We Get Letters

I have received a number of comments recently that have turned rather more abusive about past efforts by myself and others.  Also, I’ve had comments that attempt to trivialize the advocacy of LRT as railfan nostalgia. 

Please note that anyone who posts such comments will simply fall off the earth as far as my publishing any future feedback they might have, and they should spend their time elsewhere.

The most recent missives come from Libb Sotenez, and I’m placing them here in their own thread so that people can all see what I am talking about.  Unlike my usual policy of tidying up comments for presentation, I am leaving them here in all their unedited glory.

Mimmo Is right Steve, everytime I read your website it is so pro LRT and so anti other modes. Where were you Guy’s for saving our PCC fleet?? those were the best streetcars ever made.  I didn’t see anything to save our PCC fleet?  How about saving our gloucester subway trains?  At least one set of 8 cars should of been kept for Sunday operations and for charter service? Where were you guy’s then?  As for diesel buses, the GM fishbowls were also the best and most reliable buses ever produced, where were you then?  if you and other groups were pro transit, we wouldn’t have buses that have hard and slim seats and terrible reliability.  I’ve never seen you lobby bus makers or engineers into building a nice, fast and reliable diesel/bio diesel/hybrid bus.  Why didn’t you lobby GM not to get out of the diesel bus making buisiness, there two stroke diesel motors are the best, even today’s standards.      Toronto needs 300 more buses to meet demands and they should start buying foreign. Those VIVA buses are fast, quiet and comfortable.  VIVA has revolutionized bus riding.  Why don’t you lobby the TTC to do the same, to get more and better buses now to meet demands.  Let’s start small and maybe we as Torontonians would not consider bus riding an incovinience.  Our  Bus fleet and all it’s routes carries more passengers than all LRT routes.  Let’s give those people a chance to get better transit now, not 11 years from now with LRT.  We need immediate solutions now.  Better, faster and more  buses would solve that problem NOW. Start Lobbying for that Steve, then I’ll believe,  otherwise this is just another rail fan site.

I will take the comments in the order they appear:

Why am I so Pro LRT and Anti other modes?

I am Pro-LRT because this mode has been ignored for decades in Toronto when it could have been used to build an extensive suburban rapid transit network.  We have had vast amounts of misinformation about LRT from the TTC, from the Ontario Government and its handmaiden the Ontario Transportation Development Corporation (later the UTDC).

We live in a strongly road-oriented region where nothing less than subways has been seen as the answer to all our problems even though we cannot possible afford to build, let along to operate them.

Yes, I am Pro-LRT.  I want it to get a fair chance rather than being dismissed out of hand, or relegated to a distant secondary status in studies that are biased in favour of a subway option before they are even written (see the Spadina York U study for a classic example).

I am not anti-bus and recognize that large sections of our network will be operated by buses forever.  However, buses will not replace streetcars on heavy routes because they simply do not have the capacity to handle the demands that will arise over the next decade.

Where was I on saving the PCC Fleet?

Aside from the fact that the PCC fleet was long gone years before this blog started, anyone who actually was paying attention will know that I and several others argued strongly for retention of the PCC fleet.  The rebuilding that saved part of that fleet was a direct result of our efforts.  (I even have a video of me on the CBC doing an editorial talking about why we need to save the PCCs and the G subway cars.)

The reason we lost the PCCs was that with the service cuts of the 1990s, the TTC did not need as big a fleet to operate all of its service, including Spadina, and the PCCs were retired.

If you want PCCs in Toronto, you should have been around back in the late 60s and early 70s when an updated PCC was under development by the TTC, Hawker Siddeley and the Czech firm Tatra, one of the largest manufacturers of PCCs in the world.  That work stopped dead in its tracks thanks to the Ontario Government’s embrace of Mag-Lev technology, a boondoggle that went nowhere, but killed off any hope of LRT on what we now know as the SRT.

I fought very hard against the Mag-Lev scheme and its successor the RT, and continue to fight against the proposed upgrading and extension of that line (as opposed to converting it to LRT).  However, the politics of the situation are such that Bombardier (and others) would be deeply embarrassed by the TTC’s abandonment of the RT technology, and so it will live on as an orphan line.

One final point about PCCs is that they are high-floor cars, and we would need to re-design a low-floor replacement for them.  PCCs as we know them are no longer an acceptable vehicle for our streetcar fleet.

… and the Gloucester cars?

See my comment above about the editorial on the CBC.

First off, my advocacy is not for retention of a fleet to keep the railfans happy.  Sunday operations?  Why should the TTC have to keep one historic train, complete with all of the overhead of training operating and maintenance staff, a train that cannot keep up with the H-series trains and would inevitably run late, and which is not air-conditioned?  There is a big difference between running historic equipment now and then for special events (such as the PCCs on Harbourfront today) and running an entire train as part of regular service.  This certainly has nothing to do with advocacy for improvement of the transit system.

… and GMC Fishbowls?

Oh dear, your rant is taking on a very strong rail/bus fan edge.  Aside from the fact that the GM’s are high floor buses, nobody makes them any more.  Why didn’t I lobby GM to stay in the bus business?  Who do you think I am?  GM stopped making fishbowls because the market for that type of vehicle dried up in the USA.  Indeed the US government pushed a whole new generation of buses with pseudo-accessibility (lifts) and supposedly more comfortable interiors.  Since you couldn’t buy a bus with US Federal dollars that didn’t meet the Federal specs, nobody bought fishbowls.  Manufacture of these continued for a time in Canada, but even that stopped in time.  Nobody in North America is going to get rich building buses because the market is too small.

The TTC, like many other North American transit operators, went through hell with a generation of crap from bus manufacturers, and dug the hole even deeper when they got embroiled with Ikarus and the CNG bus scheme.  I fought that one too, and fought to save the trolleybus system.  Again, my primary opponents were the Ontario Government and TTC management, abetted by the Natural Gas industry and others with a financial interest in the deal.

Buy foreign you say?  Well, any foreign manufacturer is welcome to bid on North American orders, and, after all, Flyer from Winnipeg is foreign-owned anyway (as is “Ontario Bus Industries”).  Of course, thanks to Ontario politics, “foreign” means any bus that’s not made in the 416 or 905 area code.

The VIVA buses cost the earth to purchase and are designed for relatively low, commuter-comfort load factors.  The only reason York Region has them is that they got a special subsidy to set up VIVA, and when that money runs out, we will see where that system goes.  The issue with special purchases like that is not the initial buy, but whether the region (or the GTTA by then) will be able to justify spending that much money on vehicles for a small system when the rest of the GTTA must ride around in packed transit buses.

… our bus fleet carries more passengers than our LRT routes, ergo buses are better

Sorry to burst that bubble, but the total weekday ridership on the streetcar lines is 259,600 while on the bus network it is 1,173,060.  The streetcar fleet handles 22% of the ridership of the bus fleet.  However, the number of streetcars in service (peak) is only 15% of the number of buses.  Therefore, the streetcars, vehicle for vehicle, are handling more people than the buses.  (Source:  TTC 2005 statistics.)  Moreover, they will be able to handle a proportionately greater increase as riding builds up on major routes.

… buy better buses now otherwise you’ll think this is just a rail fan site.

All I can say is that anyone who wants to preserve a fleet of PCCs and G-trains is a bigger railfan than I am.  If you don’t want to read my site, fine, go somewhere else.  There are lots more out there.

Meanwhile, I will continue to post pro-LRT information because that’s what this site is about.

