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.

The City Manager & TTC CEO Report

The City Manager and TTC CEO submitted a joint report to the upcoming Council meeting setting out many of the issues for debate.

Reactions from Councillors and the Mayor have been mixed. In particular the amount of new debt the City would have to take on, the means by which it would be repaid, and the degree to which this would crowd out other City projects have been discussed in local media, on Twitter and on Facebook by many parties. I will not attempt to summarize the various positions, claims and counterclaims here. The Council debate will almost certainly bring out even more creative interpretations of the available information, and a lot of misinformation as well.

The report is clear that the LRT option is much better understood because of previous approvals. Its design and effect on the network are reasonably well known. The subway, by contrast, requires more study both in terms of the land use changes it would require to justify the extra cost, and the effect of projected higher demand on other parts of the network including the existing subway system.

The report proposes that Council take one of two courses:

  • Approve the original LRT plan, or
  • Authorize the City Manager to renegotiate the Master Agreement with Metrolinx subject to various conditions, and embark on a program of funding through property tax increases, development charges, and whatever contribution might be obtained from the Federal Government.

Cost Estimates

On the cost side, the City/TTC estimates presume that the entire proposed Scarborough LRT budget of $1.8b will be available for a subway alternative. However, Metrolinx has already been quite clear that part of this budget includes the reconstruction of Kennedy Station to handle the Eglinton-Crosstown line and only roughly $1.48b would be available for a subway.

These numbers, and other costs related to each option, have yet to be agreed to by the TTC and Metrolinx.  It is unclear, based on some comments from Metrolinx, who is doing the detailed estimates for each party considering that the TTC still provides some technical services to the Metrolinx project.

Estimates are further complicated by the need to include inflation from a base year of 2010$ to the presumed date of construction and debt service costs for the City’s share of the subway option if this not covered on a pay-as-you-play basis.  There are far too many variables and unknowns for a fully informed debate, but we will go through one anyhow because the urgency is to vote for a subway, no matter what.

If the project goes forward, construction would not start for four years given the need for detailed design and a Transit Project Assessment (the simplified version of an Environmental Assessment).  The opening date is projected in 2023, ten years away.

The TTC estimates the cost of a subway at $2.3b before inflation, and specifies that this is to be confirmed once the project reaches 30% design (which has not even started).  The estimate is considered accurate ±30% giving a potential range of $1.61b to $2.99b in 2010$.  When inflation is added, the $2.3b figure rises to $3.283b.  This gives a potential upper bound of over $4b including inflation.

Queen’s Park has guaranteed LRT project funding including inflation.  The proposed revisions to the agreement presume that the $1.8b (or whatever amount would come from the cancelled SLRT project) will also be inflated.

The City report calculates that the value of the provincial monies would be (billions of dollars):

                         Original Budget      Kennedy Adjustment
                         2010     Inflated    2010     Inflated
SLRT Budget              $1.800               $1.480
Sunk Costs                 .085                 .085
Available for Transfer   $1.715   $2.448      $1.395   $1.991

It is unclear whether this would actually happen, or if Queen’s Park would simply make a block transfer in current dollars to a trust account as they did for the Spadina Subway.  Inflation protection would then depend on investment returns of the trust funds.  Equally, Queen’s Park might chose not to include inflation at all leaving this as an exposure to the city.  According to the report, the Metrolinx payments might be stretched over a period of time leaving the City with financing costs to bridge the project.

The Minister and Premier’s silence on such a basic issue does not help the debate one bit, but the City analysis contains critical assumptions about how Queen’s Park would calculate its contribution.

To the cost of the subway itself must be added the expense of keeping the SRT alive for eight years longer than anticipated, and eventually of demolishing the existing structures.

                         2010         Inflated
Subway Cost              $2.300       $3.283
SRT Life Extension         .096         .132
SRT Decommissioning        .075         .118
Total                    $2.471       $3.533

This leads to two outcomes (inflation included) depending on the presumed Metrolinx Kennedy budget transfer:

                         Original     Adjusted
                         Budget       Budget
Subway Option Cost       $3.533       $3.533
Provincial Contribution   2.448        1.991
Net Cost to City         $1.085       $1.542

Note: The figures shown here have been rearranged from the City report (Table 1) for clarity. The “Adjusted” figure is slightly different from the report which contains arithmetic errors.

These numbers are also subject to the caveat about ±30% in the accuracy of the subway cost estimates.

Finally, the TTC is concerned that the additional demand a subway extension would bring would trigger the need for Automatic Train Control (ATC) on the BD line.  This project, with a $450m plus inflation pricetag, is not in the current 10-year capital plan.  This raises, but does not answer, the obvious question of whether any new demand, regardless of technology used in Scarborough, will trigger problems with the BD subway’s capacity and with demand at Bloor-Yonge.

Given the comparatively close values for demand with either technology (as compared to the existing BD subway ridership), even the lower projected LRT demand could put the BD line dangerously close to being full.  Why has this issue not been explored in the past?


The City’s share of the project can be funded in several ways:

  • In the short term, a dedicated tax increase of 1.1% to 2.4% could go into a reserve fund that would initially be used to pay for the project.  Once these funds were exhausted, the revenue from the new tax would be dedicated to paying off 30-year debentures.
  • Development charges could be imposed.  By Provincial Law, DCs can only be used to fund the cost of new infrastructure triggered by new development.  Therefore, the full cost of the subway cannot be charged to this revenue stream.  The projected revenue from DCs, depending on the scenario, ranges from $104m to $330m over the life of the project, possibly longer.  Using DCs to fund 25% of the City’s share will require legislative changes.
  • Federal Government contributions.  For purposes of estimating, a contribution of $418m to $660m by Ottawa is assumed.  It is unclear how these amounts are arrived at because they are not, as claimed in Table 2, 50% of the City’s share of the project.
  • Potential transit oriented development rights (if any).  It is unclear what development the subway might encourage or the timeframe in which anything will be built.  Past experience shows that the City will have to carry financing costs for a considerable period before TOD rights start to pay dividends.

