Sunday, March 04, 2007

Subway a thrill ride for Vaughan - Toronto Star

Subway a thrill ride for Vaughan
$3 billion windfall a boost for 905 transit, though Miller warns it's just a start
March 04, 2007
Jim Byers
CITY HALL BUREAU CHIEF

Overdue. Hugely welcome. But only just a start.

GTA politicians reacted with emotions ranging from uncontrolled glee to cautious optimism yesterday at news that the Tory government in Ottawa is ready to throw a huge pile of cash at everything from a subway extension to York University and Vaughan to better bus service in car-crazy Mississauga, Brampton and York Region.

As reported yesterday by Bruce Campion-Smith in the Star, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Premier Dalton McGuinty this week will announce some $3 billion in public spending on public transit in the GTA – just as talk of a federal election heats up across the country.

"We're all just thrilled in Vaughan," Mayor Linda Jackson told the Star.

"It's a great day for all of York Region and all residents of the GTA."

Jackson said the subway extension, which has been talked about for two decades and represents the first subway in the 905, will enable her city to intensify development in the city centre as well as help the environment.

The promise of new funds "is the first spike in the development of an overall GTA transit network," a more restrained Toronto Mayor David Miller said yesterday.

"The York subway is a very important transportation connection in Toronto and York Region.

"It's good they're paying attention to transit. But we hope this is a sign that both governments are moving to permanent, sustainable funding for transit so we can build networks ... in Scarborough, Calgary and Montreal."

Miller has talked in the past about building a series of dedicated streetcar lines in North Etobicoke, Scarborough and along Don Mills Rd. and Eglinton Ave.

Jackson, meanwhile, said as great as the subway extension will be for Vaughan, the money to help York Region build dedicated bus lanes is just as important.

"Residents of York Region have a love affair with their cars, and this is a big step," the mayor said.

"You can build subways but they take a long time. The changes for VIVA (York Region's bus network) can be almost immediate."

In Mississauga, Mayor Hazel McCallion cautioned the busway planned for her city won't be ready until 2009.

"It's good that the money's starting to flow, but I don't know what impact this will have on gridlock.

"In the short term, it does nothing."

TTC chair and Toronto Councillor Adam Giambrone said the subway extension, which will cost Ottawa, Queen's Park and the City of Toronto andYork Region some $2 billion, won't be ready until 2014.

Ottawa will pay $697 million as its share of the subway extension, as part of its total transit contribution of more than $1 billion. The subway will run 8.7 kilometres from Downsview Station to the Vaughan City centre, with a stop at York University.

Other projects that will get federal money include:

# A bus-only road along Highway 403 and Eastgate Parkway from Burnhamthorpe Rd. to Eglinton Ave.

# Brampton's AcceleRide program, aimed at speeding up buses in the car-dependent city;

# A program to get York Region buses out of clogged roads and into dedicated bus-only lanes;

# Widening Highway 7 and looking at an extension of Highway 407 east to link up with Highway 401.

# A study of rapid transit options for Durham Region.

"We're symbolically piercing the 416/905 barrier, which is huge," said Toronto Councillor Brian Ashton, a member of the newly created Greater Toronto Transportation Authority.

Ashton said the fact so much money is being poured into the suburbs recognizes that traffic in the 905 is just as bad, if not worse, than in Toronto.

That's the point Miller makes when he rejects the idea of a congestion tax on cars coming into downtown Toronto.

Tomorrow in Montreal, Miller and the other big-city mayors in the caucus of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities are scheduled to unveil their plan for a national transit strategy.

A couple points I'd like to highlight:
  • "is the first spike in the development of an overall GTA transit network," - The first spike must be laid somewhere, and sadly, there would be detractors and opponents, regardless of where the next project was built. I recall that some opponents to the St. Clair right-of-way complained of a political bias towards downtown.
  • "We're symbolically piercing the 416/905 barrier, which is huge... the fact so much money is being poured into the suburbs recognizes that traffic in the 905 is just as bad, if not worse, than in Toronto." - The GTA needs to stop thinking of itself as a superior city with inferior suburbs. We are an integrated region with blurred borders, and we will not succeed unless we recognize that point.
I'm also looking forward to the national transit strategy the mayors plan to announce. It may help solve the many other transit problems this region and this country faces.

2014 is a far away, but the tangible and symbolic benefits are worth the wait.

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