The Dig In Weblog

DIG IN initiates inclusive community and cultural plans and actions that will contribute to sustaining a neighbourhood that is GREEN • CLEAN • SAFE • CIVIL by fostering improvements in the areas of its social, environment, cultural, economic and physical make up. Please join our Mailing List / Yahoo Group.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Davenport Community Rail Overpass

Davenport Community Rail Overpass

I was invited to make a short presentation to the 36 member Davenport Residents’ Reference Panel that Metrolinx has formed. The Residents’ Reference Panel will work on behalf of their community to ensure that the Davenport Community Rail Overpass benefits the neighbourhood.

Following is the ‘script’ for my presentation. Many thanks to local resident Robert Haskett for his wealth of knowledge and will credit him as a co-author of my presentation.

As well, in an attempt to highlight the Davenport-Japan comparison in the next blog post I have provided an edited version of the back-up provided to me by Robert for you to review.

Community Benefits for Metrolinx Rail lines

I found an old email the other day.
It was the first email I’ve ever received on the railway projects. The date. March of 2009.
2009!  For over 6 years our community has been thinking about, toiling with, fighting for and stressing over these Metrolinx rail projects.
So now finally in 2015 we are about to talk about “Community Benefits”.  Okay. Here we go.
Let’s talk about real benefits for our community. Substantial Benefits!

What would we like to see?
Most of the concerns residents have regarding the project are with regards to
·         Noise and vibration
·         Diesel pollution
·     Accessibility       

Metrolinx (MX) on the other hand has the challenge to:
  • deliver the Regional Express Rail Plan
  • and have the people who live in Barrie arrive on time for Little Billy’s baseball game.

How do we achieve all this?

To Improve GO Transit and Reduce Community Concerns:  Electrify the Trains

GO Transit service would be greatly enhanced and our community concerns and objections to the overpass would be greatly reduced if the GO trains were electric from the very beginning

Of course, electric trains create
·         Less Noise and Vibration – We know electric trains are lighter and quieter thus significantly reducing noise and vibration – AND would probably not require Noise Walls
·         No Diesel Emissions –Thus addressing resident’s concerns about the pollution and the affects on theirs and their children’s health.
·       As well, electrifying the rail line would make it   more suitable for Local Stations which would Better Service Our Community

Think about it….
§    If GO service became more like an above-ground subway with local access, not only would ridership (i.e. revenue) increase significantly, but local community objections to this project would be considerably reduced. 
§     As it stands now, for the Davenport community our closest access to the Barrie GO line is Union Station, which obviously is not at all convenient. 
§ Additionally, much of Davenport currently lives in a “transit desert”. 

I work downtown Toronto. It takes less time for my colleague to get downtown Toronto from Whitby on GO transit than it does for me to get downtown from here (Davenport & Weston Road) via the TTC.
It’s no wonder people want to drive to work!

We need Local Stations to improve Community Access        
·         A Station at Bloor is an absolute must. Everyone who comes from Barrie does not need to go to Union Station. A connection with the Bloor subway would improve the MX service to their long distance riders who work mid-town as well as increase the accessibility to the local residents.
·         Why not a  St. Clair Station?  With electric trains, a station could be established at St. Clair to connect with the St. Clair LRT
·         Why not Other Local Stations?  With electric trains, local stations could be established at other appropriate locations between Union and York University, thus providing convenient north-south rapid transit in western Metro Toronto.

·         With electric trains, the GO line could basically operate as both a local transit and longer-distance commuter rail service
For example,   on most commuter train lines in Japan there is a combination of local trains (stop at all stations), rapid trains (stop at about half of the stations), and express trains (stop only at major stations).
The Local trains could make multiple runs especially during morning and evening rush hours, thus actually making efficient use of the actual trains

In Japan the design and routing of rail lines and the selection of station stops is done to maximize service for the entire community through which the rail line travels. 
In Japan, commuter rail lines do not just pass through a community.  Why would they?! Why would they bypass all those potential riders?  It just doesn’t make economic sense. 
In Japan, rail lines serve the entire area through which they pass.  As a result, it makes sense that most communities generally welcome a new rail line since it provides greatly improved local transit access to other neighbourhoods and communities.
Suffice it to say that increasing the number of stations would result in a significant increase in ridership and revenue (i.e. the MX bottom line), in other words: A Win-Win for MX!

For the community specifically:
* Electrification would mean quieter, cleaner trains running over our heads and homes. 
* Local stops at Bloor and Eglinton etc etc. would mean accessibility to efficient transit to West End residents.
This in turn, would relieve some of the congestion on the over-crowded TTC.
And… would decrease the number of drivers cutting through our residential streets looking for a quick route to work.

