The Scarborough Subway Vs LRT Debate, Again (Updated)

Updated July 3, 2013 at 11:20pm: 

TTC Chair Karen Stintz, as reported by the CBC’s Jamie Strashin on Twitter, claims that Minister of Transportation Glen Murray has put $1.4b of the planned $1.8b SRT conversion cost on the table as a contribution to a subway project.

Jamie Strashin ‏@StrashinCBC

TTC Chair Karen Stintz tells me she just met with Provincial Transportation Minister Glen Murray. 1/2

2/2 Stintz: Murray indicated that if city shows clarity around subway option, province would be “open” to freeing up $1.4 slated for LRT.

There has been no confirmation from Murray whether this is true, or if Stintz/Strashin have misreported a conversation.  Such a proposal would violate claims about provincial support for a subway extension that were made in the Metrolinx letter to the City of Toronto.  Given Murray’s past history of freelancing on government policy, we will have to wait for clarification of what is really on the table from the provincial point of view.  An informed debate at Council requires that this be stated publicly and unambiguously from the Premier’s Office.

Meanwhile, Stintz offers her own version of the situation on her blog, but with no reference to her conversation with Minister Murray.  She repeats the canard that a four-year shutdown will be required to replace the SRT with LRT in the same corridor.  Moreover, she adds a sweetener about using the existing SRT right-of-way to expand trackage for the GO Stouffville corridor, something which is not actually necessary.

Mayor Ford has announced that he has asked the City Manager to report to the July16 Council meeting on the Scarborough subway option.  How definitive this report will be remains to be seen, especially if the TTC and Metrolinx cannot come to an agreement on cost estimates and the penalties involved in ending the LRT project.

The original article follows below.

Once more we see Metrolinx and City Council engaged in the eternal question of whether the Danforth Subway should be extended north to Sheppard, or the Scarborough RT converted to an LRT line.

I have written about this at some length before (May 2013, January 2013, October 2012, July 2012 , December 2010 among others) and will not belabour previous arguments.

After the recent Metrolinx Board meeting, during the press scrum, I asked how many responses had been received to the Request for Qualifications on the Eglinton-Crosstown project seeing that the closing date was mid-May.  CEO Bruce McCuaig was elliptical in his reply offering only that the names of the respondents would be published in due course.

It didn’t take long for us to learn that the uncertainty regarding Toronto Council’s intent on its signed agreement to support an LRT for Scarborough was upsetting the bidding process.  In a letter to the City Manager and others, McCuaig states:

To ensure value-for-money, we need to attract high quality bidders to our procurements, and this cannot be achieved if there is uncertainty about City Council’s support for the projects.

[Full text of letter]

This implies that the process to date has not been particularly successful, and Metrolinx is placing the blame on the City’s indecision.

All of this started because of an ongoing campaign by some politicians to portray Scarborough as somehow hard done by, fobbed off with a “streetcar” when everyone else, especially those downtown elites, have subways.  The fact that this “streetcar” would operate at close to subway speeds on a completely separate right-of-way is just one of the casualties of the misinformation campaign.

Part of this comes from the Ford faction and the premise that nothing but subways will do.  Part comes from Scarborough Councillors, notably Glenn De Baeremaeker, who sense a threat to their political survival in supporting anything but a subway.  Then there are the mayoral aspirants at least some of whom declare “My Scarborough includes a subway”.

Arguing for LRT in this context is a steep uphill battle.

What Does an LRT or Subway Give Us?

If the line is built as LRT, it will serve more potential riders directly as walk-in customers, notably the Centennial College campus, but also a future extension to Malvern Centre, than a subway would.  Demand models show more people choosing to ride the subway because the models favour a faster route with fewer stops and the elimination of the transfer at Kennedy Station.

The LRT would run almost as fast as the subway, and would extend further into Scarborough, but the transfer at Kennedy cannot be avoided.  However, the design for the new Kennedy Station places the LRT line on the same level as the ticketing mezzanine (the level between the bus loop and the subway trains).  Riders would walk from the new LRT platform directly into the existing station and down one level to the subway.  Current subway to SRT transfers involve a three-level change and a high probability that one or more escalator/elevator may be out of service.  It is unclear which degree of penalty was used in the demand model.

The subway will give a direct ride for Bloor-Danforth passengers through Kennedy to stations mainly on McCowan leading up to Sheppard.  An important design issue, as yet unanswered, is the connection to Scarborough Town Centre as the new station would probably be under McCowan, not within the mall as the SRT station is today.  This will be good for people in walking distance of the east side of STC, but worse for everyone else.  McCowan Station is not the busiest place on the TTC’s network.

