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Transit City becomes Transportation City – Mayor Ford’s evolving Plan

One of the first things transit guru, Steve Monro says about planning public transit is, ‘don’t start by drawing a line on a map’. The better way he says is to create a “Ridership Growth Strategy”. That means (and I’m paraphrasing here – comments, corrections are welcome), you choose areas where growth in ridership could happen; create a new infrastructure plan that would encourage that growth; cost estimate the needed infrastructure to see if a projected increase in ridership would make the plan cost effective.  Over time planners build a catalog of possibilities, then politicians, advocates and electors can choose.

Munro states:

“Now we see all of the options, we balance them against each other in the context of available funding, and we choose.”

(from Grand Design for Transit Main Report – page 3)

This planning model was instituted under David Miller’s watch and the result was Transit City – a series of integrated but separate projects, the implementation of each dependent on funding from the Province of Ontario.

So now Mayor Ford has a better idea, and the ‘Grand Design’ is in a garbage pale somewhere. Mayor Ford has made his bed now he has to lay in it. His election team played on a tax revolt sentiment (that was probably more of a blow-back from the financial collapse of 2008 and the huge bail outs of corporations, some of whom left, with all our money, for cheaper labour markets elsewhere) and which Ford parlayed into a vindictive “end the gravy train” meme (aimed at local politicians) and it’s accompanying “war on the car” mythos (aimed at cyclists and the TCC).

(For some reason, when people are mad they ignore the obvious difference between a Wall Street Banker and say, a lowly bureaucrat down at City Hall, a garbage worker, a street car driver, or a cyclist – any target, the nearest target – upon which to vent their rage will do it seems.)

Also part of the Ford election team’s game was a transit policy that promised to destroy Miller’s Transit City and  get those dam street cars off the streets by building subways.

So what is this great subway plan?

Transportation City

Metrolinx, the provincial transit planning think tank held a public meeting with Rob Ford’s transportation team last week. A first glimpse into the details of Ford’s “Transportation City” plan.

Steve Munro was in attendance and wrote it up.

From Steve Munro’s Transit Blog: Metrolinx Contemplates Ford’s Subway Plan
February 19, 2011

[...]

On Tuesday, representatives of Mayor Ford met with Metrolinx with an updated version of Ford’s subway plan:

  • Extend the Sheppard subway west to Downsview and east to Scarborough Town Centre (STC)
  • Extend the Danforth subway northeast to STC
  • Build the Eglinton LRT in tunnel from Jane to Kennedy
  • Operate express bus service on Finch West
  • Build a new subway yard at a location to be determined

The total cost for this plan is pegged at $13.3-billion of which two thirds is the original Metrolinx funding that would have gone to the Transit City routes and the remainder is new money the City would raise via development levies and tax increment financing.

[...]

The two subway extensions in the plan are expensive and result in the cutting four of the five LRT corridors in the Transit City plan that would have connected all corners of the city. As far as the capacity of Ford’s “Transportation City” plan as opposed to the “Transit City” vision, it’s an astonishing difference.  A Pembina Institute paper released last week, “Making Tracks to Torontonians” (which I haven’t read it yet) breaks down the numbers. Leith Dunick talks about the institute’s findings in an article  at tbNewsWatch, “Transit City a better bang for Toronto’s buck, report concludes“:

“Ford’s plan would also service far less people, with only 61,000 people living within a 500-metre radius of the new subway stations, compared to 290,000 in the light-rail scheme. Twenty-two more communities, many with low-income populations, would also be serviced under the LRT plan.”

The Eglinton-Crosstown LRT

City of Toronto - Phase One - Eglinton-Crosstown LRT

Eglinton-Crosstown LRT - Phase One (via toronto.ca - link)

The city of Toronto web site says the Eglinton-Crosstown LRT, a 20 km line from Jane to Kennedy, has begun construction. Core samples are being drilled right now all along the 11 km underground midtown section (Keele Street to Laird Drive) – so engineers can design the station and tunnel construction techniques. Two tunnel boring machines are also under construction at a cost of $54 Million. Also, 200 LRT cars have been ordered from Bombardier, which have a $137 million penalty in the contract for canceling. Plus, planning is well under way for a LRT car barn at Leslie Street and Lake Shore Boulevard.

