The Scarborough Subway Fiasco

For the benefit of out-of-town readers who may not follow the moment-to-moment upheavals in Toronto politics, the lastest news about the Scarborough Subway is that it will cost $900 million more than originally forecast, and the Eglinton East LRT line has gone up by $600 million.

Updated 10:45pm June 17: The increase in the Eglinton LRT line’s cost may only be $100m, not $600m. Awaiting further details to confirm this.

No details of the components of these increases have been published yet, but here are the current (as of 6:45 pm on June 17) media reports:

  • The Star: Mayor John Tory accused of ‘political posturing’ as Scarborough transit plans balloon by $1 billion
  • The Globe & Mail: Scarborough subway cost rises by $900-million
  • Torontoist: The Bad Decision on the Scarborough Subway Extension Gets Worse

Earlier this year, the much-touted “optimized” plan for Scarborough changed the subway scheme from a Kennedy to Sheppard line stopping enroute at Lawrence and Scarborough Town Centre (STC), to a one stop extension whose terminus and only station was to be at STC. Money saved by shortening the subway would be directed to the Eglinton East LRT project linking Kennedy Station to University of Toronto Scarborough Campus. [See Scarborough Transit Planning Update]

At this point, the total project cost remained within the original 3-stop subway project’s estimate of $3.56 billion (as spent dollars including inflation) of which the City of Toronto’s share would be $910 million financed primarily by a 1.6% Scarborough Subway property tax over 30 years. The remainder would come from Queen’s Park and Ottawa, but their contributions are fixed and any overruns are on the City’s dime.

Material from this report reappeared in a March update on the overall transit network [see Developing Toronto’s Transit Network Plan: Phase 1] and in the May-June presentations to various public consultation meetings. At no time was the possibility of a cost overrun for the Scarborough network mentioned.

Meanwhile, ridership estimates for Scarborough were revised downward quite drastically with a projected AM peak hour demand of 7,300 inbound from STC station. About half of this would be existing SRT riders and the rest would be net new to the transit system. The May presentation makes a point of defending the lower numbers, but here is what City Planning staff said only a few months earlier in their March report:

Preliminary ridership forecasts … indicate:

  • The options are capable of capturing significant ridership. Daily users range from 115,000 to 147,000 in 2031. Morning peak hour, peak point, peak direction ridership ranges from 13,700 to 17,700.
  • Assuming the McCowan 3 option, the introduction of SmartTrack would reduce ridership on the subway extension to about 109,800 daily users and 12,600 peak hour, peak point, peak direction riders assuming 15-minute SmartTrack service in 2031. Assuming 5-minute SmartTrack service daily users would be about 88,200 and peak hour, peak direction, peak point ridership would be about 9,800 riders. In either case, the peak point ridership would be comparable or higher than that observed today near the terminal points of existing subway lines, with the exception of the Yonge line in the vicinity of Finch station. [p. 32]

During his election campaign, John Tory trumpeted SmartTrack as the one line that would solve every problem claiming very high peak and all day ridership based on service probably three times better than we will ever see. SmartTrack is now proposed with trains every 15 minutes, not every 5, and this has a huge effect on ridership both on ST and on neighbouring lines as the numbers above show.

Planners have been twisting themselves into pretzels trying to justify building a subway with the lower projected demand saying it wouldn’t really work at the higher level because there would be no capacity further downstream for existing riders (similar to the problem we now see south from Finch Station). That’s all very well, but the same planners sold Council with the subway concept by touting the much higher estimates that “justified” subway construction as ridership would be at the edge of what an LRT line could handle.

These two arguments cannot both be right, and it is quite clear that planning numbers either were gerrymandered or that they were simply the product of unreliable analysis. Either way, all future projections are suspect especially if they change conveniently to suit the political needs of the day.

Throughout all of this, there has been no change, until today, in the cost estimates, the other vital factor in deciding between transit options. To put this in context, other studies have turned on amounts in the low hundreds of millions to justify choice of a “cheaper” option, while other projects languish because they are “not affordable”. $1.5 billion is no small change.

Technical issues have now come to light that render the original cost estimates meaningless. According to the Globe:

An analysis in Scarborough showed that the topography would require deeper tunnels in some places. The stations themselves would have to be 45 to 90 per cent deeper than thought, raising their construction costs immensely. And the high water table of the area would require more concrete than expected.

This is not something that was discovered last week. Mayor Tory attempted to pirouette around the cost problems with the idea that somehow the “private sector and others” could find a better way to do things. However, the TTC’s CEO Andy Byford, in a restrained comment, demured. From the Star:

TTC CEO Andy Byford said a third-party already helped with the engineering estimates to look at creative solutions for tunnelling or station design.

