Scarborough RT Extension Study

The Scarborough RT extension study co-hosted the meetings with the Sheppard East LRT which I discussed in the previous post.  The presentation materials for the SRT study are available online.

A major piece of work for this study will be to update previous schemes based on changes in land use, travel patterns and availability of rights-of-way since the Malvern extension of the Scarborough LRT was proposed decades ago.  (Yes, it was going to be an LRT line originally although the history in the current presentation doesn’t go back that far.)

The presentation claims that ICTS/RT technology was recommended in the Scarborough RT Strategic Plan as being the most effective and lowest cost option.  This is not true.  That plan dealt only with replacement of the existing line between Kennedy and McCowan stations and did not examine the cost or operational tradeoffs involved in extending the RT north to Sheppard or beyond.  Given the high premium for grade-separated operation, the RT quickly become uncompetitive with LRT the further the line goes.

The TTC holds that LRT is unable to handle the demands to be placed on the SRT corridor.  However, the projected demand shown in the presentation is about 2,500/hour north of Sheppard, about 4,000 west of McCowan (ie inbound to STC), and 10,000 at Kennedy Station.  With the completely separate right-of-way on the existing RT, a 10,000/hour operation with LRT is quite feasible.  Two-car LRT trains would provide this on a headway of just under two minutes.

The origin-destination pattern for RT riders is shown on pages 10 and 11 of the presentation.  In the 2031 projection, 43% of the demand originates north of the 401, and a further 27% in the area between STC and Lawrence East stations.  Just over half, 54%, of the riders are destined for downtown.

As I have written on several occasions, this travel pattern cries out for better point-to-point service from Agincourt to downtown via GO rail service integrated with the TTC operation and fare structure.  The intent is not to carry everyone who would otherwise be on the RT via GO, but to divert enough demand from the RT so that it was not burdened with a short, high peak commuting demand.  I cannot help pointing out that the CPR lines serving Agincourt pass right through the north end of the study area and are shown on the alternative alignment maps. 

Indeed, the 10,000/hour projection does not appear to take into account what would happen if good GO service was available as an alternative.  This type of narrow planning and riding projections has infected TTC rapid transit plans for decades, and it’s time we had a broader view of the options.

Four alignments for an extended RT are proposed:

  • STC to Malvern using the abandoned Canadian Northern rail corridor to reach Malvern.  This option has potential impacts on residences backing onto the rail corridor.  (Exactly the same impacts on the same corridorm, further southwest, led it to be rejected for the original RT alignment.)
  • STC to Sheppard and Markham with LRT to Malvern Town Centre (existing Transit City proposals)
  • STC to Centennial College with LRT to STC via McCowan (this connection is included in the Sheppard East LRT study)
  • LRT from STC to Malvern (no RT extension)

Notable by their absence are:

  • Evaluation of LRT all the way to Kennedy
  • Discussion of northerly extension from Malvern as contemplated by arrows and dotted lines in the Transit City map
  • Discussion of the role of commuter rail service as mentioned above

Metrolinx is about to bring forth a draft Regional Transportation Plan of which a central tenet must be that we make best use of all available resources to handle the varied demands on transit in the GTA.  It is time to stop treated the TTC network as if it exists in isolation and must handle all demands even within the 416.  That approach “justified” the Sheppard Subway by ignoring the contribution of GO to serve growing demand in northeast Toronto and southeast York.

When the options are compared as “good, better, best”, it’s no surprise that option 1 comes out with the most “bests” while option 4 does best only on cost and low environmental impacts.  However, since the network options don’t include the three points above, especially the provision of fast service to downtown via GO, the comparison is incomplete and, to be charitable, flawed.

The TTC needs to try again, and include a full set of options dealing with the long-haul trips to downtown.

17 thoughts on “Scarborough RT Extension Study

  1. I do not think that even with frequent GO service, people from northeast Scarborough would be willing to pay GO fares to get downtown when they can use the RT/Subway for $2.25. In addition, even if GO fares were made to be comparable, most people would still have to get to the GO station, most of whom I assume would use the TTC to do so.

