Author Archives: Malcolm N

Toronto – A Regional Plan – is all about integration. 

One of the key things that is lacking in the GTA is discipline, as recently seen in the decision by Brampton City Council to not accept their portion of the Hurontario – Maine LRT.   This really does undermine one of the keys in making a western side of region network function. This LRT was meant to link all the way to the Kitchener GO line. It is important that we not look at each municipality as an Island, because workers, employers, and shoppers do not regard the borders as important, and when transit forces strong divides, it merely creates a lot more trips by auto.

If the GTA is to work its way towards having transit actually serve – in allowing people a real alternative to auto for most trips, it must form a much more destination neutral network. The existing GO Train network is entirely focused on delivering riders to the core, and taking them home.   Increasing its capacity – will not reduce congestion across the region, and cannot be expected to have an impact on the 401 say.

There is a very real need to make it much easier to get to a much broader set of destinations. To this end, we need rapid transit that serves to deliver people to the employment concentrations around the region, however, we need to be realistic about the modes that can reasonably be. The Mississauga City Centre does not come close to needing a subway line, nor does Markham City Centre, the Richmond Hill City centre, the Meadowvale business district, or even the Scarborough Town Centre. It is critical, however, if we want to sustain mobility in the region, that we begin to make all these areas, accessible, with reasonable travel times from most of the region by transit.

It is also critical, that we make much better use of the links we currently have, by building a network, that ties them to other locations. This is the rub with Brampton’s decision, it affects a lot more than Brampton.

Many Modes

To make a truly a transit plan that will actually serve the region, means getting past the subway addiction, and looking at building a broad network that is capacity, and trip appropriate. To this end, I would like to actually discuss more modes, than are usually discussed, in building a broad network, we need to look at BRT and LRT, as having at least 2 distinct formats each, which are practically distinct modes. A BRT running in an within expressway ROW, or power corridor, is not generally locally available, as such it is not really a local mode, but a very quick regional one.

LRT running in a tunnel or with total grade separation, similarly, is very different than one running in median with frequent stops.

Network – as a web

If we are actually going to build transit, as a viable way of moving the majority of the trips in the GTA, it needs to be a wide network, very nearly a web, much like the road network for autos. Like this network, not all branches need be created the same, they each have their own role, and they need to work seamlessly as a feeder system. Continuing the approach of subway extension, like the TYSSE will break the bank, and not result in a broad, effective network.   There is a need to provide much broader coverage than this approach can ever hope to create. We need to start thinking in terms of frequent bus routes, feeding even more frequent LRT & BRT routes that in turn run to subways, GO and employment concentrations.

Toronto and the rest of the GTA, needs to build a frequent network, that is basically immune to congestion on the roads, and to do this well, will require GO trains be both frequent, and bi-directional. If the dream of RER is fully realized, where all GO lines offered 2 way service every 15 minutes or better, they can become a very real part of a much broader transit network. It will however, require additional linkages to make this truly work.

Looking at the region

Toronto has done a detailed survey of requirements, Metrolinx has as well, but politics continually muddy the water. RER will serve core bound riders, however, a proper rapid transit web would permit this to be the region as a whole.

Support for Growth at the core

The province has recently started to push a massive GO expansion, ahead of virtually all other projects – I believe this to be wrong headed. I think a far stronger emphasis on incremental growth for GO is critical, to free up resources to build a DRL. This singular link, provides the opportunity to provide linkages to a much broader network, that will also serve non core trips. RER is critical to long-term regional growth, but local transit cannot be dropped to do it, and a broad network is required to make it all work.   A DRL is critical to making this network – make sense, otherwise core bound trips will overwhelm the balance of the network. Ideally the DRL would run from somewhere north of Don Mills and Eglinton, through to a point far enough west of the core, to support a substantial Waterfront West LRT, and continued development in the Liberty Village area and points north, as well as a western gateway GO station to greatly increase commuter capacity into the core.

East Bayfront LRT, would go a long way to opening close to core opportunities for growth, that will permit substantial continued growth, for a relatively small investment. Such link will encourage growth where it can most affordably be accommodated.  What is required to support this at Union should also permit an extension of capacity for the Harbor Front car, and perhaps much more frequent runs to the CNE grounds.

Scarborough

The Scarborough Subway extension is the classic case in point of the political games being played with transit in the region. There was a real plan in place to replace the RT with a viable – and much less costly LRT, that would have provided more than enough capacity, and could have been easily extended. The additional money to build subway, could easily fund a broad network, that would cover most of Scarborough, and provide real linkage to GO. Instead of subway, I would strongly suggest that we revert to something that looks much more like what Transit City did. However, the one line at a time historic approach, combined with political games, has greatly undermined the belief in the notion of a network – even when the cost for a network is no more than a single line, and a clearly more effective solution.

Build the Scarborough – Malvern LRT to the end of the subway, and the Eglinton – Crosstown LRT.   The Crosstown, however, should either continue as the STC link or the Scarborough-Malvern LRT. The RT replacement, needs to continue ideally as far as the Sheppard LRT, as a grade separated LRT, with the ability to short turn trains at the end of the grade separated portion. This provides for both higher speed and capacity, preserving the ability to run 30 or 40 trains per hour on the highest demand section.   Sheppard LRT needs to provide high quality frequent and reasonably local service – however this begs a need for longer distance services.

It is critical to note that the Sheppard LRT would link both ways to the Stouffville RER line and the Scarborough Malvern LRT – would link both ways to the Lakeshore, and Stouffville lines.   Thus the Scarborough Malvern LRT provides 2 way ridership opportunities to both (ie a link between Oshawa and Markham). With a Markham road BRT as well, a rider on Sheppard bound somewhere other than the North York City Centre would have a wide variety of alternatives.

Etobicoke

Rexdale

This region needs a plan nearly as extensive as what Scarborough had, however, TransitCity had some really good ideas, although some of this is now much harder to build.

