TTCriders comes to UTSC, talks about province’s plan to “steal” subways

Ontario government believes it “can build subway lines faster”

TTCriders comes to UTSC, talks about province’s plan to “steal” subways

On the frigid morning of March 11, Moya Beall handed out flyers to students at UTSC’s bus loop. She spoke on behalf of TTCriders, a grassroots advocacy group of TTC users, about Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s subway plan.

“We’re here at U of T talking with students because public transport, especially rapid transit, is so important,” said Beall in an interview with The Varsity. “Students here really depend on public transit. I’ve talked to people who commute from as far away as Mississauga, and a lot of people here don’t have cars, so they’re utterly dependent on public transit.”

Ford wants the responsibility of the TTC’s subway infrastructure to be transferred from the city to the province, in a plan referred to as “uploading” the transit system. However, the premier also wants the City of Toronto to remain responsible for buses and streetcars.

“If the Ford government is successful uploading… the subway system, then Toronto loses control over where it plans and constructs,” said Beall.

Beall said that there will be a “huge delay” in Toronto getting an improved transit system. If the city and province keep negotiating over small details, people will be “waiting years” until new lines are established.

Response from provincial government

Bob Nichols, Senior Media Liaison Officer of the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO), told The Varsity that the MTO believes the “province can build subway lines faster” and that they have been discussing with city officials the best way to go about the upload.

Nichols noted that uploading the TTC will provide benefits to public transit riders and residents. Some of these benefits are faster delivery of priority regional transit projects, better implementation of key policy initiatives that promote an efficient regional transit network, and more funding for current and new transit projects.

“In moving forward with the upload, we will turn priorities into projects, and deliver an expanded, modern, and integrated transit network of which we can all be proud,” he continued.

Beall was also worried about the increased fares that Toronto would face if Ford’s plan pushes through. She said that Metrolinx, the provincial government agency that manages road and public transport in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, is considering charging fares by distance instead of keeping the two-hour fares that let commuters transfer between buses, subways, and streetcars in a span of two hours.

“That would really penalize people in Scarborough, because we’re so far out… if you want to get downtown. It could cost a lot of money,” said Beall.

TTCriders suggested that Ford fund the TTC instead of “stealing” it. According to TTCriders, Ford’s plan will result in “less say for residents” and will lead to privatization and the consequences that come with it.

In Photos: UTSC’s Indig-U-Know Pow Wow

UTSC held its first Pow Wow on March 10

In Photos: UTSC’s Indig-U-Know Pow Wow

Pedestrian hit by vehicle near UTSC confirmed to be a UTSC student

Student “making a speedy recovery,” says Campus Police

Pedestrian hit by vehicle near UTSC confirmed to be a UTSC student

Campus Police have confirmed that the pedestrian who was struck by a vehicle near the UTSC campus on January 11 was a UTSC student.

The incident occured in the Ellesmere Road and Military Trail area, as reported by the Toronto Police Operations Centre on January 11. The area was temporarily closed after the accident.

Campus Police Staff Sergeant Shahid Zafar confirmed on January 14 that the pedestrian was a UTSC student.

It was initially reported that the student suffered from life-threatening injuries. However, Zafar wrote to The Varsity that the student “is making a speedy recovery” and “should be returning this week to school.”

Zafar noted that due to a U of T policy, they cannot release more information about this incident.

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.