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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

BREAKING NEWS: McGuinty Announces Major Transportation Plan

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Crossposted to Transit Toronto.

At 12:15 p.m., Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced an ambitious plan to increase public transportation throughout the Greater Toronto Area. Highlights of this plan include:

• Extending the Yonge subway to Highway 7
• Electrifying the GO Lakeshore line, speeding up service to Hamilton by 15 minutes.
• Boosting capacity on other GO Transit lines, including Highway 407.
• Establish rapid transit lines in Hamilton
• Commit funds to the TTC’s $6 billion Transit City plan.
• Provide 2/3rds of the cost of this construction, absolving cash-strapped cities from their share. The remaining 1/3rd is supposed to come from the federal government.
• Construction on some of these projects to start in 2008 and be in place by 2020.

    This is a developing story and details are a little hard to come by. The Globe and Mail is following this news item, as will we.

    Commentary: This is clearly an election carrot being offered by the Liberals, but it still represents a much-needed and welcome investment in public transportation in the Greater Toronto Area. It will still be important to pay attention to the details of this new policy, to ensure that construction begins sooner rather than later, and promised funding actually materializes. But I appreciate Dalton McGuinty’s efforts here.

    I will be particularly interested in Conservative leader John Tory’s response to this proposal, and to further details being unveiled of the Conservatives’ public transportation plank of its election platform. Things bode well for the Greater Toronto Area’s future if both the top parties in this province acknowledge the need to invest in this area.

    photo by Roldolfo Novak



    1. If the province of Ontario is going to fund 2/3 of the cost of a Yonge subway expansion *and* 2/3 of the cost of Transit City, then this is amazing news for the City of Toronto.

    2. Well, liberals are much better at announcements than carry-through, they may not be elected to carry it out, this is already a decade or two late, and I won’t believe it until there are spades in the ground, but… YES!!

    3. I agree its all election talk. All I can think the Tories can say is “too much” or “some other things” to which the Liberals will reply “grand vision” and all that jazz. In the end at least they will be fighting about what type/where transit should be instead of if we should even have new transit lines.

    4. Sadly, KW, Cambridge and Guelph get left in the cold again even though there are more and more people living in our region and commuting to the GTA (Mississauga, Toronto, Brampton)

      Sure, Guelph will get a new GO bus between Mississauga and University of Guelph (but not Downtown Guelph) but its a drop in the hat compared to what the region needs.

    5. Thats one heck of a carrot. Some things I do wonder about IE using light rail from Kipling Station to Hurontario (why not a full fledge subway extension?), but overall this is great news for a lot of communitys if the Fiberals actually keep this promise…..

    6. It’s about time. They should start breaking ground now. Point in fact I will go out there my self. (hahaha.) Wave if you see digging a hole at Yonge and Steeles.

    7. Steve – there was an announcement on the premier’s web site that the province would fund up to 2/3s of the KW rapid transit plan.

      So I don’t think that they’ve been left in the cold…

    8. What matters here is the order of operation. If the province commits funds to extending the Yonge Subway before it provides cash to support Transit City then we’re in trouble. If it’s the opposite way then I’m much more optimistic.

      As it stands, the TTC doesn’t have space for more commuters during peak hours. But if there were better transit through other parts of the city that decreased the necessity of the Yonge line for current riders then building an extension would be logical.

    9. While I think we can be cynical, this is overall good news. Each of the identified priorities by Toronto, GO, Mississauga, Brampton, etc is addressed. Too bad the TTC isn’t all that interested in a Downtown Relief Line or something to fix the east-west streetcar routes south of Bloor, it might have ended up on the list – there’s very little for downtown Toronto, except more GO Trains feeding into it.

      The announcement says that the Grand River Transit LRT plan would be also subject to the 2/3 committment and priority, though it is off the map, though Guelph will get little, I agree, and the VIA rail service isn’t nearly good enough.

      Guelph and K-W is getting a new freeway, though! :p

      Really, Ontario should be able to enter an agreement with VIA Rail similar to Amtrak California, where the state provides equipment and funding for the frequent Santa Barbara-Los Angeles-San Diego and San Jose-Oakland-Sacramento routes, and the less frequent San Joquins route. Such an arrangement here would allow frequent trains to K-W, Niagara, Brantford/London and other moderate distance corridors.

