Transit City is a plan for developing public transportation in the City of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, announced by Toronto Mayor David Miller and Chair of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) Adam Giambrone on March 16, 2007. Since then, preliminary engineering work has been done to prioritise lines for construction and to select more specific route alignments, and construction of one of the lines began in December 2009. The plan integrates public transportation objectives outlined in the City of Toronto Official Plan, the TTC Ridership Growth Strategy and Miller's 2006 election platform.
The plan calls for the construction of seven new light rail transit lines along the streets of seven priority transit corridors in the city. These corridors will be integrated with Toronto's existing subway, rapid transit, streetcar, and bus routes. The plan also includes upgrading and extending a few existing transit lines, especially the Scarborough RT, increasing the frequency of 21 key bus routes to ten minutes or better every day, as well as to improve the timing of the buses on these routes and to provide shelters and reliable schedules for commuters, also to introduce and implement few new bus rapid transit lines.
The plan originally proposed 120 km (74.6 mi) of electric light rail along seven routes. The proposed network would carry 175 million riders a year, of which 75 million would be new TTC users. The seven proposed corridors have been divided into two project priority phases: current and planned.
The TTC is prepared to fund the entire cost of the network over a longer period of time. The highest priority is assigned to the Sheppard East, Eglinton Crosstown and Finch West LRT lines which will be built within the next few years. In addition to the mentioned lines, it is likely that some sort of link would be established between the two lines so that they could share a single storage facility. While Sheppard East and Finch West do not represent the lines with the highest potential ridership, they are the cheapest and easiest to implement. The TTC has completed the environmental impact assessments for most of these lines, the first one being completed for the Sheppard East line. The construction of this line commenced on December 2009 and is expected to be complete in 2013.
The following routes will be constructed and opened before 2020. They have been chosen as priorities through an online poll on the Transit City website in 2007.
The following projects are currently undergoing environmental assesments and construction is to commence after 2020 and be completed by 2030 at the latest:
The following lines are other routes that have been considered by Transit city, but are not in priority at the moment:
Part of the Transit City project is the revitalization of the existing Scarborough RT rapid transit line. This project will extend the existing line eastwards from its present terminus at McCowan Station to three additional stops. The first proposed station will be at Bellamy Road to serve the Consilium Place business area and the second on Progress Avenue, east of Markham Road, serving Centennial College Progress Campus. The line will then curve north to Sheppard Avenue East, connecting with the Sheppard East LRT. A new environmental class assesment is being made to further continue the line north into the neighbourhood of Malvern over a former railbed just east of Markham Road. In the future, an in-fill station may be added at Brimley Road.
The existing service is facing the end of the operational life of its ICTS fleet; as trains are no longer built to that line's specification, a replacement is needed. While an upgraded form of ICTS (Mark II Vehicles designed by Bombardier) had been considered, the current recommendation is to implement the LRT technology used for Transit City to save on the fleet and track maintenance costs currently incurred by this unique-within-Toronto system. All renovations and extension constructions are to commence in 2012 and be completed by 2016.
The TTC is also planning to begin six new bus rapid transit (BRT) right of way lines once the light rail transit construction is complete, some of which are temporary until a subway extension occurs while one of them is already in service. The proposed routes are:
In April 2009, Finch West, Eglinton Crosstown, and the Scarborough RT upgrade and extension secured $7.2 billion in funding from the province, while the Sheppard East LRT has received $613 million in funding from the province, and $317 million in federal funding.
In November 2007, the TTC provided an updated estimate of the costs of the proposal in its capital budget. The initial estimate of $6.1 billion has been revised upward to $8.3 billion. The initial estimate did not cover requirements for storage and maintenance facilities for the light rail vehicles–and underestimated the number of vehicles that would be required.
On June 15, 2007, the Government of Ontario announced its MoveOntario 2020 plan, that calls for a major overhaul and expansion of the Greater Toronto Area's transit systems, including the Transit City proposal, that will cost an estimated $17.5 billion in provincial and federal funding over a 12-year period. The provincial government proposes to provide two-thirds of the funds ($11.5 billion), and will ask the federal government to pay the remaining one-third ($6 billion). However, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government is currently uncommitted to this spending plan. The province's $17.5 billion MoveOntario 2020 plan calls for a total number of 52 transit projects in the GTA to be funded, with 95% of the projects completed by the year 2020.
The precursors to Transit City—the previously constructed streetcar rights-of-way on Spadina Avenue and St. Clair Avenue—have faced heavy criticism among some local business leaders and residents for taking away space for cars and blocking through streets. The Transit City plan partially addresses these criticisms by running portions of the line underground, such as along parts of Eglinton Avenue. Although some routes, such as Don Mills Road, offer wide streets with expansion potential and few cross streets, there are problems with other routes. In particular, there is the problem of implementing a right-of-way tramway on streets such as Jane Street and Pape Avenue. These are arterial roads with two lanes in each direction, and it would be impossible to give transit vehicles a ROW without sacrificing parking space, sidewalk space or traffic lanes. It is for those reasons that the TTC also proposes to run the final kilometre or two of these lines underground, which is why they are not priority lines (because of the high cost). Furthermore, the Spadina streetcar right-of-way has not realized promised increases in speed, likely due to design compromises demanded by motorists, and problems with implementing priority traffic signals. Many of these compromises were repeated on the St. Clair right-of-way, and it is unclear how they will be avoided throughout the Transit City network. Although it has been pointed out that in Calgary the C-Train does not have traffic priority in the downtown core, but does have traffic priority in the suburbs. The St. Clair and Spadina Line are both Downtown lines.
Though the provincial government is providing support for the capital expenditure to build Transit City, it will provide no additional funds to operate the system. In some part due to the recent budget crisis, concerns arose over the potential mothballing, or at least abandonment of weekend service on the recently opened Sheppard subway line because it operates with a cost recovery rate considerably lower than the TTC average of 75%. While the Transit City LRT routes will likely operate at or above that rate, they will still add significantly to the TTC's operating budget (while routes like 39 Finch East have excellent cost recovery rates, they amass huge daily losses due to high service levels) sparking some fear as to whether the city can still afford to pay for it.
There is also some criticism about the specific routes. The Sheppard Line is surrounded in controversy because the Sheppard Subway Line is very underused, and was considered for mothballing. The LRT is proposed to replace the extension of the subway itself, but critics point out that service on nearby Finch Avenue is far more frequent. During the morning rush, the headway on Finch is 79 seconds as opposed to nearly 5 minutes on the Sheppard East bus. Efforts to divert traffic on Finch 2 km south to the Sheppard subway to complete the trip to Yonge have been unsuccessful, as express service on Finch now runs 6 days a week. Critics also point out that in order to connect the Sheppard LRT to the Finch West LRT, a link will likely be established on Finch Avenue East from Yonge to Don Mills, furthering its case for an LRT.
Dr. Richard Soberman, a commentator in matters of public transit, has analysed the Transit City proposal. He offers the following criticism in a report issued in January 2008:
"Toronto Transit City and MoveOntario 2020 both emerged as preludes to election campaigns. They are examples of ‘top-down’ planning where elected officials dictate what their professional advisors will implement, a reversal of the usual approach in which proposals are generated by professionals, in response to identified needs, for consideration by the body politic. Both the process and the outcomes lead to a number of questions regarding the main objectives and goals that the proposed plans actually attempt to achieve, the a priori selection of LRT technology for all of Toronto Transit City (to the exclusion of other higher order transit technology), and the practicality of implementing true LRT and BRT services in their own rights-of-way on all of the designated routes."