Transit TO: Transit Expansion

February 16, 2016 - Highlights Report

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Toronto Transit Consultation Meetings

February 16, 2016

Highlights Report

This concise Highlights Report has been prepared to provide the City of Toronto, TTC and Metrolinx with a snapshot of the feedback captured at the public meeting held on February 16, 2016. A more detailed report of the feedback captured during this phase of consultations will be prepared in the coming days.

Introduction

On Tuesday, February 16, 2016, the City of Toronto, City Planning Division (Transportation Planning), the TTC and Metrolinx, hosted a public meeting on seven key transit projects currently being planned. The meeting was held at Jean Vanier Catholic High School, 959 Midland Avenue, Toronto.

The public meeting presented the various transit projects being studied as part of a network approach to transit planning undertaken by the City, TTC and Metrolinx, including:

SmartTrack / GO Regional Express Rail (RER): Present recent work to integrate SmartTrack and GO Regional Express Rail.

Relief Line: Present the results of the corridor evaluation (i.e., preferred corridor).

Waterfront Transit Reset: Introduce a new initiative to improve transit options along the waterfront.

Scarborough Transit Extension:  Present the preferred corridor for the subway alignment, and provide an update on further opportunities to increase transit options in Scarborough.

New Stations on the GO Rail Network: Present assessment results for new stations to improve access to GO Rail services.

Integrated Transit Fares: Present recent work to integrate services between local and regional transit systems.

GO Electrification:  Present recent work on plans to electrify Metrolinx-owned rail corridors.

 

The meeting featured a series of panels and interactive feedback activities on each project. Participants could freely move between display panels and activities at their own pace, and speak with project staff from the City, TTC and Metrolinx.

Following an introductory presentation on Coordinated Network Transit Planning given by Hilary Holden (Director, Transit and Sustainable Transportation, City of Toronto) and James Perttula (Program Manager, Transit Implementation Unit, City of Toronto) at 7:00 PM, participants had the opportunity to ask questions of clarification as well as provide feedback.

Approximately 160 individuals attended the public meeting, including Mayor John Tory.

Highlights of Participant Feedback

Questions of Clarification

The discussion captured during the question and answer period following the overview presentation is summarized below. Questions are noted with a “Q”, comments with “C” and answers with “A”. Answers were provided by Hilary Holden (Director, Transit and Sustainable Transportation, City of Toronto) and James Perttula (Program Manager, Transit Implementation Unit, City of Toronto), unless noted otherwise.

Q. Rapid transportation should be a priority for Scarborough as the current bus routes are too long. The routes presented do not appear to correspond to the demand for ridership and are planned to support economic development. Does the demand for ridership justify the project costs?

A.  Buses are a very important part of the network. They feed into the rapid transit network and provide local service. Ridership is important, but not the only consideration in justifying new transit. The University of Toronto has been modeling future travel demand (ridership) for the various network scenarios. These results are being released on the City’s website (http://toronto.ca/transitto). Modeling results for Scarborough are not finalized but preliminary work shows high travel demand.

 

Q. Did you consider using the hydro corridor as a shortcut between Kennedy Station (Line 2) and Scarborough Centre instead of the optimized subway concept?

 A. We did examine the hydro corridor as part of the study, but there are some significant challenges to get Hydro One to agree to such an alignment. Hydro One is reserving space within the corridor for future expansion.

 

Q. The Scarborough Centre stop on the original LRT corridor was planned at a location 500 m away from Scarborough Town Centre (mall). Will the new subway station be connected to Scarborough Town Centre?

A. We have been looking at a station location near Scarborough Town Centre, but closer to McCowan Road. The rationale is to increase access to those living and working east of McCowan Road, and to serve future development there. The new station location will be within easy reach of Scarborough Town Centre. We have been working closely with the mall in our study of options for the station.

 

Q. Will there be a direct connection to Scarborough Town Centre?

A. The mall has already begun looking at establishing a connection if we move the station location. The mall has an interest in a direct connection.

 

Q. The previous proposal for the Scarborough Subway Extension with three stops was the best option as it provided connections to east-west routes on Lawrence Avenue, Ellesmere Road and Sheppard Avenue. If it is not possible to add stations at these locations now, make sure they can be added later.

A. The trade-off between the previous subway proposal and the optimized concept is that it is cheaper to build fewer stations. It saves money, which can be invested in other transit improvements elsewhere in Scarborough. The optimized concept also complements the SmartTrack/GO RER alignment, which would provide connections to riders traveling on east-west bus routes. In terms of providing for stations in the future, most of the costs are associated with preserving the stations. We are working closely with the TTC to understand what those costs might be and whether it will be feasible to develop the stations in the future.

 

Q. Can you clarify what fare integration means?

A. Fare integration means making it fairer and easier to travel across different local and regional systems.

 

Q. The current bus routes are congested and unreliable. If the current system is unreliable, how will expanding the system improve service?

A. [Laurence Lui, TTC Service Planning] The surface routes operate in mixed traffic and face schedule reliability issues. The TTC is working on improving service reliability. We are doing comprehensive reviews of how much time our bus routes actually take to get from point A to point B. We know there is room to improve.

