Scarborough RT/LRT Benefits Case Analysis (Updated)

Updated February 3:  In a previous version of this post, I was using 4-car trains for the Base Case and therefore claimed that the fleet was undersized.  This has been corrected.

On January 16, the Metrolinx Board approved release of the Benefits Case Analysis (BCA) for the replacement and extension of the Scarborough RT.  This document is now available online.

The original TTC proposal, was simply to replace the current technology with Mark II RT cars on the existing alignment. This is now referred to as the “Base Case”.  Four alternatives, all considered superior to the base case, were evaluated in the BCA.

  • 1: Extend the RT 5.4 km to Malvern Town Centre using the current technology.
  • 2: Extend the RT to Markham & Sheppard where it would connect with the Sheppard East LRT including an LRT branch north to Malvern.
  • 3: Replace the RT over its entire length with LRT and extend to Malvern on approximately the same alignment as the first RT option, completely in an exclusive right-of-way.
  • 4: Replace the RT with LRT and extend to Malvern with a partially exclusive right-of-way east of McCowan.

Major Flaws in the BCA

To save readers from combing through the rest of the text, here are major points where the analysis does not hold up.

  • The peak demand for which the line is designed, 10K/hour, is substantially above the modelled peak demand of 6.4K/hour in The Big Move.  The Metrolinx regional plan includes frequent commuter rail services through the extended RT’s catchment area, and this likely attracts some riders away from the RT.  Designing for higher capacity than required inflates fleet, carhouse and operating costs.  It may also affect train lengths and the cost of retrofitting existing stations.
  • LRT options presume the construction of a dedicated carhouse for the Scarborough line even though, by the time an LRT would operate, the Sheppard line’s new carhouse would be operating and could act as the base for Scarborough trains.  This inflates the capital cost of LRT options.
  • The alleged cost-benefit ratios are highly sensitive to the presumed value of travellers’ time.  This value is orders of magnitude greater than the value of environmental effects (reduced car use) and dominates the calculations.  The model overall favours proposals that serve long trips at comparatively high speeds (e.g. with widely spaced stations) that may not be conducive to the type of neighbourhood preferred in the Official Plan.
  • The values assigned to savings from reduced automobile use are based on a much higher factor than in the VIVA Benefits Case report, 95 vs 23 cents per km (2031).  The effect is to grossly overstate the savings from reduced auto usage for all options.
  • Economic benefits include the money spent on labour during construction.  This value for all options is a disconcertingly low percentage of the total project cost (well under 20%).  This shows that a substantial portion of any scheme is consumed by planning and design, materials, vehicles and system component costs.  Moreover, the idea that spending more on one project is “good” because it generates more work is valid only if one ignores other projects that could be built with the same money and labour.  This will be an important factor when projects are weighed against each other.
  • Estimates for the length of time the RT would be closed for upgrade or restructuring are “at least 8 months” for RT and “up to 36 months” for LRT.  These figures need to be reviewed in detail to determine where the differences lie.  The numbers are taken from the original TTC study (which did not include the qualifiers) when the physical changes needed to handle Mark II RT cars were considered to be trivial.  This may no longer be true.
  • Overall the analysis looks at the RT in isolation from the surrounding network and ignores alternative ways that the demand might be served on the network, not just on the RT corridor.  Although the report shows LRT as the less expensive option, the difference versus RT options may actually be understated.

Operational Plans

Base Case

For the Base Case, the existing fleet would be replaced with 36 new MKII RT cars to handle demands up to 5,400/hr.  These cars would operate in 3-car trains.  (MKII, or “Mark Two”, is the longer Vancouver version of the RT car.) 

Physical changes to the RT infrastructure include:

  • platform edge cutbacks to accommodate larger vehicles
  • replacement of Kennedy Station with a more convenient connection for passengers and a double-track configuration for better terminal capacity
  • various structural upgrades to accommodate the new trains
  • upgrades at McCowan Yard for a larger fleet and the physical requirements of the new cars
  • upgrade of the ATC system, and possible replacement of some infrastructure that may be at end-of-life

The planned headway for 2031 is 120 seconds, with a fleet of 36 Mark II cars (12 3-car trains).  Current service is provided by 6 trains on an alleged peak headway of 210 seconds (3’30”, actually considerably longer given operational problems).  Getting this down to 120 seconds would require 10.5 trains just for service.  A small saving will accrue from improved terminal operations, but this would only bring us down to 10 trains.

The service plan tells us that the design capacity for a 3-car train is 180 passengers (30 trains/hour gives 5,400 capacity).

Updated February 3:  In a previous version of this post, I was using 4-car trains for the Base case and therefore claimed that the fleet was undersized.

Option 1

In this option, a much larger fleet of 108 Mark II RT cars would operate frequent service (108 seconds) in 22 4-car trains from Malvern to Kennedy.  The total fleet would be 27 trains, a rather generous spare ratio compared with today’s single spare.

For this option, two additional major changes are required relative to the base case:

  • extension of all existing platforms to handle 4-car trains
  • replacement of McCowan carhouse to handle larger fleet

This is the most extensive of the “all RT” options.

Option 2

This is a much shorter extension of the RT only to Sheppard where it would connect with the planned LRT.  A branch of the LRT would provide service to Malvern.

As with Option 1, this scheme requires lengthened platforms on the existing line as well as a new carhouse.  Projected demand is lower because of the transfer from LRT to RT an Sheppard, and again from RT to subway at Kennedy.

A fleet of 80 Mark II cars would operate every 120 seconds using 16 4-car trains from Sheppard to Kennedy.  The total fleet would be 20 trains including spares.

