Toronto City Council moves forward with Scarborough transit plans

SCSU, UTSC admin supportive of decision

Toronto City Council moves forward with Scarborough transit plans

On July 13, Toronto City Council arrived at a verdict regarding recent transit proposals. It voted to move ahead with the one-stop extension of the Bloor-Danforth line from Kennedy Station to Scarborough Town Centre, and the 17-stop Eglinton East Crosstown LRT to UTSC; it rejected the seven-stop LRT from Kennedy Station to Sheppard Avenue.


The Eglinton East LRT.

This decision concludes debates concerning the finances and the practicality of the differing potential systems.

Recent estimates show that the City is short on funding to build the $3.1 billion one-stop subway and the $1.7 billion Eglinton East Crosstown LRT, which have both undergone rising anticipated construction costs.

Subway vs. LRT

A comparison of the one-stop subway and the seven-stop LRT plans. VANESSA WANG/THE VARSITY

A comparison of the one-stop subway and the seven-stop LRT plans.

Several city councillors opposed Mayor John Tory’s subway-centric approach, instead opting for the seven-stop LRT plan.

Ward 22 Councillor Josh Matlow brought forward a motion to replace the one-stop subway with the seven-stop LRT plan. The cost estimates for this proposal were similar to those of the one-stop subway.

The seven-stop LRT had a funding commitment for $1.5 billion from the province in 2010. The initial project was replaced by former Mayor Rob Ford’s three-stop subway strategy; those plans were modified again this year by Mayor Tory’s one-stop subway proposal.

At the council meeting, Matlow committed to “providing transit to as many people as possible in Scarborough and across the city.” He believed the 7-stop LRT, coupled with the Eglinton East Crosstown would “provide more service to more people and use dollars more wisely.”

Matlow told reporters during the meeting that his proposed seven-stop LRT would give Scarborough residents easier access to “virtually every major institution” in the district, including Centennial College, the Civic Centre, and the UTSC.

Matlow’s seven-stop LRT motion was defeated with 16 votes in favour and 27 against.

Reaction from UTSC

Sitharsana Srithas, vice-president, external of the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU), called the vote in favor of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT a “massive victory for both Scarborough residents and UTSC students.”

“The Eglinton East LRT will be immensely valuable in connecting UTSC to the rest of the city. As a student, I can see this expansion allowing students to now have better access and more opportunities to take courses at the downtown campus,” Srithas said. “I hope the City stays committed to the Eglinton East LRT.”

Srithas also mentioned that in 2010, UTSC students voted in favour of a levy to contribute to the construction of the Toronto Pan Am Centre in the hopes of prompting rapid transit construction to UTSC.

Srithas continued, “As both a student representative and as a student of UTSC, I don’t want another cohorts of students to lose out on rapid transit in Scarborough because of the failure of the City to act on its promises.”

UTSC vice-president and principal Bruce Kidd also praised the decision. In a blog post, he wrote, “The decision this week by Toronto City Council to move ahead with the subway between Kennedy Station and Scarborough Town Centre and to extend the Eglinton LRT is great news. We at U of T Scarborough are very excited about the benefits this will bring to our campus, to the Scarborough community, and to Torontonians across the city.”

Kidd, in conjunction with four other Scarborough community leaders, penned an open letter ahead of the council meeting, urging councillors to move forward with the transit plans.

The future

Council also voted in favour of appointing third-party transit construction and cost-estimation experts to weigh in on the overall process.

Motions passed at the meeting included requests to consider additional transit projects, including extending the Sheppard Line to Scarborough, and the Bloor-Danforth Line to Sherway Gardens.

Toronto City Council to debate Scarborough subway and LRT plans tomorrow

Scarborough leaders, including UTSC vice president & principal Bruce Kidd, urge council to approve project

Toronto City Council to debate Scarborough subway and LRT plans tomorrow

Toronto City Council is expected to make the final decision tomorrow on the proposed Scarborough transit plans, which include an LRT to UTSC.

The plans, which were approved by the city’s Executive Committee, include a one-stop extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway line to Scarborough Town Centre to replace the aging Scarborough RT and a 17-stop extension on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT to UTSC.

However, critics of the one-stop subway to Scarborough Town Centre, such as city councillor Josh Matlow, argue that it is more economical to build a seven-stop LRT going through Scarborough Town Centre and terminating at Sheppard Avenue instead of a subway.

The seven-stop LRT was the original plan to replace the aging Scarborough RT and was fully funded by the provincial government at a cost of $1.5 billion. In 2013, under then-mayor Rob Ford, City Council voted to replace the project with a three-stop subway line. Mayor Tory further amended these plans in January 2016 with the introduction of the currently proposed one-stop subway and 17-stop LRT.

Matlow has indicated that he will make a motion to replace the $2.9 billion one-stop subway with the original seven-stop LRT.

Five business and community leaders from Scarborough have penned an open letter to Tory and members of council, urging them to approve the plans and move on from the debate between the type of transit. The leaders include UTSC vice-president & principal Bruce Kidd, Centennial College president Ann Buller, Scarborough Hospital CEO Robert F. Biron, Scarborough Business Association president Marg Middleton, and Rouge Valley Health System president Andrée G. Robichaud.

