Selective History Colours Transit Commentary

In a recent column in the Toronto Sun, Gordon Chong advances the argument that transit developments are too much about politics without enough professional planning.

The politics of transportation, published Saturday March 4, 2017

Up to that point, he and I agree, but our analysis of the situation quickly differs. Chong writes of decisions that were influenced by political considerations. He uses the Wynne flip-flop on support for tolls, and the ongoing question of how much the Scarborough Subway will cost, as jumping-off points, but then lists:

  • Cancellation of the Spadina Expressway by Bill Davis in 1971
  • The TTC/City decision to reverse plans to eliminate streetcars in 1972
  • The current emphasis of reimagining King Street rather then concentrating  on a Queen Street subway

Chong is acerbic, to put it mildly, in his remarks about Davis and the Spadina calling it

One of the most egregious examples of political self-interest and, some would say, spinelessness in transportation planning …

He goes on to say that stopping Spadina was important:

Holding the downtown riding, where the Spadina Expressway was deeply unpopular, with a tough, capable and popular Jewish cabinet minister was important to the Conservatives.

It is amusing to think how readers would react if some other group were the target of Chong’s ire, especially considering the role of the Shiner family in fighting for the expressway. Regardless of how one feels about the issue, it is the planning merits that should be debated.

Citing former Transportation Commissioner Sam Cass, certainly the “black hat” of the expressway battles, Chong argues for “balanced” road and transit networks. Nobody has ever been able to define just what should measure this so-called balance, and cynics among us translate the term as “an expressway for me, transit for everyone else”. Toronto is about to spend $1 billion to maintain that sort of “balance” with the Gardiner East rebuild project.

Chong goes on to talk about how the Spadina would have provided relief from the northwest into downtown instead of the current status, a “virtual parking lot”. He ignores the effect the expressway would have had on the city. Unlike the DVP which was built through an unpopulated area, the Spadina would have torn through established neighbourhoods setting the stage for a Crosstown expressway parallel to the CPR tracks at Dupont, and an eventual extension south to the Gardiner. The renaissance of downtown’s west side could not have happened with an expressway in place.

Relief and the Queen Street subway? Yes, there was another transportation plan on the books in the 1960s, and it was a Queen Subway that would have turned north to Don Mills and Eglinton, what we now call the “Downtown Relief Line”. That didn’t get built either thanks to a shift in attention from the downtown to suburban rapid transit lines.

As for the streetcars:

Another misguided political decision occurred when the Toronto Transit Commission’s Streetcar Elimination Program was stopped in its tracks by an alliance of local citizens and aldermen (now councillors) delaying the sensible transition to subways and buses capable of maneuvering more easily in traffic.

Unfortunately, the streetcar lovers prevailed and motorists are now stuck behind slow moving and frequently disabled streetcars and LRTs in the downtown core.

Chong has been beating this drum for years, and he forgets that the subway to which streetcars might have “transitioned” has never been built. I was part of the group who fought to retain streetcars, and our argument then as now was that the routes streetcars serve require higher capacity that would be difficult to provide with buses. In the early 1970s, the TTC ran almost twice as much service on most streetcar routes as it does today, and the problem with a shortage of vehicles is not a recent one. Ever since the 1990s recession when ridership fell and the TTC was able to cut back on the size of the fleet, there have been almost no improvements in streetcar service. A fleet well beyond its design life limps along attempting to provide service.

Buying more cars is long, long overdue, especially now that the near-downtown areas served by these routes are starting to redevelop. King Street is the most pronounced example, but more residents and potential transit riders are coming to the other routes even though the TTC has no way of providing better service. Bombardier’s glacial delivery rate for new streetcars is only the latest of problems, but the TTC’s inaction on buying more streetcars predates that order.

Keeping the streetcars was not just a matter for the existing network, but for suburban expansion, something that would have been ruinously expensive with subways back in the 70s and 80s, let alone today. But Queen’s Park preferred its high tech trains (now known as the SRT), and the promise of inexpensive suburban expansion evaporated with them.

