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. Further to ADifferentMichaelS, the current redesign for Kennedy uses a double-sided platform for Eglinton-Crosstown, and a single-sided platform (in/out) for SRT. I’m presuming from this:

    • that SRT crossover switch is north of the station and before the east-west curve into the platform, and
    • Eglinton is intended to later continue eastwards as LRT along Eglinton, as from (if I recall) Transit City?

    In effect, that would be offering no political compromise to Scarborough, telling everyone north of Lawrence that they are forever resigned to have to disembark and change at Kennedy, and that Eglinton East will never have a BD extension despite having more roadside land available for higher-density redevelopment between Midland and Bellamy than anywhere else along Eglinton. Improvement plans for that stretch, as you know, go back to the sixties – shortly after the strip malls even came to be!

    Meanwhile, in 30+ years of Kennedy station’s existence, the impediment to extending an underground platform westerly for LRT is STILL just a Postal station, as the station location amidst an overpass and behind the hydro line has forever thwarted the kind of development growth envisioned for the Kennedy & Eglinton intersection in the late 1970’s. (In fact, short of the three-storey commercial built at the corner in the early ’80s, NOTHING has been built at Kennedy-Eglinton west of the overpass in the whole time the station has existed. It’s an interchange, yet outside nothing’s changed.) It seems to me that the single longer platform possibility, done now to the station’s west to allow a same-level/same-platform plan for SRT/EC, would also potentially bring an entrance point closer to the south-east corner of the intersection – at the very least closer to the south side of Eglinton prior to where pedestrians reach the start of the overpass. That whole north-edge station entrance is reworked (removed?) anyway with the LRT build, so why not push to get something closer to Eglinton’s sidewalk now?

    What I could better see now, if Scarborough politicians are intent on interceding, would be for the Eglinton East through-train LRTs to be set aside (politico-permanently). Instead, a single-level platform should be considered for now – with easy switches applied at that mezzanine-underground level for later differences in operation – that offloads SRT on one side and Crosstown on the other. If those lines aren’t interlining, at least let passengers walk across or along the same platform to switch. Also possible, I suppose, is if the northern track was EC and southern was SRT, SRT could offload doors on both sides of the vehicle simultaneously for EC or BD transfers… or stick with the longer platform and have both routes offload to the south. Whatever, just don’t do the LRTs on two levels unless the technical impositions are truly outrageous to overcome.

    So far what I’ve heard sounds more like old-school TTC Ops planning for capacity operations only and from that limiting their options to improve passenger experience outside of those times. Even if through trains aren’t feasible at rush-hour, why limit yourself to not being able to offer them at other hours when headways are broader?

    (And yes, I live downtown nowadays but grew up at Kennedy-Eglinton back in the 70’s/80’s — that station’s access design has always been a sore issue to me… and looks like it may continue that way. 😛 )


  2. Ah, my apologies; when I said single platform, I didn’t mean a single track. I was envisioning a setup similar to newer subway stations with single centre platforms and a track on either side:


    Obviously the head-on stop would be a safety issue, but is it insurmountable? Are there other safety issues with such an arrangement? As for the station geometry, it wouldn't be the worst thing for passengers to walk an extra thirty seconds if it means an easy, single-level transfer. Plus, as OC in Corktown indicates, the off-centre position potentially brings a pedestrian entrance a bit closer to the Eglinton sidewalk.

    As for the tight curve entering the station on the SRT side, could the crossover be built just prior to the curve while still heading north/south? Again, I can understand the TTC not wanting to run through trains in the interim, but to design the possibility out of existence seems wrong-headed. Planning for the future, to me, doesn't mean knowing what's going to happen but being as open to possibility as you can reasonably afford.

    Steve: This is all in aid of direct SRT to Eglinton transfer, but remember that those transferring to the subway will still have to change one level, the same as the Eglinton transfer you are trying to simplify. The only two-level change will be between the subway and the Eglinton line (up to mezzanine, across and down to Eglinton line). You seem to be asking for a major redesign for a dubious benefit.

    Future through-routing is a separate issue from the transfer arrangements, and if the western approach by the Eglinton line is properly designed, future connection tracks from “upstairs” on the Scarborough line could be added.

    As for moving the xover to north of the curve, this extends the track time required for a move across the xover, and raises the minimum headway the terminal can support.


  3. As I have a rapidly sinking feeling we are going to see the Bloor-Danforth line extended and the SLRT cancelled, I am wondering if this will have a knock on effect for the Eglinton LRT? Given the time needed to actually design, approve and build the subway, will this either 1) Delay the Eglinton line in order to redesign Kennedy Station, as I believe it will need a new EA or 2) Provide another excuse to push it further out for accounting purposes or both

    In all this I would hope future provision for the SMLRT would be included and it would be nice if a fact/evidence based network plan could be designed. However, it seems we are back to the ‘one line at once’ method of designing our transit system. If this nightmare does get approved, I would hope the TTC would do some decent modelling to look at the effects on the entire proposed network in Scarborough including the Sheppard, Eglinton and S-M LRT

    Looking forward and assuming the worst, I wonder if the TTC would through route the SMLRT with the Eglinton Line? It would probally be too long, and I’m unsure of the benefit as many riders would simply be transferring to the BD line.


  4. Steve:

    “In the original TTC plan, the cost of the replacement service was included, although for how long we don’t know. The fleet to run the buses (for a 2012-14 shutdown) was going to come from elderly equipment that would not be replaced thanks to downsizing of the fleet with the opening of the Sheppard, Finch and Scarborough LRT lines in the first half of this decade. That plan fell apart thanks to Dalton McGuinty, and I don’t think the TTC has quite figured out how to handle the situation especially if they get into beefing up service (and fleet) just to handle growth on the overall network.

