Scarborough Subway Cost Rises Again

Mayor John Tory held a press conference this morning (February 28, 2017) at Kennedy Station in anticipation of a newly released set of reports on the Scarborough Subway:

Note: Commentaries on the Value Engineering and Cost Estimate reports will be added to this article later.

There are few surprises here. The subway will almost certainly cost more than earlier estimates. There may be ways to save some money on the project, but these are small dollars compared to the overall scope. One proposed increase is a change in the bus terminal at Scarborough Town Centre Station to one that better supports future development even though its construction is more complex.

Despite implications by some Councillors that TTC cost estimates were unreliable, an external review agreed with the values the TTC presents. At this stage, with design work only at 5%, there is a very wide latitude in accuracy because so much of the detail is unknown. A range of -30% to +50% translates to over a billion dollars either way, and claims that the project cost is a hard, fixed number are simply irresponsible.

A long-suspected result is that the subway project, originally sold as part of a package of transit improvements including an extension of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT to the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus, now requires most of the previous “committed” money. The LRT extension used to sweeten the plan and encourage wavering Councillors to support the subway extension is in danger and requires its own funding.

Mayor Tory made an aggressive speech, supported by TTC Chair Josh Colle and Scarborough Subway Champion Glenn De Baeremaeker.

One expects a fair amount of civic boosterism given the history of this project, but I could not help feeling that the Mayor oversells his position and undermines his credibility.

He started off with a heart rending description of riders who for decades have faced the “Scarborough shuffle” of changing between the SRT and the subway at Kennedy Station. This is a tedious process given that four levels separate the two routes, and the TTC’s ability to keep escalators and elevators working over the full path is not sterling. Tory portrayed this connection as an accessibility issue because, of course, when any component of that connection isn’t working, riders face a long climb up or down stairs.

What he failed to mention, as has so often been the case in the subway-vs-LRT debate, is that the proposed LRT station would have been only one level above the subway, and the transfer would have been very much like the interchange at Spadina Station.

Taking a page from Donald Trump’s playbook, Tory argued that those who oppose the subway are working against the democratic will of voters and their representatives. Even newly minted Scarborough Councillor Neethan Shan, who stood at Tory’s side, ran on a pro-subway platform. Council voted many times on the subway and related issues, and approved the Scarborough transit plan by 27 to 16. Tory neglects to mention that the plan both the voters and councillors approved was quite different including a longer subway with more stops, and also the LRT extension to UTSC. This is the bait-and-switch game many suspected it would be all along, while others trying to “keep peace in the family” took the Mayor’s claims at face value.

Tory came dangerously close to portraying “tireless critics” of this project as outside of the political mainstream and subverting the will of the people. “Tell people they voted the wrong way, that they will be better off without a subway” and more in that vein.

Pressed on rising costs, the Mayor refused to say whether there was any cost beyond which he could not support the subway. Meanwhile he looks to Queen’s Park and Ottawa for support on the Eglinton LRT and other transportation projects. Tory describes the Eglinton extension as a “fundamental part of our plan”, but whether other governments will actually chip in remains to be seen.

A frequent claim for the subway is that it will spark development of Scarborough Town Centre, but Tory emphasized how it would provide a faster link for Scarborough residents to jobs downtown. A big problem with many transit plans (not just this subway) is that they do not serve the very high demand for travel to jobs (and other destinations such as schools) that are not downtown.

Tory suggested that the Value Engineering report implies there’s a few hundred million dollars for the taking in adjustments to the project. The report does not actually say this, but merely lists a range of options, some more practical than others, that might be embraced. At the current level of design, a few hundred million could go up in smoke with a cost revision.

One recent change is a proposal for a different, improved bus terminal at STC. Tory attempted to deflect criticism of this cost by saying that no matter what was built, we would need a terminal and, therefore, it really isn’t part of the subway’s cost. This dodges the issue that an LRT network would have spread out the collection of riders to other sites, and the number of routes converging on STC would have been lower. Pick a one stop subway as your design, and that dictates a large terminal.

The real advantage of the change lies in how it better integrates with planned development at STC.

Of particular note was Tory’s pledge to “get things done in this term of office”. He does not want “to be a leader who accomplishes nothing” on the transit file. He wants to take the long term view, although he is not at all clear on whether Toronto is prepared to spend enough to support it.

