Transit Funding in Toronto


Toronto received a shot of great news a couple of days ago: the Federal government signed on to Premier Doug Ford’s four signature transit projects to the tune of $10.4 billion. These projects are:

  1. Ontario Line [C]
  2. Scarborough Subway Extension (SSE) [B]
  3. Eglinton West Crosstown Extension (EWCE) [D]
  4. Yonge North Subway Extension (YNSE) [A]

(Note that “E” in the map above – the Sheppard extension – has not been designed and remains unfunded.)

These projects are transformative. Together they start to build a network across the city and will make it easier for anyone in Toronto to take transit. Also, by increasing the size of Toronto’s rapid transit grid, the city has a better chance of increasing its transit mode share – and that’s crucial for it to be a greener and less car-oriented.

Now, yes, I have disagreements and problems with the lines as designed: the EWCE is tunnelled and costs more than it should, as is the SSE. But credit where credit is due: Doug Ford’s government has stayed focused and pushed Metrolinx to design these projects and avoid the on-again, off-again, design, and then redesign process that is Toronto transit planning. From where I stand it’s time to disagree and commit – and build build build.

In addition to the announcement above, the governments of Canada and Ontario committed $360 million to the purchase of 60 additional streetcars. This purchase actually allows the city to expand streetcar capacity and service. When the old ALRVs and CLRVs were replaced by Flexities, Toronto only had enough funding to match existing vehicle capacity, even though everyone knew that ridership would increase. Since the Flexities were larger this led to a drop in perceived service. as you had to wait longer for a streetcar to arrive. This new funding begins to address the capacity gap – as long as the TTC commits to paying more to run more service.

My biggest fear now is that subsequent federal governments (notably the Conservative party with its rural base and stated focus on deficits) will simply cancel the funding. There’s nothing in the agreements to prevent that, and it would be a huge blow to transit in a city that’s starved of it and desperately needs it. Here’s hoping that the province and the city is able to get shovels in the ground and everyone at all levels of government see the critical importance of these projects.


While important and incredibly welcome, this is only the beginning of addressing the transit deficit in Toronto. I’d love to see the following extensions/lines be prioritized in the medium term to increase transit access and make transit the preferred choice across the city:

Sheppard Subway Extension: Both east to McCowan so that it terminates at the SSE, and west to the University line. This would vastly improve this line’s utility, and add an east-west line along the top of the city.

Eglinton East LRT: This would bring high-quality rapid transit to other parts of Scarborough, and would run through some of the city’s most underserved neighbourhoods.

Waterfront East: A grade-separated extension of the Queens Quay line to the Portlands, this would allow development in that area to avoid the fiasco of the Humber Bay Shores, where we built up a neighbourhood without any transit, resulting in it being a car-ridden mess.

Waterfront West: This would be a grade-separated extension of the Queens Quay line to Long Branch. Although it would allow for rapid transit all along the Waterfront, sadly this line has repeatedly been MIA in planning and execution.

Finch West Extension to Woodbine GO: A fairly short extension, this would take the Finch West LRT to the planned Woodbine GO station at Woodbine Live. It improves the utility of Finch West by connecting another trip generator and employment center, and improves the network as a whole by connecting to another transit mode.

Jane Rapid Transit: Whether this is an LRT running up Jane, or a northward extension of the Ontario Line, this would bring high-quality rapid transit to an area of the city that already has exceptionally high bus ridership, and would benefit underserved neighbourhoods along the route. And, if designed appropriately it would connect multiple other transit modes and lines as well, including multiple streetcar routes, GO, and the Crosstown – dramatically improving network connectivity.

Of course, these are all pie-in-the-sky ideas. First things first: let’s focus on getting those four lines built and completed.

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