Will Scarborough Get A Subway?

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

The primary reasons given for this change of heart were:

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

Without rehashing the details at length:

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

Political Fallout

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

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

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

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

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Metrolinx Board Meeting of June 27, 2013

The Metrolinx Board met on June 27 with a full agenda.

There is a great deal of duplication between various reports, and I have consolidated information to keep like items together.  Some reports are omitted entirely from this article either because the important info is included elsewhere, or because they simply rehash status updates with no real news.  Metrolinx has a love for “good news” to the point that each manager stuffs their presentations with information that is already well known, or which parallels other presentations.

Among the more important items in these reports are the following:

  • Metrolinx is now conducting various studies all of which bear on the problem of north-south capacity into downtown Toronto.  This involves the (Downtown) Relief Line, the north-south GO corridors and the Richmond Hill subway expansion.  A related study involves fare and service integration across the GTHA.  It is refreshing to see Metrolinx taking a network approach to planning, rather than looking at projects in isolation, and recognizing that some of their own, existing routes can be part of an overall approach to solving this capacity problem.
  • The Metrolinx Five-Year Strategy includes dates for the beginning of service on various projects including the LRT replacement for the Scarborough RT.  Previous versions of these dates cited “by 2020”, and Metrolinx has indicated a desire for as short a construction/shutdown period of under three years.  However, the new strategy paper talks of an “in service date” of 2020.  Metrolinx is aiming for a three year shutdown at most, but the SRT might continue operating beyond the originally planned September 2015 date, possibly for one additional year.  This could lead to an earlier reopening than 2020.  (Correspondence from Metrolinx on this issue is included later in the article.)

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How Many Streetcars Will Fit at King & Spadina? (Update 2)

Updated July 4, 2013 at 7:50pm:  Observations of actual operations at the intersection for one hour today have been added.  These reveal that the level of service actually operated on all routes (except 508 Lake Shore) is less than advertised.  Although traffic congestion causes some backlogs of westbound cars, the number of movements, especially the west-to-north turn, is low enough to fit within the available traffic signal cycles.  This would not be the case if 100% of the service were operated.

See the end of the article for details.

Updated June 28, 2013 at 6:30pm:  Information on traffic signal timings has been added to this article.

The original article follows the break below.

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Real Time Animation of TTC Operations

A regular reader of this site, Daniel Tripp, has created a website that can display TTC vehicle locations and movements with new wrinkles in functionality compared to other sites and apps.

His site is called The Unofficial TTC Traffic Report and there is an explanatory video on YouTube.  As of July 4, it only supports a subset of the network with the major downtown routes.

There are two ways to select which routes and directions you will see:

  • Moving “start” and “end” points around on the map will dynamically change the display to give info on the trip options you have for your journey.
  • Clicking on a route will allow you to add or delete it from the display and select the direction’s service to be viewed.

The routes are shown with colour coding to indicate the speed of operation over each part of the line.

A particularly interesting feature is a half-hour long animated view showing the movement of vehicles.  This makes it possible to review recent history without having to stare at the “current” display of routes and remember what is going on.

Occasionally, you will see a vehicle somewhere that is impossible (a streetcar on a street or path that is not part of the network).  From my own experience, this is a function of GPS errors which are common on certain TTC vehicles.

The app is still in development.  Contact info for the author is in the About page.  Please send suggestions to him.

The Scarborough Subway Vs LRT Debate, Again (Updated)

Updated July 3, 2013 at 11:20pm: 

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

Jamie Strashin ‏@StrashinCBC

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

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

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

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

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

The original article follows below.

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An Interminable Debate About Track Gauge

This post has been created for the sole purpose of being a repository for a string of comments in the “Feeling Congested 2” article that got into increasingly farfetched schemes for regauging the TTC to standard gauge or conversely arguing that TTC gauge should spread throughout the GTHA and beyond.

This issue has been debated, if that is the word, at great length here to no discernible benefit — Metrolinx is building a standard gauge network, while TTC gauge remains on the Toronto streetcar and subway networks.

Comments on this post are closed.  Any that attempt to sneak in on another thread will be deleted.