Updated July 5, 2016 at 8:00 am: Revised drawings for Kennedy Station have been added showing better detail of the the LRT lines and a temporary bus terminal. Minor textual changes have been made in the article including an observation that the scope of replacement costs for removing the existing SRT structures will vary depending on the timing of shutdown and the degree to which existing structures are adapted/recycled.
Updated at 8:45 am: The potential sources of cost overstatement for the updated LRT option have been summarized.
With the recently announced increase in the projected cost of the Scarborough Subway Extension, the question of reverting to the original LRT plan for Scarborough has surfaced again. It is no secret that I favour this plan, but the political environment has been so poisoned that discussion of the options is, mildly speaking, difficult. When the Mayor feels that he must imply racism in critics who are simply trying to advocate for their view of a better transit system, Toronto politics are at a new low. However, the implications of the LRT plan must be addressed on their merits, not on simplistic political comments unworthy of the Mayor’s office.
On June 29, the TTC issued a briefing note regarding the cost of the LRT option in the context of current events. The question here is whether the claims and assumptions behind this note are legitimate and represent what could be achieved with a “best effort”, as opposed to presenting a less attractive picture to give the impression that the LRT represents an unacceptable downside.
Redesign of Kennedy Station
Complete Redesign of the EA-Approved LRT Connection at Kennedy Station: The most complex aspect of the conceptual design work on the LRT was the connection at Kennedy Station. The recommended solution, shown in the attachments in plan and cross-section views, consisted of a large one-way LRT loop with the LRT station directly on top of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT (ECLRT) station. As Metrolinx’s plans for the ECLRT were finalised after Council approved subway technology in October 2013, they did not make any provision to protect for the LRT connection. This LRT connection is now physically precluded by the current ECLRT plans and an entirely new design would have to be developed.
The “attached plan and cross section” were not actually included in the version of the document I received, but they do appear in the documentation from the original Environmental Assessment.
In plan views below, there would have been three parts to the LRT connection at Kennedy. The Scarborough line (red) would make a wide loop using the Hydro corridor and swing east parallel to the north side of the existing structure. The Eglinton line (now Crosstown, blue) would enter a tunnel west of Kennedy and run alongside the subway structure below the Scarborough line (this layout is shown in cross section below). The Scarborough-Malvern line (now Crosstown East, green) would have its own station on the east side of the rail corridor at the same elevation as the Crosstown’s station to the west.
The first illustration shows the design as it was presented at the March 2010 public information centre.
The following drawings show an updated station design from the April 2010 public information session. It includes the location of a temporary bus terminal.
The design for the approach structure of the Crosstown into Kennedy Station.
The cross section below looks east through the existing station and the proposed new LRT platforms and temporary bus terminal.
- The Scarborough line would be at concourse level, and transfers from it to the subway would involve walking south into the existing concourse and then down a stair, escalator or elevator to subway level. This is a much simpler arrangement than now exists for the SRT.
- The Crosstown station would be at subway level. Transfers to/from the Scarborough line would involve going up or down one level much like St. George Station. Transfers from the Crosstown to the subway would require going up to the concourse, walking south and down one level to the subway.
- The temporary bus terminal would be located in the existing south parking lot, and would be connected to the existing concourse level by a tunnel.
- The Crosstown East (Scarborough-Malvern) does not appear in this drawing as it is further east “behind” the section depicted here.
The cross section below looks north through the station and shows the position of the Crosstown East relative to the other lines.
Transfer moves to/from the Crosstown East line would require a walk at concourse level and moves up/down to subway/Crosstown level.
This design did not provide for through service from the main Crosstown line to Crosstown East, and the link between the Crosstown level and the Scarborough line was intended only for carhouse trips, not as a regular through operation.
When Toronto opted against the LRT plan, Metrolinx changed the design of the station so that the Crosstown is now on the concourse level formerly used by the Scarborough route and there is now no provision for the SLRT in the station.
