Will Scarborough Get A Subway?

May 2013 saw Toronto Council, in a fit of almost unprecedented irresponsibility, reverse its previous support for a Master Agreement with Metrolinx for the construction of four LRT lines.  Instead, Council decided that it preferred that a subway replace the Scarborough RT rather than a new LRT line.

The primary reasons given for this change of heart were:

  • The subway is “only” $500m more expensive than the LRT option.
  • The LRT option would require a four year shutdown of service on the SRT corridor while conversion was underway.
  • The transfer between modes at Kennedy Station is an unpopular factor that would be eliminated with through subway service.
  • Greater future demand is projected for the subway option.

Without rehashing the details at length:

  • The difference in cost to the City of Toronto between the subway and LRT options is now known to be roughly $1b, although the exact components differ depending on the assumptions in the calculation.
  • The shutdown period would be at most three years, although this is still a very substantial service outage.
  • The revised transfer arrangements at Kennedy would place the LRT platform much closer to the subway platform and in a weather protected area.
  • Although subway demand is projected to be higher than for the LRT, the subway will serve a smaller walk-in market and will be more dependent on the bus feeder network.
  • Extension of the subway is highly unlikely.

Political Fallout

Metrolinx is rather perturbed that a sudden change of policy will affect procurements now in progress for the Eglinton-Crosstown project (which includes the SRT to LRT conversion) and the planned carhouse on Sheppard at Conlins Road where cars for the new Scarborough LRT would be based. Metrolinx has asked for clarification of Council’s position by August 2, 2013.

That is one day after the coming by-elections which have thrown any reasoned consideration of the issues out the window. All political parties and Councillors supporting the subway option blatantly pander to Scarborough voters. At Queen’s Park, statements by Metrolinx can be contradicted by the Minister of Transportation, if only by his absence of a definitive position. Vote-counting for both the by-election and the 2014 general election(s) has politicians falling over each other to prove their deep concern for Scarborough’s welfare.

Some of these pols held directly opposite, pro-LRT positions within 2013, but that is of little matter in the bid to give Scarborough only the best possible rapid transit money can buy.

Premier Wynne has been silent and absent from this debate, a marked contrast to her hands-on approach to her “new government” agenda. The opposition parties are no better preferring to bash the Liberal government rather than addressing the fundamental issues of the form, cost and funding of transit expansion.

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