Transit City Plus – The GTA needs a real regional plan – with credibility

Transit City – now make Don Mills a subway and add a in GO as a linked service

One of the key problems that has been constantly undermining Metrolinx is a lack of credibility, and another constant political interference.  As a consequence, it is hard for people to believe in “Wave 2” announcements.

There is a need to get the funding secured, and a deal with the federal government as well, in order to allow a larger commitment to be made, and seen to be secure.  It also needs to be discussed as a continuous construction process. If we are smart about the location of car houses, we can seriously look at opening lines, while they are still being extended, and provide a sense of ongoing progress.  The lines need to be part of a well conceived – and clearly integrated plan, so that people do not have the sense that their portion will be sacrificed in the next election cycle.  The roll-out needs to have a clear and obvious impact at each stage on the potential for development and have an attached change in zoning requirements.  So it needs to be clear for instance that once the LRT, BRT or subway reaches this point, that density allowances will rise, and parking requirements drop. This will have little immediate effect, but, will provide the developers with new options, and allow for a gradual change in focus for offices, malls, condos, and apartment buildings.  Builders know that they must build a certain amount of parking by law, which means they cannot charge a premium for it.  If they are not required to have it, some people will not choose to pay for it- be it retail, office or residential.   You are less inclined to drive, when the transit is quick and convenient, and there is no place to park your car, or you have to pay for it, when you get there.  You are less likely to have a car for every driver, when you are paying to park the second and third cars.

There is remarkable importance that this plan cover the region, and that the same change in zoning happen in York, Peel, and Durham regions.  A DRL reaching as far as Sheppard, while it seems to be a little much does provide the opportunity for broader network support, that is even better than having a terminus at Eglinton.  If we are to opt for this option, an LRT stretching north from here should still be built, and the value of the Sheppard East LRT is greatly enhanced.

Each line – within and beyond Toronto – needs to be looked at in terms of its place within a network, and not just in terms of load it is likely to attract, but also in terms of how it will cause commuting to change across the region, now and in the future.  The Crosstown, really needs to be built to the full length of its original TransitCity vision including the Malvern extension.  This is not simply a question of linking the destinations in Scarborough like the UTSC,  but also linking the GO lines.  It changes the nature of GO service into Toronto, by making any location along Eglinton, and the BDL easily reached from GO Lakeshore, and with RER on Stouffville, locations north on that line from Lakeshore – without a ride downtown. The inclusion of frequent BRT service to Markham and Richmond Hill City centre means these locations become practical transit destinations from across the region.  While these links, and directions may not be heavily used initially, they change the nature of the system, and start to make the GTA, much easier to truly navigate without a car.

The current problem with the initial announcements – is that they have far too much of an odor of being politically driven, and do not really have credibility when you look at either the quickness of the changes based on politics, or in terms of the network effects of each, and the likely impact on the transit system of the region, and the cost of implementation.  The Scarborough subway extension, is either a total waste, or will increase ridership on the line notably, if it is the second, and this is a huge issue, in that this is being pushed – prior to a DRL, which is needed to deliver any notable increase in ridership that happens to be core bound.

I personally have deep concerns with regards to a Yonge extension to Richmond Hill, even with a DRL in hand, simply because I worry about the realistic capacity that is being imagined, and what will be built.  The current projections show 20k peak on both the Yonge line and the DRL, which would mean a growth to only 40k.  I think this underestimates the impact of the current latent demand, and a reasonable projection of induced demand.  The backlog of demand already on the Scarborough RT – which is being supported by much less desirable buses, to me means that there are likely a couple of thousand riders avoiding the system now, from this location alone.  If we had a Sheppard east LRT, and a Eglinton LRT, that ran the full length, I have to say that the demand would be much higher, both from the fact that the bus network is struggling to carry people already coming to stops, and the improvement in service will also encourage many more to ride, as well as the likely new development that will result.  Since I believe that there would now be a demand approaching 36 today, as we are already at 31, assuming no latent demand, no induced demand, just 2% growth we would be at 41K by 2030.  Since I believe that there is substantial latent demand, and new capacity would also create a change in commuting patterns, it would likely induce considerably more, I think this number is quite low, without adding demand by extending the Yonge line.  There is the very real possibility that if capacity on Yonge is only 36K, we would be looking at being near capacity shortly after it was extended to Richmond Hill.

