Federal cash brings no clarity to subway debate
Ottawa, Queen's Park appear at odds over routing
It appears that a $660-million contribution from the federal government won’t do much to clarify the ongoing debate over the Scarborough subway extension.
Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced Ottawa’s contribution on Monday, money that will go a long way toward plugging a funding gap in the much-debated project to extend the Bloor-Danforth subway line past Kennedy Station.
A map displayed at Monday’s announcement showed a subway running from Kennedy Station to Sheppard Avenue East with stops at Scarborough Town Centre and Lawrence Avenue.
That routing would differ from a plan put forward by Ontario Transportation Minister Glen Murray last month, which outlined a two-stop extension terminating at Scarborough Town Centre.
With no consensus on even the broad-strokes of the plan despite countless studies, TTC CEO Andy Byford and Murray both appeared on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning on Tuesday.
Here’s a summary of their comments:
- While he welcomes Ottawa’s contribution, he believes a $1.4 billion, provincially funded plan he put forward last month and running along the existing Scarborough RT right-of-way will serve more people.
- Murray also touted his line as “fully funded” though it’s been criticized for stopping short of Sheppard Avenue East. A TTC report released Monday also claims the Murray plan doesn't account for all costs.
- Murray admits he’s “fed up” with the transit debate and said he’s willing to look at changes to the alignment.
- TTC’s CEO is also happy to see the feds write a cheque but admits the Scarborough subway debate hasn’t exactly been a model for efficient transit planning, which he said is too often “driven by particular local agendas.”
- This longer quote from Metro Morning spells out Byford's concerns about how transit planning is done in Toronto: "In order for us to successfully develop a network that will serve Toronto well ... you've got to have a system whereby people aren't calling for particular projects based upon their tenure as a politician. You've got to have visionaries in this city who are doing the right thing regardless of what the personal consequences might be. We've got to get to an apolitical, common-sense, consensus-based planning process."
- Byford, whose resume includes the London Underground, said Toronto is “the most complex place that I've ever worked in terms of transit planning, the fact that you have three levels of government. Transit planning does seem to be driven by particular local agendas.”
- Like Murray, Byford points out that expanding the subway system outward only worsens the already intense crowding during rush hours. “This expedites the need for the downtown relief line,” said Byford.
The next chapter of the Scarborough subway saga will happen in October when the city council revisits the discussion, which has now shifted in light of Ottawa's contribution.