This morning Premier Ford and Minister of Transportation Jeff Yurek announced a $28.5 billion plan to expand the Toronto transit network, including a Relief “Ontario Line” from the Eglinton Crosstown into the downtown core and onward to Ontario Place. Other projects proposed include more stations on the Line 2 East Extension fully funded by the government, and the Eglinton Crosstown connection to Pearson airport.
CodeRedTO welcomes the announcement of provincial capital investment in the expansion of Toronto’s transit network, and especially the longer Relief Line which provides a higher return on investment and higher level of Line 1 relief.
Provincial investment is a necessary part of the City of Toronto being able to engage in recent transit funding offered through the federal government, and it is good to see both the federal and the provincial governments making such significant contributions to transit. Improved and expanded transit is necessary for economic growth in the entire Toronto region, whose success is both a provincial and national economic engine.
While the current TTC Relief Line plan could begin construction in 2020 with confirmed funding, modifications to technology and alignment inevitably create some delay. The addition of a new technology mode to Toronto’s rapid transit network could bring potential benefits in the form of procurement or construction speed, or reduced day to day operations cost. But it also brings risks in the “learning curve” without any existing network off of which to build, and increased costs for duplication of maintenance facilities and spare vehicles. It will be vital to manage these risks to bring the best overall result within the remaining time before Line 1 crowding becomes dangerous.
It is also important to note that all “megaprojects” experience delays and cost increases, some required and some political. In fact, nine out of ten billion-dollar-plus projects go over budget. The research clearly shows that the most important elements of megaproject management are in the planning: evidence-based, transparent process, and a rigorous business case.
Missing from this proposal is the high-priority Waterfront East LRT, which will serve to enable access and transit-oriented development already in progress. Both the City and Province must align on this project rapidly to ensure travel patterns are built appropriately.
We also have concerns about the process to date. As we move forward, we hope the province will engage the city in an appropriate partnership and align on the planning of transit, particularly before making public announcements that have a material impact on existing city plans and spending.
We also hope that partnership results in a provincial commitment to improving the funding of the operations and maintenance of the existing transit system in Toronto. The TTC remains the least subsidized transit agency in Canada and the United States, and it is currently not able to provide a level of service appropriate to its ridership.
According to the American Public Transit Association’s report Open for Business: The Business Case for Investment in Public Transportation, “every dollar spent on public transportation generates $4 in economic returns.” We note that the City has to finance its own share of these capital expansion projects, in addition to the federal and provincial contributions. We hope to see the City revisit its budget and make a serious plan to find the necessary capital for the most worthwhile investments.