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February 15th, 2015 · No Comments

Re-elected in a landslide victory, Layton pushes transit file

By Mike Layton

There is no silver bullet to Toronto’s transit woes.  Almost as rare is finding a transit plan that all Torontonians can agree with.

But though seldom as it is, it does happen on occasion.

Toronto needs a relief subway line to alleviate congestion on the Yonge-University subway line, there is no doubt about that. Putting trains underground in areas where surface trains are feasible, and are the preferred option, is a waste of money. Re-drawing transit plans that take transit away from deserving neighbourhoods in order to fund another scheme is a waste of time and is not fair to residents.

With the debate about Toronto’s transit future set to enter another round, one solution that City Council has consistently supported is better integration of existing GO Transit stations and lines into our TTC system.  Metrolinx has also showed support for this as did all mayoral candidates.

Toronto transit riders deserve to be better served by the six rail lines and 16 stations already running across the city centre, and there is a need for immediate relief to our existing system without spending a dime on costly improvements. Our provincial taxes already pay for them, so why aren’t they working better for us?

Liberty Village is a great example. This growing community is now home to 10,000 residents and 7,000 workers, and will continue to grow for the next decade. Liberty Village residents predominantly rely on public transit to get to work, which is evident in the number of riders on the overflowing King streetcar, the busiest surface transit route in Toronto.

There is a GO Train service on the Lakeshore West line with trains that stop every 30 minutes in Liberty Village, but it costs an extra five dollars for the seven minute ride to Union Station, making it the most expensive ride per kilometre across the GO Train network.  A transit ride will cost you eight dollars if you take the subway when you reach Union Station. The same trip on the King streetcar would take almost an hour when you take into account the four full streetcars that pass by.  If we integrate the fare, riders would save time and money while making their transit experience more enjoyable.

In cities across the GTA, Metrolinx works with local transit agencies and reduces the cost of fares for transit trips that involve both systems. In Milton, riders pay an extra 60 cents to get on local transit if they present their GO Train pass. Why not Toronto?

I, like many others, have recognized the potential of this and have written to Metrolinx as early as February 2011 asking for more use out of the Union-Exhibition track. This was followed in 2012 with a motion from council, seconded by me, in support of adding more stations to the Kitchener GO Train line. The motion passed council by a vote of 40 to 2.

Then on Oct. 23rd, 2013, the TTC was asked by its commission to work with Metrolinx on a fare integration strategy for GO Transit stations at Bloor and Exhibition Place.

All this is consistent with Metrolinx’s 2008 Big Move which acknowledged the importance of using the GO Transit lines for local travel.

If everyone agrees, why hasn’t anything been done? The Ontario government has been given a clear mandate by the residents of southern Ontario to fix our transportation system. Long-term solutions are still needed, but one of the easiest, fastest, and cheapest fixes would be to use existing infrastructure more effectively.

We all agree, it’s not a new idea, now let’s make it happen!

Mike Layton is the councillor for Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina.

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