Tag Archives: Toronto Transit

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.

Planning – making allowances

It is really critical that the TTC, the city of Toronto and Metrolinx, move much more deliberately to make allowances for future capacity and systems improvements.  Plans for the Union Station approaches for LRT need to reflect the real demands required.  The city should also be looking how it would handle LRT in station on the BDL line, as well as any potential locations along a new DRL.  The obvious one being the new Eglinton LRT Line  needs to have an allowance in its station design to allow a tie to a new DRL.  The station that links Sheppard subway and LRT line also needs to have an allowance to not just link these but a DRL, and a Don Mills LRT reaching further north.  A DRL that stretched that far should also be making allowances for the conversion of the Lawrence and York Mills bus routes to LRT.

The approach to the Union Station, streetcar loop, and the potential approaches for a Waterfront West LRT, are very worrying.  The fact that Union Station underwent massive changes, and there does not appear to be an allowance for a new Loop or platform to permit very substantial increases in vehicle frequency for the East Bayfront – and likely routes further east, and a waterfront west, route also finding there way to Union is quite worrying. While the have included plans to increase capacity, the choice to not expand now while the staion was under construction will make it to deal with later.  When the combined frequency is looked at, it is hard to see how the current loop would handle it, (or even the proposed expanded loop).  If we were to suggest that the WWLRT was a 5 minute service, Spadina is a 2 minute service, Harbourfront as a 5 minute service and say East Bayfront as a 5 minute service, that alone has 66 cars per hour arriving at Union, if the East Bayfront and WWLRT were to grow as one would expect (ie each being on the order of 2-3 minutes – as there is not the option allowed for a multi-car configuration), it could easily be in excess of 90 cars per hour.  It is hard to imagine the current Union loop managing that, and even with a loop that allowed cars to load and unload on opposite sides and pass each other, it would need to be able manage a new car every 40 seconds – and even the proposed configuration with 2 platforms and passing tracks.

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.

The reality and fantasy of induced demand.

One of the tales that has always bothered me is that building more freeways will only induce more traffic. It is only partially true. There needs to be considered the notion of latent demand when the notion of capacity is considered. When we talk about the size of a pipe and flow, we rarely consider the notion of the lake that is not being emptied. If you increase the size of the pipe, more trips will be made, but how many of these are trips that were worthy but frustrated, and how many trips are those that were never even considered prior to the capacity being there.

wired.com Traffic induced demand.

The note in the story that is important in my own mind, is that there are limits. However, the other point that needs to be appreciated, is that building freeways induces demand in not just the primary manner noted, but in another way, which is at least as important. However, the story does not deal well with the issue, of people who should travel choosing not to. We lose economic activity that would benefit all, because of people whose real demand remains latent.

The building of freeways changes the structure of development. The post war primacy of the automobile changed the way we built cities in general. The other issue with building freeway, as discovered in the US, is that it allows people to travel further, thus encouraging development further out, meaning not only more cars but traveling further.

People sometimes discuss the same notion for transit, however, there is a very real limit to the concept of induced demand. Yes people will avoid trips or reschedule them to periods that have lower ridership, but there are many of their trips they cannot avoid, and they will not travel simply to do so.

The limits, however, are a less of a reality with expressways in cities like Toronto, just because the region is adding 100,000 people per year. If this means an additional 30,000 commuters, that is something on the order of an additional 15 lane/hours per annum in each direction of travel. Clearly this sort of demand will not be met with expressways, as development will follow availability, swamping it very quickly. The reality is that development does not wait for the availability to be present once it is fully committed and under construction. Thus it is not surprising that in the US large expressway projects did not resolve congestion in rapidly growing cities. The “induced” demand in this case, is development that located, based on new expressway construction. The largest part of this demand would be there anyway. Also if there is a shortage of road capacity, and ample transit to the destination required, people will choose to use transit.

The situation for rapid transit is slightly different. Transit has tended to come to areas that are already built up, and typically does not come in the small increments of highway. The nature of our commuting has meant that the vast majority of commuters who drive do so alone. The typical car thus has only 1 person in it, and lane capacity is only about 2000 vehicles per our, and that requires people to be tailgating. Three lanes in each direction (6 lane expressway) therefore only means a realistic capacity of 6,000 vehicles per hour. The LRTs for Eglinton, applied on a 2 minute headway would comfortably carry 13,500 passengers in each direction every hour, or very nearly 7 lanes in one direction. These can be expanded to 4 cars, which would mean 18,000 or 9 lanes. A single GO train is like a lane/hour of commuters, run them every 10 minutes, and you have 12,000 – 6 lanes – running in a single direction.  LRT – even running in the median of a street and restricted to say a train every 4 minutes – would still have a capacity to a very comfortable 8,000-9,000 passengers – the equivalent of 3 standard buses per minute.

Subway, the capacity King, can carry enormous loads, to something like 40,000 passengers per hour in each direction. The question is how and why would we want to focus that extreme a load in a city with as low a density as Toronto. Transit oriented development would also increase density, however, this requires the development to be built around the presence of transit, where transit will be the primary mode for the area. Toronto looks for subway to solve too many of its troubles, and has in essence create a problem for its busiest line, which will require significant redevelopment in order to achieve capacity like 40,000 passengers per hour, and even then if we continue to use it the way we have, it will be overloaded.

Extending subway into areas that will generate lower ridership, is very expensive, and creates problems down the line, as it increases load in areas that are already at, near or even beyond capacity. However, BRT and LRT create a similar speed of transit, and thus desire to be close to the line. Right now Toronto needs one subway project, in order to divert riders going to the core from the Yonge line. This single project would enable substantial load growth for the Danforth line, substantial ridership for the Crosstown to core and even a Don Mills LRT to permit several busy bus lines to bypass Yonge.

Toronto needs to be realistic in terms of what its underlying demand is, to what degree its choices have and will form development, and the need to use transit as a means to form that development. The positive latent demand needs to be met, but not by creating very high capacity for miles where it is not required, or encouraging development where it will be hard and expensive to serve.  These are the real lessons from freeway development in the U.S.   Toronto, needs to reserve space for dedicated ROW for transit, that will permit transit to run at higher speeds and reliability, ideally so that they could also support LRT in a grade separated  application, where it would be possible to expand capacity to meet almost any reasonable demand.  Lets be realistic, anywhere away from the core where a service is not a primary link to the core, 9000 passenger per hour per direction on a single route is huge.