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Eglinton residents fear another transit loss

by Tess Kalinowski
Transportation Reporter

They were disappointed when former Premier Mike Harris cancelled their subway in favour of one on Sheppard.

Now, with a new mayor in charge, residents and businesses along Eglinton Ave. once again fear for the future of rapid transit in their neighbourhoods. They are writing letters and holding meetings as a way to fend off another broken promise.

“As a community that’s already been toyed with, I can tell you people in those neighbourhoods are very concerned they may get squeezed out again,” said Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler, who has been canvassing Eglinton area residents on the issue.

Mayor Rob Ford announced the suspension of the Transit City light rail plan two weeks ago because he doesn’t want any more street-level rail built in Toronto. Even though it’s supposed to run underground between Leslie and Keele St. and, therefore, might fit with Ford’s plans, Eglinton is in limbo.

Soil testing continues there while the TTC develops an alternative to the Transit City plan, but it’s too soon to say what will become of the Eglinton LRT, according to the TTC.

Some fear the mayor may have to negotiate funds away from Eglinton to deliver on his promise to build a subway on Sheppard Ave.

The province has said it’s willing to talk but it doesn’t have a penny more than the $8.1 billion it has promised for four Transit City lines on Eglinton, Sheppard, the Scarborough RT and Finch.

“If you calculate the cost of a subway on Sheppard, (the Ford administration) is short in a very big way,” said Chaleff-Freudenthaler.

“We’re getting mixed signals,” said Nick Alampi of the York-Eglinton Business Improvement Area. He says Eglinton needs the development that rapid transit would bring.

“This has to happen; this community needs it, the whole city needs it,” he said.

“This project has been delayed and put off enough times that it’s cost us dearly both financially and from a quality-of-life perspective,” said Vanessa Mariga, who lives and works near Eglinton Ave. and belongs to the 5 Points Community Action coalition, in the Oakwood Village area near Allen Rd.

She stopped taking the TTC two years ago because it took too long by bus to get from her home to her job near Wynford Drive and Eglinton.

Based on estimates that LRT would be 17 minutes faster than buses in the tunneled section, Mariga said, “From an environmental standpoint, when this line gets built, I’ll park my car.”

Even though his constituents are nervous, Councillor Josh Colle (Ward 15, Eglinton-Lawrence) said he’s optimistic the LRT will go ahead, given that Ford seems to be softening his stance to include underground light rail.

The station spacing and speed of light rail on Eglinton would be similar to subways, he said. The only real difference is that light rail would run in a three-car configuration, where subways run with six to accommodate more people.

That’s something Eglinton doesn’t need, said Colle’s father, Mike Colle, MPP for Eglinton-Lawrence, who is organizing a public information meeting Tuesday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Forest Hill United Church, 2 Wembley Rd.

“If you want full-blown subways, you have to have massive densities that make them viable,” said Colle. “From all the ridership and expert analysis, Eglinton has been the number one supported project from transit experts back to the 1970s, the one that stacks up against all of them.”




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