Finch West LRT needs to be built to extend all the way to the airport, or the Malton GO in the west, and the Yonge Subway line in the east. The corridor is important, in terms of providing long-term connectivity to the region as a whole. There is a real need to link North York City center with the GO from the west, and provide an easier, through route for ZUM. There was a reason that Transit City had this as a through link.

 

We want to offer an alternative to driving, for those from Brampton, Mississauga and beyond.

 

Mimico – and southern Etobicoke

The addition of a Waterfront West LRT would add greatly to transit support for development, which is happening anyway in the Lake front area of southern Etobicoke. This is a high desirable area to develop, but more than GO support will be required, as GO is very likely to become badly overloaded, even at 12 trains per hour on the Lakeshore West line. Also this line provides the possibility of collecting and distributing GO ridership much more effectively in the areas between stations.

North South –

Right now there are a couple of very busy north south bus routes in Etobicoke. Kipling and Islington, both see a ridership of over 15k and pushing 20k per day. I would propose converting one of them – Kipling – to at least a BRT route, that would link through the airport and provide a link between the various east west routes. There was originally an LRT station built into the Kipling subway station, and this idea could be revived.   Such a line would provide linkage for the Hwy 427 business corridor, and the high-density residential area that has also grown up along it, tie the Mississauga Transit way, and Kitchener GO along with the airport district to the subway, Lakeshore GO. It also provides a much higher degree of neutrality, as riders could head west and north or south from much of western Etobicoke to reach the employment districts around the airport, the rest of Mississauga and Brampton.

 

North York

Along with the Sheppard East LRT, and the Finch West LRT all the way to Yonge, I would also suggest an extension of the Yonge subway as far as Steeles, to support a greatly enhanced turn capacity, and a station able to support a couple of LRT lines, one east west on Steeles, and another headed north to support York Region. The east west LRT may start life as a BRT, but needs to be considered to act as a collector to support a large number of bus routes.

Also the DRL needs to come through to at least Don Mills and Eglinton and meet an LRT on Don Mills at its terminus, although the province has presented an argument, to extend this as far as Sheppard, which would make a more ideal point to anchor an LRT line – although also greatly more expensive.

 

York

VIVA BRT – well underway needs to be completed, there are 2 east west BRT that need to link the region, and provide linkage to the proposed north south routes.

West-The budget has in essence already been blown here, with the TYSSE, and it will be hard to argue for much beyond BRT connecting to the end of the subway.

Central -The plan to build a Yonge Subway extension, seems very much a massive cost, to a single link, where this will direct too much load in a single direction, and will simply cost too much – while adding too little.

York region LRT The Yonge subway extension, should be replaced by 2 LRT lines, one to connect the Yonge subway, one to connect the DRL, which would presumably run as far as Sheppard. These LRT would connect to the various York region bus lines, and both east west BRT (highway 7/407 and Davis Road).   Building LRT will provide for far greater opportunity to extend rapid transit in the future.

East-Along with the Stouffville GO becoming RER- there should also be a supplemental north south – BRT connecting to the end of the Scarborough RT replacement.

Mississauga – Brampton

Mississauga already has 3 lines, either proposed, under construction, or complete. The Mississauga transit way, the Hurontario-Maine LRT and the Dundas Street BRT, are the ones currently on the list.

Currently, we have hugely limited the value of the Transitway, by cutting the Crosstown short, and as such the Crosstown, becomes critical to Mississauga’s network as well, as would a Kipling BRT/LRT. If we completed the Crosstown, and built a connecting North south route just inside Toronto, the value of this line grows dramatically.

I lump these 2 together, because of the Hurontario-Maine LRT, which should have also linked their city centers.

Brampton backed out, in part because they wanted a Queen Street line first. While I think this is wrong headed, an east west service, that will continue to be immune to congestion is important. However, this service makes considerably more sense when it is linked to a north south one.   There is a need in the long-term plan to add a service that links Brampton east-west, although the LRT would also link Brampton to other east west links.

Along with the currently proposed lines for Mississauga, I believe there is a need for an additional BRT linking Meadowvale and Erindale and their respective GO lines. This would currently see little use, but provides for future development, and growth in local transit – without requiring long runs on congested roads. This BRT should also extend north into the areas of Brampton that are still developing, and a route should be reserved now. Also such a line could act as an important feeder to the regional system.

 

Remaining regional concern:

The other issue that needs to be addressed in looking at that the region as a whole is creating a higher speed east west link that does not detour through the core. This would provide for a rapid link between other rapid transit, and local transit distribution hubs. So for instance it would go from the STC (1) to a stop on Stouffville GO (2) the end of the Sheppard Subway, and a Don Mills subway (3) line in a single stop, next stop being the Yonge Subway (4), then the University line (5), and next the airport (6). Each of these locations would in turn be a major mobility hub, where there was a very fast link, acting like commuter rail between them. This rapid link running every 5 minutes or so would mean that a hop from the STC to the airport could comfortably under 30 minutes.   If this was extended to the Pickering GO, you would have a high speed transit links to serve all major employment areas, and transit links across the city, including, permitting the Morningside hook and Scarborough Malvern LRT to enjoy a rapid anchor at the outer end.   Such a link draws its value from the existence of a broad rapid transit network, tightly connected a very extensive local transit network.   It would exist – purely to provide a way to jump quickly between major nodes. It is not clear to me what capacity this would need to be, as it would over time alter the way transit it used and likely make a substantial – if gradual change in employment decisions. Instinctively, this would be a fully grade separated LRT, capable of running 100 km/h or better, and would likely start as a 2 car LRT every 5 minutes, and grow from there. It would be important however, to ensure that the line would be able to absorb substantial growth and the stations be designed so as to allow extremely heavy transfer activity, as we could reasonably expect 25-40% turnover at many of the stops. Such a line would resolve many of the concerns now surrounding lines like the Sheppard LRT, as you could ride a small portion of that line, and then take an express ride to the major node.

