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Return of Transit City hailed as Toronto success story

Posted by Chris Bateman / December 20, 2012

toronto transit city"Transportation" and "success" are words that all too rarely share a sentence in Toronto. Yet, here we are. The Atlantic Cities has named the resurrection of Transit City one of North America's biggest transportation policy successes of 2012. I know, right?

OK, OK, we're not calling it that anymore, but according to the US-based urbanism blog the revival of the LRT network is a sure step towards creating a true mass transit system. The short citation also reserves a moment to take a half-jab at the downfall of Rob Ford, himself the architect of Transit City's initial demise.

toronto lrt mapA proposal under David Miller, Transit City, like every transportation project in Toronto, was a hugely divisive issue. When Rob Ford was elected in 2010, one of his first orders of business was to declare the light-rail expansion dead. Never mind whether or not he had the authority, it was done. Over. Until, of course, it all went south for Ford and he lost control of the transit agenda and every other important topic at city hall. Then it was back to square one for the project, minus two years of progress.

The explosion in real-time cellular updates, a spike in Amtrak passengers, the post-Sandy subway fix, and California's approval of a high-speed rail link between San Francisco and LA are also among the other high-ranking ideas and events worth of inclusion.

How do you rate this year for transit in Toronto? Boring machines continue to push northwest on the Spadina extension, the first of our new streetcars arrived, TTC drivers stopped texting and reading at the controls, and work began on a new-look Queens Quay West with a dedicated right of way. This may well be your last chance to talk TTC before 2013 (or the world ends.) Sound off.

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons and Metrolinx.



grievet / December 20, 2012 at 09:13 am
Queens Quay blvd, not Lake Shore
Todd / December 20, 2012 at 09:22 am
The current plan isn't as good as Miller's initial plan. In twenty years, we're going to wonder why we didn't put LRT along largely vacant N/S corridors.
the lemur replying to a comment from grievet / December 20, 2012 at 09:24 am
Queen's Quay is just that, not a boulevard.
Chris Bateman replying to a comment from grievet / December 20, 2012 at 09:28 am
It happens. Fixed.
CH / December 20, 2012 at 09:30 am
I think transit in Toronto is heading in the right direction (pun intended). If only it will move faster!
jay / December 20, 2012 at 09:47 am
Once hudak comes to power this spring, this will all come to an end. we need subways not transit that effects traffic!
Phil replying to a comment from jay / December 20, 2012 at 09:52 am
The election of Tim "we need subways but only if we can afford them, and we can't afford them" Hudak could, indeed reverse this decision and set transit back 40 years (instead of the current 20).
Transit City Lives! replying to a comment from jay / December 20, 2012 at 10:16 am
While it comes as no shock that a Hudak supporter isn't 100% clear on the difference between "effect" and "affect", let's all hope and pray that the nightmare scenario you described never comes to pass. I don't understand why the PCs haven't turfed that clown yet. I've pretty much accepted the fact that the Conservatives will win the next election, but please, find a better leader than Deb Hutton's arm candy. We don't need Mike Harris' sloppy seconds in the premier's chair.

And despite what our idiot mayor would have you believe, there is a great deal of support for subways, even among those that support the construction of LRTs. They just need to go where they're actually needed, and will be viable. If Hudak, or any of the rest of them, can figure out how to pay for a DRL, and actually start digging, then I'll be the first to say "great job". But I'm not holding my breath.
Jason / December 20, 2012 at 10:20 am
The LRT is still only a short-term answer to the problem. Eventually we will have to add additional underground lines. I am a Toronto native who now lives/works in Munich Germany. Munich is half the area, and half the population of Toronto, yet has a Transit system about 6 times larger then Toronto's. ( ) With 7 underground lines, a large tram and LRT system, I have yet to need a car in that city. Puts things in perspective after sitting in traffic for many years in Toronto wasting gas, money and time. We are not the "megacity" which we think we are.
Justin / December 20, 2012 at 10:23 am
This will go down in history as the worst decision Toronto has ever made. City council should be ashamed of themselves for shoving something down the taxpayers' throat that they don't want!

Let's hope common sense prevails and the new Tim Hudak government puts a halt to this in the Spring. This city needs subways, not more streetcars.
Nick replying to a comment from Justin / December 20, 2012 at 10:30 am
Ah the classic problem with democracy and to a larger extent, the internet. The uninformed, such as yourself, get as much attention as those who know what they're talking about.
Jay replying to a comment from Justin / December 20, 2012 at 10:30 am
Amen, something down towners are forcing on us in the burbs!
McRib / December 20, 2012 at 10:32 am
if you honestly think that Tim Hudak is going to sink a lot of money into transit and build subways in Toronto, you're a fucking idiot.

