If this is the golden age of transit building in Toronto, why are the advocates and supposed beneficiaries so discomfited? Because too many of the projects are too politicized to give an independent observer — like the commuters and the citizens who pay the freight — any confidence that the right project is being built along the right corridor, at the right time, using the right transit mode, for the right price.
We love all the projects: Crosstown. SmartTrack. LRT. Relief line. Yonge subway to York Region. One-stop Scarborough subway. Malvern LRT that doesn’t go to Malvern. Love them all, but not effervescently so. We know we are being used. Our leaders have ground the confidence out of us and replaced it with cynicism.
The fear is we’ll wake up 30 years hence to find that we squandered an opportunity to realign our transit needs and deliver a city region equipped to handle its burgeoning future. We fear we’ll fail — not because of lack of money or an appetite for improvements, but for lack of guts to speak the truth.
This week the province boasted it will spend $160 billion on our transportation needs. Facts and careful consideration of the alternatives should determine where projects go.
On the day that embarrassingly low ridership numbers for the one-stop subway to Scarborough became public, the provincial government sprung into action, arm in arm with Mayor John Tory, with a curious transit announcement. Was it designed to deflect attention? Why announce $150 million for design studies of the downtown relief line, a transit route not yet approved?
Within 24 hours another reason emerged. Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca assembled the media to tell citizens his government is spending $50 million for studies on pushing the Yonge subway line north to Highway 7, quickly using up the Yonge subway capacity freed up by the relief line.
The flurry of announcements only muddled the thinking around the timing of the Yonge subway extension to York Region. And it failed to eclipse the fuzzy reasons for choosing to build a one-stop subway extension from Kennedy to the Scarborough Town Centre.
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