POLITICS

Toronto transit plan proposes new subways, light-rail lines funded by tax hike

06/27/2012 01:35 EDT | Updated 08/27/2012 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - The chair of Toronto's transit authority proposed a vast, $30-billion expansion of the city's subway network Wednesday that would largely be funded by a property tax increase.

Karen Stintz unveiled the "OneCity" plan, which would call on Ontario to raise property taxes by 1.9 per cent each year for four years to pay for the long-term expansion.

Under the plan, six subway lines, 10 light-rail lines and five bus and streetcar lines — totalling 170 km of new track both above and below ground — would be added over 30 years to the existing system.

Lighter vehicles on the Scarborough Rapid Transit line would be replaced with a dedicated Scarborough subway line, while a new streetcar line would be added along the eastern section of Toronto's waterfront ahead of the 2015 Pan Am Games.

Mayor Rob Ford opposed the proposed plan, calling it "over-the-top" and said he wasn't consulted in the process.

"No one has been consulted, the taxpayers most importantly haven't been asked what they want ... this is ridiculous. I'm not going to support this," he said.

Minister of Transportation Bob Chiarelli said that the public needs to come to a "community-wide consensus" on the future of Toronto's transit system due to the high cost and infrastructure changes proposed in the "OneCity" plan.

"There is a big ask in terms of financial contribution," he said. "They are asking for us to amend legislation to enable property tax increases.

More information is needed before the public can make an informed decision about it, Chiarelli said.

"Certainly we haven't seen all of the details," he said. "We didn't have access to those documents previously, but they are asking for an additional $10 billion from the provincial government."

Chiarelli said the cost would be in addition to the $8.4 billion the provincial government and Metrolinx have already committed to transit projects in the city.

NDP transport critic Jonah Schein said Metrolinx is still in the process of a funding strategy for the Toronto area's growing transit needs, but public transit needs to be a priority for Toronto.

"I know that people at city hall are anxious to get this on the table as soon as possible," he said.

A further twenty projects will be added to the plan by the Toronto Transit Commission in the coming months, focusing on alleviating pressure on the Bloor-Yonge subway line.

City council will be asked to approve a study of the plan in July and vote on it in October.