Imagine a network of speedy electric trains servicing every neighbourhood in the Golden Horseshoe.
Traveling from Port Credit to the Danforth? Simple.
Venturing from Unionville to Roncesvalles? Easy.
What if I told you that this dreamy network is affordable to build because it harnesses the city’s existing rail infrastructure?
Jonathan English, of the blog Transit Futures, is trying to promote this vision with a revolutionary concept called CityRail, which consists of two parts. First, it calls for the electrification of GO’s existing rail lines. Currently, GO relies on large diesel engines to tug a long line of cars, one direction, every hour. An electrified network with upgraded signaling would allow for smaller, self-propelled trains to navigate the system- providing for a more predictable and frequent service. Second, it calls for more integration between the new routes and existing transit services, allowing passengers to travel freely and seamlessly across the region. Yes, this vision will require time and capital, but it’s a better investment of our current resources, then many of the initiatives we are wasting them on now.
Using English’s initiative as a point of departure, I created a fantasy map of how Toronto’s rapid transit system could look. For the purpose of the map, I’ve called the prospective system “Metrorail,” partially to encourage the co-operation between Metrolinx and CityRail, but mostly to avoid any copyright infringements from either side.
The Metrorail System Map above displays subways, LRTs, and the surface rail lines suggested by CityRail. The look and feel incorporates an appropriate mix of the New York City subway’s Helvetica typeface with the London Underground’s route and station symbology to create a uniquely Torontonian map. Though I am a fan of the TTC’s custom typeface, I decided not to use it in this endeavor. It is better reserved for station names on subway platforms, not for wayfinding signage or route maps. Too much of an iconic font can be a bad thing; I’m sure you’ll agree with me when you see the TTC’s newly designed system map.
It is common practice for transit companies to take liberties in preserving scale and proportion in visual representations of their networks. To avoid a very large and mostly bare portrayal, the Metrorail System Map does the same, to achieve a balanced effect. By contrast, Toronto’s present subway map stretches horizontally and compresses vertically, overly distorting the proportions of the city. Sydney’s rail system-which also happens to be electric-does a much better job at presenting its sprawling transit network. Their Newcastle and Central Coast line stretches 150km, connecting Newcastle to Sydney’s Central Station. This is not unlike the western leg of Line 8 on the Metrorail System Map that connects Kitchener to Union Station, a distance of about 100km.
I deviated slightly from CityRail’s plans. I named stations after districts rather than streets, in part to foster a sense of neighbourhood identity as well as ownership of the transit service. I extended Line 7 to include Galt (Cambridge) and Uxbridge, and also extended Line 6 through the Niagara Peninsula to Buffalo Center… yes, Center. Establishing a reliable transit service between Buffalo and Toronto would mean Buffalo can play a bigger role in the Golden Horseshoe’s Economy.
Given the plenitude of proposals, I found it difficult to decide which additional transit expansion ideas should transfer onto the map. The most controversial line I included is the extension of Line 2 (the Bloor-Danforth subway) through Scarborough. Secondly, I expanded Line 1 from Finch Station to Richmond Hill Centre, a priority of the Ontario government. Finally, I made the assumption that Toronto’s Island Airport will remain, and expand, justifying a stop on the Queens Quay LRT line. Would you like to be able to walk to the airport and catch a flight to the west coast?
By making this map I hope to stimulate conversation about a more practical, more holistic, and more cost-effective regional transit system.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to join the conversation! Here’s an ice breaker: What’s your biggest pain point in getting around your city? Enter your comments below.