At its meeting of January 22, 2015, Toronto’s Executive Committee will consider a report (SmartTrack Work Plan 2015-2016) recommending a work plan for the study of Mayor Tory’s SmartTrack proposal together with other related transit projects. This is intended to dovetail with Metrolinx’ work on their Regional Express Rail (RER) network, and will have spillover effects on studies of both the Downtown Relief Line (DRL) and the Scarborough Subway Extension.
The most important aspect of this report is that, at long last, a study is reviewing transit options for Toronto on a network basis rather than one line at a time. Factors such as alternative land use schemes, fare structures and service levels will be considered to determine which future scenarios best support investment in transit. Rather than starting with a “solution”, the studies are intended to evaluate alternatives.
If this outlook actually survives, and the studies are not gerrymandered before they can properly evaluate all strategies, then the process will be worthwhile and set the stage for decisions on what might actually be built. The challenge will be to avoid a scenario where every pet project on the map is untouchable rather than making the best of the network as a whole. The term “best” will be open to much debate.