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Let's get subways right for once: Editorial

Toronto needs a better subway system.

This city’s too big, the transit needs too intense, the traffic on our streets too heavy to have a second-rate subway system.

The subway is the way Torontonians want to travel, if not by car.

We don’t want to be on buses. We don’t want to be on streetcars or LRTs.

We want to be move faster than a crawl.

We need more subways. And now we have a mayor-elect who has the same priority.

Gee, that was easy, wasn’t it? Let’s dig.

Well, not so fast.

Toronto has been plagued for decades by politicians drawing lines on a map, by starting and stopping projects, by throwing money into dark holes.

The Eglinton subway false start meant taxpayers spent $83 million in 1995 to fill in the most expensive pothole in Toronto’s history.

The Liberals had a $5 billion Let’s Move program in 1990, scaled back by the NDP to $1.5 billion in 1993, then crunched down again to the Sheppard stubway we have now.

The transit planning in this city has to change. Radically.

  • It is time to seriously consider handing the TTC, especially the subway, over to Metrolinx.

The TTC moves people from all over the GTA, not just 416ers, and the subway will soon run into the 905.

Metrolinx, the regional transit authority, should be in charge of future expansion, at the very least.

  • We need a final answer on the role the Transit City light-rail plan plays.

Subways cost $300 million a kilometre, LRT — with multi-train cars running in dedicated lanes, with stops spaced further apart than streetcar stops — run $60-$100 million per kilometre. Knowing that, and knowing riders want subways, but that we need to spend for the most effect and ridership, let’s settle this battle and build properly the first time.

The provincial Liberals are saying LRT, the mayor-elect is saying subways. It can’t be both.

  • We need to build subways in the right places.

It makes no sense to go north on Yonge St., when that subway line is already over capacity. But does Sheppard East, looping into the Danforth line make sense? What about west from Kipling out to Sherway Gardens? Or do we need the mythical Downtown Relief Line?

Metrolinx could take the local politics out of that decision.

  • The Eglinton line makes sense.

Between Laird Dr. and Black Creek Dr., the new LRTs will run underground and stop as frequently as trains on the Danforth line. That’s practically a subway, and a good start.

What this city absolutely can’t afford is a white elephant — a subway line built without the capacity necessary to make it worthwhile.

Subways must not be multi-billion-dollar political playthings.

Let’s get the facts, the costs and make smart decisions for once on the transit file.

Little could be more important to the future of this city.