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Transit City marketing

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The folks at the TTC have embarked on a major marketing campaign in an effort to sell Transit City.  Not only have buses, streetcars and subways been filled with pamphlets outlining the proposed University-Spadina subway extension and the seven LRT lines (pdf) that will ultimately attempt to link Toronto from end-to-end. The TTC and the City of Toronto have both dedicated pages on their websites to outline the plan.

Included on the TTC website is the short five-minute video that is posted at the top of this post.  Although it doesn’t go into any detail about the individual projects making up Transit City, it does a relatively good job of describing how LRT will be interwoven into the fabric of the city.  I assume the video was commissioned to explain Transit City and the concept of LRT to the masses, but I wonder if the TTC will consider having it narrated in different languages for the benefit of the millions of commuters who are not fluent in English. It seems like that would be a great way to get more people excited about this major shift the TTC is embarking on. What do you think of the TTC’s efforts to sell Transit City? Are they doing enough to entice drivers away from their vehicles?



  1. It’s hard to imagine anybody but transit geeks (a group of which I am a member) getting excited over this no-budget, junior school educational effort. Teacher, do we have to watch this?

  2. Is the pamphlet file online at all? I’d like to see it but I am overseas.

  3. The name of that WMV file sure is descriptive!


  4. I dunno, I kinda dig the video renderings.

    The only part that bugs me is the infomerical music that sounds like it came as the demo music on a Casio keyboard.

  5. I’m all for Transit City.

    However it will still be a tough sell for the masses. The first impresssion is that it’s a “glorified” streetcar line. The average “Joe” would ask why this couldn’t have been a subway line instead. Many people won’t see the overall network of the Transit City plan and how it relates to city building and the urban fabric for the greater good. Instead, most people will be asking how does this get me downtown any faster than my car.

  6. The video does a decent job of explaining to people what LRT is, and can be. Many people still assume LRT, will be like the legacy streetcar lines.

  7. It would be nice if there could be a narrow platform between the two tracks so that passengers could get off on one side while boarding passengers get on on the other. So much time gets wasted when the two waves of human traffic collide.

  8. It’s nice the video mentions improving the streetscape on the LRT routes. If the thing ever gets built – and Toronto’s history suggests it won’t – it would be nice to see an irrigation system so the trees don’t wither and die, as well as burying the existing electrical wires. They’re going to have to repave anyway so I don’t see why running hyrdo lines underground should be such a problem. Other cities seem to manage it.

  9. To build support, you have to appeal to civic pride, and you do that by embarrassing the hell out of the complacent citizens of Toronto. The video makes a too-brief mention of LRT in other cities, and doesn’t even name the right ones. What is needed are real comparisons, like

    “Denver has more LRT track than Toronto? You can go to the airport on a light rail vehicle in St. Louis and Minneapolis but not Toronto? Jersey City has waterfront light rail and Toronto doesn’t? Portland built a streetcar AND an LRT? SF kept old streetcars on its tracks for tourists while Toronto sold its to some bumblef–k town in Wisconsin? What the #$@%&*@#@!$!?”

    I would use images from every single North American city with rail to hammer home the point that Toronto has fallen way behind and must invest in LRT or risk further decline. People’s eyes will glaze over if you try to tell them the advantages of more seating capacity and ROW, but tell them that Dallas, freaking Dallas, is kicking their smug, oh-so-urbane, centre-of-the-universe ass and they’ll pay attention.

  10. pman: I agree with you, except for the part that Toronto’s history suggest it won’t get built. We’ve had many plans not get built but many more were. This is already being built: consultations are happening, engineers are workign on things, LRT contracts are being lined up…. The other plans had no money dedicated to them — Transit City does.

  11. They have also bought space on billboards. I saw a Transit City billboard on Yonge north of Finch this morrning. I can’t wait for the Spacing/ expose on the TTC billboards without proper permits.

    In the end, people don’t care about marketing. They want the damned infrastructure. I’ve heard it at the Metrolinx consultations, and in my own work with York Region: Stop talking. Get to work.

  12. They’ve also taken up every single ad space on the Bloor Station YUS platform… with the exact same ad, over and over and over again. Perhaps they could have created different ads for each line with renderings of how it’d fit in?

