Digest 1: Toronto (February, 2016)

Toronto’s new transit proposals focused on subway, light-rail service (The Globe & Mail, Toronto, February 16, 2016)

“According to draft documents obtained by The Globe and Mail, the longer-term plan includes a new commitment to light rail on the waterfront, from Park Lawn to Leslie.”

  • I’m always curious why “light rail” is so widely pursued in North America.

“The showpieces of the shorter-term plan being rolled out are mostly projects that have already been approved and funded by the provincial government, but the planning department has added a recently floated “transit priority corridor” along King Street. This is an ambitious attempt to push forward on a proposal for reducing private-vehicle traffic on the street, thereby speeding up streetcars on the Toronto Transit Commission’s busiest surface route; the idea has yet to receive political support, much less be tested in a pilot project.”

  • Streetcars. Those are even more maddening than light rail.

“As a package, these plans are a bold attempt to break free from years of transit stasis in Toronto. The only substantial transit build finished in recent memory is the underused subway line along Sheppard. And the only major transit now under construction by the city is the subway extension to Vaughan, a project fraught with problems, cost increases and concerns that its ridership won’t be worth the price.”

  • Why is the line along Sheppard underused? Was there no development to accompany the new line? Here’s my theory: looking at a subway map I see that the Sheppard Line (“Line 4”) has only 5 stations, “running in an east-west direction along Sheppard Avenue East.” For a subway line to be well used, it helps for it to be connected to a large network, as opposed to being a dead-end.
  • As you can see in the map below (source), the purple Line 4 is a minor player in the Toronto subway network.

Toronto subway map

“Of the various lines in these plans come to fruition, they would remake the transit map of Toronto. Instead of specific projects being weighed in isolation, the package is designed to form a network that would serve as many people as well as possible.”

  • Toronto is not alone in this. American cities act as though they are allergic to forming holistic transit networks.

“The strategy, though, is coming forward without a funding plan. And the Tory camp, during the campaign, was critical of the TTC for releasing potential service improvements without identifying a way to pay for them.‎ However, funding is a decision typically left to elected representatives, and it is traditionally very difficult to secure money without first having a plan from staff.

  • Why not privatize and allow transit funding and real estate development form a virtuous circle? In the United States, it is a deeply seated assumption that mass transit MUST be publicly funded. This is likely true in Canada as well. Perhaps they should look to Japan (and perhaps other countries) for an example of a different funding model.

“The whole plan is set to go out for public consultation. It will go to the city’s executive committee in the next month, and then again in May, and is scheduled to be debated by full council in June.”

  • Great, more debates.

Fortunately, there are some proposals to radically increase the scope of Toronto’s transit network. The following is what the network might look like in 15 years, as reported recently:

“Planners want public’s input on ‘motherlode’ of GTA transit” (Toronto Star, February 16, 2016)

Proposed Toronto transit system

Links:

One Simple Way The TTC Can Fix Signage: Visually Separating Yonge From University-Spadina

Toronto Transit Commission (TTC)

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