The alignment of the subway is such that an extension to Malvern will never happen.

How Much Will This Cost?

Many numbers have been cited for the cost of the LRT and subway proposals.  At one point, the subway was pegged at over $3-billion, but this included provision for a new yard and expansion of the subway fleet.  Neither of these is needed for an extension of the Danforth subway as I discussed in a previous article.  In January 2013, the subway estimate was set at $2.8b by the TTC in 2011$, but quite recently they have discovered that this value included inflation.  When that is corrected, the subway is down to $2.3b.

The same January 2013 report claimed that the LRT line would cost $2.3b, and this led to the claim by subway supporters that their option would only cost half a billion more.  (That was when the subway still cost $2.8b.)  However, the LRT estimate included $500m for its own carhouse and yard, a leftover from the plan when Mark II Skytrain technology was on the table.  Correcting for this brings the LRT line down to $1.8b.  This also happens to be the Metrolinx estimate (in 2010$) for the project.

So far, we have the commonly reported half-billion dollar spread ($1.8b vs $2.3b).  The fact that both estimates were off by a huge amount might give one pause in believing any of the numbers in this debate, especially considering the importance of the discussions for which the original estimates were prepared.

Metrolinx, however, has additional costs that abandoning the LRT project would bring:

  • The design costs for the LRT fleet for the (now) four LRT lines has been allocated among the budgets for each line.  The Scarborough line’s share is $21m and this would be transferred to the other project budgets, not be reclaimed for a subway project.
  • Planning and design work on the LRT line has cost $41m to date, and a further $23m has been spent on program management.
  • Bombardier would likely invoke a penalty clause for a reduction in the LRV fleet order especially considering that the TTC does not need any more subway cars for the BD line that could be used as a trade-off.
  • A new subway would not likely open until at least 2021.  The TTC estimates that it will cost $60m to keep the SRT running for the extra period.
  • The existing structures will have to be dismantled at an unknown cost.
  • The biggest single charge relates to cost sharing with the Eglinton-Crosstown project.

Metrolinx has chosen to book the entire cost of the new interchange between the Eglinton, Bloor-Danforth and Scarborough lines at Kennedy Station to the Scarborough project’s budget in the sum of $320m.  Why they have done this is not clear, as with a lot of Metrolinx accounting, but this cost does not disappear if the Scarborough LRT is replaced by a subway extension.  Some work at Kennedy Station will still be needed for the Eglinton LRT line.  How much is a point of debate between the TTC and Metrolinx.

By Metrolinx estimates the difference between the LRT and subway proposals could be over $925m, money the city would have to find on its own hook and which would likely displace many other projects.  To put this in context, the rehabilitation of the western half of the Gardiner Expressway is about $500m.

Now we come to another piece of Metrolinx accounting.  When Queen’s Park took total control of the Transit City lines and funding, they did so in a way that allows them to defer the cost on their books and thereby bring the date of a “balanced budget” forward.  (All governments use this sort of trickery and while it might be satisfying to blame it all on former Premier McGuinty, he is not alone in the practice.)  Here is how it works.

  • In a conventional transit funding scheme, a subway tunnel, say, is paid for by various governments but winds up as a municipal asset.  (The Spadina extension is a good example of this.)  When this happens, audit rules require that the subsidies be expensed in the year when the money changes hands because Queen’s Park (or Ottawa) receives nothing in return to balance off the payment.
  • If the province holds title to the subway, then it shows up on their books and can be depreciated as a capital asset.  On paper, although the same money has gone from the Treasury to the builder, the difference is that there is something on the books to show for it beyond the fleeting goodwill of municipal politicians and voters.

For the Scarborough LRT, Queen’s Park was to be the owner through Metrolinx, but this arrangement will not work for a subway extension that would be operated and maintained as an integral part of the TTC network.  Trading in the Scarborough LRT money for a subway creates accounting challenges, and Metrolinx mutters darkly that the City may have to pony up some of its own money to paper over this problem.

That’s not a convincing argument because it had far more to do with Premier McGuinty’s desire to push transit expenditures into the distant future than with expanding the transit system.  The same consideration is responsible for the long delays in completion of the first Transit City lines.  An accounting dodge to keep the Provincial Auditor happy is no way to run a major transit project.

We have a “new” Liberal administration at Queen’s Park, and it should revisit and jettison this sort of hocus-pocus.  Are we going to spend money on transit or not?  Something is out of whack if we have to agonize over the bookkeeping.

How Long Will This Take?

