Sheppard Panel To Recommend LRT, Not Subway

Various media outlets have reported that the Expert Panel struck by Toronto City Council to review options for the Sheppard East line will recommend the original Transit City LRT plan, not a subway extension.

To the amazement of many, Mayor Rob Ford appears to be trying for a compromise, but given his history, that word probably has a different meaning for the Mayor and his circle than for the rest of us.  The essential problem is to decide whether the subway will end somewhere west of Scarborough Town Centre (Don Mills?  Victoria Park?) or if the “compromise” plan would presume getting to STC some day.  If that’s the “compromise”, them building an LRT to meet the subway would come under fire as a waste of money, and we would be back, essentially, to Ford’s all-subway plan for Sheppard.

Meanwhile, TTC Chair Karen Stintz and Councillor Josh Matlow held a packed meeting in North Toronto to explain and advocate for the LRT option endorsed by Council.  Although there is good support for LRT, an uphill battle remains to counter the Ford camp’s pro-subway spin.

City Council will meet in March 15, 2012 to consider the panel’s report which, if the agenda process runs true to form, should be available in advance of the meeting.

60 thoughts on “Sheppard Panel To Recommend LRT, Not Subway

  1. My councillor is hosting an information meeting on April 4th on the Eglinton Crosstown line. This is after the council meeting on March 15, so it will be interesting to see what information is presented at that meeting. I sense that in my ward the most residents support subways over surface LRT lines – I seem to doubt information supporting LRTs would persuade those pushing for subways to change their view.

    Regardless of where one sits on the debate, what is clear we need more transit service and putting all resources and energy towards building subways will not meet our needs. There will still be a vast number of people with long, slow bus rides (and no subway even for part of their travel). There was good op-ed piece in Mondays Star making just that point:

    Steve, some questions I have regarding the Sheppard line:

    1) what advantage is there to bringing the subway line east, say to Vic Park as opposed to leaving the terminus where it is now at Fairview. Would there be roughly the same amount of tunnelling regardless of whether it was LRT or subway? (There is a large cluster of office towers where Consumers Rd meet Sheppard, so I could see if that was a major destination that having both the LRT and subway terminated at that point might make sense, especially for those travelling east.)

    Steve: If the subway goes to Victoria Park, it would require additional tunneling from west of Consumers where the LRT is planned to surface to east of Victoria Park.

    2) If the decision is not to extend the Sheppard subway, would it be feasible to convert the existing subway to LRT? I suspect not, since the tunnel height is likely not sufficient to allow for pantograph and overhead wire.

    Steve: Not only is there a question about the tunnel height, but the station platforms are designed for high platform cars.



  2. I agree with the Expert Panel’s proposed solution. LRT makes way more sense, as density & ridership drop off greatly east of Don Mills Station, and an LRT bridge over the Don Valley would be much cheaper than a subway tunnel underneath ($1B).

    Plus Steve’s point of Ford’s complete lack of respect for democracy, the facts, and anyone that doesn’t agree with his point of view is just as important.

    Let’s hope the Expert Panel kills off Ford’s subway mania March 15th.


  3. Odd that the meeting was moved forward a week, and plonked right in the middle of March break – with little else happening at City Hall that week.

    I can’t help but think someone’s playing a game … but I’ve no clue which side, or what the motive is.


  4. Pro-Lrt forces are certainly organizing in Malvern. There will likely be two meetings that look at transit between now and March 15th. The first is this Sunday from 1:00-3:30pm looking at Transit, Services and Jobs (at the Malvern Library – 30 Sewells Road), and it looks as though Raymond Cho may be hosting a meeting as well to check in with his constituents on the transit file. The date for that session has not been set as yet.


  5. Victoria Park or Consumers is a better eastern terminus of the Sheppard subway if we can’t go to STC.

    Thirty years from now, future generations are going to look back and say how completely incompetent and short sighted we were. I hope this bullshit balance sheet mentality against extending Sheppard even two stops east, and all of these posts, are forever preserved for posterity.

    Steve: They would make nice artwork in Don Mills Station. If the money really was available, and we could be sure Vic Park really was a terminal where the change from subway to LRT would actually happen, I could be convinced, maybe, to support such a scheme. However, what tends to happen is that people say “don’t start the LRT because we will just extend the subway a bit more”, and eastern Scarborough waits forever for anything.


  6. Given that we are likely to see LRT on Sheppard again, what would the revised timelines be? I know David Miller remarked it could be turned on like a switch, but I’m supposing work would have to be tendered again?

    Steve: The main work had not yet been tendered, or if tendered, had not been awarded; only the utilities relocation and the underpass at Agincourt GO Station.


  7. Steve said:

    What would be really interesting would be the comparison figures for road traffic. Note, by the way, that eastbound there is a transit-only lane that is “usually” not blocked by parked vehicles.

