toronto and sydney: triumphs for network planning, not just light rail

Breakthrough news on rail battles in both Toronto and Sydney, both of which I posted on recently (Toronto, Sydney).  

  • Sydney's state government has made it official.  The one-way loop of the Sydney Monorail, designed to decorate the tourism-convention playground of Darling Harbour without being very useful to anyone, is to be torn down.  While the decision is being described as a move toward light rail — plans for which are definitely moving forward — it's really just a decision to invest in transit lines that do useful things — such as running in both directions, running efficiently enough to justify reasonable fares, and connecting with many other services so that people can go where they want to go, not just where you want to take them. 
  • Toronto City Council has definitely scrapped Mayor Rob Ford's plans to spend all of the city's transit resources on a few expensive outer-suburban subway segments designed to serve small parts of the region.  The move opens the way to move forward on more cost-effective light rail projects that will enrich mobility across the entire city.

Toronto transit commentator Steve Munro makes an important point, which could also be said of Sydney:

This is an important day for Toronto.  We are on track for a [light rail]-based plan and for a more detailed evaluation of our transit future than we have seen for decades.  Talking about one line at once, about fundraising for one project at once, is no longer an accepted way of building the city.  

That's the key.  The Sydney Monorail failed because it was "one line at once" — a project conceived in isolation with no interest in being part of a complete network.  And in Toronto, a city with numerous desperate rapid-transit needs, planning will no longer pit neighborhoods against each other to the degree that Mayor Ford wanted to do.  Instead, Toronto can move forward on projects that fit together into a more complete rapid-transit grid — serving "anywhere to anywhere" trips.

Finally, a warning to technophiles!!  Technophile commenters will doubtless chalk this up the Sydney decision as a defeat for monorails in general.  I disagree.  It's a defeat for one-way loops, poor connectivity, and symbolic as opposed to actual mobility.  The monorail didn't fail just because it was a monorail, but because it was a poorly designed line.  Likewise, the Toronto outcome isn't a victory for light rail or a defeat for subways, but merely a commitment to better network design.

55 Responses to toronto and sydney: triumphs for network planning, not just light rail

  1. Andrew March 23, 2012 at 7:51 pm #

    The problem with the Toronto light rail proposal is that it runs parallel to an extremely busy and congested highway (Highway 401) which is heavily used for suburb to suburb commuting, and most jobs in Toronto are in the suburbs. Other east west roads in the suburbs (e.g. Eglinton, Sheppard, Highway 7) also suffer from severe congestion problems, often during off peak times as well. The light rail lines are disjointed due to the existing subway along Sheppard Avenue between Yonge and Don Mills requiring a transfer, and it will still take 2 hours to get across the north side of the city with the proposed light rail lines, and the light rail is low capacity (401 can carry 2-3x as many people per hour than one of the proposed light rail lines). Most of the political debate on this issue seems to have been political opposition to right wing mayor Rob Ford and has totally ignored the issue of suburb to suburb commuting causing severe traffic problems in the Toronto area.

  2. Will March 23, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

    Andrew, subways are justified by ridership projections, not by the location of congested expressways. And in Toronto’s case, the projections show that the ridership simply isn’t there for suburb-to-suburb subways.

  3. Sylvan March 23, 2012 at 8:27 pm #

    Also, the extra transfer argument is a red herring. As Steve Munro never tires of pointing out, much of the ridership bound for the Sheppard subway would be coming from east Scarborough, so riders would have to take a bus and transfer at the new Sheppard subway terminus anyway. Instead they’ll get an LRT that will take them to a convenient, level, in-station transfer at Don Mills.

  4. Alon Levy March 24, 2012 at 12:26 am #

    Andrew, the problem with serving suburban jobs by transit is that passengers are averse to traveling too far from the train station to work. Transfer penalties are empirically higher at the work end than at the home end. The ideal work geography for rapid transit looks something like Downtown Toronto: high-rise, walkable, dense. The Mississauga sprawl is ideal for auto commutes, but there’s never enough intensity at one point to justify transit, and office parks locate themselves just off of major arterials rather than directly on them, making it hard to string several small job centers into one line.

  5. kantor March 24, 2012 at 4:03 am #

    This time I could not agree more; seeing two obvious boondoggles being scrapped is good news for any transit fan in the world.
    I’ve never been to Sidney but I know a littel Toronto (my cousin used to teach at York) and Rob Ford’s plan looked like absolute fracking nonsense; and very expensive too..
    I’ve checked on google earth and going underground in some of those areas is simply devoid of any sense whatsoever; in fact if there is an alignment perfectly suitable for light rail is the northern part of Toronto. And, if done properly, it won’t tale two hours to go across.

  6. Barry March 24, 2012 at 7:36 am #

    Only half of the Sydney monorail was ever built.
    It was designed to transport people between the Darling Harbour Conference and Convention Centres and the main accommodation Hotels at the northern end of the CBD. The hotels are mainly between Wynyard and Circular train stations – see map on Jarrett’s previous monorail posting.
    The design included a monorail station at the entrance to Wynyard train station. Wynyard is one of the busiest stations on the Sydney train network.
    There was a change of government during construction. The new government cancelled the northern section that provided the link to the hotels and suburban train network.

