November 12th 2013
A Toronto city councillor wants the city to officially make the long-discussed downtown relief line its number one transit priority and undertake an environmental assessment on the project in order to get the ball rolling.
A motion prepared by Coun. Josh Matlow that will be debated during this week’s city council meeting calls on council to rescind a previous decision to send the relief line to the city planner for further study and instead “affirm” its support for the project and seek funding from Metrolinx to undertake an environmental assessment immediately.
The motion, which is seconded by Coun. John Parker, will require a two-thirds majority to be adopted.
“I don’t want to wait 10 years to know the full scope of this project. We should do that work now so we are fully prepared to get on with the project as soon as we can,” Matlow told CP24.com Tuesday afternoon. “Not only is there no reason to wait but frankly we can’t wait. Toronto can’t wait.”
Overcrowding on the Yonge-University-Spadina line has reached a crisis point in recent years and with subway traffic into downtown Toronto expected to more than double by 2031, many, including TTC CEO Andy Byford, have identified a relief subway line as the only solution.
The line would help to take pressure of the Yonge-University-Spadina line, likely originating in the east at either at Pape or Donlands station on the Bloor-Danforth line, travelling west along King or Queen Street and then heading north and reconnecting with the Bloor-Danforth line at Dundas West Station.
The line is included in a $50-billion provincial transit plan dubbed the big move, but the estimated $3.2 billion cost has not been funded and Metrolinx officials have previously said it could be a decade before ground is even broken on the project.
Meanwhile, Mayor Rob Ford has said the project is only his third transit priority, telling CP24 last month that “downtown people have enough subways” and that he wants to connect the Bloor-Danforth line with the Sheppard line and bring a new subway to Finch Avenue before even considering the relief line.
“We need to get over the politics. The reason that you don’t hear me use the word downtown when I describe it is because I am very cognizant that people like Rob Ford and others have put on a real marketing campaign to make this into a downtown versus suburbs fight,” Matlow told CP24.com. “The reality is that the subway system is neither downtown nor suburb. It is used by all of us in Toronto and across the region. The better the system works the better it is for everyone.”
Though conducting an environmental assessment on a project that has not yet been funded is unusual, it has happened before.
In 2009 council approved an environmental assessment on the Yonge subway extension into Richmond Hill despite having no capital commitments.
Speaking with CP24.com Tuesday, Matlow said the assessment needs to be completed to allow for a more-evidence based debate going forward.
“Right now it is an idea but we don’t really know what it encompasses,” he said.