Conclusion

Currently the province suggests that even with the BIG MOVE that we will at best tread water. I believe this is because of a mix of too much politics draining away money on poorly conceived projects, and not enough resources being available.   Clearly we could not build the list above in a matter of weeks or months, but with help from the federal government, a careful sequencing of projects, and building the most effective projects first, with a constant eye to the network as a whole, it could be done in a way that took us beyond merely treading water, within the next 20 years.

While a DRL is only being considered to extend the Yonge subway, it should be a major priority, and part of an early build. Beyond this single very high capacity link, instead of building anymore subway extension, lower capacity lines should be built to greatly broaden the network. The DRL is required to intensify the network, subway extension, is inappropriate.

Such a network could be reasonably built with reasonable support from both the province and the Federal governments, not least because it avoids the excessive use of subway.   It would also be important to note this last link – only makes sense in the presence of the wider network, and as such should be built very late in the game. The balance of the network needs to be taken in order. The projects that can be built without loading up the Yonge subway – should be started quickly. That would mean 500 million in the core for the East Bayfront LRT, 3.8 billion for Scarborough (LRT for RT replacement, Scarborough Malvern LRT including Morningside hook, and a Markham Road and Ellesmere Ave BRT), about 2 billion in Rexdale, extending Finch West to the airport and Yonge, and the Crosstown to the Renforth Gateway also about 2 billion for a capacity increasing extension of Yonge to Steeles and about 2.5 billion for Mississauga Brampton (Hurontario-Maine LRT, Queen BRT, and Dundas BRT and Erindale-Meadowvale-Brampton BRT), or a total of 10-11 or so billion dollars- that could be spent without a DRL, on projects not already underway.

The construction of a DRL will likely consume 7-10 billion in itself, but will then enable the construction of the Waterfront West LRT, a Don Mills LRT to and through York Region, and a Yonge Street LRT, for a total of another 15 or so billion, including the DRL.   This would bring the total to 25 or so billion plus RER investments, that should be running along at say a billion a year for a total of about 12-13 billion (or under 40 billion total). If this expenditure is spread over 3 levels of government and 20 years – of continuous construction, the investment could kept in the area of $1 billion per level of government, per year.  However $3 billion per annum – would be enough to have a substantial impact on the region. At the end of the period we could then afford to look at that high-speed link between the major nodes in the regional transit system. The commitment to continuous construction and the immediate reservation of space for ROW, would also start to change the form of construction, and location of new employment.   I believe that building what we can build without a DRL, and the incrementally rolling out RER, will permit the region to nearly hold its own congestion wise. Completing the DRL and rerouting buses, and continuing to build LRT beyond, should allow a rethinking of travel patterns and a continuing shift in modes, that will allow us to actually begin to reduce congestion.

At the end of this build cycle, you would the build a Steeles Ave LRT across the city and a Lawrence East LRT to the end of Lawrence- thus opening more area for development, and the opportunity to further support local bus routes, in a way that truly transformed the region.

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Comment to the BRT Crowd – for those who claim BRT can carry the load.

I have read a bunch of pieces from Cato institute, among others, that I find a little frustrating.  Yes, if you run enough buses you can exceed the capacity of a single rail each way – LRT – that you constrain to 3 cars, and 20 trains per hour.  However, when you make that comparison, what are in effect doing?  Yes, you can have buses passing each other and staggered stops, but that either means an open right of way, and being subjected to congestion, or well having platforms plus a stop lane plus a running lane for the bus in each direction.  This means 3 lanes dedicated to buses assuming the stop directions are offset.  If you are running say a 3 car LRT at 3 minutes, you have a very comfortable capacity of 8100, and a reasonably one of 9,000.  If you are going to match this, and are looking at replacing this capacity with articulated buses you are looking at something on the order of 120 buses per hour.  Why are we limiting the LRT to 20 trains per hour? This is based entirely on signal timing and pedestrian flows.   If you are looking at a reasonable 3 minute signal cycle and buses running at 120 per hour, well if the buses are perfectly coordinated, there are 4 buses passing through each green signal, perhaps more to the point 90 seconds with no buses, followed by 90 seconds with 4, 2 of which – assuming everything is working perfectly – are right on top of each other.

The other question that we all need to discuss is – why are we limiting the LRT to 3 cars?  It is important to remind ourselves, that the core reason is pedestrian flows, and this is determined by the number of people alighting at any given stop, during a signal cycle.  This is not affected by the vehicle type but rather by the timing of capacity arriving at the stop, 120 vehicles or 20 it will still be the same number of passengers, trying to cross during a limited signal.

So yes, if you offset stops, organize for platoons of vehicles, are willing to dedicate a lane equivalent for stops and one in each direction for travel, platforms on  – you can achieve the same or even greater capacity, however, you will need much more space in the roadway – which is the primary argument against LRT, and you will still have pedestrian flow issues, which is what will limit the capacity of LRT.  If you build stations with walkways etc, and are in an area where you are prepared to ensure there are only crossing streets at a spacing of greater than 120 meters, you could run trains of 4 cars – and a capacity of 12,000.  Increase the road spacing to 150 meters you can easily get 15,000 – and I would be surprised if achieving this road spacing is really an issue.  However, think of 750 passengers passing through a point in each direction in 3 minutes, and half of them want to alight at a given stop.  So you have 750 pedestrians trying to cross at a given intersection – in a given signal timing.  This is not really a question of the capacity of the mode, but rather station planning.

