SmartTrack

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SmartTrack
SmartTrack logo.png
Overview
Type Commuter rail
Status Proposed
Locale Toronto, Ontario
Markham, Ontario
Termini Mount Dennis station
Milliken GO Station[1]
Stations 14 (originally 22)[1]
Website http://smarttrack.to/
Operation
Planned opening Early 2020s[2]
Owner Metrolinx
Route map

Mount Dennis
TTC - Line 5.svg GO Kitchener logo.svg UP Express logo.svg
St. Clair–Old Weston
Bloor
TTC - Line 2 - Bloor-Danforth line.svg GO Kitchener logo.svg UP Express logo.svg
King–Liberty
Union Station
TTC - Line 1 - Yonge-University-Spadina line.svg GO Transit logo.svg UP Express logo.svg VIA Rail Canada simplified.svg
East Harbour
TTC - RL.svg
Gerrard–Carlaw
TTC - RL.svg
Danforth
TTC - Line 2 - Bloor-Danforth line.svg GO Lakeshore East logo.svg GO Stouffville logo.svg
Scarborough
GO Lakeshore East logo.svg GO Stouffville logo.svg
Kennedy
TTC - Line 2 - Bloor-Danforth line.svg TTC - Line 3 - Scarborough RT line.svg TTC - Line 5.svg GO Stouffville logo.svg
Lawrence–Kennedy
Agincourt
GO Stouffville logo.svg
Finch–Kennedy
Milliken
GO Stouffville logo.svg

SmartTrack is a proposed commuter rail line in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is an enhancement to existing GO Transit regional express rail plans and includes an integrated fare structure and up to six new stations on the inner portions of the Kitchener, Lakeshore East and Stouffville GO Transit commuter train corridors.[3]

SmartTrack was proposed by Toronto mayor John Tory and was the centrepiece of his 2014 mayoral election campaign.

Original proposal[edit]

SmartTrack was first proposed during John Tory's 2014 campaign for mayor. It had been changed with proposals made by city staff after Tory assumed office.

The SmartTrack line as proposed would be 53 km long and run along Eglinton Avenue from Matheson/Airport Corporate Centre in Mississauga to Mount Dennis before turning downtown to Union Station. It would then run northeast through Scarborough to Unionville in Markham. 22 stations and interchanges with the Union Pearson Express, Line 1 Yonge–University, Line 2 Bloor–Danforth, Line 5 Eglinton, and GO Transit were proposed.[4] Tory estimated ridership would be 200,000 passengers a day,[5] would cost $8 billion and be in service by 2022.[6] No costing or ridership studies had been undertaken by Metrolinx, the TTC or the City of Toronto.

On December 5 the executive committee voted unanimously to commence feasibility studies regarding the project with Toronto City Council to vote on it in January.[7] On February 10, 2015, the Toronto City Council voted to spend $1.65 million more to study SmartTrack.[8]

SmartTrack is the latest in a series of proposed solutions to provide relief for the overcrowded Yonge–University line, particularly at the Bloor–Yonge station transfer point with the Bloor–Danforth line.[9] As proposed, it would service the shoulder areas of downtown such as Liberty Village, CityPlace, and the proposed East Don Lands development.[10] It would also connect Toronto to major employment centres in Mississauga and Markham. It would run above ground north along Eglinton using the Richview Expressway right of way and along the Kitchener line, Lakeshore East line, and Stouffville line. By building above ground and using existing infrastructure Tory stated that SmartTrack would be built far faster than the Downtown Relief Line (DRL), in 7 years opposed to 17.[11]

SmartTrack would complement the Government of Ontario’s plan to electrify the entire GO Transit network over the next 10 years to provide regional express rail (RER) to the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.[12] Using electric multiple units SmartTrack would provide all day service throughout Toronto approximately every 15 minutes. Tory claims that at Kennedy station a rider would get to Union Station in less than 30 minutes using SmartTrack’s service instead of 40 minutes along TTC's Line 2 and Line 1 subways.[4]

SmartTrack is also the latest proposal to bring rapid transit along Eglinton West to Pearson International Airport after the Eglinton West Subway was cancelled.[13] By connecting to the Eglinton line at Mount Dennis there would be rapid transportation along Eglinton from Pearson International Airport to Kennedy Road.

