Why I Voted For Rob Ford — a transit-riding, Toronto-loving, non-driver explains his vote

EDITOR: In an effort to further understand the landslide Rob Ford victory last week, we’ve offered this guest op-ed column to downtown-loving journalist and photographer Rick McGinnis where he explains his reasons for casting a vote for Ford. Share your thoughts after reading. Photo by Kevin Steele.

I woke up last Tuesday morning to discover that I was supposed to be angry. Rob Ford had just been voted mayor of Toronto to the apparent shock and mortification of much of the downtown and most of the media. We were being told that it was the work of angry voters – angry people like me, apparently, who made our livid way to the polls and stabbed at our ballots with rage. The problem was that I didn’t feel all that angry.

Ford’s victory, we were also told, was a triumph of the suburbs, and by Thursday a map was produced showing us how the city voted, riding by riding. It featured a small, pink inverted ‘T’ of George Smitherman votes hugging the lake, surrounded by a looming blue ring – angry, bellicose blue – of Ford voters hugging the downtown in its crushing embrace. By the end of the day, I was reading Twitter comments like “Can’t wait to finish another work day in #BlueToronto and get back home to #PinkToronto.”

The immediate response to Ford’s victory was an eruption of dismay from “Pink Torontonians,” who didn’t expect Ford’s lead to become so overwhelming less than ten minutes after the polls closed; former Barenaked Ladies singer Steven Page, performing at a CP24 live election show, let his feelings slip on Twitter with a now-infamous, wounded howl of “Fuck this fucking city.

Columnists like Kelly McParland at the National Post tried to give voice to Blue Toronto by mimicking what he imagined were the anguished cries of latte-sipping Smitherman and Pantalone supporters: “Wearily they munched their almond biscottis (sic) and totted up the devastation. Someone would have to contact the holistic, non-profit communal bike-sharing project and warn them the grand opening, scheduled for January, would be delayed.”

I’m a journalist and photographer, and until we moved a block north of St. Clair last year in search of an affordable house, I’d lived in the downtown west end for over twenty years. Neither my wife nor I drive, so transit is a major priority for us, and at a glance you’d call us Pink Toronto, especially if you have a healthy investment in generalizations.

I have friends who’ve worked for Greenpeace and PEN, on Atom Egoyan films, even at Spacing. I once used a Toronto Arts Council grant to try and finish a novel. I’ve shot albums for jazz artists, punk groups and Gordon Lightfoot, had my work published in Toronto Life, the Village Voice and the New York Times, and write about urban issues for blogTO. Hell, I spent 12 years working at NOW magazine! And I love lattes.

And last week, I happily cast my vote for Rob Ford, clear in my own mind that I wasn’t voting against George Smitherman as much as for someone whose agenda was – rare for a politician – painfully explicit. And I know that many people reading these words will consider them the epitome of baffling cognitive dissonance.

Seven years ago, I ran a short-lived blog during the election that made David Miller mayor. I voted for Miller, but with at least one qualification: “If I see Miller preside over the opening of one more precious parkette, like the Yo-Yo Ma musical shrub farm at Harbourfront, carved out of a bit of public space in front of a wall of condos, I’ll utterly regret my vote.” There have, unfortunately, been a lot of shrub farms during David Miller’s mayoralty, and Toronto has been run in headlong pursuit of something that I once just glimpsed, and now know with certainty – a near-fatal excess of vision.

The conventional wisdom is that politicians need vision, and that the quality of a politician’s vision amplifies his legacy. Transit City is a vision, and while I hunger for better public transit like anyone else whose day is either sped along or stalled at the whims of the TTC, I have never been able to convince myself that it was a vision that was either workable or desirable, mostly because the language used to describe it was never totally honest.

Light Rail Transit, or the LRT, was the shiny totem of Transit City – a network of new streetcars running on dedicated lines pushing ever deeper into the suburbs, and (hopefully) providing the downtown with as near as it would ever see to the subway line that was desperately needed but never built. The first problem was that they would never be run as true LRTs – at top speed and on dedicated lines – but as tramways, plain and simple, stopping and starting at the same traffic lights as a bus, car, or bicycle.

The second problem was that these call-them-what-you-want-but-they’re-not-LRTs would be built by the same people responsible for the upgrade of the St. Clair West streetcar line to a dedicated tramway. I left Roncesvalles Avenue just as the local pain of the streetcar upgrades was starting to bite, and moved to St. Clair at the dregs end of the years-long, over budget construction there, where the anguish of shopkeepers and residents was painful and prolonged. As visions go, you can’t blame voters for suspecting that it might be more in the nature of a nightmare.

We were offered LRTs as a consolation prize for the subways that David Miller and TTC chair Adam Giambrone said would never again be built, and while all of the other candidates running this year (Joe Pantalone excepted) promised subways, often in profusion, Rob Ford only promised to complete the circuit connecting the Sheppard line to the Bloor-Danforth line in Scarborough, an idea that downtown was presumed to have rejected as outlandish and insulting.

Ford’s plan would probably do almost nothing for me, but once I let my self-interest slip, I realized that, in an imperfect world, it was probably the best idea out there. A line along Queen or King would be infinitely preferable to me, but apart from being wildly expensive and disruptive, it would drain resources away from servicing that part of the city where transit use ranged from the inconvenient to the purgatorial.

Without a car or a license, I spend a lot of time traveling on transit through the suburbs on assignments, so I’ve developed sympathy for Torontonians forced to rely on the TTC for work or shopping, and I can sympathize with their gratitude at finally hearing a mayoral candidate tell them that precious resources will be spent making their lives even marginally easier. Much the same way that drivers were astonished to hear a candidate say, in plain words, what every one of them knows: Streetcars have made downtown rush hour travel hellish.

There’s been a surprisingly half-hearted attempt to paint Ford’s abrupt softening of his anti-streetcar stance in the days after his election as a flip-flop; I know I’m not the only one who was actually relieved that he anticipated the fiscal hit and poor optics of purging streetcars not only from the dysfunctional King, Queen and Dundas routes but from the right-of-ways along Spadina and St. Clair. There’s something for everyone in this apparent pull-back, though the only people it must disappoint are the ones who were darkly looking forward to four years of Ford as political bull in a china shop.

All this talk of transit makes me sound like a single issue voter, and perhaps I am. I can’t speak to why the other 380,200 people voted for Ford, though there has been no shortage of serious analysis of the root causes of this apparent phenomenon, most of it praising Ford for the simplicity of his message, and criticizing George Smitherman for abandoning his own in favour of the obvious fact that he wasn’t Rob Ford. Viewed through the lens of my transit obsession, my vote for Ford could probably be seen as a vote, not against Smitherman or even David Miller’s vision, but against TTC chair Adam Giambrone, whose own mayoral campaign was intense but mercifully brief.

Many people who voted for Ford might explain that they wanted to pay fewer taxes, and while that would be nice, I’m enough of a pessimist to assume that it’s in government’s nature to assume an ongoing entitlement to your largesse. After years of concentrating on his message of municipal waste, Rob Ford might not lower my taxes, but I can at least anticipate that the money City Hall gets might be used more carefully. That said, every vote is an expression of the purest pink-cheeked hope and optimism, and a part of me is, as ever, prepared to be disappointed, but what I don’t expect is ever more expansive – or expensive – vision.

The most stubborn criticism against Ford, though, is that he’s a bully and a clod, inept, uncouth and stupid. In tone, it most resembles the more vicious attacks made on Sarah Palin, and the similarity has inspired tenuous attempts to link Ford’s victory with the Tea Party in the U.S. On the most practical level, it’s undercut by Ford’s three successive terms as a councillor, and his apparently unaccountable failure upwards to the highest municipal office, against every expectation and the furious opposition of much of the city’s media.

What Ford clearly lacks is eloquence, and for that I’m grateful. Vision is given wings by eloquence, and history is full of poor ideas given inadequate criticism thanks to a carapace of pretty words. We’re long overdue for a debate over what government should and should not provide, and what our own city can and cannot afford, and since that debate will be harsh and uncivil at times, I have no problem with my choice for mayor.

For the first time in decades, municipal government looks like it’s going to be interesting, and voter turnout in this election – higher than it has been since the city was amalgamated – suggests that voters agree. Rob Ford might say some rude or even silly things in the next four years, but I’m certain he won’t be trying to sell me his vision.


  1. “Streetcars have made downtown rush hour travel hellish.”

    Much like most of Mr. Ford’s platform, that is a gross simplification at best, wrong at worst. Take off the streetcars — or even replace with buses — and in a year or two, the downtown rush hour won’t be any better.

    What made the downtown rush hour hellish is too many people trying to get places in a city lacking a plan for how to handle this fact adequately and the will to enforce that plan. A vision, one might say.

    As an aside: the Roncesvalles rebuild was prompted by a necessary water service infrastructure replacement. Streetscape modifications were piggy-backed on top of already required disruption. Blaming “the streetcar upgrades” for the pain of construction is inaccurate.

  2. Ignoring the whole “vision” piece being sold in this, I have a major problem with the authors perception that connecting the Sheppard line to B/D through Scarborough is the best way to improve service to “that part of the city where transit use ranged from the inconvenient to the purgatorial”.

    If we are talking about what makes the most sense and improves transit for the greatest number of under-served Torontonians, this is not it.  Simple analysis of ridership levels does not justify a subway here.  Especially when, for a fraction of the cost, transit could be improved across not just one part of the city (northeast), but all the way across the the northern reaches (especially in the Jane/Finch area, which arguably needs improved transit links more).

    Is LRT the best choice?  Maybe not.  Are there ways to improve LRT? Quite likely.  Would we all prefer subways to our front doors? Of course.  But Rob Ford’s subway plan is unrealistic and unattainable (especially in the timelines he outlines in his transportation plan).  THIS is one, of several, reasons I didn’t vote for him.

  3. You doubt, Jarek, but I know that the constant streetcar traffic on Richmond made my commute hell every day.

  4. You seriously voted for Rob Ford based on his transit plan? The one that uses millions of dollars Toronto doesn’t even have to build a few kilometres of subway, but cancels the Eglinton LRT (which is, for much of its length, functionally a subway) and the rest of Transit City? This is why you voted for Rob Ford? The mind boggles.

  5. Yes Rick, as Jarek says, streetcars have not made downtown travel hellish. They seat far more people than a bus, meaning to move the same number of people you’d need more buses. And buses are big, cumbersome, constantly stopping and traffic-impairing vehicles too.

    Rob Ford’s bully reputation is not disproven by his council record; if anything it’s bolstered.

    Rob Ford might have clear ideas about what he wants to do, but so many of them are bad ideas. And his good ideas, for the most part, are wildly unrealistic with our current infrastructure funding issues. He panders by promising subways when LRT would work just as well.

    There have been many problems with cost overruns and delayed infrastructure projects under Miller’s government, but is there such a thing as a perfect mayor? No. Miller was flawed but he was thoughtful, and he was not a “downtown mayor.” Tower renewal, harmonized zoning, transit city… these are not projects that a person unconcerned with suburban issues would have pursued.

  6. I’m no Transit City anorak, but I would have taken it in a heartbeat over nothing, which is exactly what Ford will deliver.

    Yes, the TC lines would need better fare payment, signaling, stop placement, etc. but all of that could be fixed over time. And it’s much easier, peanuts really, to extend a semi-useful LRT into a useful one that runs up and down and across town than to put down tracks where there is nothing at all.

    Transit City would have been the foot in the door to give LRT critical mass in Toronto and spur reform and improvement of all streetcar lines. Now, instead of leading dozens of cities on the continent that are studying or building light rail and streetcars, we’re at the back of the class, snoozing and resting on our decaying laurels. The myths about streetcars being bad for traffic instead of good will persist, while the streetscape improvements that so many Spacing readers crave – turning strip malls into midrise streetwalls, filling in gaps on arterial streets with new economic development – will now not happen because these things follow LRT routes, not bus lines.

