Much delayed Toronto subway extension a go

It appears that the federal government has finally gotten their house in order and is getting much needed funding to the Province of Ontario after 2 years of stalling by the Harper government. The feds are chipping in their $697-million share of the $2-billion dollar Spadina subway extension, according to the Toronto Star.

Any subway extension is good news in my book (even the poorly conceived and pointless Sheppard line, but barely), but this stretch is especially important to Toronto. Take a look at the proposed extension below (for the full view, check out my subway map here):

Image courtesy of Spadina Subway Extension Project

Why is this an important extension? The Jane/Finch area of Toronto has been notoriously under served by transit for years. As one of Toronto’s lowest income areas, the lack of efficient transit options only serves to make a bad situation worse. With less transit options, more money is spent on vehicles, insurance and gas.

The extension of the subway through the northwest portion of the city is a big step towards combating the usual cycle of poverty. Can transit make that big a difference, you ask? I’ll give you a hypothetical situation grounded in reality as an example. I’ll use a single-parent, single-child family living at the intersection of Shoreham Dr. and Hullmar Dr. (near Jane and Finch) for this example.

In this example, the parent works downtown as a receptionist. To get to work now it requires catching the 35A to head south on Jane St., transferring to the 84 west and then transferring again to take the Spadina subway south to downtown. So we’re talking 6 km of rush hour bus travel, 2 transfers, and a 45 minute subway ride. Total trip time: approx. 1.5 hours

And, assuming that our parent has to work late for extra income or another job, the trip would get even longer as rush hour routes are cut back off-peak.

Now, with the extension in place, this 1.5 hour trip is suddenly cut down to 50 minutes with a Steele Ave. station only 1.5 kms away. Suddenly, this parent can leave 40 minutes later and get home 40 minutes earlier. That’s a significant amount of time saved everyday, time that can be more productively spent caring for and interacting with a child, cooking, being involved in the community, or simply resting.

My point is, for people living on the margins, little differences like this can make a big difference. I won’t delve into the possible political and social motivations for delays around this extension, but you get the idea.

So, hooray extension, boo Conservative federal government with no urban planning.

Update: It looks like there will also be a dedicated “busway” running from Downsview station to York University, further helping our fictional family in the shorter term with planned deployment for 09-10. Not sure what a “busway” is exactly, maybe it’s a UK phrase?  I assume it’s BRT, though.

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4 responses to “Much delayed Toronto subway extension a go”

  1. thegtapatriot says :

    Good post! I liked the perspective on the Jane/Finch area. However, this is still why I feel this is “NO POINT” to going to Vaughan. It should have ONLY gone as far as York University or Steeles. York region or better yet, YRT/VIVA already had its own plans that would have been better served with light-rail, or an LRT. I believe that this was political interference at its best. Shovels would have already been in the ground years ago if previous finance minister Greg Sorbara did not “blackmail” the funding, pending on the extension to “a favorable political destination”, like Vaughan.
    As you said, we have to appload any funding, however ill-concieved. I still do not agree on you with Sheppard, in its “CURRENT” configuration. It would have been fine if the line was COMPLETED, as it should have been. Or at least if the conservative government had at least sent it into Scarborough (Warden, Victoria Park, etc….), in addition to completing the westward section to Downsview, which at the time was CHEAP. Moveover, they should have completed the Eglinton Line at the time. The problem with this extensions is political. They ALL want the photo opt for political gain. They are concerned about their own careers, and ensuring that they are either re-elected, or as Harris did; making sure that all non-voters are punished. Even if you look at Transit City, which is a pretty good plan. As my bias, I do not agree with the Sheppard portion, but Transit City is getting bang for the buck! But I digress, great post so keep on writing!
    Andy MJ a.k.a. “The G.T.A Patriot”
    Subway to nowhere

  2. Ben says :

    Hey GTA Patriot,

    I can’t say I disagree with on the Vaughan issue. We can complain about political interference as much as we want (and trust me, I complain lots about it!), but the fact is that political compromise is always part of the process, especially when it comes to transit in the GTA.

    The Sheppard line should go all the way across, no doubt, but I still think any subway extension is worth doing, for the same reason I think taking down the little piece of the Gardiner is better than pushing for it all and getting nothing. People need to be eased into these things, frustrating as it is. And I would KILL for an Eglinton line these days. Literally. I’d eat a man’s spleen.

    I also think we agree on the Transit City option. LRT is the way to go for most of this expansion…assuming we’re talking dedicated lanes.

    Thanks for the indepth input, I look forward to checking out your stuff more.

    Ben

  3. jimsey says :

    Please don’t eat my spleen.

  4. Gorm says :

    I’ll provide my spleen if it makes for a Sheppard extension of the subway east AND west. We always think about “current dollars” and not about “future dollars”. I work in IT, I know all about it.

    PS – considering how I’ll live without a spleen should you take me up.

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