Saturday, 21 February 2015

Scarborough High Line Heading for Industrial Clashes

When it is to be replaced by the Line 2 subway extension (or not, who knows what could happen in this transit politic environment), the elevated Scarborough RT guideway is planned to become our version of the New York City High Line. When Toronto city council voted to confirm its support for the Line 2 extension instead of the LRT in October 2013, exploring the feasibility of creating such a park was included in the motion.

On the surface, it seemed to make sense:

But recently, I've had some memories come back to me. The smells and the sights reminded me that between Brimley Road and the GO Transit Stouffville Line, the surrounding lands are zoned for industrial uses.

That's kind of a problem. I didn't go to the NYC High Line to see industrial warehouses and breathe their emissions. It seems to me that there are two outcomes:
  1. You have a nice park in a gross industrial area until more compatible uses trickle in over the years; or
  2. The city starts examining making zoning changes.
Shelley Carrol has raised concern that creating a Scarborough High Line would lead to gentrification, and sacrifice of industrial employment, which is a legitimate concern. But would it be worth it? Would it not be worth reviewing the land use in this area?

I don't understand how the Scarborough RT was allowed to operate for 30 years without better land use in its vicinity. Ellesmere is the least used station in the entire subway/RT system; during the week, more people pass through Bloor-Yonge station in 4 minutes than use Ellesmere all day. It's no mystery given that it is surrounded by industrial uses. Midland was not far behind, being the 3rd-least used station behind Bessarion.

Metrolinx recommended that the existing RT alignment should be used in establishing the new LRT, as it offered the best ridership. But was it fair to subject the LRT to ridership numbers that may be hurt by not changing land use in the immediate vicinity? Forbid that I am becoming a subway apologist, but I can't help but think the SRT and LRT were never being given a worthy environment of a rapid transit line.

Anyway, I digress.

The point here is that we now have a proposal on the table for a park, something that should be an attractive amenity for nearby residents, as well as visitors from across Toronto, the GTA, and the world. Why should we subject it to a similar miserable existence as the RT did through this area? As much as we need to protect increasingly scarce industrial employment lands, we may need to think about making sacrifices where it would have the greatest benefit.

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