On June 15, 2022, City Council debated a report about future LRT lines in the Waterfront and on Eglinton Avenue East. As with all transit discussions transit discussions, other topics including the Sheppard West subway made an appearance. A short staff presentation added a few more details about problems at Kennedy Station that triggered changes in the Eglinton East proposal.
- Advancing City Priority Transit Expansion Projects – Eglinton East LRT and Waterfront East LRT
- Staff Presentation Deck
- Council Debate (YouTube)
The Changing Configuration of the Scarborough Subway Extension and LRT
Some of the issues at Kennedy Station arise from changes made over the years in the Scarborough Subway Extension (SSE) project effecting the alignment and size of the subway tunnel. The staff presentation did not explore all of this history, but one cannot really understand what has happened without all of the details.
The City talks of Metrolinx deciding to widen the subway structure, but the story is more complicated.
The original plan for Kennedy Station (when the Scarborough network was LRT-based under Transit City) would have seen the new LRT station immediately north of and adjacent to the subway station. It would have been a multi-level station given the number of lines it would serve.
- The bottom level, at the same elevation as the subway platform, would have served the Crosstown (Line 5). This would have provision for eastward extension under the GO corridor and then surfacing in Eglinton Avenue as the Scarborough-Malvern LRT line (now known as the Eglinton East LRT, or EELRT).
- The upper level, at the same elevation as the mezzanine of the subway station and one below the surface bus loop, would have served the LRT replacement for the SRT (SLRT). There would have been a large loop and loading platform at the north side of the mezzanine somewhat like the arrangement at Spadina Station for the 510 Spadina streetcar, but considerably larger given the passenger volumes and size of trains that would operate on the SLRT.
This configuration would give a short transfer connection to the subway via the mezzanine up one and then down one level for the Crosstown, or simply across the mezzanine from the SLRT and down one level to the subway. Connections to surface bus routes would not change.
Drawings for this design are in the following article from July 2016:
Here is a cross section showing the platforms for the SLRT and Crosstown stacked west of the GO corridor, and the SMLRT to the east. It was already in its own station and shows a two-car train rather than a three-car train for the Crosstown and SLRT.
When the City proposed the SSE, the extension included a third track east of Kennedy Station that would be used to short turn half of the peak period service similar to what was done at Glencairn Station on the Spadina leg of Line 1 in pre-pandemic service. This scheme also had the advantage that it could be operated with the existing fleet of T-1 trains on Line 2, and for time there were plans to rebuild these trains for life to 2040 to avoid a new car order.
This is an example of the budgetary machinations needed to keep TTC spending within unrealistic City targets.
Scarborough Councillors and activists objected to getting only half of the full service, and the third track was deleted from the plan. This made the tunnel narrower, and that was the version of the project Metrolinx inherited in the provincial takeover of the SSE.
Subsequently, Metrolinx reinstated the third track causing the tunnel to widen again. (Any decision on the future service plan will affect the size of the new train order when the T-1 fleet is replaced later in the 2020s.)
Meanwhile, with the deletion of the SLRT from the plan, Metrolinx changed the elevation of the Crosstown station to be at the mezzanine level as they no longer had to provide for an SLRT interchange. The EELRT, if built as an extension of the Crosstown, would cross under the GO corridor at Mezzanine level and then rise to the surface.
However, the widened subway tunnel does not give enough room for the EELRT tunnel above it, although obviously if this had been designed as a single structure that would not have been an issue. A good example is St. George Station which houses two lines within a single structure. This shows what happens when the province designed its own projects, and the City dropped the ball on necessary integration because the EELRT was much less important politically than the SSE.
As an alternative scheme, a completely separate tunnel would be needed along the north side of Eglinton for the EELRT. This would be built cut-and-cover given how close to the surface it would have to be, and this would mean the acquisition and demolition of many properties along Eglinton.
As I reported in a previous article, the EELRT station at Kennedy will now be on the surface south of Eglinton and East of the GO corridor. It will share access to the subway and the Crosstown line via the existing tunnel to the station mezzanine. No details beyond the drawing below have been provided yet.
This is not a full transcript, only the high points. Those who are interested can refer to the video linked above. I have separated questions and comments about the EELRT from those about the Waterfront even though they were actually interleaved.
As a general note, the City plans its next round of consultations in Q1 2023 following the election and with the new Council in place. There will also be an omnibus update to the new Council of the status of transit projects including the EELRT.
Councillor McKelvie asked what the earliest construction and completion dates could be for the EELRT. Staff advised that construction could start in 2026 aiming at a 2033/34 completion. Staff confirmed that the City has $1.2 billion, previously allocated to the SSE project, set aside for the EELRT. Additional funding will be required for the $2-billion plus project.
McKelvie also asked about concerns raised by TTCRiders about signal priority and line capacity, among other things. Staff confirmed that these will be considered in the work leading to the 2023 consultations.
Councillor Grimes asked where the Waterfront East extension stood in the pecking order of outstanding projects. Staff advised that construction would start in the late 2020s because of co-ordination with other City and Metrolinx projects. It would be in the same general timeframe as the EELRT.
Councillor Ainslie said that according to the Toronto Star, Metrolinx claims that they have not changed the subway alignment and have protected for the Crosstown’s extension. There was a rather woolly discussion between Ainslie and staff about the history were it was clear staff had less info at their fingertips than I provided above. Metrolinx is right to claim they have not changed the alignment per se but they have changed the size of the structure. The City staff appeared unaware of the off-again, on-again saga of the third track and turnback controversy.
