SmartTrack loses another two stations as council get set to debate line's future next month
Published Wednesday, January 27, 2021 10:27AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 27, 2021 4:12PM EST
A shrunken-down version of Mayor John Tory’s SmartTrack proposal has been approved by the city’s executive committee.
The initial proposal for SmartTrack, which Tory campaigned on during the 2014 mayoral race, called for 22 new rapid transit stops to be built along existing GO Transit rail lines with the project slated for completion in 2021.
In an updated report that went before Tory’s executive committee today, staff recommended eliminating two of those new stops – Gerrard Street East and Carlaw Avenue and Lawrence Avenue East and Kennedy Road - because they are located near new subway lines that have been proposed by the Ford government.
At the same time, staff recommended that a proposed new GO Station near Lansdowne Avenue and Bloor Street on the Barrie GO corridor be included in the overall SmartTrack program with the city footing the bill for its construction, rather than the province.
That would bring the total number of SmartTrack stations to five.
Staff say that the project will cost the city $1.463 billion and should be completed by 2026.
“Any one single transit station that we are adding that gives people a point of access to be able to easily get on a train that can take them to other parts of the city is a plus,” Tory told reporters on Wednesday when asked about the diminished scope of the project. “This report contemplates five stations and in fact the five versus 22 is not an apples to apples comparison. We are getting many new transit stations of different kinds, including for example two that are at Spadina and Front and out in Mimico for GO Train service that will be new transit stations inside the city that aren’t SmartTrack stations per se. This is a big deal having these five stations and others that go along with them.”
Under the plan that was considered by executive committee today, the city will pay for the construction of the five SmartTrack stations while the province will assume all “all operations, maintenance and lifecycle costs.”
The province will also own the stations and retain all revenue.
The plan says that “fare setting for the program will be considered in the broader context of regional fare integration” and does not say whether riders will be able to access the new stations for the cost of a TTC fare, something that Tory campaigned on 2014.
Meanwhile, whereas a 2018 staff report made reference to enhanced train frequency of every six to 10 minutes during peak hours, the updated version only says that “service levels will be the same as the planned GO Expansion-level service for the corridors in which the Stations reside, with a minimum service level of two-way, 15-minute frequency.”
Tory, however, pointed out that “the agreement between the city and the province also includes an expectation for service on a basis more frequent than regular GO Transit service when higher demand levels are reached.”
“SmartTrack is moving forward and the result will be more transit to move more people sooner in the City of Toronto,” he said.
The updated vision for SmartTrack will go before city council as a whole for final approval on Feb. 2.
If approved, the staff report says that the Request for Proposals (RFP) process for some of the stations could begin as soon as the second quarter of this year.