Mayor Tory’s one-stop subway is not “better transit for Scarborough”

On Monday night, STA members and allies in support of an LRT network attended Mayor Tory’s pro-subway town hall in Scarborough. The event took place at Centennial Recreation Centre and was organized by Connect Scarborough, Scarborough Community Renewal Organization and Centennial College.

Throughout most of his speech, Mayor Tory complained about LRT supporters and implored the crowd to “reach out to their councillors” to support the subway.

He is determined to push it through knowing full well that if approved, nothing else will ever get built in Scarborough, for a very long time.

All this political maneuvering and evasion made it ​almost impossible for the public to have a meaningful conversation about how best to serve transit riders who need to get around Scarborough, not just downtown. Still questions coming from the audience, showed there is growing support for better transit access with an LRT network, including the Scarborough, Eglinton and Sheppard East LRTs.

Although Centennial College, Vice President, Rosanna Cavallaro spoke in favour of improved transit, Davinder Singh, president of Centennial College Student Association raised concerns about losing the stop at Progress Campus that was part of the original seven-stop Scarborough LRT plan.

Vincent Puhakka, STA member, talked about canvassing near the Scarborough RT stations and asked what they were going to do to address the removal of stations at Lawrence, Ellesmere and Midland when the five-stop RT is replaced with a one-stop subway.

“Buses, buses buses”, was councillor De Baeremaeker’s reply.

Councillor De Baeremaeker’s wife, also attended. She attempted to revive the infamous TTC Briefing Note claiming an LRT would cost as much as a subway. This was quickly challenged by another resident who pointed out it was based on inflationary costs due to a ten year construction time line, not the usual 4-5 years it takes to build an LRT.

Franklyn Earle-McFadden, another STA member asked the Mayor to increase bus service and the number of elevators at subway stations so that transit riders with mobility issues don’t have such a hard time getting around on the TTC. MPP Brad Duguid told him he would be waiting until 2025.

Connect Scarborough, a pro-subway front group for Oxford Properties – owners of the Scarborough Town Centre was the only group allowed to have a table and to distribute information to attendees. Scarborough MPs and MPPs were also there in support of the one-stop subway, yet the Mayor seemed worried.

Perhaps deep down he knows it is a lousy plan that excludes too many transit riders in too many Priority Neighbourhoods and the rest of Toronto is not happy with the rising costs and falling ridership projections.

Can you blame them?

Six-kilometre Scarborough Subway will help bankrupt the TTC

Transit planner Joell Anne Vanderwagen talks to Mayor Tory’s Executive about the Scarborough Subway Extension

Good morning fellow passengers on the Titanic.  Our Captain is saying “full-speed ahead”, but we know how the story ends. This ship will crash on the rocks of reality—financial and function realities.  Although we are being updated about the astronomical and escalating construction costs of the six-kilometre Scarborough Subway project, little is understood about the future operating costs. The latter is the gift that will keep on giving, or rather, taking. In fact, I suggest that this project (along with the Sheppard and Vaughan subways) will bankrupt the TTC.

Back in 1954 the TTC completed Canada’s first subway—the 7.4 Kilometre Yonge line from Union Station to Eglinton. It is said that on opening day there were 30,000 passengers per hour and, on the following days, well over 250,000 per day. On opening day, this 7.4 km subway had twelve stations, located about 400-700 metres apart.  These numerous stations provided not only easy access to the service, but also, twelve opportunities for revenue-paying passengers to board—who, in their numbers, more-than-paid for the expensive project and the higher operating costs of a subway. The line, of course, was set in the middle of a busy, dense urban corridor.

Let us contrast this with the proposed Scarborough Line: Here we have a six-kilometre tunnel with two stations—one at either end. The equivalent on the Yonge line would be to ride from Union Station all the way to St. Clair—with no King, Queen, Dundas, College, Wellesley, Bloor, Rosedale, or Summerhill stations in between! That’s very strange. Given the low-density residential areas through which the tunnel in Scarborough will go, there is not an option of adding eight more stations.

So, what “gifts” can we expect from the Scarborough subway in 2026? How accurately can we project the future operating costs? Before getting lost in these technical details, let us consider some simple logic illustrated in the following example:

Imagine a bus travelling a one-kilometre route.

It has 100 riders.  Each pays a $1.00 fare. 100 riders X $1.00 fare = $100.00 dollars revenue.

