Updated April 2, 2011 at 6:30 am: Additional details about the plan have been provided by Metrolinx. The dialog below has been slightly edited from email exchanges, but preserves the sense of the conversation.
Q: The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) refers to both Black Creek and Jane as western terminals for the Eglinton line. However, these are over 1km apart. Where will the line actually end? How will the line connect with the GO corridor if it ends at Black Creek?
A: The exact terminus for the Eglinton line, which is in the Mt. Dennis area, will be determined through a future additional study due to the vertical and horizontal alignment (how steep the grades can be climbing out of the tunnel and which side of the road we will be on to approach the yard) between Black Creek Drive and Jane Street. The objective is to make the connection to the GO rail corridor.
Q: When does Metrolinx expect to have a preliminary design proposal for the section of the line east of Leaside that will now be substantially underground?
A: We are meeting with the TTC now to discuss the timing for the preliminary plans and profiles for the underground segment.
Q: The SRT replacement is described as ending at STC. Does this mean that McCowan will be abandoned as a station? Will the proposed right-of-way beyond McCowan to Sheppard and Malvern be protected to allow for future extension of the route? Is there any plan for an eastern yard so that trains would not all have to be based at the Black Creek yard?
A: The Scarborough LRT would follow the same route as the existing SRT and will include McCowan Station. At this time, there are no plans to close McCowan Station. We do see value in potentially re-using the McCowan yard for at least a layover site and we will need to study this further.
Q: Although the MOU states the number of stations on the Toronto projects, it does not mention this with respect to Eglinton. The press release specifies 26 stations. When will Metrolinx produce a station plan for the new line?
A: The exact number and location of stations for the Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown LRT project will be finalized as part of the environmental assessment amendment process.
We expect the Eglinton project will have about 26 stations along a 25-kilometre stretch, and we’re pleased to provide this as a single-seat trip for residents from Scarborough to the Mount Dennis Area.
Since the new Eglinton project has changed from the previous concept, the working assumption now is that the station spacing across the route is approximately at 1 kilometre.
We want to make certain that residents get the best use from the Eglinton line, so we are taking more time to study the specifics of the project to determine the exact number and best locations for the stations along the Eglinton line.
The finalization of the Eglinton line and the locations of the station will be part of the preliminary engineering and Environmental Assessment, which is expected to be completed in the coming months.
Comment: The 26-station count includes not just Eglinton but also the SRT. There were 26 stops on the Transit City version of Eglinton, not including Kennedy, and 6 more on the SRT. The new combined route will have to go on a diet, and the roughly 1km average spacing implies that some stations will be dropped. Throughout the Transit City debates, Metrolinx consistently wanted fewer stations on Eglinton, although at the time the underground section was shorter.
Q: Although the MOU makes reference to “LRT”, for certainty does this mean “Light Rapid Transit” as in the Flexity cars recently ordered from Bombardier, or is Metrolinx contemplating a return to ICTS Mark II technology once proposed for this route? This is an important decision as it affects the ability of the line to be extended.
A: On June 14, 2010, Metrolinx announced a $770M purchase of Light Rail vehicles from Bombardier, which included vehicles for the SRT upgrading project. We expect that we will need about 130 LRTs for the adjusted plan, but we will have to sit down with Bombardier and discuss the details. At this time, we do not plan to change from LRT to ICTS MARK II technology.
Comment: “At this time” are three little words that could do a world of damage to future LRT expansion in Toronto. Metrolinx owes us a definitive answer in the context of their Big Move plan.
Q: The Sheppard East LRT’s costs to date are chargeable to Toronto, but one piece of work already underway is the Agincourt Station grade separation. Is this going to proceed independently of the LRT project as a GO improvement? If so, will it be built with room for a future LRT right of way if that scheme is resurrected?
A: At this time, there are no plans to change the current design for the Agincourt grade-separation. The grade separation construction work that is currently underway at the Agincourt GO Station to separate the GO tracks from Sheppard Avenue will proceed independently of the former LRT project.
