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Transit advocates ask auditor general to investigate provincial funding

The proposed layout for the Scarborough transit plan. CITY OF TORONTO

A group of transit activists have filed a request with the auditor general, asking that the office investigate provincial spending on GTA transit projects.

Scarborough Transit Action said current city transit projects are too expensive and don’t provide enough value.

As well, the group said transit riders have been left in the dark when it comes to the changes — especially when it comes to the future of the Scarborough RT.

Scarborough Transit Action spokesman Vincent Puhakka said despite heavy media coverage of the planned one-stop Scarborough subway extension, 86 per cent of riders the group asked were unaware it would mean the end of the SRT.

“We were out speaking to riders at one of the SRT stations slated to be closed. They had no idea it was going to close,” Puhakka said. “This is one more step at making sure those riders actually get the transit that they need.”

He said riders told him that if they were asked, they’d want a 24-station LRT network, which would cost about the same as the Scarborough subway extension.

The total projected cost for the one-stop extension has swelled by more than $1 billion since 2013 to $3.35 billion. The province committed $1.48 billion in funding in 2010 for the original plan of replacing the Scarborough RT with a seven-stop LRT.

“Transit riders’ voices aren’t being heard. They want the LRT back and that’s what we want to see happen,” said Puhakka.

In March, city council voted 26-18 to approve the alignment for the Scarborough subway extension. The increased cost caused some councillors to argue for a return to the fully-funded LRT plan. Mayor John Tory scoffed at the idea of further backtracking on what has became an epic debate that’s led to frustrating inaction.

“We absolutely must get on with building transit in Toronto,” he said ahead of the vote. “The vast majority of people have made it clear to me — they want us to get on with building transit in Scarborough and the rest of the city.”

Scarborough Transit Action hopes the auditor general’s investigation will find that the plan in place for Scarborough isn’t the right one for riders.

But it isn’t just TTC projects the group takes issue with.

They are also concerned about planned GO Transit stations at Kirby and Lawrence East — which they said may actually decrease riders due to more frequent stops on the line.

“Metrolinx’s own analysis shows that they are not feasible. They actually may decrease ridership and increase cars on the road, which is not what we need,” Rosemary Frei, also with Scarborough Transit Action, explained.

The auditor general’s office is now reviewing the complaint.