Finch commuters left out in the cold
LRT plan cut in wake of other transit funding committments
It is past rush hour at Finch Station on a colder-than-usual April morning, but the corner where bus commuters wait for the 36 Finch West bus is still a hive of activity.
Lines form, and people wait.
The bus route that travels from Yonge all the way past Kipling in Toronto’s west end is the busiest bus route at the station, and frustration among riders is growing as the clock ticks on.
Robert Laws, 47, who has been a TTC rider for over four decades, says the bus route is deplorable.
“It’s the worst service I’ve seen in this city,” he said. “It takes me twice as long traveling the same distance than in any other part of the city.
“Obviously something needs to be done about this issue.”
It’s a familiar complaint among Finch West commuters, and one they worry isn’t going anytime soon, now that the city has effectively cancelled a once sought-after plan for light rail on Finch.
On March 31, the province and city jointly announced a plan to move forward with two fully funded light rapid transit plans on Eglinton Avenue and the Scarborough Rapid Transit line. The province will kick in $8.4 billion to build a 25-kilometre LRT line mostly underground on Eglinton Avenue from Black Creek Drive to Kennedy station and north to Scarborough City Centre. The province will also pay to convert the existing Scarborough RT into a surface LRT.
The mayor announced the same day he will seek $4.2 billion in private sector cash to build a Sheppard subway connecting from Downsview station to Don Mills station and then further east to a new terminus at Scarborough City Centre.
With no money left unaccounted for, Mayor Ford has effectively cancelled the Finch light rail plan, previously part of the now-defunct Transit City plan. At the transit announcement, Ford did promise enhanced bus service along this corridor between Downsview station and Humber College, and made mention of a possible subway for Finch 10 years down the road. For now, transit will not change significantly on Finch.
The news has hit commuters hard. Many feel Ford has shortchanged them.
“He’s forgetting the people north of Sheppard,” says Sheila Nemeth.
The 48 year old commutes to North York General’s Branson site at Bathurst and Finch, and says the high volume of traffic along Finch coupled with slow service makes it extremely hard for her to get around.
“It takes forever,” she says. “Then when a bus does come, it gets so packed.”
Meanwhile, St. Paul’s councillor Joe Mihevc is doubtful a subway along Sheppard or Finch will ever get built. Mihevc was a big supporter of the Transit City plan to build light rail.
“The people along Finch get screwed and the Sheppard subway, if it ever gets built, will indebt the city to such an extent that not only will my children, but my children’s children will be responsible for paying for it,” Mihevc told the media March 31.
Meanwhile, new councillor James Pasternak says fulfilling Mayor Ford’s full vision along Sheppard at a cost of $4 billion would “take a lot more work.”
Instead, he suggests working on getting cash from the federal and provincial governments to connect Downsview with Yonge stations along Sheppard only, at a smaller cost of $2 billion.
“We are close but I have to convince my colleagues,” Pasternak told the Town Crier.
The province has not promised any more cash, but if there’s any money left over from the Eglinton and Scarborough LRT, up to $650 million can be used for other Toronto transit projects. The feds had previously agreed to dish out $333 million for a Sheppard LRT and the city will ask the Canadian government to allocate that cash to a Sheppard subway instead.
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