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.
Keeping the SRT Alive to 2030
SRT vehicle reliability has declined in spite of two life extension overhauls (LEOs). The overhauls provided some short-term improvement, but because they did not address all of the vehicle components, the change was not sustained. The vehicles have now been in service for over 35 years, well beyond their design lifespan.
Reliability is projected to continue on a downward slope with an increasing number of major service disruptions. In addition, there are other factors such as signal system failure, weather related problems such as snow and ice accumulation in winter, and equipment overheating in summer.
To keep the RT fleet alive would be a complex business:
• Significant maintenance actions are needed to the truck and key areas of the car bodies to achieve a state of good repair.
• Track quality is a driving force behind truck stresses and fatigue life, pointing to the need for ongoing track remediation.
• Vehicle car body structural concerns have been addressed as part of the current life extension overhaul program but critical areas require frequent and regular monitoring to ensure the safety of vehicles.
• Many components of existing equipment have become unavailable, necessitating active obsolescence management to keep systems operational.
• Keeping the Vehicle On-Board Controller (VOBC) equipment operational through 2030 may be best achieved by replacing the original 1980’s equipment with the new updated equipment.
• There are significant risks, cost and schedule factors associated with either replacement or refurbishment of critical VOBC. Over the 30+ years of revenue operation to date, the currently installed SRT VOBC units have undergone modifications as part of needed on-going maintenance just to keep the system operational, which as a result is likely to introduce integration problems with the installation of the added proposed new equipment.
• Given that the length of time for the recommended implementation of the new third generation VOBC upgrade is four years, out of the projected 10-year service life extension to 2030, only six years of beneficial use will be realized even though the onboard equipment itself has a design life of 25 years, with little or no residual value, thus representing a loss in capital.SRT Life Extension Project Options Analysis pp14-15
On top of this, a new signal system would have to be integrated into the existing infrastructure, and the old system would continue to deteriorate during the transition (as we have seen during the ATC project on Line 1). The overhaul period for vehicles would run from 2021 to 2024 during which full service on Line 3 would not be possible.
The following components would have to be upgraded to keep the cars running:
• Propulsion System-Automatic Train Operation (ATO) system including: Vehicle On-Board Controller (VOBC), Linear Induction Motor (LIM), Propulsion Control Unit (PCU)
• Truck Assembly including: Structural Side Frames, Axle and Wheel Assemblies, Brake System-Hydraulic Brake Actuators, Magnetic Track Brakes, Hydraulic Power Unit, Hydraulic Control Unit
• Door System including: Door Frames, Door Mechanisms & Electrical Controls
• Accessible Features: Upgrade of the Station Stop Announcement System
• Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) System: Design and installation of a CCTV systemSRT Life Extension Project Options Analysis p 16
Infrastructure maintenance would have to be based on operation for another decade, as opposed to letting the line decline gracefully pending an earlier shutdown.
Bus Replacement Options
The two options for replacing the SRT with buses differ only in the timing of new vehicle purchases. The following are common to both options:
- SRT continues operating with 4 to 5 trains until it is shut down in 2023.
- Additional bus capacity would be needed at STC (6 to 8 additional bays) and Kennedy (at least 4 bays plus circulation and layover space) in advance of the shutdown.
- Road improvements along major bus corridors would be implemented including larger stopping areas, queue jump lanes and signal timing changes to favour the frequent bus service.
- If a problem with the SRT fleet reduced the number of available trains below 4, an SRT shuttle would be implemented immediately as is now done for equipment breakdowns and other emergencies.
Option 2 would entail purchase of 60 new hybrid buses by 2023/2024. They would be due for a mid-life overhaul in 2029-2039.
Option 3 would reduce the fleet’s spare ratio temporarily until 2026 with 20 new buses/year to be purchased in 2027 to 2029.
The Scarborough bus network would be reconfigured to focus on Kennedy Station providing a through trip for many routes that now terminate at STC.
Here is the bus network as it would exist while the SRT is still operating. Note that this includes proposed route changes that will be implemented later in 2021, as well as changes planned for the opening of the Crosstown LRT in 2022.
The map below shows the network without the SRT. Route marked with a blue dot in the list operate to Kennedy Station via a path to be determined (the dotted blue line). With the upheavals caused by the subway construction project on Eglinton and McCowan, that route could change over time compromising the lifespan of “temporary” improvements to support the shuttle.
The operation would be express with only one intermediate stop at Lawrence East which is the only SRT stop with significant demand between STC and Kennedy.
The volume of bus service for the combined route would be substantial. The numbers below are in addition to whatever local service might run on the chosen corridor already. The values here are based on standard-sized buses, but the TTC is also considering use of larger articulated buses. That would be especially important if new buses were bought early rather than late in the decade.
Travel times between STC and Kennedy would rise from 10 to 15-18 minutes, but this would be partly offset by elimination of the transfer connection at STC for routes providing through service.
The level of service on whichever corridor is chosen would be a substantial increase over current operations with predictable effects on nearby residents.
SRT Life Extension to 2026
Extending the life of the SRT to 2026 will not eliminate, only delay, the point at which operations would have to change to all bus. In the interim, because the vehicles and infrastructure would not receive the aggressive overhaul contemplated in option 1, they would continue to deteriorate, and some pillaging for spare parts might be needed to keep a minimum fleet running. With a small 28 car fleet, there is not much headroom for this approach.
Used Vehicles from Vancouver
Although the original SkyTrain cars in Vancouver are Mark I vehicles, they are not the same as Toronto’s and face integration issues with the existing fleet. Another option would be to buy they simply as a source of spare parts.
However, these vehicles would not be available until 2024 which would not forestall cannibalization of the Toronto fleet for parts.
Mark III SRT Vehicles
Mark III vehicles will not fit on the existing SRT, notably at Kennedy Station where the curve is too sharp, and some changes at McCowan Yard might also be needed. These trains would have an updated control system that cannot work with the aging signal system on the line forcing a retrofit.