By including the Eglinton Crosstown LRT project in the new “Transportation City” plan it looks to me like The Mayor’s Office wanted to avoid a myriad of cancellation costs and bad press. Ford says only that he can sell the 150 LRT’s we don’t need to other cities – and for a profit he says.  (I doubt the sticker price goes up when you’re between a rock and a hard place.)

Google Map of Eglinton-Crosstown LRT - with tunnel high-lighted

Google Map of Eglinton-Crosstown LRT - with tunnel high-lighted (link to Google Map)


City of Toronto: Eglinton Crosstown Underground LRT - image title: "Example of underground LRT Minneapolis" - BikingToronto FreeWheel

Eglinton Crosstown LRT - an example from Minneapolis (via toronto.ca - link)

$8.3 Billion now $13.3 Billion

The total cost of this new plan is $13.3-billion, less the $8.3 Billion already promised to Transit City leaves $5 Billion to be raised by the city (!) through development levies and tax increment financing.

Development Levies

Development levies are one time charges (probably in the millions of dollars range in this case – depending on the size of the project) that the city would charge developers for the right to build along the new subway route. A tax on business in reverse, the tax payers build the infrastructure and a corporation who wants to build near that infrastructure would pay a one time levy to help pay for the infrastructure. This money would come in slowly as development along these kinds of infrastructure usually takes decades.

Tax increment financing

The city would borrow the $5 Billion it needs and pay it back through projected new tax income from  development along the new line – based on projections of the increase in property values along other such developments in the history of such things.

***

The Ford team’s idea of extending the Danforth Subway past Warden to Scarborough Town Centre was meet by a lot of sideways looks from the MetroLinx Board. They have countered that the Scarborough Rapid Transit line should be refurbished and become an extension of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT corridor as it would better facilitate the over all strategy of linking north west to north east – and they say the added volume of passengers funneling into the Bloor/Danforth line in the Ford plan would overwhelm station infrastructure (width of corridors, size and number of entrances). By planning towards an across midtown model the Metrolinx board thinks that rider volumes down the Young/University/Spadina lines would be significantly lower.

Finch West LRT nixed

City of Toronto image: Transit City - Finch West LRT

Finch West - not a part of Transportation City

Finch West is the kick in the head, in my opinion, this is a high volume corridor that was to get an LRT line in the Transit City plan. Transit users along Finch are now riding buses, and the volume of users along Finch is amongst the highest in the city. Added to that is the idea that these new routes were in part about providing new Canadians an opportunity to integrate and succeed through good public transportation. As an underdeveloped and lower income area people really count on transit – but Mayor Ford’s subway plan leaves them out in the cold. It’s one of four corridors that cannot be built with subways in the mix – and so while almost doubling the cost of the project Transportation City leaves Finch crowded with buses – and no room for Ford’s cherished cars.

Finch residents are organizing to save their LRT line. From the Toronto Sun Feb. 19, 2011: “Volunteers want LRT plan back on track“, by Jonathon Brodie:

[...]

“(Ford is) going to find that he’s going to really peev off a lot of these communities and a lot of these neighbourhoods that supported him.”

The mayor won’t have to look far for frustration.

“It’s really overcrowded and then what happens because of traffic you’ll see three buses lined up waiting to go and two of them will get filled and one will be empty,” said Vanessa Hunt, vice-president of campus life at York University.

“Then there will be no bus along the line for 45 minutes, and people are stuck in the cold waiting,” she said after a couple hours of door-knocking.

The canvassers finished with 200 signatures.

[...]

Thanks to Facebook group, “Save Transit City” for the link.

mh



Posted: February 23rd, 2011
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