Some Things You Just Have To Say

I received a comment from Roger Bal in the thread about Trams to the Airport, and this really deserves a post all of its own.

Roger comments:

Steve, I believe you are too one sided and political and you failed to see the proposal of LRT I mentioned via the rail corridor. It seems to me it’s either your way or the highway with every proposal and idea that is put forward by anyone.

gettorontomoving is just an idea like other ideas brought forward time and time again through out the years. Why does someone’s political affiliation have to do with an idea. Anytime a new road is mentioned or brought forward your underwear becomes fouled. Remember that we all share the roads and that’s the way it should be. Cars and our population is going up and nothing you say will change that. The ideas of roads being added to vacant land beside railway tracks shouldn’t be political. Those ideas are valid and they benefit everyone and it eliminates a lot of unused lands in our city. I don’t view the world as everything being political.

I dissed the gettorontomoving scheme not for its LRT to the airport, but for its expressway extensions as shown on their map, specifically:

  • The Weston Corridor expressway as a southerly extension of Highway 400 to the Gardiner
  • The Spadina expressway extension to St. Clair
  • The DVP branch through East York and Scarborough via the hydro corridor

These roads are overwhelmingly designed to funnel traffic into the core, but it’s unclear where it will go when it gets there. They will do little or nothing to relieve congestion on the outer 416 and 905 road networks. I might have greater faith that someone was genuinely interested in road problems if they concentrated their efforts in those regions.

Anyone who has been reading this site will know that my preferred method of serving the Weston rail corridor is with an LRT line. It was impossible to argue for this to be included in Transit City because until Blue 22 is formally laid to rest, nothing else is ever considered.

gettorontomoving also drags out that old chestnut, a “balanced transportation system”. Nobody has ever explained what is supposed to constitute “balance” beyond expunging the word “no” from our vocabulary and building whatever anyone wants. You can build your subway as long as I can build my expressway.

The hard decisions always come when we say that more roads are not the answer. Back in the 60s, we could pretend that expressways were a valid response to transportation problems. Today, that’s a joke.

As for my being too one sided and political, I have a basic response: this is my blog. If you want to run a blog ranting on about the wonders of expressway construction and the huge wastes of money on transit, be my guest. You won’t find that here, except in some of the comments.

Transit issues, both at the political level and the detailed technical level, have not received good airing for decades, and if we depended on the professionals, we would just be learning that someone had invented the wheel, but it only works in Europe.

LRT has been around for a long time, and could have made inroads in Toronto but for the combined efforts of the subway lobby and a provincial agency more interested in dubious high technology experiments than worthwhile transit.

Back in 1972, when Streetcars for Toronto fought to save the streetcar system, and then turned to advocacy for LRT, our pictures of various systems were considered quaint and certainly not in the same league as a new world-beating technology. Never mind that in 1966 the TTC produced a plan for suburban streetcars running through what was then largely farmland including a line to the airport!

Other cities built LRT networks, we built a toy train and a handful of small subway lines. Now, finally, Toronto has a renaissance, a sudden discovery that there has been a transit alternative all this time right under our noses. I can excuse politicians for blatant stupidity, up to a point, but the “professionals” who chose to downplay this option have a lot to answer for.

LRT is not “the answer” to everything, but despite a so-called alternative analysis process, it has never had the profile it now enjoys thanks to Transit City. Even that won’t really be established until we build something successful.

Meanwhile, Bus Rapid Transit, something that was not even on the table decades ago when every right-thinking city built only subways, has emerged as a way to deflect attention from LRT and to focus on road-oriented transit schemes.

I take a hard line with my positions because I have seen decades of positions lost by erosion, inch by inch, like water dripping on a rock face. Just let us build one more subway. Streetcars are nice but not here, not yet. More service would be good, but next year.

I have watched as dubious schemes and their politically connected sponsors took precedence over good transit because, as we all know, the transit system exists not for its riders, but for the lucrative projects it can finance.

Many who have commented here contributed to the evolution of my positions. When you’re forced to stand up every day in an electronic equivalent of Question Period, you work through the details and nuances in your arguments and you present your opinions with gusto.

[Some Honourable Members: “Hear! Hear!”]

I detest expressway proposals because they speak to a city model that is long extinct. I dislike subway proposals because they concentrate scarce resources, both capital and operating, on lines of dubious value and lock us into the most expensive of all transit modes.

In a way, I am a small-c conservative, someone who does not want to build and spend recklessly. That may manifest itself in ways much removed from the more traditional small-or-large-c crowd, but it’s a valid position. I want money spent in ways that will improve transit at moderate cost (not the same as “cheap”) because I want transit to have a greater role for Toronto, its growing population and the city it can become.

We all differ in exactly how that might be achieved, and I have every right to get on my soap box (it is my soap box after all), just as gettorontomoving has the right to plump for their scheme. I would never make a good politician, because when I don’t agree with something, I say so.

The foul smell on the air is not my underwear, but transportation “plans” that would set the city back decades.

74 thoughts on “Some Things You Just Have To Say

  1. There was actually a plan way back in 1966 for suburban streetcars?! That sounds like something that would be worth reading a lot more about. I find that surprising after having found out elsewhere that the TTC decided that same year on phasing out streetcars. Lucky for Toronto that your group was able to reverse that travesty of a plan. Streetcar fans and supporters everywhere owe you and your group one humongous debt of gratitude.

    Steve: The TTC, Hawker-Siddeley (whose Thunder Bay plant is now owned by Bombardier, and whose name gives us the “H” series subway cars) and Tatra (a Czech firm that supplied most of what was once the “eastern bloc” with its streetcars) developed an updated PCC design in the mid-60s. Tatra had bought the PCC patents once streetcars were no longer manufactured in North America, and continued to churn out vehicles based on that design for decades.

    By 1966, there was a nice brochure (I unfortunately only have a poor photocopy) for the car, and the TTC released its Rapid Transit Plan including lines on:

    The Canadian Northern rail corridor alignment in Scarborough from Warden Station to Malvern. This eventually became the Kennedy extension and the originally proposed alignment for the SRT.
    The Finch hydro corridor across the top of the city, then swinging down to Richview hydro junction (near 401/427) where it would join …
    A line northwesterly from Kipling Station
    A branch from the northwest link into the airport

    Along came Queen’s Park, the Ontario Transportation Development Corporation and their mad scheme to use Krauss-Maffei’s magnetic levitation trains for urban transit. Without going into the long story, that never got off the ground, technically, as maglev is far more suited to high-speed travel than local transit, but the interregnum, while GO Urban was all the rage, doomed the new streetcar design.

    I have in my archives a letter from Tatra to a friend who was then a consultant working for the City, but who had professional contacts in the industry, asking why activity on the new streetcar design had stopped so suddenly. The date co-incided with the GO Urban announcement.

    The reason there is an unused streetcar platform on the south side of Kipling terminal opposite the bus loop was that the LRT line to the airport would terminate there. Somehow, it was still in the plans when Kipling was built.

    The SRT was originally to be an LRT line, and you can see the original streetcar platform at Kennedy Station if you look in the right place. When Kennedy Station opened, the graphic above the escalator up to the RT level had a streetcar pictogram, not an RT car.

    (A similar “oops” happened when the Spadina subway opened. For a brief period during its design, the Spadina streetcar idea was on the table, and Spadina Station (north) opened with signs that said “To Streetcars” pointing down to the connecting passageway. They disappeared within days. It took years after that original “approval in principle” of the Spadina car for anything to actually be built.)

    I’m not sure those lines would have been ideal — they suffer from the attraction of existing rights-of-way that are convenient, but not conducive to neighbourhood services. However, at least if they had been built in the 60s and 70s, they would have changed the form of suburban development, and would have shown the way for future suburban expansion. You can look at a map to see what we actually got.

    For the original PCC design, you can read my post from April 2006.

    For the streetcar version of the SRT, read this post, also from April 2006.


  2. The Get Toronto Moving people have some crazy ideas, don’t they? It’s the same crowd that advocates the really expensive viaduct over the Union Rail Corridor to replace the Gardiner (with 8 through expressway lanes!), even a highway below the Scarborough Bluffs. Hamish Wilson would have a field day with them.

    An LRT corridor in the Weston Sub would be a perfect example of how LRT is a very diverse technology that can be used in mixed traffic, in centre of street or side of street ROWs, in tunnels, and in at-grade fully reserved right of way. Transit City mostly is about centre ROWs, though the Eglinton line, much of it underground, is exciting and proof of the flexibility of light rail technology.

    The beauty of the Weston corridor is that it meets many surface bus and streetcar routes without going too far out of the way of where people want to go – Weston Road is never more than a 2 minute walk away (not much more than the distance from Bloor or Danforth to the station entrance), and its diagonal routing allows it to intercept a lot of bus routes. And it can be a relatively fast option to get to the airport if done right, while offering the service to the communities on route that could use it. It’s just a shame that SNC Lavalin, CN and the Feds won’t let this $20/pop, flawed proposal die, and the irony is that it was supposed to be a “gift” from the Liberals.

