Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sheppard LRT public consultation - updated

I've updated this for the corrected stop spacing.

Yours truly attended the TTC's initial public consultation on the proposed Sheppard East LRT.

Here's a rundown of the details - good, the bad and the we're not sure yet - with my two cents worth:

(Information is from the display boards, Gary Carr of the TTC and Praveeen John from URS consulting.)

The details:

1. Stops and spacing

The TTC presented a board showing:

Red - existing stops
Green - agreed upon stops
Yellow - To be determined

Counting the Green + Yellow, it seems to work out 550 metres between stops. The TTC guy explained that the stops are closer together (i.e. proposed) in the retail intensive stretch between Victoria Park and McGowan - and thus spaced wider along the residential stretches.

The stop spacing issue is the Achilles' heel of this streetcar plan. The stop spacing the TTC is floating here is slightly longer than I've read in other spaces. This is comparable to the Strasbourg tram - which has average speeds of about 21 km/hr. This is negligibly faster than the Sheppard buses today.

The drawback is longer (roughly double) walking distance to and from stops - especially in the residential sections. With the walk to Sheppard plus walking along, many people will be looking at walks to and from getting up to 1 km each way.

If you live on Sheppard, and are at a stop you'd be in luck. If not - the extra walking means that you lose the time you've gained due to vehicle speed. The improvement in speed (20 km / hr ==> 21 km / hr) gains the average rider (based on 7 km) 0.9 minutes each direction each day. However, the rider loses 1.8 of those minutes by having to walk another 150 meters at 5 km / hr.

My two cents - the 21 km / hr is an insufficient improvement to attract riders. The increased spacing actually make using the service less attractive for quick trips - because of the added time walking (and distance carrying groceries.)

My guess is that public pressure will result in more stops and lower speed. I'd guess that speed will end up about only 1 km/hr faster than today's bus service.

2. Street layout

The streetcars would run in a semi-private right-of-way - similar to those on Spadina and under (interminable) construction on St. Clair W.

The cross section diagrams presented showed three of the typical proposed cross sections:

1. Mid block - no station

Here there is no sidewalk cut. There are two traffic lanes. The traffic lanes are reduced by 20 cm from the current standard (now 3.5 m - proposed 3.3 m). There is space for bike lanes (1.5 m) on each side - and some street-scaping (shown as little trees on the schematic.)

2. Mid block - with streetcar station

The station locations will require 2.5 m of sidewalk cut on each side.

The stations themselves will have platforms 3 meters wide and 60 meters in length.

3. Intersections

The signalized intersections will provide for a U-turn phase for vehicles to access locations on the far side. There will be two traffic lanes in each direction (widths as described above) and a left-turning lane of 3.0 meters in width.

The length of the turning lane is not specified.

There was no information on the turning radii support for commercial vehicles - the issue that the TTC and city swept under the rug on St. Clair.

My two cents - I didn't have a chance to explore the section of Sheppard under study. It's hard to tell how much the sidewalk cuts will reduce the attractiveness of the street for pedestrians. The intersections on Sheppard have a bit more space than on St. Clair W - so perhaps the stuck trucks problem wont be as bad at is in St. Clair.

3. Trains

The TTC is proposing to run two car trains at 5 minute or so intervals.

My 2 cents - I actually agree with this approach. The non-train-based Spadina service is impossible to keep 'on track'. A 5 minute service interval allows signal systems to give the LRVs priority without completely stopping traffic in the other directions.

I would note that extrapolates out to about 32o LRVs for the overall proposed Transit City Network with 20 % spare factor. Add some cars for the Eglinton line - which might be three LRVs per train - and we're close to the 386 I calculated back last year. (See: http://hogtown.blogspot.com/2007_03_01_archive.html)

Of course, riders will lose about 1 minute for each wait - since the headway on Sheppard E is currently about 3 minutes. (Average wait will increase from 1.5 minutes to 2.5 minutes.)


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