Option 3

This is the “all LRT” option.  In this version, the line to Malvern is on a completely separate right-of-way and shares no trackage with the Sheppard LRT.  This option includes a dedicated carhouse for the RT line even though this could be shared with the Sheppard LRT.

All of the existing infrastructure would require modifications to accommodate LRT vehicles.

Service would be provided on a 139 second headway with 3-car trains.  The fleet would be 62 LRVs including spares.

The projected ridership for this option is the same as for Option 1 because the two services are essentially the same.

Option 4

In this option, the LRT line would run in its own right-of-way in Progress Avenue east of McCowan and turn north into Malvern.  The service design is for 2’15” headways west of McCowan carrying comparable demands to those projected for option 3.  Beyond McCowan, half of the service would continue to Malvern on a 4’30” headway.  The fleet size is projected to be equal to that of Option 3 with this service design.

Depending on the alignment chosen, this option may required shared running with the Sheppard LRT line.  Whether this is operationally feasible given the heavy service projected for Sheppard itself is still under study.

As with Option 3, the BCA assumes a dedicated carhouse for the new Scarborough LRT even though it could be shared with the Sheppard LRT at a lower combined cost.

Comparative Assessment

Capital Costs

For the Base Case, Metrolinx cites a capital cost of $452-million (2008$) up from the TTC’s estimate of $360-million (2006$).  Options 1 and 3 (the “all the way on exclusive right-of-way schemes) have capital costs of $1,612M and $1,404M for RT  and LRT respectively.  Option 2 (RT to Sheppard only) is less expensive at $1,233M,  and does not include the cost of an LRT branch off of the Sheppard line into Malvern.  Option 4 (LRT with partially segregated right of way beyond McCowan) is $1,225M.

Cost is not everything, of course, and the BCA looks at a variety of factors to weight the options against each other.  As we will see, the analysis has the odd effect of rewarding expensive projects (because they generate more short-term economic stimulus) and projects that attract many new riders who would otherwise drive (thereby causing savings in various environmental measures and reduction in commuting costs).


The peak point demand anticipated for Options 1 and 3 is 10,000 per hour, while that of option 2 is 9,000.  Option 4 is a special case because only half of the service would operate north of McCowan Station, although it would still provide 10K/hr over the existing route south to Kennedy.

The BCA is unclear about what new GO services are included in the demand model, and whether the projected RT demand is artificially inflated by the absence of parallel GO routes taking some of the long-haul load.  However, the Modelling backgrounder to Metrolinx’ regional plan shows how the network as a whole would behave.  The projected demand in that report is 6,400 per peak hour, very substantially below the demands cited in the BCA for the RT, whatever form it might take.

As with other projects studied in isolation from network effects, we may be evaluating a capital investment and service level proposal far in excess of what we would actually see if related network elements were considered as a package.  Providing capacity that is not required skews the analysis in favour of higher-cost options, and overstates benefits such as user time savings.  With frequent GO service to downtown, the real time savings for many in northeastern Scarborough would accrue to GO, not to the RT.

Evaluation Framework

The model seems more attuned to projects that break new ground for transit system coverage rather than making trips for existing users more convenient.  It also double-counts some variables because of their effects on multiple components of the overall evaluation.

In the case of the SRT project, unlike most other BCAs, there is a “base case” that will be undertaken if nothing else is done.  Therefore costs associated simply with refitting the existing line with newer RT technology and any spinoff effect this may have such as greater ridership is the starting point for all evaluations.  The results would not be the same if we were starting completely from scratch because there would be no existing infrastructure to recycle or modify.

Transportation User Benefits

This measure includes the following components:

  • Travel time savings both for transit trips and for road users who will benefit from reduced competition for road space.
  • Reduced automobile operating costs for new transit riders who would otherwise drive.
  • Reduced accident costs from traffic diversion.
  • Enhanced comfort of new, less-crowded vehicles.

Time savings are rated at a nominal value of $13/hour, indexed for inflation, and calculated over the period to 2038.  This methodology tends to favour network designs that provide fast-moving service for people travelling long distances because this will attract more car drivers and give each rider more time savings relative to the base case for those who do not live on the existing line.  Later, we will see this reinforced by environmental savings from diverting the same cars off of the road.

The value of reduced auto operating costs has serious problems in this analysis.  First off, the assigned value for year 2031 has risen from 23 cents/km in the VIVA BCA to 95 cents/km in the SRT BCA.  The higher value is cited as “operating and ownership costs”, but saving the entire amount assumes that the total cost of ownership disappears — in effect, that all of the savings by redirected travel produce a corresponding reduction in car ownership.  This very substantially overstates the “savings” from redirected travel.

The metric for accident reductions is dubious because roads have a well-known habit of backfilling any diverted demand with new traffic.  In any event, this element of the avoided costs is quite small over the life of the study to 2038, about 2.5% of the transportation user benefits.

Although this analysis includes a value for road capacity released by a transit investment, it does not consider whether transit capacity in other corridors might be similarly relieved.  For example, any GO services to northeast Scarborough should include their potential for reducing capacity requirements on the RT itself, but this sort of analysis is not on the table because we are only evaluating the RT. 

Financial Assessment

The cost comparison is brewed out of various factors:

  • Capital costs discounted to 2008$ from the years they are incurred
  • Annual operating costs in 2021 discounted over a 30-year period
  • Annual savings in bus operations replaced by RT/LRT similarly discounted

This yields a Net Present Value (NPV) of the capital and operating costs and hence the incremental cost over the Base Case.  The highest values, of course, are for the RT and LRT options going all the way to Malvern, although LRT is about 10% lower.