    While US light rail systems have headways that exceed 20 or 30 minutes, they are nice, quick, inexpensive links. I’ve even enjoyed using the Baltimore light rail from BWI to a stop two blocks from my downtown hotel. It took about 22 minutes from departure to arrival for $1.60.

    The Weston Sub also has promise as a regional rail corridor for longer distance trips between Brampton, Malton, Etobicoke and Central Toronto if GO could be convinced to run a real regional network. Heck, a regional rail service worthy of S-Bahn with a few extra stops in Toronto could do the trick for many in this corridor.


  3. I’d like to toss in my 2c about Roger’s comment, and your response.

    Of course it’s your blog, but you do have a responsibility to be objective and fair, because many people out there think of you as a transit expert. Your opinions have influence.

    A lot of people out there sense that you’re not very objective/impartial — mainly because you don’t drive, and because you’re “too” pro-LRT (to the exclusion of everything else).

    This blog has evolved to the point where basically you say something, and everyone goes along with it like sheep. This is because a lot of good pro-transit people who were in favor of a more balanced transportation strategy simply got fed up and left in frustration. Not good.

    A true “transit” advocate would never oppose *ANY* transit expansion, be it subway, SRT, whatever. When I read some of your negative posts about Spadina, Sheppard, the SRT, and BRT, I say to myself, “This guy is a transit advocate/expert? He’s against any idea that isn’t a streetcar. Let’s see — he’s against autos, ferries, buses, subways, the SRT … you name it”.

    Steve: I will say it again. Advocates of subways, and more recently BRT, have had a free ride for decades pushing their view of what’s right for the world, and I am trying to provide some “balance”. A true advocate would never oppose any transit expansion? Nonsense! When we spend billions on a Sheppard and Spadina subway, that money could have been spent to produce a lot more transit on alternatives. These are not transit projects, but monuments to the egos of politicians.

    You may have noticed that I spend a lot of time studying and writing about service quality. One big issue in overall quality is the money we waste supporting overbuilt infrastructure. Toronto cut service while absorbing a multi-million dollar jump in net operating costs thanks to the Sheppard subway. Mel got his subway, but everyone else in North York got packed buses.

    At the other end of the scale, “BRT” has a place, but only where there is room to implement the right of way and where the service is predominantly a line-haul express operation, not a local service where capacity is constrained by stop service and geometry.


  4. Get Toronto Moving is the Transportation Committee of the Toronto Party, and I’m not afraid to say that I am one of the co-chairs of that Committee (a picture of me can be found on the get Toronto moving website) I read your entire post and it does not seem to be wacky. You ask what is meant by balanced, and the answer is simple.

    Go back to the day when the Spadina expressway was canceled. IMO this was the day that Ontario died. Before this we had not only the world’s best highways but the world’s best transit. Within 20 years we were at the bottom of the list in both categories. Since that day we have not built a single new highway in Toronto. No plans were made to stop at the Allen, and this is like building a house and just stopping at some point without any consideration about weather the house is livable or not. What we want is not to “build a subway if we build a highway” but simply to build both. I am currently working with the Chair, and with the advisory committee of the Toronto Party on a way to fix Toronto’s traffic problems with ‘one big highway’ that, in short, runs from Black Creek to Morningside and the 401 via Bayview-Bloor. That’s a simplistic explanation, but it works. Turning King and Queen into one-way streets, as well as Yonge and Bay would go a long way as well. Neither of these would “cover the city with expressways”. The point is that when you are building highways you are also building subways and LRT. We currently support an LRT subway under Queen. The remainder of our proposals have been borrowed by the city (our official plan came out 3 weeks prior to transit city) and, coincidentally, our Eglinton line (which came directly from my own proposals BTW) happens to be mirrored, word for word, in transit city.

    The point of a balanced plan is to provide a quick transportation access for people across the city weather they choose to get to work via Subway, Road, LRT, or Highway.

    Steve: What you ignore in all of this is the impact the highways you propose would have on the neighbourhoods through which they travel. Just because you run along a rail corridor doesn’t make you invisible because of the impact of interchanges. The Allen/Spadina would have destroyed part of central Toronto, and downtown would be a very different place today had the expressway been completed.

    You may believe the Spadina’s cancellation was the day Ontario died. To me, it was the point where we could have forged a real “Transit City”, but we lost the opportunity through fixation with high cost, low benefit schemes rather than on truly improving transit.

    As for the Eglinton line being your idea, please don’t insult my readers. Some sort of line on Eglinton has been part of plans for decades, and I remember discussing a combination surface/subway LRT with anyone who would listen years ago. It’s not my idea any more than it’s yours, just the logical point one reaches when looking at the constraints of the corridor.


  5. As someone who loves trains and streetcars and as someone who has been standing in the sidelines for far too long I feel I must step forward and contribute to help with advocating the government to see that more is done to invest in mass transit, be it VIA rail or the TTC. I will try to do my upmost to attend more of these public meetings be it for Union Station or the Rocket Riders or Transport 2000. I’m sorry if it sounds odd just jumping up and blurting it out in front of everyone but the truth is that I did used to volunteer for the Rocket Riders back in the late 1990s and when I look back I can think fondly of how I was working for two people who are now of high profile (Ed Drass and Gord Perks) as well as handing out leaflets one time with then city councillor David Miller who I had no idea at the time would become Mayor later on. If you need my help Steve with your work I will try to do my best to comply (either that or try to do some work for Spacing magazine). Better that than sitting on my laurels and being on the sidelines.


    Jordan Kerim


  6. As I think I may have stated before, a BRT is an effective alternative for a city SMALL enough that it could solve an immediate rapid transit problem, and then eventually be upgraded to an LRT. That was the case in Ottawa in the late ’70’s and the early ’80’s.

    The danger is that it could then be perceived as something that could be used INSTEAD of LRT. And that’s what’s happening in Ottawa right now, making it the ONLY major city in Canada without any light rail. That will affect any future development in the city because companies might hesitate to locate any business in an area where there is no light rail access to downtown, thus creating more road chaos, etc.

    So, how crazy is it for Toronto to think of ANY form of BRT as an alternative/temporary fix? I feel the BRT solution still plays into the hands of those who favor the car and want to build more roads.


  7. Steve, I can see dissing the extension of the 400, and a new Scarborough expressway.

    But the Allen is a bit of a problem. There’s a lot of capacity that stops dead right on Eglinton, and creates a nightmare both on Eglinton, and on the Allen.

    I don’t think it should be extended to St. Clair, but what about a couple of lanes in a tunnel, along the subway, that would daylight in a portal in the viaduct Bathurst Street. There’s no streetlife along that little piece of Bathurst that would be impacted. You’d keep the expressway covered, so it doesn’t impact much there. And you significantly improve the breathability of the air on Eglinton, which is a disaster zone with all the traffic. You’d also eliminate a lot of cars turning to get onto Eglinton, to get onto the Allen.

    Sure, new expressways are a bad idea – but trying to deal with some horrific bottlenecks I would think would be in everyone’s interest.

    Steve: So we move the congestion from Eglinton and the Allen to Bathurst north of St. Clair. This is a perfect example of the “just one more expressway” problem that plagues us. Frankly, I would rather close the Allen or narrow it to one lane as a means of constricting its use. Yes, that’s an extreme position, but no worse than simply translating the problem at great expense a few km to the south.


  8. Hi Steve:-

    As an east ender all my life, I’ve come to despise any idea of expressway expansion through this diverse community. It would only serve well those who are merely passing through our ‘slum’ to heaven in Durham and have little value to those of us living well here!

    If the Scarborough Expressway had not been stopped, the exact same fate would have befallen many many single family homes in East Toronto due to the necessary alignment to get from the lakeshore up to the CNR right-of-way, as your allusion to the devastation that would have been wrought on Spadina. The destructive force either of those projects would have had on viable, livable and desirable city neighbourhoods is the stuff of nightmares for those of us with an urban bent. The continuous 24/7 noise and smell generated by the traffic on these ‘luxuries for the suburbanite’ would disturb residents not initially plowed under, forever! Would those homes located within earshot still have the same value that the B/D subway and Queen car contribute to. I think not, with urban ghettos in US cities coming to mind when I see the proximity of the multi lane speedways swathing through them.

    I recently watched a documentary about the US Civil War which featured Sherman’s march to the sea. Its impact on the lives that were affected by it would have easily been likened to a downtown Spadina expressway and the Scarborough extension of the Gardiner.

    I’m not against balanced transportation, but the 50’s are gone and it’s now time, and high time too, that transit get the same consideration that unbridaled highway expansion once had. That’s my idea of balancing. Thirty years of lip service, since Mr’ Davis’ historic edict, has done little to overall improvements in transit service and has merely allowed expressway lobbiests to continue their outdated arguements against the ‘Better Way’. If what you have been discussing Steve had actually been implemented when the iron was hot, some of these silly comments would have evapaorated along with the swamp water and a truly balanced transportation system would be present day reality rather than paper dreams.