So we need to ask the questions with regards to what makes sense, and one of the question needs to be – how much space are we able to dedicate to transit within the road, can we actually have 3 lanes and 2 sets of platforms, or are we going to restrict it to 2 and 1 set of platforms.  Next what kind of stations are we building, if we are going to build stations to handle large pedestrian flows, then we can increase the capacity of LRT or BRT, but lets be straight forward about it.  We also need to ask the questions about impact on the corridor, would you want to back onto a corridor with 120 Articulated buses roar by every hour (or 180 regular buses)?  If we dedicate the space, design the stations, and ensure that road crossings are sparse – we could run 5, or even 6 car LRTs, but there really is not many spaces where there would be near that level of demand, and where there is, we would likely want to,  be able to justify, a subway, with stations designed to handle the flows of riders.

BRT in the GTA, has it role, and does even within Toronto, but the space in the rights of way, flows, timing, and destinations of riders are key in making the choices.  LRT makes more sense in a 36 meter right of way with more than 2800 riders in peak hour & direction.  That would mean 2 fully loaded articulated buses per signal in a single direction.

A Transit Plan – needs to be about riders where they live, where they are going , and how many.

One of the great and on-going frustrations with pushing SmartTracks – as the solution, is that it misses the issue of origins of the commuters that are actually headed to the core. It essentially forces a total re-orientation of the bus routes, and would have people travel west to go south and east, and go east to go south and west.

The other critical aspect however, is that if we consider the issues in Toronto, we also need to look at how many people need to travel, and how spread out the time in which they would reasonably choose to do so would be. If we consider commuting into the core, what percentage of inbound commuters should we reasonably expect between 8-9 am, how many between 7:30 and 8:00 and how many 9:00-9:30 and what about beyond that time? Realistically I would argue that the vast majority of people would like to arrive downtown from say 7:30 to 9:00 am, so one could argue that would support 18 trains from each of the Stouffville and Kitchener corridors for RER/ST. That would mean a total of 72,000 commuters on this route. It is important to remember however that there are already trains on these lines, I believe 4 and 5 – so we need to delete 9 trains from our 36 trains so a possible increase of 54,000 commuters – max. core bound commuters. The forecast however is for another 100,000 jobs – just in the core.   So should we not consider the need to move the other 46,000 commuters headed to the core? What about the other destinations around the city and region?

Steve Munro – does a marvelous job providing a clear critique of what is wrong here.

http://stevemunro.ca/2015/10/22/a-smarter-smarttrack/

The thing is that a DRL, located based on actual ridership forecasting, would allow more people to travel in a more logical initial direction, and could also carry 54,000 riders in the same 1.5 hour period, assuming the same train selection as Yonge, and only 33 trains per hour – which is achievable with normal current switching and not even bothering with 3 platform stations. If we opted for a 3-platform design at the busiest stations – we would likely be able to get that number to 60,000 riders. Equally important is that the corridors from ST would still be available, and would be open to incremental growth that will be required from the areas northeast and northwest of Toronto. The development of these corridors will require significant investment, but the space is there.   However, if we do not make a point, of at least reserving the corridor, there will be no space for a DRL.

Equally ridiculous, however, is the desire to build subway, where the loads simply do not warrant – because the bus route happens to be a busy one. The city needs to progress from one mode to the next – in a reasonable progression. A bus route even one with a daily ridership of 45,000 does not begin to justify a subway. If we are going to extend the subway network – there are 2 key questions that need be asked.

1-Does the incremental service, and ridership justify the heavy investment, and is there a mode that would provide service, close to, equal or better, at a smaller investment?

2-If the ridership does justify a subway- can the balance of the subway network actually absorb the ridership the extension would add?

At this point, it is hard to justify any of any subway extension, because the answer to at least one of these questions is a clear no. The Scarborough extension would cost so much money that a much more complete network of LRT and BRT could be built, to provide much better service, for a smaller investment. It also fails because, if it were to live up to the studies that required diversion of Markham riders onto the subway, it would cause an overload on the subway network further west. The Yonge extension would require a DRL to be built as far north as Sheppard for it to be able to absorb the load, and it is anything but clear that a longer LRT would not make more sense.

Toronto and the GTA, need to create a plan that actually makes sense based on the load, and that allows for future growth. I personally have an opinion, and it is largely based on looking at 2 issues, where do we have demand, and where do we have space. This – by the way, is largely what the TransitCity plan was about.

The first thing is to develop capacity – where there is demand, and there will be capacity elsewhere in the system to deal with additional demand likely induced by a substantial service improvement. The region as a whole needs RER, but we need to be careful about how it is used, and developed. It makes the most sense to look at this corridor by corridor.   Lakeshore West needs capacity now, so re-signalling that corridor makes sense today, Lakeshore East as far as the Scarborough Junction (where Stouffville leaves) needs a 4th track now, and Kitchener, and Stouffville each need an extra track. However, I would argue only Lakeshore East and West are close to a level of demand that justifies electrification.

While we are planning, and securing a corridor for the DRL build, we need to build appropriate LRT lines, that can be supported.

1- Build the- East Bay Front LRT to support development of the high value potential (and tax take) eastern waterfront.

2 – Build the Finch West LRT – with the notable change of extending this all the way to the Malton GO.

3-Extend the Eglinton Crosstown LRT – all the way to the Renforth Gateway, to meet the Mississauga Transitway.

4-Build the Malvern LRT, from Kennedy through, notably serving the Kennedy, Eglinton, and Guildwood GO.

5-Build the Hurontario-Maine LRT, including a specific goal of tying together the GO lines approaching the west side of the city, and the Mississauga TransitWay.

6-Develop a real airport area circulator, and develop Malton and the Renforth Gateway, as real airport area hubs, including traffic into the airport itself. Re-task the UPX, as a frequent commuter rail run, to tie the Airport, Brampton/ZUM transit, MiWay and the core together. It would require significant changes, in order to support trains that while they were only 3 or 4 cars long, would be able to hold 100- 150 passengers per car, and would run every 5 minutes.

At this point we might actually have enough buses to approach the RT replacement which needs to be built to support trains at least 3 cars long on a short headway, and extending it to at least meet Sheppard Ave.

