Waiting at Sheppard & McCowan

On Monday, December 6, CBC’s Metro Morning included a piece by Mary Wiens about the problems of commuting through the suburbs, and the hopes of folks on Sheppard (and by implication many other places) for a subway network some day.

In reply to this, I sent a note to Mary talking about some of the issues and misunderstandings, and my sadness at the degree to which people who think they voted for subways have been misled.  Metro Morning liked the piece enough they asked me to record it, and it aired on December 7.  As I write this, the podcast version is not on the CBC’s website, and so I have placed a copy on my own site.  When the podcast goes up, I will switch the link to use the CBC’s version.

What About Transit, by Mary Wiens

Steve’s Letter, by Steve Munro

28 thoughts on “Waiting at Sheppard & McCowan

  1. Steve, you’re absolutely right. I can’t believe that Ford is about to undo something that has taken years to put together – and that his alternative plan is so poorly thought out.

    BTW, thanks for your insightful articles on transit. Please keep up the good work.


  2. Rob Ford will have to have to pass the council before being able to totally scrap transit city, and the trust of funding largely from the province will dramatically drop, since Miller has spent a long time convincing the province to largely fund. In the end, TC is gone, no subway, Toronto gets to pay a lovely cancellation fee of a couple hundred million dollars a la ford, and the GTA area gets major progress.

    Steve: There’s also Mississauga who will happily soak up the funding if it comes available to build their LRT line on Hurontario. Maybe the folks living in Etobicoke might visit for a ride.


  3. Steve,

    When the Metro Morning Podcast is up would you please reset RSS feed for article so it will flag it as a new article (MM podcast still not up as of 9:00 p.m Dec 7th).



  4. It still boggles the mind that so many people in Toronto are infatuated with the idea of building a subway to a crummy shopping mall in Scarborough at the expense of everyone who lives east of McCowan Road. A subway to McCowan serves very few of the 650,000 residents of Scarborough while an LRT line from Don Mills Station to Sheppard and Morningside can act as a trunk line not just for Sheppard East but can divert commuter traffic off Ellesmere and Finch East. It is clear that an LRT route across Sheppard serves more Scarborough residents than a subway to a shopping mall. Ideology trumps common sense I guess.

    Steve: Subway to a shopping mall. Hmmm. Can you say “Yorkdale”?


  5. Yorkdale also serves as a hub to GO, and other regional transit bodies. The stop is remarkably busy given that it is “just a mall”. However, I’m sure Yorkdale has far more traffic the STC and it is served well by one line. Why on earth does STC need TWO, three if Eglinton gets built in what ever form!

    Steve: Both Yorkdale and STC became GO hubs long after they were built, and only because of the rapid transit lines that served these locations.


  6. Steve, could please you post a transcript?

    Steve: The text as delivered is not identical to what I wrote, and I will have to play back the clip, editing as I go, to adjust it. Right now, I’m a tad busy.


  7. Waiting at Finch and Humber College Blvd.

    The title of the article made me write this comment because I was in a similar location waiting for the bus and thinking about Transit City yesterday. I took a trip out there yesterday to meet up with one of my friends from college who lives in Mississauga and have breakfast, shoot the breeze and catch up. Luckily I was able to get a ride out there but I had to get home by TTC, and that’s a choice between sitting on the slow Finch or Wilson bus over to Yonge St. and then a ride on the subway or the 191 Highway 27 bus down to Kipling station and the subway across to Yonge and then up Yonge to Davisville, and then the walk home from the subway.

    I wasn’t too happy thinking about riding the fast, warm, and now aborted Finch West LRT over to Yonge St. and then riding south on the subway home while I was freezing my butt off waiting for the bus. I don’t understand how the mayor can believe that not replacing the Finch bus with something better is a good thing for the city. TTC passengers by and large don’t seem to comprehend how badly they’ve been short changed though. I honestly don’t think many of the others freezing in the cold waiting for the Finch bus with me yesterday really understand what just got yanked out from under their feet.


