For a Better Brisbane

Archive for May 2011

Transit Canada Special: Toronto’s Transit City LRT Plan (Toronto)

The former LRT plan would have used LRT to extend the subway system. Image: Secondarywaltz, wikipedia

The BrisUrbane Blog has come across a presentation given by the manager of service planning, TTC about what LRT is and isn’t. Here is an abridged transcript, comments have been added by this blog in brackets. It shows well what the TTC had in mind when it was talking about LRT:

Mitch Stambler, Manager, Service Planning, Toronto Transit Commission (TTC)
talking at the Ottawa Light Rail Transit (LRT) technology forum (video link here!)

For a transit system to be categorised as light rail, it has to have all or
most of these characteristics:

  •  It should operate mostly in an exclusive Right of Way (i.e. Class B or Class A ROW)
  • It should have stop spacing of upwards of half a kilometre (500m) or more so that is can achieve average operating speeds of 23-40 km/hr or upwards
  • Passengers should be able to board through all doors
  • Fare collection should be done off-board or there should be honour fare collection so that we can minimise dwell times (the time the vehicle spends hanging around a stop)
  • Vehicles should be multiple unit, double ended so that you can turn around quite quickly and achive high capactity so that you can use centre or side platforms
  • Operation of automobiles and traffic should be restricted in terms of turning movements and parking
  • There may be grade separations at selected key locations (in other words bridges or tunnels should be used to keep the service separated from car traffic rather than have intersections)
  • And you should use signal priority at any at grade signalised intersections (so traffic lights prioritise public transport at normal traffic light intersections)

The reason why I wanted to provide this list is because I want to show you that
Toronto DOES NOT operate Light Rail. (Crowd laughing).


Written by .

May 29, 2011 at 6:33 pm

Canada Transit Special: Is emergency vehicle access limited to only busways? (Toronto)

Video: ‘Toronto Fire P343 riding the rails on the St Clair Right of Way’ (efd488, YouTube)

Is emergency vehicle access only limited to busways? The St. Clair right of way (ROW) is probably the closest Toronto gets to having actual LRT; Had Toronto city councillors not forced the TTC to add more stops to the route and had the high-floor, single ended streetcar vehicles and so forth, been replaced with a double ended LRT vehicle with multiple door boarding, the  St. Clair ROW could well have qualified as LRT. Due to space restrictions preventing the construction of large medians to separate mixed traffic and transit, the TTC raised up the lanes to be higher than the mixed general traffic lanes so that car drivers would be discouraged from driving in the transit ROW.

The video above shows a City of Toronto fire department making use of the ROW to get its fire trucks past traffic. So is emergency vehicle access only limited to busways? If the LRT tracks are set in continuous concrete then it seems that emergency services- police, fire, ambulance- can indeed make use of LRT ROWs.

In addition to the previous post, here are two links for those interested about Toronto (and Melbourne’s) streetcar networks:

Note: The BrisUrbane blog is not associated with these authors.

Written by .

May 26, 2011 at 6:59 pm

Canada Transit Special: Why Toronto’s streetcars are NOT Light Rail (Toronto)

Video: Adam Giambrone (City of Toronto councillor and former TTC Chair) in the City of Toronto council chambers talking about the extreme political difficulties in getting any sort of prioritisation to speed up streetcars on St. Clair Avenue.  (prdaoust, Youtube)

Before this blog features the TTC’s former Transit City LRT plan, a word about Toronto’s streetcars and the problems they face due to system design and lack of prioritised right of ways (ROW) Toronto’s streetcar system, like Melbourne’s, is a ‘legacy’ system designed well before car ownership took off.  Stops are spaced very close together (a stop about every 250 m) which means the service once you get to the stop is going to be slow. Operation in mixed traffic without dedicated lanes (Class C ROW) interferes with service reliability and limits streetcars speeds to be no faster than the congested traffic in front of it.

It’s obvious that such problems stem from the stop spacing, features of operation (such as front door only boarding) and level of priority given by the class of ROW and not so much because the vehicle has a trolley pole, steel wheels, makes chiming sounds, and is called a streetcar. Simply swapping a unprioritised streetcar stuck in congestion stopping everywhere for a unprioritised bus stuck in congestion stopping everywhere may well cost extra money, but is unlikely to improve service a great deal.

