[Updates with links to media coverage are at the end of this article.]
Elizabeth Church reports in the Globe about a proposed compromise that would redistribute the funding for the proposed all-underground Eglinton LRT line.
- Eglinton would stay on the surface east of Leaside with a dip underground at Don Mills to surface east of the DVP. This is similar but not identical to the original Transit City scheme.
- Part of the money released from the Eglinton project would be used to extend the Sheppard Subway east to Victoria Park and include a stop at Consumers Road.
- A bus transit corridor would be provided on Finch West and East.
The article implies that there may be good support from various parts of Council for this scheme, and a clear endorsement by a motion would send Metrolinx the signal it claims to be waiting for of just what Toronto wants to build.
Updated January 25, 2012 at 10:45am:
Natalie Alcoba reports in the National Post that although there may be support growing on Council for this plan, the Mayor’s office appears unmoved.
But an official from the Mayor’s office suggested he is not interested in relinquishing ground on his LRT stance. “We’re happy with the Metrolinx plan that they’re working on now,” said Mark Towhey, the Mayor’s policy director. “Residents don’t want trains running down the middle of the street.”
On the radio on Tuesday, Mr. Ford seemed to distance himself from the Eglinton line, saying he doesn’t want to stick his nose in a provincial project.
“I’m concentrating on the Sheppard line, and building a subway up there. If Metrolinx or the province wants to do this… I’m not a fan of streetcars, I’m not a fan of LRTs. If they’re underground I am, that’s been my position all along.”
[End of update]
There are longer range issues here, but retention of a subway-surface alignment on Eglinton will permit future extensions to the west and northeast that would likely be unaffordable if an all-underground structure had been repurposed as a full subway line. The difficult problems of an alignment from Black Creek to Jane have yet to be addressed.
Finch will see BRT at least initially, and it will be important that no design elements preclude future conversion to LRT when demand justifies this. This would also avoid the cost of a carhouse on Finch West in the short term that was part of the Transit City scheme.
The unknown would be Sheppard and the terminal at Victoria Park. Will this be a “temporary” end of the line, or will the design allow further extension by either subway or by LRT with a convenient transfer connection? An argument now about the technology east of Victoria Park will only muddle the debate, but the option of either form of extension should be left open for a future decision. Will a BRT on Finch stand in for the Sheppard East LRT?
Portions of the Ford subway scheme appear to have fallen off of the table. We still need those debates about the role of subways, LRT and BRT (not to mention such lowly creatures as simple buses running in mixed traffic) in a suburban network. Part of this will fall to Metrolinx’ “Big Move 2.0” about which we know very little today and to the degree that solid transit funding actually shows up through new revenue sources such as tolls, sales taxes or maybe even a casino.
Meanwhile, we debate the disposition of billions in capital spending while proposing a few millions in savings by widespread service cuts. Such is the madness of Toronto’s transit politics.
I can quibble about some aspects of this proposed compromise, but it is a good start. Here is a sign that finally Council takes seriously the need to plan and make responsible decisions about our transit future. For a year, by its inaction, Council gave de facto endorsement to a half-baked campaign promise that Metrolinx adopted as its working plan. Now we can have a real debate.
Updated January 26, 2012 at 12:40am:
Robyn Doolittle in the Star reports that momentum is building for the compromise plan.
Elizabeth Church and Patrick White report in the Globe with more details about response from Queen’s Park and Metrolinx.
Natalie Alcoba in the Post suggests that Mayor Ford is still wedded to a subway plan, but that support for surface LRT is building.
One troubling point in all of this is a comment by Metrolinx chair Rob Prichard who wants to see Council, the Mayor and the TTC all onside. Whether Rob Ford will actually endorse a new plan, or wind up as one of a few voting against it remains to be seen, but at some point Queen’s Park has to listen to the majority of the citizens’ representatives.
Updated January 26, 2012 at 12:50:
Royson James in the Star gives Metrolinx a well-deserved thrashing. By its own admission, this agency proceeded with the all-underground Eglinton plan even without Council approval, a clear requirement of the Memorandum of Understanding between Queen’s Park and Mayor Ford.
Christopher Hume weighs in with a video commentary including a call for an all-surface Eglinton LRT.