Subways dreams for dreamers

Interesting article from Toronto.

I doAi??take issue with is the claim “that subways attract more riders than any other form of transit.”whichAi??is not supported by studies elsewhere, instead it isAi??modern LRT actually attracts more new ridership than other modes. That Toronto doesn’t have modern LRT and instead operates with the light rail variant streetcars (mostly non-articulated), whichAi??has probablyAi??clouded the opinions of transit officials in the city.

As well, if LRT is operating on a reserved rights of ways, commercial speedsAi??are determined by the distance between stations or stops, not adjacent traffic. St. Louis’s LRT line has a higher average commercial speed than the SkyTrain Expo Line.

The estimated construction Ai??costs of $85 million/km also include long lengths of subways for the LRT, which in fact makes LRT a subway and not LRT!

What is interesting is the realistic view taken by the author, a subway supporter, that subways cost a lot of money and that modern light rail is a viable alternative, unlike the SkyTrain Lobby in Vancouver, wear they think money grows on trees and the taxpayer always welcomes new taxes and fees to pay for more light-metro.

In Vancouver, our transit planners have rejected light rail out of hand, using dated studies and anti-light rail rhetoric, to keep SkyTrain planning on track. Too bad that TransLink and the SkyTrain Lobby where rose coloured glasses, while taking the taxpayer for a very long and expensive ride.

Thu Mar 8, 2012

Tunnel of dreams

Why the numbers donai??i??t add up for the Sheppard subway extension.

People prefer subways. Mayor Rob Ford says it, over and over, and few disagree: Before he was unceremoniously sacked for his alleged anti-subway bias, former TTC general manager Gary Webster told city council that subways attract more riders than any other form of transit. Polls this year have shown support for subways winning by margins as high as 20 per cent when the question is put as a simple, context-free subway vs. LRT choice.

I am among those who prefer subways. I have been a vocal supporter of the Transit City LRT plans, but my heart belongs to the underground. There have even been times of weakness when I have secretly hoped Rob Ford or some other bull-headed politician would steamroll his opponents in the debate about transitai??i??including my own voiceai??i??because then at least we would have the new subway lines.

ai???Dream big dreams, Toronto,ai??? I think. ai???Just build the effinai??i?? things and damn the consequences!ai???

But I donai??i??t entertain that voice for long. Itai??i??s a childish voice that would also tell me to bet half a yearai??i??s salary on a single spin of the roulette wheel or to empty the kidsai??i?? education accounts to take a cool vacation. Itai??i??s the part of me that wants to believe there are no factors involved in making a good decision beyond my own desires. That is the mayor of Torontoai??i??s voice.

There are costs involved. There are considerations of what is appropriate and practical. These are factors that adults weigh when making decisions, and factors that a grown-up city weighs when deciding how to build.

Letai??i??s consider those costs: Subways move about 25 per cent faster and are capable of carrying about one-third more people, but they cost three or four times as much to build. Tunnelling underground and building and maintaining stations are radically more expensive than just putting tracks and platforms on the street, as the illustration below shows.

Accurate operating cost differences arenai??i??t available, but subways are far more expensive to run due to the stations, which need to be staffed, lit and (in some cases) heated, and served by escalators and elevators. And the construction expenditure differences alone are astronomical. We have $8.4 billion from the province in hand, which will cover all of the costs of the proposed LRT lines. The total price tag of building subway lines to run the entire length of the same proposed Transit City phase-one plan would be in the neighbourhood of $20 billion. To cover the differenceai??i??over, say, 10 yearsai??i??weai??i??d need to raise money equivalent to a 75 per cent property tax hike. Then to cover the operating losses of these lines, weai??i??d likely need between half a billion to a billion dollars a year in new revenue, permanentlyai??i??an amount equivalent to a 50-per-cent property tax increase or a one to two-per-cent Toronto sales tax.