Suburban transit in Toronto has been badly served by a succession of administrations going back to pre-amalgamation days. In 1990, then Premier David Peterson announced a “network” of rapid transit lines amounting to “a chicken in every pot” planning. This included a Malvern extension of the SRT, a Sheppard Subway from Yonge to STC, a Yonge/Spadina loop subway via Steeles, an Eglinton West subway from the Spadina line out to the Airport, a Bloor subway extension to Sherway, and a Waterfront LRT to southern Etobicoke. The first the TTC heard of this plan was when the Premier announced it.

Peterson lost the election, but the Rae government, looking for make-work projects in the face of a recession, kept the Sheppard and Eglinton projects alive, although the latter didn’t get far, and was killed off by Mike Harris five years later. The only part of the Waterfront line built was the new connection via Spadina and Queen’s Quay into Union Station. (The Spadina streetcar and the Harbourfront connection to Bathurst came later.) The Sheppard line survived the Harris regime only because he needed Mel Lastman’s political support for amalgamation, and that subway was part of the deal.

By 2007, David Miller proposed the Transit City LRT network with the intention of bringing better transit to routes that were not all aimed at downtown Toronto. The lines served the city’s “priority neighbourhoods”, not necessarily locations where civic egos dictated prestige transit lines. That network was sabotaged first by Premier Dalton McGuinty’s cutbacks in transit support, and later by Rob Ford’s visceral hatred of any plan that had Miller’s name on it, not to mention his loathing for streetcars.

LRT (as streetcars on some degree of reserved right-of-way are known) is used in hundreds of cities around the world, and two substantial networks in Calgary and Edmonton are the core of their respective transit system. But none of that matters to the subway boosters in Toronto.

Chong argues for both a Queen subway and a Relief Line, but presents this as an alternative rather than as a complement to the streetcar service on King.

Now, city council is considering a King Street traffic mitigation plan giving priority to streetcars and pedestrians over cars, when it should be looking at Queen Street and how to complete the planned subway along it, linking it with the long-awaited downtown relief line.

They are two completely separate projects, especially considering we are unlikely to see a DRL until the early 2030s at best. Meanwhile, King needs substantially improved transit service with larger streetcars and priority for transit movements over cars.

The Relief Line suffers, as we have repeatedly seen, by its characterization as “Downtown” by those who would exploit suburban feelings of transit inequity. Politicians prefer to play to their voters with inaccuracies and slurs, always implying that “someone else” is getting what their voters deserve.

Finally, Chong puts in a plug for the Sheppard West subway connection.

There are many other examples of short-term thinking and aborted transit plans requiring a 50- to 100-year vision, such as completing the Sheppard subway.

The Sheppard connection from Yonge to Downsview was one of two options before Council, and it was in direct competition with the line to York University. That route, and the possible further extension to Vaughan, had better political connections, and a higher likely demand. The subway ends today at Downsview (soon to be renamed Sheppard West) because that was common to the two possible routes. It was the only extension Council could agree on. But now, integration of a Sheppard service with the Spadina line is impossible due to mixed train lengths and incompatible headways on the routes. At best there would be a transfer between the lines.

Political intervention in transit planning? Certainly, but this goes well beyond the few battles Chong trots out. Transit battles have led to the bizarre combination of paralysis, the inability to actually build, and intense pressure to build specific projects with high political profile, one that has been artificially inflated by populist rhetoric, not by good planning.

Why write an article about an opinion piece in the Sun by a has-been politician? Simple. Gordon Chong is a Tory, and he was both Vice-Chair of the TTC, and Chair of the predecessor agency to Metrolinx. He can be expected to lobby for some position of influence over Toronto’s transit plans if Patrick Brown’s PCs take control at Queen’s Park. His selective view of history is something we can do without.

Toronto and the GTHA have major transit and transportation issues for any government after the 2018 election. Fighting old battles on long-expired pretenses is no way to plan the city.

