Transit City was a plan for developing public transport in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It was first proposed and announced by then-Toronto Mayor David Miller and Chair of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) Adam Giambrone on 16 March 2007. The plan called for the construction of seven new light rail lines along the streets of seven priority transit corridors, which would have eventually been integrated with existing rapid transit, streetcar, and bus routes. Other transit improvements outlined in the plan included upgrading and extending the Scarborough RT line, implementing new bus rapid transit lines, and improving frequency and timing of 21 key bus routes. The plan integrated public transportation objectives outlined in the City of Toronto Official Plan, the TTC Ridership Growth Strategy and Miller's 2006 election platform.
Since the official announcement of the plan, preliminary engineering work and environmental impact assessments were done for the construction of the light rail lines. Public meetings have been held to generate community discussion. The plan was initially reported to be funded by both municipal and provincial levels of government. However, as the Government of Ontario later decided to postpone a portion of its capital funding to Transit City, which met with much public and political controversy, construction plans were changed causing longer delays in construction start dates. Construction of one of the lines began in December 2009.
On 1 December 2010, Rob Ford, who was elected mayor in the 2010 municipal election, took office saying that the first job of the new transit commission to be appointed on 8 December would be to "stop spending money on a project we don't need anymore". Ford campaigned on a platform proposing expansion of the subway system, instead of implementing light rail lines. Ford acknowledged that he will need council's support to put an end to Transit City. In early 2012, Toronto City Council voted in favour of motions to resume work on the Sheppard, Eglinton and Finch LRT lines, as well as replacing the Scarborough RT, defeating Rob Ford's campaign for subways. The master agreement for these lines was signed on 28 November 2012. While these projects were originally proposed under Transit City, they are now part of Metrolinx's implementation of The Big Move regional transportation plan.
|Map of proposed light rail and bus rapid transit lines|
|A map of the proposed light rail transit (LRT) and bus rapid transit (BRT) lines according to Transit City. The existing subway/RT lines include the still future northern extension of the Yonge-University-Spadina line and the proposed eastern extension of the Scarborough RT. Future stations to be built, both subway and LRT, are written in italics. Proposed LRT stops on each LRT line are not shown. Note that the Scarborough RT is shown as an existing subway/RT line, although its revitalization plan is part of Transit City.|
The plan proposed 120 km (74.6 mi) of tram or electric light rail along seven routes. The proposed network would carry 175 million riders a year, of which 75 million would be new TTC users. The seven proposed corridors have been divided into two project priority phases: current and planned. In May 2009, the Metrolinx CEO, Robert Prichard, announced that after further study, the proposed project was being scaled down, with shortened routes or deferrals to fit within the dedicated provincial funding for Transit City, not factoring in the province's March 2010 announcement that it was deferring $4 billion in funding.
The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) was prepared to fund the entire cost of the network over a longer period of time. The highest priority was assigned to the Sheppard East, Eglinton Crosstown LRT and Etobicoke-Finch West LRT lines, and to the revitalization of the Scarborough RT line, which was projected to be built by 2020. In addition to the mentioned lines, it was likely that some sort of link would be established between the two lines, so that they could share a single storage facility. The TTC completed the environmental impact assessments for most of these lines, the first one being completed for the Sheppard East line. The construction of this line commenced on December 2009 but was stopped a year later by newly elected mayor Rob Ford.
Light rail transit
The following routes were to be constructed and opened by 2020. Development on the Scarborough RT line was also considered to be priority (see below).
- Sheppard East LRT: This line would run along Sheppard Avenue East from Don Mills Station via the future Sheppard East RT station on the Scarborough RT line, ending at a planned storage facility at Conlins Road, just east of Morningside Avenue. The line was to be constructed approx. 5 km further east to as far as Meadowvale Road, but that portion was postponed as a result of the provincial funding cuts. Construction for the line began in December 2009 with official groundbreaking by Toronto Mayor David Miller. The line will be serving the Sheppard East Village, a commercial neighbourhood along Sheppard Avenue East. An extension of the line northwards to the Toronto Zoo is being considered. Under construction since 2009, the line was expected to be completed and opened in 2014, the first of the seven lines. In June 2012 the province of Ontario announced that construction of the Sheppard east LRT would not resume until 2017 or finish until 2021.
