Toronto will host the 2015 Pan-Am Games thanks to an overwhelming vote in favour of Toronto’s bid on November 6. No sooner was the announcement out, but we started to hear what a boon this would be for transit pending in Toronto.
Let’s take a serious look at what will actually happen.
The Athletes’ Village will be built in the West Don Lands with the intention that it be converted to assisted housing after the games. This will no doubt spur construction of the Cherry Street branch off of the King route so that residents will have transit once the games complete.
However, there are no competition venues in this part of Toronto, and no reason to build new infrastructure to serve them. We will get the Waterfront East leg, but like the Cheery Street branch, this project was already on the books and, I believe, funded by Waterfront Toronto.
The missing piece is the connection under the rail corridor where the existing Cherry Street underpass must be twinned to provide enough room for the LRT, the road lanes, cycling and pedestrians. This underpass is shown as a “secure” area in the Bid Book, and there is no sign of the second span on the map.
Also missing from the Bid Book is any description of the as-yet unfunded reconfiguration of the mouth of the Don River and associated street changes in the neighbourhood. These are vital to knitting together various parts of the new community, but they are nowhere to be found in the Bid Book, nor is there any need to build them as part of the games infrastructure.
The Scarborough Campus of UofT will gain a new aquatics centre to host some events, but attendees will likely arrive from many parts of the GTA of which only some would be served by the LRT line. One might even argue for service via the north end of this route (south from the Sheppard LRT).
George Smitherman, Minister of Infrastructure and possible mayoral candidate for Toronto, has already said that Toronto shouldn’t be too hasty to look for spending on this type of improvement.
The Air-Rail link will be in place by 2015. The Bid Book says it will. What the Bid Book does not say is that this will be a premium fare service that is not integrated with the local transit system, nor that its capacity will be limited by the size and frequency of trains for which the route is designed.
Meanwhile, the TTC should be pushing to get the western part of the Eglinton LRT completed for 2015, at least from the Airport to Eglinton West Station. Is this asking too much, or will the TTC bumble along and stay with the current plan for the Eglinton line and a 2016 “phase one” opening?
The games generally take place well outside of Toronto. The logistics of placing the Athletes’ Village so far away from the venues only makes sense because it is right beside the Gardiner and DVP, and these can be closed or restricted to provide bus shuttles as needed for participants, press and poo-bahs from the games organization. New public transit infrastructure, beyond what is already in the pipeline, will have little to do with it.