Ward 42 voters may be weary, having seen three byelection campaigns in the last year, but there’s one thing many of them want to talk about.
“Every (campaign) flyer says ‘I want to build a subway,’” says Hratch Aynedjian, one of 29 people running to fill the ward’s council seat on Monday, Feb. 13.
That Scarborough-Rouge River residents dream of rapid-transit reaching the area isn’t surprising. The area in northeast Scarborough is known for its long commutes to downtown.
The current crowd of prospective councillors is divided between who merely want to improve the area’s TTC bus service, and those who will, if elected, will demand a subway that reaches the ward.
ome want a Bloor-Danforth extension to Scarborough Town Centre - current pricetag $3.4 billion - to continue north of Highway 401. Former Ward 42 Councillor Raymond Cho, now the local MPP, said he’d fight for this.
Aynedjian, Cho’s former executive assistant and running with his endorsement, has pledged “to ensure that the extension of the Sheppard Subway line to Malvern Town Centre becomes a reality.”
The City of Toronto has no current plans to extend the Sheppard line east from Don Mills Road, let alone a budget for doing it.
City planners want a relief line downtown to be Toronto’s next subway project. Mayor John Tory also coupled the one-stop subway extension to STC with an Eglinton East light-rail transit line from Kennedy Station to University of Toronto Scarborough, but now has no money to build the latter.
Then there’s the Sheppard East LRT line, which the province seems to have voluntarily stalled after approving its construction from Don Mills to as far east as Morningside Avenue.
This week, Aynedjian said Ward 42’s residents want a subway, not surface light rail. As a councillor, he said, he will “be working towards” bringing the Sheppard Subway to Malvern, though he admitted it’s difficult to guess at a timeline for construction.
“It’s not going to happen for a while,” he said.
Aynedjian said developers are interested in Malvern, and arguments for a Sheppard extension will be stronger after more riders start using new express buses running from Morningside to Yonge Street.
Another Ward 42 candidate, Kingsley Kwok, questioned Aynedjian’s focus on a Sheppard subway.
“This type of promise is why we’re in this mess,” Kwok said, asking why Aynedjian, who has been around city government for 20 years, thinks Toronto City Council would support a Sheppard extension.
Kwok, a board member of the advocacy group TTCriders, said he supports building both the Sheppard East and the Eglinton East LRT lines as well as reversing service cuts on the 133 Neilson and 85 Sheppard bus routes.
Neethan Shan, another candidate, said as councillor he’d concentrate on seeing the Bloor-Danforth extension built to STC, and then to seeing the Eglinton East LRT built and extended to Malvern. “That’s what I will be championing.”
There’s no shortage, though, of other candidates campaigning for a direct subway link now, insisting when answering a survey the city does indeed have the money to build one.
Randy Washington, who’s also running, said a subway is needed in Malvern, given the ward has so many young people, but he said politicians “have to be straight up” with residents about when construction will start and where the money will come from. Malvern wants more than a promise, he said.