“I welcome the suggestion of having a third party at least review our costs because we want to make sure that we’re being as efficient as possible,” Byford said, adding: “I want to deliver the Scarborough subway for the best possible price.”

But asked if it’s realistic to expect hundreds of millions of dollars could be shaved off the costs, Byford said: “I think that would be a challenge.”

Indeed, Byford is now in a difficult position because his political neutrality on the subway vs LRT question cannot survive. Any new money to build the more-expensive plan will have to come at the expense of something else. Already, the TTC Budget Committee meeting where a preliminary “wish list” of funding requests to Ottawa was to appear (Byford said as much during the announcement at Greenwood Yard of DRL funding) was cancelled, and we have no idea just what projects TTC management, let alone the Board, feel should vie for funds. At some point, Byford may have his “Gary Webster moment” at City Council where he should openly state a professional opinion. (The reference is to Byford’s predecessor who was sacked by Rob Ford for having the temerity to oppose the subway plan.)

Nothing has been published beyond the Mayor’s comments to the media, and if there was a prepared statement, it still is not available on his website.

The tunnelling issue noted above is one part of the cost, but there are likely to be others as I have already discussed on this site. The key point is that the TTC has many interlocking projects that must proceed before the Scarborough Subway can open.

There are five projects in the future on BD which have serious interdependencies:

  • T1 replacement
  • ATC
  • Scarborough extension
  • New storage facility
  • One-person train operation

Some are below the line and some are above the line. However, the dates and order of projects don’t align, so to minimize changes and maximize efficiencies the correct order should be:

  • New storage facility (ready for permanent 6 car consists)
  • New trains (ready for ATC)
  • ATC or OPTO (with ATC and OPTO ready trains)
  • ATC or OPTO
  • Scarborough extension

[Email from Mike Palmer (Deputy Chief Operating Officer, responsible for subway operations)]

The new storage facility will likely be near Kipling Station. It will be designed around the physical requirements of the new 6-car trainsets, and it will provide concurrent storage for the new and old fleets.

ATC (Automatic Train Control) is a prerequisite for the Scarborough extension which would be built using that technology. Conversion of the existing line to ATC would, strictly speaking, not be required before the SSE opens, but no T1 trains (the existing fleet) could operate on the extension without an expensive and short-lived retrofit. Hence the need for a new fleet sooner than might otherwise have occured.

OPTO is one person train operation. This cannot go into effect until the trains all have suitable cab equipment to allow an operator at the front of a train to monitor the entire train without assistance from a guard at the rear end.

That’s quite a shopping list as a pre-requisite to the SSE, and the TTC has yet to incorporate these projects fully in its capital budget “above the line” (ie: as funded projects). It is not clear whether the TTC Board or members of Council are aware in detail of these issues either, or how much they might contribute to the added cost for the extension.

As an historical note, in the days before the TTC contemplated a move to ATC, fleet planning was based on the premise that all cars for both lines were interchangeable. The result has been that because the YUS is now fully operated with TR trains and Sheppard is being converted, there is a surplus of the older T1 equipment whose only remaining use is on the BD line. With conventional signalling, the SSE could have opened using this equipment, but that’s not how it will be built, and the fleet plans are in disarray as a result.

Why the LRT line has grown in cost is a mystery. It is unclear whether this arises from design changes or estimating errors, although the scope for such error is much less with a surface route. Either way, the magnitude of the change is substantial, and as with the subway, threatens the credibility of a plan that was sold to Council only months ago. By extension, any other plan the City might put forward is also suspect.

Through all of the consultation, we have heard very little about SmartTrack beyond the probable location of its stations and the likely service level. What we do not know is how much it will cost to build the surviving chunk of the route from Mount Dennis to Unionville. Indeed, there is reason to question going beyond the Toronto border considering that the GO/RER plan will itself bring frequent service to the same area. What we do know about ST is that it will poach riders from parallel routes, and that service expansion beyond a basic 15-minute level involves expensive reconstruction of the rail corridor to provide more capacity. Contary to what Tory’s “experts” told us, the track is not just sitting there for the taking by his signature service.

Of the original $8-billion, some has been saved by discarding the Eglinton West segment, now proposed to be part of the Crosstown project, but we really do not know how much Toronto will have to pony up to implement the ST service.

If nothing else, this whole fiasco should be an object lesson to professional staff who tailor their plans and professional advice too closely to a political agenda. When that agenda is ill-advised, but pushed forward through sheer pig-headedness, the quality of planning cannot help but be tainted along with the credibility of the planner. This is a dangerous game.

