Open Letter to TTC Re: Transit City – by John Barnes

February 1, 2012

I feel compelled to put my opinion forward on the rapid transit issue facing the TTC and Council.

I was a former Planner for the TTC and wrote the 1973 (small blue book) plan for an integrated rapid transit network for the GTA. Here are a few noteworthy truths about rapid transit lines.

  1. Rapid requires its own right-of-way. If it doesn’t have its own right-of-way, then it’s not rapid transit. Competing for travel time with traffic signals along a route significantly adds to travel time and potential erratic round trip running times.
  2. Network is of paramount importance as a concept in any plan. The degree of interconnection and continuous line routing are critical to the success of any system. The Yonge line wouldn’t be nearly as successful if it were not “fed” by the surface bus routes. Approximately 80 % of passengers get to Finch station by bus, 10% walk in and 10% by car (commuter lots).

Furthermore, it as a line would not be nearly as successful if passengers had to change trains along their trip downtown at (for instance) Eglinton and at Bloor. Each transfer along a route can cause a loss of 10% to 15% in ridership. (Sub note; if the SRT was rebuilt as a continuation of the B-D subway line up to the Scarborough TC it would increase its ridership by almost 10,000 passengers per day.)

The sum total of the usefulness of interconnected rapid transit lines is greater than each individual component.

  1. Rapid transit allows greater reliability in travel times which is particularly important for long travel distances. A consistent commute time is what attracts people to any travel alternative – be it car or transit, and the longer the trip, the greater the variation in daily travel time. If transit is to become a greater factor in travel in Toronto it needs to address those corridors of long distance travel.
  2. Direct lines is an important concept. Bus lines that have circuitous routings or major diversions from their direct service line lose up to half their potential through travel riders.
  3. Rapid transit lines should connect to major residential and employment centres. In the 50’s to 70’s period the downtown area represented the major employment area in the GTA. Even by the 70’s the area south of Bloor St represented approximately 25% of total employment, yet today (and I don’t have the latest TTS data at my fingertips) the same area has less than 4% of total GTA employment in spite of the fact that our rapid transit network basically feeds this single market ( all the GO Rail lines and subway lines are radial into the downtown). In my view there is a compelling need to be able to better interconnect to suburban employment areas such as the airport industrial area, York University, the Dufferin/ Finch industrial area, North York Centre, the Don Mills corridor and the Scarborough Town Centre.
  4. There is no short term solution. It takes determined commitment to a long term vision for incremental development of the best possible operational solution in order to develop an eventual network in 20 years that will serve Toronto and the GTA most effectively.
  5. The subway system and the GO Rail system are both GTA wide assets. All the surrounding Regions derive some benefit from the subway, and we need to work to integrate even more ridership between the two systems.

I’m sure that all the public instinctively knows these points. They are obvious to anyone who wants to examine the problem. Personally, I am not a fan of the Transit City Light Rail (not rapid) Plan. It does not in my view address the 20 to 50 year needs of Torontonians.

I would like to eventually see a continuous subway line in the Sheppard corridor (even though Finch would have been better as in my 1973 plan) from the Scarborough Town Centre to the Pearson airport which links the four GO Rail lines and the three TTC rapid transit lines. Then we would truly have an integrated network. Trip travel patterns show that the corridor north of the 401 has the longest travel distances in Toronto which would be most effectively handled by a continuous line rapid transit solution.

An Eglinton rapid transit line is not a bad idea, but trip travel in the corridor is shorter and it doesn’t serve as many existing major employment areas. Furthermore, it runs the risk of intercepting existing riders destined to the downtown that currently travel south by bus to the B-D line. These people may find it easier to get on the Yonge trains at Eglinton rather than Bloor which would result in a loss of ridership on the B-D line and overcrowding on the Eglinton and Yonge lines. If a partial tunnel solution for this corridor is chosen it does not preclude incrementally extending the tunnel in the future once other corridors are fully developed.

Hoping for a long term plan;

John Barnes

(John Barnes is a retired member of Institute of Transportation Engineers and Canadian Institute of Planners. Transit Planner TTC 1971-1982, Transportation Planner York Region 1980-2005. Undertook and particpated in dozens of road and transit EA studies. Was in charge of maintaining a transportation planning database including surveys, counts and traffic modelling. Worked closely with StatsCanada, Provincial and all municipal and transit agencies and major consultants in the GTA .)

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