By Brenda Thompson, Founder and Chair of STA
The recent Toronto Transit Network report has Mayor John Tory forging ahead with Smart Track, the Eglinton West LRT, and the Scarborough Subway Extension (SSE). Meanwhile, the Eglinton and Sheppard East LRTs appear to have been dropped from the list of priorities. (Find out more about the city’s transit priorities here)
Sheppard East LRT still in limbo
Construction started on the Sheppard East LRT in 2009, but was cancelled in 2011. In 2012, the province took over delivery of Toronto LRTs from the TTC in order to privatize them . Since then, $300 million of the $1 billion in funding for Sheppard East has been diverted toward the Finch West LRT, with the delivery date bumped from 2021 to 2025.
At the Executive Committee meeting last July, Mayor Tory was committed to initiating talks with the province on the status of Sheppard East LRT. This was an attempt to placate the residents of Malvern, who were justified in not wanting to wait until 2025 for rapid transit to their neighbourhood.
Soon after this meeting, Ward 39 Councillor Jim Karygiannis successfully moved forward a study of an extension of the Sheppard Subway from Don Mills to Scarborough Town Centre.
Now it’s November 2016, and the report doesn’t indicate if recent negotiations between the city and the province have moved the Sheppard East LRT from “‘in limbo” status.
Funding for the 17-stop Eglinton East LRT is “to be decided”
The Eglinton East LRT could be up and running by 2021, but it’s unfunded. Until recently, it was in the list of transit priorities with Smart Track, the Relief Line, and the Eglinton West LRT.
Earlier this spring, the mayor proposed reducing the 3-stop SSE down to a one-stop to Scarborough Town Centre. This was done in order to use some of the $2.56 billion in funding for a 17-stop Eglinton East LRT from Kennedy station to U of T Scarborough. By July, costs for the one-stop ballooned to $3.2 billion, eliminating funding for the Eglinton East LRT.
As of today, the cost of the Scarborough Subway Extension has gone up to $3.56 billion and the funding arrangement for the Eglinton East LRT is “to be decided”.
The report indicates that the city and the province have negotiated a cost-sharing agreement for $11.4 billion worth of rapid transit projects. The list of projects include Smart Track, GO electrification, and 4 LRT lines in Toronto. Notably missing from that list is the Eglinton East LRT.
Joy Robertson, President of Scarborough Village Residents Unite, spoke to the Mayor’s Executive Committee on November 1st. She talked about the need for the Eglinton East LRT in Scarborough Village – a priority neighbourhood with a 45% child poverty rate. She asked when the Eglinton East LRT would be built. No one had an answer.
Together, the Scarborough, Eglinton and Sheppard East LRTs would provide a rapid transit network to downtown and across Scarborough. Construction could start now.
But it seems as if there are only 2 lines moving forward in Scarborough: Smart Track and the one-stop SSE. Both run parallel, in a north-south direction, serving commuters heading downtown. When will there be east-west service to Scarborough’s priority neighbourhoods, Centennial College, and UTSC?
One-stop Scarborough Subway Extension boondoggle
The SSE replaces a fully funded, grade separated, 7-stop Scarborough LRT that was part of the Transit City proposal by former mayor David Miller. But the SSE won’t be shovel ready until 2018. A report on the alignment, costs, and private sector delivery will go to the TTC Board on November 30th, and to the Executive Committee on December 1st.
The decision to build the one-stop SSE instead of the Scarborough and Eglinton East LRT was justified on the basis of a TTC memo. The memo claimed it would cost almost as much to build the 7-stop Scarborough LRT as it would to build the one-stop SSE. This memo was later revealed to be inaccurateby Jennifer Pagliaro of the Toronto Star.
The upcoming TTC report on the SSE should include the adjustment to the subway costs from $3.2 billion to $3.56 billion, so that the the errors in the TTC memo are addressed. But there is nothing to compel the TTC to correct the cost of the Scarborough LRT.
To better serve transit riders, we need to revisit the Scarborough LRT, and move forward on the Eglinton and Sheppard East LRTs now.