For the subway option, a rough estimate from the TTC and Metrolinx is at least eight years from the point of project approval.  There is no detailed engineering for the subway, no Environmental Assessment, none of the interminable process of haggling over where the stations will go (and you can be sure that some will be added at $150m a pop before the project is finished).  Preliminary design, EA and final design leading to construction will take three years.  Building the line will take another five.  This means an opening date in 2021 at best, and another eight years of dealing with the declining fortunes of the SRT.

For the LRT option, the construction period is expected to be under three years according to Metrolinx, and they would like to get it down to 2.5.  Meanwhile, subway advocates (including TTC Chair Karen Stintz in a Tweet a few hours before this article was completed), claim that there will be a four-year shutdown of the SRT.  This longer period was based on two claims that were, generously speaking, misinterpreted:

  • At one point, the SRT project was spoken of as starting in late 2015 and being completed “by 2019”.  In a worst case interpretation, that’s four years.
  • In the original construction plans, the time needed to build the extension was included in the shutdown, but obviously this is not required.  Metrolinx plans to built the north end (McCowan to Sheppard) before shutting down the SRT and this shaves time off the shutdown period.

Without question, 2.5 years of a replacement bus service will be no picnic for Scarborough.  (Although I live downtown, I worked at STC from 2000 to 2009 and know well the joys of the SRT and its frequent replacement by bus shuttles.)  The question, then, is “can the shutdown be justified as a tradeoff for a less expensive replacement line that directly serves more riders and is better positioned for extension”.

The Politics

That is both a planning and a political decision, one made all the more difficult by Mayor Ford’s subway monomania and the concerted effort to sell the subway to Scarborough by convincing them that nothing else comes up to their aspirations of civic grandeur and respect.

Some members of Council, including the Mayor, are at least consistently for subways, and there is a pro-LRT faction that is even a tad more radical than I am.  These I can respect for consistency, if not for the content of their positions.

Meanwhile, we have TTC Chair Stintz who has been both pro-LRT and pro-subway as it suits the season.  She sold LRT with fervour when it meant wresting control of the transit agenda from the Fords, but then decided that buying votes in Scarborough was more important and flipped to the subway camp.  Her position, and that of others supporting the subway option, is a bit vague thanks in part to the uncertainty of the dollar value of a subway decision.

The irony here is that the very people who ridiculed Rob Ford for paying for a subway network with “pixie dust” now have the same vague promises of how they will fund a Scarborough subway.  What other projects will fall off of the table?  What else in the municipal budget will be pillaged to pay for a subway extension?  Will Liberal members of Council and the Queen’s Park caucus sing the government’s tune on staying the course with LRT, or will they play to their Scarborough constituents hoping that a higher power (The Premier) will rescue them from having to deliver?

Once again, transit plans may be tied in knots in Toronto thanks to the delays of Mayor Ford and Premier McGuinty.  “Momentum”, the sort of thing one needs in large scale plans, is not the word of the day, and Toronto risks losing out completely depending on political winds at the municipal and provincial levels.

Postscript: What Would I Build?

If, in fact, Toronto wants subways and nothing but subways, we need to have a very serious discussion about where and when these will be built and how we will pay for them.  The much touted “private sector” has lots of money, but they want to invest, not to simply hand out cash for corporate goodwill.  The bloom is off PPP’s (private public partnerships) at least in part because politicians awakened to the fact that investors want to be paid back, and the overhead of managing a third-party owner-operator is not trivial.

All the talk of reducing congestion and improving transit will be meaningless if we cannot agree on and afford to build a network.  Talk of “only” $2b a year in new taxes has not been received warmly “out there” by the folks who would benefit, and it must be remembered that the most expensive parts of The Big Move are the subway lines within the City of Toronto.  If we really do want “subways subways subways”, then Toronto should be prepared to tax itself to pay for the extra cost of building and operating them.

I am often asked “so, Mr. Big Shot Critic, what would you do here”.  My answer is quite simple, although the problem is a challenging one: build an LRT network.  The fundamental problem with Toronto’s transit planning has been the premise that subways will go on forever and ever.  We simply cannot afford this, and at some point there must be a transition to less expensive, lower capacity modes whose network can be more spread out.

The hardest decision is to say “this is where the subway ends”.  Somebody will always be beyond the last station, and LRT (or BRT if capacity permits) must take over where the subway leaves off.  That boundary should not mark the end of high-quality transit, so often the experience that makes people yearn for subways at any cost.

103 thoughts on “The Scarborough Subway Vs LRT Debate, Again (Updated)

  1. Addendum to last. TTC says 12 minute savings from MTC to Kennedy. That’s not worth the pain that the transfer. And people intuitively know that.

