Will Scarborough Get Its Subway? (Updated: Probably)

Updated October 9, 2013 at 1:20am:

Toronto Council, by a vote of 24-20, has approved proceeding with the Scarborough Subway project including a three-stage property tax increase totalling 1.6% to finance the City of Toronto’s share of the budget.

There is little new to add at this point on the technical issues all of which were covered on this site before.

My personal reaction is disappointment, but more strongly, disgust at the behaviour of some Councillors and a few City Officials.  The outright hatred and slander against “downtowners” and their motives in “pushing” LRT does not bode well for cordial relations on Council, not to mention sowing equivalent feelings among the electorate.  There are arguments to be made for the subway option (many of them have appeared here in the comment threads), but this should be done in a civil manner relatively free of distortion.

Instead, we got warped versions of the truth about both the subway and LRT options, and not a few outright lies.  TTC CEO Andy Byford, one who trotted out the “100 year subway” myth was forced to backtrack on two counts by questions at Council.  He admitted that the tunnels last for 100 years, but much of what is in them does not.  Meanwhile, he talked about LRT lasting 50 years, not the 30 year figure that has been bandied around of late.  The obvious issue is that a tunnel may very well last 100 years, but if you don’t have to build one in the first place, and can save the expense, what does it matter?

We will have to wait a decade to see whether the suddenly much rosier projections of demand for a rapid transit line in Scarborough come from the same well-cooked land-use and population assumptions that brought us the vastly overstated estimates for the Sheppard Subway (and for growth at Scarborough Town Centre).

In any event, the vote is taken, and barring a discovery of a major extra cost for the City appearing during detailed design, the decision is as final as we can expect to see from this Council and the provincial government.

How the rest of the LRT network will fare really depends on the 2014 municipal and provincial elections.  Mayor Ford has already declared that subways on Sheppard and Finch are goals for his next term.

The half-hearted advocacy for LRT from Metrolinx and Queen’s Park plays a big part in this situation, but I never thought their hearts were in it going right back to the early days of Metrolinx when I was persona non grata for asking their newly-minted Chair if they would consider this mode as an option in their grand plan.

How many more ridings will the Liberals feel the need to buy off with a subway promise?

The original article from October 4 follows the break.

[In a previous posts, I have been tracking the debate over the proposed Scarborough Subway including the provincial scheme announced by Minister Glen Murray, the City’s plan for a subway via McCowan and, of course, the original LRT line from Kennedy to Sheppard.  With the Toronto Council debate coming up on October 8, it’s time to start a new thread (with apologies to those who want to see an even longer comment string on one article).]

Toronto Council will debate, again, the fate of rapid transit for Scarborough at its meeting starting on Tuesday, October 8.  Back in July, Council voted to support a subway scheme with various provisos that some thought would act as a “poison pill” because all conditions would not be met.  Critical among these were requests for federal funding and for additional money from Queen’s Park.  Since then:

  • The Ontario government announced (through Minister Glen Murray) that it would support a subway on the existing Scarborough RT alignment, but that the available funding would take it only to Scarborough Town Centre.  This alignment and no other would be acceptable for provincial support.
  • Metrolinx published a feasibility study supporting the subway-via-SRT option.
  • The federal government announced (through Prime Minister Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty) that it would contribute up to $660-million toward the city’s subway proposal.
  • The TTC published a report critical of the provincial alignment, but with only superficial comments on the technical aspects of the route pending further detailed study.
  • Metrolinx, originally strongly supportive of the government’s subway proposal, retreated to a more generic support for rapid transit with a preference for the LRT plan, but a willingness to support a subway on any alignment, subject to an Environmental Assessment including analysis of competing proposals.

The City Manager has issued a report for Council recapping the issues and updating the cost and tax implications.  An appendix to the report includes copies of the correspondence between the parties showing the evolution of their positions.

Going into the debate, we now have more details about the funding for the Scarborough line that has been transferred to the Eglinton-Crosstown project.  $320m was originally described as the cost of restructuring Kennedy Station to accommodate the new Scarborough LRT, the Crosstown and provision for the future LRT line east on Eglinton.  With the subway option, provision for an SLRT station is eliminated and the cost of rebuilding Kennedy for the McCowan subway alignment plus the Crosstown LRT should be less than the original budget.

