Posts Tagged: eglinton lrt


30
Jan 12

Toronto’s Transit Future: Responding to Rob Ford

On January 26, several days after TTC Karen Stintz mused openly about making substantial changes to current transit plans, Mayor Rob Ford made his first public statement on the subject. That statement was then quickly retracted because it was riddled with embarrassing factual errors, including a claim that the TTC had been building subways for 100 years. Toronto didn’t open its first subway line until 1954. The original message also claimed some degree of support for the underground plan by the Pembina Institute. To which Pembina quickly retorted: nope. (The original version, via Jonathan Goldsbie, is here.) On January 28, a revised version of the same message was posted to the mayor’s Facebook page. I decided to respond to it.

All quoted text via Rob Ford’s Weekly Report – week ending January 27, 2012.

Dear Friends,

Mr. Mayor! Hi. Sorry about how things have been going for you lately.

From 1910 to 2007, the City of Toronto has based its transit planning around subway lines (built or anticipated). It is now time that we get back to this sort of transit planning to make certain residents will continue to have rapid transit as a mode of commuting.

This is more historically accurate than your original claim that Toronto’s transit system has been based on subways for 100 years. But pointing to 1910 as the year the city started basing its transit planning around subway lines is still a little fishy. While a mayoral candidate that year did support subway construction, he was defeated. On New Year’s Day in 1912, the people of Toronto rejected the possibility of a Yonge subway line when it was put to ballot. The city didn’t get serious about subway construction until 1946.

It’d probably be more accurate to say that, historically, Toronto based its transit planning around streetcars. The TTC once operated a network of streetcar routes that crisscrossed the city, including very busy ones on corridors that later became part of Toronto’s subway system.

And it’s not like we’ve stopped looking at subways, either. There’s a subway extension to York University (and beyond!) currently in the works. And the Downtown Relief Line, which can only be heavy rail subway, is a critical infrastructure project for this city that deserves far more attention than it gets.

For the past 50 of those 100 years of planning transit around subways, the Yonge-University and Bloor-Danforth lines have continually served as arteries that take in thousands of people each day from near-by surface routes and get them to their destinations quickly.

No argument there. They’re great.

But just for the hell of it, here are some numbers you might find interesting: 714,000. 495,000. 48,000. 39,000. Those were, in 2010, ridership counts for the Yonge subway, the Bloor-Danforth subway, the Sheppard subway and the Scarborough RT respectively. The latter two figures are comparable with — and in some cases lower than — several bus and streetcar routes.

We are now at a juncture where we must expand on our established transit infrastructure to ensure people can continue getting to where they want to go in a fast and efficient way.

Great news! Glad that whole war on cars thing is over.

As you know, I have continually pushed for an underground LRT that will span from Jane/Black Creek to Kennedy Station. I have done this because residents have repeatedly stressed that they do not want streetcars that are marginally faster than busses and take up lanes of traffic. Lastly, it is important that Scarborough, the fastest growing region in Toronto, is finally provided with a rapid transit line that can help move its 625,000 residents faster.

Well, sort of. In your mayoral campaign, you pushed for no transit improvements on Eglinton at all. You told a crowd at a debate held at York Memorial Collegiate in September 2010 that the Sheppard Subway was “all we can afford.”

We’ll get to the speed of light rail transit (or ‘streetcars’ as you kind of derisively call them) later on, but let’s focus on the idea that you’re just doing what the people want you to do.

In a January 2011 Leger Marketing poll, taken at the height of your popularity, only one in four people believed that we should build subways because it’s what you promised during the election. One in four! Considering you won the election with just under half the popular vote, it’s probably reasonable to say that only about half of your base — of Ford Nation — saw your subways plan as an important driver of their support.

In the coming days you are likely to hear some comments from City Hall that will suggest we should go back to Transit City. Proponents will argue that Transit City is an effective way to get around Toronto. I argue, however, that the best way to move people across Toronto is with rapid transit – which you simply cannot have with the surface rail lines.

Sure you can. Speed is a function of design, not technology. Our subway system averages about 30 kilometres-per-hour across the whole system, but that figure is a lot lower if you look only at the downtown section, where stations are close together and the trains have to wait longer at stations due to crowding.