Ainslie also asked how the proposed shorter trains on the EELRT (50m vs 90m on Crosstown) would affect stop locations. Staff replied that they are about to work on details of how shorter trains will affect planning as well as service issues such as frequency.
Councillor Pasternak inquired about the project map and specifically the dotted line running east from Don Mills to McCowan. He asked staff what this was and their reply produced much confusion that was never corrected in the debate.
Although Pasternak asked about the pink line which is clearly shown as a Line 4 extension and is described in the report as a subway extension, staff replied speaking of the red line east from McCowan that is the planned northern leg of the EELRT. Because of the confusion, the impression was given that the technology choice for the western portion was still under study by the province when, in fact, this applies to the eastern portion where the city is studying an LRT option.
Nobody at Council appeared to catch this error, and there was some debate about how the subway extension had become a possible LRT line. Councillor Lai from northern Scarborough was similarly confused by the staff error.
Pasternak, as he commonly does, pushed for the western extension of the Sheppard Subway which is in his ward, but which we are unlikely to see for a very long time.
In any event, Sheppard West will be covered in the update planned for 2023, and this will take into account planned development in the Downsview Airport lands.
The SSE technology choice might be behind us, but this does not prevent tangled debates by Councillors with their own agendas.
Councillor Grimes (who hails from southern Etobicoke) asked where the Waterfront West LRT project stood considering the scale of development in the Humber Bay area. An alignment for the LRT through a revamped Western Waterfront park and road system between the Exhibition grounds and the Humber River was approved by Council over a decade ago, but little work has been done on this as it is unfunded.
Detailed design of the segment from Exhibition Loop to Dufferin has resumed after a pause to sort out potential conflicts with the Ontario Line. A new Dufferin Street bridge over the GO Lake Shore corridor has been planned including provision for a link to this segment. This project is not funded beyond the work to reach 30% design. There is no funding for design further west.
The approved alignment would shift Lake Shore Boulevard to the north in the Sunnyside area to consolidate open space to the lake side (south) of the road. An LRT right-of-way would parallel Lake Shore to Colborne Lodge Road where it would turn north under the GO corridor and link to existing track on The Queensway. Other proposed connections, notably at The Queensway & Roncesvalles, would make the intersection even more complex than it is already, and would almost certainly be a choke point for any through service.
The 2008 plans are available in Waterfront West Reference Material.
Councillor Grimes asked whether the Waterfront West line should take precedence, although he appeared to be unaware that the Waterfront East project is much further advanced in design, and will serve an area that is rapidly growing without good transit service. This is the kind of move that has sandbagged so much transit work in Toronto because there is always some project with more political clout, more squeaky wheels, and we plan on the basis of “if you get yours, I won’t get mine”.
Councillor Mihevc (who has replaced Councillor Cressy for the remainder of this term) argued that the WELRT was always to be one of the key city projects going back to the Lastman years. He understands that with funding, staff could to 60% design by the end of 2023. This would give the city a “shovel ready” project should additional infrastructure funding appear.
Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong, who can always be counted on as the dog-in-the-manger of Council debates, asked about cost overruns on the Harbourfront project. He appeared to be fishing for staff support for foot dragging on an accelerated design effort for the WELRT trying to get staff to say that “rushing it” is a bad idea. He also portrayed the line as if it were to be substantially underground (and hence below the water table) as opposed to the eastern portal at Bay and Queens Quay.
His arguments played mix and match with multiple parts of the Harbourfront project including cost overruns that were not the fault of transit per se but of work on other utilities. He raised the issue of motorists driving into the Bay Street tunnel although this issue was, finally, resolved by installation of a gate that opens only when a streetcar is present.
The report was adopted by Council with the following amendments:
By Councillor Mihevc:
- City Council direct the City Manager to determine potential undertakings to expedite the budgetary and design processes for the Waterfront East Light Rail Transit line.
- City Council direct the City Manager to engage with officials of the Provincial and Federal Governments to identify and secure funding to advance the Waterfront East Light Rail Transit line as expeditiously as possible.
By Councillor Grimes:
- City Council direct the City Manager, as part of the report back in Executive Committee Recommendation 8, to determine potential undertakings to expedite the budgetary and design processes for the western extension of the Western Waterfront Light Rail Transit from Exhibition Place Loop to close the gap on dedicated streetcar right-of-way service between Humber Bay Shores and Exhibition Place.
- City Council direct the City Manager to engage with officials of the Provincial and Federal Governments to identify and secure funding to advance the Waterfront West Light Rail Transit line as expeditiously as possible.
The main recommendations, in brief, are:
- That the design work be advanced to 10% for the “distinct option” of the EELRT between Kennedy Station and the future Sheppard-McCowan station, and that City staff work with the TTC to assess suitable vehicle options for the line.
- That staff report back to Council in 3Q 2023 with a Class 4 estimate for the 10% design.
- That staff report back to Council in 3Q 2023 with an updated Business Case for the EELRT.
- That Council request Metrolinx to work with City staff to protect for connections at Kennedy and at Sheppard-McCowan stations for the EELRT.
- That Council request the Ministry of Transportation to include provision for the EELRT in design for rehabilitation of the Morningside-401 overpass.
- That Council confirm that the Conlins Road property owned by Metrolinx is the preferred location for the Maintenance Facility for the EELRT.
- That staff conduct a constructability review of the WELRT including revisions to the Bay Street tunnel and assess co-ordination risks with other nearby projects.
- That staff report to Council in 2Q 2023 on the recommended scope, alignment, cost estimates, financing and staging plan for the WELRT.