Plan rolls out new era in transit

Euro-style light rail going through neighbourhoods should help keep more vehicles off city streets

TORONTO – The Star

Nov 24, 2008 04:30 AM

Transportation Reporter

When the shovels go in the ground on the first of the city’s proposed Transit City lines next September, it will mark the beginning of a new era in Toronto transit.

Sheppard East will be the first of the seven proposed light-rail lines to use supersized streetcars to bring downtown-style transit to the suburbs.

“Transit City is based on the principle that no one should be disadvantaged by not owning a car. (It) takes the high-quality transit service available in the core and begins to extend that to the four corners of Toronto,” said TTC chair Adam Giambrone.

“(Transit City) takes a downtown reality, where transit is not only competitive but, in many cases, is superior to the private automobile, and begins to extend that across the entire city, making transit a real and viable alternative to people in every corner of the city,” he said.

The ride offered by the sleek Euro-style light-rail vehicles will be a far cry from the old streetcars on Queen and King Sts.

They’ll be fast, for one thing. Simulations show the cars would move at 23 kilometres per hour, travelling from Don Mills Station to Meadowvale Rd. in 36.5 minutes.

Spurs to the zoo and the Scarborough Civic Centre are being studied. Giambrone said it makes sense to build them.

Sheppard East stops will be farther apart than those on a typical bus route – 400 to 500 metres above-ground and about 800 metres below-ground – but the speed and ease of loading riders through all doors will save time for users who might do some extra walking.

Cars will run every four to six minutes in rush hour; and six to 10 minutes at low times.

“It builds on the idea of `a car in sight,'” Giambrone said.

Up to 3,000 riders per hour are expected to use the Sheppard line.

For a subway line to be viable, the TTC figures it needs 10,000 riders per hour, minimum. But extending the Sheppard subway by one stop might make sense here. By 2021, Sheppard East is projected to carry 20 million people annually.

The LRT will run on two lanes along a raised median, about 15 centimetres high, in the middle of the road. Traffic will run on either side of the streetcar line, much as it does on St. Clair Ave. Where possible, cycling lanes will be built next to the sidewalks.

The road will still need widening at intersections to make room for a left-turn lane and a TTC platform.

Cars will be able to cross the tracks only at intersections with signals, the only place where left-hand turns and U-turns on advanced green arrows will be allowed.

It will take another three months to decide how Sheppard East will look at either end of the line, said the TTC’s Transit City project manager, Sameh Ghaly.

The TTC is considering whether to create a tunnel under Highway 404 to connect the streetcar at the track level of the Sheppard subway at Don Mills Station. Another option would be to extend the subway another stop to Consumers Rd., to accommodate workers in the business park there.

The TTC is trying to avoid the transfer problems encountered at older TTC stations such as Kennedy, where riders must walk long distances to connect with the GO, SRT and subway, Ghaly said.

It’s all part of changing the TTC’s culture to pay more attention to rider comfort and convenience, he said. “If we didn’t have this mentality, we would not have recommended Sheppard would come to the platform.”

To the east, a separate environmental assessment will look at the possibility of continuing the Sheppard line to the Durham Region border, where passengers could connect with transit there.

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