Tearing Apart The Big Move

The Neptis Foundation has published a long report which provides a serious critique of projects in the Metrolinx Big Move plan and proposes significant alterations to the proposed network.  Everything is based on cost-effectiveness although the critique depends on implementation of the overall scheme rather than the usual piecemeal approach to network expansion.  Of particular note is the need to regard GO as a high frequency, high capacity regional system closely integrated with local transit.

There is too much in this report for me to comment on as I write this (midnight, December 11), but I will try to pull together more extensive remarks in the next day or so.  Meanwhile, coverage of this report will appear in the Wednesday Star, and this is likely to stir up several hornet’s nests.

A quick review indicates the following significant issues:

  • The Downtown Relief Line disappears and its “relief” function is provided by a combination of GO Transit upgrades and increased subway capacity.
  • The only service to Pearson Airport remains the Union Pearson Express which is considered to be profitable (operating cost recovery only) despite a conclusion to the contrary by the Provincial Auditor.  The wider question of this service’s ability to absorb greater demand and a wider variety of traffic is not examined beyond a proposal for a “frequent user” fare that would attract trips by airport workers, not just business class travellers.
  • Electrification of GO Transit is essential.
  • Fare and service integration with GO is an essential part of the proposal.
  • Several stations on the Eglinton Crosstown line would be dropped, and the proposed at grade section would become an elevated structure.  This takes us back to a version of the Eglinton line originally pushed by Metrolinx as a regional facility, and begs the question of transit service to the now wider “in between” locations that would lose their stations.
  • The Richmond Hill subway would also lose some of its stations pending contributions by developers along the line.
  • The Scarborough Subway, LRT and Sheppard LRT would be converted to one consolidated, automated line to attract more riders.

At first blush, I cannot help thinking that this report is hopelessly naive on a few counts.

First, it depends on a co-ordinated scale of network expansion we are unlikely to see, especially for the GO component which is used to justify dropping other parts of the Big Move network.

Second, there is a focus on cost-benefit that at first glance appears to preclude the function of new transit lines as part of a network.  A related issue is the question of marginal new ridership where a large expenditure to improve the quality of service for existing riders is given no credit for that benefit as they generate no net revenue.

Third, there appears to be no discussion nor appreciation of the role of local services for areas beyond the immediate reach of rapid transit stations.  This is very much a return to the kind of thinking that infected early days at Metrolinx.

I will leave further comments until I have a chance to read all of the details.