Scarborough subway critics' poll finds riders worried about stations closing

Transit activists say eight out of 10 commuters recently surveyed at Lawrence East station didn't know their station won’t connect with the future Scarborough subway line.

Despite heavy media coverage, many commuters say they don't know how their trips will change

A small group of demonstrators from the Scarborough Transit Action group rallied outside Lawrence East station on Thursday morning. The group is concerned about what will happen to commuters who now rely on the RT stop if the proposed subway plan goes ahead. (John Rieti/CBC)

Transit activists say eight out of 10 commuters recently surveyed at Lawrence East station didn't know the stop won't connect with the future Scarborough subway line.

Scarborough Transit Action (STA) — an offshoot of TTC Riders — held a Thursday morning rally at the station on the RT line. Outside the main doors, two demonstrators held a large black banner reading "save our stations."

Mayor John Tory and city council have voted to forge ahead with a subway extension to Scarborough Town Centre, now expected to cost some $3.35 billion, but STA still wants to revert to the original seven-stop light rail plan.

Lawrence East station is set to get a SmartTrack stop in the future. (John Rieti/CBC)

Lawrence East is slated to be a stop in Tory's SmartTrack plans. Coun. Michael Thompson, who represents the ward, says plans to redesign the station are in the works and vowed to keep the community in the loop about the changes.

STA's Vincent Puhakka questioned how forthcoming city hall has been about the changes.

"The politicians are not telling people what's actually happening to the SRT," he said.

"The impression is that the subway is coming to their neighbourhood, when in reality it's a one-stop subway that serves the town centre and nowhere else."

Tory's office says Scarborough will benefit from both the subway extension and SmartTrack service and the Eglinton East LRT.

"The Scarborough subway extension is the best plan to serve Scarborough residents," Tory said in an emailed statement.

"It will help spur development, jobs and growth in the heart of Scarborough."

Scarborough rider concerned it will slow down travel

The group says its volunteers spoke with 200 transit users at Lawrence East station in August. Among their findings:

  • Half of respondents say they use the station to travel within Scarborough.

  • 86 per cent of people didn't know about plans to turn the RT stop into a SmartTrack station.
  • 93 per cent of respondents say they would prefer light rail to the subway.

Scarborough resident Leonie Thelwell lives near Lawrence Avenue and says she's concerned the changes will make it harder for her to get around. Now, she says, she takes a bus to the RT then the train to Scarborough Town Centre. In the future, that entire trip will be by bus.

"What I fear about here is that it will add more time," she said.

Thompson says he doesn't think there will be a "huge differential" for people moving around within Scarborough once the subway is operational. He also said he'll keep pushing for more transit in the area.

"We're not saying this is going to be the end ... we need to do more," he said.

Thelwell says the Scarborough subway plans just don't make sense to her.

"Why would anybody really sit down and think that a one-stop subway, for what it costs, is really a good fiscal decision?

"I cannot come to a conclusion about why they think that makes any sense."

Leonie Thelwell says she would prefer the original seven-stop LRT plan to an extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway. (John Rieti/CBC)

STA's Moya Beall says while the subway appears to be going ahead for now, she thinks council may re-evaluate when the TTC presents a more detailed plan for the line. Right now, the TTC is working to get to a 30 per cent design.

SmartTrack fare will be the same as TTC, mayor's office says

Beall says she also thinks councillors will feel more pressure as more riders realize the subway plan's ramifications, something she says hasn't been made clear despite extensive media coverage of the issue.

"The news hasn't talked about the fact that people are going to lose their stations. It hasn't told them that," Beall said.

Puhakka says he believes many Scarborough commuters aren't happy with how the issue is being dealt with, and expects it to be front and centre in next year's municipal election.

"People in Scarborough are waking up," he said.

STA also warned the commuters it polled that riding SmartTrack could cost more than the TTC fare. Tory's office fiercely rejected that in an email to CBC Toronto, saying the mayor has always said the fare will be exactly the same.


John Rieti

Senior producer

John started with CBC News in 2008 as a Peter Gzowski intern in Newfoundland, and holds a master of journalism degree from Toronto Metropolitan University. As a reporter, John has covered everything from the Blue Jays to Toronto city hall. He now leads a CBC Toronto digital team that has won multiple Radio Television Digital News Association awards for overall excellence in online reporting. You can reach him at


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