New cars could not arrive in Toronto for a few years, and they would have a limited lifespan. The report is silent on whether Vancouver would be interested in them as used vehicles after the subway opens.
In addition to the fleet and technology issues, there is the question of accessibility at SRT stations. Only two of them, Kennedy and STC, are fully accessible (at least by TTC standards). Because the TTC expected to abandon the line when the subway opened in 2026, they did not include the other stations at Lawrence, Ellesmere, Midland and McCowan in the “Easy Access Program” which retrofits elevators to existing stations.
If the SRT continued to operate beyond 2025 to 2030, the TTC would run a parallel bus service to provide accessibility over the corridor.
Capital and Operating Costs
Each option has its own costs on both the capital and operating side. Capital availability is a key consideration considering the budget squeeze we are likely to see in the next few years.
The TTC hopes that Metrolinx will pay for the extra cost of providing a replacement service, but it remains to be seen if this would actually be funded by the Province as an extra cost on the SSE project.
In the TTC capital budget as it stands, there is $47 million between years 2021 and 2026 for state of good repair on the SRT. This drops off in 2023 as major overhaul work was planned to end in anticipation of the shutdown three years later. If the fleet remains active to 2030, substantial additional work would be required in the later half of the decade beyond what was originally budgeted.
On the operating side, the basic cost of running the SRT of $20-22 million annually would be offset by some service reductions to free up vehicles for overhauls, but the cost of additional bus service would outweigh this. The “operating funding available” in ths table is based on the 2021 budget for the SRT before considering offsets for overhauls and bus replacements.
The total cost is $522 million of which only $248 million is “funded” by placeholders in existing budgets. (This means, in effect, that money earmarked for the current plan would be reallocated to pay for the proposed one.)
Option 2 has much lower costs for the SRT itself because it would be retired in mid-2023. However, the cost of terminal changes and traffic priority improvements would be incurred in 2022-23, and new buses would be purchased in 2023-24. This “front-end-loads” the capital requirements, possibly a problem for overall budgets and timing of other capital projects.
The total cost is $375 million with the same $248 million “funded” through current budget provisions.
Option 3 avoids the up front cost for new buses by pushing them off to the end of the decade. Because they would have a longer useful life after the SSE opened, there is a larger credit for this value (i.e. the unused portion of the bus lifespan) and there is the avoided cost of a major overhaul that would be charged against the buses purchased in option 2. This cost does not disappear, it merely does not get charged against the SRT project per se.
These costs are summarized below.
Update: TTC Board Meeting of February 10, 2021
The TTC Board discussed this report at some length at its recent meeting, and there were several deputations from Scarborough residents. A common theme in their remarks was that the TTC should make the best of a bad situation by ensuring that there is good, frequent replacement bus service after the SRT closes, and that transit priority will be essential. This included use of the existing corridor as a bus roadway.
Some commented on problems with crowding today on the bus network in spite of TTC management’s claims to the contrary. In particular, they did not want service elsewhere to suffer from reallocation of buses to an SRT replacement service.
Of concern to some deputants was the concept of “transferring” the SRT right-of-way to Metrolinx. Nominally this would be done because Metrolinx is responsible for removal of the existing infrastructure as part of the Scarborough Subway project. However, one cannot help thinking that they are eyeing this space as part of the expansion plans for the Stouffville GO corridor. TTC staff stated that the land would remain in TTC/City hands, although given the provincial love for overriding local plans, that could be a hollow promise.
The issue of consultation for transit priority measures was also raised including the problem of representation through meetings which could be dominated by drivers fighting any proposals as opposed to riders whose work hours and technology access could limit their ability to attend.
Three sets of amendments were proposed, and all were adopted by the Board:
Commissioner Osborne moved that staff be directed to:
- include a BRT or busway on the SRT right-of-way as part of the replacement transit service options analysis, including signal priority measures,
- receive input and feedback through the Community Engagement process, including any necessary changes to the City’s Surface Transit Network Plan priorities, and
- report back to the Board as part of the Q3 Board Report.
Commissioner Bradford moved that:
- the CEO seek the assistance of various officials in obtaining funding for additional buses, and that this funding would be included as part of the continuing cost of providing service in anticipation of the subway opening, and
- the staff in consultation with various City officials develop a framework for inclusion of local Councillors, Neighbourhood Improvement Associations and Neighbourhood Planning Tables in the consultation process.
Commissioner Carroll moved that TTC staff be required to include potential future uses of SRT station lands in all consultations on replacement service.
During the staff presentation, the following issues were cited as examples of problems with maintenance and reliability of the SRT equipment:
- 158 of 184 incidents resulted in delays greater than five minutes from 2017-2019.
- 70 days with speed restrictions in 2019 to prevent overheating and shut down of propulsion system in hot weather (+ 25C).
- 6 days of suspended service in 2018 and 2019 due to severe winter weather (snow and ice build up).
- 3 weeks of reduced service in September of 2020, due to concerns with a critical bearing in the truck assembly.
The comparative travel times for the existing and proposed replacement operations were shown in the chart below. Note that this is for a trip originating in Malvern where the journey to the SRT dominates the travel time, although less so with the SRT’s removal depending on the degree (or lack) of transit priority for the “express” bus service.
A simplified version of the service map shows how routes would be extended for through express trips from STC to Kennedy Station. The actual route taken is still to be determined.
Has the SRT always been beset by problems like it is now, or is all of this just a consequence of age and insufficient maintenance?
Steve: It has always had problems, but age has compounded them. The TTC spent millions every year on retrofits to make up for design deficiencies during the early period of its operation. My favourite has always been the snow that fell inside the cars and the junior sized hockey stick used as standard equipment to clear snow out of the door pockets.
Is there a corridor that could reasonably/feasibly be temporarily cordoned off as an ad-hoc BRT?
