A bad deal for Scarborough residents keeps getting worse. The cost of the 1-stop subway proposal has risen to $3.346 billion, a 50% increase from when the project was first announced in early 2016. As the cost is going up, Staff are projecting that fewer people will actually want to use the new line. The new report states that the subway will only attract 2,300 new daily riders. That means that the City would be paying approximately $1.45 million for every new rider that the stop gains.
The competing plans that will be debated at Council next week are the same as when I wrote to you about it in a newsletter last July. A 1-stop subway to the Scarborough Town Centre (STC), as shown below:
Or, for approximately the same City funding, we can choose instead to build 2 LRT lines with 24 stops. One line would have 7 stops using the existing RT corridor to link STC and Centennial College to Kennedy Station. This project is part of the signed Metrolinx Master Agreement, and would be mostly funded by the provincial government. Then, with money saved by moving forward now with the approved LRT, Council could fund a new 17-stop extension of the Eglinton Crosstown through Kennedy, serving Kingston Rd, UofT Scarborough, and several neighbourhoods in between.
I have included this picture of the proposed Centennial College station as a reminder that the 7-stop LRT will go through its own corridor on trains that have the same top speed as a subway (80 km/h).
Unfortunately, the Mayor and some others have declared a “war” over this issue to justify the unjustifiable. They have falsely stated that those wanting a larger network of LRTs for Scarborough have delayed the process.
In fact, providing rapid transit to Scarborough has only been delayed by Council’s flip flop from a fully-funded LRT to a 3-stop and then 1-stop subway. The changing and uncertain subway costs and plans are the reason the issue keeps coming back to Council. Assertions otherwise are disingenuous.
Another specious argument put forward by 1-stop subway proponents is that only a subway stop will stimulate economic development at STC. That is a falsely exclusive causal relationship. While a subway stop could help support growth at STC, so would an LRT line. The LRT would actually provide 2 stops in the projected growth precinct. That’s one of the reasons why our Chief Planner previously stated that an LRT, rather than a subway, would better stimulate economic development, while also serving more low-income residents as well as students:
(If you are unable to access the video by clicking on the above picture, you can access it through this link)
Asking for the Facts
I have submitted several questions regarding transit options for Scarborough that need to be clarified before Council votes next week. It is very concerning that, at a council meeting last July, City Council may have been falsely led to believe that the LRT would take longer to build than it actually would. In addition, there are several basic questions remaining with regard to the 1-stop subway proposal’s funding and ridership. Regardless of what transit plan Council chooses, it is important that the decision be made honestly and based on evidence rather than political interests.
I want Scarborough residents, along with all Torontonians, to have access to rapid transit to improve the quality of their lives.
I have included my full communication to the City Manager below for your review. It is also included in next week’s City Council agenda:
March 21, 2017
City Manager’s Office
11th Floor, East Tower, City Hall
100 Queen Street West
Toronto, ON M5H 2N2
Dear Mr. Wallace,
Questions Re: Transit Options for Scarborough
As you know, transit plans in Scarborough have gone through a number of iterations. A 7-stop, traffic-separated LRT was initially approved in 2007, and reconfirmed several times, including the “MOU Plan” between former Mayor Ford and Metrolinx, as shown in the March 31, 2011 Ontario government press release below:
The project, along with 3 other LRT lines in Toronto, was reconfirmed on February 8, 2012 at a Special Meeting of Council.
The shift to a subway in Scarborough was first approved as a 3-stop subway in October of 2013 for $3.56 billion. The plan significantly changed on January 28, 2016 when Staff presented a 1-stop subway just to Scarborough Town Centre and a 17-stop eastern extension of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT for approximately the same funding as the previous 3-stop plan, as stated on page 3 of EX 11.5 – Scarborough Transit Planning Update:
“Initial estimates indicate it is possible to construct the extension of Line 2 and the Crosstown East for a similar order-of-magnitude cost and in a similar timeframe as the three-stop Scarborough Subway extension originally proposed.”
Unfortunately, the estimated price of the subway, excluding financing and other costs, has risen by more than 50%, leaving the 17-stop Crosstown extension unfunded. At the upcoming Council meeting of March 28, 2017, Council will, for the first time, have an opportunity to decide whether to proceed with a 1-stop extension of the Bloor Danforth subway for $3.346 Billion as identified in EX 23.1 Next Steps on the Scarborough Subway Extension.
I am submitting the following questions as there are several significant matters pertaining to this item that require clarification before Council makes a decision on the future of transit in Scarborough.
The Master Agreement between Metrolinx, the City of Toronto, and the TTC signed in 2012 stated that the Province would pay 100% of the capital costs associated with the Scarborough LRT as shown in the excerpt below from page 1 of Schedule G in the Master Agreement:
Question: Is the Master Agreement between Metrolinx, the City of Toronto, and the TTC still valid?