Tory estimated the cost of SmartTrack to be $8 billion, although no detailed studies were undertaken. As proposed by Tory, Toronto’s share would be paid for by using tax increment financing. It was expected that the provincial and federal government would each contribute a third of the cost.[14] Mississauga and Markham would also pay their 1/3 share for their portions of the SmartTrack Line, although they made no commitments.

SmartTrack would likely lead to an overhaul of TTC bus routes. Residents of Etobicoke and Scarborough would take an express bus to their closest SmartTrack station instead of the distant terminuses of Line 1 and 2. By diverting these passengers SmartTrack would also benefit North York commuters on the current overcapacity feeder bus routes to the Line 1 subway.[4]

Anticipated economic benefits[edit]

There has been an ongoing discussion as to economic benefits of Toronto's different rapid transit choices.[15] According to Tess Kalinowski, writing in the Toronto Star, a study co-authored by Andre Sorensen, a University of Toronto professor of Human Geography, SmartTrack's route would average 12 hectares per kilometre available for redevelopment. This was slightly more than the 11.1 hectares per kilometre available if the TTC's heavy rail system were extended from Kennedy station to Sheppard. But it was less than the 18.4 hectares per kilometre available on the Sheppard East LRT.

Criticism[edit]

A controversial part of Tory’s SmartTrack proposal during the election campaign was the Eglinton spur, from Mount Dennis to the Airport Corporate Centre in Mississauga. During the election campaign, Tory promised it would not require tunnelling, then acknowledged under pressure that it might. (Tory and his campaign staff had planned to use the former Richview Expressway corridor to run commuter trains westwards from Mount Dennis. However, that land was no longer available having been sold off for private development. Also the Tory team underestimated the technical difficulties of the large turning circle that heavy rail vehicles would require at Mount Dennis. This forced the need for much more expensive tunnel and elevated sections.)[16][17][18] City Manager Pennachetti said the city would study the “technical feasibility, community impacts, and cost implications of a heavy rail line” on the Eglinton spur, including the “feasibility of any required tunnels and bridges.”[19] According to a joint report from city planners and the University of Toronto Transportation Research Institute released in January 2016, heavy rail would draw about 87,000 daily boardings at a cost up to $7.7 billion while LRT would draw more than 105,000 daily transit boardings at a cost of about $1.3 billion. On January, 19, 2016, Mayor John Tory conceded that heavy rail was not the best option for the branch from Mount Dennis to the airport.[20]

The eastern sections of SmartTrack will run on the tracks of the Stouffville GO line, and would therefore be within two kilometres of the proposed extension of the Line 2 Bloor–Danforth subway into Scarborough. There was concern that SmartTrack trains would cannibalize the subway's ridership.[21] A report, titled Choices for Scarborough, Transit, Walking and Intensification in Toronto’s Inner Suburbs written by University of Toronto professors Andre Sorensen and Paul Hess, states that the worst-case scenario would be to build the Scarborough subway on the city’s approved route along McCowan Road within two kilometres of SmartTrack.[15] By October 2015, TTC CEO Andy Byford also expressed concern that two lines may cannibalize each other’s riders.[22] On January 20, 2016, City Staff issued a proposal to eliminate two of the three stops on the planned Scarborough Subway Extension and to terminate Line 2 Bloor–Danforth at Scarborough Town Centre with no intermediate stops from Kennedy station. Critics claim this revised plan would prevent the subway from cannibalizing ridership from SmartTrack's branch to Markham.[23]