Property taxes are very controversial both in the general sense of many years in which “no new taxes” were the watchwords at City Hall, and in the specific sense that this increase would go to fund a project for Scarborough from city-wide revenue.  Mayor Ford has proposed a new tax at a much lower level than any of the scenarios presented in the report.  The effect would be to produce a much lower reserve going into the project, and a much lower revenue stream with which to pay down debt in the out years.

Development Charges are already a matter of concern for the real estate industry which faces a proposed doubling of these fees in 2014 even before the Scarborough Subway is added to the list of projects these would finance.

Future Cost Pressures

If the City extends the subway, the new asset will be owned by Toronto, and its future operating and maintenance costs will be on the City’s account.  Some offset may come from Metrolinx, but this is by no means certain.  We know already that the Spadina Extension to Vaughan will increase net operating costs for the TTC after it opens in 2016, and a similar change is likely in Scarborough.  The subway will almost certainly not “make money” from net new riders.

Further out lies the problem of capital maintenance: station equipment, rolling stock, roadbed and signalling.  These are all costs which we see on the aging YUS and BD lines, and they will begin to affect the Scarborough Subway some decades down the road.

The LRT network, as a Metrolinx asset, would be operated and maintained at its expense, possibly funded through some of the new provincial “revenue tools”.

Building “Excess Capacity”

In the LRT/Subway debate, the question of surplus subway capacity (or conversely “planning for future growth”) inevitably comes up.  There is, however, a fundamental problem with any outlying part of the rapid transit system.  It is impractical to fill it to capacity at outer stations if there is already substantial demand on the inner part of the line.  In effect, the “free” capacity available at STC is dictated by how much room remains on trains westbound at Sherbourne.

The situation is slightly more complex if we can assume that a substantial chunk of Scarborough capacity would be used for local trips, or would be bled off by, say, the Eglinton-Crosstown and/or Relief Line.  All the same, there is no way that a future 20k/hour peak demand could be handled in Scarborough if this completely saturated the Danforth subway east of Yonge.  We already see a comparable problem on Yonge with demand originating north of Eglinton.

If, in fact, there is a future demand well beyond LRT capability in any of the suburban corridors, the problem is much more challenging that simply a technology choice — it is that the central subway will be completely overloaded.  Careful study of evolving demands and of network travel behaviour is essential to avoid over committing network capacity.

City Debt Targets

For many years, Toronto has had a conservative approach to its capital and operating budgets.  The total debt (and hence the annual cost of debt service) is kept low enough that the operating budget is not squeezed out by debt costs.  This is the classic problem faced by anyone with a house that is more expensive than they can afford.  Either they must cut back on day-to-day costs to fund their mortgage, or they must find a cheaper house, or the household income must be increased.  In a municipal context, this translates into reduced services, increased user fees and higher taxes.

If the City takes on the Scarborough Subway project, this will crowd the capital budget which also includes a very substantial list of new, unfunded projects of at least equal importance to the subway line.

Ridership Estimates

The original projections for the LRT and Subway options date from a 2006 study.  At that time, the expected annual demand on each technology was 31m and 36m riders respectively.  These numbers corresponded to peak hour volumes of 8.0k and 9.5k respectively.

Recently, an updated transit network and land use model pegs the subway ridership at 14k peak.  No comparable revised estimate is provided for the LRT option, and the report implies that all of the change would only accrue to the subway.

At the very least, any new demand projections must be performed for both modes and use the same underlying transit network (the subway projection includes the DRL which might also be responsible for attracting ridership depending on its configuration).

This part of the report verges on dishonesty and is saved only by a caveat that further study is needed.  This study will not, however, occur before Council commits itself to a choice of technology.

In any event, such a large increase in SRT corridor ridership relative to the current level of about 4k peak would have a major effect on the BD subway further west.  It is unclear whether the existing network can accommodate the demand.  Even if more frequent service is operated on BD (thanks to new signalling), the interchange at Yonge may not be able to handle the higher arrival rate of transfer passengers.

City Planning Considerations

Beginning at Page 19, the report contains a section entitled “Planning Considerations” which discusses the “Feeling Congested” review now underway as part of the Official Plan update.  The critical paragraphs state:

It emerges from this preliminary evaluation process that the LRT line and the subway proposal serve somewhat different travel markets. The LRT technology more appropriately reflects city building policy goals contained in the Official Plan, where-in transit capacity is matched to a range of potential future land use outcomes. Preliminary forecasting work suggests 10.2% of the LRT’s ridership would come from outside the City of Toronto. By comparison, 14.6% of the subway’s ridership would come from outside the City of Toronto. The LRT line focuses more on local travel needs, and provides opportunities for placemaking – creating complete communities within the city- whereas the subway offers a more express service that increases its appeal to regional riders.

The LRT line will operate in an established corridor of proven transit demand that is currently being under-served by the at-capacity RT line. In this sense, the LRT line puts new and improved transit capacity where it is most needed. Included in the improved service is a much more convenient transfer arrangement at the Kennedy Station.  [P21]

Rather clearly, City Planning emphasizes that the proposed LRT line does a better job of serving Scarborough, but that does not appear to be the goal of the subway’s proponents.

The planning section goes on to note that the Scarborough corridor ranks lower than other priority transportation projects including service to the Waterfront and the eastern Relief Line both of which are integral to the ongoing development of transit capacity for a Toronto that claims to be building transit-oriented neighbourhoods.


I am under no illusion that Council will have a miraculous conversion and see the Scarborough LRT as its preferred option.  Whether a decision to abandon the LRT option will have any effect beyond delaying the inevitable collapse of the SRT without advancing the subway scheme much beyond some preliminary engineering is quite another matter.

Too many people are too concerned to give the impression that only subways will do, and all the fine words from fiscal conservatives about responsible transit spending will be buried under fairy tales of private sector participation and federal contributions.

