A Broadway subway: Do the numbers add up?

An interesting read from Toronto.

Two items of interest:

  1. Contrary to North American thought, 14,000 persons per hour per direction is not near the upper limit of modern LRT. In 2014, the upper limit for LRT is about 25,000 pphpd. Unfortunately, Toronto’s transit gurus still live in the land of non articulated cars.
  2. “An old ridership projection pegged peak one-direction usage at 9,500 passengers per hour, barely enough to justify a subway extension.” Again, in 2014, the ridership deemed necessary for subway construction is almost double than the Toronto figure, is about 15,000 pphpd.

What is of interest is that in Toronto, the bare minimum ridership needed on a transit route to justify construction is about 10,000 pphpd, which is more than double the present Broadway’s peak hour ridership of around 4,000 pphpd.

Even by Canadian standards, TransLink is planning for a subway on a transit route that in no way has the ridership needed to justify a subway.

The result: Massive subsidies will be needed to keep TransLink afloat. Massive subsidies = huge tax increases.

How many more hospitals must be closed and how much more can we reduce educational spending, to satisfy Vision Vancouver’s SkyTrain subway mania? It seems both the BC Liberals and regional Mayors think not enough by approving spending for a Broadway subway!


A Scarborough subway: Do the numbers add up?


Oliver Moore

The Globe and Mail

Published Friday, Jul. 04 2014

When Toronto dug its first subway, the long lines of streetcars on Yonge were proof of a ready-made ridership.

More recently, though, subway boosters have needed to weigh potential demand when making the case for the expensive form of transit. Which is why the city planning departmentai??i??s new and higher Scarborough ridership projection last year was so pivotal, and so controversial.

An old ridership projection pegged peak one-direction usage at 9,500 passengers per hour, barely enough to justify a subway extension. The new one ai??i?? which appeared as the transit debates rose to their crescendo ai??i?? boosted peak ridership to 14,000, almost beyond the capacity of light rail.

In a stroke, the case for a subway was much stronger.

Amid political squabbles, good projections can help cut through the debate and offer the closest thing to an impartial assessment of a subway lineai??i??s worth. But if theyai??i??re wrong, they can help lumber a city with an expensive white elephant such as the under-used Sheppard subway.

The problems on Sheppard ai??i?? where ridership is about one-third the original projection, forcing heavy subsidies ai??i?? speak to the dilemma with forecasting. Planners looking to the future have to make assumptions that could, with the benefit of hindsight, prove unwise.

In the case of the Scarborough extension, the bulk of the nearly 50-per-cent increase in projected ridership is based on two decisions that raise questions. Planners assumed a train frequency that does not appear budgeted for and they assumed that transit projects that today are unfunded lines on the map will be completed.

But these assumptions are not cast in stone. Although pro-subway politicians like to declare the project irrevocable, the planners who produced the Scarborough projection are the first to stress that their work is preliminary. Even though all three levels of government have committed big dollars to the project, much more analysis needs to be done and a more accurate ridership figure has yet to be determined.

Councillor Josh Matlow, who continues to advocate for a light-rail line in Scarborough, views the latest number with skepticism, He still recalls how frustrated he was at council trying to determine the basis and validity for the increased ridership figure that emerged at such a pivotal moment.

ai???Right now itai??i??s still clear that thereai??i??s different numbers that are competing with each other,ai??? he said recently. ai???Itai??i??s not like we just didnai??i??t happen to have the information. I clearly asked for the informationai??i?? that information never came to the floor of councilai??i?? and council decided nonetheless just to move forward, regardless.ai???

With the debate about Scarborough continuing to reverberate through the mayoral election ai??i?? as recently as late June, Premier Kathleen Wynne had a chance in a press conference to state definitively that the provinceai??i??s funding for transit in that part of Toronto would be for a subway only and chose not to do so ai??i?? The Globe took a close look at the math.

More trains
Although subway boosters have argued for years in favour of more underground transit in Scarborough, the numbers undermined their case.

But there were signs of hope in 2013, when the transit debate heated up again and city planning staff produced new data showing peak ridership of 14,000 per direction per hour by 2031. This represented a huge rise over the previous projection, done in 2006, which pegged peak ridership by 2031 at 9,500 people an hour, easily within the capacity of an LRT.

Mike Wehkind, program manager with the Transportation Section of the cityai??i??s Planning Department, said that the ai???lionai??i??s shareai??? of the jump was because the model they were using to project ridership assumed an increased frequency of trains in the subway extension.

