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 Mayoral candidates and transit promises. 
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Post Mayoral candidates and transit promises.
The Toronto Star article

Subways are great, but at what cost?
A reality check on some promises being made in the mayoral campaign

Robyn Doolittle
Urban Affairs Reporter

What will the next mayor do to fix Toronto’s transit crisis? Four candidates have weighed in so far, each with an ambitious — some would argue impossible — blueprint, a multi-billion-dollar price tag and various strategies for finding the cash.

For the record, a kilometer of light rail costs about $100 million, a kilometer of subway runs around $300 million, and above-ground subways are about $250 million per kilometer.

So which candidates are on the right track and which just dreaming?


The plan:
54 kilometres of above- and below-ground subway lines, including a downtown relief line, Eglinton line, and extension of the Bloor-Danforth, Spadina, and Sheppard routes, funded in part by road tolls, working with developers and creating a subway bond.

Projected cost:
$14 billion.

Would it work:
TTC chair Adam Giambrone says Thomson’s plan is the most realistic, because it acknowledges new revenue would need to be generated. She estimates $5 rush-hour road tolls on major routes could generate $400 million to $500 million per year. (A 2007 city report anticipates just $74 million to $120 million.) She also assumes public-private partnerships will reduce cost to $200/km.

The good:
Truly a citywide expansion, and her funding strategy is the most truthful.

The bad:
Numbers still don’t add up and there are legitimate concerns with her fuzzy timeline, and whether populations along some routes could adequately support a subway line.


The plan:
“Transit City Plus” would extend Sheppard line to Scarborough Town Centre, then close the loop to hook up with Bloor-Danforth line. Would build 2 kilometres per year over the next decade. Wouldn’t scrap Transit City entirely, or turn away provincial dollars, but would modify existing proposal.

Projected cost:
$4.5 billion (not including $8.15 billion for Transit City already in the works).

Would it work:
Would use sale of Toronto Hydro for estimated $3 billion to pay down city’s debt, then redirect existing $450 million allocated for debt repayment to construction. Critics say Hydro wouldn’t fetch that much and that Rossi is ignoring the fact the province would take about one-third of the sale as a transfer tax.

The good:
Rossi’s plan is in many ways modest, and beneficial for booming Scarborough. His schedule and cost estimates are specific and more or less in line with the research. “I don’t agree with his numbers but at least he’s honest and saying ‘I have Asset A and I’ll trade that in and get money with which to build Asset B,” said Steve Munro, local transit blogger.

The bad:
It’s still unclear which parts of Transit City Rossi would scrap.


The plan:
Aligned with David Miller’s plan for Transit City. Provincially funded initiative is designed to get rapid transit into underserved areas quickly: about 50 kilometres of light rail with about 90 stops along Sheppard, Eglinton and Finch Aves. over the next 10 years, as well as a rebuild of Scarborough Rapid Transit.

Projected cost:
$8.15 billion

Would it work:
Concerns were raised by province’s decision to delay $4 billion of the funding. Advocates fear a change in government could derail the plan.

The good:
With money on the table and major players on board, Transit City seems to be the city’s best hope of getting better transit into Toronto’s most needy communities quickly.

The bad:
Some of the track will be below ground, but most will be above ground and may add to congestion despite their dedicated rights-of-way.


The plan:
Essentially Transit City Deluxe, a mix of subway and light rail rolled out in two phases before and after the 2015 Pan Am Games: First, extending the Spadina line, Queens Quay, Eglinton and Sheppard LRT. Second, extending Sheppard subway west, a Finch West LRT, Scarborough line, and extending the Bloor-Danforth line.

Projected cost:
$17 billion

Would it work:
After current commitments by Metrolinx, province and federal government, Smitherman says the city would be on the hook for about $7 billion. He plans to find the extra cash from parking authority and Hydro dividends, as well as the city’s share of gas taxes. The problem is, those funds are already being spent in the budget.

The good:
In Smitherman’s Toronto, you could ride the subway from the Scarborough Town Centre to Sherway Gardens in Etobicoke.

The bad:
His funding plan is not realistic, does not include a downtown relief line, and many of the initial proposals are already approved.


The plan:
Yet to release a comprehensive transit plan, but has called for an end to Transit City, saying: “People want subways.”

Projected cost:

Would it work:
Ford has mused about selling air rights on top of stations to help pay for construction. It’s too early to judge Ford’s transit vision, let alone if it would work.

The good:
People actually do want subways.

The bad:
Killing Transit City now would mean many underserved neighbourhoods would continue to be underserved, and there is no guarantee the province would fund a future initiative. There are also questions about whether Scarborough, Etobicoke and North York have the density to support subways.

With files from Tess Kalinowski

May 31st, 2010, 10:11 pm
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