Metrolinx vs Toronto: What To Build on Eglinton

Jeff Gray and Matthew Campbell report in today’s Globe on the potential for conflict between Metrolinx and the TTC over the future of Transit City and, in particular, the choice of technology for the Eglinton line.

I have written at length about this before and won’t rehash the arguments here, but a few remarks in the article deserve comment.  Rob MacIsaac parrots subway boosters with this gem:

“If you’re going to travel from one end of that line to the other, we think you’d probably better pack a picnic lunch,” Mr. MacIsaac said.

“We would like to find a way to speed it up for people who are travelling longer distances.”

And why, he asked, build something that could end up overcrowded?

“There’s little point in spending a lot of money on an LRT line that will end up with passengers whose faces are pressed up against the windows.”

Why indeed would someone ride from Scarborough to Pearson Airport or Mississauga when MacIsaac’s own plans call for an express route across the 401 corridor?  The whole point of a network is that it must serve a variety of demands — some long haul, some local.  Just as we now have GO Transit for commuters from the 905 to downtown, we would also have high-speed services for trips across the 416/905 region.

A trip from Scarborough to Pearson is longer than a trip from Pickering to downtown Toronto, and comparable to a trip from Richmond Hill.  Misguided planners and politicians insist on treating it as a local trip that should be stuffed into the TTC network.  Having created this straw man, they claim this justifies a full-blown rapid transit line on Eglinton.

As for demand, the TTC’s projection for Eglinton is 9,000 per hour, and this would be on the busy central part of the route that will be underground.  Outer parts of the route will easily be within the capacity of surface LRT which has the added advantage of lower cost and more attractive station spacing for local demands.

Despite its protests that its work is only “test cases”, not formal plans, Metrolinx is showing its true colours by making technology choices long before they have demonstrated the need for their network schemes.  Public consultation is a sham designed to give people a warm fuzzy feeling about Metrolinx rather than engaging them in a real debate.

MacIsaac’s comments about Eglinton show that the real agenda is to push through a major rapid transit project, likely a western extension of the Scarborough RT.

The Metrolinx Board has not met publicly since June 13, and the regional plans were last on the agenda on April 25.  Their next meeting is scheduled for late September.

It’s time for the Board to tell the chair to stop musing about network options that are not yet even a draft plan.