A Few Questions About Scarborough

Toronto Council’s agenda for today, February 10, 2015, contains a series of “Administrative Inquiries” by Councillor Josh Matlow regarding various aspects of transit plans for Scarborough. The City Manager’s response appeared late yesterday, but it was not exactly packed with revelations.

In theory, the inquiry process provides a way for questions to flow directly from a Councillor to City staff bypassing the usual mechanism of committee reports where administration majorities might strangle debate. In practice, the information released might or might not fully address the question.

Mayor Tory’s position is quite clear: the subway debate is over, and Matlow’s questions are simply attempts to reopen the question on matters that are already known and decided. Would that it were so simple. Subway champions should pause in their dismissal of Matlow’s position because the report shows how much we don’t know, or at least are not being told, about the subway project.

1. “Sunk Costs” for the Scarborough LRT

When Council approved the switch from LRT to subway technology in October 2013, part of the agreement with Metrolinx was that Toronto would absorb the cost of work-to-date on the discarded LRT plan, subject to an audit to validate an estimated $85 million pricetag. Matlow asked two simple questions:

  • Has the City Manager executed an agreement with Metrolinx to pay the sunk costs?
  • What monies are allocated in the City’s 10-year capital plan for this expense?

Recent discussion through the media on these points has been rather odd. On one hand, the City Manager repeatedly declined to put a specific number to the costs; on the other, Councillor Pasternak (he of the “North York Relief” subway, aka Sheppard West from Yonge to Downsview) mused that Toronto should not have to pay for the LRT work even though Council agreed to this.

In the City Manager’s report, we learn that the audit is complete, and that staff are finalizing an agreement regarding provincial funding of the subway extension which will take into account the amount agreed as an offset for the sunk costs. However, as the Star revealed yesterday, on December 30, 2014, Bruce McCuaig, President and CEO of Metrolinx, wrote to the City Manager formally accepting an offer of settlement in the amount of $74.8 million. The City Manager agreed to this in a reply dated January 9, 2015. Given this exchange of letters, we know that the settlement has been finalized, subject to Council approval, for over a month.

2. Operating and Capital Maintenance Costs

With the change from a provincial LRT project to a municipal subway line, responsibility for operating and maintenance costs falls to the City and TTC budgets. However, Toronto seeks an offsetting credit from Ontario equal to the amount it would have paid were the line a Metrolinx operation. Capital Maintenance (major repairs and replacement of assets such as vehicles) is estimated at $30-40 million annually, although this is a cost that starts low for a new line and builds over its lifetime.

However, there will also be operating costs on the TTC’s budget related to day-to-day service and maintenance, and these have not been provided, net of any new fare revenue, in reports to Council. (In fairness, such an estimate was not provided for the LRT option either.)

Matlow’s questions are:

  • What are the estimated operating costs?
  • How much of a property tax increase would be needed to cover the capital and operating costs due to the subway?
  • What is the status of negotiations with the province over these costs, and when will the results be reported to Council?

On the first two questions, the City Manager replies:

TTC will be undertaking an estimate of annual operating and maintenance costs for the SSE, following Council determination of alignment and service levels noted above.

Council approved the subway option in late 2013 and, at the time, only two alignments (the “City” one via McCowan and the “Glen Murray” version via the SRT corridor) were on the table. Additional possibilities have arisen quite recently thanks to issues with competition from the SmartTrack scheme, but one might hope that the TTC would already have a ballpark estimate of operating costs if only for planning purposes. They know how much it costs to operate subway lines and stations, and they could roughly estimate the amount of bus service the subway would trigger.

If the line does go to Sheppard, some bus routes that now cross south of the 401 to STC might be shortened, but this could be offset by increased demand and the need for greater service to feed the subway. The TTC might not have the detailed network drawn out, but one might reasonably ask whether they had any sense of comparative costs going into the LRT/subway debate in the first place.

Now we are told that such an estimate will not be available until Council chooses an alignment for the new subway. That’s right — Toronto must decide where it wants the subway and only then will we learn how much it will cost. This is a continuation of an ass-backward pattern where “assessment” of transit projects ignores basic questions that could inform decisions. Indeed, “affordability” is supposed to be a criterion, and yet critical information will not be available.

Needless to say, negotiations with the province re cost sharing are still underway, and there is no indication that Queen’s Park even accepts the premise of an offset between Metrolinx LRT and City subway costs. A challenge for any agreement on this account will be a time and/or dollar value limit on provincial contributions, and quite obviously such an agreement would require firm estimates of the comparative costs for both schemes. However, if the process described by the City Manager is to be believed, this information would not be available until after Council has selected a subway option.

3. Extension of the Scarborough Subway Study Area

Matlow asks three questions:

  • Why does the study area exclude Agincourt GO Station?
  • Will ridership estimates for the subway extension take into account the effect of SmartTrack?
  • If the subway is shifted east to McCowan, would riders further west be more likely to use SmartTrack than the subway?

The City Manager replies that the subway study will examine whether a more easterly alignment would better serve a larger part of Scarborough. His reply is interesting because of the equal role it presumes for both subway and GO/SmartTrack services:

The study area has been broadened to the east (i.e. Markham Road) to explore alignments which would complement the SmartTrack proposal and potentially bring rapid transit service to a larger proportion of Scarborough residents.With that approach in mind, given that the Agincourt GO area is planned to be served by both SmartTrack and enhanced GO service, it is considered more appropriate that the subway serve other areas, further to the east on Sheppard Avenue.

This reply, of course, assumes that services on the GO line can be considered as equivalent to the subway, but that is a huge stretch on three counts.

First is the question of fares. We know that GO Transit’s pricing is considerably higher than the TTC’s and there is, as yet, no “co-fare” arrangement for a discounted through trip from a TTC bus feeder onto a GO train. Although SmartTrack has been touted as “integrated” with the TTC, it is not certain whether this means it would operate as a TTC fare service with no premium. Obviously, SmartTrack itself will bring added net costs notwithstanding claims by its proponents that its ridership would cover its cost of operation. That claim is based on demand estimates wildly in excess of the likely capacity of the service to be offered.

This brings us to the second question, the level of services on GO/SmartTrack and on the subway extension. We know already that the TTC only plans to operate half of the peak service beyond Kennedy Station (a headway of 4’40” on current schedules). GO’s RER will at best provide a train every 15 minutes, and SmartTrack will be something under 15 minutes, but at a level yet to be determined. Both services in the rail corridor are constrained by capacity of that corridor, of the Lake Shore East corridor and of Union Station.

