John Tory may be leading the race to become Toronto's next mayor, but his transit plan is under increasing scrutiny with three weeks to go in the campaign.
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Tory's SmartTrack plan calls for 53 kilometres of high-speed surface rail lines to be built along existing Go Transit rail corridors. He claims the plan can be built in seven years and has pegged its cost at $8 billion.
The U-shaped line would run into downtown from Mt. Denis in the northwest, down to Union Station then follow the GO Stouffville line up to Unionville.
Both Tory's main opponents, Olivia Chow and Doug Ford, held news conferences Monday at two different locations to highlight what they say are glaring problems with SmartTrack.
Stouffville line will need new tracks, Chow says
Chow went first, calling reporters to a section of the Stouffville line in Scarborough. Chow said Tory's plan fails to account for the cost of double-tracking that section. She pointed to a report that says the line, which is currently single-tracked, would have to be double-tracked before it can support 150 trains a day.
“To run more trains, there needs to be two tracks," said Chow. "The tracks Mr. Tory says he will use simply aren’t here and he has no idea when they will come.”
Chow also challenged Tory's claim that 90 per cent of SmartTrack can be built along existing GO lines. She says the true figure is closer to 53 per cent. Chow also said the corridor isn't wide enough for a second track.
"There are houses all along the Souffville line," she said. "The homeowners are horrified that they would have to be expropriated and these houses demolished."
Ford says GO, TTC stations are too far apart
On Monday morning, Ford took reporters on a walk from the Danforth GO station to the TTC's Main station. The stations are separated by about 300 metres, but appear as a connected interchange point on the SmartTrack map.
"Is [Tory] going to tunnel? Is he going to build a bridge? Is he going to get a jet pack to get over that building?" Ford asked, calling Tory is "a wolf in sheep's clothing."
Ford said the walk would be an ordeal for passengers, particularly during winter months. Ford planned to stage a similar walk at the Dundas Street West TTC station to highlight connection problems there with the Bloor GO station.
Minutes after the two news conferences, Tory was asked about the questions his opponents raised. Addressing Ford, Tory said while the walk between the two stations isn't a perfect situation, Ford's news conference proves it can be done.
"Today, as it is, people walk between the two [stations]," said Tory. "It's not an ideal situation. We're going to find a way to improve it."
Regarding Chow, Tory said he knew the Stouffville line would have to be double-tracked when SmartTrack was announced.
Tory said Ford and Chow are picking at problems in his plan that he said can all be addressed by engineers.
"With major engineering projects of this kind, there are always going to be things that you're going to have to address," he said. "They are trying to find every reason they can to say 'no.' I'm looking for ways to say 'yes' to people."