The Toronto Star
May 27, 2015
With concerns over how to make the Scarborough subway work with SmartTrack, the city has narrowed the options — leaving Mayor John Torywith little choice.
In a presentation sent to councillors Wednesday and obtained by the Star, city staff say the original nine route options for the Scarborough subway have been short-listed to just three: a Midland Ave., McCowan Rd. or Bellamy Rd. corridor.
Among them, Tory’s best choice to avoid duplicating SmartTrack’s route is picking the one farthest east, along Bellamy Rd. — a decision that could cost taxpayers at least $600 million more.
“Due to political interests that favoured a three-stop subway — that’s getting more costly every day — our city planners have been asked to become contortionists, trying to fit extremely expensive square pegs into round holes,” said Councillor Josh Matlow, who has been the most vocal critic of council’s decision to back former mayor Rob Ford’s push for a subway.
The presentation says a “preliminary evaluation” identified the three “best performing” options after public consultations.
Chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat’s office pointed to a long list of criteria, including travel time, ability to ease congestion and future capacity — to narrow the choices.
The Star reported this week that Tory was prepared to look farther east to build the subway, to keep his campaign promise to build both SmartTrack and the subway viable. His office said this week he would not weigh in on his preferred route for the subway “prematurely.”
City council endorsed the McCowan Rd., three-stop option in October 2013 when a close vote led to the switch from a fully funded, seven-stop light rail line.
After Tory was elected, city staff expanded the study area to include more options east of McCowan Rd., because of the risk the two lines would cannibalize each other’s riders.
Of the three options, the Bellamy Rd. corridor is the farthest from SmartTrack and involves less backtracking than the shelved Markham Rd. option to get to Scarborough Town Centre — what staff, experts and Tory agree is an essential destination.
But at almost 10 kilometres, the Bellamy route could cost $600 million more than the $3.56 billion budgeted by council when calculating the additional length, using the accepted $300-million-per-kilometre cost. On Wednesday, the TTC cited a lower cost of $180 million per kilometre for the Scarborough subway.
Staff also appear to be eyeing the possibility of adding more stations, which the TTC said Wednesday would cost at least $200 million each. One presentation slide outlines that there would be “at least three stations” for the future subway.
While those potential stations are not pinpointed on the map, one possible stop for the Bellamy option may also prove a selling point for Tory.
The presentation talks about a “possible connection” to the Eglinton GO station on the Lakeshore East line — something that could help boost ridership numbers.
But it’s unclear whether neighbourhoods along the Bellamy Rd. corridor could produce the same ridership as the McCowan Rd. corridor or allow for redevelopment to justify the increase in costs.
And it’s not apparent how the city would come up with the additional money. The minimum additional costs are equivalent to what the federal government promised to build the McCowan option. The province has explicitly said it will not provide additional funds.
The city now also plans to lump together public information sessions on several major transit studies at meetings meant to focus on the Scarborough subway alone, according to a note from Livey to councillors sent Wednesday.
Those studies will come to a head this fall when staff will report back on the Scarborough subway and SmartTrack at the same time. At that point, council will have to choose what to do with the subway.
Matlow says an agreement to build the LRT, which would run in its own corridor, still exists. And he argued there is still time to go back to that plan.
“I hope that council considers the original plan that was based on evidence,” Matlow said.
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