Why Transit City is an LRT Plan (Part 2A)

In Part 1 of this series, I talked about the history of transit plans since the mid-1960s in Toronto and the evolution of planning goals into Toronto’s new Official Plan. That plan has a very different view of our city, and addresses the need to accommodate very large growth in population and transportation demands.

Much of that growth will come in the old suburbs where 50’s style developments are showing their age and opportunities for more effective land use are ripe.

Although the Official Plan didn’t exactly trumpet LRT as its mode of choice for a future transit network, the references are there for anyone who takes the time to find them. The vision for a new city includes:

  • vibrant neighbourhoods that are part of complete communuities;
  • attractive, tree-lined streets with shops and housing that are made for walking;
  • a comprehensive and high-quality transit system that lets people move around the city quickly and conveniently. [Toronto Official Plan, Page 2]

“Principles for a Successful Toronto” include:

  • public transit is universally accessible and buses and streetcars are an attractive choice for travel. [Ibid, Page 3]

In a background paper to the plan lies this key paragraph:

Increasing transit ridership within the City for trips originating in the City, as well as elsewhere in the GTA, can probably best be achieved by improving coverage in those areas not well served by transit (generally speaking, in the West, Northwest, and Northeast) and increasing connectivity of various elements of the system in ways that make it easier to use transit for more than just centrally oriented travel. Major areas designated for revitalization and new development, such as the waterfront and port lands, should also have improved transit coverage and better connectivity with the rest of the transit system. [A Transportation Vision for the City of Toronto Official Plan, April 2000, Page 43, italics are in the original text]

Moreover, in discussing rapid transit (subway) options then under study, we learn:

These proposals will undergo detailed evaluation, including benefit-cost analysis in which the benefits of more riders, travel time savings, and improved transit accessibility and connectivity will be balanced against the best available cost estimates. This evaluation may lead to the consideration of other rapid transit technology, such as exclusive busways and streetcar/LRT, which may prove more cost effective in certain travel corridors. Rapid transit expansion is a long-term, major capital investment that would have to justify the cost before being considered as an element of the new Official Plan. [Toronto at the Crossroads: Shaping Our Future, July 2000, Page 105]

A clear thread runs through the Official Plan of neighbourhoods with fine-grained, local services, a built form that encorages short pedestrian trips and developments that embrace the street rather than isolating their occupants in towers surrounded by parking. “Mixed use” means the co-existence of residential and commercial space as found in older cities, not alternating, kilometre-wide, single-use blocks isolated from each other. Trips within and among neighbourhoods need good surface transit that can be easily reached by a variety of riders — not just commuters to downtown, but people of all ages and interests moving around the city. Continue reading