The state of station design is in some flux as this is also intended to be a significant GO/RER/SmartTrack station, and it is unclear what provisions will be made for circulation between various lines serving this location. The drawings below are taken from GO’s proposal for expansion of the Stouffville Corridor. These predate any discussion of SmartTrack and the additional passenger volumes it might entail.
Note that the cross section shown below indicates that there is a conflict between the location of a future platform and the existing SRT structure (here called “LRT”).
With the Crosstown East line back on the table, and the need for a physical connection between it and the main part of the Crosstown, some redesign of Kennedy Station will be required whether the Scarborough LRT is built or not. The real question here is how much redesign is needed to accommodate all five of the lines that would serve this station, and whether this is worth the effort given the obvious “hub” function such a station would have.
New Ridership Forecasts: As with the subway extension, ridership forecasts for the LRT would have to be updated using the City’s new forecasting model and reflect changes in the transit network in Scarborough. This would include Smart Track/RER – with several options re service frequency and assumed level of fare integration – and options with and without the Sheppard East LRT and the easterly extension of the ECLRT.
The real issue with any ridership forecast is the presumed level of service on various parts of the network and the land use patterns (employment and population) that generate travel in the future network. It should be self-evident that taking the Scarborough LRT all the way to Malvern will encourage ridership that would otherwise have to make a bus connection into the subway at STC, but we have never seen a demand model of this configuration to know how well it would perform.
Similarly, with the retention of a TTC local service in the SRT corridor parallel to the railway, the need for a SmartTrack station at Lawrence East disappears (indeed it is not physically possible, see below), and this will change ridership distribution between the TTC and GO/SmartTrack services.
Potential GO/RER Conflicts
Review Potential Conflicts with GO/RER: A new design concept for a Lawrence LRT station must be developed that incorporates the current plans for a Smart Track Station at Lawrence Avenue. In addition to identifying and resolving any issues at Lawrence Station, the LRT plans would have to reviewed with Metrolinx to and identify and resolve any conflicts as the running structure is in the same corridor.
No, it does not require a new Lawrence East Station. That SmartTrack station only exists in plans because the corresponding stop was dropped from the subway line. With the LRT line replacing the SRT, there is no reason it could not stop at Lawrence East (just as the SRT will co-exist with the double-tracked GO line). This error is important to catch because it implies an LRT/ST conflict that need not exist, but may have been invented to downplay the LRT option.
Assess LRT Maintenance and Storage Facility (MSF) Options: Subject to confirmation of a consistent maintenance/operating/ownership model for three LRT lines in Scarborough, an adequate location for MSF facility would have to be identified. This could mean an interim solution (eg. a Bellamy yard was included in the original LRT EA) with a future consolidation at the previously planned Sheppard/Conlins yard.
The Malvern LRT extension shown below had provision for a yard shown as “E” in the diagram below. Of course it also had stops at Bellamy, Centennial, Sheppard and Malvern Centre that do not receive any rapid transit service from the subway option.
The diagram below is a closeup of the Bellamy Yard area. This was dropped from the SLRT proposal when Conlins Yard on Sheppard became a better site for a yard in the northeast, but in a pinch, the Bellamy Yard can still be built.
SRT Shutdown for Construction
Closure of Line 3: finalise plans for the bus replacement service when Line 3 is shut down, including the associated temporary bus terminals and storage facility.
The whole issue of an SRT shutdown for construction cannot be avoided, but this is common not just to the LRT plan, but to subway schemes that would follow the SRT alignment. During the LRT/subway debate, it suited subway proponents to cite as long a period as possible, typically four years, while Metrolinx hoped to require less than three. Some work, notably the Malvern extension and Bellamy Yard, can be prebuilt, or at least started earlier than the rest of the line, and this needs to be built into the overall schedule.
Bus Terminal Configurations
Re-examine Bus Terminal Concepts at Stations: The previous number of bus bays to be confirmed for all stations.
This is not a show-stopping review. If anything, we should expect smaller terminals, some of which may already have gone through preliminary design during the original LRT project.
