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Is subway really the better way?

GTA transit, road projects benefit from new funding

Transit projects to be funded through today’s announcement include:

Toronto-York Subway – The existing Spadina subway line will be extended by 8.6 kilometres through York University to the Vaughan Corporate Centre. Cost: $2.1 billion. Completion date: 2015

Brampton AcceleRide – A bus rapid-transit system that will link the downtown to the north and west areas of the city, as well as to Mississauga and York Region. Cost: $285 million Completion date: 2021.

Mississauga Transitway – A separate bus right-of-way will be built along the Highway 403/Eglinton corridor between Oakville and Toronto. Eleven stations will be constructed along the route. Cost: $250 million. Completion date: 2012.

York Region Viva – The region’s rapid-transit system will be enhanced through construction of dedicated bus rapid-transit systems along Yonge St., from the Finch subway station to the Richmond Hill Centre, and along Highway 7, from Markham Centre to Yonge St. Cost: $250 million Completion date: 2010.

Highway 407 – Toll highway will be extended eastward 67 kilometres from Brock Rd. in Pickering to Highway 35/115 in Clarington. Cost: Not specified. Completion date: 2013.

Highway 404 – Road to be extended north from Green Lane to Ravenshoe Road. Cost: $250 million Completion date: 2012

Highway 7 – to be widened from Brock Road to Highway 12 in Durham Region. Cost: $55 million. Completion date: 2012.

Durham Region – Cash to help the region develop a transit strategy.

What Toronto would like to do with its extra subway funding

1) Build a light rapid transit system that criss-crosses the city

2) Finish the Sheppard subway

3) Improve existing TTC service

‘Frustrated’ TTC chair says money for line extension looks sexy but should go to further regional transit links

Mar 07, 2007 04:30 AM
Tess Kalinowski

It is being hailed by federal and provincial politicians as a breakthrough in cutting commutes and greenhouse gas emissions across the Toronto region.

But transportation experts were less enthusiastic about yesterday’s announcement of $962 million for Toronto-area transit, particularly the extension of the Spadina subway line into York Region.

To put it bluntly, the city would have spent the subway money differently.

“We’re frustrated in some ways we don’t get to decide where you spend the transit dollars,” said TTC chair and Toronto Councillor Adam Giambrone.

“If we have limited dollars there are better ways to service more people and get more riders – or better serve existing riders – than the York subway,”

If he had the $2.1 billion the extension is expected to cost, Giambrone says he’d spend half finishing the Sheppard line.

The other half would be used to build a light rapid transit system – such as dedicated streetcar lines – that would criss-cross Toronto.

That’s what the city’s official plan calls for.

But subways are sexy, particularly at election time, although they’re not necessarily the best or most cost-effective way to reduce gridlock, say the experts.

They say the 8.6-kilometre subway extension with six stops, including a high traffic hub at York University, won’t do much to address the transit needs outlined in the city’s official plan, particularly in Scarborough where the rapid transit system is near the end of its life.

Then there’s the cost of construction. Subways cost about $150 million per running kilometre to build compared with about $30 million to $35 million per kilometre for light rail transit or $20 million to $25 million per kilometre for bus rapid transit, Giambrone said.

And the announcement offers no operating funding. What still needs to be negotiated is whether there will be an operating subsidy for the Spadina subway.

“Subways get older and are more expensive to maintain in the long run,” said Giambrone, backing up Toronto Mayor David Miller’s call Monday for a national transit plan that would feature sustained funding of about $2 billion annually.

Although the extension will make this the first time the subway has crossed Toronto’s city borders, with two stops in York Region, it will be wholly owned and operated by the TTC, said Giambrone, with York paying part of the operating cost.

“The subway is significant inasmuch as it traverses municipal boundaries. (But) … the really heavy lifting in terms of integration and co-ordination has yet to occur,” said Rob MacIsaac, head of the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority.

Still, it remains to be seen how far the subway and the other investments in a Mississauga bus corridor, Brampton’s rapid bus system, called AcceleRide, and enhancements to York’s Viva rapid transit go toward improving regional transportation links, he said.

MacIsaac argues the region is so starved for transit it needs more of everything, including subways.

Of the 1,660 buses that run on the York University campus each day, about half are operated by the TTC.

The others are regional transit services, including about 500 GO buses.

The 87 per cent of York’s 50,000 students and 10,000 employees who list a Toronto-area address are evenly split among 416 and 905 residents, said a university spokesperson.

“This is another political subway in the same vein as the Sheppard line was,” said Ed Levy of BA Consulting Group.