New Toronto council, same Scarborough LRT agreement –for now

Councillors voted to go ahead with the Scarborough subway extension Tuesday, choosing to shelve requests for more information about the controversial project.
Commuters ride a TTC subway west from Kennedy Station in Scarborough, Ontario Wednesday, September 25, 2013. Kevin Van Paassen / File / The Globe and Mail

TORONTO – Toronto’s new mayor and council met for the first time this week more than a year after their predecessor buried Scarborough transit underground once and for all.

Or so they thought.

The original Master Agreement between Metrolinx and the city, which includes light rail in Scarborough, is still in place long after councillors voted to replace a seven-stop, nine-kilometre line fully funded by the province with a three-stop, seven-kilometre line for which the city would have to pay $1 billion plus all operating costs.

“Metrolinx continues to work with the TTC and the City of Toronto to amend the Master Agreement to accommodate Council’s decision to pursue an extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway instead of an LRT replacement and extension in Scarborough,” Metrolinx spokesperson Anne-Marie Aikens said in an email Wednesday.

Toronto city council, under the leadership of then-Mayor Rob Ford, voted to scrap the fully-funded LRT in favour of the nearly $3.1 billion subway in October 2013. Of that cost, the city has committed to paying nearly $910 million as well as operational costs.

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Mayor John Tory has said the city will need more money from other levels of government if it wants to upgrade, or even maintain, public transit in Toronto. He has said he wants to restore service on 41 bus lines which were reduced by the previous city council in 2010. But he cautioned that promise was contingent on whether the city’s finding money to pay for it.

“The TTC system is still reeling from operating cuts imposed by council in 2011 and again in 2012 which resulted on 41 bus routes across the city being reduced,” he said during a November press conference.

At the same time, Tory has promised to build his campaign-plank SmartTrack line in seven years, the Scarborough subway and begin analysis on the downtown relief line while also continuing with current projects like signal upgrade and the extension of the Yonge-University-Spadina line.

“Those issues, the issue of capital and operating funding, has not been the subject of any kind of consistent dialogue between the city and other levels of the government,” he said in November.