Time to get more use out of the Sheppard Subway line and go west?

To be honest, I love subways and I have a bit of a bias towards the Sheppard Subway line. I have always believed that if the subway was completed, or at least ½ done, than it would have never been considered as an option to close or shut down, in the Toronto tax crunch. I still blame the Harris “conservatives” for their shortsighted plan to fill in the Eglinton West Subway dig, which was already well under way. Along with the plan to offer a no frills Sheppard subway line, stopping it at Don Mills, rather than the obvious Victoria Park, or even better yet Warden Avenue in Scarborough. Regardless, what was done is done and we have a subway that needs finishing. However, there maybe a better plan, that has not been considered. The fact is that the Sheppard line exists and it needs to be completed. One of the transportation issues, I have found, in the city is the lack of an east-west line across the top of the city. Now that the Liberal Government has decided that the subway will go to Vaughan; even though I feel that it should only go to York University for now, consideration should be given to the idea of completing the Sheppard Subway westwards and then curving the Sheppard line north-west to York University and beyond. It was pointed out to me by ‘Cal’, from the Toronto LRT information blog,

“that extending the Sheppard line west to Downsview then up to York U/Steeles may be a better use of the money in terms of providing a more useful connection and making the Sheppard line more useful.”

In addition, the Sheppard Subway lines signaling system and design are based on newer technology, which would allow greater flexibility in the operation of trains (I.e. driver-less subway cars, the possibility of multiple lines, operations in different directions, etc…). It has already been stated that millions (maybe more) would have to be spent to upgrade the Yonge-University and Spadina lines. If this is the case, why not simply complete the Sheppard line westwards, along Sheppard Avenue and then northwards? Along Sheppard we would only need a stop at Bathurst, for now and since the trains are only 4 cars long, for now the platforms could be a bit smaller (in terms of the amount of people using the line). In addition, albeit maybe a bit of pie in the sky thinking, but we could also consider imploring some New York Subway style options in the northern part of Toronto. I remember at one point, before the EA (Environment Assessment) was completed for the Spadina line to York University one of the Toronto councilors wanted the line to go along Finch westwards towards Jane & Finch and beyond, due to the high-density in the area.We all know that the TTC will not send all trains north into Vaughan. I believe that it will be every third train; however I could be wrong (anyone can update me on that one to correct me on the intervals). This means that there will need to be a larger trail-track or interchange at either the Steeles or YorkUniversity stations. If this is the case, why not send one portion northwards into Vaughan and the other westwards along Finch or better yet , using a cheaper option, the Finch Hydro corridor into Etobicoke and beyond, using a Sheppard-Vaughan-Finch line instead? This is just an idea; however I would hope that Toronto officials and the provincial government would think outside the box a bit and complete the Sheppard line. It’s just an idea, but I hope that the Sheppard line put to better use.You will notice that I am not advocating going eastwards to Scarborough Town Centre. I just believe that if we can “kill two birds with one stone”, than lets use the Sheppard Line to complete Greg Sorbara’s dream of a subway to Vaughan and get a little more use out of the subway. I am a big believer in portions of the “Transit City” plan, offered by the City of Toronto. I just feel that we need to somehow finish or put Sheppard to better use. Of course I would have preferred an LRT, for Sheppard in the past, but that was said and done (no sense crying over split milk). If we have no choice, in getting a line to YorkUniversity than why not maximize what we can do for the city, now? Once the Sheppard-Vaughan-Finch line is completed, then we can end this argument and stain on Toronto’s past. We can then move onto using LRT, light-rail and other forms of technology to move people around the Greater Toronto Area. The unfortunate thing is politics, may again get in the way or progress. I can only hope that officials in charge will do the right thing.

By: Andy MJ
a.k.a “The GTA Patriot”
Toronto, Ontario

3 Responses to Time to get more use out of the Sheppard Subway line and go west?

  1. Andy MJ wrote, “We all know that the TTC will not send all trains north into Vaughan. I believe that it will be every third train; however I could be wrong…”

    I have heard that only every third train is likely, but in any case it won’t be more than any second (the same goes for an extension up Yonge as well). While cost is a main concern, there is a technical limitation.

    The newer signalling system on the Sheppard line was mentioned, and theTTC has planned for a replacement of the signalling system on older parts of the line over the next several years. Replacement parts for the older system have had to be machined in house for several years and the newer system will provide a number of benefits such as automation and single track operation (something that would allow 24 hour operation while still carrying out routine maintenance).

    The biggest benefit, especially for the Yonge line, is that the new system allows 90 second headways. This can increase the capacity of the Yonge line by more than 30%. The one roadblock to 90 second headways that a new signalling system will not remove is the 140 second minimum turn-around time at terminals. Unless new terminals on extensions are built with loops (train arrives, unloads, proceeds through loop, returns on other track, loads, continues), the only way to get 90 second headway over most of the line is to have two terminals at each end.