The operating cost per kilometre (salaries, fuel, maintenance)      = $100 dollars cost/km

With these two numbers we can calculate the revenue/cost ratio.

 

REVENUE   $100

———————–  =  100 %    Thus, the revenue/cost ratio is 100% — meaning that

COST           $100                                         the service pays for itself and no subsidy is required.

                   

Next, let’s imagine that the route has been extended to two kilometres with the same riders.

 

REVENUE  $100

———————   =  50%           The revenue/cost ratio is now 50% — requiring a                                                                                   subsidy.

COST         $200

 

Now, lets extend the route to six kilometres with the same group of 100 riders.

 

REVENUE  $100

——————–   =  16.6%         The revenue/cost ratio is now 17% — requiring an 83%                                                                          subsidy

COST          $600

 

This delicate relationship between distance and cost will not be obvious because we will see a full bus traveling the route.  While this is an example of a simple, low-cost bus route, a subway is another issue entirely: there are tunnels with tracks and signaling and ventilation, along with expensive stations that are essentially underground buildings requiring escalators, elevators, ventilation, lighting, maintenance, cleaning staff, transit staff, etc. Thus, using underground tunnels to provide rapid transit is only appropriate in densely-developed, high-traffic corridors.

Light Rail lines, on the other hand, do not require expensive stations; they can be placed anywhere because power is taken from an overhead source.  In contrast, both subways and the existing RT take their power from an electrified third rail that must be separated from pedestrians—either elevated, enclosed in a fence, or buried, which in turn, requires escalators and elevators that greatly inflate the capital and operating costs and tend to make developers want to reduce the number of stations.

Light Rail would actually serve the development plans of the Scarborough Town Centre better than the proposed subway. We can find our best example in Calgary.  Beginning in 1981, Calgary created a radial system of three LRT lines leading into downtown, through which the trains travel on a 1.2 km pedestrian transit mall.  The lines were built quickly and economically, mostly on the surface; one, for example, following a CPR right-of-way and another running down the middle of a wide arterial roadway. With its older downtown core surrounded by modern, low-density sprawl, this was the right model for Calgary and the system is a success story in terms of function, cost-effectiveness, and popularity.

In terms of its development pattern, Scarborough has more in common with Calgary than downtown Toronto and can benefit from Calgary’s example in planning the Town Centre. For example, if a transit mall were created, LRT lines coming from Kennedy station and from the northeast (Morningside and beyond) could make several stops across the area, creating better transit access throughout the site and a livelier pedestrian environment.

This is a model of “higher-order” transit for the Scarborough Town Centre.  Rapid transit is not one thing! It can take different forms appropriate to different situations and the skill is choosing the right system, not under-building or over-building. The money NOT spent on a six-kilometre tunnel with one station could instead provide for a full rapid transit network for Scarboroughthat could be speedily implemented.

 

$3.35 billion one-stop Scarborough Subway Extension for fewer riders has to go.

It’s time to say NO to this one-stop, tunnel vision, fiasco. The latest city report shows that the 6 km extension of the Bloor/Danforth line – with a single stop at Scarborough Town Centre – now requires an even bigger investment of public funds. The cost has gone up again, to $3.35 billion, but the ability to attract new riders has dropped, from 4,500 to only 2,300.

In fact, the latest article by Star reporter, Jennifer Pagliaro, shows $600 million in costs have not been included in the $3.35 billion estimate, pushing it beyond the $3.56 billion funding limit. That means no money for the 18-stop Eglinton East LRT (EELRT). Worse, by prioritizing the one-stop subway, Mayor Tory and pro-subway councillors have ensured the EELRT must compete for federal funding with other projects such as Smart Track, Relief Line and Eglinton West LRT. The EELRT would serve 26,000 residents in five Neighbourhood Improvement Areas(NIAs). The SSE would serve at most only 3,100 residents of NIAs.

The report also proposes $187 million go toward an underground bus terminal. If built, Triton terminal will house 24 TTC buses, almost double the number of existing TTC buses that come into Scarborough Town Centre. If new transit lines are supposed to eliminate the need for buses, then this one-stop subway fails miserably. In fact, with the elimination of existing RT stations including Lawrence, Ellesmere and Midland, residents of Scarborough are getting less access to rapid transit, not more!

The Mayor and pro-subway councillors want us to ignore the facts and “just build something”, regardless of costs or consequences. But when the three-stop subway was approved in 2013, we didn’t know then what we know now. We must not put any more time and money into this boondoggle!