Beyond this many of the projects required to make the rest of Toronto itself really function, require a DRL. Otherwise construction would either trigger more load than can be managed, or create a situation where there was no logical spot to run rapid transit to.   A corridor for the DRL needs to be secured to run from Don Mills and Finch, through core, close to Liberty Village and the CNE grounds to a point west of Roncesvalles and Queen, and back to and through the Bloor subway. I would argue that the initial construction of a DRL should run from Eglinton and Don Mills through core, and as far as the Queensway. From the western leg can be extended a real WWLRT, to serve Southern Etobicoke and Lakefront development, and redevelopment of Mimico, and areas west – supporting a solid number of commuters from that direction as well.   I do not believe that RER on Lakeshore, can reasonably support long term growth here, simply because load from further west will fill that capacity – there are already 9 trains from 7:42 to 8:33 approaching Union from the west and 10 from 7:29, leaving only 3 trains in this peak hour as possible expansion – assuming 12 trains/hour. However, electrification is still important, as it will provide better support, all trains at all stops.

At this juncture, an LRT on Sheppard East could likely be supported, as could a substantial Don Mills LRT running to Steeles or even beyond, and even a Richmond Hill LRT on Yonge.

The balance of projects that are BRT, should proceed, as they are possible as well. HWY 7 BRT should continue, in its entirely, as should the Dundas BRT in Mississauga. We also need to add north south capacity somewhere in the east and west ends, providing a rapid link from Steeles and beyond to the STC, and from the airport to the WWLRT, and Lakeshore GO. However, the sequence of build must consider the ridership flows each project will trigger.  Adding a large number of rides headed towards the Yonge subway, that are likely to be southbound, cannot be supported without first creating space with parallel capacity.

The promise of federal money – time to move?

I would say it is time that we had a look at the federal money promised to Toronto and the GTA for transit. 2.6 billion for SmartTrack, 660 million for the Scarborough Subway.  This is specific funding, and Toronto and the fed, need to work towards making this generic.  Scarborough needs a broader solution than subway, Toronto, a broader one than SmartTrack.  Also the Liberals promised a 10 year $20 Billion – national transit infrastructure program.  While by population the GTHA should get about 20% of that, if we look at it on the basis of projects that are really needing funding, and where it will make the most substantial difference, the GTHA, should be in line for closer 40%.  I would make the point that the aid needs to be focused on the larger projects, that can actually have a real impact, and that are not as of yet funded.  Vancouver and Toronto, have very real need in this department.  Ottawa, Kitchener/Waterloo are in process with substantial projects that will transform the transit landscape, and Calgary is in the process of completing a substantial project that hugely enhanced capacity there.  Beyond this there is the Green Line, but well, that would be a couple of billion between all 3 levels of government.  Montreal, is also in much better shape that Toronto, in terms of massive needs for capital in transit.

Let us not get carried away of excited by the possibility of this money – it would only be 7-8 billion of new, even if we got the 30-40%, plus the say 3.2 billion already committed.  If we find matching local, and provincial money, that is at best $21-$24 billion new and 9 already committed.  Yes it sounds like an awful lot – but I would assume that the 2.6 will be consumed by RER so basically back to the 21-24.  So when we look at what Toronto really needs and well: 7-9 billion on a DRL – long version, $3-4 for LRT & BRT in Scarborough -{ Sheppard East, Malvern, the Morningside Hook, the RT replacement, and even a bit on Kingston road south west of Eglinton as LRT and the Ellesmere BRT as well as something North South – on say Markham Rd}.  The west, north and south  also have  needs –  extending Finch to the Airport and east to at least Yonge, the Crosstown to the airport and a Kipling LRT airport to the Lake.  In the south the East Bayfront LRT and Waterfront West LRT, to support development in Liberty Village and area, near the Humber river and west, and redevelopment of the CNE grounds.  If we assume even this massive budget, we cannot afford subway, except where it cannot be helped for lack of ROW and massive capacity required.

Beyond Toronto, Hurontario LRT will need funding, as well an LRT tie into the DRL or Yonge subway for York region, as well as some support for Durham.    Assuming that we are looking at $24 billion (ie 8 billion federal matched all the way up, including the already promised SSE funds)  This does not relieve the province at all, and they still would need to fund GO RER, other than the 2.6 billion.  However, properly integrated, it would allow the region to actually start to move on commuting times, as long as people are willing to get out of their cars.  It would transform transit, hugely broaden its coverage inside and out of the city, and massively improve capacity into the core.  That is in essence – it would not only allow the Goose to keep laying the Golden Eggs, but perhaps even increase their output.

It would also enable Toronto itself to take on a much larger share of the population growth, reducing sprawl, increasing density, and possibly even allow the city to become more attractive and livable – as the region took on another 3 million people, instead of crawling to a halt.  The Big Move is not large enough to prevent things from getting worse, let alone make them better, and it is clear that the province does not have the money to execute even this quickly.  Some of the 2nd wave projects are now being moved into the 15 year list, but still need design, let alone funding – most important being the DRL.  This along with a broad application of lower capacity rapid transit, to supply broad coverage of a smoother faster ride than can.

All 3 levels of governments need to get serious, and getting professionally developed transit plans and stop getting professionally developed political plans – that involve transit (and pretend to be transit plans).  The problem is that there is a huge need to build a real – regional rapid transit network.  This must also match capacity needs, and would absorb those $24 billion quite easily.  However, in so doing would transform the region, and the nature of the growth it is seeing.   Transit needs to be rethought better to support a very wide set of destinations, the major employment districts in Toronto, Mississauga, and York, all need much easier transit based access – notably including the airport corporate center, and this from much more of the region.   Major destinations away from the core can also in some cases act like hubs to allow through trips. Ideally a Finch West LRT, Crosstown LRT, Kipling LRT, Mississauga Transitway, and Malton GO would all interact to support the airport and corporate area beyond, and would be tied together by say through routing a Kipling &/or Finch LRT through Malton GO and the Renforth Gateway.  Providing a couple of points through which Brampton Transit and Mississauga Transit could naturally feed real rapid transit service across all of Toronto as well as core bound heavy rail service.

