Talks to upload TTC subway go into high gear

The TTC's Museum subway station. (Stan Behal/Toronto Sun files)

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The City of Toronto and provincial government have reached a joint agreement on the terms of reference for their transit talks, putting Premier Doug Ford`s proposal to upload subways on the fast track.

Ontario Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek said Tuesday that the province is acting now because previous governments failed to take the bold action required on the transit file.
“This is a promise Premier Ford made during the campaign to upload the subways – we’re following through with that promise,” Yurek said. “I think the process is moving along quite well.”

The province wants a structure in place that would allow better financing and quicker construction of subways and ensure the system is integrated with other regional modes of transportation, including the GO network, he said.

“Transit systems in the GTHA really aren’t bounded by municipal boundaries any more. People live and work in different municipalities and we need to get to and from work or to and from play as quickly as possible,” Yurek said. “And the current system isn’t working.”

According to the Province of Ontario-City of Toronto Realignment of Transit Responsibilities Review, the first option to be considered is the upload model in which the province takes ownership and responsibility for the subway, building and maintaining new and existing lines, while the city controls day-to-day TTC operations and labour relations.

Another possible route is the transfer of asset ownership, such as the provincial government taking ownership of new transit expansion.

There could also be a realignment of responsibilities, although assets would not be transferred.

The terms of reference also spell out what the goals of these city-province discussions are – accelerated transit expansion, integration of transit across the GTA, good repair and modernization of the existing subways and a long-term predictable funding model for transit.

Both sides have agreed to “transparency” between the two parties but agree to keep their talks confidential.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said he believes the terms of reference clearly identify the city’s priorities, including its position that the subway should stay with the TTC.

In an online post, outspoken opponent Councillor Josh Matlow said he does not believe the city should be drawn into a process that will help Ford upload Toronto’s subway system, land value and potential air rights.

“I support moving forward to improve the existing system, address overcrowding, repairs & build evidence-based transit to connect our city & region,” he said.

Toronto Region Board of Trade President and CEO Jan De Silva said the city doesn’t have the fiscal resources to develop transit as needed for the entire region, and this latest agreement to move talks forward has potential to deliver a “win-win” for the city and the province.

“If the city can reach an agreement that’s in the best interest of the city, the province has the capacity to fund and accelerate the development of that transit network plan,” she said.

The province intends to fully develop the economic and housing potential of transit expansion, Yurek said.

“We’re going to capitalize on air rights of new stations that are built working with the private sector to build more housing, to build more commercial space, to infill throughout the city… like other jurisdictions throughout North America and the world have done, that Toronto’s failed to do in the past,” Yurek said.