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State-of-the-art streetcars, designed by Canadian transport manufacturer Bombardier Inc., will begin entering service in 2013 in Toronto with the promise of a better customer experience. (Bombardier Inc.)
State-of-the-art streetcars, designed by Canadian transport manufacturer Bombardier Inc., will begin entering service in 2013 in Toronto with the promise of a better customer experience. (Bombardier Inc.)

Transit authority asks mayoral candidates to put the brakes on new plans Add to ...

The new head of the province's Toronto-region transit authority has a message for mayoral candidates with fancy new transit plans for the city: We have a plan, already. But thanks for the thought.

"We have a plan right now - it's called the Big Move. It's been endorsed by these municipal councils and the province," said Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig. "Our focus is on delivery of those projects."

Speaking at a Board of Trade event Thursday morning, Mr. McCuaig said Metrolinx is moving forward both on its multibillion-dollar, decade-long transit infrastructure plans and its rollout of a regional fare-card system. And the city's leadership should get on board.

Four of the five most prominent mayoral candidates have unveiled ambitious plans for the city's transit system, three of which would require the reallocation of the provincial funds already dedicated to building much-needed transit infrastructure in the city.

Rob Ford, Rocco Rossi and Sarah Thomson have all suggested taking money already pledged toward Transit City and using it for their own subway-focused plans. George Smitherman has said he'd build on Metrolinx's blueprint -- the most major alteration is to turn a section of light-rail into a subway -- by going $5-billion into debt; Joe Pantalone has been a vocal advocate of Transit City, but has argued for its original iteration (the current version pushes back parts of the project, delaying about $4-billion in money the cash-strapped province says simply isn't available now).

But Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne said in an interview with The Globe last week that the province has no intention of putting the brakes on its existing transit plans, or switching gears to accommodate the whims of whoever occupies the mayor's chair come Oct. 26.

"We're catching up on, really, a generation of projects that were stalled. We've got a plan, we're moving forward and anything that is going to slow us down would be a problem," she said.

Mr. McCuaig echoed that sentiment, saying although he can't comment specifically on any candidate's plans, given that construction is already underway on some projects it would be difficult to shift gears now.

"It's great to see that transit and transportation issues are such a prominent focus of the discussion in the campaign, and we will be working with the new mayor, the new council as they deal with these issues going forward. But right now our focus is on delivery of the projects that have been approved and have been funded."

George Smitherman said he agrees -- and his plan would build on Transit City, rather than scrap it. "It would ask the city to find additional funds to do a little bit more."

Sarah Thomson gave the same response Rob Ford has previously given (Mr. Ford said he isn't aware of Mr. McCuaig's comments). If she becomes mayor, Ms. Thomson said, it means voters would rather have subways and the province would be foolish not to completely alter its already-underway plans to accommodate that.

Mr. Rossi defended his plan to use the province's cash, plus $4.5-billion in city funds, to build subways across the city, arguing that the province would be amenable to changing its plans if the city were "a real partner on the other side of the table."

"The city has not offered them any real partnership, right," he said. "It's not a question of starting from scratch. ... It expands the art of the possible."

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