Russ Ford's Blog

Getting Around in the Lakeshore- or not

Yesterday I had the pleasure of being one of the three panellists on a transit forum in south Etobicoke.  The other two were Mike Olivier and the host George Takach.

This is the second community forum held by George and I think it is safe to say both have been highly successful.  Anything that promotes community engagement is  a very positive thing to do.

The forum was pegged as a discussion around air quality and transit.  The two subjects are virtually inseparable.  In a recent study of air quality in the lakeshore the area where the QEW and 427 meet was identified as the location of quite likely the worst air in the city.  A map tracing poor air quality across the city simply mirrored  Toronto's highways.

The obvious problem is too many cars  and the amount of idling the cars have to do because of traffic congestion.  The simple solution is to have less cars on the road.

That is where the solution starts to be less simple.  People will not now leave their cars and use public transit because the public transit system has been allowed to fall into  disrepair.  City hall has not made the investments required and as a result solutions will no longer be found inexpensively.  It is sort of like your home.  If you do not put some money into maintaining it over time it will become run down and repair costs will be high.

We are past the point where adding a bus route here or there is going to make any significant difference, We are now in need of new thinking, new ideas to address the transit file.  People want to get to work using public transit in a reasonable amount of time.

The level of neglect accelerated in 2010 when the austerity agenda hit city hall. Taxes could not be increased but costs to run the city have gone up. So money had to be found elsewhere and one of those elsewhere's was the TTC.  In 2010 the city subsidized through its budget  the riders of the TTC.  Every time a Torontonian rode the TTC the city subsidized that ride  by $.93 per ride.  Today the subsidy to the TTC is $.78 per ride.

That is a significant drop in revenue and  now we see the results of that approach to budgeting.  Going forward we have also  now saddled the TTC with the fiscally draining Scarborough subway addition.

Which means we need to do something big,  perhaps outside the box,  but we do not have much money to do anything because of previous financial decisions.

So here are a few of the ideas that came out of yesterday's forum that would seem to meet the criteria of effective and relatively low cost

1) Electrify the CN line

The one thing our community has are existing rail lines with are used largely for freight, VIA or GO. So why not electrify two of the tracks and run an LRT along those electrified tracks. Yes, no doubt it would cost money to electrify the tracks  but it would be a pittance  compared to laying new track along a major street like the Lakeshore or Queensway.  The LRT would operate like a subway with stops at Brown's Line, Kipling, Islington, Royal York and Parklawn.

2) A new GO station

The population increase through the developments of large condos  on Lakeshore Blvd just east of Park lawn  clearly requires additional transit resources.  As I said before the track is there already all that is needed is a stop which could be one of three places, either as part of the redevelopment of the Christie's site, at the foot of Park lawn or at a revamped Humber loop.  The actual location is not the pressing point.   GO will object saying it is too close to the Mimico station but that could be resolved by having the trains alternate stops between the two stations.

3) Implement the spirit of Transit City but not the actual recommendation.

Transit city,  the brain child of former mayor David Miller was a far reaching visionary document that if implemented would have gone a very long way to addressing our transit needs long into the future.  But transit city died  when governments at the provincial and city levels decided not to look to the future.  Transit city called for a  number of LRTs in the city connecting of course to the subway system.  An LRT along Lakeshore beloved was proposed it being the last one to be constructed.

Transit City got the location of the LRT wrong.  It should not be on lakeshore it is simply too narrow  in parts of Mimico. It would create gridlock.

However if you go to the Humber loop and take a look down the Queensway we already have a dedicated street car line.  That is the starting point for a new LRT that would run further west to Browns Line.  Transit city also got it wrong by putting us at the end of the line.  We need it now.

4) Fees

At the meeting there was the discussion of two types of fees.  the first was a congestion fee  You can drive downtown if you want,  but you will have to pay a fee to do that.  The idea being that with the addition of the congestion fee and the high cost of parking downtown, people will chose to use public transit.
The second one was a road toll at the Mississauga border.  If people from Mississauga travel to Toronto every day they should pay us something to maintain the roads, 

5) Expansion of the bicycle network.

If a person needs to shop for goods, the moment they turn their car ignition on, chances are that they will not be purchasing their product s in the lakeshore.  They are likely going to Sherway or the outdoor plazas near Sherway.  If more people shopped on bikes chances are they would buy in the lakeshore.  But people do not ride bikes on the lakeshore because  it is dangerous.  We need to make the lakeshore more bike friendly .

We also need a bicycle program at subway stops so people can ride to the subway, take a trip on the subway and get another bike at the end of their trip. That is also not expensive and it is common practice in many European cities.

These are five simple and relatively cheap options to improve transit in our community. In looking at the cost however, also think about the cost of doing nothing.  We will end up being strangled in our own congestion.

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