Tag Archives: Toronto regional transit

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 (that is so that you can actually time them, as opposed to having a light you are trying to catch on every cycle of 1 or so minutes) 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.  If you are going to assume that you do not need timed signals for the right of way, why limit LRT to 20 trains per hour?

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.


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.

Regional Planning – not local politics

One of the on-going problems in Toronto, comes down to selling a solution other than subway, in too much of the region.  The GTA needs to start rolling out a real plan, that can address the basic transportation problems in the region.

However, the very first things that is required to fix the problem, is listening to planners, not polls, or politicians seeking only political advantage.  It means looking at the travel intentions of residents, and likely getting some even more detailed information, but then paying attention to the results.  It means dealing with some basic truths

1-We need more capacity into the core

2-Most trips in the periphery of the 416 let alone 905 are not core bound.

3-A large portion of the congestion is beyond the 416

4-GO needs to be used to serve core bounds riders from the outer 416 as well as the 905.

5-Transit and GO needs to serve regional trips that are destined to areas other than the core.

6-GO needs to be tied to local transit in a much more integral way to serve the non core bound trips, and even to be more effective in the core bound trips.

In order to address our problems therefore will require a broad network, of tightly tied transit, not just Smart Tracks, or GO or subway.  We need to be prepared to entertain a lot of smaller, more local projects in order to create a wide enough web of rapid transit, to make transit a highly attractive, time competitive method of travel to areas other than the core.  If we are going to address congestion, we need to be able to make a trip from most of Mississauga, to points in a wide variety of areas within Toronto, that are not the core, where diverting all the way downtown is a major additional trip, that will not be made- and the attitude of many will be – if I have to sit in traffic and do not have to pay for parking, I may as well drive.   Each new project- needs to be viewed in terms of building a network, not in isolation.  Focusing on GO electrification, instead of a high focus on local service integration, means increasing capacity in some places, long before it is required, and not making transit more feasible for other- important destinations.

Can Mi-Way and TTC support the Airport Corporate Centre (ACC), in a manner that will permit a high transit split? How can GO make this work?  If the Malton GO was used as a major station for ZUM, with substantial inbound and outbound, local bus service, and was also served by a Finch West LRT that continued through to the Renforth Gateway to meet the Mi-Way transitway and the Eglinton Crosstown?  Let us be truly outrageous, and add 15 minute GO service on the Kitchener line, and a Kipling BRT or LRT that also made their way to one or other of these locations?  While I doubt even this would raise the transit split to where it is in the core, it would certainly attract a far greater number of rides than today, and allow a much better connections for people who want to ride on to areas that are not the core (or even to the core) for people from Mississauga and Brampton, as well as getting to employment in these areas from Toronto.

Connecting services, that will permit, faster, and more reliable transit are important to create ridership, but they need to provide much broader coverage, as opposed to massive capacity for most of the region.  People keep talking about the notion that Eglinton should have been subway – but projections are for 5400 riders peak hour/direction.  This is around 1/3 of what could be served by the underground portion – where the load is likely to be seen – and around 1/2 of what could be comfortably served by a surface LRT.  What needs to be understood, in terms of making a system work, needs to focus, on what impact will this addition have in terms of attracting new ridership, and permitting a redesign of the surface routes.  New routes like the Crosstown, and Finch West need to make a link with transit beyond in order to have a more substantial impact.  The Mi-Way and airport links are crucial in the case of Eglinton, as is a Kingston Road extension to support Lakeshore GO.  These links would have (and still could) allow the Crosstown, to be a major part of a web of service, helping to make much better use of surrounding rapid transit, and especially GO rail.

