Transit Realities In Toronto

Transit realities are coming into the fore in Toronto and Toronto’s mayor Ford is being dragged screaming and kicking into the 21st century; even the Mayor’s political appointees are singing the light rail song!

The Mayor’s anti-LRT stance is based on many factors, including;

  • Subways keep traffic lanes open for cars, thus are poor in attracting the all important motorist from the car, but makes the various auto lobbies very happy.
  • Subways are very expensive, with lots of money to spread aroundAi??for engineers, planners, contractors, cement manufacturers and alike, mostly friends of the government.
  • Subways are cool to cut ribbons in front of, because of the physical size of the project, it gives the taxpayer an impression of money well spent.
  • Subways are the great excuse for bad transit planning, when congestion becomes problematic, politicians always rely on the old; “but we built a subway for that, now it’s up to the people to use it!”
  • Subways become development and land speculationAi??tools, where cronies of the government buy and sell land along a subway route like a Monopoly game.

Vancouver and TransLink planners should take note with what is happening in Toronto, with their grandiose yet poorly planned SkyTrainAi??subway planning, lest the regional taxpayer demands that they too be dragged kicking and screaming into 21st century transit realities, or beAi??replaced with much more transit savvy experts, who actually know what they are doing.


TTC chair fires first salvo at Fordai??i??s LRT plan

From Tuesday’s Globe and Mail

Published Monday, Jan. 23, 2012


TTC chair Karen Stintz took a risky butAi?? important step when she questioned plans for the Eglinton-Scarborough CrosstownAi?? transit line. Risky because it puts her at odds with the man to whom she owesAi?? her post, Mayor Rob Ford. Important because it opens a debate on the biggestAi?? transit project in the city.

The $8.2-billion light-rail line is to carryAi?? passengers from Black Creek Drive in the west to the Scarborough City Centre inAi?? the east, linking up with existing subway lines and easing congestion. TheAi?? original plan for the line would have seen it travel through a tunnel in theAi?? centre of the city on either side of Yonge Street, but above ground on lessAi?? dense areas such as the eastern stretch of Eglinton Avenue. When he took officeAi?? in 2010, Mr. Ford ripped up that plan, along with the rest of Transit City, andAi?? said that the whole line must go underground.

That, Ms. Stintz says, makes no sense.Ai?? Light-rail vehicles are designed to travel on the surface, and the broad streetsAi?? of east Eglinton have plenty of room for them. If it is going to be light rail,Ai?? she wants to go back to Plan A and make it a mixed line: part underground, partAi?? above.

It would be much cheaper that way ai??i?? $1-billionAi?? to $1.5-billion cheaper, she says ai??i?? and the money saved could be used to pay forAi?? an extension to the Sheppard subway, Mr. Fordai??i??s favoured project. Changing backAi?? to the original plan could save time, too, because the environmental assessmentsAi?? for Plan A have already been completed and, with less tunnelling required,Ai?? construction would be quicker.

There are two barriers to Ms. Stintzai??i??s excellentAi?? idea: the province and the mayor. Take the province first.

Less than a year ago, Mr. Ford and PremierAi?? Dalton McGuinty struck a deal to have the province build an all-buried EglintonAi?? line and the city build a Sheppard subway. Given all the back-and-forth weai??i??veAi?? seen over transit in recent decades ai??i?? an Eglinton line was started then stoppedAi?? in the 1990s ai??i?? provincial officials would be reluctant to change course yetAi?? again.

But the political winds have changed since Mr.Ai?? McGuinty, facing a tough fight for re-election and trying to avoid a fight withAi?? a popular and newly elected Mr. Ford, signed that memorandum of understanding.Ai?? The wording of the memorandum makes clear that it is a non-binding letter ofAi?? intent, not a binding contract. If city council voted to return to Plan A forAi?? Eglinton and request the leftover money be used for Sheppard, Queenai??i??s Park wouldAi?? at least have to consider it.

Support is growing on city council for just suchAi?? a vote. It comes not only from left-leaning councillors who hope, against theAi?? odds, to revive Transit City, but from moderate and even conservativeAi?? councillors who wonder how much sense it makes to spend hundreds of millions ofAi?? dollars tunnelling under the wide open spaces of Eglinton east with a light-railAi?? line, not to mention the expense of spanning the vast Don Valley.

Conservative-minded Councillor John Parker hasAi?? raised doubts about burying the whole Eglinton line and using LRT technologyAi?? designed mainly for surface travel. Centrist Josh Matlow says he is ai???on the sameAi?? pageai??? as Ms. Stintz about the Eglinton line and urges the mayor to consider herAi?? idea.

Will he? Changing his mind on Eglinton will notAi?? be easy. His dislike of streetcars is well known, and the way he sees it, theAi?? light-rail lines that would go on Eglinton east are just a fancy kind ofAi?? streetcar.

Gordon Chong, a Ford associate who is lookingAi?? into ways of financing a Sheppard subway line, sounds lukewarm on Ms. Stintzai??i??sAi?? proposal. ai???While her suggestion is one way to free up funds,ai??? he told me in anAi?? e-mail, ai???itai??i??s not my preferred

But if the mayor would bend a bit on hisAi?? stubborn opposition to rails on streets, he has much to gain. His SheppardAi?? project is in trouble. Mr. Chong, who will present his report soon, has made itAi?? clear that even if the city can woo private-sector investors to the project, itAi?? will require government money, too. If more is left over from Eglinton byAi?? running it above ground where possible, the mayor could get a bigger downAi?? payment on Sheppard.

In an editorial, The Star says Toronto Transit Commission [TTC] chair Karen Stintz is risking Mayor Rob Ford’s wrath by suggesting the Eglinton light rail line doesn’t need to be totally in a subway:–ttc-chair-karen-\stintz-speaks-up-risking-the-wrath-of-mayor-rob-ford
“TTC chair Karen Stintz speaks up, risking the wrath of
Mayor Rob Ford.
(Monday, Jan. 23, 2012)

Karen Stintz has finally seen the light on a planned Eglinton light rail line ai??i?? and it’s not at the end of a tunnel. In fact, what she sees isn’t much underground at all. And that’s the point.

As chair of the Toronto Transit Commission, Stintz has finally come to realize that it makes little sense to bury all 18 kilometres (11.1 miles) of the Eglinton line, at a cost of $8.2 billion. And she’s daring to voice that sensible view even though it could put her on a collision course with Mayor Rob Ford.

Stintz, usually a Ford ally, is far from alone in questioning the wisdom of tunneling the entire length of the Eglinton route. Since disclosure of that misguided plan last spring, transit advocates have said burying this light rail line would send costs soaring while providing service inferior to that of a true subway.

Under the original Transit City plan for Eglinton, about 11 kilometres of the line was to go underground, in the most built-up sections of Toronto’s downtown. It was correctly felt that, outside the core, there was ample space on Eglinton for both a surface light rail line and traffic lanes. Ford called that kind of sharing a “disaster” for drivers and ordered the entire line built under the street, out of motorists’ way. Since the switch didn’t cost the province any extra money, Queen’s Park agreed, shamelessly abandoning proper transit priorities.

Now Stintz is pointing out the obvious ai??i?? this is a bad deal for those who ride the transit system and those who pay for it. And she offers some hope that rational planning might yet triumph.

As reported by the Star’s Tess Kalinowski, simply returning to the original Transit City plan for Eglinton likely wouldn’t involve any significant delay. New environmental assessments for an entirely underground route haven’t even begun, Stintz said. So there’s time to switch tracks and avoid Ford’s folly.

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