Metrolinx says its next wave of projects will include a bevy of new LRTs, BRTs, and subway extensions.
Today at the Toronto Board of Trade, Metrolinx president and CEO Bruce McCuaig unveiled his organization’s plans for the next phase of transit improvements in the Greater Toronto Area, and some proposed infrastructure investments are now further up on the agency’s priority list than they were before. Torontonians might be pleased to hear that the Downtown Relief Line, something that’s been in the works for far too long, is now among a list of projects the agency hopes to complete within 15 years. (Previously, the DRL had been slated for completion at some point in the next 16 to 25 years.) A Yonge Subway extension should also be forthcoming in that same period of time, if all goes according to plan.
“We brought forth the Downtown Relief Line because we think it’s really important from a regional perspective to deal with the crunch of getting people into downtown Toronto, especially south of Bloor Street,” McCuaig explained to reporters. The DRL, which would run more-or-less parallel to the Bloor-Danforth subway line for much of its anticipated length, is thought of as a way of easing commuter congestion.
Metrolinx’s decision on the DRL is bound to make local politicians happy. City council and the TTC have both expressed support for this outcome.
The next wave of Metrolinx projects also includes light rail transit, bus rapid transit, and enhanced GO service stretching out far across the region. Metrolinx believes this new push will add 713 kilometres’ worth of transit lines and put over 6 million people within reach of rapid transit by the anticipated 2031 completion date.
The diesel trains on the forthcoming Union-Pearson Air Rail Link—or Union-Pearson Express, as it’s now known—will be replaced by electric vehicles, McCuaig said, within the next 15 years. “Electrification is a priority for our organization and we’ve already started the environmental assessment for the first phase of that, which is the air-rail link from Union Station to Pearson International Airport.”
Metrolinx is still working on a funding formula for all of this. McCuaig pointed to methods used by other cities. Los Angeles has instituted three new sales taxes since 1980. London instituted a congestion charge, which significantly altered how people use transit in that area. New York has levied a variety of new taxes and fees.
But McCuaig insists there is no silver bullet solution, and that all these examples only point in the right direction. “We have found some common themes that we may want to consider as we think about the development of an investment strategy for this region,” he said during a prepared speech.
These common themes include fairness and transparency: fairness in allocating funds to projects that benefit the region as a whole, and transparency in where the money goes, and how Metrolinx spends it.
Provincial investment drives The Big Move, Metrolinx’s master plan for regional transit, which includes the DRL, among other projects. But provincial money alone isn’t enough to meet all of the plan’s targets. McCuaig spoke of using public-private partnerships where possible, among other tactics, to find the $34 billion needed to build the next wave of transit expansions. Fare increases, which make most transit riders cringe, aren’t off the table.
In June 2013, Metrolinx will have to present its investment strategy to the province—essentially a report on how they plan to pay for all of this. It could include a wide range of things, but at the very least, it will be an attempt at moving Ontario’s insufficient transit system beyond the Stone Age.
The next wave of transit projects announced by McCuaig today includes the following:
- Brampton Queen Street RT
- Downtown Relief Line
- Dundas Street BRT
- Durham-Scarborough BRT
- GO Rail expansion, with more two-way all-day and rush-hour service
- Electrification of the GO Kitchener Line, and the Union Pearson Express
- Go Lakeshore Express Rail Service, Phase 1 (including electrification)
- Hamilton LRT
- Hurontario-Main LRT
- Yonge North Subway extension