The Transit Nest Egg Toronto Won’t Spend

Between the Scarborough Subway Extension, now rebranded as the Line 2 East Extension, and SmartTrack, Toronto has a lot of money sitting in the bank that could be used to fund other, much more deserving projects.

Ontario has taken over responsibility for the SSE/L2EE, and at least three of the proposed six SmartTrack stations compete directly with the SSE or the Ontario Line. A fourth (at Finch East) would certainly be affected by the SSE running north to Sheppard.

My latest for Now Toronto: Why is city council pretending that SmartTrack is still alive?

14 thoughts on “The Transit Nest Egg Toronto Won’t Spend

  1. I wonder what the new transit plan is going to be after the Ford conservatives get booted in the 2022 election (which seems more and more likely every day).

    There’s too many plans, too many chiefs and the average person, myself included, cannot even keep up with what plans are currently being followed. A friend asked me the other day what the new Scarborough subway is going to look like and how many stops it would have and I had no idea what the latest scheme even was.

    I am not a legal expert nor understand the transit upload for new projects entirely, but I can imagine a new provincial government could transfer the responsibility back to the city if they desire to do so. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    Considering the city plans to have something in place by the 2021 budget, it’s probably worth looking at what the main political parties say they would do if elected in 2022 and add some contingencies to that spending.


  2. With Del Duca at the helm of the Ontario Liberals, I completely expect Doug Ford to get reelected. So, consequently they’ll have till 2026 to have their plans implemented and by then contracts should be signed.

    Further to what Steve has said, I feel that we know what’s going to happen at the provincial level (although they do change their mind > Hamilton LRT), so what exactly is going to happen at the city level?


  3. Steve wrote: “Metrolinx recently published service plans for the GO expansion program”

    Where? The GO Expansion website is a mess of jello trying to be nailed to a wall. A commonly encountered tactic is to have a page with a question that is hyperlinked, which leads to a page that indicates the answer is at another link, which then leads back to the original page.

    Where are the timelines for implementing the service plans for each line? Project delivery dates? Rolling stock procurement? In-service dates for electrification? Has the hydrogen scheme been quietly buried yet?

    Steve: The service plans are here starting at page 11. Yes, I know these are probably out of date because they omit some things Metrolinx has already announced, but this is what people will see at the series of open houses starting this week.

    I have been trying to get a straight answer out of Metrolinx on service plans for a few years ever since Phil Verster announced the miracle of express and local service as their solution for more in town stations. The problem was that this blew service levels shown to City Council as part of the SmartTrack sale pitch totally out of the water. Ever since, they have refused to comment.

    As the have now published these charts, I am taking them as the closest thing we are going to get to an “official story”.

    And, yes, their website often runs in circles.


  4. The rapid transit upload has accomplished one thing — it has ensured that Toronto’s transit planning will involve more levels of government, more consultants and more people…because it is obvious that the main problem with transit planning in Toronto is that there have not been enough “cooks in the kitchen.” (sarcasm)

    The City should use the transit fund for its own transit priorities as these are the only things over which it has any control anymore. Trying to guess what a future provincial government will do on transit, whether it is the same government or a different one, is like predicting the lottery. First priority should be expansion of the streetcar loop at Union Station and construction of the East Bayfront LRT. There isn’t another available pot of money big enough to do this much-needed expansion, so this is likely the only chance in this generation to get it done. There will still be money left over to spend on the second transit priority, whatever that ends up being.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Why not use this money to pay off the city debt and help relieve future generations? Speaking of future generations, why not spend more on electric busses to help fight global warming and climate change?

    Steve: The money accumulated in the reserves is fairly small at this point, but the revenue stream would underwrite borrowing, the very thing you don’t want us to do. The amount that would be paid down now is quite small.

    As for electric buses, the city has already committed to buying electric buses and being totally electric in about two decades. The technology is not yet at the point where we can completely switch over yet, but it’s improving. Then you have to wait for the existing fleet to wear out and be replaced year by year. There will be a report on bus fleet planning at the TTC Board in late February.

    Buying buses costs money, and that’s one of the things you borrow for, possibly with the money freed up from SmartTrack, for example.

    I have removed the user name and address you placed on this comment as they were obviously fake, but the points you raised were worth a reply.