- Etobicoke-Finch West LRT: One running along Finch Avenue West, from Humber College North Campus to the future Finch West subway station on the Yonge–University–Spadina subway. The plan was to keep the line's eastern terminus at Finch subway station and later extend the line to Don Mills subway station, providing a continuous route with the Sheppard East LRT, but this plan was postponed as a result of provincial funding cuts. Construction for its current route was expected to be completed by 2019.
- Eglinton Crosstown LRT: The longest proposed corridor, at over 30 km (18.6 mi), would be along Eglinton Avenue, from Kennedy subway station in Scarborough to Jane Street. The line was proposed to be continue further west to Toronto Pearson International Airport, but that portion was postponed as a result of provincial funding cuts. Between Keele Street and Laird Drive, the road has been deemed too narrow for a right-of-way, and therefore the line will run in a tunnel (with underground stations), much like the cancelled Eglinton West subway line. The planned route is expected to be constructed by 2020. It is the only LRT line that survived Rob Ford's cuts, albeit modified to include an extended underground section in the eastern section and the removal of the western section. The eastern underground extension was later revised back to a surface alignment in the 2012 transit vote; the western segment remains in question depending on future funding.
The following projects are undergoing environmental assessments and construction was to begin after 2020 and be completed by 2030 at the latest:
- Jane LRT: One running along Jane Street, from Pioneer Village Station on the Yonge-University-Spadina subway line (east of the Jane/Steeles intersection), connecting with the Bloor–Danforth subway at (presumably) Jane Station. This line would likely have been tunnelled for about 2 km from St. Clair Avenue to Bloor Street.
- Don Mills LRT: One running along Don Mills Road from Steeles Avenue, then through Don Mills station, then through East York Centre (Overlea Boulevard), where it would then follow the Leaside Bridge to Pape Avenue, and tunnel under Pape for about 2 km to Danforth (presumably at Pape Station).
- Waterfront West LRT: One along the western waterfront. This line would run along Lake Shore Boulevard West from Long Branch GO Station eastward to the Exhibition Grounds, where it would continue eastwards along Fort York Boulevard and Bremner Street toward Union station. This route was proposed since it passes by some densely built upcoming neighbourhoods and trip generators such as the Rogers Centre and the CN Tower. In January 2013, the project was cancelled by Toronto city officials.
- Scarborough Malvern LRT: One running from Kennedy Station to the Morningside/Sheppard intersection near the Malvern neighbourhood via Eglinton Avenue East, Kingston Road and Morningside Avenue. The line would pass near the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC); and with Toronto being the host of the 2015 Pan American Games, it was believed that this line would commence much sooner since UTSC will be one of the venues of the games.
Part of the Transit City project is the revitalization of the existing Scarborough RT rapid transit line. This project will extend the existing line eastwards from its present terminus at McCowan Station to three additional stops. The first proposed station will be at Bellamy Road to serve the Consilium Place business area and the second on Progress Avenue, east of Markham Road, serving Centennial College Progress Campus. The line will then curve north to Sheppard Avenue East, connecting with the Sheppard East LRT. A new environmental class assessment is being made to further continue the line north into the neighbourhood of Malvern over a former railbed just east of Markham Road. In the future, an in-fill station may be added at Brimley Road.
