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A TTC streetcar takes on passengers in Toronto on Nov. 17, 2009.
A TTC streetcar takes on passengers in Toronto on Nov. 17, 2009.

Moving Toronto: Where the candidates stand Add to ...



George Smitherman: Light rail and subway to the suburbs



Toronto Mayoral candidate George Smitherman

Cost: $5-billion in debt financing

Subways: Expedite planned extension of Spadina subway to York University; extend the Sheppard subway to Downsview on the Spadina line and extend Bloor-Danforth line to Sherway Gardens. Replace planned rapid-transit line in Scarborough with above-ground subway.

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Reality check: Spadina extension will happen anyway; turning Scarborough's rail transit into a subway would add capacity but might be a logistical nightmare.

Light-rail transit: Light rail to the Port Lands, the University of Toronto's Scarborough campus, the Woodbine Centre and Weston Road.

Reality check: All of these have been recognized as badly needed, but the funds haven't been forthcoming. Mr. Smitherman proposes borrowing the cash and paying it off through a "Transit Trust."

Buses: Not a priority. Mr. Smitherman says they're too high-emission and low-speed compared to light-rail transit.

Reality check: Transit planners and some community advocates have called for local, suburban bus routes to immediately address so-called transit deserts.

Bicycles: A "time out" on all new lanes, and instead build curbs for existing bike lanes to separate cyclists from motorists. Bike "expressways" through linear parks and ravines are also a priority.

Reality check: Cycling advocates have long called for more new lanes, as well as curbed ones.

Roads: Shorter, more predictable road maintenance delays. "Disruption index" to report "real-time" construction delays.

Reality check: It's not clear how much this would cost or where the money would come from, especially given his vow to reduce the much-derided vehicle registration tax.



Rob Ford: Subways, buses and a farewell to streetcars

Toronto mayoral candidate Rob Ford.

Cost: $4.8-billion - $3.7-billion from the provincial government, $1-billion from development on land near new subway

Subways: Extend Sheppard and Bloor-Danforth lines east to meet at Scarborough Town Centre.

Reality check: The jury is out on whether pushing pricey, high-capacity subways into the low-density far eastern reaches of the city should be the highest priority project on the city's transit plate. And Queen's Park has said it has no plans to halt Transit City to shift those funds elsewhere.

Light-rail transit: Nixed. Phase out streetcars, and scrap existing plans for new light-rail transit.

Reality check: Toronto would likely have to pay a penalty for backing out of contracts it has already signed with Bombardier and others to supply streetcars. If the costs turn out to be prohibitive, Mr. Ford says, he would try to sell pre-ordered streetcars to other cities.

Buses: Replace existing streetcars, especially on such downtown arteries as Queen and King Streets, with buses. Use buses - including some express buses - in areas where there isn't enough money for subways.

Reality check: Mr. Ford says streetcars cause congestion. But transit experts say otherwise: Buses are far less efficient in the downtown core, requiring twice as many vehicles and twice as many drivers to move the same number of people.

Bicycles: 100 kilometres of off-road bicycle paths, as well as on-road bicycle lanes "where they make sense."

Reality check: Good for recreation, but wouldn't help commuter cyclists worried about safety on city streets.

Roads: Realign the city's myriad jogs and disjointed streets to complete Toronto's grid and ease congestion. Also address the city's growing state-of-good-repair backlog.

Reality check: Toronto's disjointed streets are notorious for causing congestion. But fixing them is time-consuming and costly, and might require expropriation of land from existing owners. Ambitious projects like the Dufferin Jog, now ongoing, cost upwards of $100-million each, which would quickly eat into the $400-million earmarked.



Rocco Rossi: Subways and the sale of Toronto Hydro

Toronto mayoral candidate Rocco Rossi.

Cost: $4.5-billion, paid for - pay attention, here - with the $450-million a year that would otherwise go to servicing Toronto's debt. Instead, that debt would be paid off in full through sale of Toronto Hydro and shares in Enwave.

Subways: Continuous tunnelling and an average of two kilometres of tunnel and one new station a year for a decade.

Reality check: While subways are more durable and have greater capacity, critics argue light rail provides more bang for the transit buck.

Light-rail transit: No to what Mr. Rossi termed "Streetcar City." Arguing that Torontonians shouldn't settle for second best, Mr. Rossi says he'd prioritize subways.