Steve: There are bit and pieces, but not much. They will have to take road lanes or widen if this is possible.
Looking beyond the present shuttle replacement situation, and assuming the subway dream falls through, and thus yet another look at Metrolinx type streetcars in Scarborough:
How far gone? Is the substrate still usable for running trams over the present track (minus the linear propulsion)?
Steve: I think there is a problem with clearance for wider cars. Certainly at the Ellesmere tunnel, but also at stations (plus the different floor height). That comment in the report suggests that the RT trucks don’t take kindly to out of alignment track the way, say, a PCC truck would.
And the electrical feeder supply?
Steve: The electrical system of the SRT is based on 600VDC fed as ±300V. This was part of the original design to reduce weight on the cars because the potential to ground was lower and less insulation was needed. Hence the two side-running power rails.
It’s a jump of faith to consider it, and platforms would have to be leveled down, but one wonders on an Alstom or BBD model of tram usable on a wider Scarborough network run-through onto roads but running along this this extant trunk to Kennedy.
Surely this option has been considered in the past rather than just abandoning the SRT RoW outright?
Steve: The SLRT replacement would have followed the existing line, but would have required replacement/adaptation of a lot of infrastructure. The issue was always that we would save money on the Malvern extension by converting to LRT and this would offset costs on the existing line.
To be clear, the adaptation proposed would be a permanent plan in lieu of subway. I get the distinct feeling that the subway option isn’t a ‘slam-dunk’ and will be revisited yet again.
Any model of tram would be compatible and/or interrunning able with other Metrolinx ones such that stock wouldn’t be orphaned.
Just digging for a third rail reference only to find it discussed in the City of Hamilton’s pdf on trams at page 23.
I can’t for a moment believe that the present SRT infrastructure is a complete write-off. Rolling stock? Doubtless, but the opportunity remains profound.
Steve: Another issue is that with changes in the scale of carhouse needed in Scarborough, the site has shifted from Conlins Road to near UTSC. I am not sure if it is big enough to handle a restored LRT network.
The end of an era, caused by politicians covering their eyes and ears hoping that a subway builds itself. This may finally be the impetus for Doug Ford to put up or shut up about the subway instead of talking about it ad nauseum.
My only hope is that a good LRT rollout in the GTA (Crosstown, Hurontario, Finch West) may cause the government to reconsider building subways, subways, subways. Results have been mixed with good in Waterloo and bad in Ottawa.
Segregated bicycle path starting in 2014? After allowing a year to convert.
Steve, is there any chance of being able to run Ontario Line trains on refurbished RT tracks? There would presumably have to be a change from Linear Induction to Third Rail power, but what other technical issues could prevent this? The Ellesmere tunnel? The steep grade just north of Kennedy?
I am really concerned there will be a move to start demolishing the RT guideway ASAP after the existing trains are scrapped, so as to permanently prevent it from being re-used for *any* form of transit.
Steve: There are a few issues. First off, the power supply for the SRT is 600VDC delivered as ±300V. New systems such as the Metrolinx LRT and (probably) OL cars will run at 750VDC. A completely new power system will be required.
Next is question of stations including clearance depending on car width and the floor height. Changing the platform height relative to the rails is difficult in some locations due to the nature of the structure. It’s not impossible, but use “as is” cannot be assumed.
There could be problems with the curves and with the tunnel again depending on the vehicle.
As for the track, if the line is to be repurposed, the entire track bed should be rebuilt to take advantage of the absence of traffic.
In other words, “it depends”.
I have some comments regarding the bus network changes for the Scarborough RT closure:
1. First of all, the TTC doesn’t need so many routes going to Kennedy station. Just certain routes can go from Scarborough Centre to Kennedy Station but with more frequent service.
2. The 954 Lawrence East bus doesn’t have to operate both ways via Kennedy Station. It would create much, much longer travel times. People can transfer to routes to get to Kennedy Station.
3. Extending 939 Finch Express and 985 Sheppard East Express to Kennedy Station is absolutely unnecessary. Few people would use those routes to Kennedy Station because they would just go east, south, and back west, which doesn’t make any sense.
4. They could just integrate 16 McCowan and 129 McCowan North by operating a single McCowan bus route running from Warden Station to Steeles and the other branch to Major Mackenzie.
5. For the first 2 years of having 178 Birmorton in operation, the route could just operate west on Birmorton, south on Brimley, west on Dorcot, south on Midland, and west on Lawrence to get to Lawrence East station because at Lawrence East, there is a spare platform while at Scarborough Centre Station, there is none. When the RT is closed, extend the route west and south to Kennedy Station.
I hope the TTC rethink those bus network plans.
Steve: This is why there are public consultation sessions, to fine-tune the proposals and to ask “why does it work this way”.
Steve, just to clarify, is table 5 representing a comparison of service plans (e.g. here’s what we have to do for bus replacement vs. here’s what we would do with SRT service if things were going well)?
Steve: Yes. It’s the combined capacity of the bus services compared with the capacity of the Line 3 service that would be replaced.
And, with respect to funding this service replacement, can the city apply funding from the transit levy collected (which was in theory going to go to the Eglinton East line but, well) to fund the difference between what the city was going to pay in a best case SRT scenario vs. what choices they have remaining?
Steve: The levy was for capital, not for operating. Because Ontario has taken over the SSE project, they are on the hook for its cost. The City has not yet proposed an alternative use for the borrowing which that levy will finance.
If the funding issue is somewhat covered, then staff could have the freedom to recommend an option that allows for as much bus service as possible as they ramp down SRT operations, as well as a bus purchase and right of way modifications program to improve fleet capacity, frequency and bus speed.
Steve: The problem is that the City may be raiding its capital budget (via capital-from-current charges and from reserve draws) in the next few years due to covid impacts. Any project that triggers new capital spending in the next five years is going to have a rough go. That’s why there is an option to defer the bus purchases until later in the decade. Frankly I think the TTC runs too high a bus spare ratio anyhow, and it would be nice to see the vehicles actually used. Some years ago, the TTC got John Tory to fund purchase of 100 buses, and most of them promptly became spares, not service improvements.