  7. Jonathon March 24, 2012 at 5:44 pm #

    Given that the 401 is one of the busiest trucking routes in North America, and the only highway across southern Ontario, it would be naive to assume that anyone driving through Scarborough at 8:30 AM would take a subway if one were to exist.

  8. Alon Levy March 24, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

    Also on the subject of Rob Ford, it’s amazing how he’s gotten everyone to think that subways = suburban service. The Yonge-University-Spadina Line is the busiest two-track line in North America, and Yonge/Bloor is the busiest subway station, but the Downtown Relief Line is simply not on the table anymore. Toronto has about 1.5 lines serving the CBD. Work on the circumferentials after you have radials for them to connect to.

  9. Robert in Calgary March 24, 2012 at 7:26 pm #

    Re: DRL
    I came across this link Friday night.
    The smart decision is to complete the Sheppard subway so it runs from Downsview to Scarborough Centre. As usual it seems, Toronto makes another blunder.
    Likes many cities, what they need is the funding streams. There’s failures from both the Province and the Federal government.

  10. Corey Burger March 24, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

    Not sure I agree with your contention that this isn’t about subways vs light rail in Toronto’s case. The rhetoric of the Ford-camp in Toronto has all been about vehicle choice, and they got to frame the debate. Unless Toronto starts talking seriously about DRL, then I think that subways are in trouble politically in the next twenty years, because “light rail is good enough”.

  11. kantor March 25, 2012 at 4:27 am #

    Well, saying that “light rail is good enough” is the obvious (and extreme) reaction to Rob Ford’s lunatic idea of building a metro in the suburbs; as Alon says above, Toronto could certainly use another metro line, but in a different place.

  12. Zoltán March 25, 2012 at 8:19 am #

    If one does wish to be a technophile about this, then these stories do indicate the merit of light rail – that merit being that it is relatively unconstrained by technology, and can do just about anything. It can (with appropriate choices of vehicles) run at grade in mixed traffic, transit lanes or shared traffic, or grade separated on existing rail lines, existing or new subways or existing or new elevated track. It can, like Manchester’s metrolink, stop on sight at low speeds on street, and be fully signalled at high speeds elsewhere.
    This is less because light rail is magical, and more because “light rail” is a very loose term, describing anything on rails that doesn’t necessarily stick to one mode of operation – as opposed to the very specific terms of “subway”, “commuter rail”, “streetcar”, etc.
    As a result, it is probably a very much valid position to root for light rail thinking. That is, rooting for a city to, over time, build up a network of technologically compatible rail lines, which receive whatever level of grade separation, stop spacing, etc. is appropriate to each corridor. Or, indeed, each segment of its corridor, as in Hannover, where trains are at times underground, and at times in reserved at-grade track. If in time various connections and through running become logical, building a network of compatible lines ensures that’s possible.

  13. Zoltán March 25, 2012 at 8:37 am #

    To apply the above to Toronto, it’s silly to imagine that building light rail on Sheppard should require an additional transfer. Once the choice is made of whether to do high platform light rail (or, indeed, light rail with retractable steps, as in Hannover, with at least enough high platform for disabled access and more at busy stations) or lower platforms on the existing subway, it’s perfectly easy to run through trains that run in subway for part of the trip, and in reserved lanes with agressive signal priority for the remainder.
    Also, Toronto might wish to revisit more subways later, should light rail cause such new development and additional trips that the additional capacity of a subway is appropriate. If it’s done light rail properly, then it will have relocated utilities so that the light rail tracks never have to be dug up, which is also one of the major costs of constructing shallow subways – so the step of building light rail has by no means gone to waste.

  14. Neil March 25, 2012 at 11:50 am #

    @Zoltán — sure, a transfer into the existing Sheppard subway could be eliminated if not for the non-standard gauge used by the TTC (new LRT system is supposed to be standard gauge, if I remember correctly); existing high platforms vs. (I think) low platforms for new LRT; tunnels likely otherwise incompatible with LRVs. (Yes, could have retractable steps, but just to accommodate one less transfer?)
    Not totally insurmountable barriers, but not very cost-effective to overcome. The only bright side is that existing subway vehicles could (maybe) be reallocated to other subway lines rather than being “thrown away”.
    Of course, this just helps prove your point about having compatible systems.

