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Speak out, Scarborough told

Councillors say area deserves new subway extension

Constituents told to flex political muscle as SRT wears out


Scarborough city councillors want a subway to the heart of their former city, and they think it should be built before an extension of the Spadina subway north to York University.

They also want Scarborough citizens to start throwing their political weight behind the project, voting to launch a “subway now” campaign, complete with its own logo, to rally public opinion.

The issue is coming to a head because the Toronto Transit Commission says the cars now running on the Scarborough Rapid Transit line will be worn out by 2015 and must be replaced with a subway, streetcars or buses. The light rail line runs from Kennedy subway station north and east, past Scarborough Town Centre to McCowan Rd.

The line, which uses trains consisting of four small cars running on a non-standard track, carries close to 43,000 people a day, and is under such strain at rush hour that some TTC surface routes now divert passengers away from it.

“In the scheme of things, Scarborough Rapid Transit is a big player,” said consultant Richard Soberman, who has been hired by the TTC to study options for replacing the line.

“It is a bigger player than the Sheppard subway.”

The SRT carries more than twice as many people as now travel to York University by TTC buses, although the TTC estimates that 50,000 people a day would use a York University subway line.

But Glenn De Baeremaeker (Ward 38, Scarborough Centre) said Scarborough ridership would nearly double if the existing SRT were replaced.

“If we made this a convenient, reliable service, we’d have 80,000 people (a day) next week,” he said.

A full-scale subway would eventually connect in a loop with the Sheppard subway, which now dead-ends at Fairview Mall. It could extend north of Highway 401 to Scarborough neighbourhoods now served only by buses.

De Baeremaeker said Scarborough is grossly underserved by Toronto’s subway system and needs to make its case ahead of other proposed extensions.

“We have to start speaking loudly today to make sure our residents get their fair share of the transit pie,” he said.

Gerry Altobello (Ward 35, Scarborough Southwest) insisted that a Scarborough subway should be built ahead of the proposed York University line.

A Scarborough subway “has to be completed first,” and linked with the Sheppard line, he said.

“It has to go to the Scarborough Town Centre. You can’t just have a stub and leave it. You have to complete it. And I think once those two lines are completed, where the demand is, then you look at the York University line.”

Councillor Bas Balkissoon (Ward 41, Scarborough-Rouge River) noted that it would be close to 2015 by the time a York University line could be built � and by then the current SRT will be at the end of its life.

Soberman said the SRT can handle about 4,000 riders an hour today. That could be doubled by buying new, bigger cars; running them in trains of six instead of four; and running them more frequently.

A full-scale subway � while much more expensive � would eliminate the need to change trains at Kennedy station, and can carry 30,000 riders or more in an hour.

Councillor Brian Ashton (Ward 36, Scarborough Southwest) said the city has developed a defeatist attitude about building subways, somehow convincing itself that they’re too expensive.

The city has to start dreaming about its potential, as it did during the burst of subway construction in the 1950s and 1960s, he said. That’s when the Yonge, Bloor and University subways were built.

“When did we stop dreaming about what’s possible, and what we can do?” he said