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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

richmond hill online

As someone from the burbs, I think this has been a long time coming.

A subway extension along Yonge Street from Finch Station to Richmond Hill could end up costing taxpayers almost $5 billion - and Toronto shouldn't support going forward with the plan until all those costs are covered.

Those were the recommendations from Toronto's Executive Committee Monday after hearing a report on the proposed 6.8-kilometre, six-station subway line that by itself is expected to cost $2.4 billion, and for the first time link Richmond Hill and Thornhill with subway service.

The plan is a long way from being a go. It was identified by the regional transit planning authority Metrolinx as a long-range priority in the region-wide transit strategy that includes at least two transit city light-rail lines.

But the project has proponents north of Steeles Avenue, and the Toronto Transit Commission has been asked to embark on an environmental project report for the plan. Late last year commissioners took a lukewarm view of the plan, and when it came to Executive Committee Jan. 5, councillors and Mayor David Miller were similarly reserved.

Miller pointed out that the subway extension would add all sorts of other costs to the TTC. There would have to be another subway car yard constructed, or a major expansion undertaken. The Yonge-Bloor subway station would have to be expanded, to the tune of about $450-million, to accommodate additional passengers.

At the same time, Miller and others said the subway extension would be a major city-building project and was a worthy one.

"We do have to think very much in the long run - in the future - and this is what this is about," he said. "If we were being parochial and just addressing demands over the next 10 years, all you need is express service all day long on the GO bus line. But in the long run, a subway is the obvious choice."

Miller argued that it was also obvious that the subway extension would have consequences, and the city had to make sure that everyone takes those consequences into account - in particular the crowding that a subway extending far into York region would create.

"Councillors who represent Yonge and Eglinton - your residents would never get a seat on this subway," he said. "That's why the subway serves a dual purpose of serving an urban region (and a suburban region)."

Some of those councillors argued that the city was putting so many conditions on the project that it might never happen.

"If we adopt the recommendations before us, it's a guarantee that it won't happen," said Ward 22 (St. Paul's) Councillor Michael Walker. "I don't think you can put in your shopping list everything, and say they all have to be done."

Ward 15 (Eglinton-Lawrence) Councillor Howard Moscoe said the city needs to state its needs, given the intense pressure from York Region politicians to see the project go forward.

"This is not so much about building a subway up Yonge Street, as it is about politics," he said. "The TTC has this subway as its 14th priority. But if you analyze the politics, there are an awful lot of votes for the Conservatives and the Liberals in York Region. And we know that the only subway extension that's gotten approval in recent years is the extension of the York University line into York Region."