My correspondent goes on:

I think we should rebuild our CLRV fleet for operation in future of a “high speed line through Scarborough”. This would also change our great citizens’s minds about our CLRV fleet being slow and unreliable. $5 000 000 or greater for new streetcars is outrageos, one subway car costs less that $1 000 000, what’s the gig here?? we should also be cost consciuos and rebuild, with a rising ramp for wheel chairs and the disabled, it can be done, according to a friend (who shall remain nameless) working at the TTC. The so called rebuilds if they went through, would have been 100% better than they are now. They are stubbornly dead set on buying new streetcars. Champaigne taste on a ginger ale budget, as I would say. As for the high speed line, it would be the now called Scarborough 86. It would operate on private right of way, all the way, with cement placed at intersections only. There would be trees/hedges planted beside the lines on both sides,with centre poles. It would have pedestrian (paved) crossings in designated areas, so people are not cut off from the other side of the streets. it would run along Eglinton, from Kennedy station, to Kingston road, then east to Morning side, north to and beyond Finch, to Steeles/Staines road intersection with a beautiful loop/parkete and kiss & ride. The stops would be spaced out say six to ten blocks, double blade cross overs and a signaling system would be used to keep the vehicles on time/spaced out evenly, etc. The line would operate free running with X crossings at intersetions everywhere for this line so it could be a true and free running line. This line should be build immediately as the Kingston road Environmental assesment is underway now. id would help Scarborough alot, By the way, I don’t live In scarborough.

I am not going to delve into this in detail except to point out that the new subway cars are going to cost over $3-million each, and that’s for a 75-foot long car.  The $5-million LRV figure is high, but it’s for a car that is at least 20-25% longer, and likely for a smaller order.

A lift can be incorporated into a CLRV, but it would make for very slow loading.  The advantage of low-floor all-door loading is that you save on stop service time.  A good example of this was today’s operation on Harbourfront where every vehicle shuttling passengers from Union Station to Queen’s Quay had to deal with one or more baby carriages.  (I saw four on one car!)

I hate to point out that your Scarborough line duplicates, more or less, a line that is part of the Transit City network (the “Scarborough Malvern” line.  I had a hand in Transit City both in laying the political base that made LRT respectable again in Toronto and in fine tuning the network design.

As a general note to this writer and others who have attacked me for “not being involved” in whatever fight they think I should have engaged, I started all of this back in 1972 and have been fighting for improved transit in many, many ways for decades including the dark eras of Harris and Leach.  You don’t win every battle, but we wouldn’t have Transit City, we woudn’t have the Ridership Growth Strategy and we wouldn’t have many other things (including, vitally, politicians and planners who know that there is an alternative to subways and buses) without the advocacy of me and several of my associates.

If you have read this far, you probably know that I am rather annoyed at this sort of comment, and I can assure you that it’s the last you will see of it.  I try to be fair and present comments from many points of view, but I will not publish rants or attacks on me personally.

If that’s censorship (as another writer has suggested), so be it.  It’s my website.  Nobody forces you to read it.

46 thoughts on “We Get Letters

  1. Keep up the great work.

    Do not let these teenage bus-watchers get to you. Anyone who has visited cities with LRT knows the benefits an LRT system can provide. There is a reason why so many US cities are fighting for federal dollars to build rail.


  2. Kudos to you Steve. You’ve haven proven to me that you are quite the intelligent individual.

    For the love of god, please don’t ever stop fighting for better transit in this city because it’s people like myself who depend on transit and WANT to see it improve significantly before it’s too late.

    I wasn’t really a fan of LRT before I came to your site, but I’ve opened my eyes and see the great possibilities that can come with this transit mode. Especially since riding the T3 Tramway in Paris and how fast, efficient, and reliable it can be. It’s also a great way to see a city.

    Anyhow, you’ll always have my support for LRT modes in Toronto and the GTA.


  3. Steve:

    I am a big fan and agree with most of your initiatives. However, I think you need to be a little bit less sensitive. The posting above did not really measure up to a “personal” “abusive” attack. Uninformed – yes. Unappreciative – definitely. (Also, all your “answers” were in my opinion correct.) However, the blogosphere is made up of all kinds of people with various levels of knowledge. As this is definitely your blog, you are free to publish anyone you want (and delete anyone you want.) However, transit advocates are frustrated. Some of them may, in an uninformed way, blame you for the various sins of the Commission or have unrealistic solutions. Please don’t be offended by such posts and please accept this one as a big thank you for your decades of service.


    Steve: Thanks for your feedback. My sensitivity came from some of the comments I did NOT publish which amounted to a personal attack on me on several levels, and I thought it was about time that I set the record straight on a number of issues that the hapless correspondent here raised.

    Transit advocates have every right to be frustrated with decades of inattention to transit, to the idea that we can always put things off to tomorrow, that transit can somehow wait for better days. But they need to focus on what makes the transit system better — good funding, political support, good service — rather than harping on whatever pet project they would like to see.

    I remember many years ago attending an annual meeting of Transport 2000 where they had actually managed to talk the Minister, then Lloyd Axworthy, down from Ottawa to meet this prestigious group. It turned into a fan-driven discussion of why we couldn’t have more overnight trains on VIA. Axworthy clearly wondered what he was doing there, and T2000 suffered a heavy blow to its credibility, such as it was.

    Something I try to maintain here is reasonably civilized conversation, and yes, I have my biases. Goodness knows, other modes and schemes have enough advocates of their own. If I sound testy, it’s because several people recently latched onto the Sheppard Subway proposal as a jumping off point for “we need more subways” and “LRT is just not the way to go” to the point of suggesting I should refocus my site’s objectives.

    Transit City remains just as valid today as it was before the ludicrous anti-tax vote at Council, probably even more so because it is much more fiscally responsible than anything the subway-lovers are ever going to come up with. I’m waiting for City Hall to come back from vacation and a strong, pro-transit fight to emerge.


  4. It is unfortunate that people feel the need to attack anyone or anything that is contrary to what they believe. Free discussion is an integral part of society but when it turns into attacks, it compromises any productive discussion. Furthermore, if people are so keen on their views vs yours, they should start their own site and not soil the discussions here.

    On another note, you mentioned the PCCs today along the Harbourfront. That was a real treat for me and without a doubt many other railfans.

    Keep up the great work Steve, you and everything you have done (and I’m sure will do) for transit in Toronto is truly inspiring.


  5. Steve is widely respected by transit advocates and TTC staff and many City Hall and Queen’s Park politicians of all political stripes. He’s a living history of the TTC, a transit resource who advocates—apolitically and objectively—not only for the betterment of the TTC but transit in the GTA too.

    I know it goes with the blogosphere… but I find it regrettable when comments stray from intellectual debate to the personal level… especially disrespectful given Steve’s tireless transit advocacy over 35 years.

    Recognition culminated in June 2005 when Steve was awarded the Jane Jacobs Prize for 30+ years of tireless transit advocacy.

    Steve bows graciously here.


  6. This kind of self-defeating ranting always drives me completely nuts! It’s rediculous that this guy praises PCC’s, Gloucester’s and GM’s while at the same time attacking you for seemingly being a nostalgic railfan.

    There’s only one element of this that I would give him credit for (despite him contradicting himself), and that’s the idea that lessons can be learned from history. I’ve tried to suggest on numerous occasions that light rail technologies and designs can only be the best they can be if we take the most successful and attractive elements of past systems and vehicles and pair them with new ideas and technologies. I am insulted whenever anyone suggests that new LRVs have to look dreadfully ugly to be ‘practical’. Like somehow my interest in attractive and smart design means I’m suffering from a severe case of nostagia. I believe that it is possible to be respectful of our history and sympathetic to it when developing a modern and effective light rail system. And anyone who thinks buses are better can move to the suburbs where that’s all they’ll ever see. Some lunatic member of the public actually managed to get a comment published for consideration in the Kingston Road EA that said streetcars are noisier than buses. Last time I checked, every fuel-powered bus in the TTC fleet roared far louder than a CLRV and they’re smelly and dirty too. I can hear every diesel GO train on the Lakeshore line from my house north of Keele and Bloor – The furthest streetcar I hear is on St. Clair and that’s only because the track is worn out. Other than that I only hear the occasional squeal from Dundas West Station.

