Transit madness

If there’s one thing worse than Metrolinx planning transit, it’s politicians planning transit. This week’s City Council meeting saw two bonkers decisions.

First, Frances Nunziata and a majority of City Council voted against a value-for-money study of the nutso one-stop Scarborough subway, which will cost at least $3,350,000,000 and be a worse solution in every way that a multi-stop LRT. The study would, of course, have told them that it was a terrible idea.

Discontent with one gigantic mistake, council voted to look at building another  underground transit line, again against the recommendations of staff, but on the other side of town–this time in Mount Dennis.

City staff have already recommended a predominantly above-ground LRT to run from Mount Dennis to the airport region. They considered connections; cost; and impacts on the community, traffic, and the environment.

But, crucially, staff didn’t recommend digging a big hole into which money could be poured, so council told them to sit on the stairs and think it through again–and this time to “investigate further grade separation and or tunnelling options“.

An inconsistency then? In one case, council directed city staff to not study; in the other, they asked them to study harder.

No, there’s no contradiction. Our councillors quite consistently  expect the facts to fit the policy, and never the other way around.

It isn’t the city staff who need a time-out on the steps. It’s city council that needs to go and think about their decisions.

Author: Adam Norman

I am raising my two children in Weston.

7 thoughts on “Transit madness”

  1. Don’t know if this quote is actually from an Ancient Greek proverb, but here goes:

    “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”

    Now, what’s wrong with that concept?

    How did London England ever get to over 270 Tube stations in it’s Underground network – the oldest in the world?

    And likewise, how did Paris France build it’s grande system of over 300 stations in it’s vast Metro/RER system?

    Wonderful travel possibilities, both.

    When did their dreams begin and come to fruition?

    And, neither is a linear system.
    They had to branch out.

    The Scarborough line issue has been beaten to death.
    Please, no more expensive studies that could almost fund that project. Start digging already.
    The costs are never going to come down.

    And, the latest talk regarding the Eglinton Ave. westbound line toward Pearson?
    Again, from this perspective, it’s worthy of underground consideration – with that same Greek eye toward the future generations of Torontonians to follow us.

    So, perhaps a good reason to promote further discussion with provincial partnership leaning in.

    This town’s not getting smaller.

    Plus, in our climate, do you really think above ground rail transit (i.e. street cars) like on King, Queen, Dundas and St. Clair is a good idea – with a mix & match of differently shaped rail vehicles?

    The nearest experiment to Weston – the St. Clair Ave. west street car route is horrendous. What a waste of time & dough.

    So, “pitter- patter”, let’s start digging, already.
    No more drivel.

    We never should have stopped adding to this vast, linear north-south, east- west system started in the ’50s.

    We could have had a very decent start at our very own “spider’s web” of an underground system to compliment our vast distances, along with the above ground methods of transportation.

    Let’s dream bigger, Toronto.

    1. “The Scarborough line issue has been beaten to death.”
      Unfortunately it won’t stay dead because of dogma and the electoral posturing and pandering of unscrupulous politicians. The King Streetcar carries 65,000 passengers daily while the SS is projected to carry 7,300, yet we are poised to devote billions ($3.35 currently) and will be paying this turkey off for decades. Council wouldn’t actually commit to permanently put the King Street project in place and spent a measly $1.5 million on a line that carries nearly 10 times the number projected for the SS.

      Yes, build transit, but why is council so afraid of a study? Simply because a study would show the money would be much better spent elsewhere. The price of getting the facts will be a drop in the ocean if it saves us from this outrageous boondoggle that has made Toronto a laughing stock around the world.

      The ‘just build it already’ slogan conceals a basic dishonesty about the decision making process and it’s designed to push the project along despite the facts.

      You’re right that council should have been building subways since the 1960s but you’re probably not aware that most of the London Underground is actually above ground and there’s nothing wrong with that. The UP Express runs along dedicated lines and doesn’t interrupt traffic. The paid for 7-stop Scarborough LRT would serve many more passengers than the SS and at a fraction of the cost.

