Recent reports (here in the Star) show this week’s version of Transit City according to Queen’s Park. Needless to say, this does not sit well with the folks at City Hall (Mayor Miller’s letter and comparison table).
Metrolinx claims that the City agreed with the proposed changes, but as David Miller makes quite clear in the letter linked above, this is not the case. However, it appears that Metrolinx is getting mixed messages, one from the politicians and another from TTC staff.
This scheme is presented as the scaled down, what-we-will-do-now plan, and the construction timelines now reach out 10 years. Although this is claimed to simply be building in ten years what was originally proposed for eight, this is actually a considerable cutback in the scope of the first phase of Transit City. There is no indication of when, if ever, more of the plan will be built.
After the surgery, here’s what is left on the map:
- Sheppard: Cut back from Meadowvale to Conlins Road (the carhouse site), a relatively small change.
- Scarborough RT: Reconstruction is deferred until after the Pan Am Games (sumemr 2015). Phase 1, as planned by the TTC, will proceed ending at Sheppard, but Phase 2 north to Malvern has no definite construction date.
- Finch: Cut back to run from Finch West Station at Keele to Humber College.
- The section east of Yonge, an invention of Metrolinx in the 2009 funding announcement, deservedly fell off the plan. TTC never took this segment seriously.
- West from Yonge was part of Metrolinx regional vision for cross-city travel, a vision that is much shorter than a few years ago.
- Eglinton: Once touted as a high speed regional link cross the city, this line will now end at Jane. Although the option of an airport link is in “phase 2”, I suspect that the real agenda, long advocated by some at Metrolinx, may be to bring the Mississauga busway east via the Richview expressway corridor. This would ensure that Eglinton could never provide the direct, cross-city regional link to the airport so trumpeted by Metrolinx, and would avoid threatening the premium fare air rail link with reasonably priced competition.
The real problem here is that funding “announcements” no longer have any meaning. There is no guarantee anything will be built, or whether the announced scope will actually match the as-built project.
The remants of Transit City, even if they are built, leave anomalies in the network.
- Finch West is an isolated route with its own carhouse to support one line only slightly longer than than SRT. Who knows when or if the Jane line (another user of the Finch carhouse) will ever connect Finch to the rest of the network? I fear that Finch may never actually be started.
- Sheppard does not include a potential extension south to UTSC. This connection was openly discussed by folks at Metrolinx and the TTC as a way of serving the games site and giving the Sheppard line a substantial eastern destination. However, it has disappeared from the plan even though it would be sensible and a worthwhile addition to TC.
- On the SRT, riders must make do with current technology, although life (by way of second-hand Vancouver cars) might be breathed into it. As you freeze on platforms for the next several winters, send cards of thanks to Queen’s Park.
- Meanwhile, Malvern Town Centre gets no service at all. This is quite a come-down from its original role as a major terminus.
The SRT Project
In related news, the TTC decided today to include the underground connection from the SRT to the Sheppard line (price premium $65m) as an alternative design in the project’s EA to placate the local community. TTC did a poor job of presenting the surface LRT option and making it seem far worse (noise, vibration, sleepless nights) than is likely. It fell to Vice-chair Joe Mihevc to champion TTC track technology, but the damage had been done.
I could not help comparing the warmth of reception and sensitivty to this neighbourhood’s concerns with the shabby treatment given to the Weston and Mt. Dennis deputations about the Eglinton line’s configuration at Black Creek and Weston Road.
One remaining uncertainty is the modification needed on the Sheppard LRT to provide for eventual construction of an underground connection to the SRT extension.
The TTC also discussed the mechanics of replacement bus service during the SRT reconstruction. Staff claim this will require 70 buses/hour. This shuttle and its service level trigger the need for a temporary terminal at Kennedy. Nobody seems to have realized that if the SRT closes after Sheppard opens, some demand now funnelled to the SRT from north of 401 can be taken west to Don Mills via the Sheppard line.
Other Transit City Routes
No funding has been announced and no dates settled for the remaining Transit City routes:
- Don Mills: This route is tied up with discussions about a possible Downtown Relief Subway. Where the money will come from to pay for any of this is unknown.
- Jane, Scarborough-Malvern and Waterfront West are completely in limbo awaiting word on their position in the overall Metrolinx priority list.
There is no word on how Queen’s Park would fund the rest of The Big Move including these remaining Transit City lines, the second phases of the funded projects, or additional regional services.
The Lost Network
What we have lost with these cuts is the network view of transit. Fragments of lines, only what we can squeeze out of the budget, will leave us with a disjointed network failing many of the original hopes and aims of Transit City.
Many other projects, part of the Metrolinx regional plan, are nowhere to be seen.
Unless sustained, substantial funding comes into play, we will be back to endless debates on one line at a time.
Dalton McGuinty could have been the transit Premier, but his focus has moved to other areas. Transit City is only a shadow of the original scheme, and ongoing funding for TTC operations and maintenance are well below the level needed to run this large transit system.
Transit takes a long view, the determination to hold out through long economic and political cycles. How many more decades must we wait for real commitment to transit at Queen’s Park?