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.

49 thoughts on “Sheppard Subway Inches Along (Updated)

  1. What’s more needed is a DRT, not Sheppard subway extension nor the Eglinton LRT. If Ford somehow manages to extend the subway from Downsview to STC, then it will make the overcrowding at Sheppard/Yonge worse. Currently, you’d have be lucky to board on the Yonge subway line at Sheppard, during AM rush (Southbound). Same disaster between St. Clair/Yonge to Dundas/Yonge during the PM rush (Northbound). Transit City or Ford do not help solving the overcrowding in downtown.


  2. Although the DRL makes sense from a ridership perspective, the politics behind it are quite difficult.

    Provincially and Federally, only the Cons and Libs can form power. There is no danger of the old city of Toronto ridings going Conservative, so the Liberals do not need to do anything to appease those citizens. The important areas are in the outer boroughs where both Liberals and Conservatives fear the others may win. A similar thing happens Municipally where the Mayors’ battle is outside of old Toronto. That is why the Vaughan subway extension is being built, why the Richmond Hill extension was almost approved, why GO service is being improved and why Ford wants a Sheppard subway.

    Thus, for the DRL to work, it must be seen to be helping these outer boroughs to a greater degree, and not just helping the old city. This is not an easy thing to do.

    Improving dwell time at Yonge-Bloor mainly helps the inner parts of both lines, since those on the outer ends are still getting on the trains now. Extending the DRL east to Eglinton may help. Interling/incorporating DRL with the outer Bloor-Danforth line to create a one-seat trip to downtown would also help.

    Unless the voting patterns change drastically, DRL will have a hard time to gain traction.


  3. So in the end, it’s all about politics and the votes…. Let’s hope that there’s a politician who actually knows about our public transportation, who can actually come up with a proper transit plan. Maybe someone who actually takes the TTC daily.

    (When pigs fly.)

    Steve: For the record, former Mayor Miller and TTC Chair Adam Giambrone and Vice-Chair Mihevc could be found on the TTC quite regularly.


  4. @Steve
    I love them without the ‘former’ tag. I’m not a supporter of Transit City nor Ford’s delusion. However, from what Toronto has learned, there should be a law making any well-studied transit plans impossible to be scrapped out or modified significantly by politicians unless there are some flaws.

    I see the transit plans affected by local politicians worldwide. It’s sad to watch them as it drives the riders to drive.


  5. What I think has been lacking is an avoidance of extremes. For years now in the Mayor’s Office, we’ve had an approach adopted where the objective is to screw one category of traveller for the benefit of another, and we’ve not surprisingly gone from one extreme to another as a side-effect. The consequence of this is likely that little gets done on the transportation front.

    Not to suggest there are painless answers — easy solutions are a fantasy. However, going out of one’s way to irritate a sizable group of people, as both the current and former mayors have done, is making oneself their own worst enemy.


  6. J Lee said: However, from what Toronto has learned, there should be a law making any well-studied transit plans impossible to be scrapped out or modified significantly by politicians unless there are some flaws.

    Notwithstanding the maddening challenge of defining “well-studied” (good luck on that one), the suggestion above is impossible, and indeed, many would argue it is undemocratic. As prone to abuse as the current mechanisms are, recently made plainly evident for all in Toronto to see, I see the reasoning behind those that would use the undemocratic argument, and do not see a persuasive counter to it. The fact is that transit projects will be funded mostly by the tax base, so taking decision-making authority out of politicians’ hands, hands that are supposed to be the oversight of using tax revenues, wouldn’t fly.

    What’s genuinely needed is an informed voting population.


  7. Most recent examples show that governments can scrap previous policies without any consequences. This includes Chretien canceling helicopters and Miller canceling the island bridge. Dalton McGuinty even canceled his own power plant without any negative consequences. In fact, any cancellation costs were generally attributed by electorate to the previous regime (it was their fault for starting the project too late) and all were re-elected. So it is no wonder that Ford figured he could cancel Transit City with no concern for the consequences.


  8. The Eglinton LRT currently underway should end at Don Mills (as per the original Transit City plan) and the remaining money be used to extend the Bloor-Danforth line up to Scarborough Centre. This would likely come in under the $8 billion budgeted for burying the entire Eglinton line.

    This provides the following solutions:

    1. The Scarborough RT can likely remain in service while the extension is being built, avoiding the crisis of shutting it down for 4-5 years. This assumes the RT can be maintained for a while longer, and/or the extension can be fast-tracked.

    2. It avoids spending any more money than is already budgeted. The distance from Kennedy to Scarborough Centre is actually less than the distance from Kennedy to Don Mills/Eglinton. (And less than the distance of a Sheppard subway extension for that matter).

    3. Scarborough gets its subway (as promised in Ford’s platform), in a more useful alignment than the Sheppard subway would provide. It seems clear that a Sheppard subway extension will not be happening any time soon.

    4. There are no plans yet for the Eglinton line east of Don Mills anyways. The Transit City plan was to run above ground east of Don Mills; The revised Ford plan is to run it fully underground. However, no concrete designs or engineering has been done yet for this portion of the line. So I’m saying just build and run the original tunnel portion for now.

    5. It avoids having to pay to cancel Transit City, if it can just be delayed. Finishing the Eglinton line, Sheppard, and Finch can be part of the next funding cycle.

    Steve: No, the Eglinton LRT was never intended to end at Don Mills, but to continue all the way to Kennedy. It would have been at grade from the west side of the Don Valley west of Leslie, and been underground at Don Mills Station to avoid traffic conflicts at the intersection. It would re-emerge east of Don Mills. You seem to sort this out later in your post, but the introduction implies that the EGlinton line to Kennedy (let alone beyond to Kingston Road) wasn’t in the original Transit City plan.

    A Bloor Danforth subway extension to STC would require a new alignment and would likely have stations only at Lawrence, Ellesmere and STC. It would never be extended beyond to Malvern, something that was in the original Scarborough rapid transit plans pre-dating the ICTS system. Also, I understand that a north-south alignment of the subway through STC would be difficult because of conflicts with existing buildings that were built after some of the preliminary reviews of a BD extension were done.


  9. BD subway extension to STC is a non sense, the ridership on current SRT is lower than Sheppard line, rather work on DRL with that money.

    I personally think that the Eglinton LRT should stay only on Eglinton, not extend into current SRT section. Instead, have SRT to upgraded into Mark 3 (or any other vehicles) and further reach into Malvern. The current Eglinton-Scarborough crosstown will be a downgrade for current SRT riders since it will travel in lower speed as well as cutting any further North-East extensions in the future.

    The Sheppard subway extension could come after DRL (Queen to Eglinton & Don Mills), maybe in 30 years.


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