Is John Tory's transit plan actually a winner?
It might be perceived as yet another one of John Tory's flip-flops, but the mayoral candidate's new transit plan actually makes a lot of sense for Toronto. While Tory has been talking about a Yonge Relief Line for much of the early campaign only to reveal a plan that's nothing like previously discussed iterations of the DRL, I'm not sure that it matters a whole lot given that the proposal he put forward yesterday seems so much more likely to built in the next decade.
Tory wants to do something that transit enthusiasts often discuss, but which has yet to get a whole lot of serious consideration. Rapid surface rail. Using (mostly existing) rail corridors, his SmartTrack line would run from the airport to to Union Station before heading northeast to Unionville. It's not as sexy as a subway, but with multiple connections with existing and to-be-built TTC infrastructure, one can imagine this plan having a major impact on congestion in the GTA when it's projected to open in 2021 (obviously that date is very ambitious).
That said, there are a number if uncertainties that could render the SmartTrack proposal a dud. For one, it relies too heavily on the electrification of existing GO lines, something which isn't necessarily going to happen, particularly if the Tories win the upcoming provincial election. And two, the funding plan is problematic. Tax increment financing sounds good on paper, but in the absence of major number crunching, it's hard to endorse its actual viability for a specific project.
Yes, Tory's plan doesn't do much to improve transit in the GTA right away, but at $8.3 billion for 22 stops, it's a whole lot more realistic and quick to build than some of the other transit plans that have been floated. What do you think? Is John Tory's surface subway likely to get traction with voters?
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