Sunday, April 30, 2006

Tortuous train logic

As if it isn't difficult enough to follow what is happenning with transit in Toronto, today's Toronto Star editorial really muddies the waters on possible options for handling the obsolescence of the Scarborough RT line:

`Trains' of streetcars best for Scarborough - Toronto Star - April 30 2006

The Star comes out swinging in support of the option #2 - which is describes as using 'Trains' of streetcars. Well, for many people, this is hardly a way to sell the idea! Option #2 is actually to convert the line to "light rail". The Star get's is all confused labelling this:

...Switching from light rail cars to new streetcars that could be linked into "trains" on the existing rapid transit route...

whereas in the options, this is the light rail option.

Part of the problem is that there has been so much propaganda over the years about transit in the city, that now few people know which way is up. "LRT" is labelled as "streetcar" OR not depending on the hidden agenda of the proponent.

The Star further confuses matters:

The future of mass transit in Scarborough is likely to be found in a report released last week outlining three options for replacing the area's decaying light rail system.

Firstly, the report hasn't been released - rather the study has narrowed the options and is gathering public input. Second, the line isn't decaying - it simply uses equipment that no-one else in the world ended up buying into.

Neither is the RT 'worn out' nor are it's cars 'antiquated'. In fact, the line is newer (1985) than the original sections of Calgary's C-Train system (1981). The sad fact - for Toronto - is that we bet on the wrong technology - whereas Calgary purchased off-the shelf equipment that was (and is) in wide use in parts of Europe.

The option to now use LRT technology (i.e. the option #2 being touted in the editorial) faces a major problem: the plan is not to use off-the-shelf technology, but rather equipment that will highly customized/modified so that it can run on the downtown streetcar tracks. Not only does this add $1 million to the price tag for each vehicle, it means that the TTC will be facing the same obsolescence problem a few decades hence!

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