A day after Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s surprise resignation, his main rival at Queen’s Park was talking transit at Toronto city hall and outlining his plan to ease GTA gridlock.
Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak’s transit message mirrors that of Mayor Rob Ford, who has pushed hard for new subway line construction.
“Where funds are available, a PC government would build underground,” Hudak said. “You can’t build a strong thriving system by ripping up streets.”
Hudak, who released the party’s white paper last week which included transportation issues, didn’t directly answer a question about whether he would cancel light rail transit (LRT) construction on Finch Avenue West and Sheppard Avenue East if he became premier, but said he wanted to avoid situations like “the mess on St. Clair” wherever possible.
“We have to know exactly what options are on the table, we don’t know when the election is going to be,” he said in front of city hall Tuesday, flanked by his transportation and finance critics, as well as a handful of right-wing city councillors.
“We’ll be practical … whatever dollars are in the existing pool, I’ll maximize those to go underground.”
The provincial government has put forward $8 billion for LRT expansion in Toronto.
Hudak also wants to see the province take control of the TTC’s rail lines, by merging subways and LRT lines with GO Transit. He says having one decision maker — the provincial transit agency Metrolinx — would clear confusion and accelerate development of a rapid and “seamless” region-wide transit system.
“The problem we’ve had so far is every few years there’s some grand master plan that has big visions, no dollars behind it, and nothing gets done,” he said.
Hudak claims there are “too many hands on the wheel” when it comes to transit decision making in Toronto. The PC leader said he met with TTC CEO Andy Byford and TTC chair Karen Stintz on Monday.
Under his plan, regional highways, including the 401, 427, Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway would become Metrolinx’s domain.
When asked how he plans to finance his plans, Hudak said he’d use existing money — the $8 billion — and would be open to suggestions. However he did say tolls on existing roads wouldn’t be considered.
Deputy mayor Doug Holyday, who introduced Hudak as “the next premier of the province of Ontario” on Tuesday, said a casino would provide much-needed transportation funding.
Metrolinx estimates gridlock drains the local economy of about $6 billion a year. That figure is expected to nearly triple by 2031 with no major action.
Last week, the group CivicAction —led by John Tory —launched its What would you do with 32? campaign, meant to engage the public in transportation issues. The group says people in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area could save 32 minutes a day commuting if the Metrolinx Big Move plan is implemented within the next 25 years.
How would you improve the GTA’s gridlock problems? Leave your comments in the comments below.