What does the new transit plan mean for Toronto?

On Wednesday, Mayor Tory’s Executive Committee adopted a new rapid transit expansion plan for Toronto that City Council will consider in late March. 

The good news is that City Hall once again has a comprehensive plan to guide transit expansion. The not-so-good news is that transit riders are still many, many years away from actually seeing it built. 

The new transit plan cobbles together a whole number of older “plans” including the Regional Express Rail Plan (from Metrolinx, the provincial transit authority), the Transit City Plan (City Council’s plan from 2007) the Smart Track Plan (the cornerstone of Mayor Tory’s election campaign), the 2013 plan to build a Scarborough subway and Eglinton Crosstown line (adopted by City Council),  and various parts of older plans, like the downtown relief line, that the TTC and city staff have been pushing for years.

Based on whose analysis you read, this new plan has skillfully brought together the best of these other plans or this new plan has put politics ahead of good transit planning.

What cannot be disputed is that transit riders have to wait until at least the early 2020s before any new lines will be open. In contrast, had City Hall stuck to the 2007 Transit City Plan (instead of throwing it out when Mayor Ford was elected) transit riders across Toronto would now be riding on many fast, reliable transit lines.

The lesson for Torontonians is that politicians like coming up new plans but are very reluctant to put shovels in the ground and actually build new transit. Which means if we actually want to see transit built, we need to make it clear to our elected officials we want them built, now.

There is no doubt that the current plan going to Council in late March has its problems (see for example, transit expert Steve Munro’s latest blog). Torontonians have every right to expect Councillors to fix as many of these problems as possible at the March meeting. They also have the right to expect action.