Rocco Rossi unveils his plan for 'Transit City Plus'
Published Tuesday, May 4, 2010 7:49PM EDT
Another Toronto mayoral candidate has come out in favour of expanding the city's public transit network by building subways.
"Our goal has to be a transit system so good that when you wake up in the morning, you reach for your transit pass instead of your car keys," Rocco Rossi said Tuesday.
Rossi, a first-time candidate and former national director of the Liberal party, called his approach Transit City Plus during a news conference that used the TTC yards at Yonge and Merton streets as a backdrop.
Rossi's plan would involve an approach known as continuous tunneling, which would essentially mean building one subway station per year. The city of Madrid in Spain uses this approach.
Bus service would be increased in the suburbs, and new technologies such as smart cards and electronic maps would be introduced.
He put a price tag of $4.5 billion over 10 years on the mass transit proposal.
"That's $4.5 billion for more subways, more rail and buses, first-class technology and first-class customer service," he said.
Rossi wants the city to pay for the project entirely on its own, although he has previously said the city needs the province to partner with it on transit.
To pay for his plan, Rossi would eliminate Toronto's debt by selling off non-key assets such as Toronto Hydro. He estimated that would cut debt carrying costs by $450 million per year.
In a news release, George Smitherman's campaign attacked the math, noting it would only build 20 kilometres of subway capacity over a 10-year period. In addition, Smitherman suggested Rossi had vastly overestimated the amount Toronto Hydro would fetch in a sale -- and ignored the lost revenues.
Smitherman said he would be releasing his own detailed transit plan in the near future, without giving a specific date.
Mayor David Miller's administration has started developing a plan called Transit City that would see a 120-kilometre network of light-rail transit built across Toronto. That $6-billion plan was jointly announced by the province and city in 2007.
On April 1, 2009, Premier Dalton McGuinty held a news conference to announce $9 billion in funding for transit expansion. However, his government said in its March 25 budget that it would delay about $4 billion in capital spending on Transit City.
That includes the 30-kilometre Eglinton Crosstown line, which would run from Pearson International Airport to Kennedy Road in Scarborough. A 10-km stretch would be underground between Laird and Keele Streets.
Since then, current municipal politicians have rushed to defend Transit City and demand its construction proceed along its original schedule.
In his original reaction to the provincial move, Rossi said he would talk about a transit plan that was realistic, achievable and affordable.
Tuesday was the first time he mentioned subways.
Mayoral candidate and publisher Sarah Thomson has been a consistent supporter of subway expansion. She would pay for them by instituting rush-hour tolls. Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti has also argued that potential subway routes should be reviewed.
Coun. Rob Ford said last week he would scrap Transit City and try to build subways, selling air rights above stations to pay for the costs.
City staff have said that subways cost about five to six times as much to build per kilometre as light-rail transit and requires much higher ridership to justify the cost.
Former Liberal cabinet minister George Smitherman has pointed to the problems that occurred while building the St. Clair Avenue West streetcar right-of-way as reasons for a go-slow approach on Transit City.
Rossi strongly attacked what he called the "fiasco of St. Clair" at a west-end Eglinton LRT meeting in February.
At Queen's Park, the NDP have asked the McGuinty government to provide a new timetable for when full Transit City funding will be restored.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Alicia Markson