Toronto Council Approves Sheppard East LRT

Toronto Council, after over a day and a half’s debate, has approved the construction of a Sheppard East LRT from Don Mills to Morningside by a vote of 24-19.  This completes the rout of Mayor Ford’s subway plan and returns transit plans more or less to their position when he was elected.  The Mayor vows to fight on, but now sees this as a future campaign issue.

Today’s debate was, for the most part, more civil and organized than what we heard yesterday, except for an outburst from the Mayor and a speech showing his passionate hatred for streetcars.

Now the ball is in Metrolinx’ court to come up with a construction staging plan allowing for the year-plus delay.  During the debate, some members of the pro-subway faction claimed that, according to private conversations with Metrolinx, work would not start on the Sheppard LRT until 2016.  My own sources tell me that this is not true, but we must await a definitive word from the Provincial agency.

The Sheppard LRT decision also ensures that the Scarborough RT extension will be part of the plan with the new LRT line running, initially, to Sheppard Avenue and using Conlins Road carhouse as a base.  A motion by Councillor Cho, which passed as part of the package, seeks funding for extending the SRT/LRT northeast to Malvern Centre and the Sheppard LRT south via Morningside to UTSC campus.  “Streetcars” might reach Malvern only five decades or so after the TTC’s original proposal.

A number of additional motions related to long range planning and funding of transit expansion.  These were referred to the City Manager for future reports.  Strangely absent in the discussion was any mention of the role Metrolinx and  its “Big Move 2.0” might take in these discussions.

The details of the decision are available online.

This is an important day for Toronto.  We are on track for an LRT-based plan and for a more detailed evaluation of our transit future than we have seen for decades.  Talking about one line at once, about fundraising for one project at once, is no longer an accepted way of building the city.  Leaving the debate to a secretive Provincial agency is no longer acceptable, and the City is clearly setting out on its own review.  Co-operation is essential given the funding arrangements, but Queen’s Park must stop hiding from the transit planning and financing files.

Finally, a personal note.  Throughout this debate, I have been gratified by the broad understanding of transit issues displayed by many Councillors, advocates and media.  This blog and my own advocacy have helped, but there is the compound effect of so many people working with an informed sense of the topic.  Congratulations to everyone who had a hand in this victory.

105 thoughts on “Toronto Council Approves Sheppard East LRT

  1. I’m wondering what should be made of Andy Byford’s statements that his preference would have been for a subway on Sheppard. Not that I have any doubt that he will abide by Council’s decision and implement it to the best of his professional abilities. But is there friction in the future if we have a new TTC CEO whose opinions are at odds, not only with Council’s, but also with the transit experts who were tasked with evaluating the options for Sheppard?

    Steve: I think the larger fault in Byford’s (and many other) comments on the Sheppard subway is the failure to distinguish between the fundamentally different purpose (from land use and networking viewpoints) of a subway veering south to and ending at STC versus an LRT all the way to Morningside. This belies Byford’s lack of depth in Toronto planning history.


  2. I don’t think the extension of Sheppard Subway to Victoria Park would be a right decision given that in that case the line would have been complemented by BRT (a short-term solution). At some point this mistake should have been fixed and the further extension of subway just didn’t make sense. Having subway at Victoria Park might have had some advantages. However, if we lose LRT (and we do lose it because all money are spent on 2 subway stations) and pay a higher price for subway maintenance this decision wouldn’t have been right. Is their a really big difference for the majority of passengers where they need to make a transfer – at Victoria Park or Don Mills? I don’t think so. Besides, you never know what is going to happen 20-30 years down the road. What if the regional transit agencies decide to build a network of LRT lines in Scarborough and Markham? This might be laughable today, but once LRT is in operation and people can see what it really is, I am sure such kind of plans will be real. So being stuck with subway in suburban areas is just not right.

    By the way, I believe Royson James (The Star) brought up the idea of subway at Victoria Park just a few hours before debates on purpose. If it is The Star’s idea – it is a no go option for Ford. May be. Just may be.


  3. Hi Steve:-

    Scarborough is getting screwed with Council not approving subways! (Note the plural)

    I’ve read that here in this blog, in press releases, from quotes from our less than responsible Ford Bros and in comments on the CBC’s web site from those who support subways. I fail to see their argument as with the subway(s) proposed plan, at its best case scenario, Scarborough was not getting much of a subway(s) anyway. In other words as far as subway(s) were to go, Scarborough was getting screwed anyhow and transfers would still have been essential. A Sheppard bus rider would have to transfer to the line at Kennedy instead of Don Mills. Wheeee!! For Scarborough was merely getting a few station extension to an underutilized white elephant of a line and then it was only going to the Scarborough Town Centre. Certainly Scarborough was not about to get the plural, as in subways! And then it wasn’t about to actually serve much of Scarborough.

    The next scenario that the Fords were adamant about (and even then there was no money to finish this one either) was an even shorter extension to Victoria Park. Except for a few feet, not much subway in Scarborough here either. This almost had validity except it precluded much of anything else happening in the improvement front for Scarborough as it would have swallowed all of the money slated for east of VP, thereby effectively killing any rapid transit east of there for our foreseeable future. This then would subject Sheppard’s riders to decades of more bus riding and still a transfer. Certainly no through subway routing in this decade as far as I can see from this lot of proposals our ‘May-or-may-not’ has been pontificating on.