“The debate between subway or LRT or SmartTrack, and which solution is right for Scarborough has been needlessly time-consuming and divisive,” reads a portion of the letter.

The letter continues: “We understand that the financial requirements for comprehensive transit may exceed what we are able to afford today. But this should not stop the City from planning what’s right.”

Kidd told The Varsity that the he and the other four signatories to the letter did not discuss the possibility of a seven-stop LRT, but stressed the importance of a rapid transit connection between Scarborough Town Centre and the Bloor-Danforth line as well as extending the Crosstown LRT eastward.

“Scarborough’s an important part of the city. It needs to be properly served,” said Kidd. “Toronto fails as a city if it cannot adequately serve the people of one of its biggest parts — the most populous area of the city. We’ve got to approve of the plan and then do the necessary steps to implement it without continually reopening these debates and going back to the drawing board.”

Scarborough transit plan costs soar by over $1 billion

Tory remains committed to plans that include LRT to UTSC

Scarborough transit plan costs soar by over $1 billion

Improved transit options for Scarborough will come at a higher price than initially anticipated, according to new information revealed by city staff.

New estimates released to the City of Toronto Executive Committee earlier this week show that the cost to build the one-stop extension of the Bloor-Danforth Line to Scarborough Town Centre will be nearly 50 per cent higher than previously estimated, rising from $2 billion to $2.9 billion. Additional plans to construct a 17-stop LRT line along Eglinton Avenue that would serve the UTSC campus are also projected to increase in cost, from $1 billion to $1.6 billion.

A more in-depth analysis of the outlined construction zones revealed that the Scarborough subway extension will necessitate deeper tunneling in some spaces as well as additional concrete to account for the higher water table in the surrounding areas. This would take the total project costs to nearly $1 billion beyond the initial $3.56 billion budget allocated for Scarborough transit development options in earlier discussions in 2013.

Despite the increased costs, Mayor John Tory reiterated his support for both projects in a press conference on June 17, speaking of his commitment to the transit plans in Scarborough, where he said there has been “chronic underinvestment in public transportation.”

“I am committed to building this subway extension and the LRT extension along Eglinton and Kingston Road in a cost-efficient, expedient, and responsible manner,” he told reporters. “We should have expended extended the Bloor-Danforth subway line 10 years ago.”

It remains to be seen how the project will be funded. While Tory insisted that he would liaise with third-party transit experts to cut overall costs as effectively as possible, the estimated funding gap of nearly $1 billion has led to a number of city councilors voicing concerns about the feasibility of the chosen transit extension plans.

Noting practical and financial restraints, some believe that the City should choose to focus on a single transit project rather than both either subway extension plans, developing LRT or other express transit options. 

André Sorensen, associate professor of Urban Geography at UTSC, spoke to The Varsity and weighed in on the issue. “There is a clear logic to extending the subway to Scarborough Town Centre both in terms of the larger transit network, and in terms of development potential at Scarborough Town Centre,” he said. 

“But if we take into consideration a constrained budget, it is clear that spending a similar amount building an LRT network in Scarborough will have a much bigger positive impact. Our research showed that LRT would serve more people, create access to more jobs, and will open up more development opportunities than the proposed subway to Scarborough Town Centre.”

The city council is expected to vote on the final subway alignment at a meeting in July. 

Details for Scarborough transit plan revealed

Eglinton East LRT with station at UTSC projected to take 43,400 commuters in 2041

Details for Scarborough transit plan revealed

Details of the proposed Scarborough public transit revamp, which includes the extended Eglinton East Light Rail Transit (LRT) to UTSC and the single-stop subway extension to Scarborough Town Centre (STC), were made public after a Scarborough community meeting on May 31.

New ridership statistics indicated during the presentation illustrate that an estimated 43,400 people will use the Eglinton East LRT daily in 2041, including students commuting between UTSC and Centennial College.

In addition, the $1.48 billion project will provide rapid transit options within walking distance of about 41,500 people and facilitate access to over 7,800 jobs. 

The new LRT route would span an estimated 11 km along Eglinton Avenue and Kingston Road, elevating along Morningside Avenue and running at-grade through Military Trail, with one station at the the heart of UTSC and another at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre.

The LRT expansions is also set to be integrated with UTSC Master Plan, which is the campus’ plan for revitalization.

The community meeting revealed that the 6 km extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway line to STC will have a projected ridership of 7,200 during peak hours in 2031.

Mayor John Tory originally announced the 17-stop extension of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT and the one-stop addition of the subway in January, which was a decision that was met with praise from the UTSC community.

Conflicting visions for rapid transit in Scarborough sparked heated debates between stakeholders and politicians as far back as 2006, with opinion split about using subways or LRT systems to extend service further into Scarborough.

Late Toronto mayor Rob Ford advocated against LRT to connect the city’s east end, repeating the line, “subways, subways, subways.” Ford discarded earlier plans for city-wide LRT and bus rapid transit routes that would have circled UTSC grounds.