Urban Toronto review of Big Move report

Over at Urban Toronto, Jonathan English posted a review of our Review of Metrolinx's Big Move where he wrote:

Debates over Metrolinx's Big Move returned to the headlines this week with the release of a detailed new report prepared by planner Michael Schabas for the Neptis Foundation. While some observers may dismiss it as “yet another” study of transit in Toronto, we can never have too much information about a plan that will, after all, cost tens of billions of dollars. The report brings some useful and occasionally provocative suggestions to the table and also effectively criticizes some of the weakness of the GTA’s transit planning process. This article will examine some of Schabas’ conclusions.

Michael Schabas the author the report was impressed at English's three page summary of his 138 page report and responded with a clarification of just a few points raised in the review.

Schabas wrote:

  1. Conversion of most or all GO rail services to EMUs as you suggest may be the right answer, at least in the long run. But to make the best financial case for conversion now, I reduced up-front capital costs by continuing to use GO’s existing fleet of bi-levels in the peaks. There are lots of options to test, and this is a job GO needs to do. But I have shown, I think, that there is at least one very attractive solution.  Jonathan mentions Germany S-Bahn systems, which are indeed great models to learn from. In fact, many of these operate do with bi-level trains (the Germans call them “Dostos”), sometimes double deck EMUs but often with push-pull locomotive operation as I envisage for GO, often inter-working with newer single deck EMUs. German Railways operates S-bahn and “regio” services in dozens of cities, so they can move their fleet around to maximise efficiency. They don’t throw away older double deck coaches. At http://www.drehscheibe-foren.de/foren/read.php?4,6160449 you can see a picture of a “dosto” being operated by Hamburg Cologne Express.

    Reviewing the entire Toronto transit development plan was a pretty tall order, and I can’t pretend I looked at all possible scenarios.  You are quite right that with the faster acceleration of EMUs, there should be a case for more stations. Over time, the double deck coaches would probably only be used on peak non-stop (express) services,  where the slower acceleration would matter much less.

  2. The interchange at Main Street may look long on a map, but it really is just the length of a GO train. Compared with fighting one’s way through Yonge and Bloor to squeeze onto a subway train, I think the interchange could be pretty attractive. But of course the real solution is to divert passengers onto GO further out, at Kennedy, Agincourt, etc. But this will take a bit longer, because the line will need to be double-tracked to allow frequent two-way all-day services.

    While I show the line running down Main Street in the Neptis Report, a better interchange might built further east, from the middle of the Subway platform to the  middle of the GO platform. This would cross the Danforth roughly along the west side of the Canadian Tire store. It could even be a bridge, with escalators, which might be nicer than a tunnel.

  3. You are also right that, if the DRL can be made cheaper, the business case would improve. Right now, costs seem to be about double the benefits. Certainly use of modern technology, as on Paris Line 14 or indeed the underground section of Vancouver’s Canada line, would seem to have the potential to reduce costs substantially. I just took Metrolinx’s (and TTC’s) estimates. But beware, I think have also been generous with the benefits, too. Metrolinx has never disclosed the incremental ridership expected on the DRL.  TTC has disclosed the incremental “rapid transit” ridership, which is not quite the same thing.  Perhaps a quarter of the DRL riders are probably already transit riders, but currently use the streetcar to ride in from the Beaches, Riverdale, or Parkdale.  I have used TTC’s estimate of incremental “rapid transit riders” as the incremental ridership for the line.

  4. You are also right that costs of the DRL can be reduced by building it along the surface, following the rail right of way. But then it is pretty much what I am proposing for GO. It can’t serve Pape, but I don’t think there is any appetite for major redevelopment there. 

  5. I am not advocating use of proprietary ALRT (Bombardier) technology. But given that TTC/Metrolinx have already handed Bombardier a contract for hundreds of new LRT cars that are no longer needed, there must be an opportunity to renegotiate it into an ALRT contract, perhaps at a lower price than if rival technology from Siemens, Ansaldo and Hitachi were used instead.