Learn your history.
Stephen Wickens / December 20, 2012 at 10:47 am
It should have been obvious, even to hard-core subway advocates, that long east-west underground lines across the inner northern suburbs were unjustifiably expensive, and yes, LRTs are the right technology for filling the gap. Unfortunately, the rush to embrace some of the previously approved mistakes of Transit City have us creating an absurdly disjointed mish-mash of lines across the northern parts of town (residents of NE Scarborough, for example, will have five or six transfers in traveling to Finch West at a time when we're talking of regional seamlessness). And while the Miller-ites were right to say we can't extend the Yonge subway north without a new downtown line, the out-of-order Transit City/Big Move-based rollout sequencing creates a different variation on the same problem. We're going to leave Toronto -- and the entire GTA -- even more over-reliant on an overloaded Yonge subway. The most urgent need is too far down the priority list and we're all going to regret it, even if we miraculously have not shutdowns on Yonge.
Welshgrrl / December 20, 2012 at 10:50 am
Can 2013 usher in a moratorium on feeding neocon trolls?
Todd replying to a comment from Stephen Wickens / December 20, 2012 at 10:55 am
Wouldn't the original Transit City plan alleviate some of the congestion on YUS by providing N/S rail connections along Leslie and Jane?
Al replying to a comment from Todd / December 20, 2012 at 11:07 am
More likely, they would just add to the congestion as they would become feed lines for the YUS. The DRL should have been the first line started to relive that.
Robert replying to a comment from Todd / December 20, 2012 at 11:14 am
Todd, you make an excellent point. The Yonge line is clearly at/over capacity, and an alternate N/S line is desperately needed. The Don Mills and Jane lines would have helped that out significantly.

I know if Don Mills had an LRT, I would take it down to Pape instead of heading over to the Yonge line. The existing 25 bus is already one of the faster routes, the LRT would dramatically improve that route.
Antony / December 20, 2012 at 11:18 am
It's ironic BlogTO used a photo of that Transit City billboard for this story.

Black circles on a red line? WTF does that mean? Nowhere is there a picture of what an LRT would look like. Could have just been a picture of the C-train, or O-train, or whatever. Anything concrete.

The timid, ineffective, completely uninformative marketing of Transit City in 2009 is (imho) what let Ford and car-centric politicians bamboozle enough voters to stall the project.
Todd replying to a comment from Antony / December 20, 2012 at 11:22 am
The timid, ineffective, completely uninformative marketing of Transit City in 2009 is (imho) what let Ford and car-centric politicians bamboozle enough voters to stall the project.

No question. When you have to educate an entire population on the difference between ROW articulated light rail with fewer stops and mixed traffic streetcars that stop every block, it's easy to throw in your own narrative with helpful, repeatable soundbytes.
Alex / December 20, 2012 at 11:27 am
At least we're getting something. Until people are willing to pay for transit, they won't get it. They should increase provincial taxes to pay for more transit. Instead they are cancelling that train to Northern Ontario, and we are stuck without a funding plan for the DRL. I'd be willing to pay more income tax if it funded transit initiatives. Though the intensification of Toronto with all these condos should help by moving people closer to where they work.
Todd replying to a comment from Al / December 20, 2012 at 11:33 am
How would N/S LRT routes in (what is considered) the old suburbs, where many downtown commuters live, add to congestion on YUS?

We're only adding to the congestion if we don't build anything that goes N/S and the placement in the original Transit City plan was perfect... two underserved corridors with a transfer to a connection downtown.

What will add congestion to YUS is the Eglinton Crosstown... but again, Miller (and I'm not a Millerite, so don't start) planned for this with additional N/S routes. There is no way to head downtown if you're on busy city-crossing Eglinton without using YUS and that's just disgustingly poor planning.
Chris replying to a comment from Jay / December 20, 2012 at 11:34 am
Jay, Justin, you're probably too young to even know this, so I'll give you the benefit of the doubt on your ignorance, but as McRib said - learn your history.

Your so-called champion of subways, Hudak, was part of the very same government (and not just as some anonymous MPP, but rather as a key key plaer - and remember his wife was a senior advisor to Harris as well) that back in the mid 90's killed the Eglinton subway line (that had been fully funded by the previous government) and reduced Sheppard to a stump (which was a compromise to appease Mel Lastman, who the Tories were afraid to take on by killing Sheppard altogether, which is what they wanted to do). This of course, was done in the name of "common sense" when the Ontario budget was in a similar state to what it is today.

