Toronto Mayor Ford rejects ‘irresponsible’ $30B transit plan
Published Wednesday, June 27, 2012 8:02AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 27, 2012 6:31PM EDT
Mayor Rob Ford has rejected a $30 billion transit plan that would see a massive expansion of the city’s existing public transit infrastructure, calling it “irresponsible” and “unaffordable.”
The OneCity Transit Plan, a three-decade strategy to build subways, streetcars and LRT lines across the city was announced Wednesday morning by TTC Chair Karen Stintz.
The plan would create 170 kilometres of new public transit – including six new subway and train lines, 10 light-rail transit lines and five new bus and streetcar lines.
The entire project would take 30 years to complete and would be funded by a property tax increase of 1.9 per cent every year for four years. The funds raised by the tax increase would be dedicated solely to the transit expansion.
Ford told CTV News he won’t support the new plan.
“It’s completely irresponsible,” said Ford. “The tax payers can’t afford it, no one told me about this and I will not support it. People couldn’t afford to pay the minimal property tax last year, how are they going to afford this over-the-top ludicrous tax increase?”
Stintz unveiled the OneCity Transit Plan at a morning press conference, saying the plan marks a turning point in the city’s troubled transit past.
“I think we would all agree that Toronto has a great history of planning transit, and not such a great history of building transit. Today is the day we turn the page on that history,” Stintz told the press conference.
A map of the complete project shows subway lines snaking from the downtown core into the suburbs, LRT lines shooting into lower-density communities and train lines spreading into the Greater Toronto Area.
“This is a $30-billion proposal. It includes rapid transit of all forms. It includes subways to do the heavy lifting where there is heavy demand,” TTC vice-chair Glenn De Baeremaeker said Wednesday.
“It calls for LRTs where there is substantial demand and it calls for buses where there is demand but not enough demand to merit an LRT or a subway system.”
De Baeremaeker said the OneCity plan would complement and strengthen forthcoming funding strategies from the Province of Ontario, Metrolinx and the federal government.
The first project on the docket would be replacing the Scarborough RT line with a Scarborough subway running from Kennedy Station, through the Scarborough Town Centre and north to Sheppard Avenue.
In a transit plan recently approved by the city, the Scarborough RT line is currently set to be upgraded to a faster light-rail transit line.
A plan to build a streetcar line along the waterfront’s east side would help serve the 2015 Pan-Am Games, De Baeremaeker noted.
The transit plan’s 20 other projects would be prioritized in the coming months, and include:
- A Don Mills Express line from Queen Station to Eglinton
- Upgrading the Bloor-Yonge subway station
- Extending the Yonge subway to Steeles
- Extending the Sheppard East LRT line to Malvern
- Extending the Eglinton Crosstown LRT line to Pearson Airport
The ambitious plan comes at the heels of a civil war at city hall, which saw Mayor Ford’s own subway-focused transit plan rejected and replaced by one reliant on light-rail.
Stintz said it is significant that the OneCity plan includes a strategy to cover the cost – something Ford’s rejected plan lacked.
Attached to the plan is a request to allot a portion of property taxes directly into the transit expansion. It would amount to a tax increase of about $45 per household in its first year and increase up to $180 over the next four years.
In 2013, $68 million would be deposited in the transit fund, Stintz said. In four years, that number would reach $272 million annually.
“The single-most contributing factor to rising property values is the availability of transit. It makes sense to have property values invest in transit. You build transit, you increase property values,” Stintz said.
Even though the plan will be brought before council in July, it wouldn’t be fully ratified until the fall – giving time for public consultation, as well as consultation with provincial partners.
On Wednesday, the website onecitytransitplan.com showed new posts and breakdowns of various parts of the transit plan – including streetcar projects, proposed subway lines and details on its funding strategy.