Yonge Street sub­way ex­ten­sion back on track

York Re­gion con­tin­gent treks south to con­front Toronto mayor’s ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee

Thornhill Post - - News - DAVID FLEISCHER Post City Mag­a­zines’ colum­nist David Fleischer is a long­time jour­nal­ist and cur­rently an ur­ban plan­ner liv­ing in York Re­gion.

Ding ding! It’s the lat­est round in the Yonge sub­way ex­ten­sion fight and don’t look now but change may be in the air.

Putting the sub­way back in the news was a Toronto City Coun­cil re­port last month up­dat­ing the sta­tus of the ex­ten­sion, which will bring the train from Finch up to High­way 7, and the Down­town Re­lief Line, which we’ll come back to in a se­cond. There­after, Mayor John Tory an­nounced that if the prov­ince or any­one else dared to fund the Yonge ex­ten­sion be­fore the DRL he’d block it.

Toronto has been loathe to take the sub­way fur­ther north with­out the DRL, due to the Yonge line be­ing at ca­pac­ity, and dis­putes be­tween the Re­gion and City about whether other projects are cre­at­ing room for new rid­ers.

Tory’s tough stand made the news and lo­cal politi­cians did the me­dia rounds, ex­plain­ing how im­por­tant the sub­way is to their growth plans.

The fol­low­ing week, Rich­mond Hill Mayor Dave Bar­row, Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti and York Re­gion Chair­per­son Wayne Em­mer­son ven­tured down to Toronto City Hall to make their pitch to the city’s Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee.

Af­ter that, the three stood with Tory at a mi­cro­phone and said they’d work to­gether to jointly lobby for both sub­ways. Wow.

In the mean­time, if you’ve driven along Yonge you may have no­ticed changes afoot.

In par­tic­u­lar, Beaver Val­ley Stone, a long-time ten­ant of Langstaff Road East, sand­wiched be­tween the 407 and the Holy Cross Ceme­tery, has de­camped.

Markham, the TRCA and the landown­ers are re­hab­bing the much-abused Pomona Mills Creek and pre­par­ing the site for de­vel­op­ment, in which the creek will be part of a park.

That de­vel­op­ment will be the first of many in an area — known of­fi­cially as Langstaff Gate­way — planned as an am­bi­tious tran­si­to­ri­ented com­mu­nity.

With the ex­ist­ing tran­sit — GO, YRT and Viva, con­verg­ing with the sub­way, it’s (hope­fully) go­ing to be an ur­ban and ur­bane neigh­bour­hood hous­ing more than 30,000 peo­ple. Another 15,000 res­i­dents will even­tu­ally push out the big box stores on the north side, in Rich­mond Hill Cen­tre.

That will take decades — and the sub­way — but there is room for devel­op­ers to start the ball rolling be­fore the sub­way does. This first phase should see about 750 apart­ments built near Yonge and Langstaff. It’s per­fect for walk­ing to the GO sta­tion but Langstaff Road is the only way in or out by car right now and with no timeline for the sub­way, those first res­i­dents are go­ing to be way ahead of the curve.

So the den­sity keeps com­ing, but the sub­way? Well, at least we saw an iota of progress this month.

Now, the DRL if you’ve missed the early rounds of this long bout, has been kicked around since the time of horse-drawn car­riages but never made it to ac­tual tun­nel­ing. But when York Re­gion and TTC wrapped their work on the ini­tial ex­ten­sion plan­ning in 2009, Toronto made the DRL a pre-req­ui­site for go­ing north. The DRL, which would run off the Bloor-Dan­forth line in the east and con­nect to the Yonge line at Queen, is needed to keep peo­ple from pil­ing into the al­ready-at ca­pac­ity Yonge-Bloor sta­tion.

But while the DRL is im­por­tant, Toronto has spent the past decade pri­or­i­tiz­ing just about ev­ery­thing else. Tran­sit City? Check! A sub­way for Scar­bor­ough? Yup. Then Tran­sit City again? More or less? And then a lit­tle of both? Sure! Then SmartTrack, to sup­plant the DRL? Of course! And then we ac­tu­ally need the DRL any­way, plus the ab­bre­vi­ated Scar­bor­ough sub­way? Err, OK.

In the mean­time, costs bal­looned. That Toronto re­port now pegs the DRL at $6.8 bil­lion and the Yonge sub­way at $5.6. It was un­der $3B back in 2009 and the DRL was es­ti­mated at $3.2B just five years ago. Nei­ther is get­ting cheaper.

This is the end re­sult of a sys­tem that pits mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties against each other, scroung­ing for fund­ing scraps af­ter decades of ne­glect. The Yonge line is cru­cial to de­vel­op­ing more sus­tain­able neigh­bour­hoods and mov­ing about more ef­fi­ciently but we now need an even more ex­pen­sive line to ac­com­mo­date it.

It wasn’t so long ago peo­ple in Scar­bor­ough ap­par­ently wanted “sub­ways, sub­ways, sub­ways!” Up here it’s in­creas­ingly been, “sub­way, sub­way…….. sub­way?”

But it’s fi­nally time to fo­cus on the good news: 416 and 905 politi­cians are work­ing for a com­mon cause and a pro­vin­cial elec­tion looms, mak­ing the at­mos­phere just right for self­serv­ing fund­ing an­nounce­ments. Who knows what might be com­ing down the tracks?

Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials in­clud­ing Premier Kathleen Wynne mark the com­ple­tion of track in­stal­la­tion for the Toronto-York Spad­ina Sub­way Ex­ten­sion

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