John immediately spoke out about his concerns around the feasibility of this plan, the delays it is likely to cause and the potential impact on public safety. Many of the above expansions have been active in the planning stages for the last several years. Redesigning elements of these lines would likely mean re-booting most of that planning process setting much of the work back several years and wasting millions spent on planning work. This is regrettably similar to the re-boot required when the Fords threw out the Transit City expansion plan at City Hall in 2010.
The replacement for the Relief Line is particularly concerning as it has been pitched as a public-private initiative branded as the “Ontario Line” using a different technology than the rest of the system. If not properly integrated into the rest of the network, the relief it will offer to the overcrowding on Line 1 may not reach the necessary level.
It also seems implausible that this proposal would come online before the intended Line 1 extension – despite the Province’s assurances. The overcrowding on Line 1 is already critical and, at times, unsafe. We cannot afford to risk making that worse by setting back the Relief Line by several years, or more.
John is working with Council colleagues to find strategies to protect the planning work that has been done over the last several years. If you are concerned, you can share your thoughts with us and MPP for Willowdale Stan Cho.
Original Post – March 2019:
Is it time to upload control of all high-speed transit to the Province just to get something done? With the City’s glacially slow progress on transit expansion, many suggest that’s the way to go. The Province controls more funding tools than the City, can’t they make this go more quickly?
There are several problems with this way of thinking.
The first, is that the chief proponent, Premier Doug Ford, was a key part of the decision to cancel Transit City, Toronto’s comprehensive transit expansion plan, in 2010. Many of those projects were expected to come online in 2020. As a result of that cancellation, the City has been forced to start over during the last decade. With many other new changes, that process could require yet another re-boot.
Second, is that several of the Province’s proposals, more stops on the Scarborough subway and tunneling the Eglinton West LRT, are likely to cost significantly more money, and take longer to deliver. Neither project change is backed by numbers rationalizing additional cost or delay. Shouldn’t we be building transit that is as efficient as possible and backed up by data, rather than following the Premier’s “subway, subway, subway” ideology?
Unfortunately, many of the details over when and how an upload would proceed remain cloudy. In absence of that detailed information, John has a number of additional concerns:
1) Taking transit out of the City’s hands makes good urban planning almost impossible. There is a strong tie between development and transit, and the planning for both must go hand-in-hand.
2) Completely integrating the subway into a regional transit system potentially prioritizes 905 expansion over the relief we need in Toronto. The population of Toronto is 2.7 million, while the rest of the GTHA is 4.3 million. The electoral math is not on our side. We can’t have a line 1 extension before a relief line eases congestion.
3) There is the strong possibility that the Province would seek to sell off the real-estate it uploads, facilitating high-density condos as a means of paying for subway expansion. In Willowdale, this could worsen existing problems and cause the City to lose long-term assets.
4) Though the Province has indicated that the City would keep fare revenue as part of the transfer equation, there remains skepticism that the Province would allow the City to retain the revenue from the most lucrative parts of the TTC (subway) while absorbing responsibility for the infrastructure.
We all share the frustration with how little transit has been built over more than a generation in Toronto. Certainly, the Province can and should play an important part working with the City to build out this critical resource. Nevertheless residents would be wise to be skeptical of this kind of seizure, especially one without public discussion or debate.