The Western LRT study outlined in the previous posts assumes there will be a WLRT and a separate local LRT along Carling should one of the non-Carling routes be chosen for the WLRT. But could the two services be combined?
If one of the northern corridors is chosen for the Western LRT, then the TMP identifies Carling as the route for a supplementary LRT corridor. Thus the political process has pre-selected the mode, it is up to the engineers to make it work and be financially viable.
If Carling is the route of the Western LRT, then a supplmentary transit service would be required in the northern corridor, presumably Tunneys west to Lincoln Fields. This could be Bus Rapid Transit (ie bus lanes, “stations” instead of curbside stops, and bus priority measures, including using the existing transitway trench. Or it could be a LRT service.
The city has decided the main LRT is to be a long haul system. Many/most of the passengers will be longer-distance commuters. This is a direct consequence of Council decisions in the 80’s to promote lower density suburban developments outside the greenbelt. Therefore the primary corridor service will operate trains at higher speeds, have stations 800-2000m apart, support nodes of redevelopment near substantial stations accessed by a dedicated right of way.
The supplmentary LRT service is short haul. A short haul system is designed to for local service, at lower speeds, to promote continuous strip redevelopment along the right of way, to have simple stations (curbside shelters) 400-800m apart, and a priority right of way rather than an exclusive right of way. They used these pictures of LRT service in Toronto as examples:
The study team seemed unfavorably disposed towards trying to combine the short haul and long services (eg having local and express trains on the same track, or skip stations).
Here are some other bits I noted at the presentation.
Turnbacks: it is operationally undesirable to start all trains from the main maintenance yard every morning, as it would take quite a bit of time to “populate” the network. Instead, some trains will be parked at turnback siding(s) at Lincoln Fields. This also provides a place to dump dead or defective trains in the middle of the day, or to short-turn trains, or have extra trains to put in service at peaks. Other stations mentioned for turnbacks include Bayview and LeBreton. These downtown locations are required to send trains out on Canada Day and other festivals to handle large crowds.
Station Platforms & Train Lengths: for several years the DOTT – OLRT study assumed the start-up system would have short trains on short platforms. These platforms would be designed to be easily expanded to handle six car trains (180m platforms). However, they are now planning for only five car trains at maturity, opting to run trains more frequently, and selecting train designs that can carry more people. While they didn’t mention it at the last briefing, some new LRT systems use articulated train sets with a single continuous passenger compartment for the whole train and no gaps or barriers between cars. They did however, imply that they had a strong favorite car design. While the shorter platforms reduce construction costs, I expect the more sophisticated rolling stock will offset that saving.
Chosing the Route: Council will choose the actual route for the Western LRT. The study team is examining all the route options and evaluating them using a common criteria. The evaluation criteria comprise comparative, qualitative, and quantitative criteria. Each focus group assigned each criteria a rank and then a weight. Each items was scored on a 0 to 4 scale. The main criteria are shown below down the left side of the table. Across the top are the weighting assigned to each criteria by the different consultation groups:
- the study team — consultants and city staff
- the joint agency group — NCC, Farm, PWGSC, etc;
- the public consultation group, and
- the business consultation group.
It is most interesting to see how the different groups value different criteria, sometimes they are all close to the blended average, sometimes they are far apart. These numbers, by the way, were calculated from all the workbooks received by a certain cut-off date. More workbooks are coming in, so the table in the final report will differ.
It is tempting to get alarmed at some of the results. Does the study team really put a low value on a safe system? Or is it simply that they assume it will be a safe system regardless of the route choices, and thus feel it is not a highly differentiating factor? Does the public really not care if it is a wise public investment, or do they simply assume any route will be of similar value? The purpose of gathering a variety of viewpoints was to ensure many perspectives were incorporated, not to foster invidious comparisons.
The pie chart below shows the table weights:
The next steps are a public open house on the 8 June, 2011; followed by a recommended corridor(s) to Transportation Committee in September 2011.
Construction and system testing was originally scheduled by Council to be complete by 2019, but this time line is too pessimistic. There is now official talk of having it running by July 1, 2017, our sesquetennial.