Sheppard Avenue lobby group opposes LRT

Denis Lanoue has no time for Toronto’s expansion of light rail transit.

“It (is) basically a streetcar that would stop at every bus stop and wouldn’t go that fast at all,” Lanoue said.

Denis Lanoue is head of Save Our Sheppard (SOS) and president of the Heathwood Ratepayers Association. Instead of the proposed LRT on Sheppard, Lanoue would like to see the extension of the Sheppard subway line into Scarborough and ultimately connect to the Bloor subway line.

Lanoue said that Sheppard Avenue acts as a relief road for Highway 401 across the top of Toronto. During peak traffic hours, he said, drivers often take Sheppard to avoid 401 gridlock. To implement an LRT system on Sheppard, he pointed out, would mean that two lanes (one travelling west and one travelling east) must be reserved for the streetcar. This would reduce Sheppard to two lanes.

“We think (the LRT) would go slower than the buses that are there today and it will also create some major traffic congestion,” Lanoue said.

The problems created by a LRT system don’t end there, Lanoue said. During a ride-along in Lanoue’s van, he pointed out several key intersections that would take the extra weight of traffic, including Consumers Road, Victoria Park Avenue and Pharmacy Avenue. He said some intersections have to accommodate cars that need to U-turn to enter commercial areas along Sheppard.

But the TTC isn’t blind to this. Ryan Bissonnette, who handles public affairs at the TTC, said that there is a safe way to handle cars that must U-turn.

“If you are travelling on Sheppard and you want to turn left into an area where you can’t because of the right-of-way, we’ll have a traffic management system in place that will enable you to make a U-turn at a signalized u-turn,” Bissonnette said.

Lanoe insisted that subways reduce traffic congestion better than LRTs.

“A modest subway expansion is all we need,” he said.

But Bissonnette said, based on cost-benefit analyses, it costs approximately $200 million per kilometre to extend the subway versus $60 million for the LRT.

Lanoue suggested that Toronto follow in the foot steps of Madrid, Spain. In Madrid, a subway expansion was built “at a fraction of the cost that Toronto is planning to build the LRTs.” Lanoue did not provide exact figures.

Bissonnette said that the development of the LRT system is already underway and the TTC won’t look into alternatives.

“St. Clair is the best example of the terrible situation (LRT) has created,” Lanoue said.