  8. I would love to do a web app that lets you input an origin and destination intersection and shoots out suggested routes & times based on all the various competing future subway/LRT/do-nothing schemes. Voters could see which plan would actually be best for their neighbourhood. But that’s another project I’ll have to put in my “someday” file.


  9. Steve, your eloquent audio reply was well constructed as usual, and you are correct that there will not be rapid (or even quick) rapid transit to the Malvern area for decades if the Sheppard East LRT is cancelled. And it is right to be skeptical if the new subway proposals will be adopted or not.

    But what the proponents of Transit City seem to skip over is that the Sheppard East LRT (SELRT) would not really be an improvement over the Sheppard subway going to STC (presumably turning south at Kennedy) and the BD line replacing the RT and terminating at the Scarborough Town Centre (STC) for the majority of current and potential users of transit in northeastern Scarborough.

    For example the original CBC audio highlighted an example of a woman going downtown and trying to get to STC so she could get on the RT then BD line. At least part of her trip would be better and faster with the subway expansion as opposed to the SELRT which would have little benefit to rider coming from the north (in the case of the lady, Markham).

    Similarly, riders wanting to go all across Sheppard to get to the YUS line (presumably to go mid-town or downtown along Yonge) would probably get faster service with a bus to Sheppard & Kennedy, then Sheppard subway to YUS, versus all-LRT run from Sheppard & McCowan to Don Mills, then transfer to the Sheppard Stubway then to YUS.

    The only people for sure that would be better served by the SELRT (vs. the two subways) would be users who want to travel back and forth along Sheppard from Kennedy eastward to Morningside (or Collins). The trouble is most of Sheppard past Markham Road are backyards of peoples’ houses with little chance for redevelopment other than a few intersections. There would be no large business/jobs relocating to that end of Sheppard.

    Also, let’s clear up the comparisons between Yorkdale shopping centre and the Scarborough Town Centre. Other than both have large regional malls (which is not a bad thing), STC was designated a long time ago as a place for growth for government (municipal, federal buidlings) commercial (e.g. Consilium/Telus buildings) and industrial, (e.g. AG Simpson Stamping Plant, Atlanta Packaging, etc…) as well as residential. There are many people who live, work and shop at STC with plenty of room for growth. It is also very close to the geographic centre of Scarborough. The same attributes are generally not applicable to Yorkdale, so best not to use Yorkdale as the benchmark for judging what is/is not appropriate for the Scarborough Town Centre.


  10. If you get time, I too, would like a transcript. I would like to send it to people who would be interested. It so clearly defines the issues. Thanks for writing this important message.


  11. Even with LRT, she’ll still have to freeze on that same windswept corner. TC stops really need to be built as enclosed “stations” (ie. with a roof and both platforms in the same spot) that offer at least some protection from the elements. You’ve always complained that the RT stations are freezing cold in the winter, but how would TC’s LRT plan be any different? The TC stops are just minimal shelters like the ones on St. Clair.

    Steve: Some subway lines have above-grade stations too. Do we bury everything? In a full buildout of Transit City, there would likely be a major terminal at Malvern where the traveller from Markham would be able to change from, probably, her YRT/VIVA service directly to the extended SRT. That would get her to Kennedy where she could change to the BD subway or the Eglinton LRT, both underground. It’s easy to construct trips in any scenario that are more, or less, convenient to riders.


  12. So, which LRT am I waiting for on those exposed platforms at Rosedale and Davisville? I agree better protection from the elements should be provided at all transit stops, whether bus, streetcar or subway, but with Ford’s plan, that woman is still going to be waiting for a bus every day until she’s old enough to need Wheel-Trans.


  13. But what would really speed up her commute is a crosstown GO line with Malvern and Spadina-Dupont stations.

    Steve: Yup, it certainly would. Now if only GO Transit would stop screwing inside-416 riders with high fares and no TTC transfer privileges.


