The promise of federal money – time to move?

I would say it is time that we had a look at the federal money promised to Toronto and the GTA for transit. 2.6 billion for SmartTrack, 660 million for the Scarborough Subway.  This is specific funding, and Toronto and the fed, need to work towards making this generic.  Scarborough needs a broader solution than subway, Toronto, a broader one than SmartTrack.  Also the Liberals promised a 10 year $20 Billion – national transit infrastructure program.  While by population the GTHA should get about 20% of that, if we look at it on the basis of projects that are really needing funding, and where it will make the most substantial difference, the GTHA, should be in line for closer 40%.  I would make the point that the aid needs to be focused on the larger projects, that can actually have a real impact, and that are not as of yet funded.  Vancouver and Toronto, have very real need in this department.  Ottawa, Kitchener/Waterloo are in process with substantial projects that will transform the transit landscape, and Calgary is in the process of completing a substantial project that hugely enhanced capacity there.  Beyond this there is the Green Line, but well, that would be a couple of billion between all 3 levels of government.  Montreal, is also in much better shape that Toronto, in terms of massive needs for capital in transit.

Let us not get carried away of excited by the possibility of this money – it would only be 7-8 billion of new, even if we got the 30-40%, plus the say 3.2 billion already committed.  If we find matching local, and provincial money, that is at best $21-$24 billion new and 9 already committed.  Yes it sounds like an awful lot – but I would assume that the 2.6 will be consumed by RER so basically back to the 21-24.  So when we look at what Toronto really needs and well: 7-9 billion on a DRL – long version, $3-4 for LRT & BRT in Scarborough -{ Sheppard East, Malvern, the Morningside Hook, the RT replacement, and even a bit on Kingston road south west of Eglinton as LRT and the Ellesmere BRT as well as something North South – on say Markham Rd}.  The west, north and south  also have  needs –  extending Finch to the Airport and east to at least Yonge, the Crosstown to the airport and a Kipling LRT airport to the Lake.  In the south the East Bayfront LRT and Waterfront West LRT, to support development in Liberty Village and area, near the Humber river and west, and redevelopment of the CNE grounds.  If we assume even this massive budget, we cannot afford subway, except where it cannot be helped for lack of ROW and massive capacity required.

Beyond Toronto, Hurontario LRT will need funding, as well an LRT tie into the DRL or Yonge subway for York region, as well as some support for Durham.    Assuming that we are looking at $24 billion (ie 8 billion federal matched all the way up, including the already promised SSE funds)  This does not relieve the province at all, and they still would need to fund GO RER, other than the 2.6 billion.  However, properly integrated, it would allow the region to actually start to move on commuting times, as long as people are willing to get out of their cars.  It would transform transit, hugely broaden its coverage inside and out of the city, and massively improve capacity into the core.  That is in essence – it would not only allow the Goose to keep laying the Golden Eggs, but perhaps even increase their output.

It would also enable Toronto itself to take on a much larger share of the population growth, reducing sprawl, increasing density, and possibly even allow the city to become more attractive and livable – as the region took on another 3 million people, instead of crawling to a halt.  The Big Move is not large enough to prevent things from getting worse, let alone make them better, and it is clear that the province does not have the money to execute even this quickly.  Some of the 2nd wave projects are now being moved into the 15 year list, but still need design, let alone funding – most important being the DRL.  This along with a broad application of lower capacity rapid transit, to supply broad coverage of a smoother faster ride than can.

All 3 levels of governments need to get serious, and getting professionally developed transit plans and stop getting professionally developed political plans – that involve transit (and pretend to be transit plans).  The problem is that there is a huge need to build a real – regional rapid transit network.  This must also match capacity needs, and would absorb those $24 billion quite easily.  However, in so doing would transform the region, and the nature of the growth it is seeing.   Transit needs to be rethought better to support a very wide set of destinations, the major employment districts in Toronto, Mississauga, and York, all need much easier transit based access – notably including the airport corporate center, and this from much more of the region.   Major destinations away from the core can also in some cases act like hubs to allow through trips. Ideally a Finch West LRT, Crosstown LRT, Kipling LRT, Mississauga Transitway, and Malton GO would all interact to support the airport and corporate area beyond, and would be tied together by say through routing a Kipling &/or Finch LRT through Malton GO and the Renforth Gateway.  Providing a couple of points through which Brampton Transit and Mississauga Transit could naturally feed real rapid transit service across all of Toronto as well as core bound heavy rail service.

LRT projects can tie together heavier services to begin to provide real beyond core service for GO rail, Lakeshore East to Stouffville in Scarborough, Lakeshore West to Kitchener (and hence the airport)- through Mississauga and Brampton City centers, as well as connecting Mississauga Transitway.  Frequent service on these GO lines, combined with very frequent service on the rapid transit services, begins to make alternate use of GO much more viable.

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