Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Are anti-LRT activists being railroaded? - Toronto Star

A Toronto Star article identifies a group of residents on Sheppard Avenue east who have some concerns about the LRT currently under construction. While it's good that there are people who care about their neighbourhood, what concerns me is that one of the quotes that appeared in the paper. Assuming that it was not been taken out of context, I worry that there is a bit of misinformation about the speed that the LRT is going to travel at.
"You get in the car and you go 60 kilometres per hour and you get on the streetcar and you go 12 kilometres per hour," said [Patricia] Sinclair [of Save Our Sheppard].

"If you're trying to pull people on (transit) and you're trying to get less traffic, you've got to give them transit they will use. Where is the analysis of not just the costs but the benefits?"
First of all, the speeds quoted by the City of Toronto are the average speed, including the time it takes for stops. Even though the posted speed limit is 60 km/h (and the speed the trams will travel at is 60 km/h), the only way you can maintain that speed is if there were no traffic and no stop lights. The average speed, taking these factors into consideration, is much lower for both traffic and the LRT. And, for the record, the LRT will average around 22 to 25 kilometres per hour. This is faster than the 85 SHEPPARD EAST bus and has a higher capacity. The only way to increase end-to-end speeds is to increase the distance between stops, but fewer stops means a very inconvenient walk for those who are destined for locations in between stops.

Secondly, the analysis of the costs and benefits are available in several documents on the City of Toronto and Metrolinx's websites.

The article points out that everyone wants subways, and while there is a acknowledgement that they cost more, there is a desire to let development pay for it. This is how it works in Hong Kong, but this is because the transit authority has a development arm. If we want the development to pay for subways, we need to overhaul our political culture:

  • First, we need to change our opinion that government should not compete with the private sector. This is the only way it can gain the same degree of development powers - the power to purchase entire districts and redevelop them - that Hong Kong has.
  • Second, we need to change our opinion that stable neighbourhoods should not be redeveloped, In order to get development to pay for these subway lines we then we will need to do more than just build on strip mall parking lots. We will have to redevelop entire neighbourhoods adjacent to the artery in question.
  • Third, we need to accept high-rise, high-density development in our cities. We seem to have a fear of highrises, but the revenue from the mid-rise development planned will not be enough to pay for a subway line.
I'm not saying that we should enact any or all of the above, but we do need to understand what it will take to have the kind of subway network that many Asian cities have enjoyed for years.

Sorry Theo.

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At 2/16/2010 6:20 p.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder what Mrs. Sinclair will say when she is told that the average speed of a subway is only 30 km/h? She will be floored.

If the mayoral candidates pander to this nonsense, we're screwed.


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