Finally, it will be difficult to design a feeder bus network to serve both the subway and SmartTrack unless Scarborough’s routes are gerrymandered even more than today (with the focus on STC Station) to force-feed one or both routes. Should the TTC’s grid arrangement of routes be torn apart to funnel riders into a subway station at Sheppard (whose exact east-west location remains unknown) or into, say, a Finch SmartTrack station?

All of these factors affect all of the network options. As for the effect of SmartTrack on a Markham Road subway alignment, the question is premature because nobody has studied this configuration. That work will be done as part of the SmartTrack assessment which is a separate, but parallel, undertaking by Metrolinx, TTC and City staff.

4. Does the Proposed Subway Budget Include Enough Trains?

Matlow notes that the subway budget includes $125 million for 7 subway trains including one spare. The City Manager confirms that the budget assumed a service design of sending alternate trains beyond Kennedy Station to Sheppard much as service now turns back at St. Clair West in the am peak on the  1 Yonge-University line. The actual equipment requirement for the extension will be determined once the alignment (and hence both demand and running time) is settled.

As I have already noted in discussing TTC fleet plans, there is currently a surplus of T-1 subway trains, and the TTC’s plans show six of these being assigned to the 2 Bloor-Danforth line when the extension opens. No new train purchases for BD are included in the fleet plan until 2026. This is an example of a cost (replacement of the T-1 trains earmarked for Scarborough) that could be pushed beyond the initial extension project’s budget into a future capital maintenance expense early in the life of the extension. The TTC owes Council a fleet plan that clearly shows provision for additional trains for the Scarborough extension and which budget line (subway extension or fleet replacement) they will be charged to.

Is this a budgetary dodge to free up money that would have been spent on trains to pay for additional project costs elsewhere?

5. Ridership Estimates

Matlow poses five questions about ridership on the subway extension:

  • Will more detailed estimates be presented to Council before it moves further with the extension project?
  • What modelling system produced the increased demand estimate for the subway option of 9,500-14,000 peak passengers in comparison with the LRT option?
  • Was this model consistent with that used for previous (i.e. LRT) projections?
  • Will SmartTrack effects be factored into projections for the subway extension?
  • Have the erroneous projections for the Sheppard Subway (and by implication the validity of the demand model) been taken into account?

With respect to the next Council approval, the City Manager states:

Detailed ridership forecasts will be reported through the required approvals process for the SSE’s Transit Project Assessment Process (TPAP).

Once again, the idea that Council might make an informed choice regarding the subway option and its alignment is missing. Instead, they will be expected to choose a subway route without knowing how it might perform or how the larger network might behave.

The original 9,500 riders per hour estimate for the “LRT” option presumed that the STC was its terminus when the model was run in 2006 by the TTC. In fact, at that point Transit City did not exist, and the project under study was a replacement of the SRT with upgraded RT trains, but no extension. The model used provided a 2021 estimate and this was extrapolated to 2031.

The 14,000 riders per hour estimate for the subway option presumed that it would run north to Sheppard, and it was based on the City’s 2031 modelling for the Official Plan Review.

Timing constraints did not allow for the results to be refined using the TTC’s transit assignment model. The study terminus was assumed to be Sheppard Avenue rather than Scarborough City Centre. Other modelling assumptions that differ include frequency of service on the subway extension and other lines assumed in the future transit network.

Yes, most certainly there were differences in the City model notably that the projected demand would require better service than the SSE plan actually includes. At 14k/hour, the demand would completely fill an alternate train service running north from Kennedy to Sheppard.

As for the “future transit network” it is unclear just what this might entail, but almost certainly this would not include frequent GO/RER service nor SmartTrack, neither of which had been proposed when the subway modelling and Council’s decision occurred. This is a common problem in “regional” modelling for TTC projects — the absence of the commuter rail network as an option for long-haul trips from the 905 and outer 416 into downtown. If frequent service, especially at a TTC fare, will be available in the GO corridor, what will happen to that extra subway demand? Indeed where in the modelled universe does that demand originate? Are we building a subway to serve Scarborough, or to serve commuters from Markham?

Finally, on the question of the mismatch between Sheppard Subway forecasts and actual ridership, the City Manager reports:

The current ridership on the Sheppard subway is not directly comparable to the estimates in the environmental assessment. The extent of the subway as built is much shorter than that considered in the environmental assessment. The ridership forecast in the environmental assessment considered an alignment linking the North York and Scarborough City Centres. The first phase of the line was initially planned to extend from Yonge Street to the Consumers Business Park, but was subsequently truncated at Don Mills Road due to funding contraints.

The land use as projected at the time of the environmental assessment, particularly employment, has not materialized, though residential development has occurred in a manner that is consistent with the subway investment. Employment uses, particularly office development, generates significantly more transit ridership than residential development.

The difficulty, of course, is that the employment node in Scarborough was supposed to be STC, but this has been slow to mature and more recent development has been residential, not for employment, a form that moved elsewhere, notably to the 905. A major problem with any suburban non-residential development is that employees will come from all over the GTHA and most will not originate in the catchment area of a transit system, especially if the development is expected at an outer terminus. By contrast, downtown is fed by many lines connecting with a wide range of residential neighbourhoods. This directly affects how a development might be structured — around transit or around a large parking lot with easy access to an expressway.

There has always been much talk of making the area around STC into a major node, and recent planning efforts now focus on the McCowan Precinct, an area immediately east of STC. How this area will relate to or be served by the transit network, including services reaching beyond the 416 boundary, is something of a mystery. The precinct is large enough that a single rapid transit station, especially one at the western edge, cannot serve the entire area.

Any ridership projections for the Scarborough Subway must explain how workers destined for jobs it might serve will actually make their “last mile” connections between rapid transit stations and job locations.

Conclusion

The City Manager’s report is not outright evasive, but it demonstrates the amount of information Toronto Council does not yet have about rapid transit options for Scarborough. If Council chooses to commit to multi-billion dollar projects without fully understanding the implications, that’s a political decision.

Between the Scarborough Subway and SmartTrack, we see two projects that have an air of inevitability, that brook no questions about their validity or even the degree to which they duplicate each other’s function.