    Nostalgia didn’t drive me to go to the “New Streetcar” consultation at Dundas Square and converse with Stephen Lam for over half and hour about the nuts and bolts of smart technical design. And it has nothing to do with why I refuse to allow a Daniel Libeskind-esk visual design/treatment for our new LRVs!!! There is simply no substitute for smart and respectful design. One of the most recent LRV designs, the Siemens Combino, was a technological disaster (admitted to in detail on their website!). By not taking basic lessons from the past, those trams shook themselves to pieces, and all of them have required substantial retro-fitting! I’m not an engineer but I managed to figure this out just by observing them and riding them in Amsterdam. If I as a member of the general public can figure out bad design in so-called ‘modern’ trams ON MY OWN then we have much to fear about what we’re going to get in Toronto.

    If someone can figure out a way to make buses better than light rail then I will support buses, but for now LRT is the way to go. I really wish someone would propose rapid trolley bus lines (TBRT?) for some routes to cut noise and pollution. Start with articulated trolley buses on segrated/dedicated rights-of-way on heavily-travelled routes not yet burdened enough for LRT (and not pegged for LRT conversion in the “Transit City” plan). Then future upgrade to LRT would be a snap!

    I’m a well-educated individual with plenty of common sense. I don’t have much time to spare but I do my best to ‘fight the good fight’ for effective transit when I can. I’ve had multiple letters published in The Star and even a very large printing of a personal transit photo along-side one. Steve, you have my full support and gratitude for all your past and future efforts. When you need the backing of respectable folks to break through the political barriers thrown in your way, you can count on people like me to help make a difference! Best of luck.


  7. In theory the whole idea of an LRT sytem of transit seems like a great idea. In practise, it’s a totally different ball game. \

    If the TTC is planning to build some form of LRT system, it first off needs to get its fleet of street cars running light years more efficiently than they are now.

    The Queen St. route is the most offensive. I use it daily and am more convinced that Spadina-like right of way is needed. It would have been a great opportunity with the Dundas track replacement to try such a thing. While people may complain about the horrific inconvenience of the reconstruction, etc, look how much better the Spadina route runs.

    The other thing TTC needs to stop doing is short turning Queen cars constantly. If n LRT based system is to be put in place, they won’t be able to short turn, or will they?? As I’ve said in letters to the Star, get things running better before any more brainstorms are even thought of!!!!

    Steve: Any line the TTC has or will have has the capability of short-turning. This even happens on the subway.

    Queen and Dundas will never have a Spadina-like right-of-way because they are too narrow. The challenge is to make the lines work better within the space they have. Yes, there are far too many short turns, but there is also far too little actual service on the street. These tend to have an effect on each other because with better service, short turns would not have as severe an impact.

    On Spadina/Harbourfront, we need some major improvements in transit priority at signals. Just yesterday, with the heavy service on Harbourfront, I got to watch how the “priority” signals only allow one streetcar through per cycle. At some intersections, one can grow old(er) and grey(er) waiting for the streetcar phase to kick in (Lake Shore and Spadina) while so much traffic is let through east-west that it backs up into the intersection for lack of downstream capacity.


  8. And you can count on me, Steve, when you need the backing of unrespectable people. I appreciate your having frequently been in the face of the dumb-arses who’ve often been in control of this city. And when, as today, the emperors actually condescend to solicit public opinion about their new clothes, I know you won’t advise them to appear nude in public. Not that that will necessarily stop them, eh, but it’s worth a shot.


  9. steve, when I was on the PCC car 4549 heading to the ex grounds yesterday another transit advocate talked to me about you and your good work, keep up it! transit would not be what it is today if not for your hard work.


  10. People in Toronto have this notion that somehow Toronto is a first-tier world city like New York or London or Paris and that because of that it should have a map full of criss-crossing subways complete with rush hour lines and branches and express trains. Well, sorry, but as nice as Toronto is, it’s not New York or London or Paris, and this city can’t support a network of subway lines like those cities. It doesn’t have the population or the density, and people don’t understand that. They just think “World class city = lots of subway lines.” Well, Toronto’s not a world class city and we can’t support it. So it’s LRT. Tough luck.


  11. The freedom of the internet allows anyone who can manipulate a keyboard to write their opinion, whether ill-informed or knowledgeable, however, poorly thought-out rants or attacks are totally counter-productive. As anyone who reads this site regularly knows, Steve’s arguments are logical, coherent and based on having a very thorough understanding of the issues and context of transit in Toronto and the GTA, and he’s advocating for the scale of transit that makes sense.

    This site is an excellent source of information and is definitely helping to dispell misconceptions about the appropriateness of LRT vs. BRT vs. subway. Many of the comments offer thought-provoking ideas in response to Steve’s analysis. However, if someone wants to propose building subways under every arterial road between Burlington and Oshawa, let them start their own advocacy site and see where it goes … I doubt it will get very far, except maybe with the fantasy crowd. As for nostalgia, anyone who thinks this site is about nostalgia is obviously missing the point. There are lots of nice sites with pictures of PCCs, Gloucester cars and GM fishbowls … this isn’t one of them!

    Keep up the great work Steve!


  12. Dear or dear. Libb seems a tad confused. In one breath wanting a retention of old streetcars and subway cars as the best thing since the wheel, and THEN saying the old buses were the best. Emphasis on “old”. Ya know, I loved the PCC. It was a wonderful art-deco design of streetcar. I loved the Gloucesters, the sounds they emanated were wonderfully mechanical. I loved the GM Old-looks even more than the fishbowls. Ah, memories! That’s what they are, and that’s what they should remain. Time, and improvment/changes, marches on. As for more vitriolic critics, the “anonymity” of the internet brings out all sorts of cranks.


  13. Have to agree with poster #3(Michael). You can afford to be magnanimous, Steve. People will take posts for what they’re worth. Of course you don’t have to allow personal attacks. The benefits of a truly open forum far outweigh the negatives. I hope you don’t interpret every critique of the Transit City plan as anti-LRT.

    Steve: Definitely not. Please see my remarks in another comment about my distrust of BRT as the great solution to our transit problems.

    However, when people start writing posts (you haven’t seen the worst of them) implying that 35 years worth of transit advocacy is based on childhood nostalgia, or that somehow I and other advocates have missed the boat on a bunch of issues where we were deeply involved, or when my personal lifestyle comes under attack, well, I get a tad annoyed.


  14. Is there some illustrated glossary where those of us who haven’t been involved in this area can see what “CLRV”, “Gloucester”, “PCC”, etc. actually refer to?

    Steve: Oh dear, sometimes we forget that every reader here hasn’t been eating up TTC ephemera since childhood.

    CLRV: Canadian Light Rail Vehicle – the shorter version of the current generation of streetcar, i.e. the ones that do not bend in the middle which are …

    ALRV: Articulated Light Rail Vehicle – the longer version of our streetcars found predominantly on Queen and Bathurst, with some trippers on King.

    PCC: The older streetcars of which there are only now two operating, occasionally. There’s a nice photo of one running on Harbourfront yesterday at spacing’s website.

    Gloucester: The old red subway cars built for the original Yonge Subway that opened in 1954. They were built by the Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Works in England, hence their name. For more info, see the Transit Toronto site.

    Transit Toronto is a great source of more information than you will ever need on the nuts and bolts details current and past regarding the TTC. I try to stay away from writing this sort of article because James Bow and his contributors do such a good job already.


  15. I’m a long-time lurker and just wanted to pop my head up and tell you how much I appreciate all the work that goes into this site! It’s my number one source for transit news and comments and the amount I’ve learned from both you and your posters is amazing! Keep up the great work!


  16. And for what it’s worth, Steve, you’ve got at least one vote of confidence from The New Centre of the Universe™.

    What often gets lost in the constant slapfighting between Calgary and Toronto these days is that we’re both contesting the same battle to keep more and more people moving without breaking the bank and fouling the nest. It took years of fighting the gainsayers and the penny-pinchers to turn the C-Train into a reality in the first place through the Seventies and Eighties. The operational compromises we made then are making themselves apparent now by way of crowded trains, congested open-air downtown platforms inhabited by increasingly dodgy and desperate characters, and bitter jurisdictional squabbles over the capital funding of system extensions and upgrades. (These factors may or may not sound familiar on the shores of Lake Ontario.) Throw in the simultaneous expansion of suburbia and densification of the city centre, and their resulting strains on the capacity and financing of the C-Train system, along with the insatiable civic appetite for new and wider roads, and we come close to understanding why Calgarians and Torontonians alike often overhear our transit planners murmuring “Rock goes up, rock goes down–d’oh! Rock goes up, rock goes down–d’oh!” at about 8.03 every Monday morning.

