The TTC and the province are in negotiations over Metrolinx’s plan to seek a private company to operate Toronto’s incoming light rail lines, key players say, with one insider indicating the transit planning agency may be having a change of heart.
The province and the TTC are “working through it right now,” TTC Chair Karen Stintz said in an interview on Sept. 28.
The Eglinton-Lawrence rep declined to elaborate on the nature of the discussions, but reiterated her stance that the TTC should operate the lines.
“We’re working with the province to see if we can make that happen,” she said.
A city hall insider close to the issue confirmed the behind-the-scenes discussions following Metrolinx’s announcement and indicated a potential turnabout.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if the TTC ends up operating the line,” he said.
Metrolinx announced in late September it would use an AFP (alternative financing and procurement) strategy to both operate and maintain Toronto’s Eglinton Crosstown, Sheppard East and Finch West rail lines. A public-private partnership would effectively shut out the TTC from all aspects of the project, prompting questions about how two separate transit systems would work cohesively in the city’s core.
Stintz says if the lines are to be fully integrated, particularly at key interchange junctures like Yonge and Eglinton, then the TTC must be responsible for operation.
“If a private operator operates the line, then the line has to be completely separate from the Yonge-University-Spadina line — [Passengers] will have to actually physically exit one station and then re-enter another one.
“If the TTC operates the station, it would look more like Yonge and Bloor, where you just go up a level.”
According to a statement from Metrolinx issued Sept. 20, the LRT lines under the operation of a private contractor will be fully integrated with TTC, with one fare structure.
“Customers will have a seamless ride between the LRT, the subway and buses,” the statement read.
Linking the design build, finance, operation and maintenance of the lines under one contract would be cheaper in the longterm, and will “ensure the contractor will build to a high standard and to keep the asset in top condition for years to come,” Metrolinx said.
Midtown councillor Joe Mihevc backed Stintz’s assertion that once the project is built, the best party to operate is the TTC.
“There are a bunch of issues that would make it difficult and would balkanize the system if we had two different operators, one running the Eglinton, Sheppard, Finch LRT line, and the other running the rest of the system.”
The St. Paul’s councillor is putting forth a motion next week that if passed, will solidify council’s support for TTC operation amid any negotiations between the TTC and Metrolinx.
In an email to his own constituents explaining the latest developments, another midtown councillor John Parker — himself a TTC commissioner — reassured riders that a new light rail transit system on Eglinton would come as promised.
“Instead of taking the form of an expansion of the TTC, however, it will take the form of an expansion of GO Transit. It will be GO Transit green, not TTC red,” he wrote.
However, he also emphasized that despite the latest formal announcement, Metrolinx and the TTC have been negotiating for months, and will continue to do so.
The Don Valley West rep also acknowledged that questions surrounding interchange station management, fare division and public subsidy remain unanswered.
Ending his missive, Parker urged transit vehicle manufacturer Bombardier to “keep its supplies of red paint and green paint both handy.”
Stintz said a firm directive cannot be put off indefinitely. A master agreement outlining how the $8.4 billion in dedicated provincial dollars will be distributed is due at a November meeting of the executive committee.
Are you concerned about the plan to have a private company operate the Eglinton Crosstown LRT? If so let the Town Crier know by voting in our latest poll.
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