Transit City: On or Off Track?

On Thursday, the Province sent a letter to the City of Toronto clarifying the provincial position on Transit City funding. This was in response to mounting public demand for the Province to keep its commitment to fund Transit City.

The good news is that the Province finally confirmed that Transit City funding will proceed. The bad news is that the Province confirmed building the first 4 of 8 Transit City lines will be delayed by at least 4 years, not as some media reported, two years.

For those of you who are confused about who has said what, here is a brief recap:

  • On April 1, 2009, the Province announced $7.2 billion in funding to help build three Transit City Lines, two would be be completed by 2013 and 2015, and the first phase of the Eglinton LRT to be completed by 2016.
  • On May 14, 2009, the Province announced $900 million in funding to help build the Sheppard LRT that was to be completed by 2013.
  • On March 25, 2010, the Province announced it was going to defer $4 billion of the $8 billion for a minimum of 5 years.
  • On April 27, 2010, the Province told the City of Toronto that the Metrolinx board would tell Torontonians on May 19th how the 4 Transit City Lines would be built by 2020.

As of today, the completion date for the first 4 Transit City has moved from 2016 to 2020. The Province has delayed $4 billion of an $8 billion commitment by 5 years, until after at least one more election. This delay will have a significant impact on the environment (more smog and greenhouse gas emissions) and will mean Torontonians must wait at least 4 more years to get fast LRT service.

The delay also has a huge impact on the entire Transit City Plan. Instead of discussing where funding will come for the last 4 lines, politicians are now squabbling about funding for the first four lines. As well, sustainable funding for the TTC is also off the table: there is no discussion of the Province paying its fair share of operating costs for Transit City and the TTC in general.

While it’s good news that the Province isn’t saying no to Transit City, it’s bad news that the Province is delaying a transit plan Toronto needs now.