Scarborough Subway Planning Underway

Kennedy Station opened for service in 1980 and was the last subway stop to be built in Scarborough. The TTC plans to construct three more subway stations in Scarborough. Photo credit: Richard Sunichura
Kennedy Station opened for service in 1980 and was the last subway stop to be built in Scarborough. The TTC plans to construct three more subway stations in the former municipality.

I met with TTC officials on June 9, 2014, to get an update on progress on the proposed Scarborough Subway.  I voted in favour of replacing the aging Scarborough RT with an extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway line. Toronto’s Transit Commission is currently conducting preliminary work on the line.

The 7.6 km subway extension will see three new stations added to the network: Lawrence East, Scarborough City Centre and Sheppard East. I hope a fourth station is added at Eglinton and Danforth. The trip from Kennedy Station to Sheppard East Station will take 10 minutes. Travelling that same distance currently takes more than 25 minutes because commuters have to walk up 3 flights of stairs, wait for the Scarborough RT and transfer to the 129 or 199 bus routes. The Scarborough subway will reduce commute times by 15 minutes or more.

Seven additional trains will be needed to serve the extension and to maintain current service levels on the Bloor-Danforth subway.  Preparation will take 4 years (2014-2017), with construction to begin in 2018. The subway will be running by 2023. I spoke with a Metrolinx engineer who believes the scheduled completion date is very aggressive.  The TTC is expecting to use the tunnel boring machines from the York University extension for the Scarborough subway.

A number of critics of the Scarborough Subway extension have stated there is insufficient ridership to justify the line. Subway lines require ridership of 15,000 passengers per hour per direction (pphpd) to be economically viable. In one study, peak ridership is projected at 9000 pphpd – 14,000 pphpd by 2031. In 30 years time, ridership will be closer to 20,000 pphpd. The Scarborough Subway is closer to meeting this threshold than any other line.

The City of Toronto will raise $910 million for the Scarborough Subway through a 1.6% levy (phased in over 3 years) on property taxes and development charges. Property taxes will contribute $745 million to the project while development charges will raise $165 million. This levy will be in effect for 30 years to pay for this extension.

The Federal Government has allocated $660 million for this project in Scarborough, but the funding is not tied to inflation. This will not cover inflation to construction costs as the project progresses over the next 8 years.

The Ontario Government is contributing $1.48 billion to the project. Provincial funding is tied to inflation and can be as high as $1.99 billion by 2023. However, the City of Toronto is expected to cover $85 million in sunk costs as a result of frequent changes to Toronto’s transit expansion plans.

These sunk costs accrued because Metrolinx was forced to renegotiate its contract with Bombardier for 182 light rail vehicles. Fewer vehicles are needed now that the Scarborough RT will be replaced with a subway. The $85 million in sunk costs also include preliminary work to redesign the transfer at Kennedy Station to accommodate the LRT line. The question of what to do with the Scarborough RT right-of-way has been an ongoing and contentious debate. Your input is appreciated.

A group has told Scarborough residents that they will get less service with the Scarborough Subway because the plan doesn’t include Ellesmere and Midland Stations. The Ellesmere SRT Station is the least used station in the TTC’s subway network with only 1140 daily riders. By comparison, Kennedy Station has 34,300 daily commuters. I fail to understand the logic of loss of service.

Passengers will just be interchanging at different points.  It is likely that Ellesmere buses will be re-routed to the new Scarborough Civic Centre Station, instead of the Ellesmere SRT Station. The Scarborough Hospital Main Campus will be served by the new Lawrence East Station. If ridership warrants, express buses on Progress can be used to connect Centennial College to both Scarborough City Centre and Sheppard transit.

Downtown Relief Study

Consultations are in progress to study the capacity issues in certain parts of the TTC network. Item PG33.12 (June 10, 2014 Council meeting) authorizes staff to continue with the study, and I moved to include off-peak fare pricing into the Terms of Reference. Providing a discounted fare could influence enough riders to shift their travel to off-peak times when there is available capacity. This method has been used by the airline industry with great success, and is being used in time-of-use electricity pricing. This idea is well argued in a recent report called ‘Toronto’s Suburban Relief Line’ by Brady Yauch, Economist and Executive Director of the Consumer Policy Institute.