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Poll Position: Province’s Subway vs City Council’s Subway vs LRT for Scarborough

LRT, it turns out, is not a four-letter word in Toronto.

The province has approved a Scarborough subway which will follow the route of the Scarborough RT for six kilometres to Scarborough Town Centre, run above ground, and will have two stops. This subway would cost about one and a half billion dollars. Do you approve or disapprove of this decision?

Approve: 45% (In Scarborough: 55%)

Disapprove: 45% (38%)

Don’t know: 10% (7%)

This subway proposal replaces city council’s original proposal for a subway following a different route, with three stops, running for eight kilometres to the Sheppard Avenue Subway and built mainly below ground. This subway would cost about three billion dollars. Which of these two proposals do you think is more appropriate?

Two-stop, above-ground subway to Scarborough Town Centre: 27% (34%)

Three-stop, below-ground subway to Sheppard Avenue: 50% (49%)

Don’t know: 23% (18%)

The proposed subway also replaces a proposed Light Rail Transit or LRT line with seven stops extending to the Sheppard Avenue Subway. Which of these two proposals do you think is more appropriate?

Two-stop, above-ground subway to Scarborough Town Centre: 19% (26%)

A seven-stop LRT to Sheppard Avenue Subway: 52% (53%)

Neither of these: 21% (17%)

Don’t know: 8% (4%)

Poll taken: September 21-22, 2013
Sample size: 1082
Margin of Error: +/-3%, 19 times out of 20
Methodology: Interactive voice response telephone survey
Conducted by: Forum Research [PDF]

NOTES: Let’s start by noting that the questions in this survey are deeply flawed.

For one thing, they mention a “Sheppard Avenue Subway” where none exists: there is no rapid transit on the relevant portion of Sheppard right now, and the plan (already signed and funded) is to build LRT there, not a subway. This “Sheppard Avenue Subway” exists only as a plank in Rob Ford’s campaign platforms, and nowhere else.

Additionally, respondents could choose “neither of these” when asked about the proposed provincial subway vs the existing LRT plan (thereby giving supporters of the city council subway option a way of rejecting the other two choices), but were not given that option when asked about the two competing subway routes (meaning that supporters of the LRT option had no equivalent way of rejecting the other two choices). Finally, missing from the head-to-head comparisons is a question asking whether people would prefer city council’s subway or the existing LRT plan—a striking omission, since that’s the choice council will most likely be faced with when they re-debate this issue next month.

Nonetheless, this is the only recent survey (or at least, the only one the results of which have been made public) on the Scarborough transit question, and to that extent it sheds some new light on the issue. The biggest finding: Torontonians are actually just fine with LRT, when the alternative is a subway that doesn’t make sense. Whether any of the politicians who have discovered a new-found love of subways (and of subways everywhere and at any cost) in the wake of Rob Ford’s constant cheerleading for them reconsider their position and start championing LRT again remains to be seen.

For reference, here is a map showing the various alternatives under discussion:

scarborough transit options competing


  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    The numbers don’t lie, folks. The people want LRT, LRT, LRT!

    • dsmithhfx

      You’ve got to wonder if the politicians are getting wildly different numbers. And no mistake: they are polling.

    • OgtheDim

      Actually, they kinda do…that question is not what is planned.

      “The proposed subway also replaces a proposed Light Rail Transit or LRT line with seven stops extending to the Sheppard Avenue Subway.”

      Not true.

  • William Paul

    geez, you guys just can’t stop yourselves from rambling on and on and on..LRT, LRT, LRT, LRT. We could have had both LRT and subway for the $$$ Liberals wasted on eHealth, Gas plants etc.
    Whatever mode, we, the public will remain getting hosed and will pay forever.
    Why don’t you move on to something else.
    You have flogged this dead horse to death.

    • dsmithhfx

      Feel free to move on to something else.

    • Testu

      This is an article about the city’s opinion on the LRT/Subway plans, so we’re here talking about that. You don’t have to read it, and if you don’t want to talk about it no one is forcing you to.

      If you find an article about eHealth or the gas plant scandal you can talk about them there to your heart’s content.

    • vampchick21

      Considering that it’s actually a current, ongoing issue of great import, in particular to the people who live in Scarborough and North Eastern Toronto, in terms of getting them around their neighbourhoods and into downtown and back, we’ll talk about it until it’s done. Deal with it.

  • The Other Dave

    The big question is, what do the people affected by those choices want? What happens if you only ask people in Scarborough? Nobody in Etobicoke, or downtown will want the expense but those who need it may want it far more.

    • TorontoistEditors

      The percentages in brackets after each answer show the Scarborough-specific survey results.

    • vampchick21

      Everyone in the city knows that the discussions have been about transit in Scarborough and North Eastern Toronto. It’s not a secret.

    • Testu

      Are they willing to pay higher taxes or higher fares for it? If they’re up for regional price increases to pay for their over-built service then there’s no problem at all.

      If the line is coming at the cost of the rest of the system then we all get to have a say.

