Category Archives: Transit Goals

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.

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.

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.


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.


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.

GTA needs to look seriously at more options

There is not a big bang solution to the Toronto Area traffic woes, or to providing high quality transit in the region.  The focus in the GTA has stayed firmly on the large projects, we need to ask ourselves what can reasonably be done to incrementally improve transit across the region – other than massive projects?  We then need to ask where the growth is focused, and what projects can make the biggest difference.

We need to ask why people want to ride transit other than buses.  One of the reasons that people do not like the bus – is that it is not seen to be reliable enough, and another is that frankly it gets stuck in traffic, and still another is that well, it is far too crowded.  We need to find ways to make services better, however, that does not mean subway.  We need to ask, what has to be done to get the buses to run on time, run faster, and be less crowded.  The issue is within the city, is that in many cases the buses run on crowded roads, and do not get enough help moving through traffic, nor is enough done to space the service present.

The TTC needs to radically improve its dispatch, in order to get better spacing, but beyond this, bus bypass lanes for intersections, need to be implemented in many more intersections across the city, and  the city and TTC need to introduce a vehicle tracking system, that works with a transit priority system, that improves transit reliability, and helps in spacing, by moving the vehicles that are falling behind to run faster.  The city also needs to fund a notable increase in the bus fleet to overcome the lack of fleet growth for the last few years.  I would make the argument, that 100 additional buses per year for the next 4-5 years would be appropriate.

Beyond this, the region needs to work harder on integration. GO/TTC need to do better with fare integration, but also service integration.  A key goal for GO in the next 5 years should be improved service in the outer 416, a key goal for the TTC, should be to create superlative service to those stops.  Sheppard and Warden to core should be a ride through Agincourt GO and then GO train, not subway- the bus routes, rail frequency, and fares need to support this.

Downtown, we have failed to support the growth in the western shoulder areas, Liberty Village etc, with additional capacity, or anything to address issues with running on the street.  The new streetcars should help to address some of this, but not enough.  Redevelopment at the Exhibition Grounds and beyond needs to see a 508 link that goes around Roncesvalles and King Street, and allow for higher frequency of the 504 to improve service for both the west end, and more room, for streetcars with less crowding on King for the areas closer to core.  The same approach needs to be taken on the east side with the East Bayfront project becoming a real priority, along with an increase in capacity in the Union Station streetcar loop, in order to support the 508, 509, 510 and an East Bayfront route.

This does not deal with a very real need to increase capacity core bound, however, we need to be clear, that improving transit service in general needs to focus on surface operations, and a moderate number of dedicated ROW services.  Making the GTA work, means looking much harder at what we have in hand or underway, and what can be addressed with that.  It also means creating a plan into the future, that does not involve building a huge amount now, but instead focuses on many small fixes, and integration first.  We will not realistically be able to avoid building another subway line into the core, but we should already be looking at how that can best be integrated with largely improved services in the outer 416.  What is the best way to deliver central York region residents to mid town, and the core?  How many riders are destined to which areas ?  Does a Yonge subway line extension really make sense, or would the region be better served with a lighter service going north, and focus spending on subway on capacity and routing improvements for bus routes currently over exposed to congestion?  A DRL to Don Mills & Eglinton, would provide access to the Lawrence bus well away from Yonge street congestion. Building a much smaller amount of subway leaves more funding for more BRT and LRT to link GO services, and much more of the region to rapid transit.

