Updated on December 12, 2013 at 5:40 pm: Maps of the original SLRT alignment proposed by the Transportation Plan Review and the alternate alignment proposed by me and Robert Wightman have been added at the end.
Original article from December 10, 2013:
Back when glaciers still plied the northern outskirts of Toronto, there was something called the Metropolitan Toronto Transportation Plan Review. It was an outgrowth of the decision to halt construction of the Spadina Expressway and take a new look at Toronto’s transportation plans. At the time, folks living in The Beach and the east side of downtown were fighting against the Scarborough Expressway. This project would have linked the (former) stub end of the Gardiner at the Don east to Woodbine, north to the rail corridor, and then east to link up with the 401 in eastern Scarborough.
The MTTPR (as it was called) looked at alternatives to the expressway and in March 1974, they came up with a scheme to build an LRT line with two branches. This would follow Queen Street (as part of the streetcar service) to east of Broadview, then follow the rail corridor to Scarborough Junction. One leg would head east to Morningside, while the other turned northeast to the Scarborough Town Centre.
The proposed STC route followed the Uxbridge Subdivision north from St. Clair to just north of Eglinton. At that point, it turned along an abandoned rail corridor (the Orono Subdivision) that runs northeast eventually crossing McCowan south of Ellesmere where the line would swing back west into the northern part of the STC lands. This proposal brought howls of outrage from residents whose properties backed into the old corridor, and the MTTPR was looking for an alternate route.
Robert Wightman, a frequent contributor to comment threads here, and I wrote a critique of the MTTPR study. We observed:
Orono Subdivision Alignment
This alignment was chosen to maximize penetration of the residential areas between Eglinton and Ellesmere in the Northeast Corridor. Regardless of the desirability of such penetration, the residents of the area have repeatedly expressed their opposition to the use of the Orono alignment for a rapid transit facility. Even Go Urban, which supposedly minimizes neighbourhood impact, has met with strong opposition. The right-of-way is very narrow and, in places, forms part of the recreational area of the communities through which it passes. [Steve Munro & Robert Wightman, March 11, 1974]
“Go Urban” was the ill-fated, but provincially backed “maglev” system that would bring a network of silent, elevated trains to Toronto. When this scheme failed, Queen’s Park backed off to LRT for a time, but their heart wasn’t in it beyond building a new streetcar fleet for the TTC.
Wightman and I proposed, yes, the alignment we all know and love today as the SRT up the Uxbridge Sub. Unlike what was built, however, our version turned east in a tunnel under Ellesmere with stations at Midland and Brimley before swinging northeast into STC on an alignment aimed at a future Malvern extension. We were still ten years from the opening of the SRT, and the original plan called for LRT, not the new provincial technology that would evolve into ICTS or “Skytrain”.
In 1974, the Danforth subway ended at Warden, but the Kennedy extension was already on the books. Indeed, even when the SRT did open, there were remnants of the original LRT design including some signage (long gone) and clearance markings on the low level platform and, of course, the loop (still in place). There was also talk of an Eglinton ICTS “intermediate capacity” line running west from Kennedy Station. Such a line is only now under construction four decades later.
We ended our report with concern about how well LRT would be accepted as a new transit mode:
We recognize the position of the M.T.T.P.R. in avoiding the role of “salesman” for Light Rapid Transit or any other transit mode. However, we question whether the concept has been adequately introduced and explained to both the decision makers and general public in the Scarborough Expressway Planning Review […] . There has been little effort on the part of the Plan Review, the Toronto Transit Commission, the Metropolitan Toronto Government or the Provincial Government to cultivate a general awareness of the nature and capabilities of this transit mode. We question whether the Plan Review, in avoiding the “political” role of salesman for Light Rapid Transit, has abdicated its important purpose of informing the public on transit alternatives in transportation planning.
We recommend that the Plan Review, through its public participation program, undertake to educate the public on Light Rapid Transit so that they can intelligently assess the proposed alternatives to the Scarborough Expressway. [ibid]
Needless to say this did not happen, and the MTTPR’s head, Richard Soberman, went on to become the salesman who would bring ICTS to Scarborough at the behest of the provincial government. He even joked about this during his review a few years back of options for replacement of the aging SRT, with the clear implication that Scarborough Council were like carnival “marks” ripe for the picking with promises of a showcase for Ontario’s new technology. There was also very substantial arm twisting from Queen’s Park with threats of subsidy cutoffs if ICTS was not used by the TTC.
LRT didn’t have a chance, and Toronto has suffered ever since from the absence of that “missing link” between subways, buses and streetcars.
Maps of the Alternatives
The first map shows the LRT line following the Uxbridge Sub from Scarborough Junction north and slightly to the west to Kennedy & Eglinton. A short distance to the north, it enters the abandoned Orono Sub right-of-way and follows this to Ellesmere east of McCowan. Then the line swings west again into the north side of STC. This version could only be extended to Malvern by a branch that would continue on the Orono Sub north from Ellesmere and would not give direct Malvern to STC service. (This map was drawn in landscape with oddly oriented titles, and it has been rotated to portrait format to allow easy comparison between the schemes.)
The second map is a sketch using the same alignment to Eglinton, then continuing north to Ellesmere, east to beyond Brimley, and then into STC from the southwest. Note the provision for extensions.