Metrolinx, a provincial agency, is in the midst of expanding its electric rail system, at the same time the City of Toronto is working to implement Mayor John Tory’s SmartTrack transit plan. Ahead of a Metrolinx board meeting on Wednesday, the agency released an enormous PDF about the state of their plans to integrate the two transit networks.
It’s the latest in a long string of studies and analysis about the future of Toronto’s transit.
“It’s very easy to teach transport planning here, because nothing changes,” Murtaza Haider, an associate professor at the Ted Rogers School of Management, said Tuesday.
Joking aside, Haida said that if SmartTrack has changed since Tory’s election campaign, “that’s good news.”
“Had it stayed the way it was envisioned, without any real [expert] input, that would have been a dangerous thing for us, from a funding and ridership perspective.”
The goal of the integration is to help commuters taking both long and short trips on electric rails, as well as reduce congestion across Toronto, Metrolinx said. It could mean regional express rail (RER) service trains, which typically travel long distances without stopping (compared to subway or light-trail transit), would make more frequent stops. It could also mean a split between express and local service, using the same corridors.
Metrolinx and the City of Toronto are considering four options:
A: Increased frequencies, five new stations
B. Express and local service, eight new stations
C. Committed RER frequencies, seven-eight new stations
D. Committed RER frequencies, four-five new stations
All options include an LRT on the Eglinton West corridor, with the number of stations to be determined; and all options include the 11 existing stations in the City of Toronto and Markham on the Kitchener and Stouffville corridor.
One key issue is fare integration, Haider said. In its report ahead of the board meeting, Metrolinx said it will soon begin consultations about fare integration.
“How do we price it so that A, it generates enough ridership, and B, at the same time, it doesn’t create a multi-tiered system,” he said.
Option A includes five new stations, shown in red circles on the diagram below.
Option B would see express service trains stopping at existing stations only. Local service would stopping at existing and new stations. The eight new stations are shown in red.
Option C has five-to-10-minute service during peak times, and 15-minute service in off-peak times, and seven or eight new stations.
Option D also has five-to-10-minute service during peak times, and 15-minute service in off-peak times, and four or five new stations.
It’s still not known how much the new service, whether GO or TTC, RER or SmartTrack, will cost. Could riders using GO lines pay more when travelling the exact same distance as a TTC passenger?
When it comes to fees and fares, there’s no solid information. However, Metrolinx says it will become public consultation on fare integration.
“A just and affordable fare that would bring more riders and improve accessibility to and from downtown Toronto and other regional labour markets, that would be key,” Haider said.