This is one of a series of articles about the Transit City plans announced on Friday, March 16. I have subdivided the subject to keep the posts to a reasonable size and so that the discussion comments can be groups to a handful of closely related lines.
The western portion of Transit City consists of:
- A Finch West LRT line running from Finch Station via Finch Avenue to Highway 27
- A Jane LRT line running from Steeles West Station west to Jane and south to the Bloor Subway
- The western portion of the Eglinton LRT from the environs of Pearson Airport eastward
Other studies underway include:
- Extension of the St. Clair streetcar line west to Jane
- The Blue 22 express service in the Weston corridor from downtown to the airport
All of the LRT lines would be at grade except for Eglinton east of Keele and probably the south end of the Jane line. More about that later.
The Finch LRT is a striking proposal because it places a new transit service in the middle of an arterial street despite the siren calls of a hydro corridor between Finch and Steeles. This decision is vital to the success of the line to serve local riders on Finch, not just long-haul commuting rider from northern Etobicoke looking for a quick ride to the subway. This line will provide a strong east-west link into north Etobicoke that is not designed to handled downtown-bound traffic.
Together with the Sheppard subway and LRT, the Finch LRT will provide paths across the top of the city. Yes, someone who wants to go from Scarborough to, say, Humber College will have to transfer several times: Sheppard LRT to Sheppard Subway to Yonge Subway to Finch LRT. That is not ideal, but the real question is how many people really want to make that trip.
No matter how we design the network, there will be breaks because the logical corridor for a northwest service is on Finch, while we already have an established corridor on Sheppard in the east. There will be a discontinuity at Don Mills station, no matter what, and another one at either the Yonge or Spadina line (assuming a westerly expansion of the Sheppard Subway that we can’t afford and for which there is no justification in demand). It’s not perfect, but I doubt the residents of the Finch Corridor are going to complain too much.
The Jane LRT is an interesting route both for the neighbourhoods it serves — areas where much better transit service is badly needed — and because it has never been on anyone’s map for possible rapid transit. At the north end of the line, the connection to Steeles West Station gives a tie-in with both the subway and the expanding York Region network.
The south end of Jane is a problem that will take a will to hold good transit in a higher position than political expediency. The very south end of the route runs through an area where at-grade operation would be quite difficult, and a short underground section would almost certainly be needed. However, there is a better way for a route serving the north end of Jane to get to the Bloor Subway: down the Weston rail corridor on the route planned for Blue 22. If we take this approach, a number of things happen:
- Service could be operated from Dundas West Station north and west via Eglinton to the airport. This would be an alternate route to a connection with the Eglinton LRT line at Eglinton West Station.
- The Jane route would connect with the St. Clair car at Keele Street rather than an extended route at Jane.
- If Blue 22 does not get built, this eliminates the justification for some of the proposed changes to the Weston rail corridor especially in the town of Weston itself.
The downside would be that the southern part of Jane, below Eglinton, would not have LRT service.
The Eglinton LRT would be at grade west of roughly Keele (the exact location to be determined). Originally the Richview Expressway was to run where Eglinton is now, and that’s why the right-of-way is so wide. There is no question that there is room for an LRT line in that corridor. Western extension of the Eglinton line into Mississauge is an obvious future option, and would also provide for an airport service from the west.
This is not as unified a view of transit as we have in Scarborough, but that’s partly due to the geography and the location of some existing lines. Like the Scarborough proposal, the western part of Transit City will bring faster travel to areas that are now far from subways and their frequent service.