Scarborough subway plan not optimal but it’s a start
By Gerry Divaris
To subway or not to subway,
That is the question:
Is it nobler to suffer cars, buses, choked roads and political indecision,
Or per force insist upon a subway car, even with just one stop.
So began Mayor John Tory’s Scarborough transit town hall on March 13, two days before the Ides of March. Speeches were polemic – the mayor accusing councillors opposing the Scarborough subway extension of “being ready to go to war to get it cancelled.” Provincial Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid said that the subway would be cancelled over his dead body. When, if ever, has a Canadian politician offered up his body for a cause? Forgive my cynicism; don’t we have a provincial election next year?
The irony in all of this is that the councillors who wish to deny Scarborough a transit system, don’t live, work or play in Scarborough. With the exception of one, e tu Paul Ainslie.
The proposed Scarborough transit plan may not be the optimal one that Scarborough residents deserve. But it will be a start. The subway extension to link the Scarborough City Centre to the existing subway system will be largely funded by the federal and provincial governments. The rest of Scarborough would eventually be linked by the mayor’s Smart Plan, which will employ a network of options: the light rail transit that will end at the U of T Scarborough Campus; enhanced GO Train service that will utilize existing rail tracks from the north into Toronto; and the crosstown extension that will eventually connect to Kingston Road.
Is this a perfect transit plan? No! Is it a transit plan worthy of Scarborough residents? Certainly not! But it will connect the Scarborough City Centre to the existing subway system. This is crucial, for with the arrival of the subway will come businesses, head offices and employment opportunities for us. The subway will provide a second chance at rebuilding a City Centre that we should have had from the outset, giving us walkable roads, parks and streetscape shopping. A vibrant, prosperous and pedestrian friendly City Centre. For evidence of this, one need look no further than the intensive development along Yonge Street, which occurred after the subway installation.
Scarborough residents make up 25 per cent of Toronto and contribute mightily to the city’s coffers; we deserve the same infrastructure, conveniences and services that have been available, for years, to the rest of the city.
Scarborough has been ignored and underserved ever since amalgamation. Our politicians have failed us, and we have failed ourselves for not excoriating those we vote into office, who ignore us and work against our best interests. Why is Scarborough forced to endure a public transit system that is less than what’s available in North York, Toronto or Etobicoke?
By acquiescing to political indecision, political brinkmanship and not making demands of our public servants, who we pay handsomely to represent our best political interests, we hurt more than just ourselves. We fail those most vulnerable amongst us, who need public transportation for jobs and basic living requirements. We force a mother to spend more time away from her girls as she transfers from bus to bus on already choked roads. Those who need to get to a doctor’s appointment have to sacrifice a half-day just to get there.
We are Canadians and that means that we compromise, not to our detriment, not through weakness, but to our strength. We give up a little and yet we always get back a whole lot more. Isn’t that how our Confederation was built?
This is one Scarborough resident asking for common sense, asking for compromise and demanding that those to whom we pay our hard-earned money start to represent us and do so properly, intelligently and without capriciousness.
The truth is we will never get the whole pie, and it’s unreasonable to believe or demand that we do. The proposed transit plan is not what we deserve, but it is a start, it is compromise and it will benefit us beyond any compromise we make.