    So where this one seat subway(s) ride ever got into the picture, certainly never being countered by Hizzonour as being not quite what he was proposing, and found itself in the popular press is beyond my ken. Am I one of the few that sees that the Emperor has no clothes? And how, except for our Mayor’s dishonesty with his constant repetitive chant of,

    ‘subways they want subways, that’s what they want is subways’

    did the plural ever be adopted by supporters as a plural when plural was not in the present equation?

    I’m perplexed and further I’m ashamed that my fellow citizens elected this guy! Sheeesh!

    Dennis Rankin


  4. My issue with this is what is going to happen with the “Sheppard Stubway”. Right now we have a subway along Sheppard that goes nowhere. Is it possible for the Sheppard line to be converted to LRT? Is that in the plan? To me it does not make sense to force people to change twice in order to get downtown (once between the LRT and the Sheppard Line, and then again to get onto the Yonge Line.) Better to have an all LRT line to me.


  5. Is it at all feasible or practical to convert the existing Sheppard subway line to LRT, to enable a seamless trip?

    Steve: There are a number of problems with converting the existing line for LRT operation, and given the interest in this topic, I will devote a separate article to it in coming days.


  6. For anyone complaining about ‘unnecessary’ transfers:

    I live near High Park and whether it’s subway, streetcar or bus, just about all of my transit trips anywhere from here to anywhere else in this city involve at least one transfer and usually more than one mode. It’s called a “NETWORK”. The further your trip stretches out the more likely you’ll need to make a transfer to complete it and this is fully reasonable. I never felt the need to complain about transferring to the SRT to reach STC and I don’t complain about transferring to a bus at Kipling to reach Sherway Mall. If you want a convenient radial trip downtown then take GO. Most other origin-destination pairs will never see the necessary sustained ridership to support a continuous higher-order transit line.


  7. Stephen Cheung said:

    “As for Ford itself, it perplexes me with his behaviour on transit. This is contrary to my previous encounters of him being open to suggestion and fostering a constructive and community minded debate. Seeing his anti-streetcar rants is almost like a Jekyll-and-Hyde moment as it makes me wonder why I supported this fellow.”

    I’ve noticed that a lot of Ford voters have been saying that of late. It makes me wonder what changed since he announced his run for mayor or if this is the “real” Rob Ford showing through due to some misguided personal belief that he is above reproach after becoming mayor.

    Paul Zamodits said:

    “I’m wondering what should be made of Andy Byford’s statements that his preference would have been for a subway on Sheppard.”

    I’d say not much seeing as he made it repeatedly clear that subway are his preference if money is no object; both in terms of capital and operating funds. That is something to which everyone here would probably agree with. It’s only Ford’s selective hearing that makes it seem that he supports subways over LRT regardless of cost.

    At the same time, Andy Byford has also come out and said that he’s glad that the debate is over because now the city can actually start focusing on the one subway line that people across the city agree is actually needed. That being, the Downtown Relief Line.


  8. Daniel Sulph:

    “I don’t think building LRT on Sheppard precludes building a subway extension later when demand can support it.”

    See Steve’s reply to Stephen at 9:51am. It is this particular concern which signals a potential permanent stop at Don Mills. And if Toronto planning is any indication, the LRT tunnels will never be able to accomodate a subway car.


  9. re: transfer at Don Mills

    How important is it to be able to load Westbound both sides of the Don Mills platform? Could one side of the platform be converted for LRT so that the transfer isn’t even walking down the length of the platform, but simply across the width of it?

    Steve: That’s not as easy as it sounds. Far better to have two stub platforms facing each other both with two berths (that is not the current design, and frankly I think the current design is crap). One of the many leftovers of Transit City that need to be cleaned up before we actually build it.


  10. Steve, Just an observation to pass on.

    Let’s see if I get this straight. The Ford Brothers’ father was in the Conservative Mike Harris (“common sense revolution”) government. This was the same government using financial austerity as the mantra ended funding for the Eglinton subway and forced the already tunneled section at Eglinton West to be filled in! Now, let us go to the future where the Fords (“end the gravy train”) want to spend money that we don’t have enough of, on their Sheppard subway plan. If the Eglinton subway (the same one the province is now funding as LRT) had been done and finished back then there would have been funds available for the Sheppard subway.

    (We also need to stop electing representatives whose campaigns are based on slogans rather than issues!!!!!)

    However, I think was just a smoke screen to give them an issue that may make it possible for them to get back in office!! Was Finch West also linked to this? If so, I hope Doug’s constituents remember that he was willing to forget all about them when this issue came up!

    One more thing ,didn’t Rob at the very first council meeting state that he hated streetcars? It’s time for these guys to end the war on transit users and stop being so pro-auto. Hopefully this can all end soon and the building process can begin.


  11. Hi, Steve – congratulations and heart-felt thanks for so greatly contributing to and enriching the transit discussion, steadfastly, and patiently, through good times and bad.

    You continue to shine some very badly-needed light into some very dark corners of ignorance and misinformation through your reasoned advocacy for well-thought-out and -implemented public transit. I join everyone else here in crediting you for contributing significantly in subtle and not so subtle ways to yesterday’s victory for LRT and evidence-based transit planning.

