Competing Mayoralty Visions for Toronto's TTC

We all know the media, led by The Toronto Star, has engineered it so we feel we have no choice but to vote for George Smitherman on October 25th, but is he really Mayor quality? Will he benefit Toronto or just his best buddies? I cannot look at all the issues, but looking at four candidates' views on public transit will answer those questions.

Rob Ford

"It's time to get traffic moving and to connect people with jobs."

According to Ford's website, the province of Ontario estimates congestion costs the Greater Toronto Area $2.2 billion, and we've heard many times how commute times are increasing. I believe the best solution is: get cars off the road so those who have no choice in using their cars due to work, health, or personal reasons can move easier, faster, with less pollution.

Ford's solution: end the war on cars.
  • Get rid of streetcars.
  • Complete the Sheppard subway line by 2015 to Scarborough Town Centre
  • Extend Bloor-Danforth subway line, also to STC
  • Use clean buses instead of subways and where streetcars now are (more sardineville? Gag me)
  • Use smart cards
"This subway plan is realistic, it's affordable, and it will deliver real benefits for people living and working in Toronto in time for the 2015 Pan-Am Games."

Except there's nothing in there to improve transit from the Athlete's Village (now under construction) to the rest of Toronto, never mind all the venues. The village area is currently served by one occasional bus from Pape subway station. From the west, transit to that area across from the Distillery District is pretty much nonexistent. The King streetcar is the closest, is a walk, and slow due to demand and congestion on the narrow road. There is no Queen subway line to relieve either car congestion or commuter sardineville.

As for his anti-Toronto suggestion: Streetcars are much more comfortable to ride in than buses. Clearly the man is not a regular public transit user (in fact, I wonder if any of these male mayoralty candidates are). Streetcars are slow because they exist on roads that are so heavily used that there should have been a subway built underneath decades ago. It's telling that Ford doesn't know this. The Spadina car is fast enough but for the stupidest people on the planet - cyclists who cross the red light and stop right in front of an oncoming streetcar. Be still my heart. Or cars who try to do the same when doing U-turns. Today's clean, accessible buses are bloody awful. Claustrophobic, people unfriendly, they do not represent Toronto to the world in the way streetcars do. Budgeting for the city, designing its transit system is more than filling lines on a ledger, it's also about who we are, our history, our culture, enhancing our lives, making the city's citizens productive, and being people friendly.

George Smitherman

"He will deliver an Integrated Transit Plan that gets Toronto working -- and moving. Again."

Smitherman's solution: meet everyone's needs with words.

Gotta love the pie in the sky, we want to end the war, help pedestrians, bicyclists, car drivers, transit users vision. Tis the opposite of that business mantra of underpromise and overdeliver. The icing on Smitherman's overpromise is he can do this within the existing financial framework. Excuse me while I pick myself off the floor from laughing so hard.
  • Rider's Charter
  • Spadina subway to York U by 2015 (um, already underway so what's the diff?)
  • Extend Sheppard LRT - the one not yet built - to a new Aquatic Centre and east to University of Toronto's Scarborough campus
  • Build a Queen's Quay Waterfront streetcar line from Union Station to Portlands, including to PanAm Athletes Village
  • Champion build of Rail Link to Pearson airport (already being built) but insist it be prioritized for electrification - not the same as insist it be electrified. So when he doesn't get it electrified from the get go, he'll still be able to say he kept his promise.
  • Extend Sheppard subway from Yonge to Downsview by 2020
  • Replace Scarborough SRT with subway by 2020
  • Extend Bloor-Danforth subway west
  • Free transit for seniors but with a catch, and only seniors cause the disabled don't count
  • Smart cards
And once again the overcrowded downtown is ignored. Some Toronto champion. Even he has a hate on, like the rest of the province, for funding any east-west subway line downtown, including the Downtown Relief Line, to relieve the growing congestion on the Bloor-Danforth line. Can you imagine how much more packed it will be once he extends the subway east and west with no parallel east-west line built for commuters south of it? Shudder.

Himy Syed

Who? A mayoralty candidate ignored by media but with a detailed plan for Toronto, one who has sought to learn from other cities about what works, what makes urban centres thrive. His Vision 2020 is so extensive, it takes awhile to read. A total turnoff in the sound bite generation, but great fodder for other candidates to steal from, which according to his Tweets, Smitherman is doing.

Syed's solution: improve the little things.

