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The end of the line for Transit City?

The light rail plan for Finch and Sheppard Aves are now in jeopardy

by Tristan Carter and Kris Scheuer

(from the North York Town Crier)

West of Yonge Street, on some of North York’s most prime real estate, a Finch Avenue lot sits unused.

Once home to a community shopping plaza and garden centre, the lot was razed and fenced in over a year ago.

There’s one simple reason the lot remains vacant, says owner David Holmes.

“We’re basically maintaining the property, pending resolution of the transit vision.”

They may be waiting a long time.

On his first day on the job, Mayor Rob Ford garnered headlines across the city when he announced Transit City, a public transit plan to build seven light rail lines across the city — including Finch — was dead in the water.

Ford met with TTC general manager Gary Webster on Dec. 1 to discuss his ideas to halt work on the above-ground light rail lines and to begin construction of a new subway line along Sheppard Avenue. The announcement has left many North York residents wondering what will become of the Finch and Sheppard East light rail plans.

A priority for the previous council, the approved Transit City plan includes a 12-kilometre Sheppard East light rapid transit line from the existing Sheppard subway line at Don Mills station to Morningside Avenue by 2014. Initial construction has already begun on the project.

On top of that, about $70 million between now and 2015 has been approved through provincial agency Metrolinx to start the Finch West line, which would extend from Finch Station at Yonge to Humber College’s north campus in Etobicoke.

In a conference call with reporters after the meeting, Webster said Ford asked him to report back in January on various underground subway and light rail options for Sheppard, Eglinton, Finch and the Scarborough RT.

“(Ford) is not opposed to light rapid transit underground is my understanding,” Webster said.

Though Finch was not a priority for Ford, Webster said it will be included in a cost analysis brought to the TTC in January.

With everything up in the air, it’s no surprise residents living along Finch and Sheppard are wondering what’s in the cards for local transit.

“Let it be light rail or subway, we need something here ASAP,” said Nick Dinizio, president of the Humber Sheppard Ratepayers Association.

Although most community members living along the proposed Finch light rail line agree that something must be done to improve transit in the area, there was never overwhelming support for light rail.

“I think it was sort of one of those fifty-fifty deals from my memories of old meetings,” said J.D. Dethomas, president of the Yorkwoods Homeowners Association.

Increased traffic congestion due to construction and a loss of green space due to wider roads were among the chief concerns residents had surrounding the Finch light rail project. But, as Dinizio pointed out, the message from citizens in the city’s northwest seems to be, “we need something.”

Transit City proponent and North York rep Shelley Carroll said it’s too late in the game to go back to the drawing board.

“I’m not making a choice between an LRT and subway,” she said. “I’m making a choice between now and 10-12 years from now.”

She said it took at least a decade for the York-Spadina subway extension to get approved, even with provincial and federal support and it won’t open until 2013.

“I have residents in Finch East waiting for buses and the buses are full in Scarborough before they get to us,” Carroll said.

Willowdale Councillor David Shiner said his priority would be “a Sheppard subway, Eglinton subway and Yonge subway extension to York Region.

“I think Finch shouldn’t have an LRT. We can’t afford it,” he said. “I don’t support taking lanes out of public roadways and putting up railways.”




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