Scarborough RT Final Report — Remarks for August 30, 2006

The following is the text of the deputation I will be presenting on August 30 at the TTC meeting.  Note that the length and complexity are dictated by the context of public deputations with a finite limit on both time and attention by the Commission.

The text of this presentation has been edited to indicate changes made when it was delivered. 

Comments on “Scarborough RT Strategic Plan Final Report”
By Steve Munro
August 30, 2006

I urge strongly that the recommendations of the Final Report be rejected because they do not flow from either the purpose or content of the Study.

The stated purpose of the Study was

“… to develop a plan both for replacing existing vehicles … and for expanding capacity in the Scarborough RT corridor.”

During his public presentations, Dr. Soberman took pains to state that he was not engaged to review the broader issue of a Scarborough rapid transit network.  Although he often made the point that future options would be most flexible with an LRT line in place of the RT, the nature of such options was beyond his mandate.  Indeed, if Dr. Soberman had been making a detailed study of network expansion alternatives, I and many others would have been far more involved in the study.

Between the last interim presentation by Dr. Soberman and the Final Report, the scope has widened considerably.  This is shown most clearly in the leap from the report’s conclusions to its recommendations.

Among other things, the conclusions state:

  • Looked at in isolation from the rest of the system, RT technology gives the minimum cost and disruption.  However, the RT would remain an isolated system with limited scope for expansion.
  • LRT technology, though costing more for the “RT” route itself, offers “greater potential for overall system expansion” provided that there is a “serious commitment … to expand the surface network right-of-ways.”
  • There is a need for further analysis of specific network opportunities, and there is a “window of opportunity over the next year or so to further refine” the proposals.

However, the recommendations include:

  • Approval in principle for upgrading the existing line with new RT cars.
  • Study of expanded networks including an RT extension to Sheppard and other possible corridors (Sheppard itself and Eglinton are mentioned in the presentation).
  • Study of extension of the Sheppard Subway east from Don Mills Station.
  • Study of surface BRT or LRT in other corridors.

These recommendations contradict the study conclusions by prejudging technology choices.  TTC staff raises the issue of “risk” that Council will not make a commitment to LRT lines taking space on existing roads.  There is as much “risk” that we will see only an expanded RT network and possibly a few bus lanes in Scarborough.

The cost premium shown for LRT in the existing RT corridor will probably disappear if we consider the wider context of a Malvern extension to Sheppard Avenue and beyond.  Looking only at the narrow issue of the RT replacement skews the discussion and avoids the larger issues of network and city planning essential to the Official Plan and Transit City philosophies.

[The presentation goes a step further by including what amounts to an advertisement for RT-based development with photos from Vancouver while it does not present comparable illustrations of LRT-based development in other cities.  The bias in this presentation is quite clear.  This section was omitted in delivery as the presentation in question was not given by staff at the meeting.]

Faced with the financial impossibility of a subway, TTC staff embraces RT technology and attempts to pre-empt debate of alternatives.  This is exactly where we were when the Scarborough RT was foisted on Toronto by Queen’s Park.

I believe that the best option for Scarborough is a network of LRT lines and I am heartened to see that the members of Scarborough Council have shifted away from a subway line as the only acceptable RT replacement.  [The preceding statement was dropped in light of the actual position taken by Scarborough Councillors for an RT upgrade.] 

This scheme needs to be fleshed out so that residents of Scarborough and Toronto can understand what is on offer here.  The leisurely pace of studies for individual LRT lines needs to be accelerated, and we need to look at the Scarbrough transit network overall.

The Final Report states clearly that we have a year or so for further study, and to that end I would amend the Recommendations to read:

1. Undertake a study of potential expanded networks in order to develop an Integrated Rapid Transit Plan for Scarborough that specifically addresses:
• Alignment options and costs for extending the RT at least to Sheppard Avenue with either as RT Mark II or LRT.
• A network of LRT and/or BRT routes in Scarborough.
• Options for service on Sheppard Avenue east from Don Mills.
2. (Existing recommendation 5 eliminating further consideration of a Scarborough Subway to stand as is.)

There is no reason to pre-judge technology choices for a Scarborough network and every reason for this to be part of a comprehensive study that is commissioned for that purpose.  We have the time to fully understand our options, and we should use it wisely.

7 thoughts on “Scarborough RT Final Report — Remarks for August 30, 2006

  1. Points well made Steve.  This is really our last chance to get a proper transit network in the East end probably for another generation, so we have to do it right.  As a former Scarborough resident I am sick of bean counters and shortsighted TTC and political offials making short-sighted stop-gap choices for the city. 

    It really is time to start thinking world-class instead of the the fourth-rate thinking that we actually get in Toronto.  Please do your utmost to hold the TTC’s feet to the fire to ensure that a LONG TERM mass-transit solution is agreed upon.  A victory for LRT/mass transit in Scarborough could be the catalyst to creating a mass-transit network that covers all of Toronto.  We are only 30 years behind, but we need to start now.


  2. Good luck with the presentation.  The west end also got shafted when a proposed subway line was cancelled.  Although the east end isn’t getting one either, I hope that the new system fixes the transit mess that currently exists over there.


  3. Hi Steve, while I’m thrilled that people who matter are talking about a rapid transit “network” rather than a single line for Scarborough, I remain a little skeptical — and not just about the painstakingly lugubrious process and lobbying for funding that lies ahead.  My other concern is the “milk run” issue.  How do we ensure that we don’t just create another series of milk runs where the streetcar is stopping at every block?  I don’t think a Harbourfront-style streetcar route would be of much benefit to passengers travelling a long distance, and it certainly won’t make much of a dent in commute times for people leaving the Scarborough core.

