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$50-billion baby: A subway that covers the city

radical visions: Toronto’s full of them, and these two are doozies. One envisions a City Hall that could match powers with Queen’s Park. The other conjures far-fetched dreams of riding the TTC all the way to Markham.

Saturday, March 5, 2005 - Page M1

The Toronto Transit Commission may be struggling — its capital budget freshly trimmed and its 10-cent fare hike about to go into effect — but that doesn’t stop some people from dreaming about what the system could become.

Who wouldn’t want to take the subway to Pearson Airport, the zoo or the Beaches? A utopian fantasy map of the TTC, posted on various local websites recently, has captured imaginations with its added kilometres of fictional tunnels that make Toronto’s transit system resemble the London Underground’s famous intersecting lines of multicoloured geometric spaghetti.

The visionary behind this map is unknown. The version recreated here is the work of Stephanie Fox, a 21-year-old graphic design student at George Brown College. She spotted an earlier rendition of the anonymous dream map on the Web and decided to put her design skills to work, making it look as much like the TTC’s current system map as she could.

A passionate public-transit advocate, Ms. Fox says that although it is a subway map, in her eyes, the imaginary lines needn’t all be underground. They could be light-rail lines, or even elevated monorails.

But TTC chairman Howard Moscoe says transit riders shouldn’t hold their breath. “At the rate of funding we’re getting, this will all be built in the year 5005,” Mr. Moscoe said. “It’s a political promise — I can make that categorically.”

Eyeballing the map, he said it would be costly: “Just at a quick stab it looks like a $500-billion project.”

Mr. Moscoe revised this figure when reminded that the 5.3-kilometre Sheppard subway cost $1-billion, and if the map’s dream tunnels equal, say, 40 or 50 Sheppard subways, the cost would be closer to $50-billion. Still, that’s a lot more money than the TTC has.

Mayor David Miller, shown the map in his office this week, said it was a “wonderful idea” but didn’t exactly endorse it.

“We can’t possibly do this with subways,” he said. “But we are trying to do this with what I would call above-ground subways — streetcars in their own right-of-way and buses… . That’s real.”