August 13, 2018

Confronting Transit Planning Chaos


TORONTO -- August 13, 2018: Today, Toronto Mayoral candidate and former Chief City Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat, called for real action on transit, citing fundamental issues with John Tory’s plan for SmartTrack and a Relief Line subway that is already far behind schedule.

“Everyone who rides the subway to work or school every day knows that we’ve reached a crisis point in this city. You wait on a dangerously overcrowded platform as packed train after packed train passes you by. And when you can finally get on, you’re crushed. Toronto commuters need relief, and they need it now”, said Keesmaat.

“People expect their Mayor to deliver, and our current leadership hasn’t gotten the job done. John Tory says the Relief Line subway is his top priority, but in four years it’s already fallen 18 months behind schedule. And his other transit plans are coming off the rails, too.”

Four years after John Tory first pitched SmartTrack to voters in the last election, what remains of it bears little resemblance to his lofty promises. Revision after revision of the original plan has left us with little more than GO Train service the province was already planning, with a handful of added stations coming at a huge cost to Toronto taxpayers.

“SmartTrack no longer exists as John Tory promised it to you during the last election”, said Keesmaat. “It is nothing more than a mirage that was designed to get him elected. I will ensure efficient use of Toronto’s $1.4 billion investment in the context of a realistic GO Regional Express Rail plan, and not a SmartTrack smoke screen.”

Keesmaat described immediate steps that can be taken to get transit back on track, saying “we have the tools available to accelerate the Relief Line and get shovels in the ground — subway riders need relief, not reports.”

Beginning necessary property acquisition immediately, kickstarting utility relocations, and bringing forward the Request for Qualifications for tunnelling and station construction were concrete actions Keesmaat identified that could expedite the design process and get shovels in the ground faster.


SmartTrack Issues

Revision after revision of John Tory’s original SmartTrack plan has left us with little more than GO Train service the province was already planning. Here are the facts:

What John Tory promised in 2014 What we know now
12 new stations[1] At most 6 stations (final total is currently under study)[2]
“London-style surface rail subway”[3] GO Trains[4]
53 km of new track[5] No new tracks[6]
200,000 passengers a day[7] Projection not possible given uncertainty around fare integration and 5-minute service levels
In service in seven years from 2014[8] GO RER in service in 2024-26 (10-12 years) if expansion of Union Station completed in time[9]
Paid for using Tax Increment Financing[10] City contribution of $1.463 Billion to Metrolinx RER project[11]
Fare integration with TTC[12] Separate GO fare on top of TTC fare[13]

Relief Line Reality

The Relief Line plan approved by Council in 2016 is already 18 months behind schedule.

Stage 2016 Plan Result
Approve alignment June 2016[14] May 2017[15]
Begin “TPAP” Assessment Fall 2016[16] April 16, 2018[17]
Complete TPAP Spring 2017 (6 months after start)[18] Not yet complete

Relief Line Catch-up Plan

We can make up for lost time on Relief Line planning if we move on from the currently slow, sequential, piecemeal planning process and replace it with an integrated and concurrent plan that continues the work on planning and design overlaid with other technical tasks.

  • With station locations now selected, property acquisition, which is a one- to two-year process, could begin immediately.
  • While the design process continues, utility relocations — likely a 6-month process — could commence.
  • The “Request for Qualifications” shortlisting process for tunnelling and construction of the “in-line” stations could begin while design work is underway, shortening the RFP process by as much as 6 months.

These steps could make up the time the Mayor has fallen behind, and get the Relief Line back on track.