    We have heard a lot about east Eglinton, Finch and Shepherd are going to not have enough ridership for underground and there are some good numbers published to justify it … I’m wondering why there doesn’t seem to be a lot of talk about what the effect on the road network will be (on Eglinton they seem to be keeping all the lanes, but the new right of way will definitely effect the lights, left turns (and hence flow) … and prevent adding other lanes…) – we’ve also heard that adding lanes doesn’t really affect traffic due to latent demand … so how does adding right of ways and an LRT affect latent demand on the street, and will it push traffic off of Eglinton onto other streets … will the latent demand still be there? Will everyone just get on the streetcar and the road will be empty? What are the expected numbers and has the roads department been involved in determining whether it will cause problems with flow on perpendicular streets … if this was published too it might help the LRT case out in these areas … most people just want to know that their drive home isn’t going to take longer …

    Steve: There is some traffic flow info in the EA, but not really in the form you ask about with a good sense of how sidestreets will operate, how freely traffic will flow with the LRT right-of-way, etc. A related problem here is the question of just how independent anything we see now from staff will be of political spin.


  8. My eyes popped out of my head today when I read The Sun’s editorial against Ford’s underground ‘subways’ plan.

    A few sentences in, you read:

    “we remember him promising subways, although his numbers for paying for them, considering they cost $300 million per kilometre, didn’t add up.”

    And if you continue to read, you see that The Sun is against new taxes (sales or parking) to pay for subway expansion because, according to the editorial, Ford campaigned on lower taxes and saving the city money, not raising taxes. And they are also worried that the lefties will somehow abuse the tax and waste the money because … well, you know, they are lefties.

    Never mind the ambiguity (or outright silliness) of … anyways they finish the editorial with the following:

    “If Ford can’t build new subways without hiking taxes, he should bury the whole idea.”

    What happened to all those glowing endorsements of subways as the only choice for Toronto? Methinks Mayor Ford just lost his only media friend. Hopefully The Sun didn’t hurt themselves jumping off the bandwagon.

    Cheers, Moaz

    Steve: It’s amusing to play Ford’s campaign video announcing his transit platform in which he claims that he has a plan that is fully costed and funded with up to $1-billion coming from the private sector, although mainly from sales of surplus city land and from development charges. Ford explicitly says that no new taxes are needed to pay for his transportation plan.


  9. By the way, I hope you don’t mind if I ask the following:

    How long would it take to convert the Sheppard subway to LRT technology … thus allowing a 1 seat trip from Don Mills to Sheppard (and with future extensions from Malvern to Downsview Park)?

    Steve: Very messy. The subway tunnel diameter is tight, and the station platforms (and escalators and elevators) are all designed for high-floor cars. The power supply in the subway is a different voltage than the proposed LRT network, and the subway is TTC gauge, not standard gauge.

    Because it looks like the Sheppard corridor is out, the only way to make Ford’s subway dream happen is to build an LRT … and then build the Don Mills/Don Valley line (DRL).

    Let Ford claim credit for the subway extension to Vaughan today and the Don Mills/Don Valley line (DRL) in the future. He can leave office in 2014 with his head held high, and we can finally get the combination of Subways, LRT, and better buses that the city actually needs.

    Cheers, Moaz


  10. “To the amazement of many, Mayor Rob Ford appears to be trying for a compromise, but given his history, that word probably has a different meaning for the Mayor and his circle than for the rest of us.”

    For the moment, that meaning for the rest of us is desperation. The compromise that Ford is now looking for is basically the same one Stintz offered him weeks ago and he flatly rejected it at that time. The only reason why he’s now reconsidering it is because he’s blustered himself to the edge of the abyss of being a lame duck mayor and run out of options.


  11. Can they not tear out the subway part of Sheppard and convert it to underground LRT?

    I just can’t stand the thought of going 4 subway stops and having to get off and get on another form of transportation again (LRT). Seems really inefficient and will cause a big bottleneck.

    Steve: See my reply to previous comments. Possible but difficult.


  12. At the very least I’d like to see proper tail-tracks installed east of Don Mills Station for the subway. Due to the fact that the line was never originally intended to end here, the tracks end abruptly with no over-run or parking allowance. Trains have to crawl in at a very reduced speed because the blind-trips are always active. This is incredibly dumb. Compare it to how scary-fast trains operate across the Sheppard-Yonge crossover on a double-amber signal and you’ll see what I mean. I’m not holding out much hope for the change due to the proposed level extension of the platform directly into the LRT transfer.


  13. I would hope this panel doesn’t limit the LRT option to what was in the Transit City EA. It is not necessary to tunnel under the DVP all the way to Vic Park. Look at the area where Sheppard crosses over the DVP.

