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Miller backs city plan over Metrolinx draft

 globeandmail.com

$55-billion alternative to 'Transit City' fails to sway mayor

JEFF GRAY

With a report from Jennifer Lewington

September 4, 2008

Mayor David Miller defended his proposed Transit City light-rail network yesterday, responding to word that a draft transportation plan from the provincial agency Metrolinx would rewrite his scheme and call for a more expensive subway-like rail line underneath Eglinton Avenue.

Metrolinx - whose board is made up of Mr. Miller and other Toronto-area local politicians - is at loggerheads with the TTC over his plan to set up a network of larger, more modern streetcars in dedicated lanes, with a partly tunnelled line serving Eglinton.

According to an unreleased draft of Metrolinx's $55-billion, 25-year transportation plan, the agency is insisting on instead building a higher-capacity subway or a buried version of the Scarborough RT line along Eglinton, something TTC officials say is unwarranted by ridership projections and could cost as much as $10-billion, instead of the current Eglinton project's price tag of $2.2-billion.

"Transit City is the TTC's plan and it meets the needs from now for at least the next 30 years," Mr. Miller told reporters yesterday, adding that discussions with Metrolinx are continuing. "... It provides light rail as a coherent system. That's why the plan works and why it is financially affordable."

The Eglinton line is among the proposals in a confidential draft transportation plan - viewed by The Globe and Mail this week - calling for $55-billion worth of public transit and highway expansion in the Toronto area over 25 years.

In addition to concern from city officials, the plan attracted criticism from environmentalists, who warn it would likely do too little to reduce greenhouse gases.

The draft plan says it will boost public transit use and reduce the annual amount of transportation greenhouse gases emitted per person to 1.83 tonnes from 2.47 tonnes. But, since the population will increase, overall greenhouse-gas emissions from transportation will still rise.

Katrina Miller of the Toronto Environmental Alliance said this shows the plan's shortcomings: "They said they wanted to be bold. But this plan is bold in the wrong places."

The draft plan also calls for 4,600 kilometres of new lanes of road, for the expansion of Highway 407 east to Clarington and, in the draft version seen by The Globe, unspecified expansions of the 410, 404 and 427.

Mark Winfield, an assistant professor of environmental studies at York University, said many of the expansions had been put aside after the provincial Liberals brought in their plan to curtail sprawl.

"These are fights that we thought were over and had been dropped," Dr. Winfield said. "... Have the various regional politicians managed to slip these things back onto the agenda?"

The draft was to be discussed by the Metrolinx board in a private session later this week. Another draft version was to be released later this month for public consultations, with a final version submitted to the provincial government later this year.

What's in Metrolinx's $55-billion proposal

A draft version - subject to change - of Metrolinx's $55-billion, 25-year Toronto-area transportation plan, viewed by The Globe and Mail, includes:

More trains: GO Train riders in Hamilton, Mississauga, Brampton, Richmond Hill and Oshawa would see all-day, two-way service to Union Station every 15 minutes.

An express train would also run every 15 minutes from Union Station to Pearson Airport. Regular GO Transit commuter-rail service expansions or improvements include routes to Niagara, Kitchener-Waterloo, Bowmanville and Aurora.

More subways: A subway, or subway-like line would replace current plans for a cheaper light-rail line on Eglinton.

A new "downtown core" subway line connecting to the Bloor-Danforth line would run east-west along King or Queen streets.

More light-rail, more buses: A modified version of the TTC's plans would see modern low-floor streetcars in dedicated lanes along Finch, Sheppard, Jane and Don Mills Road and along the waterfront.

Local rapid-transit bus or light-rail services would be built along key routes in Hamilton and Halton, Peel, York and Durham Regions.

More roads: While the draft plan lacks specifics, it calls for at least 4,600 kilometres of new lanes of road, including the extension of Highway 407 east to Clarington, as well as extensions to the 404, 427 and 410.

It also calls for continued expansion of the province's high-occupancy-vehicle lane network.

 

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