Recruited to support the Council-approved transit plan was University of Toronto Urban Geography Professor Andre Sorenson, who is also a Research Associate at the University's urban planning research institute, Cities Centre. Sorenson discussed both subway and light rail transit (LRT) technology and explained that the projected population densities along Eglinton and Sheppard Avenues are insufficient to warrant the building of a new subway. “It is important to realize that Eglinton, even by 2031 is only expected to be [carrying] about 12 000 people per hour. So that LRT technology will still have a lot of excess capacity 20 years from now.”
The plan approved by Council would place the Eglinton Crosstown LRT line at surface level east of Laird Ave. It would also allow funds for the building of an LRT along Finch Ave. from Finch Station to Humber College. The Council decided to wait for a report on transit along Sheppard Avenue from an expert panel before making a decision to extend the Sheppard line. The Council is expected to hear back from the expert panel on March 15. Rob Ford's plan, which was rejected by Council, would have scrapped the Finch LRT and put the Eglinton LRT completely underground at the additional cost of approximately $2 billion. Ford also supported an extension of the current Sheppard subway, although it is unclear where the city would find the funding for such an extension.
Anna Pace, Director of Strategic Partnerships at the TTC, was also present at the meeting to provide information about how the LRT would function. “Anna has offered, despite recent events, to publicly state some facts and evidence to residents,” joked Matlow, referring to the TTC Board's decision to fire General Manager Gary Webster for refusing to support the Mayor's transit plan. Ford's allies make up a slim 5-4 membership majority on the Board. After the session there was a round of questions, both from Toronto residents in support of the Council-approved plan and from those strongly against it.
The meeting, housed at the North Toronto Memorial Community Centre, was standing room only, as interest in Toronto's public transit has skyrocketed since Stintz decided to push against the Mayor's plan in January. “When we first thought of this meeting, it was actually a couple months ago,” Stintz explained in her introductory address. “It was just after the Christmas break, and we thought it was going to be just a status update, and events as they unfolded turned this into somewhat of a different meeting.”
The meeting was punctuated with frequent interjections from those in support of the Mayor's position on building new subways, but were quickly hushed by the rest of the audience. “These plans were made, not by politicians, but by transit experts,” said Matlow, in response to a question about transit planning late in the meeting. At the end, Matlow reiterated his ultimate reasons for supporting the Council-approved plan: “[they] made planning decisions rather than political decisions.”