In addition, if you actually listened to what Hudak has said recently ,(rather than just the Toronto Sun edited version) he has in fact indicated his preference for subways, but only IF WE CAN AFFORD THEM, someday. He hasn't promised or committed any money to this effort, either lump sum or ongoing, other than to siphon off the money committed to Transit City and build subways (which of course, will resutl in a tiny fraction of the coverage Trsnity City will provide). In fact all of his pronouncements of late are to demonstrate his desire to scale back government spending, to balance the budget and perhaps cut some taxes here and there - spending the billions necessary to build subways is fundamentally incompatible with that.

Rest assured, young Padewan, that a Tory governement looking desperately to appear fiscally conservative to appease its right-wing base in rural Ontario will gladly eye killing an $8 billion financial committment on infrastructure for Toronto as an easy win.

Don't believe for a second that Hudak, if he wins power will do a damned thing to improve transit infrastructure in Toronto. His power base, much like the old Harris Tories, is largely outside of this City and has a hate-on for Toronto (which, in case you're wondering, ain't just downtown - folks who aren't from Toronto don't make a distinction between downtown, Etobicoke or Scarborough - its all "Toronto" to them).

But, go ahead an believe that if elected Hudak will be throwing billions our way to build subways. The rest of us will just continue to exist in something called "reality". There may be sound reasons for you to like and prefer Hudak to the Liberals and NDP (not sure what they are, but I'm open-minded) but if you understand your recent history, Transit shouldn't be one of them.

Stephen Wickens replying to a comment from Todd / December 20, 2012 at 11:40 am
No ... Transit City ignored the biggest single longstanding but short-term need: some variation on a wide u-shaped line through the core. And it ignored the importance of sequencing things wisely. LRTs on Jane and Don Mills would have added to the mess at the B-D (which is also now exceeding capacity in the morning rush). Done properly, the DRL or whatever you want to call it, does far more than relieve overcrowding on the Yonge line. It could serve as a distributor for the GO network and it can connect and complement the inner-city trunk streetcar lines, multiplying their worth and effectiveness. The DRL also provides the network redundancy a metropolitan region needs. Yes, those suburban and inner-suburban LRTs are needed, but even though we're decades behind on expansion, getting out of order can aggravate the problems.
Todd replying to a comment from Stephen Wickens / December 20, 2012 at 12:15 pm
I do agree that a DRL is important. When you say done properly, I assume you mean something that heads out of the core in multiple directions. That's exceedingly expensive. A DRL that only goes to Pape or Dundas West does nothing to solve cross-city issues while LRT does address it. Both options will still put strain on the BD line. Forgive me for putting suburban commuters on the backburner while it currently takes three hours on transit to get from NW Scarborough on Finch to NW Etobicoke on Finch. That needs to be addressed, in tune with getting people in and out of the core.
Richard / December 20, 2012 at 12:31 pm
We need better options on Pearson airport transportation??


Toronto's options are garbage....
Jose / December 20, 2012 at 12:45 pm
What kind of Mega City has LRT and lacks an efficient Subway System?

Toronto is a joke. This is only setting us back years instead of pushing us forward.

The city is only growing as the country's most populated and we're the second-largest province, why wouldn't we invest in Subways?
blue in the face replying to a comment from jay / December 20, 2012 at 12:46 pm
You should probably hold your breath for that election turkey. Horwath already said that while Hudak is campaigning on privatizing lcbo and building subways that she is planning on working with the new liberal leader effectively ending any chance of an early election.
livingintheburbs / December 20, 2012 at 12:59 pm
I live in south Etobicoke. Do I wish there was a subway? Sure. Have we figured out how to pay for a subway? No. Unless we figure out a way to pay for them, there's no way we can afford them.

I'm also a driver. If it were possible, I'd be happy for the $60 vehicle registration to be renewed, add tolls to the Gardiner/QEW, and put those funds toward improving transit. The $60 + tolls are small prices to pay for the privilege of driving and also to have a decent transit system.
Todd replying to a comment from livingintheburbs / December 20, 2012 at 01:02 pm
That's my attitude as well. It's a thoughtful approach with an understanding that nice things cost money. I wish it was shared with the majority of residents.
rick mcginnis replying to a comment from Welshgrrl / December 20, 2012 at 01:12 pm
Define a neocon. Go ahead. Let's see what you come up with.
iSkyscraper / December 20, 2012 at 01:35 pm
I ignore most comments on LRT since many of the people making them have no idea what it is, or how it complements subway services. They don't realize that London, Paris, New York, San Francisco, Philly, etc. all have LRT in their suburban areas feeding into heavy rail and have distorted ideas as to what subways cost and where they make sense.