    On that issue alone I could never vote for Ford. And by 2014, anyone who has visited a major American city will have seen their new LRT or streetcar line and think the same.

  7. @ anticorum

    Take all those streetcar passengers and put them in three separate buses, or in 100 individual cars. Then see how your commute feels.

  8. You claim to have a “transit obsession”, but you don’t seem to realize what transit advocates know: That none of Ford’s subway plan will get build, just like most of the subway plans of the last 30 years, and very possibly Transit City won’t get build now, so we will be left with nothing.

    “The most stubborn criticism against Ford, though, is that he’s a bully and a clod, inept, uncouth and stupid.”

    No one said he can’t be these things and still get elected.

  9. “Streetcars have made downtown rush hour travel hellish.”

    No, cars have made downtown rush hour travel hellish. The streetcar works just fine, when there aren’t cars parked or stopped illegally, or holding up traffic by making left-hand turns.

    Furthermore, anyone can see that downtown rush hour travel is hellish on all streets, not just on streetcar lines. Would you like to blame the hellish Spadina traffic on the streetcars too? How about the Gardiner while we’re at it?

  10. You voted for Rob Ford because he said the lies you wanted to hear, and you believed them.

  11. Anticorium — would private vehicles or buses replacing the streetcars make your commute better? If replacing the streetcars with buses, how would expected decreased TTC ridership and corresponding increased private vehicle use impact it? We all get angry when stuck behind an obstacle, but we need to look at the big image. Lanes of Richmond and Adelaide are currently taken up by construction at several spots, making commutes hellish — would anyone suggest getting rid of the construction?

    To expand on my second paragraph, whether that vision is a couple of surface transit priority corridors, a subway you can somehow get built at a cost we can afford, or a private vehicle-oriented plan that you can demonstrate is feasible (as in, we have or can have enough asphalt space) is a secondary issue. What is important that you have that holistic plan of how to deal with the large issue — not just a hot-button one-sentence slogan, even if that might be the easy sell.

  12. “Streetcars have made downtown rush hour travel hellish.”

    … for the people commuting in single-occupant cars, who are the real culprits.

  13. Ford’s transit plan is impossible as stated. The proposal to extend the subway along the SRT right-of-way — which he shares with Smitherman, who should have known better — can’t be done because the subway is oriented in a different direction at Kennedy station.

    A new right-of-way would be needed, with stations at Brimley/Eglinton, McCowan/Lawrence, and STC/McCowan.

    I suppose they could also demolish and rebuild from scratch Kennedy station so that the subway would point the right way for an SRT alignment.

    Either way, this would be expensive. If Ford can find the required billions in the city hall plant watering budget, more power to him.

  14. This is a staggering bit of drivel and reads like a massive personal rationalization. 

    No doubt the experts on transit who frequent this site will deal with the misconceptions related to the TTC and Transit City. I want to focus on this idea of vision.

    I find the central conceit of the article, that vision is not only quantifiable but also that it can be brought into balance, laughable. First, for better or worse, all great cities are the direct result of vision and/or contrasting visions. Be it Christopher Wren’s singular design for London, or the contrast in ideologies between Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses in New York City, the evolution of a city is entirely dependent on vision. And a city that refuses to evolve (ahem, Detroit) will ultimately die. So by voting against vision, you’re essentially voting against the continued development (and life) of the city.

    The only thing this article does successfully is discredit the author. His argument is akin to someone saying “I can’t be racist, I have a black friend”. Mr. McGinnis can’t be a right-wing, populist dupe because he used to work for NOW magazine. He can’t be anti-transit; he rides the bus! He can’t be a frightened NIMBY; because he once blew a TAC grant. Please sir, dispense. 

    The conclusion is that we should not take Mr. McGinnis’ vote for Rob Ford as a vote against the city, oh no. It’s just a vote against vision. It’s just such a silly concept. As if we could simply put the city on pause for the next 4 years while Hero Ford sorts out the finances. 

    Of course, before Hero Ford can do that he’ll have to find a way to pay off his $650,000 campaign debt. As soon as that’s done, Mr. McGinnis’ choice for studious, visionless manager will surely be ready to take the reins. 

    As always, I applaud Spacing for pulling a Bill Maher and promoting an opinion that own wouldn’t expect to see on this site. However, I have to point out that just Bill Maher, they picked the silliest right-winger they could find. So the opposing viewpoint is present, but not so strong that it makes us lefties question our own juicy rationalizations. 

  15. @ Josh Hind

    Yeah. I’m kinda disappointed there aren’t a few more Ford supporters out here to get the discussion going. Even the Sun has more ideological diversity than Spacing does. Oh well. Still love you, Spacing.

  16. Matt> Our “ideology” is generally urbanism. That swings all around, IMHO. There is diversity of opinion here, but the comments are generally civil. That seems fine.

  17. @shawn

    Oh, I just meant no one else was coming out and backing up Rick’s position. (I certainly wouldn’t want to see Spacing turn into the Sun’s comments thread.) 

  18. Uh, Matt and Jarek, I think you misread Anticorium’s post. There is no “constant steetcar traffic on Richmond”. I believe he was trying to imply that even major downtown streets without ANY public transit are still congested with automobile traffic. And I agree. Removing streetcars on a few streets and replacing them with twice as many buses won’t make things any better for drivers. Quite honestly, drivers in this city have it relatively easy. No tolls, and nowhere near the amount of traffic you find in cities such as New York and London.

  19. have to agree the streetcars are not the problem.

    If you take a good look around there is only one person in about 99% of the cars in traffic in Toronto. Those street cars take up maybe 300% more space than Rob Ford’s Tahoe, but holds over 100+ people.

    A bus can carry ( at capacity) less than half of that, so you’d need to double the dirty diesel busses on the street to match the already taxed street cars.

    Carpooling should be rewarded in a city like this… Gardiner, DVP, 427 should open these lanes for carpooling eco-friendly commuters.

  20. Am I the only one who thought Anticorium’s comment was a joke? Last time I checked, there are no streetcars on Richmond to make any driver’s commute hell.

  21. I think the author deserves thanks for sharing his views so openly, and while I find them astonishingly misguided they should be a reminder that people vote for all sorts of reasons, right or wrong. My biggest objection to his line of reasoning is this: whatever you think of the specific merits of Ford’s ideas on transit, they amount to ripping up nearly everything that is already underway and starting from scratch. The reason Toronto’s subway map has barely changed since the 70s is that we can’t stick to anything, unlike places like Washington that set out long-term plans decades ago and built as funds became available. We are on the verge of building a 13 kilometre subway on Eglinton that is 100 percent funded by the province, engineered and ready to go next year–and Rob Ford wants to say ‘no thanks,’ and starting over with his own pet projects.

    That’s supposed to be a transit plan? As others note above, the reward that the author and other Ford supporters receive on the transit front for their vote is likely to be another four years of nothing. That’s before we get to the absurd idea of ripping out even some streetcar lines, though I am reasonably confident that that proposal is so impractical, costly, and offensive to Toronto’s identity that it will be quietly dropped.

  22. [Up front, I will say that I am a not a Torontoian (nor am I even an Ontarian), but I do follow transit (and transportation) debates everywhere. I live in Victoria, BC.]

    Rick, I can understand why you need to justify voting for what is unpopular choice, but I cannot agree with your logic. A few points:

    -Traffic jams are caused by streetcars:
    People want to get from A to B. They get there in a variety of ways. There is a limited amount of road space. Ergo, we have traffic jams. However, let’s allocate each portion of the traffic jam to the everybody in it, as related to the amount of space they are exclusively taking. Yes, the road is largely uniformly covered in vehicles. But the road is not uniformly dense with people. There are towering little spikes of density right on top of each transit vehicle (be it bus, streetcar, etc.). So let’s use the housing example for what to do. When land gets precious, they densify. This isn’t exactly shocking (although it can be controversial). The logic holds true for traffic jams.

    -Subways are going to fall from the sky
    This is basically your second argument, even though you don’t explicitly state it. Toronto (as does everywhere else) has a limited budget. In fact, you spend a great deal of time talking about how Ford will limit that budget. So how is Toronto going to afford subways, which are any times more expensive, over LRT/tram when they are having trouble just paying for LRT/tram? If you can only afford a Toyota, why are saying we should trade it in for a BMW because “it is better”? Sorry, that is the height of fiscal responsibility

    -Transit City is not real LRT
    No, it isn’t. But as other commenters have pointed out, transit priority, etc. are fixable (although not easily) but no tracks on the ground is a lot harder to fix. Facts on the ground matter.

  23. @shawn @matt
    So let’s go back to basics RE transit and urbanism.  Heck, let’s go back to Jane Jacobs, who essentially said we should decentralize/privatize it and let it be dictated by individual users.  Not even Rob Ford, probably the most right wing council member and mayor Toronto is likely to ever have, is advocating it.

    Reason: You don’t literally mean publicly owned transit?
    Jacobs: No. All forms of transit. It can be taxis, privately run jitneys, whatever. Things that people don’t have to own themselves and can pay a fare for.
    Reason: You’re not an enemy of free-market transportation.
    Jacobs: No. I wish we had more of it. I wish we didn’t have the notion that you had to have monopoly franchise transit. I wish it were competitive — in the kinds of vehicles that it uses, in the fares that it charges, in the routes that it goes, in the times of day that it goes. I’ve seen this on poor little Caribbean islands. They have good jitney service, because it’s dictated by the users.
    I wish we could do more of that. But we have so much history against it, and so many institutional things already in place against it. The idea that you have to use great big behemoths of vehicles, when the service actually would be better in station-wagon size. It shows how unnatural and foolish monopolies are. The only thing that saves the situation is when illegal things begin to break the monopoly.

    I think we were taking a lot for granted under Miller.  We take in “vision” when cities should maybe have very little of it.  Aren’t they supposed to organically grow?  Why can’t a city’s transit system do the same?  Vision can be extremely dangerous in the right or wrong hands whether it’s ramming a streetcar ROW through a neighbourhood like Transit City or a highway through one like Robert Moses.  We don’t know how it could ultimately change things.

  24. For a minute I thought this was satire; justifying a Ford vote based on his transit plan and lack of vision. I’ve got to hope that at the very least the irony was intentional when the three-dollar word “carapace” was used in the paragraph about bad ideas told eloquently…

  25. Tuzanor> Cities grow organically yeah, but can you point to a great one that didn’t also have a vision (or visionaries) leading the way (from time to time, or all the time).

  26. Okay, looking back, the Richmond comment being a joke does make sense. I believe parts of Richmond are used for short-turns and other non-revenue operation.

  27. This essay is seriously deficient in both facts and logic, as many other commenters have so ably pointed out. I just want to add one small question: Why in god’s name does the Roncesvalles construction project make an appearance here?
    Roncesvalles was a mess, and the city wisely decided to rebuild it. Local merchants and residents were actively involved in the design process. The project is more or less on schedule and on budget: the TTC is planning to restore full streetcar service in December. And the street will look much better than it did 18 months ago when the construction started.
    There were problems along the way, for sure, and there are some lessons to be learned for future projects. But to view the Roncesvalles project as part of some kind of “nightmare” that justifies a vote for Rob Ford is just delusional.

  28. My gawd! That photo! Those faux-victorian condos and the tracks!

    My neighbourhood in Montréal looks exactly the same!
    Let me guess…there’s a bike path beside the tracks, right?

    I did a double-take. I really thought for a moment that the photo was taken just down the street from chez-moi.

