Toronto·In Depth

Scarborough saga: transit promised, yet never delivered

Today's announcement by Toronto Mayor John Tory that the city intends to change the plans for the Scarborough subway is only the latest shift in the transit vision for a part of the city that has seen no new rapid transit for 30 years.

The visions for subways and LRTs to serve the eastern end of Toronto just keep on changing.

No new rapid transit has been built in Scarborough since the SRT was opened in 1985, despite numerous plans. (Adam E. Moreira/Wikipedia)

Thursday's announcement by Toronto Mayor John Tory that the city intends to change the plans for the Scarborough subway is only the latest shift in the transit vision for a part of the city that has seen no new rapid transit for 30 years.

Since the Scarborough RT was opened in 1985, planners and politicians have talked — and talked, and talked some more — about extending subway lines, or providing light-rapid transit (LRT) lines, or both.

The saga of rapid transit for Scarborough is an epic tale of shifting priorities and revolving-door plans, overlapping with stop-and-go funding and changes in political leadership. And to this day, none of it has been built.  

This is how the latest Scarborough transit plans compare:

The John Tory Hybrid Plan

Mayor John Tory is proposing a one-stop subway line to Scarborough Town Centre, plus LRT to the University of Toronto Scarborough campus. (CBC)
  • Extend the Bloor-Danforth subway from Kennedy to Scarborough Town Centre, with no stops along the way. 
  • Extend the (currently under construction) Eglinton Crosstown LRT to Kingston Road and north to Malvern
  • ​Build new LRT along Sheppard to Scarborough Town Centre
  • Cost: $4.5 billion 
  • Funding: For the Scarborough subway, the province has promised $1.5 billion, the previous federal government had set aside $660 million. City council plans ro raise $1 billion through the Scarborough transit levy and development charges. Tory says the savings on subway costs by reducing stations will be enough to fund extending the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. For the Sheppard LRT, there's $1 billion promised (fully funded, two-thirds from the province, one-third from Ottawa)

John Tory called the transit plank of his mayoral campaign "SmartTrack". Shortly after winning the election, the federal Liberals insisted they're willing to fund it, and the provincial Liberals say the money they've previously committed is still there. Tory hinted in December he would tweak the transit plan, then on Thursday revealed changes to the Scarborough subway and LRT plans    

The Rob Ford 'Subways-Subways-Subways' Plan

Rob Ford's plan for Scarborough rapid transit focused on subway lines. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)
  • Extend the Bloor-Danforth subway to Scarborough Town Centre, with stops at Lawrence & Sheppard
  • Extend the Sheppard subway "stubway" from Don Mills to Scarborough Town Centre
  • Cost: $3.5 billion for subway to replace Scarborough RT, $3.25 billion for subway extension on Sheppard (although Ford claimed it would be $1.8 billion during his 2014 mayoral campaign)
  • Funding: In the summer of 2013, the Kathleen Wynne government promised the $1.4 billion earmarked for the Scarborough LRT could go to fund a subway instead. Shortly afterward, the Stephen Harper government promised $660 million. Neither government promised to fund the Sheppard subway extension, only LRT.

Rob Ford campaigned on bringing subways to Scarborough, but his promises quickly slammed up against funding realities. The McGuinty government was only willing to fund LRT to replace the Scarborough RT, and totally declined to fund Ford's Sheppard subway extension. The Harper government was also reluctant to cough up money for such a subway. And city council revolted against the Sheppard line, voting instead for LRT.

In 2013, Ford's plan for extending the Bloor-Danforth subway to Scarborough Town Centre narrowly won council's approval, boosted in part by the provincial Liberals suddenly declaring their wish to fund the subway with a byelection on the line.   

The David Miller 'Transit City' Plan

David Miller's vision for transit in Scarborough involved LRT lines running east along Sheppard, and north to Malvern. ((Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press))

David Miller's vision was dubbed "Transit City" with LRT lines in underserved areas across Toronto, including Scarborough. Announced in 2007, after Miller won his second term in office, it never really got off the ground. Some construction began on the Sheppard LRT in 2009, but months later the Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty delayed funding for parts of Transit City, making Miller furious. And Miller's successor, Rob Ford announced "Transit City is over" on his first day in office in 2010. 


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