Scarborough can pretty much say good-bye to faster transportation in the community for the next couple of years.
Since Mayor Rob Ford’s meeting with the provincially owned transit operator/financier Metrolinx on Feb. 15, Toronto is closer to getting new subways instead of light rail transit (LRT) proposed in the previously contracted Transit City project.
Ford’s plan would extend the Don Mills subway to Scarborough City Centre, upgrade the existing Scarborough RT line to a subway line, and extend the Sheppard subway line to Downsview station.
“It’s good for the long-term growth of our city,” Ford press secretary Adrienne Batra said .
Jessica Roher, coordinator for the Scarborough Civic Action Network, disagrees, saying Transit City was a much better plan for Scarborough.
“We only have three stops in Scarborough,” said Roher, “Victoria Park, Warden and Kennedy. Then we have the RT, which is crumbling and needs to be replaced and is not really an effective mode of public transportation.
“[The new subway plan] only covers not even half of Scarborough…. It stops at the Scarborough Civic Centre, which isn’t even the centre of Scarborough.”
According to the Pembina Institute, a non-profit think tank funded by government, the four previously proposed LRT lines of Transit City would serve “290,000 more Torontonians than currently have service today.” Ford’s subway extension would only impact one part of the city and 61,000 people.
Ford’s proposed subway would cost $6.2 billion for 18 kilometres of subway, not taking into account for additional costs to the plan. It would cost $8.73 billion to build 52 kilometres of LRT lines for phase one of Transit City and an additional $1.83 billion for another 23 kilometres.
So far, $137 million has already been invested in Transit City and $1.38 billion in contracts have already been signed. Also, 182 LRTs have been ordered.
“There’s some part of the lines that are going to be built,” Batra said. “There’s also the tunnel-boring machines that have been purchased. The dollars on those types of equipment will not be lost.”
With the new subway proposal, research would have to go into its preparation. New contracts would have to be established and funding would have to be secured. The Sheppard LRT line, which is currently in construction, would be halted. In short, Toronto would have to wait longer for faster transit.
Ryan Winter, a Scarborough resident, often visits his friends in Pickering. However the trip takes longer that he would like.
He lives at Brimorton Drive and Ellesmere Avenue, just 12.2 km away from Pickering, but by using the TTC, it can take between half an hour to over an hour to get to his friends.
“It’s really hard to get there, especially if it’s off peak hours,” says Winter.
“Scarborough for a very long time has been patiently waiting for a proper transit system and over and over again the city has prioritized downtown,” said Roher.
Roher made it clear that she is not against subways. She would just like to see city transit better serve the community.
“We’re not proposing that it all be on the street and that everyone take transit,” Roher said. “What we’re proposing and what this light rail plan proposes is a system where the most or more people in the city can get around to more places so that will include as well an underground component.”
Scarborough’s need for transit has an underlying economical need, she adds.
“We have six of the 13 priority neighbourhoods in Scarborough, which is a huge percentage of the priority neighbourhoods,” Roher said. “And this system, this light rail system, was actually going to allow those communities to have better access to jobs and better access to the heart of the city, the heart of downtown, so that they could grow and become more developed and hopefully get out of the under-served allocated neighbourhoods”.
Recently, TTC announced it would cut or allocate 41 bus routes, seven of them in Scarborough.