The Ontario Transport Minister says the TTC's subway system is overcrowded and has "sense" to ensure that the helpline will enter the service before a new metropolis is expanded to Richmond Hill.
Jeff Jurek's comments are closest to the recognition of the primacy of what Toronto officials say is a priority for the city's transit, and they come as the government of the Progressive Conservative Government of Ontario moves to take ownership of the municipal subway system.
Last year, the city council issued a request to declare that the relief line must function before the proposed extension of line 1 (Yonge-University-Spadina) to Hwy. 7 in the region of York entering the service.
Jurek did not undertake to comply with that decision and said there was no reason why the construction of both projects could not continue simultaneously, but signaled that he understood the importance of opening the relief.
"It makes sense. It makes sense to ensure that the Yonge relief line is ready and operational before building the extension of Yonge," he said in an interview in his office last week.
The first phase of the relief will cost more than $ 6.8 billion and will link the Queen and Osgoode stations to the city center with Papa on the eastern end of Line 2 (Blown Danforth), with the pressure exited from line 1. The line 1 regularly works on Jong's capacity and extension, supported by political allies on a computer in the York region, will only add more drivers.
Jurek is a three-year MPP for Elgin-Middlesex-London and was erected to the transport portfolio in the surprising cabinet of Prime Minister Ford in early November. Prior to that, the 47-year-old St Thomas, Pharmaceutical Business One, was a government minister of natural resources.
Although he lives in his home, Jurek said he rides in the TTC when he is in Toronto. "It's very crowded, especially during a rush hour," he said. "I really understand the need for improvement or relief."
Jurek sparked concerns in the city hall last week when he spoke about plans to expand the subway network in suburbs in Durham, York and Pell, but did not mention the relief.
In the interview, he rejected the idea that the province's plan to take over the subway ownership is a suburban takeover of the network that will starve the system in Toronto, saying that if the existing lines become crowded "that makes the whole system not work its best potential" .
Jurek also defended the government's proposal to use the TTC subway to serve suburbs outside of Toronto. Critics argue that the GO's transit network, which is already owned by the province, is designed to serve those regions.
He said that after setting up the subway, the province will use a mixture of the TT and CSOs network to serve the entire Toronto and Hamilton. Water trains can best function in some contexts, he said, but in others "it makes sense to build the subway, either over or underground."
The mandate given to the government's special advisor on the placement plan states that, in addition to the subway system, the province is considering to take ownership of "other strategic transit / transportation vehicles in Toronto".
Jurek will not reveal what could be those additional funds.
The minister denied the accusations made by the NPR Ontario and the largest union of TTK workers that progressive conservatives intend to privatize aspects of the subway. "It's something I have not looked at," he said, arguing that the province was simply better positioned by the city for planning, financing and building new lines for the metro, but would leave TTC operations.
The province plans to introduce legislation early next year to allow sending, but Jurek said there would be a period of negotiations with the city before the funds were transferred.
On Thursday, the minister sent a letter to Mayor John Tory, seeking a written consent from the city to conclude an information sharing agreement with the province to advance the sending plan. Tori told the city manager that he believed that participation was the best way to protect the interests of the city, but critics of the council said they should stone the province and not co-operate in anything that could lead the province to take over the railway network . The Council is expected to discuss the issue on 13 December.
After their election victory in June, conservatives inherited a number of expensive transit projects from the previous Liberal government. Efforts to reduce the 15 billion-dollar deficit-cutting costs have led to speculation that some planned new lines will be canceled, including the 1.2 billion Finch West LRT, which is at the start of construction and is open to Northwest Toronto in 2023.
Jurek said the government was reviewing all major projects and did not rule out the possibility of canceling Finch.
Since January, Metrolinx has already spent $ 236.3 million on light rail, and relying on contracts with construction companies and vehicle suppliers is likely to result in costly financial penalties for the government. Jurek said the cost would be a factor in Finch's decision.
"We do not want to spend money. We do not see to make decisions that will harm the taxpayer," he said.
The Conservatives introduced legislation to give the director of transport more direct control over "Metrolinks", which was set up in 2006 as an arms dealer in the province. The proposed changes come after the star announced in 2017 that then Liberal Transport Minister Stephen Dell Ducha intervened in the planning process of Metrolinx to secure approval for two politically sensitive GO stations, including one in his drive to Vaughn, which did not were supported by evidence.
Jurek said that the location of his hometown, about 90km from the nearest line of CSOs, is unlikely to engage in such controversy.
"You know, that's the best thing that needs to be from St. Thomas – I will not want a CO station or subway in my drive," he said.
Ben Spir is a reporter based in Toronto covering transport. Get it by e-mail at [email protected] or follow it on Twitter: @BenSpurr