Progress Report: Connecting the city with the Smart Track

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Yesterday, the Executive Committee discussed the status of the Smart Track, the new transit plan put forth by Mayor John Tory during the 2014 mayoral election. The report on the Smart Track was forwarded for information to the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), the Ministry of Transportation, Metrolinx, the City of Mississauga and York Region. Two amendments were added to the report: A request that the Chief Planner and Executive Director prepare a separate report on the results of public consultations regarding Smart Track stations and a request to develop a One Map Strategy where major intersections are overlapped with the Smart Track routes.

To review, the currently proposed Smart Track will provide service from the Mississauga Airport Corporate Centre in the west, southeast to Union Station and north to Markham in the east. The purpose of this new transit system is to alleviate passenger congestion on the pre-existing subway transit system and connect commuters from further regions of the GTA.

The system will have 22 new station stops and five interchanges with the current TTC network. If everything goes according to plan, the Smart Track will be operational by 2021.

The need for a plan like the Smart Track is blatant—according to the report being presented to the Executive Committee, ridership on the TTC has grown between 2.5 to 5 per cent, yet the transit system hasn’t expanded at all over the last 30 years. This has resulted in a lot of congestion along the main subway lines, especially around rush hour. Commuters are all trying to get downtown from their respective homes in the GTA, but with only three subway lines, it is getting a bit crowded.

The Smart Track, as is presented in the report, will allow commuters to take a transit way—made of both elevated and tunnelled corridors—from Unionville right to Mississauga. This will alleviate congestion on busses and streetcars, as well as create a faster commute to the downtown centre. In an effort to enhance service times, trains will frequent every five to 15 minutes at both stations.

It is estimated that a trip from Kennedy station to Union could be cut by 10 minutes with the enactment of the Smart Track.

The Smart Track also uses a lot of existing regional Go Transit infrastructure, which means there will be less disruption to Toronto’s roads and it should save time on development.

At the same time, the Executive Committee took note of a few challenges, the biggest one being that the current Smart Track proposal won’t fit into Union Station, which is the centre hub of the TTC network.

Mayor John Tory acknowledges there is still a lot of work to be done before the Smart Track is finalized.

“(These studies) were commissioned to objectively and expertly assess and advise on a number of issues that have been in need of precisely this type of objective examination since this concept first surfaced, admittedly, in an election campaign where I didn’t have access to squads of engineers and ridership experts and various other people,” Tory said at the Executive Committee meeting.

“We are now doing the work that needs to be done and I’m delighted by that.”

Implementing the Smart Track will be a long process, and it’s going to get more complex as time goes on. What’s important is that city council, Metrolinx, and the TTC are working together to gather information from experts and ensure it’s done properly. This type of cooperation marks a historic change in the process of creating new transit for Toronto, and is something to look forward to.

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