The Star Made 3,700 Pages of Scarborough Subway FOI Documents Public, and You Can Search Through Them
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The Star Made 3,700 Pages of Scarborough Subway FOI Documents Public, and You Can Search Through Them

There's a lot of documents to go through.

Then-city manager Joe Pennachetti (centre) and CFO Rob Rossini (left) refer to documents as they answer questions from councillors. Photo by David Hains.

It is time for a Scarborough Subway Extension treasure hunt.

The Toronto Star has made public 3,700 pages of emails and documents that show the decision-making behind the Scarborough Subway Extension since 2013. The documents, obtained through extensive freedom of information requests, show the steps that City staff took to put together their reports, prepare for council meetings, and the questions they had about numbers and strategy.

Most of the emails and documents are pretty straightforward—staff make sure they’re on the same page before responding to media questions, they set up meetings, and double-check their numbers. It’s also instructive to look at how the sausage gets made, and what staff are prioritizing at any given moment.

The Star has published a few stories based on these FOI documents, most recently about a misleading memo that inflated the cost of the seven-stop LRT plan. But there’s a lot more to understand about the decision-making process, and making the documents public—particularly when there are so many of them—is a good place to begin. People with some spare time on their hands and the willingness to read through really big PDFs can probably add some new insights into the beleaguered transit plan, and how we’ve got to this point.

Releasing over 3,700 pages of documents, some of which are redacted by the city for various privacy reasons, also highlights a shortcoming in our transit debate. A lot of multi-billion dollar decisions that change the future of transit in the city are rushed, and could use more transparency. The FOI documents only provide that transparency after the fact, but if it helps us demand better information and more accountability in the future, then that’s a step in the right direction.

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