Similarly, speeds on the eastern part of Eglinton were designed to be a bit slower than they would have been on the western part, even though both were to be surface rail. In fact, the part of Eglinton that was to venture into Ford Country in Etobicoke was planned to run at speeds roughly equivalent to the Bloor-Danforth subway.

Metrolinx estimates that the average trip for a rider will be reduced by half on the underground Eglinton Crosstown. Scarborough transit riders on an underground line could travel from Laird Avenue to Kennedy Station in about 14 minutes. This is a vast improvement from the estimated travel time of 24 minutes on a surface rail line.

That feels a bit disingenuous. That section of the line had at least four more stops to service when it was on the surface. If speed is the priority, it’s well within your mandate as the mayor of Toronto to talk to Metrolinx about tweaks to the design that can achieve that. (By the way, here’s what’s decidedly not within your mandate: unilaterally deciding to spend $2 billion dollars to bury a section of rail track on Eglinton Avenue.)

And, even then: transit is inevitably about trade-offs. Does reducing travel times by ten minutes for some commuters justify leaving 50,000 riders on the Finch bus with no improved service?

It is also important to remember that an underground rapid transit line has considerable savings for taxpayers. Underground lines and the vehicles that travel on them require less maintenance since they are spared the wear and tear of Canadian summers and winters. This will result in infrastructure that lasts longer and keeps the capital replacement costs down.

Pretty sneaky, but I’m not sure this holds up. With underground transit, maintenance costs are mostly folded into operating expenses — after you or I take the last train home at night, the TTC lets loose with a phalanx of maintenance staff who work in the subway tunnels to keep things running smoothly on an ongoing basis. Our existing on-street rail, on the other hand, tends to be maintained through sporadic work paid for via the capital budget.

It’s hard to make direct comparisons between ongoing maintenance and operating costs and TTC budget data isn’t overly helpful in helping calculate costs.

Still, let’s look at an obvious cost advantage surface rail has over underground: when you run on the surface, you don’t need station infrastructure. This eliminates a number of ongoing expenses, including cleaning, security, building maintenance, heating & cooling, landscaping, and so on. A 2007 study that looked at station operating costs across 12 different transit systems (including Toronto’s), pegged the annual cost of a transit station at anywhere between $150,000 and $4.3 million. The median cost was about a million dollars.

But even ignoring station costs, let’s be charitable and say that putting all of Eglinton underground will save us $5 million per year over the long term. At that rate — ignoring interest — it would take only 400 years for your $2 billion investment to pay off.

The people of 2412 will thank you for your foresight. And then they’ll fly to work using their jetpacks.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thanks. You too.

P.S. Hey, wait, isn’t it weird that, only a week ago, you were talking about how the city couldn’t afford to spend $5 million to keep bus routes operating and now you’re out in public arguing that we shouldn’t skimp on transit?

Just thought that was kind of funny. Anyway, take care.

P.P.S You have no chance in hell of winning a vote on this issue.


25
Jan 12

Council builds a new transit plan: the pros and cons

Toronto Star: Proposed New Transit Plan

That happened quickly. We got word last night that TTC Chair Karen Stintz’s musings about an above ground Eglinton LRT have given way to a full-blown alternative transit plan. One that’s significantly different from the scheme Rob Ford and Metrolinx have been pushing for the last year.

The Globe & Mail’s Elizabeth Church:

A compromise is in the works to relieve Toronto’s transit headache for the new Eglinton light rail line and fulfill the mayor’s election pledge for a Sheppard subway extension.

A group of Toronto city councillors that includes TTC chair Karen Stintz is proposing that the eastern leg of the new Eglinton Crosstown line run at street level as first planned with the money that saves used to extend the Sheppard subway two stops to Victoria Park. The proposal also would use some of the money to improve TTC service on Finch Avenue West with a dedicated transit corridor.

via Compromise would bring leg of Eglinton LRT back to street level | Globe & Mail.

The Toronto Star’s version of the story includes a helpful map, though it leaves out the coming Spadina subway extension for some reason. I’ve included their graphic at the top of this post.

So: Surface LRT on Eglinton East. A stubby extension to the already stubby Sheppard Subway. And a long Bus Rapid Transit line on Finch. Details are light, but — like with anything — there are some notable pros and cons to this plan.

PRO: This is a plan that’s actually sensible and realistic. It’s a design that serves riders, not the whims of a man with an irrational bias against transit he can see while he’s driving.

