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TTC revamps approved

Transportation agency recommends province give the TTC $424 million for signal system, new trains

Nov 24, 2007 04:30 AM Tess Kalinowski Transportation Reporter

The TTC has received fresh support to expand capacity on its overburdened Yonge-University subway line in a large package of transit improvements approved yesterday by the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority.

The province’s new transportation planning body is recommending the province give the TTC $424 million over the next five years to install an automated signal system and add 21 trains and crossover tracks on the 55-year-old Yonge line.

Together, the improvements would allow Canada’s oldest and busiest subway line to handle 30 to 50 per cent more passengers by 2017.

Work on the signal system, known as automatic train control, has already begun as part of keeping the TTC in good repair.

The computerized system, considered the international standard, replaces the colourful wayside signals that tell train operators whether to speed up, slow down or stop.

But as the TTC tries to keep up with a backlog of renovations, items like that have contributed to a massive shortfall predicted to hit the commission’s long-term capital budget.

If the province agrees to pay for the subway improvements, it would alleviate that shortfall - an estimated $698 million to $1.5 billion between 2008 and 2012 - according to TTC chair Adam Giambrone.

The new trains, to be delivered starting in 2009, can accommodate about 10 per cent more people - 1,200 to 1,300 passengers - and are considered about three times as reliable as the existing model.

They also come ready to use the new signal system, which will make it possible to run them at higher frequency, said Giambrone, who also sits on the GTTA.

“You take all of that together and we have up to a 50 per cent capacity increase. You could run a train every 10 seconds but you wouldn’t be able to get people on and off trains, so you have to be realistic,” he said.

The Bloor-Danforth line, which isn’t quite as crowded yet, will eventually be converted to automatic train control too, he said.

The GTTA also is recommending $7.1 million for startup costs on the Transit City light rail network and a designated bus lane on Yonge St. between Finch and Steeles Aves. that would give mass transit vehicles from around the region priority on the heavily congested stretch.

The subway improvements, including the new Toronto Rocket trains, are a prerequisite to expanding the Yonge subway into York Region, TTC chief general manager Gary Webster told the GTTA.

The TTC projects were among more than a dozen selected by the authority as the next round of transportation priorities among a $9 billion regional wish list.

Others include bus rapid transit along Hurontario St. in Mississauga, another BRT line along Dundas St. in Burlington and Oakville, and service expansions on York Region’s VIVA transit.

There’s no guarantee Queen’s Park will fund the projects, but all are among the 52 improvements called for in Premier Dalton McGuinty’s MoveOntario 2020 plan, announced in June.

An earlier list of so-called “quick wins” - projects chosen because they could be initiated quickly and demonstrate the GTTA’s seriousness about getting the region moving - was released in July.

It included a series of GO Transit expansions, improved bus service in Hamilton and a new Cornell transit terminal in Markham.

In September, McGuinty endorsed that list.

The GTTA has also committed to creating an integrated web-based trip planner that would allow transit users to easily plot trips that require transferring across the various regional transit systems.