Who Will Reunite Toronto?

Mayor Rob Ford’s term began with a blowhard’s populist address at the inaugural City Council meeting.  An invited guest, Don Cherry, played to his sports jock patron with references to “left-wing pinkos” and “kooks”.  Clearly from Day 1 bellicose ignorance was to be the hallmark of the Ford administration.

Many of us thought, oh well, it’s just Rob Ford being Rob, although his brother Councillor Doug Ford quickly emerged as even more hot-headed, badly-informed fool.  If only he were just one more Councillor, out in the cold as Rob once was, it wouldn’t matter.  Still, there was hope that Council as a whole would prevail.

That was too much to ask.

The Ford style is to embrace your friends and destroy your enemies, preferably with open contempt.  It is not enough to win, but you must leave your opponents face down in the mud, demoralized, with the sure knowledge that the same or worse will follow in any rematch.

The “pinko kooks” found themselves outside the doors of City Hall, but so did many others, any who dared to disagree with the political aims of the Ford Brothers and their supporters.

Many Councillors must share blame for this.  Moderates who might be expected to take a stance mediating between the factions gave the new Mayor the benefit of the doubt.  Some eventually tired of his follies and embraced a truly independent moderate stance, while others sought favour at court and threw in their lots with the administration.  The vitriol of the Fords began to infect the language of many others who felt emboldened.  Insulting someone is easy when you’ve got two big brothers standing behind you.

To many, the words “pinko kooks” meant “downtown”, the “latte sipping elites” whose influence under former Mayor David Miller would not just be destroyed, but vilified at any opportunity.  Miller enjoyed broad support until the garbage shutdown provided the issue to turn the city against him and all of his policies.  He was portrayed as a downtowner, an enemy of right-thinking people all through “Ford Nation”.  The politics are far more complicated than that, but sound bites rule elections.

Three years in, after an on-again, off-again, on-again flirtation among transit technologies, we come to the Scarborough Subway debate that goes back to Ford’s campaign promise to build subways, not LRT.  True to his word, he killed Transit City on the day he took office, even though he had no authority to do so, and Council meekly stood aside.

Ford’s influence waned for a time, and a faction led by Councillor Karen Stintz engineered a coup to wrest the transit file back to Council’s control re-affirming support for the LRT network.  A year later, the same Councillors claimed that subways were the answer, and one could be built in Scarborough for only a small amount more than the LRT.  Some of that claim was creative accounting, but it set the stage for what would follow.

The recent by-election in Scarborough saw the subway issue turned into blatant pandering, a litmus test of how dedicated a candidate or party might be to Scarborough’s sense of being downtrodden, ignored, short-changed in the municipal parternership.  Scarborough’s mortal enemy, voters were told, lies downtown with those folks who already have their subways.  They want to foist second-class rattle-trap streetcars on the burbs, just like the Scarborough RT, the great-grand-daddy of rattle-traps, was so many years ago.

That’s hogwash, but it shaped the election.  By implication, someone who was pro-subway would be pro lots more to make Scarborough great.

Now we are back to a subway plan with the endorsement of Council by a 24-20 vote.  I could pick a few Councillors whose support might have helped keep the LRT plans alive, but it would have been a close vote either way.  Whoever lost, they would claim that “but for a few” their scheme would have prevailed.  Refighting that vote, if it happens at all, is a battle for another day under a new administration.

Possibly there will be less favourable projections of the subway’s cost that forces a rethink of this project and others in the transit network.  I am not counting on that outcome, and indeed, any decision to shift away from a subway and back to LRT must be based on more than the swing of a few votes on Council.  This cannot be a battle where two armies spend years fighting over a few hundred yards with the front lines never really moving.

The real tragedy in the subway debate was the outright hatred spewed by some members of Council for “downtown”, a block seen as working to undermine the suburban dreams of a Scarborough that would rise to its true place in the GTA.  If a Councillor wants to pitch a subway as an “investment in the future”, that at least is a positive outlook whether it fits with the likely outcome or not.

There is a good argument that “the future” won’t arrive if we do not prepare the ground with municipal investment.  After all, isn’t that what we are doing on the waterfront, that most “downtown” of projects.  There, ironically, all we want is an LRT line but nobody will front the money, less than a fifth the cost of the Scarborough Subway, to build it.

Land use planning is a tricky business.  Sometimes it is a function of who owns property and where, who stands to benefit from a swampland-into-goldmine transformation that generous zoning and heavy public infrastructure investments can bring.  Sometimes it is a statement of civic pride, the idea that former suburbs that were farmland in living memory can become centres in their own right.  They have been waiting a long time.

We need only look to North York Centre, Etobicoke’s Six Points or to Scarborough Town Centre where development, if any, is far less than original hopes.  Meanwhile, “downtown” thrives not because of an evil plot, but because that’s where developers found a market.  Indeed, much of the thriving was under conservative pro-development regimes.  The suburban centres, once the focus of regional planning, may come into their own, but not necessarily in the form expected — symbiotic office and residential clusters with local rather than regional travel demand.

I sat in Council Chamber listening to the debate, and as a “downtowner” heard myself and hundreds of thousands of my fellow citizens derided for being fat and happy and feeding off the contributions of suburban taxpayers who weren’t getting their fair share of the spoils.  The debate included disinformation and outright lies, but the worst was that these were directed at “downtown” as a class, not at advocates of a specific position on the issues.