  6. Maybe we could use it for my pet project — theToronto Museum of Transit Studies, to be located in the Old City Hall.

    Steve: An appropriate place! Years ago, the Metropolitan Toronto Transportation Plan Review (MTTPR) had offices up in the attic of Old City Hall, a fabulous space under huge beams holding up the roof. The space is no longer open to the public because of fire and accessibility concerns.


  7. I hope that this money will be spent to improve transit in places where it does not exist or is lacking i.e. Scarborough, Rexdale, and Etobicoke. The Greater Downtown Area is already well-served by subway, streetcars, and buses which is why this money should be spent in poorly served places such as Scarborough, Rexdale, and Etobicoke.


  8. There are transit improvements that can be done quickly for little cost. King Street is one example. It would require little time or money to expand this concept to other streetcar routes.

    As to SmartTrack… sigh… When it came out I classified this scheme in the same category as Rob Ford’s plans to have the private sector pay for subway expansion. Everyone who knows anything about transit knows that these things are absurd. But the way to win an election in Toronto is to make big promises without being constrained by that pesky nuisance called “reality.”

    As to SmartTrack… second big sigh… In my opinion, if we are going to build new GO stations to get passengers to switch from overcrowded TTC lines to GO, the one that makes the most sense is to move the Oriole GO station 300 metres north to co-locate it with the Leslie subway station. This would enable people on the Sheppard subway line to transfer to GO instead of travelling over to transfer to the overcrowded Yonge line. The planned 15 minute GO service would make such a transfer the fastest, easiest and most convenient way of getting downtown. In rather more comfort than being sardine-tinned onto the overcrowded Yonge subway!

    Or at least put up signs at the existing Leslie subway station letting people know how to get to the existing GO station that is 300 metres away. The current wayfinding is non-existent. How much does a sign cost?


  9. A fortunate side benefit of Doug Ford’s malicious and needless meddling in the Toronto transit file might be the final abandonment of the ghost of SmartTrack, if only the Council – as you suggest in your article – had the courage to finally declare it dead.

    Tory should use this opportunity because he has a perfect excuse for why SmartTrack will not be built – Doug Ford. Rarely do the follies of others come to bail one out of one’s own – John Tory should grab this by the horns while he still can. He could even end up looking wise if he does so.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Bombardier has sold its train business to Alstom. Does that mean that Bombardier will no longer make TTC subways and streetcars?

    Steve: Alstom will get all of the intellectual property and manufacturing facilities. There is no reason they could not produce vehicles to Bombardier’s designs for the TTC or the many other systems that use this equipment.


  11. While it may seem like downtown is well served by transit, the fact is the subways and streetcars are overloaded, in part because they serve not only the people that live downtown, but all all the people coming in from Scarborough, Rexdale, and Etobicoke.

    There isn’t really anywhere in Toronto without transit service, except for Rouge Park.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Kevin Love wrote:

    There are transit improvements that can be done quickly for little cost. King Street is one example.

    Speaking of the 504, I am a big fan of the lane restrictions on ordinary automobiles, but I would like to see two more blows struck in the so-called “war on the car”.

    (1) change the traffic light scheduling to give preference to making sure streetcars get green lights.
    (2) robot red light cameras, that automatically send a ticket to every motorist who went straight through one of those intersections where they are supposed to turn right.


  13. Absolutely, yes, let’s have low-cost high-impact transformations like the King Street program in Scarborough, Rexdale, and Etobicoke. It’s amazing what you can do if you have a little more transit and a little less cars in the way.


  14. “Speaking of the 504, I am a big fan of the lane restrictions on ordinary automobiles, but I would like to see two more blows struck in the so-called “war on the car”.

    (1) change the traffic light scheduling to give preference to making sure streetcars get green lights.
    (2) robot red light cameras, that automatically send a ticket to every motorist who went straight through one of those intersections where they are supposed to turn right.”

    Love that suggestion. Since Hizzonner only cares about photo-ops and not actual operations and cops are too lazy to issue tickets, put those cameras to work!

    I live in the central part of the city. I no longer take transit that frequently (I’m able to walk to most things I need), but I’ve been a huge fan of the King Street project since launch. It launched when I was commuting out to the boundary of the city, so a really long trip. On the way home, King car was always unpredictable and crowded. The project changed that and made it much more dependable and enjoyable. Unfortunately, drivers soon learned the Mayor and the cops weren’t really serious about making transit a priority and will let them violate the rules with impunity.


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