Brimley: The Station That Never Was

In all the discussion about options for service to the Scarborough Town Centre, an important factor is the superiority of an east-west alignment through the area (which is itself an east-west rectangle). One subway station serves a node in the middle of the STC precinct, but an east-west line, especially with a technology where multiple stations are comparatively inexpensive, can do a better job of serving a future, developed town centre.

City Planning’s own reports say as much, but because discussion of the LRT option has been expunged from debates, we don’t hear how this might perform.

As a matter of historical interest, the original LRT proposal that predated the Scarborough RT by a decade included not only the three stations we have today – Midland, STC and McCowan – but also made provision for a future station at Brimley. The site would have been just east of the Bick’s pickle vats, for those who knew the area back when, on the west side of Brimley.

Some years later with the RT well established, local Councillors pressed for a Brimley Station. Council funded this and the TTC in due course produced a design. That’s as far as things ever got, and despite development near the station site, nothing more has ever come of the idea.

Brimley SRT Station Feasibility Study, January 2004:

Given its very light usage and difficulty of access, one might even argue that Ellesmere Station could be replaced by one at Brimley in any new design.

We will never know, because “LRT” in at least this corridor is a naughty word.

16 thoughts on “Brimley: The Station That Never Was

  1. It seems to me that the SSE Midland route is shorter than the McCowan route and thus should cost less. Hopefully a Lawrence subway station could be built at Midland.

    If the McCowan route has costly technical challenges, would a Midland route be easier to build?

    Steve: I believe that’s why it is still on the table as a backup plan.


  2. Steve wrote:

    The site would have been just west of the Bick’s pickle vats, for those who knew the area back when, on the west side of Brimley.

    I believe you mean just “east” of the Bick’s pickle vats. When I read this, my first reaction was that would make for an odd place for a station, being rather far from Brimley as well as somewhat close to Midland station. Then I looked at the drawings to see it was just east.

    Steve: Yes, “west” is correct. I fill fix the article. Thanks for catching this.


  3. Steve said:

    “Given its very light usage and difficulty of access, one might even argue that Ellesmere Station could be replaced by one at Brimley in any new design.”

    As the irrationality of the subway extension obsession in Scarborough recedes, there might actually be space in the public discourse to ask these types of questions. Even if we have that opportunity, I’m not sure I would want to fuel a competition between stations at Ellesmere and Brimley.

    That this would even be a discussion is a reflection of the absurd 1960’s planning principles that have guided Scarborough’s growth. Instead of combining growth and transit at the intersections of thoroughfares, Scarborough has opted to bury these in the middle of land parcels, leaving the intersections as human wasteland. Whereas midtown Toronto has a successful growth node radiating outward from the corner of Yonge and Eglinton, the proposed growth node for Scarborough is dispersed amid parking lots. The secondary plan for Scarborough Centre might succeed in improving this situation, but it will never overcome the original mistake of intentionally building *away* from the travel corridors.

    Steve: This shows up also in the barrier effect of McCowan on the east side of STC proper. The buildings to the east feel like they are on another planet — you can see them but would never walk to them. There may be a “planning precinct”, but it does not feel at all unified as a “neighbourhood”.


  4. When I’ve had the opportunity to use the SRT, I’ve often wondered why Ellesmere isn’t built in virtually identical a way to Lawrence East. They seem to me to have very similar layouts and conditions (overpass). I do not understand why the 95 York Mills buses don’t do the same loop as the Lawrence East buses do. Bad planning.

    Steve: When the SRT was built, Ellesmere was a sleepy place (as was its bus route).


  5. There is very little development around this proposed Brimley station. Without significant redevelopment, it would be underused similar to McCowan station. McCowan station has a significant number of office buildings near it, but as far as I can tell at least 90% of people working in those office buildings drive, so McCowan station is severely underused. This Brimley station has far less development around it than McCowan.

    One station is sufficient for serving Scarborough Centre because the area is pretty compact.

    Steve: I agree with you about the way STC has developed. My point in publishing the report was to emphasize that if the Chief Planner really is serious about converting the area into a future centre complete with streets, small blocks and transit, this would be a lot easier with an east-west transit line with several stops. We keep talking about planning for the future, but a single subway stop on the east side of the mall does not serve the whole area any more than Queen Station serves all of the central business district.