TTC Chair Josh Colle spoke of the need to move forward with transit plans, especially the one for Scarborough, as the city is “on the verge of a transit revival”. The condition of the SRT, on which the Mayoral party arrived for the event, shows that decisions cannot be put off.

Colle argued that we should learn from past failures and ensure that there is “accountability”, that a project does not get approved long in advance giving a blank cheque for rising costs. This is a direct reference to the Vaughan subway extension and a proposed tightening of the process for approving project changes (about which more later in this article). Colle neglects to mention that the imperative for TTC managers under the Ford/Stintz regime was to keep the project “on time, on budget” so that a smiling TTC chair could tout how well her TTC was doing. Colle was on that TTC Board and should have known the project was in trouble.

What actually happened was that the station contracts came in well over budget, but this was paid for with money earmarked for contingencies, for unexpected conditions during construction. Between chaotic management of overlapping contracts and raiding the piggy bank to avoid asking for more money, the TYSSE was in deep trouble. This all came to a head when both that project and the related resignalling contracts for the Yonge line had to be reorganized.

The Scarborough subway project will receive better scrutiny, or so the reports claim, but the political problem that saying “no” when the costs rise simply is not an option for the current administration.

Councillor De Baeremaeker emphasized that all but one Scarborough Councillor and all of its MPPs support the subway  project. Scarborough has 33% of Toronto’s area and 25% of its population, not unlike North York which has far more subway infrastructure. It might be churlish of me to point out that there has been a heavy transit demand north-south on Yonge Street since the days when cows grazed alongside the road, something Scarborough cannot claim for its rapid transit corridor.

Continuing his theme, De Baeremaeker talked about future daily demand at STC station of 70,000 which would exceed almost all of the downtown stations. Yes, it would, but this also reflects the concentration of all demand for Scarborough at one point roughly like having only a station at Finch on the Yonge line. It will be a busy station, but the bus network will be gerrymandered to feed it.

The real question has always been how well the subway will serve travel demands overall, but that debate is closed.

After the formal statements, Mayor Tory was challenged on locations the subway would not serve. He claimed, falsely, that Scarborough will have more transit stations with the new scheme, including SmartTrack, than before, and that ST work, the double-tracking of the Stouffville GO corridor, was already underway.

SmartTrack adds two stations to the GO corridor at Lawrence and at Finch, but the double-tracking is part of the GO/RER plan and has been in the works for some time. The lightly-used SRT stations at Ellesmere and Midland will disappear, and the new subway effectively consolidates the STC and McCowan RT stations into one location.

What is frustrating in all of this is the sense of people trying too hard to put their case. If the expectation is for overwhelming support at Council, why work so hard at the argument?

The balance of this article reviews the reports linked above.

Next Steps for the Scarborough Subway Extension

This report recommends that:

  • Council approve the Draft Environmental Assessment for a subway extension via McCowan to the Scarborough Town Centre including a new option for a bus terminal on Triton Road. Staff will complete the Transit Project Assessment and submit the EA for provincial review.
  • Council approve a Design-Build-Finance procurement for the extension with support from Infrastructure Ontario.
  • The City Manager report back to Council when the project reaches a class 3 cost estimate with an updated project budget for approval to proceed.
  • The City request confirmation from the provincial and federal governments of their funding commitments.

The report sets out funding sources that are already thought to be in place, but misrepresents them as applying to “the SSE project”. When the project was a three-stop subway running north to Sheppard, all of the funding was earmarked for the subway. (Council decision October 2013)

approved2013budget_201702

However, by January 2016, a new plan including a one-stop express subway ending at STC and the Eglinton LRT to UTSC was approved by Council. That report stated:

Initial estimates indicate it is also possible to construct the extension of Line 2 and the Crosstown East for a similar order-of-magnitude cost as the three-stop Scarborough Subway extension originally proposed. The two main reasons for this is the high cost of subway stations and the fact that the Crosstown East (Scarborough-Malvern LRT) has already been through an environmental assessment process meaning that it is close to being “shovel ready”. However, the recommended Scarborough transit network requires further evaluation of cost estimates. [p. 19]

No explicit costs were included in the January 2016 report which was much more a planning aspiration looking at what Scarborough’s transit and development could be than the hard technical details of construction and pricing.