    I’ve mentioned this before, but thousands of people arrive at Kennedy Station every day, and the overwhelming majority head downstairs to the subway, instead of over to the GO train. This, even though GO would offer a much quicker trip downtown. Why? The only reason I can think of is cost, plus the fact that once a passenger arrives at Union on GO, they may still have to travel a bit further to their final destination.

    In short, I think it will be almost impossible to convince a significant number of people in the 416 to use GO. The TTC is just to competitive, with frequent service that GO can only dream of, as well as low (relative terms) fares. GO is seen as a long haul (read 905) commuter rail service, and it will take a lot of work, service improvement, fare restructuring and advertising to change that perception.

    Steve: The fare level and infrequent service on the Uxbridge sub are the two major problems, both of which would disappear with proper integration of GO into the network. Note also that for a connection at Kennedy, a passenger is already much closer to downtown, at least psychologically. I am talking about picking people up north of the 401 and giving them a direct reasonably fast ride into downtown via the CPR. This is a completely different option from what you are talking about.


  2. They still seem to playing “silly bugger” with the numbers don’t they. A homogeneous fleet would reduce long term costs. The “Capacity-Demand” slide on page 13 clearly shows that SRT and LRT have identical capacities.

    They couch the requirements with ‘lower capital cost’ and ‘minimize service disruption’. Of course lower capital cost only refers to the upfront and not the on-going operation, which is sure to be higher. Conversion to LRT will require the line be shutdown, like it isn’t already on a fairly regular basis or at least operated with degraded service.

    It sure seems like someone already has a preordained plan to me and GO isn’t one of them. I wonder does anyone connected with council stand to benefit like with the SYSE and FSE?

    Steve: I believe that the pressure is political from the technology vendor, and also from Scarborough Council for whom the thought of exchanging their toy train for a streetcar, when they really wanted a subway, is more than their little hearts can bear.


  3. “The TTC needs to try again, and include a full set of options”

    You mean an alternatives analysis?

    Steve: As you very well know, I mean options that recognize the possibilities for improved commuter rail service and for conversion of the full SRT to LRT. “Alternatives Analysis” has always meant “studying the only options we want people to think about”.


  4. The use of the Canadian Northern Corridor for a “transit Line” was formally rejected by Scarborough Council on April 1, 1974. I made the “Street Cars For Toronto” Presentation in favour of an LRT line to STC via basically the existing route. Council accepted this proposal and passed a motion in favour of it. Some one asked about the Canadian Northern Right of way and I said it was too narrow and too built up. The residents would object with justification to this route. I said that it should not be used for anything more intrusive than a bike path and someone made the motion, somebody else seconded it and it passed. Unfortunately ALRT and SRT replaced LRT and we have been suffering ever since.


  5. I’m not convinced Skytrain technology is the solution. But assuming it is …

    I’m surprised there is no discussion/provision about a southern extension. With the proposed reconstruction of the Kennedy SRT terminus, now is the time, and extending the SRT to the Scarborough GO station and Kingston Road (and possible LRT there), starts to create the kind of network that they keep saying they want to create.

    On the otherhand, the study area is east of McCowan Road and north of Ellesmere. Where’s the study to replace the existing Kennedy SRT station?

    Steve: That’s part of the separate project to rebuild the SRT, and there are already plans for a new Kennedy RT Station that we expect to see later this year.


  6. Now am I mistaken, or do the maps in the study show the Scarborough-Malvern LRT on Neilson rather than Morningside? Is this the new plan? It makes a lot more sense, in any case, given the accessibility to Malvern Town Centre and higher density along Neilson.

    Steve: The idea of moving the line to Neilson was mentioned in the FAQ on the project website before last week’s meetings. Contrary to what some people writing here think, the Transit City network is not engraved in stone.


  7. Standard LRT that is grade seperated would be the perfect solution for GO Transit. The platform lengths and frequent service would carry more people then the Yonge line in terms of capacity. I know we wouldn’t have theose kinds of numbers, but I can see three solutions to the long haulers.

    1. The fare zones on GO transit must be based on munciple boundries, i.e. TTC+YRT= two zones. According to the GO transit website Stouffville GO station to Union costs $7.05 A price reduction to $5.75, the cash fare that would cost if you used the TTC and YRT systems themselves would be a good way to start. With that cash fare of $5.75 you can go to union and show your GO ticket and get on the TTC for free. Of course if you use the local transit system to get to the GO station you can get a transfer show it to the GO cashier and get the GO ticket for $2.75.

