Category Archives: Toronto transit

LRT for Eglinton but not Sheppard, Finch

Mayor Ford’s more costly Eglinton underground LRT
Eglinton LRT is a go but no cash left for Finch, Sheppard
(Column written for Town Crier April 4)

Get ready, midtown, to face the envy and scorn of the rest of Toronto.
A new, underground version for a 25 km Eglinton LRT is moving ahead, thanks to a joint announcement by the province and the city.
Good news, right? Yes, except that the previous plan included $8 billion for surface LRT routes along Finch, Sheppard and Eglinton, and converting the Scarborough RT into light rail transit lines. Then-incoming mayor Rob Ford pronounced that plan dead on Dec. 1.
Mayor Ford wanted the Eglinton line fully buried, so that it won’t interfere with traffic. That’ll be achieved except for a small elevated portion as it approaches Kennedy subway station. Burying the entire rapid streetcar line will increase the cost of the Eglinton project by at least $2 billion.
The result is the $8.4 billion the province had set aside for four will now be entirely eaten up by two: Eglinton and Scarborough. As a result, the new plan cancels LRTs on Sheppard and Finch.
But here’s the kicker: The city will be on the hook to pay back $49 million in costs already incurred for the Sheppard and Finch routes to provincial agency Metrolinx. That is a lot of money down the drain for a decision by a mayor who claims to value respect for taxpayers.

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Ford cancels Finch rapid transit

Mayor Rob Ford opts for enhanced buses service
Cancels approved, funded Finch light rail transit
But promises FInch subway within a decade
Kris Scheuer and Agnes Ramos
(Written for Town Crier April 1.)

No LRT here: Finch transit riders line up for busy buses. Photo by Agnes Ramos/Town Crier.

It is past rush hour at Finch Station on a colder-than-usual April morning, but the corner where bus commuters wait for the 36 Finch West bus is still a hive of activity.
Lines form, and people wait.
The bus route that travels from Yonge all the way past Kipling in Toronto’s west end is the busiest bus route at the station, and frustration among riders is growing as the clock ticks on.
Robert Laws, 47, who has been a TTC rider for over four decades, says the bus route is deplorable.
“It’s the worst service I’ve seen in this city,” he said. “It takes me twice as long traveling the same distance than in any other part of the city.
“Obviously something needs to be done about this issue.”
It’s a familiar complaint among Finch West commuters, and one they worry isn’t going anytime soon, now that the city has effectively cancelled a once sought-after plan for light rail on Finch.

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City to pay $49 million for cancelling LRTs

Mayor’s decision to axe Sheppard, Finch LRTs will cost
City agreed to reimburse Metrolinx for cash spent already
Kris Scheuer
(Written for Town Crier April 1.)

All aboard: Mayor Rob Ford gives the thumbs up with Premier Dalton McGuinty before making a joint transit announcement March 31. Photo by Francis Crescia/Town Crier.

The city taxpayers are on the hook for at least $49 million now that the Ontario government and Metrolinx agreed to cancel two previously approved light rapid transit lines for Sheppard and Finch.
Early in his term Mayor Rob Ford announced the Transit City plan for four surface LRT lines on Sheppard, Finch, Eglinton and in Scarborough was dead. His office spent four months negotiating with the province and Metrolinx to spend the allotted $8.4 billion on making the Eglinton LRT underground and converting the Scarborough RT to a surface LRT.
He also sought permission for the city to look for $4.2 billion in private sector funding for a new Sheppard subway.
That deal, announced March 31, included a provision that the city pay Metrolinx back for any costs associated with canceling the previously approved projects. The bill to the city will be at least $49 million, Metrolinx confirmed to the Town Crier on April 1.
“At this time we estimate there are $49 million in sunk costs mostly for work on the environmental assessments, designs or engineering and project management for Finch LRT and Sheppard LRT,” said Metrolinx spokesperson Vanessa Thomas. “The $49 million (is) for costs we already accrued.

Mayor Rob Ford announced he will seek $4.2 billion in private sector cash to build a new Sheppard subway line. Photo by Francis Crescia/Town Crier.

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Toronto transit investment announcement

Ontario to pony up $8B for Scarborough, Eglinton LRTs
City to seek $4B private cash for Sheppard subway
T.O taxpayers on hook for $49 mil spent on canceled routes

Kris Scheuer
(Written for Town Crier March 31.)

