Canadian Consulting Engineer

Toronto transit planning mess continues

June 23, 2016

Commuter GO Trains near Toronto.

Commuter GO Trains near Toronto.  Image: Wikipedia.

In the ongoing bewildering saga of transit planning in Toronto, the latest proposal is to add eight new GO Train stations within the city of Toronto.

There are several different plans and networks being proposed to improve transit in the city. Each time a new line is proposed, it seems to affect another proposed line, which adds to the complexity for planners trying to figure out where the lines will intersect and what routes would work in terms of being most economical, what would serve the most riders, and what could be put in place most quickly. The proposes include new subway lines (TTC), new LRT lines (TTC), new regional commuter surface trains (GO), and the mayor’s proposed SmartTrack — not to mention the UP Express train to the airport which is still too expensive for airport workers to use.

On June 21 alone, the province made two separate announcements. In the morning it announced proposals for four new GO/Smart Track stations in western Toronto. In tthe afternoon it announced another four stations in the eastern sections of the city.

The additional stations are being billed as part of both the mayor’s SmartTrack network which is essentially to combine existing commuter surface rail lines with in-city transit.  The provincial transit planning agency Metrolinx is also promoting the new combined stations as part of its Regional Express Rail Program (RER). The RER network will be electrified in core segments over the next few years.

The four western stations are on the GO Barrie and Kitchener lines, but will be located in the city. The farthest north is at St. Clair West and Keele, another is at Bloor and Lansdowne, and the other two are close to downtown: in Liberty Village and at Spadina and Front Streets.

The new GO stations in the east are on the Stouffvile and Lakeshore East lines. Two are downtown at the Unilever site in the Donlands, and at Gerrard and Carlaw. Two more are in Scarborough at Finch East and Lawrence East.

The proposals were to be put before the board of Metrolinx, the regional transit planning agency, Metrolinx, on June 28. They are subject to the availability of funding, environmental assessment processes, further planning, engineering and design work.

About the same time the city and Metrolinx released lengthy reports showing a sharp rise in the costs of the city’s other transit plans. The controversial Scarborough subway, plans for which have now reduced it to a one-stop line, is now budgeted to cost $3.16 billion rather than $2.9 billion. The additional cost arises from having to keep the existing aging rapid transit line in service and then de-commissioning it once a new line is built. Some critics still want to scrap the idea of building a subway to Scarborough, and instead build an LRT network that would cover more ground and have 25 stops. The mayor’s SmartTrack scheme also goes into Scarborough, complicating the debates even further.

Meanwhile the Downtown Relief Line, proposed as a subway line to be tunneled south from Pape Avenue to ease pressure on the existing Yonge Line, has already doubled in price. It is now predicted to cost $6.8 billion, and will take a decade to build.

One thing that the province and Metrolinx are now insisting on is that the city should commit to funding SmartTrack and LRTS, including their operating costs. They say Toronto has to find new revenue sources to pay for its transit needs.

To read an article in the Globe and Mail about the city and Metrolinx’s recent transit plan reports, click here.



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