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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.

City-Wide Transit Update

The first month of 2016 saw a number of exciting developments on the transit front!

The City of Toronto and TTC, together with Metrolinx and GoTransit, are embracing a network-based approach to transit, rather than considering transit initiatives as individual projects. The goal is to make Toronto’s residents and neighbourhoods more interconnected.

The newly revised SmartTrack plan sees the western portion of the plan – from Mount Dennis station to the airport – modified from heavy rail to light rail. Staff advise that an LRT (light rail transit) would be more feasible, cost effective and have fewer community impacts.

A study of SmartTrack ridership forecasts, conducted by the University of Toronto, also estimated that frequent service on the transit line could reduce congestion on the Yonge subway line by 17% – that’s a significant reduction!

City staff will provide an update on SmartTrack’s western corridor to Executive Committee in March 2016.

In January we also got a look at a revised plan for the Scarborough subway. City Planning has advised that reducing the extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway from three stops to one stop and building a 17-stop, 12 kilometre LRT along Eglinton East – an extension of the Eglinton Crosstown – would better support Scarborough residents’ regional and local needs than the original plan approved by Council in 2013.

City Planning will report to Executive Committee in March 2016 on the results of public consultations and progress on this updated plan.

In February and March, the city and Metrolinx are hosting a series of public meetings for residents to learn more about integrated transit planning.

Click here for the dates and locations of these upcoming public consultations.

I encourage you to attend and share your feedback on our city’s updated transit plans!

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.

Construction Coordination Update

We’re at the tail end of an unprecedented construction season.

The increased construction activity signals much needed and long overdue investment in our city’s basic infrastructure but also brings congestion and disruption.

That’s why the city is redoubling its construction coordination efforts.

I recently met with the Director of the city’s Major Capital Infrastructure Coordination (MCIC) group – the lead on construction coordination.

MCIC’s job is to organize and connect key stakeholders from city divisions (Water, Transportation, TTC), third-party utility and telecommunication companies (Toronto Hydro, Enbridge, Rogers, Bell) as well as private developers, share information and identify opportunities to bundle and streamline work.

MCIC’s role does not end when construction starts. Once shovels are in the ground, MCIC is constantly on the lookout for ways to reduce congestion and disruption, including accelerating or decelerating construction activity or implementing short term signal changes on surrounding streets, among other things.

Of course, there is always room for improvement – I see it day in and day out.

Please let me know if you see an example of poor construction coordination by sending me an email or calling my office. Each and every example can help us improve the city’s response going forward!

Relief Line Study

The Relief Line Study is moving full-speed ahead!

The terms of reference and public consultation plan were approved at City Council last week.

As I mentioned in my last newsletter, this joint city and TTC effort is studying possible station locations and routes for the first phase of the Relief Line. The first phase would take pressure off of the overcrowded Yonge line by providing a subway connection between the Bloor-Danforth line and downtown.

Earlier this year, the city and TTC held a number of public consultations to introduce the study and get feedback on how it should proceed.

As part of the next phase, staff will look at the right transit technology for the line and invite the public to participate in a naming contest for the Relief Line. In early 2015, staff will release a long list of station locations and route alignment options for consideration.

For more information, please see http://www.regionalrelief.ca/city-of-toronto/.

Transit and Transportation Town Hall

With TTC CEO Andy Byford, Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig and Transportation Services GM Stephen Buckley f  ollowing my Transit and Transportation Town Hall

With TTC CEO Andy Byford, Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig and Transportation Services GM Stephen Buckley following my Transit and Transportation Town Hall

I am pleased to report that my Ward 25 Transit and Transportation Town Hall, which took place last Tuesday at Lawrence Park Community Church, was a big success!

I brought the city’s top transit and transportation officials, TTC CEO Andy Byford, Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig and Transportation Services GM Stephen Buckley, to Ward 25 to answer your questions and address your issues.

It was an interesting, informative and encouraging evening, and we heard about all of the work the city and the province are doing to tackle Toronto’s congestion problem.

I was particularly excited about the discussion surrounding the Yonge relief line – I made it clear that it was his number one priority.

As we learned from the Q&A, there is more to be done, but we are taking action.

Thank you to all who attended and brought excellent questions!

For those who missed the town hall, please see the evening’s presentations from TTC CEO Andy Byford and Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig below: