Plans are underway to extend the Bloor-Danforth subway line from Kennedy Station to the intersection of McCowan Road and Sheppard Avenue East. This new subway extension will replace the existing 6.4 km Scarborough RT (SRT) route. The Scarborough RT is over capacity during rush hours, carrying 4500 passengers per hour per direction (pphpd). The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) only has the original 7 four-car train sets available for service on the line, limiting the RT’s capacity to 4000 pphpd. This results in an uncomfortable ride as commuters have to cram into the overcrowded RT trains.
All electrical type transit vehicles (subways, streetcars, LRVs) have an expected life-span of 30 years, and the Scarborough RT trains are nearing the end of their 30-year life cycle. Clearly, the line needs to be replaced and capacity increased.
That’s why I voted in favour of extending the Bloor-Danforth subway up to the McCowan Road and Sheppard Avenue East intersection. The subway extension will add three new stations, Lawrence East (at the Scarborough Hospital), Scarborough Centre and Sheppard East, to the network and can carry upwards of 14,000 pphpd when it opens in 2023.
Extending the Bloor-Danforth line into Ward 41 is the best transit expansion option for replacing the SRT. The subway extension can be built while the SRT remains in operation. Under the previous plan, the SRT would have been replaced with an LRT line on the same route, shutting down the SRT for four to five years and consigning commuters to buses during construction.
The TTC would have to buy additional buses to deal with the shut down and transport of commuters. From a customer service standpoint, the proposed subway extension is the best solution to replacing the obsolete Scarborough RT. This will introduce even greater capacity pressure at Yonge/Bloor station, and the solution for this is still the expansion of the GO system – see related article on that.
Contrary to promises made to build subways with private money, none has been forthcoming. The reality is private businesses will not invest in subways because it will not provide them with a return on investment. The taxpayer will pay for this new subway extension instead and you will be paying in three different ways.
Queen’s Park (meaning all Ontario taxpayers) will contribute $1.48 billion to the project while the Federal Government (all Canadian taxpayers) will contribute $660 million. The City of Toronto will borrow $900 million for the project and will raise property taxes by 2.5% to be phased in over 3 years to repay the loan. For the next 30 years, all Toronto taxpayers will pay the subway surcharge on their property tax bill.
This change of direction will mean additional sunk cost and maybe contract cancellation costs. Most Ward 41 residents prefer this subway extension, even knowing of these additional wasted costs. And if other parts of the GTA get approved for more subways, the taxes will increase even more.