Today’s Toronto Star contains an editorial endorsing the use of LRT as the technology to replace the existing RT. Here is the full text [I am posting it here as it will disappear from the paper’s website in a week or so].
“Trains” of streetcars best for Scarborough
Fed up with years of being poorly served by public transit, many Scarborough residents want subway service expanded in their part of the city. They make a strong case, but should expect disappointment.
With no streetcar routes and only three subway stops in all of Scarborough, there is no denying that commuters there have limited transit options compared to most Torontonians.
Making the situation worse is the looming loss of an existing service. Scarborough’s elevated light rail line, ill-advisedly built 20 years ago mainly to promote a Crown-owned corporation, is worn out and overcrowded.
It has only about nine remaining years of serviceable life.
Scarborough Centre Councillor Michael Thompson, among others, is calling for that line to be replaced with a subway. He is right in saying this part of the city has “played second fiddle” to the rest of Toronto in the realm of public transit.
Indeed, a few months ago, replacing Scarborough’s obsolete light rail line with subway service appeared to be an option that made the most sense.
That was before the provincial government, in its March 23 budget, set aside $670 million to push the Spadina subway line to York University and beyond to the Vaughan Corporate Centre at Highway 7 and Jane Street.
While Scarborough pleads for more subway stops, all the momentum has gone to York and to expansion of the Spadina line. There are even some indications that the new Conservative government in Ottawa might provide some federal funding for the Spadina subway in its first budget on Tuesday.
An obvious solution would be to proceed with both of Toronto’s much-needed subway expansions — eastward into Scarborough and north to Vaughan.
Realistically though, given the $1.2 billion cost of even one line, the city cannot afford to look beyond expansion of the Spadina line for the next few years.
The future of mass transit in Scarborough is likely to be found in a report released last week outlining three options for replacing the area’s decaying light rail system.
Consultant Richard Soberman dismissed a suggestion that the elevated Scarborough Rapid Transit line be replaced with buses running on their own separate roadway. Instead, he offered three alternatives:
- Replacing the line’s antiquated light rail cars with newer, bigger models. This would cost about $350 million and could be done quickly, over about a year. But it would only boost the system’s capacity by about 10 per cent.
- Switching from light rail cars to new streetcars that could be linked into “trains” on the existing rapid transit route. This would take three years to deliver and cost about $490 million, since some tunnels would have to be heightened. But it would more than double the capacity of the existing system.
- Building a $1.2 billion subway; a project taking about nine years. It would move the most people, more than seven times the number carried today.
Of these options, the middle one based on new streetcars linked into trains appears to make the most sense.
In practical terms, now is simply not the time for Scarborough subway expansion. That train has left the station, and it is headed full speed toward York.
Buying new light rail cars to replace the old specimens now in use would be the cheapest and fastest option. But it would be a poor answer to Scarborough’s growing transit needs.
Relying on streetcars, linked into trains, would by contrast increase ridership while costing far less than a subway. And it could be in service long before the existing light rail system rusts into oblivion.
At this point, it seems the better way.
There are a few quibbles about this editorial as we will see in reader comments below.