Thatai??i??s a problem for subway advocates. A recent Angus Reid poll, for example, showed that 57 per cent of Torontonians are opposed to any new taxes to fund subway construction. The mayor has suggested developers will pay higher fees to build on subway lines; developers have said they would not.


What are the differences between subways and LRT?
Click here for a close-up view of the infographic below


Those higher costs would be justified, of course (and the required operating subsidy would be lower) if we expected those subways to be filled with riders every day once they were up and running. Most advocates of Transit City are not anti-subway on principle: most, in fact, support the construction of a downtown relief line that would take pressure off the Yonge subway line and serve passengers on the crowded King and Queen streetcar lines (which currently carry more than 100,000 passengers per day).

But on Sheppard, the current five-station subway line operates at one-sixth of its capacity during peak times, and the projected expansion might bring peak ridership a generation from now to between 6,000 and 10,000 passengersai??i??one-fifth to one-third capacity. The TTCai??i??s projections up to 2050 show projected ridership on all the routes under discussion still easily handled by LRT lines. A subway is just way more vehicle than the number of riders who would use those lines need.

Which brings us, of course, to the prospect of ai???building for the future,ai??? as advocates of the subway say. Scarborough will get more densely populated if we build a subway, they argue. But to justify a subway, planning experts figure density along the Sheppard corridor would need to roughly double. Thatai??i??s a staggering number. You cannot simply double the number of people in Scarborough by approving a bunch of high-rise towers on the main streets near the subway lines. Weai??i??re talking about razing entire subdivisions of ranch-style bungalows and replacing them with rows of townhouses.

The people who live along Sheppard may want a subway line, but itai??i??s doubtful they want to see their neighbourhoods transformed into downtown-style urban grids to justify it. Those same residents have consistently opposed construction of highrises in their neighbourhoods, and routinely opposeai??i??and ii???ght at the Ontario Municipal Boardai??i??the severing of lots to build smaller homes.

So weai??i??re left with the one argument Rob Ford and his allies keep making: Those residents of neglected areas like Scarborough and Finch West deserve subways. Wealthier downtown residents have subway stations at their doorsteps and yet they want to tell the residents of Malvern and Rexdale that they only rate a ai???lesserai??? vehicle.

And while suburban-urban resentments can be overblown for political purposes, these arguments have emotional resonance. If the voting patterns in the last election mean anything, they mean that the residents farthest away from the city core, who include some of our poorest citizens and our most recent immigrants, feel left out of the city as it has developed over the past decade.

The physical manifestation of that alienation is the subway map: Those neighbourhoods on the edge are the worst served by rapid transit. Bringing those communities into the physical subway network that speeds us around the city would be a giant leap to connecting Toronto psychologically.

Perhaps, oddly, that is the biggest reason I prefer LRT lines over subways to serve the suburbs. Even if we had $20 billion instead of $8.4 billion, I would suggest spending it on extending the network of LRT lines further. If theyai??i??re built right, LRT lines are fast and reliable. And we can build them more quicklyai??i??and in greater numbersai??i??than we can build subway lines. Estimates show that the Transit City LRT project will attract about 125 million rides per year, while Fordai??i??s subway plan would attract only 60 million. That is, for less money, we can serve about twice as many residents of the inner suburbs, and have the lines up and running a decade sooner. We donai??i??t need to blow the bank giving people along one stretch of Scarborough oversized vehicles that will run half-empty for generations while people in Rexdale make do with overcrowded buses. We can connect the residents of all of our most underserved neighbourhoods into the rapid transit network within a few years.

So, yeah, thereai??i??s a place in my gut that dreams about subways. But simple math says we can only provide them to a very few people, and even then it would cost us all dearly. The part of my gut that says all Torontoai??i??s residents deserve to have access to fast, reliable transit service that will connect us together as a city, as soon as possible, tells me we can do it with LRTs. And thatai??i??s not a dream, itai??i??s a fantastic reality well within our grasp.