 

Q. I am an advocate of the midtown corridor (i.e., CPR corridor from Agincourt to Downtown). The results of a recent engineering study on the use of this corridor were released in a report called “The Missing Link”. Has City Planning considered a surface rail line that would utilize this CPR corridor for the Relief Line alignment?

A. That study explored the possibility of using that freight corridor for passenger service. We will certainly address the results in our own report to City Council in March, but the results would likely not change many of the recommendations being made here.

 

C. The City should consider a connection between the proposed SmartTrack/GO RER line (e.g., 2 km surface extension) and Scarborough Centre. This would be more cost-effective than the proposed Scarborough Subway Extension optimized concept (6 km subway) between Kennedy Station and Scarborough Centre. The branch could be extended further east in the future to provide service to Centennial College’s Progress Campus.

A. Our aim has been to provide Scarborough Centre with better transit. It is important to understand that there is a big difference in the frequency of trains on the SmartTrack/GO RER line (maximum of one train every six minutes) compared to a subway (maximum of one train every two minutes) and this difference would have a large impact on the frequency of service that would be available in Scarborough Centre.

 

Q. I live near the existing GO Rail line which is being expanded to add a third track. Will a fourth track be added to accommodate the proposed SmartTrack line?

A. We are working with Metrolinx to determine if service integration will require an additional track. We don’t have a definitive answer right now.

 

C. Too much information was presented this evening to make substantive comments. Please make sure that the presentation is circulated to attendees or posted online. I also understand that the Chief Planner is overseeing 25 transit projects. That is too many projects to manage effectively.

A. The presentation has already been posted on the City’s website (http://toronto.ca/transitto). There is also an email address and telephone number on the website if you have questions or comments. To clarify, 25 transit projects identified in various documents were evaluated by City Planning in the Feeling Congested? work. The top 10 prioritized projects have been included on the current City Planning recommended transit network map. These priorities are being revisited considering the introduction of RER and SmartTrack.

 

Q. Scarborough really needs a rapid transit network. Not everyone is going downtown when they leave their house. I am excited that the City is looking at an evidence based plan, but when are things going to happen? In particular, can the Crosstown East construction begin before the Scarborough Subway Extension construction? Has there been any thought to implement interim solutions?

A. As of today, the TTC has implemented several new express routes on the bus network to improve service. There is also a desire to look at improving bus connections to the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus.We are working as fast as possible to get to the approvals stage. Once the plans are approved, it could be as long as an eight-year process to construct the Crosstown East, which includes procurement, design and construction, before service will start.

 

Q. New York City has built a subway system that provides express and local service on four tracks. Are there any jurisdictions that have tried to provide express service on two tracks?

A. The GO RER study is assessing four different combinations for express and local service. We would like to get your feedback on those scenarios.

 

Q. Why was Queen Street chosen for the Relief Line instead of King Street?

A. Ridership would be higher on King Street, but we believe Queen Street is a better option because it would spread the provision of rapid transit across the downtown. Queen Street is on the north side of the financial core and would enable connections to the PATH system and to the areas between the corridor and Bloor Street.

 

Q. Scarborough Centre was the original destination of the Sheppard Line. Given that the Sheppard LRT is currently on pause, will the plans include a terminus or through service from the existing Danforth and Sheppard subway lines at Scarborough Centre?

A. We are currently not exploring a subway on Sheppard Avenue.. There is approved funding for an LRT, and we are considering rapid transit solutions that could be implemented before that LRT is constructed. Scarborough Centre is an important multi-modal, hub station and it is important to get the plan right now.

 

Q. The Optimized Concept for the Scarborough Subway Extension does not include a stop at Lawrence Avenue. The hospital at Lawrence Avenue and McCowan Road is an important destination. Why is there no stop there?

A. We received many similar comments from other people during earlier consultations. In our analysis, we found that the key driver of ridership at that station would be the Lawrence Avenue bus, not surrounding uses. The network approach proposes a station at Lawrence Avenue on the SmartTrack alignment.

 

Q. In terms of making Scarborough Town Centre a hub, is the intent to encourage a mix of uses (e.g. residential and commercial)? Will improving transit actually encourage businesses to locate in Scarborough? There only seems to be residential high-rise development.

A. We definitely want Scarborough Centre to develop as a commercial and residential hub. The City’s Official Plan encourages a mix of uses and we are aware of some plans in the area for both office expansion and residential development. The mall also has plans to develop a mix of uses in the future. A subway is not the only thing that will drive development, but it is certainly an important factor.

 

Q. Where did the estimates for employment come from?

A. Scarborough Centre is an urban growth node in the provincial Growth Plan. These projections have been thoroughly studied and are sound.

 

Q. The subway should provide more local service and let SmartTrack provide the express service.

A. Those tradeoffs were modeled and are still being studied. The optimized concept for the Scarborough Subway Extension would provide many benefits. We focused on what we think is best for each corridor, but we will take note of your feedback.

 

Next Steps

A more detailed report of all consultation activities will be made available after this phase of consultation. Comments must be submitted by March 4, 2016 to ensure inclusion in this report.