My latest for NOW, this week’s cover story, looks at the pros and cons of making transit free as a quick fix for issues with Presto, confrontations over unpaid fares, and poverty.
On February 28, 2020, Metrolinx release a Preliminary Business Case for the Scarborough Subway Extension, and an Initial Business Case for the western extension of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT from Mount Dennis to Pearson Airport.
The Eglinton West Extension IBC is not as blatantly skewed as the Scarborough study in that it acknowledges the LRT plans and uses these as a starting point. The SSE study simply pretends that LRT does not exist and touts “benefits” of the subway versus a bus network.
The idea of a line along Eglinton West has been around for a long time.
1972 ‘GO Urban’ and Rapid Transit Plan on Eglinton: Eglinton corridor was part of Province’s and TTC’s ‘Intermediate Capacity Transit System’ (ICTS) Network Plan (in which the present Scarborough RT was a part of)
1985: ‘Network 2011’ and Eglinton West Plan: TTC Report identified Eglinton West as busway corridor as part of Metro Toronto’s rapid transit network plan (in which the present Sheppard subway was a part of)
2007: ‘Transit City’ and Eglinton Crosstown Plan: Eglinton Crosstown LRT (spanning from Pearson in the west to Kennedy in the east) was part of the City of Toronto’s surface rapid transit expansion proposal
2010: Crosstown LRT Project Approval: City of Toronto sought EA approval for surface LRT alignment from Kennedy to Pearson Airport Area boundary, one year after the City approved the full-length Eglinton Crosstown alignment
2012: Eglinton West Segment Deferment: Metrolinx undertook Crosstown LRT construction, with Mount Dennis-Pearson Airport segment deferred due to funding constraint
2016: Eglinton West LRT IBC: City of Toronto and Metrolinx co-published Eglinton West LRT’s first IBC and recommended surface LRT option, and the City approved funding for preliminary planning and design works
2017: Grade Separation Review: City of Toronto approved arterial and midblock stops along Eglinton West and conducted grade separation study to address community concerns
2019: Surface Option’s Affirmation: City of Toronto in its report maintained its preference for surface LRT based on fine-tuned benefit-cost analysis. [p 9]
As an historical note, a mid-1960s TTC plan to serve the airport with LRT linking southeast to the Bloor Subway and northeast to the Finch corridor was stillborn thanks to the 1972 GO Urban scheme.
We have arrived at a preferred subway option by provincial fiat:
In December 2017, the City of Toronto conducted further studies on additional grade-separated options based on inputs from the local community who are concerned with the at-grade LRT’s traffic impact. The number of options for the Toronto Segment were revised to four (featuring at-grade and below-grade alignments with frequent arterial and midblock stops, and a mostly below-grade alignment with either a single stop or multiple arterial stops) and re-evaluated using traffic model updates and additional metrics recommended by community representatives.
Nonetheless, the City of Toronto in early 2019 released a report re-confirming their preference for an at-grade LRT due to its cost-effectiveness in meeting all of the city’s project and policy objectives.
Subsequently, the Province’s 2019 Budget announcement included the extension of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT to Mississauga as one of the four budgeted rapid transit projects with an underground alignment. [p 27]
This is a second “Initial” study, but it is in the context of Premier Ford’s strong preference for subways. The usual caveats apply about the rough level of cost estimates and comparisons between options.
There is a fundamental conflict in the analysis in this study triggered both by the Premier’s distaste for “streetcars” and by Metrolinx methodology.
The surface option carries the greatest number of weekday riders, but one of the subway options carries the most “new” riders. In other words, the surface option does a better job of serving existing demand while not drawing as much new demand, while the subway option leaves some existing demand quite literally “out in the cold”, but (according to the modelling) shifts more people to transit from autos. The machinery of value assignment rewards the new riders more because they allegedly represent less auto use, and they tend to be longer-distance riders who save more travel time.
At no point does the study explain why carrying fewer total riders at much greater expense constitutes a valid planning outcome.