Projected ridership is equal for both Options 1 and 3 because they provide equivalent service to Malvern regardless of the technology.  Riding for Option 4 is projected to be higher than for Option 3 because the latter imposes an LRT/RT transfer at Sheppard.  As discussed above, all of these projections are substantially higher than the peak demand shown in Metrolinx own network Modelling paper.  There is no discussion of origin-destination patterns that could reveal what proportion of riders in the catchment area would be better served by a GO line to downtown versus a local service connecting to the Danforth subway.

In all cases, the projected additional revenue, expressed in NPV terms, is low, a few percent of the NPV of the capital costs, because many riders in this corridor are already on transit as part of the base case.  This is an interesting outcome for an area where we would expect there is a considerable market for new transit use. 

Cost-Benefit Ratio

This calculation produces a number, the sort of thing that people who don’t like to think just adore.  However, it’s important to understand how this number works.

We begin with the “transportation user benefits” which, in this case, are almost totally derived from reduced travel times of existing transit riders.  These benefits have NPVs ranging from $1.2 to $1.6-billion over the study period, and this is obviously dependent on the value assigned to a rider’s saved time.

Next we have the “incremental cost” relative to the base case, and subtracting one number from the other gives the “net benefit”.  The study observes that these numbers are positive for all options, an unusual situation caused by exclusion of the base case costs from the overall scheme.

Finally, we get the benefit-cost ratio which is identical for both options going all the way to Malvern.  This value is higher for the other options because they provide less benefit but at even lower cost.  In other words, the cost-benefit ratio for a dedicated extension to Malvern does not produce returns at a comparable level to the portion of the line south of Sheppard. 

“Comparable” is a difficult word here both because ridership estimates are suspect, and because the process is highly sensitive to the assumed value of a rider’s time and of savings in auto-related costs.  The further we build the line, the more time we save for trips at the outer end of that line, but the density of new demand probably falls off even as the cost of construction remains constant for fully exclusive rights-of-way.

Environmental Impacts

As we already know, riding on the RT will primarily come from existing transit users, or more accurately, users who would have been on transit anyhow even if the RT never went past McCowan (the base case).

Therefore the reduction in emissions due to lowered auto use in this evaluation is low, and its NPV is similarly small in relation to the overall project cost.

Economic Impacts

This measure includes both the spinoff benefits of employment during construction, as well as the permanent improvements through stimulation of development and increased job density on a new route.

Moreover, diversion of trips to transit is presumed to free up income that would otherwise be devoted to operating a car.  This is a faulty model because transit often enables people to reach jobs that would be out of their grasp — there would be not offsetting saving in car expenses because there would be no second car.  Of course, anything that reduces car purchases and operating costs has an effect elsewhere in the economy as we see all too clearly today. 

The figures for direct employment are rather interesting because they are a small part of the total cost of each of the options.  Option 1, the all-RT scheme, racks up $250M in wages on a total cost of $1,612M, less than 16%.  This shows the substantial costs due to planning and design, materials, vehicles and components for major subsystems such as signalling.  These have economic benefits somewhere, but not necessarily in the GTA.  We must guard against spending money just for the sake of it, and expensive projects are not necessarily good ones.

As for lasting economic benefits, the employment and income impacts are calculated to be relatively small, roughly 5% of the total capital cost.  This is not a major factor in selecting options for the RT.

Finally, we have land value effects (a dubious science in the current market, but one we might expect to be relevant in the long term).  The BCA includes an intriguing table based on an extensive study of property values and the effect of nearby transit services.  This study shows considerably better effects from rail-based modes than from Bus or BRT, although with some intriguing variations.  For example, the more exclusive the right-of-way, the higher the impact on residential prices presumably because of capacity and speed effects.  However, LRT holds its own against subways for retail uses because it encourages a stronger pedestrian environment and brings the transit benefit to a larger area with stations closer together than subways.

The effect of this model is to show an advantage for Option 4, partially exclusive LRT, because it has better station access.  However, the ranges cited for all of the options are wide, and none of them has a clear advantage.

Social Community Impacts

All options will support land use changes with those for options 1 and 3 (exclusive rights-of-way) being more likely to encourage high density development around widely spaced stations.  Option 4 should encourage more pedestrian activity because it is at grade in a semi-exclusive right-of-way like other parts of the planned LRT network.

Health effects accrue both from encouraging people to walk to a transit stop, and from reduction in car use and associated pollution.  Schemes that encourage more ridership are credited for generating more walking and less pollution, but the four options are close enough in likely demand that this is not a major factor.  Also, as I mentioned earlier, it is unclear whether moving trips off of roads will really reduce pollution or merely free up capacity for more cars.

Accessibility can be seen two ways.  Lines with few stops encourage dense development that might be incorporated into the stations making them highly accessible at least to those who live there.  Lines with more stops better serve communities along the route.  What is not discussed here is the overall population density and the degree to which the neighbourhoods will already be established by the time the line and its extension are completed.

Visual and noise impacts exist for all options in one degree or another.  Alignments with elevated structures present a visual intrusion, and alignments running along a former rail corridor past backyards have issues with both visual and noise effects.  Although it is not mentioned, it is worth noting the noise effects of the existing RT where it runs through residential areas, some of which are considerably further from the tracks than the proposed extension via the old Canadian Northern right-of-way.

Finally, of course, we have the length of time the existing service would be replaced by buses for construction.  This is estimated to be at least 8 months for the RT, and at up to 36 for LRT.  When the TTC originally claimed an 8-month project for upgrade to Mark II RT cars, the extent of work needed to upgrade the infrastructure was less than is now acknowledged.

