Revised December 29 at 12:15 am: The section on the Finch LRT has been moved to the end and expanded to clarify an alternate proposal for the underground connection between the Yonge subway and the LRT station.
In the two previous articles in this series on the Eglinton and other LRT lines, I mentioned that the TTC would receive an update at its December 16 meeting on the status of the projects. Seasonal festivities and other matters have diverted my attention, and I’ve been remiss in not reporting on the news, such as it is.
The discussion was intriguing as much for its political as its technical content. Two factors, related to some extent, will force decisions that, to date, have been avoided about priorities and about the mechanism of project delivery.
- With the award of the 2015 Pan Am Games to the GTA, there is a desire to have everything up and ready to go with time to spare before the event itself. This affects both the SRT and the proposed Scarborough-Malvern LRT.
- Although Queen’s Park, through Infrastructure Ontario, is enamoured of “alternative procurement” (code for private sector development of public infrastructure), actually launching a project on such a basis is now acknowledged to add about one year to the delivery time. This affects both the SRT and the Finch West LRT which were to be delivered in this manner.
Under the original project schedule, the SRT would still be under reconstruction as an LRT line when the Games took place in 2015. If this is to be avoided, the start date for the project must be advanced to 2011 or delayed until after the games. The latter option is dubious considering that the SRT is, technically speaking, on its last legs and keeping it running reliably into the Games period may be challenging. TTC staff will report on these issue in January, and another round of public meetings is expected in the same timeframe.
Of course, staff will also finally have to produce a design that shows an LRT conversion, rather than an ICTS-centric scheme. They will have to modify the connection at Sheppard both as an interim terminal (the northern section to Malvern is not yet funded), and to provide a track connection to the Sheppard LRT so that Scarborough LRT trains can use Sheppard carhouse.
The Kennedy Station redesign is also affected by the LRT conversion as the SRT will no longer be a separate entity from the Eglinton LRT lines.
When the Games were announced, there was much talk of accelerating construction of the Scarborough Malvern LRT running east from Kennedy via Eglinton, then north via Kingston Road and Morningside to UofT’s Scarborough Campus (UTSC). What has not been examined in detail, probably because people still think of the “SRT” as an “ICTS” line, is the early construction of the northern 2km of the Malvern line from UTSC north to Sheppard.
I suspect that the running time from Kennedy to UTSC via Eglinton, or via a temporarily extended SRT via Sheppard could be comparable, and for a short-term operation would make much more sense. The UTSC site could be served by trains on the S(L)RT from Kennedy and by trains on the Sheppard LRT from Don Mills giving good access not just for people using the BD subway to reach Kennedy. Longer term, this option would provide service to UTSC long before the planned date for the Scarborough-Malvern line.
Metrolinx is considering this option, but the TTC and City are plumping for funding of the full Malvern LRT line.
The “alternative financing procurement” (AFP) issue arises because the contract with the private developer imposes an extra layer of complexity, preparation and management that does not for a project delivered in the “traditional” manner by the inhouse TTC project. Any private arrangement must have a defined product along with a mechanism to ensure compliance, and design must reach a detailed enough stage that a bidder can make a concrete proposal. This pushes back the start date for any project using alternative procurement by about a year.
In the case of the SRT, it would likely not be possible to make the target date for completion, according to preliminary comments at the TTC meeting, if the new line was to be up and running by the winter of 2014/15, well in advance of the Games.
In the case of the Finch West line, the delayed start triggers a political problem because there is so much focus on Scarborough. Why should Downsview and Rexdale have to wait behind reordered priorities that could complete the Scarborough LRT network all in the name of serving the Games?
For all of Transit City, the TTC will deliver the projects on Metrolinx’ behalf, but we don’t yet know how the next layer down will work for the AFP projects. However, regardless of how the new lines are built, the TTC will operate and mainten them.