With the TTC and Metrolinx unveiling maps earlier in February showing an extensive network criss-crossing the city by 2031, transit supporters could be forgiven for heaving a sigh of relief.

An impressive map but a lot could drop off it between now and 2031

Of course there have been grand plans for transit in Toronto before which came unglued—Transit City anyone? This time, however, all three levels of government say they are committed to funding infrastructure and in particular providing better public transit in Toronto. The future of transit in the city was the key issue in the recent mayoral campaign, and John Tory has said that he believes that even his own SmartTrack project on its own is not sufficient to solve Toronto's transit problems. "For years and years we would build one project, whether it was an extension of the Spadina subway or an extension of the Bloor subway, and we'd sit back and admire it for 10 years and say 'isn't that fantastic'" he told reporters recently.

Hilary Holden, the city's Director of Transit and Sustainable Transportation Planning said on Saturday that she hoped to see a comprehensive plan written into Toronto's Official Plan by the end of the year to "set it in some sort of stone so councillors in future [facing demands for change or scaling back] can say, ‘no we all agreed this is the official plan’."

All of this is hopeful news, but the map should nonetheless be seen for what it is - a broad vision and an ambitious wish list, not a detailed plan. We have seen how Tory's commitment to a three station subway proposal in Scarborough became a one station subway and an LRT proposal, and the western leg of SmartTrack is also to be replaced by another form of rapid transit. At one of the early public consultations in Etobicoke about the latter, it became clear that while the map shows an LRT with 12 stops running to the airport, the actual service could have more or many fewer stops, could be partially underground or entirely overground and might even be a bus rapid transit link not an LRT at all.

The Eglinton West LRT might not resemble what's on the master map

This is not to criticize those decisions—Tory has shown more commendable willingness to let transit planning be evidence-based than his predecessor. But it does show how easily this map could change further in the coming months.

Most of the hard questions still remain unanswered—particularly over the public's willingness to bear not just the costs of building but crucially of staffing and maintaining a significantly enlarged transit system longer term. In Vancouver last year, residents voted down a .5 percent sales tax that would have funded transit improvements.

While there is room to dispute some of the finer points of Toronto's bold plan, there is no doubt transit improvements of this scale are needed—indeed when looking at the relief line one could argue for more ambition. But when it comes to it, all of the GTA will need to show more willingness to reach into their wallets to pay for these improvements than we have so far shown.

So, what exactly is proposed at the moment? You can find out at public consultations currently under way, where you can also provide your feedback.

Toronto

Over February and March, seven transit meetings have been scheduled for Toronto. Planned by Metrolinx in association with the TTC, GO Transit, and the City of Toronto, these meetings are broad in scope, giving residents an opportunity to learn about—and comment on—all key projects and studies currently underway. 

You can email comments on any parts of the plan to TransitTO@toronto.ca or to theplan@metrolinx.com and find further information at http://www.toronto.ca/TransitTO.

The remaining four meetings are listed below:

Thursday, February 25
Riverdale Collegiate
1094 Gerrard Street East, Toronto
6:30 - 8:30 PM 

Saturday, February 27
Scarborough Civic Centre
150 Borough Drive, Scarborough
9:30 - 11:30 AM

Wednesday, March 9
Lakeshore Collegiate Institute
350 Kipling Avenue, Etobicoke
6:30 - 8:30 PM 

Tuesday, March 22
Nelson Mandela Park Public School
440 Shuter Street, Toronto
6:30 - 8:30 PM 

GTHA

Over the same period, a series of meetings are being held in the communities surrounding Toronto. Some of these consultations will focus largely on GO RER implementation—since this project that will have the greatest repercussions in many areas—though the various other initiatives that will affect each area will also be discussed. As in Toronto, the meetings will give residents a chance to better understand how new infrastructure will affect their communities at large, laying out the groundwork of Metrolinx and GO Tansit's long-term regional transit strategy.

The study area for GO's large-scale electrification project, image courtesy of MThe study area for GO's large-scale electrification project, image courtesy of Metrolinx

Thursday. February 25 (Whitby)
Abilities Centre
55 Gordon Street
6:30 - 8:30 PM 

Monday, February 29 (Oakville)
Oakville Trafalgar High School
1460 Devon Road
6:30 - 8:30 PM

Tuesday, March 1 (Brampton)
Holy Name of Mary Catholic School
115 Glendale Boulevard
6:30 - 8:30 PM 

Wednesday, March 2 (Stouffville)
Stouffville District Secondary School
801 Hoover Park Drive
6:30 - 8:30 PM 

Thursday, March 3 (Barrie)
Holly Community Centre
171 Mapleton Avenue
6:30 - 8:30 PM 

Monday, March 7 (Vaughan)
St. Joan of Arc Catholic High School
1 St. Joan of Arc Avenue
6:30 - 8:30 PM 

Tuesday, March 8 (Burlington)
Robert Bateman High School
5151 New Street
6:30 - 8:30 PM 

Thursday, March 10 (Pickering)
Glengrove Public School
1934 Glengrove Road
6:30 - 8:30 PM 

Of course, we are always happy to read your feedback too. We are especially interested in what the transit expansion is worth to you—let's face it—tax-wise. Please leave you comments in the space provided below.