    Still, can 250,000 riders a day really be wrong? If ever there were a city that could gleefully misappropriate W.P. Kinsella’s mantra about baseball diamonds and show that light rail works, then Calgary would be it. That’s what saddens and maddens us every time we see notices in the Calgary edition of The Groan and Wail about the impending demise of the Sheppard Line and the threatened relegation of the Transit City proposal to the limbo to which All Grand Plans Pending Capital Approval are ultimately consigned. We’ve made a functional, self-sustaining, modern light rail system happen in Calgary in spite of everything, whereas Toronto seems to be going out of its way to prevent modern light rail from happening.

    And that, Steve, is what makes your advocacy so important to Toronto. Strange as it may seem, your city and mine are in the same predicament. All I can offer you is our legacy of successes and screwups in putting the C-Train on track, pun intended, as an example and a starting point for Toronto’s new light rail system. All I can ask of you in return is that you keep Toronto from committing any precedent-setting faux pas that might inspire those of our politicians and administrators out here who know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

    So keep up the fight, Steve, and keep the faith. We’re waiting with bated breath, and watching.


  17. This would explain why my comment regarding what I consider “overpaid” TTC workers was not published.

    That set aside, I am more interested in dissecting the argument that Libb had put forward: more specifically is the suggestion (as I understand it) that we should consider a BRT service rather than a LRT service that is being proposed in Transit City. Libb was probably trying to point out that setting up a BRT system is not as expensive as setting up an LRT system, what with all the maintenance that needs to go with it (I will point out Dundas as one prime current example, and will note that I am hearing that Spadina, with its dedicated ROW will need to have rail replacement done soon, a mere 10 years since it opened).

    Playing on the side of devil’s advocate, Libb is trying to convey that we would see the benefits of BRT sooner than we can with LRT. Consider YRT. Since VIVA’s inception, BRT in York has pretty much been a smash hit, with rapid ridership growing. There is also a side benefit that no one has considered: it is not expensive if a BRT line is not as successful. Consider the VIVA green line. This line has so few riders on its route that I have no idea why they consider keeping it. Granted, it is supposed to provide a convenient connection from East Markham to Don Mills Station, but the fact remains, considering that line a failure is not as expensive as considering (hypothetically speaking, I don’t think it would be the case) the failure of say the Scarborough-Malvern Line. Also with bus capacity, all that is really needed is the purchase of articulated buses, similar to what Mississauga and York have right now. Less expensive to maintain than CLRVs and carry more capacity (admittedly, this won’t shine a light to the ALRVs which will probably remain the capacity king).

    On the other hand, York’s BRT needs its own right of way in order to be truly successful and I look forward to the day when it becomes a reality. Need I mention that if it gets busy enough, then you could consider putting in a LRT using the same right of way created for the BRT. This is why the TTC needs to look at this option. Go construct your Transit city, but use buses first before switching to LRT. We would see the benefits sooner rather than 10-20 years later (if Greg Sorbara has his way with the Vaughan Subway Line).

    I am from Ottawa and have been a big fan of the Transitway that operates there. However, it should be pointed out that what was successful there twenty years ago is not the same today, and am part of a few who say that it is time the Transitway was upgraded to a LRT akin to Calgary’s network.

    Do not take this as a personal attack, Steve. I enjoy doing debates on the innings and outings of the systems of the GTA. But I harbour views similar to the average taxpayer, and we may see things a lot differently than transit advocates. We don’t care about the method of rapid transit that is brought about (granted, some people will always want subways now), just as long as we have it soon so we have less incentive to drive to work.

    Steve: I don’t consider this as an attack on me at all (believe me, the personal attacks were really personal). Also, if someone is going to harp about overpaid public sector workers, this needs to be in a reasonable context including how, if at all, these workers are managed, not as anti-union cant.

    With respect to track on Spadina: The stuff that is in really bad shape is the original Harbourfront trackage south from King and east to Bay. This track was built before the current style of construction and it will be nearly 20 years old before it is replaced. The presence of slow orders on our “LRT” track should be deeply embarrassing to the TTC. There are a few spots (right at the portal south of Spadina Station) where there have been some track problems, and I don’t know why this area is breaking up.

    The intersection of Spadina and Dundas is on the current five-year list, although it may be pushed back. Again, the intersections (as opposed to the tangent track) on Spadina were not built “the new way” with full welding at all joints and with rubber pads to reduce vibration of the concrete base. I am not surprised if they are starting to break up. All of this speaks to bad construction techniques that have now been largely eliminated.

    With respect to BRT vs LRT: My annoyance with Libb’s proposal was that on one hand, it focussed on saving old technologies rather than improving the transit system as a whole. The comment about BRT was in the context of ridership on the two networks (streetcar and bus) with no allowance for the relative size of the networks. I could argue that we should replace GO Trains with buses because obviously the TTC bus system carries far more than GO’s rail services, were I to follow the same logic.

    The Transit City proposals are supported by ridership projections that indicate a much higher level of usage than any of the VIVA system routes with the possible exception of North Yonge (which was already a successful route going back to TTC days). The big danger of going with an interim BRT system is that we never make the jump to LRT and we are forever constrained by BRT capacity and operational constraints, probably in mixed traffic.

    What really galls me, however, is that on one hand we are told to watch the taxpayers’ dollars by looking at BRT and on the other hand we are told that subway technology is the only possible technology for the Spadina extension. What this shows me is an anti-LRT bias in planning that arises from one basic requirement: keep transit from grabbing road space. Either we put transit underground where it’s out of the way, or we force it to share roadspace. Note that Transit City does not involve widening every road in captivity to make more room for LRT (or BRT) rights-of-way.

    I agree that people need an incentive to use transit, but fear we will continue the path of the last three decades by concentrating on wasteful subway “solutions” and “BRT” that is little better than a modest express bus.


  18. Steve, Take it easy, this rant or whatever you guy’s want to call it was “a freedom of expression and thought” not a personal attack on you, I don’t know you and haven’t the slightest idea what you look like Steve, My apologies if I hurt your feelings, that wasn’t my intention. I just want answers to the lack of expansion and dedication to better transit. I don’t criticize people I don’t know. Yes I mentioned these old vehicles (PCC’s and fishbowls) it’s because I have been a little frustrated towards TTC, for buying horrible equipment these last few years, not at you. As a kid watching these vehicle replacements come, I don’t recall anyone advocating to save them, that’s why I asked you where were you for this and that. I only recently discovered who you were. if it wasn’t for the net, half or more of the GTA residents wouldn’t have a clue who you are. The net has gained you a whole array of new readers, like myself. Other readers have sent there comments about my statement, I’m not hurt, that’s there version of expression of free thought and I appreciate there comments. When you started this Blog you should of realized that sometimes things are taken out of context. My statement had emotion and a little passion behind it so excuse me for caring, This rant should of been directed at the TTC. My apologies Steve If I offended you. That was certainly not my intention. I just want answers to the lack of inactivity towards transit in Toronto.


  19. Thank you for your comments, Steve. It is agreed that a large portion of taxpayers have this attitude with regards to pro-subway, and anti-LRT comments. I have heard comments stating that the entire Spadina subway line from Eglinton West to Downsview should be moved west to Keele so the Allen Road can be widened and extended downtown. It appears that we still have some expressway-only folks still lingering about.

    Some food for thought: The Toronto Sun published a survey which asked respondants how $1 billion of money earmarked for infrastructure for Toronto should be spent. 82% said a new expressway to downtown Toronto, 17% said a new subway, and 1% said LRT. Note that the Toronto Sun is notorious for its view that commuters should choose their mode of transportation, and not have a mode rammed down their throats, as it feels is the case with the LRT of which the Sun is against.

