Transit will be a key issue in many municipal election campaigns this fall. Citizens in communities large and small are asking for improved public transportation — but many are also concerned about how much those improvements will cost and how construction will affect communities.
There are literally of hundreds of transit projects of varying sizes in the works across Ontario. Some are well on their way to completion; others are struggling to get off the ground despite years of debate. Here’s a look at where things stand with some of the biggest transit projects in the province.
Hamilton Light Rail Transit
Estimated cost: $1 billion, fully funded by the province
Estimated date of completion: 2024
Description: This 14-kilometre light rail line (LRT) would have 17 stops and run through the city’s downtown, from Eastgate Square in the east to McMaster University in the west.
Status: Up in the air. While former premier Kathleen Wynne was a strong backer of the LRT project, current premier Doug Ford signalled during the spring election campaign that a PC government would allow the city to spend the LRT money on other infrastructure projects. Hamilton mayor Fred Eisenberger, an LRT supporter, said in response to Ford’s announcement, “I’ve always believed this [project] to be a roller coaster, and it will continue to be until shovels are in the ground.”
Estimated cost: $1.4 billion, fully funded by the province
Estimated date of completion: 2022
Description: The 20-kilometre, 22-stop line will run through Mississauga from Port Credit GO Station in the south and then past highway 407, ending at Brampton’s Gateway Terminal. The LRT was originally supposed to go farther into Brampton, but the local city council couldn’t agree on a route, so the province shortened the planned line.
Status: Construction started this year.
London Bus Rapid Transit System
Estimated cost: $500 million
The City of London has committed $130 million and the province $170 million — the remaining $200 million is expected to come from the federal government, but it has yet to make a firm commitment.
Estimated date of completion: 2028
Description: Dubbed “Shift,” the plan involves two Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines that would run along north‐east and south-west corridors, intersecting in the downtown. The buses would travel in dedicated lanes, bypassing car traffic.
Status: Uncertain. While the current city council is on board and public consultations are underway — construction is set to start in 2020 — not all candidates who’ll be on the ballot in London’s fall municipal election support the BRT. Some residents prefer light rail to buses or think the routes are in the wrong place; others don’t like the price tag.
Ottawa Confederation LRT
Estimated cost: $2.1 billion (Phase 1), funded by the City of Ottawa, the provincial government, and the federal government
Estimated date of completion: November 2018 (Phase 1)
Description: This 12.5-kilometre, 13-station rail line will replace part of Ottawa’s aging Transitway bus rapid transit system. The line will run east to west and include a 2.5-kilometre below-ground tunnel through the city’s core. There are plans to expand the line farther east by 2022 and farther west by 2023. Ottawa also intends to extend its existing north-south Trillium Line southward by 2021.
Status: Near completion — although delays have thrown the original November 2 deadline into question
Toronto Eglinton Crosstown LRT
Estimated cost: $5.3 billion, fully funded by the province
Estimated date of completion: Fall 2021
Description: The Eglinton LRT — the largest transit infrastructure project underway in Canada right now — will run east to west through Toronto’s midtown for 19 kilometres, 10 kilometres of which will be underground. It will have 25 stops and connect to Toronto’s subway system, three GO Transit lines, and the rail link to Pearson International Airport.
Status: Under construction. The companies building the line recently sued Metrolinx, the provincial agency responsible for transit planning in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, saying they need more time and money to finish the project. Toronto city councillor Josh Matlow says that residents are growing impatient with the disruptions caused by the massive build and will be furious if the completion date is pushed back. “The anger will be something that I don’t think we’ve ever heard from before … it’ll be fireworks,” he told the Globe and Mail.
Toronto Finch West LRT
Estimated cost: $1.2 billion, fully funded by the province
Estimated date of completion: 2023
Description: This 18-stop LRT in the northwest corner of Toronto would run 11 kilometres between Humber College and the Finch West subway terminal.
Status: Major construction is expected to begin early next year. However, not everyone is sure the line will go ahead now that Ford is premier. He often criticized light rail when he was a Toronto city councillor, and this project would run through his own riding of Etobicoke North. That being said, during the provincial election, the Progressive Conservatives did promise to continue with Finch West as planned.
Toronto Scarborough Subway Extension
Estimated cost: $3.4 billion, funded by the City of Toronto, the provincial government, and the federal government
Estimated date of completion: 2026
Description: This replacement for the dilapidated above-ground Scarborough RT would run 6.2 kilometres and connect Toronto’s Bloor subway line with Scarborough Town Centre. Because it would create only one additional subway stop at a cost of billions, the project has been named one of the world’s most high-profile wastes of money by a major British newspaper. Still, political pressure to support the extension is intense as many Scarborough residents feel they’ve been unfairly left out of the city’s subway network. The project had strong support from Wynne and is championed by both Ford and Toronto mayor John Tory.
Status: Design stage. While there’s talk of construction starting as early as next year, many questions remain. Critics continue to question the cost, and Ford is pushing for a more ambitious — and more expensive — design involving three stops instead of one.
Estimated cost: $1.5 billion — nearly $900 million would be provided by the City of Toronto, and the rest would come through a federal transit fund
Estimated date of completion: 2024/25
Description: SmartTrack would see six new stations built along GO rail lines, allowing more Torontonians to use GO as a way of getting around the city. The plan is considerably less ambitious than the 22-station vision originally backed by Tory.
Status: City council approved funding for SmartTrack in April. Some argue that the SmartTrack’s success would rely too much on policies introduced by the former Liberal government — such as expanding GO and lowering its fares within Toronto — which may not survive under a PC administration. Ford has criticized SmartTrack in the past and the Progressive Conservatives were noncommittal about the project during the election campaign.
Waterloo Region LRT
Estimated cost: $868 million, funded by the regional, provincial, and federal governments
Estimated date of completion: December 2018
Description: The LRT will have 19 stations and run 19 kilometres from Conestoga Station in Waterloo to Fairway Station in Kitchener.
Status: Near completion. While the rail line was originally expected to enter service in July of 2017, the Region of Waterloo has to date received only eight of the 14 trains it ordered from Bombardier. "It's disappointing, but we have to deal with the reality of the situation," Regional Councillor Tom Galloway told The Record in April in reference to Bombardier’s failure to meet its deadlines.
York Region Viva Rapidways
Estimated cost: $1.8 billion, funded by the province and York Region
Estimated date of completion: 2020
Description: Viva Rapidways is a system of dedicated lanes that will deliver bus rapid transit in communities including Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, and Markham. In all, 34.5 kilometres of rapid transit routes will be built.
Status: Under construction. According to Metrolinx, the Viva Rapidways project is almost 70 per cent complete.
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