On August 26, 2019, the federal government confirmed more than $1B of funding for two Toronto rapid transit projects – capacity improvements at Bloor-Yonge subway station ($500M) and construction of 6 new Smart Track (ST) stations ($585M). The funding comes from the PTIF-2 program which will direct about $4.9B to Toronto transit over the coming 11 years. For further details on PTIF, check the Transport Action Ontario (TAO) report “Update on Federal Funding Commitments for the GTHA” in May, 2019. As can be read, the Smart Track funding is not a surprise, as Prime Minister Harper had previously committed similar funding.
The Bloor-Yonge capacity improvement project is a solid, badly-needed project with little controversy. It will build/modify platforms on both Lines 2 and 1 and add stairs, escalators and elevators.
However, there is considerable strategic uncertainly about the Smart Track stations. See Figure below.
The following summarizes key facts on the stations:
- There is no question that stations at all 6 locations are needed. TAO’s seminal report in 2013 on “Regional Rapid Rail” recommended new GO stations at all 6 locations.
- However, changes to the proposed subway network may put the viability of several of the ST stations in question. The proposed Ontario Line (subway) includes stations near the ST stations at Gerard-Carlaw, East Harbour and King-Liberty. Similarly, the proposed Line 2 Subway Extension includes a station near the ST station at Lawrence-Kennedy. These may impact rider demand for these ST stations.
- There is also uncertainty about the role that Transit Oriented Development will play in station construction. New provincial policy indicates that developers must contribute to the costs of new stations, in return for development rights. It is unclear if this stipulation will apply if federal funding is in place, or if there is developer interest in the ST stations.
TAO will continue to track this funding and the projects and advocate for the best use of taxpayer dollars.