The debate in the GTA, needs to look at where we have holes in a network to allow people to get to more of the employment concentrations, from more of the points of origin, with a relatively quick, frequent and reliable transit trip.  The network, needs to be more destination neutral, and make 2 way use of the rail it has – that means access to destinations in the outer 416 and 905 from GO on local transit.  Lakeshore GO to Eglinton LRT, would mean it would be a viable way of accessing mid town employment, across the width of the GTA, with the Stouffville link, we add Markham city centre, and with Richmond Hill, that destination as well, along with anything along the Highway 7 BRT.  Creating rapid transit connections to GO should allow rapid transit service – from across the GTA to the ACC, North York City Centre, the Scarborough Town Centre, Mississauga City Centre, Markham City centre…..  GO connected to an LRT, BRT, or subway will support much of this, however, subway as a general answer – is beyond our means.  Start building a broad network 1 link at a time, and build what is, frequency, capacity and cost appropriate.  This will mean much more BRT than LRT and much more LRT than subway.  The network, should be planned as a whole, but the links added in a sequence, that permits each to valuable as it is built, but where the network effects are fully realized.   Eglinton GO needs to be added as a frequent stop on GO, before connecting the LRT to it really makes sense, for instance.  Others it is less clear, Agincourt GO connection makes sense with or without double tracking, as long as the trains that do run – stop there, however, better 2 way use of Stouffville GO would come from a connection there, and a link to the Lakeshore line in Scarborough.

The network 25 years from now should be dominated by BRT and LRT, with subway representing only a handful of heavy links. Any new subway should be a major point of attachment, for a large number of LRT and BRT links.  While 1 new subway line is likely required to support core bound ridership, it is only 1, and further substantial extensions (except to explicitly increase capacity), are a poor idea, lighter services, with many more lines would serve better.  Tying these services, well to GO is crucial to making both work well.  Sheppard East to Agincourt GO, Sheppard subway to Oriole GO, Eglinton LRT to Eglinton GO at the least (an extra 2-3 km), if not beyond to the Guildwood GO, and these stations receiving frequent GO rail service.  These moderate extensions, would make the lines more effective in Scarborough, and much more effective in terms of providing regional transit integration, which is key to addressing issues surrounding congestion.

The region needs electrification now on Lakeshore East and West, double track on Stouffville, Richmond Hill and Kitchener, but beyond this, the focus should be on an extensive network of LRT and BRT.  There is no way that the GTA can justify the scope of rapid transit network required to make transit truly attractive for rides away from the core, if we are going to do even a small portion as subway. Capacity wise, simple double tracking will permit 6-8 trains per hour, or more to the point the equivalent of 12 lanes of traffic, the issue is making the trip make sense – while using transit. Riding most of the way, on vehicles that are not slowed by traffic, will make this much more attractive.  Having a web or dense grid of routes, that get us very close to our final destination without backtracking, even more so.  The implementation of even BRT can allow land use changes, however, supportive changes to zoning are also required.  BRT can be designed to be converted to LRT, where the demand is not likely to be seen soon, but perceived to be an eventual consideration. GO needs to be integrated with service at both ends if it is going to allow people to actually use it to where they would drive otherwise.

Planning versus politics

Toronto, and Queen’s Park – need to get past the basic pandering, and get back to actually building a real transit network.  The basic subway – as it stands – does not need to be extended in length, but in the effect it provides, needs to be enhanced and extended.  The other issue here of course is capacity – that is now hugely over committed.  The solution to the GTA’s transit woes starts with real cooperation and planning, and removing grandstanding and politics.  If we are to really address congestion, GO needs to add a role, that of connector between transit systems. This means offering co pays that are effective for potential users.

The answer to this issue, is however, to undertake a serious examination of increased and parallel capacity – where we are at or beyond capacity.   The limits to increasing capacity, are not as far away as the TTC would liked to have had us believe.  Once the new signalling project has been completed on the Yonge line, you quickly run into concerns with regards to the ability to turn trains.  While you can station trains at Davisville to fill – there is a limit to the number of trains that can be inserted.  You could gain a small additional amount of capacity by extending the line enough to add an additional turning point – but well you are likely looking at something on the order of 33-34 trains per hour, because beyond this or maybe 35 trains, you are looking at substantial problems at Bloor in terms of dwell time required.  Realistically – 36,000 planning capacity, with an existing load of 31,000.

Beyond this – well you are looking at massive and expensive changes to stations required to reduce the dwell time.  Realistically in terms of making the network function, a new line, running parallel to Yonge would be better.  It will allow more flexibility, and improved route design for the bus routes that feed the subway currently.  This line – while consuming considerable resources, would answer the problem of core bound capacity for the east side of the city.

