This morning, the Province of Ontario and the City of Toronto announced intentions to build four new GO stations in west Toronto. As part of the SmartTrack and GO RER initiatives, Metrolinx's new stations at Spadina and Front, Liberty Village, Bloor and Lansdowne, and St. Clair West, are designed to make the regional rail service a more viable option for 416 commuters. Ontario Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca stated that the station locations are not precisely set yet, and are contingent upon the City of Toronto sharing in the construction costs.

The announcement comes in the wake of the ongoing refinement of the SmartTrack / GO RER plans, with City Staff apparently moving towards a recommendation of seven new stations earlier this month. Today, however, Mayor Tory announced that "six new stops" will be built for the "SmartTrack network," two of which were in this announcement of West End stations. Four more stations are set to be announced tomorrow. Tory's election platform for 13 stations for SmartTrack included a number along the Eglinton West portion of the route which is now planned as LRT, a transfer from the heavy rail plan of the rest of the route.

John Tory addresses reporters in Liberty Village earlier today, image by Craig WJohn Tory addresses reporters in Liberty Village earlier today, image by Craig White

Added along the the Barrie and Kitchener GO lines, today's newly announced stations see the proposed SmartTrack network (as the Mayor now calls it) and GO RER evolve further in scope. The St. Clair West and Liberty Village stations will be part of SmartTrack, with the additional four stations now presumably planned along the Lakeshore East/Stouffville corridor in the east end. Meanwhile, two additional GO stations along Barrie line at Spadina-Front and Bloor-Lansdowne  will not be part of the SmartTrack "service concept." 

Map of existing GO lines and services, image courtesy of GO TransitMap of existing GO lines and services, image courtesy of GO Transit

Though uncertainty regarding the differences between SmartTrack and GO RER remains, Tory distinguished between the two services. According to the Mayor, higher service frequencies (at 7-10 minutes) and potential TTC fare integration—which is still being studied—will differentiate SmartTrack from the 15-30 minute GO RER services set to be provided at Bloor-Lansdowne and Spadina-Front. Nonetheless, the new transit options will likely come as welcome news to Davenport and CityPlace residents.  

Citing the recent success of the Union Pearson Express (UPX) in attracting greater ridership, Tory claims that latent demand for more rail service exists, given that it's provided at an approachable price point. While the initial UPX fare saw ridership fall to disastrously low levels following the Pan Am Games, the subsequent price reduction rapidly increased the service's popularity. As such, much of the viability of SmartTrack as a daily transit option is contingent on fare prices, with the service's ambitious ridership projections constructed assuming a TTC fare.

The UPX terminal at Union Station has become much busier with lower fares, imageThe UPX terminal at Union Station has become much busier with lower fares, image by Craig White

Compared to the thirteen new stations promised by Tory during his campaign, the six stops now planned reflect the significantly reduced scope of a once idealistic plan that has gradually eroded throughout Tory's tenure. Nonetheless, the Mayor explained that a proposed western extension of the Eglinton LRT (with up to a dozen stations itself) should be considered a fulfillment of SmartTrack's promise to serve that area. 

More information about SmartTrack/GO RER services in Toronto's east end will be announced tomorrow. We will keep you updated as more information becomes available and Toronto's transit future continues to take shape. 

What do you think of the new transit announced for the west end? Feel free to leave a comment in the space below this page, or join in the ongoing SmartTrack and GO RER discussions on our Forum.