Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Metrolinx's Amateur Hour at the TTC

"[Former TTC Chief David] Gunn cites the fact that LRT cars are more expensive and require bigger tunnels than subways, but can't provide the same capacity. Metrolinx, on the other hand, claims that smaller stations and the ability to repurpose the Scarborough RT makes the current plan the better option. The former chief characterizes this rationale as "nonsense."

"His most pronounced criticism was reserved for Metrolinx's decision to mix track gauges (i.e. width), which he said will "go down in railway lore as one of the dumbest decisions
"" (Derek Flack, blogto.com, 5 July 2011)


Ever since the Spadina subway was built, transit expansion has devolved into amateur hour. First we had the Scarborough RT tacked on to the end of the Danforth subway line for political purposes, certainly not for practical or customer-oriented purposes. Ontario wanted to showcase new technology, having zero foresight into how it would work when traffic volumes rose because, well, showcasing shiny new tech was better to think about than how it would work 10, 20, 50 years down the line. Forcing people to transfer in mid-journey at what-has-become a busy part of subway town is customer-unfriendly.

But never mind that. We decided, unlike every other large cosmopolitan city, we knew better, we didn't need subways at all. Again, this attitude was political, this time because our Premier, Mike Harris, came from why-does-Toronto-get-everything whine town, only later realising that with no subways, the economy starts tanking, commute times go up, and people get cranky. I believe he's come out of the tunnel of jealousy and realised Toronto taxes support small towns, not the other way around, but it's a bit late.

Then came the we-can't-build-subways-LRTs-are-better movement. See, other cities do it, they opined. Sure, other cities with mature subway systems, unlike us, or with much smaller populations than us, do it. Again, this is all political and comes from the learned-helplessness mindset. Since the province won't ever give the acutal city of Toronto subways, where they're so badly needed -- why the hell do we have only ONE east-west subway line when King and Queen are packed to the rafters long before they get to downtown?! -- and since they won't restore the operating and capital funding Harris nixed, let's pretend we don't need em, unlike the rest of the planet. Let's pretend SQUISHY LRTs (streetcars) are better. Has anyone actually sat in a subway car then a streetcar and observed the significant difference in space? I know some LRT advocates use the TTC, but sometimes I wonder if they've used their eyeballs while on it.

Now we have an enormous backlog and the worst commute times in North America, and we have a new Mayor who's, horrors!, demanding subways, which are what Torontonians want and are the only mode of transportation that will get a Toronto-sized population to where they want to go in fast enough time and in enough space to get them out of their cars. But the subway-building backlog is so enormous, the why-does-Toronto-get-money whine still there, that the idea of spending the bucks needed to catch up, never mind meet the needs of the city 10 years down the road, makes provincial politicians choke and gasp and chuck us too-few dollars. So we'll get a mismatched LRT instead of a subway and a subway extension up north, which I swear-to-god has to take the Guinness prize for longest-to-get-building prize. But nothing downtown where a subway was needed 20 years ago and nothing into the vast eastern section of Toronto, which has no subway, and nothing into the waterfront area (can't wait for the PanAm games and athletes screaming they didn't get to their competitions on time). And no fix for the Scarborough RT boondoggle that will allow commuters to get on the line and stay on to the end of their journey. And because Toronto didn't vote Tory in the federal election and because historically Canada, unlike the US, doesn't support transit building, the Feds won't pay for any capital TTC expansion -- in spite of the fact that the Tories are all about the economy and that long commute times drain productivity and thus the economy too.

So we're back to amateur hour, where the mistake made with the Scarborough RT will be repeated with the Eglinton LRT, where those in charge refuse to consider the long-term ramifications of population growth overwhelming an LRT system and the added expense of supporting another kind of tech, where tracks and equipment will not be all one kind and thus we won't gain economies of scale when it comes to maintenance.

And who suffers the most for this lack of foresight based on low expectations for Toronto? Us. The TTC customer who has to squish into too-small streetcars, travel in the wrong direction from where we're headed just to get to the one east-west subway line to cross Toronto relatively quickly, or have no access to a subway at all and so have to endure a very, very long trip on the TTC. Seriously, I cannot believe that decades after I began using the TTC, there are still only 2 lines, the truncated and thus useless Sheppard line notwithstanding.

Oh, and the economy and Canada's tax base suffers too. Because while Torontonians are stuck in that almost one and a half hour commute, they're not producing for the country.



2 comments:

CQ said...

Underground? We cannot handle on-the-ground construction projects!
Sidewalks being semi-widen against former four lane roads. (Or try walking at Dundas and Bathhurst where 1ft squared hollowed pavement bumps are installed.) Bike lanes being separated and/or forced upon major roadways only a spitting distance from lesser traffic parallel roads. Repaved sidewalk curbs being ballooned out at minor intersections, still leaving parking spaces but reducing right-turn capability. Big Box and MegaCondos getting built flush to the curbside (see Yonge and Dundas NE corner as exhibit A). Raised platform LRT lines being already installed.
And everything gets rebuilt twice or thrice as daytime cops standby collecting overtime pay and all the utility agencies refuse to co-operate towards their conflictive project scheduling.

"Metro Amateur Hour" should be celebrated annually on the early Spring Sunday morning where (2011) Toronto rescheduled its Int'l Marathon - at the exact morning of next-door suburb Mississauga's Marathon!

talk talk talk / Shireen said...

CQ: I like your Metro Amateur Hour! It would certainly bring into the light all that slows us down, holds Toronto back, and makes us all cranky.

You're right, there is so much incompetence because of ideology or setting low standards and just not wanting to spend the bucks required to fix the prob, yet not minding wasting it on cops to hold a sign, which in the country is usually done by students or construction workers. I'd add to the megacondos, the desruction of our heritage through city's laziness and neglect.