    Extending the subway should also simplify Eglinton. It can now be run as a through service. I would rather not even see it leave the road. Run it right through to Kingston Road. Would do wonders for Southeast Scarborough.

    Steve: I agree that through running Eglinton past Kennedy would be wonderful, but that line isn’t even in the “Next Wave” list at Metrolinx and so isn’t up for consideration for close to two decades. As for that transfer, do you refer to the existing three-level transfer at Kennedy, or the proposed one-level LRT to Subway one roughly comparable to Spadina Station but with more room?


  2. I haven’t clearly stated my opinion on the LRT versus subway for Scarborough, but I’ve made up my mind now:

    The only advantage of the subway extension over the LRT is the elimination of the transfer from Kennedy/Eglinton (as has been pointed out, that transfer will simply shift further northeast). Speed is pretty much the same for both LRT and Subway. Interim operating costs during the shut-down can favour either options (depending on whether it’s more expensive to operate replacement buses or extend the ICTS’s lifetime). Capital costs, long-term operating costs, route length (number of stations), and everything else that matters all favour the LRT.

    It’s a wash. LRT is the way to go.

    Steve: To be fair to subway advocates and their concern about transfers, they point out that they now ride a bus, likely to STC, transfer to the RT, and then transfer again to the subway at Kennedy. They may still have a bus to subway transfer somewhere, but the Kennedy transfer vanishes. That said, I would like anyone who complains about the Kennedy arrangement to specify which version of the station they are talking about because the new LRT station will be under the north side of the bus loop and only one level above the subway, not unlike the arrangement at Spadina Station.


  3. If the subway does go ahead, how will that affect the Sheppard East LRT? Will there have to be a new EA for the connection at McCowan? Would you expect any new delays?

    Steve: I have deep suspicions that the Sheppard LRT would not survive a Ford re-election or a change in government at Queen’s Park. McGuinty pushed its completion date so far off, and Metrolinx added to this, that it’s now 2021, and there is plenty of time for the project to self-destruct. I do not believe a word coming out of Queen’s Park or Metrolinx right now. QP because they’re making it up as they go along, and Metrolinx because their claims/opinions are worthless in the face of political machinations.


  4. Transportation Minister Glen Murray was on Metro Morning this morning to speak to this debate. It seems he talking out of both side of his mouth. He favours the current plan to convert the SRT to LRT but seems to give the impression that he would go with a subway extension if there was a good case to do so, stating his decision would be “evidence based”, whatever that means. I guess if Council discovered that pot of magic fairy dust and said that would cover any added cost of a subway extension then Murray might be persuaded to go with a subway extension. The subway extension does have some advantages to an LRT conversion of the SRT, but I’m not sure in the balance of things they justify a subway extension, especially given the unknown added costs. Steve, any indication that in the debates at council anyone has mentioned the higher operating costs of subway? Or is that not even on the radar?

    Even as a Scarborough resident, I still see the relief line as a higher priority – removing the inconvenient and awkward transfer at Kennedy does nothing to reduced the crush at Yonge & Bloor. I now ride my bike as often as possible, not the least because I do not enjoy the crush transferring to the Bloor line, sometimes bypassing 1 or more trains to find one with enough space to squeeze on (my travel time on bike also routinely beats that on the subway).


    Steve: Glen Murray has a cock-and-bull story about building transit that can be self-supporting through new development. This totally ignores the fact that we have four decades of development that already exists without transit to serve it, and the kind of density he wants isn’t likely to arise. His dithering on this file gave Stintz & Co. long enough to start the march to a subway-oriented plan.


  5. Another problem with the subway option that is being overlooked, as far as I can tell, is what we would do with all of the existing SRT infrastructure once the subway is built. We can’t just leave the el and all the stations abandoned, so who would pay to tear that all down? And what about STC station? It currently accommodates not only the RT, but TTC, GO and Greyhound buses. Where at McCowan and Progress would all that be relocated? In the mall parking lot?

    There’s also that second exit that the builder of the condo directly south of STC station had to build. All told, it just seems like a ridiculous waste to throw away all of this existing infrastructure to build a subway in a corridor that already has rapid transit. It would be better to spend any extra money getting a new rapid transit line started elsewhere, such as the DRL.

    Steve: If the subway option goes forward, I foresee all sorts of changes to the alignment at great expense so that the subway can make a better connection with the “centre” of STC. That $1-billion extra needed for the subway will grow very quickly. Don’t forget, by the way, that it’s 2010$ and inflation will add a lot by the time anything is actually built. Whether contributions from Queen’s Park and, maybe, Ottawa will inflate as well remains to be seen. On the Spadina project, there is an absolute dollar cap, and the city has to eat cost overruns or trim project costs to fit available money.