The genius of Transit City is that it (inelegantly and awkwardly, yes) forces a realignment of thinking in Toronto. The current planned lines are a disconnected mess, but they can and will be easily expanded and joined up in a way that subways never could be -- witness the decade that has gone by with no expansion to the Stubway. Surface LRT is cheap, and sooner or later you will get an extensive network that hits a tipping point for use and effectiveness. Have faith, it will work out. Rome was not built in a day. The only mistake would be not starting the network at all, and thankfully that has now been averted (at extra cost and delay thanks to Mayor Idiot). My only true regret was that the Sheppard line was not designed to enter the subway tunnel, converting the subway to high-platform LRT and making it a mini-Eglinton line with a central tunnel section.

Saving Transit City was indeed a success story.
Joe replying to a comment from Justin / December 20, 2012 at 01:35 pm
Doug replying to a comment from Chris / December 20, 2012 at 01:47 pm
Nicely said. Chris for mayor!
Hey Troll replying to a comment from Welshgrrl / December 20, 2012 at 02:06 pm
Hey Troll, go away!
Welshgrrl / December 20, 2012 at 02:16 pm
Definition of neocon? In this instance I would define it as people who oppose change - in this particular case livingintheburb's suggestion of tolls + reinstatement of VRT = expanded and improved public transit system. Hudak, like Ford before him, is not going to be able to solicit funds for desperately needed improvements to transit/traffic infrastructure from some vague money fairy ...
livingintheburbs replying to a comment from Welshgrrl / December 20, 2012 at 03:03 pm
"neocon...I would define it as people who oppose change - in this particular case livingintheburb's suggestion of tolls + reinstatement of VRT = expanded and improved public transit system. Hudak, like Ford before him, is not going to be able to solicit funds for desperately needed improvements to transit/traffic infrastructure from some vague money fairy ..."

you make no sense at all.

first, you define 'neocon' as people who "oppose change" (apparently, such as myself) by using my suggestion of tolls+VRT as a means to fund transit. well, we don't currently have tolls, VRT, or a suffiently funded transit system, which are all aspects which would be a CHANGE to status quo and which i'm advocating for.

second, you agree that "hudak ... is not going to be able to solicit funds for desperately needed improvements to transit/traffic infrastructure from some vague money fairy". yes, there is no "vague money fairy", which is why we need to figure out specific means to raise money, such as through the VRT and tolls.

i'm really not sure what your point is, when you're contradicting yourself, or what your alternative solutions are.

livingintheburbs replying to a comment from Welshgrrl / December 20, 2012 at 03:05 pm
although, admittedly, upon re-reading your comment, i may have misinterpreted it. if that's the case, i apologize. :)
Tommy replying to a comment from iSkyscraper / December 20, 2012 at 04:49 pm
I believe the Sheppard LRT design DOES enter the Don Mills station/tunnel so that the transfer to the subway is at the same level (no stairs required). The LRT would butt up against the subway trains. The real problem is that the province is forcing us to use standard rail gauge, which means that the Sheppard subway will never be reasonably convertible to LRT because of TTC gauge, and it's connections to the Yonge line. If we could use TTC gauge on Sheppard LRT, we'd be able to service LRTs by dragging them along the subway lines. Instead we have an SRT situation where Sheppard will need it's own maintenance barn, or will need to be use trucks to move broken LRTs. Idiocy at it's best.

David Gunn already voiced his concern about this, but the province, in it's infinite stupidity, wouldn't listen because it wants to use common equipment all across Ontario, even though the TTC will always be the biggest user. Same goes for the Presto garbage.