    Steve:  I agree that if we are going to build a Scarborough Rapid Transit network, stopping at every lamppost is not acceptable.  Equally important will be that we don’t design in a bunch of traffic signals and extra crossings where the streetcar gets a red light until it arrives.  The stops and signals on Harbourfront are so close together that anticipation of a streetcar’s arrival time is severely limited, and they are often held where they should have priority.

    What is the possibility of laying down a third track so that an express branch can run the same route as the milk cart but stop only at major intersections or transfer points?  I realize even the widest roads don’t have room for an extra track running the entire route, but is there any possibility of having express vehicles passing regular streetcars on the same route?  If we’re likely going to have to widen roads to build mini-stations anyway, does that provide us an opportunity to lay down some extra track in small sections for this kind of thing?

    Steve:  The problem with this scheme is that, in practice, the stops where you would have a passing track are the ones where you don’t have much demand (i.e. stops that are not transfer points and/or at major destinations).  There would already be road geometry problems from the “local” stop (the extra space for platforms), and a passing track would add another lane to the space needed at a local stop.  In practice, I don’t think that the amount of time saved by this sort of scheme will contribute hugely to the line’s attractiveness. 

    I confess to knowing next to nothing about how much space this kind of thing requires, or if there would even be demand for these types of express routes.

    Also, do you know if the TTC will be studying specific potential LRT routes as part of this process or am I putting the milk cart before the horse?

    Steve:  Yes, the TTC is looking at a set of routes as possible LRT or BRT.  A map of a possible network appears in the study on the project’s website.  Possible lines include:  Kingston Road, Eglinton, Lawrence, Markham, Finch Hydro Corridor and Don Mills.  The Don Mills line is part of a separate study already underway, and work has begun on the Kingston Road study.  Also, depending on which map you look at, there is also the question of Sheppard East.  However, given how hard it is to kill off dreams of extending the subway, I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one. 


  4. Hi Steve, thanks for setting me straight on the third track idea.

    Regarding the Scarborough RT report, what I meant to ask was *when* will the TTC start looking at the nitty gritty about specific routes that would make up the network?  The report maps out “potential network elements” (Eglinton, Kingston, etc.) and then goes on to recommend “further analysis” of what a potential network might look like and cost.  My question is, how much more time can we look forward to before before there’s a shovel in the ground?  I can’t imagine another decade going by without any rapid transit improvements and a million more people moving to this city.  I lose sleep.

    Steve:  Staff is to report back in December (after the election) on a Scarborough plan.  The next step will be to build funding for the studies (over and above the one for Kingston Road already in progress).  Given the financial situation, I would be astounded to see any new LRT line actually built in Scarborough in the next 10 years.  What is particularly ironic is that the insistence by Scarborough members that the Malvern extension be an integral part of the package will create a net new project that will soak up a lot of that “extra money” they think is free for LRT lines.


  5. I think the mentality that any less than a subway is bad for Scarborough should end.  People should really be overly enthusiastic that their getting something better than 50+ year old crumbling subway infrastructure.

    There’s no point to extending the subway any further east east when the downtown core is still without a proper subway (Bloor’s too north and the YUS loop helps no one really east of Jarvis or west of Spadina).

    I think lines along Eglinton, Kingston and Sheppard would do best, elevated where necessary to reach eastern points of interest (the Zoo, UTSC, Malvern, Rogue Hill GO).  The Sheppard subway has too low a ridershp to retain its subway status though and should be converted into Toronto’s first crosstown RT line.

    East of Don Mills and west of Downsview the line should exist in its own ROW but instead of turn down to STC (only a major hub today because the buses have no where else to go) continues along Sheppard straight to Meadowvale.  Likewise Sheppard west to Weston then Finch Hydro Corridor to Dixon and the airport.

    The Eglinton Line starts from the upper Kennedy platform east to Kingston north to UTSC and follows the route of 38 Highland Creek to Rouge Hill GO, giving southern Scarborough a mighty RT line of its own.

    And of course a rennovated Kennedy Stn puts the existing SRT at grade level to follow the existing path to STC (add in a Brimley stop) and continue up Markham to Cenntennial College.  However instead of ending at Shep./Markham continue via Milner to Neilson and up to Malvern and Morningside Hts.  In the future both the SRT and the Sheppard RT can meet at the Zoo and create a continuous loop.


  6. While I agree a passing track is not a viable or pratical solution for allowing express service to pass slower local service vehicles, perhaps we have the wrong kind of LRT in mind in the first place.  What I would propose is a network of fully separated dedicated roadways as an LRT Network.  These could either be centre lane roadways two lanes in width which would carry all TTC vehicles both local and express.  On this proposed LRT Network express buses could pass local service in between stops thus eliminating not only private vehicle impediments to providing more efficient service, but also eliminating local service impediments thus providing even more efficient service.

    Steve:  There are three problems with mixing in an express bus service:

    The “express” service is likely to be more popular than the “local” service and so we will spend all of the money for an LRT only to have it carry less riders than the bus.
    For an express bus to pass a local LRT, it must either cross over to the opposing transit lane (not wise during frequent service when this is most likely to happen) or move off of the right-of-way into the clogged traffic lanes.
    At “express” stops, everything has to stop.  Given that we can’t run buses in trains, there is a serious problem with vehicle bunching at these stations.  I’m not going into a big discussion here, but just look at the complexity of some BRT implementations like Ottawa’s that needs to provide four lane wide stations.

    I feel that this scheme is a non-starter.


  7. Steve munro please start reading the facts. An Lrt is not the best option in fact the best option is not on the table

    Steve: I am not sure what you are trying to say here. Since you’re posting in a thread about the SRT, I assume you would prefer a subway extension. This isn’t going to happen because there is nowhere near enough demand to justify it.


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