Memo to Glen Murray & Karen Stintz: Are You Really Serious About Transit in Scarborough?

With all the upheaval of transit plans for Scarborough, politicians fall over each other to tell Scarborough residents how downtrodden and ignored they have been, how they always get the short end of the transit stick.  How will we fix this?  Build them a subway!

Mind you, that subway won’t open for 10 years, and riders on the Scarborough RT will have to endure more cold winters and overcrowded service, not to mention bus routes that run occasionally and unreliably.

We should remember what Scarborough was originally promised with the Transit City scheme announced years ago by then-Mayor Miller and now-Candidate Adam Giambrone:

  • An LRT line from an underground station at Don Mills & Sheppard with a direct connection to the Sheppard subway running east to Morningside and beyond.
  • An LRT line from Kennedy Station east and north via Eglinton, Kingston Road and Morningside to Sheppard serving the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus (UTSC).
  • An upgraded and extended Scarborough RT using LRT to reach east and north to Malvern Centre.

The Sheppard LRT is “funded” by Queen’s Park, but actual construction is a moving target with completion now planned for 2021.

The Eglinton/Morningside line (aka “Scarborough-Malvern”) drifts in limbo not even a part of the Metrolinx “Next Wave” implying completion at best by the late 2020s.

The Scarborough LRT has been replaced by the Scarborough Subway.  Although Council attached many conditions to the financing for that line, you can bet that no politician in Toronto is willing to pull the plug, to return to the LRT scheme, with provincial and municipal election fortunes in play.  One way or another, even by the simple expedient of giving Ottawa more time to pony up “their fair share” (whatever that means), the subway scheme will stay alive, and the Scarborough LRT will start to resemble Monty Python’s “dead parrot”.  It will be “sleeping” only in the minds of its most ardent advocates.

Politicians love to tell us how much they support better transit in Scarborough, and they could start by talking about something more than the subway.

The Sheppard LRT

The Sheppard LRT and other projects were pushed off into never-never land because Queen’s Park wanted to actually spend money far in the future while still having a (threadbare) credibility on “commitment”.  It was all about cash flow and the provincial debt.  By 2018, Ontario will be back in a surplus, and spending from general revenues on transit won’t look so bad on the books.

The SRT/LRT conversion has now been transformed to a subway where construction won’t get seriously underway until after the SLRT would have opened for business.  Spending on the “Scarborough” line has been pushed off mainly to the next decade.  An Environmental Assessment, detailed planning and engineering will take about 4 years, according to the TTC, with 6 years of construction to follow (2018-2023.)

Queen’s Park could show real interest by spending some money now on Scarborough transit, and they should start with the Sheppard LRT.  Except for the connection under the DVP to Don Mills Station, this is a surface line that should be easy to build.  Some preparatory utility work has already been done when this was still a TTC project.

Before Rob Ford’s election, Metrolinx was poised to add the “Morningside Hook” to the Sheppard LRT project by building the northern part of the Scarborough-Malvern line.  This would give UTSC and the nearby Centennial College campus a link north and west to both the Scarborough LRT (now the Scarborough subway) and the Sheppard subway.  That plan died with Rob Ford’s abrupt cancellation of Transit City, but this should be back on the table as an integral part of the Sheppard LRT plan.

Cash flow, always Queen’s Park’s nightmare, shouldn’t be a problem with the $1.4-billion of SRT/LRT money rededicated to the subway project.  Meanwhile the Sheppard LRT, even with a 2+km extension to UTSC, will cost Queen’s Park less than the SRT project given the $330m in federal funding already earmarked for this line.

Meanwhile On The Buses

Facing a flat-lined operating subsidy for the past two years, the TTC cut back service both by trimming lightly-used routes and by changing loading standards so that a bus can be more crowded, on average, before service standards dictate that service should be improved.  This rolled back the Ridership Growth Strategy implemented in the Miller/Giambrone years to reduce crowding, make service more attractive, and provide capacity for growth.  It also conveniently deferred expansion of the bus fleet and capped, for a time, the increase in operating costs by stuffing more riders onto the existing buses.

