John Tory promises relief rail running from Mississauga to Toronto to Markham
May 27, 2014
By: Jennifer Pagliaro City Hall reporter
Mayoral candidate John Tory is proposing an over-ground rapid transit relief line — one that expands beyond the downtown core, stretching from Mississauga, through Etobicoke, and up to Markham — using existing GO Transit rail.
The 53 kilometre, 22-stop line, which Tory is calling SmartTrack, would run 90 per cent on GO Transit rail already in place — the Kitchener, Lakeshore and Stouffville lines — and would connect with the new Eglinton Crosstown LRT, the Yonge-University and Bloor subways at five points.
“My One Toronto plan will bring transit relief sooner and to more Torontonians so they can get out of traffic and home to their families faster,” Tory said in a release Tuesday. “This is about providing relief to all four corners of our great city and moving people around in a smarter and faster way.”
Tory would build a new over-ground rail line out from Eglinton Ave. and the Mt. Dennis stop to Matheson Blvd. and the Airport Corporate Centre in Mississauga.
Getting SmartTrack operation in seven years will cost $8 billion to retrofit existing rail, electrify it and get new vehicles, Tory team said. Previous estimates on a relief line have put completion in 2031.
The SmartTrack does not remove the eventual need for underground relief line, but delays the need while relieving congestion, Tory’s team said.
The city is typically expected to come up with one third of the cost and Tory proposes they could raise $2.5 billion over 30 years by leveraging property tax revenue from three corporate developments — some yet to be built — along the new system. One of those sites is the East Don Lands and the old Unilever site which would get its own stop on the SmartTrack line under Tory’s plan.
The tax increment financing strategy would not see taxes go up, Tory’s team said.
Tory says the rest of the money would come from the provincial and federal governments.
Up until Tuesday, Tory has been mostly mum about his plans to move commuters ahead of a provincial election. Tory will make the announcement at the Canadian Club at noon.
The SmartTrack would carry 200,000 people daily, operated by the province’s Metrolinx according to Tory’s proposal, and take TTC fares.
The new line would allow riders to get from Kennedy subway station to Union in 30 minutes instead of 40 minutes, Tory’s team says. As proposed, the line would run all day in both directions. Tory’s proposal also speaks directly to Ford Nation in Rexdale — saying their commute to Union Station would only take 25 minutes, according to previous estimates.
The proposal, Tory’s campaign said, would relieve congestion on roads and from the Yonge-University north-south commute by giving riders alternate entry points.
Tory’s team drew comparisons to similar systems in Paris, Washington and New Zealand.
Tory hailed the provincial government for recently “getting serious” about providing “surface subways” all day - what the provincial Liberals are now calling regional express rail.
Before a June election was called, the provincial Liberals vowed to make electrifying the Lakeshore and Georgetown lines a priority in April and promised a regional relief strategy where all trains go all-day every 15 minutes using $29 billion in funding.
Tory also announced moving forward on the Scarborough subway “immediately” and introducing express bus routes to Liberty Village and Don Mills.
To date, Tory’s major announcements have been on creating jobs by building financial hubs along new transit routes and making the Scarborough subway extension a priority.
Despite not including them in the new proposal, Tory’s team says his transit plan does not kill the concept of the Finch and Sheppard LRTs already approved by council.
What transit projects have been approved, funded, and proposed but scrapped can be sometimes difficult to keep track of in Toronto as plans have shifted dramatically in the last two terms of council.
During former mayor David Miller’s second term as mayor, a plan for 120-kilometre grid of LRT lines, subway extensions and rapid bus routes in what became known as Transit City was adjusted several times.
Ford, an advocate of subways, tried to scrap the plan in favour of underground alternatives — but three LRT lines in Eglinton, Finch and Sheppard were pushed through council, which also settled on a Scarborough subway line to replace the plan for light rail.
The provincial government has promised $8.4 billion for light rail.
Olivia Chow, who supports a downtown relief line, but wants to scrap the Scarborough subway in favour of an LRT, says she would impose a tax increase to pay for the city’s share of the relief line.
A relief line currently being studied jointly by the TTC is looking first to the east where a line would run through downtown and extend to the Don River and north to the Bloor-Danforth subway. The possibilities of extending west and north have yet to be studied, but it has been suggested a western portion would only go so far as the Keele station on the Bloor-Danforth subway.
The proposed LRTs are part of the province’s and Metrolinx’s Big Move strategy announced in 2008 and stretches to 2031.
Part of the plan also includes the electrification of GO Transit’s Lakeshore lines between Hamilton and Oshawa and the Georgetown line to Kitchener — allowing for shorter travel times and more frequent trips — at a cost of $1.8 billion.
That next step was set to begin only after the Union Pearson Express was built. That line — which runs from Union Station to the airport every 15 minutes — is set to open in time for the 2015 Pan Am Games. The UP Express is currently being studied for electrification.
TTC CEO Andy Byford has been leading the call for a downtown relief line as top priority, lobbying the federal and provincial government for funding.
Chow has said the relief line should not be a priority for this election and that it can’t be done until 2031.
Before unveiling his transit plan, Tory had said the Scarborough subway and the relief line were priorities in that order. Tory countered Chow by saying the relief line is an “immediate” priority claiming he will get them built “now.”