10/25/2012 08:54 EDT | Updated 12/25/2012 05:12 EST

Scarborough light rail debate reignited after TTC vote

The TTC has voted to study the feasibility of replacing the aging Scarborough RT with a subway line and extending the Sheppard subway.

At the end of Wednesday’s transit meeting, Coun. Glenn De Baeremaeker asked staff prepare a feasibility study about extending the Bloor-Danforth subway line along the length of the RT, even though both council and the province have agreed to build light rail along that stretch.

Nevertheless, the TTC commissioners voted in favour of that study, as well as another study that would look into the feasibility of extending the Sheppard subway line to connect with Scarborough Town Centre.

De Baeremaeker said that replacing the RT — which currently runs from Scarborough Town Centre to Kennedy Subway station — with light rail will cost $1.8 billion. However, he contends that a subway along that stretch comes with a $2.3 billion pricetag. He argues the $500-million difference is well worth the price.

“If council figures out a way to come up with $500 million to upgrade that LRT line to an upgraded subway line … I think the provincial government will say yes,” he said. “It would be a major victory for people like myself out in Scarborough who have the worst transit service in the city right now for a relatively small amount of money.”

But the city doesn’t have $500 million in its budget for the project and some councillors were visibly upset Wednesday by DeBaermaker’s move to revisit a contentious decision.

Further study 'makes no sense'

“It makes no sense,” said Coun. Josh Matlow when asked about the request for the feasibility study looking into replacing the RT with a subway.

“We determined that not only an LRT on this stretch was the appropriate technology, but we had had an expert panel that told us just that. The feasibility study has been done and it was been determined that an LRT was the appropriate vehicle for that place. This is a potentially disastrous decision on the part of the TTC.”

DeBaermaker’s move comes as the city and province are set to finalize an agreement to build four LRT lines, including the Scarborough stretch, a decision De Baeremaeker voted for. He denies his change of heart comes now due to pressure from constituents in his ward.

TTC Chair Karen Stintz told CBC News that council stands behind the LRT plan. A spokesman for the transportation minister told CBC that they will not revisit existing plans for transit expansion.