The great irony here is that absent SmartTrack, Toronto would be discussing regional transit improvements on GO and a local improvement with the subway. SmartTrack is a hybrid, welcome in the sense that it accepts the possibilities of the commuter rail network for travel within Toronto, but oversold as a near-subway service when that is not physically possible.

If anything, the network studies for GO, SmartTrack and TTC subway options are more important than the Scarborough Subway option alone. The network study includes multiple agencies with overlapping, but certainly not identical, preferences and priorities, and there is a chance that it will give a clear understanding of how the many parts might fit together. Some proposals may change, some may fall off of the map completely, but at least there will be a framework for the decision.

248 thoughts on “A Few Questions About Scarborough

  1. Robert Wightman said:

    I cannot see a line being build under Queen Street then curving down to meet a Bathurst GO station. IIRC there are a lot of deep tunnels under Queen for Path, Parking and a couple of subway lines. Digging out the stations would also cause major problems. Plus curving down to the rail corridor would run into a few basements.

    I wasn’t thinking of a Queen-Railway corridor connection. I was thinking of two separate lines, a DRL subway under Queen and a rail spur tunnel from the rail corridor in the east to the Bathurst North yard via Wellington and Front. The rail spur tunnel would allow the Big U/Smart Track without the problems of USRC and Union Station platform and concourse capacity.

    Of course there would be challenges in that a rail spur tunnel would be larger than a subway tunnel and would require investment like Crossrail.

    This is all speculation at the moment. With the current situation where funds are limited, the DRL should get the priority. But unfortunately with the current political situation and the desire for aligning Smart Track with everything, it looks like we’re stuck with thinking about it.

    Cheers, Moaz

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  2. Moaz said:

    “This is all speculation at the moment. With the current situation where funds are limited, the DRL should get the priority. But unfortunately with the current political situation and the desire for aligning Smart Track with everything, it looks like we’re stuck with thinking about it.”

    I think it should be thought about and planned for in terms of requiring substantial additional capacity into the core for RER. However, this should be in terms of preserving potential routes. As you say DRL should be planned and built, however, with the note that it needs to be designed so as to be able to eventually support a station where one is viable (and that space preserved).

    We cannot allow endless construction to go forward in the area without consideration to future required corridors. However, absolutely, the major funding and priority on construction should support a DRL. It unlocks the most in terms of other lower cost projects and capacity. It permits substantially increasing capacity on BDL line – new signals and trains (required anyway) and add to that an end of line yard with additional turn and storage capacity, and you have a substantial increase in capacity and somewhere to direct core bound load that with a BDL in hand can actually get to the core.

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  3. Joe M said:

    “… once these “downtowners” get their DRL funding and quit trying jeopardize Scarborough’s future for their own gain …”

    Steve said:

    “Once you stop littering your remarks with this sort of statement, I will start publishing them again.”

    Joe, nobody downtown wants to stop a good plan that would maximize the benefit for Scarborough. The issue is service, attractiveness, and actually creating a modal shift. People downtown want more of the city to have better service, especially to the degree that gets them riding transit. The question that haunts a wider audience is what is the best way of serving the most people, and provides the best solution.

    The major issue/point of contention – at least in my mind – even in the article you were so irritated by, was the failure to understand the perceptions around what will actually get done. Those railing against subway know there is a better way of spending that money to support transit, you believe (for good reason) that those projects are divisible and therefore will only be very partially implemented – with the balance always being pushed to the out years.

    Also there is a basic lack of appreciation of who supports a DRL. I do not think anybody beyond planners and transit geeks (and periodic economists/business people who happen to be provincial taxpayers that need Toronto to continue being the major tax paying hub that it is now) really gives a rat’s ass about it. Downtown and shoulder area residents, by and large are no more involved than anybody else – that is why there has been so little real action to date. The DRL is like maintaining your roof – and the leak is just not big enough for anybody to really care – yet. They will, and then it will be everybody all at once (Scarborough, Downtown, Etobicoke, and likely yes even North York) as every transfer point is overloaded, and all trains into the core are packed to beyond (at some point – Danforth riders will show no hesitation to ride to transfer to the Spadina line instead). However, at that point, where the politics mandate it, the solution will arrive far too late.

    The fundamental issue is the nature of how the projects are funded, and the very basics of how government does accounting, and the basic realities of politics. This is true of all issues, and a core problem for the DRL as well. Scarborough needs a far wider transit solution than subway extension will provide (regardless of route). Toronto as a whole needs access to the largest center of employment – and that is really what the DRL is about.

    So Joe focus on what is really wrong (the way projects are funded), and stop looking at a DRL as something for just a small group. We got here by being voters who were only looking at what was in it for us in an extremely narrow way. We also allowed ourselves to be fooled by being sold answers that felt good and were far too easy. The answer must be to stop playing to the BS politics, and start supporting the overall best answer – for the city and even region as a whole.

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  4. I want to see the size of tunnel required for SmartTrack. According to GO’s own documents there is a minimum of 17′ 9″” required clearance between the rail head and the bottom of a bridge on a line that is electrified and had only GO equipment on it. According to Transport Canada documents the minimum width of the tunnel is 13′ 5″ at the rail head and 16′ from a height of 3′ above the rail head to 14′ above. I haven’t plugged this into any equations yet because my mind is in low gear today but I am betting it would require a tunnel diameter of at least 20′. Since the cost of tunnelling varies with the square of the diameter it would be more expensive compared to a subway tunnel of 17′ 9″ diameter. Since all the information I have is in imperial I am not going to convert it to metric today.

    A March 1992 GO Transit report, 1992 03 L1901, by CPCS Limited in Association with Hatch Associates Ltd. gives a lot of detail about electrifying the lines and comparative travel times for EMU, diesel hauled and electric locomotive Hauled trains and when 12 car trains are use the EMUs save 14.5 minutes over electric locomotive and almost 30 minutes over diesel hauled trains. in the rush hour. The advantage of the EMUs is that the trains can be easily shortened in the off peak to save power cost. With the stop spacing on the proposed SmartTrack the only option is EMU.

    The document is still available on a GO website with studies going back to 1981. Look at the larger 1992 report. They make interesting reading, especially when you realize we are well beyond the ridership they predicted for far into the future.

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  5. Malcolm N said:

    So Joe focus on what is really wrong (the way projects are funded), and stop looking at a DRL as something for just a small group. We got here by being voters who were only looking at what was in it for us in an extremely narrow way. We also allowed ourselves to be fooled by being sold answers that felt good and were far too easy. The answer must be to stop playing to the BS politics, and start supporting the overall best answer – for the city and even region as a whole.

