Construction has begun on the Sheppard Light Rail Transit line, but a local group is trying to halt the project by bringing attention to “Transit City deceptions.”
The controversial project will connect Sheppard Avenue East to the Don Mills subway station.
The members of Save Our Sheppard (SOS) oppose the line, as they’re advocating for viable transit in Toronto, said Patricia Sinclair, organizer of the group and 30-year area resident.
The city’s anticipating economic growth in the neighbourhood, but critics claim it’s a wasteful expense.
“We recognize the very great need in Toronto for better public transit and we acknowledge large sums of money need to be spent,” Sinclair said. “Light rail, alias streetcars in designated rights-of-ways, does not offer a solution to our woes, but creates more problems.”
Although the group wants a subway instead, city councillors say it’s not affordable.
“When we only have so much money, why not use that for a continuation of the underground subway from Don Mills to Kennedy?” SOS Reg Rego said.
The city’s building “a spider web” of a mess, as LRT vehicles operate in a dedicated right-of-way, he said.
A subway would be more reasonable, even in terms of “immediate capital costs,” as the underground tunnel for a streetcar would have to be at least 45 cm higher than for a subway to accommodate electric power lines, Rego said.
Another concern is the lack of access for vehicles from one side of the street to residences and businesses on the other side, creating a “dividing Sheppard wall,” he said.
If an incident disables a streetcar, emergency services would be delayed, resulting in “a total crippling of transit,” Rego said.
“This city has fallen behind in a major way, which leaves us economically at a distinct disadvantage when you compare us to other cities, not only in North America, but in Europe,” Sinclair said. “Even Asia and India are doing better than we in building new transit lines.”
Ward 38 councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker said although the $1-billion project will cause unavoidable disruption, the city is working with local residents and business owners to minimize inconvenience during construction.
“The Sheppard East Village Business Improvement Area welcomes the LRT,” De Baeremaker said. “The owners have told the city just to make sure not to disrupt their businesses, like if we’re paving the road, not to be in their way for four weeks.”
He said benefits of the LRT include lower costs and diesel fume emissions while providing a clean, comfortable and fast way to travel.
There’ll also be new bike lanes running along the tracks, De Baeremaker said.
The line will enter a tunnel west of Consumers Road, travel under Highway 404 and connect to the subway level at Don Mills Station, according to toronto.ca.
Although Ward 39 councillor Mike Del Grande said construction started in late 2009 in the underpass of the Agincourt GO Station and is to be completed by 2013, Sinclair said there hasn’t been much progress.
While part of the parking lot at the station has been closed for construction, it’s now just a “dirt field” from where the cement has been taken out, she said.
Citizens need to be aware of the facts of the issue, as studies have been done, including one on the failure of the LRT in Portland, Oregon called “Debunking Portland: The City That Doesn’t Work,” Sinclair said.
“Billions of taxpayers’ dollars will be wasted if we can’t stop this,” she said. “But more importantly, the negative impact these lines bring will be detrimental to the neighbourhoods they are being planned for.
“The documentation exists, but it seems neither our politicians nor transit planners are bothered to read them. We want to change that before it’s too late.”