Toronto needs to separate into it's own province, and bring along any GTA municipalities who are tired of shipping our money to the rest of Ontario.
Justin replying to a comment from Joe / December 20, 2012 at 04:50 pm
I'm not a troll. In fact, I prefer a DRL subway over the Sheppard subway. But these LRTs need to go, now. They're no faster than buses would make congestion much worse. The last thing we should be doing is St. Claireizing the city.
Stephen Wickens replying to a comment from Todd / December 20, 2012 at 06:00 pm
It will be exceedingly expensive to do the right thing, and even more expensive to do the right thing if we delay. We can't put suburban transit on the backburner either. The problem is that increasing our over-reliance on an overloaded skeleton core system, as the revived Transit City lines will, makes this exceedingly expensive line through the core increasingly urgent (and yes, it cannot stop at the Bloor-Danforth).
fartysocialists replying to a comment from Welshgrrl / December 20, 2012 at 06:15 pm
there is the key word "change" what makes you think your change is what good for the city? many of us in the burbs drive and don't care about transit. And are tired of socialists like you always trying to tax us to death for your own pet projects. And I can guarantee Ford will win the next election because he is even more popular out here then ever before. Down town longer control the cities purse strings and thank god for that.
Not Holding My Breath / December 20, 2012 at 06:18 pm
All I know is, my day-to-day experience with the TTC makes me wish I lived in a town so small it doesn't even need public transit. I will believe in improvements to the system when I experience them.
nn / December 20, 2012 at 06:39 pm
Anyone who has had to endure the bus system in rush hour knows why subways are such an emotional draw for people. If the TTC improved its bus and streetcars to actually run on time, maybe people would be less fixated on a subway.
Simon Tarses replying to a comment from Alex / December 23, 2012 at 12:36 pm
The little bit of Transit City isn't enough-we need ALL of it to come back, in particular the Jane and Leslie lines. Todd's right on this one completely. In addition, we need a few more LRT lines, IMHO-one down Victoria Park Avenue, another one down Don Mills Avenue to Pape Station, one down Church Street that would go all the way from Church to Steeles by way of a tunnel, Markham Road, Morningside Avenue, Lawrence Avenue, and Steeles Avenue itself.
Gerry / December 23, 2012 at 05:40 pm
It should be called Transit: Shitty.
Transit Shitty replying to a comment from Gerry / December 23, 2012 at 07:10 pm
Welcome back to 3rd world transit.
Simon Tarses replying to a comment from Transit Shitty / December 23, 2012 at 08:47 pm
LRT is not Third World transit, but First World transit (most countries in the Third World can't even afford LRT lines, let alone subway lines, without having to get international aid from other nations or from the IMF.) Some information on LRT might help:
JP / December 24, 2012 at 02:51 am
The worst thing that has happened was when this argument turned into black & white, subway vs LRT. Everyone prefers subways, and Toronto needs more, but the issue is putting subways where there is the density to support them so they don't become white elephants, NOT blanket anti subway or anti LRT comments. Finch and Sheppard East are simply not dense enough to support subways without massive losses. Toronto should complete transit city AND build the DRL subway.
stopitman replying to a comment from Jay / December 24, 2012 at 09:18 am
@Jay & Justin - if you, Hudak, and the PCs were truly capitalist (which none of you are), you would not build subways in the suburbs unless they connected to the core.

Also, if you live in the suburbs, don't expect a subway. If you live in a dense area of tightly packed singles/semis (think Bloor West Village and the like) or even denser, then you "deserve" subways by the fact that the sheer number of people will have to ride the subway (and walk) instead of drive their car. The reason why no company stepped forward for a Sheppard subway extension is that it would continue to have less ridership than the Bloor Streetcar had in the 1950s and would still be the biggest money loser for the TTC.

The reason why places like Burlington, Oshawa, and Oakville don't have subways are because they're SUBURBAN, much like the inner SUBURBS of Toronto. You live in the suburbs so you have to expect the service levels of the suburbs - which you already have more and cheaper (or free) services than those of the outer suburbs.
Gerry replying to a comment from Simon Tarses / December 25, 2012 at 07:45 pm
Transite Shitty is labelled as such because 1- it is (hello traffic congestion thanks to LRTs) and 2-New York SHOULD be called Transit City, if anything, because it's inexpensive AND profitable AND moves 3X the number of people annually. Look at the statistics and Toronto doesn't even crack the top 10 of north america, for riders, nor fares. And so, another pompous name, for a pompous city.
haha / December 26, 2012 at 06:15 pm
"Hailed" by who? BlogTO? Big deal. / July 12, 2013 at 04:16 am
s army must win or die, there is no retreat or escape. Recently,
I took a trip out to Pyramid Lake and the Black Rock Desert
and spent the day taking photographs with my new Sony DSLR A300 camera.
With all this high-pitched hyper-link hysteria, how do you go about choosing the right company for your book.
Nihal / May 30, 2015 at 03:55 am
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