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The Don Mills Bus Rapid Transit Proposal
22/04/2005

About a month ago, there was some discussion at Toronto City Hall about a plan to develop transit capacity in the Don Valley corridor.

I cannot find an official City of Toronto web page that discusses the plans, although there are some PDF files available through Google. The best I link I can find is a brief article by Metro columnist Ed Drass.

The basic idea is to develop a bus rapid transit line along Don Mills Road to connect with downtown. Ideally, this route would head off Don Mills and through densely-populated Thorncliffe on its way. Presently, it's a long bus ride over to Yonge Street or down to eastern Danforth to connect to a subway to get downtown from there.

There are several options on the table, and you can find them in City documents mentioned above. However, I will discuss two bus options here, and one subway alternative.

The portion of the bus routes along Don Mills seem to be fairly simple. The bigger question is how and where to connect to downtown. The two options I present here both depend on the controversial Redway Extension -- which I'll discuss in more detail below -- to connect with the Bayview Extension on their way downtown.

BRT option 1 would head to Castle Frank station on the Bloor-Danforth subway and leave folks with a subway ride to get from there to their ultimate destination. Option 2 would head all the way downtown via perhaps Richmond/Adelaide or Front Street. See the map below (click for a larger version).

As far as I am concerned, it seems that Option 2 would likely be the most useful one in terms of utility for Don Mills and Thorncliffe residents.

Even better would be an option to drop people off at Castle Frank and continue on down to the core. I read somewhere that they are considering doing this via escalators. I agree that would be more efficient than driving up to the station and back down into the ravine before heading south. However, that would be one crazy escalator!

The real reason I wanted to write this blog post was to play around with awesome Google satellite shots. The image below -- again, click for larger -- shows the Castle Frank station area.

One thing to keep in mind about Option 1 is that it would seem to require a rebuild of the Bloor/Bayview DVP exit ramp. Presently there is no connection from Bayview to or from Castle Frank. Bayview only connects with the DVP now. Looking at the aerial shot and knowing how steep the ravine there is would suggest this task wouldn't be easy. It would also threaten parks on either side of the existing exit loops.

Going back to my map, you'll see I've also drawn a subway line on there. No one is seriously discussing such a thing because there is truly no money. But in the long term such a line could be a very smart thing.

Anyway, both of the BRT routes described here depend on the Redway Extension. This is the real sticking point.

Redway has long been proposed as the missing link required to connect Leslie Street and the Bayview Extension. The result would be a high-capacity arterial, linking North York to downtown like a mini DVP. It has been successfully opposed by anti-sprawl activists and Leaside and Rosedale residents.

The version of Redway being proposed for the Don Mills BRT would be bus-only. However, area residents are concerned that it would only be a matter of time before the extension would be opened to car traffic that would infiltrate their neighbourhoods en masse. This is certainly a reasonable fear -- it is easy to imagine a future car-friendly mayor and council making that decision once the pavement is already there.

Anyway, I hope that the Redway concern can be resolved somehow. This project is economical -- City PDFs suggest a cost between $30- and $60-million -- and would add significant new capacity to areas that need it.

UPDATE: City's Don Valley Corridor Transportation Master Plan web page, hat-tip Brent.

UPDATE 2: Brent's link has led me to newer documents than I had. The summary report (part 1, part 2, links PDF) suggest that Option 2 as I have drawn it is no longer on the table. Option 1 is still there, but Option 2 has been replaced with a route that heads down Don Mills and gets onto the DVP to go to downtown. This is a shame, in my opinion, since it means no direct route to downtown for Thorncliffe residents. (Unless they plan on running a bus eastbound through Thorncliffe before heading down the DVP, which would be okay.)


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