Toronto, somehow, survived the Rob Ford era and there was some hope that a credible transit plan might be cobbled together under the new Tory regime. However, Mayor Tory has proved as intransigent about acknowledging he is wrong, that circumstances do not support his plan, as his predecessor. If Toronto had time and money to spare, we might say “this too shall pass”, but we have neither.

Propping up the egos of various politicians, including the notorious Scarborough crew at Council and Queen’s Park, is getting expensive. This is complicated by the fervour with which they exhort subway supporters to demand what Scarborough “deserves”. That too is a dangerous game as there are crazies out there with less than healthy wishes for those who advocate something other than a subway. It’s Trumpism on a local scale – giving license to treat subway critics as people who don’t matter.

During his election campaign, John Tory dismissed SmartTrack critics as naysayers who simply wanted to oppose things for the sake of it. That was bullshit then, and it is today with his comments about those who question his continued support for the subway plan.

On a personal note, I have been fighting for better rapid transit in Toronto suburbs, yes, with an LRT network, something all of the planners once supported, for over forty years. A lot got in the way including provincial interference in technology choice, and economic or political downturns that snuffed out hopes for good transit funding. A lot of Scarborough was farmland when this process started. They are still waiting.

33 thoughts on “The Scarborough Subway Fiasco

  1. The various newspaper reports do not jive when it comes to the additional cost of the Eglinton East LRT. Torontoist says $600 million, the Globe (in an earlier version of the article) $40 million. The Globe doesn’t say now.

    The Torontoists’s own numbers don’t add up.

    The Torontoist says the original cost of the one-stop Subway was $2B now $2.9B and LRT was $1B, updated costs $1.6B.

    Yet they also report that the original budget was $3.56B and is now $4.5B, for a cost overrun of nearly $1B.

    They both are relatively expensive. The LRT is only 11km long, so now nearly $150M/km, quite a bit higher than average for LRT. The subway at $2.9B and one station is nearly $500M/km. This is nuts.


  2. All sorts of criticism for John Tory, but strangely none for the Provincial Liberals.

    Back in June 2012, Metrolinx found that the combined Eglinton / SRT line was the best in terms of benefit – cost ratio. Council gets a blame for cancelling the combined line (February 2012), without waiting for the report, although they likely should have been given a draft by the provincial Liberals. Then, Council made the final decision to abandon the LRT and support the subway (fall 2012), even though the report was complete and had a contradictory conclusion.
    The Liberals decision to hide this report from Council was the key factor in the entire debacle that has unfolded over the past 4 years. And the way the 2014 election went, Torontonians have no one to blame but themselves.

    Steve: If you were following me on Twitter, you would know that I have trashed the Liberals for their role in this mess. However, the current article was about recent events, not the history.


  3. From the Star-ticle:

    Councillor Anthony Perruzza, who backed the subway in 2013, says he would change his vote in favour of the LRT today. “We should have stuck to that. It made eminent sense — fully-funded, paid for by the province, moved riders,” he said. “I think that the Scarborough subway just simply morphed into political posturing . . . the more you go along with this, the worse it gets.”

    ANTHONY PERRUZZA has been replaced by someone who can think!

    Steve: Perruzza is one of those supposedly progressive members of Council who didn’t have the spine to stay in the LRT camp. It has taken a mess this big and obvious to give him cover to oppose the subway.


  4. Let me guess the cost overruns for the Scarborough-Malvern LRT are because a new yard at Sheppard/Conlins is needed, originally intended for the now cancelled Sheppard LRT, and additional track is needed to connect with it. I presume that this expense was left out for some reason. The last proposal for this line didn’t go north of UTSC which doesn’t make sense.

    In any case cost overruns happen with both subway and LRT so cost overruns are a bad excuse to not build subways. Toronto needs to build the Scarborough subway even if it costs somewhat more and it needs more funding for subways from the provincial and federal government.

    I think that the case for the Scarborough subway is considerably better than the Spadina subway extension. The two subway stations in Vaughan are likely to have extremely low ridership. If the projections for the Scarborough subway went down this is obviously because of the reduction to one station. The station at Lawrence East needs to be restored and this ought to make ridership higher. The station at Sheppard/McCowan probably should be removed though to reduce cost and because it has the same problem as the Vaughan extension (lack of redevelopment potential due to proximity to a large railway yard).

    Steve: No it’s not for a yard at Conlins. That would require substantially more than the projected cost increase. However, the magnitude of the overrun on the subway is huge, especially when we were told a much lower number only a few months ago when Council was convinced to support this plan.

