Hold off on cheering Torontos big transit news – The Globe and Mail

Hold off on cheering Toronto\s big transit news - The Globe and Mail
City, Ford government strike deal on Ontario line, province agrees to drop TTC upload
This translation has been automatically generated and has not been verified for accuracy. Full Disclaimer

You could fill a dumpster to the brim with all the maps, press releases and expert reports on the various subway and light-rail plans that have come and gone over the past generation.

Additionally, in a report released Wednesday, the city and the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) said they have examined the benefits of the Ontario Line and Line 2 East Extension. The TTC and city officials have agreed to collaborate with the province to advance these priority projects as well as two others, the Yonge Subway Extension and Eglinton West LRT, with city council’s support.

LEVY: Province should have taken subway from Toronto

Happy talk filled the airwaves when the news broke that city hall had reached an agreement with Queens Park on a grand new transit plan for Toronto. Mayor John Tory said that the city had beaten back the provincial governments attempt to seize ownership of the existing subway system. Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney said the deal cleared the way for an unprecedented expansion of Torontos overburdened transit network. The board of trade called it a great deal for Torontonians and promised Mr. Tory its full support. The federal Liberals, perhaps afraid of getting left out of the party on the eve of an election, suddenly dropped their skepticism and suggested they would dedicate billions to the project.

“The detailed report released today from our city and TTC staff professionals makes the case for why city council should pursue this plan, why its a good deal for Toronto residents, especially those who use transit, and for the city’s long-term finances,” said Tory.

The sweaty straphangers on the Yonge subway line at rush hour could be forgiven for simply shrugging, if they could find the room. After all, they have seen this film before. Time after time, suits have lined up at the microphone to announce a new transit project that would ease crowding and improve service on the subways. Time and again, commuters have seen those projects scaled back, altered or just scrapped.

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.

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

You could fill a dumpster to the brim with all the maps, press releases and expert reports on the various subway and light-rail plans that have come and gone over the past generation. Asian cities have built whole subway systems in the time Toronto has been talking about expanding its network, which still relies mainly on two lines opened (if since extended) in the 1950s and 60s.

“Upload was a means to an end that we considered,” she said. “We want to be thorough in our analysis in how to address an issue. But … we’re very happy that we were able to find a way forward that involves us working with the city.”

Is this latest announcement any different? The early signs were encouraging, no doubt. The city and the province had been at loggerheads for months over Premier Doug Fords move to upload the subways and replace the citys long-planned Relief Line subway project with one of its own: the Ontario Line. Now, after many months of talking, they have struck a deal.

The province will also be funding the Ontario Line without requiring any contributions from the city. The subway line aims to offer an alternative to overcrowding on subways and will reach neighbourhoods like Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park.

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.

“Without this funding, we would be looking at a growing state of good repair backlog and list of unfunded capital needs, eventually leading to service delays, declining reliability and, eventually, concerns for passenger safety.”

No wonder Mr. Tory felt able to crow in his statement on the deal: We have defended our TTC, found a way to move forward on transit expansion, and to invest in improvements in our existing system, and we have done so with an increased financial commitment from the province – that is tremendously good news for the residents of Toronto I was elected to represent.

By accepting the provincial governments new Ontario Line, Tory has agreed to replace the citys floated downtown relief line in exchange for Fords covering of capital costs, according to The Toronto Sun. Tory explained during a press conference on Wednesday that the city supports the provincial governments plan to construct the Ontario line, a more expansive version of the downtown relief line, as well as its goal to push the Bloor-Danforth line further into Scarborough.

But, amid all the hosannas, some difficult questions swirled. The centrepiece of the whole thing, the Ontario Line, is still just a coloured line drawn on a map. Much of the money and effort that went into designing the Relief Line is out the window. The Ontario Line is a very different animal. What kind of cars will it use? What kind of stations? How will it fit with the current subway and commuter-rail system?

Toronto commuting could soon be a whole lot less stressful. CP24 reported that Torontos new subway plan, which includes both the Ontario Line and the Scarborough subway extension, took a big step forward on Wednesday after Fords government agreed not to upload the citys existing system and cover its share of the funding. The provincial government is also insisting that lines can be built as early as 2027.

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.

Mayor John Tory announced an agreement with the province that will free up $5 billion for the state of good repair work and keep the TTC in the Citys hands. This was achieved by being at the table, and we will continue to do so to advocate for our communities, Torontos Deputy Mayor Of Toronto Ana Bailão said in a statement.

Then there is the little matter of money. Thirty billion is a lot of dough. Even if city hall is not picking up the tab, someone has to. How a government that is dedicated to erasing the provincial deficit and controlling the size of government will find the resources for this ambitious plan is another mystery.

Toronto to keep ownership of existing subway network in Queens Park transit deal

Toronto has learned through bitter experience that, when it comes to mass transit, there is a distinction between announcing something and building something. Those sweaty straphangers are right to think: Ill believe it when I ride it.

I welcome todays announcement from Mayor Tory and the City of Toronto to move forward with a new and ground-breaking partnership to transform transit in Toronto and get shovels in the ground as soon as possible on these critical projects. 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. 

