Sheppard Avenue transit options argued at all-day council

The chair of a panel exploring options for improved transit service along Sheppard Avenue East has refuted the mayor’s argument in favour of subways.

Councillors are due to choose between the subway option or the light rail transit (LRT) option later today.

One group of councillors, led by Mayor Rob Ford, wants subways in Scarborough while a second group of councillors, led by TTC chair and Coun. Karen Stintz (Ward 16), wants to revive former Toronto mayor David Miller’s “Transit City” plan and implement LRTs in the suburb.

Eric Miller, a University of Toronto professor, assigned to study the issue, favours LRTs.

“Having subways on Sheppard just does not make any sense,” Miller told council today. “Even if you forget the finances for a moment and focus on ridership, the projected ridership numbers for the subway just aren’t high enough to make it worth the cost.”

Last month, council voted to scrap Mayor Ford’s plan for subways on Eglinton and Finch Avenue West in favour of LRTs. Transit along Sheppard Avenue East is the only issue left to be decided.

Those arguing against LRTs say they’ll cause more noise, pollution and traffic jams. Those against subways say they are too expensive and will take too long to build. Coun. Joe Mihevc (Ward 21) supports LRTs.

“We need to maximize every transit dollar we have and that’s why LRTs are the most appropriate choice,” he said. “We simply cannot afford to throw money we don’t have around and wait a couple of generations to get proper transit in Scarborough.”

Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti strongly disagreed with Prof. Miller and the panel’s assessment.

“An LRT will not work and they (panellists) need to realize that,” he said. “In my constituency, there will be no slowdown of traffic because of these anti-car and anti-truck activists who claim to be panellists.”

Mammoliti also said that claims that Toronto doesn’t have enough money to fund subways were false. He pointed to provincial money on the table, private sector support of the project and taxing options available to raise enough money to fund the project.

Coun. Doug Ford (Ward 2), brother of Mayor Ford, also disagreed with the LRT option in Scarborough.

“Just constructing them will cause problems for the people,” he said. “How many intersections will be affected during construction? How much money and jobs would be lost during the disruption?

As council recessed for lunch, Mammoliti shouted, “Second class citizens,” referring to what he believed was unfair treatment of his constituents. That drew loud applause from the public gathered at the debate.