These estimates need to be substantiated and refined to demonstrate why they are so different, and whether the difference between the RT and LRT  time is lower than cited in the BCA analysis.


At the end of such an exercise, one hopes that a single option emerges as the clear favourite in most if not all dimensions under consideration.  In this case, the RT has benefits in reducing the shutdown time for the line, but at a substantially higher cost.  Any hope that the line might go further north as shown on some regional plans would be totally quashed by the high cost of an RT extension north from Malvern, and this is not even mentioned by the BCA.

The report recommends a “wait and see” approach pending the outcome of the Eglinton BCA with the technology selection to be fitted into whatever is appropriate for the longer route.  We need to be sure that Metrolinx models Eglinton correctly as part of a network, not just as an isolated line.

The advantage of LRT is that it is not tethered to an exclusive right-of-way, and a network of LRT lines is greater than one project.  I will leave this debate for another day.

33 thoughts on “Scarborough RT/LRT Benefits Case Analysis (Updated)

  1. Steve,

    Just out of curiosity. Why is Malvern getting 3 lines? (Not complaining as I am all for Scarborough getting more transit stops).

    Sheppard LRT
    Scarborough-Malvern LRT (for some reason from what I heard from the TTC people at that Metro Hall meeting, the SMLRT is on the bottom of LRT list priority)
    Scarborough RT

    I don’t want to start a could/would/should use 3 routes more than Malvern.

    Steve: Scarborough-Malvern is down at the bottom, and one reason is the direct link via the RT extension itself. The area should have had rapid transit decades ago, and would have had the original LRT option for the “RT” been built. Sheppard, of course, suffered from a rather costly subway that ran out of money before it got to the DVP. Basically, we’re making up for lost time in Scarborough.


  2. Steve,

    To be frank, I am at once, both very grateful for your analysis; and incredibly irritated by the BCA itself.

    I’m shaking my head in disbelief at what would seem to be a profoundly dubious BCA, one which has the appearance, if not yet the proven fact of having been unduly influenced by factors not in the systems or the riders best interest.

    The alternative being that the staff performing the BCA simply lack the technical competence.

    Its all rather sad. I’m more on the side of being a cynic than an optimist.

    This does nothing to change that.

    Steve Munro For Metrolinx CEO

    Steve: I’m rather annoyed at the consultants Metrolinx has to import from Vancouver to perform an analysis that has very little in the way of specialized work. It’s simply a question of taking various construction cost and demand estimates, calculating modal diversion rates, factoring in future growth and inflation, and voila you have a BCA. A vast amount of underlying assumptions are hidden beneath tables of costs and demands that we must take at face value.

    This whole exercise seems to be an attempt to wrap an essentially political process — the selection of new transit routes — in some sort of quasi private sector mumbo jumbo. The opening scene of the Scottish Tragedy could be as valid a methodology.


  3. “Wait and see!”

    I thought the SRT was on it’s last legs, and we’d be lucky if it lasted long enough to get the replacement up and running.

    Steve: The folks at Metrolinx don’t have to ride the damn thing every day, and of course this is the same crew responsible for a needless tiff with the City of Toronto about a technology choice for Eglinton. I suspect the staff are hoping that they don’t have to actually recommend a technology, but can leave it up to the politicians.

    Alas, the numbers are not looking good for ICTS, and based on the Scarborough figures, they would have to work magic to get Eglinton to come out differently.


  4. A couple of questions come to mind:

    1) Will the MkII vehicles run in snow? It seems pretty dumb to have a system that shuts down in a heavy snowfall and then needs to be replaced by buses when the slower road speed requires all these buses on their regular routes.

    2) Did they figure in the extra energy requirements of the inefficient LIMs or is it such a small fraction of the operating cost as to be negligible?

    Steve: You and I both know that the only reason RT technology is even on the table is that Bombardier would be deeply embarrassed if its showcase technology were to fall out of favour in Canada’s largest transit system. Luckily for us, it snowed in Vancouver this winter too, and proved what a joke the technology is for a winter climate, aside from any issues of energy efficiency.

    3) Isn’t there an increase in efficiency if you operate fewer type of vehicles as the types and numbers of spare parts is reduced? Is this taken into consideration? If you were to lose a train of LRVs due to an accident this would have a much smaller impact in the Transit City total network than if they were to lose a train of ICTS cars.

    Steve: Don’t forget that, unlike the TR subway cars, ICTS cars are independent units. You can lose one car and keep the rest in operation just like LRVs.

    4) Would the LRT line have manned stations on the private right of way like the SRT does or would it use self serve fare collection like most LRT lines? This would reduce labour costs.

    Steve: I don’t think anyone has got that far in the design work.

    5) I know or at least think that you prefer to have LRT lines in the major traffic corridors, i.e. in the street, than in a separate ROW but in this case is there not an advantage to travel times to have the current right of way with its wide station spacing to get a faster ride while letting the Kennedy and Midland buses provide the local service?

    Steve: Yes, and that’s why I haven’t been making noises about shifting the line off of its current alignment. At some point, however, street operation will make sense especially if the line goes north from an “option 3” to Malvern.

    I think that I prefer option 3 because it has a completely segregated ROW which would reduce travel time but I could live with option 4, especially since I live in Brampton.


  5. Either if it is RT or LRT, it should be 100% certainly in the private ROW proposed. This is going to be a trunk route and its purpose is not the same as the LRTs running down the “Avenues”. This is more of a semi-GO route, more like an LA style LRT with far distanced stops.

    Keep it segregated so that it will be reliable and fast for future extensions right into the Cornell Transit Oriented Development in Markham.

    Segregated is the best way for everyone!


