Updated January 23 at 11:00pm: Links to updated coverage including signs of movement toward a new transit plan have been added.
From the Star:
Tess Kalinowski writes about support building for a new plan. In this version, a surface-subway LRT on Eglinton frees up money for, possibly, a short extension on Sheppard to Victoria Park and something on Finch West.
It’s too early to tell which combination will win out, and there’s no reference to eastern Scarborough.
Martin Cohn writes about the imminent collapse of the McGuinty-Ford transit deal. We learn that Queen’s Park was prepared to pay the extra cost of expropriating property to widen Eglinton to compensate for space lost to surface LRT, but this option was rejected by Ford.
A Star Editorial congratulates Karen Stintz for telling us the obvious and urges her to begin a campaign for a subway-surface line on Eglinton. At this rate, they’ll be casting a bronze of Stintz arm-in-arm with David Miller.
From the Globe:
Marcus Gee writes favourably about a move to bring Eglinton back to the surface.
From the National Post:
Natalie Alcoba writes about the proposed change including comments from supportive Councillors.
Updated January 23 at 5:50 pm: I recently spoke with Bruce McCuaig, President and CEO of Metrolinx, about this issue. Notes from our conversation are at the end of this article.
Adrian Morrow reports in today’s Globe that TTC Chair Karen Stintz feels an all-underground Eglinton line should just be what it is, a subway, but that it belongs on the surface as LRT for its outer suburban section.
Karen Stintz argues it makes more sense to put the LRT underground only along the most congested part of the route, in midtown, while building it on the surface in the spacious suburbs.
“If the decision is to go with an LRT, it should be at-grade,” she said. “If there’s a decision to put it underground, it should be a subway.”
That’s an interesting position for someone in the Ford camp because it continues the anti-streetcar rhetoric of the Mayor’s office. If Eglinton is built as a subway line, the option of converting it to LRT and resurrecting Transit City falls because a major link (and the proposed main shops for the LRT network) would vanish.
As Morrow points out in his article, other systems use a combination of surface and underground alignments (including Boston where downtown streetcars went underground over a century ago) so that a network of surface routes can share a common tunnel in the congested central area while switching to a simpler surface alignment elsewhere.
If Eglinton were to become a subway, the problem of valley crossings won’t disappear and Metrolinx will still face the problem of either going under several valleys, or bridging them with parallel structures.
The real question a subway option begs is the future of the SRT. If Eglinton becomes a subway, it will not easily through-route to Scarborough Town Centre along the existing alignment, and this will reopen the debate over a Bloor-Danforth extension.
Morrow’s article implies that Stintz may be shifting into the pro-LRT camp, but I am not convinced. If she were really shifting positions, there would be more talk about revival of some parts of Transit City, notably the Finch West line which, unlike Sheppard East, is completely independent of the Ford subway proposals.
The pending release of Gordon Chong’s report on financing the Sheppard Subway will trigger, finally, a debate on the future of Toronto’s transit technologies at Council. We will see whether Stintz is truly an LRT supporter, or simply pitching Ford’s “no streetcars” view of the world.
The Globe article in print is missing its final paragraphs that appear in the online version. It’s a shame that truncation for space robbed the article of its original, stronger ending.
To set them up, I have included here the final paragraph in print.
Historically, the TTC has also confused people about light rail’s potential: Promotional material in the late 2000s mapped the slow-moving St. Clair and Spadina streetcars as LRTs, even though they stop frequently and have to wait at red lights. [Print article ends] Suburban light rail is a different animal.
“It’s not like you have the stores and houses along Eglinton East to generate the demand for more frequent stops,” said transit blogger Steve Munro. “It’s not like the Spadina car.”
To Jarrett Walker, author of the blog Human Transit, burying the Eglinton line is an expensive exercise in road-improvement.
“Be clear: You’re not spending this money on a project to improve transit,” said Mr. Walker. “You’re spending it on a project to protect motorists from inconvenience.”
Jarrett Walker’s blog, Human Transit, is an excellent commentary on a wide variety of transit and planning topics. He is now on tour promoting his book of the same name.
Updated on January 23, 2011 at noon:
The Star has an article by Tess Kalinowski covering the same story with exploration of related issues. In this story we find:
Karen Stintz, who was named head of the TTC by Ford, says putting the suburban east and west stretches of the line in a tunnel is a waste of money because there is relatively little road traffic along those portions.
“It makes more sense not to bury it and use the money to build (the) Sheppard (subway),” said Stintz.
This begs two questions: First off, why spend the money on the Sheppard subway which was supposed to be financed by the private sector. Second, what’s the status of a Finch LRT and of LRT in general in Stintz’ world.
Updated on January 23, 2011 at 5:50pm:
A short time ago, I spoke with Bruce McCuaig of Metrolinx about their view of this discussion. He began by recapping the statements he has been giving to the media all afternoon. The following is a paraphrase.
Metrolinx has been getting mixed messages from the TTC and the City about Eglinton. Metrolinx wants to build “smart and affordable” transit, but the City and Council need to settle on a position. Metrolinx has been working with them already to provide a high quality system on time and on budget.
There is a Memorandum of Understanding with the City, and Metrolinx has proceeded on assumption of support for this. It would be very difficult to build anything without certainty on the City’s part. Metrolinx will build the project, whatever it is, but they need a partnership to achieve this.
Metrolinx wants to give the City a chance to clarify its position. There are no ideas on the table from the City itself, only “musings of one Councillor”.
I noted that early comments attributed to Metrolinx implied that they had a preferred option (the all-underground one) and that they were unwilling to go back to the original subway-surface scheme. This position appeared to evolve through the day to a more neutral one of waiting for the City to make up its mind. I asked whether Metrolinx had any thoughts on where plans might go if money is freed up by returning to the subway-surface option.
Metrolinx feels that the new [all underground plan] can move more people faster, and we support what works for the region. However, it is too early to discuss potential changes to the plan and the follow-on effects. The only plan we have is what’s in the MOU. If the City wants changes, it should say what these are, but it is premature to talk about outcomes after that.
I pointed out that the MOU has never been endorsed by Council and is not really a “City” position.
Metrolinx moved ahead based on the MOU, and we have not changed from this path.
I asked about the status of work leading to public meetings and amendments to the Environmental Assessment that has already been approved. Moreover, will this information be available as background to any Council debate so that the real differences between the subway-surface and all-subway versions will be understood.
Preliminary engineering is underway for the amendments to the EA, and Metrolinx planned to go to the public in spring 2012 with details on the extended tunnel section, the maintenance facility, stations and the alignment for the western terminus. Whether this information is available to Council will depend on the timing of debate there, and Metrolinx has no control over that.
McCuaig concluded by saying that Metrolinx wants to get on with the task of building transit. I can only temper this by saying that we need to build the right plan. What that will be remains to be seen.