Toronto Transit Improvements 2014+

[UPDATE 3 – 2014 Municipal Election Edition – This post has been updated to reflect changes to the ongoing implementation of plans (particularly regarding the new streetcars, PRESTO, and accessibility improvements), announcements that came during the provincial election, and mayoral candidates’ ambitions. Updates in “[BOLD]”]

The standard complaint about Toronto Transit is that we spend a lot of time arguing and not very much time building anything. The system is crumbling and overcrowded and we’re doing nothing to meet future demands, let alone current shortcomings. Little Vancouver will surpass us this year in kms of Rapid Transit on its local system (although not in number of stations or number of riders, and certainly not including GO). We have nothing to show for our taxes and fare hikes so why should we trust the government with more?

I disagree. The system has grown enormously in the past decade (despite the cutbacks under our current Mayor/TTC Chair), and we’re going to see even more major improvements to the regional system in the next decade. So, inspired by an article projecting the new services on offer in Montreal this year, I decided to consolidate the current funded and scheduled plans into a handy list. I’m only including projects that are scheduled and/or legislated below, so wishful thinking projects and projects that are tied to future tax hikes are left out. I’ve also left out recent completed improvements (like all-day GO Lakeshore service, several GO grade separations, Durham’s PULSE BRT service, and several GO station/parking improvements).

Transit Improvements 2014-2025

–          Reconstruction of Harbourfront Streetcar ROW completed and reopened. Along with significant public realm improvements [that will finally be finished in 2015], the ROW realignment will improve service because the streetcars will no longer conflict with left-turning eastbound vehicles. Comes with a bonus Martin Goodman Trail extension. When the streetcars arrive, they’ll be pulling into a lightly renovated Union Station loop, which will connect directly to the new second (Yonge Line) platform in the subway station, which also opened this year. [Opening scheduled for Thanksgiving weekend.]

2979_1_mgt_no_grass_1_585_282_crop_max_width_0_30_600_290–          New streetcars deployed on Harbourfront, Spadina, and Bathurst routes. The new streetcars will be rolled out between 2014-2019 on a route-by-route basis. Routes with new streetcars will enjoy increased reliability, be completely wheelchair accessible, accept PRESTO as payment, and move faster because of some removed stops and all-door accessible boarding. [Due to a strike at Bombardier’s facility in Thunder Bay, delivery of new vehicles is behind schedule. The first two cars debuted on Spadina Aug 31, and more will slowly trickle in over the year. No word on when the Bombardier will catch up. PRESTO was meant to be implemented on Spadina, Bathurst, Harbourfront, and Dundas Streetcars with the new deployment; no word on whether these lines’ PRESTO compatibility is still projected for a fall start date.] 
–          Station renovations/accessibility improvements/PRESTO installation completed at Dufferin, Pape, and Lawrence West; construction begins at Ossington. Part of the TTC’s legislated accessibility requirements, stations being renovated will benefit from second exits from the subway (for safety and convenience) and barrier-free entry (elevators, sliding doors). [Side note: “second exits” are ridiculous — they should function as unmanned, PRESTO-activated entrances as well.]
–          Articulated buses rolled out on Bathurst, Dufferin, Finch West, Ossington, Bay, Sheppard East, and Steeles Express routes. The articulated buses will increase capacity and comfort on these routes. Complete rollout expected by January 2015.

ttcarticulatedbusoctober3-473x315–          GO Station modernization at Burlington and Exhibition. GO Bloor will also become fully accessible ahead of the launch of the UPE. New parking structures at Ajax, Clarkson, and Pickering. GO modernization includes accessibilty improvements and additional entrances. New parking structures will accommodate additional riders.
–           Kitchener’s 17-km “adapted BRT” begins service, connecting Fairview Park Mall with Cambridge. Not technically in the GTA, but GO is now serving Kitchener (just another of this decade’s improvements!), so I’m including it here.
–           Brampton’s Zum BRT service adds a new line on Bovaird Street, between GO Mount Pleasant and Airport Rd, connecting to the Zum Main St . This is the beginning of Phase 2 of the Zum system, which launched in 2010. Zum is like Viva, an express bus system running in mixed traffic, but with nicely designed stations and transit priority signalling. An unfunded program will build separated lanes on Queen St in the distant future. (A map appears in the 2016 segment).
[- PRESTO Installation: First wave of TTC PRESTO expansion will be complete by Fall 2014, with expansion to the following subway stations: King, Queen, Sheppard, Broadview, Scarborough Centre, St. Andrew, Osgoode, Museum, Spadina, Bathurst, Dundas West, and Davisville. It is very weird to me that this list doesn’t include stations undergoing renovations like Dufferin, Pape, and Lawrence West. Is there a logic here? Why not do the work all at once?] 