    We’re all just one big Terrawna now!

  29. Josh – I’ll ignore most of what you said except the bit about putting the city on hold for four years while Ford sorts out the finances. That’s not going to happen, but I’m not sure it’s a bad idea, overall. And I’m sure a lot of Ford voters were motivated by precisely this hope. What amazed – and saddened – me about the aftermath of the election was how few people could even imagine that fellow citizens might feel this way.

    There’s a lot of animus directed at cars here, and frankly that confounds me. Sure buses and streetcars can carry more passengers than cars, but you have to understand that many of the passengers on transit – perhaps not a majority, but an appreciable percentage – would probably rather be in a car, and as long as our transit system is overtaxed, dirty, and unable to keep to schedules (let’s be honest, streetcars are the worst culprits for this) they will always feel this way.

    Some people simply don’t want to use transit. Period. And the car isn’t going to be uninvented. Either we deal with this reality or we don’t. Making a fetish of our transit use, and trying to pretend that it would all be better if we could discourage or even ban car use, is to depart from reality from the start.

    Carpooling would be nice, but if you lived through the ’70s, you’ll know that people only carpool in considerable numbers in a crisis. As soon as the crisis is over they return to their preferred habits. That isn’t going to change, barring something like economic cataclysm. I know I’m not the only transit rider who grasps this, but sometimes it feels like I am.

    And streetcars do make downtown traffic hellish – not only for car drivers but for transit riders. The simple fact is that we can’t have streetcars and curbside parking on busy four-lane downtown streets like King, Queen, Dundas and College. One will have to go, and I can only imagine the outrage from merchants if it was the latter. Streetcars are an efficient way to move large groups of people on the surface routes of this area (subways are better, but that’s another discussion, and one that’s more like fantasy at this point.) But if the streetcars can’t keep to a schedule, bunch up, short turn, and otherwise frustrate and annoy both riders and drivers it will ensure that ridership will stagnate or decline eventually.

    King and Queen are the worst culprits, but I’ve seen it on St. Clair, too, despite the right of way. Streetcar drivers have told me that there are huge problems with supervisors enforcing short turns as their only solution, but have added that maintenance on the UTDC cars isn’t what it could be. Steve Munro has proposed solutions for this problem, and it would be wonderful if the new TTC chair listened to him, but the old one never really did, so I don’t have much hope there.

    We’ve put cars and streetcars on a collision course (ideologically and literally) for too long now, and it’s got to end. And to be frank, I didn’t see either Smitherman or (especially) Pantalone doing that. Voting for Ford at least made it likely that transit planning might get undertaken without some sort of vague agenda that cars could be discouraged or somehow wished away. In that light, my vote for Ford was a vote for a change in how we began discussions, with the likelihood that a new perspective would be allowed, for the first time in years. And one that didn’t begin with a goal of arriving at some previously-agreed-upon outcome.

  30. Since there is much talk about “hellish downtown traffic”, I’d like to piggie-back what I have been thinking about downtown traffic here to see if people think it make any sense:

    Turn King and Queen into one-way streets, using two lanes for dedicated street-car/LRT. Put two car traffic lane on the right hand, and ban all street parking and left turning on those two streets. Built garages to compensate for parking loss. Build separated bike lanes on Richmond/Adelaide.

    Also, I am quite puzzled by why St. Clair and Spadina do not run like LRT, with real transit signal priority. I know not all stops on Spadina are at far side so it may not work that well, but what about St. Clair? Hopefully TC can take real advantage of the separate lanes so that it does not ended up as glorified tramway.

  31. i think it’s a great idea to give voice to people who are more than happy to tell us why they voted for a guy who helped legitimize the murder of cyclists. very responsible, Spacing.

    but that’s the the ‘responsibility’ part — i know punching dirty effing hippies in the face is all just good fun, but really, aren’t we all having it bad enough? some ‘progressive’ votes for someone because they hate streetcars and/or streetcars and/or traffic at rush-hour — meaning, this person voted to _prevent_ the one thing that is _proven_ to solve rush-hour traffic — bicycles. Smart, voter person, very very smart.

  32. Yu – all good suggestions. You’ll come up against opposition on the parking garages, though, as well as clearing curbside parking. There are still systemic problems w/TTC route policies, though, that would need to be addressed, as I said in my comment above.

  33. That was a well-written post arguing with some surprisingly misguided ideas, notably concerning the streetcars. What’s so bad about the Music Garden, anyway? Roncesvalles is a complex reconstruction project that involves replacing both water and streetcar infrastructure at the same time.

    I agree about Sheppard being a subway line. The ridership is clearly there, based off current numbers for the stubway. There’s no need for LRT on every arterial; frequent bus service linking people with a suburban subway is a functional solution that promotes a large amount of growth around a single corridor. The province needs to help us; they can’t just keep spending hundreds of billions of dollars on expressways and urban highway widening projects.

  34. Rick – How convenient that you should choose to ignore any attacks on your motivations when your entire article is an attempt to justify your motivations. Instead, why not spill some more ink on this nonsense “war on the car”. And from a non-driver, no less. I’m sure the drivers of the city are lining up to thank you for your magnanimous support. 

    I’m even more perplexed by your motivations than I was after reading your original piece. It’s starting to sound like you voted for Ford because his vision for transportation involves cars. But that can’t be, because, as you contend, Ford doesn’t have a vision. So if he doesn’t have a vision for transportation that includes the car, what does he have? Is it a “hunch” about transportation. Or a notion. Or a plan? How about an…idea?

    Either you’re an expert at semantics, you’re caught in the mobius loop of your own justifications OR you actually believe all this shit. Personally, I’d much rather believe you were just playing words games than have to accept that someone with your background really believes that “no vision” is actually a compelling reason to support anyone.

  35. Calm down, Josh, you’re hyperventilating. You don’t need to have a “vision” to contemplate the brute reality of cars on the streets of the city alongside public transit. I’d just like to see someone do it here for the first time in a generation. I rode the subway with David Miller when he was a councillor, and while it was a nice optic, I know he didn’t do it much after that. Grappling with the reality of a city full of unrepentant drivers is a good idea; deciding to stifle them with traffic “bump-outs” and “calming zones” while imagining that they’ll be seduced out of their cars by a network of shiny rails is a fantasy. Too often these visions are fantasies, and I’ve had enough for now.

  36. So you voted for Ford because streetcars make rush hour traffic worse . . . I’ve never seen streetcars on the the DVP but loath driving the DVP during rush hour.

    And you praise the fact that Ford has no vision? What rock have you been living under? He should have been running for the post of city financial watchdog so he can guard the pennies . . . Being the mayor of a mega city involves a lot more that just managing spending.

    Ford is a one issue buffoon who appeals to the hard of thinking with overly simplistic messaging.

    Sincerely Rick,

    Yeran Idiot

  37. The streetcar defenders forget one thing: Streetcars break down *way* more often than buses do, and when a streetcar stops, *it can’t be towed* — except by another streetcar which takes far more effort, time and coordination to get into place. And when a streetcar breaks down, *every car behind it* gets stopped as well, for anything ranging from five to thirty minutes. Say what you will about buses, I can’t remember the last time I saw a broken-down bus blocking traffic.

    Also, as the parent of a six-year-old, the ability to get off and step straight onto the sidewalk, rather than have to watch like a hawk for the idiot motorist who thinks he can blow past on the right before the doors open, is more appealing than you might think.

  38. It’s important to remember that Transit City isn’t just about new streetcars – it envisions remaking streets like Sheppard, rezoning them to, for example, increase density, and thus residents and commercial activity. And besides, by promising to have those new subway extensions built in 4 years, it’s obvious Ford was never serious about actually doing it, so I think it’s a non-issue.

    And there are options for downtown, with the existing transit infrastructure. I think it would be relatively simple to turn the 504 King streetcar into an LRT and, at the same time, a downtown relief line. It already runs from Broadview station, along King and (once the construction is done) up Roncesvalles to Dundas West station. By removing half of the stops along the route (or as many as possible) you could improve traffic through the downtown core (especially the financial district), and allow commuters going downtown from east of the Don Valley a way to get there without taking the Yonge line (thus easing congestion there). It wouldn’t require the disruption of building a dedicated line like St Clair or Spadina – just a few simple changes like reducing stops, limiting or eliminating left-hand turns for cars, and maybe eliminating parking. And with the new streetcars, which hold more passengers than the current ones, it could really make a noticeable difference for downtown commuters.

  39. Like the author, I live downtown and rely on transit quite heavily. I also voted for Rob Ford and I love his transit plan.
    Streetcars: A – I think most would agree that we should try to improve the flow of traffic, especially during rush hour. Segregated streetcars like the Spadina and St. Clair lines don’t disrupt the flow of traffic, but the rest (Dundas, College, King, Queen) do. Both lanes of College street are blocked when my streetcar makes stops. A bus would pull into the right lane and allow traffic to keep flowing in the left lane. I really don’t know how most streetcar advocates get around this basic fact.

    B – When one streetcar breaks down, the rest behind it bunch up. This happens quite frequently and leads to even more problems when streetcars are redirected from other routes. You know what a bus can do? Change lanes! Miracle!

    C – I don’t buy any of the capacity arguments. If we can buy big streetcars, we can buy big buses.

    Now for Subways. People living in the suburbs also deserve them, not just the people who have it already. It will cost money, but its a worthwhile long term investment. For those making arguments about density, I don’t think a lot of the existing stations on the green and yellow lines would’ve been built if we only looked at existing density (as opposed to the potential for further density).

  40. Rick, of course people love cars. Even the leftiest among us probably wishes they were driving a Prius with public radio cranked up and incense burning rather than becoming pressed meat in a subway carriage. It’s just that such preferences can have unintended consequences that may not be so lovable on a grander scale. It’s like having fries every day for lunch in the cafeteria — mmmmn, but not a great policy.

    If you want to see what a successful, fiscally solid, large city is like when it has terrific road capacity and great highway access and zero transit, feel free to go visit my in-laws in Oklahoma City (metro population: 1.2 million Rob Fords. I kid you not). Of course the kicker is that OKC is tired of their dead downtown streets and fast-moving traffic and lack of enviable assets like cafes and art scenes and so on — so guess what? They’re building a streetcar! (http://bit.ly/ajQcLO)

    Reform surface rail transit – don’t remove it.

  41. Rick,

    What is your solution then? If it’s buses, tell us why buses are better than streetcars. Do they glide speedily through traffic? Will they encourage more people to take transit? Are they cleaner?

    Otherwise, “provoking discussion” is not sufficient reason to vote for someone with such half-assed ideas. The discussion would be provoked naturally as service declines (which it is.)

    Side note: I think people who have spent their entire lives in Toronto fail to appreciate just how decent the TTC is compared to the transit systems in other Canadian cities. Streetcars do seem to be getting more crowded and less reliable, but when I see a platform full of my fellow citizens get all agitated and start cursing out the TTC because the streetcar hasn’t come in four or five minutes, I still can’t quite believe it. (20 minutes is a different story.)

  42. There are a lot of points that could be made here but I guess fundamentally I just want to know this: How could a savvy political-watcher sit through this campaign and believe that Rob Ford actually gives a damn about transit?

    It wasn’t a major policy plank, his numbers didn’t add up, he only talked about it very rarely. His ‘policy advisor’ has advocated dismantling the entire TTC and having people carpool/take taxis. Ford himself is not a transit user and has never had any designs on bringing any kind of improved transit service to his ward.

  43. Rick – even if you agree with scrapping Transit City, the fact that Ford’s “plan” calls for the Sheppard subway and SRT conversion to subway to be completed by 2015 (!) should give you reason to be suspect. It is not physically or politically possible to build those two subways in the timeframe he suggested. It just can’t be done. At least Miller’s Transit City plan was reasonable from a cost perspective, achievable in terms of timeline for construction, and most importantly, funded.

