SETAC – South Etobicoke Transit Action Committee

Scarborough Subway Extension Sucking Funds from more worthwhile Transit Projects

Former Toronto mayor says 1-stop extension will do little for bus-bound commuters on CBC Radio 1’s Metro Morning.

Mar 21, 2017

The cost of a long-debated one-stop subway extension in Scarborough is currently pegged at $3.35 billion, with the issue set to go to city council next week. Former mayor David Miller spoke with Matt Galloway on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning about what he thinks of the plan.

Questions and answers have been condensed.

Matt Galloway: $3.35 billion for a one-stop subway in Scarborough… what do you think?

David Miller: First of all, that won’t be the price tag. I think everyone recognizes that — it will be well higher. One of the reasons is the conditions to build that subway is tricky, you have to drill through bedrock, that’s why they are not building more stations because it is prohibitively expensive. If you look at the subway in the context of what Toronto needs and what Scarborough needs, we need to build a transit network with limited funds that uses the right technology in the right places to meet the maximum amount of people — that particular one-stop expansion for a massive amount money meets exactly zero of those goals.

MG: You frame it as an equity issue.

DM: If you look at the lines that would be built with the money, or a little bit of additional funds, extending Sheppard and Eglinton East and rebuilding the Scarborough RT with an LRT, you serve neighbourhoods that the city has defined as neighbourhoods that need investment, neighbourhoods where people of low income live who predominantly travel on the bus. What this subway extension will do is say to people, “We’ve used all the money to benefit people who are at the end of the line, and nobody who is on the other potential stops for all of these LRT lines will get rapid transit. They have to stay on the bus.” These are people who are often working two or three part-time jobs, desperately need rapid transit to be able to spend far less time commuting.

MG: Do you think it will ever be built?

DM: I don’t believe so. I’ve watched these projects in my political career of over 25 years. I’ve voted for subways, I’ve supported subways. I’ve watched them get cancelled time and time again, because they are so horrendously expensive. There’s no way the subway will come in at $3.35 billion. At some point it will be over $4 [billion], and the government will be faced with the decision — are we really going to spend that kind of money for one-stop that doesn’t serve the needs of commuters within Scarborough to get around Scarborough, let alone to come downtown?

MG: Mayor John Tory strongly disagrees.

DM: A couple of points — the LRT network that would be built instead of the one-stop subway with approximately the same money serves places like Centennial College and the University of Toronto Scarborough campus, it knits those really important educational institutions into the fabric of Toronto through rapid transit. I think what will happen, if we ever build the one-stop, is people will look at it a bit like the Sheppard subway today and say, “Why did you do that?”

MG: What about people in Scarborough who say, “You can’t keep talking about this. You have to do something. I don’t care what it costs”?

DM: If you don’t care what it costs, then allocate the money to build the LRT lines as well and build them right into Centennial and UT Scarborough and finish Sheppard so you have a network to serve the needs of riders in Scarborough who want to ride around Scarborough. That’s a big flaw in this plan that doesn’t get discussed much. It makes it easier for people to go downtown if they are at the end of the line. If they are in the middle of the line today, their service is actually getting worse because now they have rapid transit, and in the future they’ll have to take a bus because there are no stops.

MG: Do you think the mayor should change his mind on this?

DM: I think the provincial government and the city government needs to do what’s right, and what’s right is using limited public funds with the right technology to build a transit network that serves the most people, particularly people with low income, who today are riding the bus.

MG: Why are you talking about this now? You have been pretty cautious in past interviews.

DM: Because I think building the right kind of transit network is at the heart of the kind of city we can be. It’s exceptionally important for transportation, obviously. It’s important for environment, and it’s important for social inclusion and social justice.

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