    “TTC fleet planning is notoriously bad and past experience with “gotchas” when the political level actually wants to improve service, but cannot, may come back to haunt us.”

    So the problem is that the TTC won’t have any surplus old buses to use to replace the SRT with during construction. How about using 20 to 30 surplus CLRVs and lay a quick and dirty line up the existing right of way. Getting over to STC would be a problem but the engineers at TTC could figure out something for a couple of years. Another modest proposal.


  5. Hi Steve — from your response of:

    “Future through-routing is a separate issue from the transfer arrangements, and if the western approach by the Eglinton line is properly designed, future connection tracks from “upstairs” on the Scarborough line could be added.”

    … the next question then becomes, of course, is it properly designed for that so far?

    Steve: I doubt it.

    Today was the first I’ve seen of an image for the Kennedy redesign, but that may be because I’ve done the bulk of my public meeting attendance for Crosstown’s central-east portion instead. Regardless, whenever I attend those route update and community input meetings, the consultants and staff steadfastly refuse to talk about or avoid actual station set-ups and access, but I’m figuring you have more contacts or better luck than I at getting those kinds of advance details. Is the Eglinton connection at Kennedy being given some future potential to connect to SRT? Is the station access for pedestrians at Kennedy’s north/Eglinton side seeing an improvement for foot-traffic riders approaching from the Kennedy-Eglinton intersection? And is there a public meeting planned or upcoming to show the changes for public input & comment (or have I missed it already)? To me, the Kennedy talk is new enough to believe it to not be at the stage of a major redesign, unless all internal station work is outside of what gets presented to the public and much further along than the meeting consultants might have us believe. I would think these kinds of “how would you like the system to work for you” (i.e., making through trains at least possible) issues to be as worthy a question for public input as “should there be a station at Ferrand/Leslie/Brentcliffe/etc.”

    I guess in shorter, has the EC alignment from Kennedy Road into the station been finalized? Are there still any “ifs” about it? If not, what can we in the transit-advocacy public do to have those ifs better designed now for that “upstairs” connection you’ve noted could then be added? Personally I’ll attend anything and everything I can if that had at least a chance of coming to fruition.

    Steve: The final design for Kennedy has not yet been presented to the public. As for better connectivity into the station from surrounding streets, that has nothing to do with the LRT project. If Toronto wants to make its station easier to reach, that’s a Toronto decision, not one for Metrolinx. It is Toronto’s subway, after all.


  6. As much as it galls me to say so, the mayor is making sense. Even a broken clock….

    Scarborough IS hard done by in all this. It is a much better candidate for subway extension than Vaughan and Richmond Hill. Scarbo is actually within the City of Toronto proper and is closer to Union station than the other two burbs by far. It is also less wealthy, making its populace more likely to use transit and in greater need of it. All of which may be why this is gaining some traction.

    The wiki SRT page says something about a study finding conversion to subway unfeasible. Can someone kindly elaborate? All these dollar amounts being bandied about fast and loose aren’t much use without at least some general particulars (oxymoron?). When referring to subway, for instance, are they necessarily talking about underground?

    Steve: The reference to a conversion presumes that the subway would travel on the same alignment as the existing SRT. If it does that, then leaving everything else aside, you would have to shut down the SRT for reconstruction, an event that sends LRT opponents into apoplexy.

    The existing SRT infrastructure isn’t that old. Does this study examine running subway trains on the existing ROW or is it talking about wholesale replacement with a buried subway? It would be a lot less costly to widen the gauge and expand stations (maybe shut one or two of them.) It would be a shame to just demolish all that valuable infrastructure and start from scratch.

    Yes, we all know there’s a tight north to east turn. Well, widen that mofo if necessary. And deal with whatever other details need attention. Nothing against LRT but if I were a Scarberian, I’d prefer to walk another 5 or 10 minutes to a subway station to take me right downtown over waiting and transferring at Kennedy.

    Steve: To “widen that mofo”, you would have to go under a rather large condo east of Kennedy Station, or completely change the subway alignment to stay in a north-east orientation as it crosses Kennedy and then make only about a 30 degree turn to straighten out in the SRT corridor. You will not do this while maintaining full operation of the existing station.

    The subway proposal now before the city runs straight east on Eglinton from Kennedy and turns north into McCowan as a completely new line. Yes, it does dispense with stations eliminating Ellesmere and Midland, shifting STC east and merging it with McCowan, and moving Lawrence East from just east of Kennedy to McCowan (over 2km).

    It is, however, easy to draw lines on maps and tell folks who now have local access to an SRT station that they will happily walk a few km just to save that pesky transfer at Kennedy Station.


  7. It looks to me that the current SRT plan will be changed. 35 Councillors are opposed to it. The Provincial Liberals are opposed to it since they do not want to give the Conservative a major issue and break into Toronto. It has led to much of the public, and most Councillors rejecting transit fees and taxes since it would go toward unpopular transit routes. It has led to over 2 years of delays and still major concerns about farther delays with impending City and Provincial elections.

    Sunk costs are sunk – what is needed now is to provide an acceptable plan to the public and politicians at the lowest cost. The transfer at Kennedy is probably the biggest impediment of the current plan. The most obvious solution seems to be a subway extension – mostly because this has been discussed for some time, people understand it, and it does solve this big problem. The other solution is to run the SRT continuous with Eglinton. This option is newer on the scene and would need some promotion to gain acceptance. But it is less expensive and provides better service to more areas of Scarborough. Unless Transit City proponents come up with some alternatives, then I am sure the subway extension will win the day. Sometimes compromise can actually lead to some good.


  8. Closing down the SRT and putting everyone who uses it on buses for 2 and a half years at a minimum would be political suicide. It’s not going to happen, certainly not with this council, and not with the liberal government either, since they are on shaky ground too.

