NEWS January 30th, 2014

By Eric McMillan

EDITORIAL: Another new old vision for transit still needed

Little-known mayoralty candidate David Soknacki has suddenly taken centre stage by laying out a provocative transit platform.

For this he should be commended.

As he surely expected, his call to cancel the Scarborough subway extension and return to light-rail building has angered subway proponents and, even among many of its opponents, it has raised moans of “Oh, no, not another transit reversal.”

Memories of newly elected mayor Rob Ford arbitrarily cancelling his predecessor’s cherished Transit City.

Or earlier local governments filling in holes for previously approved subway lines.

Councillor Soknacki is risking alienating voters on all sides, including his own Scarborough constituents and central residents who are most supportive of light rail.

But we appreciate his bravery in standing up against a storm of criticism for what he apparently thinks best for Toronto.

We are not sure another U-turn on transit would be a good thing. However, we are grateful his advocacy raises public awareness of the facts about the subway deal that was rushed through when other levels of government offered partial funding.

The subway line extension — just three transit stops, only one of which is really new — is expected to cost Toronto taxpayers $1 billion locally, plus more to other taxpayer-funded governments who are contributing to the project.

The effects of this decision will be with us a long time, both through raising the money from us to pay for it and reducing funding for other programs we need.

Sorry, but it really is worth at least considering Soknacki’s proposal.

If it really is too late to debate this line again (without making our city a bigger laughingstock than it is now), then at least Soknacki’s proposal should raise the stakes in any future subway-vs-LRT discussion.

We are not taking a knee-jerk reaction to support either side. A careful plan to develop Toronto transit would involve (as some in the past did) both rapid-building of light-rail lines and extension of the subway system over time as we can afford it.

(The problem with Ford’s subway fixation has never been that subways are a bad idea but that he never came up with any way to pay for them.)

We also have some progressive-thinking councillors in midtown. Some of them unfortunately caved on the close vote that pushed the Scarborough extension through.

Perhaps the pronouncements of the councillor from the eastern suburbs will spark them to continue speaking up on Toronto’s perennial issue and continue pressing for reasonable solutions.