Was it only two weeks ago that week Urban Toronto reported that City of Toronto staff were prioritizing Toronto transit projects to receive Government of Canada funding?

We told you then that the City had prepared several projects for procurement and construction in 2019 and 2020, including:

Just two weeks ago, Mayor John Tory, Councillor Jennifer McKelvie and TTC chair Jaye Robinson announced the city's plan in the TTC's Bloor-Yonge station, image, @johntory

We told you, too, that City staff were recommending allocating part of the Government of Canada's Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program funding to support these works. They wanted to confirm a new project to redesign Bloor-Yonge station and improve its capacity as the City's other priority project for part of the City's share of the federal funding. And, only two weeks ago, we explained that City Council would have considered the staff recommendations and, hopefully, approved them during its meeting this week.

The City of Toronto's proposed 15 year transit plan, image, City of Toronto

But all that was before Premier Doug Ford and the Province of Ontario announced a $28.5 billion transit plan for Toronto, smashing the City's plans to smithereens. Ontario also identified four Toronto transit projects as its priorities:

  • extending the Line 2 Bloor–Danforth subway eastward, but with three, instead of one, new stops;
  • building a new Ontario Line--replacing and extending the Relief Line subway proposal--using alternate technology;
  • extending the TTC Line 1 Yonge-University subway northward to Richmond Hill; and
  • extending the Eglinton Crosstown LRT westward.

While councillors did, indeed, review the original staff report during this week's meeting, City Manager Chris Murray also presented them with a separate set of recommendations from a new staff report. The supplemental document examines the effect of the Ontario government's new transit plan for Toronto.

Ontario's transportation plan for Toronto, image, Government of Ontario

Consequently, Council did not immediately approve reallocating the City's share of federal funding to support the Ontario plan during this week's session. Nor did it approve supporting the plan with Toronto taxpayer dollars—yet. Instead, they endorsed staff recommendations that the City first determine whether the Ontario proposal to change Toronto’s transit expansion program aligned with City and TTC strategic objectives and priorities, including assessing the cost and schedule, the operational and network impacts and the commercial and technical merits of what Ontario is proposing.

Council also directed staff to continue to negotiate with the province on cost-sharing, roles and responsibilities, governance and funding for expanding the transit network, including capital, operating, and maintenance expenses for the new lines, funding requirements for the state of good repair of the current network, and reimbursing the City for any sunk costs resulting from revising the transit expansion plans. City staff also must update Council "as soon as practical" about the Ontario proposal to upload subway extensions and new lines.

In its original plan, the City prioritized expanding Bloor-Yonge station, image, TTC, City of Toronto

In the last-minute report, Murray and his team asked 61 preliminary questions that the City needs the Province of Ontario to address before staff can recommend next steps for the plans. He asked, among many other issues, about the level of design Ontario used to develop the cost estimate and schedule for each project, what it included in each cost estimate (for example, costs for: financing each project; acquiring property; operating and maintaining each of the new lines, buying fleets for each line and for any maintenance storage facilities.) Murray and City Council want to know who prepared the cost estimates and whether a third part had peer reviewed or validate the estimates. The City urges the province to advise whether it prepared operating cost estimates for each project and what it project the ridership for each project would be.

(You can read the entire list of 61 questions here (.pdf).)

Only when the Province has addressed these issues and has answered the City's questions satisfactorily, staff will report back to Council on whether the City should redistribute its federal transit funding to the Line 2 East Extension and the new Ontario Line.

Council approved making the King Street pilot project permanent, image, City of Toronto

In other transit news, City Council also unanimously passed a motion requesting Ontario reinstate a commitment that the previous government made in 2017 that would double municipalities' share of the provincial gas tax from 2 cents per litre to 4 cents per litre. The TTC was heavily relying on these extra gas tax funds for state-of-good-repair expenses. The extra gas-tax revenue represents funding of approximately $1.1 billion over 10 years.

Finally, as expected, Council also gave its seal of approval to making the King Street Pilot project a permanent feature of King Street.

We will continue to update you as plans unfold. What do you think of Council's decision and of the various proposals? You can comment in the form below, or join the discussion in our Forum.

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