The existing service is approaching the end of the operational life of its ICTS fleet; as trains are no longer built to that line's specification, a replacement is needed. While an upgraded form of ICTS (Mark II Vehicles designed by Bombardier) had been considered, the current recommendation is to implement the LRT/tram technology used for Transit City to save on the fleet and track maintenance costs currently incurred by this unique-within-Toronto system. All renovations and extension constructions are to be completed by 2020. However, under Rob Ford, the renovated and extended Scarborough RT will become a part of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT instead and renamed Eglinton–Scarborough Crosstown line.
Bus rapid transit
The TTC was also planning to begin six new bus rapid transit (BRT) right-of-way lines once the tramline or light rail transit construction was complete, some of which are temporary until a subway extension occurs while one of them is already in service. The proposed routes are:
- along Ellesmere Road, from Scarborough Centre station to the Durham Region.
- along Danforth Avenue and Kingston Road from Victoria Park station to the Kingston Road/Eglinton Avenue intersection, where a station will be built connecting to the future Scarborough Malvern LRT line.
- along Dundas Street, from Kipling station to Mississauga.
- along Wilson Avenue, from Wilson Station to Keele Street.
- along Yonge Street from Finch station to Richmond Hill.
- York University Busway, connecting Downsview station to York University, which began service in 2009.
The York University Busway may stop service once the Spadina subway extension to Vaughan Metropolitan Centre station is complete. Likewise, creating a BRT line on Yonge Street depends on the fate of the proposed Yonge subway extension; if the subway extension is not approved, then work on the BRT line may commence.
Funding and costs
In April 2009, Finch West, Eglinton Crosstown, and the Scarborough RT upgrade and extension secured $7.2 billion in funding from the province, while the Sheppard East LRT has received $613 million in funding from the province, and $317 million in federal funding. In November 2007, the TTC provided an updated estimate of the costs of the proposal in its capital budget. The project cost to be paid by the Government of Ontario is $8.3 billion.
On 15 June 2007, the Government of Ontario announced its MoveOntario 2020 plan, that calls for a major overhaul and expansion of the Greater Toronto Area's transit systems, including the Transit City proposal, that will cost an estimated $17.5 billion in provincial and federal funding over a 12-year period. The provincial government proposes to provide two-thirds of the funds ($11.5 billion), and will ask the federal government to pay the remaining one-third ($6 billion). However, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government is currently not committed to this spending plan. The province's $17.5 billion MoveOntario 2020 plan calls for a total number of 52 transit projects in the GTA to be funded, with 95% of the projects completed by the year 2020.
On 18 June 2009, Miller requested federal funding from the Harper government's $12-billion stimulus spending to purchase new streetcars as part of the Transit City plan. The city faced a deadline of 27 June 2009 to commit to the $1.2-billion deal signed with Bombardier for the 204 streetcars. Miller and Premier Dalton McGuinty flew to Thunder Bay to announce their funding for the new streetcars, hoping to convince the Harper government to come up with its one-third share of the cost. Federal Transport Minister John Baird rejected the request outright. Baird stated that streetcar funding clearly failed to meet the stimilus bill's requirement that the funds would have to be spent in 2 years, as that was meant to put money into the economy quickly to buoy demand and staving off deflation, while Transit City would have been a long-term project. Also the stimulus required funds to be spent on infrastructure in the municipality where the application is granted in order to create local employment, whereas the jobs created by building streetcars would be in Thunder Bay and not Toronto. Baird noted that Toronto was the only one out of 2,700 applicants that didn't meet the eligibility criteria.
On 25 March 2010, the Ontario provincial government announced their decision to postpone $4 billion of funding to Metrolinx for the MoveOntario 2020 project, which included funding for Transit City. Toronto Mayor David Miller had expressed discontent and condemned Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, who had earlier promised to provide full funding for Transit City in order for it to be built before the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
The initial investment was to create approximately 100,000 jobs. The stated reason for the decision is a $21.3 billion deficit in the 2010 provincial operating budget. Standard economic metrics, however, show that as stimulus, Transit City adds significantly to provincial tax revenues, and given the province's 50-year amortization, the plan overall reduces Ontario's annual budget deficit. This caused widespread debate, protests and criticism of premier Dalton McGuinty by politicians and local groups. As a result of the postponement, the plan has since been scaled down and expected completion dates have been further pushed back.
