Chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat says city council now needs to make the tough decisions on an “optimized” plan.
June 21, 2016
The Toronto Star
Jennifer Keesmaat is Toronto’s chief planner. (Steve Russell / Toronto Star)
The city’s chief planner says the question over how to build transit in Scarborough is one of “priorities” — a dilemma now facing council.
A report released Tuesday on a future transit network for the city recommends moving ahead with plans for both a one-stop subway extension and an LRT along Eglinton Ave., despite updated cost estimates showing the subway alone would eat up nearly all of the available funding.
“The question is one of competing priorities, and that really is a decision for city council to make,” Jennifer Keesmaat told reporters Tuesday night.
“The work that you see before you today is based on a recognition that there are critical decisions, and important decisions, that need to be made around funding, in order to continue to advance the livability of the city.”
Keesmaat had earlier proposed an “optimized” transit plan for Scarborough, one that reduced the number of proposed subway stops from three to one, ending the extension at the Scarborough Town Centre. She said the estimated savings could fund an LRT line along Eglinton Ave. with up to 17 new stops.
The LRT was seen as a political compromise on a subway plan which has been described by critics as a political football being used by Scarborough councillors and Mayor John Tory to win votes.
With only $3.56 billion currently committed to the Scarborough projects from three levels of government, critics question whether a single subway stop costing $2.9 billion can be justified.
Keesmaat defended the rationale on Tuesday, saying the extension would create “an urban growth centre” at a “key destination.”
The line is proposed to run six kilometres — the longest single gap on between stations in the entire TTC network — between Kennedy Station and the suburban mall.
“It’s actually not uncommon on a regional scale, particularly in large cities, to have an express service and much larger station spacing when you get out to the periphery of a city, where there is in fact lower density and where you’re seeking to build the infrastructure to get to a specific destination,” she said.
With the aging Scarborough RT reaching the end of its life, city-building experts and transit advocates have said there is justification for connecting the Scarborough Town Centre to new rapid transit. But they argue a seven-stop LRT originally approved by council and fully funded by the province would still connect Scarborough’s City Centre to the Bloor-Danforth line while providing more stations for half the cost.
“For the same price, Scarborough could either receive a network of 25 rapid transit stops connecting Centennial College, U of T (Scarborough), Scarborough Town Centre and several neighbourhoods throughout Scarborough, versus spending $3 billion on one subway stop that would leave most Scarborough residents on the bus,” Councillor Josh Matlow said Monday.
Keesmaat has said a critical reason for recommending the Eglinton LRT was that creating local stations would complement an “express” subway. Acccording to the city’s own data, 48 per cent of transit trips that start in Scarborough also end in Scarborough.
Council is now being asked to approve hiring third-party experts to review the TTC estimate for building the subway along a McCowan Rd. alignment.
TTC CEO Andy Byford has said while he welcomes a third-party review, the TTC had already consulted externally on its cost estimate and that it would be a “challenge” to find hundreds of millions in savings needed to fund both the subway and the LRT within the $3.56 billion available.
Executive will debate the transit plan on June 28. Council meets starting July 12.
To see this article in its original form, please visit: https://www.thestar.com/news/city_hall/2016/06/21/1-billion-funding-gap-for-scarborough-transit-a-question-of-priorities.html