  13. John: You’re not going to win over everyone, as some will want a subway. But show people what Eglinton-Crosstown in particular will actually look like, and you’ll get more excitement.

    uSkyscraper: You’ll get the good people of Kenosha worked up – and they tune into both the Chicago and Milwaukee TV markets – it means some bad press if we go slagging Kenosha. St. Louis has LRT running in cornfields, literally.

    In fact, On Finch, or Jane, or even Don Mills, you won’t get people demanding a subway, but I think on Sheppard East, you will! I’ve been to many of the EAs so I heard a lot of the local reactions. A lot of people don’t like the fact that the Sheppard Line, as planned, will never be built and an extra transfer with a slower LRT will be built in instead. Sheppard is the biggest fault with Transit City.

    Otherwise, for those who show up at the EAs I’ve ben to (Finch, Eglinton, Don Mills), most people are relatively satisfied, though the biggest issue is speed – people want speed, and there’s a lot of concern that they will get Spadina, not St. Louis (which, being in a private grade-separated or railway-like ROW, will not be like Transit City). These need to be properly addressed.

    As for the subway argument – I was at a community workshop in Brampton this week (I’ll do a post later) for a Hurontario-Main Street transit and planning study, looking at providing BRT or LRT. I was really impressed – people there didn’t want subways – they were neutral about whether it is BRT or LRT, and were more interested in how you get the higher-order transit in at Downtown Brampton and how to urbanize the areas downtown and at Shoppers World. It is a refreshing change in car-centric suburbs.

  14. They should require that bike lanes be built along these new transit lines. If they have enough room for 2 dedicated LRT lanes, they have enough for 2 bike lanes.

  15. Are there any plans to expand/improve the transit in the cities core?

  16. Since the Transit City maps show the present Spadina and St. Clair routes, will the LTR cars be put on those routes?
    Speaking of Transit City signage in the subway I saw one of their detailed ads posted beside an escalator. Not a smart place for it! Try reading all the small print as you go sailing past!

  17. Let’s get behind this plan. The city needs it. I just rode the one in Paris 2 weeks ago. Great experience, modern, roomy and very well integrated with existing Metro and RER lines. It is valuable to city building in Toronto that Transit City include landscaping and manicuring of areas involving transit LRT corridors. The one in Paris runs through beautiful green grassy stretches that are laid in the middle of busy Parisian streets. Asking Toronto to get anywhere close to this sort of landscape architecture is asking too much…but dare to dream. Let’s make this project happen.

    David, your negative indication of the Transit City video being of “junior” quality is condescending. Your attitude is typical of Torontonians great abilities to complain rather than to build and create. This is a great plan and the video is a good start. I am just a growing group of young people who want more and better for this city. Toronto needs more and deserves more.

  18. Yep, Toronto needs a semi-fast, quasi-LRT to every corner of the city instead of building a few proven, reliable subways. We’d have a chance of upstaging great cities like Mumbai and Dakar! Paris can build tram lines because they feed into a great rail and metro network. We dont have that.

    Or should we shut up because the city is telling us what’s best for us with minimal public input? We are missing the debates we so desperately need. Someone needs to decide where streetcars make sense, and where subways are actually needed, like that downtown core reliever, and finishing sheppard like they were supposed to.

  19. Patrick, this is an issue of cost. There will never be enough funding to create new subway lines. Extensions are expensive enough as it is.

    Additionally, a single, new subway line would take a good 20 years to design and construct.

  20. Beijing to Run 561km Rail Transit Lines by 2015

    I guess buying all that junk from Wal-Mart makes this possible:

    “BEIJING, October 30, SinoCast — Beijing is expected to operate 19 rail transit lines with a total length of 561 kilometers by 2015, says a principal at the city’s communication division on October 28, 2008. The city is now operating eight railway transit lines with a length of 200 kilometers and will have 14 lines with a length of 400 kilometers as the eight lines like the No. 4 Line, No. 6 Line, No. 8 Line and No. 9 Line are to be completed by 2012. By 2015, the rail transit network of the city will absorb a static investment of up to CNY 200 billion. Subway stations will be accessible with an average 1-kilometer walk within the fourth highway ring outside the downtown area, and there will be 1.08 kilometers of rail transit lines per square kilometers within the second highway ring. All the outer districts and new towns will have access to the network. The No. 4 Line will be operated by a Beijing-Hong Kong joint venture for 30 years, marking the first foreign-invested rail transit project in the country. The investment and operational pattern will likely be adopted in other rail transit projects of the city.”


