Watching the social media commentary during and after the announcement of the $28.5 billion provincially-funded portion of the Toronto transit plan, there was plenty of pessimism and skepticism all around.
I am going to try to be a bit of an optimist. There is plenty to discuss regarding the “Ontario Line” and the subway and Eglinton Crosstown LRT extensions. I’m just tired of talking about the extensions because that has been debated to death.
I am really curious about the “Ontario Line”, marketed as a line from Ontario Place to Ontario Science Centre. The Tories have touted that it will be operated using a different technology than the rest of TTC transit network. While the details are a bit sketchy, I can assume the Ontario Line will emulate the design of Translink’s Canada Line.
Here are is a summary from McCarthy Tetrault’s website of the beginnings of the Canada Line:
On July 29, 2005, RAV Project Management, InTransit British Columbia Limited Partnership and the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority closed its long-term concession agreement for the design, construction, partial financing, operation and maintenance of a 19.5 km rapid transit line connecting downtown Vancouver with the City of Richmond and Vancouver International Airport. The project included investment by SNC-Lavalin Inc., entities managed by British Columbia Investment Management Corp. and the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec. The project has an estimated design and construction cost of approximately C$1.9 billion and is the largest public-private partnership yet to be implemented in Canada. It is also the first rail P3 in North America.
In addition, InTransit BC was contracted to design, build, partially finance, operate and maintain the Canada Line for 35-years. It opened in 2009 on-time and 3 months ahead of schedule. Much of the line within the Vancouver city limits is underground and is only above ground within the Metro Vancouver suburbs.
During the press conference, Premier Ford and Transportation minister Yurek mentioned the transit plan will be amortized over a 30-year period, but TTC will operate the line. How that agreement will look as well as Infrastructure Ontario’s financing plan is up and the air and will be scrutinized in the months to come. Furthermore, the Premier was quoted at the media event is that if the City of Toronto can’t fully finance their portion, the Province will backstop what’s remaining.
What is also up for debate is whether or not the western portion of the Ontario Line was meant to circumvent the downtown NDP ridings. Amanda Galbraith seems to think it’s a bit of a compromise:
The Ontario Line runs through NDP & Lib ridings. This kind of investment in downtown transit coming from a PC government really is something. For those complaining about renaming, in 2014 the Chow campaign called it the Yonge Relief Line. The optics with the name is not new. 3/
— Amanda Galbraith (@agalbraith) April 10, 2019
Will the Tories re-open the option to use revenue tools to partially fund the transit network, or at least the Ontario Line? Could congestion pricing (cordon pricing and not toll roads) be back on the table as Pembina suggest, as part of a larger transit financing scheme similar to New York State?
I might be optimistic this time around given the past transit plans the Province and the City had drawn up. I’m not all about transit lines on the map, or on the bank of the napkin like SmartTrack. I’m optimistic because the funding mechanism will be different than what has been advocated for election year after election year.
Tomorrow is Budget Day. Which social programs will be cut to fund the plan? The devil will be in the details.