    Joe M:

    I think most people on here including myself are fully aware the main issue is Politics & funding. My issue is to address the Politically biased locally media.

    This irritation stems from the fact there are countless Politically driven articles from specific media outlets which have zero benefit to Scarborough citizens in this transit discussion . Our media is heavily politicized & an extension of this problem you mention above as it fuels a divide which not only helps sell its goods, it also rallies their targeted voting base with slanted articles. Many of those are on this board are part of this target audience.

    Even i agree with some points that are made in a few articles. But when I read the big picture of what is really being said Its far from genuine & completely disturbing to Scarborough residents.

    Articles which are slanted heavily towards a DRL vs Scarborough Subway debate or even trying to stop the Subway to Scarborough with “insert cheap alternative” have no place at this point in time. There are valid points on both ends of the Scarborough transit debate yet only one side gets a megaphone. And these media outlets sure like to use it to tell Scarborough whats best for them.

    Unfortunately this Media discussion is not about how to spend the 3-4 billion available on a fully funded system for Scarborough & other neglected areas of Toronto because that’s not what they are after.

    In general the local media continues to create a false simplistic image of Scarborough & people that don’t live here have a hard time understanding or even realizing this problem. So when people who know/care very little about Scarborough meddle in our crazy transit debate it doesn’t help matters whatsoever as it only amplifies our frustration to the existing problems.

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  6. Robert Wightman said:

    “They make interesting reading, especially when you realize we are well beyond the ridership they predicted for far into the future.”

    This of course would raise yet another concern with ST. It asserts there is empty space, when Metrolinx studies suggest there is not, and here you are suggesting that in the past GO (Metrolinx) has guessed on the low side. Why make an issue worse? Especially when it will be so hard to cover the ground anyway. GO looks like it will be hard pressed to meet regional demand with RER, why undermine that?

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  7. zero benefit to Scarborough citizens

    In the context of your library of previous posts, can I guess “zero benefit” to mean it’s not a subway, subway, subway?

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  8. Steve:

    Once you stop littering your remarks with this sort of statement, I will start publishing them again.

    The comment was directed at those in the core who could care less about Scarborough transit & only can focus on the DRL. Sorry if you were offended & I could have not used that term. But it goes both ways around here & hope you stop posting those who refer to us as “suburbanites” then as it was no worse.

    Many including yourself constantly refer to Scarborough citizens as “suburbanites” but I guess that OK? I’m not surprised you’d did this. It’s your blog & you have your own agenda to uphold. Otherwise you overly sensitive to only one side of the argument. I’m not one for divisive comments but I certainly don’t get overly offended when this type of comment other way around.

    Thanks Steve.

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  9. robertwightman said:

    According to GO’s own documents there is a minimum of 17’9″ required clearance between the rail head and the bottom of a bridge on a line that is electrified and had only GO equipment on it.

    There are minimums and then there are absolute minimums. Generally speaking, for GO only areas, the minimum clearance is 4.93m, while the DMU dynamic envelope is 4.45m. Likewise, the minimum space for electrification equipment is 0.97m, but the absolute minimum is 0.47m. GO doesn’t like building to the absolute minimum, because it leaves no room for error, but in absolute terms, you could get away with 16’3″, but GO prefers 19’4″.

    As for the tunnel diameter, with a height of 17’9″ and 13’5″ at top of rail, you get a tunnel 6.2m or 20’4″.

    robertwightman said:

    A March 1992 GO Transit report … gives a lot of detail about electrifying the lines and comparative travel times for EMU, diesel hauled and electric locomotive Hauled trains … EMUs save 14.5 minutes over electric locomotive and almost 30 minutes over diesel hauled trains.

    That report is quite outdated now. For the diesel side it is based on the F59PH, which are now the minority and being phased out. Thus the time saving is more a fact of a 3000 HP diesel loco compared to a 6960 HP elec loco or 5×1830 HP (9150 HP) EMU consist. When laid out like that, the time saving is obvious. The a more recent version of these numbers: diesel 5900 HP, elec 7100 HP, and EMUs 6×1100 HP (6600 HP) gives a very different version of time saving. Basically, GO has already absorbed most of the diesel/electric savings, and the EMU savings were overstated due to an overpowered model selection that doesn’t conform with track limitations.

    Joe M said:

    Our media is heavily politicized & an extension of this problem you mention above as it fuels a divide which not only helps sell its goods, it also rallies their targeted voting base with slanted articles. Many of those are on this board are part of this target audience.

    While I’m not arguing that Canada has some political divide to its media, it’s not nearly as bad as some other G8 nations, such as the US or UK. If you want articles about how the Scarborough Subway is all moonpies and mudbeams, then just turn to Sun media. While they rally against one subway that would serve those living in Scarborough and travelling downtown (the DRL), they unequivocally support a different subway that would serve those living in Scarborough and travelling downtown (the SSE).

    This shouldn’t be a this-or-that debate. It should be an is-this-good debate and a separate is-that-good debate, followed by a which-is-better-for-everyone debate. I’m not sure why you are so opposed to the better fitting LRT option that existed before the subway was swapped in. It’s not a cheaper option, because the subway is limited to the LRT budget, so it’s a question of less subway or more LRT.

    When Toronto citizens that live in Scarborough only complain that “outsides” don’t understand their issues, it doesn’t do anything to solve the problem. If others don’t understand, endeavour to illuminate the underlying issues and people can then debate the heart of the matter rather than dance around hurt feelings.

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  10. Joe M. said:

    “Unfortunately this Media discussion is not about how to spend the 3-4 billion available on a fully funded system for Scarborough & other neglected areas of Toronto because that’s not what they are after.”

    I think the issue with the media is less one of having a political bone to pick, than one of being able to sell papers. Unfortunately actually having an intelligent discussion of transit, instead of a single line or this mode vs that mode requires the reporter to spend considerable time, and be able to bring the reader along with him. The most important thing for media is the one you noted elsewhere – selling advertising, and this means eyes or ears. The media unfortunately has an interest in conflict and controversy, as it attracts attention (a variation on the theme of “if it bleeds it leads”). This is also true for politicians from both sides of the debate. The subway only leaders, either do not understand transit, or do not care as it is far too hard to sell the nuance of a network and how it works.

