I agree with a lot of your points. I think the vision for many projects has already been determined before it meets RFQ for engineering design. This is a massive failure on the part of political involvement in what should be an apolitical process. One thing I don't understand is how Metrolinx can back projects that have BCRs of less than 1. A PDBC that yields something more costly than beneficial... shouldn't be built? Let's be frank, this is also the most optimistic point in the project - the cost tends to only go up from this point. I think this happens too often and I'm surprised not more has been critiqued about this in the press. Contrastingly, I find it intriguing to see how CDPQi approach(ed) REM expansions in Montreal, with an albeit brutal but efficient objective - even inciting the dismay of some architectural firms. I guess it didn't work out so well for them either...But that's the thing, what have the engineering firms done to earn my trust? Lets look at the currently ongoing public transit improvements in Toronto and my engineering gripes with them:
The above are only some of the reasons why I don't trust the city/Province's design decision making process. I don't doubt the skill of the engineers involved in these projects, just that they're decisions are made for them by politicians and others that don't know how to make design decisions. And the engineers are forced to manipulate the numbers to support these decisions.
- Eglinton West LRT extension - The EPR Addendum is written solely to support the underground+elevated option that was championed by Doug Ford. The alternatives presented were non-sensical and made the underground+elevated option the preferred choice by default. The daily boarding for the current proposal is 5,000 riders lower than the surface LRT option, while being billions more expensive. How is that sound engineering design decision making?
- Eglinton West LRT extension - Arguably the widest ROW in all of Toronto, but only elevated for 1.3 km of the total 9.2 km length. Elevated is handily cheaper than tunneling. Granted the elevated portion is to get past the Humber River, which is logical. But why not elevate for the rest of Eglinton as well where there is tons of space to do so?
- Scarborough extension - Again, wide ROWs, but deep stations with zero attempt to look at elevated. The station at Lawrence and McCowan is, I believe, one of the deepest in Toronto. This is to get below river in that area, but Metrolinx went elevated for the Eglinton West LRT, why are they tunneling deep in this location? They aren't even being consistent with their design decisions.
- Yonge North extension - The distance between the end of the Bridge station and beginning of the High Tech station is around 300m. Stations are one of the most expensive parts of transit building in Toronto, they're building 2 stations within 500 m of each other in the outer fringe of the city. Where is the sound engineering decision making evident in this?
On the topic of deep stations, one has to consider the throughput of passengers in these circumstances as well as time. If reachable only by high-speed elevator, you may require a multitude of elevators in order to meet the capacity of stairs or escalators. Not to mention reliability and maintenance. With depth, also comes journey time: it physically takes longer to transfer and navigate. But at the same time, this can also be used as a people movement benefit. There is an interesting case study which I believe is implemented in the London Underground, where making the route longer can reduce crush capacity instances. Consider making the journey from fare gate to platform longer for embarking passengers and much shorter for disembarking passengers. LU has used their tunnels and wayfinding to great effect for this. There is a strange elegance in creating small inefficiencies to create a wider system efficiency that I find is lacking in the modern ethos for design. The symmetry in the snapshot is wonderful, however I often wonder if this generic approach is "good enough".