BrisUrbane

For a Better Brisbane

Archive for the ‘Light Rail’ Category

Transit Canada Special: Toronto’s Transit City LRT Plan

This post looks at Toronto’s (now superseded) Transit City LRT plan.

Light Rail has become quite popular in Canada- Toronto (Eglinton LRT), Edmonton (ETS) and Calgary (C-Train), Ottawa (Transitway/Busway conversion to LRT) and recently Light Rail was endorsed as the preferred rapid transit mode for Kitchener-Waterloo. The Transit City LRT plan for Toronto was different from the other proposed or existing LRT systems in that it had a more “feeder” function- the purpose was to provide rapid transit to connect people in the suburbs to the main rapid transit artery: the subway system- and in doing so provide mobility for both CBD-bound and cross-town trips. Many of the TTC’s bus routes carry around 40, 000 passengers per day (roughly about 10 million per year), so the capacity of LRT would be a plus here.

There was much debate and controversy over the Transit City LRT plan as it was the brainchild of former Toronto mayor David Miller, who was replaced by now incumbent mayor Rob Ford who ran on a platform espousing subways and portraying LRT as slow streetcars (in earlier posts the difference between LRT and streetcars has been made clearer). A good LRT system can do up to around 10, 000 passengers/hour/direction in Class B ROW and, if built like a subway (Class A ROW), around 20,000 passengers/hour/direction.

Why did the TTC choose LRT, over subways, at least for this plan? Mitch Stambler from TTC service planning identifies the following points:

* Much cheaper than subways, LRT is 4-5 times cheaper than subway which means
* More bang for buck- 4-5 times more rapid transit for the same money
* Class B ROW results in excellent quality service
* Satisfies projected demand required
* Environmental benefits (Toronto has much of its power come from Hydro sources)
* Toronto is not New York, Hong Kong or Berlin– LRT fits the demand required
and is realistic for the city.

Mitch’s Presentation: http://www.ottawa.ca/residents/public_consult/tmp/lrt/jun_19/toronto_mitch_stambler.wmv

What does this mean for Brisbane? Looking past the technology, this blog’s view is that further improvements to the BUZ network should be introduced along with more ambitious priority (full length bus lanes/T2 lanes) along major arterial roads and traffic light priority. This blog’s experience with Brisbane’s buses is that they are quite slow compared to other cities, such as say, Canberra. Rail lines and ferries should be boosted in frequency to knit a ’15-minute frequent’ network around Brisbane, and using the large suburban shopping centres as interchange points, slowly cut back non-BUZ routes to create a feeder-style network, which will provide high frequency in the suburbs, where the people are and also allow people to get from suburb-to-suburb without going to the CBD first. (Try getting from Tarragindi to Yeronga- it takes a whopping 48 minutes to do this using public transport, and up to three bus changes! In a car this might take 10-15 minutes!). Improvement of the orbital 599/598 Great Circle line will also be important to enable cross-town and meet local transport needs.

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.

Light Rail for Brisbane: Is Jersey City a model for Brisbane’s West End?

Credits: Clarence Eckerson, Jr. StreetFilms,

Transit Oriented Development (TOD) generally refers to higher density mixed use development within walking distance of good public transport. The idea is basically to put the people near the transport and the transport near the people so that benefits flow to the people and the public transport network.  The Perth model of TOD has extended this concept further by adding buses and car integration along walking to rail stations to serve and stimulate development within a broader catchment area than that immediately around train stations. So perhaps in the future as TOD evolves, there may be different types of ‘suburban’ and ‘inner city’ TOD examples.

TOD can happen with quality, frequent bus and rail systems the video above provides inspiration on what might be possible in West End, Brisbane with a good Light Rail service. Of course, as we saw in Perth, simply doing a “cut and paste” job won’t do as concepts need adapting and refinement to local conditions. Having the infrastructure is necessary but is probably not sufficient; supporting policies are also required, such as on car parking within the developments:

Parking ratios in Jersey City are shocking for some of the people in New Jersey;
We don’t require parking. In most of the developments you are looking at there’s a maximum parking ratio for much of this development but there’s no minimum.

Robert Cotter,
Director of City Planning, Jersey City

That’s right! They don’t require parking! This blog has raised this issue before here and here.

The StreetFilm’s video showcases the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, New Jersey and accompanying TOD developments, which seem to have had a similar impact to an earlier example the BrisUrbane Blog looked at in Charlotte, US. Enjoy!

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