  15. Jackshope March 25, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

    The other thing that this has been victory for in Toronto is evidence based policy.
    It’s truly shocking the information vacuum in which the subway people were operating and the complete lack of planning, strategy, guidance or leadership from the Mayor’s office. I’m far from a transit expert (just an interested observer) and I could have easily put together a better case for a subway on Sheppard than these people managed.
    Nonetheless, the politics of this is fascinating: how an uneasy of coalition of auto uber alles supporters with dedicated technophiles tried to use suburban resentment to drive a costly infrastructure project, in direct opposition to the Mayor’s “Gravy Train” mantra. The entire pro-subway was such a ragtag group of massive contradictions that their only real chance of accomplishing anything was with effective leadership. Given that all they had were the Ford Bros. I’m genuinely shocked they actually got 19 votes.
    I wish that this entire debate were getting more play outside of Toronto, particularly in Metro Vancouver where we may have a similar debate coming up. While the players and particulars are different (thankfully, no one near the incompetence of the Fords) the media will still likely cast it in the same light of a light rail vs. Skytrain. Many of the same questions will have to be asked to planning for a route versus network planning and as well where we go after this.

  16. Robert in Calgary March 25, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

    Adventures at Yonge/Bloor subway station.

  17. Syd March 25, 2012 at 5:27 pm #

    The real benefit of the Sydney decision is not so much the removal of the (useless) monorail but the ability to develop light rail in Sudney in a truly integrated manner, in conjunction with both heavy rail and buses services, as a result of the purchase of the existing cash-starved private sector light rail operator, which quite unbelievably had been granted a long-term right of first refusal over the development and operation of all future light rail network extensions and connections in the city. See

  18. Mike March 26, 2012 at 6:42 am #

    People are not understanding the whole picture very well when it comes to the Toronto case.
    Toronto needs rapid transit. LRT can provide rapid transit, when constructed like systems in Calgary and Edmonton.
    However the LRT Toronto is getting is not rapid transit, but instead basically a streetcar in the median of the road, with a few less stops than local service. This is not rapid transit, and it is not going to be much faster than the bus it is replacing. In fact according to planners of the system, current bus riders will be lucky if they save 1-2 minutes a trip over the current bus route.
    I don’t think people in Toronto are against LRT. What they are against is spending billions on a system that is using LRT which is not going to do anything to bring rapid transit to the areas of the city which need it.
    People are also against LRT, because it is stupid to make people switch modes halfway through a trip, as will happen with Sheppard.
    At the end of the day, it does not matter if someone is for subways or LRT. What matters is which plan is going to grow ridership, help the city in building a compact more sustainable urban form, and allow transit to compete with the car.
    Sometimes LRT comes out as a winner for this. But in the Sheppard corridor subway comes out on top.
    Do we want transit to fail or succeed? I live right near the Sheppard corridor, and I can tell you right now no one I know is getting excited to ditch their cars for LRT. Why? Because its not rapid transit. It will still take them 45 minutes to get somewhere which takes 10 minutes in a car.
    If you want to really get down to it, even current bus riders are not really that excited. For many, a well designed express bus would provide them a better more attractive ride, than the LRT line will.
    @Jackshope. Vancouver’s own planning studies show that Skytrain is the way to go. There is no debate which has to be had there concerning the planned rapid transit projects. Just on the UBC corridor, Skytrain is projected to carry 60 million riders a year, compared to 9 million for LRT. Why? because Skytrain provides the rapid transit people crave.
    Transit planners for the most part have really lost it in the past decade with the obsession with median in-street LRT. We are going to pay for it with low ridership and increased car use.
    If we are building rapid transit, the line must be grade separated, no matter if it is LRT, subway, bus, or ICTS.

  19. J.D. Hammond March 26, 2012 at 8:48 am #

    I don’t know that I’d call monorail opponents “technophiles”. Really, it’s one of the newer transit technologies, tho perhaps not as new as automated technologies or maglev.
    As a monorail fan, I’m a little wistful for the Sydney loop’s passing, but it’s not really any more useful than Detroit’s (again, fairly high-tech). I wish these technologies were used as effectively as they have been in Osaka or Vancouver, respectively.

  20. James March 26, 2012 at 8:59 am #

    Mike: Where did you get those crazy ridership projections for the proposed UBC line in Vancouver? According to Translink, LRT would carry 99,000 to 116,000 riders per day, while Skytrain would carry up to 146,000. This is a significant difference, but nowhere near the six-fold difference you’re claiming.

  21. Brendan H March 26, 2012 at 9:13 am #

    The people who complain about the “unnecessary transfer” at Don Mills conveniently ignore the that the subway proposal also involves a transfer from local bus to subway at Kennedy North. No matter what we build on Sheppard there’s going to be a transfer somewhere.
    I mean it’d be one thing if we were talking about building another brutal transfer like the SRT/Subway connection at Kennedy, but the Don Mills transfer is going to be easiest connection in the entire system, with LRT cars pulling right up onto the subway platform. People make more arduous transfers every day in this city without even blinking an eye.

