Breakthrough news on rail battles in both Toronto and Sydney, both of which I posted on recently (Toronto, Sydney).
- Sydney's state government has made it official. The one-way loop of the Sydney Monorail, designed to decorate the tourism-convention playground of Darling Harbour without being very useful to anyone, is to be torn down. While the decision is being described as a move toward light rail — plans for which are definitely moving forward — it's really just a decision to invest in transit lines that do useful things — such as running in both directions, running efficiently enough to justify reasonable fares, and connecting with many other services so that people can go where they want to go, not just where you want to take them.
- Toronto City Council has definitely scrapped Mayor Rob Ford's plans to spend all of the city's transit resources on a few expensive outer-suburban subway segments designed to serve small parts of the region. The move opens the way to move forward on more cost-effective light rail projects that will enrich mobility across the entire city.
Toronto transit commentator Steve Munro makes an important point, which could also be said of Sydney:
This is an important day for Toronto. We are on track for a [light rail]-based plan and for a more detailed evaluation of our transit future than we have seen for decades. Talking about one line at once, about fundraising for one project at once, is no longer an accepted way of building the city.
That's the key. The Sydney Monorail failed because it was "one line at once" — a project conceived in isolation with no interest in being part of a complete network. And in Toronto, a city with numerous desperate rapid-transit needs, planning will no longer pit neighborhoods against each other to the degree that Mayor Ford wanted to do. Instead, Toronto can move forward on projects that fit together into a more complete rapid-transit grid — serving "anywhere to anywhere" trips.
Finally, a warning to technophiles!! Technophile commenters will doubtless chalk this up the Sydney decision as a defeat for monorails in general. I disagree. It's a defeat for one-way loops, poor connectivity, and symbolic as opposed to actual mobility. The monorail didn't fail just because it was a monorail, but because it was a poorly designed line. Likewise, the Toronto outcome isn't a victory for light rail or a defeat for subways, but merely a commitment to better network design.