If you live in Toronto, chances are the closest TTC bus stop is in the proximity of your home with frequent service.
If you live in Toronto, chances are the bus that arrives at that TTC bus stop will get you to the closest TTC station in under 30 minutes. (Unless you live in the upper west side, we shall take a moment of silence for your dreadful downtown commutes.)
Now, imagine having to live on the outskirts of Toronto where the TTC access to the proximity of your home becomes further and further. More specifically the residents of Scarborough, where their only plug into their inner-city jobs and Toronto’s stellar, well serviced subway line is through an aging Scarborough RT that goes less than 40 mph (more like 4 mph in the winter) and passes through 5 stops.
Figure 1. Map of the current TTC Subway line. Blue Line shows the Current Scarborough RT. Source
This means over 650, 000 and more of Scarborough’s residents’ best option to reaching Toronto’s Bloor-Danforth Line through public transportation is through a 35 year old Scarborough RT line (with hardly any upgrades). Not to mention, that the targeted lower-income communities in the RT’s area who would benefit the most, already lack many resources and municipal financial support.
Should these residents’ location be what stops them from having the same opportunity for public transit as many closer to home Torontonians? If so, we should cut all the phone lines that reach out to the vastly smaller populations of Nunavut, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories, because that’s why our friends at Bell and Rogers charge between $20-30 a month for your regular home phone landline.
Mayor John Tory, had already promised many of these suburban communities and families a solution back in 2014. A quote that came from his mayoral campaign in 2014 says:
With the financial support and go-ahead of federal and provincial governments, John Tory and his council are proud to show you the solution to this problem: The Scarborough Subway Expansion!
Figure 2. Map of the future TTC Subway line after the expansion. Blue Dotted Line shows the Current Scarborough RT. Source
Now, what exactly is the Scarborough Subway Expansion? It is a $3.35 billion project that will connect the TTC’s Bloor-Danforth Line to the one stop Scarborough Subway line, which will stop at Scarborough town centre, while scrapping the previous old Scarborough RT Line mentioned in (Figure 1). This means riders will get from Scarborough to Toronto much quicker through easy access.
How much will the Subway Expansion really cost?
Yes, the project is looking to cost around $3.35 billion, but the TTC is being allocated $3.56 billion to deal with the transit. This still doesn’t cover the fact that there is an extra $600 million worth in additional costs, which puts the project total just under $4 Billion dollars. This means there is roughly $400 million left and probably some more as projects usually require that needs to be allocated for this project to run.
Ridership is also included in the equations and budgeting for this expansion, where the new study puts the daily new ridership from the expansion at only 2,300 from the previous Scarborough RT Line.
With the actual approx. project costs at just under $4 Billion, and the cost of $1.45 million for every new rider, the project looks extremely costly to taxpayers. The costs of the project have been committed from all three levels of government.
Taxpayers will now ask why they should pay for the benefit of another person’s access to public transit. That is where equity, efficiency, and equality come in to play, so this is where the politics really come in!
Efficiency is defined as the economic state in which individuals are able to become better off without making others worse off. The resources in the economy are allocated to serve each individual with minimal waste. By analyzing the proposed extension, it appears that the subway extension is somewhat inefficient.
It would make the residents of Scarborough better off, at a sizable cost to residents in Etobicoke, Downtown, North York, and other regions in Toronto. This shows inefficiency because the taxpayers of those other regions would not benefit as much, and their tax dollars would be traced back to the initial cost of the project, $3.35 billion. Yet, this isn’t a waste of their tax dollars because the expansion will still prove to be useful to many of those residents in further areas who may end up travelling to Scarborough or even the Town Centre shopping area. The expansion will result in a growth of the area that can attract those residents who may not see an everyday use for the transit.
An equitable economy is a system where every individual receives according to their “fair share”, or enough resources are distributed to them to ensure that everyone is brought to the same economic standing. The underlying goal of the Scarborough extension project was to modernize the transit network there, along with providing a better route to many commuters going into Toronto, as well as encouraging growth for the Scarborough Town Centre area. With that being said, it’s the region out of Toronto’s six large neighborhoods that deserves this transit revitalization the most, especially with the lack of resources for many of those Scarborough communities as mentioned earlier. In essence, the Scarborough extension is equitable.
The equal solution would require a subway line to reach every corner and stretch of the GTA, and by that point we’d be Greece (sorry bad joke). That includes areas where ridership would be extremely low, yet regardless the equal solution to benefit them with the same resources/opportunity would be necessary. The Scarborough Expansion seems to impact the most people, and the people who need it most, but it also encourages a lot of other communities to think “Why don’t I get a subway line?”.
TTC’s Real Concerns
Although I thoroughly support this project, and the equity of giving scarborough residents a good link to Toronto’s public transit, I still believe TTC has some other things to take care of. The TTC runs to break even, even though it is public transportation that receives funding from different levels of government. TTC is currently running as a nonprofit that tries to break even every year. Yet for some reason we see prices going up every year. I believe integrating the infrastructure in to a more government controlled subsidy which runs at a loss every year would truly provide a better service for Torontonians.
As an everyday user of the TTC, along with the fact that my family does not have ownership of a car, the costs of public transit are important to me, but my easy access to getting wherever I need to go has made me very grateful. I think it’s fair for other neighbourhoods and communities to have that same opportunity.
In conclusion, I believe that the city should continue and run with their plans of creating a Scarborough Subway Expansion. It is extremely important to keeping an equitable environment for Scarborough residents to having the same or similar opportunities as Torontonians with their public transit. This subway line makes transportation a lot faster and easier for travelling between Toronto and Scarborough, along with shutting down an outdated RT line, which will open up land space for future developments.
It should also be mentioned that the areas which will prosper the most from this expansion happen to be lower income communities that already have a lack of resources and funding for the city. This expansion allows for development of our Canadian communities, along with a creation of jobs. It also allows an opportunity for Scarborough’s Town Centre to receive a development and growth which will see many improvements.
Another thing to take note of is the exponential growth of Scarborough and the GTA’s outskirts/suburbs. Although ridership may not currently seem enthusiastic, the growing suburb and extension of Toronto’s outskirts will show a growth of in those areas, long with an increase in their populations.
The decision ultimately comes down to politics. What is fair? When does equality and equity come in to question. Why do the small communities in Nunavut or Yukon get access to a home phone landline which then boosts the prices for everyone else? The residents of those those Nunavut communities deserve the opportunity of communication, just like the Scarborough communities deserve the opportunity to a better public transit.