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Keesmaat unveils her $50B transit plan for Toronto

Last Updated Aug 30, 2018 at 7:45 pm EDT

Toronto’s former chief planner unveiled her $50-billion transit vision for the city — which includes building the Relief Line — if she is elected mayor in October.

At a presentation-style event at the Elm Street YMCA on Thursday, Jennifer Keesmaat said another one of her transit priorities is to make the King Street Transit Pilot permanent.

Another item on her agenda is “unsnarling” the transit “mess” in Scarborough. She recommends building out the Scarborough subway to three stops and expanding the Eglinton East component of the Crosstown LRT, adding that 40,000 people live within 11 kilometres of the LRT.

Keesmaat began her presentation by taking aim at Mayor John Tory’s SmartTrack plan — which she said she would scale back. She also said it’s a much-reduced version of what he originally campaigned on four years ago. She said Tory promised 22 SmartTrack stations, but so far, there are only six.

“We know that he promised London-style surface rail subway, but we know that really what we have are regular GO trains. He promised 53 kilometres of new track, but we have no new track. These are GO trains running on GO tracks,” Keesmaat said.

But Tory’s campaign office released a statement defending the project, which it said is well underway, and argued Keesmaat’s plan would be counter-productive.

“Keesmaat is proposing to return to the three-stop Scarborough subway extension, a plan she fought against throughout her time as the city’s chief planner,” it said. “In any case, re-drawing the transit map again, and reversing course on the Scarborough subway extension for a fourth time, would mean cancelling work already underway, incurring massive new costs and renegotiating funding agreements with other levels of government.”

Keesmaat also said her plan is about connecting the city.

“The goal is to have excellent transit across the whole city. It’s not about playing one part of the city off of another. We want everywhere to everywhere transit access in our city,” she said.

She laid out her transit plan under the following terms under the banner of “Standing up for Toronto:”

1. The mayor of Toronto and council must greenlight every new project
2. The TTC must stay publicly-owned
3. The TTC must collect all revenue and operate the entire network

Keesmaat said during her time as chief city planner, she learned about the chaos that can be caused when a transit plan is drawn up on the “back of a napkin,” referring to Tory’s SmartTrack plan during the last election campaign.

Tory’s campaign, however, said it’s Keesmaat’s plan that would cause chaos and further delays.

“Her plan is a risky proposition and that means nothing is getting built,” the statement read. “We’re going back to the bad old days of endless debates, endless re-drafts and endless talk.

“The biggest loser in all of this would be the residents of Toronto who would see worsening traffic congestion, longer commutes and even more crowded subways, streetcars and buses.”

Transit advocate Steve Munro said Keesmaat’s plan could be implemented, but the question is whether the province would fund it.

“There’s only so many places on a map you can draw the lines the issue is more the dedication to getting it done,” he said.

“And a very important thing in the current situation between Toronto and Queen’s Park is that we can no longer assume Queen’s Park is going to go along with everything we want.”

Read details of Keesmat’s transit plan below.