      The Scarborough LRT, designed to replace the Scarborough RT will run along traffic free lines already in place. It is fully paid for (it was stopped by Rob Ford who hadn’t a clue about its details). Council can still stop the insanity but won’t – barring a miracle. I’ll be writing about that soon.

      1. As for the “Scarborough Line” issue” – we should what, break another costly, legally binding contract, and then fight about it some more?

        What has that cost us over the years, everytime a political view has changed and someone follows up on an election promise to cancel an existing contract?

        Again, bureaucrats & politicians proving that it’s easy to spend or waste someone else’s money, because it’s there – one large pot o’ gold.

        In theory, is this project not part of a greater, long term vision to tie together a large, rapid transit rail network in a somewhat circular fashion?

        It seems that other large cities have done so in a similar fashion, internationally.

        Regarding the King Street car line ridership vs. the Scarborough line potential – not a surprise that King is busier – it’s high density area, downtown. It should be. (Hey, maybe that’s where another line should be built, way down the road.)

        Oh, and how about that parallel street car line, Queen Street requiring more wholesale renovating and surgery, again.

        Another difficult street car route to maintain and service. And, it serves Torontonians from The Beach in the east to Long Branch, in the west. (Man, how long a ride is that upon that charming steel rail? Might be fun for a tourist.)

        Study?
        Sure, where & when necessary, once or twice.

        But, how about those expensive delaying tactics with an Environment Study thrown in, here and there? Important, absolutely. But, why does it seem like it’s just dragging out the process because the bureaucrats know it’s inevitable, anyway.

        So, wouldn’t it be nice to have less talk, and more walk?

        Wasted time & foot dragging is expensive. The meter is always running – bureaucrats and lawyers will always have nice, lucrative careers while we wait. Over the long run, I’m pretty sure their rates & prices aren’t going to come down. And, neither will the construction industry’s.

        Toronto a laughing stock?
        Really? Where?

        Sure, maybe when our late Mayor was doing his best raging, Jake Lamotta impression. We certainly gained much unwanted attention then, didn’t we. Not a point of pride.

        And, “Just build it already” – that stems from the frustration of watching & listening to all the bull spit from all political corners.

        Honestly, less talk, more walk, please. Everyone, quit wasting resources playing politics because it doesn’t suit you or your political tribe.

        But, thanks for throwing me a bone with the suggestion that this city never should have stopped building & adding to our transit infrastructure. A major mistake, that has perhaps cost us dearly.

        As for London’s network, I’ve only seen their system map.
        Vast and impressive.

        And yes, in some respects it seems like our subway system is somewhat similar, meaning that we too have above ground, open air stretches inbetween many stations, with other regional connections, too.

        However, I did experience some travel on the Metro/RER in Paris on three different occasions. And, I’ll never forget the first time I sparked up the transit map outside a Metro station one day. Amazingly busy.

        But, it was a week after their World Cup win in ’98 that was most impressive beginning with our journey from Charles DeGaulle into the heart of the old city where we stayed. Easy, quick and impressive, indeed. It’s with that experience that the “dream” of possibilities began in earnest.

        Why not us?

        I like the UP Express.
        And, use it whenever the need arises.

        But, I liked the GO transit before it, too.

        Same length of time into Union from Weston. And, inexpensive to ride in very nice, double decker cars. Too bad they couldn’t also go underground, like a subway car.

        The only major thing wrong with GO was the frequency & schedule. And, a small, much needed technicality- an additional rail line for all day, two way travel & service.

        In retrospect, a one rail addition seemed like a small tweek compared to building an entirely new system including new rail cars.

        Was it a case of management types and their budgets? The old, use and spend your annual budget or else, you’ll lose it?

        Plus, we surely could not host the Summer Games without a shiny new train, could we?
        (And, our deep pocked visitors.. they liked their expensive ride?)

        Not so much..
        ..for us or them?