    This leaves us looking at the people who are really in charge Joe, the guys who really screwed it up – the voters. We buy the papers, and elect the people who tell us what we want to hear, when with a few moments of thought we would not only not support them, we would be making sure our friends were aware of the fact that as Steve likes to say – it isn’t that simple. We vote regularly for the pipe dream, we allow promises to be made based on promises that requires money that will not be set aside this year or next (meaning it never will be). The Scarborough subway is in the same danger as wave 2 of the big move was. It is a promise to spend real money after the next election. This is why I would be going with LRT, 3, 4, 5 hundred million is an amount of money that can be secured, especially after the car house and major core facilities are already built.

    I would argue it is easier to secure 500 million 10 times than 4 billion once. Hence I would have gone for the LRT network, and just kept pounding away at it. Tory is going to have to back away from the only real transit promise he made Smart Track as only RER can be built – then everything else will be up for grabs again, and well – another lost decade. I would have gone for the little promise – that is likely to be delivered – every election.

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  11. Matthew Phillips says

    “That report is quite outdated now. For the diesel side it is based on the F59PH, which are now the minority and being phased out. Thus the time saving is more a fact of a 3000 HP diesel loco compared to a 6960 HP elec loco or 5×1830 HP (9150 HP) EMU consist. When laid out like that, the time saving is obvious. The a more recent version of these numbers: diesel 5900 HP, elec 7100 HP, and EMUs 6×1100 HP (6600 HP) gives a very different version of time saving. Basically, GO has already absorbed most of the diesel/electric savings, and the EMU savings were overstated due to an overpowered model selection that doesn’t conform with track limitations.”

    That is true and the AC motored vehicles can probably get a tractive effort up to 35 or 40% of weight on drivers instead of 25 or 30% for DC motors. I think that both of these sets of numbers are high for any type of black rail. The EMUs have a higher initial tractive effort and can accelerate at their initial rate for longer before reaching the constant power point. This is very useful on frequent stopping service but less important on longer haul runs where the reduced costs of locomotive hauled coaches is better. The other advantage of EMUs is that with automatic couplers they can be made into shorter trains for off peak periods to reduce power consumption

    GO could probably get better times out of their diesel fleet with AC motors, which seem to becoming the norm on new orders in NJ. Running two engines would also improve the time for diesels but be expensive. GO had to finally admit a few years ago that they couldn’t run the same schedule as in the 70s with much heavier trains while still using the same tractive effort.

    Thanks for the information as it is hard to find it without the necessary resources.

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  12. Malcolm N said:

    This leaves us looking at the people who are really in charge Joe, the guys who really screwed it up – the voters.

    Joe M:

    Voters can not be blamed whatsoever. A Political candidate may offer a good solution in one part of his/her platform & horrible solutions to others. Also all Politicians stretch the truth to get elected. What is a voter to do? Just vote for the best blowhard on the ballot.

    So who’s really at fault? It’s the system & the fact the majority of citizens are uneducated as to how our Political system works & how we can change it.

    You can’t blame voters for this. There is not a better choice until we educate the youth to become engaged.

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  13. Joe M said:

    “You can’t blame voters for this. There is not a better choice until we educate the youth to become engaged.”

    Joe, I would argue, that the voter has always had the choice to be educated – they can and should carefully consider the choice and to know things are too good to be true. To quote Scotty from Start Trek “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me”. What do we say when it is we who are fooled 20 or 30 times? We have lying politicians – because we reward the behaviour, and those who refuse to lie finish at the back of the pack.

    Steve: Or worse, are slammed by the winning pols during election campaigns, who then make a post-election about face and adopt the very policies they so scorned on the hustings.

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  14. Steve said:

    “Or worse, are slammed by the winning pols during election campaigns, who then make a post-election about face and adopt the very policies they so scorned on the hustings.”

    Although at times I would argue Steve it is even worse, when they insist on much study and delay before doing so – simply because of their talk during the campaign. This is very frustrating, as with a little consideration on the part of the voters they would know – this guy is saying something I want to hear (and I know he knows that) and this guy is saying something I don’t want to hear (and I know he knows that) – and yet we can’t figure out who is lying – really? It is not hard to know the guy who is telling you the truth is the guy saying something unpopular – maybe we need to vote for truth a little more.

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  15. Joe M. said:

    “Unfortunately this Media discussion is not about how to spend the 3-4 billion available on a fully funded system for Scarborough & other neglected areas of Toronto because that’s not what they are after.”

    We have seen a lot of misleading information and propaganda from media to block a project for political reasons. For example in 2012, Sheppard Transit Expert Panel suggests that an extended Sheppard subway from Downsview to STC will have a peak ridership of 12500 in 2031 (only 16 years from now) which is 2500 above minimum ridership required for a subway. Some media still give false information to people about the ridership of this corridor to be only 3000 to justify the LRT duct tape solution for fixing the transit in Sheppard.

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  16. Joe M – if you think the media and the “experts” side of the debate is biased against Scarborough, all I have to tell you is to get a hold of Glenn deB pro-scare subway propaganda newsletter from January. Reading any of that is why people like us who spend years curating specialized expert knowledge in this area have our serious concerns that go unheeded. It’s an insult and a slap in the face. Toronto citizens deserve better. Politicians do nothing but pander to the population who doesn’t have the base level understandings to make these decisions.

    We DON’T talk about opportunity cost, and we don’t bother doing the hard thing, which is educating and making the best decision regardless of opposition.

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  17. We have seen a lot of misleading information and propaganda from media to block a project for political reasons. For example in 2012, Sheppard Transit Expert Panel suggests that an extended Sheppard subway from Downsview to STC will have a peak ridership of 12500 in 2031 (only 16 years from now) which is 2500 above minimum ridership required for a subway. Some media still give false information to people about the ridership of this corridor to be only 3000 to justify the LRT duct tape solution for fixing the transit in Sheppard.

    That’s quite a trick there considering the current peak transit demand on Sheppard west between Yonge and Downsview is currently about 1200/hour and the same goes for Sheppard east from Don Mills.

    I’m not quite sure I’d believe the dentist if he says ridership demand will increase ten-fold along this corridor over the next 15 years when there’s no precedent anywhere for that sort of increase anywhere anytime. I’ve even heard mumblings that the ridership on Sheppard has actually decreased slightly in recent years.