    10. What they annouced for KW is just for the City of KW and Cambridge and thier own LRT, I am talking about the need for GO Trains and Buses to be extended into the region to link people to the GTA. This are keeps getting left behind, just like Toronto was for ever and ever. At least Toronto is going to get back on track but the other big growing region, well, just peanuts for us.

    11. What they annouced for KW is just for the City of KW and Cambridge and its own LRT project. This fine for them but what about links to Guelph and the GTA? One new GO bus route to the UoG isn’t going to get the 1000’s of cars going between KW, Cambridge, Guelph and the GTA.

      My point was about the need for GO Trains and Buses to be extended into the region to link people to the GTA. This area keeps getting left behind, just like Toronto was for ever and ever. At least Toronto is going to get ‘back on track’ but the other big growing region, well, just peanuts for us.

      Btw, that expanding of the Highway between Guelph and Kicthener has been on the books since the 80’s and won’t even be ready till 2020 – if they ever put any money toward it.

    12. The problem with this plan is priority. A lot of these projects like new commuter train lines are relatively cheap, and will probably be built first, leaving Toronto having to wait on provincial money for its LRTs. Some projects are a lot more necessary than others, but this plan doesn’t acknowledge that.

    13. GO would need a restructuring of its fare zones in order to provide service to Kitchener and the like. The cost would be prohibitive, as it would likely cost more than Coach Canada under the current system. I think that it really just depends which governments make the biggest fuss.

    14. Some projects are a lot more necessary than others, but this plan doesn’t acknowledge that.

      This isn’t a plan, it’s a funding announcement. There has been no plan put in place yet. According to the Premier’s site:

      “The Greater Toronto Transportation Authority (GTTA) will oversee the entire project. The GTTA will finalize the plan and report back to the Province in early 2008 on their long-term plan for transportation in the GTA. It will include MoveOntario 2020 as well as other key transportation initiatives.”

    15. If and when subway extension does get the go ahead, the Yonge line to Highway 7 would be the best idea. Extend it to the Richmond Hill Terminal and you’ll be guaranteed a very busy hub. They should also consider finishing the Sheppard Line so that it doesn’t become a stubway. It should be extended westbound towards York U (as I said in earlier posts, it should be Sheppard, not Spadina which should have an extension to York), and east to (at the very least) Victoria Park, with a possibility for future extension to Scarborough Centre.

      But I digress, I agree with Adam. The LRT network must be funded first before any subway extension as 1) it will be quicker to construct and 2) the benefits can be seen more easily. And they should STILL kill the subway extension to Vaughan. Every transit watcher knows that the ridership is along Yonge Street, and not through some hole in the ground in the middle of nowhere. Just because a lot of cash is there doesn’t mean that a heavily criticized and thoroughly panned extension should get the go ahead.

    16. This is a joke. It’s not a carrot. It’s a joke. Beyond the obvious issue of how you’re going to get $6 billion from Ottawa, it is simply impossible to complete this plan by 2020. 2050 maybe…. 🙂 Most of these projects have not gone through ANY planning or engineering. Even if they somehow soften the Environmental Assessment process, you will NEVER be able to get all these projects even PLANNED and ENGINEERED by 2020. And I’m not sure where you’re going to come up with all the bodies to do that. Much less the thousands of bodies you’re going to need to construct them. All at the same time. We’re going to have to reclaim all those construction workers from Alberta.

      I agree this is a fantastic plan, but it’s a fantasy. DO NOT get your hopes up. This is not even close to being a reality.