Critics described Tory's pledge to pay the city’s portion of SmartTrack costs solely through tax increment financing as overly risky prompting the city and provincial officials to study the financial risks.[19] In October 2015, a city staff report said TIFs “may be an appropriate revenue tool,” but there is a risk new development won’t happen as expected, and that directly attributing any new development to the transit line may be a challenge.[22] Globe & Mail columnist Marcus Gee cited an example of TIF risk for transit projects: as of 2012, TIF has not been successful in New York City to help pay for a $2.4-billion extension of the 7 subway line, as TIF revenue from new development had fallen more than $100 million short of the $283 million expected.[24] In October 2016, a City report said that TIF would be insufficient to fund the City's portion of SmartTrack implementation costs. The report said that to "fund the early shortfalls", a 2.1% property tax increase would also be required until 2026.[25]

In October 2015, the mayor's office issued a statement believing a staff report confirms "that SmartTrack will provide real relief on the Yonge subway line with 75 existing TTC bus and streetcar routes connecting into the SmartTrack line.” However, transit blogger Steve Munro countered that the study does not confirm that SmartTrack would relieve crowding on the Yonge-University line as ridership projections were still unavailable to form such a conclusion.[22]

During the 2014 mayoral election, John Tory's election team predicted SmartTrack would carry 200,000 passengers per day with trains operating at a 15-minute frequency with a TTC fare being charged. According to University of Toronto academics, if the service runs every five minutes and uses TTC fares, SmartTrack could carry up to 300,000 people per day. However at a frequency of every 15 minutes (as proposed by John Tory), ridership would fall to about 75,000 people per day with a TTC fare, or half that with a GO fare.[26]

In an October 6, 2015 letter to Toronto's city manager, Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig wrote "Metrolinx and the province believe that the (city report) should reflect the scenario where SmartTrack is an incremental increase in RER (regional express rail) service, rather than an independent and parallel service that co-exists with RER." The letter also says SmartTrack cannot operate as a "surface subway" as federal rail regulations would prohibit TTC-style subway trains from operating on GO tracks. The letter also warns that SmartTrack could entail "considerable" expense over and above the GO plans for RER, "depending on the service concept and design."[27]

During the 2014 election, John Tory said that SmartTrack could be completed within 7 years. An October 2016 city report suggests that SmartTrack would not be completed until 2024[28] or 2026,[29][25] depending on various interpretations.

Revisions to the proposal[edit]

By January 2016, City and Metrolinx staff developed a draft proposal to integrate SmartTrack with expanded GO Transit rail service that would make SmartTrack smaller, cheaper and possibly more frequent. The proposal would add $2 billion to $3.5 billion to existing GO expansion plans.[30]

Under the staff proposal, SmartTrack would be shortened to run from Mount Dennis in the west to Kennedy Subway Station in the east and have only four or five new stations. Staff would replace SmartTrack's western branch along Eglinton Avenue West to Pearson Airport by an expansion of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. There would be 6-17 LRT stops instead of three SmartTrack stops. SmartTrack's eastern branch from Kennedy Station to Markham would be deferred indefinitely.[30]

SmartTrack was to run trains every 15 minutes. However, ridership modelling showed that such a frequency would not attract a sufficient number of passengers. Thus, staff are looking at frequencies of at least every 10 minutes, and as high as every five minutes during peak periods in some areas - almost as frequent as a subway.[30]

A city staff report presented to Toronto's executive council in March 2016 says that in order to accommodate a “separate and parallel” SmartTrack service, as Tory had promised, would require two additional tracks along the entire length of the existing GO corridor necessitating the demolition of many houses and residential highrise buildings. Also, two new platforms would be required at Union Station. This would not be possible to implement within seven years and for $8 billion. Instead of the 22 new stops promised by Tory, staff are proposing only four to eight additional stops. As of March 2016, the issues of fare, frequency of trains and total cost are unresolved.[31]

