Councillor Josh Matlow

National Post: Sheppard panel picks light rail over subway

March 15, 2012


The Sheppard advisory panel is overwhelmingly endorsing a light rail line — not a subway — for Sheppard Avenue.


The panel’s report is not due for release until Friday, although panel member and former vice-chairman for the TTC Gordon Chong confirmed the results on Thursday night.


“I doubt that anybody would be that surprised by the majority being pro-LRT considering the make-up of the panel,” said Mr. Chong, a subway advocate.


Four panel members were strongly in support of the LRT model and one was lukewarm, leaving Mr. Chong as the sole voice of dissent, he said.


Commissioned by city council on Feb. 8 to study the best way to extend transit on Sheppard Avenue East, the panel comprises representatives from Metrolinx, the TTC, the Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance and former mayor David Crombie.


“The advisory panel is a bias panel we all know that … I listen to the residents and the taxpayers,” said Mayor Ford, speaking at a pro-subway event in Scarborough on Thursday.


Holding signs that said, “Honk 4 Subways,” Mr. Ford and a group of Scarborough allies walked down Sheppard Avenue


Asked how the $4-billion line would be financed, Mayor Ford told the crowd “put the shovel to the ground and the money will come.”


It is possible councillors could ignore the panel’s recommendation when they review the report on March 21.


Mr. Chong said he hoped council would ignore the recommendations for up to 12 months in order to collect bids on a public-private partnership.


“If you really want to get the biggest bang for the taxpayer buck, you’ve got to do that,” he said.


TTC Chair Karen Stintz said in a tweet Thursday night that a Sheppard subway could be built without taxpayer funds only if the line carried volumes of more than 15,000 people per hour, per direction. “Year 2031 Sheppard projection? 3,000,” she wrote.


Councillor Josh Matlow also tweeted: “With big promises, bumper sticker rhetoric and no actual plan, no one has stopped Rob Ford from building subways other than Rob Ford.”


Addressing the rally in Scarborough, Patrick Sherman, spokesman for SAFE (Subways Are For Everyone), announced that Toronto was due for another town hall meeting on transit. Moderated by John Tory, it will he held Monday at the Scarborough Civic Centre.


Residents of Toronto have seen their fair share of town halls over the past few weeks. LRT advocates Councillor Josh Matlow and Ms. Stintz held a town hall at Eglinton Avenue three weeks ago. The Taxpayers Coalition, a subway-advocacy group, organized a town hall at the Civic Centre on March 8 to a crowd of a few hundred people.


“The last meeting tapped into that anger, that passion. This meeting is going to be about information — it will bring about facts that have tended to be ignored,” said Councillor Norm Kelly.


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