  21. Sure, subways cost more, but they give you speed that surface cars don’t. I was looking at that chart in the latest issue, and seeing that all those streetcar lines will cost about $8 billion. Sheppard cost $1 billion to Don mills, and that included expensive tail track connections and the complex station addition at Yonge. You could built the rest of sheppard to Scarborough for about 1-1 1/2 billion, build a downtown line, build the planned Eglinton lrt subway, and have money left over to add some fast viva like buses along the busiest routes and fill in gaps with lrt growth. Does sending three routes to malvern make sense anyway?

    I don’t want to sound like a subway or nothing person, but I think we need a larger network to buildup first, because of crowding and will attract more out of their cars. Cities like Paris are now building surface LRT lines to fill in the gaps of a huge subway system. I don’t know why subways take 20 years to plan, and LRT plans come out of nowhere and can get started in 3 years.

  22. You’re right, Patrick, subways are not more expensive, not when much more money is being wasted on streetcar lines that serve fewer overall people. Some people see no difference between quantity of transit and quality of transit, just as some people see no difference between a video riddled with flaws and an honest, open public consultation process. Despite the video’s claims that streetcars will fly down suburban streets at what looks like 150km/hr, we have no reason to believe that the travel time improvements on a street like Morningside will be worth spending a billion dollars on. The city’s also trying to suggest that suburban redevelopment is only possible with LRT lines, yet this is undeniably false.

    For a plan called “Transit City,” it will leave huge swaths of Toronto with absolutely no transit improvements, including downtown and some of the city’s busiest bus corridors, and it relies on Metrolinx to fill in the gaps, even though that ambitious plan could very easily be altered, cut back, or delayed by decades. Transit City should have been based on sound planning and common sense, and the notion that riders are a priority, not neighbourhoods of social need. Instead of preempting reasonable potential suburban subway corridors like Sheppard, Don Mills, and Eglinton, Transit City should have proposed LRT lines for streets that are equally desperate for transit improvements but would be ideal and safe choices for LRT, like Lawrence, Wilson, Kipling, and McCowan.

  23. has no one noticed that the voice in the video is As It Happens’ Barbara Budd??

    @Patrick: subways do not take 20 years to plan. The two northward extensions currently planned appeared pretty fast. We’ve had various subway proposals made and scrapped over the years. TONS of them. And they never get built. These LRT lines, though doubtless slower than subways, will bring real capacity improvement in a much shorter time frame. I’m inclined to think that improved GO train service along with fare integration with the TTC is a much better route to go for speedier longer-distance travel than expensive subways.

  24. The real issue isn’t upstaging somewhere else, it’s getting the most service for the least money. The cheapest way to provide a low density service is a bus, but as lines like Finch West prove, buses don’t scale up well. At a certain point, typically with a headway under 5 minutes, buses get caught in traffic, and then herd. So instead of getting a bus every 5 minutes, you get 4 buses all coming together every 20 minutes. Dedicated right of way LRT lines don’t run into this problem as much, even on lines like St Clair, a streetcar or LRT scheduled every 4 minutes, tend to run 4 minutes apart. Faster then buses that get caught in traffic, higher capacity, but more expensive then buses. They are still considerably cheaper then subways, but have a lower capacity as well. Looking at the Sheppard subway, it really should have been built as an LRT line, out of Sheppard station, perhaps this is what they should do, put in overhead wiring and pull the third rail, convert it into an LRT line, and simply continue it to Markham Road.

  25. They don’t need to sell transit expansion to us, just do it.

  26. I could say lots here like others, but simplicity sells..

    half of the reasons why this video does not succeed in communicating the value of this project is mainly the droning soundtrack. The stammering and incessant bass soloing accompanied by the middle-aged smoker voice. The other half is the evidence of effort put into the rough and tumble effects.