    The LRT increase I cited is, I believe, too big, and I have to correct the article. There is roughly a $1 billion increase in the total project, of which $900m is due to the subway. You cannot build track from the proposed LRT line to Conlins Carhouse, let alone build the carhouse, for $100m.


  5. This latest news just adds to the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ feel to Toronto transit politics. Despite the fact that all the evidence supports a Scarborough LRT, the majority of Toronto councillors and our Mayor (whose comments are becoming increasingly detached from evidence-based decision making) continue to support the Scarborough Stubway.

    How can the TTC and Toronto Planning can expect anyone to trust their pronouncements? I can’t even begin to appreciate how frustrating this must be for you after watching this process for decades. I guess the silver lining is that at least transit is being built, even if it’s the wrong transit, in the wrong places, for the wrong amount. Oh wait, the other bonus is knowing that it’s no problem for the city to find an extra $900 million to get this done. And I thought we were facing some serious funding gaps.


  6. I suppose this point has been made before, but it seems to me that Scarborough has it much better than northern Etobicoke and north western North York in terms of mass rapid transit of any kind. “The squeaky wheel” is alive and well in the east.


  7. I fully expect the LRT project to slowly wither and die.

    And all this because some people are upset at having to go up a couple flights of an escalator. I know these people don’t take transit because they are conveniently ignoring the fact that pretty much every station in the subway system requires you to go a concourse level and then up or down another level to get anywhere else.

    I weep for this city because our current pols are going to hamstring transit for decades for the sake of a subway to a mall.


  8. But nobody complained when St Clair streetcar line costs went out of control not to mention additional costs still being incurred and months long construction ongoing yet again on this already new line. The Scarborough subway cost increases are proportionally minor compared to the St Clair fiasco.

    Steve: St. Clair cost overruns were in the tens, not hundreds of millions, and the extra costs had nothing to do with the TTC. This has been well documented, but it suits some people to dredge this up as an excuse for every other project going over budget.

    The construction this summer actually has less to do with the rebuild of the line for accessibility than it does with construction elsewhere (Bathurst/College closed for three weeks) and the need for significant pavement repairs at St. Clair Station which predates the right-of-way by several decades, and of course the bus level which has nothing to do with the streetcars at all. But if it makes you happy to think that this justifies $900m more for teh Scarborough Subway, I hope you won’t be too surprised when you get your tax bill in a few years, or discover what other projects you might like simply don’t exist in the budget any more because all of the money is going to the subway.


  9. Bigger issues include TTC operating the Eglinton LRT as a streetcar route.

    Steve: Well, it won’t be a “streetcar”, but that argument has been done to death here already, and I am not going through all that again.


  10. @Jane – The Scarborough portion of the Eglinton LRT should have been buried just like Rob Ford and the richer portions to the west but in the absence of that, they should at least have had the common sense to put it on the south side at/near Leslie but Scarborough always gets the short end of the stick.

    Steve: Oh you poor darlings. It’s buried further west because the road is narrower and there is no room for expansion to accommodate a surface right-of-way. You keep trotting out that story, and it doesn’t fly.


  11. It is disconcerting to hear John Tory trot out that tired and entirely without merit belief that the “Private Sector” is going to suddenly splash around some “fairy dust” (™Steve Munro) that will cover some of the costs and cost overruns that plague this fiasco. The private sector has an investment philosophy that is not going to change – only invest where there is a guaranteed return – or at least where the investor “believes” there is a guaranteed return. (This is not immoral by the way – that’s how I expect my RRSP and pension savings to be invested.)

    Transit is a money loser and requires a subsidy – both for the capital cost (near or actually 100% subsidy) and operating cost (probably 35-50% for this unneeded white elephant). Any “participation” by the private sector will be nothing more than disguised debt borrowing by the City. There is no magic potion. The private sector will invest against guaranteed cash flows that result in full repayment – plus interest – whether it is called interest or any other name. There is nothing else available.

    Whether the City issues traditional debentures or enters into a design/build/operate agreement with a private sector entity, the bottom line is that both require full payback and a positive or break even cash flow on operations – with any deficiency covered by a City subsidy. The only difference (as Bob Rae found out when the “private sector” was “efficiently” building the 407) is that the City likely has a lower borrowing cost than the private sector “investor”. The extra interest cost and the need for a profit for the investor would very likely make the private sector project more expensive than an internally funded version.

