Read President Carlos Santos’ comments in Rank and File. Ford’s new transit plan will cause delays to badly needed public transit infrastructure. He’s starting from scratch and it’s costing the taxpayers — with no consultation.

Ford’s transit delays: Riders organizing against takeover

In an opinion piece by members of the transit advocacy group TTCriders written in January, the authors warned that the Eglinton East LRT could be a casualty of Doug Ford’s transit plan.

Shelagh Pizey-Allen and Suhail Barot wrote that in partnering with developers to build transit – as this government plans to do – the location of stations could be dictated more by land values than the needs of commuters.

Their warning proved to be prescient – the project to connect the underserved and oft-forgotten Scarborough residents was absent from Ford’s $28.5 billion transit plan announced last week.

The decision to abandon the Eglinton East LRT was roundly condemned at a protest organized by TTCriders on Friday, April 12 outside the Ministry of Transportation’s premises.

The advocacy group has consistently vocalized its opposition to the provincial plan to take over Toronto’s subways.

The Waterfront LRT is the other notable project missing from a plan that has significant deviations from ongoing transit plans.  

Meanwhile the downtown relief line has been replaced by what critics are calling an ode to Doug Ford’s legacy – the Ontario Line.

The Ontario line – ‘starting from scratch’

The downtown relief line (Relief Line South) has long been designated the most urgently needed transit route in Toronto to address overcrowding on Line 1. The route runs through Osgoode and Queen stations and ends at Pape on the Danforth.

The project reached an important milestone last October with the completion of the environmental assessment, after years of preparation. The line was slated to be completed in 2029 with construction starting later this year or in early 2020.

The Relief Line North is still in the planning phase.

Doug Ford’s Ontario Line has essentially combined the two relief lines into one mega project. Although the route from the Ontario Science Centre to Osgoode isn’t very contentious as it largely mirrors existing plans, the southward extension to Ontario Place has perplexed many due its novelty.

“How long is it going to take to build? Why is it going to the Ontario Place? Is there a boondoggle attached to that as well?” said Herman Rosenfeld, a member of TTCRiders.

The government’s claim that it will use “new technology” to build the Ontario line “cheaper and faster” than the relief line also provoked head-scratching as it didn’t complement its assertions with details or research.

Carlos Santos, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, which represents TTC workers, said the plan negates the work finished thus far.

“It sounds great, but have there been any environmental assessments? No. We are basically starting from scratch and costing the taxpayers an additional $200 million,” he said.

Ditching the people of Scarborough – again

The LRT plan for Scarborough was originally conceived in 2007 and was due to be built by 2015. The plan was abandoned in 2010 by then-mayor, Rob Ford, for a three-stop subway extension from Kennedy station to McCowan to replace the aging Scarborough RT.

Doug Ford, then a city councillor, supported his brother in redrawing the transit map, which ultimately led to years of squabbling.

Almost a decade later, the Scarborough subway had turned into a one-stop project (from Kennedy to Scarborough Town Centre), as a compromise in order to save costs to fund a revised version of the LRT plan – now titled ‘Eglinton East.’

Last week’s announcement however, has turned back the clock and the plan has reverted to a three-stop plan, with no funding for an LRT.

At the TTCriders protest, Ayaan Abdulle, an executive of the Scarborough Campus Student Union, made a case for the LRT network.

“For us, the Eglinton East LRT is fundamentally a conversation about safety and access,” she said. “This project would help connect students and community members to safer and more affordable housing options.”

Lack of transit options was forcing many students into unregulated homes and consequently compromising their safety, Abdulle said.

“We know because of studies, that there is a direct correlation between the time students spend commuting on transit and their success in post-secondary education,” she said.

One of the other major problems in regard to serving Scarborough is the new timeline for the subway extension, which has been pushed to 2030. With the RT likely going out of service in 2026, commuters on Line 3 may have to rely on buses until the subway extension is completed.

Who is being consulted and who will pay for it?

Santos noted the Ford government’s lack of consultation with its supposed partners, which became obvious when the mayor and the federal finance minister expressed concerns about Ontario’s ambitions.

And, although the total cost of Doug Ford’s transit plan is $28.5 billion, the province has only earmarked $11 billion as it expects the federal and municipal governments to contribute the rest.

While the Trudeau government pledged to invest $4.9 billion for transit in Toronto through to 2028, it’s unclear how much more it will cough up for the premier’s plan.

But Doug Ford has insisted that he will find a way to realize his plan even if other levels of government can’t extend the funds.

Read more from Scarborough Transit Action: LRT v. Subways v. Streetcars

What’s next?

As the province moves ahead to revamp the city’s transit landscape, there is plenty of opposition in and outside the corridors of power. Several city councillors have lashed out at the plan while Scarborough residents made their displeasure known at a town hall last week on Thursday.

Rosenfeld from TTCriders says people – in concert with TTC workers – have to channel the frustrations over the subway takeover, abandonment of the EELRT and the recent funding cuts to the TTC to build a cohesive movement against the chaotic transit planning by this government.

“Maybe it means having teach-ins at subway stops, maybe it means disrupting different levels of meetings at the province and the city,” he said.

In an ideal scenario, the province would not scrap existing plans for projects already underway that the city has prioritized, while moving ahead with its own plans where necessary.

“We are not opposed to extending subways,” Rosenfeld says. “But the problem is that they also have to build this LRT network [and other essential projects].” Rosenfeld also added that the LRT must be publicly owned, operated, and maintained.

But while there is concern over the province bulldozing existing plans, citizens of Toronto also have another fear based on past experience: none of the plans – old and new – will come to fruition in the foreseeable future.

“Remember,” said Rosenfeld, “the Fords have this history of deep-sixing what’s being built before and saying they have this great new platform and then not building anything.”

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