More twists and turns for Toronto’s new transit plan

A Town Crier Community Column

The on again-off again, will-it-or-won’t-it story of the light rail program called Transit City took another turn when the province, Metrolinx and Mayor Rob Ford recently announced the signing of their five-page non-binding memorandum of understanding.

Here’s what the agreement sets out: The Eglinton Crosstown will be built along Eglinton from about Jane Street to Kennedy subway station, most of it will be underground, and the existing Scarborough Rapid Transit line extending from Kennedy station to Scarborough City Centre will be replaced by an LRT line operating along a surface route.

These projects are expected to cost about $8.4 billion, all of which will be contributed by the provincial government through Metrolinx. The city will take responsibility for financing and executing projects by which the existing (conventional) Sheppard subway line is to be extended east from Don Mills Road to the Scarborough Civic Centre and west from Yonge Street to the Downsview subway station.

The mayor proposes to arrange for the Sheppard extension projects to be carried out by the private sector. Construction costs — projected to be on the order of $5 billion — are ultimately to be financed from the enhanced tax revenue anticipated from related land development along the length of the line, particularly at the nodes surrounding the new subway stations.

Finch West, meanwhile, is to be served by upgraded bus service. Oh, and the city will once and for all implement the province’s Presto fare card system across the TTC.

Can we expect all of the above to happen?

Construction will commence this summer on the portion of the Eglinton crosstown line extending from Jane to Brentcliffe (Leaside). This section is expected to take about four years to complete. In the meantime, construction activity on the other projects will await design work and regulatory approvals and, in the case of Sheppard, securing financing and construction contracts.

There will be at least one provincial election and possibly one municipal election before we can expect construction work to begin on the projects not already designed and approved.

My prediction: Finch West will soon get improved bus service. Eglinton will get its underground crosstown line to Brentcliffe. The TTC will eventually adopt the Presto fare system and the SRT will eventually be replaced by an LRT.

But stay tuned for further debate concerning plans for Sheppard and the form of LRT service on Eglinton east of Leaside.

About this article:

By: John Parker
Posted: May 11 2011 2:15 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto