Tuesday, 25 February 2014

A Subway Relief Line is Not Assured

With the way the Toronto mayoral ballot is rounding out, and the main contenders identifying the Subway Relief Line as one of their first key commitments, things are looking up for getting this critical project built after 50 years of planning.

There are members of council that will line up in support of a future mayor keen to champion the new line. Metrolinx, the TTC and city staff are progressing on the planning aspects. TTC CEO Andy Byford favours it to be the next project built, and is even earning the ear of the Prime Minister.

But don't be fooled. This is far from a done deal. The price tag on this puppy is $7.2 billion, and despite its critical need, it is still subject to political axes (I'm talking cuts, not graphs).

The last time we tried to build new subway lines, we got a fraction of one. Political flip-floppery led us to a chopped version of the Sheppard line, and pure spitefulness saw the provincial government cancel the Eglinton West subway and fill the hole with concrete. Until Metrolinx is given control and discretion of dedicated transit revenues, any transit project project will be subject to political perils instead of proper planning.

We must be very conscious of this as we move forward on the relief line. It would be all too easy to defer the line, kicking the can down the road, or chop it into such a small fraction of the original version that it is ineffective.

Sometimes we have to choose between what is right and what is easy. This time, we need to step up and make sure the relief line is built as envisioned.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Old Macdonald Had A Station...

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong has proposed to rename Toronto's Union Station after Sir John A. Macdonald. I never though I would say this, but it may be crazier than the Scarborough subway proposal.

I take it back. I can understand Councillor Minnan-Wong's thoughtfulness. Macdonald is a father of Confederation, our first Prime Minister, and responsible for a railroad from coast to coast which united the country. Why object to a fitting honour?

I think Councillor Adam Vaughan says it well. From the Toronto Star:

“I don’t think you obliterate history to honour history.”
"I think connecting it to the rail system is understandable but Union Station is Union Station. It’s part of the fabric and history of the city. It’s not something that you just sort of break out a chisel and carve the name.”

History Lesson

Union Station can trace its steps all the way back to 1858, when the Grand Trunk Railway built the 'first' Union Station west of its current placement. The space was shared with the Northern Railway and the Great Western Railway. It would be replaced by the 'second' Union Station in 1873. Canadian Pacific Railway began operating out of it 11 years later.

After another major rebuild and the Great Toronto Fire of 1904, the 'third' and current Union Station was commissioned by Toronto Terminals Railway, a 50/50 joint operation between Grand Trunk Railway (now part of Canadian National Railway or CN) and Canadian Pacific Railway (CP). Toronto Terminals Railway still exists today, maintaining the track corridor between Strachan Avenue and the Don Valley Parkway.

Not Our First Rodeo

The TTC is no stranger to proposals that came forward without regard to history, local geography, public desire, or common sense.

1. Black Creek Pioneer Village Station
This name will (sort of) live on. Originally known as Steeles West, this will be the fourth of six new TTC subway stations as part of the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension. The TTC's reccomendation to stick with typical naming conventions were set aside by councillors on the TTC board, despite the fact that Black Creek Pioneer Village is still 450 metres away from the stop. The TTC has since chopped it down to "Pioneer Village"; after all, hearing "Black Creek Pioneer Village Station" on the subway is too much to add to an already exhausting commute.

2. Nelson Mandela Station
First stop on the proposed Scarborough subway? Nelson Mandela Station. NDP leader Andrea Horwath introduced the motion in the provincial legislature in December 2013, only a week after Mandela passed away. The McCowan Road and Lawrence Avenue East area is attributed to Mandela because...well, it isn't. I guess Horwath felt prudent to include it with the other meaningful proposals for transit in Toronto she has such as...well, she doesn't.

3. [Place Your Company Name Here!] Station
Everyone knows the TTC is badly underfunded and in need of cash. But in June 2011 the city was looking selling right out: selling station naming rights to companies that were willing to pony up. You think people were upset about renaming the Skydome as the Rogers Centre? This would have been a whole different ball game.

A Final Thought

If you are looking for a tribute to Sir John A., you can find one here in Toronto: a statue at Queens Park.

File:Sir John A on a sunny day in Toronto.jpg
松林 Lvia Flickr.