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Toronto – A Regional Plan – is all about integration. 

One of the key things that is lacking in the GTA is discipline, as recently seen in the decision by Brampton City Council to not accept their portion of the Hurontario – Maine LRT.   This really does undermine one of the keys in making a western side of region network function. This LRT was meant to link all the way to the Kitchener GO line. It is important that we not look at each municipality as an Island, because workers, employers, and shoppers do not regard the borders as important, and when transit forces strong divides, it merely creates a lot more trips by auto.

If the GTA is to work its way towards having transit actually serve – in allowing people a real alternative to auto for most trips, it must form a much more destination neutral network. The existing GO Train network is entirely focused on delivering riders to the core, and taking them home.   Increasing its capacity – will not reduce congestion across the region, and cannot be expected to have an impact on the 401 say.

There is a very real need to make it much easier to get to a much broader set of destinations. To this end, we need rapid transit that serves to deliver people to the employment concentrations around the region, however, we need to be realistic about the modes that can reasonably be. The Mississauga City Centre does not come close to needing a subway line, nor does Markham City Centre, the Richmond Hill City centre, the Meadowvale business district, or even the Scarborough Town Centre. It is critical, however, if we want to sustain mobility in the region, that we begin to make all these areas, accessible, with reasonable travel times from most of the region by transit.

It is also critical, that we make much better use of the links we currently have, by building a network, that ties them to other locations. This is the rub with Brampton’s decision, it affects a lot more than Brampton.

Many Modes

To make a truly a transit plan that will actually serve the region, means getting past the subway addiction, and looking at building a broad network that is capacity, and trip appropriate. To this end, I would like to actually discuss more modes, than are usually discussed, in building a broad network, we need to look at BRT and LRT, as having at least 2 distinct formats each, which are practically distinct modes. A BRT running in an within expressway ROW, or power corridor, is not generally locally available, as such it is not really a local mode, but a very quick regional one.

LRT running in a tunnel or with total grade separation, similarly, is very different than one running in median with frequent stops.

Network – as a web

If we are actually going to build transit, as a viable way of moving the majority of the trips in the GTA, it needs to be a wide network, very nearly a web, much like the road network for autos. Like this network, not all branches need be created the same, they each have their own role, and they need to work seamlessly as a feeder system. Continuing the approach of subway extension, like the TYSSE will break the bank, and not result in a broad, effective network.   There is a need to provide much broader coverage than this approach can ever hope to create. We need to start thinking in terms of frequent bus routes, feeding even more frequent LRT & BRT routes that in turn run to subways, GO and employment concentrations.

Toronto and the rest of the GTA, needs to build a frequent network, that is basically immune to congestion on the roads, and to do this well, will require GO trains be both frequent, and bi-directional. If the dream of RER is fully realized, where all GO lines offered 2 way service every 15 minutes or better, they can become a very real part of a much broader transit network. It will however, require additional linkages to make this truly work.

Looking at the region

Toronto has done a detailed survey of requirements, Metrolinx has as well, but politics continually muddy the water. RER will serve core bound riders, however, a proper rapid transit web would permit this to be the region as a whole.

Support for Growth at the core

The province has recently started to push a massive GO expansion, ahead of virtually all other projects – I believe this to be wrong headed. I think a far stronger emphasis on incremental growth for GO is critical, to free up resources to build a DRL. This singular link, provides the opportunity to provide linkages to a much broader network, that will also serve non core trips. RER is critical to long-term regional growth, but local transit cannot be dropped to do it, and a broad network is required to make it all work.   A DRL is critical to making this network – make sense, otherwise core bound trips will overwhelm the balance of the network. Ideally the DRL would run from somewhere north of Don Mills and Eglinton, through to a point far enough west of the core, to support a substantial Waterfront West LRT, and continued development in the Liberty Village area and points north, as well as a western gateway GO station to greatly increase commuter capacity into the core.

