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Old Posted Apr 16, 2006, 5:09 PM
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Location: Canary Wharf->CityPlace
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Finding a future in the route not taken
Enthusiasts mine the past for a vision of what could still be.
Apr. 16, 2006. 01:00 AM

Anyone can draw some lines on a map." That's how the TTC's chairman dismisses dreams for an ambitious web of new subway lines.
But that simple sentence might also be the rallying cry for local transit utopians: a democratic call to take up pens and reimagine the way Toronto moves underground.
Mapping a dream TTC has become the signature exercise of a new generation of transit enthusiasts. Over the past few years, a half-dozen fictional Toronto subway maps have popped up around the city in various contexts — online, in galleries, in the back of a recent book of essays about the city.
They all play on the same theme: To reinvent Toronto, you have to start with a reinvented transit system. And to reinvent the transit system, you must start underground. Buses and streetcars are fine, the thinking goes, but subways do the heavy lifting that city-building requires, moving enough people to determine where healthy, pedestrian-friendly communities will spring up.
These maps feature new subway lines on Queen St. and along Eglinton Ave., a rail link to Pearson, and a line that would run from Brampton through downtown Toronto and then up Parliament to connect with the Sheppard line, among others.
As well, the maps are all predicated on the notion that a truly comprehensive network of subways, like New York and London have, would transform city life here, allowing real neighbourhoods to take root where now only subdivisions are possible.
The maps borrow aggressively from the region's past, featuring subway lines that were never built. "Part of the tragedy is we had a plan for quote-unquote utopia and then we stopped," says James Bow, author of "Where have all the subways gone?" an essay in uTOpia: Towards A New Toronto.
If Bow were to rebuild Toronto's subway system, he wouldn't start from scratch. The writer and self-described "transit geek," who co-founded the information site Transit Toronto would begin with something called Network 2011, a plan that went down with Bill Davis's provincial Tories in the mid-1980s.
Network 2011 was an ambitious, 30-year strategy to build: a subway line on Sheppard Ave. from Downsview to the Scarborough Town Centre; a line across the city along Eglinton Ave.; and the "downtown relief" line, which could have run from Sheppard south through Don Mills, along Donlands to Union Station, across Front St. and up Spadina Ave.
Those lines, along busy corridors with mixed development, would have met transit needs while encouraging growth in less built-up areas. "I always feel that if Bill Davis had stayed in power for another six months ... we'd be further along than we are now," says Bow.
In uTOpia, Bow writes about N.Q. Duong, creator of one of the city's best-known recent dream TTC maps. A takeoff on Duong's work also appears in uTOpia. That map — the "Toronto Rapid Transit Guide" — by cartographer Andrew Alfred-Duggan, features: an Eglinton line that reaches the airport; a west-end line that snakes its way uptown, ending at Jane and Finch; a Sheppard line that begins in Woodbridge and connects with the Scarborough RT line; and a Bloor-Danforth line that stretches from Square One in Mississauga all the way to the Toronto Zoo. It also includes a Don Mills-Parliament line that loops around to Pearson. The key is that the lines connect with each other, all but ensuring a high volume of use.
Transit enthusiast Matthew Blackett says Toronto could make it happen over 50 years by spending $1 billion a year. It costs $150 million to build one kilometre of subway, and Blackett maintains the expense would be easy to bear if shared by three levels of government.
"Why not?" he says. "Works gets $400 million a year to spend on roads." Blackett suggests the city raise its portion of the cash through road tolls, which would be possible under the new City of Toronto Act.
He argues that a citywide subway network — supported by a feeder system of rapid-transit lines like the controversial streetcar planned for St. Clair Ave. — would have a "Brooklynizing" effect on culturally moribund pockets, turning suburbs like Brampton into hubs of independent community activity.
Fictional TTC maps "let the imagination soar. They suggest the experiences we might have in those places if those lines were actually there."
Artist Leif Harmsen hacked into the TTC's website to build his dream subway map over a pdf file of the transit service's actual map. The result includes a Queen St. line with stops at cultural landmarks like the Gladstone Hotel.
Blackett, meanwhile, observes that by digging into past plans, mapping exercises suggest an alternate present.
He points to Toronto's first missed subway opportunity, a downtown line that city council rejected in 1910.
"We could very well be taking the subway below Queen St.," he says. "What would that have meant for Parkdale? Would it have gone through the bad times, the derelict times that it has for the last 50 years?"
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