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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered


  1. It’s about time for Blue 22. Hooray for Metrolinx!

    A true high speed rail link from downtown to Pearson will weaken the island airport’s case for existing.

  2. the SUN article on the rail link to Pearson has good information, though it is a bit worrisome. Given the climate imperatives, we can’t presume that air travel will be as popular as it is now, but we do need better transit through this area. The weston community coalition has proposed a transit/subway line – and this makes far more sense than high speed rail, especially as it could be part of the downtown relief line, and yes, I see it coming up to Front St. in the core to enhance connectivity to the TTC at Bathurst and Spadina and of course Union Station.
    I am not necessarily a fan of the truncated EA process either – we have potential for expedited colossal goofs in an effort to make up for lost decades.
    The existing EA processes are fairly incomplete and less useful.

  3. What would be better for downtown Toronto, Pearson and Weston:

    A line which takes 22 minutes, comes every 20 minutes and makes no stops for $20, or a line that takes 30 minutes, comes every 10 minutes and makes all regular stops for $5 (GO fare)?

    Is saving 8 minutes really worth $15 dollars?

    I think the best thing for everyone involved is a regional rail line that is owned and administered by GO transit & Metrolinx.

    I’m not opposed to an express branch of a local service, we should be looking at the wider needs of transportation in the area – not just the narrow goal of Union to Pearson.

    If SNC-Lavalin wants to participate as the operator of a GO/Metrolinx-branded service, then that’s a road we should be exploring.

  4. ^^^Hamish…forget any climate, air travel will always exist and it will remain popular. It is a necessity in our lives…if anything, if oil prices continue to soar, then blended fuels and alternatives already made but to expensive to use will become more attractive options. Initially air travel may suffer, but will rebound with time as existing alternative technologies are implemented.

  5. @Andrae: Since the Eglinton-Crosstown transit city line will be providing a (non-rapid) rail connection to the rest of the TTC network, there would already exist local transit connections to the airport.

    I’m opposed to running Blue 22 as a branch of GO in the way you suggest — given its target market (relatively affluent downtowners, businesspeople, and tourists) and competition (taxis), it seems backward to give each ride a government subsidy.

  6. It’s great that the decision makers are almost making a decision but this is too little for too much much too late.

    Why is it we overpay to get shortchanged every time?

    Take Hong Kong for example, they have had a direct real high speed train that runs very frequently, is clean, quiet and cheap. Not $20.00!

    Plus they encourage usage by offering discounts if you travel with two or more people in your group. They also allow you to pre check your baggage a day in advance at the downtown station so you can travel in comfort and there’s more space on the train for passengers versus stuff.

    It’s so good you are crazy not to use it. And it connects right into their main transit hub so connections are easy and made easier with moving ramps everywhere.

    Since our decision folks have almost all taken advantage of going there and elsewhere to see these marvels for themselves you’d think they could suggest something more instead of the typical LESS.

    Perhaps if the plan were better it would meet with less objection or compromise.

    And maybe work better!

  7. Blue 22 is the wrong idea for many reasons – it’s directed to business travelers heading direct form downtown to the airport, but many forget that business traveler often start from home, which is not likely to be downtown.

    Most large urban centres do have an airport-downtown rail link, but only a few have a premium express service – Heathrow, Hong Kong, Shanghai. Others, like New York (JFK and EWR), Chicago (MDW and ORD), San Francisco, Mexico City, St. Louis, and soon Vancouver, amongst many others, have a simple subway, LRT, regional rail, or rail shuttle from rapid transit to serve their airports at a fare either matching local or regional transit fares, or a small airport access premium, like at Newark.

    To suggest that the Eglinton-Crosstown Transit City line should be the poor man’s Blue 22, that’s also ridiculous. While the idea of having LRT to the airport is a good one, it should not be meant for downtown-airport commutes, it should be to serve people along the Eglinton corridor or those with an easy connection to it, especially airport workers.

    Blue 22 ignores the airport worker market, it ignores all travelers not headed downtown, it ignores those not wanting to pay $20-25, it ignores the markets along the corridor, from Brampton, to Malton, to Rexdale, to Weston, and to Mount Dennis.

    The Weston folk have been painted with the NIMBY brush for their opposition. They were opposed to the old plan (I hope to hell the new plan is better), partly as SNC-Lavalin was in a terrible conflict of interest (it was the EA consultant for the same project it was promoting), it severed Weston, and promised no benefits to Weston residents, such as more frequent service. Had this been a real regional rail proposal, like the one Andrae mentions above, most would have embraced it.

