Some small thoughts on Transit in Toronto

Subways are nice when they are affordable, justified by the ridership, and underground. I submit that subways should not be run above ground unless absolutely necessary. In heavy snowfall, our subway’s open cut areas are routinely unusable and must be bypassed by shuttle buses. I submit that if buses can carry this load, on the surface, it should have been a bus or streetcar right of way in the first place.

When electric tracked vehicles are expected to run in the open in winter in conditions of heavy snow, freezing rain, whatever, it seems they should be designed like the electric trains in Switzerland: these have two wires overhead, which seems to make the convex bow-shaped pickup quite stable.

A case could be made for electric buses; these could (when we had them) go around obstacles that would stop a tracked vehicle, well, in its tracks. {8;^>}

Apparently overhead wires require a taller tunnel than a subway with a “hot” third rail. Again, it seems logical to keep streetcars and light rail out of tunnels, with the clear exception of connection points. The Spadina streetcar connects from Spadina Station to Union Station, and keeps the passengers covered while not requiring transfers. This would seem to justify the short tunnels needed to provide interoperability.

Interoperability does not mean same vehicle, same track, at all. The London, England tube (subway) system is run by separate companies and does not inter-operate. It does meet in the same station with easy platform-to-platform access. It does have a common pass system that allows a rider to go anywhere with the same ticket.

One solution we seem to have discounted out of hand is the bus right-of-way with closed stations adapted to the buses. There is a city in Brazil which did this; the station is entered via ticket or token and rises to be at the level of the bus floor – the bus has no steps, and all the doors open for loading and unloading. A side benefit of this is that all wheelchairs and strollers have made the climb to the bus’s height before the bus arrives, so the struggle with various wheeled devices “climbing up” does not happen while the bus doors are open.

Meanwhile we are still dreaming of a Sheppard subway extension. I doubt that it is justified by projected ridership. However, it might be funded if we had had the gall to buy, or expropriate, all the properties whose value will soar should the subway extension actually come to pass. The jump in property value might just pay for the subway.

I have heard it anecdotally that our existing Sheppard subway, with ? four ? stops, cost us within pennies of a billion dollars. That’s equivalent to a lot of light rail on the surface, eh?

Meanwhile committees continue to discuss who gets to say what about transit. This seemsĀ to be a commitment to waste more time. and money. Let’s get moving, and do it with the appropriate vehicles.

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