Scarborough politicians love to complain about how our part of the city is ignored while overlooking rapid transit to our under served neighbourhoods. Funding for the Eglinton East LRT (EELRT) has been eliminated twice over the past eight years while funding for $3.56B Scarborough subway and $1.46B SmartTrack  remain firmly in place.  Though there is more overall public support for this line and it’s  improved access to jobs, education and services in seven Priority Neighbourhoods, it will take more than lines on a map to secure the future of this 21-stop LRT from Kennedy to Malvern.

In 2010, the late Rob Ford cancelled the original Scarborough Malvern LRT without a peep from Scarborough councillors. The only outcry came from students at U of T Scarborough. Had more politicians rallied behind it, construction would have started in 2014 and it would be up and running next year.  It happened again in 2016 when the costs of John Tory’s one-stop, “Express Subway” skyrocketed from $2-billion to $3.35-billion, eating up any money left over for the EELRT.  Only Scarborough Guildwood councillor Paul Ainslie proposed a better use of $3.56 billion would be a 24-stop LRT network including both the 17-stop Eglinton East LRT and the 7-stop Scarborough LRT.

Yet Mayor Tory continues to use the unfunded EELRT to prop up his Scarborough “transit network” (a 6 km tunnel to a shopping mall and one SmartTrack/GO station at Lawrence East). Perhaps he is hoping no one will notice that without the EELRT riders will be left with two separate access points on two separate lines, instead of the five RT stops they have now.

Higher levels of government have promised $9 billion  for Toronto’s transit priorities. With $3.56-billion already allocated for the Scarborough Subway Extension (SSE) and $1.46-billion in SmartTrack funding secured from this new money,  the $6.8-billion Relief  Line, $2.2-billion Eglinton East LRT and $1.98-billion Waterfront LRT are left to compete for the remaining $7.5-billion.

During the 2018 provincial election, Doug Ford promised another $5-billion toward transit in Toronto with the Sheppard Loop (three-stop SSE), Relief Line and Yonge Extension to Richmond Hill as their priority.

The Conservative party platform included the Eglinton East LRT with the proviso that it be tunneled:

“The Eglinton Crosstown is currently being built across the city. There will be two additional expansions to this project: Westward expansion to Pearson International Airport, and eastward expansion to the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus.

However, future expansions of the Eglinton Crosstown should be built underground to help reduce congestion once construction is completed.”

Tunneling the 27 km Eglinton East LRT from Kennedy  to Malvern  would add  billions in costs. Clearly, sensible transit planning for the suburbs is not on Ford Nation’s agenda.  However, both the EELRT and Sheppard Loop were promised to Scarborough before a “line by line review” of Ontario’s finances revealed a $15-billion deficit. If the province is willing to cancel  university expansion projects worth $300 million to cut costs, how will it justify the expenditure of billions of dollars for transit?

Although it would serve Centennial College Morningside, U of T Scarborough and three out of six Scarborough wards, Scarborough councillors, with the exception of Paul Ainslie,  have focused most of their energy on a subway extension from either Kennedy or Don Mills to Scarborough Town Centre.

We can thank  councillor Paul Ainslie for convincing Council to take the Eglinton East LRT to the 30% design stage. However, given that there is not enough money to build all of Toronto’s transit priorities, the growing urgency of a Relief Line to address overcrowding on the Bloor Danforth subway line and Premier Ford’s plan to upload TTC subways, how do we ensure  Mayor Tory keeps his promise to fund the EELRT to Malvern Town Centre?

Faith groups, community associations. BIA’s, student organizations and community leaders will need to come together and demand construction start now. I can think of no better cause for residents who are tired of waiting and want our politicians to “just build something.”

Brenda Thompson, March 5, 2019

 

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