Wait–what happened to SmartTrack?

Ah, promises. It’s been 10 months since we voted for Tory’s light rail plan that would serve Mount Dennis, relieve congestion, and integrate with the subway. The TTC Board was briefed on September 28 about progress on SmartTrack. I imagine it must have been a short meeting.

The SmartTrack proposal is, according to Steve Munro, spinning its wheels:

  • Neither the TTC nor Metrolinx owns it
  • The route remains unsettled
  • It does not integrate well and may not draw riders
  • Nobody has yet figured out how much it will cost
  • And nobody knows how to pay for it.

Not one of the studies that would answer these questions is complete, Munro says.

One intriguing possibility is in the presentation Munro posted: the city is studying a route (almost?) to the airport, instead of along Eglinton.

John Tory had proposed a difficult—perhaps impossible—sharp left turn on Eglinton for the trains, which would have taken them up hills and under houses. It was a bad plan, and it was widely criticized.

st_eglintonweststudyarea_22

The new study area conspicuously includes a route that could take the trains through Weston and up to the airport. Munro says

 The city is also studying alignments that would stay on the rail corridor to the point where the UPX spur branches off and then running south to reach the Corporate Centre lands.

The UP Express has, as previously reported, been under-performing. Here, perhaps, we might find a face- and money-saving solution: Use much of the infrastructure for the SmartTrack.

This plan would have an enormous benefit for us: a subway-lite connection to downtown.

Tory’s transit plan under attack. Again.

John Tory’s transit plan for Mount Dennis has come under scrutiny, and has raised some community hackles. The Globe and Mail sent a reporter out this past weekend to check it out.

His verdict? It’s never going to happen.

The city-wide problem is substantial: Tory doesn’t know how to pay for it. But the Mount Dennis problem is significant too: how can this mammoth thing be built on the cheap?

The article is succinct in its assessment:

Mr. Tory has said he won’t demolish homes or run surface rail through parks, so you cross off those areas. You can eliminate places where development is pending. The rail corridor will have to be at least 30 metres wide, so any open space more narrow than that is also out. After that it’s simple math. Metrolinx standards are that their trains cannot go up or down at greater than a 2.5-per-cent angle, a common passenger rail restriction….

This process suggests that, if the train goes underground at Mount Dennis, it cannot come above ground until just west of Martin Grove. It would emerge about 8.5 kilometres from the rail corridor where the tunnel began.

 

Tunnelling costs, roughly, $200–300 million per kilometre. The Mount Dennis section of the track would cost, then, about $2 billion—or about a quarter of the total budget. And that’s just for the Mount Dennis tunnel.

The SmartTrack plan isn’t popular with Mount Dennis residents either. The Mount Dennis Community Association issued a scathing press release that said, amongst other zippers,

“We’re not prepared to stand by and watch a plan unfold that could cause traffic chaos for residents, seriously hurt local businesses and divide this community in two without demanding answers,” said community association vice-president Jules Kerlinger. “And we want answers before the election on Oct. 27, not after.”

Tory has said that he will meet with the community association, though he hasn’t said where or when.

Tory promises no demolitions in Mount Dennis

John Tory, under fire for his back-of-the-napkin plan to build transit through Mount Dennis, has promised that no homes will be demolished to make way for the trains.

The Globe and Mail reports

It is equally fair for [Olivia Chow] to ask in debates whether he can assure residents that building the western spur of SmartTrack would not require the demolition of local homes. When asked at the editorial board whether he can give such an assurance, he said: “Well, the bottom-line answer is that, where you have to go below or around obstacles, that’s what you’ll do. So the answer to the question is yes.”

 

Many questions remain, however: how much will it cost? How will it be paid for? No—really—how will it be paid for? Why not repurpose the UP Express? Is there even space on the rails?

According to Steve Munro, a transit genius, “None of this is simple—certainly not as simple as Tory would have us believe. And almost none of it makes sense.”

Still, Tory has made one promise: no homes will be demolished. Let’s hold him to that.