Toronto Mayor John Tory is proposing a significant change to his SmartTrack transit system, calling for a light rail section on its western leg.
- SmartTrack will 'look similar' to original plan, Tory says
- SmartTrack transit plan 'will prevail,' Tory tells CBC Radio
In a Tuesday morning news conference, the mayor said he has received "objective, professional evidence" to push the city to make an alteration to the western portion of the plan that would include a mix of heavy and light rail through Etobicoke.
"The fundamental vision for SmartTrack is very sound," Tory told reporters.
'Because of the high costs associated with heavy rail ... LRT technology likely makes more sense.' - Mayor John Tory in news release
"We are proceeding with a reconfiguration that will provide the same service," Tory said, adding the suggested modifications will be recommended to city council for approval.
His comments come after the release of two city reports that examined ridership projections and options for construction of SmartTrack's western leg.
Previously, Tory had said heavy rail would connect Mount Dennis, the westernmost stop on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, to the Mississauga Airport Corporate Centre, west of Renforth Drive and Eglinton Avenue West.
However, on Tuesday, Tory said that portion should be linked by light rail only, citing "the high costs associated with heavy rail and relatively low ridership anticipated on the western portion versus the rest of SmartTrack."
City staff will now study this modification to the proposed plan, according to the mayor. Three different corridor options are listed in the report released Tuesday.
Easing subway congestion
Citing one of the reports, Tory also said that with the present TTC fares and with frequent service, SmartTrack could attract "more than 300,000 daily riders, which is more than the daily ridership of the entire GO system."
The mayor noted that the frequency of service is "under discussion" and fare integration is "far from determined."
"The topic of fare integration is incredibly complex," the mayor added.
City officials believe SmartTrack would ease some of the ridership pressure on the Yonge subway line, saying it could reduce ridership on that line "by as much as 17 per cent."
The numbers were prepared with help from University of Toronto researchers.
TTC chair Josh Colle said TTC service is "under increasing pressure," even with new and enhanced service across the city.
In October 2015, Tory spoke with CBC Radio's Metro Morning host Matt Galloway about the transit plan he pitched to Torontonians before becoming mayor.
"The idea will prevail," the mayor said. "It may take a different shape, it may have a different cost. That's why we're bothering to do the studies."
Tory campaigned on SmartTrack, a public transportation project that originally called for 53 kilometres of surface rail transit with 22 stations to be built over seven years. On Tuesday, the mayor said the precise number of stations has yet to be determined but added there would be a "goodly number of stations" along a "very robust network."
Part of the objectives for the transit plan is to connect Toronto with employment hubs in Mississauga and Markham while reducing crowding on the Yonge-University subway line at an estimated cost of $8 billion.
It's unclear how the route would operate in co-ordination with GO Transit and the TTC, how frequently trains would run and how much it would cost riders across the Greater Toronto Area to hop on board.
U of T ridership numbers show that SmartTrack could carry more people than whole GO network.— @JohnTory
SmartTrack will relieve congestion on Yonge subway line. pic.twitter.com/RnPIU8RWiI— @JohnTory