There were moments when I could happily have sold Scarborough to Durham just to get rid of their politicians, but that would only perpetuate the rift.  There are good people in Scarborough both as voters and as politicians, but on this issue the argument turned very nasty indeed.  Was it really necessary to resort to such tactics?  To invent a polarized city with downtowners hating suburbanites?  That’s not what Toronto is really about, but will this be the 2014 election campaign theme?

Is tearing apart the city for real or invented inequities to be the badge of every politician?  Are a few subway lines the issue which should pit neighbourhoods against each other?  Whatever happened to social issues and services, severe problems all over Toronto, not just in Scarborough or Rexdale or Downsview or downtown?  Will the politicians so eager to promise subways in the future do anything about the quality of bus service today?

The Ford brothers are all about divisions, about heavy-handed, take-no-prisoners politics where winning is all that matters and whatever happens along the way, happens.  I don’t want my city to be collateral damage in the Ford wars.

Where is the will to talk about a united vision of anything more than tax breaks that favour well-off landowners far more than poorer tenants?  Where is the will to unite Toronto in a common purpose beyond hating those who live south of St. Clair?

I want leaders who can win my support with strong, positive arguments, not thugs and demagogues.

I want politicians who can lead all of the city, not just the cherry-picked wards where an isolationist, me-first attitude can lead to election victory.

Where are they?

68 thoughts on “Who Will Reunite Toronto?

  1. Scott wrote:

    “I actually live at Birchmount and Sheppard so I wonder if we would have had an LRT here now if Rob Ford hadn’t been elected.”

    Kevin’s comment:

    As part of Transit City, the Sheppard East LRT was scheduled to open on September 11, 2013. You would be riding it right now. The rest of the LRT lines were scheduled to open in time for the Pan Am games in 2015, showcasing our city as a model for how to do transit right.

    No doubt our city will be showcased by the Pan Am games, but perhaps not as a model for how to do things right.

    Steve: Except, I fervently hope, by the time the Games open, Rob Ford will have been dispatched to the dustbin of history. He talks about boycotting them, but if he is still Mayor by 2015, we have a lot more to worry about than the Games’ budget.


  2. Steve M wrote:

    Most of what is now Scarborough was designed and built before amalgamation, and even since then, much of the local planning is handled by Scarborough Council, not by the City. You would do well to hold your own Councillors to account for what they have built before blaming the nasty City, and you should remember that City Council is overwhelmingly dominated by members from suburban wards. “Downtown” could not foist something on you without the support of your suburban compatriots.

    Absolutely True! I’ve been a resident of Scarborough for 30 years. Public services including transit, road maintenance, and development planning in Scarborough have improved since amalgamation because ‘Downtown Toronto’ standards are now being applied here as well. Scarborough City Council prior to amalgamation was pathetic and many of the current Scarborough councillors continue that grand tradition.


  3. “George Smitherman had the dual problems of being an arrogant ex-Queen’s Park minister who thought he knew everything, plus the anti-gay vote.”

    Also, Smitherman never stood a chance in the suburbs, because he was (deservedly or not) associated with Queen’s Park scandals like E-health. This, combined with what you said, made Smitherman a monster that had to be stopped by voting for the one person who could stop someone like Smitherman: Rob Ford.

    I don’t understand why some on the left coalesced around Smitherman so early on in the race.

    Steve: As you may know, I endorsed Smitherman, reluctantly, as the least worst of the candidates.


  4. A brief addendum on “luxury” condos along Sheppard:

    Over at Don Mills, there have been high-rise apartment buildings next to Fairview since at least the early 80s. I can’t specifically recall a lot of new condo development, but the major attraction of that area is the nearby intersection of the 401 and Don Valley/404.

    At Leslie, little has changed apart from two or so condo towers built next to Ikea. Otherwise the actual intersection is dominated by a ravine and North York General, neither of which are exactly prime for development.

    Over at Bayview Village you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that took the subway there. Although who knows? Perhaps those shopping for $60 towels at Restoration Hardware can’t afford cars. The handful of Chrysler-building esque condos built south of the mall don’t exemplify mixed use development. One particularly annoying thing about Bayview station, though, is the lack of a proper bus terminal, so when making the inevitable transfer from the subway you end up waiting on the side of Bayview completely exposed to the elements.

    Otherwise, as someone quite familiar with the upper part of the Spadina line, I can state with certainty that there has been approximately zero development next to Downsview, Wilson, Yorkdale, Lawrence West, or Glencairn – or even Eglinton West! – in the last 30 years. There is a newish mid-rise condo at Sheppard and Wilson Heights, and now one is going up next to Wilson on the site of a long-abandoned bowling alley. Now, I’m sure Rob Ford will claim that this is due to the aboveground nature of this part of the Spadina line, but then we might wonder what’s happened (or hasn’t happened) at Eglinton, St Clair West, Dupont, or even on much of the Bloor line. And for all the condo development on Bay south of Bloor (even with ground floor retail), the complete absence of streetlife compared to neighbouring Yonge is pretty striking.


  5. Steve: Did it ever occur to you that southern Etobicoke has the Humber Bay, and that’s a hell of a lot more attractive to luxury condos than the subway which is four km to the north. People who buy luxury don’t care if a subway station is nearby. [snip … rest of my comment]

    I disagree with everything you said. Subways do bring a higher standard of development & residents. Once the areas around the new Subway begin to re-develop in Scarborough it will slowly trickle down into other areas Kingston Rd which does not have the streetcar that Humber which also encourage the development.

    People follow the herd & if money starts flowing on Scarborough. Developers & home buyers will quickly see the opportunity and beauty of Scarborough’s areas like Kingston Rd.