Another plan from that era, the Transit City Bus Plan, didn’t even make it through Miller’s council thanks to a war between the TTC and the Budget Committee over jurisdiction for approving major changes in TTC subsidy needs.  The plan would have provided:

  • A core network of routes where service during all periods would never be less frequent than 10 minutes.
  • Express bus service on most of the core routes so that riders making long trips could do so at higher speed.
  • Enhanced express bus service on routes that would eventually become Transit City LRT corridors to build demand in advance of the LRT service.
  • A minimum frequency of 20 minutes on all routes outside of the core network.
  • More bus shelters.
  • Better route supervision.
  • More transit signal priority.
  • Queue jump lanes at critical intersections.
  • Improved facilities for bus-subway connections at stations.

The plan has its imperfections:

  • Some routes are excluded from the core network because LRT construction was presumed to be imminent when the report was written.
  • The streetcar network is ignored in the core network because this is a “bus” plan even though one Transit City route would be on the existing 501 Queen line in Etobicoke.
  • Strangely the 94 Wellesley bus would be a core route even though much more important streetcar lines nearby are omitted.

These aside, the Transit City Bus Plan is an excellent starting point to revisit the question of bus service on the TTC.  (The planned rollout of the new streetcars will bring greater capacity to that part of the network.)

The Political Question

Do Glen Murray and Karen Stintz actually care about Scarborough, or are they just trolling for votes with plans for a 10-year off subway line?

Are Stintz and TTC CEO Andy Byford serious about the need for increased transit operating subsidies (both have stated publicly that the flat-line cannot continue into 2014) and will they aim higher than getting barely enough to keep existing services operating?

At the very least, the TTC as an organization and as a Board needs to be an advocate for improved transit, transit that is more than a flavour-of-the-month subway plan, transit that is a real commitment to travel in all corners of the city.  Plans for improved service may not get funding the first time out at Council, but at least the plan will get a hearing, will be championed by some who believe in transit people can actually use.

That’s what happened with the Ridership Growth Strategy.  Knowing what the options would cost (almost always far less than doom-and-gloom predictions) and what they would provide to riders was essential in gaining approval and funding even if advocates didn’t win on the first round.

Does Toronto Council really care about overall quality and benefits of transit where people use it, or will they expect another year of belt-tightening from the TTC?

Up the road at Queen’s Park, does Minister Murray really believe in showing transit results now, or does his commitment stop at campaign appearances in a forest of Liberal-red subway posters?  Will he direct Metrolinx to bring the Sheppard LRT forward so that Scarborough can see some transit improvement within this decade?  There is no reason, beyond political sloth and timidity, that this route cannot be open by early 2018 at the outside, preferably sooner.  What can we do when there is a real will to build, rather than to endlessly delay and avoid real “commitment”?

The Scarborough Subway and the Sheppard LRT should be a package deal if the politicians want to really show Scarborough some love.  The Transit City Bus Plan, or something very much like it, should be part of the 2014 budget proposals by TTC if local politicians want to show all of Toronto that transit really is front and centre in their campaigns.

The Role of the Commuter Rail Network

A separate but important discussion underway at Metrolinx, TTC and the City of Toronto is the future role the GO network could play in providing parallel capacity and “relief” to growing demand on the subway network.  This is a separate issue from the Scarborough LRT network which would serve different trip patterns.  Recent attention to GO should not presume it is the only solution to our transit problems, but that it is an important and much overlooked addition.

I will turn to this in a future article.

31 thoughts on “Memo to Glen Murray & Karen Stintz: Are You Really Serious About Transit in Scarborough?

  1. Steve,

    Excellent post!!

    As a resident (not just a taxpayer – a patronising term in my view) of north-central Scarborough, I am a short, 20 minute bus ride from Scarborough Centre station, living in the vicinity of McCowan/McNicoll. As a TTC bus operator, I recognise that the bus trip from my location (after a 5 – 10 minute walk out through the subdivision) to the main transit hub is nowhere as bad as what most of the riders on my Scarborough routes (working out of Birchmount Division) have to face.

    Lately, I have been working on routes in the old East York/City of Toronto (east end/Beach) areas. 10 minute maximum ride to the BD subway. How the vast majority of Scarborough (and Etobicoke and North York) riders would love this convenience! Transit in Toronto is an integrated network. This network should be developed to be as inclusive for every rider as possible. This network development has to include every mode: subways, streetcars (the legacy network), buses, and yes LRT’s. The result of this integrated network is to make transit as convenient as possible for ALL riders.