However, Metrolinx is also working on improvements to the design of the Crosstown line’s interchange with the Yonge Subway, and wants to keep the full amount in the project budget to help pay for these improvements.  Only when the final cost of the Eglinton-Crosstown line is known would money be released from the Crosstown budget for additional funding of the subway scheme.

The budget for the subway extension includes a provision for additional trains and storage at a cost of about $400m although the current fleet is actually large enough to handle the future requirements.  However, the TTC’s fleet plan (published as part of the 2013 budget) shows the gradual addition of trains on the BD line over the coming decade to bring the peak period headway down from 141 to just under 120 seconds (roughly an 18% increase in capacity with 51 rather than 43 trains on the line).

If this is implemented (previous plans for subway service improvements such as an extension of the Spadina line’s short turn beyond St. Clair West Station have never materialized), it would soak up all now-surplus equipment and yard space.  It is unclear whether the amount of extra service planned is dictated by the available fleet, the minimum headway possible with existing technology, or actual planning for demand growth.

An extension east and north to Sheppard will certainly add to demand and crowding on the BD line over and above regular growth, and it is unclear how much reserve capacity is available even if the line moves to automatic train control and a moving block signal system.  Constraints will remain at major interchanges and at terminals.  Where a new yard would be placed has not been discussed in public.

The cost estimate presented by the City Manager is roughly the same in the July and October reports, although the presentation is slightly different (both estimates are on p7 of the respective reports).  The capital cost of the subway project is now:

Subway construction, equipment, etc              $2.300b 2010$
SRT life extension & demolition                    .170b
Total                                             2.470b
Inflation to completion (2023)                    1.090b
Total cost                                       $3.560b

This is essentially the same as the number used in July.

The provincial budget for the SLRT project was $1.8b 2010$, but from this must be deducted $320m transferred to the Crosstown project leaving $1.48b for the subway project. With inflation, this amount would be $1.99b.

Funding for the project would come from:

Federal government                               $0.660b
Provincial government                             1.990b
City development charges                           .165b
City debt and tax reserves                         .745b
Total                                            $3.560b

A property tax increase of 1.6% spread over three years would be required to create a capital reserve (short term) and then fund debt that would be floated to pay the City’s share.  Future increases in interest rates could have a substantial effect on costs and the taxes needed to cover them.  Moreover, the headroom in the City’s overall debt and appetite for new taxes could crowd out many other necessary projects in future years.

Further deductions include $85m for SLRT sunk costs and the unknown penalty that will be imposed for reduction in the size of the LRV order to Bombardier.  These amounts are not included in the City Manager’s estimate of total project costs, although they represent over 10% of the amount the city plans to finance through new taxes.

(Note: As a matter of City policy, the tax increase on non-residential property would be 1/3 of whatever is levied on residential.  This would continue a multi-year practice of lowering the ratio of non-residential to residential tax rates that was in place well before the Ford era.)

The City would be entirely responsible for any cost overruns on the subway project.  At this time we have only an order of magnitude cost estimate, and as the details are worked out, this number could rise.  Obvious questions include the location and cost of the new Scarborough Town Centre station and whether a station should be provided somewhere on Eglinton before the line heads north up McCowan.

Capital improvements to the existing BD line (notably resignalling and a larger fleet) could also be triggered by this project.  To be fair, the LRT plan would also have increased BD subway demand and the cost of handling this must be included in budgets for all proposals in any comparative evaluation.

There are many unknowns as Toronto faces the Scarborough subway debate, but we most definitely do know that subways are not “free” as was promised during the Ford campaign.  Having created the expectation that subways would come at no cost and that they are the birthright of every Torontonian, subway advocates now must face the implications of a long-lasting city-wide tax hike to pay for one subway extension.

For too long, the true cost of expanding our transit system in capital and operating funding has been buried under rhetoric about cost efficiencies and the magic of private sector partnerships.  Coming in to the budget debates, we now have TTC Chair Karen Stintz advocating increased support for TTC operations through municipal subsidies rather than the flat-lining she herself championed for the past two years.

Budget debates have always attempted to sequester capital financing from operating subsidies, but at last we are seeing how spending in capital and the inevitable demand for greater debt service will affect the headroom for spending on operations.  Is subway building a replacement for providing better transit service that will rise to meet the growing travel demands of Torontonians?  This is not an either-or choice, but a need to balance spending and to spend wisely where the money is needed.