    According to the most recent memo from Service Planning, it would take 43 buses during the AM peak to replace the SRT service. This would be a new net expense to an already crowded capital budget, not to mention some costs for temporary storage somewhere. Another option would be to speed up construction of the new McNicoll bus garage – which will be required no matter what – but the timelines would be very tight to have the new garage up and runinng before the SRT closes for reconstruction.

    At least, with a subway extension from Kennedy, there will be enough subway cars available to cover the extra mileage, considering that we are sending down more T1’s to Greenwood than they need to run the current service. And storage is not a problem either, with Vincent Yard supposedly open up for business by next spring.


  9. Steve:

    “This would be a new net expense to an already crowded capital budget, not to mention some costs for temporary storage somewhere.”

    If the capital budget is crowded, then there definitely is not room for a subway extension. On the other hand, if there is an extra $1G for a subway extension, then use $43M of that to buy completely new buses for the temporary SRT replacement (it’s not wasted money even if they’re simply driven off a pier and used to extend Ontario Place afterwards) and the other $957M to build the Scarborough Malvern LRT.

    Can it really be (he asked rhetorically) that subway boosters do not understand that for the $1G price of a crummy 2- or 3-stop subway extension an entire LRT line covering many km with numerous stops can be constructed?

    While I’m commenting, I’ll also ask a question. Has anybody heard anything about the form of the SRT replacement service? It seems to me obvious that many trips should be express between the two ends of the line, with only some buses stopping at the lower-traffic stops in between. I was even thinking it might make sense for half the buses to be express in one direction and local in the other (and the other half local in one direction and express in the other). Then, to get from the second/second-last station to the far end, one could usefully get on a bus going either way. Do the relative traffic levels make this sensible?

    Steve: Yes, the plan is for express trips to carry the large number of STC-Kennedy passengers without stopping in between. There will also likely be added express service to Don Mills Station as an alternate route.


  10. Timur Urakov:

    “Closing down the SRT and putting everyone who uses it on buses for 2 and a half years at a minimum would be political suicide. It’s not going to happen, certainly not with this council, and not with the liberal government either, since they are on shaky ground too.”

    A shutdown of the SRT would certainly have an impact however has there been any analysis of ridership demand to determine from where the bulk of riders are coming and how many of those are transferring to the subway? Moreover, there are bus routes that link Kennedy and Warden stations to STC or go close to it so the TTC might be able to accommodate at least some riders that use the SRT on those routes. Given the current state of reliability of the SRT, I for one would not want to bet on the TTC keeping it running for as long as it take to complete extending the BD line to McCowan and Sheppard. But then I’m not councillor facing re-election next year or an MPP in the Government who may be facing voters sooner than later…



  11. Steve – thanks for the information here and in response to previous questions of mine, some serious and some rather less so. Just a minor formatting correction to my comment above: the paragraph beginning “If the capital budget is crowded…” is mine, not part of the quotation. Also I think the formatting is messed up (everything in italics) because of a missing close-em tag further up, in your in-line response to ADifferentMichaelS.

    Steve: Actually the problem was that the little diagram in that comment included something that was interpreted as a tag, but wasn’t. Once I changed the greater and less than signs in the text to their escaped equivalent, then the formatting on my reply worked properly. The closing em tag was always there, but was ignored for some reason until the preceding text was fixed.

    I have fixed the formatting on the quotation. Sorry about that.


  12. If the SRT is converted into pure LRT, one thing I want to see is development around the stations. As-is, the line might as well be a non-stop shuttle between Kennedy and Scarborough Centre as few use the stations in between. Imagine if there were residential and retail promenades and streets surrounding these stations, rather than wide arterials bordered by open space and industrial complexes. Factor in the bridge over the 401 and the connection with the Sheppard LRT, and we have a solid north(east)-south(west) trunk route through Scarborough, or should I say eastern Toronto.

    In retrospect, it is a bit of a shame that the TTC essentially ignored the line shortly after its completion. One of the key issues with the current line is that it simply does not have the capacity to deal with the passenger volumes. Well changing to LRT may help, but more frequent service is hardly a limit of technology! The TTC should have bit the bullet and paid Bombardier to make new trains for the line. Likewise if the line has trouble in winter, why encase the line in a tube or add a roof above the line to keep snow out? Technology is only as good as you use it, and the TTC/province made the choice not to use it after spending millions on it.

    Steve: Scarborough Council is to blame for focusing development on STC to the exclusion of other locations. There is some density around Lawrence East, but not much, and Eglinton was deliberately held in check to avoid competing with the “town centre”. Ellesmere and Midland are in an industrial district, and the condos don’t start until Brimley where there is no station. Hope the folks there enjoy the 1km walk to the subway.


  13. Kennedy Station is way further from Lawrence and McCowan than it is from the current Lawrence East station. Would an intermediate station ever be considered or does that just not make sense?

    Steve: I agree, and there is already pressure for more stops. However that drive the cost differential up.

    Fearless prediction: Council approves subway then starts adding extras.


  14. Phil: The SRT is still not on its last legs, contrary to popular opinion. Yes, there are always problems, especially in the wintertime, but if sufficient funds are found (I believe the latest estimate was around $65 – 70 million or so) can certainly be given a life extension that would keep it in operation until a subway extension is completed, should that be the winning option. It is the same deal as with the CLRV overhaul, to keep some of them in operation until the new streetcars are delivered and in service on the streets.

