Eglinton Corridor - making the right decision
On Saturday June 13th, I had the pleasure to attend a public consultation regarding transit in Toronto.
The four topics up for public consultation or discussion included (all linked):
- Regional Express Rail (RER)/GO Transit Improvements
- SmartTrack on Eglinton West
- Scarborough Subway Extension
- Relief Line
I will not be focusing on each transit option in this post but will make a few comments.
RER/GO Transit will be a very important part of the traffic congestion solution for Southern Ontario. Once it has been fully implemented and electrified, the all day 15 minute service will be a great benefit to Toronto. I was saddened that Kipling was not going to be added to the list of all day service (CN Rail own tracks - have right of use) as it could have been a major connection given impending Kipling Mobility Hub.
The Scarborough Subway is fast approaching to be re-examined again with the list of possible routes. The concern of sustainable passenger volumes may cause the need to determine if both SmartTrack and the subway extension can coincide and is it worth the cost? Creating a subway extension route alteration to allow Tory to maintain 2 promises is not worth the billions. Given that the Scarborough LRT was ready to go, funded and would service more residents while being built sooner... wait for this to get back to council!
The Relief Line is a very interesting transit solution that has been discussed for almost a half century. This transit line has been identified as THE MOST IMPORTANT line Toronto needs. I couldn't agree more, build it! The interesting aspect is the routing. Does it go along King/Queen/Wellington in the core? What Bloor station does it intersect with, Broadview or Pape? I look forward to the next step here too. As in the immortal words of The Doors: "The time to hesitate it through".
SMARTTRACK WEST ROUTING:
John Tory has relied heavily on his transit project SmartTrack as a solution to expanding transit in Toronto. As soon as he was mayor he asked staff to consider the routing on the western portion. It was interesting to see the various options that were considered, especially when placed against the Crosstown LRT (phase two).
I must admit that I fully supported and promoted the funding and construction of Crosstown LRT (phase two) during the election. The current phase would connect Scarborough to Mount Dennis; phase two could be a true "cross town" as it was to extend to the airport. I bring up my support for the Crosstown LRT since it is relevant to the discussion.
The comparison will be based on several criteria:
- Transit connection points
- Effectiveness for local and city transit users
Below are the slides presented by the city during the public consultation for SmartTrack. They present a set of different possible routes that are being considered. Take a moment to browse through the options. Pay attention to what routes are taken, what stops are listed and what important points of interest are connected.
The first slide is not a route for SmartTrack, it is the Crosstown phase two. It is the fundamental basis of comparison to any transit project along this important corridor. Phase two as stated above would connect Scarborough to the Toronto Pearson Airport, as well as the Mississauga Airport Corporate Centre (MACC). It will be used often when discussing the other options.
Transit connection points:
- Phase two connects to Mount Dennis Go Station
- Toronto Pearson Airport
- Mississauga BRT
Effectiveness for local and city transit users:
- Phase two has 16 stops added to continuous route along Eglinton
- Local residents would have reliable transit along route
- Route services Toronto to airport or to connect to Mississauga
- Local residents would have better access to transit
- Dedicated lanes may free up road traffic with less buses along route
- An Environmental Assessment has already been completed
- Project just needs financial commitment and green light to proceed
SEPARATE SERVICE EGLINTON 3A
One option presented at the public consultation was listed as 3A. The issue with this option is the need to get off the SmartTrack train and board another line. This was done because of the concern on the angle to turn from the initial corridor to along Eglinton. It is technical issue that is one of the major issues with any plan to put heavy-rail on Eglinton.
John Tory sold SmartTrack as a continuous transit line from end to end. By having to unload and transfer to another line seems almost pointless. Given the route would follow Eglinton only to the MACC and not service the airport, this option is presented without any chance to be implemented. This topic of transiting between different trains has been a reason for some to push back on the Scarborough Subway or the Sheppard LRT. An argument has merit when it is used consistently and fairly. It can be expected to be a definite point of concern to many, as it was brought up during the question period during the public consultation.
With only two stops within Etobicoke and one in Mississauga, there would still need to be local buses that ran along the route to service residents. A three stop stubway may connect with the Crosstown and GO Transit but most importantly it doesn't connect to the airport. This cannot be stressed enough; any transit connecting the downtown or Scarborough regions to Etobicoke/Mississauga should definitely connect to the airport. A recent article discussed the need to make Toronto Pearson a 'Union Station of the west' as approximately 275,000 people work in this employment zone. How can this option be justified?