  44. Re: “hellish downtown traffic” – Shalaby et al. (2003) tested different transit priority options along King, and found that a complete left-turn ban during peak periods was just about as effective (for streetcars) as shutting down the street entirely and turning it into a transit mall. Drivers will wail (as per usual), and locals will complain about traffic on residential streets, but it seems like left-turning cars are the real problem, not streetcars or drivers in general.

  45. @ Shim
    Good points.
    1 – Yes, streetcars without ROWs hold up two lanes. But again, we’d need more buses, which would still be moving in and out of various lanes, still stopping, still holding things up. Probably it would be slightly better for traffic. Not much.
    2 – After living downtown for three years, I’ve never seen a streetcar break down. Really. It happens, but not often.
    3 – Wrong on this one. Even those double-capacity accordion-style buses can’t accomodate quite as many as a streetcar. And since the streetcars are already over-stretched at rush hour, reducing capacity even by a little isn’t something we want to do.

  46. Years ago, when Downtown had more traffic, the TTC ran buses on Queen St, while doing track work. Traffic was definitely better and the buses were faster than the Streetcars. It is far to simplistic to look solely at capacity and conclude that streetcars are better. The main problem with any fixed track system that operates in a mixed environment is that any encumbrance is propagated throughout.
    The reaction to Rick’s opinion, is in itself telling. Let me ask, just what has Miller’s vision done for Toronto? By what measures do we gauging success?

    I voted for Ford, not because of his vision, I did so because I want my city to become more prosperous. I want poverty to be declining, not increasing and I want streets to be clean, not covered with graffiti. Paying for Miller Visions to support his legacy, while ignoring what really counts, had to stop.

  47. Shim Mannan: your suggestion to buy bigger buses to match the capacity of our larger streetcars shows that you really don’t understand how these vehicles function. Streetcars are longer than buses because both their front wheels and rear wheels turn. This allows them to make all those tight turns throughout the downtown core. Even if the TTC buys articulated buses, which would match the capacity of a CLRV (regular-sized streetcar), those bus drivers would have one heck of a time navigating our narrow downtown streets, where the right lane is usually packed with parked cars. I can’t imagine the TTC ever agreeing to run artic buses downtown. And even if you ignore this, what do we do about our articulated streetcars? You would need double the number of artic buses to replace them, but again, you can’t really run artics downtown. So we’d have to replace them with triple the number of regular buses. What do you think that influx of buses would do to a street like Queen? The opposite of what you’re looking for. The bottom line is that if we can’t even afford to finish the Sheppard subway, there’s no way we’ll ever build a Queen or King subway (the only logical choice to replace the four E/W streetcar routes). So for the forseeable future, we’ll have streetcars downtown. That’s the bottom line.

  48. Rick,

    First off — thanks for engaging us in the discussion.

    This discussion is trending increasingly old-Toronto centric. Pre-amalgation cities will have different needs, but since we’ve gotten started on the streetcars, I’ll keep on going about downtown for now.

    I strongly disagree with your comments regarding cars. It is true that offered an uncongested, speedy, and comfortable trip in a personal vehicle vs an uncongested, speedy, and comfortable trip on public transit, many — probably most — would choose a personal vehicle.

    The catch is that in a city the size of Toronto, without major changes, there is no space for the first option. If you commute to old Toronto, and especially downtown, by car, you will be grinding your teeth in a traffic jam even before exiting the freeway. There. Is. No. Space. Period.

    Offer someone living at Yonge and Lawrence a choice between driving downtown and a subway ride downtown in the morning rush (with the caveat that they can get on! And it will be clean!) and they will laugh at you.

    This isn’t a matter of untangling gridlock or synchronizing traffic lights or better enforcing of parking restrictions, all of which could and should be done. Gradual improvement won’t help here. If everyone were to drive downtown, you’d need ten times the space.

    This is the reality. You can’t wish it away. You could blow it away and then pave over, but that’s not what I want to see in Toronto, and I don’t think it’s what you’d like either.

    That is why we’re pushing for better transit. For a system which is less overtaxed and keeps its schedules better. It’s going to require money and it’s going to require some space and concessions from the car.

    Then the few people who absolutely cannot stand others or who have to live far enough that we cannot reasonably provide them with good transit will find it easier to drive.

    I absolutely sympathize with mixed feelings regarding the TTC right now. It’s in an awful middle, forced to assume a lot of responsibility in a growing city without being given the powers (e.g. dedicated surface corridors), the funding (for subways or surface transport, for fares, etc) and especially the political support (opposition to cutting funding; willingness to push through investment or even something as basic as banning left turns or turning on transit priority for signals (!)).

    The question is how we get it out of there. Ford doesn’t know the answer. *

    * Not that I am convinced any of the other candidates in the election really did.

  49. Rick – good, interesting article. I think you make an interesting point about people with too much vision. It’s no good to have a beautiful tablecloth if you’ve burnt the chicken.

    On the transportation side, it’s true that there will always be people who want to drive and in a big city there will always be traffic. But that’s exactly why we invest in things like public transit, cycling infrastructure, intensification around subway stations and walkable mixed use neighbourhoods – to make it easier and more attractive for people to go about their lives without having to rely on the hellishness of Toronto driving. But our policies don’t always do that because we want to satisfy everyone, everywhere. That’s how you end up with King street that has streetcars + parking + 2-way traffic, etc. It’s a bunch of halfway solutions that make no-one happy.

  50. I find it frustrating that Rick keeps tossing out all kinds of contentious claims without providing any actual evidence to back them up.

    As a regular rider of the Dufferin bus, I would dispute the claim that “streetcars are the worst culprits” with regard to bunching, short-turning, and schedule problems. Does anyone have any reliable statistics on the performance of streetcar routes versus comparable bus routes?

    Also, plenty of bus-route streets, in Toronto and elsewhere, have traffic that is every bit as “hellish” as the traffic on Queen or King. Does anyone have any statistics comparing traffic flow on bus streets versus streetcar streets? Has any engineer or urban planner done any modelling of the likely impact of replacing Toronto’s streetcars with buses? Henderson’s comment, above, leads me to believe that there are people out there studying these things.

    And finally, as iSkyscraper, Matt, and others have indicated, Toronto is not the only city in the known universe. We don’t need to guess at what works and what doesn’t. We can study the actual experiences of actual cities to get a better sense of our strengths and weaknesses and figure how to improve on what we’ve got.

  51. Unlike your position, my breathing is constant and steady.

    So now, Ford is the “no fantasy” candidate. OK. Fine.

    Since you only seem interested in engaging on the transit side of your piece, let’s give that a whirl.


    Your point about the city lacking a comprehensive transportation plan is actually well taken. In fact, it’s been about 2 generations since the 1956 transportation plan that originally proposed projects such as the Spadina, Richview and Crosstown Expressways as well as the University/Spadina and Queen St. Subways. The collapse of the program (with the collapse of the Spadina Expressway) was good for the people of Spadina Rd (and probably the city as a whole) but it also meant the withdrawal of all funds related to the grand project, both transit and car related and seems to have essentially doomed us to 50+ years without any significant investment in Toronto’s traffic needs. I’ll concede that this is an issue that requires substantial attention.

    However, to suggest simply that transit visions have been a failure or that the car deserves a little attention is short-sighted. In 2010 Toronto, both the car and public transit are no better off than they were 10, 20 or 30 years ago as there’s been no significant investment in either. Lots of false starts, few shovels in the ground. I think we could agree that for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is volume, both methods of transportation are in a steady and persistent decline. In light of that, to argue for redress on the part of drivers in what is essentially a 50 year era of universal neglect comes off as petty.

    As I understand it, Rob Ford’s position is that drivers are too often maligned in 21st century Toronto. For the sake of argument, let’s agree that’s 100% accurate. How then would the car-friendly Ford to deal with that situation?

    It would seem that his solution is to do absolutely nothing, except perhaps stick it transit riders by cancelling any investment in the TTC. In effect, his position is to ensure we remain in our perpetual status quo. With both drivers and transit riders left out in the cold.

    I’ll give you this, that standpoint is indeed completely devoid of vision.

  52. Rick – I appreciate your posts on BlogTO which are often well thought out and provide a different perspective. I’ll have to disagree on this one though.

    St. Clair development bad = all LRT bad? thats a bit of a simplification. So is TTC streetcar operations suck = all streetcars suck.

    and Transit City is the closest we will get to true LRT in the inner suburbs which were designed for cars and does not have the population to support massive subway investments. Transit City will be on their own Right of Ways, they will have no left turns until major intersections, will have transit priority and will have (relatively) spaced out stops.

    Living in a deep blue area of Scarborough, i can say that Transit City is the best option of all the ones presented during the campaign.

  53. RICK: Glen’s link is to an old essay by a noted transit crank. 

    How about reading something worthwhile, like the viewpoint of the people who hold the same ideology as Rob Ford, The American Conservative.


    It just happens to show that the concerns held by Ford et al are misguided at best and that the best bang for your taxpayer buck is public transit, not building more capacity for cars. 

  54. What an unbelievably idiotic article. Fact is – downtown Toronto should have the ability to elect its own mayor that reflects downtown Toronto’s values/priorities. That ability was removed against our collective will by one, Mike Harris. Now downtown Toronto has a bloody suburban aligned mayor and we’re forced into this awful relationship of forcing suburban values on us downtowners for the next 4 years.

    There is excuse to vote for Ford that I will accept. I’m literally ashamed and embarrassed of the nearly 400,000 people who did vote for him.

  55. I meant – there is NO excuse to vote for Ford that I will accept.

  56. According to the TTC’s 2009 operating statistics:
    The estimated number of cars that a TTC vehicle replaces in the AM peak hours: bus: 45; CLRV: 65; ALRV: 95; 4-car SRT train: 200; 6-car subway train: 910

  57. Wow, what drivel. Now that i’ve read your reasoning, I’m totally convinced you made a bad decision. Based on the fact that you voted for miller and regretted it and you voted for Ford based on his ineloquence, the fact that you don’t like his transit plan, and the fact thatb you don’t expect him to say or do anything intelligent in the next 4 years. Congrats pal, you have just justified everything I said about Ford since he started running, from the criticism of his supporters to Ford’s total lack of a workable paltform. The man is a fool and I have learned that you are too.

  58. your definition of an LRT is something that you just made up, an LRT is a light rail transit vehicle. nothing about an LRT has to do with not stopping at intersections, you just made that up.
    however, your beloved subway is an electric train that runs underground, exactly what eglinton is supposed to get in the TC plan (between the Don valley and keele).
    if TC gets cancelled (which would be no big surprise with this city’s track record on making and breaking promises to it’s citizens, ala eglinton subway), we will have maybe a few more stops on the shepherd line, but everyone else will be stuck in buses (more and more every day as the price of gas skyrockets). andm if you knew even the tiniest thing about transit, you would know that even trams are a whole lot better than buses.

  59. Hey! If you disagree with Rick, then do so and say why — but saying it’s “drivel” or “idiotic” … well, if you *show* where he’s wrong, you don’t have to use them words. Yo!

  60. What Rob Ford Says About Toronto – http://bit.ly/bweqhv

  61. maybe, just maybe, the only people making decisions in transit that effect everyone should be done by highly educated transit engineers and urban planners, prefereably educated in the last ten years with constant re-learning at reputible institutions. NO, you say, i know who should plan our transit, ford, with his year and a half at brock university and a life of watching sun tv while rolling in piles of his dad’s money.
    ok thanks for the input.