    Yesterday’s victory is indeed a moment you have every reason to be proud of and savour. Bravo!

    Going forward, we must now do all we can to “Sheppard” (shepherd) the TTC and City Councillors and MetroLinx into implementing the new LRTs in the best possible manner. One of your main concerns with Transit City during the Miller era was the botched public consultations and hearings on the design of various features of the new lines during which the TTC came across to the public as bull-headed and insensitive to their concerns, and alienated and angered them. Those grievous sins and omissions MUST NOT be repeated, at our peril.

    Now that at long last LRT is being given its perhaps one and only chance and opportunity to prove itself in Toronto, everyone involved with its design and build MUST do everything they can to generate good will for it and ensure its success. We likely won’t be given another chance.

    The TTC MUST NOT repeat the mistakes and faux-pas of the Miller era and add new fuel to the negative press your Mayor will be so eager to seize upon and beat the drums to “prove” to voters that LRT is the “disaster” he expects (and wants) it to be. The same applies to Doug Ford’s assertion that the new LRT routes will only “St.-Clairize” – in his mind, lay ruinous waste to – the rest of Toronto. Doug Ford must not be handed fodder either. Not that there’s all that much wrong with St. Clair, other than that it could benefit from improvements to transit signal priority. (By coining “St.-Clairize,” Doug has hatched a fresh verb for Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary! – did I just say he laid an egg?) 🙂


  12. Thanks, Steve, for your advocacy on this issue. I live near Warden and Sheppard, and I spend about three hours a day on the TTC commuting back and forth to my downtown job. People in my neighbourhood are very car-oriented, and I know that most of them would never use the TTC in any form. They want subways simply because they want to avoid traffic problems that may arise with LRTs and because subways would bring up our property values. Of those who do use the TTC, most are new immigrants who aren’t too savvy about how a subway would have to be funded and how long it would take to actually be completed. There’s not a lot of big-picture thinking going on around here, and Rob Ford and Norm Kelly capitalize on that mightily.

    Anyway, can you explain to me how Rob Ford was able to stop Transit City back in 2010? I don’t understand why he didn’t have to put forward a motion to be voted on in council, especially since there were going to be hefty cancellation penalties involved. Why did Joe Mihevc have to get a legal opinion to determine that Ford didn’t have the authority to cancel Transit City without council’s approval? Wasn’t that obvious? Why was everyone so cowed by this revolting man?

    Steve: Ford got away with what he did because at the time, there was a honeymoon period with the new Councillors who could not believe that Rob Ford really was the ignorant boor those of us who knew him before he became Mayor expected him to become. The idea of challenging the Mayor was not on, and it wasn’t until the Port Lands fiasco with the first hint of bending the rules far too much for comfort that Council started to take notice. He should have been stopped, but wasn’t, and everyone was terrified of his so-called “mandate”. Voters were conned by a clever election campaign and by the absence of a truly credible alternative.


  13. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a must-watch YouTube video made by a very creative local person.

    Steve: Normally I would not post a link to a re-titled version of the scene from “Untergang” (Downfall) where Hitler explodes with the realization that the war is lost. Ford is no Hitler, far from it. However, in this case we have Hitler as a deeply disillusioned Ford supporter, and the text is spot on.

    By the way, I deeply admired Bruno Ganz’ portrayal of Hitler in this film, astounding acting and not just in this scene, but this takes us into the “Reviews” category from which readers will be spared until late April when HotDocs starts up.


  14. To all those who worry about having to make an unnecessary transfer at Don Mills and Sheppard I have an idea. Why not extend the LRT all the way to Yonge to make it a one seat ride that you all seem to hold so dear and turn the Stubway into the world’s longest underground car house. Instead of extending the Yonge Subway to East Gwillimbury so there would be enough vacant land for a new car house we make the south track of the stubway a storage track, probably hold 35 – 40 TR sets, and end the Yonge Subway at Steeles. York would be freed to build what ever they want to feed into the station. This would solve all the world’s outstanding problems, We could even let the Ford brothers play in the tunnels.

    Steve: We might even fit in pony stables in the now-vacant station buildings.


  15. @Stephen Cheung

    The Sheppard Report says LRT will be sufficient at least until 2031. When demand is enough for a subway then Don Mills can be redesigned for an extension.


  16. Thank you to Rhonda. Much outrage has been expressed in the Ford era and I have engaged in bit of it myself. However, none of it has so beautifully captured the mystery of how an educated populace could have brought this upon itself and so humorously expressed the disbelief as her question “Why was everyone so cowed by this revolting man?”

    Why indeed? Even the Premier shrank in horror from the supposed “revenge” of Ford Nation.

    As a stubborn remaining member of “Leaf Nation” (from whence the phrase was pinched) it is gratifying to see that Ford Nation is even less successful than my beloved “Kings of Hockey” (Next Year!!)


  17. George Bell said:

    “Now, will Toronto Council reverse the mayor’s decision on Jarvis bike lanes…”

    The funny thing is, as a cyclist, I’m hesitant to say that they should because it might jeopardize the Sherbourne bike lane upgrades which should happen regardless of what happens on Jarvis. However, I do agree that Toronto Council should seriously rethink the plans for the bike lanes on Jarvis and the Bloor viaduct.