CON: Ignoring the fact that it was thrown in as an offering to the mayor, there doesn’t seem to be a strong business case for the one- or two-stop Sheppard extension included in the plan. The Star’s David Rider and Tess Kalinowski peg the cost of that extension at $1 billion, which seems like a high estimate considering that was the cost of the entire Sheppard East LRT, a 14 kilometre route.

PRO: The LRT, as planned as part of Transit City, would have required a similar underground connection to Victoria Park, because there’s a highway interchange standing in the way. In terms of design, a subway extension doesn’t greatly differ from what we would have seen under the original plan, and still leaves the door open to a future LRT line on Sheppard East from Victoria Park to the zoo….

CON: …or ANOTHER subway extension to Scarborough Town Centre. Without a firm long-term plan for transit in this corridor, Toronto risks spending another twenty years endlessly debating what to do on Sheppard. Meanwhile, other parts of the city that are crying out for transit infrastructure go neglected.

PRO: Finch finally gets some love. One of the most horrifically overcrowded transit corridors in the city, Finch needs something — anything — that can help provide higher order service.

CON: The ‘busway’ concept planned for Finch seems rather poorly defined. Rider and Kalinowski peg the cost at about $400 million, for a route that looks to be more than double the length of the 11km Finch West LRT. That LRT line was to cost about $1.2 billion, three times as much. The low cost-per-kilometre makes me wonder how much we’re sacrificing: is this ‘BRT’ just going to be some painted lines on the road or is the plan to build something robust enough that it can be easily converted to light rail in the future? More details are desperately needed here.

PRO: A return to the surface alignment on the eastern section of Eglinton opens the door to further on-street extensions of the line westward toward Pearson Airport. Over time, we may just get the kind of comprehensive network of LRT routes once envisioned with Transit City.

CON: On-street operation on Eglinton East means that the TTC and the City’s transportation department desperately need to get their act together when it comes to route management and transit signal priority. Staff tend to come up with an endless list of excuses for why the streetcars on Spadina and St. Clair continue to bunch up. But we don’t need excuses on Eglinton — we need a transit line that runs well.

PRO: With support from councillors like Karen Stintz, Josh Matlow and John Parker, this alternative transit plan will most assuredly sail through council. Both Dalton McGuinty and reps from Metrolinx have said they’re on board with exploring a new plan. Given growing political support for switching up Toronto’s transit plans, the mayor would have to be completely out of his mind to stand in opposition.

CON: The National Post’s Natalie Alcoba reports that Mark Towhey, Ford’s Director of Policy, has indicated that the mayor does not support any changes. “Residents don’t want trains running down the middle of the street,” he said. Right.

PRO: Despite the questions and concerns on the table, this rethink is very welcome. Blowing $8 billion on a single transit line is the kind of bonehead decision that haunts a city for decades, similar to building an escalator to nowhere or the world’s largest magnifying glass. Going forward, the thing to watch is that we don’t jump from one half-baked plan to another. Council has to make sure that what they’re proposing is realistic, cost-effective and timely.


23
Jan 12

Eglinton LRT resurfaces as Karen Stintz breaks with the mayor

The Globe & Mail’s Adrian Morrow:

Karen Stintz argues it makes more sense to put the LRT underground only along the most congested part of the route, in midtown, while building it on the surface in the spacious suburbs.

“If the decision is to go with an LRT, it should be at-grade,” she said. “If there’s a decision to put it underground, it should be a subway.”

via TTC head favours surface LRT on suburban stretch of Eglinton | Globe & Mail.

At this point, this issue seems to have enough critical mass to make some serious waves at council. I don’t believe the mayor would win the resulting vote if he worked up the courage to ask council to endorse current transit plans.

Morrow states rather emphatically that “any rethink on the [Eglinton] line, however, would lead to further delays.” But a report by the Star’s Tess Kalinowski disagrees: “if the TTC returned to the original environmental studies for surface LRT – part of former mayor David Miller’s Transit City plan – there would be no delay.”

For what it’s worth, Steve Munro seems to agree with the Star. Last week, he speculated that the province “wants to keep their options open as long as possible depending on whatever position Council eventually takes.” Because, for them, not having to do new design work for the tunnel and stations along the eastern section should actually save time and money. And with an in-median route, there’d be no question about how to deal with those sneaky goddamned valley crossings which are vexing the hell out of engineers.

