The LRT Debate Continues - Toronto Divided
It appears the city remains divided between those with realistic perceptions of what is achievable for transit in the city and those who think that money grows on trees and Subways can be built in less than 5 years.
Rob Ford in all of his brilliance declared Transit City dead a few weeks ago after officially taking office as one of his first actions and ordered the TTC to start looking at an alternative that involves building a subway line - or rather extending the Sheppard subway line. Rob Ford’s idea would see an extension of the Sheppard subway from Yonge to the University line and from Don Mills to Kennedy. He always wants to see the Scarborough Rapid Transit replaced with a subway.
Ford wants to cut 4 LRT lines for 1 subway line. 1 of the LRT lines would create a connection along Sheppard to Kennedy and to the University line, same as the subway but would cost over 4 times less than the subway and would run above ground in a LRT only lane. Another line that would be cut is Eglinton cross town which would actually run underground from Brentcliffe to Keele, effective operating as a subway. The other lines cut would be Finch West and Scarborough RT conversion. These 4 lines would cost less than the subway line, and that before taking into consideration the money lost from already signed contracts with bombardier for the LRT vehicles, construction that is already underway on Sheppard, equipment ordered for the other lines, and the environmental assessments already conducted. Not to mention the lost time devoted to researching the project. Of course the Jane, Don Mills, Scarborough-Malvern, and Waterfront West projects would also be scrapped but are not included in the currently provincially and federally funded Transit City plan.
Ford also believes that we can conduct a proper environmental assessment and complete construction on the subway line expansion by 2015. In contrast it has taken much longer to assess and construct a small extension to the University line up past York University. Service for this extension isn’t even expected until late 2015 and Ford thinks he can put a new subway extension that is more extensive than the University-Spadina extension before the 2015 Pan Am games? I guess I missed the memo about when Toronto was suddenly gained magical construction powers.
Fiscal responsibility, construction feasibility, and the fact that we would be getting 4 lines for the price of less than 1 subway aside, let’s suppose we go with Rob Ford and his supporters’ beliefs that the LRT is a war on the car, or that he thinks Toronto would be more international with more subways (don’t know how that makes sense but okay we’ll go with it). The new subway that the city needs is not an extension along the least traveled subway line in the city, where the population density may not be high enough to actually support a subway line at this time or in 5 years. The new subway that Toronto needs is a relief line in the downtown core. Riders should not have to wait for 5 subways to go by before they can get on during peak times. Why not provide a line where the population density can support it and one that would actually bring people downtown to their jobs and back out to their homes faster?
The next few months will be crucial for Transit City and indeed the future of Toronto. It will also be peak at what’s to come in council as we see which members are voices of reason and sanity and which ones are living in a fantasy.