From the point Council directs staff to proceed with an LRT solution, a very rough estimate would be that it would take approximately 12 to 18 months to present a revised plan to obtain Council and MOE approval. This is very much dependent upon the time required to identify, and obtain acceptance of, a new connection at Kennedy Station.
The construction at Kennedy Station is the key element on the critical path for the LRT and depending if the preferred design is above or below grade, construction could range from approximately 3.5 to 5 years. If staff are directed to proceed in July 2016 and assuming construction cannot begin before the ECLRT work at Kennedy is completed in 2021, a quick preliminary evaluation suggests the LRT could be operational in early 2026 to late 2027.
The assumption that work must await the Crosstown’s opening in 2021 creates an artificial constraint on its start date. It is self evident that any work at Kennedy Station will include the new SLRT station, not just the Crosstown, if they are to be physically on top of each other. The TTC appears to have taken the worst case scenario, rather than approach of saying “how can we consolidate timelines for the two projects”.
Order of Magnitude Comparison
The October 2013 Council report indicated the Province had announced $1.8B ($2010) for construction of SRT as LRT, to Sheppard. Of the $1.8B, the Province committed $1.48B ($2010) to the SSE. As a minimum, staff believe the $1.8B should be the starting point, which would have to be updated through proper design to address the changes noted above.
The $1.48B has recently been reported as the total cost of a seven stop LRT. To facilitate a high level cost comparison of the current subway estimate to the costs of an LRT at this time, the $1.8B was escalated to an end of 2025 opening (2% per year from 2011 to 2013 and 4% per year from 2014 to mid-2023), adding SRT Life Extension and SRT Shutdown service.
$1.8B escalated $2.700B SRT Life Extension .108 SRT Shutdown .171 Total $2.979B
The SRT shutdown costs are common to all scenarios, although their actual value depends on when this occurs because inflation will affect the cost. Moreover, demolition of the existing SRT will be an integral part of building any new line in the SRT corridor, and some structures may be retained and adapted.
The TTC does not examine the effect of alternatives in project staging nor the interaction between the timing of project elements.
The potential for overstatement of the LRT option’s cost lies in several areas:
- Improved coverage for Scarborough travel with the LRT plan provides better access and offsets some bus feeder costs (better return for investment).
- The time-to-construct may be overstated by two years due to the artificial delay awaiting completion of the Crosstown. Starting sooner on the LRT saves on inflation costs at 4% per year (TTC’s factor).
- Full demolition of the SRT partly duplicates some work that an LRT in that corridor would do anyhow, and presumes none of the existing structures, notably stations, would be adapted/reused.
- The cost of a bus shuttle to replace the SRT during construction depends on the length of the shutdown which is probably overstated by TTC. Metrolinx expected to make the conversion in under three years, not the four years typically cited by subway proponents.
- SRT life extension costs are based on keeping it running until the subway opens. The LRT project would close it sooner thereby shortening the “life extension” period.
- Elimination of Lawrence East SmartTrack station would save on costs that would otherwise be part of the ST project. Note also that ST requires an early shutdown of the SRT because of physical conflicts.
I have no illusion that a return to the LRT option for Scarborough will be an easy or even a likely political decision, and it would only be forced by a financial constraint with the subway plan that Council simply could not stomach. Moving away from the subway option would be a huge political step back for some members of Council and for the Mayor, not to mention the provincial pols who have supported this plan. The entire situation is made even messier by the scurrilous allegations about the motives of LRT advocates, and the outright lies told about LRT’s effects and capabilities.
The TTC for its part seems to be presenting a worst case scenario for the LRT option. Whether this is tailored to suit the political climate is unclear, but it is certainly not the work of an organization eager to pursue the LRT option.
The great shame for Toronto’s transit debates in general is that this has become much more a matter of faith both in one technology over another, and in a picture of Scarborough’s future travel that does not match how that part of Toronto actually operates.
Scarborough LRT EA Reports
A set of the 2010 Environmental Assessment reports for the original LRT proposal is available on this site. That page has been updated to include the display boards from the March and April 2010 public information centres.