Bluffs Advocate


The Downtown Relief Line Exists

Existing Rail line is the foundation for a cost-effective DRL

By Hans Modlich

            Google it. From Markham via Agincourt/Sheppard, Eglinton/Leslie, Laird/Millwood it runs non-stop downtown to Union Station—clearly flanking the DVP when it crosses under the Bloor Viaduct. Yet no train has rolled on these rails for years. Saplings are growing between the ties. Why?
        If we have gridlock on our roads today it is because we have gridlock in governance.
        IBM founder Thomas Watson coined the thesis that any product always resembles the organization that produced it. I believe this holds true for our public transit systems in Canada and especially for the one we have here in the GTA.
        The commuter rail dimension, potentially the most potent people-mover in our polyurban setting has been virtually absent from the planning table and has not been central in the forging of an integrated system grid for the entire region.
        Two small examples suffice to underline this glaring omission.
        The Transit Investment Strategy Advisory Panel (TISAP), the transit review panel that was announced in September, 2013 by Premier Wynne, features on its website logo only three modes of transit: bus, streetcar, and subway—absent the train!
        Secondly, nowhere in present crosstown LRT plans is a provision made for even a future modal interchanger to the CP Rail artery located only metres away from the Leslie Station—even though this rail corridor is supposedly accessible in phase II of Metrolinx’s The Big Move.
        After all, where would this rail commuter advocacy come from? Passengers have been orphaned in a railway culture that has become freight-dominated and privatized to serve the corporate sector first, and not the public commons.
        To exemplify this misguided priority, take the privatization of CN Rail at the onset of the neo-liberal 90s—for the token sum of 1.9 billion in 1996 dollars. Today’s CN shareholders are principally foreign (among them Bill Gates), reputed to own 10 per cent of the stock of what has now been dubbed NAFTA Rail. The CBA used to rationalize this giveaway by a Liberal Prime Minister—without any public consultation—not even considering the $6 billion lost to the GTA economy annually, let alone the countless and priceless hours of quality family time lost in gridlock.
        We can build this CP Rail surface DRL, twin-tracked, upgraded with electric rolling stock, new bridges and make it operational in less than 5 years at a fraction of the TTC’s underground subway cost.
        Railways have always been an area of federal responsibility, and to this point, they have chosen either to come to the public transit table, or not to, as in the case of CP Rail.
        But in order to reclaim our rails for the commons, for public transit, we must reclaim our governance at all three levels, so as to prioritize the public, and not the corporate interest.
It is high time to bid the railways back to the public transit planning table and to let the experts—not the politicians—undertake the complex task of figuring out an integral solution that is best for all of the GTA and with it all of Canada.