Even then I suppose there will be other constraints to deal with there such as available garage space, road space and design issues, debates over transit priority etc.
Steve: Yes, the garages will be packed again. ‘Twas ever thus.
The openings of the Line 5 Eglinton in 2022 and Line 6 Finch West in 2023 would free up buses to replace the SRT. Would that not be enough to avoid immediate bus purchases?
Steve: Those buses are already spoken for to cover retirements of old buses and planned service improvements. Mind you, I am sure the TTC would be happy for Metrolinx to buy them some buses to operate because of provincially-forced delays in the SSE project.
Boggling that the conversion to LRT option isn’t even being reheated. Scarborough needs better transit. Let’s tear down an existing rapid transit corridor in Scarborough that provides fast access between what are apparently the two crucial points (STC and Kennedy).
Steve said: The electrical system of the SRT is based on 440VDC fed as ±220V.
A TTC document and a James Bow article say the voltage of the two power rails is +300V and –300V.
Steve: Thanks for the correction. I had always believed it was 440V from the early days. It is possible they discovered that a higher potential was required for adequate performance. That will send me into archives I have not looked at in quite a while.
In order to sustainably run a bus every 49 seconds, one needs to plan very carefully. Any little hiccup can seriously mess up the whole operation. For example, the buses can run smoothly for almost the entire route using dedicated lanes on Progress and Kennedy (assuming those dedicated lanes can be established), but then get stuck trying to enter the bus terminal. Or, they can get stuck just trying to make some left turn, if that turn doesn’t get enough green time.
Maybe the TTC planners already know how to perfect the whole operation, and excluded those tiny details from the document just to save the space. If so, good for them. But from the layman’s perspective, it seems less risky to distribute the workload between multiple subway stations, rather than run all additional service to Kennedy.
The 38 and 938 can run to the Don Mills subway terminus on Sheppard, shifting some of the load there. All of the 954 vehicles can operate from the ECLRT’s Science Centre station and stay on Lawrence east of Don Mills; no need to connect to Kennedy. The 129 (McCowan North) can be combined with the 15, and run to Warden station via McCowan and St Clair East.
The 939 (Finch East) is a long route. Extending it even further, from STC down to Kennedy, may result in exsessive bunching and very irregular headways. Retaining the terminus at STC might be a better idea.
That leaves only 43B, 131, 133, and 985 running from STC to Kennedy. If that’s not enough, they can add a 131E just between STC and Kennedy; short routes are easier to manage.
Steve: Yes, I find some of those headways a little hard to believe and think the TTC will need to rethink where it sends all of those buses. But as I said before, there is a public consultation period. It will be interesting to see how flexible they are about changing the route layout.
After posting my comment, discovered the comment from @shentron posted earlier, with suggestions similar to mine. Apparently, I am not the only one who thinks running all new buses to Kennedy isn’t the best option.
Here’s an example of strategic public transit planning.
Neither Toronto City government nor Metrolinx (Ontario Provincial Government) have serious strategic plans.
Steve: The problem here is that we love to announce things, not to build them, especially if a previous government proposed them.
The TTC should paint the bus lanes red on either Kennedy or Midland from Eglinton to Progress and on Progress Ave to STC and designate them as BRT/RapidTO Lanes (bus only lanes) and designate the 60 buses needed as a Line 3 BRT/rapidTO bus service from Kennedy Station to STC stopping at Lawrence and maybe Ellesmere.
Walter Lis wrote:
“Segregated bicycle path starting in 2014? After allowing a year to convert.”
I presume that Walter meant 2024, and yes, Toronto City Council and the TTC are considering that. See this article in Toronto Life.
One big advantage of the proposal is cost. It costs $70 million to demolish the SRT structures, but only $20 million to turn the SRT into a bicycle path, including on/off ramps and converting the SRT platform at Kennedy Subway Station into Dutch style railway bicycle parking.
What will really make this successful as a transportation system is proper feeder routes, creating a transportation network. For example, by extending the existing Birkdale bicycle path another 250 metres north to connect with the new SRT Bike Path. Then everyone living in Birkdale now has a fast, easy and convenient way to get to Scarborough Town Centre or to their jobs along the SRT bike path line. Of course, the SRT bike path is itself a feeder route to Kennedy Subway Station.
I venture to predict that for anyone living within 1-2 km of the SRT Bike Path, it will be faster and far, far more reliable to ride a bike to Kennedy Subway Station than it ever was to take the RT. With the RT, it was necessary to walk to a bus stop, wait for the bus, ride the bus to an SRT station, walk from the bus to the SRT platform, wait for the RT and then ride the RT into Kennedy Station. With a bike, all of that waiting and walking is eliminated, resulting in a much faster trip.
I also venture to predict that right now some troll is preparing to write, “But it is impossible to ride a bicycle in the winter!” As the saying goes, you are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own set of facts. With proper maintenance, this is not an issue.
By 2023, the double tracking of the Stouffville GO line to Unionville would have been completed. Milliken and Agincourt GO would have been completed as well. If Finch-East GO station construction could be sped up, feeding those stations would be must easier to implement. Even if electrification is still missing at the time, the double tracking could allow bi directional services at 30 minutes headway throughout the day.
Running Scarborough buses to Kennedy or even Warden stations are not practical. With or without Line 5 operating, roads like Danforth, Eglinton and even Lawrence are not exactly free flowing. From Agincourt GO to Kennedy GO is only 8 minutes. It will be faster than any bus. Once passengers reach Kennedy GO, they will have Line 2, Line 5 or just continuing on to Union Station.