    The northern bridge structure could be widened 3 lanes and Sheppard Ave could be shifted north. This would free up the south bridge structure to carry the LRT over the DVP. To the west it would immediately enter a portal to descend to the level of the Don Mills subway station. To the East it could stay on side of road alignment to just W of Consumers where it could enter a portal and reemerge E of Victoria Park in the median.
    The few road-facing establishments on the south side of Shepard include a carwash, restaurant and gas station. These could be sacrificed for the Consumers Park LRT stop. LRT gives the flexibility for many alignments. Let’s not limit ourselves to a long tunnel whose price is difficult to swallow no matter what vehicle travels through it.


  14. @ nfitz:

    The “game” is millenia old. Whoever at City Hall scheduled the Ides of March for the meeting had a Classical education. Occasionally a useful thing, that 😉

    Hence, the symbolism will be entirely lost on RobFord (TM)


  15. nfitz said: “I can’t help but think someone’s playing a game … but I’ve no clue which side, or what the motive is.”

    Two probable choices in that department unless there is actually no malice/scheme involved:

    1. Someone is thinking that councilors will not cancel their March Break plans for the meeting and this may somehow improve the chances for Ford getting his way.

    2. Et tu, Brute?


  16. I’d rather see the subway extended using the SELRT funding and whatever extra money can be obtained from TIF and road tolls; but without redirecting funds from other corridors to Sheppard.

    Of course, the subway will not reach STC in that case; the terminus will be at VP, Warden, or Kennedy. The goal would be to anchor more bus routes, including a branch of Finch E (density on Sheppard alone obviously won’t necessitate a subway).

    Regarding the combo plan (subway extension to some point east of Don Mills, + LRT east of that point), it would be nice to have but there is no money for that.


  17. Long Branch Mike said:

    I agree with the Expert Panel’s proposed solution. LRT makes way more sense, as density & ridership drop off greatly east of Don Mills Station, and an LRT bridge over the Don Valley would be much cheaper than a subway tunnel underneath ($1B).

    If the $1B tunnel is so outrageous, isn’t the $500M tunnel just as outrageous for the LRT option. (This is just a guess, but considering that Consumers Road is near the halfway point to Vic Park, it is probably not too far out). This means the first 1km of the Sheppard LRT is more expensive than the remaining 10km.

    Could they not revisit the option of having the LRT at/near grade over the 404? (Especially if Sheppard transit use has not increased as much as originally predicted). Maybe elevate the track from the existing bus bay to the median, continue elevated over the 404 and return to grade at Consumers – a distance of just over 1 km. A wider south bridge over 404 would probably costs about $30M, and since the current one is probably half way through its life, MTO should kick in some of that. The elevated portion would cost another $50M. Maybe $100M total.

    To help transit during construction, the SRT could be built first and then the East part of the Sheppard LRT to allow connection to the SRT, or to a shuttle train from Agincourt GO to Kennedy GO.

    Steve: Getting from bus bay level up to an elevated structure crossing the 404 is quite a rise in a short distance. More to the point, I am intrigued by this comment and one a bit further back in this thread that would place the LRT station well away from the subway platform. Everyone complains about the long connection at Kennedy between subway and SRT, and the proposed setup at Don Mills was intended to get rid of that.

    The EA for the Sheppard LRT looked at a new bridge over the 404 as an option, but rejected this.

    In the initial “green lighting” sessions on optional ways to design the connection with the subway at Don Mills Station, it was recognised that there is no ‘absolute’ that defines when a transfer is too inconvenient. Judgements were made based on existing situations that are considered to fall far short of ‘excellent’. For example, complaints have been received repeatedly from members of public who use Kennedy Station about the distance of vertical separation (four levels) between the Scarborough Rapid Transit (SRT) service and the subway. Similarly, the separation between the bus terminal and the subway level at Don Mills Station is considered too great to be considered a
    convenient transfer.

    LRT connection options that were ruled out as being too inconvenient for transferring customers were:

    • LRT crossing Highway 404 on an elevated structure, similar to the SRT, with an elevated station above Sheppard Avenue
    • Any LRT station in the Fairview Mall parking lot besides Sheppard Avenue (both due to inconvenience of transfer and to impact on the mall operation)
    • Any LRT station at a level below the Fairview Mall parking lot, including integration with the existing underground bus terminal, given the lengthy walk now required from the bus terminal to the subway.

    Also ruled out from further consideration was a surface LRT via a new bridge over Highway 404 and with an underground connection at the south side of the mezzanine level of the Don Mills subway station. While a very attractive alternative in principal, given the 5% maximum gradient assumed for the new LRT vehicle for design purposes, and the downhill slope of Sheppard Avenue – from Highway 404 bridge to Don Mills Road – it was not physically possible to develop a design where the LRT could get to the mezzanine level in the relatively short distance available between Highway 404 and Don Mills Station.