Subway prototype on display at Wilson TTC yard during March 31 transit announcement. Photo by Kris Scheuer/Town Crier.

Get ready Toronto for $12 billion worth of transit including a Sheppard subway, Eglinton LRT and the Scarborough LRT.
Mayor Rob Ford and Premier Dalton McGuinty announced the investment at a press conference from the Wilson TTC yards in front of brand new subways prototypes.
“This is a great day for taxpayers of Toronto,” Ford said. “They want rapid transit to get to work faster and to get home to their families.
“Our new plan will provide a truly rapid transit system.”
McGuinty confirmed that the province, through Metrolinx, would invest up to $8.4 million to build a 25 kilometre, 26 stop LRT line from Black Creek Drive to Kennedy station and north to Scarborough City Centre and to replace the existing Scarborough RT with an LRT.
The premier, mayor, the ministry of transportation and provincial agency-Metrolinx have worked tirelessly to work out a deal over the past four months that would meet the needs of all sides.
“Our provincial priority was the Eglinton line,” said Transportation Minister and Don Valley West MPP Kathleen Wynne. “We wanted to minimize delay, we wanted to get the Presto card implemented and we had said there was no more money.”

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Ford’s transportation deal with province

City and province to make joint transit announcement
It’ll include Ford’s privately-funded Sheppard subway plan
Plus provincial cash for Eglinton and Scarborough LRTs
Kris Scheuer
(Written for Town Crier March 30. March 31 UPDATE.)

Mayor Rob Ford's plan includes $4 billion in private sector cash to build a Sheppard subway. Town Crier file photo.

The city and province are both climbing aboard a new transportation deal that will be unveiled tomorrow morning.
TTC chair Karen Stintz confirmed on March 30 that the provincial government, its transportation agency Metrolinx and the city are moving full steam ahead with the plan outlined by Mayor Rob Ford.
“We have an agreement that will see major transit expansion in the City of Toronto,” Stintz told the media at an impromptu press conference this afternoon. “It is a real win for both the city and the province and I am really excited about the announcement tomorrow.”
That announcement to take place at the TTC’s Wilson yards at 9 a.m. on March 31 will be to confirm the province is still committed to its original investment of about $8.4 billion.
The provincial cash will be spent on a fully underground and expanded Eglinton LRT and to turn the Scarborough RT into an above ground light rail transit route.

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Donlands second subway exit on hold

City defers Woodbine, Wellesley and Greenwood plans too
TTC will proceed with 2nd exits at stations when cash available
Kris Scheuer
(Written for Town Crier Feb. 28)

The TTC has postponed building second exits at 4 subway stations until sufficient capital cash is available. Tristan Carter/Town Crier file photo.

The city has deferred all plans for controversial  second exits  at Donlands, Woodbine, Greenwood and Wellesley subway stations due to budget shortfalls.
The Toronto Transit Commission had originally recommended deferring three of the projects though not Donlands as it was scheduled for 2013, but councillor Mary Fragedakis pushed to include it as she thought it was important all four stations be dealt with together.
“Once the TTC capital (budget) has sufficient funds, we will reconvene a meeting for the Donlands and Greenwood communities,” said Fragedakis of the two stations in her ward. “This has only been deferred — not cancelled.”
TTC spokesperson Brad Ross said that the commission decided to put these projects on hold in order to complete other more pressing issues.
“We have $2.3 billion in unfunded capital budget for the next 10 years, so state of good repair are priorities and Ashbridges Bay (streetcar) car barn is a priority,” said Ross.
“We will come back next year or the year after to look at restoring funding,” he said.
Strathmore Boulevard resident Lisa Dymond, who has been pushing for alternative locations to the Donlands project, said she hopes the delay will encourage the TTC to revisit other options.

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Donlands station second exit deferred

Kris Scheuer

TTC's proposed second exit for Donlands subway is on hold for now. Image courtesy of TTC.