The network therefore, needs to support an alternate path to the core, that represents a high enough service level, that it will attract riders instead of any subway extension, and a more limited capacity link should be made to the Yonge  subway for points between.  Yonge extended only as far as Steeles, and a long LRT from there, that would link with both RER or LRT in the Richmond Hill ROW, and the Yonge subway.  Such an LRT would link the BRT in highway7/407, the Yonge Subway,

The regional network needs to support access to the vast majority of major destinations in the region.  Finch West, and Eglinton Crosstown, both need to connect to the airport. Ideally we would build something to link the BDL to Finch West and the Eglinton and the airport in the west.  This would make the airport and the Renforth Gateway, and perhaps Malton GO major points of connection in the Toronto transit network from the west.  This would link GO, ZUM and the Mississauga Transit Way together in the west, and creating through access to Mid, North and the BDL subway, and the core.  If we follow through on a real waterfront West LRT, it also should be linked to the Kipling LRT and beyond, which would make direct access to the airport from west shoulder area and south Etobicoke possible, and would open the approaches here to more of Mississauga.

The GTA should be looking at doing the 10 minute network – one better.  That is a serious look at building a real 5 minute RT network.  That would be service that ran on a frequency of 5 minutes or better, which would include subway, LRT and BRT lines.  This network combined with the RER network, would make for a very broad, region wide network.  When faced with a choice, it is important, that frequency be a very serious part of the consideration.  A service based on a 4 car train every 5 minutes instead of a 12 car one every 15, will be seen to be much more attractive.  Clearly there are limits to frequency, and a need to balance costs, but a line that runs little service off peak and only every 15 minutes on, will be seen as less attractive.  If this service competes with a nearby subway, even one that is somewhat slower, many more riders are going to subway, or worse car.  Richmond Hill for instance is one of those instances, and if we had an alternate ROW for the north end, we could run very frequent service.  This may justify a conversion to LRT for the entire line, so that there is a more direct and highly frequent, fast, link to core.  This option needs to be protected at both ends, even if we build a DRL to Sheppard.  If the GTA starts to truly make a move towards transit, we may be amazed how quickly the north south rapid transit lines fill to capacity again, or how quickly we feel the lack of express/higher speed east west routes further north.

Along with RER, when we think about connecting a regional network, we need to make sure lines either run across regional borders, or are frequent enough that transfers are a non issue.  If we are going to address congestion, we need a broad rapid transit network, that reaches close to most jobs, and residences, and does not direct trips a long ways out of their way to flow through nodes, that is more destination neutral than the current TTC is, let alone GO.  This requires being very careful about creating linkages, and service frequency.  LRT & BRT links can allow GO rail to serve many of the non core destinations, but these services must be frequent enough as to make the service feel seamless. That means running LRT & BRT lines to and through logical junction points with GO/RER services and to points where they will meet other regional services.  The value of each line, will be heavily influenced by how it is attached to the balance of the network.  GO to Guildwood now, has questionable impact, except as a collector, but if all of midtown could be reached, well, it might well become a destination station from a GO perspective.

The value of a line is based heavily on how it is connected – to other transit.  The more origins and destinations it can serve effectively, the more likely it is to be really useful.  GO Rail needs to serve more destinations to really broaden its impact, but cannot reasonably hope to do so directly.  Tying it in with a rapid transit system that effectively serves them at a point that does not involve large amounts of backtracking, means that GO in effect can also support that destination.  Therefore, to make transit work in the broader GTA – means integrating all the rapid transit with GO Rail, and not just at Union.  While not all destinations can be served by Rapid Transit, and certainly an even smaller group using GO to Rapid Transit, integration of services, broadening the areas served, and making zoning appropriate, can go a long ways to gradually moving a much larger portion of trips to transit, and stop or at least slow the growth of auto trips. Not all of TransitCity was practical as planned, but the general notion created a network, that would permit tying in bus, GO, and the neighboring transit systems, without over loading the lines in question.  Toronto requires 1 more heavy link – DRL, so take the Don Mills LRT and extend it south to the core, and make it subway, and well… Now what about Jane – this remains an issue in need of addressing, but well the concept remains – broad strokes, a necessary evolution of Toronto transit, a broad rapid transit network, that can be built at multiple cost and capacity levels. This network needs to be connected to all regional transit and even extended beyond the bounds of Toronto, but it should involve very few subway extensions, and a lot of lower capacity lines, that get people where they want to go.

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