  62. My preferences for travel in Toronto:

    1. Subway
    2. Light rail
    3. Streetcar
    4. Trolley bus
    5. Diesel bus
    6. Bicycle
    7. Walk
    8. Automobile

    Yes, I think we should have a subway on every arterial road. Impossible, way too too expensive. Light rail is the next best thing, following by streetcars.

    And Stephen J., our streetcars are 30+ years old. We have new hybrid buses that are constantly breaking down, and they’re not 30, not 15, some are almost brand new buses breaking down.

  63. Rick, What do you think of the Eglinton route of TC?

  64. @ Eve
    Whoa, whoa whoa. I hate the idea of the Ford mayoralty too, and I understand the instinct to create a “fortress downtown” to resist his agenda. But I don’t think it’s healthy. It leads to a combative engagement with our fellow citizens, each side claiming to be living the best way. Nothing will get done this way. Downtowners are not better than suburbanites, nor have they made a more enlightened choice. People live in the suburbs for all sorts of reasons, and tarring them with the same brush isn’t fair. For that matter, there’re plenty of “suburban” ideas at work in Toronto’s core, especially the anti-density folks who resist even the tiniest smidgens of change on their streets and in their neighbourhoods.
    Besides, Toronto isn’t some ultra-dense megalopolis, even downtown. Most of  Trinity-Spadina could pass for a suburb in some of the world’s biggest cities. 
    We’re all Torontonians. There aren’t suburban value systems and urban value systems to be pitted against one another. That’s the same kind of thinking that pits Canadians against Americans or westerners against easterners. It’s totally unproductive and the implicit judgement is that “we” are better than “them.”

  65. re: streetcar vs. bus

    All I can say is Spadina operated more efficiently with bus service until dedicated streetcar lanes were introduced. In theory it seemed streetcars (especially with dedicated lanes) would be an improvement on Spadina but the current reality is longer wait times and more short turns.
    I miss the old days of the Spadina when it seemed a bus was never beyond the horizon. Traffic even at rush hour was not bad. I concede the buses during rush hour were crammed.

    If dedicated lanes are a debatable improvement I’m not sure how its argued that streetcars are better than buses on a standard artery like Dundas, Queen etc. Especially when a fender bender, snow or other normal occurrences completely disrupt the service. Who do they call on then? Buses.

    my 2 cents. be nice.

  66. I think it’s great that Spacing invited Rick to post this – and that Shawn is chiming in to ask people to be civil about all this. Shawn suggests it’s never helpful to just name-call, but I can’t help but wonder if that’s just how Ford was elected. 

    Anyway, I think there’s been a sufficient amount of comments here that seek to correct Rick’s thinking on transit by showing evidence and facts. What I find amazing is that people *still* think they can change someone’s opinion by presenting facts. Facts do not matter. Look at the discourse of the mayoral race: Ford (and so many others) kept repeating that the city overspends, that there’s this waste, that our financial house is in dis-order – even though none of this is true (the city ran a surplus, it’s paying for stuff the province legislates but doesn’t fund, Toronto pays way to much for operating budget out of fares, the mayor and council receive relatively low salaries, Toronto has the lowest taxes in the GTA, Toronto has a double-A-plus (or whatever it’s called) credit rating, people are moving to the city, highrises are being built, our waterfront is finally being fixed up after decades of neglect…). All these facts with evidence were out there and reported in the media but it didn’t matter – people are really excited to see this mythical ‘gravy train’ come to its mythical end. We even had the geographically close Ottawa as an example – Larry O’Brian became mayor a few years ago on a similar platform (a business guy that’s going to get the house in order by running the city like a business). And his re-election campaign was basically, “I’ve done so terribly as mayor, I can’t possibly do worse!” Honestly, when -EVER- has someone promised to not raise or lower taxes without affecting service and it’s actually worked? 

    Anyway, I think Rick embodies this nicely: he knows the facts are stacked against him, but so what? He has an opinion that’s supported by lots of people and newspapers so he’s going to have it. It’s the same structure as fantasy or psychosis – “I know very well… however…” 

    But I’m no longer terrified that baseless opinions now trump facts, but I warn anyone trying to win an argument or get elected that you will not sway anyone with facts. You must come up with catchy phrases and charismatic leaders (and, yes, Ford is charismatic insofar as he appears what he is not and promises the impossible). The funny thing is that Plato anticipated all this in the Republic, written 2500 years ago!

  67. I live way out in Mississauga. Driving into Toronto is a pain, not because of streetcars, but too many cars. In Mississauga there are no streetcars, just buses and streets are a pain to navigate with so many cars (despite better planning with turning lanes). People in the suburbs may perfer to drive cars, over transit, but it simply does not scale. As the population increases, as more condos are built, as the density in the GTA climbs, we simply cannot have everyone driving a car. Each year there’s more and more cars on the road, on the highways and every few years the commute into and around Toronto doubles. So doing whatever possible to discourage people from taking cars and increasing public transit, I see as a good thing.

    Perhaps replacing streetcars with buses makes sense, but even Rob Ford realizes that was complete fantasy as it’s too expensive. Given a limited budget on how to expand the transit system each year, spending money removing tracks and replacing streetcars, when we have a billion dollar contract for new streetcars doesn’t make any sense. Why did the Rob Ford team only realize this after the election and try to claim they never said they would replace streetcars, despite it being on their website as part of their transit platform?

    The same experts who said that getting rid of steetcars is a complete fantasy are also saying that building new subways, on the schedule that Rob Ford wants is also a complete fantasy. I really don’t see it happening and as others have pointed out, Rob Ford doesn’t seem to really care about transit. It’s not a high priority for him and his transit plan seemed to be more directed to the fact that a transit plan is expected. He’s caved on streetcars and while he does his best to destroy Transit City, I would be very surprised if anything else is put in it’s place.

    Even still, anything that expands further over Toronto and moves more people, like Transit City, I think is better than focusing all the money on a small area that with subways. I’m all for a better idea, but only if it moves more people at similar costs, rather than decent into more gridlock.

  68. Pop, you’re observations are not entirely wrong but remember that the TTC is not exactly running a tip-stop state-of-the-art system at the moment and opinions are best formed by reviewing the big picture. Go ride a shiny new downtown LRT in Houston, Minn, Denver, Salt Lake, Phoenix, Jersey City, Charlotte, Portland, LA… heck, almost any of the cities on this page (http://bit.ly/daJrw3) and then we can talk about the desirability of rail over rubber.

    Dozens of American cities replaced streetcars with buses and are now putting the streetcars back. Doesn’t that tell us something? Maybe? Bueller? Bueller?

  69. Ben – Do you mean the current bus route or the proposed underground LRV “subway but not a subway?” The current bus route is spotty, but it has been since I started taking it in the late ’70s to get to school. The LRV subway is certainly an exciting idea, but we’ve never done it before (except for the briefest stretches of the Spadina-Waterfront route) and I was worried that it would start running into cost overruns pretty quickly, especially if St. Clair was a precedent.

    Which is a long way of saying that the Eglinton route plans made me deeply uneasy.

    I do wish that the province hadn’t canceled the Eglinton subway-that-was-a-real-subway back at the dawn of the ’90s, but like any discussion of mistakes made by previous governments, I think it’s just an exercise in “what-ifs.”

  70. @Shawn…since you called me out there, allow me to respond.

    I don’t see anything wrong with using any specific word to summarize my feelings about a particular point of debate. As the word “drivel” is directed only at the point and not its author, I’m remain confident that its use in this case is appropriate. You ask that people not simply toss words around, but also back them up. Well, I’ve spilled a lot of ink on this thread today doing exactly that. In fact, upon re-reading your post, I think I conducted myself exactly as you requested. I used a word, offered context and backed it up. Whether I was successful or not…well…who can say? 

    Decorum is a fairly broad concept and I think you’ll agree there a big difference between “that’s ridiculous” and “that’s ridiculous and here’s why”, both in tone and intent.

  71. Even if you voted for Ford based on transit, you still voted for an overtly racist, homophobic, wife-beating, incoherent, dui-recieving asshole who will cut funding for those it will hurt the most.  So is it really worth it??  

  72. from Seth Godin’s blog a possible explanation for Mr. Ford:

    How media changes politics
    If you want to get elected in the US, you need media.
    When TV was king, the secret to media was money. If you have money, you can reach the masses. The best way to get money is to make powerful interests happy, so they’ll give you money you can use to reach the masses and get re-elected.
    Now, though…When attention is scarce and there are many choices, media costs something other than money. It costs interesting. If you are angry or remarkable or an outlier, you’re interesting, and your idea can spread. People who are dull and merely aligned with powerful interests have a harder time earning attention, because money isn’t sufficient.
    Thus, as media moves from TV-driven to attention-driven, we’re going to see more outliers, more renegades and more angry people driving agendas and getting elected. I figure this will continue until other voices earn enough permission from the electorate to coordinate getting out the vote, communicating through private channels like email and creating tribes of people to spread the word. (And they need to learn not to waste this permission hassling their supporters for money).
    Mass media is dying, and it appears that mass politicians are endangered as well.

  73. Josh> I didn’t catch your use of it, so wasn’t directed at you. Just, a general comment. If you back things up, all is well.

  74. The idea of some outside downtown that they are getting less infrastructure shows a basic ignorance: if your area is less dense, you are going to be more distanced from infrastructure. I would bet that people outside of the core eat up more dollars per person in city spending, because it is expensive to serve a scattered population, as ignorant as they are to this fact. This half-baked article has received the opprobrium it deserves. It is disappointing that someone who can write a well-spoken article, can write it without examining the faults in his own logic.

    To address the transit issues, the single focus in all parts of the city should be ‘bang for buck’ or bang for road space: buses where density is lowest, subways where it is very dense (and more regional rail), and a rethinking of signal, traffic and parking priorities on streetcar streets. No one sells the latter properly in Toronto: it’s not a ‘war on the car’, it’s a war on moving people inefficiently.

  75. @Iskyscraper
    I’ve been to 4 of the U.S. cities you mentioned and it’s debatable if streetcars are more efficient then buses on all routes but I can’t evaluate long term. Apparently you’re an expert having assumed you’ve spent long periods of time in each city. I will say they are blessed with wider roads and warmer climates which makes the streetcars more tolerable but not always superior.
    so who knows…well you do 🙂

    Evidence in most European, Asian cities I’ve traveled too is mixed as well.

    Again you’re presumably more well traveled and may be right in specific cities. I stand by my specific comments on Spadina, which are based on personal experience and isn’t up for debate.

    P.S. “Bueller Bueller” really? try saying that to someone in person? you’re better than that.

  76. “I miss the old days of the Spadina when it seemed a bus was never beyond the horizon. Traffic even at rush hour was not bad.”

    I wasn’t born, but I still miss the old days of everywhere, when traffic even at rush hour wasn’t bad. Sadly, time marches on, farm kids keep moving to the city, and the streets get busier. You can’t go home again, and bringing back inefficient transit won’t make traffic better..

  77. Rick:
    You said: “The LRV subway is certainly an exciting idea, but we’ve never done it before (except for the briefest stretches of the Spadina-Waterfront route) and I was worried that it would start running into cost overruns pretty quickly, especially if St. Clair was a precedent.”

    So the subway that SHOULD have been there would not have cost overruns?Are you saying that only LRT projects would have cost overruns and not subway projects? By that logic, we shouldn’t build any more transit because something might be 10% over budget.

    It’s horrible logic for hating on Transit City.

    And Roncesvalles? I moved there in January and now it’s almost finished (well one side) but streetcar service is returning Dec. 19th. It actually looks amazing so far and they are not even finished yet. They are doing some good things there with bike space (not necessarily bike lanes, but other space between the streetcar tracks and the sidewalk (only enough room for bikes).