    If there are grade problems for a design with the LRT at the same level as Sheppard Avenue over the 404, there will be even worse problems for any sort of elevated structure.


  18. RE: Sheppard Subway retrofitting to LRT

    Here’s an idea. Forget about the existing Sheppard subway tunnel. Let’s just build surface LRT from Meadowvale to Yonge Street, and abandon the existing Sheppard Subway. Yes, lots of sunk costs, DVP motorists will totally hate it, but at least this solves the problem of providing service to customers neglected by the existing Sheppard Subway, and possibly reduce operating costs in the long run.


  19. Talk that Ford is floating various funding mechanisms should be a warning to progressives. Tone down the talk about Ford not being able to come up with the money for Sheppard; it could be argued that it’s not the funding that isn’t there, but the political will to implement controversial measures. Progressives have been assuming that those measures would be toxic to Team Ford. But it could be that Ford decides that it really is “all about subways”, even to the extent that he has to swallow the pill of exploring unpopular funding tools, if only to keep the subway on the table.

    What would happen if Ford said, “I recognize there is a funding gap in my subway plan, and so I am proposing to implement [insert tool here]. I know [tool] isn’t popular, but dammit, it’s all about subways”? It could be the final nail in the coffin, alienating his last constituency, but it could also be viewed as the mayor finally “growing up” and showing that his plans aren’t necessarily limited to the realm of fantasy. It would also show him reaching across to the other side (he would know that the left would have trouble turning down funding mechanisms like road tolls or a parking surcharge).

    Hence we need to proactively move the debate away from “he can’t pay for it”, and toward “if we can come up with $4B, is a Sheppard subway extension the best use of that money?” Is it better to spend $4B on a short section of subway, or a more extensive network of LRT that reaches more parts of the city? (And, most importantly, let’s show what kind of a network we could build for that $4B.) Even if the choice actually is subway, is Sheppard the right subway (i.e., compare the need for the DRL)?

    For that matter, one could argue that if additional funding were available, it might be better off going toward things like surface priority measures that make bus and streetcar service more efficient (more attractive service and/or reduced operating costs). For example, the Transit City Bus Plan would have improved bus service across the city for $77M in capital costs and $52M in annual operating costs — $4B would get us nearly 80 years of improved service.

    Steve: I believe that the Mayor’s embrace of new revenue tools is not as strong as it appears in some media reports. He was notably evasive about any detailed discussion of them during the press scrum outside of his office.


  20. Has high-floor LRT ever been considered? It’s perfectly possible to build a TTC gauge high floor LRT, making the conversion extremely cheap, so long as there’s head room. If clearance is tight, it would even be possible to have dual-contact vehicles with retractable pantographs and a shoe for third rail.

    If that doesn’t work, why not a surface/trench subway?

    Steve: This would require high platform stations on the Sheppard LRT, and a separate fleet of vehicles dedicated for the line. That has implications for station designs on street, and for the maintenance facilities. As for a “surface/trench subway”, the space required for this is considerably more than for LRT. I think that conversion of the tunnel is a non-starter, and we should not so warp the LRT plans to accomplish this that the “LRT” becomes an expensive one-of.


  21. As I have stated before my opinion is that Toronto needs subways including subways on Sheppard. Sheppard parallels Highway 401 which has no real alternative right now and getting from McCowan to Allen Rd westbound on 401 in AM rush can easily take 45 minutes, or more if there is a collision/bad weather so I am extremely skeptical of claims that it will be underused. Furthermore due to the greenbelt and the fact that the GTA population is projected to grow to 8 million by 2030, there will be a lot of demand for high rise residential development. I believe that the combination of more subways and more sensible commercial tax policy will bring back commercial development along the subway system in areas like North York Centre as well, remember that downtown also saw very little employment growth from 1990-2005 but it is recovering again. Also don’t forget how trivial the capacity of the Transit City lines was. The maximum capacity of the TC lines would have been around 5000-7500 pphd at most so in a four hour period (e.g. 6am-10am) the Sheppard LRT could have carried at most 30000 people WB to Don Mills plus however many people going WB who get off before Don Mills or who go EB in AM peak hour. Sheppard subway currently carries around 4500/hour in rush hour, mostly westbound, but this is only because it is very short and is useless to almost all 401 drivers. I seriously doubt that that the Sheppard LRT has the capacity to carry more than 1% of the GTA population in morning rush hour, which means that even the seven-line Transit City proposal would resulted in a trivial increase in transit ridership. Toronto desperately needs subways (and better GO service as well) and it needs many lines if it is to significantly increase transit market share. Also the claim that we “can’t afford subways” is laughable since even $1B/year in subway expansion is less than 1% of the City of Toronto’s GDP. Subways are desperately needed and if we “can’t afford them” we should raise (residential) property taxes or implement road tolls/sales tax.