Join us when the subway report goes to the Executive Committee on Tuesday March 7th. Tell Mayor Tory to scrap the subway extension, and get on with building the seven-stop Scarborough and eighteen-stop Eglinton East LRT instead.

TAKE ACTION:

  • If you haven’t already, send a message to Mayor Tory and council.
  • Canvass for the Scarborough LRT this Sunday, March 5th @ 2:00 p.m . Contact Vincent termini_89@hotmail.com.
  • Join us at the Executive Committee meeting at City Hall (100 Queen Street West) on Tuesday, March 7th  @ 9:30 a.m. Register to speak to item EX23.1 at 416-392-4666, or send an email to the Executive Committee exc@toronto.ca.
  • Read the editorial in the Toronto Star here.
  • Read the “Update to the initial Business Case Analysis of the Scarborough Subway Extension” report here.

Secret report shows one-stop subway extension would not improve travel time.

Last week, Toronto Star journalist Jennifer Pagliaro had us wondering, yet again, what Mayor Tory is hiding vis a vis the one-stop Scarborough Subway Extension (SSE). The image in her article showed a redacted page from a business case analysis of four city projects: Smart Track, Relief Line, SSE and Eglinton East LRT. The study carried out by Arup consultants for the city last June, was never shared publicly.

Looking at the results for the one-stop SSE it’s plain to see why Mayor Tory and pro-subway councillors would want this report shelved. Even before costs of the one-stop jumped from $2 billion to $3.2 billion, the business case analysis paints a gloomy prognosis for this line.

On the cost side the subway would have a “significant amount of travel time disbenefit.” Could this be because riders who take the Scarborough RT to stations in between Kennedy and Scarborough Town Centre will be on slower buses? The only benefit is that after construction and operation costs of $252 million, there will be $0.75 billion remaining. But as already mentioned, this positive is eliminated with the increase in cost of the one-stop subway from $2 to $3.2 billion.

At Executive and Council meetings, when Chief Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat answers questions from councillors about the one-stop subway she regularly qualifies her answer with: “Assuming the three-stop subway as the base case…” The significance of this qualifier did not hit me until I read the Arup report.

In the last two columns of this chart we see the “Scarborough Subway” and the “Eglinton East LRT.” The base case for the Eglinton East LRT is the buses that currently serve the Eglinton Avenue East corridor. It seems logical that if you want to know if the Eglinton East LRT is good value for money it would have to provide shorter travel time, less crowding etc., than the existing bus system.

Where things go off the rails, is in the choice of a base case for the one-stop “McCowan Express” option. “Base Case 1” for this option is the three-stop subway. This is problematic because there was never a base case for the three-stop subway. It should have been compared to the Scarborough RT, as was the business case analysis of the seven-stop Scarborough LRT.  In other words, we have no idea if the three-stop subway will provide value for money as a replacement for the Scarborough RT or not, but it is being used as a comparator for the one-stop, anyway.

After discussing the lack of  base case for the three-stop SSE, the consultant proposes some explanatory text:

Would the Mayor and pro-subway councillors like to explain why the public is not allowed to see this explanation?

When people talk about the Scarborough Subway, they say they don’t want any more flip-flops, that we need to “get on with it and build something”. They conveniently forget the flip-flop started back in 2013, when council rejected a shovel-ready, funded LRT for a back-of-a-napkin, subway plan. They forget that to switch to a subway you have to go back to square one and at the very least, determine if it is an improvement over the SRT line you want to replace.

We have already lost three and a half years studying the one-stop Scarborough Subway Extension and we still don’t know if it  would provide value for money. However, according to the findings of this report  it will increase travel time and the current $3.35 billion cost would eliminate any potential savings. Add to this the Metrolinx report (also never released) stating that in order for a subway to be viable option it would require a $5 billion investment around STC and you have all the  ingredients for a megaproject boondoggle.

The just released, city report includes a business case analysis but it does nothing to address these concerns. Instead, it merely provides us with a comparison between a Brimley and McCowan subway alignment. The full report on the one-stop will go to the Mayor’s Executive next Tuesday, March 7th.

You can read the Toronto Star article about the city report here.

Let’s lay this albatross to rest and start building some sensible transit lines for the 48% of transit riders travelling within Scarborough and the 23% heading downtown. Build the seven-stop Scarborough LRT now!