Writing that, I cannot help recognizing a “conservative” voice, but one that recognizes public spending as a necessary part of city building, not as something to be avoided except when buying votes.

183 thoughts on “Will Scarborough Get Its Subway? (Updated: Probably)

  1. I said:

    …given the Crosstown, which is painfully close to being grade-separated all the way to Don Mills

    Downtown Resident replied:

    Can you provide a reference for that?

    I can provide elucidation. The grade-separation of the Crosstown will end near Brentcliffe, close to Don Mills. As you know, there will be a single grade intersection (and station) at Leslie between Brentcliffe and Don Mills.

    I call this situation painful, for two main reasons:

    – assuming a Don Mills Subway will be built, that will be the only at-grade section of east-west rapid rail transit between the Spadina and Don Mills subways. That will not contribute to the Crosstown’s appeal for people otherwise using rapid transit in the core for minority use-cases. You have to imagine a future where people will travel north on Don Mills, west on Crosstown, and then north on Yonge or Spadina. Or reverse that course. It’s really odd.

    – West of Brentcliffe, the Crosstown is a de facto pre-metro line, and should be designed with future conversion to a metro in mind. The Crosstown subway would likely be built between Jane or Mount Dennis and the Don Mills subway. Having the Crosstown tunnel emerge in the middle of Eglinton Ave is not at all conducive to conversion. I suspect that although grade separating to Leslie would have meant a delay and additional cost, it will have saved more money and time and inconvenience when it comes time to convert Crosstown from pre-metro to metro. There was a time when forward-thinking was not anathema to Toronto.

    In short, I think Eglinton and Don Mills will be an important transfer point in Toronto’s future rapid transit network, and therefore the Crosstown should have been grade separated to at least Don Mills.

    As for the Ferrand Drive stop: it is both the blessing and curse of LRT that it can support closely spaced stations. When an Eglinton subway is built east of Don Mills, that station will not survive.

    It is interesting to speculate which stations/stops will survive after conversion. I wouldn’t bet on losing any underground stations, since it’s hard to do after they’ve been in operation, plus the spacing of underground stations is not that much less than YUS and BD south of Eglinton. But if I had to pick one, I would say Oakwood. Two, Chaplin.

    Aboveground, Leslie and Ferrand would have to be eliminated for logistical reasons. I don’t know much about it, but Wynford looks weak. Maybe Bermondsey would move a little west towards Swift Dr. Pharmacy and Lebovic would likely both disappear, as would Ionview. I think Birchmount would survive.

    For that matter, I’m a little surprised that a Birchmount station was never built on BD.


  2. Michael says

    “We all know what the western Lakeshore communities need, and it is not a slow moving streetcar/lrt, or a subway.”

    You know this, do you?

    “What they need are express buses much like the Lakeshore Blvd express bus network serving the Lakeshore communities in Chicago.”

    The Humber Bay 145 express bus runs both ways with empty seats. I expect that the average load, in the peak direction, of the 145 does not exceed 25 riders. I have seen enough of the 145 buses on Lake Shore, in the morning and afternoon, and it’s quite easy to see how lightly loaded they are.

    One peak-period 501 streetcar can often carry more people east through Humber loop than all the 145 buses combined.

    “The Lakeshore express bus network in Chicago is so fast and attractive, that even people who live within walking distance of the red line, take the express buses.”

    Yeah, I guess everyone knows that. But humour me. Why is the 145 so underused? Yes, it’s a double fare which does not help (unless you are a regular rider, in which case the express endorsement of a Metropass isn’t that bad). Nevertheless, there are more people handled by the average rush hour GO station through Mimico station, which is an equally expensive option for a single-fare rider, and much more expensive if you compare monthly pass prices.

    “The current streetcar and the proposed LRT is not time competitive at all with the auto for Lakeshore commuters.”

    You and I have no idea how quick a future LRT might be, so that’s bogus. At present, the 501 is slow. The express bus is not hugely faster. I have been on numerous 501 cars heading into downtown in the morning that run with a 145 through Mimico. The express bus is at Yonge St. about when the 501 is at Bathurst. Definitely faster, but it depends on where you’re going. GO train is fastest to the core.

    I know there are people who used to take the 145, who switched to the 501 to go downtown. I haven’t asked them why.

    “Transit use should be much higher in this corridor, but it is not, because we are not giving people want they want, which is fast and frequent transit.”

    Uh, ‘Subways! Subways! Subways!”

