Finch West LRT will bring rapid transit to York West
By David RosCome 2021, residents of York West will have a significantly better transit infrastructure with the completion of the Finch West LRT.The 11km rapid transit route which had been previously approved in 2007 as part of the Transit City plan and had been delayed under the previous city hall administration.However, it has now been given the go ahead after the Ontario provincial government announced that it would provide $1.2 Billion to build the route.“I think for the first time in our existence [our neighbourhood] will have some transit that will have some speed to it that will be welcoming for people, not just residents, seniors and students,” said Suzan Hall, a former city councillor for Ward 1 (Etobicoke North), and a member of the Northwest Transit Action Group, “I think it's a very, very positive thing.”Construction is set to begin in 2016 on the line which will stretch all the way from Humber College going 18 stops, ending at Finch West Station on the Yonge-University-Spadina subway line. The LRT line will operate on dedicated tracks which will be constructed in the middle of Finch Ave. W., will replace the 36 Finch West bus route, one of the city's busiest, which often gets stuck in traffic during rush hour causing multiple buses to bunch up one after another leaving one bus full, with the buses behind relatively empty.Passengers are often forced to wait for the next bus as many buses fill up during peak periods.According to CodeRedTO, a transit advocacy group, the new LRT line would cut rush hour transit times from Humber College to Keele and Finch nearly in half.The trip which now takes an average of 42.6 minutes during rush hour the Finch West bus would take only 28 minutes on the LRT.However, there has been very public opposition to the creation of LRT routes in the city with Rob Ford, the former mayor and current city councillor for Ward 2 (Etobicoke North) and Giorgio Mammoliti, city councillor for Ward 7 (York West) being two of the most prominent critics.They argue that, among other things, the route would create even more traffic problems along an already congested route.“That argument is really not valid, there's going to be no war on the car,” said Marco Covi, a co-founder of the Northwest Transit Action Group. “There's going to be the same number of lanes on the street, they're actually widening the lanes to build the Finch LRT and providing more room for bicyclists as well, so it's actually going to provide a wide diversity of transit options, so the Finch LRT is actually going to make things better, not pit different options against each other.” Currently, there are four vehicle lanes operating along Finch Ave. W., once the LRT is built, this will remain the same as there is enough room to widen the road on either side of Finch Ave. W., in order to widen the road to make way for the LRT.During his tenure as mayor, Ford famously called LRTs “Glorified streetcars,” unleashing his oft repeated catchphrase during the 2010 mayoral campaign that “the people they want subways.”According to Covi, unlike streetcars, LRT stops are far enough apart that the trains will be able to pick up speed.“An LRT is not a streetcar, it's light rapid transit, you can go at pretty high speeds,” Covi said. “They can go up to 35 km/h, that's very comparable to the speed of the subway line on the Bloor-Danforth line.” LRT lines are also significantly cheaper to build than subways. For every 10km of LRT, it would only be possible to build 3km of subway.Hall said both the cost as well as the fact the environmental assessments along the route have already been completed means that an LRT makes the most sense along Finch Ave., W.“To wait for subways, we might wait 50 to 100 years, perhaps longer,” Hall said. “If any other approach was taken at this point in time, new environmental assessments would have to begin.”While LRT vehicle travel in the middle of the road and will have to go through stop lights, Hall said that technology is in place to time them with stop lights, ensuring the light will be green when they go through an intersection.Hall said the project will also have a positive impact on local businesses.“Businesses will benefit more from this than if it had actually been a subway because people will see the businesses, if they're underground, they never see them so why would they ever go?” She said.https://youtu.be/shenE8T_X2IThe Finch West LRT route is just one of many new transit projects in the GTA, which will dramatically improve transit infrastructure in the city.Construction is nearly completed along the Yonge-University-Spadina subway extension to Vaughan, which will have three stops in York West, and is set to open in 2015. Construction is also going ahead on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT line which will open some time between 2020 and 2023. The Sheppard East LRT line will begin construction in 2021 following the opening of the Finch West LRT line.While no timelines have been announced, Toronto Mayor John Tory successfully campaigned on a platform of creating a “Smart Track,” above ground subway system which would serve as a downtown relief line going from Airport Corporate Centre in the West, down to Union Station before turning North and ending in Unionville.The provinicial government also announced that it would be funding a Mississauga-Brampton LRT line which would stretch for 23km along Hurontario St., from Port Credit all the way into Brampton which is scheduled to open in 2022.