Sign our petition for the 7-stop LRT here.

Where do the candidates stand on transit for Ward 42 and Scarborough?

This post will be updated as candidates send us their answers. Last updated: February 11, 2017

Where do the candidates stand on transit for Ward 42 and Scarborough?

Candidate Subway to STC or 7-stop LRT? Sheppard East LRT?
Aynedjian, Hratch Subway No
Balack, Mark Subway No
Bari, Ferduse    
Cain, Amanda Undecided Undecided
Chung, Sarah Subway No
Clarke, Kevin    
Dale, Deborah Subway
No
Dixon, Bev Subway No
Ganeshathasan, Khamy LRT Yes
Huff, Elizabeth    
Jones, Virginia Subway No
Jose, Jobin LRT
Yes
Kadhem, Tebat Undecided Undecided
Kalevar, Chai Subway No
Kargiannakis, Stella Subway No
Khatoon, Aasia    
Kladitis, John Subway No
Kwok, Kingsley LRT Yes
Nissan, David Subway No
Patel, Dipika LRT No
Prashar, Sohum Undecided Undecided
Shabani, Mohammad LRT Yes
Shan, Neethan    
Singh, Knia LRT Yes
Smitherman, Arthur    
Sockalingam, Punch LRT Yes
Srivastava, Sandeep Subway No
Syed, Zuhair Subway No
Washington, Randy LRT Yes

UPDATE – Press Conference for Transit Fairness and the seven-stop Scarborough LRT

We spoke up loud and clear for the seven-stop Scarborough LRT!

On Thursday, January 19th, 2017, we made it clear to Mayor Tory and his Executive Committee, we want the facts on the seven-stop Scarborough LRT.

We started by hand delivering our complaint to the Toronto Ombudsman’s, office at 375 University Avenue. The complaint was about a TTC briefing note Mayor Tory and pro-subway councillors, used last July, to dissuade Council from voting for a 24-stop LRT network, including the Scarborough and Eglinton East LRTs.

We also received words of support and encouragement from Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch:

“Good news and good luck with the ombudswoman…. Great that you have proceeded with this important complaint.”

 

Submitting our complaint to Toronto Ombusdman, Susan Opler.
Read Toronto Star journalist, Jennifer Pagliaro’s, article about the leaked TTC briefing note complaint here.

Next, equipped with our beautiful signs, we headed over to City Hall  to voice our concern about the second delay to the Scarborough Subway Extension report. Since the report was not listed on the  agenda, we couldn’t speak to Mayor Tory’s Executive directly. We had to find another way to voice our concern. We decided to walk quietly through the meeting room holding up our signs for them to read.

After exiting the meeting room we were told by security to leave City Hall. A lively exchange ensued around our right to assemble, and then the media arrived.

Watch Zach Ruiter’s video: Scarborough Transit Action for Evidence-Based Decision Making  including Khalidha Nasiri’s and STA ally, Rosemary Frei’s response to CTV here.

While we were waiting in the hallway, we were able to catch  Mayor Tory just as he was leaving and we gave him a copy of the Ombudsman complaint. He said it was “baseless and without merit”.

We asked why the subway report had been delayed again, and he claimed staff needed more time, denying rising costs or maneuvering for a Sheppard subway extension alignment as possible reasons.

A proposal for a Sheppard subway extension to Scarborough Town Centre was put forward by Ward 39 councillor Jim Karygiannis last summer, and is currently under study.

J.P. Rodrigues, a member of 1Love Malvern Transportation Working Group, said: “Part of the reason why there was some support for the one-stop subway extension before, was that it would come with the Eglinton East LRT, along with possible further expansion into Malvern. With this and the Sheppard East LRT, Malvern residents would have finally been connected by rapid transit to Scarborough and the rest of Toronto. However with rising subway costs, ongoing delays and whispers of a Sheppard subway extension, the Sheppard East LRT may never be built and Malvern residents will continue be deprived of access to rapid transit that they have been promised was coming to them since 1985!”

The Mayor also assured us, that the Eglinton East LRT from Kennedy Station to U of T Scarborough, would be built. But he wouldn’t say when construction would begin or if there was funding.

“We intend to hold him to that promise, ” said Joy Robertson, President – Scarborough Village Residents Unite (SRU) . You can read SRU’s statement on the Eglinton East LRT here.