  14. The issue with the University section of the subway line where Yorkdale station is located is that it is in the middle of a highway. The construction of this line was before my time but weren’t there fears of low ridership at the time? My point about an extension of the Sheppard subway to Scarborough Town Centre is that it is a waste of time and money. The majority of the commuter traffic is on Sheppard itself. It’s time to build transit where people live rather than building lines to malls, open fields and in the middle of highways.


  15. What’s stopping the subway system from extending further east than Scarborough Town Centre? To my knowledge, Ford’s plan doesn’t interline Sheppard Line with Bloor-Danforth, so it would be possible to extend both subways beyond STC sometime in the future, perhaps along an alignment similar to the one proposed for the SRT extension to Cenntennial College and Malvern. B-D could even route north-south up McCowan Road into Markham, as illustrated in that recent TTC document.

    Steve: You should read Ford’s platform. Here is what it says about the BD extension connecting to the Sheppard line:

    We will extend the Bloor-Danforth Line to Scarborough Town Centre. This will run on the elevated SRT platform and will connect to the Sheppard line at Scarborough Town Centre, completing a “closed loop” making travel across Toronto much easier.

    I am not making this stuff up.


  16. Is it valid to say that even Surface LRT stations can be enclosed as well? I would imagine an enclosed waiting booth with a side door as a shelter, and can’t think of why it wouldn’t be impossible here in Toronto.

    Steve: Has anyone visited a GO transit station lately?


  17. Sean: a Sheppard subway may be a better way downtown, but is that where all the travellers are going?

    The point is that we should be looking at what an LRT can do as a network. For the same price as the subway, we can have multiple lines throughout the city. So while this may not be as speedy as a subway to get downtown, the network can provide options that currently don’t exist and can create a culture of transit usage. Its often the shorter trips within the inner suburbs that take the longest on transit and an LRT network would fix that.

    For downtown commuters, we should be looking at DRL along Don Mills (I know Steve says to Eglinton, but I’m thinking possibly to Sheppard) – let’s not solve the wrong problem with an overbuilt Sheppard east subway.

    Steve: I picked Eglinton because of its location as a possible connection to both the Eglinton LRT and to a future GO service on the CP just to the north. The demand on Don Mills north of Eglinton would be much less than to the south, and this seems the most logical place to make the transition to a surface technology.


  18. Malls happen to be major trip generators and it makes total sense to bring rapid transit to them and make them hubs. Why do you think the TTC has such good ridership? One of the reasons is the malls act as huge transit hubs.

    Steve: Oh. Like Finch, Wilson, Kipling, Islington, Dundas West, Bathurst, Spadina, Broadview, Pape, Victoria Park, Warden, Kennedy?

    The point is that we should design a network based on where people need to go, not on where a developer has land they whose value is increased at public expense.


  19. Whether it is a Sheppard East LRT or a Sheppard East bus, both do not solve the terrible congestion on north-south traffic such as VP, Warden, Kennedy, and Mc Cowan. I ride that route every day and cars are now entering the intersections when it is not clear and blocking traffic in the opposite direction.


  20. Wow … a Bloor-Danforth-Scarborough-Sheppard subway.

    Shame that Spadina extension is going ahead … otherwise he could have built the Sheppard West extension to Downsview as well and we’d have had a

    Bloor-Danforth-Scarborough-Sheppard-Spadina-University-Yonge subway


  21. Let’s see … the Bloor-Danforth-Scarborough-Sheppard subway … all aborrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrd.

    The subway railfans would foam at the mouth riding that from end to end.

    Steve: But they would complain bitterly about the loss of the railfan window.


  22. I totally agree. I can’t believe how many people simply don’t understand how much this affected them. Yet I hear them complain everyday.

    People just don’t care. People in general are very good at ignoring situations in preference for complaining about them.

    It’s very, very sad!


  23. Steve, I understand your logic for the DRL to end at Eglinton – makes sense to me. But you know subway planners love to connect the dots – the DRL-Sheppard-Spadina-University-Yonge loop!


  24. Sheppard & McCowan is actually not too bad (at least you are not getting too many “not in service” buses). Worse on Sheppard is further east, to the east of the bus depot.


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