    Toronto does not have the density to support subways to every corner if the city! Those of us who operate the system, and those who ride the system (and advocate for the system) realise this. Unfortunately, the politicians are only going for the headlines and reelection! Enough of the photo-ops and fancy press releases about shiny new subway trains, shiny new streetcars, shiny new articulated buses, and recently brand new revamped uniforms for TTC operators! It is time for the politicians to get realistic and make announcements that they are providing funding for repairing, updating, and upgrading the existing infrastructure.

    TTC brass should actually announce that they are going to do a thorough analysis of the scheduling and update it. Line management has to become a priority – as an operator, I could relate tales about line (mis)management that would make your hair stand on end! There is so much behind the scenes things that need to be done to improve service reliability, but announcing these items isn’t flashy and a great photo-op! Andy Byford talks about getting back to our “core business” – well lets do it then – fix the schedules and line management – service reliability will automatically improve!


  2. I realize that “adding capacity” to the Yonge line is both a band-aid solution and ultimately limited, but is there a possibility of lengthening the stations and adding longer trains? New York’s subway trains, for instance, are much longer than the TTC’s. At least that might give Scarberians some more room when transferring downtown at Bloor when their own subway extension opens on the 12th of never.

    Steve: The short answer is “no”. Best example is Yonge Station. At the west end is the track split for the wye, and so there is no possible extension there. At the east end, the line enters deep bore tunnel to curve into an alignment straight east under Bloor (roughly at the intersection with Park Road). Expansion there is impossible too. St. George is an especially difficult location on both levels.

    There are many other examples, but all share problems with nearby buildings, special trackwork, curves and grades (my home station, Broadview, is another good example). If you can’t do a major station like Yonge, the rest don’t really matter.


  3. Are either of them really serious about transit in Scarborough?

    At this point, I think it’s safe to say that it’s a rhetorical question.


  4. @ Steve

    According to your article, Ontario will be back to a budget surplus in 2018. Is this figure from a projection, or is it a promise made by the liberal government? Is it based on no major spending projects, or does it include anticipated projects such as the ones Metrolinx is planning for?

    Steve: When the transit projects were deferred, the assumption was that Ontario would be in surplus by 2018. Wishful thinking.


  5. If they were serious about transit in Scarborough, they would realize that there is a strong possibility that the SRT won’t make it to the 2020’s and they should be scheduling projects around the idea that the RT will close between 2015 and the opening date for a subway replacement.


  6. We need to cancel the Sheppard LRT and pour the savings into the BD Scarborough subway. Then extend the Sheppard subway east to link up with the BD Scarborough subway. I think this is Rob Ford’s long term plan.

    Steve: That may be Rob Ford’s long term plan, but it is one that must be challenged. Such a subway extension would be approximately 7km long at a capital cost of at least $2.1-billion in current dollars, roughly twice the cost of the LRT line. There is also a point at which Toronto has to start thinking of an era post Rob Ford, hard though that may be for some to imagine. If we plan to his preferences, we will build nothing.


  7. Agreed, this is an excellent post! Perhaps, after reading this, our politicians will begin to serve the public and not their careers.

    By co-incidence or not, today’s Toronto Star has an article by Carol Wilding, president and CEO of the Toronto Region Board of Trade, titled “Politicians drive transit planning off the rails”. She laments the “zig and zag” and the waste of years of work and taxpayers’ money, as “politics trumps progress”. She recommends a regional governance model “proven successful in jurisdictions as diverse as Paris, Chicago, Vancouver and Hong Kong”, that Metrolinx would be respected and could continue its work without interference from the Ontario cabinet and Toronto council.


  8. Steve wrote about:

    “The Role of the Commuter Rail Network”

    Steve: Well, actually I haven’t written that article yet, but anyhow …

    Kevin’s comment:

    A large improvement can be made thorough eliminating the present state of indifference/hostility between GO on one side and the TTC and 416 passengers on the other. I have previously written about the craziness in not co-locating the Leslie subway station and the Oriole GO station. And about the Lakeshore line GO stations in the City of Toronto where the service is worse (40 minutes!) during peak hours than off-peak times.

    I recently encountered another example at the Long Branch GO Station. The transfer to the TTC streetcar should be a simple matter of walking across the platform and onto the street car.

    In reality, it is quite a hike. Among other things, the streetcar loop is hidden behind a building and there is zero wayfaring to show where it is is. The most direct route features a narrow, dilapidated, unsigned path which has a curb that prevents disabled accessibility.

    The message is sent loud and clear: GO Transit is not cooperating with the TTC and disrespects 416 passengers.