  18. Michael complains about having to transfer from LRT to subway at Don Mills instead of a one-seat ride, then goes on to say about future SELRT service to UTSC,

    “I don’t get why people are so happy about this, concerning the LRT will provide service which is no different from the current bus routes which feed into UTSC?”

    Did anyone else catch the irony in this? For someone needing to get to UTSC that lives near Sheppard along the 12 km or so from Don Mills to Morningside, they will be able to get there without a transfer.

    More to the point, the transfer being eliminated here is a bus-to-bus transfer which is a heck of a lot more time consuming than an down-the-platform LRT to subway transfer.


  19. A little off the topic of Sheppard East, I am wondering one thing about Finch West…

    In March 2011, a TTC meeting had to deal with a new cost to the Spadina-York Subway Extension resulting from the cancellation of the Finch West LRT. Without an LRT connection, Finch buses would have to serve the bus terminal at the Finch West station at Keele. The design that was already in place had a few problems as it was too small to serve these buses, and only had an exit onto Keele. An expenditure of $1.45 million was approved for the design of a new bus loop with access to Finch Avenue.

    This money is now lost, but I suspect that land was not yet acquired for the Finch access or possibly a larger facility (if it was needed).

    How back on track are the plans for the Finch West subway station? Did they fully remove the underground LRT part of the design, or was some sort of rough-in left in the plans? Given that they are only now excavating the holes for this station, I suspect that it may not be too difficult to return to the earlier plan. Are there any other sunk costs besides the $1.45 million?

    Steve: The LRT connection was always intended as a “rough in” and it was not deleted from the plan. As for the bus loop, I would not be surprised to see it built because the Finch LRT is unlikely to be in operation by 2015 when the subway opens. Yes, we will spend a lot of money for a “temporary” bus terminal, but that problem was created when Queen’s Park shifted the Finch LRT into the latter half of the decade.


  20. Steve wrote:

    “Voters were conned by a clever election campaign and by the absence of a truly credible alternative.”

    With Ford’s threat to now campaign for the next two years, we are beginning to finally have a mature discussion of what happened that year and what this city needs moving forward.

    Marcus Gee has a particularly annoying and self serving rant about it in the Globe tonight where he blames the voters cause, you know, we were told Rob was who he was. Well, yes, but, by their own admission, the media chose who the “major candidates” were going to be. Yes, we go stuck with some candidates that were … well … awful. But, it was a group of 6-7 media outlets that made the decision of who we would pick from.

    My hope moving forward to 2014 is two fold.

    a) the centre/left/thinking right coalesce around one person, who brings a credible alternative to Ford. Having lived now through Harris and Ford and Harper, (and the right would say Miller), and been threatened with Hudak, I hope we who are not on the populist right would finally get it that purity of vision is not as important as the ability to build consensus and get things done, even if it means discussing things we are not happy with occasionally.

    b) that the blogosphere pulls the rug out from under the CBC/CTV/Globe/Star/Sun/Global/City pack who think they have to choose who we pick from.


  21. Re: Robert Wightman’s suggestions for adaptive re-use of the Sheppard Stubway after building the one-seat-ride LRT above – anyone for a subterranean swanboat ride with the tunnel walls along its route adorned with dramatically lit fantastical scenes. At least one TTC route should feature swanboats.

    Steve: The walls could be adorned with faux-prehistoric cave drawings of swanboats possibly showing that their invention predated the wheel and, by extension, the SUV.


  22. @Daniel: so we deal with a stubway and a poorly efficient form of transit on Sheppard and wait for 20 years. Very reassuring. The point is that as it stands right now, transit on Sheppard is broken, with a line too short to generate any form of sustainability. Sure LRT would be nice but it doesn’t solve the problem at Don Mills. So how are we going to solve this little problem? Personally I would rather see Sheppard expanded one way or another. At best to Victoria Park, if the LRT is going to be built as a subway to Consumers Road, why not just build it to Victoria Park instead and have a proper Terminal there?

    And if that is not possible, then I would rather see the Sheppard subway converted to LRT instead but other people have commented that it is impossible.

    I don’t disagree with your comments. I just disagree with the general consensus that appears to point to keeping the Sheppard Stubway in its present form. Can you say white elephant? Even if we wait 20 years does not mean that the ridership will be sufficient enough to warrant one. And what if it isn’t at that time? What do we do with Sheppard at that point?

    We need to think about the future of the Sheppard subway in its present form. It is not an attack on the Sheppard East LRT, far from it, but the discussion needs to take place. This piecemeal approach to Sheppard must be addressed.


  23. “Subway, subways, subways. People want subways.” So say the quotes often repeated, without the facts to back them, by Rob Ford and others.

    What would have been next, if Rob Ford got his way? What about those pesky pedestrians? Don’t they get in his (and others) way as they cross intersections? Don’t they slow down the traffic? Don’t they make a mess of things getting caught, just delaying his way here and there? Wouldn’t it be better to put the pedestrians underground like his vision of transit?

    Maybe an expansion of the PATH underground pedestrian network would have been on his wish list. Expanding PATH along Sheppard would have been nice. It would get those pesky pedestrians out of his way and out of his sight. After all “roads are for cars”, according to Rob Ford.