27 Responses to “Subways dreams for dreamers”
  1. rico says:

    Good article from Toronto, notice the authors support for a subway on the corridor carrying 100,000 riders per day, the broadway corridor here also has about that.

  2. Ted Mendes says:

    I would to add some points to consider re LRT versus Subways.
    1. The capacity of above ground LRTs is 7,300
    2. This can rise to 12000 per hour with what is called a didicated right of way
    3. Underground LRTs can move 24,000 per hour
    4. Subways can move 30,000

    The Eglinton east of Laird is proposed to be above ground.
    By the city planners – in 2031 ( 11 years after being operational) capacity will reach 5,400 – an the above ground eeds to become a dedicated right of way to achieve a 12000 level. When the need reaches 10,000 then you have to consider only two options – 1 a subway 2 an underground LRT. Now you have the huge costs to build the underground LRT and when operational you now have to fund the above ground LRT infrastructure. This timeline creates twice the disruptions at ground level. If the under ground LRT was build in the first place – you would have a seamless growth capability of providing capacity from 7000 to 24000 without additional cost. This is the best and most efficient use of taxpayers dollars. Regards

  3. zweisystem says:

    I must correct you, modern light rail can easily handle up to 20,000 pphpd and can handle more traffic if need be. The example of a simple streetcar line carrying over 40,000 pphpd certainly points that the 7,300 figure is bogus.
    In Karlsruhe Germany, the main streetcar line is being relocated underground because it was carrying over 40,000 pphpd in peak hours, which again makes the claim that underground LRT can only carry 24,000 pphpd.

    The need for subways in Toronto should be reserved for routes carrying 30,000 pphpd or more.

    Coupled sets of Karlsruhe’s GT-8′s, with a capacity of 250 persons per car, traveling at 1 minute headways has a capacity of 30,000 pphpd! today in Karlsruhe, trams are operating at 45 second headways (90 trips per hour), something that Toronto’s transit planners should read up on!

  4. zweisystem says:

    The figure of 100,000 a day for a subway is very dated and is one reason why light rail has made light-metro (SkyTrain) obsolete. The problem is that most planners use these dated studies as gospel. LRT has come a long way in the past 20 years!

  5. rico says:

    I probably should not have mentioned the 100,000 number as I agree it is not terribly meaningful. One of the things that is important is the ridership in relation to capital costs. This will vary by technology and location. That said I would assume that in most high use corridors grade seperation (100,000+) would be a better investment than a system without it (even if the non grade seperated system is cheaper).
    Just a word about your 30,000 pphpd before building a subway and LRT carrying more on the surface. The Yonge subway is currently considered at capacity (they intend to increase capacity with new trains and ATC but…) it carries 30,000pphpd. The Toronto metro carries the 3rd or 4th largest number of people in N. America (depending if you count Mexico City). I suspect that even the strongest LRT advocates in Toronto would laugh at your 30,000pphpd number before building a subway.

  6. rico says:

    The folks in Toronto may also wonder how your surface non grade seperated system achieves greater than 30,000pphpd when that is close to the capacity of their full subway?

  7. rico says:

    Just looking at Karlsruhe ridership, impressive for a small city (~250,000). 150 million trips per year in 2001. Assume 350 days per year and 8 hours per day and you get 53,571 trips per hour in both direction for the entire system….and there are a lot of lines….Don’t detract from the useful points you may have by spoating things like 40,000pphpd.

  8. zweisystem says:

    The Toronto types may laugh, but not our European friends, who have a much more acute knowledge of modern trams and light rail. Many cities see peak hour headways of 30 seconds on portions of their tram routes, where many lines converge on one.

    There is a knowledge deficit about modern LRT in North America and most of statistics are dated and of little use.

    The following from the LRTA could be helpful.

  9. zweisystem says:

    Again, I will repeat what I have said, modern LRT can achieve 30,000 pphpd or more if demands warrant. I would wager that much of Toronto’s statistical analysis comes from using PCC cars and not modern artics. Unfortunately dated LRT studies has also retarded LRT in Vancouver and probably intentionally so.

