Transit City? Not "over", after all

button_transitcity.jpgRemember Transit City?

Former Toronto Mayor David Miller introduced the Transit City plan back in March, 2007. He proposed a network of light rail lines to bring rapid transit to many parts of the city distant from the subway system. Scarborough would have been the chief beneficiary of the plan, although the entire city would have enjoyed better — more frequent, more rapid — transit.streetcar-4121-01-thumb-150x108-488.jpg

Miller’s successor Rob Ford marked his very first day in office, December 1, 2010, by cancelling the entire plan. In an interview that day, he told 680 All-News Radio, “Transit City’s over”. (Despite the new mayor’s well known mantra of ‘stopping the gravy train’ and ‘respecting the taxpayer’, his unilateral decision wasted hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars in staff time developing the plan, consulting with the public, expropriating land and hiring contractors to work on the lines — and disrespecting hundreds of those very same taxpayers who spent their time in voicing their opinions during public events to develop the plan.)


For the next four years, Mayor’s Ford’s other refrains of “subways, subways, subways” and “Scarborough deserves a subway” tended to dominate political discourse at City Hall about public transit. During his term, Council voted to replace the TTC’s aging 3 Scarborough rapid transit line with a three-stop subway, extending the 2 Bloor - Danforth line to Sheppard Avenue East.

Despite all the interest in transit in Toronto since Miller introduced his plan, no new rapid transit lines have opened, although Metrolinx construction is underway full-blast for the Crosstown light rail line — originally a Transit City line — along and under Eglinton Avenue. At the end of Rob Ford’s tenure, we chose yet another mayor, John Tory to lead City Council. The main plank of Tory’s election campaign was a promise to build SmartTrack, an above-ground heavy-rail line, mostly using GO Transit rail corridors — some of them in Scarborough.

Finally this week, we learned a lot more about at how all these plans might look like in their final incarnation — while the ghosts of Transit City continue to reappear.

On Tuesday, January 19, City officials released figures that showed that, with appropriate fares and frequency, the SmartTrack plan could attract a large ridership. At the same time, City officials and Mayor Tory backed away from SmartTrack’s proposed western leg linking the Mount Dennis area to the Airport Corporate Centre business area in Mississauga. Instead, they’re encouraging City Council to support extending the Eglinton Crosstown LRT line further west to the airport, as the Transit City plan originally suggested.

Today, Thursday, January 21, the City released the agenda for the next meeting of the Executive Committee — while revealing yet another transit plan during this week of transit announcements.

Now, the City is recommending that the proposed Scarborough subway have only one stop beyond Kennedy and that it go no further north than Scarborough Centre. The plan relies on a SmartTrack line with frequent service and low fares to encourage many Scarborough-ites to board its trains when heading downtown. (GO is also promising frequent regional express rail service between some of those stations and Union Station.)

Meanwhile, passengers boarding subway trains at Scarborough Centre would gain a quicker, no-stop ride to Kennedy Station, where they could remain on the subway, transfer to a SmartTrack or GO train or the Crosstown LRT.

A shorter subway plan would cost much less and would release about $1 billion in funding for other transit initiatives. So, the City proposes extending the Crosstown line further east along Eglinton Avenue, Kingston Road and Morningside Avenue to University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus. (This extension follows the route of the Transit City plan’s Scarborough Malvern LRT.) The Sheppard East LRT — originally to be the first of the Transit City lines, intended to be operating in 2015 — would also extend to the campus, with a branch line spurring off to connect the LRT to the subway at Scarborough Centre.

Transit City was almost over before it even began. We wasted more than six years, on a public-transit merry-go-round, only to end up almost back where we started. But, with this week’s various announcements, it looks we’re getting off the carousel and getting down to earth and down to work.

And, it looks like Transit City’s not over after all. It’s very much alive and kicking, in a different shape, perhaps, but kicking all the same.


The latest Scarborough transit plan. (Image: City of Toronto)

You can read the latest “Scarborough Transit Update” here. You can view the rest of the Executive Committee agenda for its meeting of Thursday, January 28 here.

From the Transit Toronto archives:

  • “Toronto’s Transit City LRT plan” by James Bow, here.
  • “Welcome to Transit City” by Matt Blackett, here.
  • “Transit City begins: Officials launch construction of Sheppard East LRT” (December 23, 2009), by Robert Mackenzie, here.
  • “Building a Transit City” (TTC report), here. (.pdf)
  • Promotional video about Transit City, here. (.wmv)
  • “Transit City Status Update, February 2009”, (TTC report), here. (.pdf)
  • A map of a revised Transit City plan in 2009, showing which lines have been approved, and which are still being considered, here. (.pdf)

In the news:

  • CBC News Toronto report, “Revamped Scarborough subway plan would elminate 2 of 3 stations”, here.
  • CP24 report, “Revised plan for Scarborough subway would scrap two stations”, here.
  • CP24 report, “New plan for Scarborough subway will allow city to ‘get on with’ project: Tory”, here.
  • Global News Toronto report, “Scarborough subway plans scaled back in favour of more LRT service”, here.
  • Globe and Mail article, “Scarborough subway would shrink under plan to extend Eglinton Crosstown”, here.
  • National Post article, “Toronto mayor declares end to transit civil war as he unveils latest plan for Scarborough subway and LRT” here.
  • Steve Munro’s post, “The Scarborough-Malvern LRT may live again”, here.
  • Toronto Star article, “New Scarborough subway plan ‘buys peace in the land’”, here.
  • Toronto Starcolumn, “Scarborough transit rethink a lesson for all of us”, here.
  • Toronto Sun article, “Change of plans sought for Scarborough subway”, here.