The other serious issue that must be addressed as we move forward with redevelopment, and new development is how to serve it, and we cannot do what we have done in the shoulder areas, merely assert that there is good service, regardless of the number of residents we add.  However, just as important these new plans need to integrate with greatly improved land use planning.  The region cannot keep moving forward with parking requirements, that mean there is a parking spot for every shopper, 2+ parking spots for every residence etc.  This assertion that everybody must be able to drive, makes it harder to create walk, bike or transit friendly neighborhoods, and pushes sprawl into development planning. Add an additional 1000 parking spots to a mall and you are adding what 7 acres of parking?  That is a lot of dead space, that must be walked through if you are walking or riding transit, makes it harder to justify building up, when you must support all that additional parking anyway. That is space, that should be reserved for living,shopping, parks, transit, bike trails etc- not for cars.  If you think about your average suburban mall – how much is actually shopping, and how much parking?  When you look at an apartment building in the newer areas of Toronto, how much is parking, how much otherwise?  How frequently is all the parking really required, and how often would it be needed if the area was not so car centric?  We need to build one link at a time, and yes a DRL to Eglinton is critical, but other than this, we should be focusing on a large number of lighter links, not a handful of heavy ones.

Transit Infrastructure – What should realistically be on the table in Toronto?

Transit City seemed to represent a really good direction to take. Yes there were some flaws, and there were some needs not covered, but it certainly represented a solid start to solving a very real problem. The LRT Plan needs to be taken in the context of the associated planning for bus routes, and this goes a long way to create a wide network of improved service.

The process of route selection started with the idea of where load was, where it was likely to grow, and providing a reasonable opportunity to shorten all rides by allowing shorter bus rides to rapid transit. The basic routes selection was based on real data, not primarily political considerations. Thus the plan was designed to increase capacity where the load would be anyway. However, it was primarily target at spreading high quality transit across the city.

There were however, some notable issues with the original plan. These were largely questions of space for the route to run, not whether transit wise it was in the right spot. The first and most obvious was Jane. The bottom of Jane close to Bloor, is simply not wide enough to support an LRT. Don Mills route had a similar problem off Don Mills and south of the Valley. Most of the other routes were both viable, and extremely useful.

Finch West, this would travel through is a heavily used corridor, with a lot of existing ridership, a large population, and it represented a good way of linking a large area both to the core, and to another employment anchor the Airport Corporate Centre. It also provided potential service to the airport itself. The link for this route in the first half, has it running to the University line extension, which means it is linking somewhere, that at least for now there is the possibility of making considerable capacity available.

Sheppard East, this extends the subway, and links across the eastern half of the city, replaces a heavily used bus and potentially links in Morningside, which is itself a very heavily used bus route. The one major issue with this route, at least in my mind, is it also extends the ability to carry yet more riders to a very busy Yonge subway line.

Don Mills, This is also a very heavily used bus route, however, here I have a couple of issues. As Mr. Munro has argued, a quick look south of the Valley, and you know you are in trouble. Getting to Danforth is simply not on at least above ground. Just as critically would be, having gotten to the Danforth by some ruse, you are creating a much better way of getting riders to the Danforth subway line. This would make transit a much more attractive for potential riders, but Yonge its route to the core, is already overloaded. Don Mills LRT is an LRT that should wait until after a Don Mills subway has been completed.

Scarborough RT, this is almost the perfect place to put an LRT, It is a closed right of way, without even having to contend with traffic signals. It would have improved service and increased capacity on the RT line by an order of magnitude. This service should have been designed to permit 4 car LRTs to operate eventually, but started with at least 2 car LRTs, and a frequency of 2 minutes. This would have meant both doubling capacity and service over the existing. Providing the platforms were extended, capacity could have been doubled again after that. There were a number of issues in the original RT design, as mentioned above, however, a critical one to users was that there were never enough cars bought. The shortage of cars has been evident as a lack of capacity for a very long time. I suspect that you would come close to filling a doubling of RT capacity quite quickly, but of course that would still leave a lot of room to grow.

Eglinton, this one as we all know is underway, sort of. The underground portion has been extended. There have been some serious reservations expressed about the design for vehicle left turns, and the line has been radically shortened at least for now. This should still provide hugely improved service for a large section of Toronto’s middle. However, this line needs to live up to its name, the Crosstown. It needs to actually extend further so that it meets MiWay at the Renforth Gateway as originally conceived. This provides a much more complete route, and a better link both to the airport area, and with Mississauga.

Kingston Road, while the ridership here is likely to be much lower; there have been both BRT and LRT proposals for this route. A really good forecast of ridership is required to answer the question on this.