    The TTC has traditionally retired rail equipment after 30 years or so (with a few exceptions such as the ALRV or H6 cars, which share many electronic parts and are arguably lemons), but this is by no means a standard in the industry. Just look at Vancouver’s Mark 1 ICTS cars, only a bit younger than ours, or for a more extreme example, Montreal. They are now just starting to get rid of their original subway cars, which date back to the mid-60’s and have no intention of retiring the MR-73 cars, which are of the same generation as our H5 subway cars (now retired), and are using DC motors with first-generation solid state electronics, not the most reliable equipment, compared to what is now available on the market.


  15. “It is, however, easy to draw lines on maps”

    Your aversion to line drawing has been previously and frequently noted. However, the SRT is a line which already exists in reality. It only needs a refit to bring it up to subway specs. This isn’t fanciful doodling.

    “To “widen that mofo”, you would have to go under a rather large condo east of Kennedy Station”

    Actually, I was referring to the bigger turn between Ellesmere and Midland Stations. So it one must be okay.

    “or completely change the subway alignment to stay in a north-east orientation as it crosses Kennedy and then make only about a 30 degree turn to straighten out in the SRT corridor”

    Good thinking! But since we’re talking about extending the subway, why not keep it underground for the couple hundred meters needed to bring it north of Eglinton where it could emerge? Maybe that would give some leeway to the turn.

    Steve: The idea of realigning the subway at Kennedy isn’t mine, it is the TTC’s, and has been cited as a major cost in taking that route as compared to going east on Eglinton. The east end of Kennedy Station is too far east to allow for a curve to the north that will fit within existing structures.

    At Ellesmere, the problem is not the curve radius but the size of the tunnel which is only big enough for Mark I ICTS trains. There is also the need to deal with wider trains at all existing SRT stations if you plan to recycle them.

    As for above-ground running, have a chat with the folks whose homes back onto the corridor and who are none too happy about the ICTS, let alone more frequent, longer trains. Even the LRT faces this issue, but a subway would see added pressure to put it underground like so much else. And finally, of course, you can’t do the conversion without an SRT shutdown of comparable length to the one needed for LRT.

    You seem to be forgetting some critical issues in your “refit” to subway specs.


  16. It strikes me that there’s been a massive failure in both planning and marketing here.

    First, why isn’t there a big model of the region with all the data we have about travel habits. All travel – every mode of travel and every type of trip from walking to the store to going on holiday. Given the amount of money we’re going to spend on infrastructure, assembling the model should be a justifiable cost. The model should know how long it takes to get to anywhere from anywhere by every means. If you change details of a mode – say add a lane to a road or build a subway, then travel times change accordingly.

    Then you could take this big honking model and work out what sort of changes you get for your money. You can put LRT here, change traffic light timings there. You can optimize the gains in travel time for any given amount of money you put in. Furthermore, the model should be available to anyone. Transit operations planners should use it, roads engineers should use it, interested members of the public could use it. It’s not a lot more complicated than the models that are already in google maps and it’d be a lot less complicated than weather forecasting. That’s the missing planning portion.

    Once someone’s done that (ahem, Metrolinx? I believe this is your mandate), you can then show people what their commute looks like, their trip to the dentist, their first date. Everyone is so concerned about what technology we use and what alignment and everyone has an opinion, but nobody has any hard analysis. Also everyone seems forget the only thing that actually matters which is how fast you get there.

    That’s where the marketing starts. You show people their important journeys and show them how it gets better over time with investment and worse without. Once you see the whole network together, it’s possible to work out how to improve the time it takes from the moment I think about leaving the house to the moment i arrive at my destination. That’s what matters, not how far apart the wheels are. And a lot of people seem to have forgotten that.

    Steve: Such models and data do exist, but they have problems with some granular decisions especially when there are nearby competing options. Also, a lot depends on the assumptions one puts in at the beginning, and there’s no way to challenge the output of the model as it is a black box.

    One particular problem with Metrolinx’ published numbers is that they presume construction of an entire network, not segments, and so we don’t know which additions will have the greatest benefit.

    It doesn’t really matter, in some ways, what the model might show because the LRT/subway debate is almost religious, a matter of raw belief.


  17. “One particular problem with Metrolinx’ published numbers is that they presume construction of an entire network, not segments, and so we don’t know which additions will have the greatest benefit.”

    I’ve seen you make this argument before, but I’m still confused. Don’t we want agencies to model based on long-term future conditions, as opposed to assuming very little else gets built? Because I thought the latter would be used to justify more expensive construction. Is your complaint that Metrolinx has modeled based on one possible scenario, and not on multiple possible scenarios?

    Steve: The reality of any plan is that it won’t all be built at once, and there’s a good chance it will never be finished. Any cost-benefit study would always look at a selection of “X” projects to determine which provide what benefit and in what quantity. Depending on how one defines “benefit”, different rankings may emerge, or at least a project with a marginal “value” under one scheme may do better viewed in another context. This sort of evaluation is impossible if the model only looks at a completed network.

    For a simple example, the DRL is part of the 25-year network in The Big Move but until recently was low in the pecking order because of its high cost. Notwithstanding this, the modelled demands on various Big Move components included the presence of the DRL and other lines. Moreover, the model was not capacity constrained, and it put far more people in Union Station than the facility can possibly handle (never mind that the proposed train service was also unworkable).

    Nowhere in the demand model is there any explanation of how all the people on GO would get to the trains. There is a limit to how much parking we can build, and yet local bus service has never been seen as an integral part of the Big Move, only recently having any funding earmarked (and on a small scale, mainly for capital) in the Investment Strategy.

    Claims of congestion reduced, pollution avoided, trips redirected to transit all rest on this sort of modelling, and it’s almost fraudulent to make such claims. We know that we have limited resources and demand far exceeding our ability to handle it. A full network projection is useful to show what benefits might be possible, but it also shows the limits of what we are doing. Even if the entire plan is build, congestion will not get any worse on average in 25 years. By implication some places will get better and some will get worse. Where are they? That’s info I don’t think anyone wants to let out because it would tell which taxpayers are getting little for their new “investment”.