  6. If an east-west route is better for the STC area, then maybe someone should try finding an east-west route that is connected to the downtown (or at least Yonge). We had this 5 years ago with the Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown, but sadly politics and stubbornness got in the way.

    Now, it looks like Eglinton may have progressed too far to revert to a grade-separated option. Although I suppose with some political will (which doesn’t exist), a revision to the current plans could be implemented and the Yonge-Eglinton station would still be on the critical path for completion of the line. Maybe another solution can found that provides a continuous connection to the downtown, that can still be completed by the +/-2025 timeline. One thing we do know is that trying to revert back to the Transit City version of LRT will just lead to delays, extra costs, and the B-D subway extension along McCowan.


  7. Brimley station on the historic RT should be added after the Scarborough subway opens. The Scarborough subway is as inevitable as the Sheppard subway was 20yrs ago.


  8. Bill said

    “The [One-Stop Extension] is as inevitable as the Sheppard subway was 20yrs ago.”

    By that logic, in 20yrs we will regret building the One-Stop every bit as much as we today regret having built the Sheppard subway.


  9. @Cleaver – Regret building the Sheppard Subway? For your information, the Sheppard subway has by far the most extensive hours of operation sometimes operating well past 2:30AM and contrast that to some terminal stations on Yonge- University-Spadina and Bloor-Danforth lines where service in the unlucky direction ends well before 1:30AM even though on paper it is guaranteed to operate until at least 1:30AM.

    Steve: The only reason Sheppard operates so late at night is so that the last Yonge train has something to connect with. This is not a case of TTC saying “wow we need to run this line really late because there is so much demand”.

    Also the train frequency during rush hours is higher for the Sheppard subway than for any station north of St Clair West on the western leg of the Yonge-University-Spadina line even though we are talking about the Sheppard Ave East which has very frequent surface service as well as opposed to Allen Rd which has no service as an alternative to the subway.

    Steve: Nope. Scheduled service on 4 Sheppard is every 5’30” during both peak periods. On Spadina north of St. Clair West, it is 4’42” in the AM peak, and 2’31” in the PM peak. See the Service Summary for details.

    All that for a Sheppard subway which does not have enough ridership even during rush hours. That does not sound like regret to me and they even have new high capacity subway trains coming to Sheppard soon. As a matter of fact some higher capacity new trains are already running on the Sheppard subway on which even the old lower capacity trains run largely empty even during rush hours.

    Steve: The only reason the new trains are on Sheppard is to have automatic train control which will not be available with the old trains. It has nothing to do with capacity.

    In contrast, the Scarborough Centre subway station is expected to be the busiest on the Bloor Danforth line. Any station in Scarborough will have many times higher ridership than all stations on the Sheppard subway combined. So, the Scarborough subway will be far from being the same mistake as the Sheppard subway is. The only way to make the Sheppard subway have enough ridership (thus making it worthy of not being shut down) is to extend it to Scarborough which is where the density and the ridership lies.

    Steve: STC station will have very high ridership because it is the only station and will be fed by a terminal with, wait for it, 32 bus bays.


  10. 1) Wait until Smartrack/GO RER are running, so that people will have other rapid transit options, and we can see how it affects the current service.
    2) Wait until the Crosstown line is running, so that people will know exactly what LRT means.
    3) In 10 to 15 years, there will new people in government, and the debate will have cooled down, so that rational decisions can be made.
    4) With smart, fast, and cost-effective improvements on the RT, maybe people won’t hate it so much after all. Only after we’ve done all we can to improve the existing line should we tear it up and build a new one.


  11. A surface subway can do whatever a surface LRT can do. Only better.

    And looks like the stars are possibly aligning to design and pay the necessary costs for this to happen. Still not a perfect for either side of the debate, but its the best of all the plans as it does ALL the great things the LRT supports champion and integrates key areas of Scarborough much more effectively & give SCC the best opportunity to grow.

    Enough with LRT vs. Subway debate. Just split the difference and move this City forward,


  12. Actually it seems the statement “… because “LRT” in at least this corridor is a naughty word.” could be phrased more aptly “… because “LRT” in at least Scarborough is a naughty word”. I seem to recall there was a push to have a station at Brimley when the plan was still to replace the SRT with and LRT.