Over the years, many of us have spent many hours not to mention lots of blood, sweat and tears working to improve our community and make this a place to be proud of. We are proud to be Davenport residents and we are proud of the work we have done.
This rail project however has the potential to undo our efforts and really can Make or Break our community.
Regional Rail is important but as it stands now Davenport bears the brunt of the negative impacts while other Ontarians reap the benefits. Let’s fix that.

Let’s make history!
Let’s make it efficient, quiet, pollution-free – and reasonably priced so that few people will choose to commute by car.
Let’s demand Design Excellence. Let’s seek proposals from the most skilled teams of designers from around the globe and make the most magnificent piece of industrial architecture. Something that we all can be proud of. 
We need to make it useful.
We need to Do it once.
And we need to Do it right.
And lastly but not least….Let’s also build a connected transit system. One that can help a single mother in North Davenport get home to her kids as quickly as a mother in Barrie.   


Labels: , , , ,

Davenport Community Rail Overpass - Japanese comparison

Local resident, Robert Haskett is very familiar with the Japanese commuter rail system and very kindly supplied information comparing the Barrie GO train line to a similar stretch near Osaka, Japan. 

Comparison of Similar Commuter Trains:  GO Transit and Japan Rail
Rail Line
GO Transit – Barrie line
Japan Rail – Gakkentoshi Line 1
Bradford to Union Station
Kizu to downtown Osaka
66 km
60 km
Usual Number of Cars per Train
Total Station Stops 2
7 (none in Metro Toronto)
27 (rapid trains stop at 14 stations)
Normal Travel Time
77 minutes
65 minutes (by rapid train 3)
Single Fare 4
$9.20 (equivalent)

Comparison prepared by Robert Haskett – information valid as of May 9, 2015

1.       Gakkentoshi line was selected not only because it is comparable to the Barrie GO line (I chose to compare from Bradford to Union Station since the distances are similar), but it is also the Japanese commuter line that I have used the most.  It is worth noting that in the literally 100s of times that I have taken Gakkentoshi line over more than 20 years of stays in Japan in all seasons, I have experienced only one delay longer than 10 minutes, and less than 5 delays of any duration.
2.       Excluding departure and arrival stations; although the average distance between stations on the Gakkentoshi line in Japan is about 2.1 km, in the more densely populated urban areas, stations are spaced at 1 to 2 km intervals.
3.       During rush hours, there are usually 4 rapid train departures per hour + 4 hourly departures of local trains (which stop at all stations); generally there are 4 hourly departures from all stations all day between approx. 6 a.m. and midnight. 
4.       In both Canada and Japan, discounted fares are available, e.g. day passes and monthly passes.


1.      Compared to current GO train service, the electrified Gakkentoshi commuter rail line in Japan provides faster, more frequent, cheaper service with many more stations to serve the communities and neighbourhoods along its entire route. 

2.      Stations are located to be within walking or bicycling distance of residents, such that car parking is generally neither available nor required at most stations.  On the other hand, all stations have large bicycle parking areas which can accommodate 100s of bicycles.

3.      As with TTC subway stations, when a station is established, it becomes a node for both residential and commercial development.  This results in increased ridership (and revenue) as well as increased economic activity which benefits the tax base.

4.      Generally, due to the quieter operation of electrified trains, there are no noise walls or other visual barriers.  Since level crossings are very common, rail lines in Japan do not represent such a barrier as they tend to in Canada.

5.      With such frequent, fast, convenient service provided for everyone who lives in proximity to the rail line, it is understandable why almost every commuter chooses the train over driving a car.

Question: It seems like a substantial amount of rail traffic wouldn't 4 tracks be needed to achieve this?

Answer: Only 2 lines are necessary, one for each direction, except at some stations.  In Japan, most stations have only the 2 lines.  Local trains make brief stops at all stations, whereas rapid trains bypass half or more of the less busy stations. 
Station stops in Japan are very short, usually just 30 seconds (think TTC subway stops). 

With the rapid deceleration and acceleration of electric trains, even with frequent service, with proper scheduling the rapid trains do not “catch up” to the local trains so often, such that additional lines are only required at 10% or maybe a little more of the stations along the entire route (depends mostly on frequency of train service and the local/rapid train balance). 

Thus, 2 additional lines are only required for very short distances in relatively few locations.  These additional lines are simply short sidings (one for each direction of travel) at selected stations where a local train would pull off onto a siding to allow a rapid train to pass it.  I think on the entire Gakkentoshi line (from the comparison above), even with 4 local and 4 rapid trains per hour, the rapid trains only catch up to and pass local trains a couple of times in the 60 km length of the line.

Note:  the full context is more complicated because not all trains run the entire length of the line since ridership further out from downtown Osaka is lower, hence there are many “short turn” trains such that train service is more frequent closer to the city than it is farther out, which is what one would expect.

Robert Haskett

Click here for a better view of the JR  East Group Railway lines network (shown above)  

Labels: , , ,