A special release for Better Surrey Rapid Transit, a SkyTrain advocacy group from Surrey, British Columbia, Canada.  Enjoy, everyone!

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We’d like to have a say on the debates going on in the City of Toronto, where the loud voices have recently been gaining nationwide attention. Most recently: a continuous battle between Mayor Rob Ford and City Council and other advocates over the choice of using underground subways or at-grade light rail transit.

At a total $8.2 billion price tag for a fully underground line as it was once proposed, the Eglinton Avenue crosstown LRT would have been a notorious project.  Advocates were touting that the reversion of at-grade segments in Scarborough (which is being opposed by both Toronto’s Mayor Ford as well as several Council members of Scarborough) would bring a 20% cost savings [1] that would allow funds to be freed for other Light Rail Transit projects across the Toronto region, bringing rapid transit to more people.  The reasoning certainly makes sense, but these advocates have put their trust behind a solution that may not make the most sense on this corridor.  The at-grade switch would have impacted the entire line’s operating speeds and add 20 minutes (a nearly 50% increase!) to the end-to-end trip travel time.

The use of the same technology which is currently servicing two of three lines on the Vancouver SkyTrain system on the west coast of Canada with Bombardier Innovia Metro/ART trains (or comparable) and with Linear Induction Motor track would provide the same cost savings that moving a portion of the LRT at-grade would and more, despite a need for complete grade separation of the line.  It would provide faster, more reliable service and be more flexible in capacity expansion, and also remove the travel time penalty associated with at-grade LRT.

A Light Rail Transit type implementation would be an exceptionally terrible choice for this corridor, even if some portions of the line would be at-grade.  An option making use of the Canadian-developed Innovia Metro rolling stock technology by Bombardier (i.e. the successor to the technology that is being used on the Scarborough RT) with the newest Innovia ART 200 or Metro 300 trains, or a suitable competitor, should be pursued.  Because the line would need to make use of a different train yard and new rolling stock regardless of implementation, it is not unrealistic to be examining several different rapid transit technology options on the corridor in a multiple account evaluation.

The people of Toronto need to realize what are the true technological benefits of such an implementation and why it would be most suitable on Eglinton.

Trains with linear induction motor engines such as Innovia Metro trains by Bombardier make use of two key elements: Linear Induction Motor technology (although as of the latest design spec, this is optional and trains can be propelled conventionally by electric motor [2]) and Automatic Train Control. [3]

A train on the Osaka Subway line 7 - CC-BY: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dugspr/3448684456/
A train on the Osaka Subway line 7, using linear-induction motor technology – CC-BY: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dugspr/3448684456/

In Osaka, Japan, linear inductor motor technology was found to allow for as much as a 20% capital cost savings over a traditional third-rail type subway implementation because the use of a linear motor allowed for lower vehicle height (this is a key fundamental of linear motor technology) – which meant a smaller tunnel diametre and a smaller tunnel-boring machine.  An overwhelming majority of new rapid transit implementations in Japan have since chosen to make use of Linear Induction Motor technology and often combine it with automatic train control just like the Vancouver SkyTrain does. [4]

Were light rail-type technology with overhead electrification to be pursued on the Eglinton Corridor where a large portion of the line would be underground regardless within Toronto due to the lack of at-grade space alongside the road [1], tunnels would need to be much larger in diameter than even that of subway tunnels and much more expensive to construct.

Because the Osaka study compared the tunnel diameters for a linear-motor-type implementation and third-rail, electric-motor type subway implementation (not overhead-caternary type light rail), it can be implied that there would be even more than a 20% cost savings with a linear-motor-type rapid transit implementation such as ART, over an overhead caternary light-rail type implementation.

LIM systems (left) allow for reduced tunnel width and height - which can reduce capital construction costs of tunnels, especially bored tunnels, by as much as 20%.
LIM systems (left) allow for reduced tunnel width and height – which can reduce capital construction costs of tunnels, especially bored tunnels, by as much as 20%.

Light Rail Vehicles can be much larger in height than subway vehicles and Innovia Metro vehicles of the same size; the implementation plan involves the collection of power through an overhead wire and caternary, which increases tunnel height requirement.  Depending on the implementation and tunnel type, most subway and rapid transit systems that operate primarily underground make use of third rail collection because the lack of a need for overhead space allows tunnels to be much smaller in diameter.

The new line as an ART implementation would also be able to integrate with the existing portion of ART compatible track that is the existing Scarborough RT.  Although it would cost some money to refurbish and retrofit a few sections of the line in order to meet the standards needed by newer and longer ART 200 and Metro 300 vehicles, these costs. at an estimated $400 million in today’s dollars [5] and more than funded by the cost savings resulting from the smaller diametre tunnels required for the tunneled portions on Eglinton were an ART type Eglinton line pursued (i.e. 20% of $8 billion is $1.6 billion).

The tracks of the Toronto Scarborough RT (pictured here) are compatible with Innovia ART implementations.
The tracks of the Toronto Scarborough RT (pictured here) are compatible with Innovia ART implementations.

