Sheppard Subway Inches Along (Updated)

Updated November 9 at 11:20pm:  The Toronto Star reports that Queen’s Park has told Mayor Ford that it will not advance any provincial funds from a possible “surplus” on the Eglinton project to jump start the Sheppard line.  This leaves Ford’s camp having to find money on its own if work on a first phase to Victoria Park were attempted.

The original article from November 8 follows:

The Toronto Star reports that Rob Ford’s Sheppard Subway proposal might creep eastward from Don Mills Station rather than bounding in one leap to Scarborough Town Centre.  An initial push east to Victoria Park might be a target for 2014, in time for the next municipal election, although the opening date would come later.

Considering that Ford was going to finance and build the entire Sheppard line in that time, this is a tad slower than promised during his election campaign.

The big problem, of course, is money.  Ford doesn’t have much and, as the Star points out, the engineering difficulties for an all-underground Eglinton line won’t leave much unspent of the provincial fund earmarked for that route.  For a route that was going to be financed by the private sector, Sheppard, or what we may see of it, is turning into a traditionally funded public sector project.

The specifics are no surprise.  Don Mills was always an odd place to end the Sheppard line, and this choice was dictated by available funding, not by network planning.  The proposed LRT connection into Don Mills is less than ideal, and a tunnel under the DVP would be required regardless of the technology.  The extra cost lies in continuing east to Victoria Park.

What we don’t know yet is whether this extension would include a Consumer’s Road Station, or just go straight through to the new terminal.

During the debates over possible adjustments to the Transit City network, a subway extension was one option proposed by some.  The typical reaction to this (and to any other schemes that would add to the cost of Transit City) was to reject the idea out of hand because the overall budget was already very tight.  However, now that Queen’s Park has decided that no price is too high to keep Mayor Ford happy, it’s much harder to argue against rethinking some Transit City options.

Victoria Park could be a good terminal for a Sheppard LRT, but there’s a problem of timing.  The “interim” subway terminal should be designed with provision for an LRT rather than subway continuation.  I suspect that no one at the TTC will be allowed to even discuss, let alone design such an option.  This will be a challenge for Councillors thinking ahead to a post-Ford era when LRT plans can be resurrected.

According to the Star, Gordon Chong should be reporting on a scheme to get the Sheppard line underway “before Christmas”.  Will Santa have a nice shiny subway train for little Rob’s stocking, or just a lump of coal?

Meanwhile for comic relief, Matt Elliot’s Ford for Toronto site reports how that pesky Don River just won’t get out of Ford’s way.