The politics of transit

So having been through Stephen’s previous post I started to think a little bit. It’s not too often that I think so I might as well jot down what i thought of here before I forget it all.

We’re one of the only major cities on the planet in a developed nation that has no trains to its own airport. How shitty is that. Let’s take it one step further. North America, the promise and hope of the world is also the only continent with developed nations that don’t have high speed rail. Let’s see who else does have it? UK and every major European nation, Japan, South Africa, Australia, Turkey, China, and the list goes on and on. Obviously we’re doing some wrong here.

And I started to think for a while more. What is the reason for all of this? Is it because we’re doing something wrong as consumers? Are we not worthy enough? Is it because of the big 3 constantly lobbying against our governments?

Is it because our own GTA’s politics are not easily solvable. Do we have to bicker? Can’t we figure out a way to make another subway line? What subway systems map looks something as pathetic as ours? We have TWO lines for crying out loud?! And if anyone says we actually have three lines, not two i’m gonna stomp them under a rock. The Sheppard line is a sorry excuse for a commute. Stop whining so much about it and make some more. Right now you can only go up or down or left and right and you call that a subway? Compare Toronto, with NYC, or London, or Paris, Sydney, Tokyo, or even Mumbai. The comparisons are pitiful.

This is North America. And this is our state.

It takes us a five hour train ride to get to Montreal from here? How shameful is that. 500 km and it takes five hours. If you’re lucky. Most developed countries, the same distance shouldn’t take you more than an hour. In London, the tube from Heathrow to Central London used to take an hour and a bit. The same distance is now covered by the Heathrow Express in under ten minutes. It also runs every ten minutes.

Forget the airport for a minute. The airport is the most arrived-to destination in our city. Let’s look at the second most arrived-to destination. York University. Did you know 900 buses go through there on a daily basis! Read that again. 900 buses my friends. Thats 1.25 buses every two minutes. Ever wonder how many busload of passengers does one subway train hold? And we’re still debating whether York Univ subway is feasible or not.

It takes me four different transit systems to get from Hamilton to Downtown or to the airport. Have you any idea what an average tourist who arrives here for the first time feel about all of this, especially if he’s travelled to other cities across the globe? I am ashamed to be a resident of the city of Toronto which has so much great stuff to offer tourists but has such a terrible welcome for them.

It takes me weeks of planning to find a cheap airfare ticket to fly to anywhere in this country. Most Europeans are flying across Europe for the weekend for less money than it takes me to get to Montreal by car.

Stop whining about the prices. The entire world pays twice more than what we do for gas. Their solution, “DON’T DRIVE AN SUV AND BUY A GODDAMN BICYCLE!” There’s a reason North Americans are fat, we’re too busy whining about services that we could have to make us sit around more to whine even more about services that we don’t need.

If GO, YRT, Mississauga Transit, Brampton Transit and the TTC can get off their high and mighty pride seats and start talking with each other about how their systems can “talk” with each other, then not only will we end up seeing reductions in fare, but we will see ease of transport as well. At this point in time, it is not only ridiculous but it is at the same time ludicrous that politicians have to get involved with private companies and make things work. If you keep building these goddamn suburban hell holes which not conducive to walking, what else would you expect? The local corner store is a five minute drive away. Everytime the mayor has anything to say and promise, he runs for election, then forgets it at the back of his mind, then makes the same promise for the next election campaign.

And then we think we’re also the greatest city on the planet. Wake the fuck up Torontonians. The world doesn’t revolve around Toronto. Go travel elsewhere and see how real cities operate.

7 Comments so far

  1. talk talk talk (unregistered) on November 16th, 2006 @ 2:17 pm

    A tad ticked Halai? I don’t blame you!

    As I understand it, the reason we don’t have a high-speed train in the Quebec City-Windsor corridor — the only economically viable area to put it in Canada — despite the fact that magneto trains were being researched here years and years ago, is the competition with the airlines. High speed trains would cause a serious dent in air traffic between these major Canadian cities because they would be just as fast, go city centre to city centre, and be far less hassle security-wise.

    People who normally drive to Ottawa or Montreal probably would still drive. If I don’t need the car when I reach my destination, I’d rather take the train because even at its slow speed, it’s still faster than the car and far less harrowing (especially around Montreal).

    I’ve been having an ongoing debate with James Bow over subways on my blog. I think he articulates well the reason why we do NOT have more subway lines, not that I agree with him over what we should be doing. The basic problem is that the province has to start funding capital projects again. And the federal government has to get over their hate for Toronto — I mean they’re giving the TTC, the most likely to be bombed transit system, just over 1/40th the amount to beef up anti-terrorism measures. Are they for real? But the province and feds can drag their feet because we just voted in a Mayor and the same old Council who still think small when it comes to the TTC. Buses only, no subways. And so how are we going to change anything? My one idea is to change the provincial government. Maybe John Tory will help us.

  2. Mark Dowling (unregistered) on November 16th, 2006 @ 4:48 pm

    A 500km/h train is a bit of a pipedream in Canada – even TGV (320km/h in service) and Shinkansen with their dedicated track can’t do that and Canada will never fund a horrifically expensive 430km/h Siemens Transrapid network (especially since Bombardier wouldn’t get any pork).