  9. Hi Steve.

    I read the post about the alternate transit plans proposed by the Toronto Party, and then quickly skimmed Nick Boragina’s website. (I will go back and read the plans on the website.)

    He is certainly entitled to his opinion, but I have a question for Nick – find me an expressway system that has reduced traffic problems. Usually, they offer a quick fix until they attract more cars. How do you impose suburban standards on an inner city that was built to cater to streetcars and pedestrians?

    The reason that there is an attack on the “car culture” is because of the problems it produces. Urban sprawl leaps to mind. As the years go by and the cost of oil climbs, what will it cost to service theses areas? Deep down, the real reason for the concerns about the attacks on cars and drivers is that a car is the ultimate freedom. You can go where you want, when you want and no one can dictate to you.

    I think that Nick’s comments about a streetcar holding up drivers says all that needs to be said about the blog and the author’s view. It is an especially ironic statement to make because streetcar riders far outnumber drivers on streetcar routes. There seems to be not a ripple of disapproval when one driver holds up a streetcar to make a left turn.

    The choice of the balanced transportation scheme is interesting. The balance was always vague and always in favour of the car. And, Nick, I drive as well.


  10. I think that building some sort of new expressway would be good for only 1 reason. Tolls! The existing ways cannot be tolled, they were built with tax dollars, it just won’t happen. What happens if new routes are built without touching a single tax dollar? You get additional capacity for essentially free. Or, the city can own them and use them as cash cows to pay for transit, essentially a steady funding stream for transit. Building new, for now, won’t work but fixing something that is clearly a mess is quite necessary.

    I travel along the subway every single day and just watch cars idle from Lawrence all the way to Eglinton and wonder….how much pollution the guys in the homes nearby are getting because of it…not to mention waste of time! Solution? When the lanes merge into an existing street, it will not NEARLY as bad because it won’t be a T intersection like it currently is at Allen & Eglinton.

    I say, toll Allen Road from 401 to Eglinton (This portion, city makes free money….sell it to 407 or something….) then….extend it in a tunnel and it can be the west end of the richmond/adelaide corridor. East end has ramps to DVP so west end can have underground ramps to Spadina.

    Imagine the money that can be made from the tolling of Allen road (With all the new traffic that decides to take it)….I’m sure they can buy another 100 buses easily!! If not more….but also think of the extra capacity AND the lower lineup of cars….

    Richmond/Adelaide is 4 lanes each direction. If 2 expressway lanes merge into 4 regular lanes, it is equal since….1 expressway lane carries 2,500 (2,500 x 2 = 5,000) cars while 1 normal lane carries about 1,250 so….1,250 x 4 = 5,000. (2 = 4)

    So instead of Richmond/Adelaide dead ending at Bathurst, it can instead continue underground and connect to the Spadina.

    NO INTERCHANGES IN BETWEEN! That would totally kill the downtown core because….

    as Ian Folkard said: How do you impose suburban standards on an inner city that was built to cater to streetcars and pedestrians?

    Very true, you mostly can’t but One-Way streets such as Richmond/Adelaide accommodate it quite well.

    City of Toronto needs to find ways to make money!

    Steve: I have published this comment more or less “as is” because its is one of the more inventive ways I have seen someone argue we should build highways — as funding mechanisms for transit! Never mind that we don’t have the road capacity, let alone the parking, downtown to store all the cars. Of course, we have to pay off the debt from building the stupid thing first, then pay to maintain it, before we have anything left over for the TTC.


  11. For me, the expressways vs. transit debate comes down to efficiency. We’ve got a ton of people to move and a limited number of corridors to move them through. Every “lane” of corridor space we devote to transit gets us much higher capacity than a lane of roadway. Giving transit the space to accomodate many of today’s solo drivers is a far more efficient way to free up road space for freight and other trips where driving is a must.

    As for who invented the Eglinton LRT, Nick’s February 2007 plan was definitely not the first to propose the route or even the exact tunnel/surface mix Transit City would use. An earlier published example comes from Ed Levy via the Toronto Star in May 2006.


  12. Everytime I look at this plan, I often wonder how they are going to deal with all those cars entering Downtown Toronto. Actually it is the same thing right across the country, I have seen similar plans in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Montréal – although Montréal seems like it is going ahead with its own plan.

    The trouble is that this type of proposal has many more problems beyond just gridlock. If we have all these highways, we will need to find a place to park all these cars. Most cities are facing a massive parking shortages. Calgary, Toronto and New York are the three North American cities which are facing the most chronic parking shortage. And there just isn’t the room to build these.

    Steve: Not to mention the ongoing conversion of parking lots to condos. It’s ironic that by avoiding destruction of the core with an expressway network, we have finally made the property too valuable for parking.

    Then there are the maintenance cots. Since this is going to be Urban Expressways, it is going to be built more on artificial right of ways rather than natural ones (ie elevated expressway or tunnels). I can’t imagine how much it is going to cost to keep such a system in a good state of repair. Toronto already is having trouble keeping the Gardiner Expressway in a good state of repair, if you add three more expressways it will simply cause more trouble.

    Then there is the real trouble of it just being the inner-city. It is too densely populated to ever have cars be effective. I can’t think of a single inner-city where it is ‘easy’ to drive. The trouble is that inner-cities were not built for the Automobile. They were built for Streetcars and Pedestrians. If we want to simply introduce the Automobile on top of a system which isn’t designed for cars we are looking for chaos.

    The final point about this plan is how many times I have seen them cite plans around the country. But none of those plans resemble their plans. The big one the Ring Roads being build by Prairie Cities, Calgary and Edmonton especially. This is a highway which will go around the the city. The problem is that the definition of “the city.” On the prairies the Suburbs are part of the city. So Greater Calgary would be just the City of Calgary.

    The Purpose of the Ring Road is to divert traffic of Calgary Streets and have them go around the city, through the rural communities around Calgary. This would be traffic which is bound towards either other portions of the province or other portions of the Country. It is a bypass road it is not a road for commuting through the city. If Toronto wants to build such a road it would have to go around Greater Toronto (West of Peel, North of York and Durham and then East of Durham as well). It might be something Toronto and the surrounding cities would want to consider, but it won’t work if went around Downtown.

    Steve: The 401 was supposed to be the Toronto bypass road, then the 407. The next one will have to be north of Lake Simcoe.

    How many people remember when the 401 was only a four-lane divided highway, hence the “4” designation?


  13. That $2 billion being spent on Spadina is just as much *MY* money as it is *YOURS*, and I don’t like to waste it either. That being said, if a subway is going to be built “no matter what”, I’m NOT going to keep opposing it on principle, because anything is better than nothing. Same goes with TC — I won’t oppose that either.

    It has already been proven that the cost of operating the Sheppard subway ($10M) is almost equivalent to running replacement buses, so why is it an operational sink hole? You seem to find “convenient” excuses to spin the argument in favor of LRT every time. That is what I meant when I referred to your lack of objectivity. You know the facts, yet you twist them at times.

    Steve: I am very suspicious of the about-face the TTC did on closing the Sheppard Subway. When it opened, their budget clearly identified an increase in net operating costs directly attributable to that line. A bit of this has come back from revenue, but I strongly suspect that the proposal to close it drew such a wave of criticism that they cooked the books to make things come out even.

    Also, the big difference of pre and post subway construction is that if the line didn’t exist at all, we wouldn’t have to maintain it. Even if we closed it, there would be ongoing mothballing and maintenance against the day when, maybe, we run an LRT line through it. That’s an extra cost that was not, I believe, included in the original calculation.

    As for Spadina, I still have hopes that someone will come to their senses eventually, but that will probably take another election plus an economic downturn. I don’t want the downturn, and I certainly don’t want a return to the Tories, but it’s good to keep the discussion open just in case the wind shifts.


  14. 1966 eh? sigh!

    Using the Weston corridor for LRT is very sensible, and there are a couple of rather immediate threats to it.

    Perhaps the most pressing is the WQW condo craziness – because we’ve okayed excess building without any consideration to supportive transit, we may have buildings too close to the tracks, or too close to any expansion of the corridor, as in the core south of Queen, I think we might be smart to expand the corridor on the north side through expropriation if need be.

    The second issue is the Front St. Extension – its tunnel under the railtracks would be a major impediment to bringing transit/LRT into the core. And my view of bringing this transit in is to use the remnant strip of the Lands and Gardens trust on the south side of Front to Spadina, then on street.

    Diagonal routing could do a great job of easing a lot of congestion and giving a relief to B/D too.

    I have an even different view of balanced transportation – bike-riding, blading, walking, boarding – they all require more balance than sitting on a seat on transit or a car, though yes, we can’t all do the “balanced” modes and on days like today, the die-hards can be die-easies and I’m lucky to have a nice subway nearby.

    Oh, some corridors like Eglinton, deserve bigger expenditures to do undergrounding, as volumes are so high, or could be.
    And there’s always a tension between those who live in an area, and those who might wish or must pass through it.


  15. A bit of looking at and related web sites gives me quite enough evidence that they’re a bunch of road geeks who have wrapped their transportation policy in a ragged, thin blanket of “progressive” camouflage.

