The TTC is finally addressing the enormous challenges of an ageing subway signalling system. Today, the TTC released a really good video that clearly explains not only the current track signalling system, used to manage the flow of trains, but also an outlook on the latests technology that’s being installed – which promises to finally bring the TTC’s subway system into the 21st century. Or at least finally leave technology from the 1950’s behind.
- The current ‘Fixed Block‘ system cannot allow for any more capacity and is limited to only one train per block, resulting in unused “headway” in front of trains, and large stretches of reserved track behind trains
- The new Automatic Train Control (ATC) using Communication Based Train Control (CBTC) to create a dynamic or ‘moving block’ that expands or shrinks depending on the trains speed and location (measured and re-calculated many times per second) for maximum safety and efficiency
- ATC will also result in faster service with fewer delays resulting from signalling system failures or issues
This leaves us to wonder a few things about the future of subway transit in Toronto
- If trains can travel faster and closer together, does that allow for more trains to be in service during rush-hour, or just that they can bunch-up tighter during delays, and the infamously regular “passenger assistance alarm” episodes.
- When is the ATC project expected to be completed, and at what cost?
- If more trains can operate, at what point would the costs outweigh the service benefits?
- What is the ideal ‘sweet-spot’ of increased ridership and service levels vs. the costs required to provision increased ridership
As we look forward to seeing tangible benefits of this ATC project, we’ll likely continue to wonder what the ideal ridership level is for a transit system that was clearly not built to handle the current rush-hour load.
Perhaps we can consider other solutions, alleviating measures, and even other forms of optimization such as:
- Reconfiguring train-sizes, speeds, and frequency
- Addressing the methods of dealing with “Passenger Assistance Alarms” since they are clearly greatest source of system delays
- Looking at social factors like workday schedules and time-shifting options to alleviate the rush-hour crush, and spread out passenger loads
Stand-By for further updates…