Nobody wants to be the advocate for LRT because it has been so badly represented here in Toronto, something for which the TTC must take a large share of the blame.  For decades when other cities in North America and Europe built LRT, Toronto steadfastly maintained it would never work here.  Options for LRT expansion were downplayed, excluded from alternatives assessments on the basis of specious if not dishonest analyses.  While other cities could point to shining new lines, all Toronto gets to see is a streetcar system where the TTC can’t even provide reliable service and get “transit priority” that actually benefits transit vehicles.  Is it any wonder people want subways?

Earlier, I used the word “pandering” and this implies a certain lack of wisdom in the electorate.  Sadly, North Americans have a long history of listening to demagogues and voting for what they have been convinced is the “right” choice.  Rob Ford, at least, has always been honest about his goals — subways everywhere and lots of room for cars on city streets.  Others who purport to be friends of transit change their stripes to suit the situation, and for them I have special contempt.

A fearless prediction: Council will choose the subway option, but won’t commit significant funds to pay for it hoping that the Tooth Fairy will pay a visit soon.  This will leave Queen’s Park in the delicate position of deciding whether Council has met provincial conditions for a technology change, or if the LRT project should still go ahead.  Possibly by August 2, 2013, the political landscape will have shifted, and we will get a definitive answer.  Meanwhile, the vacillation from Minister Glen Murray, and the silence from Premier Wynne, are a sad testament to business-as-usual in the so-called “new government” at Queen’s Park.

72 thoughts on “Will Scarborough Get A Subway?

  1. Is there any information about the potential for redevelopment around each of these options? From what I could see of the pics that Glenn Murray was twittering on Sunday it looked like there is a bunch of new buildings that won’t be redeveloped anytime soon, and lots of land that can’t be developed into anything really – and some industrial that might be able to be redeveloped if the owners ever decided to leave the area.

    I think this all goes back to the idea that building a subway is going to cause developers to swoop in and buy all the old buildings and put up giant condos … but we have not seen that anywhere else in the city – a lot of Danforth is still single family dwellings. It’s taken 20 or 30 years for the waterfront and other industrial areas to slowly be developed. Development takes time, and it happens as buildings become available for redevelopment – which is why LRT to the whole city is a good interim step – it opens a lot more potential areas for higher density development.

    Of course it would be great if all we had to do was build a subway and 400,000 people descended and put up 1000 condos … but we know this is not going to happen.

    Hopefully the developers out there have some sense if council doesn’t and raise a stink.

    Steve: The City Planner’s section of the report at Council talks about how the subway would run through low density residential areas. More to the point, with only three widely spaced stations, one of which is at STC where development has already occurred, there is little land in the immediate catchment area of the subway to be developed.


  2. “The subway people do not want a transfer for the Scarberians. The LRT people like the greater coverage to the farther parts of Scarborough and the lower cost. If we suggested a continuous SRT / ECLRT, this would solve one major concern.”

    This is sort of like trying to figure out what “the Tea Party” wants/likes in the States. Trying to apply logic to a wholly incoherent point of view isn’t going to work very well. Any rational person who actually looks at the situation will notice that LRT on the existing RT corridor will be essentially as fast as subway and will serve more people and yadda yadda yadda; I don’t need to repeat everything Steve and others have said on the subject for years. But if somebody is fixated on “subways! subways! subways!” they aren’t thinking about the situation.

    Having said that, re-integrating the Eglinton/Scarborough lines might help with the fraction of people who actually do try to think about things. Even if some trains were short-turned to deal with service level differences at least some could go through directly.

    By the way, do the people who walk in to existing RT stops understand that they have a choice between losing their walk-in access for 3 years (LRT) or forever (subway)? For me it’s somewhat theoretical because no matter what gets built it’s basically just more for me and the kids to ride (we live in Waterloo) but if I lived or worked within walking distance of Lawrence East for example I would be extremely upset to lose my local station and have to take a bus to rapid transit.

    Steve: The people for whom I have a special sympathy live in the condos on Brimley north of Ellesmere. For years they have dreamed of having a station added to the SRT, something their Councillor, Glenn De Baeremaeker, has tried to get for years. Now they face a 1km hike east to the new “STC” station at McCowan, and it’s their Councillor who is the primary advocate of the subway plan.


  3. I get the strong feeling that most people think a subway to STC means using the existing STC station.

    Heck most people seem to think it will be running along the SRT line.

    Can the new STC station handle the volume of buses that currently roll into STC? And is the mall going to build a Yorkdale like extension out there.


  4. @Mikey

    Are LRVs slower than subways?

    • LRVs run at an average of 27km/h, slightly slower than subways which average 32 km/h, and faster than buses and streetcars that travel in mixed traffic (17 km/h). LRVs run at speeds similar to subways when they are underground (as with much of the Eglinton LRT line)
    • Subways are larger and longer – a subway train can hold up to 1500 passengers (in ‘crush’ conditions). An LRV can hold 255 people in each vehicle, and it can be linked into a train of two or more cars. Streetcars carry between 75 and 100 people per vehicle.

    The facts: Although building tunnels is far more expensive than laying tracks on the road, subway cars are cheaper. Unlike light rail vehicles, they don’t require separate operating systems and controls on every car. The new Toronto Rockets, for example, have controls at either end of the train. The older T1 subways have three sets in a six-car train. Each LRV is required to run as a single car, however, although they can be coupled or linked into trains. That’s the plan for Eglinton.

    And you need to transfer from one vehicle to another.


    Steve: A few corrections: Crush loading condition for a subway train is about 1200, not 1500, and nobody would attempt to design service based on that level of crowding. Moreover, if the demand on a line does not warrant that level of capacity, you are building infrastructure that won’t be used. The capacity of an LRV for service design purposes is roughly 5 passengers per linear metre of carbody (75 for the CLRV, 100+ for the ALRV, 150 for the LFLRV). Beyond that, you are pushing into crush territory which will slow loading (as anyone on the Yonge line at 5 pm can attest) and drag down the effective capacity of the line. Jam packed trains, but far fewer per hour.