      Best wishes,
      A Transportation Planner

    17. The most important part of this announcement is not so much that they are promising to deliver these transit lines, but that they are promising to deliver transit lines which have actually been studied (for the most part) and identified by transit operators as priorities. It is important to remember that these operators (TTC, GO Transit, YRT/VIVA, etc.) are the ones who are going to have to pay to operate these services after they have been built. If lines are built in corridors that have been identified as realistic, high-priority routes (such as the TTC’s Transit City plan), then they will be able to recover their costs well and provide decent service throughout the system; however, if we build more lines such as the Sheppard subway (which was an election carrot from a previous government) that have very little hope of allowing reasonable cost recovery, then the rest of the system will suffer just to keep nearly-empty trains running on a line that didn’t need to be built.
      There is one more thing that hasn’t yet been mentioned: urban sprawl. Believe it or not, even public transit has the ability to promote and legitimize sprawl if it is poorly planned. This excellent plan must absolutely and immediately be followed by a new, substantial commitment to reduce suburban sprawl beyond the ineffective Greenbelt programme, otherwise I am afraid that much of the cash will be in vain (at least from environmental and city planning perspectives).

    18. Sean M> Maybe it’s not too late for downtown TO…
      I’d say start lobbying the councillors of all the wards along the east-west downtown routes. The Sheppard line was built because Mel Lastman was Mayor, and North York is his baby. Howard Moscoe only has to snap his fingers and things get done the way he wants them. Funny how some councillors have more power/interest/passion than others. But if enough Torontonians get their acts together and begin a letter-writing campaign, the councillors will have to have a position on the matter. We’re the ones who ride the unreliable streetcars, not them.

      However I am a cynic. The suggested plans remind me of my procrastinating techniques while studying for an exam: I get the laundry done, clean the apartment, wash the dishes, and at 3.00 am begin studying for next day’s exam. Putting off the urgent stuff and concentrating on the easy part is no way to govern a province, nor plan for the future of its capital.

    19. The lack of funding for heavy rail west of Georgetown is a *big* disappointment (especially in the context to the Crosstown and NE GTA GO extensions) – much more GO and VIA services passing Pearson would have eliminated the need for Blue22 (which unbelievably is still not dead – maybe the NDP are right and the Libs do love SNCLavalin).

      At present it’s not possible to go to Kitchener by rail from Toronto during morning business hours – you can come from KW to TO but there is no early train west as there is to London and Kingston. More capacity west of Georgetown line might make that happen.

      I am shocked by the Crosstown GO (in a good way). I am also very pleased that Lakeshore is to be electrified. No sign of where highspeed rail fits into the mix unless it is connected with Lakeshore which might mean it won’t be very high speed (north of 200km/h). Let’s hope the national transit strategy I hear rumours of will address that question.

    20. With this kind of commitment, I still am doubtful to see any such action by the province. However, traditions were meant to be broken.

      With this kind of commitment, I’d like to see the Sheppard “LRT” swapped for finishing the Subway, as this is what REALLY should be done. Work some sort of deal, because even though it would be more expensive, in the long run it would act as a better draw for passengers, and as a more stable “trunk” to branch lines from.

      Also, it would remove the transfer at Don Mills, because this has to be one of the biggest set-backs with making this a viable cross-town route. As it stands, I haven’t got a clue how they would incorperate the LRT into that station well, and I don’t think the TTC knows either. At least the subway is deep enough you could have a sub-surface station for Don Mills built without too much pain, but not so much with Sheppard.

      And on top of all of that, I’d like to see the money to extend the Richmond Hill line to Aurora Road spent on these instead …
      – GO Train to Guelph/Kitchener via Georgetown
      – GO Train to Cambridge via Milton
      – GO Train to Peterborough (or at least buses)
      – Expand Hunter St. Tunnel to get daily service to Hamilton GO (CPR has stated that the tunnel would cause delays to CP’s services as it currently stands).

    21. All this talk of Guelph, etc… Is there a good reason to send rapid transit from the core past the greenbelt? Isn’t the purpose of a greenbelt to confine sprawl?

      People beyond Peel, York and Durham won’t like this thought, so tell me how it is good for the province and the planet, if you disagree with me.

    22. Still little relief downtown. This means that the YUS subway would still be really, really crowded heading to the Bay Street area.

