Top transit figures in the Toronto area are meeting Tuesday to try to seek common ground on the price of a Scarborough subway, the latest attempt to gain clarity on the cost of the controversial idea.
The talks between Metrolinx head Bruce McCuaig and TTC chief Andy Byford come amid jockeying by city politicians over the future of transit in the city.
The agreement signed between the city and Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency, calls for the aging Scarborough Rapid Transit line to be replaced by light rail. Local politicians have demanded that their constituents get a subway instead. Opponents counter that the population density is not sufficient to support a subway.
The bickering reached such a pitch that Metrolinx last week issued an ultimatum to the city, warning that it would have to get behind the LRT project, which is already underway, or work would stop, creating a new round of delays.
Hampering the debate, though, is that the TTC and Metrolinx have widely differing estimates of how much more it would cost to construct a subway line. Metrolinx says it would add about $925-million to the project’s cost, while the city transit pegs the additional cost at around $500-million.
The two transit bodies agreed on Friday to try to find common ground and a high-level meeting was scheduled for this afternoon.
Metrolinx spokeswoman Anne Marie Aikins said Tuesday that the meeting did not in any way suggest that the agency was backing off the LRT project, which she reiterated is right for that area. But she said civic leaders need a reliable cost estimate to be able to weigh the value of the project upgrade.
“We would hope that we could come up with a firm number … because city council really needs to know that to make their decision,” she said.
Ms. Aikins added a warning that the agency is working with a set amount of funding that wouldn’t cover the extra cost of switching the Scarborough project to a subway.
“We don’t have any more money,” she said. “There’s no flexibility.”
The TTC was tight-lipped Tuesday about the meeting, saying that there would not be any media availability by Mr. Byford.