    “Almost everyone I know who lives in those Lakeshore communities drives, including to downtown. Because even in rush hour traffic, it beats the 501.”

    And it will beat the express bus too. There’s plenty of bad traffic to put up with as well. You are best off to take the GO train, but the stations are too far apart to walk to for most. I know a couple of people who drive to work from just around the corner. I’ve seen them drive out when I start walking to the GO station. They park behind the Dominion Building, and often enough I will beat them there.

    Why do they drive? I know that they smoke in the car … and you can’t do that on the GO train or TTC.


  3. For me the most painful part of the Eglinton LRT line is the Leslie portion.

    A few years ago, the south side alignment was not considered – but promises were made to consider it in detailed design. During detailed design, Metrolinx stated that the TBM launch site could not be on the hillside west of Leslie due to ground and property issues and that it would be moved to Don Mills. With that, the south side alignment would not be needed. Then the TBM launch site was moved back to the hillside and there was no further mention of the south side alignment.

    Somehow, Metrolinx avoided considering this option all together.


  4. Steve: Something that is badly missing is origin-destination information for trips in and from the Lake Shore communities. A link to the BD subway may encounter less traffic, but what proportion of the demand would it serve?

    That’s a given, but my comment about direct service to Keele was in response to the complaint about Humber Bay Shores residents only having the Prince Edward Bus to Old Mill Station, the slow 501 or the double fare express bus. The Queensway bus to Keele Station is also an option and gives faster access to the subway, at a point where the subway still isn’t full. I remember a South Kingsway bus running at one time but I don’t think it runs anymore. My point is, if the bus could go through the tunnel at Humber loop more people would be able to access bus service.

    Steve: It’s called 77 Swansea now (also operates as part of 71 Runnymede).


    Someone headed for the business district would be dumped on the subway at precisely the wrong place (crowded already, transfer needed at St. George) and the time “saved” by going north to Bloor would be lost on the subway itself.

    That’s quite true but it would depend on where they are going. Using access to Keele Station (as an example) means I could also go west to Bloor West Village and take care if my needs there. Plus all my experience riding the Bloor-Danforth says that it Dundas W is a big station for boardings but Keele is not.

    Steve: I doubt that Bloor West Village is top of mind for most commute trips.


    People headed for downtown need a service that goes downtown.

    Which takes us back to the Scarborough Subway debate, as well as the lack of origin/destination studies and mention of improved GO transit service as part of the discussion. It’s almost as if the subway choice was railroaded through and the only other option available was shown to be second class at best.

    Cheers, Moaz

    Steve: There were O-D maps of Scarborough riders in the EA for the Scarborough line and they showed quite clearly that everyone in Scarborough is NOT going downtown, but to other places in Scarborough. That was the whole point of Transit City, to serve trips that were not core oriented.

    It is ironic with all this talk of “what downtown gets” that we are building a subway to make it easier for Scarborough folks to get downtown.


  5. Steve said:

    There were O-D maps of Scarborough riders in the EA for the Scarborough line and they showed quite clearly that everyone in Scarborough is NOT going downtown, but to other places in Scarborough. That was the whole point of Transit City, to serve trips that were not core oriented.

    I honestly think that’s the most depressing part about this whole farce. Basically with all the money being spent on this subway extension, people in Scarborough will actually see little benefit from it including transit oriented business development. Amusingly enough, as unneeded and overpriced as the line already is, the failure to go for broke (hopefully nowhere near literally) and use the extension to link STC with the Lakeshore East GO line is probably going to be the final nail in the coffin for turning Scarborough away from being an automotive centric community if LRT really is now dead in this city.


  6. @Ed

    Interesting, that the 145 is so unpopular. The fact it’s a ripoff with the fare premium is a factor, for sure, but I wonder how popular it would be at the regular fare.

    We need two things here. First, fare integration with Go and increased frequency. Yeah, I know, in my dreams.

    Second, a LRT between Lakeshore-Park Lawn and downtown. Either alongside Lakeshore, or next to the railway (my favorite choice, as it could get rides from the soutirent parts of Liberty Village). Granted, it sucks that it wouldn’t go all the way to Long Branch, but road widths west of Parklawn exclude that possibility.

    As Steve pointed out earlier, routing that line would not be simple. But such a line would easily beat the 145.