Reality check: Putting the brakes on Transit City could be easier said than done. Critics have noted Toronto Hydro may not be the cash cow it's billed as. And council decided this year not to proceed with motions making it easier to privatize city assets. Proponents of the existing Transit City plan have noted light rail has its place and is more cost-effective than high-capacity, high-cost subways.

Buses: Increased service in the inner suburbs as part of a "portfolio" of modes of public transit.

Reality check: More buses are badly needed, say transit and community advocates. The question is where they would go.

Bicycles: Keep lanes on secondary avenues, not arterial roads.

Reality check: The cycling community's hackles were raised by Mr. Rossi's criticism of the Jarvis Street bicycle lane and a proposed physically separated bicycle lane on University Avenue.

Roads: Investment in traffic-light synchronization and the creation of a "city construction czar," whose task will include addressing roadwork disruptions.

Reality check: While the city has already embarked on an attempt to synchronize streetlights through SCOOT (Split, Cycle and Offset Optimization Technique) technology, a construction czar would be a new cost, money for which would have to be found elsewhere.



Sarah Thomson: Subways and toll roads

Toronto mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson.

Cost: $13-billion, paid for by road tolls, the province, a "subway bond" and private development

Subways: 58 new kilometres in the next decade.

Reality check: Road tolls are a necessity - but they're a profoundly unpopular one.

Light-rail transit: Nixed in favour of an expanded and extended subway line. Torontonians would rather pay for more durable subways, Ms. Thomson argues.

Reality check: Streetcar-hating Torontonians may have little choice: An all-subway system may simply be impractical for a cash-strapped city.

Buses: Bus rapid transit as an interim solution while subways are under construction.

Reality check: BRT is an important option, says TTC chair Adam Giambrone, but requires significant road widening - or removing a lane of traffic.

Bicycles: Ms. Thomson's campaign announced plans for a "bike city" Thursday night -- to include 1,000 kilometres of new bike routes "within the current spending commitment of the City of Toronto's Bike Plan."

Reality check: Popular with cyclists, but sure to rile drivers if they take up space now reserved for motorists. It's also unclear how much this will cost: The city put $20-million towards cycling infrastructure this year, but only $2-million was earmarked for new lanes.

Roads: Maintenance funded in part by proceeds from tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway.

Reality check: Ms. Thomson has promised to eliminated road tolls after a decade, frustrating proponents of the fees and prompting jaded transit cynics to note it's unlikely the toll roads will have raised enough money to pay for themselves and an ambitious subway system by then.



Joe Pantalone: Transit City, Transit City - and, did we mention …?

Toronto mayoral candidate Joe Pantalone

Cost: $8.15-billion - from the province

Subways: Extended to York University and past Finch Avenue.

Reality check: Mr. Pantalone is the only one of the major candidates who has thrown himself entirely behind Transit City. But Mr. Pantalone's vow to be a thorn in the province's side, pressuring the province to pony up the $4-billion in funding that it postponed in March, makes it look as though he's doing less on his own.

Light-rail transit: "European-style" streetcars along Eglinton Avenue, Sheppard Avenue East, Don Mills Road, Finch Avenue West and Jane Street.

Reality check: The good news? This is the only plan that already has the blessing -- and cash -- of Queen's Park. But as of right now, timelines many of the lines have been pushed back.

Buses: Not on the agenda. Mr. Pantalone has said buses are a band-aid solution to the city's need for longer-term transit in the form of subways and LRT.

Reality check: European-style transit doesn't always translate in Canadian suburbs. Some communities argue they need neighbourhood buses - now.

Bicycles: Mr. Pantalone has voted in favour of both new bike lanes on the city's main streets and physically separated lanes on streets like University Avenue, where a pilot project was supposed to take place last summer before it was defeated by one vote.

Reality check: Being a bike-lane champion is no way to make friends with the city's motorists. And given that the current council just voted (albeit by a hair) against a pilot project for segregated lanes, that may be a difficult issue to push next year.

Roads: Mr. Pantalone has been a staunch advocate of "complete streets" - the idea that avenues and roads should be shared between multiple modes of transportation. His campaign says more transportation-related policies are in the works

Reality check: Road tolls have been ruled out, which leads one to wonder where the money for spruced-up streets (including the trees Mr. Pantalone is fond of reminding people he champtions) will come from.

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