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.
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
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.
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.