Graham Currie (Department of Civil Enginnering, Monash University) and Amer Shalaby (Department of Civil Enginnering, University of Toronto) in 2006 published a paper titled ‘Success and Challenges in Modernizing Streetcar Systems: Experiences in Melbourne, Australia, and Toronto, Canada‘ [paywall] comparing Melbourne’s Yarra Trams to the TTC’s Streetcar system and looking at the challenges that these ‘legacy’ systems face such as keeping reliability and speed at acceptable levels in the face of growing car congestion.

Indeed, one of the reasons why Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT) modes were created was to get faster speed and more separation from car congestion by giving vehicles their own dedicated lanes, wider stop spacing, and prioritisation at intersections. So in this sense, BRT and LRT are an intrinsically different style of service to the local stop-everywhere bus and streetcar.

Removing stops to increase speed and giving transit vehicles their own lanes to increase speed, cut the number of vehicles used, and increase reliability is politically charged and difficult because a conscious, public decision to spend money on explicitly prioritising public transport over the car must be made. But if you don’t do it you can expect a much compromised quality of public transport service.

Canada Transit Special: A chat with former Toronto Mayor David Miller (Toronto) reporter Madeline Stephenson interviewed the then City of Toronto Mayor, David Miller about his vision for public transport in Toronto and the next four years. The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) is owned and operated by the City of Toronto.

The Transit City transit plan caused controversy in Toronto; the BrisUrbane blog will cover the particulars of Transit City in another post for historical purposes. However for this post, former City of Toronto Mayor talks about how he felt that public transport really was not just a tool to get people around, but something really important in good city-building. The ability to guide development into particular corridors and draw or discourage development away from established single-family home neighborhoods was one of the benefits he cites.

If you build rapid transit in a city like Toronto, you encourage development, but you encourage it in the right way. So you get development building along the rapid transit lines instead of development pressure in neighborhoods in single family homes.

To David Miller, good public transport makes a good city

If you have a city built around public transit … … you have a city that’s livable, affordable
and meets high environmental standards.

Toronto’s recent mayoral elections resulted in the election of a new Mayor, Rob Ford, who has different ideas centred around subways, subway expansion and getting public transport out of the way of cars.

Note: This YouTube video is embedded consistent with the the YouTube terms of service (here)

Written by .

May 8, 2011 at 8:49 am

Canada Transit Special: Next stop Spadina subway (Toronto)

Video: Diving into the Spadina Streetcar station, Promagstyle (YouTube). For a sequel, click here.

Here’s something you won’t see a Melbourne tram do. Look at how much effort has gone into making this streetcar connect to the subway system. The closest Brisbane has to this is the busway at Roma St Station. We need more of this kind of thing in Brisbane, properly connecting buses to trains. Toowong and Indooroopilly spring to mind.

Toronto is the benchmark for rail-bus and rail-tram interchanges with ‘free-body’ transfers at most subway stations outside the CBD. Trams and buses are actually brought inside the ticket gates on special roadways and stop at the top of escalators serving the station platforms. Similar arrangements are provided at the main railway station in the German city of Freiburg, and at key stations on the new Southern Railway in Perth, Western Australia…

– Dr Paul Mees, Transport for Suburbia, Planning a network, p173

The 510 Spadina and 509 Harbourfront streetcar combined carry around 48,000 passengers per day (source: TTC service improvements for 2008). That’s roughly 12.5 million passenger trips per year. To get a feel for this number, this is roughly the same number of trips carried by the entire Adelaide or Auckland train network in a year or roughly four times the patronage of Brisbane’s 199 BUZ. After midnight on Sunday (so early Monday morning) there is a streetcar every 6 minutes feeding into Spadina station. The off-peak frequency is a service roughly every two minutes all day.

Image: Toronto Streetcar map, E Pluribus Anthony (Wikipedia). Note how almost all streetcars serve as extensions of the subway system, starting, finishing, passing through or near subway stations.

With only eleven lines, Toronto has a much smaller streetcar system than Melbourne, and Toronto’s streetcars are mainly found in the downtown area. Despite this, the streetcar system carries around 285 600 trips per day or around 70 million passenger trips per year, which, for scale purposes, is roughly what the 200+ route Brisbane bus network carries in a year. Streetcars are not Light Rail because of stop spacing and there is much mixed traffic running. Toronto’s streetcars are also unusual since, unlike Melbourne’s trams, they use trolley poles rather than pantographs and can only be driven from one end, like a bus. They are also high-floor, however there are moves to modernise the vehicles.

If you don’t have connections, you don’t have a network; You have a bunch of lines.

Written by .

May 1, 2011 at 9:04 am

%d bloggers like this: