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.