  9. It is completely irrelevant what Rob Ford’s ‘long-term plan’ is, simply because by the time any of these transit schemes will be built (or even begin to be built) he will have been relegated to drawing up the transit plans of this city from his cottage.

    In any event, Rob Ford has unfortunately succeeded – at least for a while – in making the very term “LRT” toxic. As a result, Stintz and Murray are biding their time. So no matter how serious they are about building transit in Scarborough, nothing can be done until at least the next municipal (and possibly provincial) elections are out of the way. I can understand them, especially when dealing with a public, that – by and large – seems to have little understanding as to what is on the table with the various transit schemes being announced.

    Just read the comments in various media sources – the majority of those who do comment there are not being paid to do so – and yet there seems to be a widespread attitude than anything short of a subway is inadequate for this city. It will take time to change that attitude.

    I find the most amusing attitude to be that “Scarborough doesn’t want the Sheppard LRT”. This ignores the obvious point that with full-fledged subway extensions of the BD and Sheppard lines, large areas of eastern Scarborough – that were slated to get higher order transit under the LRT plan – will be condemned to riding the same unreliable buses indefinitely. I believe this is what needs to be emphasized by the politicians representing those wards: that their constituents will get nothing under the subway plan.


  10. As I have stated previously, the Transit City bus plan should have been implemented by now as it is easily one of the most visible ways of improving transit on the last mile (e.g. from subway/LRT to home), and most of the costs and cost overruns are likely less than subway or LRT. Our concentration on subway/LRT does a disservice to Toronto as bus services clearly serve a wider area of Toronto than subway/LRT ever could.

    Given that Transit City is likely delayed until were all dead, getting the Transit city bus plan up and running is all the more important in improving service and reducing gridlock in Toronto. If anyone in Toronto council really cared about transit, they would make implementing Transit City bus plan a priority along with Transit city, not squabbling about whether the SRT should be converted to subway or LRT.

    That subway that comes every 5 minute will do nothing if I have to wait at STC for 30 minutes for the next bus.


  11. Great post Steve!

    Simply put there is little to no chance that anything will get built (or even get the ball rolling) before the next election due to all the squabbling. Honestly, the time has come for Metrolinx and the province to do a lot more to force the issue. I actually liked the fact that the province has given 1.4 billion dollars towards a subway in Scarborough but I lost all respect for Karen Stintz the moment she flat out rejected the idea of a subway when the province would not pony up more money even though the 400 million shortfall was for something that would have had to be done regardless of what mode was selected or what project.

    As much as I hate to say it, Stintz and the rest of council are too busy currying favor with voters to further transit in this city. I actually like Glen Murray in that he is actually doing something decent for the people of Toronto and making the effort. I am the first person to be all for transit construction in Toronto but something has to give and the time has come for the province to cut off the cash flow until the city gets their act together. Cut off all funding for the TTC among other things and watch how fast things get sorted out.

    Honestly, the biggest impediment to transit in Toronto IS KAREN STINTZ. As long as she is chair of the TTC nothing will get done. Andy Byford and Glen Murray have the right idea but Karen won’t proceed with anything unless it is handed to her. This approach has a silver lining. If she tries to run for mayor she will probably lose both her council seat and mayoralty bid meaning she will no longer have control over the TTC.

    All in all, I do believe a subway is the right way to go for the SRT but I also believe that the Transit City bus plan should have been implemented as it would have helped riders across this city immensely.


  12. “.. the time has come for the province to cut off the cash flow until the city gets their act together. Cut off all funding for the TTC among other things and watch how fast things get sorted out.”

    You support the subway option, like Murray, and City Council has officially agreed (pending funding). The TTC is following Murray’s advice in seeking Federal funding but this will take years and probably won’t work. Hard to see how cutting TTC funding would speed up things as the Conservative Feds would welcome a war between the Liberal Province & TTC.

    If your goal is for the TTC to undertake subway expansion using the Province’s $1.4 billion (plus $20- $40 million property tax surcharge), then if everything went smoothly in a decade Scarborough gets 1, maybe 2 subway stops, instead of a grade separated (expandable) 7 station LRT line extending to Sheppard & Progress/Malvern.


  13. If Stintz were serious about transit in Scarborough, then she wouldn’t be proposing to spend billions replacing the SRT with an expensive tunneled subway extension which serves fewer people than an extension of the existing SRT would serve. It does not make sense to resort to expensive tunneling when there is a grade separated above ground alignment that can easily be used (unlike the other proposed LRT lines).

