Toronto Mayor John Tory is doing his best, but it doesn’t seem to be enough to convince his fellow members of council, the province, and the federal government of the basic facts — the relief line is necessary.
The mayor’s pleas seem to rest on deaf ears. While city council did push forward the preferred alignment for the Yonge Relief Line, the actual construction of this much-needed transit project is still years away. In fact, it will never be built unless the province and the federal government step up.
The problem is that politicians are too wrapped up in the next election to do what needs to be done today. Experts all agree the relief line must be built prior to 2031 when the TTC Line 1 reaches capacity. With other subway extensions and Go Rail projects bringing more people into the downtown core, the relief line becomes even more of a necessity.
And yet, the provincial government hasn’t committed to more than $150 million for the planning of the relief line.
Toronto knows the relief line is going to be expensive. With a current price tag of $3.6 billion, it’s all city councillors can talk about.
Tory came up with a possible solution early on — revenue tools. Instead of raising property taxes, he would support the tolling the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway. The money collected from these tolls would be dedicated towards transit. But, the province said no.
In addition to denying Toronto the ability to make money off of their own roads, the province said they would not be putting any new money into municipal projects for two years. This is a big blow to Toronto and an obvious election tactic on behalf of the Kathleen Wynne government in hopes of gaining support from the 905 communities.
What the province is forgetting is the universal benefits of a relief line. Those living in the 905 area may be able to get into the GTA thanks to the subway extensions and rail lines, but once they get here they will be trapped in the same congestion and gridlock as the rest of us. Revenue tools like tolls would be the perfect solution — drivers will pay to help support transit infrastructure so that those who do use public transportation get better service. Those drivers will then experience less congestion on major roadways.
It’s a win-win; or it would have been if the province approved it.
Without these revenue tools or financial support from both provincial and federal governments, the chances of the relief line being built by 2031 is incredibly low. Toronto needs the province to step up and put politics aside.
If the province won’t let us toll roads, then they have to give us funding for the relief line. Toronto’s mayor shouldn’t have to stand at subway station handing out leaflets to get the government’s attention, only to be scolded by the Minister of Transportation for doing his job. This project is too important for such silly and juvenile politics.
Toronto has waited about 100 years for the relief line. Do we need to wait another 100 before someone decides to be an adult and pay for this thing?