Considering all the political chicanery that went into getting Scarborough’s subway extension approved in the first place, it’s easy to take grim satisfaction in the project’s setbacks. Speaking of which, here’s one: the Globe reports that the city’s planning division is taking a more assertive role in the new subway line’s environmental assessment.
For most commuters, the fact that the TTC’s subway trains don’t collide with one another is good enough—no additional explanations are required. Recently, though, the TTC has been shutting down portions of the Yonge-University-Spadina line on weekends so workers can upgrade the signalling systems responsible for the daily no-deaths-or-maimings miracle, leading to some curiosity about the system’s workings. The video above, released yesterday on the TTC’s YouTube channel, goes into quite a bit of detail about how signals prevent trains from crashing into one another, why the signalling systems need to be upgraded and why it’s necessary to shut down subway tunnels to perform those upgrades. Yes, it’s propaganda, but snappy animations and an informative voiceover make it edutainment of the highest order. Enjoy.
QUOTED: Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi on Toronto’s decision to build a Scarborough subway instead of light rail
“I, for the life of me, cannot understand the decision on the Scarborough subway and maybe I’m missing something. I don’t understand why you’d not spend less to serve more people…Clearly I’m missing something, I’m not that bright.”
—Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi, speaking during a Toronto Region Board of Trade luncheon. In October, city council approved the idea of replacing the Scarborough RT with a two- or three-stop subway extension, despite earlier plans to install a longer (but less expensive) above-ground light-rail line. The subway has the enthusiastic backing of local politicians like Rob Ford and Karen Stintz, but it remains controversial among people who see it as an overpriced sop to Scarborough voters. Former councillor David Soknacki has made bringing back the light-rail plan a central tenet of his mayoral campaign.
Mayoral candidate David Soknacki says he’ll reverse the city’s course on the Scarborough subway, again
Well, that didn’t take long. Two weeks in, the 2014 mayoral election has already produced its first sweeping policy announcement, and it’s this: former city budget chief David Soknacki says that, if elected, he’ll scrap Rob Ford‘s beloved two-or-three-stop Scarborough subway extension in favour of the seven-stop light-rail line that was originally planned for the corridor.
In an audaciously misleading rhetorical flourish worthy of Ford himself, Soknacki’s press release claims that the move would “cancel Mayor Rob Ford’s $1 billion property tax increase needed to pay for the subway option, delivering the largest tax cut in Toronto’s history.”
Here’s a phrase you never want to hear from TTC CEO Andy Byford: “The project is facing a serious schedule challenge.”
Byford, known for his level-headedness and his willingness to admit his agency’s mistakes, wrote those words in December’s edition of his monthly report to the TTC board. He was talking about the Spadina Subway Extension, a tunnelling project that will extend the Spadina subway line to Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, adding six new stations in the process. It’s scheduled to open in fall 2016. Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
TTC spokesman Brad Ross posted a pair of images last night showing the Bloor-Yonge station’s current signage (top), and a spiffy mock-up of a new design featuring numbered subway lines. At a meeting today, the transit agency’s board will consider a report
suggesting that the Yonge-University-Spadina line become “line 1” and the Bloor-Danforth, “line 2”—an idea that has transit nerds and graphic designers pretty worked up.
After four years, countless political squabbles and at least six competing proposals, Rob Ford’s Scarborough subway dream is finally coming true. The mayor fist-pumped heartily yesterday evening after the crucial vote for a three-stop subway extension to replace the Scarborough SRT. Queen’s Park and Ottawa will contribute $1.48 billion and $660 million, respectively, which leaves Toronto taxpayers on the hook for about $1 billion over the next 30 years (a sum that will be raised by a 1.6-per-cent property tax levy and a development charge hike). Given the bitter, years-long fight over Toronto transit, we weren’t surprised that the debate was heated. We were, however, a little taken aback by the oddly vivid metaphors favoured by several councillors. Below, the day’s five strangest similes.
In two weeks, the TTC board will consider
replacing the names of Toronto subway lines with numbers to make things less confusing for tourists and occasional users. If the proposal is accepted, the awkwardly named Yonge–University–Spadina Line will become 1; the Bloor-Danforth Line will be 2; the Scarborough RT will be 3; the Sheppard Line will be 4; and some future line will be 5 (a system that conveniently eliminates the Downtown Relief Line’s nomenclature issues). Unsurprisingly, TTC users and transit enthusiasts feel strongly about the idea. Here, the six main reactions, from tentative enthusiasm to outright mockery.
If Kathleen Wynne is to achieve anything for Toronto—and transit is top of the list—she needs Rob Ford to knock around
Back in mid-June, when the crack scandal had brought Rob Ford to his knees, it was Premier Kathleen Wynne who, with a few carefully chosen words, made his problems go away. She said publicly that she wanted to repair the rifts between them and that she would not “stand in judgment” of his personal or legal troubles. He could not have asked for a better endorsement. If the premier doesn’t care about a crack video, why should anyone else? The scandal was stashed in the bushes alongside his speech slurrings, conflict-of-interest court dramas and the rest.
Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak sounded eerily like his good buddy Rob Ford yesterday in a speech to the Toronto Region Board of Trade. Hudak outlined his three-point plan for expanding Toronto’s transit system: (1) root out waste (one of Ford’s favourite pastimes); (2) subways, subways, subways, especially in Scarborough; and (3) no new taxes or tolls to pay for transit (Ford has been criticized—and mocked—for his staunch opposition to new revenue sources). Hudak even said Toronto is a city where “something has gone off the rails”—like, say, a gravy train? [Toronto Star]
More evidence of a new era at the TTC: cellphone service on subway platforms is in; maroon jackets are out
As soon as Andy Byford took the helm of the TTC in March, the changes began. He opted for a beefed up title—“CEO” rather than “general manager,” like those who held the position before him—to mark a symbolic change. He publicly chided staff for customer service embarrassments. He installed fancy hand dryers in station washrooms. Seven months into his tenure, the evolution continues. Here, three more signs that the TTC is moving into a new phase (we can only hope it’s a phase with less crowded streetcars).
Cellphone service is coming to subway stations
The old regime: Save for a few brief above-ground segments, subway riders operate in a digital blackhole.
The new regime: Officials estimate most stations will have service within two years. Some of the signals will likely bleed into the tunnels, making texting on the train a possibility, at least downtown where the stations are close together.
Is it a good thing? Though many will complain about feeling surrounded by loud talkers, it’ll be great to notify friends or colleagues in the event of (inevitable) subway-induced tardiness. Of course, the TTC could just try to keep the trains on schedule.
The TTC has introduced a daily online report card (the next phase in an information blitz that also includes this charmingly low-budget video explaining what the heck is going on at Queen and Spadina). In the scorecards, the agency breaks down the percentage of vehicles that were on schedule the day before and awards itself cheery green checkmarks for hitting its targets. “Since we had [the data], we thought we’d might as well put it up,” the agency’s chief customer service officer Chris Uphold told the Toronto Star. We like the move towards transparency, but this exercise has a whiff of PR about it—the type of calculated, hey-look-we’re-totally-accountable move that Andy Byford previously reached for with his CEO title, monthly reports and scathing letters to employees. Still, if it boosts the chances of buses and trains arriving on time, we’re all for it. [Toronto Star]
OneCity, Karen Stintz’s surprise (and surprisingly ambitious) transit plan for the masses, died a humiliating death on council floor yesterday. By the start of yesterday’s council meeting, the plan was stumbling, having already been relieved of its property tax–based funding model and whittled down to two proposed lines. And one of those proposals, replacing the Scarborough RT with a subway instead of an already-approved LRT, didn’t even have enough support to make it to debate. Sure, there are a few vestiges of the blockbuster plan still floating around: council voted to designate the eastern waterfront LRT a priority, city staff will explore Stintz’s property tax–based funding model for a report in October, and public consultations on a city-wide transit strategy are set for the fall. However, OneCity as a whole has been proclaimed dead by the city’s newspapers (the word “derailed” seems to be a crowd favourite, though we give kudos to the Toronto Sun for also working in “DoneCity”). [National Post]
Another day, another twist in the OneCity saga. On Wednesday, TTC chair Karen Stintz publicly mused that she didn’t have the council votes to move a study of the blockbuster plan forward, but now she’s sounding more chipper. “I think we will be successful in having a study of OneCity approved,” she said yesterday after a meeting with Rob Ford’s chief of staff, Amir Remtulla, and Earl Provost of councillor relations. However, Stintz refused to say whether she and TTC vice-chair Glenn De Baeremaeker will keep pushing for the two per cent property tax increase dedicated to transit, an idea that councillors from both the right and the left have attacked (Adam Vaughan recently called it a “half-baked proposition”). Given Stintz’s silence, it’s possible she and De Baeremaeker have agreed to scrap the funding model for something more palatable to council. Or not. At this point, the future of OneCity remains a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside a maroon TTC jacket. [Toronto Star]
OneCity may have launched a thousand op-eds and fired up Torontonians, but the ambitious transit plan is losing momentum after only a week. Fresh on the heels of the province’s dismissal, Karen Stintz admits she may no longer have enough council votes for the next step: getting approval at the July council meeting to move forward with a staff study of the plan. (Shelley Carroll, who previously said she would support further study of OneCity, has changed her mind, while fence sitters include Josh Matlow and James Pasternak.) Stintz now feels that she and her allies’ oath of secrecy worked against them when it came time to find wider council support. “Some of my colleagues were surprised and I regret I hadn’t taken more time to walk through the details with them,” she told the Toronto Star. That’s the thing about big secrets: the fewer people you tell, the less risk someone will spill the beans—and the greater risk of alienating those who aren’t in on the mystery. [Toronto Star]