Transit advocates praise advanced relief line plan

Item date: 
January 24, 2019
Item context: 

Transport Futures founder Martin Collier quoted in this DCN article along with advisors Andy Manahan of the RCCAO and Ed Levy


Toronto Mayor John Tory’s recent announcement that construction of the relief subway line serving downtown Toronto might be advanced by two years was met with universal praise by transit and construction advocates.
But the proposed new timetable, with Tory saying the estimated $7-billion project could be completed by 2029, must be assessed against a backdrop of uncertainties, past failures and potential obstacles, the advocates said...
“I am totally supportive of this and if we can do that faster I think it is definitely the priority now,” commented Martin Collier, founder of Transport Futures.
“But with uploading, that could delay things.”...
... The Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario (RCCAO) launched a public awareness campaign highlighting the need for the relief line last year after there was a dangerous overcrowding incident at the Bloor-Yonge subway station on the Yonge-University-Spadina line in January 2018.
“We are pleased because this fits with our campaign to ensure the relief line is the top transit priority for the region,” said RCCAO executive director Andy Manahan, who noted that at one point last year the premier discussed other subway extensions including into Vaughan.
“I think (Transportation Minister Jeff) Yurek has said pretty loud and clearly that the relief line is a top priority and he recognizes that because of the overcrowding issue the sequence should be relief line first and extension of another line later.
“The relief line has wider regional benefits and it is the type of line that will benefit suburban riders even more than downtown riders.”...
... Manahan said the RCCAO has advocated for standardized station designs to speed up design and save on costs. He suggested the plan proposed by Tory indicated a potential streamlining or rescheduling of typical environmental assessments.
Long-time Toronto transit analyst Ed Levy, retired former president of the board of directors for BA Consulting Group Ltd. and a 60-year observer of Toronto transit planning, acknowledged the challenge the city faces in expediting relief line delivery.
“The very slow bureaucratic standard procedure for approving and building subways, surely the most costly and complicated category of infrastructure in any city, would have to be reformed with several phases being undertaken simultaneously, as I believe the mayor is envisaging,” he said.
Levy noted many of Tory’s predecessors have made similar promises but the relief line has remained elusive. He commented, “The largest elephant in the closet is and always will be funding. Where might the billions of dollars needed be found?”
Collier said he was wary about the new timeline, especially whether a northern second phase could be completed.
“They have to take it north of Eglinton to really have a difference,” he said. “That phase, to have it done by 2029 and people riding it, I find it hard to believe they will meet that timeline.
“If they can, that’s good but they will have to keep that as a priority in the GTA, they can’t be distracted by Scarborough subways or Pickering subways or even the Yonge line before that’s in.”
Collier expressed skepticism of the province’s proposed subway uploading plan.
“To go through the governance uploading, just the subways, it is too complicated and too much energy,” he said. “If the government just provided the money to the city, that would be better. But I don’t think the people in Thunder Bay want to pay for Toronto subways. I think it should stay at the local level with provincial support.”