    Steve: Whatever transit on Sheppard might be, it does not exist to compete with the 401. This is a bogus argument, and it ignores the fact that a considerable amount of transit demand is not going from one side of the 416 to the other. Your argument falls apart when we look at any other corridor that might be considered for LRT (or even BRT) but does not lie beside a highway.

    Planning projections looking decades into the future do not support a demand for subway-level capacity.

    As for your remark about 1% of the GTA population, it is self-evident that most of the GTA’s population does not want to travel along Sheppard. That’s why we build transit networks. Many corridors require capacity above what a normal bus route can provide, and this ranges through various technologies including BRT, LRT, commuter rail (for longer distance trips) and subways. Many origin-destination pairs are unlikely to ever be served by any rail technology, and they will be difficult to wean from car travel given the diversity of the locations. The anticipated growth of GTA population is such that the transit network will only barely keep up with demand under the most optimistic of funding and construction scenarios.

    If we spend on the most expensive technology, there is little hope of building much of anything. It is ironic that Queen’s Park and Metrolinx drag their feet on the question of GO electrification, an essential part of improving GO’s capacity, and yet some are prepared to spend comparable or greater amounts of capital on subways that will serve a much smaller part of the region.


  22. @George Bell

    I agree that even if all traffic lanes are kept through road widening, that doesn’t necessarily mean that congestion levels won’t change (for the reasons you’ve stated).

    However, LRT advocates should steer clear from talking about the impacts on cars for a good reason: the needs of motorists should not be a deciding factor on transit policy decisions. What’s best for transit isn’t necessarily good for cars, and there are very few transit solutions that truly benefit both groups simultaneously and cost-effectively (exception: if the TTC needs to grade-separate to buy itself more capacity, but that’s not what’s needed on Sheppard).

    That’s not to say that motorists should be bulldozed entirely for transit, although it makes good business-sense for the TTC to weaken the competition mode. The increase in congestion as a result of improved surface transit should be mitigated, but only as reasonably practical. Hence, the fundamental element that a minimum of two car lanes/direction be given on all LRT routes.


  23. I see from this morning’s Globe and Mail that Rob Ford is now talking about bringing back the Vehicle Registration Tax in order to fund his subway. And boosting this tax from the previous $60 to the $80-100 range.

    Talk about choking on my cornflakes! With laughter!! The irony is just so immense. One of Rob Ford’s first actions after his election as mayor was to trash this tax. After saying many times how much he hated it. And now he’s talking about bringing it back!

    “Lo, how the mighty are fallen, and the proud brought down low.”

    The Ford arrogance and defiance of mathematical and financial reality finally meets its proper comeuppance. Yes, 2+2 does not equal 7, which is what was required for the original Ford subway financing plan to work.

    Mary said it best:

    “He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.”


  24. The tax rate for condos (residential) is at 0.7929218%. The tax rate for offices (commercial) is at 3.3661440%. Yet what they built along Sheppard are condos and not that much offices (more likely nearer Yonge Street itself).

    The aim should be to get more commercial offices built, but if the tax rates for commercial is higher than the 905, the city has competition to overcome. Lowering the commercial tax rate may mean less revenue for the city for projects.

    Steve: The City has a multi-year program to bring commercial taxes down by disproportionately putting the annual increase in the levy against the residential property class. Residential taxes go up three times as much as commercial taxes every year until this program completes later this decade. Doing it all in one year would have produced a huge increase in residential taxes all in one go. By the way, a condo is a “residence”, but an apartment building (such as I live in) is “commercial” and tenants pay tax at a much higher rate than their house and condo-owning neighbours. In 2011 when there was a “zero” tax increase, commercial taxes went down and so did my rent as a result.

    As for 905 vs 416 competition, I am not convinced that commercial building will reappear on a large scale in the 416 when the taxes balance out. Anyone planning a building today would be paying taxes mainly in years after the ongoing tax cuts are in place, but I am not seeing a rush to build.


  25. “Steve: They would make nice artwork in Don Mills Station. If the money really was available, and we could be sure Vic Park really was a terminal where the change from subway to LRT would actually happen, I could be convinced, maybe, to support such a scheme. However, what tends to happen is that people say “don’t start the LRT because we will just extend the subway a bit more”, and eastern Scarborough waits forever for anything.”

    True, but as previous posters have mentioned, the LRT/Subway Transfer would be ridiculous given that the present length of the Sheppard line is downright ridiculous. I’d even bet on the reasons on why ridership on the Sheppard line is so horrid is simply because it is too short.