It is important to note, though, that this grade separation construction work is an important safety improvement for GO commuters and drivers that use Sheppard Avenue. This grade separation is a project that has benefits to GO’s operations and traffic.
Updated March 31, 2011 at 5:45 pm: The Memorandum of Understanding between Queen’s Park, Metrolinx and Toronto is now available. It contains a few items of interest, notably that the document is non-binding and that the Mayor is signing on his own behalf with hopes for approval from others.
I have a number of questions out to Metrolinx for clarification and will update this post when I have more details.
Updated March 31, 2011 at 10:55 am: The details of the agreement are now available on the Ontario Government’s website.
Original post from March 30:
Queen’s Park will fund the Eglinton line as an underground LRT from Jane Street to Kennedy Station, with an extension over the existing Scarborough RT line’s route replacing the RT technology. This project will cost $8.4-billion and will be completed in 2020.
Toronto will undertake funding for a Sheppard Subway extension west from Yonge to Downsview, and east from Don Mills to Scarborough Town Centre. This project will cost $4.2b and will be completed in 2019. Although this is touted as a public-private partnership, Toronto hopes to raise money from a Federal program for PPPs, “PPP Canada“. However, this program only has an investment of $1.25b. Obviously, much more money will be required from Ottawa if this is to have additional projects beyond a Toronto subway, or conversely the contribution it will make to the Sheppard Subway will be small. It is unclear where the $333m originally announced by Ottawa for the Sheppard LRT will wind up, but this should be clarified in the formal announcement.
What is quite clear in this shuffle is that Queen’s Park has decided to build something, anything on Eglinton as long as they can get shovels in the ground. That the line will now cost billions more than the original subway-surface LRT scheme seems to be of little concern even though “Benefits Case Analysis” was supposed to be at the heart of the Metrolinx Big Move. As usual, the political benefit outweighs all others.
What we have lost, at least for the coming decade, is any hope of a Finch west line, or a line to the airport (other than the premium fare GO-ARL link from Union), or a line to Malvern or UofT’s Scarborough campus.
Beyond that, Metrolinx and Queen’s Park must wrestle with the “Investment Strategy”, a fancy word for whatever new taxes or revenue generation mechanisms will be used to build the rest of The Big Move. Major expansions of GO, the proposed Richmond Hill subway extension (and all of its follow-on projects to relieve subway capacity limits), and a host of projects in the 905 are all queued up waiting for money.
As for Sheppard, the real problem is to make the numbers work out. I have already commented at length on this, and won’t belabour the point. In brief, $4.2b is a lot to raise from development charges or other similar schemes, and much greater densities will be needed on Sheppard than on traditional suburban arterials to pay for this scheme.
While everyone celebrates this new era in transit, let us not forget the TTC’s operating and capital budget crunch which I detailed in previous articles. None of this money addresses the needs of the existing system for ongoing repairs and renovation, nor does it provide money to relieve the pressure on service capacity. Later this year, we will doubtless see another proposal to cut marginal services “for the greater good”, but they will have to be much more substantial given the expected shortfall in TTC funding. A fare increase, probably a big one, will be needed to make up for the lack of a smaller jump in 2011.
In that context, it’s hard to get excited about $12b going to two very overpriced projects. For years, “transit” in Toronto hasn’t been about providing service, it has been about stimulating the construction industry and generating profits for property developers. These are laudable goals, but they must be balanced against the basic need citizens have to get around the whole city.
Postscript: As a side-deal to this agreement, the TTC will abandon its attempt to implement a separate Smart Card system, and will proceed with the Presto scheme developed by Queen’s Park. It is unclear who will pay for the rollout of Presto as the estimated implementation costs are considerably higher than the funding already committed by various governments. Maybe we will hear about that in Thursday’s announcement too.
Finch West riders lose out, of course, as detailed in The Star.