– [All-door boarding on Streetcars: Starting Jan 1, all streetcars will feature all-door boarding and Proof-of-Payment/Honour System boarding. This will reduce stop service time, resulting in quicker service. Also affecting Streetcar speed will be the elimination of some stops through the core that are considered too close together, and elimination of Sunday stops. This was specifically authorized by City Council at its last meeting, although Mayor Ford was opposed.
– [OTHER BUS NETWORK IMPROVEMENTS: The TTC voted to implement a wide array of other service improvements to the surface network, including a reduction in crowding standards (i.e., how many people have to be using the average bus before additional buses are put on the line), expansion of the Blue Night Route Services, creation of a 10-minute network of bus routes that come at least every 10 minutes all day, addition of more express routes into downtown, addition of more limited-stop services on busy cross-town routes, and switching to a two-hour transfer fare system. These will likely be up to the incoming council to decide whether to fund, and for the incoming TTC to implement. There are severe limitations on the number of buses that can be added to the system due to lack of garage space — although presumably that can be rented temporarily. Mayoral candidate Tory rejected all of the proposed changes saying they were too expensive (they would cost about $500M over ten years, including net operating and capital costs, although $190M of this has already been set aside by the current Council for new garage space); Mayoral candidate Ford presumably rejects this as well, since it’s largely a repudiation of the last four years of governance and every bus route will become a subway in the glorious Ford Future; Mayoral candidate Chow accepted most of the plan as it dovetailed with her plan to increase bus service, although she oddly came out against the two-hour transfer scheme, which is probably necessary for large-scale PRESTO implementation). 

–          Union-Pearson Express opens, includes modernization of GO Bloor and Weston stations. Will include an interchange station connecting UPE, GO Bloor, and Dundas West Stations. Fare structure to be determined. Departures every 15 mins. [Metrolinx is already studying electrification of this line. There are already thoughts toward adding a stop at Eglinton once the Crosstown opens if/and electrification happens.]

UPE–          Union Station renovations complete. Will eventually accommodate up to twice current capacity.
–          New Streetcars deployed on Dundas – PRESTO-ready, presumably.
–          PRESTO roll-out on TTC “substantially complete” by Pan-Am Games [*ahem* this has been delayed until 2017, according to the latest plans. Hopefully, some mayoral candidate can pledge to speed this up?]
–          James North GO Station added in Hamilton
–          Increased GO service on the Kitchener line, includes station modernization at Etobicoke North.
         GO Long Branch and Eglinton become accessible; station renovations complete the following year.
–          VIVA Busways Phase I completed, adding BRT service to much of Highway 7 and Yonge St in York Region.
–          Accessibility improvements planned at Wilson* and Ossington. (*From this point forward, many of the accessibility improvement dates are fuzzy. The TTC has an implementation plan–see below–but not all of these are actually funded or scheduled. There’s a hard legislated deadline of 2025 for accessibility improvements, and the TTC wants stations served by streetcars to be fully accessible by the launch date for new streetcar service on a given line). [The TTC has had its Easier Access Budget slashed in half, so the plan below has changed substantially. There is no longer funding to complete improvements at the following stations: Greenwood, Wellesley, Lansdowne, Keele, College, Spadina, Chester, Christie, Castle Frank, Summerhill, High Park, Museum, Rosedale, Old Mill, Glencairn, Warden, and Islington. This is pretty shocking — especially given that some of these stations are high-volume stations, and service routes that were meant to finally get accessible streetcars. Some Mayoral candidate may want to speak out about this. From here on out, accessibility upgrades in this article reflect the new planned opening dates.]

accessibility timeline TTC–          Completion of the 80-km Pan-Am Path bike/multi-use trail system through Toronto — not a transit project, but a substantial biking project that will benefit many for years to come. It’s one of a very few biking projects with a firm completion date.


–            Brampton’s Zum Steeles service extends west from the Gateway Terminal to Lisgar GO station.