    But according to you its all location and it’s hopeless. Let not give Scarborough anything of high standard and let the City further wither away into poverish development.

    Great foresight Steve. Tells us more why we are in the current political climate in this City. I prefer to see it all areas flourish. You prefer to pick and choose.

    Steve: One final word and this discussion is closed. I did not say that Scarborough cannot have development, but that a subway is not a pre-requisite for this to happen. You need only visit Mississauga or York Region for a counter-example. The streetcar encourages development? Strange that folks near Humber Bay wanted their own express bus (Palace Pier runs its own shuttle) to downtown because the streetcar service is so bad.

    Pick and choose? By your reasoning I should be building subways all over the city (mind you the network wouldn’t be finished for decades) in the hope that this would make every area attractive for development. Sorry, but it’s the development industry and buyers of new housing who make that choice, and Scarborough isn’t at the top of their list. A subway won’t fix that problem.

    Please note that any further comments in this vein will be deleted as you have nothing new to say.


  6. To summarize the many arguments that say subways don’t spur development, please read this article. But what Jarrett says at the end is telling about the whole debate:

    “All claims for the hegemony of one mode over another are distractions from creating the most effective transit for a city as a whole. But technology wars meet so many human needs that they will always be with us, and so given that it’s best they be as balanced as possible.”

    Ford got his way because it became a technology war, not a debate about what is effective transit. Any politician wanting to go against Ford will have to drive the conversation away from technology.


  7. Steve wrote:

    Ford ran on a “clean up the mess” style of campaign not unlike, in a generic sense, the one that brought David Miller to office.

    Notwithstanding that every other sentence that came out of Ford’s mouth during the election included the word “gravy”, there were two broad themes of his campaign: spending tax dollars more efficiently, and improving customer service. And that’s what his political career had been built around up to that point: he was the guy who would only spend pennies out of his office budget, and he was the guy that would come out to your house to make sure that whatever problem you were having with city services got resolved.

    That’s where, in a parallel universe, Rob Ford could have been an unlikely ally of transit advocates. Most of the issues that we discuss on this site, and that are regular customer complaints, can fall under one or both categories.

    It’s wasteful spending, and bad customer service, for three buses to leave a terminal in a platoon rather than evenly spaced out; addressing this problem would achieve a localized surface capacity increase AND improve customer service for the price of a little bit of political capital. And it would have played to his reputation of fixing a problem that had been ignored for years until he came around.

    Fixing transit priority signal loops and addressing the issue with streetcar switches so that streetcars no longer have to stop at each switch? Same thing.

    The “St. Clair Disaster” would have been a disaster merely for the scheduling, budgetary and customer service issues (many of which being unrelated to TTC), and would have spurred him into requiring staff to put together some sort of customer service charter or procedures to ensure that it did not happen the next time — it would not have been a catchphrase to poison any project that could be construed as remotely similar.

    Short turns? Maybe not an efficiency issue, but definitely a customer service issue; it would take one person to call Parallel Universe Rob Ford at 10 PM to say that they had been dumped off a short-turning vehicle on Queen East or Lake Shore or Finch West, and he would have been there in his minivan to drive them home and would have been on the phone with the CGM the next morning.

    I think Ford was able to pick up quite a few votes from residents that may not have been fully in favour of his policy specifics (such as they were) but were willing to overlook them because they wanted him to clean up spending and customer service. (Me? I held my nose and voted for Smitherman in a vain hope of keeping Ford out. Now there is an interesting parallel universe — what would the last three years have been like if Smitherman had prevailed? It is probably safe to say that they would have been less interesting.)

    Oh… and one more thing about Parallel Universe Rob Ford. He would be the first one in line to complain about a billion dollars or more of wasteful spending on a transit project, with potential additional risk to City finances, where there was already a fully funded version of the project ready to go (with more stops!). We would have heard no end of phrases like “gold-plated”, “billion-dollar boondoggle”, “there’s only one taxpayer”, and, of course, “gravy train”.


  8. I also agree that unity across the city is now a pipe dream. And I’m a “minority” voice. I’ve thought from the beginning that The Ford victory was a profound cultural statement for Toronto. However many intelligent, progressive, engaged people there are in this city (and there’s a lot), we are outnumbered by the kinds of people who vote for Rob Ford. They openly want someone like him to be our LEADER. And I don’t think that understanding can be overstated.

    I’m glad to see you Steve, a very respected and public voice, finally and vocally stating that. Because I think the moderates have been doing harm in not recognizing the brown-shirt style of politics that the Fords represent. There are plenty of racist, drunk, innumerate, entitled spoilt rich kids. But again, to openly support such a person to govern us, to me is extremely sobering. I think Ford’s election, for me, was the moment that I stopped taking an informed and intelligent public for granted. That it was not an inevitable thing.

    From what I can tell, our civic political dynamic is based on identity. In this case, the downtown / suburb divide. As has been stated, I think this has been fuelled by our recent economic downturn, and the longer trend of Ontario’s de-industrialization. So politically, it becomes easier to vilify Downtown Toronto as sucking on the teet of the suburbs and the rest of the province. In fact the exact opposite is true. Toronto, and much of it the core, provide the majority of the wealth… of the country.

    1) see “Federal Government Revenues Collected and Equalization Received by Province”
    2) see “Where The Money Comes From” > “Federal Transfers”


  9. ‘Hatred’ is from all parties and groups everywhere.