28 thoughts on “Selective History Colours Transit Commentary

  1. Thanks Steve, always appreciate your perspective.

    I noticed one minor typo (you probably meant 2030’s): They are two completely separate projects, especially considering we are unlikely to see a DRL until the early 1930s at best.

    Steve: Oooops! Fixed! Thanks!


  2. Another typo: Calgary and Alberta -> Calgary and Edmonton
    (and next year, Ottawa)

    Steve: Fixed. Thanks. I didn’t want to include Ottawa because it’s not running yet and is only one line. Similarly K-W.

    This was excellent:

    “Nobody has ever been able to define just what should measure this so-called balance, and cynics among us translate the term as “an expressway for me, transit for everyone else”. “


    Steve: Merci!


  3. I tend to cringe when I see the name “Gordon Chong” anywhere. He is of the 1950/1960’s generation where “balanced” transportation is heavy on the motor vehicle and light on public transit.


  4. It is interesting that someone who was vice-chair of the TTC is apparently unaware of the difference between streetcars and LRT.

    When it comes to “balance” I will note that right now motor vehicle operators are poisoning and killing an average of 280 people in Toronto every year. And that the dead are disproportionately innocent children and the elderly. What is Mr. Chong prepared to “balance” against the deaths of innocent children? And how many children is he prepared to have die a horrible, painful and lingering death from cancer for his “balance”?


    The number that works for me is zero. Zero is also the amount of tolerance that should be extended to allowing car drivers to poison and kill people with their cancer-causing fine particles and other lethal poisons.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. People who rail against streetcars know squat about public transit. People who cry over expressways not being built know squat about urban planning. It’s as simple as that. They’re espousing views from decades past that have been proven to be disastrous to a city’s development and livability.

    Mr. Chong should read a little bit about how the Gardiner killed the Sunnyside neighbourhood (for example), before lamenting the loss of the Spadina expressway.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Too bad there wasn’t a similar group out there doing for trolley busses what was done for streetcars.


  7. Gordon Chong is a terrible joke and the world would be a better place if he decided to retire with the snowbirds in the US. He is another man bent on destroying Toronto. Was there no mention of the political interference from his boss destroying Transit City? I’m sure there wasn’t. His only desire is to waste tax dollars on a subway that we might need in 2070. Patrick Brown doesn’t seem like the typical cons we’ve seen recently, I hope there is a level head when he gets to Queen’s Park.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Steve,

    A few questions… I’ll list them below and then my little rant or reasoning as to why I am asking afterwards.

    1. Why are Torontonians in general so bitter towards streetcars??? Even if they get their own grade-separated ROW.
    2. For the sake of the economy and travel, do you think the cost of the Gardiner East reconstruction of that “hybrid option” is justified???
    3. What will it take to remove political influence from building transit or even roads?
    4. Since the DRL will probably get built in 2100, what will it take to convince City Council that building the line to Fairview is necessary for REAL relief??? A stub ending at Pape & Danforth is wasted tax dollars providing little benefit.
    5. At what point do you think a Line 4 extension to Downsview (Sheppard West) should be built??? Is there any future benefit to extending the line, aside from a connection to Wilson Yard where trains can be stored and spend less time making it onto the line for service in the AM than the time it takes now.
    6. The Line 2 extension to Sherway has been in historical plans as you noted… Should this ever be built??? Are there any benefits to doing so or is the most logical terminus truly Kipling??? I assume most of it could be done at-grade using creative expropriation and minimal tunneling would be required as you approach Sherway; however I do not see any growth opportunities as all the land it would pass through is industrial (takes decades to rezone to residential due to environmental impacts) and there is limited room to pile on condos around Sherway.
    7. Should it matter if the cost of building any new lines (LRT, subway, etc.) can be recouped via development costs OR should we just pay and build (knowing that increased economic output leads to increased tax collection which collectively pays back the expense of building today and waiting until tomorrow to reap the benefit)???

    Now my thoughts:
    I’ve been to many cities across Europe where LRT in the same city can be grade separated (i.e. Spadina, St. Clair, eastern portion of Crosstown) or in mixed traffic (i.e. King, Bathurst). Some cities have both set-ups. I don’t really hear the level of grumbling over there that we do here. Streetcar hate is unprecedented here.

