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Good riddance to LRT says Etobicoke ratepayer group

Mayor pushes ahead on plan to scrap Transit City

by Jeff Hayward

While Toronto’s new mayor pushes ahead with his plan to scrap Transit City and LRT lines along with it, at least one Etobicoke group is on track with his efforts.

Nancy Mueller, president of Community of Rathburn-Grove Ratepayers (CORR), said the Crosstown Eglinton LRT that would span her ward “should have never been considered to begin with” and she welcomes any news the project is officially dead.

Mayor Rob Ford met with Premier Dalton McGuinty at Queen’s Park Tuesday, Dec. 7, but Ford was tight-lipped about Transit City negotiations. The mayor’s goal is to build subways in place of LRTs, making an announcement on Dec. 1 declaring Transit City is finished despite the province already injecting millions of dollars into implementing the plan.

Money aside, the LRT would not be friendly to drivers, argues Mueller.

“This was absolutely ridiculous, inconveniencing the residents out here by stopping (left-hand) turns on major thoroughfares and wanting us to drive around the block and all the rest of it to get to where we want to go,” she said. “So we’re very happy (about Ford’s Dec. 1 announcement).”

Meanwhile, the Finch LRT, if it goes ahead, will provide a direct link to Humber College’s north Etobicoke campus.

Humber College had endorsed the light rail connection to the campus, said Rani Dhaliwal, vice president of finance and administrative services for Humber.

But other than staff time for consultation with the TTC, Humber didn’t inject any cash into the project, said Dhaliwal. And while the students were made aware of the plan, it was not set in stone, she explained.

“Built into our campus development plan was that assumption (about the link) … albeit long-term, and albeit not certain, but it certainly did indicate to the overall organization that this was something that was a potential and the students were aware of that,” she said.

But students are not without transit options in the meantime, she added.

“TTC is one of the parties that come onto our campus. We have … a number of other transportation providers that bring students to our campus, and that part we will continue to build and look at how to improve delivery of service,” said Dhaliwal.

She said jumping to conclusions about the LRT being dead is premature.

“My understanding from TTC is that ridership won’t be as high for a subway for this line,” she said. “But I think it’s really too early to have an understanding of which direction this is going.”

Initial reaction to the Eglinton-Finch West LRT was not all favourable. Willowdale Councillor David Shiner last year slammed the city’s LRT plan, charging light rail divides neighbourhoods and creates vehicular congestion among other points.

“A world-class city, which is what we want Toronto to be, deserves a world-class transit system, not a bunch of toy trains taking over the road,” said Shiner at a North York Community Council meeting.

While Mueller applauds Ford’s efforts, she also said existing transit along Eglinton Avenue West can be improved in the interim.

“More effective busing (is needed) for sure,” said the CORR president. “Certainly we need a look at how effective the buses are running, not being allowed to travel empty, if they’re going back to Kipling station or the service bays they should be taking passengers (along) … there’s an awful lot of empty buses.

“I noticed there’s a lot of clumping of buses along Eglinton as well and it’s not necessary. The timing has to become much more effective.”

Mueller made the comments around the same time the TTC announced it is launching a new brochure called ‘Why We Do What We Do’, which will address why buses are bunched together and other common questions. TTC operators will be handing out the brochures at “key” stations, according to the transit commission.

-with files from David Nickle and Lisa Queen