Now that the official signing-off for Toronto's LRT lines and PRESTO smartcards has passed, Metrolinx has moved on to other major infrastructure projects sitting in the transit pipeline. In a speech to the Toronto Board of Trade yesterday, Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig outlined the next phase of The Big Move program, aimed at improving mobility in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. "The Big Move is our plan to tackle gridlock... We already have over $16 billion invested in projects from The Big Move that are now in progress, but we need to keep moving forward," said McCuaig.
Two new subway lines are in the works for this next wave, and this includes the much talked-about Downtown Relief Line. The DRL is a crucial element in the region's overall transportation network capacity, as the second subway line, an extension of the Yonge line into Richmond Hill, cannot go ahead until more capacity is added downtown for the extra passengers that will be brought down from York Region. The second stage of Metrolinx projects bumps the DRL to a priority for it to be funded and completed in about 15 years.
GO Transit rail network is to be extended and more all-day, two-way service added. There are also plans to electrify GO Lines and the Union Pearson Express, or UP (formerly known as the Air Rail Link). The key goals of the next wave include over 700km of enhanced transit (new build, extension or service improvements), the creation of over 800,000 new jobs and over 6 million people living within 2km of rapid transit by 2031.
The elephant in the room of course is how to pay for all of it. In his speech, McCuaig encouraged attendees, stakeholders and the public to engage in a conversation on how best to pay the $34 billion price tag for these improvements by looking to the transit funding models of other cities. A recent update to The Big Move incorporates the results of more timely studies designed to meet transit needs in the GTHA, and will be available on the Metrolinx website for public comment starting December 5th. Ideas up for discussion include increase in income tax, road tolls and a dedicated gas tax.
The first wave of The Big Move projects has seen an investment of over $16 billion in the GTHA, including the Eglinton-Crosstown LRT, the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension, the Mississauga BRT, UP (ARL) as well as new dedicated bus lanes in York Region.