The second issue that plagues Torontonians the most is the increasing inadequacy of the TTC to meet our transit needs. Increasingly, the subway is packed morning, noon, and night, not just during the day. This is true for the less-crowded Bloor-Danforth line as much as for the Yonge-University line. Bus service has not gone back to previous service levels. Fares are too high, and we're being told that we cannot afford more subways -- even though Montreal now has more lines than we do, and guess whose taxes paid for those? It seems rather ridiculous that my taxes can help Montreal build subways, but I'm told that I have to settle for more buses (which many TTC users hate), longer streetcars (which are a nightmare to figure out when in the back half as the drivers still refuse to call out the stops except maybe for King Street), and perhaps dedicated streetcar or bus lanes. None of these measures will in any meaningful way reduce congestion on the main arteries nor will it reduce travel times. Taking the car will remain superior when time is important -- and one has that option.
David Miller has a vision for the TTC. According to his website, he has stopped the decline of the TTC. I beg to differ. It's harder and harder for me to find a seat in the middle of the day (which means the trains are reaching capacity during non-rush hours), service is erratic, drivers still don't call out stops, fares are too high -- including the obscenely priced Metropasses -- and it's often a pigsty. There has been zero change in capital projects, just a lot of talk, some studies, and aside from the $670 million the province set aside for subway expansion no goals or commitments. Miller did not secure that money; the Liberals did it to make the northwest happy.
Miller talks of making streetcars and buses as speedy and reliable as the subway. Physically impossible. The subway has no traffic lights nor other traffic to deal with, and you cannot put right-of-ways in every single arterial road in Toronto. In fact, other than Spadina and parts of St. Clair, no other road is wide enough. It's interesting that all his proposals for this speedy and reliable above-ground service are in the not-going-anywhere waterfront area and in the outer reaches, whereas the worst congested areas for the TTC are in the middle and south areas of the city. From Cork to Toronto recommends a different form of streetcar, something Miller mulls over as well in his vision. Yet that won't overcome the fundamental problem that streetcars run along congested roads, and there's nowhere else to put them. In the end, all Miller's proposals are small, except for the York University line. But he proposed it because the province wants it. And his proposal to extend and upgrade the Scarborough RT is a non-starter because the line is old and way beyond capacity and no-one is manufacturing new parts. It has to either become a subway line (the logical solution) or a busway (freezing and uncomfortable and crowded for the commuters but will make the bean counters happy).
Jane Pitfield has a competing vision, and she grabbed everyone's attention by declaring that she would build 2 km per year of subway line. The original builders of the subway envisioned this, and their successors followed this idea until the mid-1980s when despite cash flowing like rivers, the do-nothing Art Eggleton was voted in, and everything ground to a halt. Pitfield is resurrecting an old, proven idea. Unfortunately, she has no specifics. On the other hand, unlike Miller, she will start working with the GTA for region-wide integration of transit, something that's doable in the immediate term.
So since Pitfield has no ideas for subways. Here are a couple. Classic Quarters recommends a diagonal line that would connect Scarborough with the downtown, eliminating at least 3 changes to get from the northeast to midtown.
The critics of the proposed subway lines and the Sheppard line say they are only worth the expense where density allows. Even though the Sheppard buses were a nightmare of being stuffed like sardines, the subway is pretty empty. Part of the problem is that it was not completed as per the original plan due to the Mike Harris government's transit ineptitude and so it doesn't fully meet the needs of the riders along that corridor. So if density is a prime consideration, why has no-one, and I mean NO-ONE, looked at the fact that we have two north-south lines, but only one east-west line (notwithstanding the short Sheppard line); that we have such crowded streetcars along Queen and King that it's standard to wait and wait and wait as one crowded car after another passes, until finally 3 show up in a row and one can get on the last one; that the speed of these cars makes molasses look fast due to the narrowness and congestion of these arterial roads; and that lots of people work and live all along these streets.
Thanks to James Bow, I now know that the TTC recommends subways are viable where density is 100 people or jobs per hectare or higher. According to their very own map, the density in 1996 along Queen Street ranges from 250 person and jobs per hectare between what looks like Spadina and Bay to over 100 from Coxwell in the east to Keele in the west. In other words, from Coxwell to Keele, Queen Street meets their viability requirement to build a subway. This is a longer stretch than on Yonge Street, which has the most crowded line on the system. It encompasses 19 stops along the Bloor-Danforth line, which has a slightly longer but less consistent high density pattern as Queen, probably partly because of the existence of the subway for the past 40 years. Queen is also as far south as one can go and still reach the two far east-west ends of the city.
Nowhere else in Toronto is the density this high, not going towards York U, not along the Scarborough RT, not along Sheppard, nor even along the horrendously crowded Eglinton West bus corridor. And so why, given that the biggest criticism of subway expansion is lack of density, has no-one come out and said a subway is needed here to relive the congestion in this high-density corridor, to relieve the congestion on the Bloor-Danforth line since so many go up to it to speed across Toronto instead of crawling along it on the Queen car, to make taking down of the Gardiner feasible so that all the east-end residents will have an alternative high-speed way to get from east Toronto to downtown or the west end? Why? For the same reason as Miller thinks buses will relieve congestion, even though in no other city of comparable size have they done that. Because we Torontonians have learned helplessness and are too afraid to ask for what we need.
When we only ask for what we think we can get, we will never get what we need.
We need subways.
Only Pitfield has the courage to go back to our city builders and adopt their vision of Toronto, the vision that made us the mecca of transit and cleanliness, the vision that was lost in the 1980s, and the lack of which has landed us in this deteriorating mess where even the most diehard Toronto lovers are musing about where to move to.