  22. Barry March 26, 2012 at 9:38 am #

    The people who negotiated the light rail deal are the same ones who made the monorail useless by cancelling half the project.
    Unbelievably, some of these people are now making decisions on what transport infrastructure should or shouldn’t be built in Sydney.
    I seriously doubt that light rail or any other mode of transport will be developed in Sydney in an integrated manner in the foreseeable future. The current approach seems to be ad hoc at best. For example, see

  23. Alon Levy March 26, 2012 at 10:08 am #

    The big difference between Broadway in Vancouver and Sheppard in Toronto is relative importance. Broadway is a dense, inner-urban corridor with a huge anchor at the outer end. Sheppard East is a sprawltastic arterial that’s 50 meters wide from building to building because of all the setbacks; if you’re anxious to see rapid transit there, put it above ground. Toronto needs a subway to relieve the only line that serves the CBD properly. What it doesn’t need is tunnels in outer-urban neighborhoods.
    A second, underappreciated difference is that subways are more expensive in Toronto than in Vancouver, by a factor of about 1.5.

  24. Chris, Public Transport March 26, 2012 at 11:08 am #

    Correct – there is no way on Broadway in Vancouver to put surface light rail without a severe disruption to the street life. A monstrously wide street like Sheppard is perfect for median light rail. Plus I would bet there’s more transit demand on Broadway than there is on Sheppard Avenue East.
    While ridership forecasts show that forecasted demand can be met with light rail, what if ridership sores beyond what was ever envisioned? Then we are stuck with a light rail line filled to capacity with no room for expansion. We only need to look at the Scarborough RT for an example of this. The Blue Line in LA, perhaps the most heavily ridden light rail line in North American at around 80,000 passengers per day, is at capacity and service cannot be increased because signal priority will not work at headways shorter than every five minutes. Will Toronto light rail enthusiasts celebrate the re-introduction of 85E Sheppard East Express buses when the light rail line is maxed out, a victim of its own success?

  25. Mike March 26, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

    The comments about Sheppard really prove people are making comments who have never stepped foot on Sheppard Ave.
    I agree rapid transit could have been built on an elevated track instead of underground.
    But that aside, one must remember the Sheppard subway was a part of building a city wide(or even region wide) rapid transit network. It connects two major suburban town centres, and high density housing along Sheppard in between.
    Toronto’s transit success has come from expanding transit to suburbs and providing urban transit level services in the suburbs.
    One must read the book Transport for Suburbia to see why we have stop using density and built form as excuses not to build or operate proper transit in the suburbs.
    Under the density logic, Sheppard Ave would not even have bus service, or at best a bus every 60 minutes. Instead of a bus every 6 minutes or less, like it does now during most of the day.
    Back to the elevated rapid transit comment. While I agree this could be used in sections, I think we also have to look at the context of the corridor. In the case of Sheppard, there are some parts where an underground tunnel would have to be used, just due to existing development, etc.
    Funny, people complain about Sheppard, which carries close to 50,000 riders a day on a 6.5 km subway. While Sydney built a 12km rail tunnel which only serves something like 12,000 riders a day, for $2 billion dollars. Sydney understands though that you have to build for the future and provide true rapid transit.

  26. Mike March 26, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

    Concerning capacity on Sheppard.
    LRT rail would only meet current ridership projections, because LRT will not attract many people to switch to transit.
    The project studies show much higher ridership supporting subway service from the start, if subway is built.
    Basically we are turning away millions of additional riders by going with LRT.

  27. Rico March 26, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

    As a former resident of the Greater Vancouver area I agree with several posters here that surface light rail on Broadway would not be ideal for a variety of reasons.
    However my understanding of Sheppard is a little less. I thought the modelling projections for the Sheppard corridor show massive room for increased demand before LRT is unable to meet the demand. If there is no serious flaws in the modelling assumptions the best available information should be used to make decisions (in this case LRT provides sufficient capacity for the forseeable future on Sheppard). As for comparisons with the LA Blue line I don’t know the LA situation at all, how dense are the intersections, block lengths etc. is it relavent to Sheppard? In other words would a Sheppard LRT have more or less road crossings to deal with in relation to signal priority and would train lengths on Sheppard be more or less (For comparison Broadway in Vancouver runs perpendicular to most routes in Vancouver, has a kazillion signalized crossings and is a major car and truck route as well…signal priorization would be a nightmare (maybe impossible at shorter headways), as would long trains).

  28. Jarrett at March 26, 2012 at 2:23 pm #

    "Technophilia" refers to love of a technology that extends beyond that technology's usefulness.  It attaches frequently to both futuristic and nostalgic technologies. 

  29. Robert in Calgary March 26, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

    I’m not buying the disdain for the “subways for suburbs” thinking.
    A partial Sheppard subway exists. It needs to be extended on both ends to maximize its potential.
    What Toronto is aching for is leadership on the funding front.
    Toronto needs money poured into several areas all at once.
    1. Current system to superior condition.
    2. Downtown relief line
    2a. A case for a separate Queen St. subway could be made in addition to the DRL
    3. Eglinton – Airport to Scarborough, if not Malvern
    my choice would be to use Skytrain technology
    4. Finish Sheppard Subway
    LRT as a fancy streetcar is just flushing money down the toilet.