East Bayfront LRT, would go a long way to opening close to core opportunities for growth, that will permit substantial continued growth, for a relatively small investment. Such link will encourage growth where it can most affordably be accommodated.  What is required to support this at Union should also permit an extension of capacity for the Harbor Front car, and perhaps much more frequent runs to the CNE grounds.


The Scarborough Subway extension is the classic case in point of the political games being played with transit in the region. There was a real plan in place to replace the RT with a viable – and much less costly LRT, that would have provided more than enough capacity, and could have been easily extended. The additional money to build subway, could easily fund a broad network, that would cover most of Scarborough, and provide real linkage to GO. Instead of subway, I would strongly suggest that we revert to something that looks much more like what Transit City did. However, the one line at a time historic approach, combined with political games, has greatly undermined the belief in the notion of a network – even when the cost for a network is no more than a single line, and a clearly more effective solution.

Build the Scarborough – Malvern LRT to the end of the subway, and the Eglinton – Crosstown LRT.   The Crosstown, however, should either continue as the STC link or the Scarborough-Malvern LRT. The RT replacement, needs to continue ideally as far as the Sheppard LRT, as a grade separated LRT, with the ability to short turn trains at the end of the grade separated portion. This provides for both higher speed and capacity, preserving the ability to run 30 or 40 trains per hour on the highest demand section.   Sheppard LRT needs to provide high quality frequent and reasonably local service – however this begs a need for longer distance services.

It is critical to note that the Sheppard LRT would link both ways to the Stouffville RER line and the Scarborough Malvern LRT – would link both ways to the Lakeshore, and Stouffville lines.   Thus the Scarborough Malvern LRT provides 2 way ridership opportunities to both (ie a link between Oshawa and Markham). With a Markham road BRT as well, a rider on Sheppard bound somewhere other than the North York City Centre would have a wide variety of alternatives.



This region needs a plan nearly as extensive as what Scarborough had, however, TransitCity had some really good ideas, although some of this is now much harder to build.

Finch West LRT needs to be built to extend all the way to the airport, or the Malton GO in the west, and the Yonge Subway line in the east. The corridor is important, in terms of providing long-term connectivity to the region as a whole. There is a real need to link North York City center with the GO from the west, and provide an easier, through route for ZUM. There was a reason that Transit City had this as a through link.


We want to offer an alternative to driving, for those from Brampton, Mississauga and beyond.


Mimico – and southern Etobicoke

The addition of a Waterfront West LRT would add greatly to transit support for development, which is happening anyway in the Lake front area of southern Etobicoke. This is a high desirable area to develop, but more than GO support will be required, as GO is very likely to become badly overloaded, even at 12 trains per hour on the Lakeshore West line. Also this line provides the possibility of collecting and distributing GO ridership much more effectively in the areas between stations.

North South –

Right now there are a couple of very busy north south bus routes in Etobicoke. Kipling and Islington, both see a ridership of over 15k and pushing 20k per day. I would propose converting one of them – Kipling – to at least a BRT route, that would link through the airport and provide a link between the various east west routes. There was originally an LRT station built into the Kipling subway station, and this idea could be revived.   Such a line would provide linkage for the Hwy 427 business corridor, and the high-density residential area that has also grown up along it, tie the Mississauga Transit way, and Kitchener GO along with the airport district to the subway, Lakeshore GO. It also provides a much higher degree of neutrality, as riders could head west and north or south from much of western Etobicoke to reach the employment districts around the airport, the rest of Mississauga and Brampton.


North York

Along with the Sheppard East LRT, and the Finch West LRT all the way to Yonge, I would also suggest an extension of the Yonge subway as far as Steeles, to support a greatly enhanced turn capacity, and a station able to support a couple of LRT lines, one east west on Steeles, and another headed north to support York Region. The east west LRT may start life as a BRT, but needs to be considered to act as a collector to support a large number of bus routes.

