As I reported in a previous article, Mayor Tory has launched a study process for his SmartTrack scheme via Toronto’s Executive Committee.
One intriguing, if not surprising, admission to come out of this process was for Tory to admit that SmartTrack “was not his idea” and was simply a repackaging and rebranding of the provincial RER (Regional Express Rail) scheme. However, during the campaign, SmartTrack was regularly described as something that experts had studied, a solid proposal, not simply a line on a napkin.
The origins of a “Big U” looping from Markham through downtown and out to the northwest predates Tory’s campaign and can be found in three papers:
- The New Geography of Office Location and the Consequences of Business as Usual in the GTA, Canadian Urban Institute, March 2011
- A Region in Transition, Strategic Regional Research, January 2013
- The Business Case for the Regional Relief Line, Strategic Regional Research Associates, October, 2013
If we are to understand the claims made for SmartTrack, we need to understand its origins, and the degree to which campaign rhetoric and fantasy may have diverged from the earlier detailed planning. Also, of course, there is a basic question of whether the studies had the same goals for rapid transit network design as those that should inform the planning process in Toronto and the GTHA beyond.
This article reviews the 2011 paper on the changing location of office space in the GTA.