    Steve: And I am not convinced that mixed traffic running on the narrower section of Lake Shore is the end of the world. I will be looking at transit vehicle speeds there as part of a review of Queen car operations I will be starting, probably in November (so much data, so little time).


  7. I don’t see how a bus to Keele from Humber Bay Shores would be better then the bus to Old Mill. The distance is shorter, the subway is emptier and it’s even closer to Bloor West Village (Bloor West Villege is more or less Runnymede to Jane).

    I’m not sure allowing buses in the tunnel would help. The only road to Bloor is Prince Edward which is west of Parklawn. That’s the route the bus takes now. Besides the tunnel is probably too narrow for buses.


  8. Steve, how much more, if any more, transit is Scarborough getting for the additional $1bn? And how would you measure something like more or less transit? I’m not sure if this has been brought up, and I’m speaking as someone not at all familiar with transit in Scarborough.

    Thank you for the blog. I really enjoy it, even at what seems to be the worst of times.

    Steve: For our $1b, Scarborough is getting a slightly faster ride to downtown (elimination of transfer at Kennedy), but fewer stations and fewer locations/riders within walking distance. They are also losing any hope of rapid transit being extended north and east, and if Rob Ford has his way, the line will be hooked into the Sheppard Subway a cost of several billions more.

    The issue is not to say “what are they getting” but to say “what else could they have”, and to ask that question in a network context, not just within Scarborough. The anti-LRT folks will hate me for saying this, but a network of LRT in Scarborough (and beyond) would serve far more areas better than they will ever see with a subway+bus network. On a wider scale, every time we say “LRT isn’t good enough”, we give up the chance to improve transit without bankrupting capital and operating budgets in the future.

    Scarborough has been convinced that it is the poor cousin of Toronto, a victim of dastardly plots to prevent its manifest destiny. This is all political tripe, but it’s the story that gets traction. When we start talking about overall transit quality, I will start to believe the debate really is about transit, not just political opportunism.


  9. If you are a regular commuter (as most 145 express bus riders are likely to be, given that they’re rush-hour only services, and I never see riders in the other direction), you buy a regular Metropass plus $37.75 express route sticker. Get the pass on the discount plan and the total is $155 per month. Monthly “pass” for Mimico-Union on GO is $161.20 (which is less than I expected). If you never, ever take transit other than to work and home, GO is a much better deal. However, a Metropass has way more other-riding utility than the Mimico-Union Presto card.

    Any West Waterfront LRT should have a ROW to somewhere west of Park Lawn. As the condos go up, there’s more and more turning traffic that not only slows down streetcars, oblivious (or not) drivers will cut off streetcars leading to abrupt stops at best, and collisions at worst. For the rest of Lake Shore, I agree that an ROW is not essential. If it can be achieved at low cost, though, I would certainly support it. If only because I think it would be easier to embarrass the TTC into running more reliable service on a ROW. Didn’t that sort of work for St. Clair?

    One nuisance with Humber loop is that Queensway buses bound to/from Keele don’t come into the loop. The roadways are designed to turn back a bus westbound, and nothing else. I haven’t made a detailed study, but given the way that the turnaround is grade-separated I don’t see any easy way to add other routings.


  10. Downtown Resident says:
    October 15, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    “Also the Downtown Relief Line must be located half way between the Richmond Hill GO Line and Stouffville GO Line to be able to get full worth of the billions of dollars that the Downtown Relief Line will cost.”

    Although I tend to agree with Steve regarding his reply to this comment, I have not given the alignment of the DRL much thought within the context of the likely Sheppard Ave, Scarborough subway loop. The aggressive subway proposal will shift the city’s center of gravity north-east. Perhaps the once proposed Woodbine alignment of the DRL should be given some thought, it could be built along O’Connor to Eglinton and Victoria Park and eventually proceed to the Consumers Business Park. It is likely to have greater development potential, and it seems to be more in line with the current trends at city hall.

    Steve: Subway loop or no subway loop, I do not believe that the centre of gravity is going to shift north-east, certainly not on a scale that would affect the DRL. The Scarborough subway won’t open until 2023 and any effect it will have will be substantially after that by which time a DRL should be well under construction. With only three stops, the amount of development the new subway will generate will be limited and certainly won’t constitute a shift east.

