TLC for LRT Volume 4: 66th Street Tunnel Update

Here’s one of the questions ETS is hearing a lot these days: why are Capital Line trains running every 12 minutes during peak hours between Churchill and Clareview LRT stations?

The two-second answer: our track work, your safety.

The longer answer: 900 metres of track replacement in the tunnel between Belvedere and Coliseum stations means northbound and southbound LRT trains must take turns using the same stretch of track—and 12 minutes between trains is the sweet spot that balances travel speed and safety.

The bigger picture: the LRT needs periodic TLC. Your LRT is over 40 years old, and while a lot of the news headlines are devoted to building new LRT, it’s essential that the City does the less glamorous but vital maintenance work to keep the line humming for another 40 years.

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Keeping track of traffic

When both tracks are available, LRT dispatchers can send at least eight, five-car Capital Line trains between Churchill and Clareview stations during the 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. hour. Currently, with one track available, only five trains can go through.

“We know that the frequency reduction in Capital Line trains has produced some frustration for some commuters,” said Lloyd Meyer, Manager of LRT Operations. “We hear that loud and clear. We are working as efficiently as we can to get the two tracks back in operation. Above all, we thank our customers for their understanding and patience.”

Meyer said that schedule delays—a stuck door that takes time to close, a mechanical problem or the need to slow down when approaching the single-track section—may increase travel times slightly, and magnify frustration.

“One of our top priorities is continuing to ensure customers are able to commute safely on the LRT,” said Meyer.

What about those four-car Capital Line trains? Were alternatives considered?

Meyer said ETS tries to ensure five-car trains at peak hours between Clareview and Churchill. When customers see a four-car train, that’s because a car that needs repairs has been removed. When that happens, replacement cars are substituted in as quickly as possible.

Meyer also said ETS considered replacement buses and bus shuttles during tunnel work, but determined buses would take just as long or longer than the LRT.

Work is moving ahead

Over the last few weeks, crews have removed the rails, ties and plates from the northbound track. Last week, they started to prepare for new concrete pads and put new rocks outside the tunnel section. The rocks are ballast for the train, providing stability by helping to hold the track in place while trains run on top. This week, new rails go in.

In June, work switches to the southbound line. Regular LRT service is to return during K-Days. Then crews go back to finalize the project, including catenary (the wires above the trains) work, until August 30. Please stay tuned to ETS social media and for regular updates.

The project budget is approximately $2.5 million.

And what about those five-car Metro Line trains when there’s higher demand for trains to Clareview?

While ETS can’t increase the number of Capital Line trains during peak hours, they can increase the size of Metro Line trains between Century Park and Churchill. So, they did.

That means customers travelling between those stations on either the Capital or Metro Line enjoy six-minute frequency service— only a minute longer than regular peak hour service.

Thanks for riding, thanks for reading.

Editor’s Note: The next TLC for LRT arrives in June. For now, check out track tamping in action. ETS is taking advantage of the track revitalization construction zone to do realignment work south of Belvedere Station. The result will be a smoother ride and less wear on the tracks.