The best — and most obvious — outcome of all this would be for council to endorse moving the eastern section of Eglinton back to the surface and using the savings (which should approach anywhere from $1 billion to $2 billion) to build some form of higher order transit on Finch West. The LRT design for that corridor is sitting on a shelf somewhere and it wouldn’t take much to put those wheels in motion once again. (Last year, David Miller described reactivating the project as like flicking a switch, which is probably overly simplistic. But not too far off.)

Still, there’s reason to be concerned that we’ll just go from one goofy transit plan to another with this move. In her interview with Kalinowski this morning, Stintz floated the idea of using the savings from un-burying Eglinton to build the mayor’s desired Sheppard extension.

Not only does the Sheppard subway offer far less in terms of cost-benefit than the Finch route — any subway extension will add way more to long-term operating costs than surface LRT –, such a move would also seem to require the city to renegotiate the agreement they made with the province last year with their Memorandum of Understanding.

In that memo — which famously was never approved by council, even though it was supposed to be — the province pegged their maximum contribution to the Sheppard project at $650 million. And they said that the money would only materialize should Metrolinx come in under budget on the $8.4 billion Eglinton project. (This past summer, the mayor sat down with Dalton McGuinty to try to get him to release that money ahead of schedule. The premier, more or less, told the mayor to get bent.)

But Rob Ford can be stubborn, and reports out of the mayor’s office are that he’s not shown much willingness to compromise on his Sheppard Subway campaign pledge. Trying to get the province to agree to devote more funds to Sheppard is likely to cause further undue delays as things get sorted out. Meanwhile, riders on crazy overcrowded bus routes will continue to suffer.

Another reason to worry: there’s a small-but-terrifying chance that the province — which is flirting with big-time austerity measures at the moment — may seize on this debate as a golden opportunity to decrease their total financial commitment to transit in Toronto. Queen’s Park has to be getting nervous about their capital commitments beyond 2015, when the bulk of this spending is due, and a fractured and indecisive council is only going to embolden Metrolinx to swoop in and start tinkering with Toronto’s transit plans.

So here’s the plea to council: get the transit file in order soon. Find a plan that works for a strong majority of people across Toronto and that fits within the current funding envelope. Then tell the province, unequivocally, that this is what Toronto needs.

Then just build the damn thing.

 

 


21
Dec 11

What the hell is happening with transit in Toronto?

Transit Plan comparison: Before Ford versus With Ford

Rob Ford has screwed up transit in Toronto. We can endlessly debate the merits and impacts of the mayor’s budget policies, but nothing compares to the long-term damage he’s done on the transit file. In less than a year, Ford has taken a fully financed and designed plan for multiple transit lines in the suburbs and replaced all of it with an overpriced half-baked tangle of transit ideas, all in various incomplete stages of funding and design. In doing so, his administration has set transit expansion back by a decade and replaced near-certainty with gobs of doubt. Thanks to Rob Ford, no one is really sure where transit in Toronto is going.

Ford’s undemocratic transit meddling comes with an estimated price tag of $65 million, most of which will go toward paying various contractors and manufacturers to not do the work they were originally supposed to do.

Keeping track of Rob Ford’s transit strategy is an exercise in frustration, as no one is forthcoming with information and nothing has come to council about any of this. To the best of my knowledge, here’s where thing stand.

Eglinton Crosstown LRT

The one Transit City line that still has a beating heart, Eglinton represents, in its current incarnation, both a vital piece of infrastructure and a massive waste of public money. Writing for Spacing, John Lorinc called Ford’s unilateral decision to build the entirety of the 19 kilometre line underground the “single most expensive infrastructure mistake in Toronto history.”

Here’s why: there’s no ridership projection, traffic model or any other kind of reasoned analysis that shows a cost-benefit for burying the eastern section of the line. No one has made an argument in favour of burying this section of the line that doesn’t boil down to “Rob Ford hates above ground transit.” But that’s not a sensible reason to make any kind of public policy decision, much less one that involves spending billions of dollars.

