Re: City of Toronto Agenda Item 2018.EX34.32 – Accountability and Transparency in Transit Planning – Judicial Inquiry into Information Provided to Councillors regarding the Scarborough Subway Extension and the Scarborough Light Rail Line at the July 2016 Council Meeting
Dear Members of the Toronto City Council Executive Committee:
I support the Judicial Inquiry into Information Provided to Councillors regarding the Scarborough Subway Extension and the Scarborough Light Rail Line at the July 2016 Council Meeting. I support the views of the mover Councillor Josh Matlow and seconder Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam.
I believe that true information about what happened at that Council meeting that has so adversely affected decisions surrounding the kind of transit service to all regions of Scarborough needs to be made public and preferably prior to the next Municipal election in the Fall of 2018.
For some inexplicable reason mayor Tory and a majority of City Councillors as well as the Liberal Provincial government supported what came to be a one stop Scarborough subway extension ending at the Scarborough Town Centre with major capital costs and operational costs being dumped onto City taxpayers (a property tax surcharge over 30 years) over the original seven stop Scarborough Light Rail Line, which was slated to be paid for by the Province, including operational costs.
This decision to go with the one stop subway that leaves Scarborough residents beyond that point, travelling on buses for at least another generation, defies logic. This decision was obviously driven by a set of political reasons; 1. the Provincial Liberals supported it to get Liberal MP Mitzie Hunter elected in the last Provincial election and 2. to please then Mayor Rob Ford who could only say ‘subways, subways subways, without understanding that the LRT would have its own right of way and would be as fast as a subway and would serve so many more people, including students of Centennial College campuses. The LRT is far more cost-effective and adequate to serve the projected ridership calculated by City staff into the future.
One now suspects that the fix is in. Somehow the desires of large real estate holders and developers of properties at Scarborough Town Centre, known as Oxford Properties are taking precedence over the needs of Scarborough residents as far east as Malvern Town Centre. The Mayor even promotes the idea that the one stop SSE will aid development around the Scarborough Town Centre. That is not what the original SLRL (LRT) was designed for. The SLRL was designed to give the best flexible transit (7 stations at grade) for all residents of Scarborough at a cost consistent with the projected ridership, which cost is not large enough to warrant $billions for a one stop subway. Councillor Matlow says in his Summary: “In 2013 Council moved away from a 7-Stop Light Rail Transit line in Scarborough that would have the same top speed as a subway, travel in its own corridor, and be fully-funded by the Province. In its place, Council was presented with a Scarborough Subway Extension in July 2016 that is proposed to have 1-stop with an estimated cost of $3.35 billion dollars and is projected to serve only 7,300 residents during the morning rush hour – less than some bus routes.”
The $3.5 to $5 billion cost of the one stop SSE also drains needed revenues away from other necessary transit projects such as the Eglinton East LRT (presently unfunded) with proposed 17 more stops (and surface stations are far less expensive than subway stations which are essentially two stations, one on the surface, one underground with all the excavation, and stairs, escalators, and elevators required with ongoing operational costs) and even the much more needed Downtown Relief line (still not funded and many years from completion) to deal with dangerous crowding on subways and platforms.
Residents of Scarborough have gradually awakened to the fact that they will lose the five stations, never to be replaced, that currently exist on the Scarborough Rapid Transit line (SRT) when it is closed down as subway tunneling begins. They are not happy about it. Polling of Scarborough residents by groups such as Scarborough Transit action and others, indicate that most Scarborough residents travel within Scarborough, not between Toronto and Scarborough. The one stop SSE therefore does not serve the majority of Scarborough citizens. It begs the question – for whom is this one stop SSE being built? Certainly not for the people of Scarborough.
The original seven stop SLRL (LRT) is not dead. The legal contracts to start it are still in existence. The SSE is nowhere near the beginning of construction.
Please pass City of Toronto Agenda Item 2018.EX34.32 and send it back to City Council where it is hoped that wisdom will finally prevail.