Waterfront West. The number of possibilities here is endless, in terms of what we could be talking about. However, the obvious requirements, are to create a better link to southern Etobicoke and create a better link for Liberty Village to the core. This might actually require a length of tunnel somewhere to make any route serve both needs.

To make Toronto work, now there are of course some changes and additions. The core and ridership destined there has continued to grow, which now forces some issues.

Don Mills Subway, or perhaps better, “Getting to Downtown Relief Line” as a commentator named it on Steve Munro’s Blog. The major hole in my mind in the initial Transit City plans, was one, that it was never intended to fill, that is provide additional core bound capacity. This, or some other service to do the same, is needed in order to provide an alternate route to the core, for Crosstown riders, and Danforth riders.

This route would mean that there could also be a real link for the Don Mills LRT, and/or the Lawrence Bus. It would also provide the means by which the Don Mills LRT was an alternate route to the core for the buses on York Mills and the Sheppard Subway, and LRT. There are many who gainsay the need, but a look at the current ridership on Yonge, and its continued growth, would indicate that even with additional capacity possible with new signals and a short extension, the line will be in trouble if Toronto continues to intensify anywhere north of Bloor and east of Yonge.

East Bayfront, this is quite a short proposal, that links the Unilever site, amongst others back to Union Station. It would provide a highly valuable, linkage to a large basis of employment, and possibly provide good linkage to a large new area of development, that will likely see 50k+ residents soon. The population of this area could easily dwarf that of Liberty Village. However, the priority would depend on exactly how the Don Mills Subway was routed.

The problem I have is that the list of real need just inside Toronto itself. The areas that require serious service improvement are so many and the list of projects so long, that it would be pointless to make the argument that it can all be served by subway. The other point of course, is that the demand on most of these routes is too low to either justify subway, or make it cost effective to support.

The other issue that all need to face up is that there is a limit to the amount of money that can really be had from other levels of government. The current city of Toronto itself needs about 7 billion in the way of LRT. It also needs about 5 billion in subway now.

If we stick to a core, of what is really required to make a start for Toronto, and try to ensure that we build to ensure future flexibility, we are looking to build now, at a minimum, Sheppard and a hook to the foot of Morningside and the RT replacement as LRT, and something to complete the loop, and provide rapid transit to U of T Scarborough campus, we also need to build the Finch West LRT out to the Airport Corporate Centre and ideally provide a airport link, and extend the Eglinton West LRT there as well. That is something on the order of 7 billion in the way of LRT beyond the current Crosstown to Mt Dennis. Finch West,  ideally should explore the idea of coming all the way to Yonge Street, however this will mean getting off Finch near Yonge.  Hydro does not appear supportive of using their corridors and there are few alternatives.

To keep the city subway system from being overwhelmed, it also needs to build about another 4-6 billion in the way of subway. Don Mills & Eglinton through the core, to someplace like the CNE or slightly west. So the city needs to find a total of about $12 billion for new transit projects. If one were to say 1/3 comes from each level of government, that means Toronto needs to find 4 billion. I would say given that we should be trying to do this quickly, we likely want to stay to only these core projects.  So within Toronto, that would be Finch West from the airport to the Spadina line, Sheppard East to the foot of Morningside, and UTSC, Scarborough RT, and something to close the Loop, completion of the Crosstown to the airport and a relief line for the Yonge subway.  The completion of the re-signaling and basic repairs for the infrastructure in the Yonge subway line need to continue apace.  These projects need to be undertaken and completed at best possible speed.  They also need to be built to ensure that they can support the next phases required in transit development.  If rapid transit is possible in the UPX, or we can route a future Waterfront West LRT to meet the DRL location of the western terminus or other stations, their orientation, and configuration have to allow for this.

Transit – It should be about frequency, speed, reliability, comfort and appropriate capacity.

We cannot hope to reasonably make transit work in terms of serving most people, or relieving congestion using only Toronto’s 3 current modes (subway, mixed traffic streetcar/bus, commuter rail). We need to get past the politics surrounding mode selection. We need to focus instead on the questions of trip time and service.