–          Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extention opens. 8.6 km, 6 new stations, fully accessible and PRESTO-ready. Includes a new GO interchange station at Downsview Park (the existing GO York University will close), Viva interchanges, the proposed Highway 407 Busway, the future Finch West LRT interchange, almost 3000 parking spaces, and service to York University. Opening of this subway will reduce need for buses on some routes, allowing redeployment to better serve other high-demand routes. It will also put the York University Busway in the hydro corridor out of work; plans for the busway haven’t been announced but it may become a cycle path. (Station names below aren’t correct. Downsview will be renamed “Sheppard West”; the station labelled Sheppard West will become “Downsview Park”; the station labelled Steeles West will be named “Pioneer Village”; and Vaughan Corporate Centre will be called “Vaughan Metropolitan Centre.”) [I believe Steve Munro is now projecting a 2017 opening date, but 2016 is still the official plan. Stations along the line certainly look like they’re progressing well from the outside and tunnelling is complete.]

–          AM Peak short-turn on Spadina line extended from St. Clair West to Glencairn
–          More trains added to YUS line to add AM capacity.
–          New Streetcars deployed on Queen and Lakeshore. PRESTO ready.
–          Cherry Streetcar branch from the King line opens for service.
–          PRESTO rollout on TTC complete. Smartcard payment will be accepted on all transit systems in the GTAH and Ottawa. May lead to changes in fare integration and transfer policies (ie, timed transfer?). [Or not. See notes above. There is no firm date for the completion of the PRESTO rollout on the TTC, or explanation of what’s included in a Phase 2 rollout.]
–          Mississauga Transitway BRT completed.

mississauga_transitway_map_en-670x340–          Accessibility/modernization improvements to Coxwell, St Clair West, Woodbine, King, Bay, St Patrick, Yorkdale, and Runnymede. [see above]
         GO Georgetown becomes accessible, although renovations will continue through the following year. At this point, the only GO station not accessible will be Kipling, pending an agreement with the TTC over redesigning an integrated site [and proposed but unfunded new bus terminal for Mississauga’s MiWay services].
–          Brampton’s Zum Phase 2 is completed, with the extension of Queen St service west from the downtown terminal to Mount Pleasant GO station via Mississauga Drive.
–          New streetcars deployed on King. PRESTO ready, if not already.


–          Accessibility/modernization improvements to Lawrence, Dupont, and Royal York, Woodbine, Coxwell, Ossington, and Wilson.
–          Kitchener-Waterloo 19-km “ION” LRT begins service, connecting Fairview Park Mall with Conestoga Mall, including transfers to the aBRT service to Cambridge, and the GO transit hub.


[- A new (temporary?) bus station will have to be built at Islington station, as the old one is collapsing. The project is currently unfunded, and subject to agreement with Mississauga and Metrolinx, related to the new Kipling bus station hub. Whatever happens here, the new temporary bus bay will likely be more accessible than the old one, which is the only reason I’m including it. The subway station will remain wheelchair-inaccessible. Some mayoral candidate may want to comment on the dithering that has led to the necessity to construct a wasteful “temporary” bus stand. Incidentally, the existing bus station is planned to be redeveloped in office towers as part of the larger Etobicoke Centre redevelopment.] 


–          New streetcars deployed on St Clair, Downtowner, Kingston. PRESTO ready, if not already deployed.
–          GO Mimico station modernization
–          Accessibility/modernization improvements to Lansdowne, Sherbourne, College, Spadina, Keele, and Donlands. [Runnymede, King, and Yorkdale].
–          Automatic train control deployed on YUS line. ATC will allow trains to run closer together, improving speed, reliability, and capacity.

–          New streetcars on Carlton. At this point, the new streetcars will be completely deployed across the whole system, and old cars will be scrapped, and presumably PRESTO will be system-wide as well.
–          Accessibility/modernization improvements to Greenwood. [Dupont, Donlands, and Bay].
–          VIVA rapid busways substantially completed. Future extensions planned but unfunded. [This has been moved from 2018. My mistake. Updated map below.]


–          Seriously not in the GTA, but Ottawa’s Confederation LRT line will open for service, a first for the nation’s capital. The 12-km route includes a 2.3-km subway portion. It includes connections to the existing BRT transitways at both ends, the O-Train at Bayview, and VIA Rail at Tremblay.
Ottawa LRT

[- McNicoll Bus Garage opens – Almost no one will see this, but the opening of this garage is required for the increased bus service the TTC wants to implement system wide.
– New Kipling “Mobility Hub” opens, with new bus terminal serving MiWay and GO Transit bus routes, and improved connection to the GO Kipling/TTC Kipling terminals. The new intercity terminal will shorten some bus trips to the subway, while also making for a convenient connection from MiWay to GO, perhaps lightening the load on the Bloor-Danforth. Metrolinx is still in design and consult phase, but this project really ought to speed up, if only to save the necessity of a temporary terminal at Islington. Some Mayoral candidate may want to comment on this.]