Brenda Thompson, Co-Chair Scarborough Transit Action

PRESS CONFERENCE FOR TRANSIT FAIRNESS

Thursday, January 19th @ 11:30 a.m.

City Hall rotunda, Nathan Phillips Square, 100 Queen Street West

RSVP here

Mayor Tory claims he is in favour of “evidence-based decision making” but last summer he and his pro-subway councillors used a biased TTC briefing note to push a one-stop subway extension ahead of a twenty-four-stop LRT network that would serve Scarborough’s Priority Neighbourhoods and campuses.

We are holding a press conference in the rotunda of City Hall at 11:30 a.m. this Thursday against the second delay of the Scarborough Subway Extension report. Please JOIN US at City Hall to speak out against the second delay of the Scarborough subway extension report. It should have been on the agenda of Mayor Tory’s Executive meeting this Thursday but it has been delayed until March!

Why is Mayor Tory hiding the facts? What does he not want the public to know about the $3.56-billion, one-stop Scarborough Subway Extension?

We know the seven-stop Scarborough LRT is a better plan for transit riders. That’s why we are calling on Mayor Tory and pro-subway councillors to cancel the one-stop subway extension and build an LRT network, now!

Meet us in the City Hall Rotunda at 11:30 a.m. sharp this Thursday, January 19 – that’s tomorrow! Please come and speak up for Scarborough.  Let’s send a message to Mayor Tory and his executive committee that we will not remain silent while they waste billions of scarce dollars making non-evidence-based decisions!

RSVP here

Sign our petition here.

Read about the TTC briefing note complaint here.

Read about the Scarborough Subway Extension report delay here.

 

Contact: scarboroughtransitaction@gmail.com  for more information.

John Tory says Scarborough is getting a subway. Here’s a full list of Scarborough neighbourhoods that will get nothing.

Mayor John Tory and his band of Scarborough politicians never miss a chance to tell Scarborough citizens about the one-stop extension that will allegedly bring Scarborough together as one people. The latest disingenuous rhetoric comes Tory himself, who is quoted as saying that a single stop for $3.2B is about equity.

The most divisive politicians use Scarborough and Scarborough City Centre synonymously, as if all 625,000 residents of Scarborough live in the centre of Scarborough. We find this rhetoric utterly insulting.

Here is a list of neighbourhoods in Scarborough who pay taxes but have yet to receive transit funding under Mayor Tory’s current Scarborough Transit plan.

  • Steeles
  • L’Amoreaux
  • Tam O’Shanter-Sullivan
  • Wexford-Maryvale
  • Clairlea-Birchmount
  • Oakridge
  • Birchcliffe-Cliffside
  • Cliffcrest
  • Kennedy Park
  • Ionview
  • Dorset Park
  • Agincourt South-Malvern West
  • Agincourt North
  • Milliken
  • Rouge
  • Malvern
  • Centennial Scarborough
  • Highland Creek
  • Morningside
  • West Hill
  • Woburn
  • Eglinton East
  • Scarborough Village
  • Guildwood

In addition, every single RT station will effectively shut down under Mayor Tory’s current Scarborough transit plan. Here is the list:

  • Lawrence East Station
  • Ellesmere Station
  • Midland Station
  • McCowan Station

If you live in Scarborough and we’ve missed your neighbourhood, let us know!

By Milan Gokhale, STA Ally

With a $2.5 billion TTC capital budget shortfall, why are we building a one-stop subway boondoggle?

Thanks to Mayor Tory’s 2.6% budget cut and chronic under funding of the TTC, there is a $2.5 billion shortfall in the 2017 – 2026 TTC capital budget. New buses, wheel trans buses and bus stop improvements for accessibility are not funded in this year’s budget. Neither are two hour transfers.

Read about the TTC Capital budget here.

However, Scarborough councillors are fine with a 1.6% property tax increase in order to generate $910 million for a $3.2 – 3.56 billion, one-stop subway. This includes $112 million to extend the life of the SRT until 2026 and $123 million to decommission the SRT. None of which would be necessary, had we stuck with the original seven-stop LRT plan.

The preferred alignment for the one-stop subway is yet to be determined but costs are expected to increase. The TTC is asking for $125 million for the Environmental Assessment of the Scarborough Subway Extension in the 2017 capital budget.

However, funding for the Eglinton East LRT is not included. It must compete with other transit projects like Smart Track and the Relief Line for funding.

