Transit City is such a big announcement that boiling it down into reasonably-sized posts is a challenge. Rather than writing one article about the routes overall, another on technical bits and pieces, and yet another on the possible future, I’m going to treat major portions of the network as one post. My hope is to keep related discussions about individual lines in the same place.
The eastern portion of Transit City is made up of:
- A Sheppard East LRT from Don Mills Station to Morningside.
- A Scarborough-Malvern LRT from Kennedy Station east via Eglinton and Kingston Road, and then north on Morningside beyond Sheppard into Malvern.
- The eastern part of the Eglinton LRT from Don Mills east to Kennedy Station.
In addition, two other studies are now underway:
- Extension of the Scarborough RT east and north from McCowan Station to meet the Sheppard LRT.
- Kingston Road from Victoria Park to West Hill.
All of the LRT lines would be at grade with the exception of the Sheppard line’s interchange at Don Mills Station.
This network will make a huge impact on our ability to get around in Scarborough by transit. Rapid transit won’t exist solely for the purpose of getting people from the Town Centre to the Danforth Subway. Increased riding on the new lines should also bring better riding and service on the bus routes that will feed these lines.
An important decision in this design is the location of the connection between the Sheppard line and the RT. Rather than forcing service south off of Sheppard (as the subway proposal would have done), Sheppard stays on the grid and intersects with an extended RT at Markham Road. This make the line valuable for travel within Scarborough, not just as route to the subway at Don Mills.
The Scarborough-Malvern line could operate as an integral part of the Sheppard line with through service east from Don Mills Station, down Morningside, and west to Kennedy Station. However, there is a need for service north into Morningside Heights, and also the possibility of extending the Sheppard line east. Which routes make the most sense is a decision for far in the future, but because we are talking about a network, not just one line, that’s a choice we can make when the time comes.
At today’s press conferences, both Adam Giambrone, TTC Chair, and Mayor Miller dodged the issue of whether the Sheppard Subway is off of the table. Their clearly well-rehearsed line was that LRT lines can lead to demand growth that would, in time, justify installation of a subway line, maybe in 25 or 30 years. From a planning perspective, that’s as close to “never” as we will ever hear, and it’s far enough off that any thought the investment in a surface LRT would be wasted is easy to dismiss.
If, indeed, the Sheppard East corridor ever reached subway demand levels, the obvious question would be something like this: How much of the Sheppard demand is local to the line, and how much is going someplace else? The people going “someplace else” could be moved onto another service such as a parallel Finch or Steeles route if that suited their travel pattern, and that could be a lot better for the network overall. Again, this is a decision for the future and we should not preclude an LRT network as a starting point.
Some have suggested that the Sheppard LRT should run through the subway tunnels if only the platforms could be lowered. Yes, the Sheppard Subway should have been built as LRT, but that decision is way behind us. The real shame is that with the line underground and the stops so far apart, any hope of generating “Avenue” style development on much of Sheppard from Don Mills to Yonge is unlikely.
The planned extension of the RT to Sheppard is not part of the Transit City financial bundle. Indeed, the likely cost of this extension, roughly $600-million, may force the TTC to take another look at retaining the RT technology. With new LRT lines proposed all around it, the RT really will be an expensive orphan. That’s a discussion for another thread.
The Kingston Road corridor study is already in progress. Parts of that street badly need development, but there’s a big question about what form this should take and how much there should be. The transit service will be an integral part of that design. There are various schemes for a western destination of the route including:
- A redeveloped Victoria Park Station
- A connection to the existing streetcar system at Bingham Loop (Victoria Park and Kingston Road)
If the line comes into downtown via Kingston Road and then possibly the Portlands LRT (not yet even in the EA stage), I’m not sure it will be competitive for travel time with a route feeding into Victoria Park Station. Again, these are options to be discussed and decided in the future.
The Eglinton line is the real giant in this plan. It runs from Kennedy Station to western Etobicoke and will likely be the last line to be completed simply because of its cost and scope. The eastern portion, from Don Mills to Kennedy will be valuable, but not until the Don Mills line is in place. I will talk more about this in another post.
This is a well-integrated plan for Scarborough’s transit future and shows what is possible as an alternative to just replacing the RT with a subway line. The cost of the Scarborough-Malvern and Sheppard East LRTs is about $1.2-billion, and the lines cover a lot more territory than the proposed subway from Kennedy to STC (at roughly the same cost). Moreover, there are options for inexpensive extensions, a hallmark of LRT networks. With luck, Scarborough Councillors will buy into this plan and support it as a foundation for the future of their neighbourhoods.