    As for the transfer from LRT to subway, yes, it’s annoying, but we have thousands changing trains at St. George every day with a connection that is comparable to what folks would see for an LRT-subway connection at Kennedy.


    “That said, GO plans to upgrade its service to Hamilton with very frequent service, eventually electrified. There will likely be some trains running through to St. Catharines.”

    More frequent service will not improve the commute time but it is an improvement if I leave a meeting in downtown Toronto at 9pm using GO I get home after 12 closer to 1am. I don’t think having electrified tracks will make the trains run any faster GO transit is planning to build a tunnel or bridge over the Welland canal so that boats will not delay the go train but I don’t think they have started. In the same area there is an abandoned tunnel under the old canal called the Blue Ghost Tunnel you can read about the railroad accident there.

    Steve: No, GO is not going to build a new route. Trains from St. Catharines would likely run express for the inner part of their trip. Hours of service are already an issue on GO and there will certainly be late night service as far as Hamilton with bus connections beyond. Once again, I don’t see why we should rejig the entire transit plans of southern Ontario because you choose to live two hours away from Toronto.

    Transit city, One City, Big Move whatever you want to call it will help to some extent but is there enough coverage to get enough people out of cars? Is it enough in Mississauga or Markham to get people out of cars? The speed limit on the QEW is 100KMPH the average speed of high speed rail is 170 but can reach speeds of 260 kmph. The biggest delay I find in transit is switching from one service to another I can take the subway to Union station but I end up sitting around for 1 hour sometimes 2 for a train and when I get to Burlington I wait for a bus then when I get to town I can wait for local transit or walk 1km after 11pm.

    Steve: Have you noticed that GO now provides trains every half hour to Burlington from Union all day, every day? Complaining about an old schedule is not a good way to prove you are well-informed.

    [Link to Christopher Hume’s article about the Scarborough Subway]

    Steve: I am not sure why you posted this link as it is not complimentary to the pro-subway world view.


  5. Of the LRTs, I think there are significant doubts about Eglinton if it is meant to be a crosstown line. If combined with the SRT, phase 1 would be about 30 km, with 80% grade-separated. With an extension to Pearson, it would be about 40km long with about 2/3 grade separated. At some point a line that is mostly grade-separated should be fully grade-separated to allow for more reliable service – I think we passed that point at the 50% mark or so. Also, a transit line that is 40km long is long enough and probably would never have a significant extension – as someone has said before, you can’t have a transit line go on forever, at some point it has to switch to a lower mode.

    It seems there are 3 camps related to Eglinton transit.

    1. Those who support the Harris cancellation of the Eglinton subway since transit is not required.
    2. Those who support the Harris cancellation of the Eglinton subway since LRT is a better technology and the subway would have hamstrung us.
    3. Those who oppose the Harris cancellation, either at the time or in hindsight, since Eglinton is a major arterial and warrants a grade-separated rapid transit line crossing the City.

    Steve: When the Eglinton LRT was first proposed, it was Kennedy to Pearson with about 1/3 underground. You only get to a higher grade-separated proportion by adding in the Scarborough leg. I think we will wait a very long time before a tunnel is built from Mount Dennis station west to Pearson Airport.


  6. Steve, this is an excellent summary and it’s too bad the ones who should be reading and heeding it will probably never do so. I do find it mildly amusing that supposed fiscal conservatives on council, many of who have complained bitterly over wasteful spending, are pushing for a much more expensive option that would cost the city much more in operating costs in the long term and actually delivering less transit to boot. The annoyance of the awkward transfer at Kennedy is more a function of design and not of the actual transfer.

    I am about to write my councillor, who is among those pushing for the subway option, if only to show not everyone out here is fixated on subways. She did at least come around to accepting (if reluctantly) the surface alignment for the Eglinton LRT, but I’m not holding my breath.

    If in the end the Province agrees to build a subway extension, I have thought of one use for the RT right-of-way rather that full demolition – convert it to a multi-use trail.



  7. As the senior level of government providing the bulk of the cash for transit, would it be too much to expect some leadership from the Kathleen Wynne Liberals? By setting clear and strict rules about providing development funds and operating subsidies, the Scarborough LRT vs Subway debate would take on a different direction & argument. Instead, we have pending elections and by-elections at the municipal and provincial levels, and all the politicians are trying to bribe the voters with “You want subways subways subways, folks, we will deliver.” (By getting transit off the road, there’s more room for cars. So all you drivers there know who to vote for, yes?)

    Thanks to Steve’s calculation, we see that about $2b in inflation-adjusted dollars would be available from the LRT to be transferred to the subway option. However, the LRT option is almost ready to go, all parties have previously signed on, EA’s been done, infrastructure and right-of-way already exist.

    The provincial government should set out this rule: what money is in the LRT bucket, stays in the LRT bucket. .What money is in the subway bucket, stays in the subway bucket. NO transfer of $2b from LRT to subway, or other way around. Anyway, there is no new subway ready for building for a number of years. Let Toronto council decide where to spend their subway allocation. Scarborough, DRL, Sheppard East and/or West, Yonge extension, Martin Grove subway, take your pick & prioritise.

    The reality is that transit will be improved by muddling through, regardless of what the choice is; either option, LRT or subway, will be good. Hey, it’s only taxpayers’ money, give them what they want.

    The provincials probably would be most happy to defer the $2b, anyway, so I see no push for them to wake up – the more dithering, the less they pay.

    Oh, and forget any federal money. Not unless Mayor Ford is re-elected and Tim Hudak is the premier at Queen’s Park. Ya gotta know who to vote for, folks, if you want subways.

    Steve: For clarity, the numbers are not mine. They are taken from the City Manager’s report. I have rearranged the presentation to improve the clarity and correct a minor arithmetical error.


