I hacked a public vector graphic of the Toronto Transit System to imagine where it might be today if we hadn't neglected it so badly during the oil boom. Canada would be richer, faster, cleaner and happier if we had maintained the forethought and civic pride of our more practical great grandparents' generation, or if we now could agree to make use of the many neglected freight rail lines that criss-cross the GTA for public transportation.
A large format coposite was exhibited as part of the "Art and Activism" exhibition at YYZ Artists' Outlet. It looked the same as the contemporary official TTC system map from any bus shelter or subway station, except from some better parellel universe or future.
The hypothetical new subway stations would make for a great architectural design assignment or competition for students, artists and professional architects alike.
"Stretched to Capacity" ? That's an understatement. Many people are stranded, or forced to drive a car for which there is no room on the street, all because our transit system is a small fraction of what it should be for a city the size of Toronto. New initiatives have been killed by conservative politicians who still believe in the failed automobile only culture. Where is the Eglington line? Where is the Queen line? Construction was started on both decades ago, then killed!
The cost of building this? Nothing compared to the cost of NOT building it. What do MPs and MPPs claim per mile for their car driving expenses? Add to that subsidies to oil, car-only roadways, parking and the cost of oil wars and multiply it by all the commuter-miles of people who would rather take the TTC if it had a half decent practical service in their area. Urban car culture is a false economy and a symptom of our failing head-in-the-sand economy. The main porblem isn't the expense, it's the lack of imagination and our failure to appreciate the true extreme cost of attempting to use private automobiles for everyday mass urban transit.
Vague Promises? I don't want to hear another promise for "more funding", I want to hear promises like "Gladstone Station", "Zoo Station", "Beaches Station", "York Station", "Junction Station", "Humber Station" - and all the many new stations between.
Why are there so many neglected rail lines everywhere?
Toronto is blessed with existing multi-track rail lines that extend throughout the entire amalgamated city, once essential for freight but now mostly underused and neglected. These corridors are left over from the golden age of rail, when land was cheap or free and rail was seen as the future. They swoosh through neglected, underdeveloped areas of high potential and highly populated but grossly under-serviced areas alike. Let's make good use of them for publicly owned subway expansion. Stations need not be more than two concrete platforms, turnstiles and ticket machines to start. Parking lots are NOT required, the land for which is the most oft cited reason that new stations are “not affordable”. Toronto could once again be the "City That Works" rather than the city of gridlock and smog.
The Queen and Eglington lines will admittedly be far more expensive than expanding along existing neglected rail lines, but cheaper than the current neglect. Expensive private cars crawl on the surface so slowly that cyclists are slowed down by them, there are cars parked everywhere and there is nowhere to park, and we have to pay enormous taxi fares to get to the airport on time. The Queen and Eglington lines were both started by our benevolent forefathers and previous governments, lets make good on their responsible plans. Better late than never.
On every go and subway train the last car can be dedicated to bicycles. The great speed and distances covered by trains, married with the door to door service of bicycles, is an ideal transport strategy of speed, convenience and health. The minimal cost of paving an uninterrupted trail for bicycles, alongside the rail corridors, making use of existing bridges where possible, would allow many more people to commute by bicycle safely. The corridors could even be roofed for far less than maintaining an automobile highway for the same number of commuters.