    I refused to renew my CAA membership after one year’s worth of their member’s magazines which featured all sorts of infuriating “advocacy” and member’s polls which were blatantly fixed. It’s interesting that the Toronto Party quotes a lot of statistics from CAA member surveys; however since the polls are so slanted, the results have no validity whatsoever. For example, the CAA, like the Toronto Party, has suggested that bicycles have no place on arterial roads (such as Bloor Street) and should be banned. Of course, your average SUV driver, steaming at being stuck in motor vehicular gridlock, is going to say “get those cyclists out of the way so there’s more room for ME, ME, ME!” (Not that it would help.)

    Arguing with these fringe people is pointless. Steve, I hope you use your valuable time on better things than debunking the Toronto Party’s policies.

    Steve: Believe me, I have other things to do. Occasionally, however, a comment arrives that demands a response, and I was in a particularly feisty mood that night.


  16. Hear Hear.

    I don’t know about you, but I think it is high time that we clamp down on those who propose the dreaded “BRT” as an alternate solution. It should never be given the light of day here in Toronto.

    I have been lurking around these last few days and have noticed a disturbing trend: people are actually listening to a certain “contributor” regarding the “benefits” of BRT. This is not a good development. If we want a sufficient transportation network, action must be taken now. If we allow these anti-LRT naysayers to gain ground, we run the risk of stalling yet again on the network you and many others here envisioned.

    Yes it is your blog Steve, but I think most of us have the right not to be exposed to pro-expressway/pro-BRT bile that is being spewed on this sacred website. We need to make a united stand against these people. Now.

    Steve: Oh Dear, Oh Dear! Am I going to have to put “parental guidance” warnings on posts lest tender eyes see more BRT Bilge or Expressway Effluvia? [I have been taking oratory lessons from Hamish, obviously.]


  17. Although the discussion seems to have moved on somewhat, I must get something off my chest. Many times, I have read comments where people demand that Steve be ‘impartial’ and ‘balanced’, or that he include their perspectives in his posts.

    They seem to begin from the mythical premise of journalistic objectivity; but this really is a *mythology*, as most contemporary journalists would readily admit. Moreover, I suspect such demands are largely made by those who are unable to provide an effective argument that would thereby provide the ‘balance’ they claim is needed.

    It is through the debate taking place here, as well as at other sites – online, in print, at events – that people should seek to make ‘balance’ (or just a politics of transit). Provide reasons, arguments, analyses, rather than appealing to ‘objectivity’. Steve is reasonably fair. Yes he pitches the discussion towards LRT, but as he often reminds commentators, this is because it is his blog. And all forms of writing and media need to start by highlighting some state of affairs.

    People read this blog because they think Steve has something to say, not because they are sheep. Mimmo, you in particular (but you are not alone) might spend a few minutes longer on some of your posts, thinking your own argument through rather than demanding others fall into line with a mythical objectivity which is presumably found high in the clouds. If all else fails, you could start a blog. In any event, you commenting here or elsewhere is the only way to get balance into an overall debate.

    Steve: Some who seek a pedestal for their views buy newspaper chains and TV networks. I am much more modest, and have no designs on taking over the world.


  18. Steve writes: “So we move the congestion from Eglinton and the Allen to Bathurst north of St. Clair. This is a perfect example of the ‘just one more expressway’ problem that plagues us.”

    No that’s not what happens. You’re missing my point. Eglinton wasn’t designed as the termination point of a subway. You can’t just end a subway, you have to disperse the traffic over 2 or 3 points. I suppose you could just eliminate the expressway entirely … but assuming that’s not on the table, you need to have something that disperses the traffic better, or you just paralyze the end point. You need something – similiar to the 400 south of 401. Eglinton east of West Mall. Gardiner where it converts into Lakeshore. Or the Kingston Road expressway where it disperses into Scarborough.

    Letting some of the traffic get off the expressway at other than Eglinton shouldn’t make Bathurst any worse – much of that traffic that would be there, is trying to get to Allen anway. You don’t increase capacity on the Allen. You just try and spread out the traffic more.

    The whole transport system in Toronto needs to be balanced. Simply fucking cars for the simple reason that they are cars, does not help anyone. Would you like to shop on Eglinton at Allen with all that gridlock?

    Steve: Let’s see. Originally, the Spadina Expressway was to come down into the city and included a depressed trench south of Bloor to “disperse” the traffic. Would you want to shop at Bloor and Spadina if it were an interchange?

    The Allen Road should never have been built, and extending it to Bathurst is throwing good money after bad. The interchange at Eglinton is sadly blighted forever, but we don’t need to wish that on other neighbourhoods too.

    As for balance, the implication seems to be that if traffic flows smoothly, then we have balance. That will never happen because (a) there is more traffic than road space and (b) motorists are notorious for thinking that they are not the problem.

    I am genuinely sorry for them, but I’m not going to destroy the city in the vain hope that they will ever be content with the capacity of the road network.


  19. Hi Steve,

    I think our car-happy writer needs to be told that there are many of us who think that a transporation system should be designed around principles of effiency, desirable land use, quality of life, and environmental goals; and that in such a model, the ‘balance’ might leave very little room for cars at all.

    This concept of balance always irritates me, what is balance? Accomodation of all uses, users and formats without regard to cost, enviromental impact or landuse goals? If so, I want no part of ‘balance’.

    If balance was interpreted to mean roughly a 50/50 modal split between auto and transit uses in the GTA, we certainly don’t need any new car facilities for the next two decades, as last I checked the current split is more like 70-Auto, 30- transit/walking etc. Not very ‘balanced’ at all.


    The above issue to one side, the specific proposals don’t really merit the time of day either. Not even from someone open to auto-use as part of the transportation mix; nevermind from a transit advocate on a transit blog.

    Nick should be happy you bothered to post his musings.

    The Allen was bad idea on day one, and in its current non-functional state the correct answer is to substantially remove it, leaving only an 401/Yorkdale Mall interchange and nothing south thereof.

    By then covering the subway and viaduct we would free up several dozen hectares of land for intesified development right over the Spadina subway.

    Allen north, which essentially becomes Dufferin, should just be tied directly into Dufferin making it one seemless street.

    This would benefit both motorists and transit users.


    As for the other expressway proposals they’re all quite destructive and expensive and not very useful either.

    I would must rather go the other way by installing a GO line down the middle of the 401 and connecting Pickering GO Stn to the Airport.

    But I have yet to bring you round on the virtues of that one.

    Give me time!

    Steve: Maybe green swan boats?


  20. “Balanced transporation system”, means adding a few ‘eye candy’ transit lines, such as a Queen Subway, to a Highway plan to make the highways look better.


  21. People advocating for “balanced” transportation systems give away their true intent by saying all roads must remain “free” (not tolled; we all know there are other costs). We already have an extensive road network that lets you get from anywhere to anywhere by car. The problem is it’s inefficient for the numbers we would need and way too popular.

    Tolls, road pricing or congestion zones would change that and give money to transit like Joseph suggests.


  22. Scott,

    Objectivity means basing opinions on fact, and putting aside bias. It also means having a well-rounded perspective on transportation issues. Since the TTC reads this blog, its policies may be influenced in some way by the discussions that take place here. That’s why it’s important that Steve does not intentionally or unintentionally slant issues, or selectively disregard certain facts that would contradict his pro-LRT stance. He has to be careful to not misinform the public in any way.

    Steve: Now let me get this straight. For 35 years, I have been working as a transit advocate, the TTC has ignored a great deal of what I propose and at times has been openly hostile. Now, my influence is so pervasive that I must take care what I write lest I accidently bring dire ruin on us all.

    That’s probably why we have frequent reliable service on the Queen car, an LRT line to the wilds of York and Swan Boats gliding up and down the Don.

    I am one of many voices, yes, a voice many listen too (even if only in the way I read some right-wing columnists to know what they’re thinking), but my writings do not change the world without the support of many others.

    Readers here don’t turn off their brains when they read the articles and the comments. They can see how well, or otherwise, I might defend a position.

    If I were to write manifest drivel, I think my readers, including those in various public agencies, would figure it out rather quickly. Suggesting that I moderate my views lest I have too much influence is one of the more novel schemes for suppressing debate I have heard.


  23. I guess any time someone brings up The Spadina Expressway in Toronto, it’s the harbinger or arguments and harsh words. It’s pretty pointless to advocate going back to builidng it – the question of merit aside – because of the politics.

    It’s easy to take pot shots at cars and drivers. The problem is that the city has the worst traffic in the continent. When cars aren’t moving, this has a proportional effect on the number of trucks needed for commerce. If a truck can only make 4 deliveries in a day instead of 5 – we end up having 25% more trucks on the road. This pushes up the cost of living in the city and makes it a less attractive place to live and do business.

    To me, the point of investing in transit is to attract drivers who have a choice so that commercial traffic can move better. Calling drivers names and threatening to shutter roads is probably counterproductive. Most people I know who drive – and I include myself in that based on what I am assigned to professionally at the moment – don’t have much choice. Many days I have to get between different clients all over the city and in Mississauga. If I want to bill more that 2 hours on many days, I have to drive.

