This post continues a series of articles about the Transit City announcement on Friday, March 16. I have subdivided the discussion to keep these posts to a reasonable size and to focus discussion on each part of the network.
The North-Central section of Transit City comprises:
- The Eglinton LRT originating at Kennedy Station (see discussion of the East Network) and running straight across town to Person Airport or beyond (see discussion of the West Network).
- The Don Mills LRT from Steeles Avenue to the Danforth Subway.
These are the two largest and most expensive parts of the proposed network, and they will likely take the longest time to fund and build. Both of them require some underground construction, especially on Eglinton, and this will lead to the inevitable demand to “just build a subway”. That urge can and should be resisted.
The Eglinton line ties much of the existing and planned network together with a new crosstown service. However, its intent is not that thousands will live in eastern Scarborough and work at Pearson Airport. The Eglinton LRT will speed travel in that corridor for a great variety of trips between many neighbourhoods.
The central portion of the line from Laird (roughly the top of the hill west of Leslie) to about Keele (or slightly to the west) must go underground because there is no place to fit a right-of-way on the street. Some media coverage today included apoplectic shopkeepers on Eglinton West decrying the plan as putting them out of business without realising that the line will not be on the surface through their neighbourhoods, and equally distraught motorists wondering how the TTC could possibly fit a St. Clair-like right of way through the central part of Eglinton.
A big challenge will be the interchange at Yonge and Eglinton. The “one below” level of the intersection is already occupied by passageways connecting the four corners to the subway station. “Two below” is the Yonge Subway. Putting the LRT “three below” would be very expensive and complex, and “one below” will require rethinking the underground pedestrian circulation systems with possibly another path from the subway up to “one below” at the north end of Eglinton station.
The situation at Eglinton West is not as complex because there is no complex of tunnels at “one below” to worry about. Moreover, whatever exists of the Eglinton West subway structure might be reused for the LRT tunnel.
Eglinton’s total cost is estimated at $2.240-billion, slightly less than the cost of the Spadina Vaughan subway extension. By the way, the subway cost does not include a provision for vehicles, whereas the Eglinton LRT estimate does. The cost/km for Eglinton is roughly $70-million showing how the moderate cost of the surface sections offsets the high cost of underground construction through the heart of the city. This option is simply unavailable to all-subway schemes that are doomed to stay underground.
Eglinton is a good candidate for staged construction with the outer ends being completed long before the tunneled central section. Again, because we are building a network, we can fill in parts of it as we go and as funding is available rather than requiring an all-or-nothing commitment.
The Don Mills line will provide a much-needed trunk parallel to and east of the Yonge Subway. South of Thorncliffe Park, the route must cross the Don Valley, and this could be the opportunity for a beautiful piece of bridge architecture. Going underground (and underwater) would be hideously expensive and is unnecessary. South of the Don Valley, things get more complex.
As proposed, the line would run down Pape to Pape Station. Obviously, this would be underground. Whether Pape is the ideal terminus, I’m not sure, and a lot will depend on options for continuing the line south and west into downtown. That’s a long-term consideration, but we do have to design in that possibility. A Don Mills via Pape LRT would take much traffic off of the local roads in East York. Today, the Don Mills and Thorncliffe Park buses serve Pape from Danforth to the Leaside Bridge, and the Flemingdon Park bus runs from Broadview Station up to O’Connor and then east and up Pape to the bridge. Much of the traffic these routes carry would move onto the Don Mills LRT, but with a much faster connection from the Thorncliffe/Flemingdon areas to the Danforth Subway.
Plans for a busway via Don Mills and Redway Road to Castle Frank Station can now be given a quiet funeral.
Eglinton and Don Mills are the two most expensive, the two most challenging, but if not the two most important, certainly well up the list for their impact on the future of our transit network.