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to [email protected] Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

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.”

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to [email protected] Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Mayor John Tory says he'll support the Ontario Line subway plan in exchange for Queen's Park dropping its plan take control of Toronto's entire subway system.

Tory called the Ontario Line "viable," even though it's still in the early stages of its development. The major transit project, he said, would provide "real relief" for the city's existing subway lines.

“After almost a year of discussions, I believe we have a way forward that will see close to $30 billion dollars of new transit built in Toronto, right across our city, and will keep the existing subway system in the hands of the Toronto taxpayers who built it up and have the most to gain from making sure it continues to be supported in a proper way that focuses more on state of good repair,” Tory said.

The mayor said Wednesday the only way to get transit built quickly is for the city to be a partner at the table with the province.

“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.”

"We have defended our TTC, we have found a way to move forward on transit expansion and to invest in improvements in our existing system, and we have done so with an increased financial commitment from the provincial government," he said.

Premier Doug Ford drew up the Ontario Line earlier this year. It's set to run from Ontario Place across the downtown core and up to the Ontario Science Centre and cost some $10.9 billion to build.

Notice: Your email may not yet have been verified. Please check your email, click the link to verify your address, and then submit your comment. If you cant find this email, access your profile editor to re-send the confirmation email. You must have a verified email to submit a comment. Once you have done so, check again.

"It's actually the first time we're going to build a Greater Toronto Area transit system and get people moving once and for all," Ford said at a news conference in Kenora, Ont. "For decades there's been so much politics involved in building transit. We're finally getting the job done."

“I welcome today’s announcement from Mayor Tory and the City of Toronto to move forward with a new and ground-breaking partnership to transform transit in Toronto and get shovels in the ground as soon as possible on these critical projects,” Ford said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.

While Tory said he's happy with the agreement reached with the province, it will still require city council's approval. More details about the agreement can be found in this newly-released city document.

The provincial upload of the subway was included in Fords election platform, stating that the province is better able to expand transit when it comes to getting regulatory approval and finding the funding. But that upload has been opposed by council, the NDP and the TTC workers union.

Tory said the proposed subway upload would have broken up the system in a way that wouldn't have worked for the average rider.

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.

At a press conference Wednesday, MP Kinga Surma, associate minister of transportation, said there is "no time to waste" on the region's transit file.

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.

If approved, the move would re-allocate nearly $3.8 billion in federal infrastructure funding the city has already acquired to build transit.

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.

City documents show $660 million will go toward building a three-stop subway extension of Line 2 to Scarborough — the Ford government's preferred vision for the project.

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.

The province has also agreed to pay for the capital costs associated with building the Eglinton West LRT expansion and extending the Yonge subway extension north of Finch.

Surma laid commitments for when the projects would be finished: 2027 for the Ontario Line, 2029-2030 for the Scarborough expansion, 2029-2030 for the Yonge subway extension, and 2030-2031 for the Eglinton expansion.

In a statement, Brenda Thompson of Scarborough Transit Action said the current Scarborough RT system won't last until 2030.

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.

"If Premier Ford is serious about bringing rapid transit to Scarborough, we strongly advise he put transit riders first and work with the city to ensure a replacement is in place as soon as possible," she 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

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."

"I think on our end there's a feeling of optimism about getting shovels in the ground," she said Wednesday.

We need to teach them to protect our neighbourhood, said Toronto-Danforth Councillor Paula Fletcher at a meeting about the Ontario Line held for local residents on Thursday, Oct. 10, at the Ralph Thornton Centre on Queen Street East.

Mulroney also noted that under this proposal, the existing subway system would remain the city's responsibility, while the four new expansion projects would fall under the province's purview.

Fletcher and Toronto-Danforth MPP Peter Tabuns hosted the meeting to provide community members with an update on the Metrolinx project, and to teach attendees how to advocate their concerns to the citys Executive Committee.

The federal Liberals announced Wednesday that the party would support Toronto's public transit priorities if it forms the next government. 

The Conservative party said last week that it would also help fund the Ontario line if it wins Monday's federal election.

Under the new cost-sharing arrangement, city staff say, city hall won't be expected to provide any portion of the capital costs of those capital projects. Instead, city transit dollars will be spent on other projects or state of good repair costs. 

"Today is a good day for our TTC," said Coun. Jaye Robinson, who also serves as TTC chair. 

"The TTC will now have an additional $5 billion for investment in urgently-needed capital projects to improve capacity and enhance service on the existing network," Robinson said.

Shelagh Pizey-Allen, who heads the group TTCriders, said in a statement that city council should insist on stronger conditions on integrated fares, clear timelines, and public consultation and ownership before supporting a transit deal with the province. 

"Before City Council rubber-stamps a deal with Premier Ford, they must guarantee that any new transit lines are built without delay, integrated with the TTC for a single fare, respect community concerns with meaningful public consultation, and be publicly delivered and owned by the TTC," she said. "Mayor Tory promised to oppose a bad deal."

TTC officials are set to hold a Wednesday afternoon news conference to release more information about the plan.

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

It is a priority for CBC to create a website that is accessible to all Canadians including people with visual, hearing, motor and cognitive challenges.