Before Mayor Ford took office, the TTC briefed his transition team on the comparison between LRT and Subway options for the Sheppard and SRT projects, as well as on the status of Transit City.
This article presents a condensed version of the information.
The Briefing Summary contains three tables consolidating information scattered through many pages of the briefing documents.
The first page shows the committed and spent funding for the four projects: Sheppard East, Eglinton, Crosstown and Scarborough. An important note here is that the lion’s share of the money is in the period from 2015 to 2020. Queen’s Park expects to raise this via whatever “Investment Strategy” Metrolinx comes up with, but the funding machinery is not yet in place. Only the $3.1-billion for 2010 to 2015 is “money in the bank” for Toronto.
This is the first of several potential drags on any plan to revise or accelerate transit construction. Queen’s Park has not planned to spend most of the money until after not just one, but two coming Provincial elections. Moreover, they have not yet engaged voters and taxpayers with a debate over the exact source of funds be they tolls, taxes or the Tooth Fairy.
To the end of September 2010, just over $129-million has been spent, although there are commitments for considerably more. At this point, we have no idea of the “break fees” involved in closing down these contracts.
The second table consolidates the status information on the four projects. An important point here is that the extended construction period is determined by Provincial spending priorities and the desire to shift as much as possible into the “Investment Strategy”. The original plans for both the Finch and Scarborough lines would have seen them completed years earlier. The constraint is financial and political, not technical.
The third table shows the cost estimates for two variants on the Scarborough line as a subway (one ending at Scarborough Town Centre, the other at Sheppard), and for a Sheppard East line running to STC. Schematic maps for each line are linked below.
It’s worth remembering how little of Sheppard Avenue in Scarborough would actually be served by the extended Sheppard Subway.
A critical point for the SRT is that in the subway scenario, it would have to remain in operation until 2022. The TTC was concerned about making it last to the Pan Am Games in 2015, and a 2022 date is not credible given past TTC comments on the declining reliability of that line.
The presentation materials end on a summary page that concludes that the segment from Kennedy Station to STC is the “best candidate for a subway”. This reiterates the TTC’s long-standing anti-LRT position for the Scarborough RT by comparing only the portion of the line from STC south. The whole purpose of an LRT conversion was to reduce the cost of reaching Malvern, but with a subway plan that will never happen.
TTC staff is expected to produce some sort of subway plan in about six weeks, probably in time for the January 2011 Commission meeting. We will see how much is a fair presentation of options, and how much is creative writing.
The big issue for me is that if we are going to have a subway-oriented plan, then it should be a plan that serves the emerging needs of the whole city. Just building as much as you can with the money now earmarked for Transit City will give the impression of movement, but most of this will be to the benefit of the construction industry, not transit riders. We need to know where demands are growing to the point where some form of rapid transit is needed, what form that would take, and how much it will cost. Otherwise, voters will have a big surprise when they see how little they get for a substantial outlay.