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Subway extension TTC's top priority

Other rail ideas seen as rivals in struggle for funds

Joseph Hall
Toronto Star Aug. 24, 2001

Extensions to the Spadina and new Sheppard subway lines should be the first priorities for any rapid transit growth in the GTA, a new TTC report says.

The report, to be presented to a commission meeting next week, says extending the two lines, to the north and east respectively, would offer the region more bang for the transit buck than any other expansion projects.

“Following a detailed review of a wide variety of transit expansion options, two projects stand out as having the potential to be successful from a ridership, density, financial, development, operational and policy perspective,” the report says.

“A northerly extension of the Spadina subway or an easterly extension of the Sheppard subway have a high probability for success and are cost effective in terms of capital and operating costs.”

While the report is to be presented to the Toronto Transit Commission on Wednesday, its real target is Queen’s Park, where a private sector proposal to build extensive light rail lines between Toronto and the 905 regions is now being flogged to the provincial Conservative government.

The $1.8 billion proposal, which would see streetcar-like vehicles travelling along underused freight lines and the Finch hydro corridor, is being pushed by a contingent of Tory insiders.

Headed by Borealis Funds Management Ltd., the plan’s backers include Tory bagman Steve Hudson and Toronto lawyer David McFadden, a past president of the Provincial Conservatives.

The plan, which would likely see fast, French-built light trains run between Toronto, Pearson International Airport and various 905 centres, is one of two currently being pushed by powerful business groups.

The second, unveiled this summer by the Toronto Board of Trade, would also bring in the private sector to help build and run a $14 billion network of commuter rail lines throughout Greater Toronto.

Both plans have the TTC worried about its own funding, with senior staff feeling that either of the private proposals would require heavy government subsidies - money that might have otherwise gone to the commission. TTC chief general manager Rick Ducharme said in an earlier interview that his system’s expansion plans would show a level of expertise and justification that the private plans could not match.

Ducharme, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, said the system’s priority package would force the province to look at the GTA’s growth, density and ridership realities and funnel any future expansion money into the region’s largest transit organization.

The TTC carries about 90 per cent of all GTA transit trips and is the most competent agency to meet many of the region’s most critical commuter needs, he says.

The Spadina proposal, which would run from the Downsview station - now the end of the line - through York University to Steeles Ave., would cost $975 million and serve a huge number of York Region commuters coming into the city.

That expansion would add four new stations to the existing line.

The Sheppard proposal would add 14 new stations to that truncated and as yet unopened line at a cost of almost $3 billion. The extra stops would run from Don Mills Rd. to the Scarborough City Centre, as per the original plan for the line. It’s hoped the extended line would draw riders from both the surrounding area and York and Durham regions.

The report says both lines offer great potential to serve high density urban development, in line with the city’s emerging official plan which calls for a million more people to move into Toronto in the next two decades.