Finch West | Subway vs. LRT

Finch West | Subway vs. LRT

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Economic Impact of Finch West LRT

Finch West LRT is one of the proposed light rail lines in David Miller’s legacy Transit City plan. However, Transit City’s one-size-fits-all approach does not take into account the unique circumstances of local context, raising serious questions about the suitability and merit of an LRT on Finch West.

Finch Avenue is an important freight transportation corridor for many businesses and industries in the area, providing them with easy access to and from provincial highways to reach to their markets far beyond the Toronto region. Given the industrial nature of the area, truck traffic of these businesses will be negatively impacted by the Finch West LRT as planned. For instance, many businesses in the Emery Business Improvement Area (BIA), the largest BIA in the country, rely on easy access to provincial highways via Hwy 400/Finch interchange for its operations. As the number of traffic lanes will be reduced to accommodate the dedicated LRT track, vehicle travel times are expected to increase by as much as 3 times from the current level, which translate to lost time and efficiency for the businesses that rely on trucks for freight transportation (Cole Engineering, 2014). In addition, the configuration of road space due to dedicated LRT track also raises concerns for u-turning trucks. Therefore, the Finch West LRT running on dedicated lane will inevitably mean business loss for the industries in the area, particularly Emery BIA.

Burying the LRT or building a subway would address some of these concerns and provide a win-win situation for promoting transit use as well as accommodating freight transportation and truck traffic. It is often suggested that future demand forecast of transit ridership does not warrant a higher capacity transit option such as subway, but such argument never takes the effect of induced demand created by a subway line into consideration. Many developments are indeed attracted by the presence of a high-order transit line like subway, which helps revitalize areas in the vicinity, add density and thus further create demand for transit use.

The Three Cities Within Toronto by David Hulchanski (2010) demonstrates that City #1 (>20% income increase) coincides with the existing subway infrastructure, while City #3 (>20% income decrease) only has 19 of the city’s 68 stations. Many of these City #1 areas benefited from the gentrification and the transformation that new developments and condominiums brought about in the last two decades. Concord Park Place, a 45-acre development currently under construction on the Sheppard line between Leslie and Bessarion, is another example of induced demand waiting to transform the area that was initially cursed for not deserving a subway line due to low density and low demand. In this regard, denying a fair examination of the subway option on Finch West, which is already situated in City #3, has deep implications for the future economic well-being of the area.

LRT on Finch West impedes truck traffic and freight transportation for the many businesses in the area, which is a unique and vital economic element in this particular part of Toronto that needs to be taken into consideration. LRT might manage to switch some existing road users to transit, but it does not have the same induced demand and the economically transformative effect that a subway line brings about. Finally, placing an LRT rail yard at Finch and Jane also casts doubts on whether a Finch West LRT will positively transform an already troubled neighbourhood.

References:

Cole Engineering (2014) Finch West LRT and Transportation Network Impact Assessment Study, Retrieved from:

http://emeryvillagebia.ca/contentfiles/pdf/Final%20Transportation%20Impact%20Assessment%20June%202014.pdf

Hulchanski, D. (2010) The Three Cities Within Toronto – Income Polarization Among Toronto’s Neighbourhood, 1970 – 2005, Retrieved from:

http://www.urbancentre.utoronto.ca/redirects/3citiesDec2010Report.html