By July 2016, a further report on transit options showed quite clearly that that the subway, even with the shorter express option, would consume much of the available funding. The City now hopes to see funding for the Eglinton extension through the second phase of the federal PTIF program, but even this will require matching local funds.

networkcostestimate_201607

The updated subway cost estimate that has been cited in statements and media coverage is $3.346 billion leaving, in theory, a few hundred million out of the $3.560 billion in funding. The problem with this assumption is that the final cost will include other factors, some of which are detailed in the report. The new estimate includes an alternate bus terminal design that better fits with planning for STC’s future development, notably along the west side of McCowan Road.

projectcostwithtritonbusterminal_201702

The report includes approval for up to $15 million for procurement support services from Infrastructure Ontario, and anticipates a gross financing cost estimate of $110 million by the builder under the DBF model. This would be offset by savings in public sector financing for a net cost of about $40m.

procurementcost_201702

These items, on a net basis, will add $55 million to the cost estimate in Table 2 above.

In July 2016, Council requested a separate review of TTC’s cost estimates for the SSE with the clear implication that the TTC was overstating the project’s potential cost. This review (detailed in a following section) actually showed that TTC estimates were reasonable and that, if anything, they might be slightly low by a factor of 5.7%. The difference was well within the range of estimates one would have at this stage of the project.

During 2016, the City and TTC undertook a review of capital program delivery in response to the TYSSE budget problems, and a report was commissioned from KPMG. Among their recommendations was that the project scope be changed to include related city building initiatives such as public realm improvements and urban renewal. While not strictly a “transit” cost, these are inevitable add-ons to any major construction project that provides an opportunity to reimagine how public space is used. Public realm options will be costed as the subway design work proceeds, and these will be reported to Council as part of the overall cost review when it reaches the 30% mark. A preliminary estimate for these items is $11 million.

Another add-on is the possibility of installing platform edge doors at STC station. The estimated cost is $14 million.

An important concept in the KPMG recommendations is the creation of a “Management Reserve”. The intent is to segregate contingency/risk provisions so that scope creep is clearly identified, and project changes after budgetary approval at the 30% design point do not plunder the contingency account as they did for the Spadina extension. The amount of reserve that would be provided in the SSE project could vary from $100 to $200 million depending on which estimate one chooses. This money might not all be required, but is needed as a reserve so that supplementary funding does not appear as a surprise later in the project.

Risk costs are estimated at $115 million for cost of construction and $190 million for potential schedule delays. It is not clear how much of this risk would be assumed by the DBF builder, or what the cost of this risk transfer will be. These allowances, if approved by Council, would be folded into the project budget at the 30% design point.

What is quite clear here is that potential costs beyond $3.346 billion are in the pipeline, and to treat that number as if it will not grow would be irresponsible. However, the political process by which projects are approved and funded demands an early commitment to a fixed dollar price leaving the city on the hook (or begging for bailouts) if the estimate is too low.

Offsetting these costs are potential value engineering changes to the design (described in a section below). One round of this has already taken place, and a major change – from twin tunnels to a single 10m diameter bore – has already been incorporated in the plans and estimate. There is some confusion about which potential savings have already been rolled into the preliminary budget, and which would be examined in more detail as design progresses. The report recommends a further review at the 20% design stage.

The report includes a review of various alignment options including the express version via Brimley, a route along the existing SRT corridor, and the “Big Bend” option proposed by the Glen Andrews Community Association.

  • The Brimley option is dropped because it leaves the “Town Centre” station far to the east of the entire planning area that stretches east to Bellamy Road (see SSE business case update below).
  • The SRT corridor route is dropped because it cannot be built while keeping the SRT in service.
  • The Big Bend scheme is dropped because it would have more severe effects on properties along its route than the preferred alignment, and construction of the new STC station underneath the existing one could not be done without shutting down the SRT.

However, review of the Big Bend option led to a new plan for the tunneling work sites within STC itself rather than at McCowan and Ellesmere.

newtunnelconstructionsites_201702

The new bus terminal under Triton Road is described in the section below on the Draft Environmental Assessment. It would lie south of the existing mall building, and would partly overlap with the existing SRT structure.

SSE – Update to Initial Business Case

Lest anyone think that this might be a review of the subway proposals against alternatives such as an LRT line, dream on. The only options considered here are the Brimley and McCowan subway alignments, and it’s really no contest between them. Brimley is shorter and slightly less expensive, but McCowan results in a better-placed station within the wider context of the entire planning for STC and adjacent areas, notably the equally large “McCowan Precinct” east of McCowan.

ssepotentialalignments_201702

The new riders paradox:

The expected travel time between Scarborough Centre Station and Kennedy Station is expected to be 6.7-to-7.5 minutes for both the McCowan option and the Brimley option. Both options would involve a similar distance of travel, with the Brimley option approximately 200m shorter than the McCowan option.

