Bad day for Toronto's streetcars
It was out with the old and out with the new this week as mayoral race frontrunner Rob Ford suggested that Mayor David Miller's new suburban light rail lines to the suburbs were a flight of madness that needs eliminating. He also said that downtown traffic would move faster if we got rid of some of the old streetcar lines and replaced them with buses.
Never mind that people like streetcars better because the tracks offer a sense of permanence that reassures them their ride won't be rerouted or eliminated in hard times.
According to Ford's website -- he didn't give The Toronto Star an interview -- buses would allow better traffic flow at less cost.
But it's not clear whether buses are easier on traffic. The law now requires that motorists yield to buses pulling in and out of stops and it would take more than three times as many to carry the same number of commuters who pack the streetcars along King and Queen.
Typically buses stop more than streetcars too, particularly on suburban avenues like those where the Transit City lines are planned.
Not much news in Ford's rejection of the newfangled suburban light rail lines. But it was a welcome announcement anyway from the east-end Save Our Sheppard (SOS) crowd who took to their namesake avenue Wednesday lobbying for a halt to construction of the Sheppard LRT, the first Transit City line scheduled for completion.
Another idea that keeps popping up, the conversion of the SRT to a subway, is being misrepresented as a matter of simply popping bigger trains on the original light rail above ground track. But transit experts were quick to point out that subways couldn't handle the curves on the SRT and the whole route might have to be changed.
That exercise would easily up the cost from the $1 billion Ford has hung on the project.
And don't even get transit insiders started on the viability of changing the Metrolinx Big Move plan, including Transit City, by the Pan Am Games in August 2015.
The Sheppard subway extension being proposed by Ford is about 4 kilometres longer than the Spadina subway extension, which is about 8 kilometres with six stops, that won't be finished until at least late 2015. It's been in the design and engineering mode for at least two years and the tunnel boring machines the TTC ordered about a year ago to drill the hole haven't yet been delivered.
So creating a 10-stop subway in less than five years seems unlikely at best. And, by the way, the idea that the boring machines Metrolinx has ordered for the underground portion of Eglinton could be transferred to Sheppard is a non-starter. The custom-built machines aren't the right size for subway digs. It's conceivable those that are to be used on the Spadina line might work but then you would have to wait until the end of 2015 to start employing them.