    Aside from the Leslie station boondoggle (stupid Liberals, you failed me and my vote there), the station should have been underground or non-existent so that that Line 5 could be underground all the way to Don Mills and provide us with the ability to have automated vehicles at least to that point. Don Mills I assume will be frequently used as a short turn point. What I do not like is that they are reducing traffic on Eglinton to two lanes per direction to accommodate the above-ground section east of the DVP where early Crosstown plans hinted at no lane changes, just pushing back the sidewalks and expropriating small pieces of land.

    I think the cost of the Gardiner East realignment is worth it because traffic needs to flow… deliveries will be made downtown, just as everywhere in the city, and the trucks need quick access to highways that depart downtown (DVP going north, Gardiner going west). I also think so only because the most feasible alternative is also an expensive one… Toronto’s own “Big Dig”. If we claim there is no money for transit, there certainly isn’t any money available to tunnel the Gardiner to the Ex just so we can “beautify” our waterfront by removing an elevated road to free up land. Look at other cities with roads that replaced highways – they have major congestion! West side of Manhattan? You can barely move on that “boulevard”. Lakeshore Drive in Chicago? Also bumper to bumper. Would have been better to tunnel it from The Field Museum to the river. But at least they have a ton of parkland instead of tall pieces of glass right up to Lake Michigan so I have to give them credit there.

    With respect to the DVP, I agree that it was built in an uninhabited area – basically it was built in the “trenches” of Toronto, next to a river. The downfall is that it cannot be widened south of Eglinton without doing irreversible damage to our environment. Displacing a few homes and condos between York Mills and Lawrence is no biggie, I would’ve done it a long time ago so that the DVP is 10 lanes and not 6 as you head north towards the 401 from Eglinton or Lawrence.


  9. Hi Steve,

    This is a stupid question, that I realize it beyond the point of doing anything about it, but before the Spadina extension was built, was any thought given to extend Sheppard westbound and then north after Downsview to become the Spadina extension? I know you’ve mentioned before about the challenges of building a connecting station to Downsview, but I’m just curious.

    Steve: The original plan was to build a loop subway with Yonge and Spadina lines ending at and connecting via Sheppard. This would provide a line free of the geometric constraints of terminals so that trains could run closer together. Later, the idea was extended to loop via Steeles with the Spadina line forging to the northwest through York U. There was no Sheppard west connection in that plan. This loop scheme was abandoned because of the huge cost of building a Steeles Avenue subway from Yonge to almost Jane that would be very lightly used. In both cases, the link was not to provide subway level capacity on the east-west connection, but to eliminate an operational constraint at the terminals.

    At one point, there were alternate options to take the Spadina line east via Sheppard to Yonge, or northwest to York. The York alignment won out.

    Integrating services between two branches, one to York U and one to Sheppard, at Downsview would be tricky because of the relative levels of service needed on each branch. Also there is the matter of the stations on Sheppard that are sized for four-car trainsets, although there is provision for expansion. All demand models of a Sheppard west extension have shown very low demand, nowhere near enough to justify subway construction.

    There have been fantasy maps showing the Sheppard line going to York U, but no serious proposal. There just isn’t enough demand for a continuous link.

    Of course these days, demand has nothing to do with subway proposals.


  10. Sjors said:

    “1. Why are Torontonians in general so bitter towards streetcars??? Even if they get their own grade-separated ROW.”

    Steve can correct if I’m wrong since he’s been exposed to these attitudes for far longer than I have, but my impression is that streetcar-hate comes primarily from drivers. First, they hate being stuck in traffic behind them. They are long, and therefore more difficult to overtake than a bus. They can’t move out of the way. Second, if they have their own ROW, then yes, you aren’t stuck behind them in traffic, but they are taking up more road space – from the driver’s perspective. It’s an entire lane cars could use instead, reserved for the streetcar. The drivers don’t like the fact one lane has been “taken away” from them, and the knock-on effect it has on street parking (if one out of 2 lanes is given to the streetcar, the curbside lane can’t be used for on-street parking). This exact attitude permeates the Gordon Chong article – that sentence about poor drivers stuck behind streetcars in traffic gives it away.