    Finally, the “private sector investor” would not guarantee the project with the full financial strength of the well known name of the parent company. Rather, a special purpose subsidiary with limited capitalisation would be set up. If things go wrong the special purpose entity would fold up its tent and leave the City holding the bag. (See London Underground)

    Rob Ford did not understand numbers. He thought he could build a subway from “efficiencies” such as cancelling sandwiches at council meetings. John Tory has headed up major businesses. He knows better and shame on him for pretending otherwise.


  12. Carl Harrison said:

    “I suppose this point has been made before, but it seems to me that Scarborough has it much better than northern Etobicoke and north western North York in terms of mass rapid transit of any kind. “The squeaky wheel” is alive and well in the east.”

    I would wait a few years before saying that. With the Spadina extension opening soon and work on the Finch West LRT getting started this year, there’s a good chance that all of Scarborough’s whining will only result in them coming in last when it comes to new transit construction.


  13. Thanks Steve for the update.

    Being from outside Toronto, it’s so difficult for me to understand how politicians who committed the cardinal sin (heck the capital political sin) of refusing money from higher orders of government still get respected in by some. Reading the links provided I read that it’s both capital AND operations that was fully paid for by the province for the LRT plan. And that is in politics a capital sin, that should have been the end of any politician who said no to “free money”. I don’t want to rehash history so much as understand as this has an impact today and tomorrow.

    I am glad that in Ottawa we got funding for stage 2 because with that much money going after 7300 passengers a day it would have been really difficult to accept not getting funded. But as a citizen it scares me. It makes me think: How much will the province have to pay to silence anyone outside Toronto because of this? Because it’s not just the city of Toronto or the TTC’s credibility that is at stake, the province as well.

    Any mayor can go to Queen’s Park and say: if you have the money for that one-stop in Scarborough I don’t want to hear any excuses, I expect the cheque pronto! And guess what it has started. So far it looks like much needed infrastructure spending. But eventually some dubious projects will be funded because of this. The province just can’t say no.

    The consequences will be important and stay with us for a while. I hope this folly gets stopped and the LRT gets built in Scarborough.

    Steve: To be clear, Queen’s Park and Ottawa are only putting into the subway what they would have put into the LRT. All of the extra comes from Toronto, mostly via a special property tax that will run for three decades. And that was just for the original cost estimate.


  14. Steve, regarding your response to Erick vis-a-vis money from the feds. Harper agreed to toss in 650 million for the subway that wasn’t earmarked for the lrt. Remember that makeshift press conference with Jim and Rob? Justin committed to maintaining this “investment” during the last election.

    Steve: Ah yes. Thank you for the clarification. In any event, the value of the “investment” is capped unless City Council opts to make the Scarborough Subway the beneficiary of coming federal “stimulus” funding.


  15. Under these rapidly evolving circumstances, it’s looking more and more likely that there will be NO Scarborough Subway and NO Scarborough LRT.

    Scarborough is going to get NOTHING. Why? Because there’s no more gold in the pot at the end of the rainbow. The Emperor Has No Clothes.

    Everyone’s bullheadedness — starting with deceased Mayor Ford, now so “ably” being carried forward by current mayor Tory, added to the head-in-the-sand attitude evidenced by all the others contributing to this “Subways-or-Bust” debacle — has brought Toronto to this sorry point.

    I confidently predict that the present life-expired Scarborough RT will soldier on until the day when it inevitably fails of its own accord. When that happens, the TTC will provide in its place a bus to serve those going to and from Scarborough Town Centre.

    This is how everyone involved will be able to save face!

    This is only practical solution to the Scarborough Subway Dilemma at this late date. The LRT option is too much “humble pie” for anyone to accept.

    What a shameful embarrassment!

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Thanks Kent and Steve for the clarifications. I forgot about those.
    650 million will go a long way to ensure the project goes ahead.

    What comes to my mind is opportunities missed. All that money could have been used to do good projects all over the GTA.


  17. While all the tumultuous goings on go on, there is one truth that actually exists and carries passengers every single day. It’s running right now. It’s called the RT. Yes, it’s run down and noisy but that can be fixed.

    Let’s fix it up and quiet it down, costing $m. Then the $b can go on a new and needed service somewhere else, such as the relief line, which just happens to benefit Scarboroughonians travelling downtown.

    Repeat after me “RT”, or if you prefer “SRT”. Take a ride tomorrow if you have forgotten it.

    Why replace something that does not need replacing?


  18. Reblogged this on Greenpress and commented:
    Political agendas given priority. Planning and policy, contaminated by false/tweaked data, changing costs, and ever-changing opinions. Expert advice, best practices, and even approved funding – cancelled and/or ignored.

