Using decrepit St. Clair West subway station as a backdrop, Mayor John Tory and Finance Minister Bill Morneau said Tuesday that the federal transit infrastructure fund will allow Toronto to accelerate needed repairs to subway stations, vehicles and tracks and make the system more accessible.
The news comes as many riders on Canada’s largest public-transit system suffer through a record-hot summer on aging subway trains with broken air-conditioning units. Josh Colle, the Toronto city councillor who chairs the Toronto Transit Commission, praised the federal government for being willing to fund seemingly banal repairs rather than just whiz-bang new transit lines.
“I think from the moment I became chairman of the TTC, I’ve been stressing the need to invest in the nuts and bolts of the system, the less glamorous but still essential maintenance and repair work that’s been neglected really for far, far too long,” Mr. Colle said.
The event was part of a co-ordinated rollout that began with a news conference earlier in the day featuring Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Kathleen Wynne in a bus garage in Barrie, Ont., where the two leaders announced that their governments had reached a bilateral agreement to allow an already-promised $1.49-billion in federal cash for public transit flow to municipalities across the province.
As previously announced, up to $840-million of that money will come to Toronto, as the funds are being distributed based on existing transit ridership, rather than population or political whim.
And on Tuesday, officials released preliminary lists of projects from municipalities for the first tranche of the funding. Toronto is set to receive $474-million for its lengthy list, which includes installing new elevators, repairing escalators, overhauling 20-year-old subway trains and buying 200 new Wheel-Trans buses for the disabled. Toronto will cover 50 per cent of the costs of the projects.
In addition to items such as asbestos removal and bus rebuilds, Toronto’s list of projects includes millions for early work on planned expansions to its transit system. The proposed Finch West light-rail line stands to get $25-million for “early works,” while plans for light-rail line extensions on Eglinton West and Eglinton East will get $3.5-million each. Mr. Tory’s Smart Track plan will also receive $3-million for design work, and the proposed waterfront LRT line will see $1.8-million for planning work.
The federal government will also contribute $27.76-million for planning and design work on the TTC’s downtown relief subway line, which would take passengers from Pape Station southwest into downtown along Queen Street, easing the overcrowding at Yonge and Bloor. Mr. Colle said the funding for these projects from Ottawa could be “an indicator” that the federal government will announce more cash for them when it releases the rest of the transit funds.
Toronto will also get $42-million in funding for bike parking at 40 TTC stations, bike-share locations at 50 stations, and new bike paths across the city, after the federal government agreed to stretch the definition of transit to include cycling.
Mr. Tory praised Mr. Trudeau and Ms. Wynne, saying the transit funding was proof all three levels of government were working together, unlike in years past: “We’re ending decades of inaction and debate and finger-pointing back and forth. … We’re going to make sure every dollar is well spent.”Report Typo/Error