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New vision for Scarborough

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Evolving plan could solve transportation problems


Have east end politicians come up with a visionary transit plan? A TTC report released last week recommends that the aging Scarborough RT be upgraded with modern trains, instead of refitting it with streetcars or building a subway extension from Kennedy station.


TTC Commissioner Glenn De Baeremaeker and his fellow Toronto city councillors from Scarborough had originally called for a subway, but now prefer a light rail network that would crisscross the inner suburb “like a spider web.”


He says local politicians “realize that we can either build one line at $1.2 billion which helps one (corridor) of people in Scarborough — or for the same amount of money we could help 10 times as many people.”


De Baeremaeker says dedicated streetcar lanes “would go along Kingston Road in the south, Eglinton Avenue, Lawrence Avenue, Sheppard Avenue, the Finch hydro corridor, and north and south on McCowan and Markham Roads.”


He admits that residents prefer an extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway, feeling the east end suffers from second class transit compared to the rest of 416. Nonetheless, he says Scarborough councillors want the TTC to “still spend a billion dollars, but spend it in a more effective manner which would really give people — whether they live way out at the Toronto Zoo, or ... the Scarborough-Pickering border, or down south on the lakefront — fast, convenient access,” the councillor says.


As for me, I agree that a light rail network would benefit so many more people than a subway, but wouldn’t it be smarter to also replace the aging RT technology with modern streetcars?


It may be faster and cheaper to upgrade the existing line with new RT-type vehicles — as the TTC report suggests — but why not ask Scarborough residents how they want the RT route expanded?


To add to this evolving vision, GO Transit is looking at buying three diesel-fuelled streetcars from Ottawa and running them outside rush hours on its Stouffville line. GO is to discuss with Transport Canada whether regulations can allow the smaller vehicles on the rail line parallel to Kennedy Road.


Has Scarborough found a way out of its heavy traffic and spotty bus service?


Asked whether residents would let streetcars take over lanes now used by cars, De Baeremaeker believes there would be “overwhelming public and political support.”


The suburb’s wide streets were designed “in an era when car was king,” but he says the “demand is already there” for good transit.


He adds, “For example, when we Scarborough councillors sat there and watched the St. Clair Avenue West dedicated streetcar debate (at Toronto council), we were dumbfounded.


“All of us said, seriously and jokingly, ‘If you don’t want it, we’ll take it! Any one of us in Scarborough would love to have that kind of public infrastructure.”



transit@eddrass.com

 
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