Most commuters did not know that the Lawrence East station will close when the subway eventually opens, according to a new survey from a local transit advocacy group.
The one-stop subway is just what everyone in Scarborough wants. At least, that’s what its boosters want you to believe. For them, it’s a transformative project that will generate jobs, development, and growth at the Scarborough Town Centre—although nowhere else—even though the office of Mayor John Tory still has to convince Oxford Properties, the STC owner, of the subway’s merits.
A huge problem with Tory’s plan is that the more than 16,000 daily riders who board the Scarborough RT at stations other than the STC will see their stations close. There are the more than 125,000 other Scarborough residents who will never see an expanded LRT network on Eglinton East or Sheppard as the subway eats up funding for both these projects.
Champions of the $3.35-billion one-stop subway extension plan seem to ignore facts and generally be more concerned with growth at the town centre than providing residents of the area with much-needed transit access, despite the ever-escalating cost of the project.
For two weeks earlier this month, Scarborough Transit Action surveyed 200 riders at Lawrence East station, the second most used station on the SRT, to gauge their opinions on its closure, and see if they are being properly informed by politicians. Turns out, not only are riders mostly not supportive of the project, but most did not even know Lawrence East will close when (and if) the subway eventually opens.
Our results show that only a small minority were even aware that their station is disappearing. Of these respondents, most were also not aware of how Tory hopes to replace the station with a SmartTrack station. This was not surprising, given their response to the first question.
Furthermore, once they heard of the plan, most were unhappy with such a replacement, given that SmartTrack/GO fares are likely to remain high and offer no free transfer to the TTC network. The Mayor’s office has since said that SmartTrack fares will be the same as the TTC, but with Metrolinx’s inclination to pursue schemes such as fare by distance and premium fares for rapid transit, there is no guarantee this will happen and riders will be left paying more for a service many do not want.
With their station closing and an unattractive replacement being forced upon them, is it any surprise that riders would prefer the original seven-stop LRT plan, as it keeps their local station and offers them connections to both the rest of Scarborough AND the larger citywide transit network?
Since our results show that almost equal proportions of riders are heading downtown and within Scarborough, why do most Scarborough councillors and the mayor refuse to listen to their transit-using constituents?
The entire set of results is packaged as one document and is available for viewing here.
The frustration and confusion surrounding the subway plan were on full display on August 17 when we presented our results to the media and rallied with riders disappointed in our politicians’ failure to invest in real transit for Scarborough. For too long, proponents of the subway extension have characterized anyone supporting alternative plans as anti-Scarborough; part of some nebulous group of “downtown elites” hoping to stop the east-end’s rightful quest for underground transit. They should have spoken to the riders who will be affected by their decisions—had they done so, the preference for a full transit network with the LRT plan would have become clear.
Scarborough Transit Action will continue to fight this project. As transit riders, we know the one-stop subway would be a disaster for our neighbourhoods and for the entire city. With the 2018 municipal election on the horizon, our politicians need to start rethinking this project, or else face backlash from awakened and emboldened transit riders.
Vincent Puhakka is a member of Scarborough Transit Action, an outreach group bringing together Scarborough citizens advocating for better public transit at all levels of government.