  30. Justin Bernard March 26, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

    If if the Sheppard Subway was extended, it would never reach it’s maximum potential. The TTC says the Sheppard Subway MAY reach 10,000pph, but riders will still have to continue their trip on a bus to areas that the Sheppard East LRT will serve directly. The assumptions that prompted the construction of the subway in the 1990’s did not materialize. Scarborough Centre is not a bustling hub, and it’ll never be one, North York Centre has some jobs, but nowhere near the projection from the 90’s.
    The Sheppard East LRT will be part of a network in Scarborough that will link a priority neighbourhood(Malvern) with the Scarboorugh Town Centre, and the Sheppard Subway at Don Mills. The LRT will be faster than the current bus, no matter what the so-called pro-subway advocates claim.
    The LRT will serve more residents than a Sheppard Subway that will veer south, and will go nowhere near Northeastern Scarborough.

  31. Chris, Public Transport March 26, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

    The majority of the Blue Line in LA is via a railroad right of way with appropriate signaling and warning gates and a speed of 55 mph. The northern and southern ends of the Blue Line are in the median of major streets with no warning gates, etc. and a speed of 35 mph. While the northern stretch along Washington Blvd has excellent signal timing, the southern stretch along Long Beach Blvd often sees the train waiting at red lights. It seems as though the entirety of Sheppard Avenue LRT will be in the middle of the street at traffic speeds 35 mph / 60 kmh.
    It makes no sense why more people would use a LRT on Sheppard than the bus even if the travel time was the same, but we have real life examples of this happening. In L.A. a series of express buses – 444, 445, 446, 447, 450, 484, and 490 – were replaced with buses operating the “Silver Line” operating the same frequency and route as the buses that operated before. In fact, it was worse, because now all the people who used to have a one-seat ride on the 444, etc. now had to transfer to the “Silver Line”. Yet ridership has dramatically increased. I believe there are two factors at play:
    1) SIMPLICITY: Instead of 85, 85A, 85B there will just be one train. You won’t have to remember which letter you should take, or if you can take any letter.
    2) REGULARITY: Instead of the frequent occurrence of 5-6-7 buses in a row followed by a large gap, the LRT should have better headway adherence. Alas, this hasn’t happened on St. Clair (or Spadina for that matter) but both St Clair and Spadina operate too frequently for signal priority to be effective and they also have too many stops, so maybe it’ll be different now.
    Since this will be the first line of its type in Toronto, you residents of Scarborough will be the guinea pigs!

  32. Mike March 26, 2012 at 6:38 pm #

    A subway does not need to meet maximum pph to be a success.
    Only in Toronto does a transit service have to operate at capacity to be considered a success.
    I was just in Milan, and it was amazing how the streetcar routes there ran frequently and aside from rush hour were not packed beyond capacity like in Toronto. In fact there was always only a handful of people on each streetcar I was on.
    Is that a failure? No it is not. It is seen as providing an attractive service.
    I do not call a 15 km subway carrying well over 150,000 riders a day a failure. And we all know that as with every transit project in Toronto, the ridership on Sheppard would beat that projection.
    As for the issue with North East Scarborough. Toronto’s transit is built on a bus and subway feeder network. Northeast residents having to take a bus to the Sheppard subway is not bad at all, and it is what all us transit riders in Toronto already do on a daily basis.
    Given the LRT will not offer very little if any speed advantage over the current bus, how are northeast residents better served by an LRT?
    The truth is their ride will be the same as now, just on an LRT instead of a bus.
    So we are spending $1 billion to shuttle them to the subway at Don Mills, instead of letting them use the existing bus service.
    An LRT planner for the Sheppard project, told me at the open house that riders will basically save at most 2 minutes on their trip over the current bus service. In fact he got very defensive and uncomfortable when us residents started asking how much faster LRT would be over the current bus. Of course he was uncomfortable having to tell us it was not faster.
    So at the end of the day, having LRT which is really no faster than the current bus service, does nothing to help north east Scarborough residents.
    North east Scarborough residents would be better served by a serial of express bus routes.
    The funny thing is that identical neighbourhoods just north of the City of Toronto boundary, get express bus service to the subway, and the bus routes are packed. But the neighbourhoods under the TTC service area get no such service.
    And all that separates these neighbourhoods are the invisible city border.

  33. Ben Smith March 26, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

    I think the real debate should not have been between LRT and subways, but what kind of LRT to build. In my opinion, I do think we are building the wrong kind. Stations should not be located at side streets, and dual mode trains should have been looked into as a way to run through to Yonge without a transfer. Regarding the stop spacing, one could actually argue that all local stops be adjusted to 400m as a means to speed up service.
    If the mayor and his propaganda mouthpiece the Sun were real conservatives rather than populist lemmings, they would have been pushing for BRT routes, maybe with HOV lanes to give fellow drivers some extra breathing room.