  8. If the Scarborough subway folly goes through, I say we get a kickstarter or indiegogo campaign up and running to fund convertion the SRT into a High Line-style park, or at the very least a pedestrian/bike link to Kennedy. Convert the top floor terminal into a secure bike room. Connect the path to the hydro corridor trails with separated bike paths on McCowan. Fund spurs from the hydro trail to UofT Scarb and the Zoo, in addition to the Rouge Park connection proposed with the Pan-Am legacy trail funds.

    Am I trying too hard to make lemonade out of this politicized lemon?


  9. The Toronto Star quoted Steve as saying:

    … the term “surface subway” carries implications that may not be accurate. “One could describe GO EMU operation as an alternative to subway construction, but it would be a stretch to imply comparable capacity. Speed yes, capacity no.”

    The context of the article was to create a all-day Go Transit service in Scarborough to Union Station.

    Berlin S-Bahn and Paris RER trains seemed to have the length and capacity of subway trains. Some RER trains are double-deckers.

    Why would capacity be an issue for Scarborough?

    I think the S-Bahn would not be a good substitute for the LRT as the LRT provides local service in other neighbourhoods.

    Steve: There are two fundamental issues here. First, there is only so much room for trains and passengers at Union Station. In Toronto, “subway” means a train that comes every 2’20” in the peak period (with closer headways planned in the future) and every 4′ or so otherwise. Next, Union Station isn’t where all these riders want to go, and a network focussed on that point would generate a lot of transfer traffic back onto the existing subway system. (I cannot help saying “Kennedy Station” just to see if anyone remembers how much the simplified transfer there is seen as a huge impediment.)

    Second, operating extremely close headways on the GO system would require complete re-engineering of these lines. It is possible, but I am not convinced that it is necessary. There is also a problem with electrification stretching beyond the limits of GO’s ownership of the corridors because the railways who own those tracks must agree.

    If we want an S-Bahn, we need to start thinking of a much more aggressive approach to regional and local transit, but recognize its limits. GO is not going to operate 20+ trains per hour peak, and certainly not 15 trains/hour until 1am. That’s the sort of thing people think of when they hear “subway”, but that’s not what they will get.


  10. The people for whom I have a special sympathy live in the condos on Brimley north of Ellesmere…

    I also feel sorry for all of the people who depend on the location of the current LRT stations. Such residents not unreasonably assumed once rapid transit is laid it is never rescinded. Similar sympathies for residents of Malvern who will never see higher order transit in their area. It’s strange that these residents of supposedly pro-subway Scarborough seem to be silent in this debate. I can’t understand why a group like “LRTs for Scarborough” has not emerged. It would also give the lie to the idea that this debate is between undifferentiated downtown elites and Scarborough residents.


  11. Michael Forest said: What is your preferred route?

    The primary problem is that most of those who work in Scarborough don’t live in East York or Toronto. They live in York region, Durham Region, Or Scarborough itself. Add to that that Danforth-McCowan is not one of Scarborough’s economic corridors and thus not much of a destination for transit riders. The end result is the development that would occur along the proposed subway line would be oriented towards those that commute downtown for work but would opt for a car for everything else.

    In addition, one thing people need to be keenly aware is that developers want to work with as few property owners as possible with redevelopment projects. This is because there is always the risk that there would be at least one unreasonable seller when acquiring properties for a project which would result in the project falling apart. When you combine all the single family homes in the area with the parks and hydro corridor in the area of the proposed Lawrence East subway station, you’ll quickly realize that the development potential around that station site is actually worse than the current RT corridor. When you also consider how built up the areas around STC and Brimley are already, the “build it and they will come” logic is rather weak.

    As a result, the subway extension needs to be viewed from the perspective of where are people going now in Scarborough and how can we use a subway to help convince them to not use a car to do it. Since a subway to Kingston is not an option, thankfully, this means looking to GO transit’s rail operations to help boost ridership by acting as a source and as a destination for riders in Scarborough. As a result, the optimum subway route would be one that ultimately links STC with all the rail corridors in Scarborough and ultimately, at some point in the future beyond when everyone here has died of old age, Highway 7 and the Stouffville line. Basically, the BD line should push further east to Eglinton GO before arcing up to Bellamy before using Hague park to cut back over to McCowan and then north to STC and Sheppard. Then when combined with an LRT network which includes a converted and extended SRT line, you might end up with something that is useful for Scarborough rather than something that is useful for getting out of Scarborough.


  12. I had always thought that the demand forecasting models considered all-day service on some of the GO lines, not just connections to them with the TTC. Reading the relevant paragraph (page 4 of the PDF document in the Eglinton-Crosstown EA) in the report again suggests that the level of service on the GO network is assumed to remain unchanged, except for new connections with the TTC.

    Can all-day frequent service on the Stouffville GO line take away the demand that is currently used to “justify” the Scarborough subway extension?

    Steve: More to the point would be frequent service on the CPR through Agincourt, but this isn’t likely to happen soon. The problem with demand estimates is that different assumptions go into each of them, often undocumented in the reports citing them as “justification” for some project.


  13. This whole tram versus metro debate has turned into nonsense. It is resembling more of a kid’s debate as oppose to one between adults. The question is not about which technology is better. Can you imagine the president of Air Canada asking the board of directors for money to purchase Boeing 747-400 to fly between Toronto and Halifax because of prestige?

    It is about money. As taxpayers, it is expected that politicians of all levels and the director of Metrolinx to use sacred public resources in the best way possible. Wasting money because of prestige is an abdication of duty. The question city councilors should be asking is this:

    If the metro option is chosen, would you as a taxpayer agree to pay $x one time for the construction cost and $y per year to subsidize this operation until it breaks even?

    If the people in Toronto are willing to pay, they should not be stopped. After all, people on purpose drive SUVs even though it cost 20% more to operate a car with the same passenger space and cargo space.