    Also there needs to be serious consideration of electrifying the Lakeshore East and Stouffville lines and running frequent service on them. I wonder if it is at all possible to convert the SRT to some sort of electrified GO service (sort of like the East London line) and run trains to Union. This would be complicated, requiring expansion of Union Station, 4-tracking the Lakeshore East line west of Scarborough station to provide enough capacity and widening the curve at Ellesmere, but if this is possible that it should be considered.


  14. Come on Timur. You don’t really believe that, do you?

    Rob Ford is a lot of things, but he is consistent in his preference for subways. But this LRT discussion is not of his making. He’s allowed to have a preference and so are citizens anywhere in the city.

    The real problem LRT has (as Steve has mentioned many times) is that the TTC does a poor job of getting the message out. People see St. Clair come in at 114% over budget and asks (legitimately) why? People stand on the side of the road for 20 minutes waiting for a streetcar and then watch 3 come at once. People get on a streetcar expecting to reach their destination and get kicked off well short of their destination due to an unexpected short turn.

    Steve: For the umpteenth time, St. Clair did NOT come in 114% over budget. What happened was that work by other utilities, and especially a desire by the local Councillor to see the hydro wires go underground, added substatially to the overall project. Then there was the delay thanks to the court case, and a few other screwups not of the TTC’s making. All in all, the TTC’s portion of the work was at worst only slightly over budget. The rest was add-ons that had nothing to do with the streetcars or LRT or whatever you want to call them.

    Now we can’t expect citizens to become fully engaged in transit but how hard would it be for the TTC to explain concepts. Explain what signal priority means. Explain what Right of Way means. Show them how a Sheppard LRT would be different from St. Clair. Make a commitment to resolving bunching/short turn issues on existing . Take a negative and put it in a positive light.

    These are things the TTC could/should do today! This is not the result of a poisoning of the well by Rob Ford. Conflicting messages from Karen Stintz’s flip flopping doesn’t help the process, but the real reasons run deeper than politicians. If everyone loved LRT’s , politicians would be on board because that’s where the votes are!

    LRT has an image problem!


  15. No one is serious about transit in Scarborough. Its a joke. Time to vote NDP & end the back and forth politicking and lies over the last 50 years. Too bad the candidate is Giambrone.

    The Libs are full of shit.
    The Cons will tear up contracts and promise Subways at the same time.
    The NDP and their spending might be needed in Scarborough if people want transit.

    Steve: And if you believe that the NDP will spend serious money on transit beyond saying “me too” for the Scarborough Subway, you’re in for a surprise.


  16. Kevin Love said:

    The message is sent loud and clear: GO Transit is not cooperating with the TTC and disrespects 416 passengers.

    TTC has also been pretty good at telling GO and 905 transit agencies that their presence in TTC territory is barely tolerated. TTC buses don’t serve GO stations very well … and while there are no trains outside of peak hours except on Lakeshore GO does run buses on all of its lines. I haven’t seen much effort at schedule coordination there.

    This is, ideally, a place where Metrolinx would be well-suited as a facilitator of GTHA transit cooperation–integration might be too much to ask for right now–but if Metrolinx sees that as secondary then not much is ever really going to happen.

    I’d be happy if Metrolinx and GO would just get started by making the space around their stations more pedestrian friendly. Clarkson, Cooksville, Erindale, Port Credit and Long Branch are all examples of stations that require a very small platform extension and stairs in order to make for easy pedestrian access to the street and other transit.

    Joe said:

    No one is serious about transit in Scarborough. Its a joke. Time to vote NDP & end the back and forth politicking and lies over the last 50 years. Too bad the candidate is Giambrone.

    The Libs are full of shit.
    The Cons will tear up contracts and promise Subways at the same time.
    The NDP and their spending might be needed in Scarborough if people want transit.

    Steve said:

    And if you believe that the NDP will spend serious money on transit beyond saying “me too” for the Scarborough Subway, you’re in for a surprise.

    Well, the results of the election come this Friday and the decisions made over the weekend will ultimately affect the position that the Liberal Government takes on local transit … and we’ll probably see things take shape thus time next week.

    Mitzie Hunter is an ideal political candidate for many reasons and it is expected that she will jump right in to the previous MPP’s vacated roles (including a junior position in the Cabinet) … and I expect that Kathleen Wynne will want Hunter’s semi-independence to add credibility to the Liberals while also acting as a foil to Glen Murray going off script.

