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Smitherman vows to spend $7-billion more on transit

Unveils plan to extend subways and LRT to ‘get Toronto moving again’

By Anna Mehler Paperny

George Smitherman’s plan to “get Toronto moving again” would connect the Yonge subway to Downsview station, extend planned subway and LRT additions and add $7-billion of city funds to pledged provincial funding over the next decade to build it.

He vowed to prioritize Pan-Am Games-related transit branches, bringing subway and LRT to venues at York University and the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus by 2015.

The whole plan would cost about $17.4-billion, and require an additional $7-billion in contributions from the city, on top of $514-million already committed. And Mr. Smitherman would do it without using road tolls. He’d also cut the city’s personal vehicle registration tax, which brings in $50-million to $55-million annually, by about a third.

The additional $7-billion to fund the next decade of transit projects would come from additional debt; the projects woudl be implemented through public-private partnerships the city would pay off over time.

Mr. Smitherman said he’d declare a “time out” on new bike lanes, while improving existing ones - including curbing bike lanes to separate them from the road. He also plans bike “expressways” through the city’s linear parks and ravines. Money for this would come from existing capital funds, he said.

He also targeted voter frustration with everything from lane closures on the Gardiner to transit customer service and streets in need of maintenance, vowing better service and more transparency.

The theme, he told 1,200 people - including prominent MPs, MPPs and several city councillors - who paid $250 a plate to hear him speak at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, is “transit, delivered.”

Campaign staff said they think the purple-themed luncheon, complete with a documentary outlining Mr. Smitherman’s mayoral pitch and a speech from former mayor David Peterson, could be one of Toronto’s largest mayoral fundraisers, ever.

“If we’re going to get Toronto working again, we have to get Toronto moving again…This is my way to get us home sooner,” Mr. Smitherman said, adding that Toronto’s leadership “has let us down” when it comes to transit infrastructure.

“We’re still arguing about new subway lines instead of building new subway lines,” he said.

“They call me Furious George. Fair enough. As long as they know I’m furiously committed to making this city work again.”

Mr. Smitherman also plans to give seniors 65 and over free transit passes to use between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on weekdays. He said Friday he will have estimates on how much the foregone revenue will cost the city when he unveils his targets for the Toronto Transit Commission’s fare-box recovery in the fall.

Highlights of Phase One - completed by 2015
  • Extend the Spadina subway to the Pan-Am venue at York University, and the Sheppard LRT to a venue at the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus - the latter “hook” would cost $240-million.
  • Complete the Queen’s Quay Waterfront LRT from Union Station to the Portlands, currently under discussion at Waterfront Toronto. This would cost $225-million.
Highlights of Phase Two - completed by 2020
  • Extend Finch West LRT from Finch West Station to Highway 27, beyond the current end location at Humber College to include Etobicoke General Hospital, the Woodbine Centre and the Woodbine Racetrack. Estimated cost: $250-million.
  • Build Sheppard Subway Line west from Yonge to link with Downsview Station. Estimated cost: $1.3-billion.
  • Replace Scarborough RT with an above-grade subway past Scarborough Town Centre. Estimated cost of conversion to subway: $535-million.
  • Extend Eglinton LRT past Black Creek (where it’s slated to end now) to Weston Road. Estimated cost: $300-million.
  • Extend the Bloor-Danforth Subway line to Sherway Gardens. Estimated cost: $1-billion.