Scarborough protest calls for subway on Sheppard Avenue, not LRT
May 26, 2014
By Rahul Gupta
A fully-funded light rail line is planned for Sheppard Avenue East, but a Scarborough residents’ coalition believes it can muster enough pressure to overturn the project and build a subway line instead.
The Sheppard Subway Action Coalition (SSAC) took to the intersection of Kennedy Road and Sheppard Avenue on Monday, May 26, morning to hold a public demonstration in favour of subways.
For about 45 minutes, members of the group and some local PC provincial election candidates occupied all four corners of the busy intersection carrying placards and handing out pamphlets aabout the benefits of a Sheppard subway over the LRT. SSAC lead organizer Patricia Sinclair said a Sheppard East subway line could be completed by 2019 - two years before the LRT - due to past provincial approvals still in effect and the availability of two tunnel borer machines (TBMs) still in possession of the TTC for its ongoing Toronto-York Spadina subway extension work.
“We’ve got the engineering capabilities, we’ve got the construction capabilities, we’ve got to get smart,” said Sinclair.
“Why are we in Toronto always lagging behind everywhere else in the world? It doesn’t make any sense.”
Sinclair said her group had calculated a $2.75 billion price tag, or $250 million per kilometre, for the subway plan to replace the 13-km LRT route to run along Sheppard between Don Mills subway station to east of Morningside Avenue.
The line could also connect with the Sheppard “stubway” between Don Mills and Yonge-Sheppard station and eventually provide a continuous connection west along Sheppard.
According to the group, federal contributions could come for the project from a previous allocation for the Toronto light rail projects, along with an additional $888 million coming from the Build Canada infrastructure fund.
Along with the federal monies, Sinclair said the province could then contribute a billion dollars, with the city’s portion coming from various sources including developer levies and casino revenues, but no new tax raises.
“There’s other ways to pay for it without having to tax the taxpayer anymore than we’re paying,” said Sinclair.
She said the “multi-partisan” group was planning at least one more rally along Sheppard Avenue before the June 12 provincial election, and was also planning to invite Scarborough Liberals to attend.
For more information on the rallies, visit www.sheppardsubway.com
“We’re inviting them to change their minds about putting light rail down Sheppard,” said Sinclair.
Scarborough-Agincourt PC candidate Liang Chen and her supporters also attended the event, along with Scarborough-Guildwood PC candidate Ken Kirupa.
Chen, whose campaign office is located on Sheppard, said subways are a better long term investment than light rail and would not inconvenience cars.
“What’s being proposed is for the surface and this is the biggest problem,” said Chen who is running in Scarborough-Agincourt to unseat incumbent Liberal Soo Wong.
“People want the most convenient way to travel from point A to point B. The LRT fighting with cars is going to be problematic, and people don’t want that.”
TTC user Louise de Barry, who was waiting for a bus on Kennedy, said there were merits to the Sheppard subway plan. But de Barry said healthcare and education were more crucial than funding new subways.
“I personally believe money could be allocated somewhere,” said de Barry. “Subways are fine, but to me they’re not a priority.”
In a statement, CodeRedTO, a transit advocacy group which supports the current light rail plans for the city, blasted the SSAC’s statements about LRTs - such as they reduce property values and break down more frequently compared to subways - as “false and misleading”.
CodeRed executive director Cameron MacLeod said many of the SSAC’s over two-dozen arguments against LRTs were either completely false, vague or presented in a misleading light.
“We want everyone to have the facts, so we have evaluated each claim to verify accuracy and to provide supporting links,,” said MacLeod by email on Monday.
The statement is available on CodeRed’s website www.CodeRed.to
Anne Marie Aikins from Metrolinx, which is responsible for delivering the Sheppard LRT along with similar lines on Finch Avenue as well as Eglinton Avenue, declined to comment on replacing the project with a subway.