Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

OK, you got your Scarborough subway – now pay for the rest

Three years ago, in a blog post for Metro driven mostly by frustration, I rewrote the lyrics to “The Song That Never Ends” to refer to Toronto City Council’s seemingly endless debate around the Scarborough Subway.

It went like this: “It’s the debate that never ends / yes, it goes on and on my friends / Some people started planning it not knowing what it was / and they’ll continue debating it forever just because.”

But today, I think the music has finally stopped. Toronto’s endless subway debate is over.

After a day-long council debate last Wednesday that ended with a decisive 27-16 pro-subway vote, I can see no reasonable scenario in which Toronto revives their plans for a seven-stop Scarborough LRT. The cost would be too high. The logistics too challenging. It’s time for us LRT supporters to give up.

But before Mayor John Tory and the 26 city councillors who supported the subway plan congratulate themselves, I want to talk to them directly.

Because while, sure, they’ve approved a one-stop extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway to Scarborough Town Centre, their job isn’t done.

First, this gang of 27 better understand that the consistent message from chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat was not that a single subway stop would immediately spark urban transformation in Scarborough. Instead, Keesmaat’s vision is contingent on a full build-out of a transit network, which includes a 17-stop Eglinton East LRT.

If, decades from now, all Toronto has delivered for transit riders in Scarborough is a single subway stop – if the LRT plan is derailed by “war on car” arguments and hand-wringing – Toronto’s political leadership will have failed.

Subway supporters can’t let that happen.

Second, every single one of these pro-subway voters needs to understand that they now have a responsibility to pay for this Scarborough transit plan in its entirely.

And that’s no easy thing. The subway budget will inevitably increase and the LRT is almost entirely unfunded.

So it’s imperative that Tory and these councillors unambiguously support a revenue measure like a parking tax or a sales tax to pay for the transit plan they’ve promised.

I don’t want to hear excuses. Any subway-supporting politician who tries to shirk their responsibility for paying for this transit is a political coward and the worst kind of opportunist — prepared to take Scarborough out for a nice meal but unwilling to pay the bill.

The people of Scarborough shouldn’t stand for that. This can’t be another transit decision that leads to scaled-back plans and vanishing funding, plunging us back into more debate.

Toronto been stuck hearing that same repetitive transit song for years. It wormed into our brains and drove some of us to despair. This next track must be better.

This post was originally published at on 2016-07-18T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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