  6. Interesting to note in the “Scarborough Rapid Transit Options” report released today there was this point buried near the end under the project scope:

    Connection at Kennedy Station that does not preclude through running with Eglinton Crosstown LRT

    Also in one of the tables it says the 2031 projected peak hour/peak direction ridership to be 8,000 for the LRT option and a rather large 9,500-14,000 range for the subway option. How it got to that I have no clue.

    I should add that it does state that they made assumptions in their assessment but does not go into any major detail other than assuming that a DRL is in place for the model. Oh and the addon costs. We love the addon costs. There’s talk about ATC, Bloor-Yonge expansion and other goodies added on to accommodate a Scarborough subway extension. I’m surprised a new subway yard didn’t sneak its way on to there.


  7. What is going to happen is that these lrt lines, if this debate continues, will not get built because the want for a costly subway will be approved be the city then a the Liberals get defeated and the PCs will cancel the subways because they want to make cuts. Just like what happen when Mike Harris was in power with the Eglinton subway. Torontonians need to start being anti-lrt. Ford really has a lot of people thinking that the newer lrt are streetcars.

    Steve: I am not sure you mean to say that Torontonians should become anti-lrt as you argue the opposite.

    When I visited SF last year, I was impressed on how MUNI’s lrt lines ran especially under Market street and Third street line. It showed me how Toronto would be when our LRT lines are completed and running. Some anti-lrt Torontonians should visit SF and see how they run. Subways are nice but I believe that they should be built where it can be justified properly. Scarborough east end can’t really justify a subway.

    This debate is a very dangerous one. The people of Scarborough want a subway but they may or may not get their wish.

    Steve: If you ask Santa for a pony, and he can’t afford it, hope for at least an orange, because otherwise it’s an empty stocking or a lump of coal.


  8. Brendan H. said: If the subway does go ahead, how will that affect the Sheppard East LRT? Will there have to be a new EA for the connection at McCowan? Would you expect any new delays?

    Steve replied: I have deep suspicions that the Sheppard LRT would not survive a Ford re-election or a change in government at Queen’s Park. McGuinty pushed its completion date so far off, and Metrolinx added to this, that it’s now 2021, and there is plenty of time for the project to self-destruct. I do not believe a word coming out of Queen’s Park or Metrolinx right now. QP because they’re making it up as they go along, and Metrolinx because their claims/opinions are worthless in the face of political machinations.

    I’d agree with you there, Steve…especially since the City Manager+TTC CEO’s report talks about asking the Federal Government to transfer $330 million from the Sheppard East LRT project to pay some of the extra cost of the Scarborough Subway over the Scarborough LRT.

    L. Wall said:

    Interesting to note in the “Scarborough Rapid Transit Options” report released today there was this point buried near the end under the project scope:

    Connection at Kennedy Station that does not preclude through running with Eglinton Crosstown LRT

    Also in one of the tables it says the 2031 projected peak hour/peak direction ridership to be 8,000 for the LRT option and a rather large 9,500-14,000 range for the subway option. How it got to that I have no clue.

    That is the City Manager and TTC CEO hedging their support for a Scarborough Subway … the report also talks about the need for massive growth along the corridor and at STC to justify the higher capital costs and unused capacity of the subway. It also points out that McCowan is a stable neighbourhood up to Lawrence and there is little to justify the Lawrence East station except the Scarborough Hospital (presumably buses would head to Ellesmere/STC). Also interesting is the call for a terminal at Sheppard. We may only end up with a two station extension (Lawrence East & Ellesmere/ STC with no Sheppard or Ellesmere/STC & Sheppard with no Lawrence East) … won’t that be something.

    I dunno … maybe with a subway going to an area that has already had rapid transit for 30 years, and is seeing development … and needs massive development to justify the capital costs of a subway … maybe developers might finally ‘get on board’ with Ford’s subway(s) plan … or the city might have to hit them up for increased development charges … I won’t hold my breath though for that money to actually be able to pay for anything substantial.

    Cheers, Moaz

    Steve: I find it amusing that the development industry has been railing against the proposed doubling of Development Charges for a variety of current projects, never mind the additional DCs and property tax revenue needed to carry the city’s share of the Scarborough Subway.

    All those Councillors who just can’t bring themselves to vote for new taxes may very well repeat their past performance of approving a subway, but not approving any way to pay for it. What will Queen’s Park do then?

