The Transit Investment Panel: The Transit We Need

The provincial Transit Investment Panel has published the second of three discussion papers in advance of public meetings slated to start next week.  The paper is entitled “The Transit We Need” and it addresses filtering criteria by which possible transit projects should be judged.

This paper is odd on a few counts.  First off, it covers similar territory to the first “Hard Truths” paper by talking about meaningful criteria for inclusion of projects in competition for funding.  Second, it does not include specific proposals for alternatives to The Big Move, even though such a proposal was mooted by the panel’s Vice Chair Paul Bedford at a recent public presentation at UofT and obliquely mentioned in a Globe and Mail commentary (only available online).

The idea of a regional relief line that would connect several of the existing and proposed Metrolinx projects in a single line linking municipalities from Mississauga to Markham via downtown Toronto is worthy of exploration. Indeed, Metrolinx is in the midst of studying regional relief strategies right now. This would not constitute a re-mapping of the Big Move, but rather a strategic modification to better accommodate current and anticipated growth.

There is a fascination recently with advocacy for anything that might remove the need to build the Downtown Relief Line (or Don Mills Subway, or whatever we might call it), and the “Big U”, as Bedford calls it, is politically attractive because it goes out into the 905.  There is even a possibility at some distant future date that counter-peak flow to job centres in the 905 would add to the value of such a line provided that there is any local transit service to act as a distributor.

This does not eliminate the need for more local capacity into the core area especially if fare structures leave 905 residents clamouring for a subway to give them a cheap, frequent ride into downtown and riders from the 416 be damned.

The panel proposes a number of filters by which new lines would be evaluated, but gives no indication of the relative priority of these filters, or any relationship between the capital (and future operating) cost of a line versus the effect it might have (or not have) under these criteria.  This is rather like someone saying that we will cut taxes through “elimination of waste” without bothering to define the term or explaining how to find it.

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