    • OgtheDim

      Given that everybody using this affects everybody taking both the Sheppard and the YUS lines, yeah…it kinda does matter what others think.

      Transit systems are NEVER in isolation from everybody else.

  • OgtheDim

    Ummm…..the LRT is not going to go to the Sheppard subway.

  • istoronto

    Transit City was the best thought out and most affordable plan for transit expansion in the 416. Ford canned it for political reasons. Once it was politicalized, it pretty much killed any real commitment to actually getting something built. Scarborough won’t be seeing an LRT or subway out to its eastern border until 2040. if by then!

    • OgtheDim

      If you think there wasn’t politics involved in Transit City, you were not watching.

      Two examples:

      The Jane line was a sop to people like Mamo and was never really doable.

      The Finch line was always a political beast (note the discussions about taking it to Fairview).

      It might have been the best thought out and most affordable but it was politicized.

      All higher order transit is.

      • Paul Kishimoto

        Isn’t there a community underserved by transit around Jane & Finch? David Miller was (is) pretty explicit about the value of connecting such areas to the rest of the city.

        Per another article here yesterday, if residents of the inner suburbs had easier access to distant employment, maybe they wouldn’t need food banks as much. As has been endlessly pointed out, Transit City would have provided that for more people, because it was using a mode with lower cost per kilometre/per station.

        I think we should be careful to separate the necessarily political discussion by which we determine our high-level objectives and priorities for transit, from the decisions about which specific modes, routes etc. best serve those objectives. The former should be the basis of campaign promises, not the latter.

        • OgtheDim

          The Finch West area will actually be reasonably well served by the U line. It would have been better served by an LRT going to Finch station but that proved too expensive.

          There is a need for higher order transit in the west going north south. BUT, the idea of using Jane was all due the word “Jane” being seen as needy.

        • dsmithhfx

          ” if residents of the inner suburbs had easier access to distant employment, maybe they wouldn’t need food banks as much.”

          That’s just one factor, in and of itself, might not make a big difference except to cut off more people from EI and welfare, and set them on 2-hour commutes to part-time, minimum wage jobs. I blame free trade, and a political and business culture that is extremely hostile to labor.

          Better transit ain’t really going to help with that.

          • Paul Kishimoto

            The article I alluded to was about a Daily Bread report called “Who’s Hungry? A Tale of Three Cities.”

            “Three Cities” (a different three) also show up in this report: — with which I guess you’re familiar.

            I won’t retype it, but they explain how the availability, or not, of transit is related to income disparities across the city. Income is clearly related to food bank usage.

            Even if the jobs available are shitty (you’re right, transit isn’t a magic wand for that), access to a larger pool of shitty jobs is still an improvement for people with few better options. Greater access would also amplify the benefits of any effort to improve the jobs available.

  • wklis

    “Sheppard Avenue Subway”? Did someone from Ford Nation write up questions?

  • glenn_storey

    l.r.t. all the way. contact ALL city councillors and tell them.

  • Scrappysmith

    Will Toronto City Council add another stop on the Danforth between Eglinton & McCowan to service the Priority Neighborhood there & Rezone The McCowan Corridor from Ellesmere to Eglinton to Multistory Mixed Use to allow growth in the Scarborough Stubway Corridor? Till the answers yes the Provinces routes the only Subway option! LRT still service’s more Scarberians than any Stubway Route

  • Andrew

    They should also ask (to people living in the vicinity of the proposals): are you more likely to leave your car at home and take public transit if a) the RT is replaced by a bus to Kennedy station b) the RT is replaced by an LRT to Kennedy station or c) the RT is replaced by a subway extension of the Bloor-Danforth line. You’d probably see that more people would be likely to take transit if a subway is close to their residence. Sure 1.5 billion extra for a one time cost is a lot, but isn’t our region suffering to the tune of 11 billion dollars a year in lost productivity due to congestion. And the argument about 7 stops making the LRT superior is valid but in a system like Toronto’s where you don’t have express trains, the counterargument is that more stops can mean longer trips. During the weekend subway closures, buses running on Yonge make ~15 stops between Union and Bloor instead of 6. That doesn’t necessarily make it better. Of course grade separated transit is different but the number of stops is important as well as it obviously impacts on speed. For example, for people who deciding whether to take transit or drive, time and cost are both key factors. We need to make the system larger (where growth is warranted to attract new ridership) and faster (for example eliminating the transfer at Kennedy and having fewer stops might save 10 minutes on a trip from STC to Yonge/Bloor) which might convince a chunk of people to take the TTC instead of the DVP. People will take public transit if it’s a reasonable option. So many people take Go not because they love public transit but because it’s faster and cheaper than driving. We need to build a better and more integrated system (even if it’s slightly more expensive) with the eventual goal of encouraging more people to adopt public transit. Also, from a regional network perspective going up to Sheppard East will allow passengers to transfer from Viva directly to the subway (which is a more attractive option to commuters than transferring to an LRT and then to a subway) so this extension will also serve commuters from Markham.