Olivia Chow’s Transit Policy Insults Scarborough Residents

From the outset of her mayoral campaign, Olivia Chow has tried to distinguish herself from her main opponents,  Mayor Rob Ford and John Tory, by explicitly stating that she, unlike her two main opponents, does not come from a privileged background. That her immigrant background is more humble. And definitely not elitist.

Chow implies that, as a result of her more modest background, she can best understand and represent the interests and aspirations of the hard-working families of Toronto, especially the hard-working immigrant communities in Etobicoke, North York, and especially Scarborough.That is a nice story.

Except Chow’s transit policy, more specifically her opposition to the expansion of the Scarborough subway, and her preference for the cheaper alternative, a Scarborough LRT (light rapid transit), are contrary to the interests of long-suffering Scarborough residents. And, accordingly, are insulting to the very residents and Scarborough voters Chow claims to represent.

Chow’s transit pitch is as follows:

Her LRT alternative will have seven stops as opposed to the three proposed subway stops. With a larger number of LRT stops, about 20,000 more people will be able to walk to a LRT stop, as opposed to the fewer proposed subway stops. Also the LRT can be built and completed 4 years faster than the proposed Scarborough subway.

And here is the kicker,  according to Chow, since the LRT option will cost $1 billion less,  which sum will be debenture financed and interest thereon paid by annual increases in taxation, all Toronto residents will benefit from allegedly lower taxes, including Scarborough residents.

Unfortunately, Chow has ignored that independent Toronto city manager Joe Pennachetti, in an extensively researched 2013 report to Toronto city council, has clearly articulated the transit benefits of the proposed subway extension from Kennedy Station to the Scarborough Town Centre.

Mr. Pennachetti’s report concluded that whereas the LRT option would cover a larger geographic area, include seven stations and come at a lower cost, the subway extension option, with only three stations, would have higher speed, higher quality service, higher ridership and no transfer for passengers from one mode (Bloor-Danforth subway line) to another at Kennedy station.

In other words, the subway option is a superior mode of public transit—higher speed, higher quality service, higher ridership and no transfer for passengers from one mode to another at Kennedy station.

Let’s face it. The expanded TTC Scarborough subway is clearly the better way because, by comparison, Chow’s proposed LRT is a cheaper, second-rate glorified outdoor, above-ground bus service.

Because of Toronto’s inclement weather—rainy fall season, bitter cold winters and steamy hot summers—Toronto commuters naturally prefer the comfort and convenience of fast underground subways- to waiting outside uncomfortably for long periods of time for late, stuffy and much slower buses and streetcars or even the recently-completed St. Clair LRT.

Consequently, downtown Toronto residents who live in the affluent communities of the Kingsway, High Park, the Annex, Rosedale,  North Toronto, Riverdale and Forest Hill-  use extensively three separate and very popular subway lines: the Toronto-Danforth line, the University-Spadina line and the Yonge Street line.

Greg Sorbara (former Ontario Finance Minister and real estate developer), the driving force behind the subway expansion in the northwest of Toronto,  also believed that a subway mode was superior to LRT, due to its convenience, comfort and as an engine for commercial development in the Vaughan area.

Accordingly, he convinced his own Ontario Liberal government and the Harper federal government to fund the expansion of the University-Spadina line to York University and into the new proposed Vaughan city centre.

The tri-level support for the expanded University-Spadina subway line has not been lost on the 600,000+ residents of Scarborough.

A majority of Scarborough residents made it very clear to both their elected provincial and federal representatives, that they preferred the more superior and more expensive Scarborough subway expansion because they believed they were entitled to a portion of the same subway benefits enjoyed by their more affluent neighbors in Toronto to the south and west.

In addition, the Scarborough subway expansion also has the potential ( as opposed to a cheaper LRT option) to stimulate commercial, office and residential development in and around the Scarborough Town Centre, and bring much needed jobs and investment to the area, similar to the effects that subway expansion had on the Yonge-Finch corridor and the proposed new Vaughan city centre.

In response, both federal and provincial Liberals and Conservatives have publicly backed the Scarborough subway and have also supported tri-level funding together with Toronto City council.

Notwithstanding the clear benefits of a subway over a LRT, in terms of comfort, convenience, higher ridership, higher speed, higher quality of service, development potential, tri-level government financial support and overwhelming popular and political support, Olivia Chow still insists that Scarborough residents should accept a cheaper LRT alternative.

Chow’s downtown Toronto leftist/NDP supporters, such as councilman Gord Perks and Josh Matlow,  vocal opponents of the Scarborough subway, are at least honest when they state that they oppose the Scarborough subway, because they do not want Toronto taxpayers (i.e. their affluent downtown constituents) to pay additional taxes to finance the city’s portion of this subway ($1 billion).

Olivia Chow, to her discredit, won’t publicly admit that is the real reason for her opposition.

Instead she misrepresents to Scarborough residents that she cares and respects Scarborough residents when shestates publicly:

“I know Scarborough hasn’t been treated right. It deserves more respect and I will show it. By building seven stops in Scarborough, not three. Helping 20,000 more people walk to the stop. And delivering world class transit years faster.”

What Olivia Chow is trying to do is to pull the wool over the eyes of Scarborough residents and try to convince that an inferior and cheaper LRT is better transit for them- so as to save her downtown Toronto supporters from paying some additional taxes, doing what is right for Scarborough and what Scarborough residents deserve.

Ms. Chow, the Scarborough residents are not stupid.

They know- you get what you pay for.

Shame on you, Ms. Chow.

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