I’ve been thinking about this for a while now – what if TTC keeps the current SRT Shuttle Route they have whenever it gets shut down and puts a bus lane on it. They have “Line 3 Shuttle Bus”/57 Midland shared stops at Midland RT Station, Midland & Ellesmere, and Midland & Lawrence. Departing southbound from STC, the SRT shuttle goes up Progress Ave, turns left onto Midland, drives up Midland Ave to Eglinton Ave, then turns right on Eglinton and goes up the bridge to Kennedy. I noticed a few years ago they started doing this, instead of turning the shuttle buses in and out of the individual SRT stations (Ellesmere, Lawrence E) which eats up time (obviously this won’t be an issue once the SRT shuts down). Perhaps keeping the current stops/route they have for the SRT shuttle along Midland with a bus lane? I actually like the idea of extending some of those STC routes to Kennedy to provide continuous service to eliminate the transfer, but like others are mentioned, I worry that the longer routes, especially 939 will be much harder to manage and maintain consistent service without bunching/irregular headways.
Since we are on the topic of SRT, I actually look forward to the scheduled weekend shut downs of the SRT because the shuttle bus is so much more frequent and reliable than waiting for the train (I’ve waited 10-15 mins for a train). Once a shuttle pulls off, the other one is right behind it.
Steve: There is a problem with the Midland route that will be caused by Scarborough Subway construction. It will bring a major upheaval on Eglinton east of Kennedy and that will not be an ideal route for a frequent bus service. This suggests that Kennedy might be used. There will have to be real transit priority, not the half-baked efforts Toronto usually implements. Whether the pro-car members of Council will let this happen remains to be seen.
It’s somewhat nice to see/read that yup, it’s a really big mess now. Many politicians should be ousted, though of course Scarborough deserves better transit. But the processes thus far have NOT considered a few options, and this is being repeated.
There is the Smart Spur rail option – though perhaps some wrinkles exist with it – but that was nixed because we couldn’t dream of not having the SRT operate and that would mean massive expropriation and cost, so toss that one out.
Another existing corridor that’s very wide and somewhat publicly owned still, could be used for a busway or transitway, the Gatineau Hydro corridor, just as the Finch corridor was used for the service to York U, and might have been a smarter $pend than the subway extension, especially beyond York.
The Gatineau corridor is very wide and could well be the fix for a set of transit improvements in all parts of Scarborough given proximities to UTS, the Zoo, Centennial and the Hospital, with two advantages: diagonality, an inherent faster trip on a grid; and off-road speeding up of any transit using it, without inconveniencing cars/votorists. Even within Scarborough itself it makes a lot of sense for that faster/sub-regional travel demand which is NOT concentrated on wanting to go to STC, and are there any connections between STC owners and the politicians wanting this Suspect Subway Extension? Why should subways in suburbs always go to shopping malls and development sites when the real needs are for investment in all parts of the region, but including in the denser core where subways tend to make much more sense and generally are buried in most world cities.
The ‘carservatives’ here like buried transit to keep roads clear for car drivers, and wouldn’t mind if the transit gets buried in costly projects because they like supporting cars and oil use and a ‘car-munism’ of hidden car subsidies instead of ‘public’ transit, which yup, is at times not the best way, but theoretically can be very good.
The key to getting some sense in to this mess may be avoiding the tainted TTC, Council and Metrolinx/Contario, but focussing pressure on the federal level for ensuring some quality to any plans and $upport, though the federal level is also often suspect.and also has no interest in really respecting taxpayers nor transit riders, as further extension of ANY existing subway line is only decreasing usage/comfort for existing riders further in to the core vs. new network and diffusing demands.
Steve do you think that the LRT would be reconsidered at city council? Because the SSE is a huge waste of money and barely extends the route of the current SRT.
Steve: Josh Matlow plans to move a motion at Council, and it will be defeated by the usual suspects. Until the province hits a wall on its ability/willingness to finance Doug Ford’s transit fantasies, this will not change.
I do recall when a very good friend had worked at the TTC, he would see reports come over his desk that frequently had letters of praise to the TTC when the RT was out of service and was bustituted. Thank you for the improvement the riders said.
Can Tory SmartTrack be able to bring some relief in time before the SSE is built like rerouting some of the bus routes to Finch and Agincourt stations? And making some fare adjustments so that it is more attractive?
Steve: There are a few problems with this idea. First, SmartTrack will not operate frequently enough to be a credible replacement for the SRT. Whether we call the trains GO or ST, until there is very frequent service in the corridor, the risk of missing a train and having a long wait will be a problem. Second, GO/Metrolinx shows no sign of offering a fare that would be attractive to TTC riders. Sure, some people would pay more, but this should not be forced on everyone just because of Doug Ford’s cocking up Scarborough’s transit plans. Third, riders who are not bound for Union Station would have to change to Line 2 BD at Kennedy. That link is even more time-consuming than the much despised subway-to-RT transfer.
For all the annoyance, we could find that just “staying on the bus” will be the least annoying of the alternatives.
Hypothetically lets just say, city hall does decide to move forward with LRT (probably will win the lottery than this happening). What is the expected completion date and estimated budget and will it be completed before SSE estimated date of 2030?
Steve: This is tricky. Various estimates from 3 to 5 years were given for the length of time we would be without service in the SRT corridor for an LRT conversion. The lower values were cited by people who actually believe in the project, while the higher values were to cast the idea in as negative a light as possible. A related issue is the drive to “get it done” as opposed to dragging out a project for reasons such as cash flow planning. a big challenge is the carhouse. Supposing that we began sometime in 2022, the line would open before there was any other LRT line in Scarborough such as the Eglinton/UTSC line (Line 5 East) or a Sheppard line. Either there would have to be a small maintenance facility pro tem, or a connection into the Line 5 station at Kennedy would be needed. Thanks to the subway project, a connection from the east will not exist for years, and a connection from the north would be tricky because it was designed out of the station when the SLRT plan was dropped.
