The Tyranny of Old Plans

Some months ago, John Sewell gave a series of talks about the origins of suburbia.  Among the fascinating background materials were several maps showing the expressway network in what we now call the GTA and beyond.

Some of these maps are now 70 years old, but they clearly show the precursors of many of the 400 series highways.  Many decisions about future land use and development turned on alignments that Ontario identified and protected years before they were needed.  Long term planning has benefits, but it can also be an invisible hand directing the future.

Three long-lived transportation projects in Toronto come to mind.  All shared two common factors:

  • property development interests played a role in advocacy for these projects, and
  • all of the projects were “too expensive”, but they stayed on the books 

One project is already built albeit in shortened form, one is in early days of construction, and one refuses to die even though it’s little more than a billboard and a perfunctory website. Continue reading

Another View From The Beach [Updated]

I received the following comment from Tina R., and there are enough separate issues here that it deserves its own thread.  This deals with service to The Beach as well as general questions about buses versus streetcars and LRT, and express operations.

An update about running times on the Queen car, added on May 27, appears at the end of this post. 

Continue reading

Forty Years of GO Transit

Late last week, I did an interview for CBC in anticipation of GO’s 40th anniversary celebrated on May 23rd.  A few clips were used on both TV and radio, but we covered a lot of territory that didn’t get on air.  Hence, this post.

For a detailed history of GO’s many routes, including some ideas that never got off of the ground, please turn to the Transit Toronto website.  My topic here is more “what might have been” and “what might still be”.

GO began in an era when the wisdom of expressway construction was under attack, and the first train ran fully four years before the Davis government would kill plans for the Spadina expressway (not to mention a network of other horrors that would follow).  Clearly, someone understood the idea that just building more and more lanes had its limits and there were better ways to get people into downtown Toronto.  It’s worth remembering this context.  What we now call the 905 was largely rural, and there were still a few farms in outlying parts of Metropolitan Toronto. Continue reading

“Doors Open” at the TTC

Doors Open Toronto is coming up this weekend, and there are two TTC sites open for visitors.

Lower Bay Station

Lower Bay recently had weekend subway service during the diversion around tunnel repairs between Bay and St. George Stations, and it will be open for walking visitors on Saturday, May 26 from noon to 3:00 pm.  Note that this site is not accessible as there are no working escalators to the lower level.

Here is a note from the TTC with the details:

Entry into Bay Lower station will be from inside Bay Station – we will have volunteers and security staff guiding people into Bay Lower from the collector’s level.  As there are two sets of doors into Bay Lower station we will be using one for entry and the other one for exit – we therefore will have a continuous line into the station going straight through and out the other end.

We will have the crash gate open on collectors’ level and we will line people up starting at that location – there will be some signage around the station to indicate the start line as everyone will start in the same spot no matter where they entered the station.

We hope to be able to accommodate everyone who comes to visit us that day.

Harvey Shops

The main repair shops at the TTC’s Hillcrest complex will be open from noon to 3:00 pm on Saturday.  (The last time I was inside this building, they were rebuilding PCCs and it’s time for another visit.)

The full site listing is available at the Doors Open website.

Harbourfront News (Updated)

Updated May 18:

Service to Exhibition Loop resumed today with normal operations on the Bathurst and Harbourfront cars to Exhibition Loop.

Updated May 15:

For those who were wondering why the TTC is fixing the track on Fleet Street when it is supposed to be replaced later this month, here is the answer:  our friends at Toronto Hydro can’t handle two projects at the same time, and since they’re busy on St. Clair, Fleet will have to wait.  Come back in the fall.

Streetcar service should return to Fleet Street once the patchwork on the track is completed.  The schedule for May-June still shows the cars running to Exhibition, and so the TTC should be able to restore service once there is track to run on.

More news when it’s available. 

The original post follows below. Continue reading

Improving Service on King and Queen

[Those of you who want oodles of details won’t find a complex spreadsheet or chart here, and you will have to take some of the numbers on faith.  Trust me.  The reason for this post is to stimulate discussions and to ask the question “Why Not?”.]

We all know that service on the King and Queen routes leaves a lot to be desired, but little is done about the situation beyond the usual complaints of congestion and the need for an exclusive right-of-way.  Although major changes won’t happen until we have a larger fleet, improvements are still possible if only there is the will to make them.

I have been looking at a number of route configurations (some of you will know of my schemes for the Long Branch car), but believe that in the short term the first issue we must confront is the assignment of vehicle types to these two routes and the number of cars available for service.

My proposal, briefly, is that the King line operate exclusively with ALRVs and that Queen run with CRLVs.  Service and capacity would be increased in both cases.

The following discussion concerns the AM peak when service is at its height.  All other times of day would be adjusted accordingly. Continue reading

Preliminary Specs for New Streetcars

Tony Turrittin of Transport 2000 sent along a copy of a note explaining to potential bidders the kind of requirements that would appear in the specifications for new streetcars.  I am publishing it here to save on answering ongoing queries about what the TTC plans to do.  Note that this is a shortened version of the original text to retain the core information about the Commission’s technical requirements. Continue reading

Why Do We Have Streetcars?

This piece is much more of an editorial than my usual writing here in response to a lot of ill-informed commentary about the streetcar system and Transit City.  This is not intended as a definitive, answer-all-questions epic on why we should keep streetcars, but as an overview of my position. 

Some will think I am too aggressive, moving too fast, or just plain out of my mind for my opinions on the role streetcars and LRT can play in Toronto.  I happen to have similar feelings about those who advocate subways and other inappropriate technologies.

For three decades, Toronto has been appallingly served by its professional transportation establishment and by its politicians.  While the rest of the world goes on with building, or rediscovering, the streetcar and LRT, we clung to the idea that they were quaint, something for the tourists, but not “real” transit.  We blew years on studies looking at small extensions to our subway network that would do almost nothing for the city overall and leave large areas without decent service.  We just about convinced everyone that good transit could never happen because we could never afford it.

With Transit City and the Official Plan there is hope that we are moving in an important new direction.  

Recently, a reporter at the Star who shall remain nameless left me both a voicemail and a comment here asking that I get in touch about a piece he is writing.  He has not returned my call back, and the email he left bounces.  This leaves me little alternative but to reply here to the questions I think he might be asking. Continue reading

East Bayfront / West Don Lands Update

The materials presented at recent Community Liaison Committee meetings for the two EAs now in progress are available on the TWRC website.  Note that they are not thick with explanatory information as they are intended to accompany a verbal presentation, but they show where things stand with the planning now.

Several issues have been raised by the CLCs, and a revised set of proposals will come back to the next CLC meetings later in May.  The material in these documents is not definitive.

East Bayfront (roughly Bay & Queen’s Quay to Parliament)

The West Don Lands material has not yet been posted on the TWRC site.  I will add the link here when it is available.

Shelters on St. Clair (Updated)

The TTC will install new shelters on St. Clair starting in late July.  They are currently at the stage of approving drawings for the manufacture of the shelters, then there will be a prototype, then the installation.

I can’t help wondering why on a project that has seen so many delays we are only just now getting around to the preliminary stages of building the shelters.  This is one more example of a project with equal measures of bad luck and bad planning.

On a brighter note, I was at a community meeting tonight regarding the detailed plans for this year’s construction between Westmount and McRoberts, and things went much more smoothly than the raucous gatherings of earlier times. 

Update May 9:  The presentation materials are available online.