  6. Re: spare LRVs/maintenance cover – intersecting with Sheppard means the possibility of shared spare vehicles. Not possible if RT is the mode and even sharing a yard area (one crew depot, one security arrangement) would be more hassle with differing track gauge/power arrangements. Ditto if the Kennedy end has track linkage to the Eglinton LRT.

    Is it fair to say that there would be scope to redevelop McCowan Yard at a reasonable profit to TTC were it to be surplus under a system where the Scarborough LRT was handled by the Sheppard Yard together with a stabling yard for it and Eglinton near Kennedy Station – there appear to be a couple of nearby land parcels vacant or underused. Has anyone thought about using the hydro corridor to run a York style BRT while the RT is being redeveloped?


  7. Joseph: Extensions into Markham you say? You know what, that’s a great idea. And while we’re at it, why not just extend the Bloor-Danforth line into Keswick?

    Seriously, you can’t expect the TTC to extend EVERYTHING into York Region. The TTC’s jurisdiction is Toronto. End of story. The YRT’s is York Region. If you want to have TTC service at your door (in Markham), then please, in addition to paying the TTC fare, pay for the maintenance and purchase of TTC vehicles and infrastructure. Otherwise, ask the YRT to give you more service. Also, from what I’ve understood, GO Transit should be providing reliable, frequent train service on all it’s corridors by 2025(?), which would give you access to Downtown more more convently than the SRT.

    Steve: I am dubious about those dotted lines off the edge of the map too, but if the politicians are going to put them there, then the planners need to allow for effect of using the most expensive option for the “416” portion of the line.


  8. Is it really desirable, or even feasible, to interline the “converted SRT” and Eglinton routes, even if both become light rail?

    One issue is the 3-car trains planned for the converted SRT (Option 3 or 4): how will they fit in the street-median sections of Eglinton.

    Another (lesser) issue is headways. 2’15” is planned for the fully grade-separate converted SRT. But anything below 4-5′ in the street-median ROW will get the Roads department concerned.

    The second issue can be resolved by short-turning 1/2 of trains at Kennedy. Nevertheless, I wonder if it is easier and more logical to interline Eglinton west of Kennedy with the future Eglinton – Kingston Rd line, rather than with converted SRT.

    Steve: Metrolinx had been pushing the idea of an Eglinton RT for some time, a rather shameless advocacy for Bombardier’s proprietary technology considering that they had yet to demonstrate a need for it. They speak of a direct ride from Scarborough to the airport as if this is the dream of every Scarberian. In the grand scheme of things, the overhead of a transfer at Kennedy Station is small change compared to a ride that long. One could argue the same way for extending the subway on the basis that it would eliminate the commuting transfer at Kennedy, a far more common annoyance than airport-bound journeys.


  9. In terms of extending the RT to Sheppard, why not terminate it at Neilson Road, so that riders could simply get on the Scarborough-Malvern LRT, instead of necessitating a whole new branch line. If I’m not mistaken, the preferred route for that LRT is Morningside, Sheppard, Neilson, so it would seem to make a lot of sense, if were going to take the RT as far as Sheppard and only if, to bring it out to Neilson Road.

    Steve: The Scarborough-Malvern LRT is way down the priority list and there’s no guarantee that it will be built and operating by the time the RT reopens following reconstruction. Also, if “Option 2” went to Neilson Road and Sheppard, its cost would go up compared with the route straight north.


  10. You describe Option 3 as being segregated ROW. Are grade separations anticipated at all crossings?

    Is there a contingency on this extension to show we’ve learned from the lesson of Lawrence East and Ellesmere and find savings by leaving level crossings?

    Steve: I don’t know the physical details of Option 3 because Metrolinx has not published them. All I have is the description in the BCA.


  11. How does capacity play into this? Right now we run 4 car ICTS trains, would a 2 car new-LRV train be able to carry the same number of people? (my math says yes, but I could be mistake).

    Steve: Depending on whether the line stops at McCowan (Base Case) or extends further north, it would be run wth 3-car or 4-car trains of MKII cars. The BCA claims that a fleet of 36 cars (12 trains) would provide a 2 minute headway from McCowan to Kennedy. This is almost twice as much service by headway, but about the same capacity per train because the MKII’s are longer.

    In my analysis, I complained that the Base Case fleet was too small, but now realize that all of the numbers there are for 3-car trains, not 4-car trains. I will adjust my commentary accordingly.


  12. Looks like the answer has already been provided for us (from Tuesday’s G&M):
    As well, [Mayor Miller] said, a winning bid [for the Pan-Am Games] would guarantee speedier construction of a light-rail transit line for Scarborough, now set to go into service in 2019 under a plan to add 120 kilometres of transit in suburban neighbourhoods.

    “The province will have to find a way to ensure that the Scarborough-Malvern LRT is built and running by 2015,” Mr. Miller said, as the 10-day event is set for July, 2015.


  13. “Joseph: Extensions into Markham you say? You know what, that’s a great idea. And while we’re at it, why not just extend the Bloor-Danforth line into Keswick?”

    Who said subway line? LRT extension into York Region would cost very little and would benefit the transit oriented cornell development in markham. I dont live in markham, i just look at the benefit of the entire GTA region as a whole instead of having a narrow minded NIMBY/Selfish approach.

    “Seriously, you can’t expect the TTC to extend EVERYTHING into York Region. The TTC’s jurisdiction is Toronto. End of story. The YRT’s is York Region. If you want to have TTC service at your door (in Markham), then please, in addition to paying the TTC fare, pay for the maintenance and purchase of TTC vehicles and infrastructure. Otherwise, ask the YRT to give you more service. Also, from what I’ve understood, GO Transit should be providing reliable, frequent train service on all it’s corridors by 2025(?), which would give you access to Downtown more more convently than the SRT.”