As to cost, there was an estimate that was grossly inflated in a notorious briefing note from the TTC used to sell the “peace in our time” deal that saw Council approve the combo of a one-stop subway and the Eglinton East LRT. By hyperinflating the SLRT cost estimate, the TTC made the revised proposal look like something we could build at a small premium over what an LRT option would cost. I would be very surprised to see a number much below $2 billion today thanks to inflation and the factors which have now complicated the project compared to the original design.
So many lies have been told about the LRT option over the years that little of the published information can be relied upon.
Steve has previously commented upon the difficulties in using the Gatineau hydro corridor for public transit vehicles, so I will not add to those comments.
Steve: Yes, I really didn’t feel like covering that territory again. Hamish trots it out quite regularly, and I was not surprised to see it again. I actually reviewed it to refresh my memory when responding to another comment.
However, the Gatineau Bike Path has the potential to be improved to be a useful feeder route for a future SRT Bike Path.
Right now, the Gatineau Bike Path is fairly useless except for purely recreational use by local neighbourhoods. This is because it is not continuous, but has huge gaps over what would be the most useful parts of it. Those politicians who like to draw lines on maps without looking at the ground can say that it has a spur line south to Kennedy Subway Station. But the implementation has been so incompetently botched up that in reality this is very difficult to actually use by real people in real life.
For example, suppose that I live in the McGregor park neighbourhood. And I look at a map and say to myself, “I can use the Gatineau Bike Path for my daily commute to Kennedy Subway Station. Look at the bike paths taking me right there! And it is only 2.5 km, less than 10 minutes on my bike. I spend more time than that walking to the bus stop and waiting for the bus!”
Five minutes into that ride I hit the first of the gaps in the Gatineau Bike Path, which comes to an abrupt end at Kennedy Road. With no way to cross Kennedy Road and not even a curb cut to get me out onto Kennedy. And, of course, no wayfinding to show me where to go next.
Photo of “intersection” of Gatineau bike path with Kennedy Road.
But suppose that I have a local guide who can instruct me in the bizarre manoeuvers required to get to Kennedy Subway Station. That local guide will tell me to illegally ride my bike on the sidewalk south to Ranstone Gardens, cross Kennedy with the traffic signal at Ranstone, and then illegally ride my bike on the sidewalk south on the other side of Kennedy until I come to the beginning of the spur that leads to Kennedy Subway Station. As can be seen from the photo, there is once again zero wayfinding to indicate that this is the spur that leads to Kennedy Station. And there is no curb cut for people to get onto the bike path from Kennedy.
Photo of “intersection” of Kennedy Road with spur path to Kennedy Subway Station.
And finally, once we reach the south end of this spur, there is once again zero wayfinding telling me how to actually get to the subway station. And, of course, once again I have to lift my bicycle over a curb because there is no curb cut. So if I happen to be a little older or am carrying groceries, work stuff or a child in a child seat so that lifting my bike over a curb is a problem, the City of Toronto has provided a gross infrastructure fail.
End of spur to Kennedy Subway Station
On the other hand, suppose that I live in the Birkdale, Amberdale, Bendale or Ben Jungle neighbourhoods and want to get to Kennedy Subway Station. Then I can take the Gatineau Bike Path… Until it comes to an abrupt halt at Marcos. A gap that stretches all the way to Kennedy Road. To these people, the City of Toronto has delivered a clear message: Sucks to be you.
End of Gatineau Trail at Marcos.
Yes, I fully understand the anger of people who live in Scarborough at the lack of respect given to them by the City of Toronto. Failing to provide cheap, easy and basic things such as wayfinding, curb cuts and closing gaps in transportation routes so that they can actually be used would make me angry too.
When the SRT is shut down, transforming it into a SRT Bike Path will mean a much faster and more reliable commute time for a large swath of Scarborough. But only if the City of Toronto does not incompetently botch the implementation by failing to provide proper connections to feeder routes such as the Gatineau Bike Path and the Birkdale Bike Path.
Steve: Another problem is getting across the GO Stouffville corridor (aka the Uxbridge sub) at the Gatineau corridor. If you follow the SRT all the way, the underpass at Ellesmere could be recycled (pardon the pun) although that could be a safety issue for some, but that does not serve people hopping onto the Gatineau rather than the “RT” corridor (and it’s a longer distance because of the dogleg). This is the sort of thing that has to be planned end-to-end, not just built piecemeal as chunks of a potential network become available.
Much like Richard Hennick, I hate to see such large infrastructure being destroyed and then duplicated with extreme cost. Surely the upgrades you mentioned in his message would be far less than the +$5 billion that the three stations will cost, and a huge time savings as well.
For comparison, Belgrade, Serbia has just signed deals with China/France to help build the long delayed 42km, two-line subway with 43 stations, for about $7 billion CAD.
I hate conspiracies, however the “construction industrial complex” is always looking for the most expensive option, and pay politicians to ensure this. FYI, I just finished rereading “The National Dream / Last Spike” and the corruption in that era is just as bad as today! 😉
Steve: It would be interesting to know what the geology is especially for the stations which are among the most expensive components of any subway project.
I presume that there will be a bridge, similar to the existing one crossing the SRT at Mooregate Avenue.
Steve: For some reason I remembered this as a bridge with stairs, but obviously not.
History of the Scarborough RT (30 minute video)
Scarborough RT Addendum (13 minute video)
Steve: There are a few inaccuracies in the first video, and I have added a comment to clarify things. Overall it covers a lot of territory in half an hour.
Your memory is good. Once upon a time, it used to be that way until it was upgraded. Which is a very good reason to remember this as a bridge with stairs. See this photo from 2009.
Steve: Ah yes. The ramp was added after I stopped being a daily commuter to STC in 2008.