  10. zweisystem says:

    And just think, in the late 80′s, Karlsruhe almost lost its tram lines in favour of a S-Bahn metro! The tram boys and girls were given an ultimatum, either get customers to use the tram system or you will lose it, so they designed the tram system to be customer friendly and operate as best they could to make customers happy, thus was born the TramTrain concept to eliminate a transfer from commuter train to tram! So successful was TramTrain, Karlsruhe’s transit planners went on redefining and redesigning transit to suit the needs of customers, making it one of the most successful transit operations in the world. No wonder TransLink types want to ignore the “Karlsruhe experience“.

  11. zweisystem says:

    Excuse me, I did not invent the 40,000 figure, this was the capacity being offered on Karlsruhe’s main tram route today and the reason why transit officials are relocating it in a subway. The fact is there, only you refuse to acknowledge it.

  12. rico says:

    Not being overly familiar with Karlsruhe it is possible if almost all the traffic merged onto one section and the flow was very concentrated in a single direction at a concentrated peak. Could you provide a link/reference as I could not locate ridership numbers beyond the 150 million trips in 2001 (which certainly does not suggest anything close to 40,000 but since I could not locate anything definitive I have been known to be wrong before).

  13. rico says:

    Thanks for all the links, unfortunately none of them have ridership numbers(the only numbers I found were older and smaller than those I used in my assumptions). Please post a link showing your single line with 40,000pphpd.

  14. zweisystem says:

    It was a news release, printed in Tramways and Urban Transit. I find it strange indeed, what is taken for granted in Europe, is treated with the utmost skepticism on this side of the pond. This ain’t rocket science, but trams (many operating as coupled sets) operating at 45 second headways. Do the math.

    What this entire conversation illustrates is the complete lack of knowledge about modern light rail, exacerbated by TransLink and the SkyTrain lobby.

  15. zweisystem says:

    The first dual-mode line between Karlsruhe and Bretten proved to be highly successful. Since the opening in September 1992, there has been a 479% increase in passengers. 40% of the customers have previously used their private car. The number of passenger has also gone up at weekends. The number of public transport passengers before the opening of the Stadtbahn was 533,660 in total (488,400 on workdays, 39,000 on Saturdays, and 6,200 on Sundays) where

    as the figures after six months of operation of the Stadtbahn have increased to a total of 2,554,976 (2,064,378 on workdays, 263,120 on Saturdays, and 227,478 on Sundays). The percentage increase is 423% on workdays, 675% on Saturdays, and 3,660% on Sundays!

  16. rico says:

    Thanks for the numbers, they were in the links you posted but are older and much smaller than the numbers I was using. I m still looking for that real world example. As for due the math, i cant. Just because a group of vehicles may arrive at 45 second intervals does not give the system 45 second headways (skytrain sometimes has a group of vehicles arrive at 30 secoond intervals after delays. That does not give it a 30 second headway). Show me the numbers/link. By the way my nipicking you does not take away from what seems to be a fine system in Karlsruhe. I am not certain but I believe most of the tramlines are on car free streets as well so the direct relavence to Van or Toronto may be limited.

  17. zweisystem says:

    There is plenty of video evidence of 30 sec. to 45 sec. headways on European tramways and the reason why the tram route is being relocated in a subway is sustained headways of 45 seconds in the peak hour. I find it sad that many here just can’t grasp the concept that 45 second headways are possible with light rail.

    As for car free streets, there is no difference between a car free street and a reserved rights-of-way, as both are free of cars.

    The massive success of Karlsruhe’s tram/TramTrain system has been all but ignored on our side of the pond, mainly because it exposes so many anti-LRT myths that are abundant and are the last resort of the subway lobby.