    The DRL should go up Don Mills and arrive there by way of Thorncliffe/Flemingdon Park. Screwing around with the alignment to further pander to Scarborough would be a ridiculous abdication of the real demand in the Don Mills/Thorncliffe corridor. Yes, the GO line is vaguely close to Don Mills, but it is not ON Don Mills and would not be convenient for people who live in that corridor to use. There is also the small matter of the river valley. As for the Uxbridge/Stouffville line, yes, it has a place but primarily for getting commuters between Markham and downtown so that they do not overload the subway system.


  11. @Michael

    Mixed-used on the narrower parts of Lakeshore is hardly the end of the world, indeed. Speed on the 501 will be interesting to see. Somehow, I expect the Lakeshore portion of the route to be faster, but we’ll see.


  12. Jon Johnson said:

    Perhaps the once proposed Woodbine alignment of the DRL should be given some thought, it could be built along O’Connor to Eglinton and Victoria Park and eventually proceed to the Consumers Business Park.

    Can someone explain to me the number of people who take public transit to drop off their garbage at the Bermondsey Transfer Station? I say that because that is the only thing in the area that could possibly justify the need for anything beyond local bus service along O’Connor.

    As for “future development potential”, is the entire area due for redevelopment before the end of the decade because the private sector only has a planning outlook of five years and one of the trends at city hall is to operate it more like a business.


  13. @ Nick L says:
    October 21, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    The development potential that I am referring to is regarding Queen St East and the Lakeshore. If the subway continues east past Pape it will likely stimulate a lot of growth in the area, and support the redevelopment of the Port Lands depending on the alignment that is chosen. The likely development taxes the city receives from this alignment will likely go a long way toward the subway’s cost recovery. The fact is that the area in question is close to the downtown, close to the beaches, close to great cultural amenities and entertainment facilities, not capitalizing on this potential is quite a shame if you ask me.

    I do however agree with you that the geography of the Don valley does force an odd route north to at least to Eglinton.

    The problem with choosing and alignment is balancing growth potential with “relief”.

    Steve: Moreover, just because one builds a subway to Queen and Pape/Eastern/Lakeshore does not mean that the area will develop. As for this paying for a subway, there is no way that redevelopment except at a massive scale can generate the money needed to fund subway construction.


  14. Steve said:

    As for this paying for a subway, there is no way that redevelopment except at a massive scale can generate the money needed to fund subway construction.

    And for large scale redevelopment to happen, it would require government expropriation of private property on an equally large scale for it to happen in a timescale not measured in generations, or before the loans for subway construction have to be repaid. Expropriation costs aside, the notion of a government acquiring large number of residential properties for property developers is an extremely unpopular idea to put it mildly.

    Once you take that into account Jon Johnson, you quickly realize that O’Connor is no better than the Thorncliffe/Flemingdon Park area for redevelopment with the added disadvantage of a low existing ridership base with limited “pre-redevelopment” growth potential.


  15. Nick L: Once you take that into account Jon Johnson, you quickly realize that O’Connor is no better than the Thorncliffe/Flemingdon Park area for redevelopment with the added disadvantage of a low existing ridership base with limited “pre-redevelopment” growth potential.

    Toronto has so many areas with sufficient density and transit ridership to support a subway already, it is puzzling why anyone would consider building subways to or through areas requiring redevelopment to justify a subway.


  16. “Toronto has so many areas with sufficient density and transit ridership to support a subway already, it is puzzling why anyone would consider building subways to or through areas requiring redevelopment to justify a subway.”

    Yah, but the areas with sufficient density are populated by latte-sipping elite pinko bike hipsters who hate cars and want to drive their streetcars on the 401. Who wants to reward that sort of behaviour? Also, subways subways subways.


  17. Ross Trusler said:

    Toronto has so many areas with sufficient density and transit ridership to support a subway already, it is puzzling why anyone would consider building subways to or through areas requiring redevelopment to justify a subway.

    Your guess is as good as mine if we can’t use cynicism.

    The Thorncliffe/Flemingdon Park area is way overdue for an improved mode of transit beyond local bus service (it even has a mall!) and the Leaside area to the north is already undergoing significant brownfield redevelopment. Yet somehow it keeps getting ignored for subways to areas where people hope there might be something that might involve people using transit 2+ generations from now.


  18. What do you make of this?

    Apparently the Conlins road carhouse is being cancelled. But officially the Sheppard LRT still needs it. According to the current plan, shouldn’t they just cut back the number of tracks and possibly the size of some buildings? Does this mean that the Sheppard LRT is unofficially cancelled? But I thought Council explicitly voted, as part of the Scarborough subway debacle to affirm the other three LRT projects, including Sheppard LRT.

