Tomorrow, March 16, will be a landmark day for LRT in Toronto. At 10:30 am, the TTC will unveil a plan for a large network of lines covering the city.
[I have deleted the links to preliminary articles on the Star and Globe websites as they are out of date. You can read the latest coverage by going there yourself. Amusingly, the usually well informed sources have different lists of what’s in the network to be announced Friday morning. We shall see who’s right.]
This plan provides Toronto with the missing pieces of both the Ridership Growth Strategy and the Official Plan.
The purpose of RGS was to show what could be done to improve the day-to-day TTC system quickly and without huge expense. Some fare changes have already been implemented, some service improvements, and many more are to come. Regular readers will know that I have complained that it took so long, but at least improvements are coming soon.
The RGS was highjacked by the subway junkies who couldn’t abide the thought that we might be turning away from that mode. One month after the Commission approved RGS, the staff were back with an amendment in which the TTC re-affirmed that Spadina and Sheppard subway extensions were its top priority. On that motion rests a small industry of lobbying for subway funding.
The Official Plan assumes the presence of a network of medium-capacity surface routes serving “Avenues” of medium-density housing. If you hunt carefully, you can even find a photo mock-up of Eglinton and Kingston Road complete with an LRT line. However, no details of an LRT network were included in the OP.
Now Torontonians have a chance to see what can be done without spending billions on subways. The cost estimate, according to the Star, is about the same as that of the Spadina VCC subway extension.
Although we have not yet seen the plans, some of the lines are mentioned in by the Star. This may trigger the inevitable squabbling that used to attend subway announcements back when we could actually contemplate more than one of them at a time about where to put all of the lines.
That’s not the important issue. What is important is that we are finally looking at a network of LRT, looking at what a network of major transit improvements can do for the city with a timeframe of a decade or so. This fundamentally changes the way we think about transit’s role in the city and the GTA beyond.
The TTC will have its work cut out showing people what really can be done. A recent presentation about traffic congestion featured many photos of mainly European LRTs running through narrow streets on reserved lanes and transit malls. That’s not the model for new suburban lines in Toronto. The TTC needs to show examples of lines on wider arterial streets so that suburb-dwellers can see the mode in a setting more familiar to their daily lives.
Friday’s announcement will undoubtedly generate lots of press coverage over the weekend, and I will comment on the details here once they are available.