    I’m newer to following this stuff than many of you. I’m astonished that there is such a level of “doctrinaireness” over the different technical options. If I were in the higher levels of government and reading this board, I would likely give up on helping Toronto and spend my time on other cities. (We have the federal government providing funding for the 1st time – a major transit project in Toronto – and we have people who want to stop it – not to mention all the name calling that goes on. I remember when Howard Moscoe gratuouitously insulted the 905 transit systems – obviously this was just syptomatic of much of the transit community.)

    I think we should consider “BRT” (bileous or otherwise.). Based on what I’ve read, there are successful BRT’s up and running in Ottawa, Vancouver as well as systems of bus lanes in Montreal. Now we have the VIVA system in York. It seems that people are riding these and are happy. As an example, The Vancouver B-line was studied by external consultants and found to have attracted significant ridership from people who drove before. I don’t want to be an advocate of any technology – but I can’t help but feel this hasn’t been studied properly in this city. I can’t believe there is nowhere in this city that this isn’t the right solution. What’s the fear here – is it that it might work????

    Despite what the host says, I can’t find any evidence that BRT has been given any type of consideration here. To the contrary, the TTC seems biased against anything that doesn’t involve rail. This is hardly surprising – engineering-oriented bureaucracies such as the TTC will slant to engineering intensive projects. More projects, more work for the engineering staff, more work for the people who run EAs.

    Steve: My primary objection to “BRT” is that its advocates rarely want to implement this in its truest sense — by giving buses an exclusive right-of-way. More often, what we see are proposals for quasi-exclusivity that avoid taking road space from other users. Indeed, some bus-related proposals are nothing more than road projects in disguise.

    VIVA is not a BRT system because it has not yet evolved to the point of having an exclusive, dedicated right-of-way. York Region is fortunate that in many locations, it has the right-of-way available, but even there problems could arise on some network segments with allocation of space and time. A busy BRT system generates a lot of pedestrian activity and this can have secondary effects on operation of the road network. I am waiting to see what very frequent and well used service will look like and how the debate will play out if all those buses start to get in the way of other traffic.

    Ottawa built a dedicated system of busways. This approach works only if a city has a right-of-way where this sort of structure can be built, and a demand pattern that fits with funneling traffic into a corridor like this. Some in Ottawa complain that this arrangement gerrymandered the network to the benefit of some riders and travel patterns but at the expense of others.

    In Vancouver, the B-Line is for the most part an express bus route superimposed on two major local transit lines — Granville and Broadway. Very little of this involves dedicated lanes even though a short section in Richmond seems to get its photo in all sorts of presentations. This is as much a case of good marketing as it is of technology, and I would argue that the TTC could dress up the express service on Finch East to similar effect.


  24. I’m neither surprised about Roger Bal’s comment nor Nick Boragina’s comment regarding the “Balanced Transportation System”. It shows that a great deal of people out there still want their expressway and nothing more. In the case of LRT, it becomes nothing more than icing on the cake in the face of BTS. I’m pretty sure that Steve will come up with some sort of argument that says that Transit City will cost only one fraction of the expressways they want to build. Thankfully, I’m sure that something like this is most likely a political non-starter, that and the fact that I’m sure that most of the contributors to gettorontomoving are probably from the burghers of York, Durham, and Peel regions. (See how I don’t just concentrate on York? Peel is just as guilty as York in their Transit sins, only that they have been trying to fix it for the last few years).

    As for Eric Chow’s Comment about that “certain contributor” (here we go again), I’m pretty sure that is a snipe against me, given my comments about BRT. May I remind this good board that while I support Transit City in its entirety, as an LRT line, I understand the principle of today’s Toronto Politics, that is “You can’t always get what you want”. BRT is merely an alternative, a fallback plan in case your preference gets somehow trashed. Sure, you won’t get your dream streetcars and stuff like that, but at least you are making a dent in the issue of congestion in this city of Toronto.

    Growing up in Ottawa, the transitway was pretty much a staple during my earlier years. Easy to access, easy to catch a bus, and easy to get from point A to point B. A lot of people say that OC Transpo really identified what a true BRT solution should really be like. Built on a right of way. Fast. Modular (you could easily move stops on a BRT network or add newer ones without much effort). Not to mention cheaper to build and operate. Can easily be upgraded to an LRT if required. When a car on an LRT breaks down, it would cripple the LRT line, not so with a BRT. And in certain portions, it connected to expressway infrastructure, thus making a trip even faster.

    Yes, I know that the BRT in Ottawa nowadays sees serious delays, especially near the city core. But this is why I was looking forward to an upgrade to an LRT network. Imagine my dissappointment when the proposed LRT plans were canned after a change in government. In lieu of this, they have resorted to creating a BRT service that runs through the Queensway (Highway 417, also a very crowded corridor). Such a move will not fully address the tranportation woes that plague that region.

    Yes I admit, I have a deference to VIVA. I have heard from many people about how VIVA is a very convenient form of transportation, even if it runs in mixed traffic. I have also heard how VIVA made using public transit in York a whole lot easier, i.e., taking a bus from Vaughan to Markham can now be possible without a series of inconvenient transfers, 10-15 minute intervals for buses to Newmarket (instead of waiting for 30-60 minutes for the Newmarket B bus).

    Yes, I’ll cop to the “crime” of convincing people about the joys of BRT. But the fact remains, if we can’t have LRT, it does not mean that we fall over and die. It just means that we could go for the next best thing. And still enjoy the benefits of proper ROW forms of transportation without breaking the bank WHILE enjoying all the possible benefits of BRT.

    If there is a government out there who will jump all over the Transit City project as a full LRT network, I, along with many other people will jump for joy. But the reality here is, it may not happen. We just need to have a “Plan B” in the event that is the case. But let’s hope “Plan A” gets its full funding first.

    Steve: My outlook is not all that different from what Stephen writes here, but I must comment on the observation about the Newmarket bus. The difference he speaks of is one of service quality and quantity. Take a network that runs infrequently and imposes severe penalties on trips that don’t happen to follow the route structure. Replace it with more frequent service that actually takes you where you want to go — Nirvanna! — even if it only runs every 10 to 15 minutes. That level of service won’t make a dent in road traffic, and will have difficulty getting political support for dedicated infrastructure.

    It’s important to disentangle effects caused by better service, funding and the marketing profile that comes with a purpose-built system from effects that are inherent in the technology. Many people hate the TTC simply because the service is overcrowded and unreliable, both of which are symptoms of underfunding. We can debate delivery models — private versus public, union versus non-union — all we like, but if the service on the street doesn’t have political support for its budget, then people won’t regard it as a viable, attractive alternative.


  25. “People advocating for “balanced” transportation systems give away their true intent by saying all roads must remain “free” ”

    Hang-on – that’s a little generalized. I support the systems being balanced. And the best way to do this it to toll the roads until people bleed.

    What I don’t understand, is the single-minded obstinate blockade of even minor tweaks to the road system, that do nothing to increase capacity, but only serve to eliminate gridlock, out of some fundamentalist “it’s my way or the highway” belief.

    Steve, you loose a lot of respect from intelligent people, by advocating some very self-centred beliefs. Sure streetcars should be expanded – Transit City is a huge step forward. Sure some subways shouldn’t be built (though personally I think York is a huge node, and a couple of kilometres of tunnel to reach it seems like a no-brainer). But I really think it’s time to take a sabbatical – step back from the whole thing, and spend some time looking around the city from some other points of view. Perhaps look at some cities where there is a balance between modes.

    Don’t take this the wrong way though – I highly respect what your doing here, and what you write. I just wince at the fundalmentalism of it sometimes.

    Steve: I don’t include extending the Spadina Expressway to St. Clair to be a “minor tweak”, and the quote with which you begin your comment is not mine, but from one of your fellow visitors to the site. Please distinguish between the voices you read in the comments and my own positions.

    Yes, I have said that expressway proposals are inherently bad, certainly those that assume we can somehow “fix” regional transportation problems by building more dedicated highways into the core of the city. The proposals are bad because they won’t achieve their stated goals, and they will do great damage to the city in the process.

    I could make a strong devil’s argument against road tolls on the grounds that roads are a public investment just like transit. Tolls on the 407 were a convenient way to bury the cost of building it as an accounting investment on which there would be future revenue return whether it stayed in public hands or not. A freeway (or a fleet or buses) shows up as public debt, a “bad thing” in some circles, while a toll road shows up as a revnue-producing asset that magically pays off the cost of its construction.

    The debate, then, is how much public money we wish to invest in each mode, how we want to price usage of what we have built and how we want to cook the books to show that the investment was worthwhile.

    Please tell me which cities have, in your opinion, a “balanced” network. Everyone has their own idea of what this means, and we are not discussing specifics. In particular, what is the measurement of “balance”? Kilometres of infrastructure? Millions of trips? Percentage of market share? Comparative travel times?


  26. Darren Jenkins said: Tolls, road pricing or congestion zones would change that and give money to transit like Joseph suggests.

