I believe there is a need for Metrolinx – to be given a simple charge, and freedom from the transit politics of the GTA.
The biggest single reason things are not getting done, at least in my mind: is us the voter.
There is an ongoing problem in Toronto, that we the voter, jump on whatever political bandwagon that comes along, and do not pay attention to what is being proposed by city planning, or Metrolinx. We buy the flavor of the day, not a well conceived and studied plan.
The lack of any sort of will on the part of the various politicians – Metrolinx, is thus blown off course by the cabinet, due to minor changes in local politics. The voter, needs to ensure that this is no longer true, and politicians need to pay less attention to questionably worded polls, where people are not given time to actually consider what they are asked. Rob Ford, should not have been able to cancel the LRTs, and John Tory should not have been able to suddenly mix in Smart Track (a plan to save a campaign not Toronto). The politics of these moves, were the drivers, not the planning, or real transit implications.
The Big Move, and the next Wave projects, need to be the core of a real plan across the GTA, and the projects that have found their way into the plan due to politics, not planning need to be removed. The Vaughan subway extension, will likely prove to be a mistake, the SSE, is very hard to support, and City Planning has quietly made that clear, the Richmond Hill extension for Yonge, is a transit disaster in the making.
There is a need to discuss what the reality of Toronto, is, is likely to be, and where we want to take it. The structure of the GTHA, the city is auto centric, beyond the old city. The heavy use of GO Rail, is still auto to a large GO parking lot. The plan articulated by the city of Toronto, specifies, that it will develop higher density, along the avenues, using mid rise buildings, but neither zoning, nor transit supports this vision. The vision of the province in places to grow, supports a similar concept, that is not supported in the details of local transit planning, nor local planning or zoning, most specifically regarding parking requirements. Reducing urban sprawl and congestion is hard when the zoning requirements dictate that there is always surplus free parking.
We claim to want transit oriented development and the high density, walkable neighborhoods that are associated with this. However, 1 parking spot per use does not support this (nor does over 2 parking spots per unit of residential housing).
We need to do 2 things:
1- allow the planners to plan, and that means allowing new zoning where it makes sense. The province needs a master plan, and the cities need to bring their zoning into line for areas they want local density.
2- allow real planning for transit, that actually makes sense based on a real city and regional plan.
The Big Move, and next wave projects paint a broad picture, with RER weaved in, it will start to address the issues, however, we need to fill in the details locally, and also need fast linking transit that serves east west travel, without going through Union Station, or coming south. The Crosstown, starts to provide some east-west linkage, but needs to extends into Mississauga, or rather to the Renforth Gateway to get its real benefits regionally. What is also required, is a link that would provide a rapid access between the various modes of transit and local sub cores across the city and region. This is an issue that should have been examined a long (decades) time ago when the idea of supporting development away from the core was advanced, however, we need now to begin to create viable transit, for what is and what we want to be. This does not mean building the heaviest transit now, but building a network that can evolve.
I support the 407/7 highway transitways for instance, however, believe that there is a need to extend these projects, with through service, across the city, including somewhat further south.
Adding a link to the plan
An added link of some kind is required to act as a service to link the various rapid transit services across the city, and do so viably, at high speed. This would create a link that would have only a handful of stops, creating the ability to leap between local areas of service. So from west of an airport area mobility hub, that would tie in Kitchener GO, Eglinton Crosstown, Finch LRT, Mississauga Transit way, directly to Yorkdale Mall and the subway, or Yonge Subway, Richmond Hill GO, Don Mills LRT, Scarborough Town Centre/LRT/Subway, Pickering GO. Ideally these local stops would then be major mobility centers. The broad plan would require that local transit services, be specifically extended to bring together as many services in a single hub as reasonably possible.
Hurontario/Maine – LRT
The logic here, is that this line, will already link a number of other GO lines, and would thereby provide access for users of the Lakeshore GO amongst other services, to a north Toronto service, as well as linking much of Mississauga and Brampton’s bus services.
The airport mobility centre would therefore require and extended Finch West LRT to meet the GO, and the Crosstown and Mississauga Transitway, and ZUM do so as well, at a single point. This would provide the possibility of having the highest density of service to a single area, and a decent reason to bend local bus lines from the grid. This would create a jump off for services headed to the core, the airport employment area, and transferring to Mississauga from the East.
This would connect the same hub to those coming from the west who are not planning to head to the core, so going north on YUS or connecting the extensive bus centre
This is a particularly tough one, given the way the Yonge line passes under the 401 and would require a link to the Sheppard Station. However the inclusion of the North York City Centre, and access to the huge bus network attached to the Yonge subway line is critical.
Link to Richmond Hill GO line, with a link to the relatively close at hand Sheppard subway and Richmond Hill GO line. This line would need to be a frequent link both ways, to Richmond Hill and the core. Access to Richmond Hill would also mean to the Viva Network beyond, and represents and important distribution point beyond.
Don Mills LRT:
The Don Mills LRT would provide a link North to Sheppard subway and LRT, as well south to the Don Mills and Eglinton business area, and through to the Relief line.
Scarborough Town Centre
The linkage would provide access to and from rapid transit to the STC, provide quick access to the STC from across the city, and take advantage of the highly concentrated bus routes currently converging here, for 2 way access to the larger TTC network. Hopefully this would also include reasonably direct access to the core of Markham.
The logical eastern end, where it would meet RER providing through access to the areas beyond, but where the existing train line is close to the anchoring highway that the area has largely developed around. This stop would also act to anchor to the bus network. The improvement in RER, and this link, would further justify a substantial intensification of local bus services.
The fly in the ointment – the biggest single problem that arises from this idea, is where do you actually create such a link, even with the minimal number of stops suggested above, where could you reasonably build it in Toronto as it exits? I would suggest the 401, however, it is important to remember, this will mean, building extensive infrastructure both in the corridor, and to get service in and out of it. The especially complicated one will be a linkage to the existing Yonge subway line, in a manner that begins to work.
I would not expect such a service, to start life drawing very much load, and would need study, if it were even moderately feasible – however, in order to continue to develop centers across the region, without adding to congestion, we need some very real – fast east west links between existing transit routes, that do not require going via Union Station. It would likely be easiest to do as a BRT, and that would start as being enough service, however, a plan to enhance the capacity should be kept in hand.
However, the basic need is to start pushing the issue of transit and transit oriented development, and not just at the core or in the downtown. We also need to create a link to allow transit to be much faster for the longer non core trips. This service would do little more now than skim the rides easiest to serve, but it would also reinforce some centers, and encourage growth where it will be easier to serve.