  24. Rhonda says:

    “Of those who do use the TTC, most are new immigrants who aren’t too savvy about how a subway would have to be funded and how long it would take to actually be completed. There’s not a lot of big-picture thinking going on around here, and Rob Ford and Norm Kelly capitalize on that mightily.”

    There are cities all over the world that have subway systems including cities where “new immigrants” originally emigrated from. So I’m sure there are new immigrants who are aware of how subway funding works and the length of time required to construct a line.

    There are many people in the city who are unaware of how subway funding works and the length of time it takes to build subways in Toronto and most of these people are not “new immigrants”. Ford was elected because of widespread belief that he could build subways without them paying for it and that he could do it in an impossibly short time frame. If only “new immigrants” alone fell for his political rhetoric he never would have been elected as Mayor.


    I’m also curious, what’s your definition of a new immigrant? A lot of racialized people ride the bus in the east end of the city but I don’t assume they’re new immigrants. They may have immigrated here in the 1970′s or 1980′s or may have been born in Canada.

    Steve: To this, I would add that if Toronto had to depend on its “indigenous” population (say, counting from about 1950) this would be a rather sleepy town. I grew up in WASP Toronto when things like pasta or fried rice were considered exotic fare, and roast beef and mashed potatoes ruled the Sunday dinner table.

    If there was an attraction from Rob Ford to the more recent immigrants, I can only assume it would be to the conservative business class who, before experience proved them wrong, might have taken Ford’s focus on fiscal and government responsibility as a good sign. Many long-term Torontonians bought into that myth too.

    Finally, on the subject of “who is an immigrant”, I grew up when Europeans of various backgrounds, notably Italian construction workers, were the most common of new Canadians. They were not treated as quite “us”, but now have become part of the more or less white landscape to which Asian and African immigrants offer a visible contrast. I suspect we are all just as gullible when told of government waste, tax cuts and something-for-nothing economics regardless of which boat we or our ancestors arrived on.


  25. @Stephen

    There is no problem at Don Mills. Thousands of people transfer everyday. Bloor-Yonge is a very successful transfer point and the one at Don Mills is going to be even easier to access.

    The real problem is the Sheppard subway itself: it should have never been built in the first place, and is the product of 90’s political dysfunction. My personal opinion is that we should accept the error and move on.

    How about instead of building subway lines and hoping people will show up, we build intermediate transit? And only when that form of transit can no longer support demand do we contemplate building a subway.


  26. Re: Don Mills transfer

    To all those who feel consternation about a mode transfer at Don Mills, I completely understand. It’s absolute human nature. People don’t like being forced to do something they see as unnecessary. They like having alternatives, even if they rarely use them. Posters have suggested changes, push subway further east, convert the Sheppard subway to LRT, and I have been in both those camps at one time or another. Like the loathed Kennedy/SRT transfer it’s all about getting rid of 2 different colours joining end to end.

    To prevent this constant of human nature, I have a suggestion. Configure the SELRT so it can continue south on Don Mills. It would ultimately connect to Eglinton and a future DRL. This is all out of scope of what is currently on the table, but I think it should be considered now since it would drive the design of the Don Mill interchange. Practically impossible if the LRT is at the subway track level, complicated if the LRT was at the mezzanine level, and affordable now if the LRT was kept at surface.

    Steve: You have continued in the fine tradition of drawing continuous lines on maps in the name of “connectivity” and “continuity”, but at great expense. I presume you won’t mind if folks living further north on Don Mills object to your using up capacity on “their” LRT route for “your” trains. This issue really has been beaten to death.


  27. Steve, you replied regarding Finch West LRT:

    The LRT connection was always intended as a “rough in” and it was not deleted from the plan. As for the bus loop, I would not be surprised to see it built because the Finch LRT is unlikely to be in operation by 2015 when the subway opens. Yes, we will spend a lot of money for a “temporary” bus terminal, but that problem was created when Queen’s Park shifted the Finch LRT into the latter half of the decade.

    Would they not compare the cost of this temporary bus terminal to the additional costs incurred by bringing the project forward. If the City would self-fund this project now (say a cost of $1B), and the Province pays for it 5 years later, would the Province pay the $1B or an inflated amount (i.e. $1.2B). I would expect the latter is more fair. This would almost mean there is next to no additional cost of bringing the project forward, just the City has to take on some temporary debt, which will be repaid by the Province along with interest about 5 years in the future.

    It may also make more sense to bring Finch West ahead of Sheppard LRT. The far East end of Sheppard may be needed for the Conlins yard, but not the expensive tunnel portion.

    Steve: There are a lot of problems caused by the provincial desire to flatten out their capital requirements. They seem more concerned with preventing a spike in spending early in the decade than with what makes sense in a network rollout.


  28. “Steve: And even if it is a “streetcar in the median of a road”, that streetcar will have the capacity to absorb future growth in demand, and will not spend its time stuck in traffic like the Sheppard bus.”

    It for sure will be able to absorb future growth in demand, because study after study have shown a Sheppard LRT is not going to attract people to transit in large numbers, so by virtue of having LRT that is not competitive with the car, transit growth will not come.

    At the end of the day, I do not hate LRT and only love subways, or hate subways and only love LRT. I look at the best option for a corridor.