        Funny, what a proper price tag will do for your service & brand.

        And yeah, too bad about that electrification thing, too.

        Oh, and what about that cancelled “Blue 22” contract awarded SNC Lavalin, by the Chrétien Liberals. What did that cost us when Metrolinx took charge? (I’m sure SNC wasn’t too sad to step aside, given their global reputation.)

        Finally, no matter what we’ve gone through, at least the other two levels of government understand the importance of coming to the table in the country’s largest, growing city. They had better be there.

        So, I hope that folks in Scarborough get to ride as we now do in Weston, with an eye to the future and world class connections in any form, above and below ground.

        Anyway, look forward to your next report.

    2. Your comment about shade trees for the future has been rattling around in my mind, and now I know why: yes, we need to think about the future, but we need to plant trees that will provide shade — those guys did research and didn’t plant shrubs; they learned about which trees would provide the most shade for the future. A one-stop subway isn’t much of a gift to the future.

      1. Okay.

        Glad I don’t have to explain that the tree’s shade thingy is a mere proverb or parable where most likely, the moral was to encourage or suggest a selfless act or gesture, generally made for another’s benefit. And, where it’s understood that the benefactor will never have the distinct pleasure of actually enjoying the hoped for result.

        Of course, as generous as that may seem on the surface, with every action there’s a consequence – positive & negative. (You can’t have heaven without hell, can you?)

        So, if you prefer a more literal interpretation, sure, maybe after their research those gardening experts on the Acropolis would have considered growing trees most suitable to their Mediterranean climate – deciduous or coniferous – that would have a decent height for shade purposes.

        Maybe, olive trees?
        (Practical choice – seems to do well in that dry, sun drenched environment.)

        So, let’s agree that the Greeks probably weren’t specifically thinking about what type of transit or transportation system to leave their grandchildren’s children’s children. They left all that heavy lifting, infrastructural construction & road building to that other very ambitious, skillful & industrious tribe, the Romans.

        Question?
        (.. garden variety, rhetorical)

        Would you not be better able to grow your “shade tree” above a (deeply) buried transit line as opposed to a catenary styled project which employs much overhead infrastructure like metal towers, wiring & cables on either side of the nearby route?

        May I remind that unlike the Athenians, we DO get nasty, wintery weather.

        And, sometimes it really ices up much of our outdoor transit infrastructure, followed by the obligatory corrosive, salty solutions that linger a long time, promote decay and in time, present a costly renovation, one way or another.

        Partisan politics & unsavoury business partnerships aside – is there really such a thing as an “ideal” choice that’ll please everyone?

        Is there really a best overall system for the future growth of a our city – fully understanding that there will be a mixing & matching of system vehicles, just as we already have in our current network – above & below ground?

        Beats me.

        But, from this fantasy perspective, underground would be pretty nice, where possible – just like along our Bloor-Danforth line, Yonge-University-Spadina line and the Eglinton Crosstown line to come.

        And sure, more trees.

  2. My thoughts are that it’s an election year.

    Staff did their job and came up with a cost-benefit analysis. In normal times, this would probably be sufficient.

    In an election year, seems that a call for staff to do further/redundant analysis work is a politically safe choice compared to turning it into yet another subway vs. lrt debate with pockets of the population that seems to think everything is about them and their car. Imo, it all seems a bit ridiculous since eglinton west is probably one of the best streets for an lrt given how wide the ROW is.

    I do find it asinine to see an MPP and city local council members messing with transit planning. Again probably due to an election year but if I review their track records and I don’t agree with their policies, they won’t get my vote next year. I have more leeway for mayoral politics that tries to manage a series of city councillors so that we actually get some progress happening. But local politicians who continually try to play politics with transit planning in order to pander to drivers really annoys me.

    But again, I’m hoping this silliness is only happening because it’s an election year and hopefully we get move towards allowing our city staff and transit planning experts do their job with little political meddling. For the time being, a call for another study helps avoid turning it into an election topic I suppose.

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