    If more and more residents in Toronto think like this, transit will remain the way it is and people such as myself will continue to drive and pollute the toronto streets and highways for absolutely free and at no cost at all!

    Which option do you prefer?


  14. I have been wondering if they would ever clue into this. I have been long of the mind that this idea of using buses to supplement service during the RT conversion being another example of the TTC not thinking from a network perspective. One is tempted to question what they think they’re doing when the Malvern LRT is obviously the best-suited “stand-in” for the SRT while conversion takes place. It isn’t an ideal subsititute, and nothing will be, but it can effectively intercept all Malvern-originating demand that is bound for Kennedy. The demand would also be somewhat split (although not evenly) between Malvern and Sheppard if both are operational by 2015.

    Lawrence East and Ellesmere/Midland would still have to be supplemented by buses, but the demand is low enough at these stations that buses can cope.


  15. Will the improvements to The Scarborough RT include something to stop the RT from being closed every time there is a snowstorm, or cold weather? The RT now seems like an inpractical form of transportation because it is very unreliable, compared to the Subway and Streetcars.

    What actions will take place to make sure that the RT runs 99% of the time.

    Steve: This requires a technology other than ICTS. We will see if TTC and Metrolinx have the guts to face down Bombardier and the “new, Ontario technology” lobby.


  16. Perhaps we can just throw this nonsense out.

    Instead we will sell the RT to SNC-Lavalin; agree to pay to re-track the line for them; and then they can use 80-year old rolling stock that VIA is scrapping!

    All for a fare of only $20.00 (and a token)


  17. You mention that Scarborough-Malvern is well down the road.

    Out of curiosity, do you foresee the Eglinton leg of this line being built earlier than the rest (given the overlap Eglinton LRT at Kennedy)?

    Steve: No. If the Eglinton segment were needed to get to a carhouse, then it would be bumped up, but the first TC carhouse is likely to be attached to the Sheppard line as that route will be built first. With a Scarborough LRT conversion, Eglinton could use the Sheppard carhouse as an east end operating base.


  18. Wouldn’t it be better to build the eastern carhouse near the Eglinton – Kingston Rd segment, and hence enable building that LRT link soon?

    In short term, it will be really helpful to have the Eglinton – Kingston – UTSC light rail line up and running while SRT is closed for renovation. The fate of the proposed northern segment (UTSC – Morningside – Sheppard – Malvern) could be considered separately and at a later point.

    Long term, a carhouse near the Eglinton – Kingston Rd segment will serve the whole Eglinton LRT line pretty well. Non-revenue trips will be much shorter in that case, compared to a carhouse near Sheppard.


  19. I am curious why they didn’t split the study into two separate routes: the existing RT and the proposed extension. If they did that, they would reach the logical conclusion: extend the Bloor-Danforth line till Scarborough Town Centre and build a LRT line from Scabrough Town Centre to Malvern along Progress and the ROW north of Sheppard. As it stands, much of Scarborough’s riders will suffer degraded service simply to give Malvernites a one-seat ride to Kennedy; an alternative they don’t need given the Sheppard East and Scarborough Malvern LRTs being planned. And I say this as a Malvernite. Removing that one transfer at Kennedy would improve the transit experience for tens of thousands of riders daily.


  20. Joesph: Whereas I agree with you that transit which benefits the entire GTHA is important, I don’t believe that the TTC should extend the SRT (if they keep as in it’s current elevated right-of-way format) unless the YRT is will to pay (a portion) of the costs for the construction, purchase of vehicles, and maintenance & general upkeep of the line.

    In addition, my comment about extending the B-D line pertains to the fact that York Region seems to want the TTC to extend just about all its services into York Region, but without paying for the upkeep of TTC vehicles, or in fact, the purchase of enough vehicles to provide the services York Region wants.

    As for service getting people heading into Toronto out of cars, and on to public transit- the best way to do this is to provide them easy access to GO Transit on their local transit authority (YRT, MT, DRT, HSR, etc.), and increase GO Transit service (specifically trains) to all-day, frequent, reliable service, in both directions, on all lines, as opposed to a few trains each way during rush-hours. In addition, there should also be fare integration to allow a person traveling from, say, Square One, to pay a two-zone fare, get on 61 Mavis to Cooksville GO Station, take the GO train to Union Station, and take the TTC to George Brown College, but only pay that one time. The example I used could modified for any two points in the GTAH, but those two things are the best way to improve inter-regional travel.


  21. Two things:

    For all those you against expanding rapid transit into Markham because it is ‘the burbs,’ I would like to point out that the highest densities and most transit friendly environments on the 102 Markham bus route is in fact… in Markham. Not saying that the TTC should expand into York, I’m just trying to debunk the myth that all of the 416 is ‘urban’ and all of the 905 is ‘suburban’.

    Secondly, I feel that the problem with the Scarborough RT has more to do with its execution rather than its technology. While it does have its problems, at the end of the day it does its job: moves large groups of people quickly and efficiently.

    The problem is with its execution. Frustrating transfers, little development around stops, uncomfortable seating, depressing stations, etc. All these factors and more turn this from a functional rapid transit corridor into a cheap extension of the Bloor-Danforth line, designed for poor people who cannot afford cars.

    If they are to change the technology, it will not do enough to make this route desirable. What needs to change is the environment of the corridor, from development to the stations themselves. The only exception would be to turn it into a busway, since one fewer transfers may help to encourage choice riders to the line.