Also the DRL needs to come through to at least Don Mills and Eglinton and meet an LRT on Don Mills at its terminus, although the province has presented an argument, to extend this as far as Sheppard, which would make a more ideal point to anchor an LRT line – although also greatly more expensive.



VIVA BRT – well underway needs to be completed, there are 2 east west BRT that need to link the region, and provide linkage to the proposed north south routes.

West-The budget has in essence already been blown here, with the TYSSE, and it will be hard to argue for much beyond BRT connecting to the end of the subway.

Central -The plan to build a Yonge Subway extension, seems very much a massive cost, to a single link, where this will direct too much load in a single direction, and will simply cost too much – while adding too little.

York region LRT The Yonge subway extension, should be replaced by 2 LRT lines, one to connect the Yonge subway, one to connect the DRL, which would presumably run as far as Sheppard. These LRT would connect to the various York region bus lines, and both east west BRT (highway 7/407 and Davis Road).   Building LRT will provide for far greater opportunity to extend rapid transit in the future.

East-Along with the Stouffville GO becoming RER- there should also be a supplemental north south – BRT connecting to the end of the Scarborough RT replacement.

Mississauga – Brampton

Mississauga already has 3 lines, either proposed, under construction, or complete. The Mississauga transit way, the Hurontario-Maine LRT and the Dundas Street BRT, are the ones currently on the list.

Currently, we have hugely limited the value of the Transitway, by cutting the Crosstown short, and as such the Crosstown, becomes critical to Mississauga’s network as well, as would a Kipling BRT/LRT. If we completed the Crosstown, and built a connecting North south route just inside Toronto, the value of this line grows dramatically.

I lump these 2 together, because of the Hurontario-Maine LRT, which should have also linked their city centers.

Brampton backed out, in part because they wanted a Queen Street line first. While I think this is wrong headed, an east west service, that will continue to be immune to congestion is important. However, this service makes considerably more sense when it is linked to a north south one.   There is a need in the long-term plan to add a service that links Brampton east-west, although the LRT would also link Brampton to other east west links.

Along with the currently proposed lines for Mississauga, I believe there is a need for an additional BRT linking Meadowvale and Erindale and their respective GO lines. This would currently see little use, but provides for future development, and growth in local transit – without requiring long runs on congested roads. This BRT should also extend north into the areas of Brampton that are still developing, and a route should be reserved now. Also such a line could act as an important feeder to the regional system.


Remaining regional concern:

The other issue that needs to be addressed in looking at that the region as a whole is creating a higher speed east west link that does not detour through the core. This would provide for a rapid link between other rapid transit, and local transit distribution hubs. So for instance it would go from the STC (1) to a stop on Stouffville GO (2) the end of the Sheppard Subway, and a Don Mills subway (3) line in a single stop, next stop being the Yonge Subway (4), then the University line (5), and next the airport (6). Each of these locations would in turn be a major mobility hub, where there was a very fast link, acting like commuter rail between them. This rapid link running every 5 minutes or so would mean that a hop from the STC to the airport could comfortably under 30 minutes.   If this was extended to the Pickering GO, you would have a high speed transit links to serve all major employment areas, and transit links across the city, including, permitting the Morningside hook and Scarborough Malvern LRT to enjoy a rapid anchor at the outer end.   Such a link draws its value from the existence of a broad rapid transit network, tightly connected a very extensive local transit network.   It would exist – purely to provide a way to jump quickly between major nodes. It is not clear to me what capacity this would need to be, as it would over time alter the way transit it used and likely make a substantial – if gradual change in employment decisions. Instinctively, this would be a fully grade separated LRT, capable of running 100 km/h or better, and would likely start as a 2 car LRT every 5 minutes, and grow from there. It would be important however, to ensure that the line would be able to absorb substantial growth and the stations be designed so as to allow extremely heavy transfer activity, as we could reasonably expect 25-40% turnover at many of the stops. Such a line would resolve many of the concerns now surrounding lines like the Sheppard LRT, as you could ride a small portion of that line, and then take an express ride to the major node.


