Friday, February 17, 2012

"Livable Cities" suburban residential densities can fund Subway Construction

In this amateur Urban Designer's opinion, higher density building standards along mass transit corridors in Toronto's suburbs - that mirror Toronto's Core densities, with a large number of 3 story walk-up apartment buildings on single or double lots, and zoning changes to permit 'alleyway Grand Parent Flats' over top of/instead of garages - can  produce the necessary tax revenue needed to fund a Subway network in Toronto like those of London, Moscow and Paris.

Once outside the Circle Line subway, most of these routes are above ground, separated train lines. The Circle Line is key to the Moscow Subway network - it allows most to avoid the core of the city - instead you use the Circle Line to get to the appropriate spoke in the wheel - and then transfer. Toronto needs a Circle Line to direct LRT volumes that are coming. Just $50Billion - an investment we should undertake now.

When Rob Ford was elected Mayor of Toronto in October 2010 he immediately proposed stopping construction of 3 of 4 Light Rapid Transit (LRT) lines in favour of redirecting the Provincial funding for them to subway construction. Subway construction costs a lot more than street level separated rail - so the bang for the buck fell well short of what residents perceived was needed. The number of kilometres of subway Toronto was going to get under Mayor Ford's plan - and his inability to get private funding to augment the Provincial 8.4 Billion dollars already in the funding package - paled in light of the public transit commute experience that many Torontonians face each day.

The need for new mass transit in key areas of the city where population numbers are mushrooming - North Etobicoke, North York and North Scarborough - is making public transit - and the highway type roads there - next to useless at rush hour (now 3 hours long, morning and night). Grid lock and the perception that the Mayor didn't really have a plan, caused a political backlash for the Mayor's Office on transit. The result was that the Mayor's public transit plan was effectively killed in favour of the existing LRT plan in a vote at Toronto City Council on February 8, 2012.

People are giving up on public transit and switching to back to cars -  which is leading to more expressway grid lock in a city that already has the longest automobile commute times in North America - or citizens are just leaving the labour force, because their commute time and compensation didn't jive with the erosion of their quality of life - 3 hour commutes combined with the 'new normal' 12 hour work day.

The solution so far, for cash strapped cities with-in the neo-liberal schema of extremely low corporate tax rates, has been to invest in low cost surface rail separated from automobile traffic by transit right of ways. This LRT solution is the last option standing, mainly because of the low population densities in a suburban development model that was built based on the car.

We now understand that the model is unsustainable and that higher density development, walking and cycling infrastructure improvement, and more public transit is the long term answer.

Zoning increases needed to make Sheppard subway a reality: Chong.
A rendering supplied by the Tridel development group to city planners. It shows what the intersection of Victoria Park Avenue and Sheppard Avenue East might look like after it were redeveloped using density rights allocated from the subway station.
(Image and Text courtesy of Inside Toronto - from the article sighted)
When Rob Ford asked private developers to come up with a workable subway funding strategy based on private borrowing that was financed over time by increases in tax revenues that would arrive through increased development along proposed subway routes - the developers came back with a plan for high towers at major intersections all across suburbia.

See, Inside Toronto:
"Zoning increases needed to make Sheppard subway a reality: Chong
- Highrises at major intersections required to get support of developers"

They like to build condo's apparently, and I guess they thought if their banks were going to foot the bill for public infrastructure - at a moment in time when the Mayor was over a barrel - they figured they could ask for the moon - and get it.

Silly, greedy capitalists - by doing so they pretty much killed the privatization of Public Transit in Toronto (likely Mayor Ford's neo-con, hidden agenda for all public inheritances).

In this amateur Urban Designer's opinion a less neighbourhood invasive option would make this kind of Subway financing do-able. Higher density building standards along mass transit corridors  in Toronto's suburbs (extending one bus stop width on either side of the corridor) - that mirror Toronto's Core densities, with a large number of 3 story walk-up apartment buildings on single or double lots, and zoning changes to permit 'alleyway Grand Parent Flats' over top of/instead of garages - can  produce the necessary tax revenue needed to fund a world class subway network in Toronto.

See more on Subway Financing - Ford Style - at
"Subway Financing Falling Apart? (Update 3)" - June 4, 2011 -


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