Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Toronto’s alternate reality SkyTrain: The Scarborough RT

From time to time, I must travel to Toronto for my job. Normally things are so hectic that I don’t really get a chance to explore beyond Toronto’s Downtown. Because of scheduling this time around, I had some time during the day to explore the Toronto Transit Commission’s rapid rail network.

One of the things that has always fascinated me is the Scarborough RT. This 6.4km line was built using the same technology as our SkyTrain network in Metro Vancouver. The RT opened in 1985, the same year that SkyTrain officially started operation.

For two systems built using the same technology, during the same time period, they couldn’t be any more different. In Vancouver, the SkyTrain network is operated by computers. In Toronto, the RT is operated by a human in each RT train set. This was due to political reasons. Because the vehicles weren’t designed for operator cabs, space is at a premium in the RT vehicles.

One of the things about TransLink is that it is always working to make sure the transit system is in an excellent state of repair. If you go to any SkyTrain station, or ride in any SkyTrain vehicle, they are all in good shape.

The TTC has not invested in keeping the Scarborough RT in a state of good repair. It has only done the required maintenance to keep the RT from falling apart. The stations have missing ceiling bits, light fixtures are missing coverings, and while the stations are clean, they haven’t aged well.

When I was riding the RT, the announcements were garbled, and it was noisy in the cars. People really love the SkyTrian in Metro Vancouver, but people in Toronto hate the RT. They hate it so much that the City of Toronto is planning on ripping it up, and replacing it with a combination of subway and conventional light rail.

I snapped some pictures of my experience with the Scarborough RT.

Scarborough RT

While some people get hung-up about transit technology (I used to.) The Scarborough RT experience shows me that great rapid transit service is more about maintenance, frequency, and location than SkyTrian, subway, light rail, or BRT.


Anonymous said...

Hey Nathan

After seeing a couple of these trains in person, do you believe it would be smart(assuming we could pick em up for a song) to use them here in Vancouver after they are done with them in a few more years.

1. They would provide a capacity boost for fairly cheap.
2. It would show the public that Translink is truly short on cash and is making good use of the money we give them.
3. The TTC has just put money into refurbishing/upgrading them just before the Pan-am games this summer.
4. They might be a good parts supply for our own fleet.

Just a thought.

Bardak said...

I think that translink will end up picking them up for scrap pricing. I doubt that they will end up in revenue service due to the modifications for a drivers cab. They will beba good source of parts though.

Bardak said...

I think he RT is a lesson to be learned about trying to extend a line with a different mode. A good reason to extend the skytrain down Fraser highway and Broadway. LRT can be used on different route that aren't natural extensions of the current skytrain such as King George and 104 ave or 41st ave.