Regional Transit – what are the criteria for a project?

We seem to spend a great deal of time looking at the ridership that a specific project would attract – but far too little on network capacity, the impact on the quality of rides on existing and reconfigured routes, and the cost of provision of service.

There is a fundamental need to look at all transit in terms of the network.  What will any new line/route/service do in terms of improving service and re-aligning the way in which riders use the system, and the crowding and capacity available on the system.  Also what will the impact be on the cost of service on all routes if we add this one.  Ideally each capital project should really be able to be justified as an investment – in that it improves service on the network, increases capacity, and reduces the cost of providing additional service.

If we looked at the transit in the GTA as a single integrated network – where there was a near seamless transfer between TTC and GO, I suspect that a suggested network based on this would look very different if this was a basic assumption.    Extending subway in order to send people to the core, and including those riders from the outer 416 and inner 905 would not longer make sense as service on GO would be faster, and could be offered more quickly for a much lower cost. Also attempting to run TTC trains in this space would also make no sense.

Again looking at the network in this way would reduce the pressure to extend a Yonge subway to Richmond Hill, likely would have reduced the drive to push it into Vaughan, and would also reduce the pressure to create a subway extension in Scarborough. There is a need for the TTC to focus on short haul, local service, to and from longer haul subway and other heavy rail services.   We cannot build a system around the idea of sending ever more load onto the existing subway, and not looking seriously at proper service integration.  LRT should provide an out of traffic solution to allow high frequency linkage to these heavy rail routes, while allowing bus routes to be both shorter and more reliable.  Looked at with a more flexible view to service delivery – should permit a large improvement in service, and a greater increase in effective capacity for a smaller capital investment and smaller increase in operating subsidy.

The province will need to set standards for service, and allocations for future transitways, and requirements for funding transfers between systems to prevent areas from choosing to not heavily support transit.  However, these standards for transit should also be accompanied with a drive to less required parking and higher density in new development and re-development throughout the region. A properly considered and integrated transit system should permit most employment and shopping to be readily accessed in reasonable time, from the vast majority of the region.

Every projects should should be considered in the light of how it improves service for connecting lines, will draw additional riders to the network as a whole, and how it will create – and consume capacity elsewhere. The improvements in GO for instance will draw riders but consume capacity at Union.  LRT linking to Yonge, will improve bus service, but likely to increase loading on Yonge.  A DRL extending to Eglinton or beyond – would draw load away from Yonge, and enable further connections to shorten the Lawrence Bus route, and greatly improve service there.  A line that continued North from there would also allow a large number of buses to stay away from the most congested portions of their runs, and thus improve service and reduce cost of delivery along the balance of the route.  This project would enable tremendous service and capacity – and open many other options – but would also consume tremendous resources to construct. The transit system needs to be rethought – fares and integration hugely improved, and every new route planned in the context of the overall network, in terms of how it will affect service, capacity and delivery costs for balance of the network.

Each project needs to be seen in the light of whether does it open new options – or consume the existing ones.  When Union Station renovations were underway – extra capacity for the streetcar loop, or even an extra streetcar loop needed to be considered – if this is ultimately going to the destination of the East Bayfront and Western Waterfront LRTs.   A DRL offers the possibility of a real Don Mills LRT that would serve core bound riders (as well as those bound for locations along Don Mills and the balance of the Subway and LRT network)  while helping to relieve pressure on Yonge and improve many bus routes operations.  

The overall network, and how to make transit more effective needs to be at the centre of planning – not mega project magic bullet solutions. That means looking at how to improve management, decrease run times, improve schedule and headway adherence, and looking at projects in terms of the service they enable – first and foremost.  This means first improving management, and clearly identifying what is required to improve basic service, and where running conditions really are an issue, and getting all working together to clearly address them, and only where truly required resorting to substantial new construction.

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