    I say this because for you emissaries of transit in favour of an LRT network have a large and steep road to traverse. The “average commuter” does not care of what we do to alleviate gridlock just as long as it makes it convenient for them. And the “average commuter” feels that a subway or expressway is the best way to do it, and that LRT is a waste of money. (For the record, I support LRT, but if BRT is the only thing that can be supplied, given our finance issues, so be it). And finally, most average commuters think that funding a subway is not going to be an efficient use of taxpayer money if it is not going to directly benefit them. The TTC has the unenvious task of convincing the public that the best solution is a solution that spans the entire city than one that benefits someone’s backyard.

    We must do more to convince people that a subway nor expressway are the cure-alls to our transportation woes.

    Steve: My first question about the Sun’s survey is “where do these people live?” Oddly enough, a new expressway to downtown will do nothing to solve the gridlock problems in much of the GTA that arise from traffic that is not going downtown. In effect, this is a road advocate’s equivalent to solving York Region’s transit issues by building a subway to Union Station.

    Next comes the question of where we would actually put such an expressway, let alone the new traffic it would generate. These must be very affluent commuters who all have free parking in their office towers.

    The problem with the survey is that it asks the wrong question — it talks about getting people downtown, somehow, when the real issue is moving around the GTA. It doesn’t even mention GO Transit.

    The TTC’s on-again, off-again stance on LRT expansion, thanks to the boneheaded reaction of various pols to the setback on new taxes has interrupted, but I hope not fatally, the momentum of Transit City. This fall, instead of rolling across the city with a road show about wonderful new transit lines, we will be consulting the citizens about which bus they want to cut. I very strongly believe that the current strategy, if you can dignify it with such a term, coming out of City Hall does massive disservice to the very causes Mayor Miller and his supporters were elected to implement.

    Saying we’re going to close the Sheppard Subway and pack people onto already overfull routes is a terrible way to advertise the TTC as a short or long term alternative to driving. If I drove a car, I wouldn’t be trading it in for a Metropass. We have probably lost a year or two’s momentum in swinging support behind transit.


  20. Don’t worry Steve, you’ll develop a thick skin soon enough and personal comments like that (whatever they were) won’t phase you. You should release those comments under the Freedom of Information Act, and don’t black out the juicy pieces with magic marker. Just think, you can start a Transit Soap here … I can see it now: “As the streetcar turns”, and the opening theme music can be set to some screeching CLRV wheel noises.

    Seriously though — I’ll often take the anti-LRT standpoint just to balance things out here. I’m not against LRT, but I think we need a more balanced approach to deal with long crosstown commutes, and travel to the airport. At-grade on-street LRT, even with transit priority, won’t be fast enough.

    To broaden your perspective, you should do the reverse of that newspaper columnist (can’t remember her name) that gave up driving for a week. Instead, rent a car for a week and use it exclusively as an experiment. You might be surprised and your viewpoint in some areas might change. I don’t know if you drove at one point and gave it up, but it’s something to think about.

    Steve: I don’t have a driver’s license, but do get rides from friends from time to time, usually for trips that are not practical by transit or are more effectively done by car. I know the limitations of public transit and don’t plan to be a martyr. Please don’t be so condescending to imply that I don’t know that many trips and many lifestyles cannot be undertaken without a car. I am not trying to take cars away from people, but to deal with the reality that we cannot handle all of the present and future travel demand in the GTA with cars. Better transit today would be an immense improvement for many who simply cannot afford to drive to work and who suffer horrendously long trips on marginal routes on the fringes of the 416 and in the 905.

    Having said that, we need to look at what the LRT network is intended to accomplish. It is NOT primarily for long-haul trips, but to tie together many existing and future neighbourhoods that will develop along major streets. If you want to go from eastern Scarborough to downtown, use the GO train (current or proposed), not the LRT networks. If the GO plans in MoveOntario actually happen, we will have a network of commuter rail lines to handle a lot of the long-haul demand, assuming reasonable fare integration with the TTC.

    Crosstown up north is always going to be a pain in the ass. Get used to it. York built themselves a traffic snarl and now generations will have to suffer with it. There will never be a Highway 7 subway line. However, an LRT line linking up with major trunk routes is quite another matter, and that line will need to take precious space from cars. York at least has that space, while many of the corridors within Toronto are already constrained.

    [Remarks about the airport have been moved to a separate thread.]

    I’m amused how often LRT proposals are met with one of two arguments: (1) there won’t be enough riders and buses can handle the demand, or (2) there will be too many riders and you really need to build a subway.

    In short, my position is that subways are very expensive and, because they are, we won’t build many of them, certainly nowhere nearly enough to scratch the surface of potential transit demand. They don’t support linear, neighbourhood-style development as proposed by the Official Plan, but encourage intensification at nodes. We need something more than bus service and we need to talk seriously about taking roadspace away from cars for transit.


  21. To go back to a point in your original post, you note that if we were to continue using PCCs we would have to redesign a low-floor replacement for them as none currently exists. In fact the Vario LF trams from the Czech Republic are a version of low-floor, PCC-style streetcar (at least in terms of dimensions, general shape and layout etc.). I don’t know how suitable they would be for use in the TTC operating environment, and the low-floor area is limited to about 36% (the area between the trucks), but they at least show that “low floor accessibility” and a traditional-length streetcar don’t necessarily have to be mutually exclusive.

    [Remarks about the airport have been moved to a separate thread.]


  22. One issue that puts me off the concept of BRT is how it is defined by the planners and engineers. Any type of service that is not yur typical local bus with stops every 200 metres or so, is considered BRT. One notable case was in Honololou(sp) where the local transit agency took one route, changed the look of the bus stop signs, and buses, called it BRT.

    To me, VIVA is not true BRT. While it may be slightly quicker, and the buses nicer, the bus still has to share the road with automobiles.

    The claim that BRT saves money over LRT can be disputed. Ottawa’s Transitway is probably the best example of a true BRT system, and it’s costs were roughly 20 Million per km. I do not think this included purchases.


  23. “Saying we’re going to close the Sheppard Subway and pack people onto already overfull routes is a terrible way to advertise the TTC as a short or long term alternative to driving. If I drove a car, I wouldn’t be trading it in for a Metropass. We have probably lost a year or two’s momentum in swinging support behind transit”

    Alas but remember the adage of most taxpayers: why are we paying for the service if it doesn’t benefit me?

    I know a friend who used to live in Markham. Many years ago when Markham Transit was a standalone service not integrated with YRT, they did have sufficient service 7 days a week. But what happened? Taxpayer complaints, that’s what. Taxpayers complaining about subsidized transit service that they don’t use which runs pretty much empty 7 days a week. So what did Markham Transit do? Cut back service to 30-60 minute intervals.

    There ARE taxpayers here that insist that TTC service be cut because 1) there are patrons who won’t use it and don’t want it to be part of their property tax bill, and 2) most people don’t believe the TTC is crying poor because they’ve got all this money to run these “cadillac buses” and pay their workers “very generous salaries”, so why don’t they cut these “perks” and 3) there are portions of the system that are grossly underused (i.e. Sheppard Subway), why should taxpayers foot the bill for what they consider a white elephant? Another Toronto Sun poll found that 95% of respondants would prefer closing the Sheppard Subway line if it meant a break on their property tax bill.

    In case you are wondering, I only read the Sun, not the Star, as the Star is too far left for my views. And although I am in the minority with regards to the idea of an LRT, you can see the vitriol in the comments by other Sun readers who slam the TTC’s ideas of an LRT. BRT or a subway is what they want apparently. Interestingly enough, 70% of respondents say a subway to Vaughan should be a “priority”, not the Transit City ideas.

    Be reminded that the Sun gives Councillor Rob Ford (a TTC critic) a lot of paper space and agrees with his assessment that routes should be cut in some areas to bolster other areas of the city unless the TTC trims its own fat.


