Watch video above: The TTC says the door is still open to LRT in Scarborough but Rob Ford isn’t buying it. Jackson Proskow reports.
TORONTO – The Toronto Transit Commission is playing it safe, doing work on the Scarborough subway in a way that would allow for council to revert back to light rail transit.
“What we’re trying to avoid is wasted money,” TTC CEO Andy Byford said Wednesday. “Whether it were the LRT or the subway, there’s certain things that you’d have to do anyway by way of preparatory work, so given the potential uncertainty in the run-up to a mayoral election, we’re trying to limit work that would have to be done for either mode.”
He stressed that the TTC is not “holding back” and is proceeding assuming a subway is being built. But right now, they are making sure the work done is “can apply to either mode” of transit.
Byford said work is being done in this way in order to avoid “wasted money.”
He could be forgiven for the wariness: Council has returned to the issue of Scarborough transit multiple times since first pulling out of an agreement that would have the province pay to build and operate a seven-stop light rail transit line.
Months after the city voted to spend a billion dollars (plus operating costs) on a three-stop subway, it still hasn’t signed a new agreement with provincial agency Metrolinx: The original light rail agreement still holds.
Watch: An angry Mayor Rob Ford showed reporters at City Hall Wednesday a letter he received from the federal government that confirmed funding for the Scarborough subway, and said if TTC CEO Andy Byford is considering other options “we’ve got a problem on our hands”
Mayor Rob Ford said he has asked Byford to clarify his statement and retrieved a letter from the federal government that confirmed funding for the Scarborough subway.
“If he’s going a different direction than what council approved, I think we’ve got a problem on our hands,” he said. "There's only one subway champion and that's me."
“No LRTs are going to go to Scarborough. Period.”
But Metrolinx and the city have yet to confirm a renegotiated master agreement to build said subway.
In an email to Global News Wednesday, a Metrolinx spokesperson confirmed they have met with the city to discuss changes to the agreement but have yet to sign anything.
The subway vs. LRT debate has been ongoing for over a year now and is continuing to be a topic of the ongoing mayoral campaign. Olivia Chow and David Soknacki would scrap the subway in favour of LRT. Rob Ford, John Tory and Karen Stintz want a subway.
TTC CEO Andy Byford says work on Scarb subway is being managed in a way that allows for either subway or LRT based on election uncertainty—
Jackson Proskow (@JProskowGlobal) April 30, 2014
Council voted in October, 2013 to scrap the fully-funded LRT in favour of a more than $3 billion subway; the city would be on the hook for about $1 billion, plus operating costs.
Rob Ford and Karen Stintz voted for a 0.5 per cent property tax increase to raise the necessary funds for the subway.
Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong said he didn’t support the subway but noted that Byford takes direction from council and can’t decide what work should or should not be done.
“To my mind, council made a decision and whether Mr. Byford likes it or not, he has to abide by that decision and has no real wiggle room,” he said. “As long as there are no delays, as long as the project is on schedule and as long as he is not doing anything contrary to what council directed him to do, that’s fine. But if he’s doing otherwise, he doesn’t get to decide whatever he wants to do.”
Minnan-Wong admits the city is “notorious” for changing transit plans but wouldn’t support reopening the debate.
“I support building something.”
With files from Jackson Proskow