Currently the province suggests that even with the BIG MOVE that we will at best tread water. I believe this is because of a mix of too much politics draining away money on poorly conceived projects, and not enough resources being available.   Clearly we could not build the list above in a matter of weeks or months, but with help from the federal government, a careful sequencing of projects, and building the most effective projects first, with a constant eye to the network as a whole, it could be done in a way that took us beyond merely treading water, within the next 20 years.

While a DRL is only being considered to extend the Yonge subway, it should be a major priority, and part of an early build. Beyond this single very high capacity link, instead of building anymore subway extension, lower capacity lines should be built to greatly broaden the network. The DRL is required to intensify the network, subway extension, is inappropriate.

Such a network could be reasonably built with reasonable support from both the province and the Federal governments, not least because it avoids the excessive use of subway.   It would also be important to note this last link – only makes sense in the presence of the wider network, and as such should be built very late in the game. The balance of the network needs to be taken in order. The projects that can be built without loading up the Yonge subway – should be started quickly. That would mean 500 million in the core for the East Bayfront LRT, 3.8 billion for Scarborough (LRT for RT replacement, Scarborough Malvern LRT including Morningside hook, and a Markham Road and Ellesmere Ave BRT), about 2 billion in Rexdale, extending Finch West to the airport and Yonge, and the Crosstown to the Renforth Gateway also about 2 billion for a capacity increasing extension of Yonge to Steeles and about 2.5 billion for Mississauga Brampton (Hurontario-Maine LRT, Queen BRT, and Dundas BRT and Erindale-Meadowvale-Brampton BRT), or a total of 10-11 or so billion dollars- that could be spent without a DRL, on projects not already underway.

The construction of a DRL will likely consume 7-10 billion in itself, but will then enable the construction of the Waterfront West LRT, a Don Mills LRT to and through York Region, and a Yonge Street LRT, for a total of another 15 or so billion, including the DRL.   This would bring the total to 25 or so billion plus RER investments, that should be running along at say a billion a year for a total of about 12-13 billion (or under 40 billion total). If this expenditure is spread over 3 levels of government and 20 years – of continuous construction, the investment could kept in the area of $1 billion per level of government, per year.  However $3 billion per annum – would be enough to have a substantial impact on the region. At the end of the period we could then afford to look at that high-speed link between the major nodes in the regional transit system. The commitment to continuous construction and the immediate reservation of space for ROW, would also start to change the form of construction, and location of new employment.   I believe that building what we can build without a DRL, and the incrementally rolling out RER, will permit the region to nearly hold its own congestion wise. Completing the DRL and rerouting buses, and continuing to build LRT beyond, should allow a rethinking of travel patterns and a continuing shift in modes, that will allow us to actually begin to reduce congestion.

At the end of this build cycle, you would the build a Steeles Ave LRT across the city and a Lawrence East LRT to the end of Lawrence- thus opening more area for development, and the opportunity to further support local bus routes, in a way that truly transformed the region.

Comment to the BRT Crowd – for those who claim BRT can carry the load.

I have read a bunch of pieces from Cato institute, among others, that I find a little frustrating.  Yes, if you run enough buses you can exceed the capacity of a single rail each way – LRT – that you constrain to 3 cars, and 20 trains per hour.  However, when you make that comparison, what are in effect doing?  Yes, you can have buses passing each other and staggered stops, but that either means an open right of way, and being subjected to congestion, or well having platforms plus a stop lane plus a running lane for the bus in each direction.  This means 3 lanes dedicated to buses assuming the stop directions are offset.  If you are running say a 3 car LRT at 3 minutes, you have a very comfortable capacity of 8100, and a reasonably one of 9,000.  If you are going to match this, and are looking at replacing this capacity with articulated buses you are looking at something on the order of 120 buses per hour.  Why are we limiting the LRT to 20 trains per hour? This is based entirely on signal timing and pedestrian flows.   If you are looking at a reasonable 3 minute signal cycle and buses running at 120 per hour, well if the buses are perfectly coordinated, there are 4 buses passing through each green signal, perhaps more to the point 90 seconds with no buses, followed by 90 seconds with 4, 2 of which – assuming everything is working perfectly – are right on top of each other.

