At a consultation in Scarborough, Toronto's potential transit future is laid out.
Over the past 10 years, Torontonians have been teased by many shiny transit plans and maps. Of course, many of these proposals failed to come to fruition, leaving frustrated transit riders waiting for improvements.
First, there was Transit City, a light rail transit (LRT) plan proposed by then-Mayor David Miller and TTC Chair Adam Giambrone. Then Rob Ford was elected, Transit City was all but cancelled (only the Eglinton-Crosstown LRT line made it through), and there were promises of “subways, subways, subways.” Those plans did not go far. Ford’s TTC Chair Karen Stintz proposed “OneCity,” which was rejected save for a three stop Scarborough subway extension. Then John Tory put forward his own plan, SmartTrack, that was supposed to be built in just seven years. Meanwhile Metrolinx was busy with “The Big Move,” a regional transit plan that promised rapid transit in almost every corner of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.
So far, little transit has actually been built. Since 2008, when the “Big Move” was released, only the troubled UP Express and a few kilometres of bus rapid transit lines in York Region and Mississauga have opened. But work is underway on the central portion of the Eglinton-Crosstown LRT (to open in September 2021), the Line 1 subway extension to York University and Vaughan (which has been delayed for at least another 18 months), and Union Station renovations, and various GO transit track expansion projects. In the next two years, construction will commence on the Finch West and Hurontario
Over the last few weeks, the City of Toronto revised its plans for the extension of Line 2 to Scarborough Centre, the Eglinton-Crosstown LRT, and SmartTrack. And Metrolinx is currently reviewing its Regional Transportation Plan. These two transit plan reviews—Metrolinx’s and the City of Toronto’s—have resulted in a massive round of public consultations across the region.
The first of 15 open house meetings held by Metrolinx was held last Tuesday, February 16, and jointly hosted by Metrolinx and Toronto, at Jean Vanier Secondary School. It’s worth noting that Jean Vanier, near the corner of Eglinton and Midland Avenues, is a stone’s throw from Kennedy Station, where four proposed transit lines meet: SmartTrack, GO RER, the subway extension, and the Eglinton-Crosstown LRT.
The school’s hallways, auditorium, and library were jammed with display boards for no fewer than 10 transit projects and initiatives; it was at times claustrophobic and overwhelming, and felt a whole lot like the TTC. The nine items presented that night were:
City of Toronto:
- Scarborough Subway Extension
- Relief Line Subway
- Eglinton-Crosstown LRT
- Waterfront LRT “Reset”
- Sheppard East Rapid Transit
- GO Transit Station Study
- GO Transit Electrification (both relating to GO RER)
- Metrolinx Fare Integration Strategy
Also depicted on the maps was a King Streetcar right-of-way, a Jane LRT (a throwback to the original Transit City plan), and an unspecified Steeles Avenue rapid transit line. However, these were not discussed in any detail.
While Metrolinx representatives opted to hold an open house where members of the public could view display boards and speak to staff and consultants on its initiatives, staff from the City of Toronto also chose to make a brief PowerPoint presentation on its revised plans. They focused on the new Scarborough transit proposals, particularly the revised plans for SmartTrack and GO Regional Express Rail (RER), the one-stop Line 2 Subway extension to Scarborough Centre, the Eglinton-Crosstown LRT extension to the University of Toronto’s Scarborough Campus, and the Relief Line. It seems clear that the Relief Line (following Queen Street) and the Scarborough subway extension are routed to avoid the SmartTrack route as much as possible.
The audience was given an opportunity near the end to ask questions, and for the most part, these were well-informed queries. Topics included ridership (a report on projected ridership is coming out soon, likely this week), timing of construction, the decision to drop subway stops at Lawrence and Sheppard Avenues, and station locations. Several speakers supported the eastern extension of the Eglinton-Crosstown line, and there were no cries for more subways.
Mayor John Tory was present during the presentation, but remained inconspicuous until near the end. After the presentation he spoke to a few residents and then headed back out, almost as quietly as he arrived.
But there are still many questions left answered. For example, what form of rapid transit will eventually be built on Sheppard Avenue East? From discussions Torontoist had with staff last Tuesday, it could very well be an improved express bus service, rather than the LRT planned and deferred during the Ford mayoralty. We don’t know if SmartTrack will be frequent enough to draw sufficient ridership to provide relief to the subway. And we certainly don’t know how we’re going to pay for all this new transit. As for Metrolinx’s fare integration strategy, it remains to be seen what changes to the fare structure will be proposed, and how it will affect commuters.
There are three more opportunities to attend one of the Metrolinx/City of Toronto open houses; there are also two more meetings held solely by the City of Toronto on its projects. The first will be this Wednesday evening at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
Meetings still to come in Toronto include:
Wednesday, February 24 – Toronto (Metrolinx/City of Toronto)
Metro Toronto Convention Centre, North Building, Room 203
6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Thursday February 25 (City of Toronto only)
Riverdale Collegiate – 1094 Gerrard St East
6:30 pm to 8:30 pm
Saturday February 27 – Scarborough (City of Toronto only)
Scarborough Civic Centre – 150 Borough Drive
9:30 am to 11:30 am
Wednesday, March 9 – Etobicoke (Metrolinx/City of Toronto)
Lakeshore Collegiate Institute – 350 Kipling Avenue
6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Tuesday, March 22 – Toronto (Metrolinx/City of Toronto)
Nelson Mandela Park Public School – 440 Shuter Street
6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Metrolinx is also holding open houses in the suburbs of Markham, Innisfil, Whitby, Oakville, Brampton, Barrie, Vaughan, Pickering, and Burlington, focusing on its plans for regional rail, GO Transit electrification, new station opportunities, and fare integration.