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TTC chair Karen Stintz has officially unveiled a 30-year, $30-billion plan that would drastically expand public transit in Toronto and sets the stage for another dramatic showdown between the mayor and city council.
Stintz's OneCity proposal, first revealed to media Tuesday night, would see the construction of six new subway lines, 10 LRT lines, and five bus and streetcar routes across the city over the next three decades, including the long-anticipated Scarborough subway and downtown relief line.
Flanked by maps of the proposed transit network at a City Hall press conference Wednesday morning, Stintz and TTC vice-chair Glenn de Baeremaeker told reporters that OneCity would not only ease gridlock, but unite communities across Toronto.
"We will bring transit to every corner of Toronto, we will eliminate the divide between the suburbs and the downtown, and we will build one city," Stintz said.
The two projects that the TTC leaders have singled out as priorities are a subway on the current route of the Scarborough RT, and a Waterfront East streetcar line.
While a detailed map of the 21 new lines has been drawn up, funding for the plan is far from secure. At next month's council meeting Stintz will ask for a study on a funding model that would allow the city to create a dedicated transit fund by collecting revenue from adjusted property tax values. After an initial four-year roll-out phase the plan would raise $272 million a year.
Property values are regularly adjusted but in order for the city to collect money from a positive re-evaluation the province would have to change current legislation, and to raise enough money to build the 21 transit lines the city's contribution would have to be matched each year by both the federal government and Queen's Park.
All of that money would go towards building the lines, and Stintz and de Baeremaeker revealed there is no plan yet to pay their operating costs.
Stintz's proposal is sure to set off a fierce political battle at City Hall with stakes that will likely dwarf the subway vs. LRT debate earlier this year. While OneCity would deliver the suburban subways the mayor campaigned on, Ford and his allies are opposing the plan on the basis that it would effectively raise commercial and residential property taxes by 1.9 per cent annually for nearly three decades.
"It's a Tax City plan, it's not a OneCity plan," joked Councillor Doug Ford, the mayor's brother, on Wednesday. "It's unfunded, I don't think they've run the numbers properly."
While Stintz and de Baeremaeker acknowledge the tax hikes would be unpopular, they believe that if Torontonians know that the money will be dedicated to transit, they will be willing to stomach it.
Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, who in March was booted from the TTC board in favour of Stintz's backers, also took aim at the plan Wednesday, saying the TTC chair's math doesn't add up.
He says that according to Stintz's own numbers, the city could only contribute $8 billion, or less than one-third, to the $30-billion plan. He also says that after inflation, the true cost of the rail lines would be over $100 billion.
"Drawing lines on a map where you'd like to have transit doesn't put a shovel in the ground. Money does," Minnan-Wong said.
Besides setting up a showdown between Rob Ford and Stintz, who is increasingly seen as a potential mayoral candidate for 2014, the OneCity proposal also represents a challenge to Metrolinx. The provincial agency is responsible for coordinating public transit projects in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, and is currently overseeing the construction of $8.4-billion worth of provincially-funded LRT lines that council approved in February and March.
The OneCity plan calls for changes to some Metrolinx projects, including building a subway on the current route of the Scarborough RT instead of the LRT line that council voted for only four months ago. It would also convert Metrolinx's planned air rail link by electrifying it, adding more stops, and making it accessible by regular TTC fare.
As well, Stintz's funding proposal overlaps with Metrolinx's effort to devise revenue tools to pay for regional transit. The agency is expected to report on the issue in 2013.
While Stintz stressed that she was not attempting to sideline Metrolinx, she did say that she hopes a dedicated transit fund would help the city gain more influence over transit projects funded by the province.
"We currently don't have a dedicated city funding mechanism, and so we do rely on the whims of our partners to tell us what projects they feel are worthy to invest in," she said. "And we'd like to change that conversation and say, no, there's projects that we think are important for this city, that we're willing to invest in."
Metrolinx president Bruce McQuaig was traveling Wednesday and could not be reached for comment, but in a scrum at Queen's Park transportation minister Bob Chiarelli said that while he thinks it's important to discuss the future of Toronto transit, the $10 billion and the legislative change Stintz is seeking is "a big ask."
"They're not going to be agreed to overnight, that's for sure," Chiarelli said.
Council will consider a motion asking for a study on the OneCity network and funding model at its July 11 meeting. It's believed Stintz and her allies have enough votes for it to pass.
The OneCity Transit Plan proposes 71 km of subway and train lines, nearly 74 km of LRT lines, and 26 km of streetcar and bus lines. The projects are:
Subways and trains:
- Subway line to replace the Scarborough RT, with a connection to Kennedy Station on the Bloor Danforth Line
- Yonge subway extension from Finch to Steeles
- Sheppard West subway to connect Yonge and University-Spadina lines
- Downtown Relief Line, renamed the "Don Mills express," from Eglinton to Queen Station
- Scarborough Express from Steeles to Union Station, following Stouffville GO corridor
- Etobicoke Express from Pearson Airport to Union Station along proposed Air Rail Link corridor
Light Rail Transit:
- "Phase two" Finch LRT between Keele and Yonge
- Don Mills LRT from Eglinton to Steeles
- Three Sheppard LRT extensions to Meadowvale, Malvern Town Centre, and Toronto Zoo
- Scarborough Malvern LRT form Kennedy Station to Sheppard and Morningside
- Eglinton Crosstwon LRT extension to Pearson Airport
- Finch West LRT extension form Humber College to Pearson Airport
- Jane LRT from Bloor to Steeles
- Waterfront West LRT from Union Station to Long Branch
Bus Rapid Transit and streetcars:
- Waterfront East streetcar line from Union Station to Parliament
- Ellesmere BRT from Scarborough Centre to city's eastern boundary
- Kingston BRT line from Victoria Park Station to Eglinton and Kingston
- St. Clair streetcar extension from Keele to Jane
- Wilson BRT from Wilson station to Keele
- Upgrade the Bloor-Yonge Station
With files from Halla Imam.