Bob Brent left a very long comment, and I’m putting it in a post of its own. Please note that I do not intend to do this regularly, and don’t want to encourage people to try to turn this site into their own blog. However, after some of the [expletive deleted] comments I have received here about my pro-LRT orientation, it’s nice to get some fan mail.
[The bad link in the first paragraph has been corrected. Note that it goes to a Power Point file, not a PDF.]
I recently presented to the 5th GTA Transportation Summit “Marketing Transit: TTC Case Study. Looking back… to see forward, lessons for the GTTA.” and touched on the issue of GTA RT expansion.
There are several issues that I believe Steve rightly brings up… not as a LRT advocate… but as a rational, objective TRANSIT advocate. Steve’s about as mode-neutral as they come, not that he needs me to defend him!
It’s clear looking back over the past 25-30 years that something is very very wrong with TTC RT expansion planning when serially, the Spadina subway extension, SRT, Downsview Subway extension and Sheppard subway fail to generate the rides projected in internal TTC or TTC-politically-driven EA’s whose outcome are predetermined before they begin.
At the St. Lawrence Congestion Forum TTC Chair Adam Giambrone spoke about building transit “Where people want to ride” or “Where the rides are!” This doesn’t mean build subways or build LRTs or BRTs or add buses… it means build an integrated transit network… or as they said at the recent Moving the Economy summit… “Transportation Hubs” to make effortless mode switches to get you where you wanna go!
These “recent” TTC RT expansion projects all share a common outcome—they apparently weren’t built to where people want to ride, nor where the rides are! Why is this irrationality allowed to persist, generations after the ribbon-cutting politicians who generated them are out of public office?
Subways act as high-speed collectors and distributors for GTA surface routes… both bus and LRT. They’re symbiotic… they need each other to be mutually successful on the scale of the GTA. Build a subway without surface collectors and distributors… and it will languish (see above!) regardless of the number of highrises immediately beside it. For example, the YUS along Allen sucks at Glencairn, but is a going concern at Lawrence and Eglinton West due to the heavy bus traffic despite few highrises nearby.
Steve has often commented in his myriad posts that eastern BD succeeds despite a lack of high-density development due to its network of integrated bus and streetcar “feeder” routes. This network, along with the “holy grail” of transit-based development (something like that) is why Toronto has a 21.9% transit modal share vs. only 3.9% in 905.
This means in Toronto there are almost 4X as many NON-transit as transit trips (21.9:78.1) while in 905 there are over 25X more NON-transit as transit trips (3.9:96.1)—a staggering number and helps explain why congestion is the number one issue in York Region—despite YRT doubling their ridership over the past 5 years!
Despite all the recent TTC RT expansion woes, the bedrock of TTC ridership growth over 60 years is the success of its inter-modal-linked surface/RT network, that makes it cheaper, faster and more convenient than the car for many people, for many of their trips.
As a Vancouver native, I don’t have Steve’s command of Toronto neighbourhoods, let alone individual TTC routes (0/10 or so on Spacing’s Intersection quiz!). I do know the north of the city around the Yonge line to Finch—with its hordes of YRT, ViVA, GO, Brampton and TTC buses that clog this 2 km stretch of Yonge (see GTA bus-only congestion every rush hour at Yonge-Bishop—1 block north of Finch).
When I would advocate within the TTC for extending the Yonge line north from Finch to Yonge or the BD line from Kipling to Sherway Gardens, it always got a cold, if not hostile shoulder. The message was clear… the TTC wanted to keep 85% of Ontario transit capital dollars within Toronto… to heck with 905 riders pounding Yonge or Burnamthorpe (along which, I also worked 4 years) to get to/from the TTC subway.
As Steve mentioned, the TTC’s 2001 RTES study was preordained… its outcome was known in advance—York U first, finish Sheppard-East second—even now 6 years later with the Sheppard subway far below the TTC’s own 2002 gloomy ridership forecasts.
Is GO the answer? I don’t see how, when it runs on track owned by CP and CN—where freight pays the bills, as GO CGM Gary McNeil says. Even sharing track GO is looking for $1B in expansion capital over the next 10 years or so. Imagine the capital cost to run on exclusive GO trackbed—it simply isn’t affordable, let alone have the capacity of a subway to run 1,200 passenger trains every 2min:20sec.
GO really is “Business Class” transit ($5.00 average GO fare vs. $1.72 for TTC) for peak, non-discretionary long-distance inter-regional travel to work or school and back, with little off-peak service compared to TTC and other GTA “local” transit providers.
It’s clear to anyone with a smigeon of common sense and a pinch of analytical ability that something’s fishy with the YorkU/VCC subway that is projected to only carry 30M rides/year at a (conservative) cost of $2B. People seem to have trouble understanding such a large number… just build it they say… and rides will come.
After touring the Transit City LRT Routes all day one recent Saturday, Budget Chair Shelley Carroll said recently.. “I could see it… the ridership on each of the LRT lines.” Then she added “They say when you build it they will ride, but not with the subway… it will just be there!”
Well, if the Sheppard subway wasn’t built (a bit under $960M budget), we could have bought over 1,250 hybrid buses at full ($750K) cost. Imagine what TTC service could be, across Toronto if the TTC bus fleet were 75% bigger!!! Sophisticated multi-nationals don’t do such simplistic comparions, they ration capital via “CAPEX” financial planning.
As a private sector guy who was Profit & Loss responsible prior to my transit involvement, it’s clear that what is needed is some form of rational capital rationing for transit… let the politicians pitch their favourite routes… but ensure they are subjected to financial scrutinty and discipline, BEFORE they are actually built… with someone’s ass on the line if they don’t achieve ridership targets!
It’s time for the GTTA to start acting as Ontario’s Transit CFO… to fairly ration capital by ridership, amongst all the worthy transit expansion projects on a mode-neutral, system-neutral basis… just as Steve is advocating here!
Steve: I’m with you almost to the end, Bob, but fear the GTTA will be utterly hopeless at the task you would have it undertake. Does Rob MacIsaac have more than one canned speech yet and any sense that he knows what he is doing?