–          Eglinton Crosstown opens. First major LRT line in Toronto includes an 11-km “subway” through the central part of midtown. It’s expected to be the mostly highly-used of the new lines, and will include connections to three existing subway stations, one existing GO station, and a new GO Kitchener interchange station at Mount Dennis [which may include a UPE interchange]. A potential future GO Barrie interchange is being roughed-in at Caledonia. Includes new bike lanes on the eastern surface portion from Don Mills to Kingston [as well as along the surface of the entire underground route as part of the “Eglinton Connects” program, creating a continuous bike route across the city – Mayoral candidate John Tory has been ambiguous about his support for Eglinton Connects]. Incidentally, this is when the TTC retakes its position as owner of the largest rapid transit network in Canada, from Vancouver Skytrain (which surpassed it in 2014, when the Evergreen Line opened).
–          Finch West LRT opens, from Finch West Station (Keele) to Humber College. Includes bike lanes. [Mayoral candidate John Tory has been ambiguous about his support for the Finch West LRT, but has said he wouldn’t hinder its progress. Mayoral candidate Doug Ford opposes all LRT projects.]
–          Buses servicing Eglinton and Finch West may be redeployed to high-demand routes elsewhere.
–          Accessibility/modernization improvements to Castle Frank, Wellesley, and Christie. [St. Patrick, Sherbourne, and Lawrence. No further improvements are funded].

–          Sheppard East LRT opens, from Don Mills to Morningside. Includes interchange with Sheppard subway, future Scarborough subway, and GO Agincourt. Metrolinx has mused publicly that this route may be pushed up in the schedule, but an RFP for the shared maintenance facility was cancelled after the Scarborough LRT was cancelled. Buses servicing this route may be redeployed to increase service on other routes. Includes bike lanes. [Mayoral candidate John Tory has been ambiguous about his support for Sheppard LRT, but has said he wouldn’t hinder its progress. Mayoral candidate Doug Ford opposes all LRT projects.]

–          Accessibility/modernization improvements to Rosedale, Chester, and Museum.
[- Mayoral candidate John Tory would like you to believe that his “SmartTrack,” a 53-km surface rail system combining the GO Stouffville service with the GO Kitchener service and adding a spur out along Eglinton to the Airport Corporate Centre, system will open by Dec 31, 2021, and if you believe that, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you. I explained a number of the feasibility problems with the line in this article for NOW Magazine. But a seven-year construction schedule, when there hasn’t even been discussions — let alone approval — from the seven governments that will be affected/asked to pay for it (Toronto, Mississauga/Peel, Markham/York, Ontario, and Canada), and when there hasn’t been any feasibility, alternatives, or engineering studies, just defies belief. It took us six years to build the Spadina ROW. It will be ten from the approval date of the York Subway extension to its opening date. End rant.]


–          Accessibility/modernization improvements to High Park and Summerhill.

–          Accessibility/modernization improvements to Old Mill and Glencairn.
–          Scarborough subway extension planned to open, replacing SRT. This is officially funded and on the books, but who knows what’ll happen with city hall and Queen’s Park elections coming up? We don’t actually know the final costs or engineering yet, or even if this timeline is achievable. We can assume that the new line (10km, at least 3 stations) will be fully accessible, PRESTO enabled, connect to one GO station and the Sheppard East LRT. Also unknown: what becomes of the old SRT and its maintenance facility? [Mayoral candidates Ford and Tory support the subway; Mayoral candidate Chow supports the LRT.]

– GO System electrification – The Ontario Liberals promised to transform GO into an all-day regional express rail by electrifying all lines that we own within 10 years. That’s a bit of a step down from Metrolinx’ official line that they are planning to electrify all seven GO routes plus the UPE. For the record, Metrolinx owns Lakeshore East, Stouffville, all but the north end of the Richmond Hill (which may also get a northward extension), and Barrie. It only owns the Kitchener line east of Brampton (but will likely purchase the rest to support its High-Speed Rail plan), and Lakeshore West from east of Burlington. It doesn’t own the Milton line, and it will be difficult to purchase. Electrification will bring 15-minute/two-way service, additional stops within the 416, and systemic integration (fares and routes) with the TTC. This will be a game changer for the city if/when it’s implemented. There has been some doubt whether it’s likely to make the full rollout within the ten-year timetable, even on the Liberals’ more modest plan.]