  18. I said:

    “Because I thought the latter would be used to justify more expensive construction.”

    Here are examples of what I mean

    1) Metrolinx forecast the peak ridership on a fully-underground Eglinton LRT to justify grade-separation, but the model network assumed no changes to transit along Sheppard or the Agincourt Crosstown line. They later admitted that including new transit along Sheppard would lower the peak demand on the Eglinton LRT by 10%.

    2) I don’t think the original Sheppard Subway EA considered new transit along Eglinton, and that could have been used to justify subways for Sheppard.

    Steve: There is a big problem with some of the modelling used in Toronto in that the further one gets from the core, the more coarse the “grid” of cells used for modelling becomes. For road engineers this works just fine, but for transit, life is more complex. The original Sheppard projections, leaving aside extremely rosy land use numbers that never materialized, took in a swath several kilometers wide in either direction as the catchment area. However, unlike motorists, transit riders will not go miles out of their way to get to an “expressway” because of the penalties involved in transferring. Unless the route structure force-feeds a rapid transit line, or the line itself lies on a pre-existing natural travel path, it may not achieve its potential because riders will be better off staying on their bus service.


  19. “You seem to be forgetting some critical issues in your “refit” to subway specs.”

    Not exactly. But do you really expect a full-fledged engineering report in every post? Yes there are a couple pinch points. Dealing with them would be small change compared to constructing a new extension underground from scratch.

    And people whose houses back onto the SRT line have been doing alright for a couple decades, as have residents near Davisville and other areas of open track for much longer. Indeed, most of them probably bought homes after the lines were already running.

    Steve: I don’t expect engineering reports as part of comments, but some familiarity with the situation would be nice. I agree that from a construction point of view, going up the existing right-of-way is quite doable. However, this does not address the big objection to LRT of a multi-year shutdown — that’s the main reason the subway takes a different route. If you are prepared to take a shutdown, then you lose one of the biggest anti-LRT arguments.

    As for back yards, there is a big difference between having a house right beside the tracks (the TTC has to do extra rail grinding from Eglinton to Lawrence to keep the folks there happy), and a house beside a right-of-way down in a cut.


  20. “And finally, of course, you can’t do the conversion without an SRT shutdown of comparable length to the one needed for LRT.”

    But you would get a hell of a lot more for the price/time.

    To expedite conversion and minimize downtime, only re-fit STC Station at first and re-work the tracks and short tunnels. After it’s up and running again, get Lawrence East back online. Ellesmere, Midland and McCowan are three of the bottom five TTC stations in usage, ranging from 1310 to 4040 passengers (per day, I guess. There must be over a dozen streetcar stops doing more business). So they can be shut down (Yes, I know their platforms would have to be blown out to accommodate new tracks. This would be in keeping with subway station spacing in the outer reaches of Y-U-S. It could be done in one year.

    Who designed that SRT Tinkertown Trolley anyway?

    Steve: Station usage counts are on the TTC website; you don’t have to guess. The counts for the intermediate stations are 8770, 1310, 2420. As for spacing, the “outer reaches of the YUS” have 2km spacing in a few places, and 1km otherwise. It is 2km from Kennedy to Lawrence, another 2km to Ellesmere, and about 1.5km east to STC. That is hardly station spacing on the level of the Yonge line at its worst.

    I don’t think subway trains will fit on the existing elevated, never mind the station platforms. If someone has detailed specs for the el and its parapet walls, please share them.

    The power supply must be replaced because it is completely wrong for the subway (SRT uses 440V delivered as +/-220m while the subway uses 550V). This is not just a question of swapping out the existing third and fourth rails for subway style third rail. There has to be a new signal system because the T1 trains cannot talk to the ancient signalling system on the SRT.

    Rebuilding Kennedy Station and Ellesmere tunnel is not trivial work, especially at Kennedy.

    This is NOT a one-year job no matter how much you would like to pretend it is.

    Who designed the SRT? Why it was the Government of Ontario, William G. Davis, 1973 transit man of the year, proprietor. This new technology was going to eatsblish Ontario’s leadership in supplying a new generation of “intermediate capacity transit” to fill the gap between subways and buses. They did not want to hear the term “LRT” because a lot of careers and development money were tied up in this scheme. Bombardier eventually took it off their hands in a deal intended to shore up employment at the plant in Kingston (good Tory territory). The technology has been implemented in limited places worldwide, the while the LRT business is booming.

    People can say all they like about my “bias” for LRT, but I can count. The number of ICTS/Skytrain implementations is infinitesimal compared to LRT (and subway and BRT) worldwide.


  21. Details, details. Of course new technology consistent with subway would have to be used, elevated section may have to be widened, etc., etc., etc. This all comes under the general notion of UPGRADE to subway specs. And maybe it’s time for those neighbouring single-family dwellings to be replaced with denser housing which could be designed with the subway in mind.

    The main point is…building a whole new extension underground very close to an existing line seems extremely wasteful and poorly thought out.

    Oh and, as far as station spacing goes…

    Warden to Kennedy is 3.8km. Eglinton West to St Clair West is around 3.5km.

    Steve: These are exceptions running through areas of low population. When you cite outer parts of the subway, people will tend to think of places like the Spadina/Allen section with two stops per concession road or 1/km, or the section of Yonge north from Sheppard. Even south of Sheppard, it’s a 2km spacing.

    The distances you show are by travel along the main roads, not crow fly distances which are over 1km shorter. You cannot use examples where the path between two stations runs on the diagonal as a direct comparison with those that run parallel to the street grid.

    You really don’t give up do you? I am really getting tired of this conversation, but would be amused to watch you try to defend your position at a public meeting.