LRT projects can tie together heavier services to begin to provide real beyond core service for GO rail, Lakeshore East to Stouffville in Scarborough, Lakeshore West to Kitchener (and hence the airport)- through Mississauga and Brampton City centers, as well as connecting Mississauga Transitway.  Frequent service on these GO lines, combined with very frequent service on the rapid transit services, begins to make alternate use of GO much more viable.

Transit City Plus – The GTA needs a real regional plan – with credibility

Transit City – now make Don Mills a subway and add a in GO as a linked service

One of the key problems that has been constantly undermining Metrolinx is a lack of credibility, and another constant political interference.  As a consequence, it is hard for people to believe in “Wave 2” announcements.

There is a need to get the funding secured, and a deal with the federal government as well, in order to allow a larger commitment to be made, and seen to be secure.  It also needs to be discussed as a continuous construction process. If we are smart about the location of car houses, we can seriously look at opening lines, while they are still being extended, and provide a sense of ongoing progress.  The lines need to be part of a well conceived – and clearly integrated plan, so that people do not have the sense that their portion will be sacrificed in the next election cycle.  The roll-out needs to have a clear and obvious impact at each stage on the potential for development and have an attached change in zoning requirements.  So it needs to be clear for instance that once the LRT, BRT or subway reaches this point, that density allowances will rise, and parking requirements drop. This will have little immediate effect, but, will provide the developers with new options, and allow for a gradual change in focus for offices, malls, condos, and apartment buildings.  Builders know that they must build a certain amount of parking by law, which means they cannot charge a premium for it.  If they are not required to have it, some people will not choose to pay for it- be it retail, office or residential.   You are less inclined to drive, when the transit is quick and convenient, and there is no place to park your car, or you have to pay for it, when you get there.  You are less likely to have a car for every driver, when you are paying to park the second and third cars.

There is remarkable importance that this plan cover the region, and that the same change in zoning happen in York, Peel, and Durham regions.  A DRL reaching as far as Sheppard, while it seems to be a little much does provide the opportunity for broader network support, that is even better than having a terminus at Eglinton.  If we are to opt for this option, an LRT stretching north from here should still be built, and the value of the Sheppard East LRT is greatly enhanced.

Each line – within and beyond Toronto – needs to be looked at in terms of its place within a network, and not just in terms of load it is likely to attract, but also in terms of how it will cause commuting to change across the region, now and in the future.  The Crosstown, really needs to be built to the full length of its original TransitCity vision including the Malvern extension.  This is not simply a question of linking the destinations in Scarborough like the UTSC,  but also linking the GO lines.  It changes the nature of GO service into Toronto, by making any location along Eglinton, and the BDL easily reached from GO Lakeshore, and with RER on Stouffville, locations north on that line from Lakeshore – without a ride downtown. The inclusion of frequent BRT service to Markham and Richmond Hill City centre means these locations become practical transit destinations from across the region.  While these links, and directions may not be heavily used initially, they change the nature of the system, and start to make the GTA, much easier to truly navigate without a car.

The current problem with the initial announcements – is that they have far too much of an odor of being politically driven, and do not really have credibility when you look at either the quickness of the changes based on politics, or in terms of the network effects of each, and the likely impact on the transit system of the region, and the cost of implementation.  The Scarborough subway extension, is either a total waste, or will increase ridership on the line notably, if it is the second, and this is a huge issue, in that this is being pushed – prior to a DRL, which is needed to deliver any notable increase in ridership that happens to be core bound.

I personally have deep concerns with regards to a Yonge extension to Richmond Hill, even with a DRL in hand, simply because I worry about the realistic capacity that is being imagined, and what will be built.  The current projections show 20k peak on both the Yonge line and the DRL, which would mean a growth to only 40k.  I think this underestimates the impact of the current latent demand, and a reasonable projection of induced demand.  The backlog of demand already on the Scarborough RT – which is being supported by much less desirable buses, to me means that there are likely a couple of thousand riders avoiding the system now, from this location alone.  If we had a Sheppard east LRT, and a Eglinton LRT, that ran the full length, I have to say that the demand would be much higher, both from the fact that the bus network is struggling to carry people already coming to stops, and the improvement in service will also encourage many more to ride, as well as the likely new development that will result.  Since I believe that there would now be a demand approaching 36 today, as we are already at 31, assuming no latent demand, no induced demand, just 2% growth we would be at 41K by 2030.  Since I believe that there is substantial latent demand, and new capacity would also create a change in commuting patterns, it would likely induce considerably more, I think this number is quite low, without adding demand by extending the Yonge line.  There is the very real possibility that if capacity on Yonge is only 36K, we would be looking at being near capacity shortly after it was extended to Richmond Hill.

The network therefore, needs to support an alternate path to the core, that represents a high enough service level, that it will attract riders instead of any subway extension, and a more limited capacity link should be made to the Yonge  subway for points between.  Yonge extended only as far as Steeles, and a long LRT from there, that would link with both RER or LRT in the Richmond Hill ROW, and the Yonge subway.  Such an LRT would link the BRT in highway7/407, the Yonge Subway,

The regional network needs to support access to the vast majority of major destinations in the region.  Finch West, and Eglinton Crosstown, both need to connect to the airport. Ideally we would build something to link the BDL to Finch West and the Eglinton and the airport in the west.  This would make the airport and the Renforth Gateway, and perhaps Malton GO major points of connection in the Toronto transit network from the west.  This would link GO, ZUM and the Mississauga Transit Way together in the west, and creating through access to Mid, North and the BDL subway, and the core.  If we follow through on a real waterfront West LRT, it also should be linked to the Kipling LRT and beyond, which would make direct access to the airport from west shoulder area and south Etobicoke possible, and would open the approaches here to more of Mississauga.