The McCowan option would incent approximately 1,000 more net new riders to the transit system compared with the Brimley option. The McCowan option is expected to result in 500 more boardings in the morning peak hour than the Brimley option, and 3,800 additional riders throughout the day.

Net new riders were calculated in Spring 2016 using Option 1 (3-stop McCowan) as the base case and assuming SmartTrack ‘Option C’ and assumed a station at Ellesmere. In this update to the Business Case, the SRT is used as a reference case for the purposes of comparing the McCowan option and the Brimley option. Additionally, the network model was updated to reflect more recent assumptions, e.g. removing several Smart Track stations including Ellesmere. As a result, the base network has improved, resulting in fewer net new riders than previously estimated in the analysis reported for the July 12, 2016 Initial Business Case. [p. 13]

This discussion shows how sensitive the demand model is to changes in the underlying assumptions. The number of SmartTrack stations has the following effects:

  • ST configurations with more stations provide slower trips. This causes the model to assign fewer riders to ST as opposed to the subway extension.
  • Having fewer stations improves speed, but adds to access time for riders who might otherwise have a shorter trip to the rapid transit corridor. This affected projections for the three stop vs one stop subways in an unpublished study of subway options.
  • These factors will interact depending on which stations are added or dropped, the demand expected at each station, and the relative benefit/disbenefit to various groups of riders including those beyond STC itself for whom a faster trip through Scarborough would make GO/RER more attractive.

Because the most recent modelling of the network is based on a more attractive version of SmartTrack (fewer stations, faster trips), ST has more riders in the base case to which the subway options are compared.

There is also a possibility that the model surface network is configured to force feed the subway causing ST to lose ridership it might otherwise have with a different network configuration.

Conversely, SmartTrack service will open five years before the subway, and will have a well-establish user base. The bus network will be oriented to feeding ST, and rearranging things to force-feed the subway could meet with resistance from riders. The degree to which the subway will attract net new riding by 2026 is compromised by drawing from a similar market to what will, by then, be the five year old ST service.

Lawrence East GO/ST station is unlikely to open until after the subway because it conflicts with continued operation of the SRT. However, service north of the 401 will be available at Steeles, Finch and Agincourt (Sheppard). The unknown factor in future demand is the nature of “fare integration” between the TTC and GO.

The cost comparison between the two options shows that they differ by about 10%, well within the range of estimates at this stage. However, the numbers below are qualified with the note that they do not include project delivery, management reserve or risk allowances.

financialcase_201702

Draft Environment Assessment Executive Summary

This draft rehashes information that has been presented in several previous studies of the subway line, but reveals a few design and construction details that are not mentioned elsewhere.

Subway Station

The station itself still requires cut-and-cover construction. However, because the tunnel will extend to within a short distance on either side of the subway station box, it is not possible to divert the tracks to either side to create room for a large centre platform as is the case when both the station and special trackwork are constructed using a very long section of cut-and-cover construction. Hence, the tracks must remain at their minimum separation through the station and this requires the use of side platforms.

The use of side platforms at a busy stations is a major annoyance for riders because they must be directed to the correct platform for the next train. An alternative scheme, at least for busy periods when both platforms will be required, is to use one platform for offloading and the other for loading with turnarounds occurring in the tail tracks beyond the station. This in effect makes the terminal operate like a “line” station. It is unknown whether the TTC plans such an approach.

Bus Terminal

The study of potential locations for this very large terminal concluded that the Triton Road corridor is the preferred location because it would best meet the project objectives related to future development and potential improvements to the road network within Scarborough Centre. The base terminal concept is shown in Exhibit E4-1. The terminal concept shown has two levels. The lower level is in a widened Triton Road and would accommodate 18 bus bays at an elevation similar to McCowan Road. An upper level, at the Borough Drive elevation, would accommodate a further 12 bays and the four remaining bays would be provided on the east side of the new extension of Borough Drive. This road extension, already part of the City’s plans for road improvements in this area, is required for this bus terminal and will be constructed as part of this project.

