Toronto Council Approves Sheppard East LRT

Toronto Council, after over a day and a half’s debate, has approved the construction of a Sheppard East LRT from Don Mills to Morningside by a vote of 24-19.  This completes the rout of Mayor Ford’s subway plan and returns transit plans more or less to their position when he was elected.  The Mayor vows to fight on, but now sees this as a future campaign issue.

Today’s debate was, for the most part, more civil and organized than what we heard yesterday, except for an outburst from the Mayor and a speech showing his passionate hatred for streetcars.

Now the ball is in Metrolinx’ court to come up with a construction staging plan allowing for the year-plus delay.  During the debate, some members of the pro-subway faction claimed that, according to private conversations with Metrolinx, work would not start on the Sheppard LRT until 2016.  My own sources tell me that this is not true, but we must await a definitive word from the Provincial agency.

The Sheppard LRT decision also ensures that the Scarborough RT extension will be part of the plan with the new LRT line running, initially, to Sheppard Avenue and using Conlins Road carhouse as a base.  A motion by Councillor Cho, which passed as part of the package, seeks funding for extending the SRT/LRT northeast to Malvern Centre and the Sheppard LRT south via Morningside to UTSC campus.  “Streetcars” might reach Malvern only five decades or so after the TTC’s original proposal.

A number of additional motions related to long range planning and funding of transit expansion.  These were referred to the City Manager for future reports.  Strangely absent in the discussion was any mention of the role Metrolinx and  its “Big Move 2.0” might take in these discussions.

The details of the decision are available online.

This is an important day for Toronto.  We are on track for an LRT-based plan and for a more detailed evaluation of our transit future than we have seen for decades.  Talking about one line at once, about fundraising for one project at once, is no longer an accepted way of building the city.  Leaving the debate to a secretive Provincial agency is no longer acceptable, and the City is clearly setting out on its own review.  Co-operation is essential given the funding arrangements, but Queen’s Park must stop hiding from the transit planning and financing files.

Finally, a personal note.  Throughout this debate, I have been gratified by the broad understanding of transit issues displayed by many Councillors, advocates and media.  This blog and my own advocacy have helped, but there is the compound effect of so many people working with an informed sense of the topic.  Congratulations to everyone who had a hand in this victory.