This past weekend, Pembina publicized similar arguments as they did a year ago (http://www.thestar.com/news/transportation/article/916372–subways-would-cost-more-and-serve-fewer-group-says) right after the City announced that a new subway plan would replace the previous Transit City plan. Unfortunately, this week they’re telling us the same misleading and wrong arguments as they did then (http://www.thestar.com/news/transportation/article/1126653–lrt-the-way-to-go-on-toronto-transit-think-tank-says).
Their report tells us that for 30% less than the cost of building subways, we can build at-street level LRTs, which will travel as fast (or slower) than current bus service. I suggest them, instead, to use even less of our tax money and increase bus service, so at least people get more frequencies at speeds greater than street-level LRTs. Over 10 years ago TTC acknowledged that LRTs at street level are not a valid option (TTC’s Environmental Assesment for Sheppard Subway, Appendix: Review of LRT/RT Options For Sheppard Corridor), therefore, if today’s densities and road traffic are higher than over a decade ago, then why street-level LRTs would be valid today?
The only way to attract people to use transit is to provide reliable, frequent and fast transit service (competitive to the car), which is only attainable if it is completely separated from traffic; either underground or elevated. That would, incidentally, reduce greenhouse gases. On the contrary, making road traffic moving slower than a 22 km/h LRT on its way just reduces the total mobility, the environment quality, and the overall quality of life.
Scarborough and Etobicoke residents won’t benefit from street-level LRTs compared to what they have today. They, actually, would be worse-off, since the government would’ve used their tax contribution on an expensive system that is, at most, as fast as current service, and their scarce road space would be reduced for that same purpose. On the other hand, Pembina claims that seniors would benefit more with a street-level LRT. Quite the opposite, it will also be far worse, because in the event that they need urgent medical assistance, they can end up having a worse, and potentially life-threatening, time dealing with slower road traffic. Toronto’s EMS and Fire services should also weigh-in on this dangerous LRT proposal.
With respect to Pembina’s claim that a Sheppard LRT would be a “guaranteed line for the people”, do they imply then that fares will be different to the rest of the TTC lines? That doesn’t make sense as a business case.
If Pembina considers that an LRT can handle a demand of 25,200 passengers an hour, then you’d better have all that people moving faster and away from street level. Incidentally, the new Toronto subway trains carry about 1,000 people, so with trains running every 2-3 minutes, you can meet a demand of 20,000 to 30,000 passengers per hour. If Finch eventually reaches that demand too, why can’t we give them a full-fledged subway, instead of a slower at-street level LRT?
As for subway construction costs, it is quite possible to build it underground at a rate of $250 million per km, or less, including all of TTCs standards. Therefore, with $8.4 billion we should be able to build the Eglinton Crosstown Line and both Sheppard subway extensions completely underground. At that rate, in the near future, we can also provide a proper full-fledged subway for Finch Avenue West. In contrast to the above, the claim that we can use $1 to $2 billion to build a Sheppard subway extension to Consumers Rd. (only 1.3 km long), and a Bus Rapid Transit line on Finch West, is just an irresponsible way of using our tax dollars.