  22. Hi Steve:-

    To Ben. You have hit my hot button nerve with your two points. I appreciate that you believe, as I do too about the pretty downtown of Markham being unlike other suburban neighbourhoods and being transit friendly because it is laid out like how a town should be, but, and this is a big big but, there is no way this green belt of a pretty village’s residents are going to ride enough to support a fixed rail route here at this point in time. Extending Toronto’s rail transit lines beyond Steeles is nice to think about, but unless those that live on the other side want to pay the entire freight of that line, I say the Brooklyn thing applies here; “Forget abowed it”!

    Secondly, the fact that the technology of the Scarborough RT has been a many months cause of its being unavailable for its long suffering riders should be enough to convince anyone, that even though today it may be whisking you along on its noisy, cramped and wholly uncomfortable vehicles (just one more of the technology’s problems), don’t count on it tomorrow, for tomorrow we have flurries in the forecast. These points only scratch the surface of how the ICTS is the wrong choice for any transit line. Trolley cars would be the quantum leap ahead and as Steve has pointed out, one of your arguments about the shortness of the line might have been addressed if the wasteful spending demanded of the ICTS choice might have otherwise left enough money in the pot to have had the line extended many times by now.

    Dennis Rankin


  23. Steve, I would love to hear your opinion on a Bloor-Danforth extension to Scarborough Town Centre. In my opinion, the TTC’s numbers show that there are are enough riders to warrant it. And it would seem to me that building this extension would then allow the proposed RT extension to be replaced with LRT thus getting rid of the orphan RT system.

    Moreover, as currently planned an RT extensions carries too much capacity for the neighbourhood and is sure to piss off quite a few folks who will live rather close to the corridor that they plan on using.

    Notably, should a future extension beyond Malvern be appropriate, LRT is a lot cheaper than an ART Mk II system and probably could handle the loads from Malvern and Markham.

    Steve: I remain opposed to the idea of extending the BD subway to STC on the ground that, as with all subway lines, you have to stop somewhere. Once the Eglinton line is built, Kennedy and Eglinton will become a more important hub than it is today (indeed, Scarborough Council worried that it might overshadow STC itself decades ago).

    An LRT on the SRT right-of-way can carry the projected demand, and service beyond McCowan would be at a lower level because of short turns. I agree that a lot depends on the route you take to get to Sheppard, and there’s lots of opportunity for an insentive TTC to piss off the neighbourhood. They’re rather good at that sort of thing.


  24. If “option 4” is selected, will the 3-car LRT trains (planned for the Kennedy – STC section) be able to operate in the “partially exclusive right-of-way east of McCowan”, aka street median?

    It seems that asymmetric branch structure could be more practical: half of trains are 2-car and run all the way to Malvern, the other half being 4-car and running from Kennedy Stn to STC only.


  25. Hello Steve,
    I know your opposed to extending Bloor/Danforth, But in a previous Blog on your site, I recommended extending Bloor/Danforth to Lawrence and McCowan, with an intermediate stop at Brimley/Eglinton/Danforth Rd. I then proposed Three LRT lines branching off from there. 1- McCowan/Lawrence north to Hwy 7, via STC. 2 Lawrence east to pt union 3 Malvern, via McCowan, Sheppard east to Neilson, then to Malvern. For 1.6 billion, we can do all these I believe. 4 Non-revenue rail on Pt. Union to sheppard for yard access and in case the Durham builds LRT on there Kingston road instead of BRT. This would provide superior service to Scarborough . The projected ridership To Lawrence (10000 PPH) is minimum standards for subway ridership. In 2035, we will be back to square 1, if we upgrade the SRT. Steve, what would it take to get you on the TTC as a commisioner. This is long overdue… We must take our loses and scrap the RT. Time is of the essence here with that line and my suspicions state that the TTC is going to screw this up.


  26. Re: Dennis

    At least Markham HAS “pretty villages,” Scarborough is suburban sprawl. It is a different kind of sprawl, but it is sprawl nonetheless. And I never said that the subway should extend to “the suburbs,” but was implying that surrounding municipalities are not as low density as some would think. Don’t forget, it wasn’t too long ago when Toronto was in fact part of York Region. Of course there are other factors, but when it comes to land use, Markham is just as worthy as a bus rolling down every 10 minutes as Scarborough is.

    Secondly, I also said that ICTS is not without its problems. Obviously winter is not one of its strong points, but regular rail isn’t immune to weather conditions either. How often is the GO delayed due to freezing of switches? The only rail I can think of that is virtually 100% immune to winter conditions is SAFEGE monorail, like the one used in Greater Tokyo and Germany. The point I was trying to get across is that to 90% of users of the SRT the technology is not the main problem, but is simply a small problem in a generally flawed and poorly designed rapid transit project.

    Steve: To be fair to the SRT, the subway also suffers snow-related problems between Victoria Park and Kennedy due to buildup of snow and the resulting ice on the power rail. However, this happens less frequently than on the RT. I ride shuttle buses from Kennedy to STC far more often than from Kennedy to Warden.

    Frozen switches do not appear to be a problem where switch heaters are installed regardless of the technology running on the rails. Trip arms at signals, a feature unique to subways, have had heaters for years.


  27. Hi Steve and BEn:-

    GO has switch problems because CN has eliminated so many jobs in the interest of profit, that what had been commonplace before, men assigned to keep the switches clear, is not so any more. If the crew assigned with their truck to cover many miles of track are stuck in traffic on the snow covered roads, well, the switches stay plugged and unusable.

    And I appreciate that Scarborough is a sprawl, but since the TTC got saddled with that sprawl over 50 years ago, they now have to deal with it. And that in itself is a tremendous argument against subway versus LRT erxpansion. When going into a sprawl community that is already supporting buses, then LRT is the better choice for cost and efficiency.