If we returned to seven-stop Scarborough LRT, there would be enough money left over for the City to cover at least half the cost of the Eglinton East LRT. But with the ballooning costs of the Subway Extension, funding for the Eglinton East LRT has been eliminated. It’s time we start building an LRT network that connects with existing rapid transit lines across Toronto and serves transit riders in Scarborough’s Priority Neighbourhoods, university and college campuses, now.

Seven more reasons why a seven-stop LRT is a better option for Scarborough transit riders:

  1. Construction of the one stop extension is now estimated at $3.2 billion (with a B!). (A report on the alignment and an updated cost estimate is due to go to the TTC Commission on January 18th.) It is expected to rise even more once detailed design and engineering work is complete. There are much better uses for this money than a plan that not only does not add anything new to the Scarborough transit network but removes transit from Lawrence East, Ellesmere and Midland.
  2. The 7 stop LRT was already funded and shovel-ready. It would have provided more transit to Scarborough residents, all with significantly lower initial capital costs and ongoing operations spending, once in service.
  3. This $3.2 billion would be better spent on the TTC’s $2.5 billion capital backlog including the purchase of new buses and bus shelter improvements or allow us to have an LRT network serving more riders in more neighbourhoods.
  4. Soaring capital costs have been in the news but the cost of operating the Scarborough Subway Extension could make this project a truly massive waste. The TTC currently subsidizes the Sheppard Subway $10/ride due to low ridership. We can’t afford to make the same mistake again.
  5. Service cuts to routes in Scarborough due to budget cuts have already happened; expecting riders to use this diminishing bus network to access a one-stop subway, is sheer folly.
  6. Reversing the decision to build the “stubway” will mean a more sustainable TTC budget in years to come; sustainability, along with progressive revenue tools, is key to solving Toronto’s chronic budget problems. Let’s not add to them with such an ill conceived transit plan
  7. The 7.5 km subway tunnel to Scarborough Town Centre will be deeper than the rest of the Bloor/Danforth line and protecting against a relatively high water table along the route will require much more concrete than a typical subway station. All of this will require maintenance over time, in addition to the normal costs of running rapid transit. The seven-stop Scarborough LRT does not require expensive tunneling and maintenance. It has its own right of way, separate from traffic. Clearly, this is a much more sensible option.

Scarborough Residents are being tricked by their own councillors

 

By Khalidha Nasiri, STA member

For the past two weeks, STA has been canvassing in communities near Lawrence East and Ellesmere stations, two stations which will effectively shut down under Council’s current plan for a one-stop Scarborough subway extension (SSE), but would have remained with a 7-stop LRT. (For those who are not aware: There are three stations between Kennedy and STC on the RT line, and all three – Lawrence East, Ellesmere, and Midland – will be eliminated under the plan for the SSE.) We have been informing residents of Council’s plan, and were surprised to discover something:

99% of them knew nothing about it.

Scarborough Transit Action has talked with riders on the RT and has gone door to door  to residents in the areas of these stations and discovered that most people did not know of these plans.  This despite the fact that many were people (students and adults alike) who rely on these stations. This despite the fact that many were homeowners who purchased the house due to its proximity to a transit station. The few who were aware were furious about it and were very happy that STA was raising the issue.  And, without exception, everyone we spoke with wanted the previously planned 7-stop LRT instead.

How could this happen? Scarborough city councillors swear to their soul that all of Scarborough wants the subway (despite recent polls showing the exact opposite – see featured image). And, as far as they are concerned, anyone who doesn’t want the subway – even if you live in Scarborough – is not a true resident of Scarborough. (#throwback to when Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker literally said: “Are you even from here?” when STA’s Chair Brenda Thompson questioned the SSE).

This is a problem. There are neighbourhoods in Scarborough unaware of a major plan for rapid transit that will significantly reduce their access, yet Council is barging ahead  on the premise that Scarborough is behind it.

Let’s be clear about one thing: We are not. I repeat, Scarborough does not want a one-stop subway, no matter what Glenn de Baeremaeker tells you.

This goes to show that Scarborough city councillors are not doing their job. Their constituents, whether homeowners or transit riders, are either not aware at all or are aware generally but don’t know the exact details of what their options even were. Every single resident we spoke to supported the 7-stop LRT once we explained the difference between the one-stop subway and 7-stop LRT (in terms of cost, number of stops and their locations, timeline of construction, etc.). None of them were informed about the plan by their City Councillor, who in this case of Lawrence East is Michael Thompson.