    In the same vein though, I’m not advocating that the Sheppard line goes all the way to STC, far from it, there isn’t enough justification. I would however like to see the line go west to meet up with the Spadina line at Downsview. This would make a decent east-west line that North Toronto has been waiting for.

    I suppose the major point is that Victoria Park should be the permanent hard stop of the Sheppard line. I know there are people who say that “why not extend it all the way?” but the reality is that there are more people who believe that Victoria Park makes a better terminus than Don Mills, or Consumers Road for that matter. If there is no provision for LRT on Don Mills, then an extension to Victoria Park should be considered.

    I commend Commissioner Stintz for proposing exactly this in her revised transit plan. Too bad Rob Ford doesn’t seem to want to listen anymore.

    And oh BTW: I have completely lost my support for Rob Ford after he proposed to fund the Sheppard Subway through Parking Taxes and Levies. This isn’t respect for taxpayers that he promised, this is hypocrisy!!!


  26. Kevin Love wrote about the story about Ford considering the return of the vehicle registration tax, “One of Rob Ford’s first actions after his election as mayor was to trash this tax.”

    I just figured this out: Ford had a ‘mandate’ to get rid of the vehicle registration tax. Ford also has a ‘mandate’ to build subways. BUT, Ford never had a ‘mandate’ to keep the vehicle registration tax from returning. Ergo, bring back a new (read: higher) version of it (and don’t call it the “vehicle registration tax” – think of something creative!) to help with his other ‘mandate’. 😉


  27. Well, I see “Turncoat-Stintz” has once again put her head into the sand and allowed the City of Vaughan, who it was pointed out for years poached our businesses and even billed itself as the “city above Toronto” to name their very own subway station the horrible “Vaughan Metropolitan Centre”.

    “Commissioners heard from Tim Simmonds, Vaughan’s head of economic development, who pleaded to have the will of Vaughan Council and residents respected.”

    Since when do we in Toronto have to listen or obey the will of Vaughan Council anyways???

    Steve: Considering that Vaughan is paying 1/3 of the cost of the extension north of Steeles, they do have some right to naming their station. I think the “Metropolitan” moniker is pretentious and the name overlong, but future riders will be able to judge the name by what is actually built there.

    You would think that the TTC would have gotten their way here especially since this is the last subway station that will ever be built in Toronto!, at least for the next 100 years.

    And BTW Steve, regarding your comments about apartment rent above..are you telling me that you pay over $600.00 every month just for property taxes??? I pay about $720.00 every month and yes, it keeps climbing (even though house assessment doesn’t) Assuming you would pay about $1800-2000 a month in rent, $600 would be around 30%. Isn’t that a lot to pay?? Are you sure it’s that high???

    Steve: The province of Ontario, in calculating the portion of rent due to property tax (for rebate purposes) uses a figure of 20%. Relative to my current rent, that’s about $280 a month, or $3,360 a year. (It would be higher if I were not a long-term tenant benefiting from rent control.) I don’t know where you got $600/month from. By comparison, my family’s house in North Toronto paid $5,700 in taxes in 2011. I don’t need lectures from anyone about the disparity between commercial and residential tax rates.


  28. I was reading the reader comments following the Now article linked in this post and there seemed to be a heated debated with cost comparisons between surface LRT and subway, especially that while surface LRTs might be cheaper to build, that in the long run subways are cheaper since they last long (not subject to the elements, etc). I’ve seen this statement made quite a few times, often by politicians pushing for subways. Somehow they seem to conveniently forget that subway infrastructure needs a fair bit of regular ongoing maintenance, including track replacement which I’m sure is far from cheap. And since subways have grade separation, that also means escalators and elevators to maintain. So I’m far from convinced that subways are actually cheaper in the long run. And anyone who actually rides the TTC often enough knows there’s been quite a bit of repair work ongoing with the existing subway system (not to mention signal problems that delay trains on a regular basis).

    Steve, is there any documented cost comparisons between subways and surface LRTs? I’ve seen plenty on the comparative construction cost between the two but little on the long-term costs including operational and maintenance.

    Steve: This was one of the points mentioned in the “secret report” about the Sheppard subway. The TTC now knows (because its subway system is wearing out) that the cost of ongoing maintenance and replacement of major subsystems is not cheap. Claims made by some about 100-year infrastructure are hopelessly naive and, at best, refer to the basic structure, not to the many systems within it some of which you name. Everyone who rides the system knows about ongoing repairs to stations to fix various problems with water and other ongoing sources of damage. Trains last about 30 years, and tracks are replaced every 20-25 (more often at locations of heavy wear). The signal systems are all up for complete replacement and redesign, and all of the old escalators have gone through complete rebuilds at least once. When people say LRT does not last as long, they are, to put it gently, hopelessly misinformed.

