TORONTO – Mayor John Tory is conceding that a major part of his proposed SmartTrack transit plan could be unworkable after a report found flaws with the plan to use heavy rail along the western portion.
The original SmartTrack plan would have seen new heavy rail infrastructure that would span across Mount Dennis west to the Mississauga Airport Corporate Centre.
The report, prepared by an engineering consultancy firm HDR, Inc., concludes light rail transit (LRT) would be more feasible than adding tracks to existing Kitchener GO corridor.
It suggests that the addition of a heavy rail line would also have significantly higher costs that would not have the ridership to support it.
SmartTrack was the golden nugget for Tory’s campaign platform in 2014, promising better transit for Toronto residents.
But despite campaign promises, Tory admitted Tuesday that the original plan to have trains travel through the same corridor and GO trains is not the route SmartTrack will take.
“I accept that heavy rail is not the best option for the western leg of SmartTrack,” said Tory.
The mayor added SmartTrack plans will proceed with a new reconfiguration that will link Mississauga and Markham to the downtown core “within the context of the budget and the timelines that we talked about.”
Transit advocate Steve Munro said the western portion was the biggest flaw in Tory’s original SmartTrack plan, adding the Eglinton branch undermined the credibility of the entire transit line proposal
“He hung on like grim death to that scheme saying ‘oh no it can be built, we don’t have to tunnel it will be cheap,'” Munro said. “Now finally he’s saying ‘I’ve talked to the experts.’”
WATCH: A new study says Toronto Mayor John Tory’s SmartTrack plan could carry more than 300,000 commuters through the G.T.A. every day — more than the current go transit system. Erica Vella reports.
A preliminary report on SmartTrack ridership predicted daily rider numbers could be north of 300,000, approximately 70 per cent more than their provincial counterpart, GO Transit, by 2031.
The report, prepared by University of Toronto, says if SmartTrack could accommodate five-minute all-day service, the transit line could bring just under 315,000 riders and the service would also reduce congestion on the Yonge subway line by up to 17 per cent.
But if service times were to increase to every 15 minutes, the report shows SmartTrack ridership would drop significantly to just over 76,000.
“There is a huge case being made here to need of precisely this kind of transit,” Tory said.
“No one can point out to me any project of this scale and magnitude that can attract this ridership and can be done any faster than this.”
The studies are also based on the service being available for fares at the same rate as the TTC, however fare integration has yet to be determined.
“I’ve used the expression ‘TTC fare’ and I think that’s the expression I have always used and we are working right now on a much broader issue with respect to fare integration that’s going to happen in one form or another,” the mayor said.
TTC chair Josh Colle issued at statement shortly after the reports were released on Tuesday saying “the addition of SmartTrack is a positive development for Toronto’s transit and transportation network.”
The project is estimated to cost $8 billion and be ready in seven years.
© 2016 Shaw Media