Why you won’t get SmartTrack

The Economist explained this week why you won’t be getting SmartTrack. It’s a sobering read.

In short, Toronto’s transit, as you know, sucks. Making it better requires bold action—and money. John Tory’s proposal, road tolls, would pay for part of the construction, but tolls are unpopular among backwards-thinking people and suburbanites¹, and Kathleen Wynne needs to win both groups over in the 2018 election. Tolls would need her assent.

Tory himself faces reëlection in 2018—it’s been more than two-and-a-half years since his back-of-the envelope plan (which forgot about Mount Dennis) was announced.

¹ And backwards-thinking suburbanites.

Author: Adam Norman

I am raising my two children in Weston.

One thought on “Why you won’t get SmartTrack”

  1. There is a very telling letter from a reader in response to the Economist article that seems to sum up the mayor’s plan effectively. I quote the relevant passage:

    “Mayoral candidate Tory and his cronies — millionaire property developers — offered voters a plan that looked like it had been sketched out on the back of an envelope.

    By the time he was elected on it was obvious it looked like it had been sketeched out on the back of an envelope because it had been sketched out on the back of an envelope. The plan had several fatal flaws.

    First, his initial route had a western leg where it turned directly west, from a railway right of way from the 19th century, onto a right of way that had been left undeveloped following the cancellation of one of those expressways, four decades ago. One fatal flaw with his plan was his predecessor, crack-smoking mayor Rob Ford had sold off that valuable right of way for a pittance, a few years earlier.

    Another fatal flaw is that he promised that his plan could provided a “surface subway”, with subway like speeds, and latency, at a bargain price, through using existing surface rights of way. Well, the curve where his drawing had his route turn west would require billions of dollars of tunneling.

    Having gotten elected on the strength of a deeply flawed transit plan, the responsible thing for Tory to have done was (1) listen to the city’s planning department, when they explained to him why his plan was unworkable; (2) own up, and apologize to voters, and tell them that, as a mayor with access to planning resources, he has to tell them most of his plan was simply unworkable.

    What Tory did do was bully his planners. When he first started to get feedback from them about the feasibility problems he ordered them to figure out a way to make his plan work. Off they went, and developed over half a dozen variations to replace the no longer available western right of way. I attended a public presentation where planners were available to discuss these variations. Guess what, they were all deeply inadequate, except for the variation that simply extended an LRT line that was already under construction 6 kilometers further west. The variations that used the same heavy rail rolling stock as the Province already runs on the existing rail right of way would have been shockingly expensive, and have other flaws, like requiring switchbacks, due to rapid gradient changes.

    I don’t know whether Tory is one of those reasonably intelligent people whose eyes glaze over when an expert tries to explain something technical, who doesn’t understand how unworkable his original crude plan was, or whether he realizes it is unworkable, but is counting on the general public not realizing its unworkability for more than a decades, as he will be retired long before it is finished.”

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