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.