More Yak on Moribund Toronto Subway Building

Heard on CFRB’s John Moore show that they’re talking again about beefing up transit along Eglinton Avenue, specifically if a subway is better than light rapid transit (LRT). Over a decade after Harris cost this province tens of millions of dollars shutting down subway construction west of Allen, along Eglinton, and almost a decade after Harris left office (if memory serves right), a couple of Councillors have raised their heads tentatively to broach this idea again. It must’ve been all those billions Jim Flaherty — a Harris brother-in-hate-Toronto arms — was waving around yesterday that’s got them showing courage.

But as far as I could tell the millions promised for the Spadina extension to York was exactly what the McGuinty government set aside before the last election, so all they’re doing is reminding us that they still have it banked for whenever it happens. I’m sorry to be such a jaded Torontonian, but ever since Lastman-Harris-Chretien stood on the banks of Lake Ontario promising us billions to revitalize the waterfront, we’ve endured many more such announcements by the Mayor-Premier-Prime Minister of the day, or parts thereof, promising millions or billions for TTC, waterfront, or take-your-pick-of-desperate-Toronto need, followed by nothing. I don’t know why optimists even try to get together a bid for big games like the Pan Am games because (a) the federal government hates Toronto and won’t lift a finger for it and (b) no senior government is going to invest in infrastructure in this city. All those billions China spent on Beijing, making it a games jewel, would never happen here under similar circumstances because the country doesn’t see Toronto as representing it to the world, even though it does, even during an ordinary tourist season.

Anyway, it’s not like the plans for Spadina, Eglinton, or even Queen Street subway expansion are new. They’ve been studied and planned to death. Yet today’s leaders are loathe to use the technology proven to move masses of people swiftly, without being hindered or slowed down by car traffic, because it’s the most expensive to build. It’s a good thing our city planners back in the 1940s and ’50s had more guts, else we’d have an LRT down Yonge Street and along Bloor-Danforth instead of what are today overloaded subways. Now, OK, I know that we haven’t yet reached the massive crowds of London in rush hour — where getting on a train means committing to not being able to move even a mm, anywhere in the car — however, during the day and on Sundays Toronto trains are fuller than they should be from a user’s point of view. I attribute this directly to the fact that our leaders, starting in the rich 1980s (remember, the era when people flaunted their wealth), stopped building subways here in Toronto, while they continued in Montreal, and that voters rejected a leader who put subway planning in her platform in favour of a do-nothing so that, in the words of one editor, we could give him a second chance (to do nothing). And so instead of having a line parallel to Bloor-Danforth, we have none, neither along Queen — which planners say is the one place a subway would pay for itself — nor along Eglinton. And so people take buses, subways, streetcars down to Bloor-Danforth or up to it, thus causing needless overcrowding on that line, while the Yonge-Bloor interchange has become a nightmare.

While debate continues about whether Eglinton should have a subway or an LRT, and the federal government waves around money already committed to one subway and makes no announcement about any other subways, England is set to spend 32 fuckin’ BILLION bucks on a crosstown subway line in London, this in a city that has never stopped building subway lines, even getting them built by badgering developers into funding them if they want to build towers. It’s not like the British like London any more than Canadians like Toronto; it’s that they understand that they must move people as quickly as possible there, as efficiently as possible if that city is to continue to generate wealth for the country. It’s too bad Ontarians and Canadians forget that piece of wisdom.

3 Comments so far

  1. dowlingm on July 25th, 2008 @ 7:42 pm

    Crossrail has been proposed in one form or another since 1974 and won’t open until 2017. Hopefully we won’t be waiting 43 years for rapid transit on Eglinton!

  2. talk talk talk (tor_pario) on July 25th, 2008 @ 8:06 pm

    That’s a heck of a long time! But, unlike London, we haven’t been building any lines, and we don’t even have a direct rail line to the airport. Also, we too, have an aborted line — there’s a partial station at Lower Queen — which apparently has been discussed since the 1940s, first as an LRT, then later as a subway. There’s little to no chance it’ll be built because it’s only in the city proper. If it wasn’t so sad, the insanity of not building a subway line along the most heavily used potential-subway corridor would be funny. Sigh.

  3. swoononeone (tor_trevor) on July 26th, 2008 @ 1:19 am

    The current Mayor is far from perfect but, to his credit, Miller’s stance was not to increase the city’s deficit to build Subway extensions without Federal assistance. (IMO this is still the case and some of the recently earmarked funds are promised to help with that). Miller LRT’s are a tenth of the price and exactly what taxpayers can bear (just not what most WANT). Jane Pitfield was tight lipped about her funding plans for the 2km per year of Subway plan up to the Spacing Magazine public debate. Pitfield’s funding "answer" was turn each new station into a huge ad. "Starbucks Station" on the TTC? Many asked how "Public Transit" would be best served by selling out to the highest bidder of ad space. People complain about streetcar Adwrap or interior banner ads. Imagine a whole station? The proposal also made some uneasy about the potential for kickbacks and corporate contracts especially after the scams and scandals faced under Lastman’s reign as mayor. The government has enough of our money to do what’s needed on transit without ad creep.

    What government is going to spend that kind of money? Until short term tax cuts fall out of fashion you will not see any significant moves on TTC funding. Politicians , especially these days, go for the easy win. A refund of your own money. The Feds’ surplus has been thrown almost entirely at our debt and tax cuts. There’s room to balance the budget, pay down some debt and invest in Infrastructure but that is not a priority so far folks. The Liberals/NDP/PC’s/City of Toronto have not played well together (despite public PR). Will they? Perhaps if you yell at your MP, MPP, and city council loud enough, and even if there isn’t a pending election.

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