There may well be a solution that will please all. Montreal EXO commuter trains just shut down Jan. 31st and the entire fleet of 29 EMU’s is stored. These bigger cars could be run in pairs back-to-back (cabs each end) equaling four SRT cars. They could be in service in no time. No need to wait out the end of the SRT equipment. EMU’s are 25,000 volt AC. There is a major Hydro line nearby the SRT. Plug into it and away you go! Ought to be faster than low voltage DC equipment on SRT. Get you there in no time!
Steve: The Montreal cars are just a teensy weensy big bigger (and heavier) than the SRT.
Given Kennedy’s post-Crosstown layout, is there any reason for an LRT or Mark III retrofit to turn west into Kennedy Station and deal with that sharp curve? The geometry no longer works for through running with the Crosstown, and everyone hates the extra stairs to the elevated RT platform and loop.
Wouldn’t an at-grade N-S station parallel to the Kennedy GO platform be simpler and cheaper? The Crosstown concourse level already adds a tunnel and elevator/stairs to the GO platform, and adding another set can’t be that hard. And it doesn’t block extending either the ECLRT or B-D subway, so Council/Cabinet/Metrolinx can keep that dream alive, while getting on with actually building transit.
Steve: Yes. A new RT station would be required for a replacement fleet and a north-south alignment works well.
With biking, the 2001 Bike Plan proposed a complete, though a bit distanced, on-road network through all of Scarborough, and it’s perhaps at 5% completion. I’m not sure that having the SRT infra repurposed to a bikeway will be highest/best use however, compared to a transit usage, which may possible, though Mr. Matlow’s motion should have reference to Smart Spur, which if possible, would be far superior value to most of the Smart Trick/Track stuff.
With Gatineau usage, given the billions to be possibly wasted, the years to build heavy infra, the climate crisis pressures, and this very wide long corridor really being a connection, are we sure that whatever drawbacks might be put forward are not torqued like much of the rest of the Scarborough ‘debate’? The adage – where there’s a will there’s a way – could be applied to any possible “hydro line” technicality by working to both bury and convert one hydro line to a more flexible line that would accept power inputs from a massive solar roof program in Solarborough.
Keeping It Simply Surface is a smarter transit approach, and recognizing the more diffuse demands of Scarborough with a less-concentrated network seems smarter. All governments may well need to squeeze the billions better, and we do need a LOT of new transit hardware, plus there’s some chance/risk that concentrated citycore work is less real for at least a decade.
Should have just stayed with the LRT now costing more and longer commutes another reason why FACTS matter!!!
My dear friend Hamish wrote:
Yes, conversion to LRT as proposed by Transit City would be the best outcome. Cue my usual rant about how Transit City would be completed and in place RIGHT NOW instead of endless political hot air and zero action. Forget swan boats, the real future of transportation in Toronto is politician-powered hot-air balloons.
The so-called Smart Spur is basically the Transit City Scarborough Malvern LRT line built instead as GO heavy rail. For reasons which have been explained here at great length, LRT is the appropriate technology given the level of transportation demand. Not subway, not GO heavy rail and not [insert pet technology which someone thinks is a silver bullet that solves all problems].
Hamish, I love you and have fond memories of working with you on cycling projects. But Steve is right on this one. He has repeatedly explained at great length the technical reasons why operating transit vehicles in the Gatineau hydro ROW will not deliver appropriate transportation outcomes. Here is a very short two-sentence summary:
1. Nobody lives on the hydro corridor, so there is no local demand.
2. The corridor does not connect any high-volume origin/destination pairs.
Can you please let this go? To thoroughly mix my metaphors, you are barking up a dead horse’s ass.
Glad to have both the comments – all of them – and the summation in two points, and a pointed as well as clearer conclusion. However, there are billions in play, and it is a climate crisis, and it’s also now a financial/transport crisis for the entire city, plus perhaps other levels, and we need to squeeze those billions for the transit hardware, with more planning resource too.
So in terms of pursuing a still-rational option, we are needing a sub-regional set of options, not milk runs by TTC, or converting GO to a milk run. At risk of being another urban elitist, much of Scarborough is of lower density, and buses can easily access and get off of anything on the Gatineau with its multiple access points. And there is considerable ‘destination’ near-enough to it like the Zoo; UTSC; Centennial, and the Hospital, as well as 401 and Eglinton/Golden Mile/ OSC at the western end. So it could also be seen as a speed-up/option for GO perhaps even 401 Relief, as well as TTC, with some work sites/areas near the west end of it as well.
While demand may seem to be diffuse, if we set up many Bikeshares at many stops as part of a strategy of ridership growth within the areas, surely that would assist in ensuring usages, and the math of the possible subway option is c. $1.5M a new rider, according to a Star editorial once.
WIth bikes, thanks for doing the math in earlier comments Kevin, about relative value to cost, and that too should be seen as a further mobility option, though many aren’t suicycle and the current winter weather isn’t ‘fun’, though winter is tending to wither with changing climate.
And not having a completely sound rationale hasn’t stopped us from doing a Sorbara subway extension beyond York, and isn’t this Suspect Subway Extension (one of two) also kind of Crazy? and NOT borne out by the numbers? Council/Clowncil specifically voted about four years ago to ignore best international practices etc so facts – and money it seems – don’t matter to slim majority which includes Mayor Tory and mostly suburban members, though both Councillors Bradford and Bailao are still voting for this SSE. Having facts matter less for $200M is a far better deal than having facts matter less for c. $6,000,000,000 plus or minus ??.
We also could be upzoning some of the sites along the corridor too; and we should be boosting urban densities somewhat vs. greenfields, though it’s also necessary to avoid paving over this green corridor too ie. anything has to be only! for transit, and once transit is boosted, off-road, then introduce some squeezes on the private cars.
Having the over-concentration of transit at STC is a mistake isn’t it? Can we change it a bit? Or a lot?
