Mixed feelings about Tory's mixed-use subway plan in Scarborough

Scarborough residents have mixed feelings about Toronto Mayor John Tory’s mixed-use subway plan for east-end commuters.

New plan would see one-stop subway extension and 18-stop LRT line east to University of Toronto Scarborough

Toronto mayor John Tory unveiled his revised transit plan for Scarborough at a news conference Thursday afternoon. (CBC)

Scarborough residents have mixed feelings about Toronto Mayor John Tory's mixed-use subway plan for east-end commuters.

"All I can say is I was looking forward to the Sheppard stop," said Scarborough resident Sabira Walji.

Tory unveiled his revised transit plan for Scarborough at a news conference Thursday afternoon.

The new plan would see the number of new subway stops reduced to just one - at Scarborough Town Centre. The money saved would fund an 18-stop light-rail extension of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT running eastward to the University of Toronto Scarborough campus.  The new LRT would also connect to the Lakeshore East GO train line at the Eglinton and Guildwood stops.

The plan is good news to commuters CBC News spoke to, who are used to taking the aging Scarborough RT, which first opened in 1984, to connect to Kennedy subway station.

A welcome step forward

"The SRT is constantly breaking down especially in the winter time so even when it's running it's not that reliable," rider Alfred Ng said. "I don't think it's working at all for us."

But Walji, who has been driving from Markham to Scarborough Town Centre every morning to catch the train, said she had been looking forward to being able to catch the subway at Sheppard and McCowan Road.

"If I had a stop closer to home, which would be Sheppard, it would be more helpful for me," Walji said.

The Sheppard subway station isn't the only casualty under the new plan. A proposed Lawrence station is also set to be scrapped.

The proposed LRT line will extend the reach of the current TTC map 12-kilometres east from Kennedy station – a welcome step forward for many in Scarborough.

"It would be nice because trying to get the connection of all of these buses is just overwhelming sometimes," says Valarie Skinner.

Running Smart Track like a subway

But some experts say the key to Toronto's transit transformation actually lies in the mayor's proposed SmartTrack plan that would run from Stouffville all the way down to Union station.

SmartTrack, which was the centrepiece of Tory's election campaign, would run commuter trains every 15 minutes mostly along existing GO rail corridors. A U-shaped line was originally proposed to run into downtown from Mt. Dennis in the northwest, down to Union Station then follow the GO Stouffville line up to Unionville. 

The plan initially called for 22 stations to be built in seven years, but earlier this week Tory proposed a significant change, calling for a light-rail section on its western leg. However, the eastern leg of the SmartTrack proposal would remain intact.

"There's a huge chunk of Scarborough north of the 401 that basically is getting cut off the map," said transit blogger Steve Munro.  "The whole thing collapses if SmartTrack doesn't work."

"SmartTrack then becomes the only line that's going to provide north-south service through Scarborough crossing Highway 401," Munro says.

One major issue that the new plan doesn't address, Munro argues, is that there's much more traffic within Scarborough going from south to north than there is from Scarborough to downtown.

"There's a whole lot of ifs that this depends on and the big one is being able to run SmartTrack like a subway," Munro said.

The proposed mixed-use plan will go to Mayor Tory's executive council next week before going to city council next month.