Toronto city staff are bringing forward a deal for funding Mayor John Tory’s SmartTrack heavy rail proposal and the new Metrolinx light rail that critics say amounts to capitulation to the provincial government — and will leave Toronto taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars in capital and operating costs.
“It’s certainly not what we were promised,” said Parkdale-High Park Councillor Gord Perks. “It’s much less at a much higher cost and there are two or three brand new costs being dumped on the city that have nothing to do with SmartTrack.”
The report penned by City Manager Peter Wallace will be going to a special meeting of Toronto’s Executive Committee Nov. 1 – so that Toronto Council can consider it in time for a Nov. 30 deadline set by Metrolinx to nail down the funding agreements not only for SmartTrack service on its regional express rail line, but also funding and operating costs for the Eglinton Crosstown light rail line currently under construction.
The Toronto Transit Commission will, under the agreement, be responsible for operating costs that include ongoing maintenance of the light rail lines — something that councillors and the public had understood would be managed by Metrolinx. For the Eglinton line, that will amount to $80 million by itself.
The Sheppard LRT will cost $38.1 million and the Finch West LRT will cost another 51.5 million.
As well, the city will have to pay for about $2 billion to build six additional stations on existing GO lines, and as a part of the deal begin contributing $20 million a year to GO Transit’s growth fund, over three years.
All that will mean the equivalent of a property tax increase of between 1 and 2 per cent, depending upon how the city finances the project using other measures such as development charges, special tax levies along the line and asset sales.
TTC Chair Josh Colle said councillors will have to accept that building transit is costly.
“Part of this is that if we want these things then citizens and councillors have to take these steps to pay for them,” he said.