    This is Toronto – namely the TTC, the planners, and the politicians, today.

    A $2-3 billion price tag, perhaps even more, for a 1-stop subway extension, that almost nobody sees of value, carrying passengers with LRT density levels, at best.

    The world has a right to laugh. Even when we’re handed a silver platter of funds/plans/partners, to get transit right, we screw it up.

    Metrolinx, please take over, end this political circus – and get us moving!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Mark Earley said

    While all the tumultuous goings on go on, there is one truth that actually exists and carries passengers every single day. It’s running right now. It’s called the RT. …
    Why replace something that does not need replacing?

    There is transit demand that the RT does not adequately serve. The 86, 116 bus lines are heavily used and longer but go directly into Kennedy Station. These bus routes are used because passengers vote with their feet. The RT offers spastic service, has a long arduous transfer at Kennedy station and makes useless stops where no one gets on or off.

    Steve: For the record, “spastic service” is not a term that I endorse. You can describe the service as unreliable (or worse) without resorting to a term used derrogatively toward the disabled community.


  20. Mark does raise a good point – is there any valid reason why the Scarborough RT could not be rehabilitated?

    After all, is it not the first cousin, if not brother, of the Vancouver SkyTrain, which also uses the same technology? I know Vancouver doesn’t have to deal with snow and ice, but, even so …. Toronto’s setup has survived (perhaps not very well) many winters.

    What’s your view of this possibility – if, in fact, I’m correct about the technology?

    Steve: There are several problems with reviving the RT. First off, the Vancouver cars will not fit through the tunnel at Ellesmere nor around the curve at Kennedy Station. These would have to be redesigned/rebuilt. Second, the cost of extending the line to Malvern (as originally proposed for the Scarborough LRT about 50 years ago) would be much more expensive with RT technology than with LRT. Finally, I am not convinced that the idea of a Scarborough LRT network is entirely a dead issue. The only circumstance in which the RT would be rebuilt would be if the subway plan is abandoned, but if that’s the case, then all of the options should be back on the table. That’s why there was an LRT network proposed in the first place.


  21. It’s a sad thing, but also somewhat appropriate, that the overall cost is up a near-billion even before any digging starts. Keep It Simply Surface is not a lesson any politician wants to embrace in buy-elections, obviously. And of course there’s a need for improved transit in that entire area, just this is a less-wise to Stupid Subway Extension. In terms of options, along with the rehab of the SRT, and LRTs and a Smart Spur option (which we should analyze to see how long things would be out of service), there’s also a Gatineau Hydro corridor which slides all through Scarborough, and could lead to the downtown core in a couple of ways, one being the Don Valley parkway, which we also already own. Busways could be a partial solution to make up for some lost years, and there are cleaner buses these days too. Curitiba in Brazil got the same capacity of a subway with busways for about 1% of the cost.

    Thanks Steve for your ongoing analyses and presentings.

    Steve: Curitiba got that capacity because they implemented it in an extremely wide road where taking four lanes for transit infrastructure was not much of a problem.


  22. For the advocates of the Scarborough Subway . . . I’m honestly curious as to what point this project would be come too expensive, in your estimation. If almost $3 billion is still worth the cost for a one-stop extension to STC serving a small number of customers when there are many other unmet funding needs, is there any point that you would consider the cost to great?

    And if so, where would it be? $4 billion? $5 billion? $10 billion? How much more should we pay in taxes, and how much else should the city forfeit in order to fulfill this goal? Is there anyone in the pro-subway camp that can describe a concrete set of features/criteria that would have to be met to justify this project, beyond which it becomes untenable and we should consider switching modes or spending the money somewhere else? If there was a great case for a Scarbourgh subway (like there is for the DRL, say) I’d be all for it, but I haven’t seen one. Instead each time the costs are revised up and the estimates of the benefits revised down we hear new contortions for why it doesn’t matter, and it still should be built because Scarborough deserves it or because some other stations don’t have great ridership either (which of course is no justification for building new stations with poor cost/benefit ratios).

    If no cost is too great . . . how can you expect your opinion to be taken seriously ? When Rob Ford tossed out his famous “subways subways subways” line, it followed a number of pointed criticisms and questions about the viability of his transit plan (or lack thereof) in the council debate. The absurdity of his statement was in its total lack of any substantial response to those questions and criticisms – there was no intelligent thought or reasoning to it, just a soundbite and dogmatism. If you can’t express why we should build this project beyond reasons like you feel like you deserve it somehow, or you feel spited by subway construction in some other part of town, or you like subways better than light rail because they look cooler or are bigger/faster/more like what they have in New York . . . I’m not sure how you can feel entitled to ask the rest of Toronto (and indeed Canada if the fed is pitching in) to pay for it.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. When I asked in another post why the RT can’t simply be upgraded, the answer basically boiled down to the fact that the new Innovia trains cannot fit on the existing infrastructure. Also, as I understood, the service presently is bad because there are not enough trains in good condition.

