TTC reveals multi-billion dollar light rail plan
Toronto city officials have announced a $6 billion dollar plan to build an ambitious light rapid transit network that will include seven rail lines that will crisscross the city.
"No Torontonian should be disadvantaged because they don't own a car," TTC chairman Adam Giambrone said on Friday. "Everybody should be able to get to every corner of the city."
Giambrone says the 15-year plan would cost the city about $400 million each year. The seven rail lines would include about 120 kilometres of track.
The seven corridors suggested for the Toronto Transit City light rail plan are:
- Don Mills - Steeles Ave. to Bloor-Danforth Subway;
- Eglinton Crosstown - Kennedy Station to Pearson Airport;
- Etobicoke-Finch West - Yonge Street to Highway 27;
- Jane - Jane Station to Steeles West Station;
- Scarborough Malvern - Kennedy Station to Malvern/Morningside;
- Sheppard East - Don Mills Station to Morningside Avenue; and
- Waterfront West - Union Station/Exhibition to Long Branch.
The new light rail vehicles will be longer than the current streetcars and more modern looking, Giambrone told CTV's Tim Weber on Friday. They will also have their own right of way.
Mayor David Miller says a new approach is vital for Toronto's future.
"If Toronto is going to succeed, we're going to need rapid transit in every neighbourhood," Miller said. "It is absolutely essential for this city to meet the needs of its growing population."
The city budget has no concrete financial dollars set aside for the project, but officials are instead relying on funding from the provincial and federal governments.
Details of the plan were announced just three days before the federal government is set to release its budget, a fiscal blueprint that many suggest will include new money for the TTC.
Giambrone said the city expects to use a portion of the $2 billion in federal transit funding that Canada's big city mayors have called for.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced nearly $1 billion in public transit funding for the Greater Toronto Area, including the federal share of a $2.1 billion project to extend Toronto's Spadina subway line into York Region.
Some commuters applaud the new transit initiatives.
"It's better for the environment, it's faster, it prevents gridlock and I think it's a cheaper option," said one rider.
"I think it's a good idea because all of those areas are not really accessible to a lot of people, and if you take the bus, it takes a lot of time, especially during the winter," added another.
Other commuters, however, are skeptical of the new light rail project and want to know why the city isn't putting more effort into getting more subway systems instead.
Giambrone said there is still talk about building subways for the future but that in the long run, subways are about 10 times more expensive than the LRT.
"This plan was just not doable in terms of subways," he said. "They're expensive to operate and light rail also allows you to re-invigorate the street and pump more money into street improvement."
Giambrone said if people want subway systems instead of light rail transit, the first step is to build ridership until the city is at point where it can justify a subway line.
Officials hope the rapid transit network will help reduce traffic congestion and pollution.
"If you want to succeed in the fight against climate change, the most important place to do that is in cities," Miller said.
Environmentalists showed their support for the transit initiative.
"If this plan passes, we'll have a lot less congestion, fewer cars on the road, because people will be using the TTC more," said Franz Hartmann of the Toronto Environmental Alliance.
"That means fewer smog days, and it also means we can also start to fight global warming."
Miller would like to see construction begin before his term ends in 2010.
With reports from CTV's Desmond Brown and Janice Golding