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  18. Malcolm N said:

    It is not hard to know the guy who is telling you the truth is the guy saying something unpopular

    It’s not all so clear cut. For example, I thought John Tory and SmartTrack overextended the benefits of using the rail corridor, but I liked the underlying assumptions of better regional integration. Counter to that, I disliked Chow’s plan of “additional TTC funding” because it completely missed the mark from reality. Neither plan was an outright lie, but Chow’s plan was more out of touch.

    Steve: FYI the original idea for more TTC funding and service came from me, but at a much higher scale. Chow’s campaign was afraid to be painted as “tax and spend” NDPers. They lowballed the numbers and lost credibility. Meanwhile, Tory promised billions for a fantasy “surface subway” and got elected for his efforts.

    Rob said:

    We have seen a lot of misleading information and propaganda from media to block a project for political reasons. For example in 2012, Sheppard Transit Expert Panel suggests …

    So your example of media bias is that they haven’t used an outlier value from a politically convened group with the agenda of inflating ridership numbers in order to justify a project for political reasons? As well as a group that suggested LRT is more appropriate than a subway?

    Rob said:

    peak ridership of 12500 in 2031 (only 16 years from now) which is 2500 above minimum ridership required for a subway

    If the bar for subways is 10K per peak hour, we are seriously missing a few dozen subways in this city. However, it’s really near the 15K to 18K mark that LRT no longer is the better option due to capacity constraints.

    Steve: That latter number for LRT only works for completely exclusive right-of-way, just to be clear.

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  19. “So your example of media bias is that they haven’t used an outlier value from a politically convened group with the agenda of inflating ridership numbers in order to justify a project for political reasons? As well as a group that suggested LRT is more appropriate than a subway?”

    The report I quoted is actually from the panel which endorsed LRT without considering the operation costs (Professor Eric Miller’s).

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  20. So the Subway will have overruns & the LRT wouldn’t? These guys will try to their dying day to prevent paying for a subway extension.

    Steve: The issue is that the LRT was cheaper to start with, and the “small” incremental cost for a subway may be underestimated. The LRT has considerably less structure, and therefore fewer components to go off the charts on budget.

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  21. Steve:

    The issue is that the LRT was cheaper to start with, and the “small” incremental cost for a subway may be underestimated. The LRT has considerably less structure, and therefore fewer components to go off the charts on budget.

    Convenience pre & post construction, seamlessness, attractiveness … etc And there are many other pros for the Subway extension …

    But we really don’t need to re-hash all the pros and cons again here. Instead Scarborough Citizens just have to read this heavily biased author’s weekly assault as he tries to convince or rally non-Scarborough residents to help derail this subway project for reason that have no benefit to Scarborough future.

    Again unfortunately there only one side of this debate being discussed at length through the media but there are certainly two sides to this debate. And the media will just keep it coming until Scarborough gets what “they” decide is best.

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  22. “the “small” incremental cost for a subway may be underestimated.”

    The potential cost overrun for a subway could pay for an entire LRT line. Is part of the problem that subway is so expensive the numbers are hard to think about, so all the construction figures just look like “lots of money” and people don’t realize that by saying “it needs to be buried” they’ve made the required transit network unaffordable?

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  23. Isaac Morland

    The potential cost overrun for a subway could pay for an entire LRT line. Is part of the problem that subway is so expensive the numbers are hard to think about, so all the construction figures just look like “lots of money” and people don’t realize that by saying “it needs to be buried” they’ve made the required transit network unaffordable?

    Joe M:

    Considering most complaining live within a reasonable distance to a Toronto subway stop it’s hard to understand why the numbers are so hard to think about.

    If it was affordable for enough to complete the Spadina extension we can certainly afford the 3 stop Scarborough extension. You won’t ever find political projects without cost overruns. Lets not stop it at Scarborough’s expense.

    Is it unaffordable for Scarborough because we spent all the money on other areas? Or just unaffordable because it Scarborough & you don’t care to invest in any form of equality in Toronto?

    Steve: While I may not agree with the Scarborough subway project, I think that using the Spadina line and its cost overruns as an anti-SSE argument is just plain wrong. Lots of projects have gone over budget, and others have come in right on the money. It’s the degree of advance design and engineering, good cost estimating, the absence of surprises during construction, and a competent contractor with good project management by or for the client, not the location of the project.

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  24. Looks like Josh Matlow – Toronto Star partnership is back at it again. I guess they found last week’s Metro article effective enough to regurgitate. Too bad Scarborough Councillors don’t get this type of weekly media podium & support to spew their false narratives in return.

    Steve: I actually don’t agree with the approach Matlow is taking. It is not yet clear what the reason(s) might be for the Spadina overrun, and without that info, it’s impossible to state that any project, be it the SSE or the DRL, will fare well or poorly in the future.

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  25. Steve said:

    “I actually don’t agree with the approach Matlow is taking. It is not yet clear what the reason(s) might be for the Spadina overrun, and without that info, it’s impossible to state that any project, be it the SSE or the DRL, will fare well or poorly in the future.”

    Steve to what degree is it a question of not enough research and advance planning was done in order to lay out the line, and to what degree is it a question of the proponents of a projects low-balling or pitching a minimum project to get it approved, and then knowing it will grow in cost but reach a point where it cannot reasonably be cancelled?

    Steve: It is important to remember that the first, big, jump in the estimated cost came from the extension to Vaughan. Reports comparing an initial $1.5b estimate to a conjectured $3b cost to completion leave that part out. There were very large increases in the cost estimates for stations. Some of this was due to complexity, some due to unexpected site conditions. The degree to which conditions could have been foreseen is hard to know without all of the engineering background. I hope that this sort of info will come out when the external review of the project is released later this month. Meanwhile, in my copious spare time 😉 I hope to dig through the reports on contract awards and changes from the mid 2000s to present to get a sense of what was changing and when.

    On the subject of mission creep, we can see it already in extra stations, a new longer route, and an inevitable request to link up the SSE with the Sheppard line. A billion here, a billion there, what does it matter?

    The question I would have with regards to Scarborough, would really center around Smart Track, to what degree will this undermine the viability of a Scarborough subway? While I believe Scarborough would be better served with a full network of LRT, I wonder whether the ground is going to shifted in an unreasonable way with the insertion of a Smart Track proposal.

