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 the Scarborough subway and SmartTrack push ahead.  Though it would improve 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 17-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 provincial election, the PC’s 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 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 17 km Eglinton East LRT could add another $5 billion 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, local councillors are unlikely to stick their neck out for the EELRT anytime soon.

Over the past eight years, Scarborough Southwest councillor Gary Crawford has done little to mobilize community support for this line. Outgoing Scarborough Rouge councillor Neethan Shan made a deal with John Tory to extend it to Malvern Town Centre in exchange for support of the one-stop subway, knowing full well the subway will do nothing to reduce travel times for Malvern transit riders. Incoming Scarborough Rouge councillor Jennifer McKelvie is a Scarborough subway booster and unlikely to challenge Tory’s transit plans.   We can thank Scarborough Guildwood councillor Paul Ainslie for convincing Council to take the Eglinton East LRT to the 30% design stage. However all three incumbents voted to spend $1.46B on the construction of Tory’s SmartTrack ahead of the Eglinton line.

Given that there is not enough money to build all of Toronto’s transit priorities, the lack of political will to fund it and Premier Ford’s plan to upload TTC subways, how do we ensure construction of the EELRT begins when it reaches 30% design in January of 2019?

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, October 29, 2018

 

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