    And, of course, where is all that evidence-based planning Glen Murray prattles on about? It is clear as you say that the now-higher projection for demand on the subway depends on development at an intensity that may not be practical in the affected area. This sort of cooked demand number is the same trick that “justified” the Sheppard subway.


  9. Money can be found for the Scarborough subway by cancelling the Sheppard LRT. Also, do all cut and cover under Eglinton to Danforth, then north along Danforth to McCowan. Only deep bore under 401 to Sheppard. Stops at Eglinton/Danforth, Lawrence/McCowan, STC, McCowan/Sheppard. Plan for future westbound turn at McCowan/Sheppard into Sheppard subway, and future Eglinton lrt east of Kennedy. If motorists and businesses complain about cut n cover tell them to suck it up, they are getting a subway for crissakes. Cut n cover should save big $ over deep bore and stations will be cheaper and users won’t have to descend as many stairs.


  10. Build it and they will come wrote:

    Plan for future westbound turn at McCowan/Sheppard into Sheppard subway…

    This same idiotic curve was part of the wants of the crowd that wanted the Sheppard subway extended, which naturally is the same crowd once again.

    As much as these folks love subways, they seem to have little knowledge or awareness of the physical requirements of them. A subway-carrying curve connecting a line on Sheppard with a line on McCowan simply cannot turn within the constraints of the intersection of those two streets.

    The radius of such a curve needs to be 700 metres, so get out your Google maps folks and take a look at what this means: no station at McCowan and Sheppard: the line has to begin leaving Sheppard as far west as Brimley and cannot join McCowan until just north of the 401. More importantly, just how many homeowners in that area who are now all for subway over LRT are all gung-ho about tunneling directly under their neighbourhood?


  11. This is like a dysfunctional family getting more dysfunctional. Separated parents, young children shared between them.

    The kids are getting old enough for pets. One parent says, “We’ll get you some goldfish and you can take care of them. I’m sure you will do well. Then we can go looking for a nice puppy.”

    The other parent tells the kids, “Goldfish? Puppy? That’s nothing. The only real pet is a pony. You are being ripped off!”

    So now the kids are screaming, “I don’t wanna goldfish! I don’t wanna puppy! I wanna pony! I wanna PONY! PONY! PONY! PONY!”

    The first parent gives in, because otherwise the kids will hate them. Hate them for withholding the right to have a pony. Everyone deserves a pony.

    Of course, there is no indication that the kids can take care of a pony, and the cost of a pony, well, there’s no money for that either. It’s all shaping up to be a big disaster.

    I don’t know who deserves to be sent up to their room without supper and TV more: the Scarborough residents who are behaving like a bratty seven-year-old, or the parent who cynically manipulates the kids for their own gain, or the parent who gives in to the kids’ screams without any sort of notion of how to actually afford and support a pony.

    Steve: There are actually some Scarborough residents who know they will be well into their adult lives, not kiddies any more, by the time that pony arrives, and that many others in Scarborough won’t even get a goldfish.


  12. Missing in this discussion is the actual connection to STC. There has been a direct connection at STC to the SRT for the past 30 years, and I assume it is taken as a given. Then I see the alignment for the BD extension, and it does not connect to STC. It seems to go up McCowan, with a dot on McCowan Road near STC.

    Now one problem with the current Kennedy interface to SRT is going up 3 staircases or escalators, and having to transfer trains. The BD extension ends that inconvenience, but creates a different one. If I offered to drive you to STC, you would expect to get dropped at the curb, not at McCowan Road, past the outer edge of the parking lot.

    Since there has not been an EA yet, these details are probably not yet clear, but I think the actual connection to STC is a big deal, and we should clarify right now what sort of connection to STC is included in the TTC cost estimate.

    Or am I off base here?

    Steve: No, you’re completely correct to ask this question. The scheme presumes a shift of the “centre” of STC east to as-yet unbuild development around the station at McCowan. But don’t distract folks in Scarborough with this detail. Remember they they are trying to get to downtown Toronto, not to STC itself. The only reason many trips go there today is that it is the transfer point for the bus feeders.


  13. Hello Steve, if the city votes to do the subway instead will they consider building it cut and cover? There’s enough room to do it along Eglinton to the Brimley Danforth Road McCowan triangle without causing much of a disruption. Eglinton is wide enough for this and McCowan is mostly residential from Eglinton to Ellesmere. This could cut costs from tunneling. It would also be smart to do a 4 track structure to Brimley triangle so the Eglinton LRT could run beside it when they ever extend it east, running on the south of subway tracks. A stop must be built at Brimley triangle to accommodate future development along that corridor, there’s lots of potential to increase density on Eglinton by Brimley.