  34. Alon Levy March 27, 2012 at 12:00 am #

    To put things for perspective for people who think 50,000 passengers a day justifies a subway, the Yonge line carries 600,000 per day.
    Putting a subway on Sheppard East runs into the same problem as BART: it’s the wrong mode for the geography. Low-density suburban and outer-urban neighborhoods can be very well-served by rapid transit, but to save money it has to leverage existing railroad corridors (better) or go in road medians (worse). The ridership BART gets is decent for what it does, but because it’s disconnected from any surface mode (light rail or mainline rail), the extension costs are astounding. It would be one thing if they could TOD-ify the stations, as the Japanese do when they build suburban rapid transit, but instead they build parking garages and TOD in name only.
    Meanwhile, this suburban thinking leads agencies to neglect potentially high-performing urban segments, and instead maximize coverage. The bus running on Geary in San Francisco already has 55,000 riders per day, and the parallel buses have another 50,000 between them. Despite the potential, Geary will never get a subway from BART, but is instead getting BRT-lite; only the San Jose and Livermore sprawl are getting rapid transit, at much higher cost and lower ridership. Toronto is heading in the same direction, and Transit City is only a partial improvement – it, too, focuses on lines on a map rather than on where the ridership is.

  35. Mike March 27, 2012 at 6:37 am #

    You can’t compare the Yonge subway which is 30 km in length to the 6.5 km Sheppard subway line.
    Further, while the inner cities do need transit investment, you also need to expand in the suburbs.
    Toronto’s transit success does not come from the inner city. It comes from the suburbs and the amazing service the TTC has put in the suburbs, and the ridership it has generated.
    Toronto’s success is not because people on Dundas are riding a streetcar. It is because we have buses on suburban Finch operating every 90 seconds, and people are using it.
    Do not discredit the suburbs, they are where transit is going to have to succeed if transit is going to become a viable option.

  36. Brent March 27, 2012 at 6:57 am #

    I agree with Mike — total daily boardings is a poor indicator of how busy a line is, not just because it can be skewed by length but also because it can be skewed by boarding patterns (long-distance and low-turnover vs. short-distance and high-turnover). So let’s compare Yonge vs. Sheppard using the more useful metric of peak point loading.
    Yonge: in the order of 25,000 to 30,000 passengers per hour in the peak direction
    Sheppard: less than 5,000 passengers per hour in the peak direction
    When you see a bus every 90 seconds on Finch East, it looks astounding — we should put a subway on Finch too! Except that even at that high frequency, the maximum peak point ridership is only 2,500 or so. That’s the whole point of LRT in the suburbs. It’s not to “screw Scarborough”, as Ford and his supporters claim. It’s to provide increased capacity and improved service more broadly than we otherwise could if we stuck to gold-plated subway lines.

  37. Justin Bernard March 27, 2012 at 7:40 am #

    A subway thats a transit agency $8 per rider(as the TTC claims) and drains $10 million in operating cost annually, with only 50,000 riders is not a sucess, it is a money pit. A transit planner, Karl Junkin claimed that the Sheppard Subway in it’s current configuration is using only 15% of it’s capacity. From what I understand, the completed Sheppard Subway would be projected to carry 88,000 riders a day, no where near the 150,000 riders that you claim. And most of those riders will still have to transfer north to complete their journey anways. Either way, the TTC says the Sheppard Subway is not value for money, and I agree. One thing you either do not know, or ignore is the city’s committment to a completed subway line. To complete the line, the City will have to cough between 1.7 to 2.7 Billion. That’s a lot of money for one subway line. Matt Elliot has a really good graphic that essentially sums up a Sheppard Subway:
    I am not going waste time rebutting your LRT claims. You post those claims everywhere. I’ll just say the LRT will be considerably faster than the Sheppard Bus, not just because the LRT will bypass the bottleneck between Don Mills and Consumers underground, but also because the LRT will be in it’s own ROW. I am actually quite happy to let you continue ranting, because the at end of the day, the experts choose the best option for the corridor, and in 4 years, riders will finally see the beginning of a true RT network for Scarborough.

  38. Justin Bernard March 27, 2012 at 7:42 am #

    Matt Elliot has an excellent FAQ about the Subways vs. LRT debate.

  39. Ben Smith March 27, 2012 at 7:45 am #

    It is worth pointing out that the line should be about 30%+ faster than the current bus line (17km/h vs 22km/h average). I still think it is worth removing some of the stops so that the average stop distance is closer to 800m rather than 400m, but riders will definitely save more than a couple of minutes like some suggest.

  40. Justin Bernard March 27, 2012 at 9:04 am #

    The stop spacing could be reviewed, and possible some stops removed. I haven’t seen the design in a while, but i recall seeing a stop at Pharmacy Avenue, which is silly considering how close Vic Park is. But an arbitrary stop spacing cannot be applied without know the corridor itself. What I find interesting, is many people say the stop spacing should be “this far apart” without even talking about the characteristics of the community. IS your ideal stop spacing supported by the community?