    As many others have said, the whole “I voted for Ford cuz i hate Giambrone-Transit City- and want better transit” really doesn’t make sense…..
    Fords plan will never get built and should never get built. Period.

  78. @Shawn – Realized one click too late who you were talking to. 

    As they say on the Simpsons: http://eyeonspringfield.tumblr.com/post/78299901/forgiveness-please

  79. Wow – I do think that this columnist is an angry voter – frustrated over the St. Clair transit reconstruction and voting for Ford’s so called transit plan is a bizarre rationale. 

    And if he truly believes nothing has happened on transit, then he has his head in the sand. Transit requires money, requires rebuilding relationships with the province and feds, and guess what? That happened! There’s money assigned. Even when its’ been cut in half the remaining $2B will give us transit city. In fact there’s SO much cooperation that there’s purchase of new subways and buses.

    DO SOME READING DUDE! Just because you can’t hug your new rapid transit vehicle doesn’t mean nothing has happened. Simplistic reasoning + frustration is i guess why Ford appealed to the writer.

  80. All,
    This comes a little late, but I’ll post anyway.
    Regarding the future of the streetcar system and our downtown congestion troubles, I think the attitude expressed by Yu and Iskyscraper is the most sensible. Adapt and improve the infrastructure and service of the current system. This entails many things: improving traffic light synchronization, purchasing new and higher capacity streetcar vehicles, better synchronizing their arrival times, reducing streetcar corner-turning wherever possible, diverting parking from on-street to nearby parking structures (at the very least on certain stretches of Queen and King), making commuter cycling more attractive for the tens of thousands of incoming condo-dwellers.

    Until the city makes these realistic, relatively affordable improvements (some of which are in the works), are we in a position to insist on scrapping the streetcar network? I’m not sure we even appreciate what our current road and railtrack networks are capable of! We most certainly have not made optimal use of these assets such that cars, trams and bicycles can use them in relative peace. The assumption, so pervasive in this city, that these are essentially warring modes of transit is quite literally retarded. As many people point out regularly on this blog, the precedents for great transit systems (many including new streetcars!) are piling up, even in car-crazy North America and Australia.

    The utter lack of vision regarding road/street design and management (the “public realm deficit”) is one of the few major problems in Toronto and, as an issue moving forward, was not addressed adequately by any of the mayoral candidates this round, from what I saw.

  81. The author comes off as individualistic and uneducated. This editorial was self-obsessed (what kind of person links to their own work that many times?), a pain to read, and took over 1000 words to say something that could’ve been said in less than 150.

    Maybe next time the author should actually back up his claims rather than spending the entire time congratulating himself for previous works.

    Why on earth would Spacing publish this meaningless trash?

    Thanks for wasting my time,


  82. @pop_bubblegum

    “Especially when a fender bender, snow or other normal occurrences completely disrupt the service. Who do they call on then? Buses.”

    They bring out buses when the subway gets disrupted as well. By your reasoning, they should replace the subway with buses.

    The streetcars work in Toronto, but they are 30+ years old. They are on their last legs. We do not even have buses that old. Buses that old were retired and replaced ages ago.

    In addition, with Toronto’s multiply downtown streetcar tracks, trouble spots can be bypassed in most areas. Not so with the subway, which needs to be short turned.

  83. I thought the Ferris Bueller reference was rather witty – it was directed at Ford supporters in general, who seem to not be in the room when serious transit talk comes up.  

    If you have ridden new streetcar/LRT lines in American cities (including wintry ones like Minneapolis) and still feel that buses are superior, and my logic of “well if Ottawa wants to go from BRT to rail, and Seattle went from Bus Tunnel to rail, and Boston went BRT on the Silver Line but wishes they had gone LRT” doesn’t do it for you, and the whole LRT-brings-development-benefits-that-buses-do-not is debatable to you, ok, we’ll agree to disagree.  Fair enough.  I just ask that people look outside of Toronto at relevant case studies before re-inventing the wheel based on their own experiences on, or behind, the 501 because that is increasingly not how streetcars and downtown LRT is done.

  84. @Shim Mannan

    I actually like the fact that streetcars can’t change lanes. Anyone who’s been to New York would tell you that bus drivers and downtown are a disastrous mix because not only can they change lanes, they block them. In rush hour.

    To address the general thread of this conversation/article, I’m gonna be nice enough to say that fine, Ford’s pace is ok. I just don’t like what he’s working for and against.

    And I just don’t like how Ford doesn’t even wanna invest in anything that may attract tourists and help population growth and investment. He thinks of his responsibility as a mayor is just balancing a budget and that’s that. He’s the mayor of the Canadian city with the most international name recognition, not the mayor of fucking Flint, Michigan.

  85. @POP_BUBBLEGUM, the vapidity of your logic is staggering. Buses have not been on Spadina in years, and in those years there was far less traffic, so the caparison is meaningless, and dishonest. As for your attack on what you insinuate is a ‘proof by assertion’ by @Iskyscraper with several whoppers of your own… this sentence has already wasted too much time on it.

    Other cities are expanding and diversifying their transit modes not because of a mass psychosis, but because it needs to be done in a dense city to keep it productive. Toronto isn’t, and people and productivity are suffering. The half who voted Ford love their cars beyond any intelligible notion of what kind of volume you can put through traffic bottlenecks: Toronto has the mass psychosis.

  86. Jamesmallon, thanks for pointing out the important point. Somebody on this thread mentioned that people living in suburb also deserves subway. Actually, you deserve easy access to subway only if the density of your neighbourhood justifies it. To put it bluntly, if you insist on living in a 3000sqft house on 40×150 lot, then no, you don’t deserve a subway at your doorstep (unless, of course, if you can fork out 7 figures, we all know that money produces wonders).

    A large goal of transit should be encouraging and rewarding compact living. I often have the feeling that extending subway deep into the burb is a huge waste with negative impact. It can actually encourage sprawl, as cheap land 30 minutes drive away from the new subway station becomes attractive for subdivisions. Instead, resource should be concentrated on areas already has dense population, intensify and improve the service, which in turn attracts more development and more residents. Only that way a health and affordable system can be achieved, only that way can we allure more people to give up wasteful super-sized life style and enjoy compact living.

    BTW I am not against improved commuter train service into the burb, but subway really does not make much sense.

  87. @YU – As a person who uses the queen and dundas streetcars, and bike along those streets often, your transit vision for king/queen, adelaide/richmond sounds awesome! I think it’s a great compromise for everyone.

    Since Rob Ford has boasted about trying to return every call, why not pitch this idea to him? Like it or not, he’s mayor now. We might as well get the most out of it and start some conversations with the man.

  88. Wow.

    I was looking forward to reading a rational article about frivolous spending, and how Ford is the man to stop it… but this sucked.

    Ford has some good potential, but not in transit. He knows that he knows nothing about transit. If you voted Ford because of his not-gonna-happen Scarborough Subway, you’re dumb.


  89. Comment to Rick’s 6:21pm post:

    Not sure what else I can add to all this, but just to clarify, you’re worried about cost overruns on Transit City, but not on Rob Ford’s subway ‘plan’?

    Maybe you should take a look at the Transportation Tomorrow Survey and Ward Profiles that are compiled on a fairly regular basis before you run off to vote next time.

    Or at least, don’t publicly pretend to have critically assessed the facts. I hope you got paid for this, because it’s going to be pretty hard to take anything you write going forward seriously. I guess it’s a good thing you got on the gravy train for that novel of yours.

    Anyway, what are your thoughts on zoning up in the old/inner suburbs to lay the groundwork for more transit options?

  90. Mark Jull,
    Would you care to point out the ‘facts’ post here? While you are at it would you care to explain how the city can have a surplus, when at the same time it is draining the reserves? Add up all the ‘surpluses’ and tell me how they comapre to the 3 billion drained from the reserves under Miller. The utilization of which went towards the operating budget. You want facts while posting fiction.

    James Mallon,

    I have been on Spadina long enough to remeber Sam Shopsowitz serveing me a pastrami on rye. Pop_BubleGum’s observations are entirely correct. Spadina had more traffic in the 80’s and the bus was always full and the next one was always less than a block away. It was so busy that it made money. It was so good that they made a song about it.

    And to all, the downtown is not congested. Traffic is lighter than before. From the pepople who acutlly count traffic……….
    The Central Area Cordon has actually recorded a slight decrease in vehicular trips in the peak direction (inbound), which is testament to the fact that new employment has been locating outside the traditional downtown, in areas which are relatively more accessible by a high speed road network. Total transit ridership from and to the Central Area Cordon was relatively stable from 2001 to 2006.

    The only screenline that showed a decrease for both the total count period and the combined peak period was the Central Area Cordon. The Central Area Cordon experienced a decrease of 11% during both the combined morning and afternoon peak period and the total count period.


  91. Shawn, he did: he found the article “self-obsessed”, “a pain to read”, and too long for what it communicated.

  92. WK Lis: “The streetcars work in Toronto, but they are 30+ years old. They are on their last legs. We do not even have buses that old.”

    LRVs usually last about twice as long as a bus, assuming equal amounts of refitting/rebuilding.

  93. Skipping the 90+ comments on here, a couple of things I want to say:

    1. You nailed it with your description of Transit City. It is NOT “LRT”, but more akin to a European tramway: a slightly higher form of local service. It may make short to moderate travel more appealing, but that is not what is wanted or needed, nor is it worth spending BILLIONS of dollars on as well. We have a very strong bus network for these sorts of trips, and the money spent on TC lines could be spent more efficiently building articulated buses and bus lanes.

    While LRT technically stands for light rail transit, in practice light ‘rapid’ transit is a better definition: spaced out stops designed for moderate to long distance travel (like a full rapid transit/metro), but using trams instead of metro trains. Essentially you are trading off capacity for flexible operation and cost.

    2. I haven’t read the comments, but I am sure there are those upset that he is responsible for Ford as mayor. Thing is, a vote is simply a drop in a bucket. This is not to say that voting is stupid, we are very privileged that we live in a country where we can express who we want to represent us, and we should take advantage of this right whenever possible. But real life is not an after-school special: his single vote is not going to change the world.

  94. Skip 2 M'Lou, The Magistickal Land-Narwhal of Despair

    I tend to agree that streetcars are a terrible imposition on this city. But I also agree with the above calls for studies that determine the right mix to maximize flow and minimize pollution.

    For instance — and I haven’t got any proof here — I posit that the idling caused by cars stuck behind stopped streetcars must at least somewhat offset the lack of emissions from these hulking beasts. It’s worth looking into, anyway.

    Now, while I doubt Ford’s commitment to such academic endeavours, I also doubt the TTC’s ability to do it themselves. After all, until a couple years ago, the closest thing they had to a GPS system is some guy in a goofy purple coat standing on a street corner taking notes on a clipboard.

    Streetcars are similarly absurd relics, despite reports that some cities are establishing LRT routes. Lumbering and dumb, they’re unable to pull over or even turn without someone busting out the old crowbar.

    I daresay that their defenders are the most obnoxious conservatives of all. Yes, conservatives. “They’re nifty and historical-lookin’ and I liked them when I was a kid and they make that fun clangy noise so don’t you dare try to take them off the streets.” This is not how we determine policy, folks.

    Yes, they’re emission-free (although they require power from somewhere), offer a fairly smooth ride and they can cram in a lot of people at once. But I posit to you, dear reader (again, without any real proof) that due to “bunching,” this extra capacity is, in fact, wasted. How many times have you seen waited 15 minutes for a streetcar, spilling over with hapless commuters, only to see two or three nearly empty ones seconds behind it? I’ve been commuting downtown for more than a decade, and it’s happened often enough that I will go out of my way to avoid streetcars on certain routes at certain hours.

