Scarborough subway details poised for approval, but critics vow to continue fight

1 / 2
Ex-mayoral candidate, longtime city staffer favourites to win Scarborough Ward 44 appointment

Mayor John Tory is vowing to keep fighting critics of the Scarborough subway extension as the issue returns to city hall Tuesday.

Council will vote on whether or not to approve the alignment of the $3.35-billion subway plan, which Coun. Josh Matlow called a "boondoggle," while also choosing between two designs for the Scarborough Town Centre bus terminal where more than 20 TTC routes are set to drop off riders.

However some councillors still want the city to go back to a light-rail plan to serve the area and plan to use the meeting to raise that option.

Tory, who was greeted with applause at a Scarborough business luncheon on Monday, says the LRT just isn't on the table.

"We're going to build a subway, but we're also going to have SmartTrack running right through Scarborough," Tory told the crowd, noting he wants the Eglinton East LRT built, as well.

"Decades from now, nobody will question the wisdom of this decision."

Tory told reporters no vote at city hall is routine, however he expects council to approve the plan as it has in nine previous votes. All but one Scarborough councillor — Paul Ainslie — support the plan.

"It's big, and it's bold, but that's the kind of investment Scarborough needs," he said.

Critics not giving up

Ahead of the meeting, Coun. Josh Matlow — who unsuccessfully pushed for the city to go back to the LRT plan last summer — sent a series of questions to staff.

Matlow wants to know if the province would still pay for the LRT, as it had offered to do in the past, and whether or not there's a business case comparing the one-stop subway plan to a potential LRT line.

Matlow says he believes the LRT is so much cheaper than the subway that both the seven-stop line to replace the aging Scarborough RT and Eglinton East LRT could be built with the $3.56 billion allotted for Scarborough transit. Currently, the Scarborough subway alone is set to use up most of that funding, leaving the city searching for more funding.

"Why shouldn't we provide a remarkable rapid transit network for Scarborough, for virtually the same price as one subway stop?" Matlow told CBC Toronto.

The St. Paul's councillor also plans to ask staff why only five per cent of the subway's design is complete after months of work, and what federal and provincial funding is in place.

Get used to the bus, Ryerson prof warns Scarborough residents

Murtaza Haider, an associate professor at Ryerson's Ted Rogers School of Management, released a new report comparing the Scarborough subway and proposed seven-stop LRT line in terms of how long it will take people to get to the station.

His findings? Scarborough residents will spend seven more minutes travelling to the subway than potential LRT stops.

The average commute time to the Scarborough Town Centre, Haider found, is 27.3 minutes, most of which will be spent on a bus. People will also have to travel farther, with most going 6.1 kilometres to access the subway — compared to 4.7 kilometres for the LRT.

Tory dismissed Haider's findings when asked about them, saying the bus lines would be optimized once the subway is up and running. That's "ridiculous," Haider said.

"Why will you do that in the future … you haven't done that in the past 30, 40 years" he said, adding the only way to speed up buses in any major way is to build them their own corridors, like Ottawa's system.

"The reality is that whatever you do to bus transit, buses travel a kilometre in five minutes, that's it."

The report uses data form Google maps, the census and travel demand modelling software to create the estimates.

Subway on 'life support,' says Mammoliti

Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti, meanwhile, said he won't support the mayor's subway plan, which is now on "life support." Instead, he favours extending the Sheppard subway line from Sheppard West Station to Scarborough Town Centre.

"I predict that contrary to Mayor Tory's politically-driven agenda, the current white elephant of the Line 2 extension to Scarborough Centre — vigorously championed by the mayor — will never get built," Mammoliti said in a news release.

Mammoliti says he believes Tory's SmartTrack plan isn't compatible with the subway and that the two plans will "cannibalize" one another's ridership.

Scarborough residents deserve real transit connections," the councillor said in his news release.

"The current Scarborough Subway alignment may be good for Mayor Tory's re-election bid, but it is not good for Scarborough or Toronto."

The subway debate is expected to dominate Tuesday's meeting, though council will also debate a number of other issues. 

Correction : An earlier version of this story quoted Coun. Josh Colle describing the Scarborough subway as a "boondoggle." That quote should have been attributed to Coun. Josh Matlow.(Mar 28, 2017 8:11 AM)