    It is a fact that transit operation in Toronto is not profitable. If one can get a 10% ROI on transit investment, the private sector would have built it long ago. The current debate reminds me of people complaining to Air Canada why there are no direct flights from YYZ to BOM. Yes, there are a lot of traffic between these two points. However, no one is willing to pay not even $100 more over connecting in Europe. Also, there are no demand for J and F cabins.

    I am willing to pay $5 more per direction to see a rapid service between Kennedy and Scarborough Center no matter what the technology is. Technology does not matter to me as long as the speed is there.


  14. I wonder if this extension will have low enough ridership that the TTC will turn back half the trains before the end of the line, like they’re planning to do to the York University extension.

    Steve: I believe that is the plan.


  15. Peter Strazdins wrote:

    However, the LRT option is almost ready to go, all parties have previously signed on, EA’s been done, infrastructure and right-of-way already exist.

    This, combined with some comments I heard this morning on NewsTalk1010’s “Free For All” got me to thinking: it is a losing battle to try to convince the public that SRT conversion to LRT is a better choice based on facts relating to technical details, economics, convenience, or future extension possibilities.

    Only one factor is likely to win the most over to the LRT conversion: How soon can improvements be made and in use?

    There appears to be an undercurrent of feelings along the line of “just get building something.” In my opinion, the most effective way to win over people is to leverage that undercurrent.


  16. Multiply that x/year for other badly needed projects like the Finch LRT, Eglinton west crosstown extension to Pearson airport and the Downtown relief lines (east and west)/Don Mills extension. That does not include the Sheppard, Yonge & Spadina line extensions – and that only catches us up to where we should have been 2 decades ago.


  17. Where is the outrage over the Yonge and University line extensions? Where is the umbrage at these two politically-motivated projects? Why is no one harrumphing over stretching those lines much further into the 905 nether-regions, in their respective directions, than Scarborough. I ask you.

    Steve: Back in the depths of time (before this blog started), I was arguing that the Vaughan extension should be an LRT line as part of what we now know as VIVA. That decision was political, as you say, and long past the point of getting it changed.

    Even earlier, the TTC lied to me (and to Council) about the exclusion of LRT from the alternatives analysis by claiming that the project was for a subway loop (originally it would have crossed via Sheppard, later Steeles) and so only subway technology was appropriate. It was self-evident even then that the loop would not be built, and that two northern extensions were the long-term plan. However, LRT was never examined as an alternative to building subways to North Bay.

    As for the Richmond Hill line, it is NOT yet approved because, in part, there is no room for its passengers when they get downtown. However, there is a demand. Moreover, there is no obvious place to put an LRT alternative at the capacity required, while in Scarborough, a right-of-way exists all the way from Kennedy to Sheppard.

    Where I do get annoyed about Richmond Hill, and have stated so many times, is that the subway has been seen as the only way to address demand. Metrolinx is finally doing a consolidated study of the north-south corridors including the subway and GO lines to see what kind of combined project might peel riders off of the subway and lessen the pressure further south. They won’t all shift, but the issue is to cream off the top of the peak.

    Already there is talk of taking the subway north of Langstaff, but at some point, VIVA BRT or LRT has to take over. Yes, there will be a transfer connection.

    A related issue with the push for subways into the 905 is that folks up there are getting a “Toronto” fare all the way downtown. It will be slower, but a lot cheaper than GO, and with all-day service. The lethargic rate of GO expansion is partly to blame for demand that the subway be extended.


  18. Nick L said:

    “When you combine all the single family homes in the area with the parks and hydro corridor in the area of the proposed Lawrence East subway station, you’ll quickly realize that the development potential around that station site is actually worse than the current RT corridor. When you also consider how built up the areas around STC and Brimley are already, the “build it and they will come” logic is rather weak.”

    Single family homes may be a hindrance to density, but not a complete blocker; that can be seen in a number of places say in North York. As long as the zoning bylaws do not prohibit it, the density comes eventually.

    On the other hand, Ellesmere and Midland stations have been built decades ago, and still have very low ridership counts. We can’t expect them to do much better with the extended S(L)RT.

    I am not familiar with the Brimley area; perhaps it would do well if a station was added at Brimley. But, notably, such station is absent from the current SRT plan.

    Nick L said:

    “… the optimum subway route would be one that ultimately links STC with all the rail corridors in Scarborough and ultimately, at some point in the future beyond when everyone here has died of old age, Highway 7 and the Stouffville line. Basically, the BD line should push further east to Eglinton GO before arcing up to Bellamy before using Hague park to cut back over to McCowan and then north to STC and Sheppard. Then when combined with an LRT network which includes a converted and extended SRT line, you might end up with something that is useful for Scarborough rather than something that is useful for getting out of Scarborough.”

    In my opinion, such routing will be an attempt to serve far too many travel patterns with a single line. It will be quite expensive to build, and will inconvenience the largest (like it or not) group of riders that travel to downtown for work.

    A good connection from the Durham region to STC will be provided by the Durham – Scarborough BRT (already in the “Next Wave”, though not funded yet).

    Multiple connections between Scarborough and Markham can be provided by the LRT network that you mentioned, and / or some BRT lines. The two regions are connected by several wide arterials that are suitable for in-median LRT or BRT installation. And, we cannot expect a subway level demand on any of those arterials.


  19. Steve:

    Actually, the BD west extension is planned to be underground. As for the Eglinton line, there is a station planned on the UPX eventually to connect with Eglinton. What is uncertain is the continued existence of the stop at Lawrence (Weston Station) or if the new Mount Dennis station would replace it.

    As part of the current campaign Holyday mentioned his support for a Sherway extension. In the past Milczyn has called for an extension to Cloverdale mall (I’m not sure if his current campaign includes any subway extension).

    Is the ‘official’ TTC proposal for any westwards extension of the Bloor-Danforth line still bound for Sherway? I don’t really see any reason to extend to Sherway as there are more transit connections and development opportunities around Dundas-427.

    Steve: Please refer to this summary of a 2007 report to the Commission.


    Have you noticed that GO now provides trains every half hour to Burlington from Union all day, every day?

