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Transit vehicle capacities compared

I was cruising the twitter sphere yesterday when I came across the following chart, outlining the various transit vehicle capacities here in Toronto. It was created by Cameron MacLeod of #CodeRedTO, which is a grassroots group advocating for “a rational, affordable, and achievable rapid transit strategy for Toronto.”


On the left you have the vehicle type and then you have the capacity in terms of number of seats and standing room. The planned capacity is essentially the sum of those two numbers and the “unsafe crush load” is the number of people you could fit if you really put your back into it.

Articulated buses refer to the longer (1.5x) bendy ones and, similarly, ALRV streetcars are the longer, articulated version of our regular streetcars. The low-floor streetcar is similar to what Toronto will be getting. And SRT is the Scarborough Rapid Transit system.

The chart also compares between vehicle types: How many cars would you need to move the same number of people? How many buses? And so on. As one example, you would need 15.9 buses or 982 cars to move the same number of people as the Yonge subway line!

What’s missing from the above chart though is light rail transit (LRT), which is comparable to the linking of up to 3 low-floor streetcars. In the case of the under construction Eglinton Crosstown LRT line, the planned capacity is 750 people!

This is an hugely important takeaway because many people, including our own Mayor, do not properly distinguish between streetcar and light rail. The two are not one and the same. LRT has the potential to move a lot more people.

In fact, at 750 people, the Eglinton Crosstown could move more people than the Sheppard subway line, which is only operating on 4 cars (as compared to 6 on our other subway lines).

So while it’s all fine and dandy to bang our fists on the table and advocate for subways, they don’t make economic sense in all parts of our city. With the Sheppard line, we’ve been leaving capacity on the table and wasting taxpayer money.

Of course this chart is also useful for those outside of Toronto. What I like about it is that it clearly shows the tool chest available to cities when it comes to building transit. Every city and neighborhood is different. And I think it’s important to have intelligent conversations about what makes sense in each.

Thank you to Cameron and #CodeRedTO for allowing me to post their work.

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