By June 2016, City planning staff were recommending seven new stations for SmartTrack service in addition to combined SmartTrack/GO RER service at Union Station, one future GO station (Mount Dennis) plus six existing GO stations. The six new SmartTrack stations would be St. Clair West, Liberty Village, East Don Lands (Unilever site), Gerrard and Pape, Lawrence East, and Finch East. A proposed SmartTrack station near Ellesmere SRT station was cancelled.[32] Another proposed station between Liberty Village and Union Station was considered but was rejected as it would not fit with the track density at that location. Staff had estimated that SmartTrack would put 24,100 residents and 19,000 jobs within 500 metres of a station, and would carry 27,600 riders daily in addition to GO Regional Express Rail, and would divert 3,900 riders from the Yonge subway south of Bloor Street during the morning rush hours.[33]

Metrolinx estimates that the 6 new SmartTrack stations would cost $1.25 billion of which the city pays $835 million with the federal government paying the balance. Approvals for the financing were still to be secured as of November 3, 2016.[34] Separately, the province is spending $3.7 billion on GO Regional Express Rail which is a prerequisite for SmartTrack. Completion is expected by 2026.[35]

Outstanding issues[edit]

As of October 2017, proposed layouts for each new SmartTrack station were available for public review. However, the following issues remained outstanding:[1]

  • The projected ridership is not yet known.
  • The passenger fare for SmartTrack has yet to be determined and may depend on the outcome of a Metrolinx study on regional fare integration.
  • The train frequency is not yet finalized. The hoped-for frequency is 6-10 minutes in rush hours and 15 minutes in the off-hours.
  • It is uncertain whether there would be direct trains between the east and west ends of the SmartTrack route, or a change of train at Union Station. A change of trains might reduce ridership.
  • Approval of the new Lawrence East SmartTrack station is in doubt pending a cost/benefit review by the provincial auditor general. There was a concern of political pressure in the decision for this station.[1] There is also the issue of whether the right of way is wide enough to permit construction of the SmartTrack station without shutting down Line 3 Scarborough which also has a station at that location.[36]

Route[edit]

