Metrolinx Update

Here’s a couple of new videos from Metrolinx regarding the Crosstown Line that will speed up public transit along Eglinton and connect to GO and the UP Express lines at Mount Dennis. The first shows some nice drone footage of the new maintenance buildings as well as the Kodak #9 building that will serve as the station entrance.


The second video shows a station mock-up that apparently is a full-size example of a typical station on the Crosstown Line. I asked Metrolinx’s community relations people about the station, if visits could be arranged, where it is and so on. I began my inquiries last Friday but as yet, have yet to get an answer. I had to send their CR people a link to the video as they hadn’t heard of the station’s existence.

Look for an update once details are provided.

Update, Monday June 25: I received an answer from Suniya Kukaswadia, Metrolinx’s Senior Advisor, Media Relations & Issues Management answering my questions:

1)     Where is the replica?

The purpose of the mock up station is to test materials and building methods prior to the actual build of the stations. The mock up is located at the Crosslinx warehouse and staging facility at Caledonia and Lawrence.

2)     Will you we be offering media tours of it?

Currently the mock up build is still a work in progress, and is not available for media visits. We would like to start media visits in the near future when the mock up is complete.

3)     Will members of the public be able to see it?
We are not currently in a position to provide public access but hope to be in the coming months.

Some thoughts on transit.

Railway tracks are not a modern invention. They were used in mines in the Middle Ages and almost 200 years ago, the first public railway line carried people in steam powered trains. The whole point of railway and tram lines was to create a level surface so that heavy vehicles didn’t get bogged down in the frequently muddy and rough roads of the time. Rails provide an ultra smooth surface and can accommodate vehicles carrying  large loads at high speed.

In Toronto, street railways arrived in the form of horse drawn street cars in the 1860s. They were able to conquer the terrible road conditions common before modern day road paving. Street cars as we know them today began in Richmond Virginia in the 1880s using an electric motor fed by a single overhead power line (the internal combustion engine was not as reliable as electric motors at that time). Toronto began using electric streetcars in 1892 and has done so ever since. In 1966, plans were made to eliminate the fleet by 1980 but a strong opposition played up the fact that Toronto was one of  the few remaining cities to use the (by then considered old fashioned) vehicles. They were kept thanks to effective and vigorous campaigning, possibly because they’re quaint, for their tourist appeal and just maybe because Toronto is notoriously slow to change. Incidentally, many readers will know there was a line that extended to Weston until 1948 when the streetcars were replaced by trolley buses.

Toronto Suburban Railway Car #12 going through the village of Weston in 1908. I love the jaunty angle of the utility poles. Toronto Public Library.

Trolleys were used until 1993 in Toronto when the fleet became too decrepit to continue. Trolley buses are electrically powered but run on rubber tires and require two overhead wires instead of one.

The great thing about street cars and trolley buses is that they run on relatively clean energy (only about 10% of electricity generated in Ontario comes from carbon based sources). They don’t pollute the air with toxic and dangerous gases and particles. Their motors are quiet.

Over the last few years, there has been a streetcar boom (often called light rail) in cities throughout Canada and the U.S. and they are seen as the latest thing in transit. They also benefit from novelty and nostalgia and some equate them with theme parks. The downside of streetcars and trolleys is that they need to be attached to overhead wiring and streetcar tracks are very expensive to build and maintain, especially in our climate with its potential for frost and salt damage. Another negative is that tracks usually run down the middle of a street with the potential of being blocked by cars and forcing boarding and alighting passengers to cross at least one lane of traffic.

Where am I going with this?

Asphalt roads became common about 100 years ago and helped make car travel possible. They form a resilient, level surface that can also accommodate vehicles carrying heavy loads at high speed. Public transit no longer needs rails to provide a smooth ride. On the other hand, modern day buses are loud and polluting – even diesel-electric ones.

In Mount Dennis, instead of the originally proposed gas-fired generating station, a large bank of batteries is set to power the entire Crosstown LRT for up to four hours.

Battery power has come a long way recently and is also about to revolutionize transit. The TTC has promised that it will be 100% emissions free by 2040. Unlike Metrolinx and its bizarre hydrogen fuel cell boondoggle the TTC has seen the future and decided that it’s battery powered. Thirty battery-powered buses have been purchased with the help of the federal government and will join the TTC fleet beginning in the fall. These are from three competing companies, Xcelsior, BYD and Proterra. The buses will be put through trials to see if they can manage in our winter conditions, have a range of around 250km and will be charged overnight using cheaper power. There is a proposal to increase the number to sixty buses.

Three demo buses have just arrived in the city to allow staff to familiarize themselves with the technology.

What are the implications?

  • If the trials are successful, replacing 2000+ conventional buses will be expensive and will need to happen over several years.
  • Fuel and maintenance costs will decrease.
  • Carbon tax will be lowered as more vehicles are bought.
  • In time, battery capacity will improve, buses will have a longer range and cost less.
  • Streetcars could be converted to battery power eliminating expensive, overhead wires.
  • We may not need streetcars and their tracks anymore. Instead, we could dedicate lanes to electric buses.
  • Street noise levels will decrease.
  • Carbon monoxide and dioxide levels will decrease.
  • Dangerous particulate matter from diesel fumes will decrease.
  • People will be healthier.