The GTA should be looking at doing the 10 minute network – one better.  That is a serious look at building a real 5 minute RT network.  That would be service that ran on a frequency of 5 minutes or better, which would include subway, LRT and BRT lines.  This network combined with the RER network, would make for a very broad, region wide network.  When faced with a choice, it is important, that frequency be a very serious part of the consideration.  A service based on a 4 car train every 5 minutes instead of a 12 car one every 15, will be seen to be much more attractive.  Clearly there are limits to frequency, and a need to balance costs, but a line that runs little service off peak and only every 15 minutes on, will be seen as less attractive.  If this service competes with a nearby subway, even one that is somewhat slower, many more riders are going to subway, or worse car.  Richmond Hill for instance is one of those instances, and if we had an alternate ROW for the north end, we could run very frequent service.  This may justify a conversion to LRT for the entire line, so that there is a more direct and highly frequent, fast, link to core.  This option needs to be protected at both ends, even if we build a DRL to Sheppard.  If the GTA starts to truly make a move towards transit, we may be amazed how quickly the north south rapid transit lines fill to capacity again, or how quickly we feel the lack of express/higher speed east west routes further north.

Along with RER, when we think about connecting a regional network, we need to make sure lines either run across regional borders, or are frequent enough that transfers are a non issue.  If we are going to address congestion, we need a broad rapid transit network, that reaches close to most jobs, and residences, and does not direct trips a long ways out of their way to flow through nodes, that is more destination neutral than the current TTC is, let alone GO.  This requires being very careful about creating linkages, and service frequency.  LRT & BRT links can allow GO rail to serve many of the non core destinations, but these services must be frequent enough as to make the service feel seamless. That means running LRT & BRT lines to and through logical junction points with GO/RER services and to points where they will meet other regional services.  The value of each line, will be heavily influenced by how it is attached to the balance of the network.  GO to Guildwood now, has questionable impact, except as a collector, but if all of midtown could be reached, well, it might well become a destination station from a GO perspective.

The value of a line is based heavily on how it is connected – to other transit.  The more origins and destinations it can serve effectively, the more likely it is to be really useful.  GO Rail needs to serve more destinations to really broaden its impact, but cannot reasonably hope to do so directly.  Tying it in with a rapid transit system that effectively serves them at a point that does not involve large amounts of backtracking, means that GO in effect can also support that destination.  Therefore, to make transit work in the broader GTA – means integrating all the rapid transit with GO Rail, and not just at Union.  While not all destinations can be served by Rapid Transit, and certainly an even smaller group using GO to Rapid Transit, integration of services, broadening the areas served, and making zoning appropriate, can go a long ways to gradually moving a much larger portion of trips to transit, and stop or at least slow the growth of auto trips. Not all of TransitCity was practical as planned, but the general notion created a network, that would permit tying in bus, GO, and the neighboring transit systems, without over loading the lines in question.  Toronto requires 1 more heavy link – DRL, so take the Don Mills LRT and extend it south to the core, and make it subway, and well… Now what about Jane – this remains an issue in need of addressing, but well the concept remains – broad strokes, a necessary evolution of Toronto transit, a broad rapid transit network, that can be built at multiple cost and capacity levels. This network needs to be connected to all regional transit and even extended beyond the bounds of Toronto, but it should involve very few subway extensions, and a lot of lower capacity lines, that get people where they want to go.

Transit City – a notion in need of a revisit – and a regional version.

6335050087_f8362266c5_b

Should Toronto have something like this on Finch ?

Transit City – can we talk about the idea again.   One of the key issues that needs to be discussed is what is realistic and appropriate. There is a drive to provide a “single seat ride”, which while understandable, means the notion can only be focused on a single destination, or at least a small set along the existing subway. The simple extension of subway, does not serve riders that are going elsewhere. The extension of the subway to Vaughan will mean a huge capacity along a very narrow corridor, and a very long run of track with few trains, or near empty trains. The issue is – what are the alternatives, and what should we honestly be looking at.

The problem is that we need to look at something beyond just serving the core, if we hope to address the real issues in Toronto. Yes there are supposed to be another 100k jobs in the core in the next couple of decades, but there are also suppose to be another 2 million residents in the region.   Clearly not everybody is going to the core. Also the subway in the core area, is already grossly overloaded, and the very people that generally argue for subway extension, argue against more in the core and downtown.

Why do we want subway above all else? Because we believe that it will be there every few minutes, and do not believe that any other mode will be? Because transfers are a pain? Because downtown has them, and it is only fair? Well honestly the 1st two are design choice in either service or infrastructure, and the last is well a question of being realistic. The old city of Toronto built and paid for that subway, a long time ago, and it serves the entire city. Also density, especially of destination in the downtown area, means that this portion of the subway really makes sense. Building subway in areas where it will see peak ridership of under 10k makes little sense. Building to serve core bound riders beside an existing set of track where there is already core bound service, that can be much more easily and less expensively expanded makes even less.

So there are 6 basic issues in providing service, reliability, frequency, speed, accessibility, and ride to destination we want, and of course cost. That means it must go where we want to go quickly and often enough to be really useful, and be cheap enough that we will pick it. If we run buses every 5 minutes, in a tight grid, they actually have space to board, do not get caught in traffic, and actually are 5 minutes apart (as opposed to a 20 minute gap, then 4 buses) it can be great service. The issue in Toronto, is really centered around poor service management, and service cuts. The TTC has not worked hard enough to manage service, and thus maintain appropriate headways and schedules, the one service that is still seen not to have these issues is subway, and somehow to many this is just the way it is, so give me subway.

The way forward, what Toronto has to do:

1-Information – right now broad information is gathered, however, it would a great deal of sense to try to get a snapshot now at a highly resolved level, ie at a postal code level.