    Please consider this conversation closed.


  22. Since the conversation about converting the SRT right of way for subway use is thankfully closed, let me turn back to the issue of through-routing between the SRT and EC lines.

    While the TTC would prefer to keep them separate and Metrolinx has basically given in to that, I don’t believe that the issue is necessarily dead.

    In response to a comment by Jenn, Steve wrote:

    In any event, the currently proposed Kennedy Station is not set up for through-running between the two lines, and yet another redesign would be required to permit this.

    Is it? I understood that this presentation was the design they were going with where the track arrangement at Kennedy is shown on pages 13-16 show that the connecting tracks between the two lines, primarily intended for carhouse moves, could be used for revenue service if the need were warranted. What is not clear from the presentation is whether the north-south alignment of the EC line is double-tracked right up to the portal and its connection with the SRT line. It could be that it is a single track that branches to both SRT tracks, which would limit capacity for any through-running operation. Double-tracking this portion would allow for better future operational options, but a single track does not make it impossible – at least not on the scale of YUS-Sheppard run-through schemes that occasionally get suggested are.

    Steve: Actually, looking more closely at the drawing, a straight through service would be possible. The “service tracks” (blue) between the Scarborough and Eglinton lines are double tracked and feed straight in at the east end of the Eglinton line’s platform. Where problems could arise is that if there was a mix of “Scarborough only” and “Scarborough Eglinton” trains, the outbound services would not serve the same platform.


  23. I’ve long thought that the design at Kennedy should allow for maximum flexibility in service design. It’s conceivable that almost any interlining arrangement between any of the three directions of LRT service eventually planned to connect at that station might be found useful some of the time. I was actually thinking the plan should be something like track – platform – track – platform – track with enough crossovers or loops to connect all incoming lines to each track, and one track devoted to each outgoing direction (East, North, West). I don’t know if this exact arrangement can be fit in given the existing facilities (especially because I think at least some loops and grade separation would be required to avoid jamming up the terminal) but it’s the sort of idea I would investigate in detail before giving up and making a three-platform station with the Malvern line terminating East of the Go tracks.

    Related question: how long a shutdown of subway service to Kennedy is required for an SRT conversion? I can imagine the answer might be zero but it seems likely that at least some part of the construction would cause too much disruption for service to continue.

    Steve: Many crossovers and platforms would extend the LRT station considerably to the west. The double-deck arrangement is more compact.

    The subway would not close. The “new” Kennedy Station is north of the existing structure. Building it requires the bus loop to move temporarily into space now occupied by the parking lot.


  24. Could this whole WE-WANT-SUBWAYS episode also be a ploy by City Councillors to over-complicate and stifle the administration of a P3 (DBFOM) contract to build these lines? I understand some Councillors aren’t too pleased with Metrolinx’s currently proposed arrangement.

    Steve: No, I doubt this very much. The subway advocates are, generally speaking, great lovers of pushing as much into the private sector as possible thanks to presumed lower costs and offloading of financing to a third party.


  25. If the bus shuttle does come into effect, what are the chances that all the new artics get pulled from their planned routes for this service without any capacity compensation to the affected routes? (Including being stuck with already widened headways.) How much time is left to decide yay or nay to the required fleet expansion whether or not funding is available yet?

    Steve: Yes, I would not be surprised to see the artics redeployed to the Scarborough shuttle. As for what would happen on the “donor” routes, that depends on the prevailing attitude at the TTC. Fleet planning for this must be settled in the near future, 2014 at the latest. It will be interesting to see what the detailed plan looks like when the budget “blue books” come out.


  26. Steve wrote:

    Where problems could arise is that if there was a mix of “Scarborough only” and “Scarborough Eglinton” trains, the outbound services would not serve the same platform.

    This is true, for eastbound Eglinton trains continuing north, as anyone boarding at Kennedy wanting to head north would not know which platform would host the next train for them – similar to the eastbound at Bay and westbound at St. George arrangements when integrated service was provided on the subway.

    However, I would speculate that this may not be as big an issue as it was with the subway. On the subway, a majority of the people heading east or west from the core originate their trip in the core while people coming from the east or the west are heading to the core. In other words, much of the passenger load on the BD subway line experiences turn-over between Yonge and St. George.

    If through-run service from Eglinton became justifiable for some runs, I suspect that a majority of the passengers entering Kennedy from Eglinton would be riding through, so having people coming from the subway, buses, or walk-ins needing to head north on the LRT would be best served by the Scarborough-only platform.

    If I were to bet on the possibility of run-through service, I suspect it would be safe to say that its first implementation would be only on some rush-hour runs.


  27. Steve,

    Can you clarify the Ellesmere tunnel as it relates to Mark II trains. In the 2006 TTC report, it was stated that the tunnel “may” require modification. In August 2006, you stated that

    “At first it was thought that even Mark II’s would not fit, but they seem to think now that this is not the case.”

    How can it be that the answer to this question is not definitely known. It is not rocket science – just get some surveyors or laser equipment to map the tunnels and do the calculation for Mark II cars of know length, width and “bogie” spacing – although the mathematics of this are probably beyond me. If these Mark II cars can fit through the station, then a continuous SRT / ECLRT (elevated above Eglinton) could be a valid competitor to the B-D subway extension since the SRT closure would be a tolerable 8 months. As I described above, this would still provide many more stations for Scarborough and be lower in cost.

    Steve: Since that 2006 comment was written, my understanding is that definitely the Mark II cars will not fit through the Ellesmere tunnel, and therefore the capital cost and shutdown period for a Mark II conversion are understated in the 2006 TTC report.


  28. Kristian said:

    If the bus shuttle does come into effect, what are the chances that all the new artics get pulled from their planned routes for this service without any capacity compensation to the affected routes?

