One of the on-going problems in Toronto, comes down to selling a solution other than subway, in too much of the region. The GTA needs to start rolling out a real plan, that can address the basic transportation problems in the region.
However, the very first things that is required to fix the problem, is listening to planners, not polls, or politicians seeking only political advantage. It means looking at the travel intentions of residents, and likely getting some even more detailed information, but then paying attention to the results. It means dealing with some basic truths
1-We need more capacity into the core
2-Most trips in the periphery of the 416 let alone 905 are not core bound.
3-A large portion of the congestion is beyond the 416
4-GO needs to be used to serve core bounds riders from the outer 416 as well as the 905.
5-Transit and GO needs to serve regional trips that are destined to areas other than the core.
6-GO needs to be tied to local transit in a much more integral way to serve the non core bound trips, and even to be more effective in the core bound trips.
In order to address our problems therefore will require a broad network, of tightly tied transit, not just Smart Tracks, or GO or subway. We need to be prepared to entertain a lot of smaller, more local projects in order to create a wide enough web of rapid transit, to make transit a highly attractive, time competitive method of travel to areas other than the core. If we are going to address congestion, we need to be able to make a trip from most of Mississauga, to points in a wide variety of areas within Toronto, that are not the core, where diverting all the way downtown is a major additional trip, that will not be made- and the attitude of many will be – if I have to sit in traffic and do not have to pay for parking, I may as well drive. Each new project- needs to be viewed in terms of building a network, not in isolation. Focusing on GO electrification, instead of a high focus on local service integration, means increasing capacity in some places, long before it is required, and not making transit more feasible for other- important destinations.
Can Mi-Way and TTC support the Airport Corporate Centre (ACC), in a manner that will permit a high transit split? How can GO make this work? If the Malton GO was used as a major station for ZUM, with substantial inbound and outbound, local bus service, and was also served by a Finch West LRT that continued through to the Renforth Gateway to meet the Mi-Way transitway and the Eglinton Crosstown? Let us be truly outrageous, and add 15 minute GO service on the Kitchener line, and a Kipling BRT or LRT that also made their way to one or other of these locations? While I doubt even this would raise the transit split to where it is in the core, it would certainly attract a far greater number of rides than today, and allow a much better connections for people who want to ride on to areas that are not the core (or even to the core) for people from Mississauga and Brampton, as well as getting to employment in these areas from Toronto.
Connecting services, that will permit, faster, and more reliable transit are important to create ridership, but they need to provide much broader coverage, as opposed to massive capacity for most of the region. People keep talking about the notion that Eglinton should have been subway – but projections are for 5400 riders peak hour/direction. This is around 1/3 of what could be served by the underground portion – where the load is likely to be seen – and around 1/2 of what could be comfortably served by a surface LRT. What needs to be understood, in terms of making a system work, needs to focus, on what impact will this addition have in terms of attracting new ridership, and permitting a redesign of the surface routes. New routes like the Crosstown, and Finch West need to make a link with transit beyond in order to have a more substantial impact. The Mi-Way and airport links are crucial in the case of Eglinton, as is a Kingston Road extension to support Lakeshore GO. These links would have (and still could) allow the Crosstown, to be a major part of a web of service, helping to make much better use of surrounding rapid transit, and especially GO rail.
The debate in the GTA, needs to look at where we have holes in a network to allow people to get to more of the employment concentrations, from more of the points of origin, with a relatively quick, frequent and reliable transit trip. The network, needs to be more destination neutral, and make 2 way use of the rail it has – that means access to destinations in the outer 416 and 905 from GO on local transit. Lakeshore GO to Eglinton LRT, would mean it would be a viable way of accessing mid town employment, across the width of the GTA, with the Stouffville link, we add Markham city centre, and with Richmond Hill, that destination as well, along with anything along the Highway 7 BRT. Creating rapid transit connections to GO should allow rapid transit service – from across the GTA to the ACC, North York City Centre, the Scarborough Town Centre, Mississauga City Centre, Markham City centre….. GO connected to an LRT, BRT, or subway will support much of this, however, subway as a general answer – is beyond our means. Start building a broad network 1 link at a time, and build what is, frequency, capacity and cost appropriate. This will mean much more BRT than LRT and much more LRT than subway. The network, should be planned as a whole, but the links added in a sequence, that permits each to valuable as it is built, but where the network effects are fully realized. Eglinton GO needs to be added as a frequent stop on GO, before connecting the LRT to it really makes sense, for instance. Others it is less clear, Agincourt GO connection makes sense with or without double tracking, as long as the trains that do run – stop there, however, better 2 way use of Stouffville GO would come from a connection there, and a link to the Lakeshore line in Scarborough.
The network 25 years from now should be dominated by BRT and LRT, with subway representing only a handful of heavy links. Any new subway should be a major point of attachment, for a large number of LRT and BRT links. While 1 new subway line is likely required to support core bound ridership, it is only 1, and further substantial extensions (except to explicitly increase capacity), are a poor idea, lighter services, with many more lines would serve better. Tying these services, well to GO is crucial to making both work well. Sheppard East to Agincourt GO, Sheppard subway to Oriole GO, Eglinton LRT to Eglinton GO at the least (an extra 2-3 km), if not beyond to the Guildwood GO, and these stations receiving frequent GO rail service. These moderate extensions, would make the lines more effective in Scarborough, and much more effective in terms of providing regional transit integration, which is key to addressing issues surrounding congestion.
The region needs electrification now on Lakeshore East and West, double track on Stouffville, Richmond Hill and Kitchener, but beyond this, the focus should be on an extensive network of LRT and BRT. There is no way that the GTA can justify the scope of rapid transit network required to make transit truly attractive for rides away from the core, if we are going to do even a small portion as subway. Capacity wise, simple double tracking will permit 6-8 trains per hour, or more to the point the equivalent of 12 lanes of traffic, the issue is making the trip make sense – while using transit. Riding most of the way, on vehicles that are not slowed by traffic, will make this much more attractive. Having a web or dense grid of routes, that get us very close to our final destination without backtracking, even more so. The implementation of even BRT can allow land use changes, however, supportive changes to zoning are also required. BRT can be designed to be converted to LRT, where the demand is not likely to be seen soon, but perceived to be an eventual consideration. GO needs to be integrated with service at both ends if it is going to allow people to actually use it to where they would drive otherwise.