    Steve: The Sheppard LRT is still on, and Metrolinx is supposed to be working toward an earlier construction date for it. I must assume that the change in scope of the carhouse was sufficient that the original bids were no longer valid. Also there have been rumblings that bidders are not happy with the idea of being responsible for maintenance after construction.


  19. Hello everybody,

    I would like everyone to know that as a resident of the malvern subdivision, we are heavily against the sheppard lrt. As a university student in politics, I believe it is unfair to build a subway or lrt without approval of the surrounding subdivisions. An lrt east of Markam road would be disastrous for community traffic in our neighbourhood. Most people within our neighbourhood do not work in downtown (though there are a few) and would feel the lrt is an obstruction to everyday life, as sheppard road is an extremely important road for local traffic. Driving around is an essential element of malvern and most of our everyday emmenities can be reached around our neighborhood and the need for an lrt is lower. Though we support the Scarborough subway connection (as it makes subways more accessible to reach without ruining our roads), we would rather have no lrt’s in our neighborhood. This does mean we are open to the idea of subways though, instead of the chant, “lrt’s, lrt’s, lrt’s” .

    Steve: I would hope that as a university student in politics, you will have learned that basic things like grammar and spelling, not to mention presentation, go a long way in establishing credibility when you take a position. I have left your comment intact as you submitted it without the usual editorial tidying I perform for most contributors.

    Sheppard Avenue has enough room for the added LRT lanes in the Malvern area without losing any road capacity, and Metrolinx is looking at what can be done in the less than 2km of the west end of the LRT line where, in the original design, lanes would be lost.

    The purpose of the LRT is not just to get people downtown, but to provide additional capacity on Sheppard for east-west travel which is predicted to grow substantially in coming years. The alternative is even more buses clogging up the curb lane. Malvern will never, ever, see a subway. Depending on which version of the Scarborough subway is built, you might still be riding a bus to STC to make the connection.

    And, for the record, David Miller got lots of votes in Scarborough the last time he ran for mayor. Transit City was his plan.


  20. New York City has great transit – lots and lots of subways and no boroughs (like Scarborough) are cheated out of subways. 2 of the only 3 “subway” stations in Scarborough are outdoors and with the temperature having dipped to as low minus 25 on two different mornings and minus twenty or lower many times, we in Scarborough feel betrayed. One of the only 3 subway stations in Scarborough is barely even in Scarborough being built on the Scarborough side of the border with subway rich East York. New York City builds high quality high speed fully grade separated subways and not slow middle of the street LRTs that have been forced upon Scarborough on Eglinton Ave East and trying to force more upon us elsewhere. Scarboroughers will freeze to death waiting for the middle of the street LRTs at outdoor streetcar like LRT stops with ZERO protection from the elements. If you live in Scarborough and don’t want to freeze, then the best solution is to get a car as there is no way that we are going to get nice heated underground stations like those in Downtown, East York, North York, York, etc. I nearly froze to death waiting for the Scarborough RT in minus 25 on January 7 which got severely delayed and now they want us to reopen the debate on the already approved Scarborough subway so that we can continue freezing. On January 8, I got a brand new car (already had a license). I prefer transit but transit is not an option in Scarborough when it’s this cold. The richer parts of Eglinton like Forest Hill, etc will get fast underground transit with nice heated stations but the Scarborough portion has been conveniently unburied so that we can freeze to death waiting at the streetcar like stops. I really wanted the SRT to be replaced by a subway, the Eglinton LRT to be completely buried, and the Sheppard subway to be extended east as a subway but no longer care as I now have a brand new car that is always warm and I no longer have to wait half an hour only for seven or eight buses / streetcars to show up at the same time.

    Steve: Oh your poor frozen darling. My heart bleeds for you. There are many stations elsewhere in the network that are not underground, or are close enough to a tunnel opening that the wind howls through them (try Broadview with a strong west wind). I won’t mention the Spadina line, or Davisville, or Rosedale, or High Park, or Kipling, etc. Stations are not heated, but they are warmed somewhat by the trains and the people. Where they are close to a portal or have a drafty vent shaft, that heating dissipates quickly. I was freezing on King Station platform earlier this week.

