On the other side of Lake Erie from Ohio, the Canadian province Ontario is investing big in rail and transit. Up to $50 BILLION is proposed to be invested over the next 20 years as part of The Big Move plan. More than $30 billion has been committed already by the province that has a population of 14 million (vs Ohio’s 11.5 million) . Much of the funding is coming from Ontario selling a 60 percent stake in Hyrdo One, the province’s electric utility, and as well as from allowing beer sales in grocery stores where they will be subject to provincial sales taxes.
The latest news came today, as Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced $1 billion for a new 8-mile light-rail line in Hamilton to foster economic development as the community transitions from the brawn of a manufacturing economy to the brains of a more diversified economy. The new light-rail line will link neighborhoods and employment opportunities from McMaster University through downtown Hamilton to Queenston Circle without adding to traffic and other costs of car-dependency.
In addition, Hamilton residents and businesses will now be more connected to the Greater Toronto Area with expanded GO Transit regional rail service converted from diesel to electrical power, operating every 15-60 minutes all day and at speeds of up to 90 mph. Also, local and regional planners are supporting this investment with zoning and incentives for station-area developments that put the largest residential, business and civic structures within a 10-minute walk of stations.
Projects recently completed, under construction or announced for funding include:
- Relief Line — New 8-mile subway from Toronto Union Station northeast to the Bloor-Danforth subway — $7.4 billion.
- Lakeshore GO Train electrification – new infrastructure and rolling stock for 15-minute headways on 75-mile Hamilton-Toronto-Oshawa route with extensions to Hamilton East and from Oshawa to Bowmanville — $4.9 billion (includes next part).
- Five GO Train routes — track and infrastructure improvements to provide all-day hourly regional rail service from Toronto to:
- Meadowvale Station on the Milton GO line;
- Mount Pleasant Station on the Kitchener GO line;
- East Gwillimbury Station on the Barrie GO line;
- Richmond Hill Station on the Richmond Hill GO line;
- Mount Joy Station on the Stouffville GO line.
- Eglinton Crosstown LRT — new 12-mile (half in subway) east-west light-rail line — $4.6 billion.
- Yonge subway extension — new 4-mile subway extension to Richmond Hill — $3.4 billion.
- Scarborough subway extension — upgrade 4-mile light-rail line to heavy-rail — $3 billion.
- Hurontario-Main LRT — new 14-mile light rail line linking Mississauga and Brampton — $1.6 billion.
- Finch West LRT — new 7-mile light-rail line from Etobicoke to Finch — $1.2 billion.
- Hamilton LRT — new 8-mile east-west light-rail line from McMaster University through downtown to Queenston Circle and eventually to Gateway Square shopping center — $1 billion.
- Sheppard East LRT — new 8-mile light-rail line extending east from Sheppard subway in North York — $944.5 million.
- Waterloo RT — new 22-mile light-rail and bus rapid transit line, with 12 miles of rail from Conestoga Mall in Waterloo to Fairview Park Mall in Kitchener, and 10 miles of BRT from Fairview Park Mall to Ainslie Street Terminal in Cambridge — $818 million.
- Toronto Union Station — revitalization and expansion of Canada’s busiest transportation terminal — $800 million.
- Union Station-Pearson Airport Express — new diesel-powered express train route — $456 million.
Other rail/transit projects are being considered for funding as more funding becomes available.
Greater Toronto has more population center than any of Ohio’s metropolitan areas, but it didn’t used to be that way. Cleveland had more population than Toronto until the 1970s when Cleveland neglected its future and Toronto had already begun building for its including buying Cleveland’s streetcars and investing in subways and commuter rail lines instead of multiple freeways into the urban core. Toronto also took advantage of opportunities to attract major employers and draw innovation-minded foreign immigrants to the city.
Ontario’s significant investment in a multimodal transportation system and supportive land use policies is a recognition of the economic benefits provided by offering all citizens, businesses and visitors affordable, convenient, accessible choices of getting around.