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READ: Stop gambling with Scarborough transit

Read and share Hana Syed, vice-president external of the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union and Shelagh Pizey-Allen’s, executive director of TTCriders, op-ed in the Toronto Star which explains how Premier Doug Ford’s plan to seek private sector partners to build a three-stop Scarborough subway is a risky move that will likely delay transit expansion even further.

Stop gambling with Scarborough transit

Premier Ford’s promise to build transit in Scarborough is on shaky ground. Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek announced last week that the province will seek private sector partners to build a three-stop Scarborough subway. It’s a risky move that is likely to delay transit expansion even further.

We’ve seen this one before. Former Mayor Rob Ford tried to woo investors into building the Sheppard subway after the LRT plan on the books was nixed, but the investment never materialized. Had it not been cancelled, the Sheppard extension would have opened this year.

Minister Yurek claims that one of the benefits to so-called subway uploading is the province’s greater ability to borrow. But the reality is that the province’s credit rating has been reduced twice in the past year and is now lower than Toronto’s. This might be one reason they’d like to take ownership of the subway and make way for private sector investment.

What we know for sure is that splitting up the TTC will mean higher fares for transit riders. With rapid transit under provincial control, Metrolinx could implement the fare-by-speed model that it’s been considering, where riders pay a premium to ride subways and LRTs.

Critical maintenance work on the system will be neglected because the province’s proposed capital spending is inadequate. And if the province doesn’t step up its operating funding for transit, riders will continue to be stuck on long bus rides — a far too common reality for Scarborough commuters, especially students.

Students, like most transit riders, opt for public transit because of its low cost, despite the drawbacks of slow speeds and inconvenience. Preferred modes like driving and carpooling are too expensive to be practical for many students.

University of Toronto Scarborough Campus (UTSC) students are therefore overwhelmingly dependent on public transit for their daily commutes. A Fall 2017 transit survey conducted at UTSC revealed students’ commuting experiences are a key factor in influencing their satisfaction with their overall undergraduate experience. It is unfortunate to note that only about two-fifths of the survey’s participants felt satisfied with their daily commutes.

Scarborough transit plans have been endlessly debated. Soon, the updated price tag for the one-stop Scarborough subway extension will be made public and City Council will vote on whether to spend billions on a single stop.

Sending planners back to the drawing board to add additional stops before seeking out for private investors will add more setbacks. Even Metrolinx has admitted that a market-driven approach to transit could cause delays.

It’s time to move ahead with a line that everyone agrees on: the Eglinton East LRT to Malvern. It’s popular, with widespread support from both residents and politicians, including Councillor Jennifer McKelvie and Mayor John Tory.

The line will reach seven priority neighbourhoods; connecting to UTSC and Centennial College-Morningside; and bringing rapid transit to Malvern. Eglinton East would also create good jobs right here in Scarborough.

And finally, it’s time for the province to rethink its plan to fragment the TTC. It’s becoming clearer every day that doing so would open the door to privatization and leave all our transit plans up to the whims of developers.

That will mean fewer employment opportunities and a Scarborough that isn’t just cut off from the rest of the city — it won’t even be accessible to its own residents. We deserve better transit now and always.