    Regarding the musing on what to do with the existing Sheppard subway line – we in Scarborough lived with the SRT for over 25 years. If the decision is to go with LRT east of Don Mills, there may be a revisit to retrofitting the existing Sheppard line to LRT. It interesting to note that when San Francisco replaced its ageing PCC fleet with LRVs, the new vehicles were high-floor but had retractable stairs for the centre doors to allow for both high-platform subway-mode and street loading for surface-mode. That solution was not without its own problems, especially with reliability issue with the original Boeing Vertol vehicles (since replaced with ones made by Breda).



  29. A tweet by Councillor Carroll suggests that Rob Ford himself called the special meeting to be held on March 15th (now moved back to the 21st). Weird, did Ford expect that the sooner the vote happened, the more likely he’d win? If not, who called the special meeting and why?

    Steve: I think that’s a mistake. At the special meeting dedicated to LRT, part of the motion was for the expert panel to report back to a special meeting of Council no later than March 21st. In effect, the meeting was already on the books for some date by virtue of the motion. Possibly the Mayor’s office is trying to push it off to the last possible date to maximize the time to sell enough pencils at Queen and Bay to pay for the subway.


  30. I don’t know how it will work out in the ‘burbs where the new LRT will run but the subway in the old city along Bloor Danforth hasn’t exactly created a renaissance along most of the line. The wide station spacing has left lots of areas that aren’t exactly attractive.

    Spadina, however, is one of the most pedestrian friendly streets in Toronto, and St. Clair is quickly heading that way along with Roncesvalles. This is a result of fast frequent and convenient surface transit. I wonder what will happen to the businesses on Eglinton west of Avenue Road when the surface transit disappears. There really isn’t much business of Eglinton east of Mt. Pleasant to be affected.

    Steve: And the small section west of Laird in Leaside has been rather tired for years. It will have to survive construction of Laird Station, not a happy prospect.

    I would not worry about extra congestion caused to motorist by having the LRT right of way in the middle of the road that restricts left turns and cross street access. Spadina and St. Clair motorist seemed to have adapted quite well except for the stretch from Old Weston to Keele and that was a nightmare before the ROW went in. At least nor there is a left turn and a right turn lane west bound at Keele along with a through lane. Before if you got someone making a left turn and a right turn no one got through.

    Motorists are highly adaptable life forms and will soon figure out more efficient ways of getting around if there favourite left turn or cross street is removed. It did not take them long on St. Clair or Spadina. The centre reservation eliminates a lot of potential conflict from people who made left turns or U turns anywhere. Now they are forced to do them at set locations and this makes the traffic flow more uniform and predictable.

    St. Clair and Spadina, in my experience, move more smoothly, except Old Weston to Keele, than they did before with fewer apparent lanes of traffic. For commercial and local business interests surface transit is better than subways and LRT actually has traffic improving side effects by channelling the traffic and removing all those nasty buses from the curb lane where they get in the road of automobiles trying to park illegally or turn. Any BIA that has done their homework, instead of reading Bob and Doug’s press releases, will realize that LRT, not subways, will be best for their businesses. I think that the original Bob and Doug would do a better job of designing transit in Toronto that the current pair. Instead of firing someone they disagreed with they would at least talk things out over a 2 4.


  31. I’d seriously consider contributing some voluntary tax to the city (now a viable option) to converting the Stubway to LRT, eliminating the connection, and continuing it north and west to connect with the Finch LRT, with extensions to the airport, UofT Scarborough campus and the zoo. Ridiculously expensive, I know, but at this point I truly see the Stubway as more of a hindrance than anything else. Too short to attract riders, too far from anything people want to visit, and too expensive to extend.

    That, and the DRL. I’d donate to the DRL…


  32. I am sure that the city would use Michael’s voluntary tax to implement his creative plan for rail-based transit expansion if his voluntary tax payment were $5 billion. And I would buy him a very nice dinner, too.


  33. Steve said: Claims made by some about 100-year infrastructure are hopelessly naive and, at best, refer to the basic structure, not to the many systems within it some of which you name. Everyone who rides the system knows about ongoing repairs to stations to fix various problems with water and other ongoing sources of damage.

    Moaz: Sounds like another example of how the public could be encouraged to connect the dots, and hopefully gain a bit more understanding of how a subway will slowly wear out, how long it takes, how much the maintenance will cost, etc.

    The public should be informed about how much it is costing the TTC to maintain its existing near-50 year old stations so they can understand what the Sheppard line, Sheppard line extension and Vaughan Metropolitan Centre extension are going to cost their grandchildren.

    Of course there will still be people who believe that the poor condition of stations is not a function of the stations wearing out or the lack of operating funds, but rather, the “incompetence” of the TTC and its “Union” staff.

