David Soknacki Wants to Restore the Scarborough Light Rail Plan
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David Soknacki Wants to Restore the Scarborough Light Rail Plan

Mayoral candidate wants to nix the controversial Scarborough subway—and the property tax increase needed to pay for it.

Scarborough RT departing from Midland station  Photo by Alex Resurgent from the Torontoist Flickr Pool

Scarborough RT departing from Midland station. Photo by Alex Resurgent from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

We’ve got our first contender for a major election issue this year: the future of Scarborough transit. David Soknacki, a former Scarborough councillor who served as David Miller’s cross-the-aisle pick for a conservative budget chief, is now running for mayor, and in his first major policy announcement, he said that he wants to bring back the Scarborough LRT plan.

Scarborough’s current RT is nearing the end of its life, and needs to be replaced. The issue is, with what? City council and the province (which will pay for some or all of the next line, depending on what gets built) have each been wrestling internally, and wrestling with each other, about that question for…well, longer than anyone cares to remember. There’ve been decisions and reversals and counter-reversals and special council meetings, and signed agreements that got reopened and then reopened once more. A few months ago, council took another vote, billed by many as the final one, and opted for a subway. Though most experts recommended light rail based on ridership projections and the longer length of the line, and though the subway will cost about twice as much, many elected officials simply became convinced that the political cost of giving Scarborough an LRT instead of a subway would be too high.

View Scarborough Subway vs. LRT in a larger map

scarborough transit map legend

In a statement, Soknacki wrote, “By raising taxes to pay for the subway option, Ford went back on his 2010 campaign promise not to raise taxes. In reversing her long-time pro-LRT stance, Stintz defied the TTC’s priorities and ignored the advice of its professional planners, engineers and transit experts. A crucial part of the change Toronto needs is to make decisions based on evidence, built on facts.” (Soknacki also wrote about the issue before announcing his mayoral campaign.)

There’s some evidence that it was the politicians more than the public who found the notion of an LRT toxic. Whether that same public has the appetite to reopen the debate, however, isn’t yet clear. There’s certainly time to do so: there are about five years of assessments and design work, and a couple more council votes, that need to be completed before any subway construction could begin.

Interactive calculator! Here’s more on the two Scarborough transit options—

Subway vs LRT: You Do the Math