  24. “In short, my position is that subways are very expensive and, because they are, we won’t build many of them, certainly nowhere nearly enough to scratch the surface of potential transit demand. They don’t support linear, neighbourhood-style development as proposed by the Official Plan, but encourage intensification at nodes. We need something more than bus service and we need to talk seriously about taking roadspace away from cars for transit.”

    Again, using my “average taxpayer” argument, they believe that while transit should be enhanced, it should not come at the expense of drivers. That is a popular Toronto Sun position, and a position also taken by Councillor Ford, a very vocal critic of Transit City. Their idea of enhancement of transit service is, wait for it….. Bus lanes, similar to what is on Eglinton. The problem however now becomes that very few people actually follow the rules with regards to these lanes and voila, the bus lanes too are packed.

    Remember that the TTC has been pushing for Signal priority for years, but the Roads department does not favour turning it on for fear that cars will get the shaft. Also, remember that the Roads department was the party responsible for the demise of the Mount Pleasant streetcar. There are a lot of car-oriented folks in this department and what needs to be done is to have an overhaul of this area to provide a transit voice to road and traffic issues.

    So again, you can vaunt your transit city all you want, but be reminded that a large portion of commuters don’t want this idea and would rather have subways everywhere or expressways everywhere. Not what some people call a “half-assed” solution (quoted from a Sun Letter to the editor).

    Steve: The TTC has done a horrible job of really advancing its agenda. LRT is something they have just discovered, and have not done a good job of publicising. This fall’s road show, if it happens at all, will be totally overwhelmed by the budget fiasco.

    As for transit priority, the TTC spends too much time with an “I want it all” attitude that is not viable on many streets (e.g. King Street in the theatre district), but doesn’t do a good job telling people, especially Councillors, of the simpler improvements in traffic signal operations that are thwarted by the road engineers.


  25. Steve, there you go being hypersensitive again. I wasn’t being condescending by suggesting you drive a car for a week. I was just trying to get you to understand the motorist’s point-of-view in wanting fast, convenient travel. Motorists are not all selfish and evil you know. We drive because we have to — we want VIABLE transit alternatives.

    Steve: I understand the motorists’ point of view, something you don’t give me credit for. However, I never said that transit is going to replace car travel. What I am trying to do is increase the market share transit gets where it is feasible to do so. If we spend all our effort on the long-haul trips that are inherently hard to serve with transit, we will spend all our money in the wrong place.

    Your comment … “crosstown up north is always going to be a pain in the ass. Get used to it” is rude and insulting to everyone who lives in North York or Etobicoke, and works in Scarborough (or vice-versa). And then you wonder why you get hate mail?

    Steve: If you read on, you would see that I was talking about the Highway 7 corridor. York Region built themselves a car-oriented community and reconfiguring it around transit isn’t going to happen overnight. People think they can just wave a magic wand and make traffic congestion go away.

    If we are going to spend $6 BILLION dollars on a light rail system, we sure as heck better address the crosstown commuting patterns north of Eglinton, because that is a huge chunk of all suburban traffic.

    Steve: There is a lot of travel in the suburbs that should be addressed both by improved bus services and at least one east-west LRT line. Finch West is a start, but more is needed. However, we can’t build everything overnight.


  26. M. Briganti

    Not everyone who is a motorist wants a viable transit option. More and more people nowadays want a viable EXPRESSWAY option. If it could take them around the same time or less to use the car instead of taking transit, they will use it. I know of one friend who says it takes her less time to commute from her home at York Mills and Yonge to Highway 7 and Leslie. The trip by car takes 20 minutes, TTC and VIVA take over an hour.

    Another friend lives at Don Mills and Sheppard and works at the Royal Bank Tower (he’s got his own parking space). He too does not take transit, rather he takes the DVP. He tells me it takes him 45 minutes either way, and if that is the case, he would rather drive. To him, it saves on stress so that he doesn’t have to navigate through crowded subway trains and stations, he gets to crank his music full blast and no one will care, he doesn’t have to worry about catching the cold-of-the-week, and finally, if there is a delay, there is always an alternate route on the highway. He would rather have a new expressway rather than a new subway.

    With the stagnation of the TTC has created this lot of people who will be forever attached to their vehicles. The idea is not to punish them for doing so (as City Hall has proposed). But then again, having a more viable transit option will not work either.


  27. I ride Viva to and from work, and I am very skeptical about any sort of bus right-of-way appearing. There’s no room along Yonge, they will never sacrifice any car lanes on Highway 7

    Viva’s overrated. The only thing it has going for it is the service frequency, with pleasantly empty buses around midday. TTC could do amazing things if it had Viva’s subsidy levels for vehicle purchases and transit frequency.


  28. I think the TTC could learn a lot from Viva. For starters, those countdown clocks are worth their weight in gold. They should put them on Queen. It would look something like this:

    Next car arriving … TOMORROW
    Following vehicle … 30 MINUTES AFTER THAT

    I like those ultra-soft seats too. I rode the service once from Downsview to Kipling & 7 and thought it was great. Very competitive with the car because the stops were very far apart.

    Steve: Fortunately you were travelling between two points that had stops.

    As for next vehicle arrivals, you forgot to mention that at least one of them would be short turned after you boarded, and the other would be short turned before it ever reached your stop.


  29. Viva is perhaps the biggest joke in this province’s history. The fact that they advertise that a bus service as rapid transit is not only an insult to LRT proponents but to the TTC itself. How can Viva qualify as rapid transit when it doesn’t have its own right of way? And Why does this joke of Rapid Transit gets more funding than the TTC itself?

    Viva is nothing more than a glorified express bus. It should be treated as such not as the vaunted “next generation of rapid transit”. It is giving the idea of LRTs here in Toronto a very bad name.

    Stephen Cheung: I should point out to you that while the Ottawa Transitway is indeed a success, it is at its capacity and cannot attract any more ridership compared to an LRT. Consider this article on the lightrailnow site.

    Besides OCTranspo’s issues regarding attracting more ridership is the fact that BRT is now getting more expensive to maintain, what with all the new buses that Ottawa needs to buy. Consider that Toronto’s streetcars have been around for 20+ years and they may still be around for many years in the future even with the impending streetcar purchase. Buses these days however do not last as long as they used to, and unless we have a large fleet of articulated fishbowls, you can forget about a long lasting BRT fleet.

    One other thing, Mr. Cheung, I do not think your comments are very helpful to Toronto’s dream of a true transit city. Your proposition to have BRTs instead of LRTs will sabotage the very thing us transit advocates are fighting for. Just because it works in Ottawa does not mean it will work here. And the article posted proves it.

    Steve: Now, now, folks, I am trying to run a civilized salon here, and everyone’s entitled to their opinion, most of the time .

    There is a much more fundamental issue with the Ottawa BRT — it is a very core-oriented system designed to get people downtown from outlying areas, GO Transit with buses you might say. That type of system only works if you have the space to build it, and if you are not trying to provide comparatively local service to a variety of destinations.

    Transit City and the Official Plan’s Avenue concept are complementary, and we need to judge them by the demands the transit system will face in 10 to 30 years.


  30. Eric Chow wrote, “How can Viva qualify as rapid transit when it doesn’t have its own right of way?”

    Viva is only in phase one, and really is not at the stage that qualifies it is BRT. Phase two is supposed to move it to BRT, as far as Yonge and Highway 7 corridors are concerned, though the process that was underway to implement this on Yonge south of Highway 7 has been stalled since the ill-conceived election promise of the subway to Highway 7 was announced, and none of the other phase two plans have moved forward yet.

    Yes, Viva phase one is really just a glorified express bus service, but one that offers three features that have been attracting new riders in a very car-oriented region. The stops are farther apart (though, other YRT routes operate in parallel to provide local service) and all-door loading are two features that help expidite service, and the next-arrival displays add a perception of speed (a 10 minute wait *is* longer to a person who has no knowledge that it will be a 10 minutes).


  31. Eric: The reason why VIVA got so much funding is, if you read Steve’s comments earlier, that the monies given to the consortium to run VIVA were costs associated with the startup of such a system. Also consider that VIVA is run under contract to YRT. It is a PRIVATE company. This is for those who believe that Private-Public partnerships will not work. Because it is working here.