The other question that we all need to discuss is – why are we limiting the LRT to 3 cars?  It is important to remind ourselves, that the core reason is pedestrian flows, and this is determined by the number of people alighting at any given stop, during a signal cycle.  This is not affected by the vehicle type but rather by the timing of capacity arriving at the stop, 120 vehicles or 20 it will still be the same number of passengers, trying to cross during a limited signal.

So yes, if you offset stops, organize for platoons of vehicles, are willing to dedicate a lane equivalent for stops and one in each direction for travel, platforms on  – you can achieve the same or even greater capacity, however, you will need much more space in the roadway – which is the primary argument against LRT, and you will still have pedestrian flow issues, which is what will limit the capacity of LRT.  If you build stations with walkways etc, and are in an area where you are prepared to ensure there are only crossing streets at a spacing of greater than 120 meters, you could run trains of 4 cars – and a capacity of 12,000.  Increase the road spacing to 150 meters you can easily get 15,000 – and I would be surprised if achieving this road spacing is really an issue.  However, think of 750 passengers passing through a point in each direction in 3 minutes, and half of them want to alight at a given stop.  So you have 750 pedestrians trying to cross at a given intersection – in a given signal timing.  This is not really a question of the capacity of the mode, but rather station planning.

So we need to ask the questions with regards to what makes sense, and one of the question needs to be – how much space are we able to dedicate to transit within the road, can we actually have 3 lanes and 2 sets of platforms, or are we going to restrict it to 2 and 1 set of platforms.  Next what kind of stations are we building, if we are going to build stations to handle large pedestrian flows, then we can increase the capacity of LRT or BRT, but lets be straight forward about it.  We also need to ask the questions about impact on the corridor, would you want to back onto a corridor with 120 Articulated buses roar by every hour (or 180 regular buses)?  If we dedicate the space, design the stations, and ensure that road crossings are sparse – we could run 5, or even 6 car LRTs, but there really is not many spaces where there would be near that level of demand, and where there is, we would likely want to,  be able to justify, a subway, with stations designed to handle the flows of riders.

BRT in the GTA, has it role, and does even within Toronto, but the space in the rights of way, flows, timing, and destinations of riders are key in making the choices.  LRT makes more sense in a 36 meter right of way with more than 2800 riders in peak hour & direction.  That would mean 2 fully loaded articulated buses per signal in a single direction.

The promise of federal money – time to move?

I would say it is time that we had a look at the federal money promised to Toronto and the GTA for transit. 2.6 billion for SmartTrack, 660 million for the Scarborough Subway.  This is specific funding, and Toronto and the fed, need to work towards making this generic.  Scarborough needs a broader solution than subway, Toronto, a broader one than SmartTrack.  Also the Liberals promised a 10 year $20 Billion – national transit infrastructure program.  While by population the GTHA should get about 20% of that, if we look at it on the basis of projects that are really needing funding, and where it will make the most substantial difference, the GTHA, should be in line for closer 40%.  I would make the point that the aid needs to be focused on the larger projects, that can actually have a real impact, and that are not as of yet funded.  Vancouver and Toronto, have very real need in this department.  Ottawa, Kitchener/Waterloo are in process with substantial projects that will transform the transit landscape, and Calgary is in the process of completing a substantial project that hugely enhanced capacity there.  Beyond this there is the Green Line, but well, that would be a couple of billion between all 3 levels of government.  Montreal, is also in much better shape that Toronto, in terms of massive needs for capital in transit.

