Track Work Plans

In the midst of all the Transit City postings, something for those who love to monitor the reconstruction of our streetcar system.  Here are the track plans for the TTC as published in the 2007 Capital Budget.  Note that these will change between now and the actual proposed dates, but it gives a sense of what’s in the pipeline for the next few years. Continue reading

Transit City (7) Thirty-Five Years

After spending the whole day at City Hall and the evening writing about Transit City and responding to many, many comments, a few personal words.

Back in 1972, the Streetcars for Toronto Committee fought to preserve Toronto’s streetcar system and with it, the basis for an expansion of low-cost rapid transit into suburbs that were still farmland.  I have walked along Finch Avenue East when it was a dirt road with sheep grazing on one side and apples ripening on the trees on the other.

We almost got the start of that network with the Scarborough LRT line, but Queen’s Park had a better idea and GO Urban was born.  That boondoggle led eventually to the RT and in the process convinced everyone that low-cost transit was impossible and subways were the answer.

Only one problem:  we couldn’t afford them, and that’s over two decades ago.  Endless wrangles on where to build one subway route wasted huge amounts of time and reinforced the idea that transit was not going to serve the suburbs.  What has become the gridlocked 905 follows directly from the folly, from the abdication by planners and politicians to make a good, working transit system in the outer 416 as a model for what could grow into the 905.

Megamayor Mel’s contribution was “downtown North York”, an oxymoron if ever there was one, and the Sheppard Subway.  I remember Mel saying “real cities don’t use streetcars”.  This is the same person who called in the army to shovel snow, and who sold out his opposition to the Harris amalgamation plan in return for a guaranteed shot at the Mayor’s job.

I remember the long dry years when the contempt for public input and transit advocacy was palpable.  No point in wasting my time on carefully researched deputations.

Today was an event I’ve been waiting for although I never really expected to see it.  This is an LRT plan on a scale and with the political support we should have had 30 years ago.

And so my deep thanks to many who have supported my transit advocacy over the years, to the politicians and press who have listened to my incessant rants about LRT and transit in general, to the professional staff at the City and TTC who against the odds have kept up a belief in transit, and to the growing and lively activist community who bring new hope that people actually care about what happens to our city.

Transit City (6) The Money

This is part of a series covering various aspects of the Transit City announcement of March 16.  In previous posts I have looked at various aspects of the network both as presented and as in might evolve and improve.  Now let’s look at how this stacks up against other transit proposals for funding.

The total cost of all seven lines is $6.1-billion.  Assuming that this is spend over a 15-year construction period, that’s about $400-million per year.  The value includes a fleet of 240 vehicles at a presumed cost of $5-million each.  These would be much larger than present-day streetcars and have a capacity close to that of a subway car.  Examples of cars in other systems can be seen both on the Transit City site and on many other transit activists’ and ethusiasts’ pages.  I’m not going to get into cataloguing the options here.

Of these lines, by far the most ambitious is the Eglinton line which consumes over 1/3 of the total program cost.  This line has the highest cost/km ($73-million) due to its tunnel section for about 10km across the central part of the city.  This line can be built in stages with a good chunk of the underground part coming last.

A major purpose in getting out the Transit City proposal was to allow the City, the media, the citizenry and the politicians at many levels of government to have something concrete to talk about.  We all know that cities, especially Toronto, want more money for transit.  Everyone knows what a subway is, but few know about LRT.  Discussions about the future of transit inevitably bog down in a hopeless circle of “I only want a subway” and “We can’t afford subways”.  Being a transit advocate in that environment is challenging. Continue reading

Transit City (5) The Southern Network

The southern part of Transit City overlaps the existing streetcar system and some of the studies already underway.  Transit City itself includes:

  • The Waterfront West LRT from Union Station to Long Branch

Other related schemes include:

  • The Waterfront East plans for East Bayfront, West Donlands and the Port Lands.  EAs for the first two of these are already underway.
  • The St. Clair streetcar right-of-way and its extension to Jane Street (see discussion in the West Network post).
  • A review of operations and service quality on the 504 King Route released today on the supplementary agenda for next week’s TTC meeting.  [I will comment on this at a later date.]
  • The proposed Front Street Extension.