    I’m wondering if the Wynne government will start quietly supporting John Tory as a candidate for Mayor of Toronto in 2014, in the hope of building up a centrist vote base leading up to the next provincial election.

    Cheers, Moaz


  17. “All in all, the TTC’s portion of the [St Clair LRT] work was at worst only slightly over budget. ”

    Joe Mihevc had a good explanation of how much the TTC went overbudget, but I think his article has been taken down. Do you remember exactly how much the TTC went overbudget?

    Steve: The detailed report on this project is available on the TTC’s site.

    The original project estimate was $48m, subsequently increased to $63m due to improved estimates and some changes. The remainder was due to add-ons and project co-ordination problems, among other things as detailed in the report.


  18. I was somewhat surprised that Joe Mihevc voted to replace the SRT with a subway instead of the LRT he so long promoted. Even after Ford’s victory, he still vigorously promoted LRT, holding his own public meetings. NOW magazine recently quoted him as saying something to the effect that since Scarborough paid for subways in other parts of the city, it was time for the rest of the city to pay for a Scarborough subway extension. I am somewhat disappointed with this argument. This seems to politically devalue LRT. The SLRT would have effectively been a surface subway with subway speeds. It should have been promoted as such.

    Steve: Mihevc seems to be trying to play both sides of the street. His strategy in supporting the subway was, I believe, to attach conditions to the approval that would amount to a “poison pill”, requirements for funding that would never be obtained, and hence the subway project would fail. This is self-evidently not a working strategy with the degree to which, despite the now-agreed level of $1.4-billion (not the $1.8b demanded by Mihevc’s amendment) of subsidy for the subway, and the warm embrace of that project by the Liberal Party, that the conditions will be amended, probably at the October Council meeting to fit then-current expectations.

    Also, by voting in favour of the subway now, Mihevc is in a position to move to reopen the issue. However, so are many other Councillors in response to new info about project financing. Some of the LRT “supporters” on Council have a lot to answer for, even if they might have been fighting a losing battle.


  19. JW, I certainly agree that LRT has been given a huge black eye simply because people tend to compare it with the downtown streetcar system and its horrible reliability. After all, this is what most citizens have seen and experienced for decades. I believe I have pointed this aspect myself in a previous comment here. Having said that, I doubt the folks in Transit Expansion could have brought more people on the LRT side by explaining things better. Most presentations and reports that were part of the public consultations for the initial Transit City projects seemed to have been well received by the public, by and large.

    However, there is so much a good presentation can do to impress. The best way to build support for LRT is not to give flashy presentations, but to see one line in actual operation with your own eyes. Once at least one LRT line will be built – assuming it will happen in our lifetimes – and people will get to see what it is and how well it can function, there is no question that both public and political attitudes will change. But so far, we do not have this luxury.

    Also speaking of ‘public education’, the fact that the TTC was ‘persuaded’ to expunge most of the information about the LRT projects it had available on its public website very soon after the 2010 election has nothing to do with the TTC’s willingness to ‘educate’ the public, and everything to do with bad politics. And trying to educate the public today is not possible because 1) the projects are out of the TTC’s hands and 2) the political climate is not conducive to that.

    Regarding St. Clair, as Steve pointed out, it was on budget as far as the TTC component of it. Calling it a disaster, as Rob Ford has done numerous times, is a flat out lie. The disaster – if you can call it that – was the gold-bricking by other agencies who sought to renew their own utilites at the transit project’s expense.

    As far as Rob Ford is concerned, but for his election, we would be riding the Sheppard East LRT in less than two years’ time, so yes, he did poison the discussion. Given the NIMBYism in this town, we probably would have had to deal with another ‘Save our St. Clair’ type of circus no matter who the mayor was, but in any event the project would have been built in a few years.

    As far as his consistent preference for subways, whenever I have to choose between ‘action’ and ‘promise’, I always believe ‘action’. In the first year of his tenure, thanks to his arbitrary 10% budget cut, many bus routes in the cities were cut, leaving many shift workers, students and even seniors with no transit service on the evenings and weekends. In 2012, the loading standards were artificially increased to fit more people on one bus.