    Yes, it would. A tunnel from Eglinton to Richmond would cost let’s say 1 Billion. All that needs to be done is sell bonds and pay it off in 10 years max.

    However, there is the already built portion that becomes useful here … Eglinton to 401 will make so much money for the city INSTANTLY with less cars idling.

    Parking Downtown? I would think that there probably wouldn’t be so much “new” riders but rather re-allocation of existing ones that would otherwise be jamming and ruining the local atmosphere of streets like Bathurst and Spadina. Wasn’t the whole original point of expressways to divert traffic AWAY safely from streets?

    To me though, its not a cover-up for a road project as you commented, its an easy, guaranteed cash generator!

    It’s not a hidden agenda! It’s

    a) Putting a finish line to something that was halted 30 years ago
    b) making money so that we have money to pay for transit

    “b” relies on “a” obviously!

    Steve: Those bonds will attract interest at, say, $50-million annually before we even pay off the principal. Any toll must raise that and much more just to break even, let alone make any contribution to funding transit projects. Also, beware of financing schemes that create artifical tax loses and subsidies.

    Just because a project was started 30 years ago doesn’t mean that it should be finished. It was a bad idea then, and it’s a much worse idea today.


  27. Steve: After initially leaving this post intact, I have decided to excise some of the personal remarks and will do so in any future posts of this nature. Eric makes many excellent points in his rebuttal, and that’s the important part of the debate. I have added formatting below to make the location of quoted remarks clear.

    “[…]May I remind this good board that while I support Transit City in its entirety, as an LRT line, I understand the principle of today’s Toronto Politics, that is “You can’t always get what you want”. BRT is merely an alternative, a fallback plan in case your preference gets somehow trashed. Sure, you won’t get your dream streetcars and stuff like that, but at least you are making a dent in the issue of congestion in this city of Toronto.”

    Let me make this plain and simple to you on behalf of every pro-transit supporter on this board: I would rather burn in a hot barrel of tar than see our beloved TTC gutted by a BRT network. I’m sure Steve would agree.

    Steve: There are very few places, certainly in the Transit City plan, where BRT could be an effective alternative to the LRT schemes. BRT advocates focus on quick fixes like the Don Mills Corridor, but run into serious problems the moment the buses have to operate on local streets. The connection at Castle Frank is a particular example of the “we are engineers, we can solve any problem” attitude. Swan Boats and trebuchets would be simpler.

    “Growing up in Ottawa, the transitway was pretty much a staple during my earlier years. Easy to access, easy to catch a bus, and easy to get from point A to point B. A lot of people say that OC Transpo really identified what a true BRT solution should really be like. Built on a right of way. Fast. Modular (you could easily move stops on a BRT network or add newer ones without much effort). Not to mention cheaper to build and operate. Can easily be upgraded to an LRT if required. When a car on an LRT breaks down, it would cripple the LRT line, not so with a BRT. And in certain portions, it connected to expressway infrastructure, thus making a trip even faster.”

    You’re comparing apples to oranges. Two different types of urban settings. What may work in Ottawa does not mean that it will work here.

    Fast? Not in portions where BRT mingles with mixed traffic. That is what is hampering VIVA at this present moment. And of course this happens in Ottawa too.

    Modular? Why can’t LRT be like that too? I’m sure one can add stops or move stops elsewhere.

    Cheaper to build and operate? I invite you to visit There is a page dedicated to myths of BRT verses facts of LRT. You can see where the benefits of LRT outweigh BRT. Especially on issues of safety, I’ve heard accidents involving BRT buses sideswiping each other on narrow transitways.

    Upgrade to LRT? I will quote what Steve said in an earlier post, that we run the risk of being stuck with an antiquidated system with no chance of an upgrade. I say if we are going to do this, we do it right the first time around.

    Yes, there is a likelihood of breakdowns on LRT. But a well planned LRT line will have turnback and storage facilities along the length of the route to minimize delays. And even if this does not fix the issue, you can always call forth your vaunted BUSES, right??

    Connections to expressway infrastructure? I’ll pick an isolated LRT ROW over running on an expressway and being clipped by a 18 wheeler at 100 kph.

    “Yes, I know that the BRT in Ottawa nowadays sees serious delays, especially near the city core. But this is why I was looking forward to an upgrade to an LRT network. Imagine my dissappointment when the proposed LRT plans were canned after a change in government. In lieu of this, they have resorted to creating a BRT service that runs through the Queensway (Highway 417, also a very crowded corridor). Such a move will not fully address the tranportation woes that plague that region.”

    Ottawa is getting what it rightfully deserves. I have no idea why they never went with a sufficient RT or LRT solution. Given that Ottawa is pretty much the size of Edmonton or Calgary and both latter systems have their own LRT, I certainly would have expected that Ottawa had its own advanced transportation system. Imagine my surprise when they didn’t. This is a prime example of Steve’s earlier statement of being stuck with an inadequate form form of transportation. Now the new municipal government is bitching about the costs to convert to LRT. Had they made the right decision years ago, it would not have cost as much as it is going to today.

    “Yes I admit, I have a deference to VIVA. I have heard from many people about how VIVA is a very convenient form of transportation, even if it runs in mixed traffic. I have also heard how VIVA made using public transit in York a whole lot easier, i.e., taking a bus from Vaughan to Markham can now be possible without a series of inconvenient transfers, 10-15 minute intervals for buses to Newmarket (instead of waiting for 30-60 minutes for the Newmarket B bus).”

    You may consider it convenient, but I consider it an embarrassment to the GTA. Unreliable, slow, and surely lacking the frequency of a true RT solution.

    You’ve heard of the good ol saying, be sure to eat your own dog food? Have you ever taken a ride on Viva? I have, and it was a hellish encounter at that. Had an interview in the Leslie and Highway 7 area and took the subway up to Finch to take the Viva pink bus to Highway 7 and Leslie. Due to some yahoo causing an accident at northbound Yonge just south of John Street (right lane closed, cut northbound traffic to one lane), it took me over an hour to get to my appointment. Had Viva been an LRT instead of a BRT, I’m sure that the LRT trains would have had no problems going past the “disturbance”. Estimated time to travel on Viva, 40 minutes. Actual travel time, 75 minutes. Estimated travel time with an LRT? probably 20-30 minutes. The fact that Viva runs in mixed traffic means that it is not an effective RT solution. I just wish that this ended in a dismal failure for York region, so that we wouldn’t be having this discussion. It just boggles me why some people call it a success when it shouldn’t be. It is not a Rapid Transit service, it is simply a glorified express bus service.

    “Yes, I’ll cop to the “crime” of convincing people about the joys of BRT. But the fact remains, if we can’t have LRT, it does not mean that we fall over and die. It just means that we could go for the next best thing. And still enjoy the benefits of proper ROW forms of transportation without breaking the bank WHILE enjoying all the possible benefits of BRT.”

    Really, I just wish Steve would stop posting the bile that comes from you yahoos on his board. Steve are you listening? Let us concentrate on the real task at hand, that is securing the LRT network, not accomodating these opinions of these faux-pas “advocates”. And I’ll say again, I’d rather sit in a boiling barrel of hot tar than to allow the blight of BRT or expressways to stain my beloved city.

    At least we can agree that any new expressways are a “political non-starter”, I just wish BRT was seen in the same light.

    Steve: I would not refer to my readers as “yahoos” although some of them are as wedded to the ideals of “balanced” transportation as I am to LRT. I am trying to host a discussion here. If you have something worthwhile to say, I will publish it even if I disagree, if only so that the arguments both pro and con are aired.


  28. One other thing, it just galls me that Viva has its own page on the Wikipedia describing it as a rapid transit service. It is not even RAPID TRANSIT. It is simply an express bus service with glorified bus stops? Why can people never get it right?



  29. Steve: I don’t include extending the Spadina Expressway to St. Clair to be a “minor tweak”

    Good god. Extend it to St. Clair? That would be assinine. I wasn’t advocating that at all – I have no idea how that would help anything. How would you even get ramps from St. Clair to the Allen? What would that do to St. Clair?

    Steve: The map on clearly shows an extended Allen Road ending at St. Clair. Since you appeared to be supporting their scheme, that’s what I was addressing.

    I was simply trying to suggest that some of the traffic from the Eglinton ramp could be diverted to Bathurst between Strathearn Road and Heathdale Road. This would be very low impact on Bathurst – given that you’re only trying to get the traffic there, that’s already coming from there. And I’m not suggesting an expressway extension! Just some ramps. It could easily be only 1 lane in each direction that comes out in a Portal in the middle of Bathurst. Something to disperse traffic at the end of the Allen more evenly over a wider area. The same way it does at the north end of the Allen without a dead-end. What’s there now is horrific highway design. I suppose you could advocate ripping the entire thing up – but I don’t think that’s likely.

    Steve: A portal in the middle of Bathurst would chew up two lanes that are now occupied by traffic. At Heathdale (the south end of the bridge), Bathurst is only four lanes wide and buildings on both sides leave no room for expansion. Coming up onto the bridge itself would be very difficult structurally, and might also be a tricky bit of road geometry given both the curve and the need to change elevation quickly (the north to west turn in particular). I won’t even mention the loss of the ravine itself.

