I strongly believe that the best way to break our current grid-lock and keep our City moving forward is to build a fast, efficient and well-connected public transportation network that stretches across all areas of Toronto. As we strive to serve more areas of Toronto with transit it is important that we build new lines with City-wide vision plus respect for local circumstances and the inclusion of different modes – subway, LRT, streetcar and bus.
Recently, Council decided to extend the Bloor-Danforth Subway line north from Kennedy Starion to the Scarborough Town Centre. I voted in support of this subway because local circumstances merit a subway and the preference of Scarborough residents – as clearly stated through by their representatives on Council – was for a subway over LRT. I will always support local preferences where there is a solid case to do so and there were very good reasons to support subway technology in this case:
- Better traveling speed
- More riders: up to 5 million more trips per year than LRT
- Eliminates need to switch between transit mode
- More connectivity for the northeast quadrant of the city
- The existing SRT will not have to be shut down during subway construction, eliminating the need to run 40 buses/hr for 4 years, as would be the case during LRT construction
- No impact on currently approved projects
Clearly, there were also strong reasons to support LRT along this route:
- More stations
- Less cost
- Closer to more priority neighbourhoods
- Sunk costs
This was a very difficult decision. Ultimately, I voted with 27 of my colleagues from across the political spectrum to approve a subway for Scarborough with conditions. Our conditions will ensure there is no impact on existing city services and projects, no transfer of monies from the Eglinton, Sheppard or Finch LRT projects, AND clear major funding commitments from the federal and provincial governments.
We also put in place a deadline of September 30th - two and a half months - to meet these conditions. If provincial and federal funding commitments cannot be confirmed, then Metrolinx has assured the City that the agreement to build an LRT line remains in effect and we would only be delayed by two and a half months on the original plan.
If the Provincial and Federal funding sources can be confirmed, City of Toronto will contribute $560 million. For residents this will mean a 1.1% - 2.4% tax increase phased in over 3 years, which translates to $6.50 per year for four years for the average family.
This commitment by City Council to invest in a subway for Scarborough is significant. Our investment will enable us to build a line which would carry twice the amount of people and be in service twice as long as the originally envisioned LRT. It is also significant in that it marks the first time that our Mayor has agreed to raise additional revenue for a transit project. It signals a shared recognition that we will build the transit network of our dreams only if we commit to tapping new revenue sources to fund it.
With this newfound willingness to commit new revenue to building transit, I am now working to turn Council's attention to the downtown relief line and addressing the local circumstances and preferences of downtown west. Our local circumstance is that we have the existing Georgetown rail corridor and our local preference is to electrify this corridor and to increase local service as soon as possible. I am pleased that our TTC Chair will be bringing my proposal to investigate the feasibility of using the Georgetown GO Transit Corridor as a western Downtown Relief Line to the next TTC meeting.
Council's decision to build a subway in Scarborough means that we advanced local preferences as well as a City-wide transit vision. I am optimistic that we can continue our momentum in downtown west and elsewhere and keep our City moving forward in the months and years to come.