The two-level bus terminal nestles into an existing space occupied by a parking lot and Triton Road, and it would sit astride the station structure making for a convenient vertical link. However, part of the proposed terminal conflicts with the existing SRT structure, and the two level design also depends on road changes planned for the east side of STC. This will force a two-stage construction and implementation of the terminal.

Staged Construction of the Bus Terminal

The existing SRT structure is an impediment to the completion of the new bus terminal. For this reason, the bus terminal must be constructed, and opened, in two separate phases:

Phase 1: … The portion of the bus terminal that can be constructed with the SRT structure in place will be completed prior to the opening of the subway. Buses will have use of the existing bus terminal during this time. However, as a result of the construction activities around the station area, Triton Road will be closed west of McCowan – potentially for lengthy periods of time – and the majority of buses now using the SRT bus terminal will have to be rerouted to the Triton Road access at the Brimley Road side of the mall.

Phase 2: … Once the subway is opened, the SRT and existing SRT bus terminal will be closed and buses will be able to use that portion of the new bus terminal that was constructed during Phase 1. An interim plan will be developed for bus service to serve the new subway station. This will involve using the partially-completed bus terminal to the greatest extent possible, supplemented as necessary by temporary bus stops in the southbound bus-only right turn lane on McCowan Road at the station entrance and/or on the newly constructed Borough Drive.

The SRT, including the existing SRT station and bus terminal, will be demolished and the remainder of the bus terminal completed. The preliminary schedule for these activities suggests that the entire new bus terminal will be available 1.5-to-2 years after the subway is operational.

tritonrdbusterminal_201702

For those unfamiliar with the area, here is the Google street view looking west from McCowan along Triton Road showing the existing arrangement.

Additional Renderings of  STC Area

This report contains illustrations of how the Town Centre would look with each of the two bus terminal options. Here is a view from the southwest showing the Triton terminal.

stcconceptualdevelopmentwithtritonbusterminal_201702

By contrast, the originally proposed “at grade terminal” sitting parallel to McCowan and the subway structure would remove a large block of land at the centre of the planning area and would reinforce the character of McCowan as an express roadway, not as a street welcoming any traffic beyond motorists.

stcconceptualdevelopmentwithatgradebusterminal_201702

Value Engineering Report

(To be added)

Cost Estimate Peer Review Report

(To be added)

13 thoughts on “Scarborough Subway Cost Rises Again

  1. The historical context is that in September 2013, Transport Minister Murray offered Toronto a two stop subway paid for by the Ontario Government with no City taxes.

    City council refused and insisted on a three stop subway with lots of city tax money and a surtax.

    By February 2016, Hilary Holden said the Lawrence East station had limited usage and made it a one stop subway. In fact the Lawrence East station would have significant bus routings.

    City planners offered the Lawrence passengers, a SmartTrack replacement with service every 8.3 minutes instead of the SRT 4 minute service plus a likely transfer fee for switching from TTC to GO and delayed delivery.

    The whole point of providing a business case study is to understand the economic consequences before committing a project. A business plan would have avoided the Sheppard Subway drain of tax payer money (least used subway station etc). City planners have never produced a straight forward business plan for the SSE. They truly are failing as civil servants.

    The Mayor is right to sense public transit is an urgent matter for Torontonians He is wrong to be Trump like and not admit solutions are more complex than he outlined in his election promises. He was misinformed about the capabilities of his SmartTrack promise and he mis-said that he would be using evidence based decisions for the SSE.

    He would be a better Mayor if he did the right thing. He did flog government funding of religious schools into oblivion.

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  2. Life would have been so much easier if they just proceeded with the Ford-McGuinty compromise plan of connecting the SRT to the ECLRT. That had support from the left and right sides of the political spectrum. There were also plenty of opportunities to reduce the cost of that plan – that were never explored. Now it is too late to go back. One could likely come up with another grade-separated way of connecting STC to the core of Toronto, but it would be another re-start on planning, while accomplishing nothing. This would not fly politically.

    Thus, I suggest that this will be worse. Tory’s support is holding firm, while the provincial Liberals are floundering badly. I suggest that Tory will ask for a bigger and better SSE and all political parties will jump on it as the June 2018 election approaches. Maybe add in the station at Lawrence. Maybe extend to Sheppard. (Is the CPR rail yard available for TTC? Could it be used to free up the Greenwood yard for DRL, or to sell/develop Greenwood?). They could add a Billion dollars or more to the price tag and promise (on the federal governments behalf), that half the money would come from the Feds.