    I think that many (most?) people that primarily get around by car seem to think that the point of subways is to get the public transit (which would otherwise be a bus or streetcar on the surface) out of THEIR way, not realizing that subways are built to get THEM out of the subway’s way, i.e. they’ve got it backwards, you don’t build subways to stop public transit from impeding other traffic, you build subways to stop the OTHER traffic impeding public transit. The backwards understanding was definitely the Rob Ford attitude (consciously or unconsciously – subways subways subways + the war on the car is over).

    If I’m right, the same people who complain about streetcars will complain about dedicated bus lanes on streets with less 3 lanes in each direction (or even generally), Steve will probably know from his vast experience if this is so or not.

    As for transit customers, they will gripe about streetcars if they are slow – and they are slow primarily because they are stuck in other traffic (which they cannot overtake due to being “tied” to the tracks), and because priority signalling is poor or non-existent. Give streetcars a ROW and implement priority traffic signalling properly, and transit customers usually then prefer streetcars to buses. Buses are better in stop&go traffic, because being smaller, and being on tires, they can accelerate more quickly. The solution however is not to remove streetcars and leave the stop and go traffic, but the reverse – remove the stop and go traffic from the streetcar’s way.

    In Toronto, I’ve a feeling that the driver perspective is so prevalent due to the modal split in intracity travel (56% for cars vs. 34% for public transit, note this data is stale, from 2006). Go to a city where it’s the other way around (say, London, Prague, or Barcelona) and probably the transit-centric attitude will predominate.

    Steve: Drivers don’t like bus lanes either, and it is fairly common to hear proposals for “BRT Lite” which is nothing more than lines painted on the road, possibly with only peak period exclusivity for transit. Great claim are made for BRT, but often by citing cases where massive amounts of space, the equivalent of three or four lanes of traffic, were available and dedicated to the bus infrastructure.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. No surprise to see the Toronto Sun, who loved (and still loves) to promote Rob Ford’s “Kill-the-Streetcars! A-Subway-in-Every-Neighbourhood!” mantra, trotting out an Op-Ed piece from Mr. Chong. As a previous TTC Vice-Chair, however, Mr. Chong should be red-in-the-face ashamed for spouting absolute stupid drivel regarding transit through promotion of his revisionist transit history over the past 60+ years in this city. He sounds like all those other anti-transit Transit Commission members (including, most recently, Minnan-Wong, Palacio, Kelly, Crisanti and Di Giorgio), who have previously “served” the city by delaying any real transit development and “forward motion” in that realm with stupid, drivel-filled, partisan and patently untrue “arguments” and decisions. The Yonge Subway came about because the volume of passengers had outgrown the streetcar capacity, as also happened with the Bloor St. streetcars leading to the Bloor Subway. This issue with volume is now similarly happening (and has been for a while) on King St. but Mr. Chong argues that (single-occupant?) cars should still be given priority along this thoroughfare – Just. Because….

    No, a subway is not the answer here, but increasing the flow of the existing cars and allowing quicker turnaround times – until such time as the capacity can be increased by using a sufficient number of the new Flexity cars – is a simpler way to address this issue. That is the purpose of the pilot project currently underway. The Sheppard Subway should never have been built at the time it was and continuing the Eglinton line would have been the more appropriate use of money to address transit development, from strictly a planning perspective. (Even if transit use was lower due to a downturn in the Toronto economy, its use by the public at the later time would have been viable).

    As you say, Steve, Mr. Chong’s selective memory is at issue and it makes me think of the old saying that “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” He continues to espouse the misguided – and often patently false – beliefs of councillors who don’t use the public transit system and yet make decisions about how “best” to spend the pittance of money that Council allots to what have become pet projects.

    If Mr. Chong can’t be bothered to get an on-the-ground feel for the daily reality of transit riders in all parts of the city by actually USING the transit system (and ALL modes of transportation, not just his precious subways and buses – and not just during off-peak hours), perhaps he should take a look at to get some realistic transit information along with some thoughtful commentary about what’s happening in the realm of public transit instead of the (subway) tunnel-vision attitude promoted by his Op-Ed hosts….

    Steve: Dr. Chong is well aware of my existence and I am not on his Christmas card list.


  12. Great material and opinion as always.

    Some of your readers seem to imply that there is no immediate need for the long-planned/long rebuffed relief line. Have they really looked critically at what’s happening in and around PD1 of late? There appears to be no end in sight to its spread, intensification and land use diversification — it’s a minor Manhattan in the making.

    GO RER will NEVER offer the capacity of a “surface subway” as many have claimed, and the same goes for what’s left of SmartTrack. This is not London with its four-to-six-track TfL and commuter rail rights-of-way. GO’s key purpose differs widely from that of the subway system, as in most major, expanding city regions, and both types of service are needed. To attempt to keep serving PD1 with a pathetically under-designed single two-track subway (YES, the Yonge and University “lines” are part of a single, two-track line with no decent turn-back facilities) with stations sporting living-room sized mezzanines is a sick joke.

    Another (E-W) subway is desperately needed (and has been for decades), if only to create what we really need here, a REAL core area rapid transit NETWORK offering well-distributed interchanges and a rough balance in demand among parallel lines (see Montreal). Such a missing link or network-builder would benefit every user of the service, EVEN THOSE WHO WOULD NEVER USE THE RELIEF LINE ITSELF, and this appears to be something the supporters of premature suburban subway extensions fail to “get” in their rush to ensure the futures of certain politicians.

    This is our money — yours and mine, and lots of it — that is being misallocated, and I’m amazed that there has not already been an uprising of taxpayers and those with more respect for evidence-based actions. Perhaps Canadians in general really are “too polite”. At my age, I’m not!

    By the way, I think that a “proto-relief line”; i.e. the transit-dominant King Streetcar proposal (which is not new) is a good idea, but as I say, would be only a stop-gap on the tortuous road to what we really need if this city is to realize its full potential.

    Think GO RER can save us? I think not — for all the years of terrible disruption and budgetary overrun we are still experiencing at Union Station, that grand facility — and especially its physically constrained rail corridor, narrow platforms and looong stairways has a limited capacity, regardless of how long the trains are, and how improved the dwell-time might be once electrification (and all-new MU rolling stock) is achieved.

    This is not the quiet, dull Toronto of old. It’s high time everyone grew up and accepted the fact that Canada is giving birth to its first mega-metropolis — if its leaders and citizenry will let it.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. A former dentist versus a former computer programmer. Who would have a logical mind on transit? A bit like pulling teeth to decide.


  14. Thanks for the pushback and comment enabling, especially of Mr. Levy. I’m really really bugged about how we’re building shut an extremely rare opportunity for a cheaper/easier E/W surface corridor just east of Strachan and north of railtracks, where the DRL west was to go in 1985 aka a Front St transitway. We totally NEED a new NEW corridor, and a bit of relief, and given the decades to do nothing with digging subways, it has to be surface. Setting our sights really really low as per our politricks I’ve been thinking of a reversible transitway like Jarvis, to use Front St. and an extension through these lands now being built with more condos, to the new Liberty/Front St. local road to Dufferin. There, have a crossing over the rails/Gardiner etc to get to the triangle of relative waste lands at the west end of the Ex where it’s been set up (somehow – further engineering needed) to allow GO buses to access this RoW in to the core as a transit-only interchange. The TTC-based RoW would cross back over all of the rail/car corridor to access the King St. at its bend east of Roncesvalles. By having this track used here, it allows for two demands to be met/eased/sped up – the Queensway car in from the Mimico/Queensway, but also some of the Roncesvalles/King car so it’s also a bit of relief to Bloor in a surface mini-Relief.

