Yonge subway extension planning could be paused with relief line still unfunded
Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Tuesday, May 9, 2017 12:28PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, May 9, 2017 4:21PM EDT
Mayor John Tory is threatening to stop planning and design work on an extension of the Yonge Street subway into York Region until the province agrees to help fund the construction of a relief subway line in downtown Toronto.
In what is just the latest chapter in a war of words with the province over transit funding, Tory said on Tuesday that he will “consider” moving a motion at executive committee to pause work on the planning of the 7.4-kilometre Yonge Street north subway extension as long as long as “uncertainty” continues to exist around whether or not the province will help fund the estimated $6.8 billion cost of the first phase of the relief line.
The province has already provided $150 million in funding for planning and design work on the relief line but has not committed to actually funding the construction of the project.
“If we are uncertain that the relief line will be funded or not then why would we be devoting our time working on the Yonge Street north extension because the two are very much interconnected?” Tory said at the intersection of Gerrard Street and Carlaw Avenue, where the proposed relief line would have a station. “We might have to consider just diverting our resources to other work. We have lots do at the TTC. They have all kinds of projects to work on.”
The proposed five-stop extension of the Yonge Street subway to Richmond Hill includes two stops in Toronto and three in York Region.
Though the $90 million cost of undertaking the next phase in design and planning work on the extension is being funded entirely by the province and York Region, Tory said there is little sense in proceeding with the work in the absence of funding for the construction of the relief line.
“That project is a regional project and it won’t do anything for commuters in the City of Toronto. Not one thing,” Tory said. “The relief line must be well advanced and funded before we can even consider an expansion.”
Del Duca accuses Tory of ‘playing politics’
Tory has been feuding with the province ever since Premier Kathleen Wynne blocked his plan to impose road tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway.
The feud hit another level last month when the provincial budget failed to include any new money for social housing repairs in Toronto and Tory visited an Etobicoke TCHC building to hand out flyers asking residents to contact their Liberal Member of Provincial Parliament to complain.
In a statement issued on Tuesday afternoon, Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca chastised Tory for “playing politics” with the city’s transit projects.
Del Duca said that the city “hasn’t even made its own capital contributions” to the relief line at this point, making it unreasonable to request that the province do so. He also pointed out that the project is not yet shovel-ready.
“By playing politics today and threatening to delay transit projects, the mayor isn’t helping anyone, especially his constituents who want transit built in Toronto,” Del Duca said.
Del Duca, whose Vaughan riding is located just west of the proposed Yonge Street subway extension, has previously accused Tory of stepping “over the line” with his push for provincial dollars.
In his statement, he said that “Tory just can’t take yes for an answer.”
“We were the only government that came to the table with planning money for both of these projects,” he said.
Report calls for continued work on both projects
A staff report that will be considered by executive committee next week calls for continued work on the planning of both the relief line and the Yonge Street north subway extension.
If approved, the report would authorize staff to advance the planning and design work on the Yonge Street north extension to the 15 to 30 per cent threshold required to develop a cost estimate and schedule.
Tory, however, said that it would be irresponsible to continue work on that project with overcrowding on the Yonge subway expected to reach a “critical” point by 2031.
“Expanding the Yonge line north is important from a regional perspective. I understand that. Many York Region politicians have underscored that for me. But the commute for Toronto transit riders won’t get any better with a Yonge street north subway extension. In fact extending the Yonge subway north might make that commute worse,” he said. “My responsibility is to eliminate overcrowding on the Yonge subway; not to make it worse. When people can’t get on trains today, it is not the time to be adding more passengers to those trains without also providing relief.”
Yonge line already at capacity
The staff report that will be considered by executive committee notes that work on the Yonge Street north subway extension began in 2009 and is “currently more advanced” than the work on the relief subway line project.
This is despite significant concerns over current and future capacity issues on Line 1.
In fact, the report points out that the subway is “effectively at capacity under present operating conditions.”
The report says that the current capacity on the line is about 28,000 people per hour and that on a typical day about 28,300 passengers are carried on the line per hour.
The capacity on the line will be boosted to 36,000 passengers per hour by 2021 thanks to the implementation of a new signaling system that will allow for more frequent service but the staff report says that the line will again be at overcapacity by 2031 due to expected ridership growth.
Speaking with reporters, Tory said the report shows that the relief line “makes too much sense not to commit to.”
He said the fact that the province is helping to pay for planning and design work on the relief line without committing to funding the project itself makes no sense.
“I am puzzled by their hesitation when they are investing $150 million in design and planning,” he said. “It is kind of like spending $50,000 on architect’s drawings for a new house without having any way to pay for it.”
The federal government has promised to provide municipalities with $20.1 billion in funding for transit over the next 11 years, some of which could presumably be used to help pay for the construction of the relief subway line.
The proposed route for the first phase of that line would begin at Osgoode Station and travel along Queen Street and Eastern Avenue before turning north at Carlaw Avenue and connecting with Line 2 on Danforth Avenue.
The staff report says that construction of the line would take eight to 10 years once funding is secured.