Incumbent Mayor John Tory is continuing to roll out parts of his re-election platform, with the most recent doubling down on seeing the City’s $28B transit plan through to completion.
The plans, which mark the largest transit expansion program in North America seen in decades, prioritize four major projects: the Scarborough subway extension and Ontario Line, both currently under construction, as well as the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension and Yonge North Extension. Tory will be “laser focused” on seeing these projects to fruition, states a release, and will break Toronto’s stagnant record on transit creation.
“For many, many years, before I became Mayor, Toronto built very little new transit capacity,” he states. “But under my leadership, we are getting on with getting transit built -- in Scarborough, in Etobicoke, in the downtown, in East York, and in North York. One of the big reasons why I’m seeking a third term as Mayor is to make sure the once in a lifetime transit expansion gets done, and I know that it will require experienced leadership to keep these projects on track”.
However, writes transit activist and commentator Steve Munro, Tory’s plans may prove less ambitious than implied, given these new transit lines happen to already be priorities under the Ford Government.
In a blog post Munro states, “He pledges to be 'laser-focused' on four key projects that just happen to be provincial undertakings. How exactly Tory, or any other municipal politician can advance these, other than standing out of Premier Ford’s way, is something of a mystery.”
Tory’s platform also includes a bevvy of additional expansions and investments, many of which have been in the works for some time, with some nearing completion. These include the opening of the soon-to-be finished Crosstown and Finch LRTs, as well as implementing the first-ever RapidTO corridor -- a priority bus-only lane -- along Eglinton East, a notoriously traffic-clogged throughfare. A similar corridor along King Street -- the City's most-use artery -- will also allow for more reliable and efficient streetcar service.
He’ll also back a $586M investment to add 60 new streetcars to the TTC’s fleet -- a monetary commitment from all three levels of government -- as well as ensure the TTC continues to have the largest fleet of electric buses on the continent.
His docket also includes the implementation of the Smart Track program, with an agreement signed between all three levels of government, as well as getting planning underway for the Eglinton East and Waterfront transit lines.
However, writes Munro, these line items add up to mere lip service, given the reductions made in recent years to the SmartTrack Plans.
“SmartTrack, announced two elections ago when John Tory was first staking his claim to having a transit program, is a shadow of the original proposal,” he writes. “It is now a handful of new GO stations that will be built at the City’s cost, and marginal improvements in GO service that Metrolinx planned to operate whether SmartTrack existed or not.”
Other initiatives include significant upgrades to the TTC system as part of the five- and 10-year plan to improve customer experience and accommodate expected growth in ridership, such as increasing service on subway Lines 1 and 2 during peak period to support employers’ return-to-office plans. There will also be increased investment to 17 bus and streetcar routes in 2022, the introduction of wifi on busses this fall, and the Fair Pass, a first-ever TTC discount for low-income residents, as well as free two-hour transfers on the TTC.
Stated Tory, “Toronto is growing, and a big part of that growth requires continued investments in transit -- from the City, from the province and from the Government of Canada. That's why I am so proud that as Mayor I have worked with both of these governments to break the gridlock when it comes to transit planning to ensure we get transit built in Toronto and keep people moving. This transit plan is a monumental gain for our city and the $28B transit expansion is on track, but it has to stay on track. That has been my focus as Mayor, and will continue to be my priority if re-elected.”