Executive Committee

Building the Downtown Relief Line

As you may know, last month City Council voted to move ahead with planning and design work on the Downtown Relief Line.

Throughout my two terms in office, I’ve consistently said that the Relief Line has to be our top transit priority. Each and every day I hear from residents frustrated by the overcrowding and delays on the Yonge line. As a transit user, I’ve also experienced these problems first-hand.

The Downtown Relief Line has now been divided into two projects: the Relief Line South (from Pape Station south to Queen St) and the Relief Line North (from Pape Station to Eglinton or Sheppard Ave).

While planning on the Relief Line to date has focused on the southern piece, I’m pleased to share that the city is now kick-starting planning work on the Relief Line North and will deliver an initial business case in early 2018.

The northern extension of the Relief Line will be a huge win for Ward 25ers who sometimes have to wait for two or three trains before they can get on and get where they need to go. To move this planning forward, I tabled a motion at Executive Committee asking staff to develop a robust community consultation plan, consider naming the new transit line the Don Mills line and look at building the Relief Line North up to the Sheppard line to maximize transit connectivity.

But in the meantime, to deal with the current capacity problems on the Yonge Line, I’ve pushed TTC staff hard on what efforts are underway to improve service and reliability, including the status of the Automatic Train Control (ATC) project. This project involves updating the signalling system so that the speed of and separation between trains will be controlled automatically.

ATC is expected to increase capacity on the Yonge line by 25% by cutting train headways from 2.5 to 2 minutes. In other words, ATC will improve train capacity and shorten wait times.

However, implementation of ATC has been slow going and over budget. That’s why I also moved a motionrequesting that the TTC provide quarterly updates to the Committee on the status of the ATC implementation project and consider all options for acceleration.

Faster, better and more reliable TTC service can’t come soon enough.

Our City’s Financial Direction

With experience on both sides of the fence – as a former senior manager in Economic Development and now as a City Councillor – I’m well aware of the challenges the City of Toronto faces to deliver services while also balancing the books.

I’m a firm believer in fiscal responsibility and accountability. During my two terms in office, I’ve consistently pushed city staff to reign in spending and find efficiencies from within.

Unfortunately, the Standing Committees and City Council often vote on items without being presented with a full assessment of how new services or programs will affect the city’s operating and capital budgets.

The City of Toronto’s financial envelope is limited, and we need to make sure that Council is aware – before it votes – of every new line item on the budget and its long term implications for the city’s financial sustainability.

With that in mind, I moved a motion at last month’s Executive Committee directing the Chief Financial Officer to prepare a financial impact summary outlining the financial and staffing implications of reports from the various Standing Committees.

We must keep track of what we’re approving and how we’re going to pay for it – that’s the only way to ensure smart, strategic investments and maintain our city’s financial health.

I’m pleased to let you know that Executive Committee and City Council supported my motion  – you can read it here.

Local Appeal Body

As no doubt you’re aware, Toronto is facing incredible intensification pressure. That’s why I’m pleased to announce that the city is getting traction on real and significant planning reform!

In my first term in office, I worked with the former Chair of the Planning and Growth Management Committee to get the establishment of a Local Appeal Body (LAB) off the ground. City Council approved the LAB in July 2014.

The LAB will be an independent decision-making body that will replace the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) in hearing appeals of minor variance and consent applications.

The goal is to give Toronto more control over defining its own neighbourhoods. For example, the city, not the province, will appoint LAB members and set up the appointments process. The LAB will also determine its own rules of practice and procedure.

A report from City Planning about the LAB will be coming to Executive Committee in January 2016.

For more information on the LAB, check out this staff presentation from spring 2014.

Improving Capacity on the Yonge Subway Line

I ride the Yonge line every day and know the delays first hand. Ward 25ers sometimes have to watch two or three cars pass by at York Mills, Lawrence, and Eglinton before finding space to crowd on.

That’s why I’ve been pushing hard for Automatic Train Control (ATC) on the Yonge-University-Spadina line. ATC will replace our existing 1954-vintage signalling system with a state of the art computer controlled system.

ATC is expected to increase capacity on the Yonge line by 25% by cutting train headways from 2.5 to 2 minutes. In other words, ATC will improve train capacity and shorten wait times.

Unfortunately, implementation was recently pushed back to 2020.

As I told the Toronto Sun, the delays and the promises are “just not good enough.”

That’s why I moved a motion at Executive Committee asking for a detailed analysis of the reasons for the delay and options to accelerate its implementation. My motion, which passed unanimously, also asks for a review of the TTC’s structure with a focus on a more efficient, streamlined organization.

For a full copy of my motion, click here.