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The Perennial Subway Debate In Toronto

The Perennial Subway Debate In Toronto

By Rupert Johnson

It is interesting to note that the great debate about whether or not to build subways in Toronto has been going on for over 100 years. It is indeed noteworthy that the call for subterranean transportation dates back to 1910 when Horatio Hocken, a mayoral candidate campaigned with the slogan: “Tubes for the People.” Although he lost the election he should be looked upon as a man with a great vision.

Toronto is fortunate today to have another man with a similar foresight. His name is Mayor Rob Ford. Ford has never wavered from his campaign promise in 2010 to build an up-to-date network of subways in Toronto.

There is no doubt that this ambitious subway plan will cost a lot more than the often proposed LRT plan. Nevertheless, we have to look towards the future. What is, therefore, needed is a long term coordinated plan between the local, provincial and federal levels of government over a 30-year period.

During this 30-year period, the subway should be gradually extended to the Centennial and Scarborough University College campus, York University, and the Pearson International Airport.

Scarborough College is home to thousands of U of T and Centennial College students who are in desperate need of improved transportation. This network of subways would definitely enhance academic exchanges and social interaction among the students at York University, the University of Toronto and Centennial College.

The great debate about the building of a network of light rail transit system versus the construction of subways has become an extremely divisive issue in Toronto.

According to a public opinion poll taken in 2012, 52% of Torontonians are in favour of subways while 48% prefer an above ground light rail system. This division seems to be centred around cost, and the availability of an immediate fix to Toronto’s public transportation system.

It is ironic, however, that although 52% of Torontonians prefer subways, a whopping 57% are unwilling to help finance its construction.

If we truly believe that public transportation is an indispensable component in promoting progressive economic growth, then all three levels of government in Canada should make massive comprehensive long term investments in our public infrastructure, instead of investing in short term stopgap, piecemeal projects that will eventually become totally inadequate.

At a time when gasoline prices are expected to skyrocket out of control, local, provincial and federal governments should be relentless in their promotion of a viable network of subway systems to facilitate economic growth and a modern lifestyle.

If our electorate and elected representatives had adopted Horatio Hocken’s plan and vision over 100 years ago, the entire world would now look on us as a shining model for public transit.

Rupert Johnson can be reached at: r.b.johnson@sympatico.ca.

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