Mayor John Tory is determined to improve transit in Toronto, even if it means upsetting suburbanites along the way.
The mayor made several major announcements recently.
First, that a joint study by city planners and the University of Toronto Transportation Research Institute revealed that his SmartTrack transit plan could potentially yield even more riders across Toronto than originally projected, as long as fares are reasonable and trains run every five minutes. And second, that Scarborough residents will in fact still be getting a subway, just not the one they expected.
The western leg of the proposed SmartTrack line was to use heavy rail along Eglinton Avenue from around Weston Road out towards the airport. The study showed that this would be far too costly and changes must be made to the plan.
“You will not see me digging in my heels and insisting on charging ahead with things that don’t make sense, which cost too much or don’t provide the most efficient, most effective benefit to our residents,” Mayor Tory told reporters.
There are several parts of the city that stand to benefit from proposed SmartTrack stations: The Junction, transit-starved Liberty Village, the former Unilever Site where First Gulf Corp has a massive multi-purpose building project planned, and the neighbouring Riverside and Leslieville communities on Queen Street East.
As for Scarborough, they’ll be losing two of the three previously voted on subway stations.
Coun. Jim Karygiannis represents Agincourt-Scarborough and says the area deserves the full subway extension.
“We debated the subway system to McCowan,” said Karygiannis.
“It was voted upon. All of a sudden we’re gonna change our mind. Scarborough has one third of the mass, one quarter of the population, and yet, we’re short-changed. North York has 350,000 (people), Scarborough has 600,000. North York has 15 subway stops, Scarborough has two.”
The new Scarborough plan removes two of the three planned stops. It will now be a one stop express from Kennedy Station to Scarborough Town Centre. The elimination of two planned subway stations will save an estimated $1billion. Tory says the savings will in turn will be invested into a 17-stop extension of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, which will now run all the way to the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus.
During his press conference, Tory insisted this is not a slight on Scarborough.
“I have been firm in my resolve to build a Bloor-Danforth subway extension in Scarborough and that will happen,” he said. “But it will happen in a way that reflects the expert advice we asked for and received and the improvements we can offer based on sound planning, careful data analysis and real insight into how the people of Scarborough travel and what they actually need.”
Coun. Glenn De Baeremaeker represents Scarborough-Centre and has been one of the strongest voices in the push for a full multi-stop subway extension for Scarborough.
“What the report recommends is not what I wanted, or what I fought for,” he said.
“But, when I read the report, I have to be honest with myself and my neighbours and say, you know what, they’ve layed out a better transportation plan than we had approved (with the old three-stop Scarborough subway plan). The game-changer is SmartTrack. If there was no SmartTrack I would not support the staff report.”
Tory says meetings between the two parties are ongoing. De Baeremaeker says the fare integration is “massive” and if it fails, a lot of the support for SmartTrack and the new Scarborough plan would fail with it.