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TTC puts up cash for light-rail lines

(Posted Date: Monday, December 3, 2007)

$13 million to start work on routes including Sheppard line

By Claudia Cautillo

The Toronto Transit Commission’s plan to build light-rail transit lines throughout the city, including in North York, is one step closer to becoming a reality.

At a recent meeting, the TTC voted to put $13 million of its capital budget towards starting work on three projected light-rail lines — running along Sheppard Ave. east, Etobicoke-Finch Ave. West, and the entire stretch of Eglinton Ave. from Kennedy Rd. to Pearson International Airport.

In total, there are seven planned transit lines for the city — including one that would run along Don Mills Rd. — proposed last March as part of the TTC’s Toronto Transit City project.

The LRT lines are intended to link the city, and provide access in an efficient and environmentally friendly way.

TTC chair Adam Giambrone says the money allotted by the commission is intended to get the project on its feet in its infancy.

“We had to make that commitment to go forward, to make sure we could get the (preliminary) work done on the lines in preparation to start construction in 2009,” he said in a Nov. 22 phone interview.

But the TTC can only go so far without funding from the province, he added.

“Construction cannot begin until the bigger amounts are transferred,” Giambrone said. “So we can begin the work on the design and not slow down one bit, but ultimately, before the shovel goes in the ground in 2009, there’s going to have to be the money available.”

That money needs to come from Queen’s Park, and Giambrone says he is confident that it will, since the provincial government has said it will come through with necessary funding for the Transit City project.

He anticipates that funding will be included as part of the province’s Move Ontario 2020 plan, a multi-billion dollar project announced this summer to finance 52 rapid transit projects throughout the GTA.

“There are enough assurances from the provincial government that they can make those commitments in the budget,” Giambrone said. “The province has said they will fund this, so the TTC has agreed to put it into their budget.

Funding is to be announced in the spring of 2008, as part of the provincial budget.

The Etobicoke-Finch West line would run 18 kilometres long and link Etobicoke with Finch Station. It would boost ridership along the corridor to 23.6 million a year by 2021, up from the estimated 11.3 million now.

Along the projected 14-kilometre Sheppard line that would link Don Mills Station to Scarborough, ridership would jump from 10 million now to 16.5 million by 2021.

And the 18-kilometre long Don Mills line would run along Don Mills Rd., from Steeles Ave. to the Don Valley Parkway, then south to connect with the Bloor-Danforth subway line. It would see ridership rise from 13.7 million to 21.2 million by 2021.

But not everyone is jumping on the LRT bandwagon.

York Centre councillor Mike Feldman says he’s concerned that residents won’t be able to get to the light-rail stops quickly enough from their homes, making them more likely to opt for their cars rather than using public transit.

“If you haven’t got a bus getting them from the centre core out to the light rail, than I don’t see that it’s going to be a boom,” he said.

Willowdale councillor David Shiner echoed Feldman’s thoughts, saying the light rail plan will demand a great deal of electricity.

“We don’t have enough electricity in the city of Toronto now to maintain our infrastructure and keep the air conditioning running in the summer time,” Shiner said. “How are we going to run train lines?”

Shiner says traffic will also be a problem, since the number of car lanes will be reduced.

He suggested investing in an extended subway system and dedicated bus routes instead of light-rail transit lines.

Unfazed, Giambrone remains confident that the Transit City Plan will make Toronto a leader of public transportation in North America.

“We took the position that no one in Toronto should be disadvantaged by not owning a car,” he said. “The Transit City Plan is going to revolutionize how people get around Toronto.”

Giambrone anticipates that construction on the lines will begin in the spring of 2009, and be completed and fully operational by 2012.




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