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The track stops here: transit plans face signal failure

Miller says he can’t support delayed, truncated version
of light-rail expansion

By Anna Mehler Paperny
and Kelly Grant

The latest from Toronto’s transit trenches: A truncated line through one of the city’s poorest areas, an airport link on hold and an increasingly acrimonious war of words over the fate of Transit City.

Toronto has been in talks over cuts to its ambitious, citywide transit plan since January. But the latest blueprint is unacceptable, Mayor David Miller argues - and a blistering letter saying as much, sent Wednesday to Premier Dalton McGuinty, has earned him accusations of derailing the very legacy project he’s trying to save.

“I was very surprised and disappointed to read the mayor’s letter. … I’m very concerned that the mayor would release partial and inaccurate information before that plan is fully developed,” Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne said during Question Period at Queen’s Park on Thursday.

“There’s no intention, I hope, to undermine this process by going public with the information before it’s finalized.”

The latest iteration of the Transit City plan slices 22.5 kilometres of track and 25 stations from the original, and factors in delayed rollout schedules thanks to deferred spending.

Click here to see an enlarged version of the above map.

The city knew early this year that the original plans for Transit City exceeded the province’s $8.15-billion budget by more than $2-billion. The resulting compromise put forward by regional transportation agency Metrolinx in consultation with the city shortened several lines and removed numerous stations. The idea was that these final aspects of Transit City would be added later, once Metrolinx came up with an alternative funding strategy.

Mr. Miller, who was briefed on proposed cuts in January and February, said on Thursday that his compliance with the revised plan was conditional on construction schedules moving ahead as planned. Those were derailed with the province’s March budget, however, which deferred $4-billion of the transit plan.

“As mayor, I was not prepared to agree to anything except the lines starting as scheduled and a plan to ensure that seamlessly they would proceed,” Mr. Miller said.

Metrolinx said last week it is putting forward a proposal to complete all four lines, plus a fifth project in York Region, by 2020, effectively adding two years to the overall time frame.

The smaller, delayed Metrolinx plan means Toronto’s public transit network may never connect as originally envisioned.

The Finch West LRT line, which was supposed to be a 17-kilometre, 30-stop connection between Humber College and the Yonge subway line, will now terminate six stops short, at Finch West station, a future stop on the Spadina subway extension.

The Eglinton Crosstown LRT, a planned 33-kilometre line from Kennedy Station to Pearson International Airport, now halts 13 kilometres and 13 stations short of the airport, at Jane Street.

The revised plan to cut off the Sheppard East LRT at Conlins Road, one kilometre and one stop short of its original terminus at Meadowvale, kills any hope of extending the line south to the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus, a Pan-Am Games venue.

Transit consultant Ed Levy said putting off these projects means the neediest parts of the city won’t get access to decent transit.

But the latest back-and-forth with Queen’s Park seems to indicate growing hostility on both sides, Mr. Levy said.

“[Mr. Miller is] looking at this project as one of his major legacies, and it’s being sort of whittled away under him,” he said. “… I think the province is probably looking at Miller as somebody they really cannot negotiate with, can’t compromise with. And I’m very sad about that.”