Yes, Scarborough "deserves" a subway.
But, the transit plan put forth by Mayor Rob Ford in the name of Scarborough "taxpayers" does very little to improve transit for the majority of Scarborough residents. His plan to extend the Sheppard subway into Scarborough comes with no funding, no time line, and, quite frankly, no justification.
It could happen, one day, when billions of dollars are found somewhere despite these tough economic times. I like to dream too, but sometimes one needs to be realistic.
The Sheppard LRT was a concrete, funded plan that would have brought faster transit to residents from Victoria Park to Conlins Road in northeast Scarborough, and work had already begun.
The fantastical Sheppard subway extension has many issues including that it costs five times the $1 billion price tag of the LRT and it would end at the Scarborough Town Centre.
As someone intimately familiar with Scarborough I can tell you there's a lot of Scarborough left east of McCowan Road (until recently I lived at the furthest reaches of Sheppard Avenue East). Even if the subway plan found a wealthy benefactor it still leaves thousands of residents in Malvern and beyond having to make multiple transfers on buses and endure commutes that are far too long.
Under Transit City, Scarborough was the No. 1 priority. The Sheppard LRT was to be completed and operational by early 2014. In just a few years someone who lives at Morningside and Sheppard avenues would have been able to hop on an LRT and travel to the Sheppard subway (if that was their final destination) in 15 minutes less than it now takes on a bus.
Sure, a subway would probably shave off 20 or even 30 minutes, but a conservative estimate for a subway is probably 2022 (more likely 2025 or 2030). That's an extra eight years of a longer commute.
Finally, there are density requirements to warrant the construction of a subway and in its current state that doesn't exist along Sheppard where single family neighbourhoods abut the major thoroughfare.
My guess is the same people who campaigned so strongly for Mayor Ford because they were opposed to the LRT would be the first in line to protest the construction of high rise towers that would be necessary to make the plan viable, such as those at Bayview or Leslie along the current Sheppard subway route.
So in the current debate of whether to bury the Eglinton LRT or not through Scarborough, I say leave it above ground and take just part of that $1.5 billion savings to finish what was started on the Sheppard LRT.
Because more than anything, Scarborough residents deserve action. Now.
Danielle Milley is a Toronto Community News reporter and proud Scarborough native.