    The fact that you consider VIVA as a joke means that you are not considering rational arguments of using BRT as a viable alternative. I am for LRT as much as most of the people here, I believe it is a wonderful idea that should finally get its due here. But the reason I say that BRT should be considered is twofold: 1) most people don’t WANT an LRT system, despite the benefits (they have this misconception that LRT is like streetcars which are slow and unreliable, which it is not), and 2) it is cheaper to implement. I don’t care what you say about VIVA being a joke: it is a qualified success credited with boosting ridership in a car-only neighbourhood. And if the TTC were to tap into those ideas, I’m pretty sure that the Provincial and Federal government would listen. They would rather spend a smaller amount of money to create a BRT system rather than spend a whole lot more for an LRT system. And we all know how the political parties feel about Toronto: the party that gives Toronto the shaft is the party that gets into power, no questions.

    Mississauga has seen the BRT light by proposing their own transitway. I look forward to their implementation and I hope the TTC listens. It’s either going to be a BRT solution or a new expressway, new subways and LRTs are out of the question. And I know Torontonians don’t want a new expressway.

    One final note: maybe you didn’t know (if you look at the links to the page you posted), but Ottawa’s city council has voted to kill the LRT project much to my disappointment. But the reasons are there and are the same as the reasons for not wanting to support Transit City: the taxpaying public in general are not willing to sink so much money into an expensive system the Provincial and Federal governments have not committed money to.

    And therein leads to my argument that I have been saying all along: the TTC needs to do a better job of promoting LRT in Toronto if they want it, and getting the provincial and Federal Governments on side. It is no wonder why a large number of people north of Toronto support the subway to Vaughan, after all, it benefits them, that’s why they want it built. And it leads to my second argument: the people’s perception is that Subways and Expressways good, LRT bad. Simple as that.

    Steve: The Private Sector partnership depended on public seed money to make it viable including handing VIVA an existing well-used route formerly operated by the public sector. I am not sure we would have seen anywhere the same level of service rollout if the private partner had to pony up the capital investment.

    Mississauge, by the way, also has two LRT lines on the books: Dundas to Kipling Station, and the Hurontario line. These are part of MoveOntario.

    I agree that the TTC needs to do a much better job of promoting LRT, and diversion of a huge effort into coping with budget cuts when we should be out singing the praises of Transit City is yet another problem the city as a whole does not need.

    Finally, expressways are “good” provided that they are toll free and don’t go through “my” back yard. Soon the happy burghers of the 905 will have to confront the implications of running out of road space. The same people who would happily build another expressway into downtown Toronto will react savagely to any proposal to do the same in their own communities.

    Subways are “good” provided that we can build half a dozen at a time giving the impression that we will serve everyone. Alas, the congestion in the outer 416 and the 905 is mainly from traffic that does not go where a lot of people want new subways.

    “Common sense”, however, never stopped anyone from making nonsensical demands and promises.


  32. Calvin: Any bus system can have this kind of system that tells of when the next bus is coming is not new technology. I’m pretty sure that other cities have that for local routes as well. This does not give VIVA any special characteristics. The concept of Rapid Transit is that it is supposed to be Rapid. Running in mixed traffic is not, and neither are buses dressed up as “rapid transit vehicles”. Take away the fancy paint scheme, the wireless access, and the fancy “next stop” signs and you’ll see these RTVs as they should be seen as, plain jane buses.

    The proposed ROWs for Phase 2 would be an improvement for Viva as it would then be more similar to the Transitways being proposed for Mississauga (oh btw, Steve, AFAIK, the proposed RT solutions are BRTs, not LRTs, none which connect to the TTC subway line, unless you know something I don’t). But the fact remains that BRT is not a true RT solution. You can’t daisy chain buses together to handle more capacity in the same way you can chain LRT vehicles. Thus you need more drivers. Thus the costs for BRT go up when capacity increases. That’s the problem plaguing Ottawa, and it is indeed a disappointment that Ottawa’s right wing council cancelled it. Shame on them, they had an opportunity to turn Ottawa into a Transit city and they blew it.


    The following items are included in the list of MoveOntario projects:

    Hurontario Light Rail Transit from Queen Street in Brampton to Lakeshore Road in Mississauga
    Dundas Street West Light Rail Transit from Kipling station to Hurontario Street

    Information in Mississauga’s own plans is more generic referring only to “RT”, but they have been thinking about LRT for some time.


  33. Viva is only at the first of three phases. York Region made a lot of changes to the curb lanes to help get the busses past the tailbacks at each traffic light. This seems to be a moderate sucess on hwy 7 at least. Apparently there is some transit priority intelligence in the traffic signals as well. All those doubting the system’s rapidity should try taking the local service up there. It would almost double your trip times.

    They plan to start building the bus-only lanes next spring. That will be phase 2. I have seen images for some of the bus only lanes, but I’m not sure how final they were. It’s a baby steps approach. Their website alludes to phase 3 being LRT. I assume that’s the final plan should they get the ridership they need to support that mode. Why this improvement in service in a series of logical, fairly economic steps isn’t a good idea is beyond me. It seems to suit the landscape up there just fine. The flashy busses and marketing campaign are also surely necessary steps in attracting new riders. Far be from them to promote the system as clean, quick & efficient. Keep in mind they’ve got to entice people out of some pretty nice cars up there in Markham.

    Also, all of the YRTs routes are run by private operators. As is their garbage collection. That’s how they roll up there. It’s a fairly common operating system as far as I know – the local authority does the route planning and hires a company to drive the busses. I don’t know who owns the busses though.


  34. Steve, what about the proposed transitway along Highway 403? I know it has been tossed around for quite a while. AFAIK, it was supposed to be a GO Transit pet project but was expanded to include Mississauga Transit. That transitway project may be what Mr. Cheung and I are referring to.

    Steve: That transitway is still on the books as part of MoveOntario. My big problem with highway-based transitways is that they provide lousy local service and are much more suited to semi-express routes between major nodes. Great for the nodes, not so great for the places in between. They are particularly dependent on good feeder services (which may, or may not be integrated with the express routes).


  35. Interesting now that it is an LRT instead of a BRT for Mississauga. However, I should point out that the BRT has been on the books for ages in Mississauga, so if anything, the LRT projects mentioned here will probably see some fruition, but as BRT, and not LRT lines.

    But even then, Mississauga and by extension, Peel Region would probably support LRT (the Hurontario line could get extended all the way to Hurontario and Bovaird). They are not as dense as Toronto is, so LRT is probably a better fit for population demographics in the region. And besides, you want to keep Mississauga on your good side, after all, who cares about Toronto anyway? They’d be better off with a BRT, forget the cheezy and cadillac-like LRT that those loony folks at the TTC are proposing.

    Steve: I will grit my teeth and assume that you are trying to be ironic, not insulting. As for who cares about Toronto? I do, and so do the millions of people who live here. Making this kind of argument just pisses people off.

    I could make insulting arguments about suburban planning and development politics, but know that the transportation problems of the entire region affect me even downtown at Broadview and Danforth. As long as people don’t know and can’t see what the options are, they will always say “give me more highways”.

    Imagine if GO Transit didn’t exist, and some wild-eyed transit advocate suggested running — gasp — trains to carry people into the city rather than widening the Gardiner and DVP to 16 lanes each. We would be attacked as misty-eyed, nostalgic lunatics who would run steam engines given half a chance.

    People want more GO service because it is a proven success, and every rail line available is a potential new corridor.

    Were it not for our own short-sightedness about LRT decades ago, we could have had suburban LRT routes with communities crying out for more. Instead, all we hear about is slow, noisy, unreliable streetcars. The TTC pushed (and to some degree still pushes) this image, and it’s no wonder that LRT is poorly understood.


  36. Oh, by the way, Eric: is it me or is it “electric rail or bust” when it comes to RT solutions? That is the single-minded attitude which is the reason why previous campaigns to expand the TTC have failed, and Transit City will be among them (no offense to you Steve). The way things are right now, Transit City will never see the light of day. What part of “Alternative Technologies” do you not understand?

