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.

Jan 12

That damn streetcar purchase: how Rob Ford made transit a budget scapegoat

The mayor, in his “Weekly Update” message, sent out the Friday before last week’s budget vote:

We are also going to take this year’s $154 million surplus and invest it vehicles for the TTC.

As I have said – the previous administration placed a $700 million order for TTC vehicles [new streetcars] with no money set aside to pay for them. That was irresponsible.

The $154 million surplus must go towards paying that $700 million debt as the bills come in. This is the responsible thing to do.

via My Weekly Report – week ending January 13, 2012 | Rob Ford’s Facebook.

This streetcar gambit was the second strategy the mayor’s team tried as part of their attempt to take back control of the 2012 budget narrative. In the face of an almost $200 million surplus, the whole “we’ve got to make a lot of cuts!” thing required some finesse. Their first idea was to frame any notion of using one-time “windfall” funds to maintain programs as totally and completely irresponsible. The kind of thing dumb consumers do.

That quickly fell apart, though, because the 2012 operating budget was always going to include so-called “one-time” funds. From the very moment Rob Ford stood at the podium and endorsed the staff-recommended budget, there was $80 million in non-sustainable reserve funds built right in. What became challenging for the mayor and his allies, then, was defending using some one-time funding but not any more than that.

They set an arbitrary line at $80 million but quickly realized they weren’t standing on solid ground. And so: streetcars.

Pointing to the streetcar purchase as part of the budget process was actually a shrewd move. It took something a lot of Ford opponents are passionate about — transit infrastructure — and dangled it precariously over a fiscal edge. The notion that the city might not be able to pay for its new transit vehicles if it didn’t devote more money to its capital budget at least had some logic to it. It gave proposed service cuts more legitimacy than they would have had otherwise in a budgetary surplus environment. We’re not cutting because we love cutting, they could say. We’re cutting to save transit.

All of this, of course, was mostly baseless scaremongering.

A brief history of Toronto’s streetcar purchase

Council Scorecard: New Streetcar Purcahse

David Miller's council voted to buy new streetcars twice. The first time, it was with the understanding that the federal government would cover a third of the costs. The second vote came after the federal government said no.

PART ONE: Having looked at various options for rebuilding the current fleet of Canadian Light Rail Vehicles (CLRVs) and and Articulated Light Rail Vehicles (ALRVs), the TTC decides that the best course of action is to replace the entire fleet with new streetcars. As an added bonus, the new vehicles can be made low-floor so they’re more accessible, theoretically lessening some of the demand on WheelTrans.

Leading into a design and tender process, the TTC includes 204 new streetcars in their capital budget request to council in 2008. The full cost is about $1.2 billion and the wording in the budget indicates that council’s approval is contingent on both the provincial and federal governments each paying one-third of that figure — about $400 million each. The City’s portion is to be funded with debt.

No one passes any amendments objecting to the purchase of new streetcars. (Though Rob Ford does attempt to pass amendments eliminating both 311 and Toronto’s bike plan.) The capital budget as a whole passes 29-11.

PART TWO: There’s no delicate way to say this: the federal government — through Conservative MP John Baird –, upon receiving Toronto’s request for streetcar funding as part of the 2009 federal stimulus package, literally tells Toronto to “fuck off.”

Yes, despite the province tabling no objections to funding its share of the vehicle purchase under its stimulus program, the federal government objects to paying for the purchase on a technicality and sends Toronto scrambling. At this point, the contract for the new vehicles has already been awarded to Bombardier and the clock is ticking before their bid — significantly lower than a comparable bid from Siemens — is to expire.

PART THREE: Council holds another vote to preserve Bombardier’s streetcar bid and keep things on schedule. The plan is to cover the federal government’s portion of the purchase price through debt financing. Room is made in the capital budget by deferring items like the Eglinton Bus Terminal replacement, the station modernization program and other capital projects. By doing things this way, the City is able to finance the purchase without increasing its net debt beyond what was originally planned and approved.

Council votes overwhelmingly to continue with the streetcar purchase, making the necessary changes to the TTC’s capital budget. The contract is signed with the first new streetcar set to debut in the city sometime in the next year or so.