  18. Evil Eye says:

    I have always found it extremely amusing the lengths people will go not believing what is claimed for light rail, yet dismiss any criticism of their own pet transit mode.

    The “Eye” has found abundant evidence on You Tube with European trams operating very close together and I do not dispute the 40,000 figure has many do, but then the Holocaust deniers and the flat earth society still have many members.

    If rico cared to look or engage a transit expert as the valley rail people have done, maybe he may change his opinion.

    I recall my grand dad saying he liked the trams in London as “there was always one in sight” and one did not have to wait much more than a minute or two for the next tram.

    What is taken for granted in Europe is deemed impossible here, a sure sign of something gone very wrong.

  19. rico says:

    If I took 5000 buses with all door boarding slowed them down to 10km an hour I could run them at 30 second headways and I would get a massive capacity as well. Is it a realistic or viable idea? I doubt it. The transit operator will operate the system as efficiently as they can (I assume) that is why I am looking for an actual achieved capacity. Such a number must be available….especially since you continually quote it. If you do not have the link/reference please find it as it is the eaasiest way to get people like me to shut up….
    As for car free vs reserved right of way it makes a huge difference if you have to accomidate turning vehicles or traffic from cross streets.
    A link to 30 second headways would be nice….remember a ‘bunch’ of vehicles coming at 30 seconds does not mean it has 30 second headways.

  20. zweisystem says:

    I’m sorry you don’t get it, but maybe you don’t want to get it.

    In Europe, cities with many tram routes share trackage with other tram routes in city centres, this is true of Karlsruhe. During peak hours, each tram route may offer 2 or three minute headways, but on the shared section, this may work out to 30 second headways, thus light rail can operate at 30 second headways.

    In Karlsruhe Germany, many TramTrain routes and cit tram routes share the same line through the city centre, resulting in 45 second headways on this portion of route. simple math calculations put the capacity of LRT/tram on the shared portion of route at over 40,000 pphpd.

    The ‘bunch’ of vehicles coming at the same time is called bunching and is indicative of bad management.

  21. rico says:

    Went looking for LRT capacities again….found one at 40,000pphpd….only it was in Manila and is fully grade seperated…Actually I have been on it….it is a Metro system. For a reality check the Calgary Ctrain has a capacity of 11300pphpd on the combined South and Northeast section. I am sure there are higher capacity examples out there but that is quite a leap from 11300 to 40000. Feel free to post a link to some higher capacity segments.

    I think you are having difficulty with the concept of theoretical vs actual capacity, there are miriads of reasons systems do not approach their theoretical capacity. I am looking for actual capacity examples.

  22. zweisystem says:

    The reality check is, SkyTrain is not as good as you wish and light rail is much better than you would admit.

    Capacity is a function of headway and it is not my fault that Karlsruhe’s main tram route saw peak hour frequencies of 45 seconds with mostly couples sets.

    Calgary’s maximum theoretical capacity is said to be 30,000 pphpd. According to Calgary Transit’s web page:

    Maximum PRACTICAL single direction capacity at design capacity of 162 pass./car and 2 min. headway:
    3-car train (present) 14,580
    4-car train (future) 19,440

    Maximum THEORETICAL single direction capacity (pass./hr/dir) at 256 pass./car and 2 min. headway:
    3-car train 23,040
    4-car train 30,720

    Calgary is planning to signal the lines for 90 second headways, which will in crease capacity even more.

    Rico, I find that you are having great difficulties understanding how light rail works and how transit operates, that you fail to comprehend what modern LRT is, is extremely telling.

  23. rico says:

    Perhaps I was not clear enough the current achieved capacity is what I was refering to. Even though Calgary is one of the most sucessful systems in North America it can still achieve more. The 20,000 4car practical capacity seems very realistic and I am sure there are some systems that achieve more than this. It is still a long way from 20,000 or 25,000 to 40,000. Feel free to show me any higher achieved capacity examples….like I said i am sure they exist, just probably not at 40,000. I find your inability to grasp my point that I am not interested in theoretical but actual/achieved capacity telling. I am interested in what capacity we could achieve here so high capacity examples are interesting even if they not be completely relavent. Unfortunately it seems you have nothing but hot air and have no examples to share.