    Steve: I don’t think that candidate Tory really understood the degree to which SmartTrack has upset planning and expectations that were underway. He, and more importantly his team, may have seen ST as a “bold new move” to break us away from conventional ways of thinking about transit. That said, the endorsement of the SSE without review is very much a “more of the same” position. It’s important to remember that Transit City in its day was a “new move” to change assumptions about what we could and should build, and at one time, this was endorsed by most Scarborough politicians until (thank you Rob Ford and Mitzie Hunter) they started to exploit the “Scarborough deserves” mantra. SmartTrack threatens the SSE, parts of GO/RER, the Waterfront East LRT and the DRL because ST has been pitched as the “one” solution to every problem. Even if we could build everything that ST claims to be, problems would remain, but we already know that the claimed capacity and benefit of ST was very seriously oversold. Some of the “experts” behind that plan have a lot to answer for.

    I find this process frustrating, in that our “leaders” seem to actually follow polling data, not planning. Polling data by its nature – driven heavily by the framing of the question, and the options offered – is so malleable. I would like to see planners be given a chance to lay out the best set of options for the northeast of the region, inside and outside Toronto, recognizing that inside needs to be dealt with as part of Toronto, and have those presented. For instance RER + a $3.8 billion subway or RER + a $3.8 billion dollar LRT network. These with service levels and adjusted bus routes with frequency and cost of operations in hand.

    Further that council is allowing this debate to happen in the absence of this information is a the real travesty. We the voter should be looking for an informed adult process. I also agree with Joe that either type of project is subject to costs ballooning – if on no other basis than mission creep. Do we decide that we want more and better shelters on a very large LRT network – while each shelter might be small potatoes – but if you were adding/improving 100 shelters instead of improving 4 stations it could still add substantially to the project, or say just another dozen km and we could connect (list your destination here). Deciding that the LRT should really be fully grade separated through a certain area for load reasons or for lack of a really good ROW, could add substantially. To some degree all projects will suffer from mission creep.

    However, can we have an adult discussion with regards to the nature of what needs to happen, and I believe it is more than simply a one for one replacement of the RT with an LRT. I do not believe the transfer should be a show stopper, however, too much of Scarborough is really poorly connected. I do not believe that subway will solve that – however just dismissing the concern does not help. We are allowing it to come down to a simplistic debate that should not be had in that form.

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  26. Rob said:

    The report I quoted is actually from the panel which endorsed LRT

    Yes, and I was equally unimpressed by the political bias behind the report when it came out. The conclusion was known before the report was released. The information cherry picked to make higher-order transit on Sheppard look like a good idea. Generally, this was done to give the surviving parts of TransitCity a good geographical spread. What the report managed to do, however, was undermine the legitimacy of the other parts of the plan. Just because it recommended LRT over Subway doesn’t mean the ridership numbers were realistic.

    The same fallacy has been set-up for the Scarborough Subway Extension. Specifically, in 2013 it was stated that without a supporting BRT/LRT network the SRT replacement would see 6K pax/peak-hour in demand by 2031. With a supporting network it jumps to 8K, but both values are still below your chosen 10K pax/h to justify a subway.

    Joe M said:

    Scarborough Citizens just have to read this heavily biased author’s weekly assault

    Actually, no you don’t have to read anything that you disagree with.

    Joe M said:

    to help derail this subway project for reason that have no benefit to Scarborough future.

    So higher property taxes to pay for an unneeded subway is to the benefit of Scarborough’s future?

    If we aren’t re-hashing the value and validity of supposed pros and contras, then any complaint is just belly-aching. Discuss the issue, and don’t make an issue out of the discussion.

    Joe M said:

    If it was affordable for enough to complete the Spadina extension

    I was and am equally against the Spadina extension and the Richmond Hill extension. The system is already starving for money, it doesn’t need more suckling mouths to feed.

    Out of curiosity, are you within the catchment area for the Kennedy, STC, or Sheppard stations?

    As for Josh Matlow, he seems to misunderstand how a P3 works and how many are actually workable in Ontario. Having worked in the UK, where the idea was pioneered, just like homeowners drowning under a bad mortgage, a private partner will walk away from a P3 that is going to cost them significant money.

    Steve: It is worth noting that for the big transit P3s, we see consortia of large companies who set up a purpose-built subsidiary to undertake the contract. If the whole thing falls apart, the subsidiary can go bankrupt leaving the public sector holding the bag. This makes a mockery of “risk transfer” on which the whole P3 mythology rests.

    When the consortium running the London tube system went under, it set back the government 500 million pounds.

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  27. Given the cost overruns on a few stop extension to the Spadina subway, just imagine what the cost would be for many stop DRL – basically there would be no money left in rest of Ontario for public transit and this is why SmartTrack is the smarter way to go in terms of a viable alternative to the Downtown Relief Line.

    Steve: And you honestly think that ST will be any different re cost overruns? If there is a project discipline to be imposed on any project, it will affect all projects.

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  28. Joe | March 9, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    Given the cost overruns on a few stop extension to the Spadina subway, just imagine what the cost would be for many stop DRL – basically there would be no money left in rest of Ontario for public transit and this is why SmartTrack is the smarter way to go in terms of a viable alternative to the Downtown Relief Line.

    Steve:

    And you honestly think that ST will be any different re cost overruns? If there is a project discipline to be imposed on any project, it will affect all projects.

    Joe M: (the other Joe)

    Although I don’t agree with the Smartrack proposal as it stands. I agree with Joe that this same cost-overrun narrative the Josh Matlow, Star & the Metroland media propaganda machine are using against Scarborough Subway could actually be seen as much worse of a problem for DRL than the shorter Scarborough subway. I’m sure they try something new next week.

    Both sides need to shut up and raise taxes accordingly and pay to build both subways & start filling the rest of the City on with BRT’s (or LRT’s if the Province really wants to). Otherwise we will continue to discuss & study cheaper alternatives for another 50 years.

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  29. Joe said:

    Given the cost overruns on a few stop extension to the Spadina subway,

    Shouldn’t we wait for the audit report to come out before saying that every subway, ever to be built in the future of Toronto will be equally underquoted? However, from general experience, it’s politically motivated, rushed-through projects like the Scarborough Extension that are at greater risk of exceeding quotes, especially when design is trimmed to meet a budget number, but then can be untrimmed along the path of construction. We don’t have a price tag for the DRL yet, so if you are worried about cost overruns, just slap a half billion contingency on it and be done with it.

    A project’s history in coming to fruition is quite telling about how accurate its predictions of constructability and cost will be.

