Overcrowded 54 Lawrence East bus during off-peak hours

Up until a few days ago, the  province was poised to take over the existing subway system and new transit infrastructure delivery from the TTC. At first glance, this appears to be a good thing. It is much easier for the province to generate revenue for the TTC’s $33.5 billion backlog in maintenance and state-of-good-repair. It is also much easier for the province to generate revenue for new transit infrastructure.

However, there is no agreement between the city and the province on what to build. Here’s a comparison of  Mayor Tory and Premier Ford’s transit priorities:

TORONTO’S PRIORITY TRANSIT PROJECTS

Mayor Tory and Council

Premier Doug Ford

One-stop Scarborough subway to Scarborough Town Centre Three-stop Scarborough subway to McCowan and Sheppard
Relief Line South (Pape to Queen) Ontario Line from Science Centre to Exhibition
Bloor-Yonge station improvements Yonge subway extension to Richmond Hill
SmartTrack stations Eglinton Crosstown West Extension

 

Instead of the city’s plan for one stop by 2026 for $4 billion, the province would replace the five-stop Scarborough RT with a three-stop subway by 2030 for $5.5 billion. Aside from more delays, this looks like a win-win for Scarborough.

 

Closer examination indicates the province is not prioritizing the Scarborough subway or rapid transit to Scarborough’s underserved neighbourhoods and campuses, nor is it addressing the backlog in subway repairs. The main priority for the province is the Ontario Line.

 

    • Eglinton East LRT to UTSC has been dropped from the city’s and the province’s priority list. Both John Tory and Doug Ford reneged on a 2018 election promise to build this line.  
    • The province released an Initial Business Case (IBC) for the Ontario Line and has prioritized an Alternative Funding and Procurement “read: privatization” bidding process  to start in the spring of 2020.  Contract negotiations for the Scarborough Subway Extension, on the other hand, won’t begin until the Winter of 2021, after the bidding process for the Yonge Extension to Richmond Hill has already begun.
    • Instead of joining with the city and federal government to fund subway improvements the Ford government announced $1.1 billion in cuts to the TTC.

 

Although Mr. Ford has stated the province will put up all the money for the $11 billion Ontario Line if it has to, the province only has $11.2 billion to contribute toward $28.5 billion worth of rapid transit . Without municipal and federal contributions the province is severely limited. Clearly, he needs all three levels of government to buy into his plan. 

The premier just announced he would drop the subway upload if Tory agrees to help fund the Ontario Line. We’ll find out what city staff think about this proposal on October 23rd when a report goes to the Mayor’s Executive. 

Stepping away from the subway upload is a big deal.  But the mayor shouldn’t have to go along with transit plan(s) that don’t make sense to avoid an upload. And Bill 107, Getting Ontario Moving Act  which passed earlier this May,  is about more than just who owns our subway system. It prevents the city from going ahead with new rapid transit lines near provincial ones. It allows the province to confiscate TTC assets without compensation. We would still lose the ability to decide what and where to build new transit lines and whether to deliver these new lines publicly or privately.  Unless the province adopts a more cooperative approach, we should remain vigilant about protecting our ability to make decisions at the local level and keep the TTC public.

Hole in floor of ScarboroughRT vehicle

In the meantime, will anything will be built in Scarborough or are we better off preparing for the inevitable demise of the Scarborough RT and its replacement with buses? 

Part Two – Privatization of  the TTC 

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