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Light rail supporters to hit the streets in Malvern

New mayor’s subway plan a ‘fairy tale,’ group will tell residents
this Saturday

by Mike Adler

Mayor Rob Ford says he has a mandate to stop two light rail projects in Scarborough.

Some people think that’s a big mistake.

Building a subway instead of light rail lines on Sheppard Avenue East and along the Scarborough RT, as Ford wants, would create “the largest gravy train of all,” Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler warned this week.

“That subway is a fairy tale,” said Chaleff-Freudenthaler, leader of a group planning to canvass Malvern this Saturday, Dec. 11, to let residents know what Ford’s decision may mean for them.

This week, Raymond Cho, the Scarborough-Rouge River city councillor whose ward includes the Malvern community, said light rail cannot meet the needs of a city he predicts will rapidly grow.

However, people involved in the canvass say the Scarborough LRT projects pass through communities already struggling with congestion.

They don’t think people know the truth about light rail lines - derided by opponents in Scarborough and elsewhere as nothing but “street cars” - or know what they would be giving up if the province’s Transit City plan is cancelled.

The province’s Metrolinx agency approved construction of an LRT line along Sheppard Avenue from Don Mills subway station to east of Morningside Avenue in Scarborough by late 2014.

It has also promised to have the Scarborough RT converted to light rail from Kennedy subway station to McCowan Road, and extended from McCowan to Sheppard Avenue, between 2015 to 2020. A further extension to the Malvern Town Centre was proposed for the future.

Planning to meet in the food court of that Tapscott Road shopping centre this Saturday afternoon, participants in Save Rapid Transit for Malvern say light rail is what Scarborough needs now.

They argue a subway will take many more years to build and drain the TTC budget when it finally opens.

The city doesn’t have money for a network of new subways, but Transit City - before the province cut back on additional LRT lines - could have put people in most areas of Scarborough closer to faster transit, said Ashwin Balamohan.

A friend of Chaleff-Freudenthaler (the two men both ran unsuccessfully for seats on Toronto’s public school board in October), Balamohan, who lives near Meadowvale and Ellesmere roads, has created a “Friends of the Sheppard East LRT” Facebook group.

TTC riders along the western most section of the Sheppard LRT route can catch the 190 Express Bus to Don Mills station, but others face long commutes downtown, which Ford’s proposed Sheppard subway extension to Scarborough Town Centre would do nothing to change, he said.

“If you speak to anyone east of Kennedy (Road), they were really looking forward to this (LRT line).”

Cho, however, said his recent support for the subway loop - even though that subway, unlike the Sheppard East LRT, would not reach his ward - is consistent with what he’s said in the past.

“City building has to have a long-term vision, not just the current need,” he said.

“We don’t have the ridership (yet for a subway) because a lot of people are still driving cars, and I’m one of them,” Cho added, but argued subways will one day be needed after gas prices double, forcing more people to chose transit.

All the same, Cho, who wants to see the issue discussed and voted on at Toronto Council, said he cannot be confident Ford’s subway will ever be built, since much depends on money from the province.

If Premier Dalton McGuinty’s government won’t supply funds for a Scarborough subway, perhaps a new provincial government elected next year will, he said.