Transit Expansion Plan Toronto

Toronto councillors set to unveil massive transit plan

Remember when the mere thought of Toronto building a Downtown Relief Line was dismissed as wildly ambitious thinking? Well, it's probably time to put that talk to rest as Councillors Karen Stintz and Glenn DeBaeremaeker, who serve as chair and vice-chair of the TTC respectively, have put forward a $30 billion proposal that would completely transform transit in Toronto over the next 30 years.

The Star's Royson James, who has the lowdown on what they're calling OneCity, rightly points out that the tax-based funding strategy will be the subject of intense debate when the idea first goes to city council in July, but the possibility of six new subway lines is nothing if not tantalizing.

Is this city finally thinking big about transit? We're about to find out. Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong has already characterized OneCity as a "massive tax attack," but you can bet that other councillors won't view the almost two per cent annual property tax hike as an outlandish sum — especially given that the plan would directly benefit many wards that are currently underserved.

There are, however, a ton of hurdles that will need to be passed in order for the plan to come to fruition. Forgetting the opposition it's sure to receive from Mayor Ford, two thirds of the projected funding is slated to come from the provincial and federal governments. The city would also have to campaign the province to alter property tax laws so as to profit from the assessment process. That's a more likely prospect than cash from other levels of government, but still not a guarantee.

Nevertheless, this is precisely the type of grand vision that many transit observers believe Toronto needs to combat gridlock over the next 20 to 30 years. Ford has said repeatedly that Torontonians want subways, and now we appear set to find out if they're willing to pay for them too. Get ready for some fireworks.

The Star has released some details from the plan — which includes a DRL-style line, extension of the Yonge subway line to Steeles and the Bloor-Danforth line to Scarborough Town Centre, and a connecting subway between Downsview and Sheppard — but we'll give a full rundown of what OneCity entails when the proposal is unveiled tomorrow.

In the meantime, what do you think? Is this a step in the right direction or just wishful thinking?

Photo by Scott Snider

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