TTC board agrees downtown relief line should be prioritized
Board delays decision on cellphone contract for subway platforms
Transit commissioners have accepted the TTC's viewpoint that a downtown relief line must be made a priority in order to deal with a growing passenger congestion crisis.
TTC CEO Andy Byford told the commissioners Wednesday that the number of passengers is set to steadily increase in the years ahead and there is an urgent need to start working on a solution.
"My personal view is, my strong professional view is that we need to be taking action now," he said.
At Wednesday’s meeting, the commissioners were presented with a report that highlights the need for a new subway line into downtown with projections calling for ridership into the city’s core to grow by more than 50 per cent by 2031.
The new line would offer relief to the crowded Yonge-University-Spadina line, which is frequently packed with commuters during rush hour.
Currently, the province's transit agency, Metrolinx, has no plans to consider a downtown line for 25 years. But the TTC wants that timeline moved up by at least a decade.
While there is no funding earmarked for a relief line at the moment, its proponents say that politicians need to start planning out a roadmap to solve that problem.
Jennifer Keesmaat, the city’s chief planner, said the necessity of building the line is not in question.
"Everyone knows we need to build this infrastructure," she told CBC News on Wednesday.
"We need a real alignment of political parties and political interests in order to drive this forward."
TTC chair Karen Stintz pointed to the fact that the future expansion possibilities of the larger transit system also depends on calming the current congestion issues.
"I think a downtown subway line is critical if we’re going to expand the Yonge-University-Spadina line north of Finch into Steeles," she said.
"Because we know the line is at capacity right now and we can’t add any additional riders onto the line until we figure out a way to accommodate the increase in ridership."
The TTC will now deliver the report to city council where next week councillors will debate on how to pay for transit expansion.
Spadina subway extension pushed back
Also on the agenda at Wednesday’s TTC meeting was a report that forecasts that the completion date of the $2.6-billion Spadina subway extension will be delayed to the fall of 2016 from an original completion date of December 2015.
The TTC is currently working to extend the Yonge-University-Spadina line from Downsview Station to the Vaughan Metropolitan centre. The 8.6-kilometre extension will include six new stations.
The report cites a number of reasons for the new completion date, including delays deciding on station designs and a fatal accident involving a construction worker last October at the York University station site.
Commissioners vote to defer subway contract decision
The TTC was scheduled to vote on a contract to add cellphone service to subway platforms but instead voted to defer the decision on Wednesday.
A staff report recommends that Broadcast Australia be awarded a 20-year, $25-million contract to provide cell service in what is currently a service dead zone for TTC customers. Riders will still have no cellphone service inside subway tunnels.
Under the contract, Broadcast Australia would have to make deals with local carriers so that a minimum of 60 per cent of Toronto cell users would have service.
TTC will now have to revisit the decision at a future meeting.
At the end of Wednesday’s meeting, TTC vice-chair Glenn De Baeremaeker asked for a report that would look at converting the Scarborough RT into a subway.
However, months ago city council told the province that they wanted an LRT built there.
With reports from the CBC's Charlsie Agro and Jamie Strashin