There is some hope that cooler heads will prevail on this one. The existence of the Don Valley — sneaky jerk that it is — has forced some public conversation about how an underground line can really work. And TTC Commissioner and Ford ally John Parker recently reiterated his support for sticking with the original Transit City design on the eastern part of Eglinton. He told the Town Crier’s Karolyn Coorsh that, as planned, Rob Ford’s Eglinton Crosstown line will be “the goofiest LRT line known to man.”

The TTC now pegs the open date for Eglinton at 2023, a minimum three-year delay over the original window of 2019 or 2020. The money we’re set to spend to appease one man’s irrational bias against surface rail could fund major transit infrastructure improvements on key corridors like Finch West.

Sheppard Subway Extension

There is no plan to extend the Sheppard Subway in the near-term. It will never happen. Former Councillor Gordon Chong, hand-picked by the mayor to bring the dream of the privately-funded subway to reality, has come clean, admitting that private partners are only likely to fund 10-30% of the overall project cost. And we can’t even know that for sure unless we spend another $10 million on further analysis.

Ford’s Sheppard gamble always felt like a face-saving decision. His original transit vision called for the outright cancellation of the Eglinton line, funnelling all resources into extending Sheppard at both ends. When the province told him this wasn’t likely to happen, both sides compromised.

Somewhat inexplicably, Ford has stuck to his guns on the long-term viability of the project through his end-of-year interviews with various media sources. Citing federal money that was committed to David Miller several years ago for the Sheppard LRT, Ford told the National Post’s Chris Selley and Natalie Alcoba that we could see shovels in the ground on Sheppard in 2012. Sure.

Finch West

N-O-T-H-I-N-G.

When plans shifted away from Transit City, Finch West — a horrendously busy bus route — was left with nothing but  a vague commitment to “Enhanced Bus Service.” No one ever indicated what that meant, and further details now seem entirely unlikely. Finch West was actually one of the routes proposed for service cuts under the TTC’s original plan to roll back the Ridership Growth Strategy in 2012. Fortunately, thanks to some commendable wrangling from TTC Chair Karen Stintz, we got a stay of execution. Council will get a chance to permanently preserve service as part of their budget debate in January.

The Way Forward: Calling for a new consensus on transit

As we learn more about the long-term implications of Rob Ford’s transit vision, it seems more and more like this all amounts to something resembling the Port Lands fiasco from this summer. There, Ford backed a short-sighted vision for a major city asset that really didn’t hold up to scrutiny. Once the public started pushing back, councillors who tend to support the mayor started to question whether Ford had things right.

The rest is history. At the eleventh hour, Ford backed a face-saving compromise that saw council unanimously back a way forward for the Port Lands. And while there’s still a lot of questions about the implications of that new consensus, it’s a hell of a lot better than what would have happened otherwise.

Is a Port Lands-style consensus possible with these transit plans? Early indications are good. Aside from Ford, very few councillors expressed strong objections to the on-street operation of Eglinton and other Transit City routes when they were first proposed. And there’s certainly an appetite for more transit in more places, which is what we’d get if council rejected Ford’s all-underground scheme for Eglinton and reverted to something resembling the Transit City plan.

The important thing is to position any changes as a compromise, and to leave room for the mayor to save face. As much as it might be fun to see Rob Ford utterly defeated as Transit City rises from the ashes, we’re far more likely to find a successful way forward with a compromise strategy that integrates elements of Transit City with new vision for transit. That vision could include a small subway extension (to Victoria Park), a tweaked plan for surface LRT service on Finch & Eglinton, and even bus rapid transit — any and all things that can meet our goal of moving more people more efficiently.

This isn’t optional. Letting Ford’s transit vision move forward unimpeded will only amount to a waste of time and money. In 2012, council must be given an opportunity to debate these issues and get transit planning in this city finally and permanently back on track.


7
Nov 11

The Don Revelation: renegade valley may thwart Rob Ford’s underground transit vision

There is a little known geological phenomenon that divides Toronto’s east and west sides. Planners — whose grand visions are frequently thwarted by this useless gaping chasm — call it the “Don Valley.” It is truly a scourge that continues to strike when we least expect it.

Its latest victim might be the Mayor’s bold, never-voted-on plan to bury the entirety of the Eglinton LRT. The mayor’s unilateral decision to bury the line came with a $2 billion price tag and two casualties, killing light rail projects for Finch West and Sheppard East.