    I’m not suggesting such a thing to fix traffic across the GTA – just to deal with a very exaggerated local problem, that makes as much problem for TTC service out of Eglinton East as it does to traffic.

    Balanced? It will always be a debate. London England has spent a lot of effort on new roads in the last decade, and is looking at another Thames river crossing. Seoul, South Korea has an extensive and well-used subway system, but they are also adding more expressways in downtown – and I’m particularly impressed by some of their road tunnels, that provide road access without impacting the cityscape.


  30. Steve: The map on clearly shows an extended Allen Road ending at St. Clair. Since you appeared to be supporting their scheme, that’s what I was addressing.

    Ouch, certainly not! That’s an odd bunch – looking at their website they seem equally obsessed in the highway numbering itself – never a good sign.

    Though some of their objectives are good. We loose $billions every year with the traffic issues in this city. Where I work, we constantly have workers stuck in traffic. Transit is not an option when you have to transport many kilograms of equipment and 500 litres of containers with you. For the most part more roads aren’t really going to help – for they will quickly fill. But by eliminating some of the artificial bottlenecks, and by widespread tolling, and improved transit we should be able to make things more usable for those that have to use the road, by getting off the road, those that have no reason to be there.

    Though simply tolling downtown isn’t the complete answer. While the DVP and Gardiner heading into downtown are congested, personally I don’t find downtown traffic as bad, or as extensive, as some of the issues I see in 905.


  31. I’ve been doing a little research on BRT this morning. I ended up ordering “TCRP” report on BRT for snail mail delivery. I meant to simply download it! (I’ll be in trouble from the powers about bringing more paper into the house.) Anyway, it will take a little while to digest this.

    I couldn’t help notice some comments […]. This is the type of bias (not to mention vituperative language) that make me recoil in distrust from the whole LRT option.

    “I just wish that this ended in a dismal failure for York region, so that we wouldn’t be having this discussion. It just boggles me why some people call it a success when it shouldn’t be. It is not a Rapid Transit service, it is simply a glorified express bus service.”

    If this is the way LRT boosters are seeing the world – then I have to discount what they are saying. (I have already seen the lightrailnow website – this is a lobby group for a particular technology – so it’s not useful without a great deal of due diligence checking other sources.)

    I have heard generally positive things about VIVA. All forms of urban transportation can have delays. Mr. Chow contents that the LRT train would have dashed past the traffic problem. On the other hand, it likely wouldn’t have been built yet. VIVA cost about $180 million or so – which would have built 5 km or so of LRT by 2009 or some time. (This is much longer wait!)

    There are quite a few hold ups on the St. Clair “LRT” section due to accidents in the intersections. The ROW design makes the intersections complicated and requires U-turns for vehciles in many cases. This leads to higher rates of accidents at intersection. LRT without complete segregation is not immune to traffic hold-ups.

    From a quick scan of the TCRP report (“TCRP_RPT_90v1.pdf” – Sponsored by the us FTA), BRT systems do not necessarily need dedicated rights of way. The Vancouver “B-line”s are discusssed in this report – even though it doesn’t have ‘running ways’ or off-vehicle fare collection. VIVA would definitely be considered BRT per this document.

    Calgary and Edmonton may have LRT – but I did notice the recent Statistics Canada report on automobile dependence. Ottawa is less car dependent that Calgary – especially within 9 km of the city center – and far less dependent than Edmonton. (See report “Dependence on cars in urban neighbourhoods – Jan 2008.)

    Steve: I have already commented on personal remarks and the careful reader will note a small “snip” in the text above. One big problem with the term “BRT” is that people use it to mean anything they want it to mean. Similar charges are aimed at “LRT” and we’ve had enough debates about whether Spadina or St. Clair qualify on that count. VIVA as it is currently operated is an express bus service running in mixed traffic. The B-line in Vancouver runs in mixed traffic except for a small section far from the central, congested part of Vancouver much as the Queen car has a right-of-way on The Queensway.

    When people advocate “BRT” here, they are usually implying all the benefits of some form of transit priority including lane exclusivity. That will certainly be needed for the speed, such as it might be, and capacity of the Transit City lines. References to mixed traffic operations are red herrings in that discussion.

    Any centre-reservation scheme, whether it be operated with buses or LRVs, will be subject to problems of intersection geometry. Yes, a bus might wiggle around a blockage that an LRV couldn’t pass, but the real question is whether the bus could provide adequate service for the route. If intersection designs encourage accidents, then it is the design that is faulty, not the transit vehicle.


  32. It’s very interesting to follow this particular exchange. I’ll take time to read this thread more thoroughly before commenting, except to note how strenuously some of us are holding onto certain positions. (You know who you are … or do you?)

    I would like to carp the diem and point out a very intriguing article by Lawrence Solomon that appears in the Financial Post today, Saturday, February 2. If you don’t generally pay for the National Post, and unless you can somehow tease the article out of, this opinion piece may be worth visiting the library or a coffee shop to read.

    Roughly, it posits that publicly-funded transit has contributed heavily to urban sprawl, and recent transit mega-plans in BC and the GTA will in fact promote more development on the edges of cities.

    As with a lot of Solomon’s stuff, I found myself getting somewhat defensive. So if you dislike having your opinions challenged, don’t bother reading.


  33. If some commenters on this thread are so concerned about traffic congestion, then why don’t they advocate for road tolls and congestion charges? If the tolls and charges are set high enough, the congestion will go away. We could do it tomorrow, and we wouldn’t have to lay a single new lane of pavement.

    Then we could have a rational discussion about where and whether road expansion is really needed, and weigh the costs and benefits, including those to businesses, drivers and the community at large.

    But it sounds instead like they just want a free lunch: Infinite road capacity everywhere, at all times, at no charge. As others have pointed out, even if we had room to build the roads where they’re supposedly needed, and even if we disregarded all the negative health and environmental impacts of building highways, we’d never be able to afford the maintenance.

    (Oh, yes–they are willing to allow that the new roads can have tolls, but not existing roads. The 407 certainly showed how well that idea alleviates traffic congestion, now that there is no more congestion on the 401 or Highway 7.)

    As it stands, these highway schemes have no more connection to reality than plans to lace the region with canals for swan boats.


  34. Somewhere, I have the Newman and Kenworthy – eureka – Sustainability and Cities p. 157 they nudge towards LRT – though heck, I’d be quite happy to have a busway on the Weston corridor – as a start.

    As for Steve getting too “carrupted” by my “manglish” Michael Parksinson in Waterloo coined the term excessway; others against FSE said Expenseway not that the transit comes cheap, therefore we should spend wisely. One of the better anti-car guides is The Ecology of the Automobile forgotten the author, but Heathcote William’s Autogeddon is more powerful, though still with facts.

    Sure it’s easier for some of us gashouse greens to prescribe from the old core, and the cars can be useful sometimes, but we have this little problem of the climate carisis as it were … and it’s not really starting to hit.

    A clear solution to the car problem could occur if we mandated the rerouting of all car exhaust to the passenger compartments without the option of roll-down windows or other venting. [Note: This is a joke. Flames directed at Hamish will be purged.]

    And no I don’t always agree with Steve either.

    Steve: Hamish seems to have an even more extreme view of what to do with car users than I do, although his scheme would do wonders for research on emission controls. Cars perform an important transportation function and for vast numbers of trips, they are the only option. That said, there is a limit to the capacity we can provide for this mode, and the well-established maxim of build-it-and-they-will come will ensure that any “solution” to a congestion problem will be full the day it opens and will provoke calls for even more of the same.


  35. The Solomon article is available online. (The Post is much less restrictive online than it was a year ago – it’s just a little confusing to navigate. Worth it for Corcoran and Watson in the FP comment section.)

    In a sense and to a degree, he’s right – public, unrecovered-by-direct-usage-fee expansion of transportation facilities probably contributes to faster expansion of the large urban centers. Politically, Canadians want to get around cheaply – although the 407 shows we’re ready to pay more.

    I drive – but I don’t have a problem with paying reasonable tolls. The challenge is in Toronto is that these are most likely to be implemented on the DVP & Gardiner. If Toronto were in a position that it were attracting business, these might to feasible. Right now, we’re not – and road tolls will be one more reason for businesses to reject downtown as a location.

    Steve: I have posted on the Solomon article in its own thread.


  36. This might be a little off-topic but a solution that most here can agree on is…

    Going from Weston Road & Hwy 7 to Downsview, VIVA does the job much better then the TTC but small improvements make such a huge difference! Since I take this route almost daily, I’m sure I take VIVA more then anyone else on this blog…

    Highway 7 is congested, there is [no] arguing that. What I do find great is that the VIVA just gets into the right turn lane early, picks up passengers then uses its “YIELD” powers to get back into the main line in front of the gigantic queue that forms near Weston Road. This portion could definately use a Right of way but maybe a little more ridership is necessary to justify it…

    Jane Street has no traffic at any time of the day. Why build a ROW if there is no traffic […] Taking a left at Jane & Steeles onto Steeles is usually a killer! If they built a dual-left lane with 1 lane for buses only, that would easily save 5 minutes or more. Steeles Ave … no traffic … farms on the north side, university on the south. This part will never need a ROW! Not to mention 6 wide open lanes.