Where we are today

As of this year’s capital budget, the streetcar purchase is still on the books, part of the ongoing capital plan that was approved by council last week. The only change is that the number of streetcars ordered was reduced from 204 to 189 as part of some cost-saving measures this past summer. The plan to use debt to finance the purchase won’t result in any kind of doom scenario, as the capital plan on the books keeps debt service charges below council’s self-mandated 15% limit. Even working from the almost stupidly conservative assumption that there will be no future surplus money or revenue from asset sales to devote to capital payments, the city has a fiscal strategy to meet its capital obligations.

That’s not to pretend that there aren’t serious issues related to TTC funding, however. Yes, the TTC has many capital needs beyond the limits of the approved capital budget. And, yes, they could absolutely use more funding to provide infrastructure to improve service across the city. There continues to be a need for all levels of government to sit down and figure out a long-term solution for transit infrastructure in this city.

But never in this budget process  — or in any other — was the city’s ability to pay for its new streetcars threatened. Following tales of $774 million deficits and 35% property tax increases, this was just yet another example of a mayor who tends to use fear as a means to build support for his agenda.

The streetcars we desire roll on.

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.



Apr 11

Transit City: What We Lost (aside from 49 million dollars)

The worst part about Rob Ford’s attitude toward transit planning is how damn simplistic it is. It’s inspired by a few things: a poll he saw during the campaign that showed Torontonians prefer the city’s subway system to its streetcars, his own frustration over getting stuck behind surface transit vehicles when driving from Etobicoke to City Hall, and populist rage over delays and mismanagement — real and imagined — on St. Clair West during the recent right-of-way project. (As if the damning factor on St. Clair was that it was surface rail and not, you know, all the unrelated things that went wrong during construction.)

Everything else — even cost-benefit analysis! — takes a back-seat. It’s easy to get angry about this approach. It’s short-sighted and backward and not befitting of the City of Toronto as I know it. But then: this is the mayor we elected. So it goes.

Lots has been written about the supposed ‘death’ of Transit City over the past few days. And while I hold firm to my belief that the outcome we’re facing isn’t abjectly terrible,  I do think it’s worth taking some more time to point out what we lost with this week’s announcement:

Transit City would have transformed the city’s avenues

Soon after the new transit plan was announced, effectively killing the Sheppard East LRT that would have opened in 2014, InsideToronto’s Mike Adler reported that the Sheppard East BIA was very unhappy:

There was no satisfaction, though, for Mark Bozian, chairperson of the Sheppard East Village Business Improvement Association, which represents merchants east of the planned Sheppard route.

The merchants cooperated with the city for three years on the shelved Sheppard East LRT project, hoping to gain valuable streetscape improvements as it was completed.

Faced with a new plan under Ford, BIA representatives made their case to Karen Stintz, TTC board chairperson, and to Councillor Doug Ford, the mayor’s brother.

Councillor Ford seemed to accept an invitation from the merchants to tour the area, but hasn’t followed through, said Bozian, “which is very disappointing.”

Bozian added the BIA may have to appeal to Toronto Council to get the improvements merchants feel they deserve. “We’re going to have to exercise a different route now to have our three years of hard work recognized by the city and the TTC,” he said.

via InsideToronto Article: Eglinton rapid transit expected to benefit central Scarborough.

A critical difference between above-ground and below-ground construction is that above-ground construction tends to bring general streetscape improvements. Things like bike lanes, new paving, new sidewalks, light standards and poles were all supposed to be part of Transit City construction, along with zoning changes to promote mid-rise mixed-use development. Transit City was about transforming neighbourhoods in addition to increasing transit capacity.

It remains to be seen if the Eglinton Line, all underground, will bring any on-street improvement to that stretch.

Transit City was designed to bring transit to priority neighbourhoods

Not lost on those who remember the original Transit City map, as revealed back in 2007, is that it would have brought two transit lines to the intersection of Jane & Finch. It also would have brought transit to the priority neighbourhoods of Jamestown, Malvern, Weston-Mt. Dennis, Flemingdon Park, Steeles-L’Amoreaux, and others. The Eglinton line will still provide much better service to those in priority neighbourhoods who live along that route, but it doesn’t do much for many others, particularly in the northwest and northeast corners of the city.

