Mayor John Tory’s workplace is providing assurances his SmartTrack plan continues to be on monitor, regardless of a brand new strategy from the province that might depend on offers with the personal sector to get it constructed, as an alternative of utilizing public funds.
SmartTrack, which the mayor pitched throughout his profitable 2014 marketing campaign, is closely depending on a wider growth of GO Transit service deliberate by the provincial authorities.
Metrolinx, the arms-length provincial company answerable for GO, goals so as to add at the least 12 stations all through the GTHA on GO strains as a part of its plan.
Six of these are stops inside Toronto the mayor advocated for inclusion within the growth and which have been labelled SmartTrack stations.
Final November, Metrolinx introduced it was withdrawing all SmartTrack and non-SmartTrack GO stops from the procurement course of for the growth, and, as an alternative, would pursue a brand new “transit-oriented growth” strategy that might have the personal sector fund their development in alternate for property akin to growth rights close to station websites.
The brand new “market pushed” strategy was backed by the Ontario PC authorities, which got here to energy after successful the June 2018 election.
Metrolinx despatched a letter November 29 to all municipalities slated to obtain a GO station outlining the brand new strategy, which has brought about some uncertainty on the native degree about the way forward for the stops.
On Friday, in response to media questions in regards to the subject, Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins issued a press release that mentioned “nothing has modified.”
“No new station has been cancelled for the GTHA,” she mentioned.
“Which means the supply course of for brand new stations has modified and we’ll work with municipalities and growth companions to find out the place there are alternatives for third-party funding to ship them. We imagine there’s robust market demand for this strategy,” she mentioned, including that extra intently integrating growth with transit stops would enhance ridership and enhance passengers’ entry to providers.
Nevertheless, whereas prior to now Metrolinx and the earlier Liberal authorities prominently used the time period “SmartTrack” of their official communications, the assertion Friday didn’t include the time period, which has been key to differentiating the mayor’s venture from the broader GO growth.
Aikins didn’t reply when requested whether or not the Ontario PC authorities had informed the company to now not use the time period “SmartTrack.”
Mike Winterburn, director of communications for Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek, denied that any such directive had been given.
“Whereas SmartTrack falls below the Metropolis of Toronto, their transit tasks and priorities proceed to tell our discussions with town on the subway add and our frequent purpose to get the folks of Ontario shifting,” he mentioned, when requested if the province was shifting forward with SmartTrack.
About three hours later, Winterburn despatched an extra assertion that mentioned: “We’re dedicated to constructing transit to get Toronto shifting and we perceive the Metropolis can also be dedicated to constructing transit, together with SmartTrack.”
In an emailed assertion, Tory’s spokesperson Don Peat mentioned: “We proceed to have good discussions with the province and Metrolinx on SmartTrack …. SmartTrack is a part of town’s transit community plan, which Mayor Tory has championed, metropolis council has endorsed, and voters overwhelmingly supported within the final election.”
Peat reiterated the mayor’s place that the private-sector strategy may have advantages, together with presumably getting stations constructed extra shortly, intensifying areas round stops, and constructing extra reasonably priced housing. He mentioned metropolis workers are nonetheless reviewing the brand new mannequin.
The mayor’s SmartTrack plan has diminished significantly from the “London-style floor rail subway” he promoted in 2014. The preliminary model had 22 stops and a brand new heavy rail spur headed to Mississauga.
Final April, metropolis council permitted spending as much as $1.46 billion on the six SmartTrack stations and different components of the plan.
It’s not clear what’s going to occur to that cash below the brand new personal sector-led strategy.
Ben Spurr is a Toronto-based reporter masking transportation. Attain him by electronic mail at [email protected] or comply with him on Twitter: @BenSpurr