    Sadly, we’re sooooo behind in doing transit and we’re sooooo DUMB in what we do, or propose to do (and won’t have the guts to squeeze the cars in a sensible way), and won’t provide a good option first eg. parallel transit to the Gardiner (it’s only been 30-odds years from the DRL and about 15 years for me suggesting what about transit instead of the Front St. Extension on this rough alignment and not knowing about the DRL plan/modelling) we have to resort to trying to do inferior and inadequate transit on-surface just to have a bit of relief, and hope over the next few years we can develop sensible subway plans, which doesn’t include the east-end DRL quite yet either (too short, and also too north-south to Pape vs. going to Greenwood, then angling for that Gatineau Hydor corridor, which I think is/should be the key to some of Scarborough’s transit issues, as well as a bit of Danforth relief. The RER/Smart Trick will be a better thing for some initial relief, but as Mr. Levy pointed out, there are limits to what Union Station can have, and also, not everyone comes or wants to get to the absolute core.

    But maybe we can go to the mall and buy a new climate, right??


  15. Hi Steve

    I really have to shake my head at Chong’s comments on transit. For starters, that tired old one about drivers being held up by streetcars. He refuses to acknowledge that streetcars are high capacity vehicles that should not be held up a single user vehicles like automobiles. Did he even read the city’s report about King Street and how much space autos allowed in relation to the number of people that they carry? Then there is the capacity of buses versus streetcars. As a transit guru, he should be well aware of the fact that streetcars carry a lot more people than a bus. Also as transit guru, he still cannot acknowledge the increasing role that LRT’s are playing in transit all over North America, and around the world. Nor is there any acknowledgement of operating costs of running a subway through a suburban area where the ridership does not justify the construction of this type of transit.

    I find that his comments regarding politics in transit to be very ironic. Does he forget the Spadina Subway and why it was built along the expressway alignment? The Sheppard Subway and his role with Rob Ford in supporting it?

    As for that old “balanced transportation system” chestnut, for me that was always code for we will build as many expressways as we want and never tell you what the balance between roads and transit should be.

    Thanks for your analysis of how his column stacks up against reality.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Hamish:

    I enjoyed your remarks and suggestions, and thanks for the supportive comments. I’ve been ranting about these things for far too long, mostly without any positive results. My recent book sums most of it up, but it does not really cover the absurdities of the Ford era (didn’t have the stomach for it), and Mayor Tory’s obsession with the one-stop wonder and absolute refusal to acknowledge how ridiculous it will be to spend virtually all the money we might have left on a project which will confer very few if any benefits on anyone, all adds to my despondent mood! I’m not saying never for a deeper Scarborough penetration by the subway network, but this is certainly not worthy of a priority 1 designation: it would be so much more advantageous to first complete a basic central NETWORK offering a range of well-distributed interchanges and alternative paths around breakdowns.

    I also agree with your misgivings about the Pape crossing of the BD line. The RL is clearly (or should be) priority 1 for the city and GTA, but I have always felt that a Pape interchange would be too far to the west. (Another minor point — the TTC just recently finished spending millions on rebuilding the Pape station [it’s very bright and pretty!], and now we are ready to approve a project which would undoubtedly require a massive rebuilding of the existing facility!!)

    As long as the RL reaches the Eg Crosstown LRT at or near Don Mills, it could follow a range of N-S alignments through East York (it must serve Thorncliffe Park, too), and I think that by the time it gets built, a more easterly “relief” for crowding on the BD line would be better.

    I’m just too old and tired to continue the fight, sadly, and am resigned to the fact that I’ll not be around to see the results of so many years of advocacy for decent transportation decisions. This year marks the 60th anniversary of my graduation from U of T’s engineering school — hard to believe. Cheers anyway, and regards — Ed Levy


  17. It saddens me to read Edward Levy’s latest comments. I attended U of T as well, almost 60 years ago. Toronto was a much better place then and a big part of that was a city council that actually cared about the city. They realized that people needed to move, one way or another, and a person living in the suburbs could actually drive to work, instead of parking on their choice of rush hour routes for an hour or so. The TTC was a little misguided re streetcar removal, but Steve and his committee took care of that problem.

