What’s that loud sucking noise? That’s the $4 billion Scarborough Subway Extension (SSE) soaking up all the rapid transit money for Scarborough. Had the SSE been judged on cost-effectiveness, we might not be poised to spend $4 billion on a one-stop subway that will carry only 31,000 riders a day.
And had rapid transit to underserved neighbourhoods and campuses been a top priority, there would be enough money for the much-needed Eglinton East LRT (EELRT) from Kennedy to Malvern.
An Environmental Assessment for the EELRT was approved in 2009. But the LRT keeps falling off the priority list. Without a commitment of at least $150 million to take it to shovel-readiness, Scarborough residents will remain stuck with inadequate bus service.
On May 7, 2018, Toronto Mayor John Tory promised to extend the Eglinton East LRT to Malvern – in one shot. But a year later, there’s no money. At least, that was the gist of Mayor Tory’s message at our packed Save the Eglinton East LRT town hall on April 10. Scarborough Rouge Councillor Jennifer McKelvie spoke to the urgent need for rapid transit to Malvern. But neither politician tried to add it to Toronto’s transit priorities at the April 17 City Council meeting.
Here’s what projects are slated for funding:
- $3.887 billion – Scarborough Subway Extension to STC
- $3.151 billion – toward $7.2 billion Relief Line South from Pape to Osgoode
- $1.46 billion – SmartTrack stations
- $0.5 billion – toward $1.05 billion Bloor-Yonge capacity Improvement
A motion to change that list was made by Toronto St. Paul’s Councillor Josh Matlow. It would have returned to building Scarborough’s original LRT network plan – which included the Scarborough LRT from Kennedy to Sheppard and an extension to Malvern Town Centre, as well as the Eglinton East LRT to U of T’s Scarborough Campus.
The motion did not pass. During a heated exchange around Matlow’s motion, the usual (and disingenuous) rhetoric about “only Scarborough councillors care about Scarborough” erupted.
Don Valley North Councillor Shelley Carroll, who also attended our town hall, had this to say on Twitter:
@shelleycarroll Apr 17
Replying to @shelleycarroll @TransitScarb and 5 others
The people you have been told don’t care about Scarborough, actually care more deeply than you will ever know, how badly you have been misled. We drove every councillor we could right out there to see what was possible. Councillor R Ford declined the invite.
It is important that you understand that once the Scarborough Subway is underway, it will soak up funds for the foreseeable. The EELRT will then be pushed back, & so on. It is very hard to ever forget the moment, the eleventh hour of driving his campaign to kill the LRT that …
…really would have extended a whole loop to Malvern, Rob Ford, learned from Josh Matlow that the LRT he was cancelling so it wouldn’t block car traffic was actually entirely off road and away from cars. Ford cancelled it anyway purely out of embarrassment. Devastating.
Notwithstanding Council’s recommendation to seek “opportunities to accelerate engineering and design of the Eglinton East LRT….if there are cost savings derived from the negotiations with the Provincie related to the subway upload….”, here are some other options to explore:
- New federal Public Transit Infrastructure Fund money
- New municipal revenue tools: an EELRT levy, congestion pricing, vehicle registration tax, etc.
- Premier Ford suddenly has a change of heart and decides to keep his 2018 election promise to build the Eglinton East LRT.
The province has announced a $1.1 billion gas tax cut – money promised to the TTC that it had already budgeted for capital repairs. The existing TTC system has a $33.5 billion backlog of needed work on maintenance and state of good repair.
Toronto’s transit priorities list does not include the full cost of the Relief Line South or Yonge Capacity Improvement. Will full funding for these two projects continue to move forward ahead of the Eglinton East LRT?
In light of these financial pressures and competing priorities, what are the odds of obtaining funding for the Eglinton East LRT when Toronto’s Transit Expansion Program comes back to Council on June 18 and 19?
I think we have our answer. Unless Mayor Tory commits to funding at least all the EELRT’s design costs, we should not hold our breath. And the next time a politician talks about building rapid transit to Malvern, we should insist that they ‘show us the money’.