–          Accessibility/modernization improvements to Islington and Warden. The entire TTC and GO network will be barrier-free, in accordance with Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilties Act requirements. The TTC does not currently have a plan to meet AODA requirements.

In addition to those projects, there are a number of projects on the books that have no firm funding or schedules yet. These include:

–          WIFI enabled at all subway stations. WIFI was added to Bloor/Yonge and St. George stations in a pilot project this year, [and has been expanded to Bay and Wellesley. Construction is under way at Dundas, College, and Union, with the rest of the downtown loop to be complete by Summer 2015. The remainder of stations are meant to be Wifi-able by 2017, with the tunnels added by 2019. No word yet on if/when major carriers will enable cellular access in the stations, although the equipment installed does allow it.].
–          Transfer policy revision – PRESTO will enable the TTC to provide a new fare/transfer structure, and much speculation is that it will move to a timed transfer system like most other systems. [Update: The TTC is formally investigating timed-transfers to ease the transition to PRESTO.]
–          TTC Fare integration with GO at Exhibition and Bloor stations. This idea was floated by Karen Stintz and Mike Layton last fall and Metrolinx seemed warm to the idea.
–          TTC Fare integration with entire GO system. This more radical idea was floated by other councillors and Stintz, although Metrolinx didn’t seem as warm to it. It would be by far the single biggest improvement to Toronto Transit ever, with 20 new stations coming online, particularly in far-flung parts of the inner suburbs. It should be noted that all 905 systems have substantial fare integration with GO.
–          TTC Fare integration with 905 systems. You see a theme here? This was ostensibly the whole point of the PRESTO system, and yet, with less than two years from complete implementation, we’ve yet to start publicly discussing real fare integration schemes for the TTC. [Fare integration is being studied by Metrolinx, with a report due in 2016].
–          Waterfront East LRT line. This is officially a Waterfront TO project, but they’re about $200 million short of actually building it. It might get funded out of development charges. The whole waterfront redevelopment includes a suite of possible lines, including an extension of the Cherry St LRT stub across Commissioners St, an extension of Broadview along with streetcar/LRT service to the Portlands, and other possible routings connecting with Queens Quay, King St, Eastern, etc. No decisions have been made here. [Someone really ought to ask the Mayoral candidates about this.]
–          Queensway ROW extension to Roncesvalles. This is tentatively scheduled for 2016, but Steve Munro reports that there’s no funding or EA officially on the books for it.
–          Bixi expansion. Is this a transit project? Sure it is. Metrolinx even talks about how a similar program will help solve the last-mile problem in Hamilton’s rapid transit projects. Related is bike lane/off-road path expansion.
–          The remainder of the Big Move or any other expansion plans (including DRL; extensions of the new LRT lines, additional LRTs on Don Mills, Jane, Waterfront West; Yonge North-Richmond Hill Subway extension; increased GO services on other lines; Mississauga and Hamilton’s LRTs; extensions to York’s VIVA busways; Kingston Road BRT). This is largely what the new taxes are supposed to be for.
–          Second exit installation at Dundas Station (to be part of the new Ryerson Student Learning Centre?). Because Dundas is already accessible, it’s not on the current accessibility retrofits list. However, it is required to get a second exit at some point to meet current fire codes.
[- Second exit installation at Wellesley Station – a second entrance is being added at Dundonald St as part of a condo construction project. A new condo being proposed on the Green P lot across the street from Wellesley Station should also come with a new, accessible entrance, but this is way too early for that to be announced.]

–          Transit mall on King St — an idea floated by the current TTC CEO, but unlikely to come to pass under the current council [or, frankly, a council under Tory or Ford. Chow has not commented.]
–          New subways and automatic train control on the Bloor-Danforth line, increasing capacity. Scheduled for 2023, there’s no funding for this and it will likely come in at about $1 billion, given the cost for the YUS. [Someone really ought to ask the mayoral candidates about this. It dovetails with a longstanding plan to increase capacity on Yonge by adding a seventh car; current YUS cars would move to Bloor, while new seven-car trains operate on Yonge.]

So there you have it. Our situation is not hopeless. A lot of stuff will be built in the next few years that will make transit life better in Toronto. And if we marshal the will to pay for it, we can build even more.


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