The Trouble With Ford’s Plan

Post by Steven Dale

As any Torontonian knows, Toronto’s transit plans are seriously in flux. After what seems like an eternity of planning a network of Light Rail lines, new mayor Rob Ford has decided to unilaterally nix that idea and build a new subway under the auspice that the “war on the car is over.”

Yet amidst all the hand-wringing, protesting and name-calling, no one seems to have actually scrutinized Ford’s plan. Which is good for Ford because his plan doesn’t look good.

Arguably, the single most important purpose of transit is to get people from where they live to where they work in the most efficient way possible. Connect lots of people to lots of jobs, and there’s a pretty good chance you’re doing your job right.

By that measure, Ford’s plan makes little sense:

The Toronto Subway network - simplified.

The above is a very simplified portrait of Toronto’s subway network. A few features for those not from Toronto:

  • The eastern half (right side) of the yellow line is the Yonge line. It’s either at capacity or over it – depending upon whom you asked.
  • The station that allows transfers between the Yonge line and the green Bloor-Danforth line is overcapacity.
  • The purple (Sheppard) subway line has only 5 stations and is underutilized since it opened in the early part of 2000’s. The system is so poorly used, there has been talk of shuttering it to save cost.

Rob Ford’s plan is this:

Rob Ford's plan to extend the purple Sheppard subway line.

So Ford’s plan amounts to extending a subway line that no one uses into an area where there aren’t many jobs and not that many people (relative to the rest of the city):

Population Density of Toronto - Source: Statistics Canada.

Worker Density in Toronto - Source: Statistics Canada

Overlay the two maps together and you get an even clearer picture of the problem:

Overlay: Population Density and Worker Density in Toronto

Essentially the Ford plan moves suburbanites from one mall (Scarborough Town Centre) to another mall (Fairview / Don Mills). Given that it’s Christmas season, I can see the appeal of that, but after the gifts have been unwrapped and the credit card bills have (hopefully) been paid, whose going to use this line? Doesn’t every mall offer basically the same thing anyways?

Oh, and it will only cost three-and-a-half billion to do it.

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  1. Employment and population densities might not be very high right now but a new subway connection has the potential to spur new developments. Similar to the LRT argument, subways can generate development as good or even better than LRT. The Sheppard Line is underutilize right now but it's already spurred a lot of development nearby. Lots of condos are up and coming, anywhere from Don Mills station to Leslie station. Being in Scarborough, it's also home to a lot of new immigrants - as such, is likely to see significant growth in the near future. I don't have a stat on this, but colleagues have indicated to me that one of the sole reasons for the increase in transit ridership in York Region is due to the immigrant population - reason: they are used to riding buses and thus, is not associated with any negative connotations. At present the Sheppard lin may be considered a failure but the potential is definitely there.
  2. Steven, simply looking at densities of living and densities of working is unfair. The really high density pocket just next to (east of) downtown is St. James Town, which is, as I understand it, one of the city's poorest neighbourhoods. Now, are those people really all going to work in the financial district everyday? doubtful. Now will Ford's plan really help people in St. James Town? Well, also doubtful. Will an extension of the purple line really spur growth? Maybe. But what about all the people moving from place to place now. Rather than only planning for the future, Ford should probably be looking at the current issues all over the city; streetcars that never come or are always full, traffic that backs up at every intersection, bike lanes that don't make sense and those that don't exist. The proposed transit line may be awesome for people in that part of the city, but clearly one extended subway line won't do the trick for anyone in the rest of the city.
  3. 3 and a half billion would pay for all of your scheme at http://gondolaproject.com/2010/05/31/a-toronto-gondola-system/ with enough left over to get the street cars of Toronto, Ontario to run to Toronto, New South Wales. I think Mayor Ford should not be allowed a grace period where he's not criticised. He was obviously himself before the election, and I'll go out on a limb and say Toronto voters have made a very bad mistake. My experience of Toronto was having a couple of days exploring on foot and by streetcar. I was impressed with how easy and pleasant the street cars were to use. At all opportunities the whole world should shout him down.
  4. In no way is this a novel idea...but if we're talking subways for god sake tunnel the hell out of queen street and Eglington or Lawrence...then connect north south as needed (including most especially the airport). Or better yet do this with gondolas and you'll have some money left over to extend the Shepard line wherever you want as well. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eglinton_West_subway http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_Street_subway
  5. @matt toronto voters didn't vote for ford. the inner suburbs voted for him. the city part voted against him. apparently there's a lot of inner suburbs. oh, and guess where the subway expansion's going?!
  6. right now it seems everyone in toronto is either on ford's side or the side of transit city. you don't support either. so what DO you support? at this point, what are the alternatives? what are the city's options?
  7. @frankie Go transit ROW -> RER/S-Bahn and streetcars/LRT
  8. And Steve wants build cable cars, at above link. ;-)