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politics

Poll Position: LRT Most Popular Choice for Scarborough Transit

By a clear margin, Torontonians would choose the LRT plan for Scarborough over both competing subway proposals.


Three transit options have been proposed for Scarborough, all starting at the Kennedy subway station. Which do you think is best option?

6 km, two stop subway to Scarborough Town Centre, costing about $2 billion: 10%

8 km, three stop subway to Sheppard Avenue, costing about $3 billion: 27%

10 km, eight stop LRT to Sheppard Avenue, costing about $2 billion: 38%

None of these: 13%

Don’t know: 13%

Poll taken: October 28-29,2013
Sample size: 1093
Margin of Error: +/-3%, 19 times out of 20
Methodology: Interactive voice response telephone survey
Conducted by: Forum Research [PDF]

NOTES: For the past couple of years, a growing chorus of politicians have said that when it comes to replacing the aging Scarborough RT line, we must go with a subway rather than light rail. They said this, primarily, on the grounds that suburban residents felt “left out,” that Scarborough “deserved” subways, that infrastructure development in Toronto favoured downtown, which got the best technology while others got scraps. City councillor Glenn de Baeremaeker (Ward 38, Scarborough Centre) proclaimed that he had to back a Scarborough subway because he simply wouldn’t get re-elected otherwise. Over the summer a provincial by-election in Scarborough was focused primarily on this issue, with former LRT proponents reversing course and becoming reborn as subway advocates. No matter what experts had said, the feeling among these politicians was that you simply couldn’t get elected if you championed LRT.

So strong were so many politicians’ beliefs on this subject that over the course of several months, and several tortured debates, the municipal government decided to tear up the already designed, already funded light rail plan it had for Scarborough—one with signed agreements, which is no small feat given Toronto’s relationship with Queen’s Park—and start again. Thus were born not one but two plans for a Scarborough subway: one from city council, and another from the province. With a surprise injection of federal funding the more expensive of those two (city council’s) is now the leading contender, though a great many observers are convinced it will never be built.

One small oversight: none of these politicians actually had a whole lot of evidence in support of this claim, that LRT was a non-starter and residents would only ever accept a subway. Politicians spoke as though they were channeling their constituents’ clearly expressed views, and had been inundated with calls saying “subways, or else!” This never rang true—the public’s greatest wish, as far as we could tell, was more along the lines of “just stop fighting and build something already“—and now a new poll undermines that claim even further. When presented with the three choices, Torontonians preferred the LRT option over either subway; LRT tied the two subway options combined. Among Scarborough residents one of the subway proposals (the City’s) was much more popular, but even then there was no slam dunk: 14 per cent chose the province’s subway, 34 per cent the City’s subway, and 32 per cent LRT.

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

scarborough transit options competing

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