What do readers think? Is the TTC on the right track?

Update: This historic footage from New York City at the beginning of the motor car era in 1911 is fascinating. Note the street cars have no overhead wires and are cable cars like the ones in San Francisco. They are pulled along by an underground cable.

VIA does 121 through Weston Station

A reader alerted me to a danger at the Weston Station: twice daily, the VIA train goes through without slowing down—and boy, is it going fast. According to a  spokesperson, the VIA train is going 121 km/h (75 mph)–a speed that was “determined by the railway owner”.

At this speed, the train generates a lot of slipstream, and it is passing close to passengers. Our reader said it leaves “a huge swirl of dust, newspapers, and plastic bags. A child, or pet [could] be hurled against the platform columns or on to another platform”.

The spokesperson said that VIA has not received any complaints about the trains’ speed, but concerned residents can leave a comment and contact VIA Rail’s customer relations department at customer_relations@viarail.ca.

From Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

$3 fares on UPX and GO–if Liberals are elected

The provincial Liberals are promising a huge drop in UPX and GO Train fares for Westonians if they are reëlected this summer. Fares on all commuter trains will drop to $3, with the subsidy coming from carbon cap-and-trade revenues. PRESTO card users may also be able to keep the TTC discount, dropping a mixed-mode UPX-and-subway trip to downtown to about $5.¹

This would make Weston an even more enormously attractive place to live: we would have the nicest, fastest, and cheapest train service to downtown. UPX fares would match subway fares, but the plebes from Bloor West will have to make do with armpit views and sticky NOWs, while we read in-ride magazines on executive-class loungers.

The proposed provincial budget also promises, again, “electrified service on core segments, including the Union Pearson (UP) Express”.

Of course, there’s a catch: this is an election-year budget, and won’t be passed until after the polls in June, and only if the Liberals win.


¹ This is hellaciously complicated. To get the discount, you need to tap on the right machine. “When you are taking UP Express between Union Station and Bloor or Weston stations, you need to tap on and off the green PRESTO devices to get the discount. When you are taking UP Express to or from Union Station and Pearson Airport, you need to tap on and off the silver PRESTO devices to get the discount.”²

² The silver machines are not silver. They are silver and green. The green machines are not green. They are green and silver. This is the stupidest shit I’ve ever seen. Why are there two kinds? If there is a good reason, why do they look the same? Christ almighty. Am I the only person who thinks this is insane?

 

Metrolinx to add new fare option

This is an April Fools Day story although I have no doubt that some form of this will be an option sooner than we think. Some workplaces are already using RFID chip implants.

Clues to the fakery: the statement that being injected with the chip was less painful than using Presto,  the implementation date of February 29, 2019 (not a leap year), the inspector and passenger are not on an UP Express train and a righteous dig at the folks behind Metrolinx’s bizarre hydrogen fuel cell boondoggle.

Readers may be aware that Metrolinx has been having teething problems with some of its Presto fare gates. Presto is the card-based pass system that allows users to pay fares electronically.

Presto Problems.

According to sources, problems have occurred because Metrolinx is adding a new capability to the gates which will revolutionize travel in the GTA. In a first for North America, they’ve decided to press ahead with a Presto card alternative; a new technology that will use tiny RFID chips injected into commuters’ hands.

A hand with a Presto RFID chip freshly inserted and an actual chip to show the relative size.

The insertion of the chip is a one-time thing; slightly less painful than actually using Presto. Monthly passes can be paid for or renewed online, or at customer service. Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacists will insert the Chips at no charge.

Metrolinx fare gates will open as usual for card holders and soon for those who have the chips implanted in their left or right hand. Chip holders will be able to travel on any Metrolinx vehicle with Presto implemented. Metrolinx is calling the new fare system InWave; it is being rigorously tested and will be rolled out to the public on February 29th 2019.

Former TTC head Andy Byford demonstrates InWave last October before leaving to run New York’s transit system.

Receipts will be unnecessary as the system will hold a record of each passenger’s chip movements. Fare inspectors will simply scan the appropriate hand, saving commuters the bother of reaching for a phone, card or paper ticket.

A fare inspector testing InWave on the UP Express last month.

A Metrolinx source tells me that InWave originated with the same think tank that came up with the idea of studying hydrogen fuel cell technology as an alternative to electric trains.

For more background information read this.

Eglinton closed between Black Creek and Weston this weekend.

That’s pretty much it.

According to M.P.P. Laura Albanese,

  • This work is scheduled between Saturday March 24th and Sunday March 25th, 2018 
  • The work will occur from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. 
  • Eglinton Avenue West will be closed from Saturday March 24 at 6:00 a.m. to Sunday March 25 at 8:00 p.m.
  • Work may be rescheduled due to weather conditions or unforeseen circumstances.

For more details, read this.

Crosstown update and open house tomorrow

Metrolinx is holding an open house to showcase its Eglinton Crosstown project tomorrow, Tuesday, between 6:30 and 8:00pm. The project is set to open in 2021 and provide rapid transit and connections along and (mainly) under Eglinton between Mount Dennis and Kennedy Road. On display will be images of construction progress, construction timelines and details of likely impacts that future construction will bring in terms of noise and inconvenience.

Location: York Recreation Centre at 115 Black Creek Drive.