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Toronto and Ontario advance plans for SmartTrack / GO stations

Note to readers: You can read a longer version of this post at The full article appears here.

It’s smaller and less bold, but the SmartTrack plan is still around.

Now dubbed “the SmartTrack stations program”, the plan features fewer stations and less frequent service than Mayor John Tory’s first mayoral campaign team envisioned. However, this week, Toronto City Council voted in favour of revising the “Ontario-Toronto Agreement in Principle” to include the program.

Under the revised agreement, the City will fund the construction of five new GO Transit stations in Toronto:

  • Finch - Kennedy station on the Stouffville line;
  • East Harbour station on the Lakeshore East and Stouffville lines;
  • King - Liberty and St Clair - Old Weston stations on the Kitchener line; and
  • Bloor - Lansdowne station on the Barrie line.

SmartTrack map 2021.jpg

The Province of Ontario or its agencies, Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario, will identify contractor teams to build the five stations and manage the construction projects. Metrolinx would also seek to create partnerships with private developers to help fund all or some of the construction costs through its Transit-Oriented Communities scheme.

The new stations will now be part of the Metrolinx GO Expansion Program, meaning that GO trains would likely only operate through the new stations about every 15 minutes during rush hours—a far cry from the subway-like frequency Mayor Tory originally promised.

The City has agreed to drop two stations from SmartTrack, due to their proximity to future subway stations that are part of Ontario’s proposal to develop several rapid-transit lines in Toronto. According to an Ontario news release, “The SmartTrack Stations Program has been updated to reflect the Province’s ongoing work to build the Ontario Line and Scarborough Subway Extension priority transit projects. These two priority subway lines include stations that will provide improved, higher frequency subway service for the communities and riders served…” by the original SmartTrack proposal. The City is removing the Lawrence - Kennedy station from the plan because it’s close to the site of the future Lawrence East station on an extension of the Toronto Transit Commission’s Line 2 subway. The future Gerrard Station on the Ontario Line would have shared the same site as the original Smart-Track Gerrard - Carlaw station.

But, the new version of SmartTrack now includes the Bloor - Lansdowne station, which Metrolinx had already proposed. This change means that the City, rather than the Province, pays for its construction.

Original SmartTrack map.jpg

^ In 2014, candidate John Tory presented this plan for SmartTrack as part of his mayoral-campaign platform. Image: John Tory campaign.

In a public announcement on May 27, 2014, Toronto mayoralty candidate John Tory unveiled his “SmartTrack” plan for a “surface subway” to run on GO Transit rail corridors. The future mayor claimed that the $8-billion line would be operating in seven years. The mayor also proposed charging potential passengers TTC fares to attract as many riders as possible and relieve pressure on TTC services.

Metrolinx and GO plan to accommodate more passengers and increase service along rail corridors as part of their GO Expansion Program (formerly “regional express rail”).

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