November 27, 2017

Bring on the Eglinton East LRT!

Map of Eglinton East LRT (via City of Toronto)
As with many city builders in the Greater Toronto Area, I am furious at the political games with the one-stop subway extension in Scarborough. City councillors – mostly suburban – repeatedly denied conducting cost-and-benefit comparisons with the original seven stop LRT, while a recent Toronto Star article indicated staff will not reveal the updated subway costs until after the 2018 election. The recent article raises suspicions the Mayor’s office is trying to bury the subway as an election issue with both John Tory and Doug Ford supporting the subway. However, it will only delay the inevitable truth the subway – currently expected to cost $3.35 billion – will exceed the $3.56 billion in available funding and leave nothing for the Eglinton East LRT. Especially if the controversies surrounding the Lawrence Avenue SmartTrack stop prompt the addition of a second subway station.

But what does the Scarborough Subway have to do with cycling? It’s because the Eglinton East LRT – part of a proposed transit network with the subway and SmartTrack – would not only give Scarborough transit users a much-needed boost, but also a game changer for cycling in the area.

What is the Eglinton East LRT? Formerly known as the Scarborough-Malvern LRT when Transit City was first introduced in 2007, it is a planned light rail line which extends the Eglinton Crosstown LRT under construction from its current terminus at Kennedy Station to University of Toronto Scarborough Campus (UTSC) via Eglinton Avenue, Kingston Road, and Morningside Avenue. A future extension is proposed to Malvern Town Centre, which was the original terminus of the LRT.
Cross section of Eglinton Avenue (via City of Toronto)
As was the case with Transit City, the Cycling Network Plan approved by City Council last year calls for bike lanes on all three streets, which would bring safe cycling facilities deep into Scarborough. Centennial College and UTSC are along the LRT route, as are two GO train stations – Eglinton and Guildwood – and priority neighbourhoods such as Malvern, Kingston-Galloway, Scarborough Village, Eglinton East, and Kennedy Park. The Morningside bike lanes would have the added benefit of connecting with the Waterfront Trail via the existing Highland Creek trail and a proposed new trail.
Cycling Network Plan along the Eglinton East LRT corridor
Factor in other proposed bike lanes in the bike plan (e.g. Midland, Bellamy) and you will find the Eglinton East LRT will be to Scarborough as Bloor-Danforth will be to Downtown Toronto. Or what REimagining Yonge will be to North York Centre. In other words, a true game changer.

The City of Toronto is hosting three public meetings this week for the Eglinton East LRT, which I encourage those who bike in Scarborough to attend and show support for including protected bike lanes along the LRT route. Instead of calling for the outright cancellation of the Scarborough subway – which TTCriders and Scarborough Transit Action have campaigned for – I am suggesting an indirect ask to proceed with the Eglinton East LRT ahead of the Scarborough subway gravy train to benefit both transit and bicycle users. Especially if the LRT can be completed ahead of the 2025-2026 timeframe for the subway. This action could be a less confrontational way to force the City to revert to the original (and far more cost effective) LRT as the aging Scarborough RT’s replacement.

Consider this the latest proof why bicycles and transit go together like peanut butter and jam!

All aboard!
Rob Z (e-mail)

NOTE: Cycle Toronto sent out an action alert on this item, which has been reposted on Ward 30 Bikes' blog.

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