    Low-emission, double-decker buses — like the ones currently used by GO Transit — sent on a frequent enough schedule, should be able to handle our commuters efficiently. If they “bunch,” you pull it over for a minute or two. If one breaks down, it’s pretty easy to drive around it until a tow truck comes along. As one commenter pointed out, the only way to tow a dead streetcar is with another streetcar. If you’ve ever witnessed this pitiful display, it’s like watching beachgoers futilely splash water on a half-dead beached whale. All you can do is look away in resignation and disgust.

    (Did anyone mention double-deckers yet? If not, what do I win?)

    Oh, hey. Bike-riders. Even though I know there’s no plan to literally tear up the tracks themselves, the fact that streetcar tracks are a deathtrap for cyclists should be enough to put you in the “anti” camp.

    Oh, and hey. Beautification types? Those overhead wires everywhere are pretty hideous. Again, they’re probably here to stay, but if there were any question that streetcars are an outdated antiquity of recklessly inhumane urban planning, there it is.

    Streetcars also cost a lot to maintain. I can imagine a modern fleet of vehicles would be designed a bit better. Again, speculation, studies needed, et cetera.

    Point is, we can at least experiment. Replace a couple routes with buses and see what happens. It’s fairly easy to do. Call me crazy, but I find it impossible to believe that the system we have now is the best of all possible worlds.

  95. The author is so right.

    Why are all the downtowners so dead set against a subway connecting North York and Scarborough? They have a bigger population than Old Toronto does. Who the hell are you to say that they can only have an LRT that runs up and down Jane Street all day?

    The fact is you are all hypocrites and you have no idea what you’re talking about. Go to the TTC website and look at how St. Clair saves “between 2 to 8 minutes”. One Hundred and Twenty Million Dollars spent on “2 minutes”? Pathetic. Delusional.

    You purport to speak for all citizens in Toronto but really you just speak for yourselves. Just like how “the suburbs” spoke during the election. (Funny, I thought the Suburbs referred to Mississauga and Oshawa…not North York and Scarborough).

    One last thing – if your LRT’s are so great, why does your hypocrite hero, The Chairman of the TTC Adam GiamBoner, run up thousands of dollars in cab fares and charge it to the city?? Because he’s got places to be and things to do and it saves time right? If you provide subways to the suburbs, they will get off the 401 and the Don Valley Parking Lot because they will have an option that is fast, cheap and reliable and they want to live their lives too. It’s not their fault they can’t all afford to live under the warm glow of the artificial lights that the capitalist bank towers provide that makes you feel such a sense of entitlement!

    Get over yourselves!

  96. “Streetcars are similarly absurd relics, despite reports that some cities are establishing LRT routes. Lumbering and dumb, they’re unable to pull over or even turn without someone busting out the old crowbar.”

    There aren’t “reports” – it’s happening. This isn’t some bizarre evolution debate. LRT does vary – what Eglinton will end up with is closer to Calgary’s C-Train (being a train of multiple cars). It’s possible to discuss LRT in different modes the same way railways can entail single car passenger or 12 car locomotive passenger or hundred-car freight. As for the crowbars, thankfully it appears that the TTC is learning their lesson – the Roncesvalles rebuild appears to show switches pre-wired for electric changes.

    However the biggest problem with St. Clair’s rebuild is that it wasn’t Transit City Line 1. The line should have had new streetcars from day one and given the uproar about the road alignment perhaps the answer should have been going the whole hog – banning left turns rather than skewing the alignment to accommodate turn lanes and so on. It didn’t help that TTC completely screwed up the design by specifying centre poles, leading to needless clashes with Toronto Fire and poor performance of shuttle buses using the ROW, not to mention the City burying streetscape renewal in the transit cost, inflating the perception of what the rebuild cost.

    Cherry/Queens Quay East is the best chance to repair the damage to the perception of improving downtown transit through streetcars but it must be under severe threat from a Ford regime because of the cost of the portal to the loop at Union.

  97. Skip 2 M’Lou, you win the “Double decker buses are probably too tall to safely fit through the existing railway corridor underpasses on King and Queen” Award. Congratulations.
    You also win the “29 Dufferin” Award for believing that bunching is caused by streetcars.
    You may pick up your prizes on Eglinton Avenue, where rush hour traffic runs free and uninhibited thanks to all of the buses.

  98. [reposted with quotation marks]

    “…against a subway connecting North York and Scarborough? They have a bigger population than Old Toronto does.”

    And that population is so spread out that even if Ford’s magic instant free subway were built, most residents wouldn’t be any closer to a station than they were before. Meanwhile, Transit City covers everything that Ford’s fantasy map does, and more.

    I might as well ask why you’re so dead set against a line connecting Scarborough and Etobicoke. It has a tunnel and everything.

    “Who the hell are you to say that they can only have an LRT that runs up and down Jane Street all day?”

    You haven’t even looked at either map, have you?

  99. Bang on. I’m from Malvern. And what you said is exactly the reason that most people in the suburbs voted for Ford. People are sick of endless visions. It’s time to execute and execute in a common sense way. How does LRT to Sheppard and Progress make more sense than sending the Bloor-Danforth line to Scarborough Town Centre for example? It’s this kind of boneheaded ideas, nickel-and-diming fees and taxes (from the suburban persepective) and the condascending attitude (if you criticize our policy you must be an SUV driving eco-terrorist) that drove the suburbs right into Ford’s arms. And believe it or not, I didn’t even vote for the guy.

  100. @ Keith

    Because, as has been painstakingly explained on this thread, subways cost too much. They are extremely expensive, and even more so when low population density (such as along Sheppard) will mean less income from fares.

    An LRT (not a streetcar, but a light rail train such as Calgary’s C-Train, which you can see here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/39017545@N02/4084569807)
    will be much cheaper and more appropriate to the ridership of the area. It will be just as fast, operating on an off-road right-of-way, just like a subway.

    What is the problem with that? Why the fixation on subways when there is another, cheaper way to provide equally good transit? Cities around the world are building LRTs to serve medium-density and low-density populations. Why are we obsessed with more subways?

  101. Keith, there are at least two very basic, “common sense” reasons why Ford’s scheme to “send the Bloor-Danforth line to Scarborough Town Centre” is unworkable.

    1) BD and the SRT don’t line up. Where they meet, the BD is east-west and the SRT is north-south.

    2) The elevated stations and SRT guideway aren’t built to take subway trains.

    As for the Sheppard LRT, I’ll tell you why it makes more sense than converting the Scarborough RT to heavy rail, logistics aside: at the end of all the work of converting the Scarborough RT to subway, you aren’t serving any new locations.

  102. Lots of Matts among the Spacing readership, it would seem. 

    I think ‘vision’ is crucial – but it needs to be properly communicated, or we end up in a situation like this. David Miller’s term as Mayor was marked by a number of projects designed to improve Toronto’s inner suburbs but, as Ed Keenan has been pointing out over at Eye (no link, I’m lazy), the Mayor was unsuccessful in communicating this to the very constituents he was trying to assist.

    The platform planks of Rob Ford’s campaign didn’t deserve the support of the people of Toronto, regardless of where they lived.   

  103. Further to my earlier point, 

    I don’t believe an argument can really be made against the concept of ‘vision’ in the abstract.

  104. Okay, after reading these comments, I’d like to make a few more comments.

    First, on a forum I post on, someone made a good point about extending our subways rather than using light rail for Scarborough and Sheppard: We need to finish the network rather than focus on needless transfers. Do we have subway riders transfer on to LRT at Old Mill just to finish their trip to Kipling? Scarborough may be lower density, but remember there are a lot of lower income people there who rely on transit just as much as someone living downtown. 

    Second, allow me to illustrate my last experience with a streetcar. I took the Dundas tram from Bathurst to University. First, the number on the stop to get updates was incorrect (was missing a digit). When I was on it, it literally crawled along, despite no traffic in front of it. And at Spadina, it took two or three full light cycles before it finished loading and unloading passengers – holding up all traffic the entire time! Now this may be an anecdotal example, since I have been on streetcars which move quickly and efficiently, but I was not impressed.

    Now I know we can fix our streetcars to make them more efficient, but you know what? We’ve had 40 years to do that already! We just saw one of the most pro-transit and pro-streetcar mayors leave office, and the only thing to show for it is a botched job on St. Clair with the same archaic boarding procedures, bunching, and little time saved. Not to mention the millions spent, and the reduction of a traffic lane as well.

    If Ford can get them operating efficiently (he has stated he wants to improve their operation, though I ain’t holding my breath…), then he will have done more for streetcars than any mayor in our lifetimes.

  105. Ben Smith,

    As someone insinuated I’ve also commented too much, allow me to make a final riposte.

    You seem to be confusing LRT and streetcars. LRTs are not streetcars, they’re trains, just as fast as subways, except smaller and cheaper (and lighter, hence the name.) People in the suburbs do deserve transit. LRTs are transit, and very appropriate for lower density routes.

    Securing funding and continuing operational costs for a suburban subway is vastly more difficult than for a suburban LRT. And from the rider’s perspective, IT’S THE SAME THING. Just as fast. It will require a transfer point. That’s too bad. But do you really want to see the city spend billions of extra dollars to avoid a transfer?

  106. To take a spin on Ben’s words, I’ll say that finishing the network is going to go a lot faster if we use light rail and stop focusing needlessly on transfers. Better transit is needed in Scarborough, but eliminating a transfer at Kennedy is solving the wrong problem: at lower density, you need more routes and more service, not a slightly faster through-trip at a single point.

    To take an extreme example, consider the Centennial College Progress Campus. Aren’t passengers there affected more by the frequency and capacity of vehicles to Scarborough Centre and the reliability and speed of the Scarborough RT than they are by the need to transfer at Kennedy? Transit City, with the replacement and extension of the RT, solves the more important problems. And it involves a redesign of the platforms at Kennedy, if I’m not mistaken, which should improve the transfer, too.

    That’s a special case, but ditching Transit City and its many lines in favour of colouring the SRT line green instead of blue is the worse choice for almost everyone in terms of accessibility and convenience.

  107. @Matt – Subways may cost a lot. But a two stop extension of the Bloor-Danforth line (Lawrence East and STC) would cost about as much (or only slightly more) than the idiotic monstrosity they are planning now. This idiocy is driven by one single metric. How many kms do you get per dollar? No thought has been given to how people travel in Scarborough, who’ll benefit from the different alternatives, etc. They chose LRT and then made all their plans fit the technology, including the SRT follow-on. No stop at Markham Road. They expect people to walk up or down Progress to Centennial. You ever been up that hill on an icy day in the winter? No stop at Milner. The largest cubicle farm area in the community and with room to spare for more offices. And no terminus at Malvern Town Centre, the centre of the community. Instead, they plan the terminus at point where 80% of the community will be north of it. As planned right now, many residents will still end up taking the bus to STC because there won’t be much benefit in routing out of your way to transfer at Sheppard/Progress. This is why the SRT extension makes no sense. A two stop extension would cost as much as the SRT refurb and extension and would benefit all of northeastern Scarborough (from one less transfer at Kennedy), not just the few folks living in the townhouses at Sheppard and Progress. It would also save the TTC some dough. McCowan, Midland and Ellesmere are minutes by bus from STC and all act as glorified kiss-n-rides for STC. Might as well consolidate ridership at one terminal.

  108. @Eric R. Smith – Who said anything about converting the SRT to heavy rail? Extending the Bloor-Danforth line means exactly that. Extend the thing. Obviously this will mean another alignment if the existing SRT alignment is not appropriate.

