Rails instead of Roads, only 90 Years Too Late

90 years ago Adam Beck, the man who tamed Niagara Falls and built Ontario Hydro was worried about what he would do with so much electricity. Thinking about the future, he proposed a series of electrified rail lines radiating out of Toronto. WW1, politics and the automobile intervened and the few that were built fell into disuse. Not much happened for 50 years and then low density sprawl took over. Now, the Ontario Government has proposed to extend Toronto's subway system out beyond the City for the first time at the cost of close to a billion dollars. Many people think this is a wonderful idea, that an enlightened government is finally investing in rail instead of roads. We are not so sure.

wonderful anagram map of the TTC system, which their lawyers immediately shut down. see the whole thing here.

Don't get us wrong, we appreciate the attention after years of taking from the City instead of giving to it. We also like other things in the budget like the doubling of the tax credit for buying a hybrid. Unfortunately as far as the subway is concerned, the horse is out of the barn.

-history shows that subways get their customers from either dense development close to the subway or decent feeder surface transit. North of Toronto the density is low and the transit terrible. The few buses there are can barely move because the arterial roads are clogged. The distances are huge compared to within the City- nobody is going to sit on a bus for an hour to get to the subway.

-traffic no longer goes from a residential suburb to a downtown core where the jobs are- unfair tax policies have caused most of the jobs to move to the suburbs and most people who live in the suburbs now work in the suburbs. The problem is that the design of their communities is such that they need a car to get a quart of milk, let alone their job. Ultimately here this treehugger agrees with James Howard Kunstler- the suburbs are unsustainable. Building a subway to one point in one suburb will do nothing when people cannot get to it.

Its great, its wonderful, we love people throwing money at us. But it will do little to relieve congestion or save energy- the City is too diffuse, the industrial and employment model has changed. What we need now is a diffuse network of buses in dedicated lanes, bike lanes, light rail in the suburbs between the suburbs. When that exists, linking it to the subway will be useful.

If they had listened to Adam Beck and designed development around infrastructure instead of trying to build infrastructure around development we would not be having this discussion. If it were up to this Treehugger we would take that billion and fill the potholes, make the buses and streetcars run on time, or build Chris Hardwicke's Velo-City bike paths. At least that would get used. ::the Star