By Kathryn Stocks
On the same day that Premier Doug Ford rolled out his big new transit plan for the GTA, a town hall organized by Scarborough Transit Action fought to keep the Eglinton East LRT alive. This light rapid transit line, however, wasn’t on the premier’s map. In fact, Scarborough was only on the map as far as McCowan Rd. because that’s where the Scarborough subway ends.
Granted, the subway had two more stops than were on the city’s transit plan, so that was an improvement. But the LRT that would go from Kennedy station along Eglinton, Kingston Rd. and Morningside up to Malvern would be beneficial for a far greater number of people in Scarborough. It would also provide a transit link to UTSC and the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre, a world-class aquatic facility for athletes. The EELRT remains on the city’s transit map but it isn’t funded or prioritized by the city or the province right now.
The town hall organized to keep it going was held on April 10 and it attracted a large, supportive crowd. Councillor Jennifer McKelvie was on the panel with UTSC professor Andre Sorensen, Hana Syed from the UTSC Student Union, Kingston-Galloway-Orton Park community leader Anges Thompson, and Mimi Lau from SCRO. Mayor John Tory was there just to listen, he said, although he did respond to a question later on.
UTSC professor Andre Sorensen pointed out that it would be cheaper than a subway and serve a much larger area. It could become a corridor for intensification and development and the higher density would make areas along the route more walkable. “Scarborough is too auto dependent.” He said one of the biggest problems with transit in Toronto is that politicians keep cancelling what’s been planned. He doesn’t think a new government should be allowed to do that. He also said the shift to electric transit would mean zero emissions.
Hana Syed noted that the EELRT would connect UTSC students to safer and more affordable housing. “We need everyone to become advocates for Scarborough,” she said.
Community leader Agnes Thompson spoke about how neglected Scarborough has been in terms of transit projects. She said the 86 bus is jam packed in the morning. “It’s been long enough. Let’s get it going!”
Jennifer McKelvie said, “This project is important and needs to be funded. We need to advocate for the city keep it going and get it built.” She suggested that groups have to work together with a unified voice.“Let’s keep pressure on our mayor and premier.”
John Tory stood up at the end of the evening to answer this question: If Doug Ford refuses to fund the LRT extension, why can’t we ask the federal government to fund it? He said it is impossible for Toronto to go it alone in funding expensive transit projects so he plans to work with Ford to try to come to an arrangement that works for everyone. He also said Ford’s plan is not set in stone yet and there are opportunities to tweak it. His recommendation was for citizens to make sure ALL Scarborough councillors, MPs and MPPs are on board with a united vision for Scarborough transit. “This part of the city has been dramatically underfunded,” he said. “Scarborough deserves this project.”