The Waterfront West line has, until now, been described as ending in southeastern Etobicoke, currently planned for a new loop at Park Lawn and Lake Shore.  I am pleased to see that the Transit City proposal recognizes the potential of all of southern Etobicoke and extends the LRT plan all the way to Highway 27.  For years, it seemed like the Park Lawn terminus was an inevitable first step in replacing the streetcar service to Long Branch with buses and further isolation of the area from the rest of the city. Continue reading

Transit City (4) The North-Central Network

This post continues a series of articles about the Transit City announcement on Friday, March 16.  I have subdivided the discussion to keep these posts to a reasonable size and to focus discussion on each part of the network.

The North-Central section of Transit City comprises:

  • The Eglinton LRT originating at Kennedy Station (see discussion of the East Network) and running straight across town to Person Airport or beyond (see discussion of the West Network).
  • The Don Mills LRT from Steeles Avenue to the Danforth Subway.

These are the two largest and most expensive parts of the proposed network, and they will likely take the longest time to fund and build.  Both of them require some underground construction, especially on Eglinton, and this will lead to the inevitable demand to “just build a subway”.  That urge can and should be resisted. Continue reading

Transit City (3) The West Network

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. Continue reading

Transit City (2) The East Network

Transit City is such a big announcement that boiling it down into reasonably-sized posts is a challenge.  Rather than writing one article about the routes overall, another on technical bits and pieces, and yet another on the possible future, I’m going to treat major portions of the network as one post.  My hope is to keep related discussions about individual lines in the same place.

The eastern portion of Transit City is made up of:

  • A Sheppard East LRT from Don Mills Station to Morningside.
  • A Scarborough-Malvern LRT from Kennedy Station east via Eglinton and Kingston Road, and then north on Morningside beyond Sheppard into Malvern.
  • The eastern part of the Eglinton LRT from Don Mills east to Kennedy Station.

In addition, two other studies are now underway:

  • Extension of the Scarborough RT east and north from McCowan Station to meet the Sheppard LRT.
  • Kingston Road from Victoria Park to West Hill.

All of the LRT lines would be at grade with the exception of the Sheppard line’s interchange at Don Mills Station. Continue reading

Transit City

Today the TTC unveiled an astounding plan for a 120km network of LRT lines for the City of Toronto.  You can read all about it on the website created for the plan at this link.

Nothing like this has ever been announced in my 35 years of transit advocacy. Even the 1990 David Peterson government’s scheme for many subway lines doesn’t come close. That plan was mostly bits and pieces patched onto an existing network and recycling a lot of old plans.  Very little was actually built and most remnants of the program were killed off by Mike Harris.

Transit City is completely new.  Many of the lines in this plan have never been part of old transit studies, or have appeared as full-blown subway lines, not as LRT.

This is the plan I have been waiting 35 years for.  Ever since the Streetcars for Toronto Committee fought to keep our streetcar system as the nucleus of a much larger suburban network, I have waited to see a real LRT network promoted by the TTC and embraced by the City.

Already, some critics are wondering how this will get approved and funded.  We seem to have no trouble proposing subway lines we don’t need at bankrupting prices, and it’s time people knew that there is an alternative.  This will mean some hard political choices about the use of road space — it’s always easier to bury the transit system than to deal with design and traffic issues on the surface.  But now, after decades, we can have this debate with a real plan as a starting point.

I will comment in detail on the plan over the weekend when I have time for a longer post, and will incorporate the many comments received on this subject.

Light Rail Comes to Toronto

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. Continue reading

Some Day My Parts Will Come

Long time readers here will remember my survey of escalator status, and will also have noticed that I didn’t publish anything on the subject for quite a while.  Why?  I was keeping track, but the problem of escalators being out of service seemed to have faded to a tolerable level.

Maybe it’s a statistical blip, maybe the bad old days are back, but last week, I hit something of a “home run” for out-of-service elevating devices. Continue reading