    If this video is any indication of the decision makers behind this entire project..I think that the public and tax payers are in for a another long expensive and painful ride with the ttc

    this couldn’t be more detached from the words: innovative, effortless, convenient

  27. “but I wonder if the TTC will consider having it narrated in different languages for the benefit of the millions of commuters who are not fluent in English.”

    Millions? Toronto’s population is only 2.5 million.

  28. I’m starting to call this initiative Transit Suburbs as it does virtually zilch for the urban core, and the WWLRT, while going through the Waterfront at $700Mish, isn’t a good deal according to its 1993 EA.
    Regular bloggers know that I favour a Front St. transitway, which was actually recommended for further study in that 1993 EA, but was never done – FSE road politricks I guess.
    There also should be a way of putting an LRT on the Weston tracks instead of the Blue 22, and then onto Front St. to avoid the complications of the railyards. Recently I’ve been thinking of how to push a Front St. transitway eastwards past Yonge St. onto Eastern Ave., and then to have some Queen cars divert to a downtown express to have ROW transit from the Dufferin/Queen area to Front St. via railtracks, and then out east to Kingston Road area via Eastern.
    Given our sprawl, and limit$, we likely can’t do so many subways and Spadina is unwise much past York U but surface transit with priority can be smart.

  29. I’ve noticed lots of people reading the ads, even people pulling off those pamphlets and reading them with friends. Surprised me that so many riders are excited about this. Was a wide demographic range too.

  30. As noted above the plan does little positive for the core of the city, in fact it will create bottlenecks where it drops off suburban people on the existing subway lines. The plan shows the Don Mills line connecting at pape – there is no room on the subway for them in the early morning because the trains are already full. The overall build strategy of the TTC should be to build a LRT where buses are full, subways where streetcars are full and ensure that new subways are connected with older ones so capacity can choose other routes when the subways are full.
    These new lines also better be looking at their speed when compared with cars otherwise they will not attract a new audience. The exisiting streetcars are obstacles to the flow of traffic. They stop way too often and are subject to the same speed regulations as cars making them the slowest vehicle around. The spadina route isn’t any faster with all the stoplights so again the fastest route is to take the subway and walk from Osgoode to spadina.
    Also has the TTC thought about winter? We have one. Subways are warm and connected to underground buildings and shopping.
    I say skip all this transit crap in the burbs and 905 – they screwed themselves with bad low density planning. Instead; subways east west along queen from the Beach to Roncesvalles and then north, plus a subway direct to pearson and the island airport.

  31. “These LRT lines, though doubtless slower than subways, will bring real capacity improvement in a much shorter time frame.”

    Let’s say you measure the ROI of a transit line on the number of additional riders you accrue per $ spent on capital construction. If that were the case, I’d say that LRT lines still lose to subways. Incidentally, BRT systems have the same or higher capacity as LRT lines and cost significantly less. LRT is a worst of both worlds combo, having the high capital costs and inflexibility of operation of rail and the capacity and speed of BRT.

    Finally, subways aren’t as expensive as they say. The TTC just uses creative “accounting” to high-ball the costs of subway construction to discourage its expansion. Go take a look at the cost estimates for the Spadina extension. $150 million for a station? Give me a break.

    There’s a new streetcar conspiracy in town, and this time it ain’t GM’s fault.

  32. There are some transit improvements planned for downtown:

    The Waterfront LRT has the potential to provide a quicker route downtown for people who live in South Parkdale.

    Unmentioned in the Transit City plans is the new streetcar routes planned for the Eastern Waterfront which could provide an alternate route for people coming from the beaches.

    Without having to compete with riders from these areas, people closer to downtown should get better service, as well.

  33. I’m still not sold. If anyone has been on Spadina, a relatively short and busy “streetcar rapid transit” as described in the TTC maps, the streetcars bunch and sit at red lights and leave long gaps. The subway is fast, reliable, and rarely has gaps in service and never bunches. LRt in cities like Philly, Pittsburgh, San diego, St. Louis, are on private tracks for the most part with no waiting for traffic lights. Eglinton, with tunnels, is only part that is real Lrt. The video shows trains flying past cars – i think it exaggerates.

    Sheppard – why bother with Lrt? Why not extend the subway to Victoria Pk and run buses east of there for now. Sheppard isn’t very slow on the 85 bus now. I ride it often enough, except the section near 404 and Victoria Pk is congested. The 190 is surprisingly quick, and another route like that could cover the rest of Sheppard to Malvern.