    If SNC-Lavalin wants to use 60-year old RDCs to ferry suits from Union to Pearson (because families and groups would be better served and charges less to take a taxi), that’s fine. But there should no direct or indirect subsidies, and the solution should serve all the local markets from Brampton to Parkdale for a fare comparable to TTC or even GO.

    The track improvements planned for the Weston Sub would have allowed 20 minute Blue 22 service, but with that, even GO was not promising all-day service, just an increase of rush hour and some additional midday service. Most of the capacity, paid largely by public money, would have benefited private interests.

    So Blue 22, as planned, should have died, to make us come back with a better, holistic solution.

  8. If Toronto should mimick any city’s rail-airport link, it’s Tokyo. They have both express and local trains servicing Narita Airport. Express trains simply pass local trains at a half-way point between downtown and the airport. All the local communities along the way get served, with regular cheap fares, and people needing a quick jump from downtown to the airport get what they need for a premium price. Everyone is happy. An easy solution that nobody seems to be considering. In Toronto’s case such a route would also serve as the long dreamed of downtown relief line, with service to King and Queen street from Dundas West Station etc…. What’s wrong with this plan? Metrolinx should put me on their payroll.

  9. Yeah, it seems kinda dumb given the fairly adequate transportation options that already exist between Union Station and the airport. Don’t forget that all the downtown hotels (including the Royal York Hotel, across the street from Union) already have Airport Express busses that offer “door to door” service for about $17/pop.

    It looks like this plan isn’t going to benefit all that many people, while it’ll potentially screw over the airport limo/taxi drivers who rely on that route for their bread and butter. This seems like another ill-thought plan that uses taxpayer money to (possibly) benefit people who have lots of it, while doing nothing for and/or making life even more difficult for some of the city’s residents living on the margins (in this case the under-paid, over-worked, over-qualified taxi drivers and airport labourers.)

  10. A win-win-win situation would be this:

    Improve the Weston corridor to four tracks, enabling frequent GO and VIA trains.

    At Malton, build a massive GO/VIA/TTC/MT/BT hub. Convert the Airport people mover to ICTS, and extend it north to Malton via the Right of Way currently reserved for Blue 22. Extend it south to Renforth to meet with MT and intercity buses.

    So there we go. All the existing resources are used for much less $.

  11. Blue 22 is a huge problem, it has been holding back improvements to GO service in the same corridor for many years now. I wish it would just die, and let GO build an aiport branch for $10 or whatever.

  12. I agree with Sean 100% on this one. As I usually try to point out, Toronto does not exist in a vacuum and needs to learn from the numerous case studies scattered around the continent (which includes, gasp, the USA). Not one city in North America has a Blue22-type service, but many feature decent rail links that work very well for budget travelers, airport workers and those reliant on public transit:

    Washington DC
    San Francisco
    St. Louis

    In Toronto the above would be equivalent to the Eglinton subway as originally planned. Transit City’s Eglinton line doesn’t really cut it, since it is unlikely to have as few stops, dedicated right-of-way, tunnels, etc. that systems like Seattle or Minneapolis have. (Plus, it doesn’t go downtown)

    New York JFK
    New York EWR

    Toronto could easily replicate this by running the LINK system to Kipling. (The JFK Airtrain runs over 5 miles from the airport to a rail/subway hub.) However, using a cable-based system for LINK has probably made this technically impossible.

    Providence, RI
    Montreal (sort of)

    For Toronto the above would be a simple GO connection. The problem is doing this with adequate headway, as no one likes to wait an hour for a train. SEPTA may be the best example to follow.

    Los Angeles
    San Jose

    This is not so different from the current Airport Rocket; however, these shuttles typically service stations about a mile away from the airport, not seven miles, and they do not charge fares until you get to the station (a pain for tourists on the Rocket). Toronto could implement a livable shuttle bus as a permanent solution only if the subway was extended and curved north to be closer to Pearson.


    For Toronto this is the totally impractical given the lack of a dedicated busway from Pearson to downtown.


    Bottom line is that the list of cities with superior airport connections is now impossible to ignore, which is why public officials now seem to realize that the lack of a rail link is a certified embarrassment. Will they try to at least turn this into an advantage by learning from the examples of others, or simply thrash around with a customized-to-fail solution that no one wants?

