If you want an example of how massive sporting events can translate into new subway and rail lines, then Beijing is the place to look. For years China’s capital survived with two subway routes — but spurred on by rapid population growth, worsening traffic congestion and selection as the 2008 Olympic Games host, the city now has eight lines. Three of these opened just weeks ago, including a new train to the airport.

After decades of using paper tickets, the entire system switched to electronic fare cards on June 8. Last Thursday, an 82-kilometre suburban railway line opened, linking the city with the Great Wall.

The dizzying pace of transit construction will not slacken after the Games. The commuter train network is due for major upgrades and five — yes five — more subway lines are set to open by 2015, plus a few light rail lines too. Transit will be crucial in the capital of China — 17 million people live in the urban region and more are coming.

Greater Toronto has more than five million residents, and is overdue for its own transit boom. This fall, officials will approve a massive regional transportation plan to cover the next few decades. While there are major concerns about who will finance needed subway, GO train and light rail lines, the GTA definitely has to catch up.

What’s more, the federal government has just endorsed Toronto’s intention to host the 2015 Pan Am Games — which would likely require new transit lines near venues and better train service in Southern Ontario.

PUBLICATION: Metro
AUTHOR: Ed Drass
DATED: 12th August 2008