    23. Yes, it’s election season and yes, it’s a funding announcement not a contract to build BUT it is still very good news. The announcement on the Premier’s site stresses that the GTTA will be involved in fine-tuning the plans and setting the priorities. As others have said it will be very interesting to see how the Tories and the NDP respond but it will be hard for them to force the municipalities to pay “their share” one third. Interesting too to see how the Federal Tories’ “National Transit Strategy” ties into this and whether they will fund the other third.
      Of course one can find problems with some of the projects or routes but I hope the GTTA will initiate public discussions to do some tweaking and priority setting. I certainly think that there needs to be a rapid transit link to the Airport which connects to the Bloor-Danforth subway in some manner. Blue 22 MAY be useful for people coming from Union Station and wanting to catch a flight but is not much help to the thousands who work at Pearson and neither live near Union nor have $20 single fare!

    24. They can so build a subway of >40km in less time. In Madrid they built a circle route in less than 3 years.

    25. Reading the comments on this story at the Globe and Mail site is all the evidence one needs that the average person is a mouth-breathing idiot.

    26. @aidan – I would only extend GO to Guelph (which will have some inbound traffic to the University as well as outbound to Toronto) but for the time being an improved VIA service would be a big help in connect K-W which is booming. Eventually the aim should be to destroy the rationale for the Air Canada flights between Pearson and London (and Kingston) and later to do the same with Ottawa/Montreal with high speed rail.

    27. Explain to me why the Yonge subway needs extending?

      Anyone who knows anything about anything knows we should be doing everything possible to get people OFF the Yonge subway. Yes, Transit City will help, but that’s not the point.

      Regardless, it’s a Liberal promise, so at least there’s no chance of it happening.

    28. Trev because a massive flotilla of buses is constantly running between 7 and Finch at all hours, blocking traffic on that stretch and extending trip times considerably. Other routes will help ease the load on the Yonge line, but will do little to reduce the bus flotilla resulting from huge unmet demand in the Yonge Street corridor itself. Extending the Yonge subway to 7 responds to actually-existing needs.

    29. Soem cynicism is warranted, but putting $ into transit is a good start, though effective transit is better.
      So: why not boost GO instead of extending the Yonge subway, as it’s quite stretched. We have to also make sure that by funding the construction of transit into the sprawl areas that it doesn’t bleed the core too much more, and having a construction deal on costly-to-run transit isn’t always good.
      Also the Transit City is flawed as well: we still are not looking at a Front St. transitway instead of a road project, and the WWLRT isn’t that effective in both cost and service to core: so we might be spending another c. $250M than we have to, if we thought/did smarter. Surely that sum merits spending a bit on a better planning process, and it’s now been over four years waiting for the City/province to decide if we could look at transit options to the car-based Front St. Extension.

    30. @Trev:
      Extending the Yonge Subway up to Hwy 7 probably won’t increase riding all that much. At the moment, an endless line of overloaded buses make their way south along Yonge to Finch station every morning. What this will do is cut congestion and free up those buses for use elsewhere in the system, as well as remove a transfer and make the trip generally more pleasant for those who already make it.
      The DRL is desperately needed no matter what, and I hold out hope that once Transit City has got started, it will be put on the table.

      I agree with you that frequent GO service should NOT be extended all the way out to Guelph & KW. The last thing we need is for all of southern Ontario outside the GTA to be one giant commuter suburb. But that’s not to say that the area doesn’t desperately need better rail service… last time I tried taking the train to Toronto from Guelph I had the option of leaving at 7am or 10pm, with nothing in between.
      Better service could definitely cut down on driving in for business or pleasure.

    31. I would really like to believe this, but …

      The timing is suspicious. Haven’t we gone through this kind of ‘election-promise planning’ ? Did not the Peterson Liberals and the Rae NDP governments both make the same kind of grandiose plans just at election time (and even start in the case of the NDP) before being defeated (and the plans scrapped/halted by the winning party) ?

      I would have been a lot more convinced had this kind of announcement been made before the election was called, say in the middle of their mandate.

      Secondly, how likely will they get any commitment – financial commitment – from the Federal government.
      If they don’t get anything, will they just throw their hands up in the air and say “see – we tried” ?

      Thirdly, I wonder how much of any actual work will be planned or even started for the TTC. I mean the projects that are completely within Toronto’s borders, not the stuff that crosses over into the 905 region.