City council voted Feb. 23 to defer building controversial second subway exits at Wellesley, Donlands, Greenwood and Woodbine TTC stations.
A motion by Councillor Mary Fragedakis to amend the Toronto Transit Commission’s capital budget was approved during the city’s budget debate.
Her motion, which passed 42-2, was “City Council add the Second Exit at Donlands station project to the list of projects being deferred pending resolution of the TTC’s $2.3 billion Capital Budget funding shortfall.”
She sent out a press release Feb. 25 stating, “City Council voted overwhelmingly to defer the second exit project at Donlands station until the TTC is able to secure the necessary funding. Other second exit projects deferred at the February 23 Council meeting include Wellesley, Woodbine and Greenwood stations.” Continue reading

TTC’s bad sell on bus reductions

Commission approves reducing hours on Toronto buses
Also plans to improve service on crowded routes
But TTC failed to communicate good news in detail
Kris Scheuer
(Opinion column written for Town Crier Feb 4.)

The TTC is off track, as only the bad news is catching our attention while the good news goes unnoticed.
First the bad news.
The TTC’s gotten negative press recently because pedestrians have died in accidents involving TTC vehicles, drivers have been caught texting behind the wheel, a fare increase was announced then cancelled, and then came the decision to reduce service on dozens of bus routes.
Let’s rewind here.
On Jan. 1, Mayor Rob Ford fulfilled a key election promise to cancel the hugely unpopular car tax, which added $64 million to the city’s budget woes but placed $60 annually back in drivers’ pockets. Then on Jan. 10, Ford announced a 10-cent TTC fare hike to raise $24 million to balance the commission’s budget. When you did the math, it turned out that Metropass holders, like me, would pay exactly $60 more a year while drivers would pay $60 less.
Not good optics, right?
So a day later, TTC chair Karen Stintz announced the fare hike was nixed, as the city would chip in $16 million more for the budget and $8 million can be cut throughout the year.
Good news, right?
But there’s a separate plan to reduce hours on 48 bus routes during slow ridership times. Continue reading

Ford’s privately funded Sheppard subway plan

Mayor Rob Ford promises to deliver new Sheppard subway
Says if private cash not available, private sector will step in
Kris Scheuer
(Written for Town Crier Feb. 17)

Mayor Ford wants to help pay for his Sheppard subway expansion plan with a public-private partnership. Photo by Francis Crescia/Town Crier file.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is moving forward with a public-private partnership to fulfill his election promise to extend the Sheppard subway.
The city has submitted a proposal to Metrolinx, the provincial agency that looks after public transit funding in the GTA, to adjust its plan for the route from LRT to subway.
Ford was short on details at a 3 minute and 21 second press scrum, that also covered his health after an operation to help pass a painful kidney stone and his brother Doug Ford’s proposal to give the mayor veto power.
“I said I’m going to build subways. I am going to build subways,” Ford told the media this afternoon. “People know you can’t always rely on government to build subways and that’s where the private sector will come in.”
Neither Metrolinx nor the mayor provided details requested by the Town Crier on the cost of the city’s proposal for a Sheppard subway. However, Ford’s election platform does refer to a $3 billion Sheppard subway with 10 stops between Downsview and Scarborough Town Centre to be completed by 2015.
TTC chair Karen Stintz confirmed to the Town Crier the city will try to use the existing funding envelope of about $1 billion from the province and feds for Sheppard and then get the rest from the private sector.
“The discussion are at very high level now,” she said. “The Big Move has been approved by the Metrolinx board so if they make any changes it would be made by their board and then they would make those amendments and then the city would carry forward with its plans.”
Former TTC chair Joe Mihevc said the private sector would have to kick in $3.6 billion to keep the mayor’s plan on track.

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Sheppard subway publicly funded

Kris Scheuer
(Read update)

Mayor Ford pictured here Dec. 1 when he announced Transit City was dead. Photo Kris Scheuer/Town Crier file.

Mayor Rob Ford will outline his plan this afternoon on how to fulfill his election promise of a new Sheppard subway.
CBC reported this morning that the city proposed a plan to the province’s Metrolix on how to fund the Sheppard subway line.
The Globe and Mail also has a story with details on how the private funding could work.
The mayor’s election platform on a Sheppard subway was costed at $3 billion for 10 new stops between Downview and  Scarborough Town Centre. Part of the mayor’s new plan may include having the private sector pay for design and construction costs of the new subway and the city selling air rights to developers to build along new subway stops.
He’s holding a press scum at 1:15 at city hall. Usually these deals allow 3 questions of the mayor, but I will be there and report back after the announcement with as much detail as I can. I will be supplementing the article with info from other sources as well as from Mayor Ford.
Check back this afternoon for more…
Click here for update as promised.