More Reader Comments

Herewith a bunch of comments on vaguely related subjects.  If yours isn’t here, fear not, I really am trying to catch up!

Walter Lis writes:

St. Clair Avenue West narrows just west of Caladonia Road.  At Prescott Avenue, at the railway bridge, a hydro line crosses St. Clair and runs parallel from about Old Weston Road to past Scarlett Road.  I am guessing that the hydro line was rejected as an alternate route for the streetcars because of NIMBY.  Just a thought.

Steve:  I don’t think the idea of following that right-of-way ever came up.  The biggest problem with rights-of-way is that they tend not to be where people want to go.  The last thing we should do to St. Clair west of Caledonia is reroute the streetcars through a field of hydro lines.

By the way, the little park on the corner of Prescott and St. Clair used to be Prescott Loop.  Before the grade crossing went in, streetcars came up Old Weston Road from Davenport and back east to loop on the west side of the railway line.  Caledonia Loop (on the NW corner, now a fast food joint) was the west end of service coming along St. Clair, and was in fact the end of the Bay car that used to run from here to the Ferry Docks.  Both loops were abandoned when the railway was grade separated.

David Cavlovic writes:

How successful–or-not do you feel Mel’s “Downtown” at North York Centre Station has become?  Is it people-friendly?  Are they getting “proper” density levels?  As a station I have always felt North York Centre, and it’s entrances, are purposely hidden from public use.  It’s not really a people-friendly station.

Now that I live in Ottawa, I see where OC Transpo may be making the smae fatal mistakes as the TTC.  They are so committed to an LRT in an area where it is not needed, but ignore the areas where it is — the Transitway, which was designed to be converted to LRT, but that fact is now all but ignored by city officials, who say that arguing that point is “not forward thinking”.  Bastards!

Steve:  I find “downtown North York” a very sad place.  Yes, there is a square, but it has none of the life found regularly at Nathan Phillips Square downtown.  The architecture of the surrounding building is amazingly boring, and the only interesting stores and restaurants are in the few remaining old buildings.  When these are eventually flattened for condos, I wonder what people up there will have to do.  Meanwhile, there’s a lot of vacant space in the office towers and mall area — once the initial low rents that induced first tenants to move in disappeared, they moved right out again, if in fact they had even managed to stay in business.

North York’s motto was “The City With Heart”.  Some heart.  Imagine if Mel and his cronies had built all of Toronto to look like Yonge and Sheppard.  Mind you, the suburban mindset lives on in the Planning Department and all you seem to need to get a hugely over-density condo downtown these days is the right architects and lawyers.  Density without a community kills a city, even if the buildings are beautiful to look at.

Geoff writes:

7th Ave is as I’ve seen it a “transit mall”, with a lot more of the rough-and-tumble side of Calgary.  I was there over Christmas, and the renovation is nice to see (some of the old stations are really dingy downtown), but I hope they have more shelter than before.  Nothing like standing on 7th Ave waiting 15 minutes for an LRT with a swirling prairie winter gale piercing every seam you’re wearing.

Steve:  The figures I cited for the level of service on 7th were, of course, peak period and they combined service from more than one line.  Calgary leaves their trains intact between the peaks, and this means wider headways on each branch than, frankly, I would recommend for Toronto.  Who is going to wait 15 minutes for anything in the winter?  This is related to a concern I have for the new streetcars in Toronto, namely that we will see much wider headways, especially outside of the peak, and the usual sloppy TTC operations will make the current ragged service seem like nirvana by comparison.  Short turn one car and the gap will be so big, riders could walk miles without ever seeing any service.

[In a separate comment]  I understand that there are places where the 3-car approach will work in Toronto (in your opinion would the TTC acquire cars with the same bogie width as its other vehicles?)  I made the comment about 5-car platforms because it’s the one aspect of Calgary Transit that I don’t particularly agree with — staying with 3 cars in their trainsets.

I am glad to hear that Calgary has taken a forward thinking plan with new lines, but something is going to be done there about capacity.  It’s difficult to even get on a train during rush hour, or at least that’s my personal experience (esp on the NE line).  So since they are planning to stay with 3 car sets, the other way to solve it will be reduce headways.