    I can handle even a 50$ increase in property taxes if that’s what it takes to build it.

    Steve: It is precisely because McCowan is residential that cut-and-cover is highly unlikely. No politician is willing to foist that on their constituents.

    As for your $50 generosity, I look forward to your appearing in a public meeting somewhere far from Scarborough where you can explain why people there have higher property taxes to pay for the new subway. Unless we tax and build city-wide, we risk Balkanizing support for transit everywhere.


  14. Steve:

    I have deep suspicions that the Sheppard LRT would not survive a Ford re-election or a change in government at Queen’s Park.

    If the Sheppard subway is extended to Victoria Park and the Bloor line is extended to Sheppard, the Sheppard LRT will become redundant. Most people will be within a short ride from two subway lines and a GO station. Plus cancelling the redundant Sheppard LRT will provide the funds necessary to fully finance the outstanding balances of both projects.

    The real issue here is that the subway option does several things very well: (1) it quells political polarization (a major win), (2) the political win opens opportunities for the province to impose development charges and, (3) the development along the new subway lines will force the debate on the downtown relief line.

    My suggestion would be to use the political and financial tools that can be gained through the subway compromise to aggressively pursue a Downtown Relief Line from Eglinton and Don Mills to St Andrew station. The DRL has arguably the highest net present value of all the transit options and should be well within reach if the politics are handled properly. The DRL is key to economic competitiveness and productivity growth in Toronto. This is an opportunity that should not be missed.


  15. Regarding STC and downtown commuters – the situation is a bit more complex than just rush hour commuters. I live in Scarborough, use the TTC to commute to work, and use STC a lot. My teenagers use STC as a meeting. We all use it as a shopping spot and place with numerous restaurants and movies. It really is the heart of Scarborough’s “downtown”, and is a destination as well as a transfer point.

    I commute to work at North York Center from Scarborough. I estimate that 25% to 30% of the passengers that transfer at Bloor-Yonge go north rather than south. The Eglinton LRT should add some relief to the BD line when it is operational. Currently the Eglinton 34 bus is my “Plan B” when the subway is down. There is only about a 10 minute differential between the bus and the subway when I can go straight east-west, rather than going south to get north. The LRT lines are badly needed alternatives to our single subway lines.

    Steve: I agree that a greater flexibility in travel that is not core oriented is essential. I am also intrigued that the whole issue of shifting the transit alignment east of STC has received so little discussion.


  16. The radius of a subway curve has to be 700 metres?

    There’s no way the turn from Union to King has a radius of 700m. Or even St. George to Museum.

    Steve: That number should be feet, not metres. I should have caught that when the original comment came through. Even so, a curve from McCowan into Sheppard more or less precludes a station right at the intersection.


  17. “Steve: To be fair to subway advocates and their concern about transfers, they point out that they now ride a bus, likely to STC, transfer to the RT, and then transfer again to the subway at Kennedy. They may still have a bus to subway transfer somewhere, but the Kennedy transfer vanishes.”

    Fair enough, I wasn’t clear on this argument before. But they should still be honest on how great the utility of one less transfer is to our city. I find a lot of comparisons in transit debates lack perspective on the greatness and importance of different benefits.


  18. It would be ironic if the people complaining about the “nonsensical” and “unfair” Kennedy transfer (you know the ones) end up with an even worse transfer at STC.

    Maybe in 30 years we will hear people complaining about how Scarborough got screwed by the rest of the city and nasty downtown councillors like Stintz who foisted the subway on to them with the horrible transfer at STC.

    I see it going up one level, 5 minute walk east to McCowan, down 3 levels to subway or if they’re lucky, they’ll do a cut and cover passage along the bus roadway.

    There’s no way the turn from Union to King has a radius of 700m. Or even St. George to Museum.

    Even with the correction, we won’t be seeing curves like that ever built again. The new design paradigm is for larger curves that allow for higher speeds and lower maintenance requirements.


  19. “I am also intrigued that the whole issue of shifting the transit alignment east of STC has received so little discussion.”

    The whole issue of using a different route is glossed over, generally. Even the “Scarborough Rapid Transit Options” report released on Friday has maps that refer to “Conversion to Subway” and “Conversion to Light Rail Transit” (page 16). Admittedly, right under these headings are maps clearly showing dots in completely different locations, but I for one would never refer to the subway option as a “conversion” because that suggests substantially retaining the existing routing.