Let us not get carried away of excited by the possibility of this money – it would only be 7-8 billion of new, even if we got the 30-40%, plus the say 3.2 billion already committed.  If we find matching local, and provincial money, that is at best $21-$24 billion new and 9 already committed.  Yes it sounds like an awful lot – but I would assume that the 2.6 will be consumed by RER so basically back to the 21-24.  So when we look at what Toronto really needs and well: 7-9 billion on a DRL – long version, $3-4 for LRT & BRT in Scarborough -{ Sheppard East, Malvern, the Morningside Hook, the RT replacement, and even a bit on Kingston road south west of Eglinton as LRT and the Ellesmere BRT as well as something North South – on say Markham Rd}.  The west, north and south  also have  needs –  extending Finch to the Airport and east to at least Yonge, the Crosstown to the airport and a Kipling LRT airport to the Lake.  In the south the East Bayfront LRT and Waterfront West LRT, to support development in Liberty Village and area, near the Humber river and west, and redevelopment of the CNE grounds.  If we assume even this massive budget, we cannot afford subway, except where it cannot be helped for lack of ROW and massive capacity required.

Beyond Toronto, Hurontario LRT will need funding, as well an LRT tie into the DRL or Yonge subway for York region, as well as some support for Durham.    Assuming that we are looking at $24 billion (ie 8 billion federal matched all the way up, including the already promised SSE funds)  This does not relieve the province at all, and they still would need to fund GO RER, other than the 2.6 billion.  However, properly integrated, it would allow the region to actually start to move on commuting times, as long as people are willing to get out of their cars.  It would transform transit, hugely broaden its coverage inside and out of the city, and massively improve capacity into the core.  That is in essence – it would not only allow the Goose to keep laying the Golden Eggs, but perhaps even increase their output.

It would also enable Toronto itself to take on a much larger share of the population growth, reducing sprawl, increasing density, and possibly even allow the city to become more attractive and livable – as the region took on another 3 million people, instead of crawling to a halt.  The Big Move is not large enough to prevent things from getting worse, let alone make them better, and it is clear that the province does not have the money to execute even this quickly.  Some of the 2nd wave projects are now being moved into the 15 year list, but still need design, let alone funding – most important being the DRL.  This along with a broad application of lower capacity rapid transit, to supply broad coverage of a smoother faster ride than can.

All 3 levels of governments need to get serious, and getting professionally developed transit plans and stop getting professionally developed political plans – that involve transit (and pretend to be transit plans).  The problem is that there is a huge need to build a real – regional rapid transit network.  This must also match capacity needs, and would absorb those $24 billion quite easily.  However, in so doing would transform the region, and the nature of the growth it is seeing.   Transit needs to be rethought better to support a very wide set of destinations, the major employment districts in Toronto, Mississauga, and York, all need much easier transit based access – notably including the airport corporate center, and this from much more of the region.   Major destinations away from the core can also in some cases act like hubs to allow through trips. Ideally a Finch West LRT, Crosstown LRT, Kipling LRT, Mississauga Transitway, and Malton GO would all interact to support the airport and corporate area beyond, and would be tied together by say through routing a Kipling &/or Finch LRT through Malton GO and the Renforth Gateway.  Providing a couple of points through which Brampton Transit and Mississauga Transit could naturally feed real rapid transit service across all of Toronto as well as core bound heavy rail service.

LRT projects can tie together heavier services to begin to provide real beyond core service for GO rail, Lakeshore East to Stouffville in Scarborough, Lakeshore West to Kitchener (and hence the airport)- through Mississauga and Brampton City centers, as well as connecting Mississauga Transitway.  Frequent service on these GO lines, combined with very frequent service on the rapid transit services, begins to make alternate use of GO much more viable.

What Toronto can do to improve transit, and neighborhoods.