    Trains are going to Aldershot now. I believe it is thanks to the recent Metrolinx purchase of the rail line between Burlington and Aldershot. The issue with Hamilton is the narrow and criss-crossing tracks … probably one reason why GO wants to have service to Hamilton GO Centre at Hunter & James and the new old station at James St. North.

    Steve: I mentioned Burlington because that’s where our correspondent claimed he had an inconvenient transfer. He may not have travelled the line recently.

    Tom said:

    I wonder if this extension will have low enough ridership that the TTC will turn back half the trains before the end of the line, like they’re planning to do to the York University extension.

    Steve: I believe that is the plan.

    Another piece of info the public isn’t getting.

    Cheers, Moaz


  20. Michael Forest said:

    Single family homes may be a hindrance to density, but not a complete blocker; that can be seen in a number of places say in North York. As long as the zoning bylaws do not prohibit it, the density comes eventually.

    On the other hand, Ellesmere and Midland stations have been built decades ago, and still have very low ridership counts. We can’t expect them to do much better with the extended S(L)RT.

    To be blunt, would any intensification be occurring along the Sheppard line if the 401 didn’t exist? That is how development along the SRT corridor needs to be looked at in terms if its failure to generate redevelopment of the corridor and whether a subway in the area would do any better.

    Michael Forest said:

    … and will inconvenience the largest (like it or not) group of riders that travel to downtown for work.

    But the thing with that is, the inconvenience only occurs if you look at it from a subway only point of view. When you factor in the Lakeshore East line, which is moving towards a train frequency of once every 15 minutes while avoiding Bloor-Yonge, does that inconvenience still exist? That’s why emphasizing the elimination of the transfer at Kennedy for trips from STC to downtown as the driving force for selecting a route for the subway is a dangerous mistake. There are a lot of factors in play in Scarborough that need to be looked at before a route is decided on or even if this should be a subway vs LRT debate in the first place.

    Also, with all the negative and few of the positive political attributes of LRT, I find it strange that you expect BRT to be supported in this current political climate.

    Steve: It is quite amusing to watch people talk about “transit oriented development” when the presence of the 401 and DVP are much stronger incentives to living in new condos “served” by the Sheppard subway.


  21. @Nick L:

    Sheppard line is not the only place in North York where intensification has taken place or is taking place. There are multiple dense stretches along Yonge (quite far from 401 or 407), Steeles, Bathurst, Finch. Many of those locations are further from any highway than, say, the Lawrence East station on the proposed subway extension.

    Your proposal to take more Scarberians downtown on the Lakeshore East GO line makes a lot of sense. However, we do not need a subway between STC and Eglinton GO station to achieve that. There is a proposal for an Eglinton – Kingston Road – Morningside LRT line (aka SMLRT) that would connect both the Eglinton and Guildwood GO stations to eastern Scarborough.

    Political climate swing forth and back. I would not give up on the LRT and BRT options just because the public mood strongly favors subways at this moment.


  22. More and more I wish that the approved plan had included interlining the Scarborough LRT and Eglinton LRT. That could have been sold as both an extension of service from STC, a one-seat ride from Scarborough to the Yonge Line, and a way for commuters to bypass the ever-worsening Yonge-Bloor transfer.

    Less constructively, this whole debacle has left me angry at so very many people and agencies:

    We’ve got the Liberal party tossing aside any goodwill the new Premier gained them by proving they’re still the same bunch of opportunists that cancelled the Oakville and Mississauga gas plants. We have a Transportation Minister who is playing a game all his own, constantly overruling the theoretically arms-length Metrolinx and contradicting the Premier. As alternatives we’ve got the NDP telling people we can afford subways everywhere, and we’ve got Hudak saying he supports subways (but only if he happens to find enough change between the Provincial couch cushions–otherwise no transit-building, period).

    At the City-level we have a TTC Chair who just makes it up as she goes along, and a painfully large number of councillors who are willing to throw away billions of dollars that is desperately needed for other projects (not just transit either–the price tag for this switch is more than the TCHC repair backlog). We have councillors who have stated that they refuse to believe that the TTC got the numbers wrong previously ($500 million vs. $1 billion), even though the TTC has admitted as much. We have a Speaker who thinks that ruling budgetary questions out-of-order during budget discussions is okay, but lets a clearly out-of-order request for a Scarborough subway be attached to a response on the Metrolinx revenue tools. We have a Mayor who characterizes hesitant support for 0.25% tax increase (AKA less than 1/10 the amount actually required) as “putting skin in the game”.

    It’s all such an unbelievable farce.


  23. Mayor Ford says $5.00 a household for 5 years will buy a subway. Why do newspapers say $5.00 a household for 30 years? (.25% special transit tax levy).

    Steve: It’s a $5 increase in 2014 and another one every year for at least three more years so that by 2018 we are paying $20 more per household. By that time, we would be generating, say, $20-25-million in net new tax revenue, and it will take 30 years to pay off the debt raised to build the subway. This presumes that the feds and province come in for substantially more than is likely, and if we proceed without the extra money, then the tax increase must be higher.

    (For back of the envelope calculations, something like $3.5b of the city’s total budget of $11b comes from real estate tax. Therefore 1% is $35m/year. The $20/household figure, applied to a million households, generates a lower figure because it omits the commercial properties. A lot of erroneous figures were kicked around today at Council.)


  24. If you turn back half the trains, where do the other half go?

    Referencing Spadina connection and Kennedy Extension. Is that like a parking lot of trains “not turned back” until rush hour is over?

    Steve: It’s a short turn just like the one used at St. Clair West in the AM peak. Half of the trains go no further north, but reverse in the pocket track and return south slipping into the wider space that the double headways to Downsview provide.


  25. Michael Forest said:

    However, we do not need a subway between STC and Eglinton GO station to achieve that.