    Steve: Yes, I would not be surprised to see the artics redeployed to the Scarborough shuttle.

    MiWay generally keeps buses for 12-15 years so their 2001 Artics are up for retirement soon. Perhaps TTC could purchase / lease those buses for the Scarborough shuttle, with MiWay responsible for maintenance.

    After use as the Scarborough shuttle the buses would probably be well and truly gone.

    As far as I know OCTranspo got rid of their 2000-2004 Artics in 2010 but they have some 12m buses up for retirement soon. HSR also has artics but I don’t think there are any up for retirement soon.

    Cheers, Moaz


  29. Steve said:

    Where problems could arise is that if there was a mix of “Scarborough only” and “Scarborough Eglinton” trains, the outbound services would not serve the same platform.

    Perhaps the ideal solution to that would be to go with a 3 track – 2 island platforms on a single level design if they were serious about interlining. the idea would be that the south platform would be Scarborough bound trains only with the north platform either being a mix or westbound only. The three big issues with that is whether there is enough clearance for such an arrangement and the basket weave you would need west of the station. Next there is the issue of how much more would it cost. And finally, would it require a new EA which is something Metrolinx has been understandably getting cold feet over doing with other parts of the Eglinton line.


  30. Although a subway extension would attract more peak riders to the corridor than the planned LRT, would a sizeable portion of those additional riders actually be new to the TTC, or simply diverted from other routes? This question was asked of the Sheppard LRT versus Subway, but I don’t recall seeing this info on the Scarborough LRT project.

    Steve: The Origin-Destination study in the TTC’s 2006 report shows that the lion’s share of SRT riders are headed downtown. This shows up also in the fact that adding a full subway on Sheppard to the proposed network has only a tiny effect on the projected SRT corridor demand — a Sheppard subway would not divert riders who are now on the SRT any more than less capital intensive technology in the Sheppard corridor. Capacity limitations on the SRT constrain the current level of riding and did so even in 2006, never mind today. Where additional riders might be travelling is difficult to say, and none of the info in the 2006 study is helpful in that regard. Population growth in Scarborough also affects both the new demand and the existing routes/modes of travel.

    That’s a long way of answering, no, there is no breakdown of how much of the increased ridership projected for the SRT corridor is net new to the TTC.


  31. I would like some clarification on some of the capacity & growth projections in comparing LRT vs subway.

    Right now the 36M vs 31M of subway vs. LRT is thrown about in Mtlnx & the City in the high level summary table.

    What I am curious about is:
    1. What is LRT ridership prediction at launch?
    2. What is the subway ridership prediction at launch?
    3. What is the max capacity of both modes in their respective corridors?
    4. What is predicted ridership in 2030 for both modes?
    5. 2050 for both modes?

    Discussing a lot on twitter, and someone made a point along the lines that LRT doesn’t have sufficient capacity for the full timeline in the Scarberia corridor, which is “often glossed over by LRT advocates.”

    At this point, I don’t care anymore, just want things to be built, which would be a big step forward as compared to the last 30 years. Let people ride the minimalist lines to their brink, and then switch from there.

    As an aside, has it ever been discussed to upgrade the SRT to technology similar to the CANADA LINE in Vancouver? It seems to my (novice) eyes that the overall plan of an automated/elevated/driver-less train is similar? Or is this effectively the LRT switch?

    Steve: Please refer to the TTC’s study in 2006 for some of the info you are looking for. Basically, that study said that the projected peak demand on the SRT corridor would not reach half of the capacity of an LRT line in the medium term. They did not project out to 2050, but I think we can make some reasonable assumptions.

    When folks talk about demand growth, they often think of the period when the 416 and then the inner 905 were being developed and adding population that was in the catchment area of the Scarborough corridor at a ferocious pace. That growth rate will not be duplicated over the coming 50 years. If there is major transit growth from mode share changes (say, due to a crisis in oil pricing), we will have a much bigger problem with capacity on the system as a whole, not just in the SRT corridor.

    The maximum capacity for LRT is 15k/hour at peak, and for subway is in the low 30s depending on assumptions about train frequency. However, from a network design viewpoint, you cannot consume all of that capacity on the SRT portion of a subway extension because there will be no room for riders originating further west on the line. Comparable issues exist for the Spadina and Yonge extensions. If they were to operate at a substantial fraction of peak theoretical capacity, then we would have no room further south (as already seen on Yonge with the existing layout, never mind the extension).

    As for things that are “glossed over”, subway advocates conveniently ignore the much higher operating cost of that mode and the substantial capital maintenance costs that start to show up after a few decades operation when things begin to wear out. Claims that subways will outlast LRT 3-to-1 are outright lies. The tunnel itself is built for longevity, and even then will require ongoing repairs. The track, vehicles, signals, station equipment like escalators and elevators, and a host of other equipment lives for 30-to-50, with most of it on the low end of that range. All of the money to cover the extra costs must come from somewhere, either from service cuts to other routes or from capital projects that never start because the funds are needed to patch up what we already have. A question the TTC has not answered is how much service they will cut to make up the roughly $6m additional subsidy that opening the Spadina extension will incur. (That number is old and probably low allowing for inflation.)

    Finally as to the Canada Line technology, no that has not been considered. There was originally a plan to go with the Mark II vehicles used in Vancouver on the original Skytrain system, but this doesn’t make much sense if we’re going to build an LRT network around it. The Canada Line vehicles are in effect small subway trains, automated yes, but otherwise they use conventional propulsion unlike the Skytrain and SRT fleets.


  32. I understand the SRT was operational this evening after the major rainfall while large swaths of the subway system were shut down due to severe flooding and power outages. How reliable!

    Steve: The SRT works fine in rain, but not in snow/ice. Obviously designed for Vancouver!


