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TTC speeds up Transit City plan

There’s only so much we can build …all at once in Toronto. Adam Giambrone , TTC chair

Streamlined process could see construction of some light rail lines begin as early as 2009

Jul 12, 2007 04:30 AM
Tess Kalinowski
Transportation Reporter

The first phase of Toronto’s proposed $6 billion Transit City streetcar network could be on the tracks as early as 2011, although the following year is more likely.

A newly streamlined environmental assessment process and compressed public consultations would allow the Toronto Transit Commission to put shovels in the dirt on two of the seven proposed light rail lines in 2009, according to an implementation plan approved by commissioners yesterday.

Construction would take place first on either the Etobicoke-Finch West line or the Sheppard East line, where preliminary studies have been finished already. Work on the 30.5-kilometre Eglinton-Crosstown line, to run from Kennedy Station to Pearson airport, would begin about the same time.

“Eglinton is going to take a number of years. We’re going to build an underground section about the same length as the Sheppard subway, which is five kilometres,” said TTC chair Adam Giambrone. It will be designed so it could accommodate a subway line later.

Planners have to be cognizant of the fact that in 2011, work will be proceeding on extending the Spadina subway line, the Scarborough rapid transit line, possibly a second subway extension on the Yonge line – “if you listen to the provincial announcement” – plus two or three light rail lines, Giambrone said. “There’s only so much we can build and so many roads we can rip up all at once in Toronto.”

The commission has told TTC staff to start designing the lines even though the two-thirds funding committed by the province last month won’t be assured unless the Ontario Liberals are re-elected in October. When the province announced its funding for Transit City, the government said it was assuming Ottawa would kick in the other third, but the federal government has yet to confirm that.

“We need to begin to design these lines so we don’t lose a year or a year and a half later on because a new government or the same government will come back to power and by the time it’s up and operating it’s the end of the year,” he said.

He added that the TTC has to build two car houses to accommodate the lines, at $200 million each. The $400 million funding hasn’t been approved, although it might be possible to find the money in the Transit City plan if savings are found elsewhere, Giambrone said.

The Transit City implementation plan was approved one day after the TTC asked the budget committee for an extra $6.7 million for 54 new drivers to alleviate overcrowding.

The TTC is buying 204 accessible, low-floor streetcars to replace its aging fleet, but the Transit City plan would require an additional 260 cars at about $5 million each.

Community consultations will have to take place at the same time as the design work, but that doesn’t mean those consultations aren’t genuine, said TTC commissioner Glenn De Baeremaeker.

“Whether you like them or not, we’re building. There’s a massive outcry from the public that we need public transit,” he said. “We’re building. Get on board and tell us what you need.”

Transit notes

The Toronto Transit Commission will study the possibility of two 350-passenger commuter ferries from Scarborough and Etobicoke to downtown.

A $20,000 study will be conducted by the American Public Transportation Association, which has done similar studies for the TTC, Chair Adam Giambrone told the commission yesterday.

“The commission needs to consider a lot of different ideas. There’s been a lot of incredibly positive feedback,” he said. “We’ll see if it’s feasible. We have to see what the cost would be. We have to see if people would use it.”

The service would cost about $25 million, he said.

But two commissioners who represent the areas oppose it. Peter Milczyn (Ward 5, Etobicoke-Lakeshore) suggested costs would be too high, and Michael Thompson (Ward 37, Scarborough Centre) said it won’t help north Scarborough.

The report is due at year-end.

Decal debate

The TTC decided to let city council decide if decals supporting Canadian troops can be allowed on transit vehicles. “We are… also a commission of the City of Toronto. So if the mayor wants to consider this across all of our fleet of vehicles then we’ll certainly follow suit,” said Giambrone.

Bob Kinnear, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, had requested the decals, similar to those on fire vehicles and ambulances.

—Tess Kalinowski