The fight about LRT in some areas – has been about the belief that it would mean giving up space for cars. The plan to date has been about preserving that space, but perhaps, we should be having a discussion instead about improving the city. Would it make more sense to make the rail right of way wider, and greener?   Create a visual break from road, and make the area on the ROW grass between the rails? Trees beside? Note the feel of the roadway (which is quite large) in Strasbourg in the video below.

Make room for bikes along the edges of the roadway, and try reducing the roadway to 4  through lanes(2 each way), plus turn lanes at intersections. Imagine Finch West with more trees, and space between road lanes. Rezone the area, to put a much greater emphasis on walking and transit, and redo the roadway, and try to bring the area along in the same way.

I would like to see a change in the local zoning beside LRT lines, that reduces the requirement for parking by 50%. Malls that were beside a stop required to have half the one spot per use – be permitted to make the assumption that ½ of all of their shoppers would approach the mall by transit, bike or on foot.   This would permit for a substantial increase in density, while making more of the services accessible by foot.  The local malls would be able to redevelop their parking lots, with much more local service.  There would be more room for increased population, while making the area more livable.

Toronto is supposed to be about people, not cars. We need to ask how we want to get around, and stop asserting that cars is how we get around, without looking at options.  If transit worked, why would we not use it? We have run out of room to make the car work.  We need to focus on making alternatives work. If we take a constructive approach, we can hugely improve commutes, make communities much more livable and reduce sprawl.  Improve transit, and biking options, reduce the requirement for parking, and we have more space for people. The requirement to serve the car is now a barrier to living well, that we need to get past.  These LRT need to be well connected to other transit to collect and distribute people across the city, without going miles out their way.

However, if we build a network of LRT with frequent service, that actually goes where people want to go, and use the opportunity to improve the road and change zoning, we can transform the city, reduce congestion, and create much better places to live.

Transit and the GTA – a vision is required.

While the GTA needs a transit vision, this needs to be developed by city and land use planners and transit experts, without significant interference from politicians.  Toronto has spent too many years with politically driven visions for transit in the region.  This has meant plans that could be sold to the public have been outlandishly outsized.  The Vaughan extension should not have been built, at least not as far north as it was, the Scarborough and Richmond Hill extensions do not appear to be based on sound planning, but rather the easy political sell of subway.  This is exactly what we need as a region to move beyond.  Extending Yonge will require a new subway to be built in order to provide capacity within Toronto, and require it to be much longer, as it will mean overloading the Yonge line much further north.

First, Ontario and the GTA needs to create integrated regional plan and a formal organized priority list.  Look at where the development is, where there will be the largest impact for the fewest dollars.  A clear goal of where we are trying to get to, and what that vision looks like needs to be developed.   Planners not politicians need indicate what the most urgent projects are, and what else they enable.  The idea of rapid transit – that tied to a tight network of local transit, and enabled transit based commutes to a much broader portion of the region, much more quickly.  This needs to be the play book for the region, not just the city, and the plan needs to provide for a transformation in planning – and create areas where the requirements for parking etc can be lifted beyond the core.  Markham City Centre, Richmond Hill City Centre, the Airport Corporate Centre, Scarborough Town Centre, North York City Centre etc, all need to be quickly and easily accessed from across the region via rapid transit, as does every major college and university campus.

A real debate needs to be had, around the plan as it will change the region, and not around single lines etc.  It needs to create a reset in terms of looking at the issues, and how transit will work, for the entire region, and how it can be integrated.  It is important that we start to view transit in the same way roads function, as an integrated network.  Nobody drives only the 401 from their origin to their destination, they work their way thr Collectors, arteries, limited access /express routes, and a tight surface grid.  Roads are not designed to provide access all to a single location, but rather provide a web of service, transit must be transformed to achieve the same end.  While there is a real need to provide a substantial increase in GO capacity, there needs to be an understanding of what else can be achieved, how much additional capacity is required on each line, and how else this can be used to provide real integration for a region wide transit network, not just a core oriented system.