This also goes to show that Council is moving forward with the SSE despite the fact that the very people who it would supposedly benefit – actual transit riders – do not know about it and do not support it.

Transit riders know that what we need know is local transit; transit that can not only take us beyond Scarborough, but also make it easier for us to travel within Scarborough. Approximately 50% of trips that originate in Scarborough end in Scarborough – so it just makes sense. The 7-stop LRT is the only option that would provide this much needed local transit, while at the same time allowing the existing stations to stay – Lawrence East, Ellesmere, and Midland. But Scarborough city councillors refuse to advocate for this plan that would benefit their constituents, forget informing them of their options.

Case in point. The job has been left to grassroots organizations like STA to pick up the slack from our city councillors. We will do whatever we can to educate Scarborough because our city councillors won’t. We will do whatever we can to advocate on behalf of Scarborough residents to ensure we get the rapid transit we deserve.

As 2017 dawns on us, we hope it will be the Year of the LRT. We hope it will be the year where Council for once acknowledges that their plan isn’t the best one and instead pursues the LRT. We hope it will be the year Scarborough councillors stop making us seem like a pity case. We are not a pity case. Scarborough stands strong and we need LRTs. And we need them now!

If that doesn’t make us true Scarborough residents in De Baeremaeker’s books, we gladly accept the honour.

 

Take some time to read this awesome recent blog post by Shaun Cleaver, one of STA’s members, on why Scarborough deserves transit that provides us with a network and value.

Check out our December newsletter for information on upcoming important dates and how you can get involved.

A New Year: Time for a new way of talking about transit in Scarborough?

At first, it seemed like 2016 would not end on a terrible note. After a few solid years of tampering, tinkering, flipping, and flopping, it looked like some consensus had been reached and we might actually move forward to see transit improve in Scarborough. Just as we were about to raise our glasses to a new era of stability into the holiday season, the usual suspects of politicians decided to rip off the scabs and open the old wounds of frantic and disjointed transit plans once more.

This political tinkering with transit in Scarborough is far from new; in fact it extends over more than 30 years. We all know that things have heated up greatly since 2010. Around that time some people proposed the idea that subways were the top of Toronto’s transit food chain – the universal solution to every travel problem – and that proposing anything else was merely forcing mediocrity on unwitting victims. In all of the GTA, this way of talking has taken hold strongest in Scarborough where it has been deployed in battle terms: subways vs. LRTs, subway-rich ‘downtown’ vs. subway-poor Scarborough. It is said that nobody wins a war, and in this battle it is transit riders in Scarborough who have fared the worst: actual planning and construction has been thrown aside as haphazard and ill-informed proposals waste our time and our money.

So why has it been so popular for politicians to talk like this? Well, according to investigative journalism and informed editorial, this has been political gold for the people who use it. We could go on about the self-proclaimed “Defenders of Scarborough” and “Subway Champions,” but that is not the point of this article. After all, we are of the opinion that the best way to deal with folks who seek attention by promoting foolishness is to ignore the foolishness that they promote. Instead of perpetuating the “battle” that politicians win and transit riders lose, we would like to promote something more useful: new and better ways of talking about transit in Scarborough.

Our resolution for 2017 is that any discussion about the new transit that we need in Scarborough be based on two central points: 1) network, and 2) value.

Network

Contrary to many of our politicians, riders of the TTC know that public transit functions as a network with many different parts. It is this network effect that allows us to get from a huge number of ‘Points A’ to any number of ‘Points B’, and it is this effect that makes a public transit system useful for actually getting around a city to conduct any one of the many trips that are useful in daily life.

I suppose we can forgive our politicians for not knowing this since we do not see them much on the inside of a transit vehicle unless there are photographers around. Forgiving is, however, not the same as accepting short sightedness and ignorance. We will not accept the latter.

Thinking that the TTC is the subway is an extremely partial view that ignores that even with 3 or 4 times the amount of subway we have now, most TTC trips would still involve a bus or a streetcar in order to get on the system in the first place. That is unless you think it is normal to have to walk a few kilometres on at least one end of every trip you make. Think about how some people talk about subways as the only type of public transit. Now imagine a similar proposition for cars:

“Since driveways are in the way and nobody likes side streets, we will instead replace all of these in Scarborough with three…no maybe four…mega parking lots. Only the best parking lots for Scarborough! World class parking lots.”