    Rapid Transit systems do not have to have a rail or steel wheels to qualify as rapid transit. Consider Montreal, they have a rubber-wheeled system. No rails. Why don’t you call those “Plain Jane Buses”? Also consider GO Transit. It may have rails, but does not run on electricity, but rather diesel. Does this mean that GO transit is not rapid transit?

    There are many ways to skin a cat (as the saying goes). Likewise, there are more than other ways to provide Rapid Transit. LRT and BRT are two ways of doing it, but with the high costs associated with LRT and the unwillingness of any government to commit to this, it may well be that we are stuck with a BRT. And any solution is better than no solution. This is not an all-or-nothing thing that you are talking about, Eric. We’re trying to come up with options to make Public transit more accessible. BRT is but one of many possibilities, and may ultimately be the one that we end up with.

    Criticizing VIVA is unfair. As Calvin Henry-Cotnam mentioned, VIVA is only in its first stage. The next stage involves constructing a BRT right of way which would separate buses from traffic. And that’s how BRT is supposed to work.

    Don’t dismiss VIVA right away simply because it uses buses. It is an innovative way to bring Rapid Transit to outlying areas. Sure, it may use buses right now, but if you looked at the plans for the future of VIVA, you’ll notice that Light Rail is under consideration. So even York may jump on the LRT bandwagon. But this will not happen as of yet. It would take many years. Which is why I’m asking everyone to show some patience in this. And don’t be unhappy if it is not LRT but BRT. I’m all for LRT but BRT is better than nothing. If you would rather have nothing, then enjoy your gridlock.


  37. Sometimes there are things that can be done quite cheaply to speed up “plain Jane buses” in heavy traffic. Brampton is modifying main streets so they have a long right turn lane with a bus only extension that leads to a far side bus bay. This effectively provides a bus lane, shared with right turn cars, where it can be used most to advantage in heavy traffic, without the expense of providing an extra lane for the whole street.

    Steve: This sort of thing can work well provided that there is road space to create the extra lanes. However, major streets either have or will eventually fill up their available rights-of-way, especially in older parts of cities, and then the hard decisions about who gets the available space must be addressed.

    Also, widening indefinitely creates pedestrian-hostile intersections, something that is contrary to any scheme to make neighbourhoods friendlier to transit users.


  38. I think much of the VIVA discussions have missed the reason for VIVA. YRT have developed VIVA to address the low modal split between cars and public transit. They have gone to great effort to make it appear to the public as distinctly different that a bus system (which is a good trick since it is a bus system). If they are successful, further developements (like LRT) will follow. If they are not successful, the system will go on the scrap heap.

    Actually in years to come, with Eglington LRT, Sheppard LRT and Finch LRT in place, and maybe Steeles, the next logical LRT route is Highway 7.

    Steve: What is annoying about VIVA is the way it is so self-congratulatory without acknowledging the significant level of public subsidy and the artificial boost it got by taking over the Yonge Street corridor from GO.

    York Region’s modal split is very low, and it will take more than a small network of BRT services to change that situation. As ridership grows, so will operating costs (even with the vaunted benefits of private sector contracting). Will York Region cough up the money to sustain tis growth, or will they take Toronto Council’s attitude that growth is something we will pay for next year?


  39. Stephen: Steve may think you’re trying to be ironic, but I think you are getting downright annoying with your pro-BRT comments. I’ve been reading most of your posts and the one thing I notice is that while you are for the ROW projects on Spadina and now on St. Clair, you do not seem to want to expand this model to the other portions of the TTC. That’s called hypocrisy. And it is not doing wonders for the cause to give Public Transit a wider berth here. And where are you from anyway? Richmond Hill? Where every house has eight cars, two for every person? What do you drive? An SUV? (In case you are wondering, I live close to York Mills Station, and take public transit to work near the Ferry Docks).

    For your information, the idea of Rapid transit is the following: it follows a right of way separated by traffic, it has stops placed far apart, it requires little operator intervention to move around, and its vehicles can be chained for greater capacity except where the stops do not allow this.

    On the third point, BRT is not considered to be Rapid Transit, as it requires an operator to steer and drive. It also makes BRT very unsafe compared to other RT modes. I have heard of instances where driver error caused one BRT bus to smash into another. You do not get this in fixed mode rapid transit. Yes, Montreal’s Metro has rubber wheels, but the operator does not need to steer the cars, just accelerate and decelerate.

    On the last point, try chaining several buses together. You can do this with LRT (heck the Bloor Streetcar ran in sets of two cars, IIRC), but not BRT.

    This is why LRT is the true solution for Toronto as it fits more with Toronto’s transportation needs. We don’t want a half-assed solution, we want to do this right, and the right way is LRT. What we would truly like to see is a large web of LRT lines that not only cover Toronto, but also Peel and York Regions. It does not make sense for York and Peel regions to get LRT and for us to get BRT. This is an opportunity to make the perfect transit utopia. And your comments do not help our cause. You are either for the idea of Transit city, or you are against it. Right now, I feel you are against it.


  40. Steve, I’m surprised you published Eric’s comment. Sounds like he’s getting dirty. And yes, my last comment was pure sarcasm, as I will explain in a bit.

    FOR THE RECORD (and for the very last time): I FULLY SUPPORT the visions brought forth by the Transit City plans. I think it is a good idea and should be dealt with.

    HOWEVER: I know there are several elements in the provincial and federal governments who are itching to deny Toronto what it truly needs. In most conservative political circles, screwing Toronto is high on the agenda while supporting the 905 region is a priority. Their view is that Toronto has a bloated bureaucracy and needs to find its own efficiencies first before coming to the politicians for a bailout. This is why many elements in the 905 region meet the Transit City plan with dismay. Especially in Missisauga where I used to live. They have been clamouring for a dedicated rapid transit line, and are usually very angry when Toronto gets all the attention. I’m betting that if there is going to be an LRT network in the GTA, they want to have it first.

    Mississauga is a conservative bastion, so if and when the Conservatives dominate the federal and provincial houses (trust me, it will happen), Mississauga will get what it wants. Toronto however, will most likely get left out of the cold. That’s the way politics and Toronto work.

    I appreciate that you would like to see a large web of LRT lines interconnected across Peel, York and Toronto. But the fact remains, it will take a lot of MONEY. Keyword, MONEY. Taxpayers do not like to see their money wasted on what they see as frivilous projects. And they will see that Transit City is a frivilous project. Given that Conservative Mississauga is more politically important than Liberal Toronto, you can bet your marbles that any form of LRT that materializes will probably go to them.

    Despite all our wishes to have a Transit utopia here in Toronto, we have to accept reality: the political bickering involving Toronto has stalled dreams of a project of this magnitude before and it will continue to stall other dream projects, Transit City among them.

    What is thus required is a carrot to go along with the Transit City stick, in other words, Compromise. If Transit city has to go ahead in BRT form, so be it. The other taxpayers will not whine and bitch as much regarding how their tax dollars are spent, and the politicians will not be so keen as to make Toronto the target of their wrath.

    As for MoveOntario, it will not happen. Moreso, it may happen but only in areas where there is Conservative Staying power. Face it, McGuinty may not get re-elected, and it is for other reasons other than the way he treats Toronto. And Tory, despite his pledges to help Toronto, will not do so unless Toronto is Conservative Blue (which will never happen). Which is more likely that Mississauga will get its LRT line while Toronto does not. Tory will probably more content on rubberstamping BRT on Toronto then turn around and say: “now we’ve helped you, now shut up”.

    We don’t want to waste any more time in bickering while congestion gets worse in Toronto. Which is why I strongly say if Transit city is being offered by the provs and feds as a BRT, I hope Toronto council takes it.

    A side note: if and when Mississauga or York gets its LRT, they had better be sure they use the same track gauge as Toronto Streetcars. This goes hand in hand with desires to have a large web of LRT routes crisscrossing the GTA.


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