Toronto to keep ownership of existing subway network in Queens Park transit deal – The Globe and Mail

Toronto to keep ownership of existing subway network in Queens Park transit deal - The Globe and Mail
Tunnel vision has bumped Doug Ford from the drivers seat
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The deal, which was negotiated by city bureaucrats and must be approved by city council, is being championed by Toronto Mayor John Tory.

Provincial Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney told reporters Wednesday that she can "understand people's skepticism" that the projects would get finished by those dates. But she also stressed that it's unusual to have the city and the province in agreement on a project of this magnitude. In a letter sent to Tory last week, Mulroney called the plan a "historic arrangement between our governments."

Toronto and the provincial government have reached a tentative deal clearing the way to expand transit in the city after months of difficult negotiations.

Under the arrangement, which must be approved by city council, Queens Park drops its plan to seize ownership of the existing subway network. In exchange, the city agrees to endorse four provincial transit projects, which would then go ahead without the city having to contribute financially.

Although the city wouldnt have to put money toward the provinces big-ticket projects, including its three-stop Scarborough subway extension in the citys northeast and the Ontario Line spanning the downtown, Toronto would be required to direct billions to maintaining the increasingly aged current system, or for other expansions the city and province agree are worthwhile.

The arrangement announced Wednesday marks a turnaround for the governing Progressive Conservatives, which had campaigned on a pledge to take over Torontos subways. City council voted against the idea, saying that residents paid for much of its construction. The province had the legal right to go ahead with the takeover, though, and has passed enabling legislation.

How Toronto and Queens Park got on the same transit track

The deal, which was negotiated by city bureaucrats, will go to Toronto City Council later this month and is being championed by Mayor John Tory.

Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney said the deal – which still must be approved by Toronto city council – is a reversal for Premier Doug Ford’s government, which had promised to take control of the city’s subway network in order to expand it.

I believe our professional city staff, through negotiations and discussions with the province over the past year, have found a path forward that will see more transit built, see it built as soon as possible and will see the city as a partner in the design and construction of the new lines, he told reporters as he announced the deal, which comes five days before a federal election.

Here is why giving Ford a dance partner in Ottawa is such a huge risk for Toronto. The Ontario Line is a doodle on a map. No costing, no studies & no hope of ever being built. Even the timetable is fiction…Yet Scheer has announced he will fund it. ITS NOT A REAL PROJECT../1 pic.twitter.com/66DFNt6Y0j

Although the deal does not require city funding for the Ontario Line, the Scarborough project, an expansion of the subway north from the city to Richmond Hill and an extension of a midtown light-rail line, the citys endorsement of these projects is crucial.

Vaughan, who has served as MP for the riding since 2014, took to Twitter last week to go on a tirade against the Conservative Party. He specifically stated that giving Premier Doug Ford a “dance partner” in Ottawa would be a “huge risk for Toronto.”

Under a long-standing federal funding model, Ottawa defers to cities on which transit projects to support. In the case of these four, Toronto has to deem them priorities, even if the city will not pay for them, in order for federal money to flow.

Torontos share of the cost of these projects – which would thus be freed up for other use – is projected to be between $5.1-billion and $6-billion under standard funding formulas. Most of this money has not been budgeted for, though, and would have to be raised by the city. If done, this could make a dent in the transit systems more than $30-billion repair and upkeep backlog.

Under Wednesdays deal, Queens Park would pay the balance of the four projects and has promised to reimburse Toronto for reasonable costs incurred by the city on transit design work made unnecessary by the provinces plan.

Queens Park drops its plan to upload the subway; city hall drops its objections to the Ontario Line. Toronto doesnt have to put up even a penny of the nearly $30-billion it will cost for the provincial governments ambitious transit plan, which along with the Ontario Line includes a westward extension of the Eglinton light-rail line, a northward extension of the Yonge subway to Richmond Hill and the much-disputed, often-adjusted Scarborough subway. That means it will have more money in its coffers to cover the billions in maintenance costs it faces just to keep the existing subways running.

The province would own the resulting transit infrastructure, which would be operated by the Toronto Transit Commission. The city would be liable for any operating-cost shortfalls.

