Ford's $28.5B transit plan will double size of downtown relief line, dubbed 'Ontario Line'
The much-anticipated downtown relief line will be expanded and given a new name, the Progressive Conservative government announced on Wednesday as part of a spanning $28.5 billion transit plan that concentrates on the GTA.
Premier Doug Ford took the wraps off his transit plan in Etobicoke, unveiling a strategy to build four new transit lines, of which the province will pay $11.2 billion.
Dubbed “The Ontario Line,” the 15 kilometre relief line is expected to carry 400,000 passengers daily and won’t require an additional transfer fare, government officials say. The line will stretch from the Ontario Science Centre to Ontario Place and will be built by 2027.
The city’s plan had the line ran 7.5 kilometres between Pape and Osgoode stations in the downtown core and was due to be completed by 2029.
The standalone line laid out by the province would intersect with the TTC’s Line 1 and 2 and could use driverless trains and lighter vehicles. The exact number of stations – which the province expects will be privately built – has not been finalized.
"For the first time ever the Ontario government is taking the lead in building new subways in this province, because the people of Ontario have waited long enough," Ford told reporters in Etobicoke.
"I talk to people every day and I know that you are tired of being stuck in traffic. That's all I hear, 'We're stuck in traffic.' You're tired of being crammed into overcrowded subways. You are tired of waiting to get home to your families."
Ford’s transit re-design will once again change the plan for the Scarborough Subway extension.
The provincial government is promising to return to the original three-stop plan previously envisioned by the Premier’s late brother and former Toronto Mayor, Rob Ford.
During the announcement, Ford looked up for a moment and said, “This one’s for you, Rob.”
The three-stop subway is expected to add $1.6 billion to the last estimate for building the subway, placing the price tag at $5.5 billion. Stops at Lawrence East and McCowan stations have been added back into the plans after being abandoned by the city due to cost overruns.
Ford said that, if necessary, the province will foot the entire bill for the extension.
The province promises to deliver the project before 2030.
New legislation is due to be introduced in the coming weeks which will detail the responsibility for the planning, design and delivery of the new subway lines.
Here is a breakdown of the transit projects to be built in the GTA:
From Ontario Science Centre, south to Queen St., west to Osgoode and south to Ontario Place.
Cost: $10.9 billion
Yonge North Subway Extension
North from Finch Station to Richmond Hill station
Cost: $5.6 billion
Scarborough Subway Extension
Three-stops subway including Lawrence East, Scarborough Town centre and McCowan station
Cost: $5.5 billion
Timeline: Before 2030
Eglinton Crosstown West Extension
Underground LRT going to Pearson Airport
Cost: $4.7 billion
Timeline: Before 2031
While the province has budgeted $28.5 billion for the projects, the Ford government will look to the federal government as well as several municipalities, including Toronto and York Region, for $17.3 billion.
The government is also hoping to use $4.2 billion from the federal Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program and another $2.25 billion from the Green Infrastructure Stream to help foot the final bill.
The PC government will also lean on the private sector to build new stations in exchange for the air rights above the stations.
When pressed on what he would do if the federal government doesn’t meet his expectations, Ford said he’d be willing to “backstop it” themselves.
“There has to be responsibility with the federal government. Last time I checked, they have a lot of members where these subways are going. Last time I checked, the mayor’s responsibility is to get the city moving. I look forward to working with the mayor and I look forward to working with the federal government,” he said.
“For as long as I can remember, it’s usually a triparty agreement and we’re going to get this moving. We’re going to get moving, one way or another.”
Ford said the province is working closely with Toronto on the plans.
“We have a good relationship. We have a good relationship with a number of councillors and I have a good relationship with Mayor Tory,” Ford said. “We talk more frequently than people realize.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory decided to skip Ford’s official announcement on Wednesday. One day earlier, he told reporters that he hadn’t been “fully informed” of the plan and said he did not want his appearance to be construed as support for changes he had little knowledge of.
Following the announcement, Tory cautioned that the provincial transit plan is a proposal and “not mandated.”
He said there are some things – including the new technology behind the downtown relief line – that remain unclear and leave his opinion of some elements of the plan reserved.
“Am I satisfied with the information? I’m satisfied I know what I know after the announcement they made this morning, but I’ve also said to you we have pages, already we have pages of questions, that we’re going to put to them at the table,” he said.
“There is a clear statement of what the premier and what the government I guess want to see, but I think these are discussions we have to have now as to the most prudent use of public money, the best areas for development, including the development of affordable housing near transit and other forms of housing and employment. Those are the discussions I’m expecting we will have and that the Premier said today that he will pursue in good faith.”
Tory did not elaborate much on how the money required from the city to make these projects happen, but said he believes that other regions should be added to the tab.
“Now other cities are involved in a number of projects, we’ve got the airport involved, he said.
“I certainly would look to people from the 905 in lines that go there and connect to our transit system for their help. For that matter, I’d be maybe revisiting the question of whether they should be helping us with some of the operating costs... They also use our transit system which the taxpayers of Toronto heavily subsidize.”
Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti said his residents have long contributed to Toronto’s transit system.
“I get tired of hearing comments from people saying, ‘Well if you want a subway, why don’t you pay for it?’ The fact is that collectively, as provincial taxpayers, as federal taxpayers, we’ve all contributed to the current system that the city of Toronto has enjoyed,” he said.
“The city of Toronto has never paid 100 per cent of their rapid transit system. So in many respects, nothing has changed here, all of the taxpayers are contributing.”
The York Region mayor applauded the province’s plan, saying it’s been years since an environmental assessment gave the green light on expanding the subway to Highway 7.
“I certainly will be looking towards the federal government to be participating and to ensure that the Yonge subway gets extended all the way up to Highway,” he said.
“There’s no doubt we are extremely happy that we’ve been listened to. The beleaguered commuters that are jammed into those buses every day on Yonge Street are going to get relief.”
With files from CTVNewsToronto.ca's Rachael D'Amore