    Asking for unity over a group of diverged interests is pretty hard… if it was ever possible.

    It’s one thing to recognize we all have different points of view and leave it at that, but to pretend as if this divisiveness is new or exemplified by Rob Ford is pretty sad. I know plenty of people who thought David Miller was very divisive.

    Steve: I have to jump in here. The issue with Ford is not that the “hatred” does not exist, but that he shamelessly exploits it for political purposes, and inflames divisions rather than looking for common ground.

    In terms of what brings out the ‘hatred’.

    1. Lack of acknowledgement of the historical and continued investment in the downtown core. Go trains, subways… were all built in another time. At the time they were built, I doubt they would meet the ‘strict’ density and other arguments being thrown around today. The government placement of major institutions in the downtown area (major hospitals, universities, government buildings…) are not ‘free-market’ ideas. Where the government chooses to place these buildings is a subsidy. Let’s not even get into the direct and indirect subsidies. Seriously, can anyone argue that Ottawa isn’t as nice as it is because the government chooses to be there as it is the capital?

    Steve: You are writing this as if the suburbs have existed forever. They have not. When the Yonge subway opened, the developed part of the city ended not far north of Eglinton, and the “business district” ended at Queen. The hospitals downtown are where they are because that was the middle of the city. If you want to talk about new government investment (say in recent decades), then you have a case, but let’s not pretend that the downtown locations of institutions over a century old are some form of anti-suburban plot. When University College was built in 1853, it was out in the country. Ryerson dates from 1852. York U, a comparative upstart, started with Glendon campus (Bayview & Lawrence) in 1960 followed by the Keele Campus (which really was in the middle of nowhere at the time) in 1965.

    I walked along Finch Avenue East from Markham Road in the late 1960s when it was a two-lane road with an apple orchard on one side and sheep grazing on the other. Scarborough is a much younger urban area than the old City of Toronto.

    Talk about historical context, but get your facts straight first.

    2. Similar to 1. Many people on an individual level live historically. Many bought/own their homes a long time ago. So they sit there smugly saying… well you should just move closer to work. Never is this more offensive than someone who owns a single family home in Toronto from a long time ago. Yes, if I had a million dollars, maybe I could enjoy your style of life too. They don’t take into account if you have a family or not. If your spouse works elsewhere in the city… It’s just some smug statement that their life situation allows them to live in that way in the city.

    Steve: I am not sure how this adds to the discussion. The issue of multi-job families (not to mention people with multiple jobs) certainly is not considered by those who say “move closer”, and I have a big problem, as you do, with that facile response to commuting problems. Where a family (or even an individual) lives is decided usually on a long timeline whether or not they are long-term house owners, and it must be done in concert with all affected members of a family.

    I have seen the effect of changes in job location during the municipal amalgamation of 1998 when staff of the six school boards were merged into one entity and shuffled off to whatever corner of the city housed their new consolidated departments. People who had easily commuted from Mississauga to Etobicoke found themselves working in Scarborough. People who came from Scarborough, Markham and Durham to STC found themselves working on the west side of town. Downtowners were scattered everywhere. That’s just a situation where a corporate reorganization forces a move, let along the problems faced by families whose jobs are less secure and must be taken wherever they are found.

    The transit network is notoriously useless for handling trips that are not focussed along the predominant downtown-oriented commuting paths, and both the TTC and GO do a lousy job of serving that type of trip.

    3. Hatred of the suburban way of life. People do get up in their seats when their life style is attacked. How many politicians and people hate on the suburban way of life. As if a car is the embodiment of evil. Or god-forbid a single family home. Sure, it is cast in ‘nicer’ language, but the way it is received is the same. Your way of life is invalid. You must get used to high-density living.

    Steve: Pot. Kettle. There is an equal arrogance to suburbanites who claim that if only we would complete the expressway network, everything would be solved. To them, I say, leave my city alone. By the way, there are a lot of single-family homes all over Toronto, not just in the suburbs, and a lot of multi-unit high-rises in the suburbs too. The density argument turns on the question of making subways pay for themselves through demand. There are subways closer in to downtown because the demand concentrates rather like a funnel into a few routes into a very dense job and academic market. There will always be a need to say “this is as far as the subway reasonably goes”. The debate is over how to make that decision.

    Now do the suburbs gets subsidies? Of course they do. Many will say the historical cheap price of gas was a subsidy to the suburbs to live further away. This is not an argument to debate who gets more of a subsidy or whatever. But when you begin something so dismissively when it comes to say density argument as if building a subway to a region that does not have ‘enough density’ would be a subsidy… without acknowledging the massive subsidies your region receives, it does create problems. Everything about government is a subsidy to this group or that group.

    In any case, let’s not mistake people having different interests for being ideological or divisive.

    Steve: I have to presume here that you are commenting on my remarks about the Ford camp. They have been exploiting divisions and inequities (real or perceived) as a basic mechanism of drumming up votes, and have making a lot of false claims in the process. There are legitimate issues with how the suburbs have developed that we need to address, but far more is required than building a subway line that won’t open for 10 years as a badge of how, somehow, the rest of Toronto cares about Scarborough.

    I am willing to bet that when the issue of increased operating subsidies to the TTC so that it can run better bus service in Scarborough, among other places, comes up, the Ford faction will give us all lectures about how TTC costs are out of control. When demand for your service is going up 3% annually, when many operating costs are subject to inflation over which you have no control, and when labour costs are set by legislated arbitration as an “essential service”, the compound effects cannot be absorbed with a flat-lined subsidy such as that imposed in 2011 and 2012.