    Then, almost invisibly at first, Toronto politicians began to promise tax reform, which really meant no unnecessary taxes. For many, that has come to include transit, and highways. All that would be great if the GTA was declining in population!

    There have been some real idiots along the way, but John Tory has taken transit debates to a new low. Not only has he ignored any information that goes against his stub line, but he has also falsified the motives of his opponents in an extreme manner that I find reprehensible. I can’t believe that he is that stupid, so I’m left to assume that Steve is correct that John Tory’s greatest fear is losing the next election to Doug Ford.

    I’m aware of the tens of millions of dollars that Mr Tory, almost anonymously, has given to several Toronto institutions. I’m sure that money was donated with a good heart to make Toronto a better place. Why finish your career by leaving a five billion dollar scar that people will remember you by for decades?


  18. What is there to say, except that I wish there were so many more citizens who have come to similar conclusions. Thank you — from your computer to God’s ear!


  19. Steve, do you recall what area he represented as a councillor? I’m slightly younger, so you may have a better shot recalling. If memory serves me right, I thought he repped an area similar to Minnan-Wong, theFords, Mammolitti, etc … more interested in roads as opposed to transit and any transit plans were to help the roads!

    Steve: On Council, he represented a downtown ward, but was defeated by Jack Layton. Provincially, he ran for the Tories in York Mills, but was defeated. A classic has-been (and wasn’t much to start with) politician.


  20. Speaking of colouring transit and politics…I’ve noticed a few buses now that are sporting a flashy new paint job. Is this a way to say “Look, we’re making improvements, the buses are new and shiny”? *surely* there is a better use of money in today’s TTC!


  21. Dennon, about your comment that painting buses is not a good use of money. They get a fresh coat of paint after getting body work done because of collisions, rust repairs, and general refurbishing. The buses are on the road almost every day. They rust, the paint fades, there is graffiti, and scratches. So have to get repainted. Having a different colour scheme does not add anything to the price of the paint.


  22. I’ve been sick and slow physically, not just verging on deepressed with Moronto’s choice to splurge on a less-wise to stupid subway extension, so I’ve not been following this thread too much, but am pleased/flattered to have Mr. Levy’s fairly supportive comments. We have gone through too many years of relatively folly and obviously won’t charge cars appropriately, so we can’t manage to build subways fast enough (if we can get locations correct), so we need NEW corridors on-surface as much as possible to enhance connectivities and new corridors. So a real casualty of the SSE is having a surface east/west mini-Relief Line on the alignment of the DRL of 1985, except we’re building condos in a very key part, because we don’t build transit.

    Sadly, there’s very limited to no interest in doing things other than subways in sprawl, so how do the other levels of government get to escape doing due diligence when they hand over the huge sums?? Buy-election scheming shouldn’t be countenanced, but no-strings no-thought OKs from the other levels enable the dumb things to proceed.

    I totally can understand why people like Ed Levy and Harrison are weary of it all: about 50 years ago my grandfather suggested we build a mile of subway every year or so, and as the downtown core was pretty tight spatially, eventually ban cars. Up on Bloor St. between Church and Sherbourne, there’s been a Bike Lane proposed since 1992, and it’d cost maybe $25,000 and there’s a subway underneath, and other off-street parking around, and that’s still undone, though continuous and maintained bikeways would be a help to subway relief at Bloor/Yonge. If we had our transit and transport handled by the oil, car and construction companies, would it look any different??


  23. Gordon Chong said: “and motorists are now stuck behind slow moving and frequently disabled streetcars and LRTs in the downtown core.”

    As someone who lives at Main and Danforth, it must be a downtown only thing since motorists travelling north on Main and making a right turn at the intersection are certainly not stuck behind streetcars offloading passengers.


  24. Steve, this is off-topic, but perhaps less than other threads. Where was the streetcar sequence in this new Canada Heritage Minute filmed? I assume the signs are altered so they will not help identify the spot.

    Steve: That’s Fort Edmonton Park.


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