Monday, December 08, 2008

Metrolinx Plan Needs Federal Funds

Last September 24th, Metrolinx, the Regional Transportation Authority in the Greater Toronto Area, unveiled a plan to expand public transit in the area, both within in and outside Toronto. The need for public transit is so great that even the Reader's Digest wrote a special report in the last two issues. It has been sorely neglected in Toronto for almost three decades, and when the NDP government of Bob Rae unveiled an ambitious subway expansion plan that would have accommodated Toronto's growing needs for the next several decades, they were defeated for other reasons and the Mike Harris Conservatives promptly cancelled the whole thing at a cost of tens of millions of dollars. Only a rump of the Sheppard line was saved due to North York's Mayor Mel Lastman having public fits. Unfortunately, we no longer have mayors who have public fits.

Anyway, the need is so obviously bad that the province now gets that public transit is good for everyone. Hallelujah! Metrolinx's plan comprises everything from highway expansions (not exactly public, but you know that you can never have too many roads) to rapid transit to new bicycle lanes to GO expansion to extending the Spadina and Yonge subway in the "near" term and adding a short downtown east-west line in 25 years. Oh goodie, only 25 more years of sardine-ville. There's supposed to be an airport link in there too. Uh huh. While London has had one for donkey's years and built more, we discuss it.

We really, really, really need a subway along Queen Street. The only east-west subway is getting too crowded during non-rush hours; it's inefficient to have to go south or north to use that one east-west subway; and having only one I bet changes settlement patterns and decreases productivity due to lost time in commuting. Many transit buffs subscribe to the fast streetcar model over any subway building, but on narrow, overcrowded downtown streets, subways are simply superior. And most important of all, commuters prefer them and thus will use them, will move to where they are, and on heavily frequented Queen, a subway will pay for itself.

Having said all that, it is nice to see a comprehensive transit plan, but without Federal money, it's going nowhere. The Tories had nada in their stick-it-to-the-opposition economic statement, so concerned are they with the health of this country, the needs of her citizens, and our economy. But the threat of losing power may actually, shockingly get them to ante up. We may finally, finally get new public transit built in the GTA and even in Toronto. The Metrolinx plan unfortunately does not reduce commute time substantially. But the cost of catching up with almost three decades of lost time is prohibitive.

1 comment:

Jordan said...

Anyone who commutes and tries to park at the Finch subway station knows how hard it is to find a spot. VivaNext is the plan to alleviate this headache and they created a blog. Go to vivanext.com/blog and have your say – and don’t forget to vote for the subway!