    What kind of irks me with this explanation is that I don’t understand how Bombardier can build subway trains and streetcars that use the Toronto gauge – used nowhere else in the world – but can’t custom build some new Innovia trains that would be able to fit the existing SRT infrastructure (as is or with small or reasonable modifications to that infrastructure) – i.e. that would fit the stations, turning radii, etc.?

    I bring this up again because to me it seems like the only politically feasible option that will allow Toronto to back down from the more and more unjustified humongous SSE expense will be an RT renovation. LRT won’t fly as it’s anathema to the Scarborough politicians, on the other the upgrade can be touted as providing “subway standard service for Scarborough” or something like that.

    Yeah, it’s political posturing winning over hard engineering and economics evidence-based decision-making, but that’s the way if often ends up in politics and the public sector…

    Steve: The number of cars involved would be quite small and the unit cost, allowing for the engineering and testing, would be enormous. We have been down this path already.


  24. Steve said:

    “The number of cars involved would be quite small and the unit cost, allowing for the engineering and testing, would be enormous. We have been down this path already.”

    Isn’t the other problem McCowan yard in that it doesn’t have the capacity to handle the number of cars needed to “max out” service on the RT?

    Steve: Yes, the yard would require expansion, but that’s not on the same scale as the more general issue that if we have to shut down the RT and rebuild it anyhow, we should rebuild it for a technology that will be common to the rest of the network.


  25. Andre S. said:

    What kind of irks me with this explanation is that I don’t understand how Bombardier can build subway trains and streetcars that use the Toronto gauge – used nowhere else in the world – but can’t custom build some new Innovia trains that would be able to fit the existing SRT infrastructure (as is or with small or reasonable modifications to that infrastructure) – i.e. that would fit the stations, turning radii, etc.?

    There are three general ranges of track gauge: narrow, standard, and broad. TTC gauge (1495mm) is one of many similar broad gauges, especially the widely used Russian gauge (1520mm); Madrid uses 1445mm, Leipzig uses 1458mm, Columbus uses 1575mm and Philadelphia uses 1581mm. There are two main possible alterations necessary to fit a ‘custom gauge’: a wider wheel bogie and possible alterations to the vehicle body width to either provide greater internal space or better exterior protection from/to the wheels. Narrowing a vehicle requires more engineering, while widening a vehicle is normally very straight forward.

    Otherwise, very little specific engineering goes into a ‘custom gauge’.

    To have a vehicle that operates on the SRT, you are basically asking to reinvent the ICTS Mark I design, which Bombardier never produced, just inherited the general concepts/patents and developed a more practical solution.


  26. I’ve heard there’s an ongoing live study (as of a couple months ago at least) about what it would take to put Mark 3s on the SRT – upgrade stations, curves, etc. You heard anything on that?

    Steve: Would not be surprised at all. The question is whether they will also look at comparative LRT costs including the Malvern extension. In other words, how much can we build for what $? What are the implications of leaving the RT as an orphan technology?


  27. The cost of St. Clair was estimated as $32m to replace asis or $64M for right-of-way. The eventual cost was $100M+, mainly due to project creep (Hydro, sewers, court challenges etc). The cost estimates for LRT appear to be running about 10 times these costs. The St. Clair right-of-way was a complete rebuild of the track and related structures which would be similar to the construction required for an LRT. Why the big difference?

    Steve: The following items which would form part of any new LRT line were pre-existing for the St. Clair project:

    • Vehicles
    • Carhouse and central maintenance facility
    • Power supply (substations, feeders)
    • Subway interchange stations and loops

    Collectively, that’s a substantial part of any LRT project cost, and St. Clair bore none of that. Also, there is a substantial bridge structure south of UTSC that must be created for the LRT line.


  28. Walter wrote:

    All sorts of criticism for John Tory, but strangely none for the Provincial Liberals.

    Adam Vaughan, my MP.. I don’t know his position on transit issues, from when he was a municipal politician. Because the Federal government is going to be called up on to ante up to a share. What I suspect his office would reply would be that different levels of government have different responsibilities. His office could argue that, as a Federal politician, trying to stay in his own lane, he shouldn’t joggle the elbows of municipal politicians, as laying out he details of local transit plans should be a local responsibility.

