In the previous article, I reviewed the three main options under study for Sheppard East as well as the comments of the City Planning and Finance departments on various related issues.
In this article, I turn to the Expert Panel’s evaluation of the options, their scoring system, and the question of bias in the process.
The analysis and scoring begins on page 39 of the Expert Panel Report. The panel chose three broad areas for analysis, and subdivided each of these into three subcategories.
- Funding & Economic Development
- Transit Service
- Sustainability and Social Impact
In each of the 9 subcategories, the highest possible score is 5 points for an overall raw total of 45. However, the weights assigned to each group are different with Funding & Economic Development getting a weight of 3x, Transit Service 2x, and Sustainability and Social Impact 1.5x. Once the weights are applied, the total potential score is 95 points. These values are normalized up to a “perfect” score of 100.
Table 15 on page 41 summarizes these scores. In order that readers can see how the weights affect the outcome, I have recast these data to show the buildup of the weighted scores to a 100-scale.
Funding & Economic Development
The subway option will require “significant concentrated employment growth at North York, and Scarborough Centres, Consumers Business Park and Agincourt Secondary Plan Area beyond the 2031 forecast levels”. Whether this growth will actually materialize is a matter of conjecture especially given the past three decades’ history of low growth.
Any new transit service will produce an economic uplift. This has two components: the scope of the effect (how far from a corridor the uplift is felt depending on mode) and the scale (how much a given mode adds). These values are summarized in Table 16 on Page 42. An important issue here is that the LRT is much longer than the subway option. Therefore, its potential effect is greater even though both the scope and scale are smaller than with a subway line.
One effect buried under the covers is that “economic development” in the Benefits Case Analysis methodology used by the Metrolinx contractor, SDG, is that the cost of building a line counts as “economic development”. In other words, if we spend $2-billion, this will produce twice the effect of spending $1b. The problem is that a BCA looks at a single line, not at the best way to spend a fixed pool of capital. If we have $8.4b overall, a combined view of the situation would yield the same spinoff benefits from construction. However, the methodology skews this to favour subways which are more expensive than anything else.
The raw scores for Economic Development for each option are 3.71, 4.14 and 3.57. It is impossible to determine the contribution of each element to these scores, but the fact that the hybrid ranks lowest suggests that the greater development benefit of a subway to Victoria Park is outweighed by the loss of the “economic impact” of a cheaper construction project.
Cost Effectiveness and Fiscal Sustainability
This item is built from three components: cost per new rider, attracting new riders, and equity in transit investment.
Although the subway option generates more rides, the cost is much higher and so the cost per new rider is worst for this option. On the remaining components, the scoring looks at the effect of spending on the Finch LRT and benefits in that corridor. The total new ridership for Sheppard and Finch together would be higher than for a Sheppard subway alone. While this is interesting and a useful way of looking at network benefits, not simply those local to Sheppard, this is a ranking criterion that should have been broken out consistently through the analysis.
Again, it is impossible to dis-aggregate the contributions of the three components. The scores for the options are 4.43 (LRT), 2.14 and 2.57. This reflects the availability of funding for another project (Finch) if the LRT option is taken.
The LRT option is ready-to-go both from a funding and design viewpoint and therefore gets full marks for this component. The subway and hybrid components score much lower because they do not have funding in place. The scores are 5, 1.86 and 2.29 respectively.
Summary: Funding & Economic Development
The scores as percentages of the possible maxima for the three options are 88% (LRT), 54% (subway) and 56% (hybrid).
This criterion measures the ability of each option to handle projected 2031 ridership. It builds on and partly duplicates the measure of Cost Effectiveness above. The LRT option rates highest because it provides sufficient capacity for the likely demand i n the corridor and frees up funds for a Finch LRT. The scores are 4.57, 2.29 and 2.71 for the three options.
This score addresses the ability of each option to meet overall movements in the transit network for affected riders. Figure 10 on Page 47 shows the destination of peak period flows out of the section of Scarborough north of the 401. One third of the demand is local to the area, and a further quarter is oriented north to Markham or south across the 401. About one tenth heads west beyond Victoria Park, and the remainder goes to midtown and downtown.
The LRT best supports this pattern because it supports the local travel and provides connectivity with other routes.