The delay in funding, according to Miller, meant that the priority LRT lines (Scarborough RT, Etobicoke-Finch West and Eglinton Crosstown) would not be able to meet their planned construction and opening dates; work on the Sheppard East line would proceed, however, as its construction had already begun. Despite the controversy over the funding, Metrolinx had still negotiated a deal with Bombardier Transportation for a new fleet of trams or light rail vehicles which would be used on future Transit City lines.
Since the announcement, the City of Toronto and community groups have begun a lobbying campaign to restore funding, similar to the campaign leading to the initial funding. Mayor Miller has condemned the funding delay and requested riders to contact their Members of Provincial Parliament to have the government restore the funding. Other Transit City advocates also petitioned and organized rallies to promote the immediate construction of the projects.
The Public Transit Coalition was launched by common transit riders to counter the delay in Transit City funding. On 21 April 2010, the group held an event at the Toronto City Hall Council Chambers.
Transit City was expected to create approximately 200,000 new jobs in Ontario from $8.3 billion invested. This includes operation, construction, and economic stimulus effect of spending. Unemployment reached 9% in 2010, the GTA's highest level since 1995.
The Ontario government's promised funding for Transit City creates short-term economic growth of $12.4 billion per year, adding in the near-term 2.1% to Ontario's GDP, according to the American Public Transportation Association.
According to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities research, Transit City was to produce a first-year GDP gain of $17.3 billion, were all the money to be spent in the first year. After five years the project levels off to add $8.0 billion per year to GDP, with each $1 billion spent on transit adding 0.06% to Canada's GDP annually. This compares closely to US Congressional testimony, which shows infrastructure investment to stimulate annual GDP at a multiplier of 1.69 within one year, or $14 billion per year for Transit City. Both studies count direct impact of spending only.
In addition to this direct consequence, long-term indirect effects on business costs, productivity, and consumer spending from reduced congestion and travel costs create an additional $14.1 billion of value annually to Ontario's economy. Other indirect effects not measured are improved air quality and public health and reduced carbon emissions from extending rapid transit to 1.1 million more people.
Ontario taxes capture 12% of Ontario's GDP, meaning that Transit City's stimulus effect directly adds to Provincial tax revenue. Transit City's direct economic impact of $12.4 billion per year nets the Ontario treasury $1.4 billion in annual tax revenue. Indirect effects on congestion and transportation costs produce an additional $1.7 billion per year in tax revenue. Government of Canada Bonds currently offer 4% interest for a 10-year term. Transit City's $8.3 billion expansion funding, if amortized over 10 years at prevailing bond rates, cost the Province $1.2 billion per year. With Provincial tax revenues of $3.1 billion per year, Transit City easily makes up its financing cost.
- Toronto streetcar system
- Toronto subway and RT
- Downtown Relief Line
- Politics of light rail in North America
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- Sheppard Avenue East Light Rail Transit (LRT) – Background
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- 2008-2012 Capital Program and 10-Year Capital Forecast
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- Todd Litman (23 February 2010), Evaluating Public Transit Benefits and Costs: Best Practices Guidebook (PDF), Victoria Transport Policy Institute (pg. 59, Economic Development Impacts)
- http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/budget/ontariobudgets/2010/bk_managing.html Ontario Ministry of Finance: 2010 Ontario Budget: Backgrounder Managing Responsibly
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“Initial work by Metrolinx suggests that the four Transit City projects can reasonably be completed in 10 years, while achieving the required savings of $4 billion in the first five years,” says the April 27 letter to City Manager Joe Pennachetti obtained by the Toronto Star.
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- Unemployment hits 15-year high in Ontario, Toronto Star, 6 June 2009
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- Amortization calculator