Mr. James Bow has authored a thoughtful reply to yesterday's post. I thought I'd take a few minutes to pen a few thoughts.
Firstly, I appreciate the time Mr. Bow devotes to writing about Toronto. Mr. Bow and I had an interesting back-and-forth last year on a blog devoted to boycotting St. Clair Avenue W. (The blog was the creation of a student from Edmonton - studying in K-W at the time - with very little experience actually living in Toronto.)
As with all debates, the product is less to persuade one party or other to change positions - and more to expose those on the sidelines to the facts and arguments that lend support the opposing sides. For those such as myself, Mr. Bow, students from Waterloo etc, participating in these debates is a hobby. The time allocated to debates is always limited - true.
However, for those who live and conduct business on St. Clair, the debate is more than academic. How things turn out could make or break the neighbourhoods. Will Hillcrest Village - as an example - continue to thrive as it has over the past number of years? Will anchor businesses in Corso Italiana be able to stay in the neighbourhood? No one knows. The St. Clair project is playing Russian roulette with the economic viability of a large chunk of central Toronto.
I agree that a rail-based system on St. Clair has a chance to be effective if LRT-type equipment were to be used. In fact, I - yes yours truly - prepared the first discounted cash flow analysis that compared the economics of replacing the streetcar equipment with light rail equipment vs. refurbishment of the streetcar equipment. It was I who gave this analysis to Councillor/Commissioner Joe Mihevc. (It was more that a little bit disconcerting that no-one at the Commission had carried out such an analyis before the St. Clair EA started.)
However, we need to be clear - leaving aside the fact that we don't even have specifications for LRT equipment that could run on the existing surface track network - having the proper equipment is only one of the preconditions for a succesful LRT.
There must be adequate space for stations - and stations must be reasonably well-spaced. At grade crossings at major intersections may also need to be eliminated in order to justify the capital expense of the equipment. (If you look at the successful LRT systems - Calgary and St. Louis come to mind - you'll see few (if any) - at-grade crossing at major intersections.)
I also believe that concrete-based roadbed should be kept to an absolute minimum so that the service disruption caused by the periodic and lengthy rebuilding of concrete-encased track is not such an issue. There's a reason railways use gravel ballast as roadbed!
In my view, it will be at least a decade before we might see new equipment in service. None of these other issues have even been looked at. Where does this leave the residents and businesses on St. Clair West?
I have checked out Mr. Munro's blog. He is duly critical of a number of things the TTC is doing. What confuses me is that:
1. He continues to support TTC Chair Howard Moscoe (psst - this is the man in charge! When we look for acountability - this is where the buck stops!)
2. He complains about service reliability- but doesn't really offer any suggestions for improving it.