    That said there’s a lot of room for improvement. For instance:

    Look at Air Canada’s schedule at the services between Kingston and Pearson (and Windsor-Pearson/London-Pearson). No service between Kingston and Dorval-Trudeau – but 5 VIA rail services.

    VIA and GO trains should stop at a new a station at Woodbine Racetrack with GO and VIA halts and a track proceeding into Pearson – not a peoplemover/cablecar.

    Kingston/Oshawa originating VIA services should be extended to the Woodbine station and additional services added which originate in Kingston and terminate in Kitchener or London in order to reduce the necessity for Air Canada to run air service to destinations only 2-3 hours away by train. Some money would have to be spent to increase speeds and add train slots between Georgetown and London but doing so would improve the environment for instituting local rail service in the Guelph-Kitchener-London corridor.

  3. talk talk talk (unregistered) on November 16th, 2006 @ 5:29 pm

    One other problem with VIA and GO is that we really really have to get passenger trains off of the freight lines and onto their own tracks. With high-speed rail that would finally happen.

  4. swoononeone (unregistered) on November 16th, 2006 @ 10:03 pm

    Subways cost WAY MORE than buses or light rail. The reason is tunnelling. It’s far easier to deal with bridges or a right of way than clearing a route both above and below ground. St. Clair West residents may or may not agree but we will have to see. With a limited budget you need the people moving for the least amount of cash. Subways are great but…they’re EXPENSIVE!!! Will Miller get Infrastructure money from the Feds? It would be nice but I think we will be lucky to keep fare increases in check.

    As for John Tory helping us more? I doubt it. The Conservatives like to cut (even when its Infrastructure spending our own money shoud be spent on!). The last Ontario Conservative Government took out the scissors on most transit initiatives even though the taxpayers money was already spent on the infrastructure.

    A prime example was the GO Train Service outside of the GTA (Oakville/Bronte/Appleby/Burlington/Aldershot/Hamilton). Three of those stations were built by the NDP with a hefty price tag. Ridership increased. Shortly after the PC’s came in and cut Transit funding. The new stations went from full capacity to practically shut down. A year later user fees (on top of integrated fares) had even more 905 riders taking their cars to the station. Discourage ridership and it’s near impossible to bring it back.

    The McGuinty’s Liberals are lost in the shuffle. Not quite lame ducks but not far from it. A minority government might be the answer, that is if whoever gets in realizes that CONSENSUS not saber rattling and political grandstanding are required at Queen’s Park. The Liberals will be sitting alone in the corner. Mr. Harper trying to seduce Quebec and keep his Alberta faithful happy. Ontario is not going to get a Transit prom date anytime soon.

    I think the infighting amongst Municipalities is the biggest hinderance to integrated Transit. No one thinks about the big picture. Every city in the GTA seems to run their system in a bubble. Rarely do they give any thought to bordering system schedules or the GO/TTC.

  5. adnan (unregistered) on November 16th, 2006 @ 11:42 pm

    I don’t mind the lousy transit system in Toronto because whenever I decide to visit, I know you’re going to drive me around wherever I want to go. Happily.

  6. James Bow (unregistered) on November 18th, 2006 @ 11:29 pm

    It’s not rocket science in how to achieve these things. We need to increase government spending.

    We beat our federal deficit. We’re paying down our substantial federal debt. We’re almost to the point of balancing the books provincially. These are all good things. But there’s still a $2 billion per year infrastructure deficit nationwide that we need to catch up on. And if we want to get ahead of that, and actually build some infrastructure for the future, we’d need to increase spending substantially — say, $5 billion per year nationwide ($2 billion to cover the infrastructure deficit, $2 billion to catch up on previous years’ infrastructure deficits, $1 billion for growth).

    We can cover this under our current surpluses, but to do this, we have to tell our federal government to reprioritize. This means, no more tax cuts. Substantially lower surpluses. Running the risk of deficits if our economy stumbles. Even raising taxes.

    I would be interested in hearing your ideas on how we convince a substantial portion of the electorate of the need.

  7. olivier (unregistered) on November 24th, 2006 @ 7:51 pm

    I am glad Toronto transit is so deficient. I think it is great. When you don’t have a great idea and no money just leave the situation going worst. Why?
    I don’t want aother subway.Yes subway are efficient but coming from Paris France (built in 1898) I don’t tink it is the best for today needs. Simply look how many cars are still arround.
    I don’t like buses in the suburb.Yes buses move more peoples, but it is cold to wait for them and they are still stuck in the traffic despite a good network.
    Where do I go with that?
    I think both 100 +years old ideas are thing of the past.
    We need a transit so good that everybody will want, enjoy it better than personal devices. So good that a compagny will dream to have his name on it;insvestment businesses too. Toronto embrass the futur and show the world you great quality of life.
    In the mean time please keep your money for real project and leave the politic alone. We do not need these kind of road resurfacing done just before the election. We need real work and first of all people with real vision. I’m sure money will come out of it.
    …ps yes I have a idea for transit, do you have one?

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