The model back in 2006 assumed that half the Bloor-Danforth trains would go only as far as Kennedy and then turn back, with the remainder carrying on to the final station. The new model ai??i?? based on current TTC service levels ai??i?? assumes every train will continue on to the end of the line.Ai??Ai?? …………..continued.

For continued reading: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/14000/article19473790/


7 Responses to “A Broadway subway: Do the numbers add up?”
  1. eric chris says:

    Well, if you are transporting people from one mayor transit hub (Commercial Drive in Vancouver) to another major transit hub (UBC in Vancouver) and have two parallel streets, you can use clever design principles to double the capacity of transit at each major transit hub. In Vancouver, we have two major roads from Commercial Drive to UBC. They are West 4th Avenue and Broadway.

    So, for example, 45 metre trams at a two minute headway can move 9,000 pph (each direction). If you run trams clockwise on West 4th Avenue and trams counter clockwise on Broadway, you are picking up 18,000 pph at Commercial Drive or UBC. Smart eh?

    Watch this video and learn what real transit is in Australia:


    You’ll notice in the above video that traffic congestion is reduced by removing “transit buses” and there is no mention of removing cars which transit in Australia is not designed to remove. Trams in Australia are meant to provide a social service to students and others in need of transit: high school students, seniors … university students.

    In Vancouver, the problem with any subway, skytrain (ST) or bus rapid transit (BRT) design is that it follows one major route. So, you have full transit one way and almost empty transit the other way. About 50% of the capacity is lost with these designs. This is dumb transit by bunglers at TransLink. What else can I say that I haven’t already said? Oh one thing, Compass by TransLink is a farce which does not work and TransLink is stalling to obtain more funding to either abandon it or more likely to replace Compass (but keep the same name) to double the cost:


  2. eric chris says:

    While almost every other transit organization strives to provide safe and economical transit for transit users who don’t drive, misguided fanatics at TransLink have come up with very expensive ST and BRT (frequent, late and express service) in the futile attempt to make transit an alternative to driving. These lunatics at TransLink have failed miserable to reduce roads congestion and drivers don’t give a crap how fast ST and BRT are. They care about not sitting next to some stinking sub-human or serial rapist.

    When drivers do give up driving to take ST or BRT, mostly as a result of high parking fees in downtown Vancouver, it frees up road space in the same that building roads does. This in turn motivates dormant drivers to drive or remaining drivers to drive more, and road congestion has reached a new and worsened equilibrium to make Vancouver the most congested place to drive in Canada.

    In effect, ST and BRT putting drivers onto transit has the same effect as building roads. However, the buses on the roads and the added drivers has made the road congestion far worse than before we had ST and BRT. In other words, ST and BRT are a complete disaster which are costing taxpayers billions of dollars to exacerbate road congestion. How the morons at TransLink have kept their jobs for so long is a mystery. For the loons at TransLink to have the bad manners to ask for more funding in light of their stupidity is beyond comprehension.

  3. Keith White says:

    In the case of the Scarborough ext to Sheppard it will gain ridership simply because it will funnel ridership from Markham which is growing by 50K people every 5 years . . . Also, the town centre is becoming a major hub for GO and if (and when) the LRT is built along Sheppard it will provide further links. For instance Don Mills gets many of its passengers from York region feeds. I foresee in time that the Sheppard stubway may actually link with the Don Valley, downtown relief line meaning there would be potential 4 N/S feeds to downtown.

  4. Haveacow says:

    Eric are you talking about one way peak traffic flow demand, in your last paragraph? There is a an answer to that problem. It is to create a smaller but major development subcentre at the middle or end points of the line, opposite to the major directional passenger flow. This is the reasons cities increase development densities along rapid transit corridors. These clusters at station locations is to put a weight to force a high density of jobs and homes to be located so that there is a counter flow to the major one way traffic resulting from peak travel. Yes, developers take advantage of it but they are supposed too. This way we finally rid our cities of these parasitic suburbs that don’t or can’t ever pay for the services they use because there are too few taxes generated from them.

    Zwei replies: In Vancouver, the “blue collar” jobs are moving up the Fraser Valley where public transit is all but non existent, leaving Vancouver with a lot of service jobs, where people must commute from the ‘burbs because housing is so damned expensive in Vancouver. Add in the 110,000 cheap, cheap U-passes for post secondary students (many of them working in the service industries) has made Vancouver’s public transit system, one for the poor, the elderly and students. Transit for the ordinary ‘punter’ like myself is out of the question as there are too few buses connecting to the metro and one is crammed in like sardines when one uses the metro. Taking the car is not just less problematic, it is faster.

