In an alternate universe, $5.5-billion could buy a 50-stop light rail network serving most of Scarborough. Instead, Doug Ford will push forward the replacement of the Scarborough RT to 2030 with three subway stops for 11,000 new riders.
The majority of Scarborough community organizations applauded the Toronto-Ontario transit plan which would see the province take sole ownership and fund this three-stop subway. Many called on Toronto council to build the Eglinton East and Sheppard East LRTs as well. At the Executive Committee meeting on October 23rd, Mayor Tory repeatedly “reminded” Scarborough deputants here, here and here that the $1.2375 billion Scarborough Subway levy could now be put toward the Eglinton East LRT (EELRT).
However, under “Funding for State of Good Repair Needs and Transit Expansion” of the City Manager’s report this money has already been prioritized for state of good repair by the Ford government and the EELRT and Waterfront LRT are left fighting over the scraps:
The Province would also consider the redirection of these funds to investment in other transit expansion priorities identified by Council, based on a fully developed business case, and subject to credible progress to the relief of the state of good repair backlog in the subway system.
We have been down this road before. In 2016 and 2018, Mayor Tory promised to fund the Eglinton East LRT, only to knock it off the priority list in favour of the one-stop Scarborough Subway, SmartTrack, Relief Line and TTC state of good repair. There is a $33.5 billion backlog in maintenance hanging over Toronto’s subway system. Google’s sister company Sidewalk Labs is demanding funding for the Waterfront LRT. Why would an LRT to Scarborough’s under served neighbourhoods suddenly be more worthy now?
Which Scarborough councillors will fight for the EELRT? With the exception of Scarborough Guildwood councillor Paul Ainslie, they have only come together in the past to support a subway.
Scarborough Rouge councillor Jennifer McKelvie got council to support extending the EELRT to Malvern but she declined to put forward a motion to allocate the freed up Scarborough subway levy toward this line. She also supports the Scarborough subway and voted for Scarborough Agincourt councillor Karygiannis’s motion to look at extending the Sheppard subway in the next city budget. Does she realize this extension can now compete with the EELRT for funding priority?
Ainslie, doesn’t believe the EELRT should extend beyond U of T Scarborough. All the more reason to push for the Sheppard East LRT to connect Malvern. But don’t hold your breath. At least councillor Ainslie didn’t vote for Karygiannis’s Sheppard extension.
Scarborough North Councillor Cynthia Lai says LRTs are bad for business. As mentioned, Karygiannis is laser focussed on extending the Sheppard subway to Sheppard East and McCowan. He’ll probably continue to work behind the scenes now that he has been thrown off council.
Scarborough Southwest Councillor Gary Crawford’s ward has three Neighbourhood Improvement Areas along the EELRT route, but the fact that less than 50% of his constituents in Scarborough Village have a driver’s licence doesn’t keep him up at night. All he knows is an LRT would never entice him out of his car. And despite Ainslie’s attempt to ensure sufficient intensification to guarantee ridership on the Eglinton East LRT route, Crawford convinced a majority on Council (including EELRT supporter Jennifer McKelvie) to vote in favour of an application to build low-density townhomes at the corner of Eglinton Avenue East and Danforth Road.
Scarborough Centre councillor Michael Thompson, has always supported the subway option to replace the Scarborogh RT even though his constituents will lose all but the Scarborough Town Centre stop. He neglected to put forward a motion to ensure there was enough bus service if (or when) the SRT breaks down before 2026. That was left to “latte sipping, downtown councillor” Mike Layton.
If we continue to put our faith in politicians who hang their hopes on a few subway stops, we will never have a cost effective network for all of Scarborough. We will continue to waste another ten, twenty years, we don’t have. A surface LRT network is our best bet against Climate Change, pedestrian fatalities and the economic marginalization of minorities which make up the majority of residents in Scarborough. It’s now or never.