And, as noted above, the transformative on-street improvements these areas would have seen under Transit City are likely lost now, under the ‘no above ground transit’ edict.

Transit City was the beginning of an affordable network

This should be what gets self-described ‘fiscal conservatives’ to stand up and take notice. Operationally, Transit City was a budgetary dream because it generally would have reduced or sustained current labour costs. If you replace buses in service on a route 1:1 with light rail vehicles you vastly increase the reliability, capacity and speed of transit, but you’re still just paying one operator to drive the vehicle. With on-street stations, there are no staffing costs there either. Underground transit, by comparison, is far costlier on an ongoing basis.

On the capital side, while the start-up cost for the Transit City network was high, once completed the city would have been in a position where transit expansion could be affordable without significant provincial funding. With a fleet of vehicles, storage yards, and a base network of trackage, we could have embarked on a continuous expansion program. Not only does light rail cost far less than subway on a per-kilometre basis, it’s also more flexible. Spur lines (like was proposed for the Sheppard LRT to the University of Toronto Scarborough campus) and incremental expansion are cheaper, and come in chunks small enough that they could fit into the city’s capital budget.

Transit City wouldn’t have flushed away 49 million dollars

And, lastly, there’s this:

Toronto is currently on the hook for at least $49 million for cancelling the Transit City light rail plan, says the head of the regional transportation agency tasked with implementing Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s new transit plan.

That outlay is likely to rise, said Bruce McQuaig, the CEO of Metrolinx. The city would have to pay for any penalties incurred for breaking or altering contracts secured in the previous Transit City plan, he confirmed.

via Toronto must pay at least $49M to cancel LRT plan – Toronto – CBC News.

This $49 million (or more) represents the biggest outlay of wasted taxpayer money in recent memory. When you consider the staff time spent at the TTC over the past number of years working on these plans, that number is likely an order of magnitude higher. Speaking as a taxpayer, this isn’t what respect looks like.

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.

Feb 11

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.

Feb 11

Eglinton LRT is top priority, says Metrolinx board member

Paul Bedford, former chief city planner in Toronto and current member of the Metrolinx board, writes an editorial for the Toronto Star:

In my view, it is essential to tie any fixed rail transit construction to an aggressive land use intensification strategy and the expansion of the city and regional transit network.

This is especially true for subways and underground LRT lines, where strategic investment is clearly for the long term. The proposed Eglinton LRT certainly meets this test and will function as a subway for much of its length, serving communities across the city. It was first proposed in 1974 and is the absolute No. 1 priority.

via Ford’s critical 100-year decisions – thestar.com.

My read of the situation with the delayed transit plan, still being hammered out by the mayor’s office and Metrolinx, is that Eglinton is the sticking point. Metrolinx won’t budge on it.

Bedford also talks about the role underground transit has in fostering new development, which is an argument I quibble with because the Bloor-Danforth line has done little for neighbourhood development in many places.

Any future subway extensions must be linked directly to extensive mixed-use development that would generate 15,000-30,000 people living and or working within one square kilometre of targeted major stations. This would include the Sheppard corridor as far east as Victoria Park, in addition to existing and future stations located along the proposed Spadina subway extension.

The reference to Vic Park is interesting. A revised Transit City plan that includes a half-hearted Sheppard subway extension to Victoria Park, an extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway to Scarborough Town Centre (replacing the SRT) and the as-planned Eglinton LRT would seemingly fit within established funding constraints.

Jan 11

Ontario Transit Commission

The Globe’s Adam Radwanski:

But multiples sources familiar with the talks said that, while no detailed proposal has yet been put forward, the mayor’s officials have repeatedly floated the idea of transferring either subway lines or the entire TTC to Metrolinx, the regional transit agency established by Mr. McGuinty’s government.

via For both Ford and McGuinty, an Ontario-run TTC has its perks – The Globe and Mail.

I’m honestly not sure why the province would want to take control of the whole thing when they could just restore their operating and capital subsidies that existed until Mike Harris. It would be cheaper for them.

Update: And it’s denied. That didn’t take long.