    Example: Zwei had to take his youngest to a rugby clinic at UBC one a Friday afternoon at 6 pm. Not only did I have Friday congestion to deal with, I had the Massey tunnel counterfolw (one lane available Northbound in the evening), but I had to navigate the Oak Street Bridge. What is normally a 45 minute trip, may turn into a 90 minute nightmare. By using the commute lanes and a lack of congestion on the Oak St. Bridge Northbound (caused mainly by the traffic calming of only one traffic lane Northbound in the tunnel, we arrived at UBC in a mere 50 minutes! To take transit would have required at least 2 hours and multiple transfers.

    What I am trying to say, is that we can densify all we want along the SkyTrain route, but the service provided is sub-par to the needs and expectations of the many, that transit is not an option. The reality trumps the theory.

  5. Haveacow says:


    From the TTC engineering and planning manuals actually, the break even point for a below grade ICTS based system is about 9500-10500. For a full sized subway based system it is between 11000-12800. At these levels full service is possible but, it can be lower if the community will accept a percentage of trains is turned back at a earlier point. This is also assuming this is a line extension. If the line is a new stand alone line, the manual points out to many factors that will be major influences on a single threshold peak hour passenger traffic number. The use of driverless technology does not have as much as an effect because the higher operating and maintenance costs forced on them by having to add far more station monitoring staff and platform barriers. This was forced on the TTC by the government of Ontario and Transport Canada if they considered driverless technology in a full scale subway system environment. Any new subway line can have vastly different threshold numbers considering its individual physical and operational characteristics. There is no one number in all circumstances for a new stand alone line.

    For example, the Sheppard Subway is not as big a financial hole as portrayed by people because they are comparing the costs of the other 2 lines or a system average cost and are not taking into account that, they shortened the accessible part of the platforms by walling them off. Thus the used part of the platform shrinks to 120 meters instead of 150. The operational and trains are only 4 cars long compared to 6 on the other 2 lines and its has the new signal system all ready installed. The line is shorter and thus doesn’t need anywhere as many trains. Thus it costs between 40-45% less to operate than the other lines. That means the threshold peak hour passenger traffic number for operational usefulness drops quite considerably. However, I agree that it should have had much higher traffic levels on it before it was built. However, it already exists and arguing that it shouldn’t have been built now, is pointless.

    Keep in mind that, any news out of Toronto regarding these transit issues is emotionally heightened and should be ignored till after the municipal election in October. You have to take some of this news coming from political campaigns with a grain of salt and that if one mayoral candidate says the sky is blue every other candidate will say its something else.

    As for the Scarborough extension of the Bloor Danforth Subway Line to McCowan and Sheppard Avenues via, the Scarborough City Centre good or bad, is probably here to stay because, they have all their money in hand and the TTC has already started spending it. Any policy change now will have dire financial effects as well as threat of lawsuits, regardless of what Mayoral candidate Olivia Chow wants.

    Zwei replies: I have been told by European transit types that North American standards for subway construction do not take in account the future maintenance costs associated with subways. In Europe, subways are maintained to a higher standard and therefore costs are higher; even so the maintenance cost for subways are onerous and with modern LRT able to handle traffic flows that were once deemed impossible, the need to invest for marginal subways is gone.

    In North America, subways are deemed superior than other modes, with no thought to long term costs, etc. of the rest of the transit system. Modern LRT has done away for the need of hugely expensive subways on low traffic routes. Money saved by subway construction is better spent on a larger transit network.

  6. Haveacow says:

    Actually, with all do respects to your European friends, they have no idea how to survive in our operating environment, especially the US. Europeans have an advantage of operating in an environment that it is supportive not distrustful of just about anything “The Government” does, any level of it. The standards for Subway and Metro design in North America do take into account the future maintenance costs associated with subways, the problem how I see it has always been that, the costs of building and running subways at the expense of the road network is their main political impediment. This is why so many of N.America’s Transit people have to be so preoccupied with development around stations. More development, more taxes, “I (the municipal politician) can say the extra taxes it produces pays for the line’s construction, so I won’t be l kicked out my job, today, my political legacy is still intact”.

    The change in operating philosophy in California transportation planning I told you about is going to be ground breaking. Nowhere in Europe would you have a written down law or even an implied philosophy that says, I can only build that transit line here and with this type of operating technology because it doesn’t harm the capacity of the road network even if overall transport capacity increases.

