The ins and outs of the city’s new transit plan

Over on his blog, Steve Munro presents a fantastic summary of yesterday’s Metrolinx board meeting. It includes a good, succinct look at what the mayor’s new transit plan actually entails:

On Tuesday, representatives of Mayor Ford met with Metrolinx with an updated version of Ford’s subway plan:

  • Extend the Sheppard subway west to Downsview and east to Scarborough Town Centre (STC)
  • Extend the Danforth subway northeast to STC
  • Build the Eglinton LRT in tunnel from Jane to Kennedy
  • Operate express bus service on Finch West
  • Build a new subway yard at a location to be determined

via Metrolinx Contemplates Ford’s Subway Plan | Steve Munro.

Munro notes that Metrolinx has asked that, instead of a Bloor-Danforth subway extension, the Eglinton LRT be extended through the SRT corridor to Scarborough Town Centre. This is necessary, as I understand it, because any transit funded with provincial dollars must be owned by Metrolinx. (It also allows for further LRT expansion in the future, when we have a political climate that isn’t so steadfast against surface rail.)

The subtext throughout is that, while Metrolinx is compromising with the mayor, they’ve successfully defended the part of Transit City that matters most to them. Metrolinx seems to be very aware of the numerous logistical problems with Ford’s private funding scenario, but is happy to let the mayor and his team busy themselves trying (and likely failing) to build a Sheppard subway while real work happens on Eglinton.

Building the eastern section of the line underground (needlessly) isn’t ideal, but it’s apparently a sacrifice Metrolinx is ready to make. If and when this plan comes to City Council, I’d hope that one of the first motions made is to build the eastern section of Eglinton at street level, and put the savings toward construction on Finch.

Speaking of Finch, it’s really the big loser in all of this,  getting stuck with ‘express buses’ instead of the proposed LRT. Per Munro, Metrolinx Director Paul Bedford did a good job of pointing out how little sense it makes to sacrifice Finch for Sheppard:

Director Paul Bedford agreed noting that the Finch West bus is among the routes with highest ridership on the TTC at 52k/day, greater than the Sheppard subway at 47k.  Bedford argued that ignoring the Finch corridor is a serious problem, and more generally that surface transit routes carrying 60% of TTC ridership were an important part of the network.

I guess it should be said that, with a few exceptions like Councillors Anthony Perruzza, local representatives have not been active in advocating the preservation of the Finch and Sheppard lines.

I’m happy with how this compromise plan is developing as at least we’re keeping the Eglinton LRT, but that doesn’t excuse this process which has been fraught with delays. None of this was necessary and plans for transit expansion in this city are no better off than they were before.

For the record, before this mess happened, the plan was for a Sheppard East LRT to be opened in 2014, a Finch West LRT to be opened in 2019, and an Eglinton Crosstown LRT and Scarborough LRT to be opened in 2020.

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