Scarborough RT Final Report — Remarks for August 30, 2006

The following is the text of the deputation I will be presenting on August 30 at the TTC meeting.  Note that the length and complexity are dictated by the context of public deputations with a finite limit on both time and attention by the Commission.

The text of this presentation has been edited to indicate changes made when it was delivered. 

Continue reading

SRT Final Report — RT Or LRT?

The SRT study is to be considered at the TTC meeting on August 30.  There are three documents in all:

I am not going to attempt to duplicate this material here and recommend that readers review the documents for detailed background to this issue. Continue reading

TTC Riding Continues to Grow Despite Budget Constraints

The Chief General Manager’s Report covering the month of June is now out in the TTC’s agenda here.

In it, we learn that riding for the first half of 2006 is up 3% (6.4-million) over last year and 1.8% over budget.  The numbers would have been higher without the loss of 1.2-million rides to the May 29th wildcat strike.  Revenue is better than budget and expenses are slightly under.

Current projections show the total 2006 ridership at about 442-million (6-million over budget), and there will be a small surplus at year-end.  The impact of the recent changes in tax policy for monthly passes have not yet been factored in.

This continues a familiar pattern with TTC budgets that are conservatively cut, but brings us back again to the same problem we had last year:  the City’s bean counters won’t let the TTC actually spend the surplus or commit it to additional service, and if last year is any indication, this money will reduce the City’s contribution to TTC operations.  Year after year of conservative budgeting by the TTC constrains our ability to run more service because riding and revenue growth are underestimated. Continue reading

Streetcars for Scarborough?

Moments ago on the CBC, I listened to Councillor and TTC Commissioner Glenn De Baeremaeker talking about where transit should be going in Scarborough.  Next week, the Scarborough caucus of Toronto Council will ask the TTC to adopt a plan to build a network of streetcar lines in Scarborough rather than simply replacing the RT line’s existing equipment.

Reading between the lines of De Baeremaeker’s comments, TTC staff are recommending the lowest-cost option — new RT cars — rather than conversion to LRT as the basis for a Scarborough network.

Clearly, Scarborough Councillors want a network that will improve service throughout the east end of Toronto.  This is a big change from their former position asking for a subway replacement for the RT.  The contrast with the situation on the Spadina extension through York University to Vaughan is quite amazing.

In today’s Star, we learn that Vaughan’s Mayor Di Biase is confident that Ottawa will fund the subway as well as bus-only lanes and LRT in York Region.  Just imagine how much more LRT we could build if we didn’t insist on tthat $2-billion subway extension.

The tide may finally be turning for LRT in Scarborough, and I hope that the TTC will embrace this proposal.  Let’s see how much an LRT network would cost, what sort of service it can provide and how soon we can build it.

Suddenly Transit’s A Big Issue Again (3)

This is the third and final installment of a commentary on many articles that appeared in other media over the past months on transit subjects.  You can read part 1 here and part 2 here.

On July 23, the Star ran a long article by Paul Bedford, former Chief Planner of the City of Toronto, entitled We Want Change.  Bedford poured over hundreds of emails from Star readers and found that the electorate is far ahead of politicians in what they want and will accept to fix the problems of our city, including its transportation system.  One vital finding is that people don’t object to paying taxes provided that they actually see some return, some improvement in the services they use and depend on.  Politicians with a slavish devotion to lowering taxes, no matter what the cost, should take note. Continue reading

Where Did Cleveland’s Streetcars Go?

History Detectives on PBS will air a program next Monday, August 28 at 9:00 pm on the disappearance of Cleveland’s streetcar network and, by extension, the fate of urban transit systems in the USA.  I have not seen the program and cannot give an advance review, but you can link to the program’s website here.  PBS (WNED Buffalo) airs on cable 61 in Toronto.

The railfans among us will know that Toronto operated ex-Cleveland PCC cars in trains on the Bloor-Danforth line along with ex-Louisville cars that hardly ever ran in that city before Cleveland bought them.

The systematic dismantling of streetcar networks all over North America is a long, sad story tied inevitably to the rise of the automobile.  Toronto was lucky to keep its streetcars — a healthy, growing downtown made for a much different transit environment — but we almost lost them to subway mania in 1972.  Alas, the LRT network that might have grown from our original system is still mostly a dream while politicians compete for their own subway lines.

Another Stratford Visit

Last weekend took me to Stratford again for four productions:  Fanny Kemble, The Glass Menagerie, The Liar and Don Juan. 

The first three are reviewed below, while Don Juan is in a separate following post comparing it to the opera Don Giovanni.  A friend of mine saw Twelfth Night which I reviewed a while back, and I have some comments to add on that play at the end. Continue reading

A Tale of Two Don Juans

Recent cultural travels have taken me to two separate tellings of the Don Juan story: Molière’s Don Juan dating from 1665 is now playing at Stratford, and Mozart’s Don Giovanni of 1787 capped the Toronto Summer Music Academy & Festival at the University of Toronto.  I’m going to assume some familiarity with the story here because my primary interest is to compare the two works and productions. Continue reading

UK Tories, the BBC and Portland, Oregon

Mike Gordon sent me a link to a recent piece on BBC Newsnight called Where the car is not king.  It has a short print version and a 14-minute video extolling the virtues of transit and urban planning as practiced in Portland, Oregon.

The amazing part about this piece is the “reporter” — Sayeeda Warsi who is the vice-chair of the Conservative Party, those folks who will take over whenever Labour manages to lose an election in the UK.

One intriguing reference that isn’t fully explained deals with “public-private partnerships”.  Over here, the 3P approach usually means that the public pays for an asset, the private sector is subsidised to run it, and they may even get to keep it.  In Portland, the partnership works like this:  the public sector builds the transit infrastructure and expects the private sector to build development in a form that supports a transit-bike-pedestrian-skateboard lifestyle.  The public infrastructure creates the environment in which the private sector can build saleable developments.

The print version of the article is here and you can link from there to the video.  This was posted on August 15.

Fleet Street Follies

We talk a lot in this town about how progressive and pro transit we are, but there are times I wonder if anyone at City Hall really cares.

The project to rebuilt Fleet Street which was part of the TTC’s planned capital program since last fall has been held off to 2007.  Why?  It seems that Toronto Hydro and the City Works Department have not managed to get their designs and staffing plans in order, and there is no way that the work can be done this year.

Streetcars will continue to plod over some of the worst track I have ever seen in Toronto until, at best, next spring when we may finally see the reconstruction of Fleet Street and its conversion into a transit right-of-way.

This change was so last-minute that the original detailed announcement of the September Schedules (on which I reported in another post) included the Fleet Street project, but the service summary for September shows the service going to the CNE.  If you look closely, you will see a reference to Union Station service on the 511, but this is left over from the original version of the schedules.

The September Service Summary is available on the TTC website here.