The Toronto Transit Commission notes that The Ontario Line will use a transit technology that is not the same as existing TTC subway technology and trains will not be compatible with existing TTC subway trains, tracks, or other facilities. Its careful endorsement of the project says that It is important to note that this assessment is based on the current early conceptual design. That design calls for the western part of the line to end at Ontario Place by the waterfront, no ones idea of an obvious mass-transit terminus.

Riders will be paying to operate new lines through the fare box, Shelagh Pizey-Allen, director of the advocacy group TTCriders, said in a statement. Mayor Tory must negotiate for proper funding, because provincial cuts are already squeezing the TTC budget.

Video: John Tory agrees to support Ontario Line to regain ownership of the subway

A city staff report released Wednesday said that both the Scarborough and Ontario Line projects are supportable in principle, and would benefit the city.

“I also welcome commitments from federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer to fund their fair share of our subways program and work with the province and the city to get the Ontario Line built. With all three levels of government working together, I am confident we can bring our transit system into the 21st century.”

The report notes that the province has promised to have the Ontario Line open by 2027 and the Scarborough extension by 2029/2030. However, those timelines are not firm. Other lingering issues include how much longer the current train line in Scarborough can be kept operational.

Last week, sources told the Toronto Star that the Ford government and the City of Toronto were negotiating a deal that would see the province abandon its push to take ownership of the subway, if the city endorses the Ontario Line – which would run from the Ontario Science Centre to Ontario Place and replace the planned Downtown Relief Line.

More questions hang over the Ontario Line, which is in the very early stages of design. Councillor Brad Bradford, who was named by Mr. Tory to lead councils effort on the Relief Line, a long-standing proposal being replaced by the Ontario Line, acknowledged uncertainties around it.

Making the Oct. 23 Executive Committee even more important is news released this morning (Wednesday, Oct. 16) that the province appears to be backing down on its bid to take control of Torontos subway system in exchange for the citys support of the proposed Ontario Line and the Scarborough Subway Extension.

Design is very preliminary at this point, but as we go through the process, as the professionals, the engineers, the designers, work on that, were going to have more information and theyll flesh out the design of the Ontario Line, he said.

Three GO Line tracks already operate above ground through the neighbourhood bounded approximately by Pape and Gerrard streets and southwest through to Eastern and Broadview avenues, and trains run at intervals of approximately three and half minutes in both directions

Talks between the province and the city on a subway upload have been going on for months and included the possibility that Queens Park would own only expansions to the current system. Settling on the arrangement announced Wednesday leaves the city owning the current infrastructure.

Asked why the retreat was necessary, Caroline Mulroney, who has been the provincial Transportation Minister since June, said it was clear from the outset that the city wanted to keep ownership of the existing system.

“In April, our government unveiled a historic transit expansion plan for the people of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). For the first time ever, Ontario took the lead in making the single largest investment in new subway builds and extensions in our provinces history. We committed to delivering a $28.5 billion program of four key priority transit projects supported by all three levels of government, including the Yonge North Subway Extension, the Eglinton West Crosstown Extension, an improved three-stop Scarborough Subway Extension, and the all-new Ontario Line. Our plan will get people moving and promote economic growth.

We share priorities with the city of Toronto on this issue, and its an opportunity to work together, she told reporters at Queens Park, explaining that ditching the upload proposal was the best way to work with Toronto and get transit built quickly.

The deal also marks a new twist for transit in Scarborough, which has been modified repeatedly over years. Supporters of the Scarborough subway initially said it would cost only $500-million more than the light-rail line that the then-Liberal government had promised to fund. Costs ballooned by billions and council eventually decided to remove two stops to save money.

I look forward to continuing our productive discussions with the City of Toronto to finalize an arrangement that will help us build more transit faster and provide a seamless and improved transit experience for riders throughout the GTHA. I want to thank Mayor Tory, Ministers Mulroney and Surma, and provincial and City of Toronto staff for all their hard work to move these projects forward and build world-class transit for the people we all serve.”

While campaigning for provincial office, Doug Ford insisted the project needed to have the stops added back in and dismissed concerns about how much more this would cost. With provincial control of the project, the stops are to be included and all costs borne by higher levels of government.

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