    And sorry Steve, but the studies show that a completed Sheppard subway will carry vastly more riders and divert car trips onto transit.

    The same is not true for LRT, no matter how much stats are manipulated.

    So that is fine. You can all have your LRTs which you all never will ride as most of you live downtown and never step foot in Scarborough, and have the luxury of living on subways lines (Steve included). But don’t complain when stats show continued car use, declined transit modal shares, and an LRT line which needs to travel over double the length of the Sheppard subway to capture the same ridership numbers of the so called white elephant.

    Steve: I will repeat this as many times as needed. The “extra” demand that shows up on the subway option is a direct result of redevelopment around STC and does not represent a diversion of trips from other parts of Scarborough to transit. The subway option does not serve Sheppard, and that’s what this project is supposed to be all about.


  29. Council more or less declared that the Sheppard subway is a failure and has no future in Toronto. But it only takes a bit of imagination to see that converting the Sheppard subway to LRT is perfectly feasible.

    Much has been made of the cost of retrofitting the tunnels — making them bigger for overhead power, and dropping the platforms for low-floor cars. But this is backwards. It is cheaper and easier to buy high-platform LRT cars (which exist; see Edmonton and Calgary), and build high-platform stops on the street (like 7th Avenue in Calgary). Moreover, it is certainly possible to modify an LRT car to take power either from an overhead, or from a third rail, whichever one is available; while retracting/deploying the overhead power assembly as needed.

    Yes, the car contract with Bombardier would have to be reopened. Yes, the Sheppard cars would be incompatible with the rest of the system, but Toronto would be far from the only operator in the world to have incompatible rolling stock on different rail lines. Yes, this would cost more, but certainly less than retrofitting tunnels; maybe even less than building a fancy interchange underground at Don Mills. Yes, there are surely issues I’m not thinking of. But these pale in comparison to making the Sheppard subway an eternal white elephant, as many people seem to be arguing here.

    Steve: I was going to do this in a separate article, but here goes a short version.

    First, the “high platform” in the subway is higher than the “high floor” of, say, an Edmonton LRT car or the existing high floor streetcars in Toronto. This is not just a question of sticking a new train on the existing tracks.

    Next, the problem with overhead clearance is not in the round tunnels but in the box structures adjacent to the stations (mainly for crossovers).

    As for a mix of high-floor and low-floor cars on the same system, there is more than the floor height to consider. On one fleet, the auxiliary equipment is on the roof, while on the other it is under the car. This requires maintenance facilities to be set up to handle both types of equipment. That’s not impossible, but it is a consideration.

    Far too much effort is being expended on schemes to eliminate the transfer at Don Mills than getting it designed as well as possible.


  30. “Far too much effort is being expended on schemes to eliminate the transfer at Don Mills than getting it designed as well as possible.”

    The transfer at Don Mills is a forest-for-the-trees issue. The real problem is that the Sheppard subway has no future. In particular it will never be extended westbound to Downsview and beyond. Meanwhile the Finch line is stuck at Keele for the foreseeable future. As long as the Sheppard subway exists, there’s little hope of a higher-order crosstown transit link ever being built north of Eglinton.


  31. Steve,

    If I remember correctly, before the current Sheppard was built (with funding from the Harris Tories … as a plum to Mel for accepting amalgamation), the Sheppard East bus corridor was the most travelled at the time. What most forget was that, just like today, the crowds and buses split at Don Mills. Steve, remember the Van Horne bus used the articulted Thorus buses because of the crowds and it was so crowded in that section that this route was EXPRESS TO DON MILLS. The section between Don Mills and Victoria Park/Consumers Road was a huge chunk of it’s ridership! And as for this subway line being a stub, this line is slightly shorter than the original Yonge line from Union to Eglinton!

    A lot of times, ridership patterns change because the TTC updates its routes. Take for example the Senlac/Willowdale route which started out many years ago as the 59G branch of the North Yonge. After the subway was extended to York Mills, the route split in two … Senlac and Wilowdale. Next thing, was the introduction of the Drewry bus, a more direct connection to the Yonge subway. Result … a drop in ridership on Senlac. Maybe, the planners should look more often into what factors have affected ridership patterns rather than grasping onto “build it and they will come!”

    Take care Steve.


  32. Steve said:

    “Next, the problem with overhead clearance is not in the round tunnels but in the box structures adjacent to the stations (mainly for crossovers).”

    This raises an interesting question. If the Flexitys could be modified to also use some form of third rail power underground, would there be sufficient overhead clearance for them in the Sheppard subway tunnels with the pantograph retracted? I don’t think the Sheppard line should be converted at this time since the proposed transfer at Don Mills with some effort at synchronizing departures on both lines there will be more than adequate. However, if the Flexitys can’t even fit in the current tunnels with a retracted pantograph, then there’s no point in continuing talking about the idea of a conversion.


  33. Nick L says:
    March 24, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    Steve said:

    “Next, the problem with overhead clearance is not in the round tunnels but in the box structures adjacent to the stations (mainly for crossovers).”

    “This raises an interesting question. If the Flexitys could be modified to also use some form of third rail power underground, would there be sufficient overhead clearance for them in the Sheppard subway tunnels with the pantograph retracted? I don’t think the Sheppard line should be converted at this time since the proposed transfer at Don Mills with some effort at synchronizing departures on both lines there will be more than adequate. However, if the Flexitys can’t even fit in the current tunnels with a retracted pantograph, then there’s no point in continuing talking about the idea of a conversion.”

