Scarborough subway extension might not be as busy as expected, but mayor says still worth it

He was announcing funding for a downtown relief line, but Mayor John Tory came prepared to defend the Scarborough subway extension at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon.

Tory calls media reporting on ridership numbers 'incomplete and misleading'

Mayor Tory mounted a vigorous defence Wednesday of the one-stop Scarborough subway extension, even holding up a piece of paper with ridership projections for other stations. (CBC)

He was announcing funding for a downtown relief line, but Mayor John Tory came prepared to defend the Scarborough subway extension at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon.

The city released new ridership projections on the stop at a public meeting in Scarborough Tuesday night. They are only about half of what was first projected in 2013, when the original three-stop extension was voted on by city council.

That had some homeowners at the meeting — as well as longstanding critics of the project — asking whether the $2-billion subway stop that may displace as many as 30 homes is worth it for such low ridership.

The mayor was uncharacteristically chippy in answering questions about the extension on Wednesday, which will be built from Kennedy Station to a new subway stop around the Scarborough Town Centre.

"The Scarborough subway is not ... some brand new line someone dreamt up. It is an extension eastward of the Bloor-Danforth line and has been contemplated for decades — decades!" said Tory.

In 2013, when the city was looking at the three-stop proposal for the subway extension in Scarborough, council was told the Scarborough Town Centre stop would see as many as 14,000 passengers per hour at peak times by 2031. In January of this year, when the three stops were reduced to one, that same peak time projection was adjusted to 11,100 passengers per hour.

That number has now been revised to 7,300 passengers per hour.

Tory said the debate around the value of the extension was "incomplete and misleading," and that a "rational comparison" was needed to properly judge the stop.

He held up a sheet of paper with figures from other stations. The equivalent per-hour projections for Kipling Station in 2031 is 7,200 passengers, 100 less than the Scarborough stop, he said.

"I don't hear anybody suggesting we should close down the Bloor-Danforth subway at Kipling because an inadequate passenger load," the mayor said.

He rattled off passenger projections, per hour during peak times, for other end-of-line stations:

  • Downsview: 2,950
  • Don Mills: 3,120
  • Kennedy: 7,000

"I think that when you are looking at numbers at the end of a transit line, this is not a complete determination of whether you should build it or a complete look at the use of that transit line now and in the future," he said.

He said any member of the media who isn't looking at the passenger load in those terms was "not properly informing the public of what's really going on here."

The city said it did not account for SmartTrack, the mayor's transit plan which will run very close to the proposed Scarborough subway route. As well, the current projections assume that one of at least three SmartTrack routes will be built.

"I can't speak to the numbers that were bandied around before I was here, but I can say the numbers we are looking at today makes this a project that we should do and we must do and I continue to be very committed to it," Tory said of the extension.


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