    Now if you want to stay in Toronto the Transfer from the bus driver would be sufficent proof of payment. This would fix the fare issue.

    2. Six minute headways must be the standard. Even if it’s just one LRT car rolling in, and that’s what the demand warrents, so be it. People won’t complain about the train size as long there is reliable service. (Exception if it’s packed to the gills.)

    3. This may sound counter productive, but I am going to say it anyway, eliminate the GO express services and make it serve all stops on the GO lines. This will encourage usage in the outer 416 and get the long haulers off the TTC.

    This would be proper GO intergration and something I want to fight for as this is in my mind in the same level as Transit city in importance.


  8. Steve, you ought know by now that it’s impossible to study everything in an EA study. Unless the TTC has jurisdiction over GO rail, I can not imagine how it’s remotely practical to include GO as part of the options for SRT extension. I understand your rationale, but I cannot understand how it’s possible to study both the SRT and a new GO rail in tandom. How would you study them together when they are (a) 2 different operators/proponents/jurisdictions, (b) have different issues to deal with, and (c) follow different EA processes?

    Steve: There is this little agency called Metrolinx which is about to produce a Regional Transportation Plan. Not a TTC plan. Not a ViVA plan. Not a GO plan. A GTAH plan. The idea that we can still conduct studies that ignore the options available just because somebody else operates the line is laughable. At the very least, the TTC, as input to the regional plan, should say “look here — we can save a pile of money on the RT and make for much better service to downtown if you will just run decent GO service on this line”.

    Also, among the projects listed in MoveOntario2020 are the following:

    GO Stouffville rail line capacity expansion from Union Station to Stouffville and extension of the line to Uxbridge
    New GO Crosstown rail line between Weston Road and the Don Valley, Agincourt and Pickering via the Havelock subdivision

    In other words, GO service in this area is already listed among Queen’s Park’s announced projects. It’s not as if nobody ever heard of the idea.

    Regional plans have to look at how everything fits togther, not at individual, isolated projects.


  9. I can’t understand how the Malvern LRT line could go up Neilson, since there is no through connection to Kingston Rd. Are they thinking of running the line on Kingston Rd to Morningside, then up to Ellesmere, and then back to Neilson? I can’t see them going up Galloway and then cutting through Morningside park, yet going to Morningside only to double-back to Neilson doesn’t seem too logical either. It would be quite an indirect route, especially compared to the existing bus route that goes down Neilson and across Ellesmere to STC.


  10. You note the absence of an evaluation of LRT all the way to Kennedy. In fact, one of the FAQ on the project web site brings this issue up:

    Q: Could the entire SRT be replaced with LRT technology?

    A: Yes, the SRT right of way (and existing stations) can be modified to accept LRT (Light Rail Transit) vehicles. This would require major changes to the existing stations and the replacement of the third rail with overhead power. Regardless of the technology, the peak loads on the SRT corridor and the associated headways required to service future demand requires rapid transit in this corridor to be within an exclusive/protected right of way.

    I don’t know about you, but I read that as an invitation to challenge the mode choice. If the TTC or project team were going to rule out LRT in the SRT corridor, the answer would say that the mode choice was already determined as part of the Soberman SRT study, that it is not feasible, that the people have already spoken etc., and that is that. Instead, the answer agrees that the potential exists to convert the SRT to LRT, even if there are challenges involved. I see that as saying, Well, the politicians have made up their mind, but they may not have been right, and if you want to reopen the issue, then speak now or forever hold your peace.

    Steve: Yes, I noticed that subtle reference too, and it may be paving the way for a new look at alternatives now that the line is intended to go much further north. As for the politicians, I believe that the original decision to leave the RT as RT was taken at the staff level.


  11. Leo Gonzalez said: “… how the Malvern LRT line could go up Neilson, since there is no through connection to Kingston Rd. Are they thinking of running the line on Kingston Rd to Morningside, then up to Ellesmere, and then back to Neilson?”

    Moreover, if they extend SRT all the way to Malvern Town Centre, there is no point running the Kingston Rd line to Malvern as well. Instead, it can run east along Lawrence or Ellesmere.