There are many, many little things he'd improve like turning subway stations into art galleries so commuters will have something interesting to look at other than the garbage everywhere. I list here only the bigger things he has to say about the TTC. There is one very big idea I don't mention: it's to replicate the Curitiba Trinary System here. It's interesting and radical.
  • Have an above-ground subway line from Union to Pearson so not only airport traffic is served, but also Torontonians who live along the way. Use existing subway cars to serve it since they are being replaced with new cars on the existing lines.
  • Close Greenwood subway station and Ellesmere RT station. The time saved is not worth the hassle for local residents and students and doesn't remotely fix the complete inadequacy of the subway system to serve Toronto's population.
  • Run a daytime bus along Bloor-Danforth line like the #97 bus along Yonge. This is so to avoid having to retrofit all the stations with elevators. Oh really? Let's continue to treat the disabled as having fewer rights and privileges as the normal population? To tell them it's a bit much for them to be able to use the subway like the rest of us we're-OK-folks? Having a parallel bus line is useful for local stops, but I don't think it will help alleviate emegency situations when subway shut down as it doesn't on the Yonge line.
  • Start a rush hour looping plan to speed up trains through Yonge station and to get commuters faster to their destinations.
Again nothing to actually get the TTC back to the point where it was 30 years ago when it met the population's needs. His idea of replicating the Curitiba's bus system would require a total rethink of our transportation system, but given our downtown form, I still believe subways would be needed downtown.

Joe Pantalone

Pantalone's solution: Save Transit City

Transit City involves building 8 streetcar lines:
  • Finch
  • Sheppard
  • Eglinton
  • Waterfront west from Union
  • North up Don Mills from Bloor-Danforth Line
  • East from Bloor-Danforth subway to University of Toronto Scarborough campus and beyond
  • North along Jane from Bloor-Danforth line
  • Replace the Scarborough RT (guaranteeing continued bottleneck where it joins the subway line)
The province has cut Transit City's budget by $4 billion, delaying construction by years. Pantalone has no solution as to how to get the McGuinty government to restore that now. Worse, where the hell is the Downtown Relief Line, any subway along Queen, anything to the Pan Am Athletes Village?

Except for Smitherman's Rider's Charter, there's nothing here about restoring the customer service attitude of friendly service that TTC drivers used to have towards commuters. Violence is not new on the TTC, but now the Toronto Police Board wants to get rid of special constables yet not replace them one-for-one with police. I haven't heard any of the candidates opine on that. I haven't seen anything about cleaning up the filth, about an education program to retrain the pigs that use the TTC to behave better (but that would probably require a societal shift). Only Sarah Thomson had the courage to acknowledge Toronto ain't going to be able to expand the TTC with current funding models, that unlike for every other city in North America no provincial or federal politician is willing to fund Toronto's transit in the way it needs, and that we need to do something about it. We need to look at alternatives like road tolls. It won't be the first time the GTA has used them to fund infrastructure building. But clearly the men here are too wee willies to get creative and act. Instead, like Pantalone, they whine. And the conservative media bullies drummed out the lone female candidate and the only one who understands what will get Toronto commuters out of their cars and onto the TTC. It is interesting how only women candidates, past and present, get it. Is that because women and the poor are the dominant commuter on the TTC?

Too bad for Toronto, Ontario, and federal politicians that Toronto didn't just stay the same as in the 1970s since clearly growing the city and the TTC to meet its citizens' needs requires too much thinking and imagination on their part.


CQ said…
A couple of fresher ideas I had about TTC include:
1) Outfit streetcar replacing buses with a schoolbus styled swingout stop sign and let passengers board & unboard without all those extra lumbering curb moves. Much of the downtown routes are defacto single lane roads with street parking; busy areas could continue with the mid-road waiting platforms.
1a) I agree about the newer buses being more uncomfortable than streetcars. So insist on a better bus design, duh.

2) Borrow the new blue and red paint Express vs Local design of Mississauga Transit. I've already had a taste of this whenever waiting for a green GO Train to arrive.

I still pine for my other transit choices such as:
A) NOT building a detour small Mall/Racetrack loop into the Airport to Union line. Malls and Venues need to come to the straight A-B road grid transit routing, not the other way around. Imagine if Yorkville Mall had refused to extend itself to the Allen - imagine the rerouting needed just for that.

B) Renaming the Island Airport from the already in use Billy Bishop to recognizing long ago William Peyton Hubbard! A Toronto 'hub' as the Toronto transit hub's airport, or a double-used name?

C) bringing a diagonal rail-line 'subway' direct to DVP and east 401 drivers via a Mega Park n Ride, AND delivering them to Summerhill & Dupont stations rather than dumping everyone at Union Stn. - from which many people thus double back from to get into Toronto's geo-core.
I disagree with Transit City's basic approach of simply shuffling existing bus routes to shiny dedicated road hogging transit lanes.

D) add a VIA stop at Longbranch (due south of 427) or Port Credit for same backtracking / overloading Union Stn reasons.
Re-open 1970s washrooms at Islington Station for tens of thousands of cross boundary transit commuters.