    When the Fords make impassioned speeches about improving service on buses in Downsview and Malvern and, yes, even in Etobicoke, I will believe that they care about transit, rather than just about “subways” as a wedge issue and as a way of fighting old battles against David Miller.


  10. Steve:

    I agree with your condemnation of the exploitive suburbs vs. Downtown propaganda of the Fords. It is wrong for our City.

    However, it also caused me to reflect on the preferences that we all have for where we live, be it downtown, inner suburb, closer 905 or Orangeville or Barrie. All of those are based on our personal preferences and our priorities in deciding what we can and cannot afford.

    I was raised in Etobicoke before it was an “inner suburb” and commuted downtown to School. I remember, during exams, going home in the midafternoon and missing an Islington 37. The next bus was 30 or perhaps 35 minutes later. As a student I fell in love with the City and in making my choices, I have always lived in the old City of Toronto. That doesn’t mean that it is inherently a better place – it is just a better place for me. In my current location, I have no backyard, limited internal space and no driveway or garage. Many people value these things and choose accordingly. I chose to give them up and live within 15 minutes of Yonge & King. Another element of my choice is that I prefer transit to driving. I have a car and drive about 5,000 km per year, but for the most part I would rather take the bus or the streetcar. Downtown suits my needs.

    Others prefer to live in the suburbs. These persons value a backyard and driveway parking spot. They feel that the environment is better place to raise their children and are comfortable with the increased reliance on the car. They give up being able to walk to many amenities – though green-space may be more accessible – and suffer from poor transit. Just as I do not have a backyard, they do not have the Ossington Bus.

    Yet another group of suburbanites lack the resources to live downtown and have to live in rental accommodation in the suburbs – either inner or nearer 905 – in order to afford the rent. This is the group that has suffered the most from the lack of urban services and amenities. Many of this group are dependent on transit, but the transit service is poor. Looking at the inner suburbs specifically, the buses lack sufficient frequency and the resultant riding conditions are uncomfortably crowded and the waiting is unpleasant. Our society is letting this group down.

    Others with limited resources want to live downtown so badly that they live in shared accommodation, very small residences or in basement apartments. This group is not “privileged” though they choose to live downtown because, amongst other things, the density allows for the provision of superior transit.

    None of these lifestyle choices is inherently right or wrong – just the result of the personal preferences and circumstances of each citizen who has made a choice. When we plan a transit system the needs of each of these groups must be weighed and included in the outcome. In a fair world the best mix of spending and transit mode choice would be selected. On that basis, LRTs would not be better or worse than subways, buses or articulated buses. Each need would be met by the service and service frequency that made sense. (No I am not a Marxist, but I did steal that concept – to each according to his needs.)

    LRTs in all areas where it is needed would be a fairer and more morally defensible expenditure of a billion (perhaps 2 billion) dollars to build an unneeded subway. Better bus service where it is needed would be a fairer and more morally defensible position than cutting property tax for the well off in our society.

    Downtown is not “screwing” the suburbs. Rob Ford is.


  11. Steve,

    I think it is very misleading to say that North York Centre and Scarborough have not grown as much as planned and to say the subway has little effect.

    You as well as I know that office development never happened as planned, due to outside forces like tax issues, and business moving out to the 905. Downtown Toronto was also not booming in the office market until a few years ago. In fact until a year or two ago, downtown Toronto had still not recovered the number of jobs it had in 1991.

    Development in North York Centre and Scarborough also is affected by the fact that the network 2011 plan was never completed. How do you expect almost 100,000 planned office workers to get to North York Centre without additional east-west transit rapid transit?

    Other places like Mississauga Centre also have had problems attracting office development, due to these outlying issues.

    Now that we are seeing a recentralization of office space back towards downtown, this bodes well for North York Centre.

    I also take issue with the fact that the Sheppard subway is not responsible for the condo development there. You also know that is a total lie, and that the subway is yes the main reason condos are popping up in that area. The 401 was always there, and these developments never happened until the subway was built.

    Contrary to writings here, the TTC’s own studies have shown transit use in the Sheppard subway corridor has skyrocketed by residents living in the corridor.

    We can’t expect things to happen all at once. But we are also seeing large new developments at Bessarion Station, etc.

    As for Scarborough, it may not be as popular as other areas, but development is happening. And house prices are getting very out of control in many parts of Scarborough. We do not really need Scarborough to get more popular. It is already unaffordable.

    Steve: Many of the zoning applications for North York were in the pipeline before the subway was built, but North York stage managed things to make the new developments conditional on the subway to ensure that there would be sufficient transportation capacity. What happened was that already-planned buildings were used as hostages to Lastman’s desire for a subway, but they would have been built, subway or no, otherwise.

    As for demand on the subway, all I can say is that in any projection of fleet requirements the TTC makes, the level of service on the Sheppard line does not change in the distant future. This tells me something about the ratio of service to demand as the TTC perceives it.


  12. I’m sorry Michael but even the most massive condos simply don’t have enough residents within them to make any single station a bustling node. You could put down 4 Shangri-La’s at Bessarion and force all residents to use the subway but it would still be one of the ghost stations on the network.


  13. “You could put down 4 Shangri-La’s at Bessarion and force all residents to use the subway but it would still be one of the ghost stations on the network.”

