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.

43 thoughts on “Metrolinx vs Toronto: What To Build on Eglinton

  1. How can there possibly be any talk at all of extending the RT even more or of opting for that particular technology?!

    What idiot thought that the best thing to build in a region with a harsh winter climate is an outdoor system that: (1) basically cannot run in the snow (2) seems to be afraid to move during strong and windy rainstorms (not 100% sure of this, but I have experienced trains stopped at stations for long periods of time during rain) and (3) is more expensive and less efficient than any other option.

    And what is most ludicrous is that it is a Canadian technology that was tailor-made for Toronto – so there is no excuse at all for why the RT does not perform perfectly for us!

    While I understand all the idiocy and lobbying involved with Bombardier, and the general incompetence that seems to characterize Canadian politicians, this is just too much.

    The completely abysmal transit planning in and around Toronto and the myriad of ways in which the system inconveniences all of its riders is definitely a main reason why anyone should and would choose other so-called “global cities” over Hogtown.

    Sorry for the rant.

    In conclusion: RT = sucky. Canadian politicians/planners = somewhat well-intentioned idiots.

    Steve: In fairness to defenders of the RT, the technology has done very well in Vancouver whose system dates from the same era. The climate there is relatively benign with snow being a rare problem, but operationally, the Skytrain is well-run. Some of Toronto’s problems arise from their retention of elderly control technology that is only now being replaced.

    For me the debate is much more about the appropriateness and impact of any technology choice. RT requires complete grade separation. This drives up construction costs and pushes stations further apart than would be possible with surface LRT. On the Eglinton corridor, the line is underground for part of its length regardess of the technology, but the options for surface LRT and integration with other surface routes vanish with an RT implementation.

    Also, anyone who claims that the future of the Bombardier plants depends entirely on whether or not Toronto place an order is, in effect, advocating that our transit system become a welfare system for a single manufacturer.


  2. At the current densities, I think that serious consideration should be given to building the LRT on the surface. Most of central Eglinton is only effectively 2 lanes anyway outside rush hour, because of street parking. The outer 2 lanes are used for buses and taxis during rush hour. Thus, it would seem to me that a surface LRT here in a ROW would have little impact on traffic, except for the removal of some street parking and a ban on left turns. This is also true on most of the downtown routes, except that most do not have dedicated streetcar lanes during rush hour. On-street parking can always be replaced in off-street garages if necessary.

    $1 billion or so for a tunnel so that Eglinton doesn’t lose a little bit of street parking. Seems like a waste of taxpayers’ money to me. And a subway simply sounds ludicrous – it will take several decades for the necessary densities to be built.

    Steve: That “except for” covers a lot of territory. What you miss are the impacts of significantly higher transit capacity and associated pedestrian volumes, the inherently slower operation of what would be a de facto streetcar line, and the inability of vehicles to get around any blockage in the single traffic lane. There’s a reason we don’t have streetcar rights-of-way downtown, and Eglinton is no place to start trying to shoehorn them into narrow streets. There is more going on here than avoiding the loss of “a little bit of street parking”.


  3. Excuse what is so wrong if they want to extend the RT westward. it is alot better then having a slow lrt that will stop every 5 minutes. Do you actually think people are going to use the eglinton line if its a lrt………….everyone things there good. but lets look at some examples. St Clair slow, Spadina SLow, and Queen Quay the slowest. I mean lets be real a westward extension of the srt would be the best opition. At least they’ll be faster. And to be honest its not like im arguing for a full subway. Look at Vancouver and see how they have used RT in there transit plan. I mean they almost done finishing the Canada Line which will connect downtown Vancouver to the Air port. why cant we do the same. Ever since David Miller came into office it seem that Torontians like these poor man ideas of slow crapy lrts……………… And if demand is the argument why in the world are the building a subway to Vaughan………….give me a break. For far to long the people of Scarborough have been cheated out real transit and now there saying the want to convert everything into a lrt…….i feel like were going backwards if we do this

    Steve: Where to start? Building the Eglinton line and the RT extension to Malvern with RT technology will cost a fortune compared with the LRT alternative, to the point where the projects would probably not go forward.

    Yes, we could have very fast service across Eglinton if the stops were further apart, but at the cost of easy access to stations. Even the RT stops more often than every 5 minutes (a one-way trip from Kennedy to McCowan takes about 10 minutes with an average time per stop of 2 minutes.

    The problems on the streetcar lines is largely due to the closely spaced traffic lights, coupled with less than effective “priority signalling”. Also, Spadina has long stop dwell times due to the loading. When this route converts to low-floor cars with all-door loading, this will be improved.

    The Canada line is NOT RT technology. It is a small-scale automated subway.

    I agree that the line into Vaughan is a waste of money, but that’s no excuse for overspending on Eglinton.


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