The business case analysis before Council only provides a relative comparison between two 1-stop subway options.
Question: Has the City ever provided a business case analysis that directly compared the subway extension (3 or 1-stop version) with the 7-stop LRT in Scarborough?
Transit Project Construction Issues
On July 4, 2016 a briefing note produced by the TTC (Attachment 1) appeared on CP24 regarding the possibility of moving forward with a 7-stop LRT from Kennedy to Sheppard, serving the existing RT route along with Centennial College and Sheppard. The contents of the briefing note were cited numerous times by Staff and Councillors during the Council meeting of July 12, 2016. This briefing note has still not been publicly posted on the website of the TTC or the City of Toronto.
The briefing note makes a number of assertions regarding the construction of the 7-stop LRT that require clarification prior to the upcoming Council meeting.
First, the briefing note assumes that the start of LRT construction would have to wait until work on the Eglinton Crosstown was completed at Kennedy. However, as the excerpt below from an April 25, 2012 Metrolinx Board Report states, Metrolinx was explicitly planning to start at the north end of the line first to speed up construction time:
Question: Was the City/TTC aware of new information that would prohibit starting to build the Scarborough LRT at the north end of the line to expedite the construction process?
Further, an excerpt from page 1 of the same 2012 Metrolinx Board Report, shown below, states that, at the time, the Eglinton Crosstown was expected to be completed in 2020 and the Scarborough LRT’s completion date was 2019:
While the completion dates have changed, these construction timelines required that work occur simultaneously at Kennedy Station to facilitate both projects. As depicted in the diagram below, the Eglinton Crosstown was to occupy the below-grade platform, while the Scarborough LRT would enter at-grade.
The briefing note states that, as a result of the Eglinton Crosstown, the Scarborough LRT is “physically precluded” at Kennedy Station without mentioning that space below-grade would now be available for the Scarborough LRT platform, further improving the transfer to the Bloor-Danforth subway.
Question: Is the City/TTC aware of a reason why Metrolinx would not be able to construct platforms at Kennedy Station for both the Eglinton Crosstown and the Scarborough LRT, as was originally planned, but with the platform levels for the two projects switched?
There have been several concerning inconsistencies regarding the stated level of design completion for both the 7-stop Scarborough LRT and the 1-stop subway that require clarification before Council votes later this month.
During the Questions to Staff portion of the debate on EX 16.1 Developing Toronto’s Transit Network Plan to 2031 at the July 12, 2016 Council meeting, Councillor Colle asks the Deputy City Manager, Cluster B, a question on the design completion status of the Scarborough LRT (scroll to the 4hr:45min mark of this video to view):
Councillor Colle: “There’s been a lot of discussion around, uh, the percentage of where we are, at design for various projects, and we were told recently for the, call it, 2008-9-10 LRT that that’s at about 5 per cent design? Or it was at that time? Is that a fair number?”
DCM: “So, um, Madam Speaker, ah, we’ve had some discussions as a follow-up. Some elements are at 5 and some are at 10 per cent. That was the information we got from Metrolinx the other day.”
The Deputy City Manager’s response is seemingly at odds with the information presented by Metrolinx in the April 2012 Board Report included above (Fig. 3), which states that the longest portion of the line, between Kennedy and McCowan, was at 30% design completion.
Question: Did Metrolinx provide City Staff with information regarding the design completion status of the Scarborough LRT that contradicted their April 2012 Board Report, which claimed that the Kennedy to McCowan portion of the line was at the 30% design stage?
During the same question period, Councillor Colle asks a follow-up question about the design completion status of the 1-stop subway extension to Chief Project Manager for the Scarborough Subway Extension:
Councillor Colle: “And where would the subway be at design percentage of design completion? Around 5 (per cent) I think I’ve heard?”
Chief Project Manager: “Uh, we’re currently at about 5 per cent, yes.”
The Chief Project Manager’s answer is reinforced by the chart below from the Staff report presented at the July 2016 Council meeting which states that the cost estimate provided was “developed at approximately 5% design”:
A similar chart included in the Staff Report before Council later this month states that the 1-stop subway extension is still at 5% design.
Question: Given that there has been significant work done on the 1-stop Scarborough Subway Extension between July 2016 and March 2017, why is the project design status not moved beyond the 5% completion status cited in July 2016?
Funding Source Issues
There are a number of unanswered questions regarding funding sources for the 1-stop Scarborough Subway Extension that require clarification prior to Council voting on the issue.
The chart below provides a breakdown of the funding sources for the subway extension:
Recommendation 6 in the Staff report that contains the above chart reads:
City Council request the Province of Ontario and Government of Canada confirm the sources of funding for the provincial and federal commitments to the Scarborough Subway Extension.