Here’s John Lorinc, writing for the Globe & Mail:

Under the Transit City strategy, the LRT was to emerge from a tunnel east of Laird and continue eastward on a right-of-way in the middle of Eglinton. But because of Mr. Ford’s changes, Metrolinx officials have spent months grappling with the question of how to get the Crosstown line across the Don Valley.

A tunnel may prove to be too deep and too steep for light rail vehicles, so Bruce McCuaig, president and CEO of Metrolinx, said the agency is looking at building a grade-separated bridge for the LRT as it crosses the ravines. Public consultations on an environmental assessment examining a bridge and other tunnel configurations will begin in early 2012.

via Tunnel plan for Eglinton Crosstown LRT could stymie Ford | Globe & Mail.

Despite continually being reminded that the taxpayers told the mayor that they wanted subways — not streetcars! — and that the war on the car is over, this lazy, insubordinate valley refuses to budge.

Metrolinx is said to be looking at bridge options, but that’s a dangerous path to go down. Lengthy environmental assessment processes threaten to re-politicize transit expansion, forcing council debates and public consultation sessions. In addition, any elevated bridges will almost certainly mean cost overruns and delays, pushing the completion date for the Eglinton project back from the already-distant goal of 2020.

Running the Eglinton line in a median over existing road bridges is, of course, workable. It’s what Transit City called for. But going back to that strategy could potentially jeopardize plans to use automatic operation for the line.

Operating the line in an exclusive, right-of-way on the bridge-crossing sections also immediately brings up another question: why not save a bunch of money and build the line in a protected right-of-way across other sections of Eglinton?

Under Transit City, the surface sections of the Eglinton LRT were always designed to operate at speeds close to or exceeding that of the Bloor-Danforth subway line. Eglinton’s status outside the core as a wide arterial means there’s plenty of room for transit without impacting automobile traffic. In fact, the only upside to burying the entirety of the line is that drivers won’t have to contend with limited left-turn access along the length of the route.

How much is that worth? Is it worth a billion dollars? How about two?

Undermined confidence

Stories like this only serve to undermine any confidence Toronto residents had in ongoing transit plans. At this point, people are so jaded by the planning process that only the true faithful believe that they’ll ever see the projects politicians trip over themselves to point out on maps come election time.

That Metrolinx planners are only now coming to terms with the existence of the Don Valley shows how haphazard this process is. The provincial government made a political decision to appease Rob Ford, but they seemingly never had any idea how to make the mayor’s new transit vision work.

And so we end up here: with a bunch of planners working to overcome the unforeseen problem that is one of the city’s most well-known natural phenomena. Oh, Don Valley. You bastard.


26
Apr 11

Provincial money for Sheppard Subway derailed by Ford’s demands

On his site, Steve Munro looks into “The Mythical Private Sector Subway” and leads off with this tidbit:

Recently, I learned that Queen’s Park had offered $2b toward the Sheppard Subway provided that the Fords would allow the eastern part of Eglinton to remain on the surface, but this was turned down flat.  So intransigent is the Mayor on the subject of incursion by transit into road space that the possibility of substantial funding for his pet project was not an option worth embracing.

via The Mythical Private Sector Subway | Steve Munro.

Two billion dollars toward a Sheppard Subway extension would likely not have been enough to ‘complete’ the existing subway line with an extension to Scarborough Town Centre — TTC estimates pegged that cost at $3.6 billion this past fall — but it certainly would have put the city in a position where some kind of public-private partnership could have been workable.

Putting this in perspective, and assuming that Munro’s source is reliable, this means that the top transportation priority from this mayor is ensuring no transit vehicle ever runs on-street. He’d rather spend an unnecessary two billion extra dollars burying a line, even if it means denying a large number of transit riders access to new, high-capacity service.

A note on in-median LRT: A few weeks ago, Ivor Tossell wrote an article for the new Toronto Standard outlet, questioning the desirability of on-street LRT:

Transit City might have been a genuine boon to its neighbourhoods. But it gave every indication of being a lousy way to get across town.

For one thing, it’s slow. Advocates like the Toronto Environmental Alliance claim that, on average, Toronto’s street-level LRTs would be only slightly slower than subways. But these numbers, like Ford’s fundraising schemes for the Sheppard line, live in the gauzily optimistic land of theory.

via Transit City’s Dead! Long Live Transit! | Toronto Standard.

