meaning that at grade it must be fenced in. Addionally, there is the reaction rail infrastructure, which adds to the construction cost. Both LRT and ICTS are capable of providing the peak capacity needed for the line’s future projections, so what benefit is received by paying the premium cost of ICTS?

    The other cost savings will come from not needing a whole separate maintenance facility, as it will be able to make use of the one to be built for the Sheppard East line. Operational savings will also come from having a unified fleet because of spare parts and trained personnel requirements.

    The kicker will be this: I believe that if Mark-II is chosen, then the funding that is in place will only be enough to build the line up to Sheppard. If the public wants this line to go to Malvern Town Centre now, it will have to be converted to LRT.

  2. zweisystem Says:

    Quote: “it will work better in snow” about Mark II trains ……

    In Vancouver the MK. II ART trains also have problems in the snow as with the MK I’s. With those LIM’s being 1 cm above the reaction rail, snow gets in the electrics, creating all sorts of havoc. Also in Vancouver, it was found to be cheaper using a conventional ‘Hyundai’ metro car than a SkyTrain ART car for the RAV/Canada line. Why the TTC wants to continue with a SkyTrain SRT is silly, especially when they have seem to throw in their lot with light rail.

    Cal’s comment: Thanks for some information on how well (or not) the Mark-II cars operate in snow.

    I was aware that the new Canada Line was using a non-LIM vehicle, even though the look of the car may be similar to SkyTrain Mark-II cars. I’m not so sure that the TTC is all that in favour of keeping the ICTS/ART technology anymore. There may be a few that want to, but the fact that the project materials went from nothing about LRT conversion at last year’s open houses to now talking about the possibility, says a lot. I had heard suggestions that the push to keep ICTS may have stemmed from not wanting to cause a black eye on this Ontario-created technology and Bombardier. I am suspecting that since a conversion to LRT will be replacing a Mark-I system, combined with what looks like making Bombardier a sole supplier for all steel-wheeled transit vehicles for Toronto (Transit City cars, legacy streetcars, and the new subway cars), Bombardier is not in a position to say their ART technology is hurt by the SRT being converted to LRT.

  3. JJ Says:

    The alignment though direct, fails to have any stop locations that’ll either trigger TOD or be within reasonable walking distance of preexisting density clusters en route. We’d be more capable of attracting new ridership were the preferred alignment to be reconfigured. I propose a five-station extension instead. The Bellamy Stn should be situated closer to the Progress/Bellamy intersection to better interface with the condominum block @Lee Centre Dr and nearby high-end businesses. The alignment I see in the pdf seems to totally neglect Markham Rd, resulting in a time-consuming backtrack for customers trying to connect with the 102 bus. Instead build a direct stop overhead (similar to Midland Stn) around Tuxedo Pl. This is a excellent location for a station because walk-in potential here would be very promising given the eight (8) high-rise apartment complexes in the immediate area, as adjacent to well the 2050 Ellesmere office/medical building and a couple retail plazas. Some 38/95/133 riders along Ellesmere may even consider transferring onto the LRT from this point as to avoid getting stuck in traffic congestion down the road when trying to board at the Scarborough Centre.

    Next up, Progress-Centennial College. The campus should have its own exclusive station on the school grounds right across from the main buildings. There is ample room to accomodate this as it can be elevated over the existing parking lot, nary affecting that space’s function. The alignment from here remains elevated crossing the 401 and then could even run at-grade eastwards toward Neilson Rd. At Neilson the line burrows underground with a station juxtaposed between Milner and Sheppard East allowing for easy transfer onto the 132 and 133 buses and of course Sheppard East LRT. Remaining underground for even less of a distance than the preferred route chosen, the line continues underneath Neilson and Blackwell Ave to reach a terminus staion on the southeast corner of the Malvern Town Ctr. Why on earth the southwest corner made more sense to planners I do not know. There is no less than nine (9) high-rise apartment buildings in the tiny stretch of Tapscott/Sewell from Blackwell to Brenyon (one block west and one block east of Neilson Rd). In addition the SE corner has a community centre, civic services, numerous townhouse clusters, a more direct link underground to the shopping centre complex, and in case of future expansion results in a better angle upon which to continue in a northeasternly direction. Having the bus terminal on this corner also reduces the need for timely route detours of the 39, 132 and 133 buses; leaving only the 134 bus which would actually be enhanced by looping around MTC rather than bypassing it as it currently does.

    The benefits of such a line beyond frankly being of far more use to surrounding communities and local residents is that it’d result in a more cost-effective alignment overall from not having to tunnel as extensvely (or necessarily even have to be a on an elevated guideway either when running adjacent the 401 between Progress and Neilson). And from a network standpoint it’d interconnect with more transit routes overall. So in light of all this, I sincerely hope the “preferred” route alignment isn’t a done deal yet.

    Cal’s comment: It isn’t a done deal yet. The purpose of last week’s open house was to get feedback such as this in order to fine tune and make changes to the plan. Your alignment suggestions have merit, though I will make a few comments. Th display panels are available online and can be seen here (warning: 2.8 M file) for reference.

    Option 1 for the southern part of the extension had the Bellamy station at the intersection of Progress and Bellamy. This option, however, required the relocation of the McCowan station and the realignment of part of the line between Scarborough Centre and McCowan (read: tear down and rebuild it). I am not sure about the ease of maintaining the existing alignment beyond McCowan station (as the preferred option does) and moving the Bellamy station. Even though it would better serve the condos, this is a 200 metre move in an area somewhat built up.

    The Neilson Road alignment was one of the northern options under consideration. The alignment (N4) under consideration had the line remain on the south side of the 401 over to Neilson where it would cross and follow Nielson. The only benefit this alignment had over other options was that it better located the station for Centennial College.

    The point about missing Markham Road stuck out in my mind as well. This would be a very important station to have, whether it is diagonally over the Markham/Progress intersection, or a little further south at Tuxedo Court. Given that the plan was developed under the concept of keeping ICTS technology, I suspect the cost of this additional station so close to a station needed to better serve Centennial College could not be justified. With a conversion to LRT technology, it will likely be easier to justify the additional station. Another station will cost money, but another LRT station tends to be less expensive since their infrastructure is simpler (no need to isolate people from track level, for instance).