    There are still 2 major problems:

    1 Track Gauge

    2 Platform height

    The new LRT fleet will be standard gauge, 4’8.5″ not TTC gauge, 4′ 10 7/8″ which the subway is. The tracks in the subway are bolted directly to the concrete base. You would need to rebuild the base with tie plates at standard gauge. This would be extremely expensive.

    The platform height, along with escalators and elevators is way too high for Flexity’s. Granted that there is 1 150 section of platform that is unused at the moment because only 4 car trains are being run it would still be outrageously expensive and difficult to lower the stairs, escalators and elevators to the Flexity’s platform level.

    Putting third rail shoes on the Flexity trucks would be difficult given the difference in wheel diameter between the subway and the LRV’s.

    If the Transit City cars were TTC gauge then it might be possible to do the conversion but the problem with platform heights and pantograph clearance would still be an expensive problem to solve. Having to rebuild the bottom of the tunnel to change gauge just makes it all the more difficult.


  34. Andrew said:

    “The real problem is that the Sheppard subway has no future. In particular it will never be extended westbound to Downsview and beyond. Meanwhile the Finch line is stuck at Keele for the foreseeable future. As long as the Sheppard subway exists, there’s little hope of a higher-order crosstown transit link ever being built north of Eglinton.”

    “No future” and “never” seem oddly and unjustifiably definite. The Finch line is planned to reach Yonge eventually, and I can well envisage Don Mills station as a northern terminus for an extension of the DRL north.

    But I’m still unsure about who would need and – of course – use such a “higher-order” crosstown transit line north of Eglinton. I will admit that I’ve certainly wished for a “closed loop” whether on Sheppard in the past, but I have a hard time imagining how it would improve the network in the northern suburbs.

    In my case, I frequently travel from Bathurst & Wilson to Yonge & Finch. Generally this involves walking 5-10 minutes to the former intersection and waiting for the 96 or 165 to take to York Mills Station. That’s one transfer. Supposing the Sheppard line extended west to Downsview, I could take the Bathurst 7 north to the hypothetical Bathurst North station, then the subway east to Sheppard-Yonge, followed by a second transfer to the Yonge line north to Finch. So, two transfers there. On the other hand, if the Finch LRT ran to Yonge, I could again take the Bathurst 7 north to Finch, then the LRT east to Yonge. No subway needed at all and only one transfer.

    So, to review this little story of the network (and admittedly these times are speculative):

    Status quo:
    Wilson bus to Yonge line – 5-10 minutes of walking to the bus stop, up to 20 minutes waiting for the 96/165, 10 minutes east to Yonge, 10-15 minutes to Finch – total ~40 minutes give or take

    Sheppard subway:
    5 minutes walking to the bus stop, up to 15 minutes waiting for the 7, 15-20 minutes north to Sheppard, 10-15 minutes east to Yonge, 5-10 minutes to Finch – total ~40-45 minutes

    Finch LRT:
    5 minutes walking to the bus stop, up to 15 minutes waiting for the 7, 25-30 minutes north to Finch, 10-15 minutes east to Yonge – total ~45-50 minutes

    Yes, these are somewhat arbitrary times, but I hope it illustrates that the most significant bottlenecks to getting from point A to point B have little to do with the presence of a “crosstown” subway connection, and almost everything to do with inadequate bus service. While the Bathurst 7 bus runs with reasonable headways, it can also be pretty slow (on the other hand, outside of peak times it’s a very quick way to get downtown until St Clair West), inasmuch as the driving on Bathurst can be frustratingly slow at the best of times.

    But the 96/165 routes are much, much worse, and subject to poorer headways (usually not better than every 15 min). Even worse, they often bunch together. Once on the bus, they’re quick routes to Yonge, but the trick is getting on in a timely way. Either way, a Sheppard subway extension west does little to improve the network, and considering how quiet that corridor of Sheppard is, it would simply be a further drain on the operating subsidy – and at the expense of the broader network, such as the aforementioned buses.


  35. All Subway platforms are hollow. I’ve seen the construction photos of the old Yonge Street Subway showing stations without the platforms. The platforms can be jack-hammered out and low-floor platforms put in. And since the stations are designed for 6-car Subway car trains, but set currently for use 4-cars, they can start lowering with the unused portions to speed things up. As for the LFLRV’s themselves, the could use Bombardier’s PRIMOVE system of catenary-free if the height of the tunnels are too short.

    Steve: A few points here. Even if the floor height can be changed, the landings of existing escalators and elevators would still be at the wrong elevation and would require some sort of transition between the old and new floors. The Sheppard trains will have to run under pantographs to reach Conlins carhouse, and regardless of their power pickup method in the tunnels, there must still be clearance for a retracted pantograph on top of a car. As for Primove, I do not believe that this system is intended as the sole or primary method of power pickup for major routes, but as a means of bridging sensitive areas. I have yet to see any presentation from Bombardier comparing power consumption and system maintenance costs between Primove and catenary. Your proposal would require that we operate the entire distance from Don Mills to Yonge with this technology, the part of the line with the heaviest demand.