Ridiculous, I know. Yet when people talk about a subway or two – or even a Smart Track – as a silver bullet answer to all of our travel woes, they are basically dumbing down our complex transit system in the same way. And this could seriously punish Scarborough transit riders for yet another generation.

Subways can be an important part of a network, but they are rarely a network in and of themselves. Even cities like London, Hong Kong, New York and Paris – cities built to densities that make public transit far more useful than in the ‘designed mostly for cars’ sprawling GTA – rely on a variety of public transit arrangements, not only what we call subways here.

Since a functional and useful transit network allows a whole bunch of different people to start and finish their trips in different places, anyone who is talking about new transit should be able to talk about the trips you need to make. And these trips should not just be a blank statement about “going downtown”: people talking like this seem to forget that people need a way to get to a subway station in the first place. On top of this, even if a rider could get to a Line 2 subway station in Scarborough, the subway going downtown is not much use if they cannot fit onto a train at Bloor-Yonge because the entire system is out of whack.

People need to know not only how to get from their home to work, but also to the grocery store and how their kids will get to school. They also need to know “by building this, what will we lose?” A very popular mantra for at least four years now has been that we can have whatever we want, through magic and for free. Meanwhile, the reality has been that the same people proposing this have mostly cut services, and raised user-fees; deciding to not talk about those things while bragging about “respecting the tax-payer.” The fact remains that sometimes by paying for one thing, we cannot pay for another, and that brings us to the second important point about how to talk about transit: considering value.

Value

Since transit networks exist to get us from Points A to Points B, and can be built in any number of functional and useful ways, there are many possible ways that a good network could be built. So when we are looking to build one, or add on to an existing one, how do we choose the ones that make the most sense for our city, or our part of the city?

Regardless of how you choose to dream or cover every need, at some point you will run into limitations and tradeoffs. Unfortunately, this fact is a hard element of reality. Limitations can relate to things like space or natural resources, but in Canada, in this day and age, the prime limitation that we are told we face is that of money. On the subject of money we could take a tangent on what are essentially gifts of public money to corporations, but that is beside the point today. For the time being, let us accept that there is a given amount of money to be spent and the challenge is about how to spend it to provide the biggest benefit. Enter the concept of value.

One chronic mistake that well-meaning transit advocates have made in recent years was to talk about cost. In comparing the Line 2 subway extension (aka “the Scarborough subway”) to an LRT running through Scarborough Town Centre and Centennial College towards Malvern, one LRT argument has been that it is cheaper. As advocates for better transit in Scarborough we do not want cheap things for Scarborough and therefore reject this argument. We want good things, and that is why we preferred the LRT replacement and extension of the SRT. Why? Because it would serve more destinations, more people would live near the stations, because it reaches further into Scarborough, and because it is already designed and ready to be built.

Seeing as the LRT would have not only been better, but since it would also have been less money, it is substantially more valuable for our investment. Previous plans that would connect far more neighbourhoods and the universities and colleges have been shelved because of a lack of money. More buses? Definitely. Even with an extensive LRT network, many people who live, work, shop and play in Scarborough will need to ride a bus for part of their trip. This does not need to be a bad thing: even if we wanted to, we could not completely change Scarborough by moving it from its currently spread out form to one intensified around higher-order transit. The suburban design of Scarborough is therefore something that needs to be considered as we build the most valuable network.

Moving forward in 2017?

Interestingly, some analysts have noted that the politicians may have put their own pet project at risk through their own tinkering. Indeed, their talking more about this has given us a reason to raise our voices about the initial circumvention of actual transit planning processes, particularly the engagement of current riders.

In light of all of this, we think that the noise created by our politicians, crafted in populism, developed for sound bites, and delivered as Scarborough vs the World, further damages our ability to get around. As citizens and as transit riders we propose that we can drown this out by speaking intelligibly; by making our own contributions that are based on experience yet grounded in principles. Centering this talk around networks, and the value of the possible additions to it, is already a dramatic improvement on our civic discourse. It is then up to our “leaders” to keep up, if they so choose. After all, we have spent a lot of time waiting unpredictably at all-too-crowded stops.

We are no longer willing to do so into 2017. The LRT option is clearly superior to the subway in terms of network and value, and Scarborough transit riders deserve no less.

 

By Shaun Cleaver, STA Ally