    A very large amount of “downtown” is not on a subway line, and people have to stand out in the weather waiting for a bus or streetcar just like the folks in Scarborough. Ask people how much they like the Dufferin bus or the Queen car when you are kvetching about what you want for Scarborough.

    “Subway rich East York”? There are no subway stations in East York. Near, yes, but not in.

    You say that New York builds (present tense) fully grade separated subways and not LRT in the middle of the street. Well, most of the NY system dates from early in the 20th century when there was enough demand, thanks to density at a level Scarborough would never dream of allowing, that there were three competing private subway companies building lines in Manhattan. By the way, not all of the lines in the system are underground, but I’m quibbling here. NYC had a large streetcar system running in parallel with the subways, and that lasted until Mayor LaGuardia killed off the streetcars as outmoded. A lot of the service in NYC is provided by commuter railways (the equivalent of GO) and almost all of this is at grade except for the underground sections to get across rivers and access major terminals downtown.

    The Scarborough RT is a special case because the TTC was forced by Queen’s Park to implement an untried and unreliable technology as a showcase for the province. The equipment and infrastructure have become more and more unreliable, and delays are common. The snow blowing into the cars through the “closed” doors is particularly amusing as an example of Ontario technology at its finest. I rode that line for about eight years as part of my regular commute to work.

    We don’t have enough money to build an underground line for every major transit route in the city. What we need to do is to make the ones we have work properly.

    The Eglinton line in Scarborough was NEVER going to be buried, and so you cannot talk about it being “unburied”. If anything, it would have been an elevated structure much like the existing SRT. The line is underground in the older part of the city because the road is not wide enough to fit a surface right-of-way.

    Enjoy driving your car. I will think of you when I look out my window at the snowbound motorists on the DVP.


  21. “You say that New York builds (present tense) fully grade separated subways and not LRT in the middle of the street. Well, most of the NY system dates from early in the 20th century when there was enough demand, thanks to density at a level Scarborough would never dream of allowing”


    Someone as well versed in transit as you, should not be pulling the density argument.

    You very well know, that if we used density as an excuse for not building transit, then Toronto would have almost no bus service at all in Scarborough. Or at the very least, buses once an hour.

    You need to read “Transport for Suburbia”. It shows how density is really not the be all and end all that people make it out to be. And Toronto is used as an example where density has had little effect on transit usage.

    Steve: You are distorting my point. The original claim was that New York is (present tense) building a network of subways all over the city and that, by extension, Toronto should be doing the same thing. In fact, New York only has that network because it was a very dense city at a time when private auto ownership was unheard of, and because the density of the city could support a very fine-grained subway network.

    I am not claiming that Scarborough should not have transit, only that subways are not the answer. Scarborough has buses much more frequently than once an hour because people ride them. This has much more to do with overall travel patterns than with density per se. It was the high demand for travel in NYC of the early 1900s that produced the need for and profitability of subways, and that demand arose directly from the high population density.


  22. “now they want us to reopen the debate on the already approved Scarborough subway”

    Normally I agree that approved transit construction projects should be built, not re-debated over and over, but in this case I have no sympathy. The LRT project is/was already approved and fully funded, and was overturned for an ill-considered and wasteful subway line. If the LRT project is fair game for re-opening the debate, then so is the subway project. That’s just basic consistency.

    “the Scarborough portion has been conveniently unburied so that we can freeze to death waiting at the streetcar like stops.”

    Yes, that’s right. Toronto City Council couldn’t afford to transport people to Siberia to freeze to death in a gulag, so instead they conspired to build the Eglinton LRT on the surface to obtain the same result. Funny how that plan hasn’t worked very well downtown with all the outdoor streetcar stops—the place is still way overpopulated. I guess that just shows how smart city council is.

    Steve: We seem to have travelled from NYC to Scarborough, and I am going to shuffle this thread off elsewhere where it belongs.


  23. Steve, you need to stop letting people tell you nonsense about subways being better than LRT, and you also need to learn about LRT. Here’s a great website that has a lot of info: The Toronto LRT Information Page

    Steve: Please don’t tell me what I need to “learn” about LRT. I have been at this for over 40 years, back when the streetcar system was threatened, and some activists hoped that we could start building LRT out into the then-empty suburbs. The host of the site you link contributes regularly here.

    As for letting people tell me that subways are better, there is a limit to the fire and brimstone I can include in every reply to inane comments about subways, although occasionally I rise to the challenge.


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