These are big days for transit in Ontario. Just five days ago, the province pledged $3 billion to spend on public transportation stimulus as part of a major infrastructure package. Then two days ago, Ontario announced that it would combine GO Transit and Metrolinx, the regional planning organization. Yesterday, however, came the biggest news yet: the province will spend $7.2 billion boosting Toronto’s plans for transit expansion and $1.4 billion implementing dedicated bus lanes in the surrounding suburbs.
The biggest component of the project will be the $4.6 billion Eglinton Crosstown LRT project, the single largest part of the city’s ambitious Transit City program. Connecting both of the city’s subway lines and running on an east-west alignment to the airport, the 31 km line is expected to carry more than 50 million passengers annually by 2021. In a 10 km central section of the line, the project will run underground to avoid major disruptions to the densely developed Midtown area. It will be the second major crosstown route in the city, which currently lacks a rapid transit connection between areas in the northeastern and northwestern sectors. If the project stays on schedule, it would be completed by 2016.
Funding is to be made available for the $1.2 billion 23-km Etobicoke-Finch West LRT line, in the far northern sections of the city. It will provide a rapid street-running east-west connection. $1.4 billion will also be distributed to the renovation and expansion of the Scarborough RT line, which would be completed by 2015 and improve connections in the northeast sections of the region. The $1.4 billion pledged to bus lanes will build 30 km of bus rapid transit on Highway 7 and Yonge Street for Viva Transit. These are currently the suburban system’s two major routes, and they’ll be significantly sped up by the improvements.
Though the province did not confirm funding for the entire Transit City proposal, this announcement marks a significant step towards improved transit in the rail and bus-reliant Toronto region. The monetary commitment confirms that the province sees itself as playing the principal role in establishing transit connections, a role once reserved for the city itself, and likely is the first step towards regional integration of the Toronto Transit Commission, though that step is likely a few years away.
Image above: Eglinton Crosstown LRT Plan, from City of Toronto