The bottom line however, is that beyond this need to enhance subway capacity, there is not really a spot in Toronto, where subway extension should be seriously entertained, in terms of actually providing effective service. Scarborough would be better off, with the full LRT plan, that could be delivered for the same cost as a subway, leaving money to spare, and blanketing Scarborough in service.  The debate should be comparing just the Scarborough RT replacement LRT with subway, but rather, the Malvern LRT, the Scarborough LRT replacement, the Morningside Hook portion of LRT, and of course include the Sheppard LRT, in how the network would function.

Smart Tracks – is frankly merely a distraction from the core debate- political grandstanding at its worst.  The GO system needs to be a bigger part of linking Scarborough, and Rexdale to the core. The Finch LRT needs to run at least as far as the Malton GO, where it should link to Brampton Transit, as well as GO, ideally it would continue on the Mi-Way transitway at the Renforth Gateway. The Eglinton LRT needs to get there as well.   If you extended the Finch LRT east as far as Yonge, you would have created a couple of substantial east west links across the city – much closer to where the cars are currently headed. The transit service in the Airport Corporate Centre would need to be substantially improved, but, it would be effectively linked to rapid transit – in a way it is simply not currently.  It also means creating a real hub for transit, and provide access to/from GO,  MiWay and ZUM services to services that reach most of Toronto, not just the core.  Finch West LRT could also effectively link the Barrie and Kitchener GO lines.

I would note that this is in essence the Transit City Plan, with a couple of minor tweaks.  There is not yet a Jane LRT mentioned, and I have not really dealt with Don Mills – beyond a subway extension.  The province is currently studying a DRL as far north as Sheppard.  This would  greatly enhance the connection for a Sheppard LRT, and also the heavily used Lawrence, and York Mills bus routes.  However, I personally favour the notion of using an LRT to make the connection north of Eglinton, as it will likely provide better local service, and be much less expensive, although would not relieve the Yonge subway to quite the same degree.  However, building additional length of subway, means expending massive resources in construction and operation, which takes away from the ability to extend services elsewhere.

At this point it will be more critical to provide the other links in the system. Waterfront West and East Bayfront LRTs for instance will help address a huge need in the shoulder areas of downtown. There is a requirement to support any further development in the shoulder areas, with improved transit flow and capacity, as much of the network is already overwhelmed in that area.  The rapid intensification, has not been met with required transit improvements.  To make these work, will require a substantial additional investment at Union Station, or providing an alternate anchor point for the WWLRT portion.  However, in terms of the overall development, tax base growth, and transit oriented development, these lines are very important.  Another service that would be worthwhile, is one that was considered a generation ago, an out of traffic rapid transit link from Kipling subway to the Airport, to link to the Renforth Gateway, and thus the Miway BRT, Finch West LRT, and Kipling GO.  Ideally this would link further south as well, providing a fast reliable link between the Kitchener, Milton and Lakeshore GO lines.

It is far more important that the transit services be linked, and rapid transit be close to both the riders origin and destination if we are to deal with congestion, than to meet the notion of a one seat ride, that can not realistically be provided with simple subway extension, especially in that these consume all the resources available – simply to overload the route as it approaches the destination of this supposed one seat ride.  The other issue that must be dealt with of course is frequency and reliability of that ride, if we are to actually hope to pull people off the roadways.  Creating a web of access to and from subway, GO and surrounding transit systems is critical.  Toronto, also needs to support the development, of real transit connectivity beyond the city itself.  Where we know we can ride GO to rapid transit and/or frequent bus service to destination across the region.

It is important, we understand the role of GO in building a regional transit system, but also that we understand where we are spending too much too early in that area – 15 minute service does not require electrification.  Electrification and new signals are critical for the Lakeshore East and West services, as they are already approaching the limits of service without them, however, on most of the balance of the network, diesel and signal block size to permit only a train every 10 minutes is just fine. Providing Rapid Transit services to link GO to many more destination, is more critical for now to making it relevant than electrification.  Stouffville and Richmond Hill, need double tracks, but not electrification yet.  Viva BRT and for Stouffville the connection to a Sheppard East and Crosstown LRT are more important.  Adding the Malvern LRT, or extending the Crosstown to Lakeshore East GO and thus providing more destinations to both, and linking the Lakeshore,Stouffville, and Richmond Hill GO (thus making an Oshawa to Markham GO rail based commute possible) would be more relevant.