GO needs to be a part of a web of service, that should be able to be much more destination neutral, than the current vision is.  I imagine seeing large hubs around GO stations, that are served by links to the closest large business concentration, these links providing service enough to make GO to the outer business districts attractive, Stouffville line to Markham, Kitchener line to the Airport Corporate district.  There is also a real need to link these lines to each other, or rather other GO lines to the local services.  Oakville to the Airport, should not involve a trip downtown, but if you could use say the Hurontario LRT, to jump between lines.  Where we are not already approaching capacity of the line, electrification needs to take a back seat to integration, and there needs to be a region wide vision, of what this web of service will look like, and this, not a Scarborough or Yonge subway extension needs to be the focus of debate. When we start to integrate these services, where will we need to the next large increase in capacity to make it work? The original Transit City plan, while not focused on this goal, could have provided critical linkages to and from GO to a wide variety of locations within the city.  It also integrated far more of the city with close rapid transit. A similar plan is required for the region, and where there are clear capacity issues, they need to be addressed within the framework of this network, and modeled as part of a broader system, where the flows of riders where they originate, where they are destined, is clear, and not being manipulated for electoral politics.  We should not be looking at the DRL in isolation, but as part of a network, how far does it need to go, to have the required network effects?  Can the portion beyond Eglinton be LRT? Where do we actually need electrification on GO to support required frequency?  Also GO, as it has indicated needs to refocus on service levels more than capacity.  4 K per hour as 2 trains is much less desirable, than it is as 4, which is less desirable than 6.  Building a network to support a train every 5 minutes would be ideal, however in the choices we are making, we need to look at what that means we are giving up, with the limited resources that can be directed at addressing transit in the region.  Building a line as part of a 5 minute network, that does not connect well with anything beyond the core, does not address the needs of the region as a whole, unless this is also required to support capacity required into the core.

What needs to be built in order to support support a large increase in the uptake of transit?  How do we drive transit as not only the main transportation mode to the core, but most of the region? That to me means being able to have a complete system of local and regional transit, that includes local rapid transit, and integrated with it regional transit.  It means being able to use transit in the same way we use roads, not having to pay a fare every time we transfer, and a system that supports transfers in many more places, which requires much more frequent services.  The plan for the region needs to focus on creating hubs that can be best served by transit, which means they must be very walkable – at the point of connection and final destination, not built with a sea of parking.  Where we are radically improving transit access, we should also look at reducing parking requirements.

However, the vision needs to flow from planners, not politicians, and needs to be created with the detailed origin destination information, and built based on an overall model of the region, with alternate versions of a network being evaluated, not a single line.  GO cannot absorb the vast majority of capital available, merely to bring forward the date of full network electrification.  We need to have it clear in our minds that BRT is a critical portion of a viable transit system, and can provide rapid service for huge areas, and for most of the GTHA, should be the first and most common building block.  Subway should only be being used, where there is no reasonable ROW available, and there is massive demand.  One can imagine a network with short lengths of tunnel approaching subway, near Yonge where there is not the road allowance, to support LRT, and then substantial lengths of LRT being fed by BRT at the end of the line and several crossing BRTs, to form a web of rapid transit immune to congestion, where even the BRT was of varying types, in most cases it being primarily comprised  of bus queue jump lanes, well ordered transit priority signals etc.  A smaller number of routes, where demand was considerably heavier, being dedicated full lanes.  It would quite reasonable for instance to see a couple of north south dedicated lane BRTs in both Scarborough, and in Etobicoke, where these would link subway to a couple of east-west LRT lines, and perhaps even a couple of east west BRT lines.  Other than making transit fast and reliable that needs to be done in the GTA is of course making space on it.  That means more frequent buses, more rides that do not rely on subway and more capacity through much of the system.

Regional Planning – not local politics

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.

Planning versus politics

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.