Toronto, and Queen’s Park – need to get past the basic pandering, and get back to actually building a real transit network. The basic subway – as it stands – does not need to be extended in length, but in the effect it provides, needs to be enhanced and extended. The other issue here of course is capacity – that is now hugely over committed. The solution to the GTA’s transit woes starts with real cooperation and planning, and removing grandstanding and politics. If we are to really address congestion, GO needs to add a role, that of connector between transit systems. This means offering co pays that are effective for potential users.
The answer to this issue, is however, to undertake a serious examination of increased and parallel capacity – where we are at or beyond capacity. The limits to increasing capacity, are not as far away as the TTC would liked to have had us believe. Once the new signalling project has been completed on the Yonge line, you quickly run into concerns with regards to the ability to turn trains. While you can station trains at Davisville to fill – there is a limit to the number of trains that can be inserted. You could gain a small additional amount of capacity by extending the line enough to add an additional turning point – but well you are likely looking at something on the order of 33-34 trains per hour, because beyond this or maybe 35 trains, you are looking at substantial problems at Bloor in terms of dwell time required. Realistically – 36,000 planning capacity, with an existing load of 31,000.
Beyond this – well you are looking at massive and expensive changes to stations required to reduce the dwell time. Realistically in terms of making the network function, a new line, running parallel to Yonge would be better. It will allow more flexibility, and improved route design for the bus routes that feed the subway currently. This line – while consuming considerable resources, would answer the problem of core bound capacity for the east side of the city.
The bottom line however, is that beyond this need to enhance subway capacity, there is not really a spot in Toronto, where subway extension should be seriously entertained, in terms of actually providing effective service. Scarborough would be better off, with the full LRT plan, that could be delivered for the same cost as a subway, leaving money to spare, and blanketing Scarborough in service. The debate should be comparing just the Scarborough RT replacement LRT with subway, but rather, the Malvern LRT, the Scarborough LRT replacement, the Morningside Hook portion of LRT, and of course include the Sheppard LRT, in how the network would function.
Smart Tracks – is frankly merely a distraction from the core debate- political grandstanding at its worst. The GO system needs to be a bigger part of linking Scarborough, and Rexdale to the core. The Finch LRT needs to run at least as far as the Malton GO, where it should link to Brampton Transit, as well as GO, ideally it would continue on the Mi-Way transitway at the Renforth Gateway. The Eglinton LRT needs to get there as well. If you extended the Finch LRT east as far as Yonge, you would have created a couple of substantial east west links across the city – much closer to where the cars are currently headed. The transit service in the Airport Corporate Centre would need to be substantially improved, but, it would be effectively linked to rapid transit – in a way it is simply not currently. It also means creating a real hub for transit, and provide access to/from GO, MiWay and ZUM services to services that reach most of Toronto, not just the core. Finch West LRT could also effectively link the Barrie and Kitchener GO lines.
I would note that this is in essence the Transit City Plan, with a couple of minor tweaks. There is not yet a Jane LRT mentioned, and I have not really dealt with Don Mills – beyond a subway extension. The province is currently studying a DRL as far north as Sheppard. This would greatly enhance the connection for a Sheppard LRT, and also the heavily used Lawrence, and York Mills bus routes. However, I personally favour the notion of using an LRT to make the connection north of Eglinton, as it will likely provide better local service, and be much less expensive, although would not relieve the Yonge subway to quite the same degree. However, building additional length of subway, means expending massive resources in construction and operation, which takes away from the ability to extend services elsewhere.
At this point it will be more critical to provide the other links in the system. Waterfront West and East Bayfront LRTs for instance will help address a huge need in the shoulder areas of downtown. There is a requirement to support any further development in the shoulder areas, with improved transit flow and capacity, as much of the network is already overwhelmed in that area. The rapid intensification, has not been met with required transit improvements. To make these work, will require a substantial additional investment at Union Station, or providing an alternate anchor point for the WWLRT portion. However, in terms of the overall development, tax base growth, and transit oriented development, these lines are very important. Another service that would be worthwhile, is one that was considered a generation ago, an out of traffic rapid transit link from Kipling subway to the Airport, to link to the Renforth Gateway, and thus the Miway BRT, Finch West LRT, and Kipling GO. Ideally this would link further south as well, providing a fast reliable link between the Kitchener, Milton and Lakeshore GO lines.
It is far more important that the transit services be linked, and rapid transit be close to both the riders origin and destination if we are to deal with congestion, than to meet the notion of a one seat ride, that can not realistically be provided with simple subway extension, especially in that these consume all the resources available – simply to overload the route as it approaches the destination of this supposed one seat ride. The other issue that must be dealt with of course is frequency and reliability of that ride, if we are to actually hope to pull people off the roadways. Creating a web of access to and from subway, GO and surrounding transit systems is critical. Toronto, also needs to support the development, of real transit connectivity beyond the city itself. Where we know we can ride GO to rapid transit and/or frequent bus service to destination across the region.
It is important, we understand the role of GO in building a regional transit system, but also that we understand where we are spending too much too early in that area – 15 minute service does not require electrification. Electrification and new signals are critical for the Lakeshore East and West services, as they are already approaching the limits of service without them, however, on most of the balance of the network, diesel and signal block size to permit only a train every 10 minutes is just fine. Providing Rapid Transit services to link GO to many more destination, is more critical for now to making it relevant than electrification. Stouffville and Richmond Hill, need double tracks, but not electrification yet. Viva BRT and for Stouffville the connection to a Sheppard East and Crosstown LRT are more important. Adding the Malvern LRT, or extending the Crosstown to Lakeshore East GO and thus providing more destinations to both, and linking the Lakeshore,Stouffville, and Richmond Hill GO (thus making an Oshawa to Markham GO rail based commute possible) would be more relevant.