    As for serving new locations. Go have a look at the ridership numbers for Ellesmere station and please stand outside McCowan and count how many people get off buses there that are heading for STC right after. And then there’s Midland station, about which almost every Scarborough resident at one point or another has always said, “Why is that station even there?” These glorified kiss-n-rides could easily be eliminated with very little to no net impact on ridership. Every Scarborough resident knows this. They only people who dispute it are those that don’t travel in northern and eastern Scarborough.

  109. My comments are not to say that Transit City should be scrapped in its entirety. But I have huge reservations about the one-size-fits-none approach taken by the Miller clan. They cried poor on subways but then launched a $12-$15 billion LRT plan and made no allowance for any subways at all. In Scarborough’s case, a two stop extension of the Bloor-Danforth line would have made more sense and benfited more people (by eliminating a transfer and supporting a major transit hub and a Places to Grow node) than an LRT that skips out on Markham, Milner and terminates at a place that’s inconvenient to a lot of Malvern. On Sheppard, a short subway extension in the east to Agincourt (to connect with GO) would have made a lot more sense. The rest of Sheppard would have done fine with curbside bus lanes. Beyond Agincourt, there’s barely even ridership to justify that. I know. I live in the area. Instead, the forced LRT on the corridor in the hopes of killing off subway expansion, permanently hobbling the northern crosstown that was originally envisioned on Sheppard. And for what? The LRT won’t go to Scarborough Town Centre. Heck, it won’t even go to the end of Sheppard East for a while to come. Sucks to be you if you live in Dean Park.

  110. @ Matt – Can you please explain the physics of how an LRT which travels half the distance between stops and has to contend with red lights, will be just as fast as a subway? As per the Sheppard East transit consultation, the TTC certainly didn’t think so. If you’ve got a better explanation I’d like to hear it. Also, the Sheppard East line will be nothing like Calgary’s C-Train. The latter is much more isolated from traffic and pedestrians and has larger stop spacing allowing the trains to go significantly faster than any of the Transit City LRTs in Toronto (except for Eglinton…maybe). Citing the C-Train as a model is a bait and switch effort on the residents of this city.

  111. “Who said anything about converting the SRT to heavy rail?”

    Ford did, famously — “We will extend the Bloor-Danforth Line to Scarborough Town Centre. This will run on the elevated SRT platform…” — but I have no trouble believing that you didn’t mean to endorse it, because it’s bonkers.

    We can agree that McCowan is a silly station, would only make sense as a secondary entrance to an expanded Scarborough Town. I just think that the platform improvements planned for Kennedy will make the BD/Scarborough transfer even less burdensome, and that an extension of the Scarborough line will improve service, if only by giving the local buses more places to stop. You’d have to rejig the bus routes, of course.

    I’m not sure that I’m following you when you say this, though:

    “On Sheppard, a short subway extension in the east to Agincourt (to connect with GO) would have made a lot more sense. The rest of Sheppard would have done fine with curbside bus lanes. Beyond Agincourt, there’s barely even ridership to justify that. I know. I live in the area. Instead, the forced LRT on the corridor in the hopes of killing off subway expansion, permanently hobbling the northern crosstown that was originally envisioned on Sheppard.”

    Are you complaining that the Sheppard LRT is too much capacity east of Agincourt, but also that it kills chances of a subway? And why is a transfer from subway to bus at Agincourt okay with you, while a transfer from subway to LRT at Kennedy isn’t?

  112. Are you complaining that the Sheppard LRT is too much capacity east of Agincourt, but also that it kills chances of a subway? And why is a transfer from subway to bus at Agincourt okay with you, while a transfer from subway to LRT at Kennedy isn’t? – Eric S. Smith

    See.  This is what happens when you mix up different concepts.  As a route that connects Scarborough City Centre with North York City Centre and Downsview eventually, the Sheppard subway would have had a bright future….maybe not up to the standard of the All-LRT-All-the-time crowd but I think most Torontonians would have considered it a success.  Just look at the level of ridership it has now, just going to Don Mills.

    Anyway, recognizing that going to STC would be prohibitively expensive, I would have thought that they would have at least considered taking the line to Agincourt.  That’s where it was originally planned to turn south-eastward towards STC and that’s where it can meet the GO line which is going to all day service.  Nice place for a transit hub.  Ridership east of Agincourt peters out a bit, so curbside bus lanes would be sufficient for Malvern (and there’s lots of room east of Kennedy for that).  And of course, going to Agincourt, left open the possibility for future extension to STC.

    However, by building the LRT to Don Mills and then tunnelling the LRT to platform level there, they’ve effectively killed off any chance of the subway ever being extended.  No hope of ever having a northern cross-town in Toronto ever.  Permanently screwing over Scarborough and North York.

    There are places LRT makes sense.  Finch West, Waterfront West, Jane, etc.  On Sheppard East?  I can’t agree.  The subway is there.  It’s pretty close to the densest portions of the corridor.  Do a partial extension and keep buses the rest of the way.  LRT to replace the SRT?  Even worse.  The whole justification for this was not based on serving STC but on serving Malvern. And that rationale collapsed when they aren’t extending the SRT to Malvern Town Centre.  And Eglinton?  I suppose it’s nice that Toronto will be the first city to push the limits of LRT.  No other city will have an LRT line that long that mixes at-grade and below grade operations, and constitutes a major trunk line in the transport network.  People will rely on this line like it’s a subway….right until the first few major incidents involving cars and LRTs gums up service.  But at least, I think I can stand Eglinton because it’s not a blatant attempt and capping off an already existing subway like what’s being done on Sheppard or the SRT replacement.

    Personally, I believe that transport networks should be built like the Cathedrals of old.  They took more than a generation to build but they were built right.  Imagine if the cathedral builders went for such simplistic metrics like our km/$ rationale here.

    And the worst of it?  No LRT where it absolutely makes sense in Scarborough….like on Kingston or Ellesmere…the latter connects STC, U of T Scarborough, and the Rouge Hospital….along with several new condos along the way….and was the preferred route for Durham to connect with STC.

    As for this argument that transfers can be made easier…tell me, are you a Scarborough resident and will you have to do that transfer everyday?  I don’t care how easy it is.  Everybody will see it for exactly what it is: unnecessary.  Because, that’s exactly how Kennedy is viewed today.  I haven’t met a Scarborough resident yet who thinks it’s not a good idea to extend the subway to STC.  Even most Malvernites think it’s a good idea to send the subway to STC.  And it’s exactly this kind of talk that comes across as condescending to the folks that live in the outer 416.  This idea that somebody else (who doesn’t put up the SRT or the transfer everyday) knows better than the people who live in that borough.

    You want to know why Rob Ford got elected and with such an astounding majority?  Just look at the comments on this thread.

    And I don’t even like the guy.  If you think I’m mad, you should talk to my neighbours.

  113. “No other city will have an LRT line that long that mixes at-grade and below grade operations, and constitutes a major trunk line in the transport network.”

    San Fransisco and Boston both do this.

  114. Feh, the more anti-LRT, more pro-subway (fat-chance) the commenter, the more likely they live in the inner suburbs and don’t know squat about other cities, and less likely they’d give up their cars for their commute even with LRT at their door.

  115. @JAMESMALLON – Thanks for validating my point.  Comments like yours are exactly the condascending attitudes that outer 416 residents have to put up with all the time…and that’s exactly why Ford got such a resounding endorsement from the electorate.

    It’s not that we want higher grade transit at our doorstep.  We just don’t agree in simply taking crayons to a map, adding dozens of new transfer and simply picking one technology for all of them.

    How does it make sense to leave STC as the only provincially designated Places to Grow hub inside the 416 without subway service?  How much sense does it make to extend the SRT when it’s not going to Malvern anymore (the raison d’etre previously cited by LRT boosters for the project), and it’s skipping Markham and Milner?  But of course, guys like you know better than all the folks who live in that community and that gives you right to employ ad hominem attacks casting anybody who says the slightest thing negative about LRTs, as backward yokels.

    Keep it up.  The arrogance from your set will even help Hudak get elected.

  116. The sort of back-biting and animosity we see in this section was the inevitable, and I rather suspect the intended, result of municipal amalgamation.

    Some form of federalism has to be restored if there is to be any hope of sensible local democracy going forward, rather than slow-grinding mutual recriminations between the core and the suburbs. The amalgamated city is simply too large a political unit to coherently represent such a divergent range of interests.

  117. @Smale – I vehemently disagree. So when the downtown crew were running roughshod over the wishes of suburbanites, there was no problem? But now that a councillor from Etobicoke is in the big chair, the 416 has to be Balkanized? So in other words, your upset that your guy lost. I wonder if you would have said the same thing if Smitherman won. Rob Ford won for a simple reason. To the people of this city, he seems to be the guy who will listen to the concerns of every resident. Not just a select few. That’s reflected by the fact that his vote was high, even in wards that he lost. He just might be one of the first real pan-amalgamation mayors. Now I was a fan of Thomson and later Smitherman for their platforms. But I am not afraid to acknowlege that Rob Ford connected with the electorate like few politicians before him have.

  118. When I was a Scarborough resident, I lived near Warden and Lawrence. I commuted to an evening shift a little east of McCowan and Finch, and, later to a 9-to-5 job downtown at Dundas. So, no, I didn’t make the BD/SRT transfer at Kennedy every day. I made the YUS/BD transfer. During Christmas shopping season. It was totally awesome.

    And Scarborough wasn’t robbed of its rightful subway extension by a broken promise of LRT to Malvern: the decision was always between a modernization of the goofball RT to the latest SkyTrain wonderfulness or a replacement with LRT. If they’d stuck with Bombardier’s Very Special Technology, there would have been absolutely no chance of through service to Malvern Town Centre, ever.

    Meanwhile, the chances of Rob “Nickel and Dime” Ford and Tim “Harris Acolyte” Hudak building a transit cathedral for Scarborough are about zero in a million.

  119. Keith: Yes, I voted for Smitherman, but you misunderstand me. I am entirely in agreement with you and McGinnis where transportation policy is concerned–my vote for Smitherman was in spite of that issue, not because of it, and months before the election it was already clear to me that Ford’s credible stand against Transit City could very well clinch it for him.

    I dispute your characterization of increased federalism as “balkanisation”–I am only asking for a return to an arrangement similar to the one used before Premier Harris’s vindictive and anti-democratic crusade to amalgamate the city; the very same arrangement used by every other region in the GTA. Is York “Balkanized”? Durham? Peel?

  120. Hi All, 
    Here’s a wild thought.  Why not focus on creating job opportunities in the communities from whence all these drivers are commuting from.

    That surely would alleviate a lot of the traffic burden on the city core would it not?
    But then again, I guess that this idea is just way to easy, isn’t it?

    btw:  I did agree with the author Rick McGinnis, in his statement out visionary ideas.  I did NOT interpret it as a slam against it like others have, I took it for what I believe he meant it to mean.  A visionary idea which is clearly illogical or impractical, being forced down our throats by the powers that be, that has no rhyme or reason, for a personal or selfish agenda, can be a dangerous thing.  He was referring to all the lip service of the silver tongued devils of politicians we have had in the past & present compared to the straight talk from Rob Ford.  He was NOT slamming visionary ideas as a whole.  He was merely stating that even tho Rob Ford my not be as eloquent as the silver tongued devils,
    his heart is in the right place.  It’s with us.  Just like Hazel McCallion, the Mayor of Mississauga’s heart is with her people.  

    Why in God’s name do people have to pick on a human being for not looking like & speaking like a demi-God or Goddess?  
    You all sound like cold hearted grade school childhood bullies.  Shame on you!

    Our city is strewn with unfinished or finished projects that served no one but the ones that were given the contracts and the back door deals.  

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