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  3. At this point I’m resigned to seeing this project happen. What drew my attention is the timeline. If we get approval shortly, and the project is submitted to MOECC by end of month, we should see approval by end of summer, early Fall. Doesn’t it seem odd to you that a 6km tunnel, 1 new station, and a new bus terminal will take 12-15 months to take the design from 5% to 30%, at which point the Infra Ontario AFP process can commence. (30% design is required for costing and to write the specifications).

    This timeline seems out of whack to me, but I recall reading a late 2018 timeline for reporting back to council. Does this seem out of whack to you?

    Steve: Yes it does seem unusually long, but just long enough to get past the provincial and municipal election where further cost increases could be quite embarrassing.

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  4. So Steve am I reading this correct. It will be at least a two level transfer for bus riders and if the bus comes in on the top level it will be a three level transfer?

    I sense a plot by Markham to justify a 20$ billion extension sometime in the 2030’s to replace the 3 level bus-subway transfer at STC.

    Steve: Markham will have (and likely be happier with) better GO service. As for the buses, well, the length of the transfer will depend on which bus bay your route is using and how well or poorly placed the vertical access paths are.

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  5. Here is the video from the Toronto Star, “Mayor John Tory Faces Tough Questions on Scarborough Extension”.

    Steve: I would not characterize this as tough questioning.

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  6. There has not been ONE shovel put in the ground yet. There is NO WAY anyone can even guess at the final cost of this fiasco.

    34 bus bays! Can you just imagine the traffic congestion getting all those buses in and out of the terminal?

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  7. Construction costs will only increase with design changes and delays. The city has shown that it is incapable of moving a construction project on time and on budget. It is time to use 3P. Look at the replacement Champlain Bridge, cars will be driving on it by 2019. By 2019, we might not even start construction at that point.

    Steve: Actually, the proposal is to do this as a 3P Design-Build-Finance, but they are not even at the stage of design where it can be handed off as a tendered contract.

    There are many who wants to earn a yield with infrastructure. If Mr. Trudeau would grow a backbone and demand other trading partners to invest, we would have the infrastructure we need. The GPIF of Japan manages over $1 Trillion USD in assets and they need yields. California and Texas will have high speed rail soon due to Japanese investment.

    The new Scarborough Center station will have traffic to justify a metro line. It depends on what zoning is allowed. A hotel district would generate a lot of traffic given that location. GO Transit, DRT and YRT can feed traffic to it. Toronto is one of the few cities where there are no hotels clustered around metro stations outside of downtown. Hotels bring people who are willing to spend money unlike condos. People might cook at home, but hotel guests need to eat somewhere.

    If the TTC is allowed to have businesses like hotels, residential development, office buildings and department stores, the whole area can be planned from the beginning. Instead, we zone the land and wait for developers.

    There is no requirement that the extension must be an underground tunnel. Using guideways, it will much cheaper. With no stations from Kennedy to the terminal, the visual pollution would be limited. Having an above ground metro station is not an issue. Union Station is not underground, but downtown Toronto still flourished. Unless we are building underground stations for bomb shelter use, there is no need for it. Singapore built their metro system to be used as bomb shelter from air raids. If we have this need, then the federal government should pay for it as it is national defense.

    Steve: Union Station was built on industrial land not over an existing street. There is a huge difference.

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  8. The article said: “the proposed LRT station would have been only one level above the subway, and the transfer would have been very much like the interchange at Spadina Station”.

    When I first read that, I thought about that long walk between the line 1 & 2 platforms. But you most likely meant the transfer between the 510 streetcar and the subway. Would St. George Station have been another example?

    Steve: Yes, I refer to the subway to streetcar transfer. St. George is a bad example because it is subway-to-subway, not subway-to-surface with a loop adjacent to a loading track. Kennedy would have been similar to Spadina, but with a longer loading platform for the LRT.

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  9. In a recent Star article, Edward Keenan said, citing Royson James:

    the existing RT could be rehabbed and updated with new trains like the ones they use on Vancouver’s SkyTrain, for a mere few hundred million dollars.

    And we also won’t need to build the Lawrence East SmartTrack station to replace the SRT station, thus saving about $200 million!

    But it sounds too good to be true. Besides buying Mark II cars, one would need to rebuild the Ellesmere tunnel to accommodate them. Could one rehabilitate the SRT for so little?