Stop Transit connections Comments
Matheson Airport Corporate Centre MiWay 7 Airport, 43 Matheson–Argentia and 107 Malton Express bus routes This section was cancelled, and is to be replaced by a westerly extension of Line 5 Eglinton[20]
Kipling TTC 45 Kipling and 32 Eglinton West bus routes
Scarlett or Jane TTC 35 Jane, 73 Royal York, 32 Eglinton West bus routes
Mount Dennis Kitchener line; Union Pearson Express; Line 5 Eglinton Future station for SmartTrack and GO trains
St. Clair West (approx. 4 km west of St. Clair West subway station, between Keele St./Weston Rd. and Old Weston Rd.) 512 St. Clair streetcar route New proposed SmartTrack station
Bloor GO Station Kitchener line; Union Pearson Express; Line 2 Bloor–Danforth; 504 King and 505 Dundas streetcar routes
Liberty Village 504 King streetcar route New proposed SmartTrack station
Spadina–Front 510 Spadina streetcar route Not recommended by city staff[33]
Union Station Line 1 Yonge–University; GO Transit; Via Rail; Union Pearson Express; 509 Harbourfront and 510 Spadina streetcar routes
East Don Lands (Unilever site south of Eastern Avenue sold by Unilever Canada to First Gulf Corporation) Future connection to Relief Line New proposed SmartTrack station
Queen/Riverdale 501 Queen streetcar route Not recommended by city staff[33]
Gerrard 506 Carlton streetcar route; future connection to Relief Line New proposed SmartTrack station
Danforth GO Station Line 2 Bloor–Danforth; Lakeshore East line; 506 Carlton
Scarborough GO Station Lakeshore East line
Kennedy GO Station Line 2 Bloor–Danforth; Line 5 Eglinton; Stouffville line
Lawrence East (beside Lawrence East station) TTC 54 Lawrence East bus route New proposed SmartTrack station
Ellesmere (beside Ellesmere station) TTC 95 York Mills bus route Proposed SmartTrack station cancelled[32]
Agincourt GO Station (northside of Sheppard Avenue East west of Agincourt Drive) Stouffville line; Sheppard East LRT
Finch East (between Midland Avenue and Milliken Boulevard) TTC 39 Finch East bus New proposed SmartTrack station
Milliken GO Station (side of Steeles Avenue East with access via Redlea Avenue) Stouffville line
14th Avenue west of Kennedy Road York Region Transit 2 Milliken bus route Not recommended by city staff[33]
Unionville GO Station at YMCA Boulevard west of Kennedy Road (Downtown Markham) Stouffville line To be an RER station[37] but not a SmartTrack station[38][1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Spurr, Ben (October 10, 2017). "Tory's Smarttrack plan heads off for public input". Toronto Star. Retrieved October 11, 2017. 
  2. ^ Herhalt, Chris (October 10, 2017). "SmartTrack will be ready in 'the early 2020s:' Tory". CP24. Retrieved November 5, 2017. 
  3. ^ "SmartTrack FAQs". City of Toronto. Retrieved November 17, 2016. What is the difference between GO RER and SmartTrack? ... SmartTrack is an enhancement on the Metrolinx RER program that includes an integrated fare structure [and] up to six new stations on Kitchener, Lakeshore East and Stouffville GO Corridors. 
  4. ^ a b c One Toronto Transit (May 27, 2014). "The SmartTrack Line" (PDF). John Tory for Mayor. Retrieved August 12, 2014. 
  5. ^ Jessica Smith Cross (May 27, 2014). "John Tory unveils 'One Toronto' transit plan with SmartTrack centrepiece". Metro News. Retrieved August 12, 2014. 
  6. ^ Jonathan Kay (May 28, 2014). "Jonathan Kay: Could a Mayor John Tory build SmartTrack and save Toronto?". National Post. Archived from the original on December 8, 2014. Retrieved August 12, 2014. 
  7. ^ David Nickle (December 5, 2014). "Mayor Tory's executive committee asks for feasibility reports on SmartTrack". York Guardian. Retrieved December 8, 2014. 
  8. ^ Jennifer Pagliaro (February 10, 2015). "Council approves $1.65 million more to study Mayor John Tory's SmartTrack". Toronto Star. Retrieved March 1, 2015. 
  9. ^ Royson James (May 29, 2014). "Don't hold your breath for that downtown relief line: James". Toronto Star. Retrieved August 12, 2014. 
  10. ^ Ann Hui (May 15, 2014). "Mayoral candidate John Tory promotes new business district in East Don Lands". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved August 12, 2014. 
  11. ^ Royson James (May 28, 2014). "John Tory complicates transit debate with a simply good idea: James". Toronto Star. Retrieved August 12, 2014. 
  12. ^ STEVE MUNRO, AND HAMUTAL DOTAN (July 23, 2014). "Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca: It's Time for Building, Not Planning". Torontoist. Retrieved August 12, 2014. 
  13. ^ Tess Kalinowski (April 5, 2013). "Crosstown LRT: Eglinton's big dig ends 30-year wait for renewal". Toronto Star. Retrieved August 12, 2014. 
  14. ^ Rahul Gupta (May 27, 2013). "Tory transit plan proposes SmartTrack trains to run on GO lines". York Guardian. Retrieved August 12, 2014. 