  24. zweisystem says:

    Karlsruhe Germany.

    Basel, Karlsruhe, Dresden, Amsterdam are good examples of 30 second headways in peak hours. The difference is that many of the cities which do operate close headways on portions of route, operate many tram/LRT lines and many of those lines share one route into the city centre. Except for Toronto and San Fransisco, which operate heritage streetcar line, many new light rail lines are one or two lines at the most.

    Portland, is probably the only example of several LRT lines sharing one route and the headways on the portion of route are much closer than it otherwise be.

    It is not me who can’t grasp the point, rather it is you who is stuck with linear one route thinking, this due in part to TransLink’s deliberate confusing of the facts and a bastardization of the transit lexicon.

    The sad fact is, this argument is really pointless, as what you are really trying to say is that LRT can’t carry 40,000 pphpd, when there is an example of Karlsruhe, glaring at you in the face.

    All I am saying is that LRT can, if demand warranted, accommodate 40,000 pphpd on a simple streetcar track, because it has been done in Karlsruhe. The reason I bring this up is TransLink is deliberately misinforming regional politicians that LRT does not have the capacity of LRT, when the evidence points to the fact LRT/streetcar can have a higher ridership than SkyTrain. There would be no debate if TransLink was honest, which the organization seldom is.

    As LRT/streetcar can carry 40,000 pphpd, it certainly can carry 20,000 has quoted by the Light Rail Transit Association which TransLink claims it can’t.

    Here lies the real reason for this debate, if LRT can carry as many customers as SkyTrain, yet cost much less to build and operate, why build with SkyTrain? Isn’t it interesting that no one builds with SkyTrain? Could it be that light rail is just a better investment?

  25. rico says:

    Apparently there are reasons you don’t reference. I still have not found actual ridership for the segments you mentioned but I was able to find headway/frequency info for some….got your pen ready? For Karlsruhe I was only able to find a statement about capacity noting 6 lines at 6 per hour on the common segment (36/hr) this may be incorrect feel free to link to another source. I have actually riden the trams in Basel , I found a source noting that there are approximately 60 trams per hour infront of the music hall during evening peak, which is on the busiest segment. According to wiki headways are 2 min on the shared segments in Dresden. I was able to find a line in Amsterdam with 45sec headways but it was a hybrid metro….there may be other segments I was unable to find…Again feel free to actually link to a source.
    I wont bother talking about Portland…thankfully we get a better return on our investment than them.
    I should not speak for translink because who knows what they may say but I would assume they said 20000 was not achievable on a specific application…like Broadway for instance.

  26. zweisystem says:

    The reason I don’t reference it is because it is not a big deal…………in Europe. Most information comes from the LRTA’s Tramways and Urban Transit and if you don’t subscribe, you are left out. Transit experts know very well the capabilities of LRT and know the traffic flows on each route. In Vancouver it is a very big deal because TransLink has been very economical with the truth about ridership vis a vis light rail. Have you tried talking to the actual operation managers? Your ongoing postings is causing great mirth overseas and explains why Vancouver opts for very expensive light-metro, because most of those involved with the planning for transit haven’t a clue what they are doing.

    Just a note; my brother in law was a tram driver in Basel and told me that on days of heavy demand, such as festivals and holidays, 30 second headways were common on many routes, within the city.

    As for Portland, i doubt very much we get a better return for our investment. If we did, Vancouver would be the darling of transit in North America and not Portland; instead Vancouver is a transit throwback.

    As for 20,000 pphpd, any LRT/streetcar with an ‘up’ & ‘down’ track can achieve capacities in excess of 20,000 pphpd, if you and TransLink can’t accept that, then it is time to find another vocation.