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