We have spent far too much time focused on what mode, not enough on service. Service is we really want, and we need to think in terms of trip time, and wait times. Subway in Toronto, is no faster than LRT in Calgary. Being in median does not mean you would always (or ever) have to stop at lights. The LRT in Calgary runs in the median is some areas, and the lights change for it, it does not spend time stopped at the lights. The outer areas of the bus-way in Ottawa are or were faster than subway in Toronto. When I lived in Ottawa shortly after that bus-way was completed, I could get to the core on a bus that traveled faster and had better service, than I had experienced on the Toronto Subway. It traveled in the outer areas in a dedicated roadway, where there was no other traffic, so the buses flew from station to station.

Most of the people who refuse to even consider the LRT in Scarborough, would eagerly ride an Ottawa style BRT if they enjoyed the type of service I experienced from Hurdman station in the late 1980s. That service made the subway they want, seem painfully slow.

Toronto has not developed with the density to allow for a very high capacity network to spread across a large percentage of the city. Building enough subway would be impossibly expensive to build, and prohibitive to operate. The old solution was merely to use bus to subway, and leave it at that. The bus routes are now so long and the roads so full, that they very busy. Those buses now are stuck in traffic and that makes service much less attractive, and more expensive to operate.

Many would get a perverse pleasure from cruising past traffic on a bus or streetcar (provide there was enough space to be comfortable). Most people want subway, because, they hate being stuck in traffic.

Design a signal priority scheme & system properly, and dedicate a right of way, and the transit vehicle need only stop when it has passengers to drop or pick-up. What Toronto really needs is a better transit priority control system, and rights of way where the transit vehicles can be out of or move past traffic.

Transit – What is the goal

We have no way to materially increase the roadways, so we need to change the status quo.  The first thing that Toronto, needs to ask itself, as a community, is: What is it we want our transit system to accomplish?.This is also part of a larger question, in terms of what do we want our city to look like.

Is the goal of transit in Toronto, and the GTA, to move the maximum number of people to the core? Or to move people where they want to go? Most people (about ¾) currently traveling to the core do not drive there, and still roads across the region are packed.

If we are looking to transit to solve both our congestion and mobility problems it will clearly need to take on more trips. This is especially so if the region is going to continue to grow. Nearly ¾ of trips not downtown use auto. Clearly transit is a preferred mode in the downtown area, and for good reason. You cannot park, hard to drive, and because there are so many people, there are more transit vehicles, which means it is more attractive, which means even more transit vehicles must be run.

If we are going to continue to attract more people to transit it is fairly clearly we need to allow a little more focus on those people who are not going to the core.   We need to attract many more people to transit from a wider variety of trips.   However, the concentration of trips is not nearly as high, going anywhere other than the core. I would argue that we need to develop a transit system that works nearly as well to get to work along or close to any arterial road in the city, or to major retail locations etc, if we are going to make the city work. However, most of these routes will not be large enough to merit the heaviest types of transit. Imagine how many riders there would be if even half of all those trips within Scarborough or Etobicoke were on transit not auto, yet we still would not get close to subway volumes.

However, if we greatly improve transit, we need to also be conscious of the possibility that we will also attract additional core bound riders, and there is also the detail, of the likelihood of an additional 100,000+ jobs there in the next couple of decades.

Core bound capacity clearly needs to grow, however, this cannot be permitted to become the sole or even primary purpose of transit for the region. Bus makes up a very large portion of all rides and needs to be supported and improved as a destination neutral service.

Further in the last few years there have been attempts to hold costs by allowing loading of buses to rise. There is a desperate need to ensure that transit be made more attractive, and while more can be had from existing resources on the street, that needs to appear entirely as service improvements.   Beyond this efficiency needs to be created and should not be looked for within current capacity and running conditions. Creating efficiency, means changing the basic conditions, larger vehicles, better transit priority, queue jump lanes or being in dedicated rights of way.