Modernization to make better use of the existing system

Although the subway system continues to operate reliably, carrying more passengers than ever, many aspects of the operation are now archaic or obsolete. Modernization of the control system and train crewing practices has the potential to substantially reduce losses and the need for subsidies, and enable higher capacity, improved reliability, and more frequent off-peak services. Changes to the fare structure, now possible with PRESTO, could generate new ridership and revenues, even though some fares would be reduced.

New Train Control System and Unattended Train Operation

TTC subway trains are operated with two-person crews, as they have been since the system opened in 1954.

TTC is already planning to install a new, modern system to replace the existing electro-mechanical signalling system, which uses 1950s technology. The new control system will cost about $1 billion.[1] TTC says this expenditure is required because the equipment “has reached the end of its useful life and needs to be replaced,” and because it will allow TTC to operate about 35% more trains, because trains can run closer together. TTC also says it will allow safer and more reliable operations. However, TTC has now said that re-signalling of the Bloor Danforth line can be deferred, probably for several years, so perhaps that system is not in such urgent need of replacement.

One potential benefit of re-signalling is that it would allow driverless train operation. TTC is buying additional trains, so it should have the capability to make use of this feature of the new signalling system. But TTC has given no hint that it is thinking on these lines.

Most western European transit systems have adopted one-person operation, with the driver controlling the doors. Newly constructed lines in Paris, Vancouver, Dubai, New York, Copenhagen, Taipei, and other cities are completely driverless (called “Unattended Train Operation” or UTO), but with “roving attendants,” who assist passengers, check tickets, and help with crowd management. Some but not all UTO lines have “platform screen doors” (PSDs) that provide another level of safety and reduce delays from trespass and suicides.[2]

Now driverless operation is being introduced on existing, older lines.[3] Paris has recently upgraded its Line 1, which runs under the Louvre and Arc de Triomphe, for UTO. Platform Screen Doors were retrofitted, at night, over several years, and a new control system was installed. This is Paris’s busiest and oldest Metro line. Conversion to UTO, with PSDs, allowed an increase in capacity of about 30%, while reducing operating costs. The Paris Metro is heavily unionized; nevertheless, the transition to UTO operation has been achieved without strikes. Paris has now decided to convert another line, Line 4, to UTO.[4]

Automated systems are also more reliable, and offer a better passenger service. Without the cost of a driver (or on TTC, two!), it makes sense to operate more frequently, even in off-peak hours.

Converting the TTC subway to UTO could save about $100 million per year,[5] or $2 billion NPV. Installation of PSDs might cost another $300 million to $500 million.

The new control system and UTO will not, in themselves, attract many new riders, although there should be some small reliability and safety benefits, and fewer service disruptions due to trespass and suicides. These improvements do, however, bring large cost savings, which can be spent instead on other service improvements, and enable higher capacity on the subway. UTO also allows more operating flexibility, with the potential to short-turn trains and inject additional trains from sidings into the service, to meet peak traffic demands. With closed-circuit TV, platform screen doors, and other safety systems, UTO is extremely safe.

FRANCE: The board of Ile de France transport authority STIF voted on July 10 to approve the conversion of Paris metro Line 4 to fully automated operation, endorsing proposals submitted by operator RATP on June 28. Carrying 740 000 passengers/day, the north-south Line 4 is the second-busiest metro line in Paris after east-west Line 1, where the conversion to unattended operation was completed in December 2012. The 12·1 km rubber-tired line links Porte de Clignancourt with Mairie de Montrouge, serving 27 stations including the main line termini at Nord, Est and Montparnasse. It is the only line that interchanges with all other metro and RER routes in the city. A 1·7 km southern extension from Montrouge to Bagneux is currently under construction. Work on Line 4 is expected to begin next year for completion in 2019. This will include the installation of half-height platform screen gates at all stations, as well as the ATO equipment. Total cost of the conversion is put at €256m, of which €100m will be provided by STIF. Under RATP’s proposal, Line 4 will be operated by the existing fleet of driverless trainsets now used on the Meteor automated Line 14, which are due to be replaced by new trains when that route is extended from Saint-Lazare to Mairie de Saint-Ouen. Line 14 currently has a mix of MP89CA trainsets supplied by Alstom for the opening of the line, augmented by a handful of MP05 sets of the type introduced on Line 1 during the automation of that route. Transferring these sets to Line 4 would in turn enable RATP to cascade the manually driven MP89 sets which Line 4 inherited from Line 1 to replace older stock on other rubber-tired routes. Citing its experience on Line 1, RATP said the conversion of Line 4 to UTO would allow it to increase capacity, improve punctuality and the quality of service, as well as enhancing its ability to react to changing demand patterns. It would also improve safety, thanks to the introduction of the platform screen doors.
Source: Metro Report 12 July 2013

Adding Capacity

Adding capacity through the day will require more trains. With the Vaughan extension, TTC will need about 750 cars to operate the current service. Based on recent orders, TTC can purchase additional subway cars at about $3 million each. We allow a cost of $750 million to purchase 250 additional cars. This includes some allowance for additional train sidings that could be built at Wilson where there is vacant land.

Adding capacity will also require further capacity improvements at key stations, which could notionally cost a further $500 million, in addition to works that are required in any case to carry ordinary traffic growth.

Putting it all together

Our estimates of the costs and benefits of a “modernization package” are found in Table A8 in the Appendix and include smart pricing, discussed in detail in Chapter 10. Ridership is assumed to grow 10% due to smart pricing, and a further 5% due to the higher frequency of service, with reduced wait times and reduced crowding, for a total uplift of 150,000 passengers per day or about 45 million per year. With an average fare of about $2.00, the revenue increase would be $90 million per year or about $2.1 billion NPV. The net incremental capital and O&M costs for modernization and resignalling are about $3.2 billion, but the net cost, after taking account of incremental revenues, is about $1.1 billion or $5,540 for each incremental daily transit rider.

We think our estimates are conservative and the additional revenues might well offset all incremental costs.

As with the GO schemes, traffic on the subway will grow faster with more frequent off-peak services. However, the effect will be less, as the subway already operates a fairly frequent service. We assume a further 33% growth, to 200,000 additional riders due to the “Modernization Package.” The 35% capacity increase will enable the subway to carry underlying growth in demand, but less-crowded off-peak trains will also make the system more attractive to new riders.

[1] TTC has quoted various figures. According to the TTC 2012-2016 Capital Program and 10 Year forecast, June 8, 2011, Automatic Train Control and Re-Signalling Yonge-University-Spadina will cost $568 million, while the cost for the Bloor Danforth line will be $431 million. However, in a later paper of September 16, 2011, TTC suggested that, with construction of the Eglinton Line taking some traffic off Bloor Danforth, that line may not need to be resignalled at this time. 
[2] TTC recently indicated that it was considering installing platform screen doors, with an estimated cost of up to $10 million per station. See “TTC plans suicide Barriers on Yonge Line," in the Star, 12 October, 2013. According to the Star, TTC had 18 suicide attempts on the subway in 2012.
[3] The author recalls when elevators in office buildings were automated. Some of the last manual-operated elevators were in government buildings, remaining well into the 1970s.
[4] See:
[5] This figure was corrected from $200 million to $100 million on March 17, 2014. A reader brought this error to our attention. Note that the correct NPV figure appears in the tables and the appendix.