      I say this because I am wary of promises that have the letters ‘TTC’ in them to appeal to Toronto voters (“see we really do care about Toronto”) when in reality it is a way to benefit the 905.

      To me, the York subway is a case in point. Getting the subway to Vaughan is the goal, but since we are putting money into the TTC we could count this project as one example of support for the TTC. But did anyone ask if the TTC or Toronto would have wanted this more than any other item ?
      Probably not.

      I don’t begrudge the 905 the need for transit, but I’d like governments (provincial and federal) to also support truly (within) Toronto projects.
      I am aware that at least since Harris and Chretian, there has been a hesitancy to give Toronto anything.

    32. Sean M:

      I’m from California. For a Canadian to cite California as an example of how to run/fund transit…I am quite gobsmacked.

      I’ll have to use your example next time somebody poo-poos rail here in Calfiornia. It can’t be so bad if the Canadians are looking to us for solutions!

    33. What saddens me about all these comments is the defeatist attitude (and believe me, I have it too). When the GTA’s chief economic problems — Canada’s problems, really — are right in front of us, it’s unfathomable that we’re still bickering over whether an extension of two or three stations to the Yonge line will ever happen. ALL of these newly proposed projects by the McGuinty government should have been implemented years ago, and still they fall short. The Golden Horshoe is basically, and unnecessarily, a sesspool of congestion, smog, and ugly architecture. We must do much better to compete internationally if we want the best and the brightest minds to work and live in our region. Our productivity and future prosperity depend on it. The money is definitely there, particularly at the federal level. But these kinds of expenditures are the kinds that transform a society and its way of life. If China can build high-speed rail links between major cities, if Europe and the U.S. can do it, why can’t we? I can’t believe we still doubt the viability of these options. Aren’t people sick of sitting in traffic on the highway, adding to the smog? Aren’t people fed up of having no transit nearby, apart from that lousy hourly bus that takes forever to get anywhere? No, we must make all levels of government accountable for implementing the projects proposed by McGuinty’s crew and much more. It is possible to build multiple transit systems at once, and it is a shame that cities much smaller than Toronto, such as Boston, have more rapid transit lines. This isn’t a political question of left or right either. Only governments can provide the impetus for large scale infrastructure projects. I couldn’t care less whether the lines are built with public or private money. If you want a clean, efficient urban society in Canada, decent transit is the only way to go. And the next time a major transit project is cancelled (like Martin cancelled Chretien’s funding for Via to provide high-speed trains, or like Harris canned the Eglinton subway line), there should be hell to pay at the ballot boxes.

    34. Virtually all of these plans were already pet projects of the region’s transit operators, this plan just ties them all together. You can see it specifically with Yonge St, where there is to be a subway through Thornhill along with dedicated Viva ROWs.

      If the opposition in this province wasn’t so lame, they’d put together their own, more realistic plan that would work more cohesively as a region.

      With that said, this is a good strategy and here is hoping most of it comes through.

    35. It’s stupid to extend the Yonge line north of Finch. Trains are already full when they leave Finch station, now thay will be full when they get to Finch station and Torontonians wont be able to get on their subway at rush hour!

    36. Joe…I think one of the main incentives in extending the Spadina line to begin with is to divert eastbound bus riders, primarily coming in from Finch West and Steeles West, away from the Yonge line. This way, the Yonge line can be extended to Hwy 7 without a crush load of new ridership.

      Also, at the morning peak I’d imagine there would be the option of taking the GO train downtown from Langstaff – bypassing an extended Yonge line altogether.

      Generally, I’m somewhat fascinated with the MoveOntario 2020 initiative, although I also have my share of reservations about it. To build this thing, they would have to both build most of the 52 slated projects at the same time within the projected 12 some odd year period, AND curtail much of the environmental assessments (EA’s) – not necessarily a bad thing, considering EA’s for some projects can take longer than actually building them. Totally not surprised it will take half a century to pay for.

      I have one question for now, though…when it comes to the GO Transit part of the initiative – according to the offical website at least – does the term “capacity expansion” refer to double tracking, or simply lengthening the current commuter rail stations, or a combination of both? Any input would be appreciated, thanks!