    And yes Steve, the subway can and does suffer winter related delays attributable to its technology, but it is a far less frequent occurrance and the solutions to its remedy are far less costly or overwhelming.



  28. Living in Malvern I hope that whatever money is spent to replace or refurbish the Scarborough RT that it is spent wisely. I would rather see an LRT conversion than to see a billion+ dollars spent on converting/extending the line. If (please note the if) we are going to spend a billion dollars then we should be extending the B-D subway to Scarborough Town Centre where it will greatly increase the appeal of transit for those in Central/East/North Scarborough and save time in the daily commute of thousands. Transit between Malvern Town Centre and Scarborough Town Centre will be covered anyway with the Sheppard LRT spur to STC and the terminus of the Scarborough-Malvern LRT line. I truly hope that Metrolinx/TTC do not consider replacing (and extending) the line with Mark II cars that will be hugely costly when a subway extension would be a better way of spending the money.


  29. Why not get rid of the seperated grade for LRT version of SRT. Keep SRT running as is for now. Build LRT replacement on Road along Kennedy and then Ellesmere to Scarborough Town Centre. You could probably get service interuption down to SRT option levels.

    Anything less than SRT would probably piss off Scarborough residents. We have always gotten the short end of the stick. It might piss us off especially because we are the least white part of the megacity, especially north of Kingston Rd. The only reason BD extension to Scarborough Town Centre was compromised on was on the assumption that equivalent money would be spent across Scarborough to get better bang for buck, while keeping at least our current SRT level of service without much interuption.

    I hope politicians keep that in mind, especially since Vaughan and Richmond Hill are getting subways there and they are not even part of the 416.

    I think SRT is probably the best option politically. Anything less will piss off people too much. I was spendint 1h 15min to get from ellesmere & meadowvale to york mill station where i worked during the summer. That is one bus. Something has to be done to fix this. Travel times cost us all money.


  30. Ragu I agree with you 100% anything less then an SRT would be inapporiate. The people of scarborough have been cheated out of good transit far to long. Tell me why transit city wants to conver the srt to an lrt and then extending along eglinton. This is a very dump idea. the people of scrborough will suffer. Lrt are only good for shor distance route.. however the eglinton line + the existing srt rout together will be the longest route in the gta yet were making it and lrt that WILL NOT HAVE AN EXCLUSIVE RIGHT OF WAY. that sad. …….and if the issue is about riership why are all the rich people in Richmond hill and Vaughan geting a subway. God know that they will still stick to there bmw.

    Steve: First off, if the existing RT is converted to LRT, it will be on the same exclusive right-of-way. Only the extension beyond to Malvern is proposed to have on street running in a reserved lane to some degree. This is affected by whether the new line crosses the 401 on its own bridge, or using an existing street.

    The Eglinton line will be in tunnel from west of Leslie to Jane Street, probably, and also likely for the portion between Don Mills and east of the DVP.

    I should also point out that Transit City was conceived by people who were not trying to burn money like the proponents of the subways to York Region, and the intention was to recognize that better coverage was more important in areas where demand does not come up to subway standards.

    Your position is an excellent example of how the TTC has done a rotten job of selling anything other than subways as the transit solution.


  31. Hi Steve,

    I am not sure if this has been decided or not, but will Transit City and the RT if converted to LRT technology use TTC or standard gauge?


    Steve: I suspect TTC gauge to allow vehicles to move over the existing network, but have not heard definitively on this.


  32. Did the TTC decide to replace the rt cars with new ones because they can’t afford to restart production of the old ones. There are many ways that I think the TTC could get more money:

    1. Renovate Kennedy rt station to have its tracks go north instead of east and have it be at ground level and call it Eglinton East. That way, you don’t have to lose 20 seconds to the hill and the curve.

    Steve: The renovated Kennedy Station that is part of the Eglinton and Scarborough LRT plans will simplify the turnaround and remove much of the vertical distance between the lines. From experience, more time is lost getting from subway to RT platform level today than is taken to make the east to north turn.

    2. The rt trains could go a little faster through the Ellesmere tunnel.

    3. Give an option of donating on the TTC website and have it say that the old rt cars are getting old and are no longer in production and that they need a certain amount of money to restart production.

    Steve: The amount of money needed to produce more “Mark I” cars is very, very large, and the unit cost per car would be much higher than any other “off the shelf” equipment you could obtain. Such equipment, by the way, would have much greater capacity per dollar spent. While we are on the subject of donations to the TTC, such a donation would in theory be tax deductible and constitute an indirect subsidy from Ottawa and Queen’s Park. You can bet they would plug that loophole quickly. I can think of many, many organizations in Toronto far more deserving of my donations (and tax subsidies) than a limited run of Mark I cars.

    4. To save even more time, train the drivers not to decelerate the train until the last second and then decelerate it the maximum possible amount. To make that easier, there could be a sign marking the place to start slowing down.

    Steve: The speed profiles on the RT are automatic, and are only controlled by the drivers when the line is in manual mode. The slower speed while trains are physically in the stations (entering or leaving) was introduced as a “safety” measure decades ago. There is no comparable practice on the subway, although it has been discussed, because introducing it would unduly affect service speed and bunching.

    An advantage to using the old rt cars is that no one has to do without a quick method of getting from Kennedy to Scarborough Centre while they’re replacing the rt cars.

    Steve: The TTC had a scheme to buy Mark I’s used from Vancouver, but that’s only a band-aid solution. The real issue is for the TTC to come up with a construction plan that minimizes the downtime between end of rt and start of LRT service.


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