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  30. Matthew Phillips said “If the bar for subways is 10K per peak hour, we are seriously missing a few dozen subways in this city.”

    Here is the peak hour ridership of some North American subways:

    Chicago, Dearborn St. Subway,1994          9,376
    DC Red Line, Dupont Circle,1997           11,500
    DC Orange Line, Court H'se,1997           12,200
    DC Yellow Line (L'Enfant Plz),1997         4,300
    DC Green Line (Maryland),1997              2,933
    

    Reference

    Ridership is only one factor for transit planning. Other factors are wealth, vision in urban planning and strategy for future growth.

    Steve: Not to mention, in the case of DC, politics.

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  31. Rob said:

    Ridership is only one factor for transit planning. Other factors are wealth, vision in urban planning and strategy for future growth.

    The Chicago Dearborn subway was built with New Deal funds to battle the Great Depression and the others are all DC politics and image brandishing.

    Future growth is built into ridership numbers. Wealth dictates only how many lines can be afforded or rather how much waste can be tolerated. Dubai, for example of a large, rich city, is in the process of expanding their metro by a factor of 560% between now and 2030, at which point it’ll be 91% the size of Toronto’s. They have money and greenfield development, so they can easily get driverless trains and PEDs, but they still mix their designs between underground and aboveground.

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  32. Rob said:

    Here is the peak hour ridership of some North American subways

    I just read through your reference, and interestingly the highest vehicle occupancy rate in the US was 3.7 pax/m², with the highest ever at 6.8 pax/m² during WWII. While our average falls below that, our peak hour crowding definately is more.

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  33. Matthew Phillips said:

    “They have money and greenfield development, so they can easily get driverless trains and PEDs, but they still mix their designs between underground and aboveground.”

    Personally one of the reasons I would prefer LRT where it is reasonable – is that being above ground as a rider is more pleasant. I prefer having something to look at beyond the car I am riding in. Greenfield development with space, and pre-planning to permit space, and reduce conflicts with roadways etc, goes a long ways to permitting ideal transit – retain the speed, enclosed shelters and above ground ride.

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  34. Colin Oldford said:

    “To add to the many voices singing the same tune, a new study from UTSC reinforces the case for LRT. It’s hardly a comprehensive study (they take SmartTrack mostly at face value and seem unconcerned with major factors like cost), but the conclusion is that the Sheppard LRT should be top priority and should start yesterday.”

    The problem is eventually going to be that ST is going to confuse any and all planning in Scarborough. While I am in favor of a complete LRT network, and the debate needs to be subway or Sheppard LRT and complete loop including SRT replacement, Morningside Hook, Kingston Rd service etc. However, either of these is need of similar examination if there is going to be a serious look at ST. I would prefer the province and city revert to plans prior to the Ford explosion, and fund them complete, with a clear plan that will gather its own political momentum. However, to me at least, I think ST has thrown yet another spanner in the works of advancing Toronto Transit, as I believe in the end it will really only represent further delay, it really has one thing that is potentially useful – better fare integration. Better to either the best subway for bus service support or- better still in my mind – build an LRT network that focuses on serving both existing GO stops and subway stations as destinations, as well as the large number of in Scarborough destinations, rather than muddying the waters with many more potential station locations on existing rail – and if they are actually used undermining the express trip required to core for many outer 416 riders.

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  35. “To add to the many voices singing the same tune, a new study from UTSC reinforces the case for LRT. It’s hardly a comprehensive study (they take SmartTrack mostly at face value and seem unconcerned with major factors like cost), but the conclusion is that the Sheppard LRT should be top priority and should start yesterday.”

    None of the 5 options compared with each other in this study includes Sheppard Subway extension but the conclusion is that the Sheppard LRT should be top priority and should start yesterday!!

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  36. None of the 5 options compared with each other in this study includes Sheppard Subway extension but the conclusion is that the Sheppard LRT should be top priority and should start yesterday!!

    Did you read the study? The big reason the Sheppard LRT should start yesterday is because it could. Their point was that Sheppard could be operational before the first shovel hit the ground on the SSE. Sheppard is planned, approved, and funded, unlike the others.

    Meanwhile, a Sheppard subway extension would be years and years further away if it was approved tomorrow. It has no funding and very little political will to fund it (and it would need a lot of both). It would also have less of an impact than the LRT, as it would be much shorter.

    But most importantly, the point of the study was to determine which of the proposed plans (or combination of proposed plans) would be best for Scarborough. They had to boundary that with plans that had actually had some degree of real support and planning – otherwise the result would be a subway under every major road. There hasn’t been any real support or planning for a Sheppard extension. Adding it in would only muddy the water, and it would still come out below the LRT.

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  37. Malcolm N :

    “While I am in favor of a complete LRT network, and the debate needs to be subway or Sheppard LRT and complete loop including SRT replacement”

    The biggest problem with Sheppard LRT is that unlike Eglinton Crosstown, it is not really a rapid transit mode. The average speed of the bus route on this corridor(85) during the rush hour(worst case) is 18 km/h. The average speed of LRT on this corridor will be 22.5 km/h. The average speed of Sheppard subway is 32+ km/h. The average time of travel from Yonge to Morningside is estimated to be 53 minutes in the rush hour (subway+bus) .The average time of travel from Yonge to Morningside with proposed LRT plan is estimated to be 43 minutes.

    Now if we extend the subway to Agincourt GO (5.5 km extra subway) and then continue with LRT to Morningside (6.5km LRT), the average speed from Yonge to Morningside will increase to 27.2 km/h which by all standards considered a rapid transit. This change requires additional $1.5b. I believe that with a minimum cost design of Scarborough subway which utilizes a section of SRT, a section of hydro corridor and connecting STC to Sheppard with a branch of LRT, we can make up for this extra cost.

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  38. Colin Olford (@TorontoColin) said:

    To add to the many voices singing the same tune, a new study from UTSC reinforces the case for LRT. It’s hardly a comprehensive study (they take SmartTrack mostly at face value and seem unconcerned with major factors like cost), but the conclusion is that the Sheppard LRT should be top priority and should start yesterday.

    Joe M:

    Surprise. A study by UTSC which benefits UTSC. Just add to the collection of other slanted studies.

    Anyhow there should be study which shows the negative impacts of providing rapid transit to select areas of a City & not others. If we are going the LRT route lets build a full network & not segregate other areas of Scarborough just to finalize previous closed door deals between the Province & UTSC

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