    Steve: The report in question is available online. At the time it was written, the cost estimate was $360 million:

    • Upgrading of the line is estimated to cost $190 million (2006 $) and will require that service be disrupted for up to eight months;
    • The purchase of new-generation RT vehicles to replace the existing fleet, and to accommodate forecast demand to 2031, is estimated to cost $170 million (2006 $).

    At this point it was assumed that the larger Mark II Skytrain cars would fit through the Ellesmere tunnel, but this was optimistic. It is worth noting that the same report says that there is no justification for a subway, and that a network of other lines in Scarborough, some possibly LRT, should be studied.

    Also at the same time, the Transit City plan was already under development, but it stayed away from the whole question of SRT technology so as to avoid getting that debate tangled up with the larger LRT proposal. In the context of taking the “Scarborough LRT” all the way to Malvern Centre, and making it part of a network, the cost-effectiveness of the Mark II upgrade evaporated.

    Keeping the RT technology only ever made sense in the context of a short, orphan line being upgraded at the lowest possible cost. Of course now we are at the entirely opposite end of the technology and cost spectra.

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  10. The transfer is not coming back. Well all know the shortcomings of the Tory plan and I would never defend the route or # of stops nor I will I agree any other technology should be built.

    That debate has run its course to the point of no good outcome and we not building transfer technology the Scarborough Center again whether you like it or not. It won’t happen Politically, and debating longer will not end well.Politically and waste more time and money for any plan.

    Either we come up with an improved subway line ASAP or just build this extension as it should have been decades ago. Fighting further will not generate the intended result at this point and will paralyze the City worse than we have ever seen in the Rob Ford era.

    We have all lost this debate to some extent and what scary as it could get far worse and have a domino effect elsewhere if we don’t move forward.

    Steve: My point was not to argue for the original plan, but to point out that the subway advocates are lying about the comparative benefits because much of the inconvenience of the transfer would have been eliminated. As I said in the article, I get the feeling that they are trying too hard to make their case. If they would leave aside the bullshit and just talk about developing Scarborough, it would be a lot more tolerable even if it still would not make sense financially. But no. They have to play the “poor Scarborough” card over and over and over, including Tory’s claim that those who are anti-subway are somehow against the minorities who would use it.

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  11. This whole thing looks so painful. I read an rather pointed editorial in the March 1st edition of the Globe and Mail appropriately titled “The Scarborough subway, a boondoggle on rails”. If I were still living in southwest Scarborough I would be livid and sending missives daily to Mayor Tory. It’s worth noting that here in Calgary, for a similar estimated price as the one-stop subway extension, there will be a 40+ kilometre C-train route running from the north end of the City to the very southeast corner and doubling the number of kilometres to the system. Out here fiscal prudence seems to rule the day.

    Phil

    Steve: Even moreso, out in Alberta, the term “LRT” is not a dirty word the way it is used here as a pejorative term meaning “second class transit”.

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  12. Steve: Even moreso, out in Alberta, the term “LRT” is not a dirty word the way it is used here as a pejorative term meaning “second class transit”.

    Joe M: That’s a very unfair statement. Calgary is not integrating to an existing network and we should have paid attention to the details in how to integrate Scarborough. LRT is actually fairly well received in Scarborough for the Eglinton-Kingston line(s) just not on Sheppard and the RT.

    Steve: And so much is made of the transfer connection at Kennedy as a reference point even though it would have been substantially improved in the LRT version, and the line extended to Malvern Centre thereby saving travel time for people in northeast Scarborough. As for Don Mills Station on Sheppard, it would have been an across the platform transfer. This has been consistently misrepresented.

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  13. Personally, I never understand why politicians try to portray Scarborough as having been shortchanged with poor transit service compared to the rest of the city. Every time I take transit out to Scarborough, I am always amazed and satisfied with how frequent the buses are and how the drivers hustle to make good times. Even on a Sunday morning, I only need to walk to a major road, and a bus will soon arrive to speed me on my way. Scarborough is provided with an affordable, very high quality level of transit service. You just have to cross the border into Markham to see what “normal” transit service looks like. Despite the neighbourhoods having similar densities, buses in Markham might require hour long waits before they arrive. Many parts of that city are not realistically accessible by transit at all. Scarborough may not have much subway service, but Toronto is spending a lot of money to provide them with top tier transit service nonetheless. That service could probably be cheaply improved by building more dedicated bus lanes, but I suspect that wouldn’t fly politically in Scarborough, despite their claim to wanting better transit service.

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