  33. Steve:

    The SRT works fine in rain, but not in snow/ice. Obviously designed for Vancouver!

    Ironically, the Mark II version operating in Kuala Lumpur has occasionally had software problems and delays because of heavy rainfall over there.

    Maybe there is some kind of LIM ‘sweet spot’ that we need to find out about.

    Cheers, Moaz


  34. You really don’t give up do you? I am really getting tired of this conversation, but would be amused to watch you try to defend your position at a public meeting. Please consider this conversation closed.

    Second closure in as many threads. What am I doing wrong … or right? Not sure why this would be amusing elsewhere but not here.

    In any case, it is noteworthy that you have left my opening points standing and have not attempted to counter them. That must mean they are the strongest. To whit:

    To extend subways to Vaughan and Richmond and not Scarborough, which is much closer to the city centre and, unlike the other two, is also part of the City of Toronto, is wrong.

    That is all.

    Steve: It is somehow appropriate that your pseudonym is taken from Don Quixote’s horse.

    Subways to Vaughan and Richmond Hill do not justify a subway to Scarborough, but only show the effect of political influence on the expansion of the subway network. However, there is substantially more demand today in the Richmond Hill corridor than in Scarborough, demand that will have to be served not just by the subway but by parallel GO services. Spadina and the Vaughan Centre are another matter, and there should have been a decision about where a York Region LRT network might start. However, that line had friends at court, so to speak, and moreover nobody was looking at LRT seriously.

    The fundamental issue remains that the subway cannot be expanded forever unless one has unlimited capital, but nobody wants to be beyond the final station. That is a testimonial to the quality of feeder services, including the SRT, and the sense that only a subway is “good enough”.

    By the way, it’s “to wit”. I care not one whit for further debate on the matter.


  35. This debate over lrt vs subways is ridiculous. Many cities in North America run lrt instead of a subway and the LRT run just the same. People in Toronto need to see how these LRT lines run. LA and San Francisco have LRT lines that serves the city very well like a subway. Lack of knowledge causes people to settle for one thing instead of seeing the big picture. If the SRT is change over to a subway, people don’t realize the time it would take to construct and the people it would inconvenience since it will have a different alignment than the SRT. Also to build the subway costs more and since then is no plan on how Toronto is going to fund it, why change the plans. Canceling the SRT conversion to LRT also means the plenties Toronto taxpayers would have to pay. People want a subway they should really think it through first, instead of causes this debate.


  36. Steve:

    It is somehow appropriate that your pseudonym is taken from Don Quixote’s horse.

    I could not help but chuckle when I read this, although on the surface it may seem that Don Quixote is an apt literary comparison, the root cause of the Scarborough subway debate is not necessarily choice of technology, but the deal to amalgamate metropolitan Toronto into a mega city. The more accurate literary comparison would be to that of Faust.


  37. Big news this morning on the Scarborough Subway. I cannot wait for Steve’s post. The Council meeting next week (where council will decide on a subway or LRT) is going to be loud.

    Cheers, Moaz


  38. Ron says:

    This debate over lrt vs subways is ridiculous. Many cities in North America run lrt instead of a subway and the LRT run just the same. People in Toronto need to see how these LRT lines run. LA and San Francisco have LRT lines that serves the city very well like a subway. Lack of knowledge causes people to settle for one thing instead of seeing the big picture.

    The problem is we don’t consider ourselves like LA or San Francisco that has some sort of mixed heavy and light rail system like Toronto; but we see ourselves like New York that has a extensive subway system and its something we should have.

    Another issue is that the LRT techonolgy has a image problem. People only see the LRT as a glorified bus, it stops like a bus, its runs along side cars like a bus, its a bus. Stereotypes like this have to be addressed if you want to start making headway ageist the anti-LRT mindset, quoting case studies and regurgitating facts only gets you so far, you have to have something that people can see and touch before they willing to buy into the techonolgy.


  39. I will be so disappointed if Wynne caves, and transfers funding to a BD extension. I was really beginning to believe that she had some backbone and principle. I hope she is ready for what will follow. Next up council demands a subway on Eglinton … Goodbye Finch and Sheppard LRT. What kills me is that apparently Malvern isn’t that important to Scarborough councillors, because it gets zip now. If they really gave a damn about the people they purport to represent, they would find a billion for the SMLRT and leave the SLRT as is.

    I’m no politician, but plans can only change so many times before this all falls apart in a spectacular eruption of inaction and recrimination. I would say that the longer this goes on the greater public cynicism grows, which is not what you want when your going to try to scoop a couple of billion dollars in additional tax revenue. If only a properly constructed/operated Sheppard line was opening this year, maybe LRT wouldn’t be the devil, and people could see honest to god action.


  40. Sorry to disagree with you Steve. I’m happy to see common sense prevail.

    I’ll be even happier to the see the subway go north to McCowan/Sheppard. That completely changes the dynamic for Malvernites like me. Instead of 40 minute bus ride to STC and then an unnecessary transfer at Kennedy, I’ll now have a 25 minute bus ride to a terminus at McCowan/Sheppard. If the LRT had touched Malvern at Sheppard/Progress, I’d be looking at a 15 minute bus ride. I might save 20 minutes overall with the LRT. But I still have the pain/inconvenience of the transfer.

    From a network perspective, I like this. I actually think that we should spend the $600 million and convert the Sheppard Subway to LRT, in anticipation of its extension West and East.

    For Malvern, I can see a Sheppard East spur eventually, which means that I could walk to Malvern Town Centre and take an LRT to the subway terminus at McCowan/Sheppard. That experience will completely change how people view and use transit in Malvern.

    Steve: The way things are going, you will be lucky to see a Sheppard LRT, much less extend it east through the subway tunnel.


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