    Sometimes I can’t help but feel that a lot of the LRT opposition looks a lot like innumeracy. Saying “build for the future” is a great soundbite. To fact-check it, one has to use numbers to realize that LRT can easily handle projected demand several decades into the future. There are lots of qualitative arguments on all sides (“never wait for traffic”, “watch the scenery go by outside”, …), but the only definitive argument against subways is a numeric consideration of cost vs. benefit.

    Now how can we make “build for the future” be a pro-LRT argument?

    Steve: First off, don’t inflate the subway ridership projection with riders who belong on GO Transit. It is interesting that Metrolinx continues to say that LRT is perfectly adequate for the corridor while city/TTC folks use the higher and much more recent demand estimate which is suspect based on comments about it at Council from Jen Keesmaat, the Chief Planner.

    Next, talk about how many people can be served with lots of headroom for growth on many lines for the same money. Address the “100 year myth” head on and show how many times each of the subsystems for each mode gets built and rebuilt, and which subsystems (e.g. escalators and elevators in stations) simply vanish with a surface LRT.

    Finally, look at a network, not just one line, and how the use of LRT as a default “rapid transit” mode shifts the debate from one-at-a-time projects to a web of lines. In some places, such as a Don Mills / Relief line, subway technology makes sense because the route would be almost completely grade separated anyhow and would have high demand. But in most, LRT is more than enough for the medium (say 50 yr) term. So what if we have to replace it eventually with a subway? If we get 50 years out of the investment we would still be ahead of the game and would have developed ridership where otherwise there might still be only a bus now and then.


  14. @Michael Greason

    For a lot of people in the inner suburbs, it’s quite frankly seen as class warfare. And that sentiment was there well before Rob Ford. You sit on transit for two hours and endure three transfers, every day for decades and then see how generous you feel about somebody who doesn’t live in your shoes telling you what’s good for you.

    If anybody actually cared about mobility, all this money would have been focused on GO and building a real regional suburban rail network, with full fare and service integration with all the regional transit services, that would have actually cut commute times by a third or more. Instead, they got aimed at building a network of super-streetcars (ummm LRT) that really would knock off piddling amounts off the commute for the average rider. Don’t blame them for not really seeing the benefits when the benefits were always going to be minimal. Since, many didn’t perceive a large enough time savings, they then started to ask why they still needed to transfer. And all that is before people started to realize that the SRT was going to be shut down for a few years.

    Steve: I agree with you about GO, but that’s a provincial system, and when Toronto proposed Transit City there was no sign that Queen’s Park was going to invest serious money in transit beyond the occasional subway line here or there. As for who’s telling whom what sort of ride they should have, Scarborough (and the rest of the GTA) does not speak with one voice, and some of the LRT advocates are in Scarborough itself.


  15. When talking about building for the future, it has more to do than with projected demand.

    No one is against LRT. What people are against is LRT masked as rapid transit.

    If Steve and others would just admit that LRT operating down the median of a road, stopping every 500 meters, and without grade separated intersections, is not rapid transit. Then people would not be upset.

    But if we are talking about actually expanding rapid transit, then it is going to have to take the form of subways or LRT on fully grade separated right of ways, be they elevated, tunneled, or in railway corridors. And they also must not force transfers halfway through a trip.

    Steve: So far, I am prepared to accept this at least as a starting point for discussion. However, the Scarborough Subway is all about the SLRT which would be completely grade separated from Kennedy to Sheppard. All of the whinging about “streetcars” has absolutely no application in that case, although Mayor Ford & Co. continue to repeat the lie that the line would interfere with road traffic. He has been told enough times that he is wrong that he can no longer claim to be misinformed. It is a lie, plain and simple, because that’s how he wins arguments.

    Demand is also created by how good the transit option provided is.

    Time and time again, surface LRT in the middle of the street is said to handle future demand, because the mode does not attract as many riders as a grade separated option.

    This is why the entire Sheppard East LRT at more than twice the length of the Sheppard subway, will carry about the same or less people per day as the shorter Sheppard subway. Because the LRT lines will be so slow, they are not expected to attract as many people.

    If we are truly want to make Toronto a more transit friendly city. Then we need transit that will attract people to transit.

    Simply building what is cheapest is not always the answer. If we use that argument, then why LRT? Why not BRT? We could serve even more people under that argument.

    I also think you guys need to actually look at LRT in other cities and critically look at the facts.

    Portland for example has extremely low ridership on their LRT network, and it is known as being very slow. It also operates in many parts in the middle of the street like Toronto is planning.

    Steve: Portland has two systems, one a streetcar and one an LRT. Speeds on the latter vary depending on which part of the network you are looking at.

    With respect to Sheppard East, as an example, the projected demand is well within the range of LRT, and something more than the Sheppard East bus will be needed no matter what. If “BRT”, we will be back into the argument about losing lanes, and I am willing to bet that what we would wind up is “BRT Lite” with lanes that are really shared, if only through lack of enforcement. More space is required for BRT than LRT because buses are not tethered to rails, and because they cannot run in trains. This brings up the issue of passing lanes at stations, and a wider right-of-way than would be needed with LRT. Capacity requirements and road-space limitations make LRT the choice.

    Is it “rapid transit”? That depends on what sort of traffic congestion you expect on major bus routes by 2031. Is it a subway? Of course not.


  16. I would also be interested in hearing people’s opinions on this project in Sydney, Australia. This rail tunnel extension cost over $2 billion dollars and carries about 12,000 riders a day.

    Was this a waste of money? Should it have been LRT?