    Table 3 is also interesting, although not at all surprising to anybody who has been following along. According to that table, the number of people within walking access of stations is twice as high for the LRT (existing) route. Meanwhile the technology capacity is ample for even the slightly higher projected subway ridership.

    If there is ever a case where the anti-LRT case is simply idiotic, this is it. I understand, although obviously disagree with, the idea that LRT on Sheppard, for example, is “in the way” or slow or ugly or whatever. But none of the usual objections apply to the Scarborough RT case with its completely isolated right-of-way.

    This is like the discussion of the Trident nuclear missile in “Yes, Prime Minister”. “[Trident] is quite simply the best. And Britain should have the best”. Who cares that it costs £15,000,000,000, that there are better uses for the money, and that “the best” is a complex concept.

    Incidentally, I saw the Bombardier Flexity Freedom mockup at Waterloo Regional headquarters today. Very nice. I was interested to note that the marketing stuff claims a maximum capacity of 30,000 people per hour, which I believe is based on 4-car trains every 2 minutes. This is the same as the subway capacity given in the report I was discussing and double the LRT capacity that it gives. I’m not sure whether I should believe Bombardier’s marketing though. I can think of two reasons for the difference — one is that their marketing may assume super-crush loading that nobody would really want to use, and another might be platform length available on the Scarborough RT right-of-way. Of course, the kids are all enthusiastic and want our system to open tomorrow. I promised them that would we would go and watch the construction if it happens. They said if they were voting they would definitely vote for the project. Of course, for them it’s because it’s cool. For me it’s because it’s cool and because the numbers make it clear it would be very good for the city.


  20. To me this illustrates the difference between the B-D/LRT debate and status of the DRL. I think the LRT option is dying if not dead, but what this really shows is that politics trumps all. Over time this subway had or gained support from politicians at all levels in Scarborough, as well as from other parts of the city, and eventually enough critical mass was created to move it to the top of the agenda. Timing, in this case the upcoming by-elections, plays into this, but that’s all part of the political process.

    Meanwhile the DRL has seen only limited progress for half a decade despite being Toronto’s highest operational transit priority. Especially troubling is the lukewarm interest at best shown by most politicians in the core. If they don’t lead the fight for it, exactly who will?


  21. Build it and they will come questioned my point:

    The radius of a subway curve has to be 700 metres?

    I am terribly sorry, 700 metres is not correct.

    The minimum specification for operation at up to 80 km/h is 750 metres, according to the Subway Operations Report written back in 2006 for the Spadina Extension.

    A tighter curve is possible with speed restrictions, but doesn’t that counter the rapid benefits of a subway that are gained by having fewer stations?

    Steve: It is important to distinguish between the curve radius that can technically be operated at low speed and one designed for 80 km/h. The slower speed to which you refer would only apply to operation around the curve (think of Union to King), not to the entire line.


  22. Steve: It is important to distinguish between the curve radius that can technically be operated at low speed and one designed for 80 km/h. The slower speed to which you refer would only apply to operation around the curve (think of Union to King), not to the entire line.

    Where (if any) are the “fast” (though maybe not 80km/h) curves in the system? I can think of gradual curves between Old Milk & Jane, Sherbourne & Castle Frank, Queen’s Park & Museum, and College and Wellesley … but I’ve no idea how “fast” they are. I just know they’re not as slow or as noisy as Museum-St. George-Spadina and St. Andrew-Union-King.

    Cheers, Moaz

    Steve: The College to Wellesley curves are not 80km/h and are controlled by timing signals. The long curve east of Victoria Park is operated at full speed, but even that is time controlled westbound because of the grade. Years ago, when the M-1 cars still operated, they would sometimes overrun the timing signals because they were faster than the H-series trains. The subway does not operate at 80km/h. One reason the TTC has resisted moving to “high rate” is that this would require better track maintenance.


  23. I agree that not every point on the line must run at 80 km/h nor does this slow down the entire line, but there must be some other technical reason for this to be the design specification.

    Maybe someone more in the know might be able to clarify this, but is there a minimum curvature for bored tunnels? I suspect there is a limitation that is more restrictive for bored tunnels than what can be built by cut-and-cover, where tunnel width can be increased for sharper curves.

    Steve: Actually, in discussion about the tunnel boring machines the TTC and Metrolinx has owned for various projects, the question of building a wider tunnel to allow for curves on the Spadina line did come up. There is a point where it is not practical to build an entire line “wider” just for a few curves, and these should be done cut-and-cover if possible. Much depends on the overall geometry and terrain to be covered.

    If anyone knows the technical limits of curves on bored tunnels, please add to this thread.


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