The agenda for the July 27 GTTA Board meeting includes overviews of the transit plans from all of the GTA regions plus an GO Transit’s schemes. This material has been updated to reflect the MoveOntario2020 announcement, but not the current budget crisis at the TTC. In the timescale that these plans operate, that crisis will only be a memory long before any of this is actually built.
Queen’s Park is looking for “quick success” stories, projects that can show some concrete return in very short order. They actually hoped, at one time, to be able to have photo ops before the election, but that’s not very likely.
Having all of these plans in one place is useful both for people who are not familiar with what each region has been thinking, and to show just how far the entire GTA has to move to make any serious dent in the rising car traffic. Some regions don’t plan to be above 10% transit share by 2031 and, given their development and travel patterns, how that can be improved is a mystery. We can extend the reach of GO Transit, but travel within and between regions travel is quite another matter.
The Toronto summary is interesting for what it omits: a consolidated view of Toronto’s many plans and studies rolling together the Official Plan, Transit City and various free-standing undertakings such as the Kingston Road EA which still does not appear on most maps. This presentation, a joint effort of TTC and City Planning, shows the fragmented nature of our current planning. We have complementary sets of plans, but there’s still a TTC plan and a City plan. Where the TTC is unabashedly pro-LRT, City Planning still mutters quietly about BRT. There’s a place for both, but there can be no doubt about the primary mode — LRT.
GO Transit’s material has been updated to reflect the proposed funding for Lakeshore electrification and for expansion of service on existing and new lines. GO now shows “potential GO rail expansion” to Bowmanville, Peterborough, Uxbridge, Vandorf, Barrie, Bolton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge and Niagara Falls. That’s quite a menu.
GO also refers to a “second Union Station” at Summerhill (the CPR North Toronto Station better known as the LCBO). Where, exactly, GO plans to put the passengers who will attempt to transfer to the subway, I am not quite sure. Oddly, neither the GO nor the Toronto presentation say anything about GO’s planned new west concourse at Union.
GO expects to double its ridership, but this is based merely on keeping up with demand at existing market levels. Go recognizes that there is a latent demand that will more than double their ridership. Although the presentations don’t say so explicitly, I suspect that this relates to increases in service quality with more all day services and frequent trains on an electrified Lake Shore route. This has very important consequences for downtown Toronto and Union Station, even though it will only scratch the surface of travel demand in the regions.
The regional plans are a big problem. Even those with identified LRT or, at least, “rapid transit” options will require extensive feeder services to make their transit networks function attractively to riders. Huge increases in population and projected travel, inside of and between the regions, dwarf the planned transit expansions leaving the modal split mired well below a level where a significant part of the populus even considers transit as an option.
The background papers leading up to the MoveOntario announcement are also on the GTTA site in the What’s New section. There’s a mound of technical information there and I have not yet had a chance to digest it. Note that these were written before Transit City was announced and therefore that network does not appear anywhere in the reports.
This should keep everyone busy reading over the weekend, but none of this will have any currency until money is available at all levels. We know there is a transportation crisis, but will we do anything about it? Will we tie ourselves in knots arguing for “my line first”, or will we fund enough that increments are measured in months, not decades? Will we starve Toronto, thinking of it as “the city” even when its suburbs have major transit needs and have as much in common with their 905 neighbours as with the inner 416? Will the GTTA and Queen’s Park waste their effort on schemes to unify transit operations such as attempting to take over the TTC, or will they concentrate on expanding transit services throughout the GTA?
The GTA’s job is to improve transportation and transit in particular, not to get into turf wars. Toronto already shows everyone what turf wars yield — a handful of very expensive, very small rapid transit lines and a surface network starved for resources. No photo ops for a better bus route, and yet without a strong surface network, transit all over the GTA won’t have a chance.
Hamish Wilson has long campaigned against the Front Street Extension and for better transit in that corridor. Responding to Toronto’s presentation at the GTTA, Hamish wrote a long letter that assembles many of his arguments about the FSE and other projects. I don’t agree with everything Hamish says, but do support his opposition to the FSE.