    But hey, if the editorial staff at The Sun can come around, those people can be encouraged to come around too.

    Cheers, Moaz


  34. Ah heck, why not make the Sheppard stubway the start of the DRL? Have it turn south at Don Mills…then we might be able to justify having full length trainsets serving stops on Sheppard. That way, then the short trip to transfer to LRT has different optics since there’ll be people coming from the south as well.

    Who knows…it’s late and what a cock-up this has turned into.


  35. “Considering that Vaughan is paying 1/3 of the cost of the extension north of Steeles”

    I thought that Vaughan was paying nothing and that York Region was paying 1/3 ($352 million). I don’t recall York Region making much noise about this.

    Steve: For those of us down here in the city, it’s hard to tell York Region and Vaughan apart sometimes.

    You are correct, it is York Region that is paying the freight for the station. However, I think they will defer to Vaughan if pressed on the matter.


  36. Michael and others,

    Transfer at Don Mills is not such a big deal. The LRT will piggyback at the subway platform and you won’t probably need to walk more than a hundred yards on level surface. Since both lines will be below capacity the loading time will be short. Moreover, an LRT does not have to pull out the moment a subway train has arrived, it can wait an extra minute and make up that time along the right of way. It would be the easiest transfer on the system and won’t take more than two minutes on average. Yes, it is a minor inconvenience but spending 600M or so to get rid of it is nuts when the TTC has such a backlog of capital projects that are needed just to keep the existing lines in a state of good repair.

    I am not concerned about overcrowding and two car LRTs on Finch and Sheppard will give most people a seat even in the rush hour if they run regularly and frequently. Only the busiest sections (Finch east of Jane and Sheppard west of Vic Park) will be standing room only if the ridership projections are correct for opening day.

    In my view, success or failure of the SELRT (and other LRT lines) depends of service quality. Will the trains operate at reliable headways or be bunched like streetcars on Queen? Will they get a green light at all intersections at 100% of the cases or stop twice, once at a near side and again at a far side to pickup passengers? Will the off peak headways be at most 5 to 6 minutes like the subway and RT? Will train stops be pedestrian and bike friendly, particularly near expressway ramps and areas with high commercial traffic? How well will the road be designed to lower the collision risks with vehicles? These considerations are more important than average speed, whether it is 22, 25 or 28 km/h.

    Another factor worth discussing is how the LRT should be integrated with a night bus. I think running the LRT all night while technically possible will lead to the elimination of the Request Stop program on that route. It makes more sense to shut down the LRT at around 11pm and replace it with a curbside bus service that will run till the subway reopens in the morning. Thus people catching the first LRT in the morning (5am?) will be able to easily transfer to the subway.


  37. Robert Wightman said: “I wonder what will happen to the businesses on Eglinton west of Avenue Road when the surface transit disappears.”

    I expect that it will be business as usual for them. Per my observations, their customers either walk in, or drive and park on the curbside.

    Eglinton bus is frequent, but unreliable. The underground line might actually bring more customers, who would use the Avenue Road station to access those shops.

    Businesses along the Yonge’s downtown stretch certainly depend more on the subway than on bus 97 🙂


  38. @Michael: If you want to donate, it is better to direct all your donations to DRL 🙂

    A super-long Finch-Sheppard LRT line will not be very useful for truly crosstown trips, as they would take too long; and the central section (conversion of Sheppard subway to LRT and diversion of Finch LRT to connect to Sheppard) will be unreasonably costly.

    Finch West LRT is better off continuing straight to Yonge – Finch, there will be more riders going to destinations along Yonge than across Yonge. And for Sheppard East, if subway extension is ruled out for cost reasons, it is better to provide a fast single-platform transfer to LRT than to spend money on conversion.


  39. Michael Forest says:
    March 2, 2012 at 7:17 am

    Robert Wightman said: “I wonder what will happen to the businesses on Eglinton west of Avenue Road when the surface transit disappears.”

    Michael: “I expect that it will be business as usual for them. Per my observations, their customers either walk in, or drive and park on the curbside.

    “Eglinton bus is frequent, but unreliable. The underground line might actually bring more customers, who would use the Avenue Road station to access those shops.

    “Businesses along the Yonge’s downtown stretch certainly depend more on the subway than on bus 97 :)”

    Bloor to Queen on Yonge Street is about 2 km and there are 4 (5 if you count both Queen and Bloor) stations or 1 every 500 m or so. That is a lot closer than will be on Eglinton. I wonder how many of those people who walk in actually get off a 32? At least it may improve the flow of cars to get the buses off the street, but I still think it will have some impact on customers, I just don’t know if it will be good or bad. I try to avoid Eglinton between Keele and Yonge as much as possible.


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