  36. Hi Steve, Thanks for all of your great work and insight into the debate and discussion concerning public transit and the politics of Toronto.

    It’s a sad state of affairs when we have a large city that is now being divided by conservative politics. It was the Conservative government to which the Ford family belonged who cancelled the construction of the Eglinton subway which the provincial NDP government started. I’m neither right nor left wing in politics as the only opinion I form is based solely on facts not rhetoric. If it had not been for the Conservative government under Mike Harris to which Tim Hudak and the Ford’s father had been cabinet minister’s in the transit mess that both Rob and Doug Ford constantly refer to wouldn’t be as bad as what it is. To blame the sad state of transit of Miller is just a smoke screen for the underlying problem of the TTC being held as POLITICAL hostages!

    Firstly, cancelling fare increases as Ford did only buys votes not a good state of repair for RELIABLE transportation plus increased operating costs due to increases in hydro, fuel, oils, and parts for the vehicles. To claim it’s all about misspending by lazy union members is just rhetoric. Operating costs are a fact in good state of repair and if you cut operating costs then either you cut service or repairs to which leaves our transit service as a third world transit service unlike the world class service the politicians always talk about yet delay and delay!! The TTC is very top heavy in management as the management numbers has climbed drastically since David Gunn left the commission yet the management are not the ones driving, nor repairing the vehicles or stations. If over management was the answer then we would have clean stations and stations with all the elevators and escalators working and all the buses, street cars and subways clean and on time.

    Secondly, for the media to only concentrate on parts of stories instead of giving the complete picture so the taxpayers and users of transit could decide how to steer their coucillors is very concerning. The media constantly broadcast the rhetoric that the Ford brothers spew about the St. Clair project, yet one thing that got my attention was during the Gary Webster debate at city hall when Andrew Krystal interviewed Bob Kinnear. Doug Ford’s rhetoric was totally incorrect and I don’t know where he gets his information as he blamed the union (ATU 113) for the cost over runs during the construction of St.Clair. Bob Kinnear told Andrew Krystal that the ATU 113 had NOTHING to do with the construction of the St. Clair project and that is was constructed by over 20 (28 to be exact) PRIVATE contractors and yet the media didn’t run with the story to contradict Doug Ford’s rhetoric that only leads to further bashing of the operators of the TTC. Every company has a few bad apples yet only when a TTC employee screws up does the media concentrate on that. If the general public had all the information and not rhetoric then the transit debate would not be as divisive and poisonous as it is.

    Thirdly, As for LRT vs. Subways … I believe that most people would agree that subways are supreme to LRT’s but the burning question is can the taxpayer AFFORD subways. Because subways are not affordable at the present time, I also believe that LRT’s should be built as they DO NOT drive in live traffic lames and are NOT streetcars as the Ford’s rhetoric claims. The truth should be told especially by the mayor so the taxpayer knows exactly what their tax dollars (even provincial tax dollars) are being spent on. If he is uninformed as to the construction of an LRT then he should excuse himself from the debate until he becomes educated in such construction as and LRT is NOT a streetcar!!!

    Rob Ford’s first agenda item following his election was to cancel the Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT). Had Rob Ford not cancelled the VRT then the money from that could have been used for subways. Also because Rob Ford froze property taxes in 2011 the revenue from a property tax increase including subsequent years could have paid for Rob Ford’s subway dream. Because of the lack of tax revenue and funding for subways and the lack of foresight by Rob Ford I truly believe LRT’s are the most AFFORDABLE way to go. If Rob Ford and his Conservative friends had any foresight as to the long term health of transit in Toronto then the Eglinton subway would have NEVER been cancelled and the VRT would not have been cancelled along with a 2011 property tax freeze. How can a subway plan be paid for without a tax revenue as money doesn’t grow on trees and private corporations will not gamble their profits on a dream and a prayer.

    Fourthly, Rob Ford released a video on YouTube during his election campaign concerning his platform on Transportation in Toronto and in his video to which became his MANDATE, he promised no tax increases for his subway plan yet after 18 months since the release of that video he STILL doesn’t have a viable business plan to fund his subway dream YET he calls himself a DO’ER. How is that being a DO’ER? His rhetoric is getting very tiresome as is his “gravy train” rhetoric to which he didn’t find yet during his election campaign he said billions could be saved without any SERVICE CUTS! That also became his precious MANDATE to which he has also failed to deliver. I believe it’s time he steps up to the plate and DELIVER (become a DO’ER) on his election promises (MANDATE). I still remember the rhetoric from the Republicans in the United States about the Weapons of Mass Destruction yet all that was proven was to be rhetoric just like Rob Ford seems to be. It’s such a shame because if I lived in Toronto, I would have voted for him based on his election platform and now I am relieved I don’t live in Toronto as I sure would have felt like a fool.

    Lastly, I think the pending lawsuit about Rob Ford’s alleged violation of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act (MCOIA) could weigh heavily if Rob Ford will be able to continue his rhetoric about subways past the fall as the Mayor of Toronto unless both Doug and himself run for the provincial Conservatives, as the way Clayton Ruby spoke about Rob Ford’s alleged violation of MCOIA it doesn’t look good that he’ll be the Mayor for too much longer.

    Great Job Steve and I’m an avid reader of your blog.


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