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Olivia Chow's transit plan: Buses, preserving planned LRTs and hope for a relief line

Olivia Chow has staked a lot of political capital on the humble bus, calling for a 10-per-cent increase in service. Plans for improved rail are further off, with promises of support for light rail on Sheppard and Finch and pledges to start funding work on a downtown relief line (DRL).

The focus on buses keeps the immediate costs down. The LRT projects will be done and paid for by the province. It will be years before serious bills come due on the DRL. The plan is fairly uncontroversial, albeit modest. But questions have been raised about funding, where the buses will come from and how the extra vehicles will fit on roadsalready plagued with crowding.

Boosting bus service would add $15-million a year in operational costs and, in the short run, mean overruling the TTC to keep some of the vehicles past their usual lifespan. And serious improvements to capacity wouldn't come until new buses are purchased, a sizable capital expense.

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The Tory camp argues that the cost of buying buses and building a place to store them would vastly outstrip the $15-million pledge. But Ms. Chow counters that capital costs are funded differently. Her campaign says she would push ahead with building a planned bus garage, $100-million of which is unfunded, and spend $84-million over two years on new buses. The carrying costs for this debt, which the campaign is estimating at $8-million a year, would be covered through a rise in the land-transfer tax on houses worth more than $2-million.

Another $8-million from the land-transfer tax increase, which the Chow camp says should raise $20-million a year over all, would go toward carrying the cost of money borrowed to fund the $200-million engineering studies for the DRL.

As for building the DRL, her position is a little more vague. Ms. Chow is pledging to cancel the billion-dollar levy for a Scarborough subway extension, reverting to a province-funded LRT, but retain that borrowing room. Reinstating it in some future form would raise money that would go for TTC upkeep and part of the DRL. With the first part of the relief line expected to cost more than $3-billion, the province and the federal government would therefore have to put in more than $2-billion to build it. Future phases of the DRL would be left to another day.

The three leading candidates for mayor have different, and controversial, visions, about how we'll get around. Here's where they stand on the most contentious points

15-min commuter rail line Heavy/light rail lines to be builtor under construction Heavy/light rail plans Heavy/ light lines underconstruction Planned GO electrification Heavy/light rail expansion Move ongoing light rail projectunderground Scarborough subway planned Existing heavy/light rail Heavy/light rail under construction GO lines
  • Doug Ford

    Ford would keep the proposed Scarborough extension. He cites it as an example of subway-building progress under his brother’s mayoralty.

  • John Tory

    Tory has ruled out changing plans in Scarborough, calling it a rare decision that brought together the three levels of government.

  • Olivia Chow

    Chow says she will kill the proposed subway extension and revert to the light rail plan which would be funded by the province.

  • Doug Ford

    Ford wants to kill the province’s plans for LRT here and re-direct the money toward subway lines.

  • John Tory

    Tory initially said that LRTs on these roads couldn’t be a priority for him. He has subsequently come out in favour.

  • Olivia Chow

    Chow supports the province’s plan to build light rail lines on the surface of Sheppard east and Finch west.

  • Doug Ford

    Ford said this week that the eastern portion of the downtown relief line, which the TTC lists as its top priority, will be the first subway he’d have built. His funding plan remains vague.

  • John Tory

    Tory has said that his so-called SmartTrack plan brings sooner relief than the DRL, a line on which he has offered mixed message. He said recently, though, that preliminary DRL work should occur. He would fund it through tax increment financing.

  • Olivia Chow

    Chow has pledged to begin initial work toward the eastern portion of the downtown relief line, which the TTC says is its top priority. She says part of it could be funded by cancelling the Scarborough subway extension.

  • Doug Ford

    The Eglinton LRT line is being built mostly underground. Ford claims, incorrectly, that his brother was responsible for burying it and he is furious that the line runs above-ground in the east end. He calls this a sign of Scarborough is being mistreated and is promising to tunnel that section as well.

  • John Tory

    Tory’s transportation platform is largely based around his rail plan but he has also committed to other noteworthy improvements. He has promised to increase the number of express bus routes, which have fewer stops but higher fares. And he has floated the possibility of water transportation, an idea that has not been fleshed out.

  • Olivia Chow

    The centrepiece of Chow’s plan is a promise to increase bus service by 10 per cent, arguing that the majority of riders spend at least part of their trip on a bus. Her proposal calls for keeping some buses longer than the TTC would like and budgets $184-million for new vehicles and a garage.

Illustrations: Trish McAlaster, Interactive development: Jeremy Agius
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About the Author

Oliver Moore joined the Globe and Mail's web newsroom in 2000 as an editor and then moved into reporting. A native Torontonian, he served four years as Atlantic Bureau Chief and has worked also in Afghanistan, Grenada, France, Spain and the United States. More


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