Scarborough Centre Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker is banking that a report by TTC staff indicating that replacing the Scarborough SRT line with a full-bore subway would cost $500 million will be enough to resuscitate debate on the issue.
“This report breathes fresh breath into the One City transit proposal,” said De Baeremaeker. “It says you can do it and do it at a reasonable amount of money.”
De Baememaeker and TTC Chair Karen Stintz had pitched council last spring on a proposal for a massive, city-led public transit build that would have put light rail, buses and subways across Toronto.
De Baeremaeker tried to convince council to approve the plan and prioritize as the first project a replacement of the aging Scarborough SRT line running from Kennedy Station to McCowan Road.
The line is currently slated for replacement with light rail by Metrolinx, its cost of $2.3 billion covered by the provincial government.
A subway, according to TTC staff, would cost $2.8 billion.
The report says the corridor could be “effectively served by either light rail or subway. A subway replacement would offer the benefit of a transfer-free ride through Kennedy Station and a higher speed than light rail. A light rail replacement would offer the benefit of greater geographical coverage and better local walk access for twice as many residents and workers, and would cost less to build.”
The report also recommends that the commission avoid “another prolonged debate over the future of the Scarborough RT, which might jeopardize Metrolinx’s commitment to fully rehabilitate and expand the deteriorating Scarborough RT.”
The report also pours cold water on the idea of a subway along Sheppard Avenue, saying, “overall, the corridor would be effectively served by light rail transit, with greater overall coverage, ample capacity of future growth, and a much-lower cost than a subway.”
De Baeremaeker said the report shows that Mayor Rob Ford’s plan to build a subway along Sheppard — a plan that Toronto Council nixed last year — is not feasible, and despite its recommendations to avoid debate on the Scarborough RT’s future, nonetheless makes a good case for a subway.
“The problem is the mayor promised the wrong subway — he promised the subway system that he thought would win votes,” said De Baeremaeker. “Perhaps it did, but it’s not a valid honest proposal because it can’t be built.”
The report comes to the Toronto Transit Commission Monday for information only. If the commission wishes to debate it, it will have to do so at its February meeting.