    If we are so broke that we are unable to barely maintain the existing bus service levels, it stretches credulity that we will somehow be able to find billions of dollars required for subway construction, let alone their ongoing operational costs, simply trough low-cost ‘efficiencies’. It is almost like saying I could afford a Lamborghini by cutting down on the number of paper clips I use at work. So until he is able to come up with a viable financing strategy for them, I remained convinced that in his heart of hearts, he is OK with not building one single metre of additional subway in this city. But is using the promise of a subway to sideline any surface rail construction that might impede his precious automobiles.


  20. If those conditions for funding aren’t met by the deadline, does it automatically mean that council will default to supporting the original LRT plan? Or does it just mean that the decision will be delayed again?

    Steve: Those conditions will be rewritten to suit current events by the October Council meeting. Too many people have too much invested in the subway project to let it die this quickly. How long we will have to wait for Ottawa and how generous they may be will be another matter. Meanwhile, some preliminary work on design can get started.


  21. “The original project estimate [for the St Clair LRT project] was $48m, subsequently increased to $63m due to improved estimates and some changes. The remainder was due to add-ons and project co-ordination problems, among other things as detailed in the report.”

    The total spent on St Clair Avenue West was $106 according to the report. TTC work was estimated to be $65 million. The report identifies $30 million for Hydro work (non-TTC work). $106m – $30m – $65m = $11m. Does that mean the TTC’s work alone increased by $11 million, over the estimated $65 million? Or does the $11 million represent other non-TTC work added?

    Steve: Other non-TTC work plus the cost of delays that were not the TTC’s fault (e.g. waiting for Toronto Water to get out of the way).


  22. I find it a bit strange to urge immediate construction of the Sheppard East LRT given that’s one project where there is even less consensus than there is on the B-D extension to STC. Whether the LRT fans here like it or not, the Sheppard subway extension dream as originally planned dies hard with many, as seen by “Le Corbousier” comment above.

    Who knows – based on the track record so far, Transit City revivalists demanding the Sheppard LRT come back could end up generating enough of a backlash that Stintz and the Libs build the Sheppard subway extension as well as the B-D one!

    I always felt Miller and Giambrone started work on the Sheppard LRT project first as a bad-faith move to ensure the Sheppard subway never got extended. Finch would have been a more logical place to start, given JNF and Rexdale are parts of town that needed more help than Agincourt and were definitely never getting a subway.

    If I were to demand an immediate LRT buildout for 2018, it would be the Eglinton line east of the new Kennedy interchange, out to UT Scarb. This would push rapid transit into far eastern Scarborough with a lot less controversy.

    Steve: My point is quite straightforward: All of the folks who are trying to support the subway while saying that it’s a “different case” from the Sheppard LRT (which they strongly endorsed) should put their money where their mouths are. This is important in the wider context of transit funding because we cannot keep adding half a billion here and there to the city debt load to “upgrade” LRT projects (all contingent on comparable gifts of new funding from a stingy Ottawa government).

    That was always the point about an LRT network. If you never start, you are trapped forever trying to fund very expensive subway projects and you build almost nothing, or even worse, you build only the lines with political support, but not necessarily what the network needs.

    Karen Stintz and the Queen’s Park Liberals say that the Scarborough line is a special case where ridership projections justify a subway, but that they support the original LRT plans elsewhere. Fine. Commit some political capital and start building what you claim to believe in.


  23. And if we get the B-D extension and the SLRT is mothballed, as looks increasingly likely, it’s worth reconsidering whether a Sheppard LRT would need to stay on Sheppard all the way, or could dip south to take on the abandoned east-west elevated guideway through Scarborough Centre. This would bring the dream back of rapid transit to Centennial College, as well.


  24. When people erroneously cite the St. Clair cost overruns as LRT’s ‘fatal flaw’ do they seriously believe that a subway won’t suffer such inflation also or do they hold a double-standard and not care how much a subway will cost?

    Steve: The real problem is that we won’t know just how badly the subway is over budget until long after the people who conned us into building it are out of office and we’re stuck with the debt. It’s amazing how folks who attack both the St. Clair project and the much more demonstrably lowballed TTC estimate for the Leslie Barns project think nothing of that 30% contingency factor included in the subway estimate.


  25. Timur wrote:

    “If we are so broke that we are unable to barely maintain the existing bus service levels…”

    Kevin’s comment:

    We seem to have lots of money to spend when it is for something that Rob Ford and his ilk want to have.

