Close vote shows Scarborough subway divisions
Councillors continue to debate whether line is worth $1 billion cost
It was the subway, not the LRT, that won out in Tuesday’s close council vote to extend the TTC’s Bloor-Danforth line in Scarborough. To see how each councillor voted, check out our council vote tracker posted at the bottom of this story.
The decision means the subway will be extended three stops from its current eastern terminus at Kennedy Station to Sheppard Avenue East.
But it also means the city will have to borrow $1 billion over 30 years and bring in a 1.6 per cent property tax levy to pay for it.
The levy is needed because contributions from senior governments ($1.48 billion from the province; $660 million from the federal government) won’t be enough to cover the project's cost.
The decision is a victory for Mayor Rob Ford, who has long favoured building subways over surface transit.
But councillors opposed to the subway extension pointed to uncertainty over the subway’s operating costs and other expenses.
Here’s a sample of how councillors reacted to Tuesday’s decision.
TTC Chair Karen Stintz voted with Ford to extend the subway. She said one bonus is that the aging Scarborough RT can remain running while the subway is built.
“We won’t have to take the SRT out of service, we will have continuous service from Kennedy,” she said. “We will be able to bring three extra subway stops to an area that is under-served by transit.”
Coun. Janet Davis says the subway’s price tag is simply too high, particularly when the city had a deal in place to build a light-rail line along the route using provincial money.
“We’re going to throw away a billion dollars that we could use to fix our storm water infrastructure, to fix our recreation facilities, to fix the TTC,” she said.
Scarborough East Coun. Paul Ainslie also worries the final price tag may exceed estimates put forward by subway proponents.
“Every time I turned the page in the report, there was another unexpected cost. They kept escalating,” he said.
Ainslie pointed to $85 million is so-called “sunk costs” the city is faces due to existing contracts the city signed with Bombardier for light-rail equipment.
Coun. Glenn Baeremaeker, who represents Scarborough Centre, said the sunk costs are a tough pill to swallow, but believes the city has made the right decision.
“It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get it right the first time,” he said on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning. “Subways do cost more, but you get more. Once subways are built, people are pretty happy with them.”
Coun. Josh Matlow voted against the subway plan. In a tweet yesterday, he posted a link to the downtown relief line, which he describes as “Toronto’s real transit priority.”
That line, which is currently unfunded, would run in a U-shape from Dundas West station, south to King Street where it would turn east and connect to St. Andrew Station. East of Yonge, the line would run east of King Street before turning north at Lesliville and connecting to the Bloor-Danforth line at Pape station.
The relief line is a stated priority of TTC CEO Andy Byford. Its supporters say the line is needed to take pressure off both the Bloor-Danforth and Yonge University Line, which are operating at or near capacity, particularly during rush hour.
Council vote tracker
Below is how councillors voted yesterday on the subway vs. light rail motion. The "yes" votes are in favour of subways and carried the vote 24-20.