  12. The proposed Scarborough East LRT was to run from Kennedy Sta. to Kingston Rd and then up Morningside to the Malvern area north of the 401. This proposed line would have served the Ellesmere/Morningside area well where there is two post secondary instutions- One of Centenial Colleges campus’ and U of T Scarborough.

    If the Scarborough East LRT gets abandoned I feel these two academic instutions need some kind of transit infrastructure. Could an LRT leave Scarborough Town Center and run east along Ellesmere to these two academic institutions. Students already heavy users of public transit and an LRT link from STC would make that an even more important Transit hub then it already is.


  13. Michael Forest’s post made me think about a possible connection to DRT’s service area via Hwy 2A. If the Kingston Rd. LRT line were to end up at Port Union/Sheppard/Kingston rd. interchange and extend the Sheppard LRT to the same interchange, we would shift the modal split in the favor of public transport. Isn’t it ironic that the only transit neighbor that doesn’t connect to a rapid transit corridore hosted by the TTC, is Durham.


  14. Matthew Kemp wrote, “Isn’t it ironic that the only transit neighbour that doesn’t connect to a rapid transit corridor hosted by the TTC, is Durham.”

    I always wondered why there was no transit connection between Durham and the TTC.

    Back in the 90s, I lived at Morningside/Ellesmere and commuted downtown using GO. There was a TTC strike one year and since there was no connection to the TTC, there was little difference in the crowding of trains coming from east of Rouge Hill. West of there was a different story, but I was fortunate enough to have my seat by then. 😉

    I also recall a strike that hit GO Train service (CN operated). During the few days that this lasted, Ajax-Pickering Transit ran service to STC. It was odd to see convoys of APT buses on Ellesmere.


  15. Calvin, there is a connection between Durham and the TTC. It’s called “GO Transit”, which runs three different routes between Durham and STC. 🙂

    This model made some sense when Durham transit systems were all individual municipal systems, particularly given the geographic issues that make it harder in Durham – but it doesn’t work very well given that there is now a Durham regional system. Unfortunately, DRT is not moving very fast on this (or any other) front. In January 2007, we were promised two routes between Pickering and Scarborough College that year. Neither has yet begun service, although DRT service plans indicate that one or both should begin next year.

    Larger scale integration to more destinations is likely still a few more years away, awaiting the Highway 2 “BRT”. The BRT itself should go to either Scarborough College or STC (no decision made yet), but connections to Sheppard East LRT are very possible, particularly if it goes to Meadowvale.

    This is one thing that I like about the Metrolinx white paper a lot – it provides much stronger connections between Durham and other regions. While the “metro” proposals (Eglinton, Sheppard, etc) are questionable given cost/benefit, the Regional Express concept (including the 401 corridor shown in the “Web” concept) has the potential to be hugely beneficial across the GTA. Heck, it even brings “Blue 22” into its proper role as a regional express service operated by GO. And if we envision a lot of the “Other Rapid Transit” as LRT, we build a good second tier grid around the GTA as well.


  16. David Harrison wrote, “there is a connection between Durham and the TTC. It’s called ‘GO Transit’,”

    Oh yea, that’s the same connection between the TTC and Barrie Transit. 🙂

    The lack of a direct connection is emphasised by the absense of DRT on the GTA weekly pass.

    I was about to use YRT and Mississauga, but realized that YRT’s routes 4 and 20 and Mississauga’s route 288 make a direct connectiton at Canada’s Wonderland!

    Speaking of YRT, when VIVA started up, they made a big thing about eventually extending the Purple route to Cornell where a future connection with DRT could take place. We are still awaiting the extension to Cornell, and little if anything can be found about a connection with DRT.


  17. Calvin, my understanding is that the Cornell terminal has been funded as a Metrolinx quick win, so it should be available within a few years at most. One platform is to be reserved for DRT, although I have not heard *anything* about specific plans from them. Their 2008 Servicing and Financing study includes a table of service improvements for 2009-2012, excluding the Highway 2 “BRT”, and the Cornell connection does not appear *anywhere* on that list.

    I get the distinct feeing that Durham Region is utterly committed to improved transit, as long as someone else is paying for it.


Comments are closed.