    For example, spending a stupendous, eye-popping $505 million on repairs to the Gardiner Expressway. And look how it was done. No endless debate while nothing gets done. No, it was not conditional upon Ottawa or Queen’s Park kicking in money. No, there was no mythical private sector partner.

    Rob Ford et al just simply went ahead and spent $505 million of City of Toronto taxpayer’s money. When they want something for themselves they know how to spend lots of our money.


  26. Keith C said:

    And if we get the B-D extension and the SLRT is mothballed, as looks increasingly likely, it’s worth reconsidering whether a Sheppard LRT would need to stay on Sheppard all the way, or could dip south to take on the abandoned east-west elevated guideway through Scarborough Centre. This would bring the dream back of rapid transit to Centennial College, as well.

    Or both…LRT on Sheppard and LRT along the track south to the guideway north to Ellesmere and eventually down to Kennedy. …

    Someday … in the far, far future.

    Cheers, Moaz


  27. There is absolutely nothing stopping the province from starting construction on the Sheppard East LRT tomorrow, except political timidity. All the preparatory work has been done. Like you say, the province should put its money where its mouth is.

    It would be awkward for subway boosters to campaign against the Sheppard LRT when the Scarborough Subway(TM) has been approved by city council. Scarborough has demonstrably been promised more subways (at least on paper). It would be a little much for subway advocates to rail against (pun not intended) higher-order transit. But then, logic and reason hold no value these days against anger and a sense of grievance. A lesson that is surely being learned by politicians in Richmond Hill.


  28. Re: Keith C and Moaz Yusuf Ahmad, regarding the use of SRT corridor for Sheppard LRT or its branch.

    I like this idea in principle, provided that Sheppard proper is not orphaned. One option is to operate two branches as Moaz mentioned. One branch can stay on Sheppard. The other branch can go south down Midland or Brimley, turn east and use the guideway to reach STC, continue to Centennial, and maybe even reach UTSC if there is a way to get from the Centennial campus to Ellesmere.

    Another possibility is to operate both LRT and Sheppard bus on the common section of Sheppard between Don Mills subway and Brimley. The bus will then provide continuous service on Sheppard, while the LRT will divert and serve all the major trip generators south of Sheppard.


  29. The good news is that Scarborough Centre already has a subway! At least according to the signs that have been installed outside the new automatic entrance on the east end. I was rather perplexed when I spotted that yesterday — I had to stop and take a couple of pictures.


  30. “It would be awkward for subway boosters to campaign against the Sheppard LRT when the Scarborough Subway(TM) has been approved by city council.”

    And once the Sheppard LRT opens and the subway still hasn’t started construction, two of the three proposed subway station locations will already have rapid transit service. That might start to make thinking people wonder why they are paying more than $2000000000 just to add one more station location (and worsen the STC location).

    Steve: I am sure that all of the usual suspects will be at the ribbon cutting every step of the way on an LRT project.


  31. One issue with the argument is that Scarborough was getting a lot of transit under the old Transit City plan.

    However we also have to look at what we would have gotten, and that the old Transit City plan did not deliver better transit for Scarborough. It offered an upgraded yet still slow local transit service.

    Scarborough has been left out of meaningful rapid transit expansion for a long time, and regardless of what side of the debate you are on. Anyone even without a transit planning degree can see the extension of the Bloor subway to Scarborough Centre the best possible thing to do.

    It is better we figure out now what is best for Scarborough instead of spending billions on LRT’s or other transit projects which will do almost nothing to improve the commuting conditions for Scarborough residents.

    Steve: We will have to disagree on your assumptions. Transit City was concerned with the preservation of transit rights-of-way on arterials that will in coming decades be more and more congested. Bus service is already at capacity limitations in some locations, and the subway proposal simply does not provide the same degree of coverage. Scarborough residents will wait 10 years to ride their new subway, and they will find out just how useful, or not, it will be to them. Meanwhile, we could have an LRT network up and running.

    The big problems with commuting for many suburban residents be they in the outer 416 or the inner 905 is that not all trips are headed downtown, but with a subway network we continue to focus on that type of journey. Claims that road congestion will be reduced are flat out not true — even Metrolinx admits that the “32 minutes” that will be “saved” only comes from the expanded transit network preventing a further worsening of congestion, not in making what we have disappear. And, of course, that assumes we will build all of “The Big Move”, a future that is highly unlikely given constant cutbacks and arguments about how to finance building and operating the transit system.


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