Metrolinx and the Toronto Council LRT Decision

At its February 16, 2012 meeting, the Metrolinx Board received a presentation and report on the status of projects in Toronto arising out of the Council action taken on February 8.  The report does not add much to information already reported, but it consolidates various documents in one convenient location.

The map of the 5-in-10 plan (the version of Transit City agreed to by Toronto Council in 2009 and disavowed by Mayor Ford) appears in both documents.  This map includes:

  • The Eglinton line from Jane to Kennedy with an underground section from Keele station to Laird station.  In the press scrum following the meeting, I asked about the possibility of redesign of the section through Mount Dennis (Weston Road) and near Don Mills and the DVP.  Metrolinx confirmed that details of these areas are still being worked out.  (See below)
  • The SRT rebuilt as LRT from Kennedy Station to Sheppard.
  • The Sheppard LRT from Don Mills Station to Morningside including a new carhouse at Conlins Road.
  • The Finch West LRT from Finch West Station to Humber College.

A note I received from Rick Ciccarelli (long active in transit affairs in Weston) gave further information from a public meeting on February 15 in Weston:

In speaking with Jack Collins [Metrolinx Vice-President, Rapid Transit Implementation] last night at Councillor di Giorgio’s Kodak Town Hall, he said underground [is] still in play and indicated the loading and unloading of trains at the start and end of service will be a problem for at-grade, and he also expects an interconnecting GO/TTC station to work better. He is not sure if it will go underground past this station. They are also looking at a bridge across Black Creek Drive to service the yards, plus bus connections for both TTC and regional service. The Kodak building could become a bus terminal. He said there are multiple issues to sort through before the design can be finalized including whether they are designing for 3 car LRT or full subway vehicles, and the relationship with the GO rail corridor track expansion project and the new station.

Collins confirmed at the Metrolinx meeting that the purchase of the Kodak site was concluded at about the beginning of February.  The remark about possibly designing the carhouse for full subway vehicles dates, I suspect, from a period when the actual technology to be used for the line had not been settled by Council.  Changing to full subway requires far more extensive design modifications than simply at the carhouse.

During the Board’s discussion, the question arose of interference in Council’s decision by the Ford brothers and their “Save Our Subways” scheme.  CEO and President Bruce McCuaig replied that Queen’s Park has indicated that they will listen to Council.  Chair Rob Prichard said that Metrolinx’ job was to be respectful of the Council process, and that it was not for Metrolinx to take sides with individual Councillors, but to wait for Council’s decision-making process to complete.

Director Lee Parsons asked what risk there might be that the Council debate will not be resolved by the end of March.  McCuaig replied that Metrolinx needs “certainty and clarity” from Council.  Prichard said that the “end game” is an agreement with the City, a binding agreement, and that McCuaig and his staff would move forward to a full master agreement as quickly as possible.  In the press scrum, Prichard hopes that Council will take a position endorsing a new master agreement, and referred to comments by individual members as “noise on the side”.

Director Douglas Turnbull worried that the longer the LRT versus subway debate continues — a false one he believed because LRT is the only reasonable option — that a window of opportunity for transit expansion may be lost.

Director Peter Smith noted that both Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario are strong supporters of arrangements where the entire provision of a line would be outsourced.  Bruce McCuaig replied that the province is committed to AFP (alternative financing and procurement) models, but various types of “package” may be appropriate.  Smith wondered whether the TTC was in any position to dictate an alternative arrangement for a facility that was not their own, and thought that the public did not understand the situation well (blaming the media for this state of affairs).

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