    Steve: Well, for starters it is part of the commuter rail network and that dictates certain choices in equipment. The tunnel is 13km long, and with three stations between the connection points to the existing network, that gives an average spacing of over 3km. The service runs every 15 minutes and to carry 12k/day. Yes, it was a huge expenditure for ridership at this scale, and another proposal in the same vein was killed by the government. The ridership is definitely in LRT territory, and the project only makes sense, if at all at that cost, as part of the wider network.

    Should it have been LRT? No. It is part of a much larger network for which the technology is already settled. The line was built entirely underground, in some locations for political, not technical reasons, and there were some nasty cost overruns on the project. Commuter rail is normally, like LRT, built on the surface. I don’t know Sydney politics or the reasons behind the decision to put the line underground.


  17. Michael said:

    Simply building what is cheapest is not always the answer. If we use that argument, then why LRT? Why not BRT? We could serve even more people under that argument.

    Actually, a BRT could handle the expected demand on Sheppard especially now with the BD extension. However, if LRT’s are viewed as a sign of being second class citizens, then a BRT would be a sign of being third class citizens by that same logic. Funny how that point is never brought up by the “No less than subways for these people while no better than buses for everyone else!” people.


  18. Brent said:

    That’s where, in a parallel universe, Rob Ford could have been an unlikely ally of transit advocates. Most of the issues that we discuss on this site, and that are regular customer complaints, can fall under one or both categories.

    The thing about Rob Ford is that seemed clear early on that he was a candidate manipulated/managed by a very effective political team who helped him stickhandle past conflicts and potential controversies. I’m guessing that the people behind that team (and members of the team) pushed their ideas on to him in some sort of populist vein, and he ran with it.

    Now he is trying to return to that simple “one message+on message” campaign strategy in the hope that the public will once again ignore the controversy and the bad financial management…and helped by the good optics of the subway project it looks like it is working.

    Michael said:

    Demand is also created by how good the transit option provided is.

    Time and time again, surface LRT in the middle of the street is said to handle future demand, because the mode does not attract as many riders as a grade separated option.

    I’m not sure what you mean here. The Eglinton Crosstown and Sheppard East LRT lines have lower numbers than their respective subway counterparts but they aren’t all that high to begin with. Too many people assume that Eglinton and Sheppard are going to be redeveloped to look like Liberty Village or Yonge St through North York, when they are really going to look like St. Clair and Spadina … even looking like King St is a stretch.

    Steve: And there is strong opposition in some neighbourhoods to the sort of development we see along King Street.

    Michael said:

    This is why the entire Sheppard East LRT at more than twice the length of the Sheppard subway, will carry about the same or less people per day as the shorter Sheppard subway. Because the LRT lines will be so slow, they are not expected to attract as many people.

    Again, the numbers are not as great as you think. The Sheppard subway attracts more people because it has two powerful endpoints, while demand on the Sheppard East LRT would be spread out and more localized. The endpoints of the Bloor-Danforth line carry far fewer passengers than the centre between Dundas West and Greenwood, and if GO service were better integrated into the transit system fewer people would use the subway in the end points.

    I would say with great confidence that if Sheppard had been built as a surface LRT with those same endpoints demand would be the same as it is today … but it would be spread across five stations instead of concentrated at two.

    Steve: Actually, Don Mills Station is well used mainly because of bus feeders, not from walk-in trade although that does contribute some.

    Michael said:

    If we are truly want to make Toronto a more transit friendly city. Then we need transit that will attract people to transit. Simply building what is cheapest is not always the answer. If we use that argument, then why LRT? Why not BRT? We could serve even more people under that argument.

    The argument was not to build what is ‘cheapest’ but rather, what is most efficient. Looking at the LRT vs. BRT example, both York Region and Mississauga are building BRT. The VIVA rapidways were built with plans for future conversion to an LRT if demand ever reaches that level. The Mississauga BRT/transitway will never be an LRT, built as it is along a highway+hydro corridor, and designed as it is to funnel buses to Islington Station.

    On the other hand, there is already talk about changing the ZUM express bus on Queen St in Brampton to an LRT instead of a BRT (and also bypassing the downtown Brampton area, but that is another story) because planners see a possibility of higher demand over time as Queen St. becomes a mid-rise street rather than the collection of strip malls and car dealerships it currently is.

    The whole point of Transit City was to build good reliable fast transit on the avenues. Then it got hijacked by all sides.

    Cheers, Moaz

    Steve: And the projected demands on the LRT lines exceeded what buses could reasonably handle. I am amused by arguments that BRT is “good enough” from the same people who decry spending on “only” LRT and not “building for the future” with subways everywhere.


  19. It is a stretch to call LRT rapid transit if it is in the middle of the street. Let’s get that out of the way. But let’s also get the myth that the LRTs proposed in Transit City were nothing more than glorified streetcars out of the way. What was proposed was not what we get on King, Bathurst or even St. Clair.

    In particular, let’s dispense with the lie spread by Rob Ford and repeated by too many that the SLRT would not be rapid transit. As fast as a subway? No. But everybody knows that it would have been fully grade separated – and I mean everybody, unless we are to believe that Ford is that much removed from reality.

    So well yes, it is would be slower than a subway – by what, 5, 10 minutes on a trip to downtown? In the larger scheme of things, I for one could live with it. And the SLRT would have more stops than the subway.

    And there’s the transfer at Kennedy. A problem, let’s admit it. That being said, let’s not forget that one thing that will NOT change with a subway is that people in Malvern, or those at the east end of Eglinton or Lawrence, will have to take the bus to get to the subway and, yes, they will have to transfer.

