Ward 22 hopefuls clash over Transit City plan

Ward 22’s council candidates agree they need to deal with traffic congestion. But Transit City’s LRT line along Eglinton Avenue remains a contentious issue.

Hopefuls for St. Paul’s council seat argued about the best way to ease traffic in a debate at First Unitarian Congregation on Oct 6.

Chris Sellors, an assistant to the ward’s former councillor Michael Walker, kick started proceedings by criticizing the city’s plan to improve transit.

“I’d have to say no to Transit City because it does not contemplate subways,” Sellors said. “We’ve got $4.6 million for along Eglinton Avenue and we should be using that money to build as much subways as we can. Right now, it will build 33 kilometres of streetcar LRT or we could use the money to build 20 kilometres of subway.”

Opening the Transit City plan to further discussions will only lead to more unnecessary delays in dealing with serious transit issues in the ward, according to 22-year-old candidate William Molls.

“It doesn’t make sense to go back to the drawing board,” he said. “We have a plan for rapid transit all the way along Eglinton Avenue and it doesn’t make sense that we’re arguing about the mode.”

Molls said it’s unrealistic to suggest building 20 kilometres of subway.

“We’d end up with something like the Sheppard line and then we’d be dependent on the provincial and federal governments to finish it,” he said. “It’s not a blank cheque. Metrolinx is saying you’re getting this money for Transit City not just for whatever you want to build.”

Sellors insisted the original plan presented to Metrolinx included a subway on Eglinton Avenue and that it could still happen.

“I’m convinced that they would be receptive to talks towards a subway,” he said.

TDSB trustee turned council candidate Josh Matlow supported the LRT line option by saying neighbourhoods in Ward 22 couldn’t sustain a costly venture, such as a subway, without sacrifices.

“It’s a third the price of a subway and frankly we don’t have the population density to merit a full subway yet,” Matlow said. “If we up the density then we’d have to build a bunch of condos and other developments which I don’t think a lot of residents would be happy with.”

George Milbrandt, co-chair of the Federation of North Toronto Residents Associations, offered his thoughts on the issue.

“We do know that a substantial section of the line is going to be underground regardless of whether it’s a subway or LRT. It’s a non-issue. The important thing is getting the province to finance this project so you can get it built,” Milbrandt said.