  13. There’s a lot of informed comment here.
    Flying is still very bad for the climate; and we need to put better transit through this corridor, but maybe a local/express combo could work.
    One thorny issue near the core that requires serious cash and thought is the level grade crossing at Strachan Ave., which is way above warrants for being separated, and has been for a time. Solving it will be awkward, costly and dirty.
    Did anyone else partake in the Blue 22 EA? (I’m a bit worried the new rules aren’t going to be good for good public consult or good enough transit, not that the older ones were delivering that either…)

  14. Blue 22 is just not a wise use of transit funds.

  15. uSkyscraper, thanks for the comprehensive list, but you left out the first rail link to the airport in North America – Cleveland’s “subway”.

    How could I forget Baltimore? I’ve used both of that airport’s rail links – the LRT right into downtown Baltimore, and connecting from Amtrak on my way home from Washington and taking the free shuttle. Soon, Washington will see a public transit rail link to its largest airport, Dulles, and in that case, all three of its airports (if you count BWI) will be linked up.

    The model that Blue 22 seeks to emulate, Heathrow Express, invites little comparison. The Piccadilly Line reached LHR first, providing an important link for travellers and employees. It’s a slow ride, but it’s inexpensive, and I was able to purchase direct ticket for the northern London suburb I was headed to (via a train out of Liverpool Street Station, outside the M25 and outside TfL’s service area), and had to make the same number of transfers as I would have if I took Heathrow Express to Paddington. Now there’s Heathrow Connect, a service that makes stops along the way for a much less expensive rate, but still higher than the underground.

    So we are first going with a Heathrow Express, rather than building the market with a decent rapid transit or regional rail service first. It’s totally backwards.

    Hamish, I did attend the original EA meetings – one at Trinity-Bellwoods, which brought out a respectable crowd, and the one in Weston, where they had to rent out a megachurch to seat all the angry Weston folk. The fix was in, but the local politics forced the full-fledged EA process, partly thanks to that blunder-headed idea that the proponent be its own consultant.

  16. As uSky says, it is an embarrassment that we don’t already have an airport rail link. The basic idea of joining the two busiest transportation hubs in the entire fricking nation is essential. It’s not just about serving suits. Plenty of pleasure travellers stay downtown and for the growing numbers of downtown residents getting to and from the airport by transit or private shuttle bus is horrible right now.

    It would be better if LRT was used on the same line and there should be at least one stop (at Bloor to connect with the BD subway line). The environmental argument doesn’t really hold up when you consider all the individual gas-vehicle trips it would replace. Ideally the LRT would run right along front of the terminals instead of that tinkertown trolley that now connects them so that you wouldn’t have to transfer.

  17. Sean, thanks for the correction. I did remember to look up Cleveland but was getting a little bleary-eyed at 2am and mistakenly left it off the list. I also forgot Mexico City, but the less said about a city that had no rail transit system at the time when the Bloor line was completed and now has 175 stations, the better.

    I used to live in London and relied on the Picadilly Line when I was a student there; I also used the Heathrow Express on recent trips back as a “suit”. Both are great at what they do, but as you correctly point out, it is bizarre to put the cart before the horse and build the express before you have a good local option. Note that the Stansted and Gatwick also have “express” train service for those in a rush, but they have local train service too for those with more time and less budget.

    If the rail link really is coming back to life, in whatever form, perhaps Spacing should look into the matter more formally. I doubt the Star is capable of any serious thinking on the subject, while the Post and Globe will ignore it and the Sun will only cover the NIMBYs.

  18. Perhaps they should be building the Eglinton LRT line first, rather than the Sheppard LRT line.

  19. You also left out Newark Liberty Airport. It has a very important, and busy Monorail link to the nearby NE corridor line with the NJT, and Amtrak Acela Services.

  20. Actually the Eglinton LRT will be one of the first lines they will start but because of the complexity of the long tunnel required, it will take longer to build then the others.

  21. I mentioned EWR (Newark Liberty) in my list and use it several times a year. It is comparable to what Dean described above, where a Link tram would run to a rail hub that served GO, Via and maybe some MT/BT/TTC buses. Not a one-seat ride downtown, but an easy connection to the regional transit net, which is perhaps even more important.

  22. “a rail hub that served GO, Via and maybe some MT/BT/TTC buses.”

    You’ve just described Union Station, uSkyscraper, except you left out subway and streetcar.

    “Not a one-seat ride downtown, but an easy connection to the regional transit net”

    These are not mutually exclusive, either/or; they can be one and the same