    Words like ‘should’ and ‘potental’ in describng some minor improvements for some downtowners isn’t making things all that promising.

  34. The problem with the negative comments above is that TTC is committing to building a swath of LRT lines without building one line which is representative of the others. If TTC could build a proper LRT line which had signal priority and next-vehicle signs and stuff I bet Torontonians would be clamouring for more as they are in other parts of the world.

    Instead the TTC has stumbled through the reconstruction of existing lines like Fleet St. and St. Clair West and has not yet demonstrated the kind of competence that a system wanting to be endowed with billions of dollars and the power to rip up roads should be displaying. It has shown that it will go along with political expediency rather than prudence by endorsing the Steeles-Vaughan section of the Sorbara line. Why shouldn’t people be sceptical?

  35. ‘millions of commuters who are not fluent in English’

    I agree with Justin’s comment. Who are these millions of commuters who don’t understand English, at least not well enough to navigate the TTC system?

    The TTC’s existing system of providing telephone interpreting (via an AT&T switchboard) is already hugely expensive and not exactly essential.

    The TTC has a policy of posting multilingual notices to announce that bus/streetcar stops are temporarily out of service, but the necessity of some of these translations is questionable at best: are there really that many unilingual speakers of Turkish in Toronto?

  36. I live in parkdale and I for one am sick of waiting 20 minutes on dufferin for the bus to come only for 3-5 show up at the same time, whats the point and i have found myself walking home from say dufferin mall to my home in king street area

    but this i am all for it this seems great albeit i would prefer a subway but hey beggars can’t be choosers since it does cost alot, money the TTC isnt getting from the Government well besides the municipal, which in turn means our taxes go up if they went for the subway, if the feds and provincial stepped up more to help than by all means subways all the way but they arent so this the best they can offer and its aint half bad but we gotta wait and see before passing judgement but thing with a lot of things in life is that people are stubborn and wont accept or they ask for something and when they get it they want more or they dont support it and then the big bosses get the messages and dont try
    for example we wanted more extensions and a part of that is the dedicated lanes on st.clair and spadina but when the TTC started it which the 1st step for this Transit City, people argued it and complained adn said it made it look ugly without giving it a chance, how can they make it better if people fight it every step of the way, people are never happy, which reminds me of the windmills that are being built, people wanna go green but they dont want it built in their area, or they dont wanna pay more but the cheapest option they dont like it
    this Transit all depends on Public support, but not everyone can be pleased and as for the complaints that its gonna be slow and congested, they said that the distance between stops will be greater so it wont make as frequent stops as a streetcar so no stopping, think above ground subway, and as for saying theres no room, they said they can go underground too, ala streetcar underground like at spadina station

    The TTC needs to filter out the Legit suggestions and legitimate complaints from the whiners and people who are never happy to make this right and really promote this and show more and maybe and estimated time of completion and expected stations for line
    other than that this is great and if Toronto wants to be on that top 10 the public has to support and stop complaining

  37. I think Transit City is a second-class transit system that will end up being a grave mistake. I don’t want to sound negative but the public is very devided on this issue and not without reason. The plan seems rushed, full of unknowns, and badly budgeted. The implementation of it does not depend on public support, but rather seems to be the brain child of TTC staff or some private/commercial interests. Government support is lukewarm at best.
    The proposal to start at Sheppard East is misguided and an indication that things are not going to go well…

  38. LRT should be called Low Rate Transit because that’s all it is. All this talk about C-rated cities outdoing Toronto on LRT means nothing. A Class cities have subways. Period. Quality of life is tough enough to achieve in urban areas without great swaths of land being paved for monstrosities to cruise through every 10 minutes. Not to mention the safety hazards when the tracks are wet or frozen. This is forever so budget cannot be an issue here. Imagine high school students having to cross 8 lanes of frozen road, bike lanes and track in December just to leave their school at night. This is neighbourhood building! I think not. The car’s not the problem. Short-sighted, mean-spirited attitude is. Now if you want to talk about car pollution issues, let’s review the scandalous EV1 and GM story! It IS possible to have zero emissions and freedom of movement around our own city – right now.