If the Toronto Transit Commission were to implement the line with Innovia Metro rolling stock and technology (or comparable) AND as a driver-less service – as is being planned on some Toronto subway lines [6] – and this is done without complaints from the Toronto drivers’ union that plagued the earlier RT and prevented full driver-less operation on it – lowered system-wide operating costs and higher cost recovery will also allow for other regional transit service improvements to come sooner.  On the other hand, with the use of driver-manned light rail transit (under frequent service, drivers can be the number one factor that decides the profitability of a transit implementation) improvements across the region could be slower as opposed to with the use of an automated, grade-separated rapid transit implementation that saves money over time.

Being totally grade-separated, the line would be immune to many of the variables presented that could limit or restrict the reliability of LRT line operation.  For example: if there is any obstruction on at-grade LRT track such as an accident, then until the obstructions are moved, that portion of the LRT line has to be closed completely.  This is a common problem on the existing Toronto streetcar that often causes lengthy delays to all trains along the route.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?&v=h_5PQ87Ciwo]

An ART based implementation would also be able to provide increased speed and increased service over a Light Rail Transit implementation if it were automated, with the latest train designs having been specified by Bombardier to run as frequently as 75 seconds and as fast as 110km/h [2].  This can be done safely and reliably.  Because the higher frequencies of such an implementation would allow for the same level of service with shorter train lengths, the TTC can save even further in capital costs by using much shorter stations/platforms than would otherwise be required with an LRT implementation.  The savings would be especially prevalent on underground stations.

Current Scarborough RT platforms are 80m long and could accommodate 5-car articulated ART 200 or ART 300 trains, similarly to Vancouver’s own SkyTrain system.

Were the use of 5-car Innovia Metro trains be made exclusive on the Vancouver SkyTrain Expo & Millennium Lines and run at every 75 seconds (it is possible [7]) and modifications to seating on Vancouver SkyTrain cars be done so that they match the seating layout and per-car crush load capacity of the similar vehicles operating in Kuala Lumpur [8], the SkyTrain interline would provide a theoretical maximum capacity that is comparable to that of the full Toronto Subway’s.

  • Vancouver SkyTrain (Expo/Millennium Lines between Waterfront & Columbia Stations) – maximum theoretical capacity with 5-car trains carrying 1187 each at frequencies of 75 seconds: 56976 pphpd
  • Toronto Subway – maximum theoretical capacity with 7-car “Rocket” trains carrying approximately 1645 each [9][10] at frequencies of 105 seconds [6]: 56400 pphpd

The use of less expensive elevated guideways (or at-grade segments with overpasses) along some segments such as the western extension of the line and in Scarborough west of the RT (as opposed to a tunnelled implementation) could additionally lower the costs of the line.  There is a lot of room – it was set aside for a once-proposed expressway – on the western-segments of Eglinton towards Pearson International Airport that could accommodate a non-intrusive elevated guideway that would take up even less horizontal space than an at-grade LRT right of way, or an at-grade guideway with overpasses at intersections.

It is also likely that the complicated interchange configurations on limited-access expressways close to the airport would necessitate grade separation on the line once again regardless at that point, thus it would not be that much more costly to pursue extra segments of elevated or partially elevated line west of the proposed Phase I western terminus, when an expansion is necessary.

The Toronto Transit Commission, Metrolinx and other involved parties need to undertake a serious review of their options for this corridor as one option that would cost less than both LRT and traditional subway-type implementations is being left out and not discussed.  This would be a great option for the Eglinton corridor that Toronto seriously needs to explore, as it would provide significant benefits for even less cost than the planned LRT.

Footnotes
  1. February 7th, 2012 update  – [LINK]
  2. Bombardier Innovia ART 300 fact sheet (note: in Chinese) [PDF] – [LINK]
  3. Innovia ART presentation document [PDF] – [LINK]
  4. SkyTrain type technology clearly a winner in Japan – [LINK]
  5. Scarborough RT 2006 strategic plan – [LINK]
  6. Yonge Subway Extension – Recommended Concept/Project Issues – [LINK]
  7. Expo Line Upgrade Strategy [PDF] – [LINK]
  8. Kelana Jaya Line new 4-car train launch – [LINK]
  9. Current Toronto Rocket trains have 6-car length and carry 1416 passengers [LINK] at crush load 6 people per square metre frequencies
  10. 7-car rocket trains have been studied and are possible – see [FOOTNOTE #6]
  11. (No, we are not touting that a Vancouver SkyTrain-like elevated line cutting across the entirety of the Eglinton corridor is appropriate.  Don’t be misconceived.  This has to do with the TECHNOLOGY being used by the SkyTrain and how it could work in Toronto.)
  12. We don’t work for Bombardier; we are independent researchers from Surrey, BC with a profound interest and knowledge in this technology and where it is proper and suitable for implementation.
The compromise is SkyTrain: Toronto should be pursuing this technology and not LRT on Eglinton