Free to a good home: One sensible, evidence-based transit plan.

If you hadn’t noticed, transit planning in Toronto is kind of a five-star gong show at the moment. Warring politicians, conflicting egos and a willingness to change approved plans every other  week have all come together to create a climate in which nothing seems to ever get done.

We can do better. Toronto’s coming municipal election is an opportunity to put in place a transit plan that makes sense — one built on facts and evidence.

I am — I promise — not running for mayor. But I do have a transit plan in mind. Here’s what it looks like:

First, and this is important, don’t cancel anything. There are things about Toronto’s currently approved transit plans that I don’t entirely like, but it shouldn’t matter. Transit is about compromise.

Elected officials have been way too blasé about taking on cancellation fees for foregone projects. Just build it, even if it’s not perfect.

That out of the way, my transit plan envisions four major expansions of the existing TTC system.

We’ll start with the downtown relief line, or whatever you want to call it. It’s the subway line planners and transit experts have been saying the city needs for three decades. This is a non-negotiable project. The Yonge subway line is, by any metric, entirely at capacity.  We’re out of options.

So build it. It should be a new subway line running, as its first phase, from Union Station north through the West Don Lands and Leslieville, connecting to the Danforth line at Pape, then continuing up to make a connection with the Eglinton LRT at Don Mills.

That covers our most pressing need. After that, I’d look at two major LRT extensions. In Scarborough, let’s build the promised Malvern LRT from Scarborough Town Centre, bringing transit to one of the city’s most isolated neighbourhoods. In Etobicoke, we should bring the Eglinton LRT all the way to Pearson airport, as originally envisioned.

Finally, we need to think ahead. Toronto’s port lands represent huge potential. The city must ensure that any new neighbourhoods on the waterfront are transit-oriented from Day 1. Building an LRT across Queens Quay East to connect with the under-construction streetcar line on Cherry Street would be a great start.

This isn’t a radical rethink of Toronto’s transit future. All four of these lines have previously been studied. With a funding strategy, we can start construction fast. It’s also a political plan — it brings improvements to all parts of the city.

Best of all, I’m offering this plan up free to anyone who is looking for a transit platform in 2014. Take it, it’s yours. Just promise me that you’ll stick with it — and finally get some damn shovels in the ground.

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