    Provincial politicians could advance a similar argument — or perhaps they could have advanced a similar argument, until the Provincial government authorized MetroLinx to manage GTHA transit isues.

    So, how much local transit planning should happen at the provincial level? I shudder to think what a mess the Mike Harris conservatives would have made of detailed transit planning.

    What do we know of MetroLinx transit planning? Does MetroLinix have a staff of planning professionals? Do the poliiticial appointees who are in charge listen to them?

    Steve: Metrolinx has professional planners, but they are as subject to political whim like those in any government. If anything Metrolinx suffers from conducting far more of its business behind closed doors and then we find out what is happening because there is a press conference. By that time, it’s too late to change anything.

    Adam Vaughan has always been pro-transit. Ottawa’s stated position regarding new money coming to municipalities is that decisions on where to spend it would be made locally. That said, if Toronto chooses to blow every dollar they get on projects we don’t need, then don’t be surprised if Ottawa doesn’t listen the next time we ask.


  29. Jason wrote:
    …nobody complained when St Clair streetcar line costs went out of control ,

    I remember a fair amount of reporting of local businesses being inconvenienced, during the laying of the right of way. I think some didn’t survive. But, it is my impression that the right of way is now seen as a great success.

    So, this is the difference between the St Clair right of way and the SSE. The St Clair right of way was a good investment…

    Jason wrote:
    The Scarborough portion of the Eglinton LRT should have been buried just like Rob Ford and the richer portions to the west but in the absence of that, they should at least have had the common sense to put it on the south side at/near Leslie but Scarborough always gets the short end of the stick.

    Jason, Steve has said here, and others have said here, that Eglinton is narrow in the west, and that there is more room to put it on the surface in the east. You are one of the respondents here who just don’t seem to believe this.

    Well, believe it. I went to Mount Dennis on the day the first TBM was turned on, and took about 200 pictures. I then stopped at the site of every station from Mount Dennis to Yonge, to capture another 200 or so“before” images. A couple of weeks later I stopped at the site of every station from Yonge to Kennedy. When the line is complete I will return, and take “after” images.

    Having spent two half days paying attention to the route, I assure you that if you followed our example, and rode the Eglinton buses today, you couldn’t help recognizing that the narrowness of Eglinton in the west required tunnelling, while in the east there was room for an exclusive right of way on the surface.

    Go. See for yourself.

    Steve: It is also worth pointing out that parts of the St. Clair strip were not in good shape, as a business community, before the project began. However, there has been something of a renaissance afterwards.


  30. I wonder how many of you RT fans understand that Metrolinx has promised Electric Multiple Units (EMU).
    I think a better alternative.


  31. demosthenesmd on June 19, 2016 at 5:23 pm asked

    Is there anyone in the pro-subway camp that can describe a concrete set of features/criteria that would have to be met to justify this project.

    The answer is quite simple. A continuous, reliable, fast, grade-separated transit line that connects to the Yonge spine of Toronto and doesn’t have an excessively long disruption to existing service during construction.

    Steve: But are you prepared to pay for it?


  32. Let me see if I have this right.
    Estimated cost of original LRT proposal: $1.48B
    Latest cost of one-stop subway: $2.9B
    Both offer sufficient capacity for anticipated ridership.
    Both offer completely grade separated express service.
    One has more stops and serves more types of trips.
    One eliminates the transfer to B-D for those riders that board at STC.

    To me, it looks like Tory is saying he is OK with paying $1.42B strictly for the benefit of eliminating a 5-minute transfer. On top of that, if the LRT goes farther than the subway, and serves more intermediate trips, it intercepts more trips earlier, likely saving those riders more than 5 minutes.

    I have read people say “you could buy xx for Scarborough and still have money left over”. You could buy a few extra LRT trains for the SRT replacement and run them at the minimum feasible headway up until the middle of the night… and run the new LRT lines at the minimum headway too. No, it wouldn’t happen because it would be too tempting to just apply the crowding standards to save a few bucks on the operating budget… but reducing waiting times through a substantially higher-frequency network would arguably have more of a benefit than eliminating the 5-minute transfer..


  33. Bill Raim said:

    I wonder how many of you RT fans understand that Metrolinx has promised Electric Multiple Units (EMU).
    I think a better alternative.

    Sorry, but no. EMU have been implied, but not promised. If you look at the Electrification TPAP, it tacitly does not mention vehicle choice. It is an aspirational goal, but realistically not going to be realised in the next decade. Until I see provisions being taken to enable small/frequent EMUs to be operationally more efficient, I’m not doing to drink this lemonade.


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