As Transit City pushes forward — the Finch LRT was approved yesterday at city council — with the goal of providing reliable public transport to the forgotten reaches of the inner suburbs, it will be a challenge to ensure that areas of existing coverage aren’t forgotten in the process. The residents of the southwestern communities of Mimico, New Toronto and Long Branch have become a vocal and organized group, claiming they have already been forgotten. Far from just complaining however, residents in the area have a plan for action, and they’re pitching it aggressively.
The Lakeshore Planning Council is a citizen’s group dedicated to reviewing and advocating planning issues in South Etobicoke. Of late, the group has turned its attention to what has become a foremost issue in the community: service, or lack thereof, on the 501 streetcar. The planning council notes that service along Transit City bus routes such as Wellesley, receive much more frequent service despite lower ridership. The communities along the western waterfront were some of Toronto’s original ‘streetcar suburbs’ and as such, have streetcar service built into their very existence for both local trips and commutes into the city.
Problems started in 1995 when the TTC retired the old 507 route that used to serve between Long Branch and the Humber Loop in favour of a single extension of the 501. Since then, residents in the area have watched service slip badly.
Blamed for the problems are the usual suspects: bunching of streetcars on congested downtown streets, and frequent short-turns that leave passengers stranded. An extra fare, express bus for the area has proven equally unreliable and has failed to attract riders. This fall’s 501 route split, similarly failed to fix the problems on the Long Branch run.
To fix the problem once and for all, the planning council is proposing the TTC reinstate the 507 streetcar (check out the facebook group), this time rerouting it from Long Branch all the way to Dundas West station via Roncesvalles. The group argues this will improve service not only along Lake Shore, but also through Roncesvalles to compliment the streetscape improvements there. Furthermore, it will give riders a connection to the subway as well as extensive connections to other streetcars going further east while avoiding highly congested stretches of Queen St.
A rendering of the proposed 507 route
At issue here is also the future of Transit City’s planned Waterfront West LRT (WWLRT). The proposed route would run through the area, although it is still in the very early stages of planning. According to Mike Olivier of the Lakeshore Planning Council, the proposal of the WWLRT was met with skepticism in the community. Driving this attitude is pessimism regarding the TTC’s ability to properly manage service along the line, in light of how poorly things are done now. Olivier says that residents blame much of the problems with the Long Branch service on the way the TTC currently manages the route and worry that Transit City’s longer vehicles will only enhance problems with local service. While the TTC has yet to comment on the proposal, local councillor Mark Grimes supports the group’s plan.
The TTC risks losing the faith of residents along the waterfront and creating scepticism where it needs it least: among the riders who are already dedicated to taking transit. On the Etobicoke waterfront, locals have given the TTC an option to avoid this.
top photo by torontostreetcar, route rendering by Jordan Teichmann