  15. ^ a b Tess Kalinowksi (March 11, 2015). "Scarborough LRT would attract more development than subway: Study". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on March 12, 2015. The study looked at the prospects for redevelopment along LRT routes on Eglinton-Morningside and Malvern, as well as Sheppard. Combined, they had 18.4 hectares per kilometre that could be available for redevelopment. That was more than the 12 hectares per kilometre on SmartTrack and 11.1 hectares per kilometre on the McCowan subway route, which is supposed to replace the aging Scarborough RT. 
  16. ^ Tess Kalinowski (August 26, 2014). "Is John Tory's SmartTrack on track for seven-year delivery?". Toronto Star. It gets snarled in development at the Weston end of the tract, but Tory’s campaign says that’s not an issue. A tunnel or elevated section of the line would solve the problem — possibly just a trench such as the one the Yonge subway runs in north of Bloor St. 
  17. ^ Rob Salerno (September 9, 2014). "Is John Tory's SmartTrack able to leap tall buildings?". Now. Retrieved January 10, 2016. A 10-kilometre stretch set aside for his surface rail plan along Eglinton West has already been blocked by condo and townhouse development 
  18. ^ Oliver Moore (November 17, 2015). "Western spur estimates raise doubt over feasibility of Tory's SmartTrack". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved January 10, 2016. The figure raises new questions about the viability of doing the entire project for the $8-billion Mr. Tory promised during the mayoral campaign. And it is likely to re-energize debate about whether the area would be better served by a previously proposed light-rail line costing billions of dollars less. 
  19. ^ a b Daniel Dale (January 16, 2015). "SmartTrack studies to cost another $1.65 million". Toronto Star. Retrieved October 19, 2015. 
  20. ^ a b David Rider (January 19, 2016). "SmartTrack still on track despite changing plan, Mayor Tory says". Toronto Star. Retrieved January 19, 2016. 
  21. ^ Tess Kalinowski (January 29, 2015). "Scarborough subway plans complicated by SmartTrack proximity". Toronto Star. Retrieved January 29, 2015. 
  22. ^ a b c Tess Kalinowski (October 15, 2015). "Mayor John Tory's SmartTrack plan faces big hurdles in the west". Toronto Star. Retrieved October 19, 2015. 
  23. ^ Jennifer Pagliaro (January 20, 2016). "New Scarborough transit plan 'buys peace in the land'". Toronto Star. Retrieved January 20, 2016. 
  24. ^ Marcus Gee (August 23, 2014). "John Tory's SmartTrack: Why his big bet on transit is a real risk". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved October 20, 2015. 
  25. ^ a b Oliver Moore (October 31, 2016). "Tory's Smart Track plan can't be funded, built as promised: report". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved October 31, 2016. 
  26. ^ Oliver Moore (January 19, 2016). "Tory admits parts of his SmartTrack plan will not work". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved January 19, 2016. 
  27. ^ Tess Kalinowski (October 17, 2015). "GO and Smarttrack are one and the same service, says Metrolinx". Toronto Star. Retrieved October 19, 2015. 
  28. ^ Ben Spurr & Jennifer Pagliaro (October 31, 2016). "Report outlines steep costs of running new Toronto transit lines". Toronto Star. Retrieved October 31, 2016. 
  29. ^ Shawn Jeffords (October 31, 2016). "Property tax hike to pay for Smart Track?". Toronto Sun. Retrieved November 1, 2016. 
  30. ^ a b c Oliver Moore (January 14, 2016). "John Tory's SmartTrack transit plan for Toronto getting smaller, cheaper". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved January 15, 2016. 
  31. ^ Jennifer Pagliaro (March 8, 2016). "The undoing of Mayor John Tory's transit promises: Analysis". Toronto Star. Retrieved March 8, 2016. 
  32. ^ a b Ben Spurr (June 21, 2016). "John Tory's SmartTrack going ahead with six new stops". Toronto Star. Retrieved June 25, 2016. 
  33. ^ a b c d Ben Spurr, Transportation Reporter (June 2, 2016). "Version of SmartTrack taking shape with seven new stations". Toronto Star. Retrieved June 2, 2016. 
  34. ^ Edward Keenan (November 3, 2016). "We'll know soon if Tory's transit promises are for real: Keenan". Toronto Star. Retrieved November 3, 2016. 
  35. ^ Ben Spurr & Jennifer Pagliaro (June 26, 2016). "Mayor John Tory's transit priorities face financial, political challenge: analysis". Toronto Star. Retrieved July 20, 2016. 
  36. ^ Pagliaro, Jennifer (November 21, 2017). "City staff recommend moving ahead on SmartTrack stations despite financing uncertainty". Toronto Star. Retrieved November 22, 2017. 
  37. ^ "Stouffville GO line". Metrolinx. Retrieved October 12, 2017. 
  38. ^ "New SmartTrack/GO Stations - Media Briefing" (PDF). City of Toronto. October 10, 2017. p. 4. Retrieved October 11, 2017. 

External links[edit]