  13. There seems to be a classic situation in Scarborough, where the relatively well off core bound commuter is using the larger, less well off community as a foil to get something to serve their narrower interests, rather than the interests of the community as whole. The vast majority of travel in Scarborough is within Scarborough, the current trips are grossly distorted to bring them to a couple of spots, which serve core bound travel better.

    Should not any plan be first and foremost be about saving the most people the most time (and also thereby increasing the transit split), and secondly be about providing the most support for development for the centers deemed to be the best locations for additional development? The singular focus on subway seems to support 2 things: 1 core bound commuters, 2 additional development in the core, to the exclusion of other locations. This is great for the mega project builders, as it will further force the construction of a DRL as an emergency build (as well as heavy construction for subway in Scarborough), and force a hugely rushed time frame around its build – but is this good for Scarborough residents? Is it good for development in Scarborough?


  14. @Malcolm N:

    Are there any stats indicating that core-bound commuters from Scarborough are better off than the average resident?

    Downtown isn’t just office towers filled with well-paid bank and insurance employees; it hosts many low-wage jobs as well ..


  15. Michael Forest said

    “Downtown isn’t just office towers filled with well-paid bank and insurance employees; it hosts many low-wage jobs as well ..”

    Yes, however, downtown extends beyond the core, and while there are retail and other jobs in the core as well, there are a goodly number of good ones. Also the people who use the TTC to go to core, covers a very broad economic demographic, however, those commuting within Scarborough via TTC make up a much smaller percentage of total trips, and I would venture, and are comprised of those who cannot drive to a much greater degree. Hence the core bound being likely better off than within Scarborough users of the TTC.


  16. @Kumar – Sorry I missed your comment; was following the other thread.

    Yes, I said regret.

    I’ll propose 2 major flaws in your analysis: 1) conflating service levels with demand, and 2) the drain on the network.

    In posting this comment I should add that I was a near-daily Line 4 rider between March 2012 and May 2013. I keep watching the ridership numbers, which have only grown slightly since that time, causing me to suspect that little has changed in the past 3 years.

    1) Conflating service with demand.

    Steve did a good job to describe this, and I will add the experience of a rider. At rush hour, Line 4 is admittedly busy (more on this later); mid-day and on weekends it is brisk. In the evening it is ghostly. Coming home after midnight I was often the only rider on the *entire train*. Obviously I never rode a train with no riders, but I suspect that this happens.

    You might read this and think “why keep it open that late?” I often thought that too – late in the evening, Sheppard could probably be better served by buses that ran straight through to Malvern; this way there would be through service all the way along the corridor and more frequent access to mid-station areas. And I’m suggesting this BEFORE considering costs.

    2) Drain on the network.

    Line 4 might be the only route that I have regularly taken on the TTC and never been left on the platform due to crowding. On the one sense this is good; or at least it would be if the dysfunctional crowding in other areas was not part-in-parcel with the heavy subsidy due to Line 4.

    When living at Don Mills & Sheppard I knew that I could almost always count on good service on Line 4, but since transit is a network I would also have to depend on other parts of the system. And the breeze on the first/last leg of the trip was outweighed by the crowding -> bunching -> gapping phenomena that would have been alleviated (at least in part) through sufficient service. But there was no money for buses and streetcars while the Sheppard subway keep breezing along – sometimes half-full; often empty.

    During that same period, I would typically NOT take Line 4 to work downtown in the morning rush: although I would usually get a seat Don Mills->Sheppard-Yonge, it was not worth the carnage that awaited on Line 1. Instead I would take the 25 south to Pape and accept that it was only the last legs of the trip that would be terrible (I’m sorry to have moved before the 185 Rocket started service). This being the case, I do buy the argument that “Line 4 carries its weight at rush hour,” but only then, and then as an outflung appendage on a network from which it saps resources.

    I won’t deny that good things have happened because of constructing Line 4 – I was recently speaking to a guy who moved into the Emerald City condos at Don Mills who mentioned that the buildings are trying to figure out what to do with the loads of unused underground parking – but that does not mean that it was on-the-whole good for transit in Toronto. So yes, *regret* is the word that I had intended.


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