    This is where the LRT network proposed in Transit City wins the argument. On one side, we have a rapid transit LRT line from Kennedy Station to Sheppard, with two LRT lines (Sheppard and Scarborough-Malvern) providing a service superior than the current bus service. On the other side, we have three subway stations, or that most ridiculous idea of having the subway line turn left at Sheppard to go to Don Mills, turning it’s back (literally) to Malvern (something that’s NOT gonna happen).

    So we’re left with a transit network for Scarborough vs. three subway stations. No amount of chanting Subways Subways Subways or demonizing “downtwoners” will change that fact. I’ll take the transit network.


  20. We can argue all we want about the timing of the condo boom on Sheppard, and how much the stubway has to do with it. It will not change three simple facts. Ridership is so low that shorter trains are run on it (and those who will argue that it is full at rush hour – one question, how full would it look if the line had six-car trains?). The line is more expensive to operate on a per-ride basis than the other subway lines. Projections are that this will not change significantly for quite a while (at least).


  21. “Should it have been LRT? No. It is part of a much larger network for which the technology is already settled. The line was built entirely underground, in some locations for political, not technical reasons, and there were some nasty cost overruns on the project. Commuter rail is normally, like LRT, built on the surface. I don’t know Sydney politics or the reasons behind the decision to put the line underground.”

    Topography is the big one for northern Sydney, it is quite hilly. The second is the road network and existing road tunnels didn’t make it easy for the LRT to make the journey in a reasonable amount of time between Epping and Chatswood. The additional cost overruns that Steve mentioned were the result of having to tunnel under the Lane Cove River, instead of the original bridge they had proposed because the locals didn’t wanted a rail line through a park. This sounds like a similar debate going on for the Eglinton LRT for the Don and Black Creek rivers. That choice also limited the equipment that could be used because of the gradient of the tunnel.

    The choice of technology was because of existing infrastructure and that it was going to part of the North West Rail Link.


  22. SoWhat asked about the Stubway:

    “…how full would it look if the line had six-car trains?”

    Kevin’s comment:

    And ran at half its present peak hour headway of five minutes. Like the rest of the subway system does.

    The answer is simple mathematics. Four over six is two over three to account for the longer trains. Divide by two for the halved headway and we get one over three.

    Instead of full, it would be one-third full. And that’s during peak hours. What a wasteful gravy train.

    And Rob Ford believes that extending that gravy train is a higher priority than the DRL!


  23. One thing I forgot to add in my earlier post is that when a lot of the controversy was about transit in Toronto about 2 years ago, I was taking a class in Business Analysis at University of Toronto. Business Analysis developed from Information Technology where they instead of a company president saying, “that big computer looks cool! Lets buy it!”, the company goes through a detailed process of figuring out their specific requirements for a new computer system, and then they look for a solution that fulfills their requirements.

    Steve: Having spent my entire working life in IT, I have seen far too many senior managers with the “that’s cool, let’s buy it” method of technology evaluation. Usually lubricated by many lunches with vendors.

    A personal comparison would be if someone decided they needed to buy a car because different governments were playing politics with transit, instead of picking a car based on the colour, they would make a list of what they needed in the car and doing research on different models. I think what is happening in Toronto is a lot of elected officials are not doing their due diligence with tax payers’ money by doing some basic reading of the requirements and the different solutions. Basically they are impulse shopping with taxpayers’ money. Many think LRT will rob hard-working car drivers of their car lanes, which isn’t true. They then make these uninformed statements to the public who don’t have the time to do their own research and end of believing them. The odd thing is other elected officials who do know better are not contradicting these false-statements.

    Steve: Actually, some of the pro-LRT elected folks are contradicting the misinformation, but they are shouted down and ignored. The last Council meeting was quite disgusting.

    Someone earlier said LRT proponents and those who want to use facts, need to start making emotional arguments for this form of transit. I guess an obvious emotional argument would be that the people of Malvern have been thrown under the bus in all of this (since one elected official said people were getting thrown under the streetcar, I thought I would use the same metaphor). Also, working families of along Sheppard as far as Meadowvale could have had great LRT service now if the current Toronto government hadn’t interfered. The same with Finch West.


  24. Campaigning is supposed to be illegal prior to January 1 of election year, but the Mayor was back at it again today – announcing his slogan “Ford more years”. This is so pathetic that Robert Fisher reassured the listeners “I am not making this up”.

    Let this be the first forum where I release my slogan: “We can’t afFORD to make another mistake.”


  25. I think one of the real questions in terms of on Surface LRTs that needs to be pushed by those who want rapid transit is, what are we really going to do in terms of signal priority. LRTs seem to have done great things in many places including Calgary, where some of the network runs in the median of alterial roads. Speed vs local is a choice that is made based on need.

    If the LRT is being primarily used to collect from Bus routes at major intersections only, then if could be tasked to stop less frequently (but serve many fewer directly) and with real signal priority continue to cruise at fairly high speed. LRT does not need to be a lesser choice than subway, other than less somewhat less capacity. BRT can also be an equally good choice again a question of capacity. This is really a canard, that causes endless and pointless confusion. In terms of quality of service Headway, speed, stops, directness, and transfers matter (all relate to my travel time and trip complexity), subway, versus others, myself as a user I do not care.

    When I lived in Ottawa many years ago I loved the Busway from where I lived, I could walk to a stop in the transitway, buses (many routes) to my primary destination were every couple of minutes, and it was quick, in terms of getting downtown from where I lived it was as good as a subway.


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