Updated February 15, 2021 at 1:00 pm: A section has been added at the end of this article including the decisions taken at the February 10 TTC Board meeting as well as a few additional diagrams from the staff presentation.
In a report to the TTC Board for its meeting of February 10, 2021, management recommend that the Scarborough RT line, long beset by problems through its initial design and advancing age, be closed in 2023. Buses would replace the RT until the subway extension to Sheppard & McCowan opens in 2030.
Staff would consult with the community and Council about plans for replacement services, but the fundamental decision to close the SRT would not be on the table.
The next report with a final recommendation would come to the Board in fall 2021.
This article does not contain any commentary on the political fallout from this recommendation. I will leave that for another time.
Although the TTC planned to keep the SRT alive until 2026 when the Scarborough Subway was originally slated to open, this is not practical given the ongoing deterioration of the vehicles. Indeed, I suspect that 2023 is a “saw off” target that gives enough time to organize replacement service and infrastructure, but that “as soon as possible” would be the unvarnished shutdown date if management had their way.
To keep the SRT running would require a large amount of maintenance and retrofit work during which part of the fleet would not be available and a parallel bus service would be required. One of the key problems is the obsolescence of the signaling and on-board control systems which would have to be replaced at substantial cost for a limited lifespan. This would also incur the problems of signal systems co-existence with all of the testing and validation needed during the transition.
Several options were considered for operating the SRT over the coming decade:
- Hybrid SRT and bus service. This would include major reconstruction and ongoing maintenance including the installation of a new signaling and on-board control system. Buses would supplement SRT service because part of the fleet would be unavailable during the transitional period.
- SRT operation to 2023 with new buses procured for the replacement service from 2023 to 2030.
- SRT operation to 2023 with spare buses in the current fleet to 2026 and new buses thereafter.
- SRT life extension to 2026.
- Purchasing used vehicles from the Vancouver SkyTrain system.
- Replacing the SRT fleet with new Mark III ICTS vehicles.
Options 4-6 were dropped from consideration for various reasons discussed later in this article. Option 1 is not recommended because of its cost and complexity. This leaves options 2 and 3 for more detailed study.
Common to both surviving options is a 2023 shutdown of the SRT. Judging by the budget projections, this would occur mid-year, but no specific date has been recommended.
Beyond that date, the options depend a lot on fleet plans and capital spending. With constrained budgets in coming years, option 2 suffers from the need to advance capital spending into the near term (buses for 2023 would have to be ordered soon) compared to option 3 which has more elbow room. To put this in context, the TTC has fleet renewal requirements in all modes that are not fully funded for the coming decade.Continue reading