CONTINUOUS CONNECTION EGLINTON 1A 1B
Two options presented are similar to the 3A option above with the exception of being continuous routes with SmartTrack. The variation between 1A & 1B is the connection to Mount Dennis and the general routing in that geographic area. 1A would have a connection to this important transit point, while 1B would actually avoid a direct connection (although the talk of a possible tunnel was discussed during Q&A). The lack of a connection for 1B would almost certainly make it a non sequitur.
Both 1A and 1B do not properly address the local service to Etobicoke residents with only two stops. A very valid point brought up at the consultation was the need to have a larger transit infrastructure at the Scarlett and Kipling stops. With less local options, TTC would likely need bus infrastructure to accommodate local residents. Without proper bus bays to move residents, the service would be ineffective or viable as a transit solution. Where would the bus infrastructure be located? What effect on traffic would occur?
It can be suggested that long term SmartTrack could be extended to the airport, but if the initial plan doesn't call for it, when would that connection be created and what is the timeline and funding for such a project. Given the track record of all levels of government, it cannot be assumed any transit strategy would be completed if the shovels are not in the ground. A sentiment that is pessimistic on governmental procedure yet realistic when comparing transit plans to actual transit built.
I do not consider any of the options for SmartTrack along Eglinton as viable. It makes no sense to put heavy track onto Eglinton given the concerns brought up by transit experts. A line on a map can often be easily accepted a comprehensive approach to design begins to study the feasibility. Since Crosstown phase two wasn't funded, the concept of SmartTrack along this corridor made sense as it was already designated as an important transit initiative.
CONTINUOUS CONNECTION AIRPORT 2A 2B 2C
During the public consultation for the routing of SmartTrack on the western region, another route was explored. Instead of attempting to fit SmartTrack on Eglinton that may not be viable, continuing along the GO corridors and routing to North Etobicoke and also to the airport was examined. Each of the three routes would also continue past the airport and finally arrive at the MACC. The differences between the routes are similar from the connection of Mount Dennis to about Hwy 427. The stops of Mount Dennis, Weston, Islington and a forward thinking Woodbine station would be the same.
Taking a moment to discuss the Woodbine stop; the eventuality of development in the woodbine area needs to be taken into consideration. Casino expansion or not, this is a large plot of land that will eventually be built for housing/business needs. A densification in North Etobicoke if done with consultation with the community and business leaders would be a benefit to all of Toronto. Having forward-thinking about including transit into any development would be a necessary part of a transit solution for Toronto. Another note to consider, if this development were to take place, the extension of the Finch-West LRT to Woodbine or even to the airport would be a viable option to connect transit.
The routing nearing the airport is where SmartTrack will differ. During the consultations it was stated that one of the options would need to be elevated, highly elevated to go above the Union-Pearson Express. I am not sure how well that would be as a solution, but would allow for a station located at the Viscount location (long-term parking, monorail train to both terminals). This would be an ideal location to create a new multi-faceted transit hub. Both options 2A & 2B would stop at this location but the routing to MACC would be different.
The third option 2C would seem to follow the path along the Hwy 427. The construction optics and feasibility would be interesting; would SmartTrack run along/above/below the highway or within the corridor? What is the available room along this path? The airport stop is away from the terminal buildings or the Viscount area. Given my knowledge of the airport area and the map, it would be on the airport property but would still need some sort of access to the terminals. Would there be some sort of transport to the terminals via underground, airport bus, building extension if new pier was built? This solution needs to be examined a bit more, as well as comparing long-term plans for Pearson.
There are the seven possible choices for transit in the SmartTrack consultation zone. I have been forthright in my support for the Crosstown extension to Pearson that would also service the MACC and connect to Mississauga transit. Given that it already has a completed environmental assessment, there really is no real reason to not complete such an important project. It is very possible to connect the airport by both the Crosstown extension and also one of the northern options for SmartTrack. Even if SmartTrack were to reach Woodbine as a final destination (assuming the Finch-West LRT continues to Pearson), it would give access to vital transit infrastructure needed in Etobicoke.
I commend city staff for their efforts in bringing a various amount of options to the public consultation without any 'preference' on which is the best choice. I spoke with staff to convey my opinion on the need for the Crosstown extension which they sincerely understood. There are still several more consultations, I hope to attend the second Etobicoke meeting to gauge the public input from the eastern end of Eglinton-West.
If you have any thoughts or concerns, take a moment to contact city staff. It can be seen through this public consultation that they do honestly value all opinions and suggestions on what is the best routing to examine further.
Thank you for taking the time in reading my breakdown of SmartTrack on the Eglinton corridor.