    For example in York region north of the City of Toronto you have a transit operating environment that is very much like the area south of the Fraser River. Mostly low density suburban housing, a huge geographic area with a relatively middle class lifestyle. Low transit numbers originally due to no regional transit as well as poor coordination among the different lower tier communities and their add hoc transit operations. Historically different wants and needs and no one wants to pay higher taxes even if it means improvements because the residents feel they already pay enough. Then when transit is “Regionalized” every care has to be taken to create a system that can offer a true alternative to the car, that ends up failing because there really is no rapid transit service offered that people want to get out of their cars for. So they try and design a true rapid transit service change the name of the transit agency improve the marketing of it. Low and behold it actually gets some riders but they still don’t have a good rapid transit system yet. To improve the prospects of the future Rapid Transit system, the transit agency then goes and says we have to separate the vehicles from the traffic. The public goes “duhhh! Of course you have to separate the transit vehicles from traffic, come on guys!” The transit agency and the regional government then reply, “ok but it going to cost quite a bit of money, we know you very sensitive to that so, we the government and transit agency propose that, we take where we can, 2 vehicle lanes on roads that are 6 lanes and wider and build new lanes along the routes specifically for transit vehicles where there are only 4 lanes and less, does that sound fair to you?” The public then reply, “Ok, but it has to be buses not trains, trains are to expensive, we don’t want are taxes to go up, even if trains carry more people and are ultimately more efficient !” Just when it appears there is agreement on the issue, a group of residents replies, “hold on, how come those people over there have 6 lane roads when we have only 4. We want the transit project to include an extra 2 car lanes as well as the rapid transit service?”

    The final result is that, instead of a really good starter LRT system in physically segregated lanes in the centre of two major roads, one north-south the other east-west. You now have a huge BRT system (37km after full build out)on segregated lanes mostly centre but some the edge lanes of major roads. Stations that are going to have to greatly expanded to handle any future LRT vehicles with some gaps in the system because people didn’t want noisy smelly buses or hideously dangerous LRT vehicles going near their neighbourhood (not their house, their neighbourhood). The funny thing, even this is a great success considering the environment. By the way 15km of extra general vehicle lanes also had to be built to get this project past the public. So to start building a 37km rapid transit project we had to build 15km of car lanes as well. That’s here in Canada by the way and we don’t even have a written down law that says we can’t harm the capacity of the road or highway networks in favor of transit project. Even if overall capacity improves. The sad part is this is quite common, you wanted to know why our rail transit projects cost more than European ones that is just the first of many reasons. Most of them have something to do with our suburban built environment and maintaining that status quo at all cost. Lastly, its this philosophy mainly (incase you hadn’t figured it out yet), why you guys in the lower mainland have the Skytrain and not surface LRT. Surface LRT might harm the road network and you can’t have that happen in any way shape or form. Even putting money into transit must also benefit the road network in some way, to be allowed to pass the public purse, even if the transit R.O.W. is physically or grade separated from the road R.O.W. and considerably more expensive.

    Zwei replies: A conundrum for transit planners. Yet the problems for transit planners increase with the mostly “rubber ans asphalt crowd” that plan for transit. Political hubris also causes great problems as I do not see, except for a handful of politicians, any desire to improve transit, provincially and federally.

  7. eric chris says:

    @Haveacow, good to read your posts…

    I’m referring to the fact that all the ST and BRT routes are loaded during peak hours into Vancouver and almost vacant heading out of Vancouver. In particular, on the 99 B-Line route in the morning, the buses have riders heading to UBC and almost no riders east to Commercial Drive (who wants to go to Commercial Drive from Point Grey?). While in the afternoon the opposite is true.

    This is completely avoidable if we sack every one of the gangsters at TransLink and eliminate the 99 route which is about 75% to 90% empty over the summer (we can’t lay off the union bus drivers who won’t work in Surrey where the buses are needed). Then, the Expo Line, Millennium Line and Canada Line could unload all the passengers in downtown Vancouver and the buses can take students from downtown Vancouver to UBC while returning workers from Point Grey and Kits (near UBC) to downtown for work – to make buses used both ways!

    Novel? No, I’ve lived in Seattle, Lafayette, Singapore, Edmonton, Vancouver, Brisbane, Adelaide, Aberdeen… Anchorage (Europe, Asia and North America): and all transit systems operate from the city center to the outskirts – except transit in Vancouver. Transit is better here according to TransLink. Yup, better. Really smart, too.

    There is no way that late night, hyper-frequent and express transit by the goons at TransLink is an alternative to driving. No way. If the experts from SFU at TransLink think that ST and BRT are going make them zillions of dollars from drivers abandoning their cars to take ST and BRT, let them float some bonds to pay for ST and BRT. They know that ST and BRT won’t take cars off the roads and are just maggots who are fine spending billons of dollars on ST and BRT to pay their bloated salaries as long as their asses aren’t on the line and drivers pay for it. Forget it.