Tag Archives: LRT

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.

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.

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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.

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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 other routes should realistically be on the table- Beyond Toronto

When we look at the general solution to Toronto’s woes as a engine for Ontario’s growth, or to the traffic in the area, it is clear that just providing transit in the city of Toronto itself will never be enough.  Therefore there are some projects that are immediately required in order to reduce the number of drivers who start in their cars.  The need is to bring rapid transit close enough so that people can be dropped at it, or ride bus to it, without ever starting their commute by car.  Some of these core projects are already being built, or are well along in the political process, and thank god.

Hurontario/Maine LRT: This is a North south LRT route running from the Lake all the way to Brampton and the Kitchener GO. It will intersect a number of GO lines, from Lakeshore up. Hopefully this will evolve to transform the Mississauga and Brampton transit services.  The major point however, is that it links both the business core of Mississauga and a large number of bus routes with GO in multiple locations.

Mississauga BRT: The route across Mississauga, was meant to link all the way across the city, and tie back into Toronto Transit using the portion of the Crosstown that has been pushed off. It will typically be built before the portion we are building of the Crosstown is built, let alone the extension. This would have provided quick service to allow buses from across Mississauga to get to Square One, and Toronto.  It was intended to link to the Crosstown LRT, and a link to rapid transit in Toronto is a must.

Dundas BRT: Will flow across the south of Mississauga, and will link across from Oakville and beyond to the Kipling Subway station. Providing frequent bus service along the corridor. It will also intercept the GO in several places and connect with the Hurontario LRT.

Highway 7 BRT: This is a BRT line in Hwy 7, at least from Yonge to Warden, this will link 2 GO routes, and has already started to speed the buses along Hwy 7. I am personally of the mind that this should stretch across the top through Vaughan and link to the Vaughan Subway, and then extend all the way to the Brampton GO and Hurontario LRT. This may not all be required now, but let us secure a bypass bus route linking the major north south transit routes in Toronto. Ideally this would be a full BRT with dedicated lanes to ensure that the buses move regardless of traffic. It could incorporate the current ZUM bus line.

Yonge Street BRT: Running from Hwy 7, the first chunk to be built to Major MacKenzie. This will run to a major terminus in Richmond Hill Centre, which will be shared with the GO station, the HWY 7 BRT, and possibly the Yonge subway extension. I would strongly prefer the dominant link south from here, be in the Richmond Hill GO ROW.

Oshawa – Scarborough BRT. The need to link the area beyond the east end of Toronto with rapid transit is also fairly clear.  Another clear need to the east however, is better integration with GO.