Tag Archives: Toronto

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.


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.

TTC budgets and basic Logic

It would appear that the T.T.C. is going to go another year without making a real effort to expand its bus fleet.  There does not appear to be a concerted effort to address the issue of headway management, and appropriate spacing of service on busy lines either.

The question now needs to be, what are the priority needs for service, and where are the worst current service levels.  Everybody is talking a good game in terms of addressing overloading and congestion.  The problem is that in a city like Toronto, it is unlikely that any small number of rapid transit lines can hope to address the basic issues without a broad and well used feeder system. This means for the most part buses.  If these buses are overloaded and unreliable, only those that must use the system will.  The worse the basic operation of buses, the less attractive using transit as a whole will be.  SmartTrack has no meaning without a decent feeder system, and that means at the least solid basic bus service.

Today there are 4 basic areas that are clearly overloaded – 1 the Yonge subway, 2 – the Streetcar network 3- the Scarborough RT 4-Most of the heavier bus routes in the city.

Yet there is a proposal now to buy new trains for the Sheppard Line to test one man operation. While I can appreciate the desire to test the idea, the impact of the cost savings on this line are small, they would not soon justify the investment.  The TTC needs to look to satisfy more urgent needs, it needs to look to provide service first.  Buy train sets – yes, for Yonge, to act as gap trains and fill signal capacity right to the absolute max during the morning peak.  Keeping 6 trains at Davisville, to dispatch to clear the Bloor platform at peak hour makes sense, added capacity on Sheppard is not now required, and adding trains is simply a question of pulling from the large number of unused ones now available to match the trains currently on Sheppard.

There are buses required to support emergency/breakdown response, buses to address the need for additional capacity on the RT route and on many bus routes across the city.  There is a need for buses to be prepositioned to meet super peak loads to permit basic line management to work.  There is a need to provide more downtown direct express service.  There is also a clear need to build in a reserve for basic line management, and to go to a headway based system on the majority of Toronto’s larger routes.  This would mean always having a bus and the terminus ready to dispatch.  I would argue that if anything based on the current shape of service, and growth, that the proposition to add 10% to the bus fleet is actually on the light side. Toronto needs to find space to fix basic bus service before building any subway extensions.

Toronto could look to add many express buses in Scarborough and Rexdale in a matter of a year or so.  There is a need to lease space in the short term, and build garages in the longer term, but action can be taken to address most issues in a year or so.  This means creating a substantial increase in the number of buses and the space to store them.  There is industrial space available in Scarborough, in both southern and northern Etobicoke, and we should be able to find a way to add  200+ buses within a year.  Express Bus routes to the subway, that had frequent service, decent shelters, and space to board would start to address the desire for subway, as what people want really is service.  This service is required to make any plan other than LRT work anyway (and even if we opt for LRT, these buses will be required to meet growing demand).

GO rail (or ST)  can help in the outer 416, if we have bus service to the stations, and there is decent shelter at those locations.  Subway can work better, if bus service has capacity and space to be comfortable and is reliable.

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.