    Getting into York U … yes this is where it gets slow but still not traffic jam slow! Maybe a busway ramming through the York U campus would work but it won’t happen. From York U onwards, is the WORST PART OF THE ROUTE! Why? Because it’s in the CITY OF TORONTO!

    Steve, what is the status of the Busway from Keele to Dufferin along the hydro-corrdior??

    Once that is rerouted down there you can easily save 10-15 maybe even 20 minutes. Then … (some of you may not like this but) … widen Dufferin from Hydro Corridor to Finch with BUS ONLY LANES on the right shoulder. Then convert the existing HOV Lanes into bus only lanes. (The lanes as it is are quite wide open as most people are obeying the rules….funny because I didn’t expect that but Allen road isn’t Eglinton Avenue, it has very very few or no entrances onto stores or homes!) At Sheppard, build a dual left turn lane….1 lane for Bus only.

    How much do those improvments cost? Can’t think of an exact cost…but very little!

    So I ask all of you here, if those minor improvements were made, even if VIVA doesn’t have a totally dedicated corridor in wide open streets like Jane St and Steeles Ave can’t it be a BRT? 1 Corridor down Highway 7 should do the job well. BRT vs LRT….BRT can use dedicated ways where there is traffic and use wide open ways where there isn’t.

    However, I advocate LRT for the whole Transit City because … the whole city is a traffic mess AND there’s already 1 billion buses down Finch Ave West (as I see every morning) so LRT is the way.

    Steve: It’s under construction. The project was delayed for a long time because York University was not willing to cede some of the needed land.

    If you visited the website for this project and looked at the detailed drawings, you would already know that the HOV lanes are to be recycled as bus lanes.

    I repeat my earlier comment. When people talk about BRT in the context of Transit City, they apply a term used for moxed traffic operations of limited capacity to routes where exclusive right-of-way is required. If you want to call those lines BRT, then the Finch Express bus is “BRT”, but it’s no model for a rapid transit network.


  37. Implementing road tolls on only a small portion of our road network is a bad idea. If we toll only certain expressways (like the DVP and Gardiner, or the 401), a large percentage of the traffic will simply start taking the slower, free routes. Imagine how much traffic there will be on Lakeshore if we toll the Gardiner, on Don Mills if we toll the DVP, or on Sheppard if we toll the 401. Also this would do nothing to reduce existing congestion on these and other suburban roads; neither would a downtown-only toll.

    Instead, we should toll any vehicle moving anywhere in the City of Toronto. Basically, it would be a version of the London congestion charge on steroids, with the same kind of enforcement (video cameras at the borders of the city and at major intersections in the city). The charge should be high – say $20 at rush hour, $10 midday, and $5 in the evenings. And, unlike what some contributors here suggest, none of the money would be spent on new roads.

    Cars are here to stay, and it is true that some people have no choice to use them. However, a high toll would keep people who can use transit from driving.


  38. Wow they already started construction on it? I haven’t seen any signs of it anywhere along my route …

    After looking over the report that you linked me I see that it is a modest and an easy to accomplish goal except for the shady area which is … the plan on the York University grounds. There are also 2 extra traffic lights being added to Dufferin which I fear will slow things down on that street even worse then it is since it turns into an expressway south of Sheppard.

    I hope it is not the city’s plan to make Allen Road an “Avenue” of any sort because it is clearly a road with the sole purpose of carrying traffic. That’s why (south of Steeprock Drive, where the name changes to Dufferin) there are NO stores, NO homes, no sidewalks … basically an expressway but with traffic lights. I fear that the sidewalks would be deadly along this portion since it’s essentially an expressway … North of Steeprock Drive, its a normal street, so nothing “unique” about it.

    Again, timeline … how many years do I have to wait for this???

    And would you call this a definition of a BRT? Since 90% of it is in exclusive bus lanes after all …

    Steve: Yes, this is about as close to BRT as we’re going to get in Toronto. Note that it is designed as a point-to-point express service linking York U to the subway, not as a route to serve demand along the corridor in between. This shows the huge difference in implementations between Transit City lines and our “BRT”.

    By the way, one additional piece of info about the delay in starting this project. Even after problems at the York U end were worked out, Hydro One wanted to charge the TTC rent for use of the hydro corridor. It’s so nice to know that our public agencies are so driven to maximize their profits. The Minister responsible for defending this stupidity lost her job after the last election.


  39. I’m granting that there are different definitions of BRT in use. I’m not an advocate of any technology or service type. We should look at the advantages and disadvantages of each. Why preclude using dedicated lanes for buses on some routes?

    For example, on Don Mills, a large portion of the employment is not on Don Mills but off on streets such as Wynford Drive and the attached side streets. Buses could serve this area – getting off and on the bus lanes on Don Mills. With a train – everyone has to cross the road and transfer somewhere – or hike a good distance in what is often a very windswept area. Many people now take one of those 25 buses north of Steeles to the Leslie and Hwy 7 area. With the LRT option, there going to transfer. (I assume from what I’ve read here that the plan is to remove all buses from streets that have the “Transit City” streetcars.)

    There are plenty of buses on Don Mills – but it’s hardly congested with buses. This seems like a throwaway line for those advocating LRT without looking at alternatives.

    I’ve been to Finch and taken a bus. If there were express buses available, it sure wasn’t made clear. There’s nothing on the TTC schedules on the web idicating that there is an express bus.

    I think this is the TTC engineering mindset – which I read into your commentary too – that just offering a service means that people have awareness of the services existence and what it does. (The cynic in me says there’s someone in the TTC saying “Don’t advertise these services – people might actually take them!)

    I’d guess I’m one of the few people on my street who knows the local bus schedule or exactly where the 502 and 503 are supposed to go.) 1/1000 people follow transit happennings – most are too busy with other things.

    Estiblishing a variant of bus service with a different identity and service characteristics is a key way to build awareness. That’s step one in any marketing plan. Why not run 7xx series buses as limited stop on the major routes? This wouldn’t be so hard to market.

    Steve: I have no objection to buses on reserved lanes, or part-time lanes such as used on Don Mills or Eglinton East. Just don’t call it “BRT”. The problem is that people use one term to mean many things, and use it interchangeably when talking about projects like Transit City. The “RT” suffix really should be kept for dedicated rights-of-way at a minimum.

    Consider how many times people on this board and elsewhere have slagged the Spadina or St. Clair lines as not being representative of “LRT”. These lines are at the low end of the scale of what we can call “LRT”, but at least they have their own rights-of-way. Sure there may be times that they could get down the street just as fast in mixed traffic, but the important part is that they don’t have to worry about congestion except where it might foul up intersections.

    If we are going to simply call anything that moves quickly “RT”, then discussions become meaningless.


  40. It would be good to have common definitions – this would help real discussion. The controversy around the St. Clair business was in good measure generated by some of the material emanating from the City/TTC equating implicitly systems such as the Calgary C-train LRT to the St. Clair proposal.

    Basically, the message was see the wonderful C-train — isn’t it great — now take this ROW and don’t complain. I thought this was dishonest — and prayed upon people’s ignorance.

    This is an example [of how] real concerns were glossed in a project where the direction was decided ‘a priori’ — especially fire engine access and truck access from what I hear from friends in the area. These are already turning out to be real problems. When there is political capital tied up in an ‘a priori’ decision, we lose the ability to look independently at the pros and cons.

    What I do professionally is help clients make decisions on complex technology choices around procured software. This is not that different — we’re dealing with multiple variations of imperfect choices. I help the customers understand the real tradeoffs so that they can get past the language. To do this effectively and to really serve the interested of the customer, I must be impartial.

    I was impressed with the way the Evergreen report you posted was put together. This doesn’t mean that someone didn’t slant the numbers somewhere. There needs to be a true outside due diligence on the key assumptions and numbers — as with any report. For a large decision, board/trustee level people have to really push to ensure that things aren’t slanted.

    Steve: As others have pointed out, what was missing from the Evergreen report was the contextual data that caused the LRT alternative to be so expensive and have less than competitive running times. There has been a consistent style to studies in Vancouver where the LRT option is penalized for travel times and capacity based on assumptions about grade crossings and service levels. These have a multiplier effect because faster trips turn into more ridership (the demand model is very sensitive to trip speed), more ancilliary benefits (more development caused by a more attractive trip) and lower fleet requirements (faster trips need fewer trains, even if they cost more; slower LRT trips need more trains and more operators).

    Add in the extra penalty of a forced transfer between an LRT line and the existing SkyTrain, the cost of a new LRT storage and maintenance facility, the sunk-costs of the junction at the current SkyTrain terminal and an alignment that forces a cost penalty on LRT, and you have a recipe for getting exactly the outcome SkyTrain proponents want.


Comments are closed.