February 10, 2021
Good morning members of the TTC Board,
My name is Jamaal Myers and I am a Director and Chairperson of the Advocacy and Policy Committee of the Scarborough Business Association, the voice of Scarborough’s businesses and entrepreneurs.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today.
After careful review and consideration of the TTC’s options for replacing the SRT, the SBA has come to the firm conclusion that Option 2 is in the best interest of Scarborough. Despite this, Option 2 has significant flaws which if not rectified through a transparent and honest consultation with our community will lead to increased anger and frustration that many of us currently feel towards the TTC and the City over the SRT replacement debacle.
To recap, Option 2 would see the SRT continue until 2023 and then be replaced by a Bus Replacement Service from 2023 until the Scarborough subway is open. We support option 2 because it will make all 5 SRT stops accessible to all members of our community. We also support its recommendations for transit signal priority, queue jump lanes for buses, and reserved bus lanes. We do note that the report says that there is no current availability for storage for buses procured under Option 2 at existing TTC’s facilities, and we therefore would like the final TTC report to include a solution for storing these vehicles. Moreover, the report makes no mention of allowing Scarborough’s TTC riders to use GO stations at no extra cost while the SRT is being replaced. Presto cards were adopted to promote fare integration in part between the TTC and GO. Therefore, the technology to do this exists and any final report for the SRT replacements should include a thorough analysis of the feasibility of this option. Allowing Scarborough transit users to use GO train stations at no extra cost would provide an affordable transit option for riders, could potentially reduce commute times for some riders and may help alleviate pressure on any SRT replacement bus service.
Despite our support for Option 2, the SBA has two significant concerns with the proposal. First, while we acknowledge that hybrid buses are cleaner than diesel, we strongly recommend that the TTC purchase electric buses. Climate change is a serious threat to our community which is disproportionately racialized and low-income. For our businesses, increased costs associated with climate change from increased flooding and more frequent and severe storms threaten to raise their operating costs.
Scarborough’s per capita GHG emissions from personal vehicles are the highest in the city, and overall 38% of Toronto’s GHG emissions are from the transportation sector, with 79% of these emissions coming from cars. We must purchase emission free buses whenever possible in order to help mitigate the worst affects of climate change.
Secondly, and most importantly, the SBA is strongly opposed to the TTC’s intention to transfer the SRT’s infrastructure to Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario for demolition. Love it or hate it, the SRT has been a part of our community for over 35 years. Whatever our complaints are with the SRT, its stations and right-of-way have become a key part of Scarborough’s urban fabric and community infrastructure. Entire neighborhoods have sprung up around RT stations which themselves have become major sources of local pride as each year we see them transformed as part of our Nuit Blanche celebrations. To simply hand them over, along with the invaluable right of way, without any input or consultation from my community is not just unacceptable, it is wrong. Future, ownership over SRT infrastructure should be included in any public consultation.
Scarborough has no shortage of ideas on what can be done with the SRT stations and right of way after the SRT is decommissioned. From a dedicated bus rapid transit route between Kennedy and Scarborough Town Center, to creating a cycling highway to an elevated park akin to New York’s high line to repurposing RT stations as outdoor markets or community centers, we recognize the value in these assets. Moreover, the money used to demolish these assets would go a long way in helping to explore and implement any of these transformative ideas.
In closing, I would just like to finish on a quote from Toronto’s own Jane Jacobs: “Cities need old buildings so badly it is probably impossible for vigorous streets and districts to grow without them…. for really new ideas of any kind–no matter how ultimately profitable or otherwise successful some of them might prove to be–there is no leeway for such chancy trial, error and experimentation in the high-overhead economy of new construction. Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings. New ideas must use old buildings.”
In less than two years, Scarborough will have 5 old buildings and a 4 mile right-of-way. It is the SBA’s belief that a community revitalization project using the SRT infrastructure would go a long way to help heal the deep community wounds caused by the Scarborough subway debate.
Thank you and I’m happy to take any questions.