It’s all hypotheticals, but I’d point out that two things. First, that if speed is (or was) a major concern on the surface sections of the new LRTs, there are far cheaper ways to deal with those concerns: elevated sections over intersections, side-of-road operation, etc. Second, it’s important to separate inherent problems with infrastructure from potential issues with line operation. Put another way: if the TTC just plainly sucks at running on-street transit, we’re better to work with management to fix that problem than we are to simply bury all future projects.

From an open house consultation regarding the Eglinton LRT, here were the proposed operating speeds of the line as originally envisioned (as found on page 12):

Eglinton LRT Operating Speed

Munro also posted a number of other interesting transit-related articles over the holiday weekend. Check out “The Vanishing Eglinton Right-of-Way“, which notes an item on the Government Management Committee’s upcoming meeting agenda that would transfer land adjacent to Eglinton to Build Toronto for eventual sale. This would close the door forever on using this land for transit. Also fun –if totally nerdy — is “Reading the Fine Print” which breaks down the TTC’s capital and operating budgets.


30
Mar 11

Transit City is dead; long live Transit City

Robert Benzie and Tess Kalinowski with the Star:

As first reported at thestar.com, Premier Dalton McGuinty is to announce Thursday that the province will spend $8.2 billion on the new 20-km Eglinton Crosstown Metro. It would run underground all the way from Black Creek to Kennedy station and continue above ground along the existing Scarborough Rapid Transit route, which would be converted to the same LRT technology.

But it will be up to Mayor Rob Ford and council to determine how to finance the $4.2 billion for the Sheppard subway extensions he wants to build west to Downsview station and east to Scarborough Town Centre.

via Queen’s Park and city have a $12.4B TTC deal – thestar.com.

I have two points.

First: This is disappointing but not disastrous news. I’d caution Transit City supporters (and I am one) against condemning the plan outright, as the last thing we want is for the city to get entangled in endless debates that delays rapid transit on Eglinton by another decade. Yes, the plan is flawed. All plans are flawed. But the greater good of getting something built on Eglinton tends to trump the many many misgivings I have about the route we took to get to this plan.

Second: I have a lot of issues with how this is being reported. The Star’s headline is okay: “Queen’s Park and city have a $12.4B TTC deal.”  Aside from this not really being a $12.4B deal — it’s an $8.2B deal with $4.2Bish of P3 funding that will apparently fall from the sky — I can live with that interpretation of facts. The Globe, though, runs with “Ontario agrees to Rob Ford’s transit plan” which is incredibly misleading. Rob Ford’s transit plan looked like this. (Page Three.) What we’re getting is a compromise plan that sticks closer to Metrolinx’s vision than it does Ford’s. BlogTO nailed it with their headline: “Province to fund Eglinton LRT, but not Ford’s subway.”

Despite the weirdness of tunnelling sections that really don’t need to be tunnelled, the Eglinton project (and the associated Scarborough RT replacement with LRT) will stand as a legacy project for David Miller, Adam Giambrone and the Transit City plan. Ford can bury parts of Eglinton, but he can’t bury that.


29
Mar 11

Tapdancing Josh Colle

Writing a column for the My Town Crier newspaper, Councillor Josh Colle lays out a good argument for the importance of building rapid transit on Eglinton Avenue:

It seems that anyone and everyone equipped with a pen, napkin and visions of transit lines criss-crossing the city has become an expert and is pushing one preferred transit plan over another. The fact of the matter is that Toronto can no longer afford only to talk and plan. The time for action is now and the most obvious starting point for a new era of transit building is Eglinton Avenue.

While Mayor Rob Ford has committed to additional tunnelling on the proposed Eglinton line beyond Laird Avenue, all parties involved agree that this is a priority project. The provincial funding is in place, Metrolinx and the TTC are working collaboratively on the design and planning of a line, the mayor is very supportive, and businesses and residents along the route want the line now.

via Let’s make rapid transit on Eglinton a reality now – TownNEWS – MyTownCrier.ca – the online home of Toronto’s Town Crier Group of Community Newspapers.

He takes enormous care to gloss over the fact that there is only one person who has stood between the Eglinton LRT and its construction: Mayor Rob Ford. These delays aren’t the result of  bureaucratic wrangling, but rather a new mayor who has opposed the line.