Jeff Wood
Urban Reads

In Toronto the Streetcar is King

All the city news you can use.

By - Dec 9th, 2017 02:01 pm
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Route #504 streetcar in Toronto, prior to the King Street transit priority pilot project. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Route #504 streetcar in Toronto, prior to the King Street transit priority pilot project. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Every day at The Overhead Wire we sort through over 1,500 news items about cities and share the best ones with our email list. At the end of the week we take some of the most popular stories and share them with Urban Milwaukee readers. They are national links, sometimes entertaining and sometimes absurd, but hopefully useful.

Increases in car-free living: While many of the cities with large numbers of car-free residents are in the places you would expect, some mid-sized cities have actually seen larger increases in residents without cars. Many of them are places you might not expect, such as Davenport, Iowa and Peoria, Illinois. However, this might simply be an indicator of increased poverty. (Governing)

Apple’s design head is frustrated by criticism: Apple’s head of product design Jony Ive is frustrated by criticism of the new Apple campus from urban planners and other observers. In a recent interview, he stated that the building was designed for the company’s use, not the general public’s — ignoring the fact that a $5 billion campus that needs access from the outside world for employees might in fact impact the lives of others. (Business Insider)

Food hall follies: In 2010, not many people might have known what a food hall is. (For the uninitiated, a food hall is a building or store containing several stalls occupied by different purveyors of local fare.) Some retail analysis indicates it’s the next big thing, but those who work there are bothered by being seen as an amenity to a development rather than an establishment of their own. (New Yorker)

Boomtowns are lacking boom: The places with the most jobs used to attract the most population growth — think Houston during an oil boom and Detroit during the growth of the auto industry. Now that’s not the case, as cities experiencing job growth aren’t growing much at all, or at least as much as economists think they should. (New York Times)

Dedicated lanes lead to reliable travel: A pilot project on King Street, Toronto’s busiest streetcar route, gives priority to transit and has led to a five-minute reduction in travel times during the busiest periods of the day. Researchers also noted the unforeseen consequences of better travel times: increased transit ridership leading to a lot of crowding. (Toronto Star)

Quote of the Week:

For the first time in 40 years, power plants are no longer the biggest source of U.S. greenhouse gas pollution. That dubious distinction now belongs to the transport sector: cars, trucks, planes, trains and boats.

Tom Randall in Bloomberg.

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Categories: Urban Must Reads

4 thoughts on “Urban Reads: In Toronto the Streetcar is King”

  1. John Casper says:

    Jeff, thank you.

  2. Palindrome says:

    Due to my location on the streetcar line, I’m interested in the subject. That said, I don’t gett what the story about the first two weeks of a pilot project in Toronto has to do with anything Milwaukee. As I read the piece, it seems to be saying that if you ban cars from an otherwise heavily travelled street and make it “streetcar only”, the travel times on the streetcar get better. Which just confirms what anyone from grade school age and up would know to be true — in the sense of “of course it does; how could it not?”

    Then you read on and learn that traffic on adjoining streets gets a bit worse — again, of course it does. Then we learn that businesses in the pilot “car prohibited” area are hurting due to reduction in people being able to park nearby on the street and walk into the retail locations. “Being suffocated” says one business owner among the others interviewed who also see the falloff in revenue after just a couple of weeks. Not a great outcome for the business owner and his/her former, but now inconvenienced, ex-customers. Presumably some will close in time, and the values of many (all?) of those business properties will decline.

    There is another article linked in the same Urban Milwaukee story that shows the prevalence of “carless” households in medium-sized and larger cities across the US. Eyeballing it tells us that Milwaukee is up near the top of that list (looks to be top 10% to me). What does that high incidence of carless people in Milwaukee tell us? Seems to me it could indicate that pre-streetcar, the booming downtown Milwaukee area is a relatively easy place to get around in without a car. Walking, bus, bicycle, scooter, etc. seems to be satisfactory to many. The article notes that on average (as a rule oft thumb) commuting by auto in a city is much quicker than relying on rail over the same distance and route. So, tell me again, please, what are we trying to improve?

  3. Will says:

    Milwaukee and Toronto are totally different scale, so in that sense it has little to due with our small streetcar system. The foot traffic and traffic in general here is a fraction of a bustling international city like Toronto. A real mass transit system would have lines extending quite a ways out of the city center to serve a wider pool of riders, not just a loop or two between sites downtown. Of course you’ve got to start with something, so we’ll see how it, and the city, develops in the next several decades.

  4. Palindrome says:

    Will, thanks for your comment …. absolutely agree, except in one respect. Agree that Milwaukee transportation scene is nothing like Toronto’s (or many other larger metro areas, for that matter). Which leads me back to wondering why this big headline in Urban Milwaukee over a little story about a “streetcar only street” pilot in Toronto, two weeks in.

    I don’t go along with the sentiment that “you’ve got to start with something”. Not if the “something” is basically irrelevant to the needs of the larger community. My view is that we are just wasting time and money and inconvenience on this thing, and that whatever problem this is supposed to Impact is not evident.

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