  41. Ben Smith March 27, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

    The Pharmacy stop is actually one of the LEAST questionable local stops on this so-called rapid transit line:
    Don Mills Station
    Consumers Road
    Victoria Park Avenue
    Pharmacy Avenue
    Palmdale Drive
    Warden Avenue
    Bay Mills Boulevard
    Birchmount Road
    Allanford Road
    Kennedy Road
    Agincourt GO Station
    Midland Avenue
    Brimley Road
    Brownspring Road
    McCowan Road
    White Haven
    Shorting Road
    Massie Street
    Markham Road
    Progress Avenue
    Washburn Way
    Burrows Hall
    Neilson Road
    Murison Boulevard
    Brenyon Way
    Morningside Avenue

  42. Brendan H March 27, 2012 at 2:25 pm #

    The TTC looked into 800m stop spacing when it was designing the line and determined that the time saved from the faster vehicle speeds was outweighed by the time spent walking to the more distant stops.
    The most common travel pattern on the Sheppard corridor is people travelling within Scarborough. A narrower stop spacing serves this market better than a wider one.

  43. kantor March 27, 2012 at 3:04 pm #

    I really do not understand why an LRT in a separate ROW, which mostly runs through a suburban wasteland should average 22km/h.
    Wait, I understand.. the average stop distance of 400m is INSANE for an LRT; it should be at least twice as much or even more and, by looking at google earth, I find it difficult to understand the reason of such a close spacing.

  44. Rico March 27, 2012 at 4:19 pm #

    I am not familiar with Sheppard and did not realize until today that the proposed line had 400m stop spacing. A 400m average stop spacing seems really streetcar like, not rapid transit like. Wouldn’t a lot of the ridership be feed into the LRT through bus transfers? If there is any significant amount of feeder bus connection I would have to question the conclusion that time saved from faster vehicle speeds was offset by the access time to the stop. I could see 400m for rapid transit at the end of the line in a Downtown but stops every 400m for the length of the line seems slow…and stop spacing is not the fault of the technology, just the application.

  45. Ben Smith March 28, 2012 at 8:41 am #

    That is a very good point, and one which has not been discussed enough during the debates. Much of the defense regarding the close stop spacing comes from people concerned about walking times to the stops. In fact, the guy who was commissioned to do the study as to what was best for Sheppard argued that the overall door to door time would be the same with 400m as it would be with a subway at 800m, since it would mean less walking time and you wouldn’t need to navigate a station. I’d argue that surface stops should be used WITH wider spacings in order to improve travel time, not in place of it. Especially in lower density areas like this where going underground is just wasted time, while in denser areas it still remains competitive since cars tend to move slower in such settings.
    This problem is also what has played into the hands of the pro-subway crowd. They’ve been arguing that the line is simply a streetcar route, and while they are not correct, they aren’t exactly wrong with that assertion. I think of the surface parts of Transit City more as a European tramways rather than LRT, as they are definitely a step above streetcars and even streetcar right of ways, but not in the same league as the light rapid transit found in a number of cities around the world.
    In the end the whole thing unfolded into a politicized false dichotomy between two lousy plans. The lesser of the two evils won out, but it is a shame that better thought out plans and strategies were not looked into.

  46. Zoltán March 28, 2012 at 6:54 pm #

    One can say whatever one likes about the merit of a subway on Sheppard, and it won’t change the fact there wasn’t enough money to build it. Matt Elliot details the financial situation here –
    Supporters of a Sheppard subway would do well to stop mourning, and get watching the details of the LRT plan to make sure it works as well as it ought to.
    Regarding the sop spacing: 400m seems very close indeed for rapid transit. That said, it’s a big gain for both cost efficiency and for the frequency that the rapid transit provides if stops are close enough together to eliminate all local bus service.
    If you’re looking to eliminate local bus service, a good rule of thumb is a) stop placement focusing on major intersections where a large number of people can easily access the line and/or transfers are available, and b) stop spacing being not less than 400m but not more than 800m.
    Perhaps Toronto could eliminate a few stops based on those criteria. But aside from those potential tweaks, it’s probably the right call to go for emphasising coverage over speed and replacing local bus service. Demand along Sheppard is pretty spread out along the corridor, as is the way of sprawly suburban arterials, and Scarborough isn’t that big or important a suburban centre, so the line shouldn’t necessarily be so much about getting people really quickly to one point as getting people fairly close to a lot of places along Sheppard.

  47. Brendan H March 29, 2012 at 6:53 am #

    @Ben Smith
    800m spacing on the surface was considered in the EA. The relevant section is 8.4.
    You may not agree with the decision that the TTC made but it’s not accurate to say that the alternative wasn’t looked into.

  48. Aidan Stanger March 29, 2012 at 8:52 am #

    The Sydney decision is a bad one IMO, because it wouldn’t be very difficult to turn it into a very useful piece of transit infrastructure. All they’d have to do to make it useful would be to integrate it into the same ticketting system as the buses, trains and ferries. And it could have been (and indeed still could be) made much more useful by extending it to Central station, especially if via a different route from the light rail – possibly by a more direct Darling Harbour to Chinatown route, reversing the direction of travel on the Chinatown section. It would still be small enough for a one way loop to be attractive.
    @Barry, I hadn’t heard anything about the original plan to run it to Wynyard. What route would it have taken?