2-Be realistic in the provision of infrastructure – build what makes sense, and you just may be able to afford it. That means the appropriate capacity of rapid transit, going where it needs to go.  It also means using the resources and space that you have.  Away from the downtown, the major roads can generally be made to accept a dedicated transit right of way.  People need and want access, speed and reliability, not perforce subway.

Toronto’s right of ways – for major roads

3-Make a real effort at managing service – if you actually space service correctly, provide real signal priority for any system that is not grade separated,

4-Integrate – the systems in the GTA at this point are run too separately in terms of schedule, ensuring that a much broader number of both origins and destinations is served.

5-Plan regionally – we need to start encouraging a much denser development, and that means getting away from the requirement for giant seas of parking around shopping malls, less parking for condominiums and apartments, better support for transit and cycling, and less sprawl. That means planning for a rapid transit corridor, and bike routes – before development starts, and radically reducing the required parking. We should plan to support ½ of all trips via transit in the region, going forward. That means hugely increasing the coverage of rapid transit, and moving towards making most neighborhoods walkable. That means, more density, and having business in accessible locations, where they are close and transit routes are designed to serve.

This means making a real effort at providing a broad network of transit and a lot less focus on simply getting people to the core. The core needs to be understood as the largest single destination, not the only one.  Integrate the entire regional transit system, so that GO acts to provide the link between 2 local trips, across most of the region.  Yes, build a rapid transit / frequent GO network, but it needs to serve more than just core bound riders and there are some required longer distance links that a detailed survey would likely reveal, that GO cannot practically serve now.  I would suggest one will be something that runs across the city, immune to traffic, at a higher speed than the Crosstown, and further north, but still south of the 407 BRT.  Ideally it would tie together the north south rapid transit and GO lines running through the region, and provide an anchor for additional rapid transit.  Businesses along these rapid transit routes, should not only be permitted to have less parking, they should be encouraged to make their business easier to access by transit and bike, so that they reached out to the street, where there was much less parking between transit and access. If we reduced the parking requirements at malls, they could expand where they are, reaching towards the street with new areas.  If we can fill the capacity of 3 minute headway 3- 4 car LRT on a route, it will have required so much density, and such a large change in choice between car and transit, that we will have already effectively changed the area along that route.  Imagine Finch running 3 car LRTs in a median, that was grass when the LRT was not there.

tram_3_on_grass_blvd_kellerman_13th_arr_place_d_italie_quartier_pto_marc_bertrand_164-32

Imagine 2 lanes in each direction, no noisy buses, and a frequent, quiet, and hugely capacious LRT gliding through a much greener area, much faster than a bus can, especially at rush hour.

Start to think if you built this the full length of Finch, so that it could connect with Mississauga and Brampton in the west, and Pickering in the east, you would have feeders beyond.  However, more important, imagine also having such service on Kipling, Don Mills,  Markham Rd,  and Sheppard East, as well as extending the Eglinton LRT onto and along Kingston road, as well as west to the Renforth Gateway.  You would have a substantial network of rapid transit for the city, not just core bound subways.  You add in the DRL from Eglinton & Don Mills where it would meet the Don Mills LRT and you have opened a huge area for intensification.  Also you have provided important linkages to the surrounding areas transit systems and to GO for much broader commuting across the region.  You would have hugely improved the development possibilities, and could begin to reduce the requirement for parking, and start to make huge inroads in human scale and transit oriented development.  Build real transit hubs, to move quickly and easily between regional systems.  Properly done, an LRT network can transform the avenues it runs in, go a very long ways to providing mobility, and move the city towards a more person oriented livable place.

Transit needs to support existing load, drive more to trips to transit, and  effectively support redevelopment, however, we also need to be realistic as to its limits.  We should not be attempting to build for the ages, and access needs to be easy.  Building a subway with 2 km stop spacing, will mean a long – unattractive walk, or bus ride to the subway, and will not guarantee development.  Build to a reasonable load – and change planning requirements to go with it.

What Toronto can do to improve transit, and neighborhoods.

The fight about LRT in some areas – has been about the belief that it would mean giving up space for cars. The plan to date has been about preserving that space, but perhaps, we should be having a discussion instead about improving the city. Would it make more sense to make the rail right of way wider, and greener?   Create a visual break from road, and make the area on the ROW grass between the rails? Trees beside? Note the feel of the roadway (which is quite large) in Strasbourg in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMfVA-xWYA4

Make room for bikes along the edges of the roadway, and try reducing the roadway to 4  through lanes(2 each way), plus turn lanes at intersections. Imagine Finch West with more trees, and space between road lanes. Rezone the area, to put a much greater emphasis on walking and transit, and redo the roadway, and try to bring the area along in the same way.

I would like to see a change in the local zoning beside LRT lines, that reduces the requirement for parking by 50%. Malls that were beside a stop required to have half the one spot per use – be permitted to make the assumption that ½ of all of their shoppers would approach the mall by transit, bike or on foot.   This would permit for a substantial increase in density, while making more of the services accessible by foot.  The local malls would be able to redevelop their parking lots, with much more local service.  There would be more room for increased population, while making the area more livable.

Toronto is supposed to be about people, not cars. We need to ask how we want to get around, and stop asserting that cars is how we get around, without looking at options.  If transit worked, why would we not use it? We have run out of room to make the car work.  We need to focus on making alternatives work. If we take a constructive approach, we can hugely improve commutes, make communities much more livable and reduce sprawl.  Improve transit, and biking options, reduce the requirement for parking, and we have more space for people. The requirement to serve the car is now a barrier to living well, that we need to get past.  These LRT need to be well connected to other transit to collect and distribute people across the city, without going miles out their way.

However, if we build a network of LRT with frequent service, that actually goes where people want to go, and use the opportunity to improve the road and change zoning, we can transform the city, reduce congestion, and create much better places to live.