Scarborough subway supporters and critics clash at city hall

Following a day of heated debate, Mayor John Tory’s executive committee approved a report outlining the next steps for the Scarborough subway extension.

Latest city report estimates subway will cost $3.35B

Commuters currently have to transfer onto the Scarborough RT at Kennedy Station. Mayor John Tory says the future subway will do away with the 'Scarborough shuffle.' (John Rieti/CBC)

Following a day of heated debate, Mayor John Tory's executive committee approved a report outlining the next steps for the Scarborough subway extension.

About 25 people, including those both for and against the subway extension, spoke to the committee on Tuesday. Some urged the city to get on with the project, which isn't set to open until at least 2026, while others asked Tory to reconsider a light-rail plan.

Tory said that's not an option.

"The time has come to move on," he said, adding the meeting was held to refine the subway plan, not abandon it.

He also accused critics of using everything short of "poison-tipped umbrellas and exploding cigars" to derail the subway's progress.

The executive committee approved recommendations to align the future subway, set to cost $3.35 billion, with McCowan Road, and also use a new design for a bus terminal on Triton Road that will cost $187 million more than a previous iteration, but will allow for more development around it.

Tory introduced a motion suggesting the city look into partnering with the private sector to pay for the bus hub.

Critic calls subway plan a 'Titanic' mistake

Earlier Tuesday, speakers — including those whose businesses would be directly affected by a new one-stop line to the Scarborough Town Centre — lined up to have their say on the subway plan.

Robert Horst, the centre's general manager, said Oxford Properties, the company that runs the mall, has a "bold vision" for the lands around the future subway stop but wants the city to provide some clarity before it moves ahead.

"We need to get on with it, we need some decisions here," Horst told the city hall committee.

Good morning, fellow passengers on the Titanic.- Joell Vanderwagen, critic of the Scarborough subway extension

Tory asked Horst if his company would consider partnering with the city on the project, and while Horst declined to provide a specific answer, he said Oxford is interested in integrating transit into the centre's design.

A number of people also spoke on behalf of Connect Scarborough, a newly-formed group that backs the subway and also receives funding from Oxford properties.

Meanwhile, Robin Simpson-McKay said her family, who have run a business near Scarborough centre for decades, also wants to build a housing development in the area. Simpson-McKay said a subway would help combat the "Scarborough stigma" that still exists, and put the area on the same level as other parts of the city.

But Joell Vanderwagen, a who spoke alongside Brenda Thompson of the advocacy group Scarborough Transit Action — an offshoot of TTCRiders — blasted the plan.

"Good morning, fellow passengers on the Titanic," she told the meeting.

Vanderwagen said the subway is a poor design for the area, and said a light-rail plan like Calgary's C-Train would be a far better option. She also voiced worries that the operating costs of the new line could bankrupt the TTC.

City council to debate plan at upcoming meeting

Scarborough Coun. Glenn De Baeremaeker said the subway wouldn't have cost as much had the city invested in transit years ago, when it should have. (John Rieti/CBC)

The executive committee's approval means the issue will be heading back to city council at its upcoming meeting.

Scarborough Coun. Glenn De Baeremaeker said he wants council to approve the subway plan, and approve it quickly. 

"People are entitled to their opinions, but they've lost eight times already," he said, referring to the number of times city council has voted in favour of the subway.

"Time for the rest of us to move on and get the job done."

Critics may challenge subway at council

Brenda Thompson, centre, quizzed the mayor about the costs associated with the Scarborough subway extension at news conference last week. Thompson, who represents the groups Scarborough Transit Action and TTCRiders, has been a vocal critic of the subway plan. (John Rieti/CBC)

Coun. Janet Davis, who suggested at the meeting that the subway's price tag is likely closer to $3.8 billion once financing and other fees are added to the price, said it's "irresponsible" to keep working toward the costly extension.

"It's shocking to me that we continue to just sink good money after bad on this project, when we should have and could have had an LRT system that would have served more people at significantly less cost," Davis said.

Last summer, Coun. Josh Matlow pushed to have the city reconsider the LRT plan, but was defeated at council. The St. Paul's councillor said he still thinks that's the best option for Scarborough residents and didn't rule out trying to revive it at a future city council meeting.

"You will certainly hear more from me about what I believe is the right plan for Scarborough, the right plan for Toronto," Matlow said on Monday.

He didn't attend the executive committee's meeting.

Currently, just five per cent of the subway's design is finished. The extension isn't expected to be complete until 2026, according to the city report.

About the Author

John Rieti

John Rieti covers city hall and city issues for CBC Toronto. Born and raised in Newfoundland, John has worked in CBC newsrooms across the country in search of great stories. Outside of work, catch him running or cycling around, often armed with a camera, always in search of excellent coffee.


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