When Premier Doug Ford announced his new transit plan in April as part of his first budget, there was plenty of hype about provincial transit investment, but few details about what would be built or how far design had progressed beyond doodles on bar napkins. Four projects comprise the Ford plan:
- The “Ontario Line” from the Science Centre at Don Mills & Eglinton to Ontario Place replacing Toronto plans for the Relief Line
- The Richmond Hill extension of Line 1 Yonge
- The Scarborough Line 2 Danforth extension to Sheppard & McCowan with at least three stops rather than the one in the current Toronto plan
- A modified plan for the Eglinton West LRT extension with underground construction for part of the route east of Martin Grove
- Extension of the Sheppard subway east to McCowan to meet the northern end of Line 2
Information about these proposals came more from rumours than from specifics, notably from Metrolinx, the agency charged with planning and delivery of the scheme.
Staff from the City of Toronto and the TTC have been meeting with their provincial counterparts, and details begin to emerge in a staff report to Toronto’s Executive Committee.
The Ontario Line concept proposed by the Province is at an early stage of design. [p 5]
This is not a “shovel ready” project, nor is the revised Scarborough subway, in spite of claims that the Ontario line can be open by 2027. That is very much a political date based on the need to have relief capacity in place before new demand is added to the Line 1 Yonge route from the Richmond Hill extension. The government, knowing the votes available in York Region, needs to show progress on that extension, but actually operating it would totally overload the subway system without substantial diversion of ridership to a relief line.
Previous studies by Metrolinx foresaw a drop in ridership at the Bloor/Yonge choke point provided that a new line went at least to Eglinton rather than stopping at Danforth. This is not news, but the political change lies in recognition that a line to Eglinton is not some future, “Phase 2” option, but an essential part of reducing demand on Line 1. Whether the construction timing and possible opening dates for the Ontario and Richmond Hill lines can be achieved is quite another matter. In a political context, the important date is 2022, the next Provincial election. By that time, visible “progress” will be needed to shore up support for the government, but the target dates will be far enough off that the inevitable slippage will not yet be evident.
In parallel with the technical work on provincial plans, the City of Toronto has launched a public participation campaign about the shift in responsibilities for transit between the municipal and provincial governments. This is all a bit vague at present because the details of what Queen’s Park actually intends remain rather vague. The government has given itself the power to take over projects completely or in part, and to seize Toronto assets with or without compensation. However, the financial details are murky including the problem of expected contribution to capital projects by other governments and the as-yet unaddressed question of cost sharing for day-to-day transit operations which includes a substantial component of running maintenance, not just driving the trains.
The City will bring a wider range of issues than a few new lines before the public for comment. Four public meetings are planned over the coming month:
Thursday, June 13, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Father Serra Catholic School
111 Sun Row Drive, Etobicoke
Thursday, June 20, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
North York Memorial Community Hall
5110 Yonge Street, North York
Saturday, June 22, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Scarborough Civic Centre
150 Borough Drive, Scarborough
Thursday, June 27, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
City Hall, Council Chamber
100 Queen Street West, Toronto
Although one might despair that the Ford government cares about or will listen to concerns by Toronto citizens, this consultation will be important if only to gauge overall public feeling. The challenge will be to conduct real consultation without having sessions hijacked by Ford Nation supporters.