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A Scarborough RT vehicles on its elevated track near the Scarborough Town Centre in Scarborough, Ontario Friday, Sept. 27, 2013.Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

Toronto will not be able to keep the current rapid-transit service in Scarborough going until a subway extension can be built, Mayor John Tory said Thursday, meaning residents will be left taking the bus for an unknown amount of time.

The statement by the mayor undermined one of the key selling points that has been made by backers of the subway: that it could be built without disrupting existing service.

Mr. Tory was speaking about a report from the Toronto Transit Commission, expected early next year, on the future of the increasingly rickety train line that runs between Kennedy subway station and Scarborough Town Centre.

The subway extension is currently projected to open around the end of the decade, by which time the Scarborough RT it replaces would be about 45 years old. The Scarborough RT trains have been refurbished already and their lifespan cannot be extended that long.

When those trains cannot continue, the people accustomed to riding them will be left with what Mr. Tory called “alternate transit service.”

“There are very active discussions going on now between the TTC and Metrolinx with respect to exactly how long we have to provide that alternate transit service for,” he told reporters. “Because it will not be the case that we can keep the SRT going until the Scarborough subway is finished.”

The Scarborough extension has for years been the most hotly contested transit project in the city. Originally planned as a seven-stop light rail line, it became a political football and a rallying cry for those in Scarborough who argued that they deserved a subway instead.

City council eventually decided to replace the LRT plan with a three-stop subway, but the project continued to mutate. It became a one-stop extension as a way of saving money, with the freed-up funds to go to another transit project in Scarborough. Costs for both projects continued to mount and, even since the province took over the subway extension, Toronto does not have enough money to fund that second project.

Councillor Josh Matlow, long an advocate of the original LRT plan, said Thursday that the way the subway had been pushed reminded him of the “manipulative populist politics” of U.S. President Donald Trump.

“If the seven-stop LRT plan, which was fully funded and approved, had moved forward the way it was meant to, it would have already been built and operating, Scarborough residents would be using it today,” he said.

“Because too many politicians put their own political interests before facts and best interests of Scarborough residents, the people who trusted in their leaders have been left with nothing, and it’s really shameful.”

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