The studies say that they can raise the number of trains per hour on 7th to about 36 from the present 28, and that 4-car trains might be an option.  5-car trains are mentioned, but the reports don’t sound too hot on the idea.  Also, I would hate to think of the offpeak headways with such large trains if they cut those 15 minutes headways to 20 to compensate for all the additional “capacity”.  The long-term plan is to split the lines so that there are two separate routes through downtown.

Brent Hooton writes:

I came across that C-Train stats page sometime last year, and was struck by the average construction cost listed — especially $35M/km for underground construction.  I’d love to know if this is really a reasonable average cost or if it’s a real lowball, and if it is reasonable, how applicable would it be to Toronto?  (Is there something that makes tunneled construction significantly cheaper in Calgary than in Toronto?  Is it cut-and-cover vs. bored? etc.)

Steve:  I believe that the figure cited has not been adjusted for inflation and does not include any stations.  Current reports give the cost of the 8th Ave LRT subway proposal at about $500-million. This is only slightly less than the total cost of the system to date ($548-million).

Sheesh, even at twice that rate or more, if Mel had swallowed his pride and submitted to LRT on/over/under Sheppard, it would be done by now.

Steve:  Mel could have had a wonderful network, but to quote the Mayor himself, “Real cities don’t use streetcars”.  We are still paying for his and the TTC’s stupidity in supporting an all-subway scheme.

Greg Mckhool writes:

The Wogster’s comment on the headaches involved in including York Region in TTC decisions is right on.  I thought the original subway proposal to Steeles was bad enough.  But when I heard the announcement included the Jane/Hwy7 stop it totally ruined my day.  I realized the one additional stupid stop was going to bad for at least 3 reasons:

  1. Added cost to build it will delay the whole project
  2. Need for more environmental assessments will delay the whole project
  3. From now on, York Region will effectively be a tail that wags the TTC dog

Steve:  Watch for some clever scheme that will use the first batch of funds to get construction underway to Steeles in time for next fall’s provincial election.  They can worry about York Region’s share and the EA later.  It would be too much to hope that York Region might push for an LRT scheme rather than a subway line.

The Wogster writes:

The problem in Toronto, is that instead of one unified set of plans, you have a bunch of tin-pot dictators, you have the planner of roads, the planner of bike routes and lanes, you have the planner of parks and the planner of sidewalks, and the TTC and GO transit each have their own planner.  None of these planners EVER talk to each other, instead city council gets each set of plans, and reworks them into a complete mess.

Steve:  Don’t forget the army of consultants, many of whom are former planners.  It’s a great industry.  Meanwhile, the city gets lousy advice because everyone looks out for their own schemes, and the more expensive the better.  After all, building transit is all about job creation, and if we actually carry any passengers, that’s an unexpected bonus!

Jeremy Tompkins writes:

Subway for York University students or LRT for York, Eglinton, Kingston Road, the rest of Sheppard and the crosstown CPR tracks.  This is the question and must be put to official debate.

The Spadina extension at 6.2km is forecast to cost $242-million per km.  This compares to LRT in Charlotte and Portland that cost $27M and $16M per km, respectively.  People behind this crazy scheme to blow our money building this boondogle (McGuinty, Sorbara) to suburbia need to get off at Downswiew station and walk north through the barren field sit down and meditate.  It might actually be cheaper to rebuild York university closer to the existing subway.

Sure [names omitted to protect the guilty] stand to benefit from land appreciation, but what public good is this serving aside from point-to-point rides between York and the current terminus.  Build York a LRT, on a guideway if necessary, but if this is our only chance at real trasnportation upgrades in a generation.  Rarely do the stars align.  Lets build to density and use LRT and RoWs to improve transportation across the city.

Steve:  My hope, vain though it may be, is that by the time McGuinty & Co. have to actually pay for this thing (or parts of it), people will start asking why we are spending so much for so little.  We’ve wasted 25 years when we could have built a wonderful LRT network, and if we don’t stop planning only subways, the suburbs are doomed to strangle in their own congestion.

That’s all for now.