Work on Mayor John Tory's signature transit project — the SmartTrack rail line — reached a landmark in its implementation Tuesday evening as the public got to have its say in the first of three consultations this week.
"We want to hear from Torontonians," Tory told reporters in Scarborough Tuesday morning.
"We want to hear exactly where the stations should be, how they should look, what's best for the neighbourhoods — including those compatibility issues that arise on things like safety and other considerations. Anything people have to say is welcome input."
- Toronto city council approves SmartTrack funding plan
- 4 new GO stations and all 6 SmartTrack stops announced
SmartTrack will use three existing GO Transit rail corridors to create new rapid transit throughout the city.
But the version of Tory's plan going to consultation this week in three affected neighbourhoods is less ambitious than the one touted during his successful 2014 mayoral election campaign.
The plan initially called for 53 kilometres of heavy-rail service with 22 new stops being built within seven years at a cost of $8 billion.
That number has since been pared down to six new stops at an estimated price tag of about $1.3 billion.
The city has partnered with Metrolinx, TTC and the province to build up to those new SmartTrack stations along GO Transit's Kitchener, Lakeshore East and Stouffville rail lines. The proposed new stations would share stops at these locations:
- Finch Avenue East, between Kennedy Road and Midland Avenue.
- Lawrence Avenue East, between Kennedy Road and Midland Avenue.
- Gerrard Street East at Carlaw Avenue.
- East Harbour (between Eastern Avenue and Lakeshore Boulevard East, east of the Don River).
- King Street West, at Liberty Village.
- St. Clair Avenue West, between Weston Road and Old Weston Road.
All are planned to be opened within a 10-year time horizon and provide a significant addition to the GO Transit network, according to the city's director of transit and transportation planning, James Perttula.
Tory admitted Tuesday awareness of SmartTrack is low — something he expects will change after this week's consultations.
"It is actually happening," Tory said about the transit project. "The tracks are being doubled; the sound walls are going up; the stations — now we're consulting with the public on designing and building those, and so it's going to happen as quickly as it possibly can."
Residents not sold on public meetings
Not all are sold on the project — saying the city has already decided what it wants to accomplish with the SmartTrack system without involving residents.
Scarborough resident Peter Thachuk offered a critique of the public consultation process, pointing out that he's not convinced the city is actually listening to the concerns of those in attendance.
"They call this a meeting, but it is not a meeting, it's a presentation," Thachuk said.
Coun. Jim Karygiannis, who represents Ward 39, Scarborough-Agincourt echoed this sentiment.
He claims city staff have already made big changes to Finch Avenue East station without consulting residents.
"When they come to me originally and they say, 'We're going to have a parking lot at Finch and Kennedy,' fantastic. Then all of a sudden, 'Well, councillor it's going to cost $30 million," said Karygiannis.
He vowed to fight against SmartTrack to ensure a parking lot is put in at Finch station.
City to go ahead with controversial station
The mayor also said the controversial new station at Kennedy Road and Lawrence Avenue is expected to go forward, despite an ongoing review of the location at the provincial level. An initial business case review (IBC) conducted by Metrolinx found the proposed Lawrence East GO Transit stop would be complex to build, underused and push more commuters to use cars.
Still, Tory said reports written by city officials indicated "adequate justification" for the stop.
"I think the people who live in that area would certainly say there's justification for that transit expansion near where they live, and we'll see where everything ends up."
SmartTrack is estimated to be online by the "early 2020s," Tory said.
The second meeting takes place Wednesday, Oct. 11 between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. in the auditorium at Riverdale Collegiate Institute, and the third starts at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12 in the auditorium of New Horizons Tower.