Toronto is lagging behind its transit development, but just how bad it is?
By Moses Lai
The Eglinton Crosstown LRT has been delayed for over four years and probably won’t be launched until 2024. “We’re not there yet,” Metrolinx CEO said in a press conference in September, refusing to provide an opening date for the Crosstown LRT. Earlier this year, the decade-long project was plagued with 260 quality control issues, according to a CBC report.
However, the Crosstown LRT is far from the only large Canadian (Greater Toronto Area) transit project to run into delays. The delay of Metrolinx projects for the Scarborough Rapid Transit and Sheppard Light Rapid Transit project has cost taxpayers $125 million in cancellation and delay fees. So why does it seem so hard to get new transit built in the GTA?
Both the TTC and Metrolinx are heavily underfunded
According to the City of Toronto, the TTC 15-year investment budget is estimated to be a total of 38 billion, but only $13 billion of the budget was funded while the rest remained unfunded.
“The city of Toronto itself cannot fund transit, it is currently sitting at a massive deficit in terms of budget, it cannot even keep up with the maintenance,” Maryam Sabzevari, an urban planner at the City of Toronto said during an interview.
Back in 1995 when Mike Harris was elected as Ontario’s premier, he eliminated provincial funding to the TTC. The lack of provincial and federal government support leads to the TTC relies heavily on ridership. When the pandemic hits across the world, TTC ridership dropped by 88 per cent early in the pandemic, according to a CP24 report. The TTC was left stranded and was short hundreds of millions of dollars.
TTC lack the fundings to secure transit projects
In 2021, the City of Toronto reached an agreement with the province, which states that the city is expected to cover operating and maintenance costs for the Eglinton Crosstown while the province is responsible for "lifecycle maintenance costs." But according to CityNews there are indications Ontario might have to operate the Crosstown LRT as the city is currently sitting at a $1.5 billion deficit, and both Toronto Mayor Oliver Chow and Premier Doug Ford have said the city’s financial situation is not sustainable.
"All these big projects eat up the budget really fast and so now we are stuck with the situation where the subway expansion eat up the whole budget and the Eglinton east has no funding at all." Cameron MacLeod, the executive director of CodeRedTO, a transit advocacy group in the GTA and Hamilton area said.
Rapid policy changes hampered the city's transit development
“Each government that comes around, brings their own plan, changes things over. And all the work that is done goes out the window. We have the former mayor, before john tory brought in the the concept of transit city, and had this whole transit of network of rail transit that had to happen, when John Tory became the mayor, he kind of went away with the concept and start his own smart station concept, that didn’t work either, he was supposed to work on this for this entire time he was the mayor.” Sabzevari said.
A brief rewind of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT
The Eglinton Crosstown was first announced in 2007 as one of then-Mayor David Miller Transit City projects. In 2010, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford announced, “Transit City is dead.” and canceled The Eglinton Crosstown LRT. One year later, Toronto Council overrides Mayor Ford’s plans and reinstates the Transit City project with the Crosstown LRT included. In 2011, the project finally starts its consultation and preliminary design but has since plagued with delays and defects.
Shopowners and residents frustrated with the prolonged delay
With the project now four years behind schedule, frustration grows as nearby local businesses and residents face prolonged delay, defects and construction. Hundreds of shops along the Eglinton Crosstown were plagued by the decade-long constructions and were forced to shut down.
"When this project started, a lot of businesses have closed as you can see, a lot of vacancy because financially, people cannot afford it," One area resident said.
"I can foresee that there will be difficulty in the commute, especially for us working in the Downtown" A new immigrant living near the station of Fairbank said.
Despite the constructions mostly being finished on the west-end side of the Eglinton Crosstown, and roads are clear for traffic, customers haven’t returned to the area, according to a CityNews report. The ripple effects of the prolonged construction for large transit projects have left a profound impact near these area. Near Finch West station, the terminal of Finch West LRT, construction is still underway at the intersection of Finch west Avenue and Keele street, the two-lane driveway has been reduced to one in each direction. Lane closure has led to occasional traffics.