    Note that I was also talking about people coming in to Scarborough from the east and north as well. If you want to convince people to not use the 401 to access the employment area around STC, you need a heavy rail link from the Lakeshore East line, through STC, and ending at the eventual service along CP Rail’s corridor; either GO transit or Flaherty’s pork barrel express.

    There are multiple dense stretches along Yonge (quite far from 401 or 407), Steeles, Bathurst, Finch.

    They also occur in Scarborough and Etobicoke with absolutely no plans for any transit beyond the bus routes currently servicing them. So again, is the lack of development along the RT corridor the fault of the RT itself and would a subway in the area do a better job of attracting it?


  26. Not all of Toronto’s subway stations are underground (Summerhill) some sections of line could remain above ground and some stations could be saved (assuming they are using the same route) this would save some time and money.

    Steve: Summerhill IS underground. You are probably referring to Rosedale.

    Your assumption is wrong. The proposed subway route is different from the existing SRT with no chance for open air stations. Using the existing alignment would require a shutdown of service for years eliminating an advantages of building on a separate route.


  27. If people wanted to spend money wisely, then the old plan of simply upgrading the SRT to the latest Bombardier tech was the best. Est. of a few months and ‘only’ $300 mil in 2006. The tech is in use in Vancouver, Kuala Lumpur, elsewhere.

    I don’t know how the plan got swerved to LRT. It was supposedly so all trains used the same tech. But at a $1B more, is it really a good decision? The new trains are bigger and faster.

    And now, the LRT isn’t good enough. Just spinning our wheels …


  28. Wednesday, July 17, 2013 15h00: “Toronto Councillors vote for a subway extension for Scarborough”

    Well, it’s official: Toronto does its transit planning on the fly, on the back of a matchbook.


  29. In an earlier comment on this thread, I predicted that Ward 25 councillor Jaye Robinson would vote in favour of the subway extension into Scarborough. Well, with apologies to the councillor, I was wrong. She replied to my email saying she voted against the proposal today.

    She said that although she generally favoured subways,

    “there was too little detail in the proposal to make a clear and accountable decision. On the financial side, among other issues, we didn’t know the amount of the federal or provincial contributions or the costs associated with renegotiating the city’s contract with Bombardier. On the transit planning side, city staff didn’t have enough time to adequately study the proposal’s impact on the capacity of the Yonge Line, Yonge-Bloor station in particular, or the impact on our other capital and transit priorities, like the Downtown Relief Line. In the end, there wasn’t enough information about the impact of the proposal on the city’s finances or on our transit system to make an informed decision.”


  30. I asked: is the ‘official’ TTC proposal for any westwards extension of the Bloor-Danforth line still bound for Sherway? I don’t really see any reason to extend to Sherway as there are more transit connections and development opportunities around Dundas-427.

    Steve: Please refer to this summary of a 2007 report to the Commission.

    From what I got, the plan would still be to go to Sherway but the EA is out-of-date so Milczyn’s proposal could be studied as part of a new EA.

    It’s interesting how they talk of building a new temporary terminal at East Mall while routes are considered. Reminds me of how Downsview station came to be.

    Cheers, Moaz


  31. Alex L wrote,

    …the old plan of simply upgrading the SRT to the latest Bombardier tech was the best. Est. of a few months and ‘only’ $300 mil in 2006.

    I don’t know how the plan got swerved to LRT. It was supposedly so all trains used the same tech. But at a $1B more, is it really a good decision? The new trains are bigger and faster.

    Apples and oranges.

    That 2006 figure to upgrade the SRT to use Mark-II ART vehicles is rather low, in that it barely covers the cost of the new cars. Add in the costs of changes to accommodate the larger vehicles, because the SRT was built to just barely fit the Mark-I vehicles, and the price increases. All this just buys a replacement for the line between Kennedy and McCowan stations. The cost to change to LRT of this same stretch of line would only be slightly more than the Mark-II conversion.

    The cost per kilometre for new line is where the price of Mark-II rapidly outpaces LRT. The funded LRT plan takes the line to Sheppard, just east of Markham Road. Doing this combined with a Mark-II conversion would be more than the LRT conversion, plus new maintenance and storage facilities would be necessary.

    Then there is the matter of looking to the future – something that the subway advocates like to trumpet for subway. Extending the line further when its per kilometre cost is lower will involve less of the political circuses that we see over subway construction that has resulted in such little construction over the past 40 years.


  32. It’s probably too late to amend the plan now, but has any consideration been given to using Brimley as the north-south alignment south of Scarborough Centre as opposed to Danforth-McCowan? The turning radii to hit Brimley at Wetherby Dr could start from Eglinton at Falmouth, providing a curve similar to that of Danforth Rd from Eglinton.

    Doing such would allow for not only a station directly serving Ellesmere and the 95 bus, but one at the existing Town Centre Station site once the line curves northeastward to hit McCowan.

    Another alternative alignment, probably less desirable, would be to abandon the exisitng Kennedy Station (east-west, given to the Eglinton Crosstown Line) in favor of a new north-south aligned station on a diagonal in the hydro corridor beside the existing stop. This could take advantage of the green space that runs parallel to the SRT corridor, to route in an open trench until reaching the Gatineau Hydro Corridor. Once there, the subway routes diagonally, passing Midland, before stopping at Lawrence and Brimley. From here the subway could either continue through the hydro corridor trenched til McCowan then northwards to Sheppard or follow the Brimley alignment I referred to earlier with stops at Ellesmere-Brimley and Scarborough Town Centre.

    Because of the open-trench design for roughly half the extension’s length, I figure this would be a cheaper alternative than tunnel-boring the whole length. Thoughts?

    Steve: You’re not going to get an open trench in that corridor unless you build it with hard walls (compare to the open area on the Yonge line north of Rosedale). I also doubt Hydro would be too happy about trenched construction on their right-of-way because of the width required in between their pylons. Pushing a subway through STC and building a new station could seriously affect the existing bus operations depending on the positioning of the underground station box and associated cut and cover construction. It’s possible, but doing it without disrupting the RT isn’t going to happen.


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