Even using a bit of this corridor for a faster trip from end of line to SRT with the bus fill-ins should be seen as an option, and pursued not just for faster trips on diagonal, but because a bus RoW might be far more palatable if it’s a third on one road and a third on another road, and third off-road, guesstimating distances. And I can see a demand if there’s a 70kmh legal and fast trip on a RoW from near-Eglinton/Don Mills out to UTSC with only a fifth being on-road so I think it’s more a question of build it and they will come vs. having an obvious travel demand like the 401 or the Gardiner needing transit. And Scarborough does have a LOT of car usage, so where are they all going and coming from? Ridership growth and options please,
Pardon another input, but in looking at the TTC agenda for next Wed., Item 8 is also sadly a relevant thing, in that it seems to cement further the bad direction the TO transit is going in.
Fundamental errors are being compounded; much of the City is cowed or overloaded in face of the provincial Dougtator’s wish to $quander and kinda $crew the core (again), and federal level won’t have interest in ensuring good projects or value for taxpayers in the ‘hituation’ the TTC has been put in to. Too bad we can’t have a more independent look at Everything! – which would be well worth $10M, and if there was only a cessation in the ridership pressures hmm? so we could actually ensure quality in our schemes, and that the spending on concrete was an investment.
While I am still hopeful for a sudden demise of the current provincial government for a new premier who decides to undo the last ten years of transit stupidity, could it be worthwhile for the SRT corridor south of Ellesmere to be paved over for buses to use until the subway opens?
Steve: Yes. There would obviously be an interim period where buses would have to travel on regular streets, but once the new road is in place, service could switch over. This would be particularly important for unfettered access to Kennedy Station while Eglinton is dug up for the subway construction project.
Yes, the EXO cars are much bigger and heavier. However, as I pointed out a pair will equal carrying capacity (or more) and length. Weight may be a problem however, perhaps not insurmountable even if additional supports are needed. The Kennedy terminal would of course be a big problem but could be rebuilt faster and cheaper than waiting for years and years and hundreds of millions of dollars. Possibly swap bus/SRT paths. That is, SRT comes in at ground level and buses at elevated level. No need for loop as EMU’s have control cab at one end and run in pairs.
I don’t recall how much is elevated other than the Kennedy terminal which I recall for its stupid 3 levels between modes. Used to take it full length to get work (bus_subway_SRT_bus).
The big thing is all those EMU’s are ready to run NOW! Yes, they will need changing from AC to DC but that is a small matter compared to waiting for new cars that may/may not arrive on time AND may/may not have problems unforeseen.
Worth checking out and GET ON WITH IT! .
At some point in the recent history of the SRT could the TTC not have sought out a manufacturer who could build new cars with all of the necessary limitations the line imposes that prevents an off-the-shelf model or even a second-hand model from being used? I’m sure the constantly looming replacement meant never having to consider this option, but had the various proposals to repurpose the RT line as part of a wider network ever panned out surely they would have had to look into this unless dealing with the structural issues of the line that limit the vehicle type were part of the plan?
Steve: Before Transit City was announced, the TTC approached Vancouver to purchase used Mark I cars, but the price was for the TTC to pay for new replacement trains. That was considered to be too expensive for the roughly decade in remaining life for the Mark Is. Building a new car would entail development costs that would have pushed the unit price through the roof. Also, the cost of extending the RT to Malvern was more than converting the line to LRT as part of a new network.
As for Hamish’s pet project of using the Gatineau corridor for transit, Hydro One is now very protective about constructing anything within their corridors. See the evolving plans for the recently opened Kipling Terminal for MiWay (and eventually GO Transit) which had to be moved out from underneath the hydro corridor forcing a longer walking transfer between the subway and the bus terminal. The York University Busway along the Finch hydro corridor was probably allowed since it was just a roadway. As soon as you start adding infrastructure like stops it will probably raise some red flags with Hydro One. The parking lots at Finch and Kipling stations are likely grandfathered in.
Then there’s probably the NIMBY factor to deal with. The hydro lines are already a nuisance to some who live along it, adding a surface transit line to it is not going to make it any more appealing to the same crowd. Yes, it’s for the greater good, but they’ll probably put up one hell of a fight if there are enough of them opposed to it. You also risk alienating the users of the several allotment gardens that have sprung up along the corridor. Which green has the higher priority, transit or local produce? It’s ironic the two permitted uses in the hydro corridors are diametrically opposites (which Joni Mitchell seems to agree with): parking lots and growing plots!
Steve: I believe that Hydro’s consideration is that nothing goes in their corridor that could not be removed at a moment’s notice. A road or bike path, let alone a vegetable garden, can be removed or at least closed easily.
Yes, that is true. And I love your puns! The SSE requires a huge sum of money and many, many years to build a subway that ends at Scarborough Town Centre. The forecast demand is nowhere near enough to justify a subway.
On the other hand, the Scarborough Malvern LRT is a fraction of the cost, can be built quickly and extends all the way to Malvern. It is the rational, sensible option.
Since when is being elite a bad thing? To answer my own question, it is a bad thing in the minds of people whose desired political outcome is recognised as self-serving nonsense by anyone who is part of an educated and informed elite. I will demonstrate a bit of my own education by quoting the poetry of Thomas Grey:
And yes, much of Scarborough is lower density. That does not have to mean “car-dominated hellscape.” For example, take a look at this video of Zwolle in The Netherlands.
With a population of 123,000 Zwolle is low density, except for its downtown. This can be very clearly seen in the video. In spite of its low density, almost 50% of all trips are by bicycle. The reason, of course, is its infrastructure. Which costs a tiny fraction of car-dominated infrastructure, and yet delivers a much better quality of life.
Hamish also wrote about uses of the Gatineau hydro corridor. I think I am beginning to see where he is coming from, but will save that for another comment.
Steve, what is your opinion of Councillor Josh Matlow’s motion, particularly items 1 b) and c)
Steve: I will be writing about this tomorrow (Feb 7). The most important chunk to convert is from Lawrence to Eglinton so that buses can access Kennedy Station directly without being snared in the traffic congestion that will be caused by SSE construction east of the station.