  49. Rico March 29, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

    Thanks for posting the link to the EA Brendan. It raises some questions in my mind. Won’t they be going to all door boarding with LRT, and if not why not (the EA noted a doubling of boarding time with the fewer stations, I assume this means no all door boarding). In addition the EA noted the increased time savings to travellers located at a LRT stop is lost by those using a local bus stop not at a LRT stop. This seems odd, I would expect parallel service to be reconfigured after construction and would have to question how many perpendicular services there are not on the major artirials (those listed in the EA as signals, also approximately 800m spacing). No mention of how many people connecting at LRT stops on major artirials vs local stops. As an outsider seems to me the EA was flawed on stop spacing and the 4km/hr speed gain though small would be worth it (I assume that could be increased with all door boarding as well).

  50. Will March 30, 2012 at 6:39 am #

    Rico: Yes, there will be all-door boarding. Even the downtown streetcar system is moving to all-door boarding.

  51. Nathanael March 31, 2012 at 3:46 am #

    And yet the Sydney decision IS a defeat for monorails.
    Reasons given for it being torn out, in addition to the useless location, included that it was at end-of-life and expensive to replace and maintain. If it were made out of stock parts, it probably would have been only *partly* torn out, with the remainder reused and extended; but it was an overpriced “mode orphan”.
    The Toronto decision wasn’t in any sense a defeat for subways in general, but it was a defeat for the *subway obsession* which seems to have gripped Toronto for decades. Which is sort of your point about tech obsession, I guess.

  52. rico March 31, 2012 at 7:03 am #

    Seems to me I was missing an important point. The article is about a triumph of network planning. That said I now have some concerns about the Shepard LRT. It is replacing a bus route (or several) and so is already part of the local transit network. I assumed it was part of the rapid transit network. As proposed it seems more like a European ‘fast’ tram than LRT and mobility gains are pretty minor over the exsisting service. Reading the link to the EA threw up some red flags for me. First it seems to only account for access to those on Shepard, not those transfering (this is not completely clear in the EA and I could be wrong. Second it assumes double boarding time in the 800m stop spacing vs 400m spacing. Seems strange assuming all door boarding. Third it noted speed gains from the 800m spacing would not be that great as the model noted trains would still get stuck behind some redlights. So they are spending how much and still don’t get full signal priority on a route with less than a dozen lights? I think for the same price they should be able to do better. Or if the goals of the community plan trump mobility (valid) they should call it rapid streetcar.

  53. Andrew March 31, 2012 at 9:26 pm #

    The Eglinton and Sheppard subways (as Rob Ford proposed) would have directly served quite a few suburban employment areas. The office park area at Renforth/Eglinton in Mississauga would have been within walking distance of one of the stations, had the extension to the airport been built, and a lot of people also work at the airport itself. There are major residential/employment nodes at Yonge & Eglinton and Yonge & Sheppard. Eglinton/DVP, Sheppard/Victoria Park and Scarborough Centre are also moderately important employment nodes. There is quite a lot of room for growth in these areas. Also the outer sections of Eglinton are absolutely perfect for elevated rail implementation, so there is little excuse for building light rail with much lower capacity if elevated can be built for reasonably low cost. These areas resemble the areas in Vancouver where the SkyTrain runs above ground. Also the traffic on Highway 401 and every road parallel to it is absolutely brutal in rush hour, to the point that I think that lots of drivers going across the city would be willing to use the subway instead of driving even if they had to use feeder buses at both ends of their trip. Finally building both subway and light rail on the Sheppard corridor and forcing a transfer is poor planning. The Sheppard subway may only carry around 50,000 a day but that’s because it was only half built and most people living in the area drive because of that.

  54. rico April 1, 2012 at 7:37 am #

    Andrew, my limited understanding is LRT on Eglinton makes an airport connection much more likely. There was a link posted to the Shepard EA it shows pretty convincingly a subway would not be a good investment by most metrics including ridership. The question might be did the most appropriate system end up being prposed? From my limited knowledge the benifits of a wider stop spacing LRT were not properly considered.

  55. Nathanael April 18, 2012 at 8:13 am #

    “2) REGULARITY: Instead of the frequent occurrence of 5-6-7 buses in a row followed by a large gap, the LRT should have better headway adherence. Alas, this hasn’t happened on St. Clair (or Spadina for that matter) but both St Clair and Spadina operate too frequently for signal priority to be effective and they also have too many stops, so maybe it’ll be different now.”
    Steve Munro has been hammering on two things:
    (1) Signal priority implementation was delayed on St. Clair and Spadina, and also botched, and when & where implemented, schedules weren’t adjusted to make use of it;
    (2) TTC seem absolutely unwilling to run St. Clair and Spadina on headway, something they actually could do, and are still running them to “schedule” instead. This change would improve regularity substantially.
    So, large operational mistakes are eating up the benefits of the construction. Which is sad.