    If both ends are extended to Highway 7, I strongly susepct that Steeles would be one turnback location at each end. Commuters at the end of a hard workday expecting to ride all the way to Highway 7 will have a 50/50 chance (or possibly worse) of having to exit at Steeles and wait for the next train.

    A branching line, as suggested above, would accomplish the same thing, with 180 second headway on each branch and 90 second headway on the rest of the line.

  2. Thanks for the clarification Cal, on the headway issues! As stated, my main point, as always, is since the Sheppard line is currently underutilized anyway. Maybe officials and political figures could still bring some completion to it, by using it’s full potential. In addition, the creation a new hub (with connections for GO Transit, VIVA, and others), at York University/Steeles is key. There is the idea of having the Sheppard Line curve north-westwards and paralell the extension to York University or Steeles, requiring individuals to transfer at any point to go to Vaughan (similar to St. George, and Spadina stations). There are not as many trains on the Sheppard Line anyway. This again is a bit of pie in the sky, but I would love to know how much that would actually cost. Also, would it allow for other combinations/configurations in the future? On the other hand, in the interest of maximizing funding dollars, I still feel that it should only go to York University, and stop there. I think that the main issue is how the funding of the extension was tied up by the Government. The EA was already completed, for the extension to York University. But, Greg Sorbara wants the subway to go to Vaughan, regardless of the other priorities for Toronto. The money for the project has been tied up in a way to require it now. The sad thing is, since the EA was already done, with funding we could have already seen shovels in the ground. I know various individuals who feel that this is a big mistake. Now, don’t get me wrong, the mistake with Sheppard was not finishing it or better yet, they could have made it an LRT. The money being used to extend it to Vaughan could be used in other areas of the city. LRT technology would have been a better, and simple option. I do not understand why we in the Toronto area do not use the “KISS” method and just KEEP IT SIMPLE. People want to be able to move from “point A to point B”, quickly and efficiently. There is nothing wrong with LRT or Streetcar technology, in “ROW” situations, if it is done properly. The cost of digging a subway is enormous, but since they are going to do it anyway, regardless of what we think, then why not make it the Sheppard Line westwards and just finish it? As a side note, I do not understand why we would even want to expect the TTC to go into York Region? VIVA has better suited plans for York Region. If this is how its always going to play out, with politicians, than maybe its time to merge the TTC, VIVA, YRT, and others into one all encompassing transit “Empire”, under the control of the “Sith”. But, I am digressing again?

    Andy MJ

  3. A few points worth mentioning… As I mention in a recent post on my blog on the Toronto LRT Information page (at http://lrt.daxack.ca/blog/?p=13), I am not 100% convinced the Spadina extension is a done deal. It seems more of a done deal than the Yonge extension, but there may still be some political wrangling over the funding. Basically, Greg Sobara came up with one-third of the funding, but only to build the line to the heart of his constituency. As I understand it, this was not just “imaginary dollars”, but actual cash that was put away in an account somewhere to be used for this purpose and only this purpose. The funding would have to have another third from the federal government and another third to come from Toronto and York.

    There was also some requirement that Toronto and York had to agree with how they would come up with their third before some deadline, or the province’s third would not be placed in that “account”. Toronto and York bickered over how this should be split and at the 11th hour when the province’s third was beginning to fade, they agreed on a 60/40 split (I believe with Toronto covering the 60, but don’t quote me on that). For Toronto and York, this was all academic since the whole thing required a third from the feds, and that was a pipe dream at the time.

    Then, a year later, the feds came up with their third, making it seem like a done deal. I’m not so sure, since neither Toronto nor York were happy with the sharing split they came up with. This is Toronto, the city run by a bunch of councillors who have great difficulty taking a photo together, and York, the region with councillors representing places like Sutton, Keswick, and Newmarket when it comes to paying for the construction and operation of a subway to Vaughan. Oh yea, that sounds like a formula for a done deal! ;-)

    As for the issue of the TTC going into York region, don’t forget that they operate contracted services already. In almost every case, when a TTC bus crosses Steeles Avenue, it “becomes” a YRT bus (collecting a YRT fare and accepting YRT/VIVA transfers and issuing transfers that are accepted on YRT/VIVA). My description of not every subway going north of Steeles is no different than what occurs with buses.

    One issue regarding this, is that there are some “personal” feelings on the part of some regional councillors who are on the YRT board as it pertains to their feelings about the company contracted to operate VIVA. Without pointing any specific fingers, there are some who are all gung-ho about a subway up Yonge Street to be operated by the TTC for the sole reason that it will not be operated by the private operator of VIVA. I read something about “subway” not being part of the scope of their contract, and the thought of spending money on reserved bus lanes for VIVA operation seems to encourage their promotion of a subway. Though, I wonder why LRT would not also be out of the scope of the contract with the operator. VIVA is a brand that I understand is owned by YRT, but I am beginning to suspect that the contractor might have legal rights over anything with the VIVA brand on it.

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