A subway east to STC connecting with the SRT would improve network links in western Scarborough, but would do little for Scarborough from Kennedy eastward. The LRT option provides access to STC through a connection with the extended SRT, an extension that according to Metrolinx will not be built under the subway scenario.
The scores assigned to each option are 4.71, 3.14 and 3.29. It is unclear why the hybrid option scores so low here unless there is an assumption about the presence or absence of an SRT extension north to Sheppard.
Level of Service
This component considers the overall travel times for riders under each option including stop access (out of vehicle) and on board times. Part of the overall impression of alternates in travel includes the experience of getting to transit including the pedestrian environment, not a notable part of Sheppard as it stands today. The LRT option brings access closer to more riders (because it goes all the way to Morningside and because the stops are spaced more closely than a subway would be), and the reconstruction of Sheppard will give an opportunity to improve the pedestrian realm.
Sadly, on a topic which gets much discussion, the raw data leading to these scores is not presented in the report. The LRT option gets a score of 4.14, while the subway option gets 3.57 and the hybrid 3.29.
Transit Service Summary
The scores as percentages of the possible maxima for the three options are 89% (LRT), 60% (subway) and 62% (hybrid).
At this point, the LRT option has an overwhelming lead given the relatively low weighting (1.5X) assigned to the three remaining components.
Sustainability and Social Impact
Equity and Accessibility
This component measures various factors including
“social cohesion social cohesion and access to opportunity; transit safety and mobility; end user affordability (e.g. fares); equity in access to rapid transit across the City.”
These are difficult to measure and depend on assumptions about the network beyond Sheppard Avenue itself. The issue of affordability is not germane to the technology choice unless Toronto eventually sees a change in fare structures making express routes like subways a premium fare service.
The panel ranks the LRT options higher than subway because they provide service to far more neighbourhoods (particularly to existing neighbourhoods). Moreover, under the subway plan, the SRT would not be extended north of the 401 and, eventually, to Malvern. An additional pro-LRT consideration is the potential improvement of safety for pedestrians through better streetscaping under the LRT plans.
Both of these considerations duplicate issues covered by earlier points and reinforce the relative rankings of the options. The scores are 4.57 (LRT), and 3.14 for the other options. It is unclear why the hybrid option ranks so low here.
This component considers
“Mixed-use, higher density, more walkable and bikeable neighbourhoods are an essential component in promoting healthier less auto-dependant lifestyles. Moving towards this type of urban form in Scarborough will be difficult under any option being considered.”
As with earlier components, the availability of funding for Finch under the LRT scheme expands the scope of environmental savings within the available funding. The urban form of Sheppard East with an LRT to Morningside may evolve into a more walkable neighbourhood. Both of these points have been made before.
Scores assigned for the options are 4.14, 3.57 and 3.43.
This component looks at the effects of construction, but more importantly the community effects of intensification, housing affordability and the redesign of neighbourhoods (e.g. “placemaking” effects on businesses and community hubs).
The scores for this component are 3.86, 3.57 and 2.86. It is unclear why the hybrid option ranks so much lower than either of the single-mode solutions.
Sustainability and Social Impact Summary
The scores as percentages of the possible maxima for the three options are 84% (LRT), 69% (subway) and 63% (hybrid).
The weighted scores have a maximum possible value of 95 points, and they are factored up to obtain values out of 100. The adjusted scores for each option are:
- LRT 87.3
- Subway 59.3
- Hybrid 59.5
My feeling is that the ranking is fair, although there are cases where the hybrid version is oddly penalized with no obvious explanation. Publication of the component scores might have clear up some of these issues.
Many components of the total score turn on related matters and there is a compounding effect including:
- The LRT option serves more of Scarborough. Any component that depends on maximising the number of people, particularly in existing neighbourhoods, with access to improve transit will benefit from the scope of the LRT.
- The LRT option leaves funding available for Finch Avenue. Any component that considers spending on a network basis, rather than a line basis, benefits from the larger reach of two LRT lines and their potential for rider, connectivity and environmental benefits.
If anything, I would expect the hybrid option to rank second, and the reason this did not happen is unclear. If it is the LRT component that performs more strongly than the subway, then the LRT-based options should generally rank higher than a subway-based one.
In the next article, I will turn to the background papers for the SRT report.