Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Quick question...

On the Georgetown line, midday service consists of a train running between Union Station and Bamalea every two hours or so. Because of the West Toronto Diamond construction and the forthcoming Georgetown South Service Expansion we probably won't see regular (hourly) service for the next three to five years. In fact, the construction might make the existing runs less reliable than they are today.

My question is this:
What if the trains every two hours were replaced with coaches running every half-hour from Malton, Bramalea, Brampton and Mount Pleasant until the construction is finished?
There are a group of people who don't like taking buses (I never really understood them), but there are also a number of people who choose to drive because they don't want to have to choose between being fifteen minutes late or being an hour and forty five minutes early. Will the people attracted by a 300% service increase result in a net increase when weighed against those who will only take the train?


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dispatches from Vancouver: A Canada Line for Toronto - Torontoist

Over at Torontoist, you'll find an article on Vancouver's rapid transit line connecting the airport with the downtown core. In the comment section, though, I wasn't surprised to find comments that oppose our under-construction airport link, the Union-Pearson Rail Link (UPRL).

It's easy to rally against the project, but lets not forget that the corridor upgrades necessary to accommodate the line will give us frequent GO Trains that will eventually stop at a station near Woodbine Racetrack. From there, the Finch West LRT is to provide the last leg of the trip to the airport. This combination could adequately serve those who aren't served by the UPRL.

Personally, I'm indifferent to the UPRL. I might not want to pay a premium fare to get to the airport, but I can think of many people who will. It has been argued that airport employees won't be able to afford it, but what's stopping the Greater Toronto Airport Authority from negotiating a discount rate for the workers? Either way, one under-performer shouldn't torpedo the implementation of improvements to a handful of well-used corridors.

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Friday, February 19, 2010

A rare rebuttal

I don't usually do this, but a letter appearing in the Star today needs a response:
It is interesting to note that most LRT proponents live along or near subway lines. Their ideology prevents them from reading or understanding studies and reports that clearly spell out the negative impacts on traffic and communities. Communities in the suburbs are designed and behave differently than those in the downtown core. Just because people aren't walking along Sheppard Ave., Catherine Porter asks, "What community?" and suggests we have nothing to save! Porter's article highlights the disconnect between downtown Toronto and its suburbs.

Patricia Sinclair, Save Our Sheppard, Scarborough
First of all, I find it wholely offensive to suggest that those who support Light Rail Transit are making their decision based on ideology, rather than the facts being presented to them. I also find it wholly offensive to suggest that this is downtown ganging up on the suburbs. These comments are completely without basis, and I would expect better from seasoned neighbourhood activists trying to win the hearts and minds of citizens and decision makers in particular.

Secondly, the impact on the transportation network and on communities are positive. The transportation network isn't about moving vehicles - it's about moving people. When you remove transit from traffic then people in vehicles don't have to wait behind buses and people on trams don't have to wait behind vehicles. Everybody wins. When it comes to the impact on the community, there is no evidence that the community will be cut in two. Is the east side of Spadina segregated from the west side? Is the LRT along Queens Quay preventing people on the north side from enjoying the waterfront? The construction phase did cause disruption, but this will be true of any project. There is no basis to suggest that the community will be destroyed by building this project. Look at St. Clair two years from now and you will see it back to its old self, if not better.

Finally, it is true that the suburbs behave differently than the downtown core. However that behaviour contributes to the arguments against building a subway. There are fewer major trip generators, fewer mixed use areas, lower densities and fewer opportunities for intensification. We need to have these things in order to make a subway economically viable, since they cost ten times that of an LRT line. These are not ideological beliefs. These are facts.

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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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Sunday, February 07, 2010

Just sayin'...

Whereas it has been said that:
"Transit City never intended to address travel to the core area as that function has been left primarily to GO Transit, but to provide higher capacity and somewhat higher speed service to the growing suburban 416 areas. It is totally inappropriate to criticize a plan for omitting something for which it was never intended."
Is it truly appropriate to go on to apply the same level of criticism to a regional transit plan that was intended to direct the provision of regionally-significant rapid transit, rather than fund and/or direct the provision of transit at the locally-oriented level.

My utmost respect, but I'm just saying...

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Evaluate LRT on Facts, Not Irrational Fears - Raise the Hammer

Sean Burak over at Raise the Hammer has a new article debunking the myths that LRT will bring us doom and gloom. It's a great read so be sure to check it out.