The wording of this recommendation raises a number of questions regarding the degree to which Council can depend on the funding amounts indicated, including:
Question: Has the City determined whether the $660 million committed by the previous federal government will be considered a separate contribution under the Build Canada Fund or will the City have to apply for the project under phase 2 of the Investing in Canada Fund, thereby decreasing the amount of funds available through this program? Will the contribution be escalated under either funding source?
Question: Has the City determined whether the provincial government has agreed to the $1.99 billion escalated contribution cited in Fig. 7? Has the provincial government agreed to transfer the full contribution all at once?
One of the proposed main advantages of the 1-stop subway extension, in comparison to the original LRT plan, is the elimination of the transfer at Kennedy station. The main benefit of the elimination of the transfer is a faster travel time downtown. As shown below in the map from the 2011 Transportation Tomorrow Survey, downtown travel accounts for 23% of all transit trips that begin in Scarborough:
Also evident in the map is that few riders from Scarborough get off the subway at destinations along the Bloor-Danforth line prior to the core.
As depicted in the rapid transit map below, it would appear that Scarborough commuters going downtown would have a much faster ride on SmartTrack/GO RER.
Question: How many riders during the AM peak and throughout the day are predicted to transfer to and from SmartTrack/GO RER at Kennedy Station?
Thank you for your attention in these matters. I look forward to responses that provide me and my colleagues with adequate time to review.
Toronto City Councillor
Ward 22- St. Paul’s
Date: June 29, 2016
Issues Relating to Re-introduction of LRT Replacement for Line 3 (SRT)
The original proposal – to replace the aging Line 3 Scarborough (SRT) with a 7-stop LRT line, extending to Sheppard Avenue East, is shown in the attached schematic. This note summarises the primary tasks that would have to be undertaken in the event that the LRT solution was re-introduced. It is intended to assist in the event of any questions on this matter at City Council. It is important to note that these figures are estimates only and have been escalated, as noted below.
The Environmental Assessment (EA) that was approved for the LRT project in 2010 must be updated, and formally amended, to address the following elements:
- Complete Redesign of the EA-Approved LRT Connection at Kennedy Station: The most complex aspect of the conceptual design work on the LRT was the connection at Kennedy Station. The recommended solution, shown in the attachments in plan and cross-section views, consisted of a large one-way LRT loop with the LRT station directly on top of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT (ECLRT) station. As Metrolinx’s plans for the ECLRT were finalised after Council approved subway technology in October 2013, they did not make any provision to protect for the LRT connection. This LRT connection is now physically precluded by the current ECLRT plans and an entirely new design would have to be developed.
- New Ridership Forecasts: As with the subway extension, ridership forecasts for the LRT would have to be updated using the City’s new forecasting model and reflect changes in the transit network in Scarborough. This would include Smart Track/RER – with several options re service frequency and assumed level of fare integration – and options with and without the Sheppard East LRT and the easterly extension of the ECLRT.
- Review Potential Conflicts with GO/RER: A new design concept for a Lawrence LRT station must be developed that incorporates the current plans for a Smart Track Station at Lawrence Avenue. In addition to identifying and resolving any issues at Lawrence Station, the LRT plans would have to reviewed with Metrolinx to and identify and resolve any conflicts as the running structure is in the same corridor.
- Assess LRT Maintenance and Storage Facility (MSF) Options: Subject to confirmation of a consistent maintenance/operating/ownership model for three LRT lines in Scarborough, an adequate location for MSF facility would have to be identified. This could mean an interim solution (eg. a Bellamy yard was included in the original LRT EA) with a future consolidation at the previously planned Sheppard/Conlins yard.
- Closure of Line 3: finalise plans for the bus replacement service when Line 3 is shut down, including the associated temporary bus terminals and storage facility.
- Re-examine Bus Terminal Concepts at Stations: The previous number of bus bays to be confirmed for all stations.
vii) Update Schedule and Capital Cost
viii) EA Amendment Public Meeting: It is expected that at least one public meeting would be necessary as part of the process to amend the LRT EA.
From the point Council directs staff to proceed with an LRT solution, a very rough estimate would be that it would take approximately 12 to 18 months to present a revised plan to obtain Council and MOE approval. This is very much dependent upon the time required to identify, and obtain acceptance of, a new connection at Kennedy Station.
The construction at Kennedy Station is the key element on the critical path for the LRT and depending if the preferred design is above or below grade, construction could range from approximately 3.5 to 5 years. If staff are directed to proceed in July 2016 and assuming construction cannot begin before the ECLRT work at Kennedy is completed in 2021, a quick preliminary evaluation suggests the LRT could be operational in early 2026 to late 2027.
With the change in technology, confirmation of contributions from funding partners may be required.
Order of Magnitude Comparison
The October 2013 Council report indicated the Province had announced $1.8B ($2010) for construction of SRT as LRT, to Sheppard. Of the $1.8B, the Province committed $1.48B ($2010) to the SSE. As a minimum, staff believe the $1.8B should be the starting point, which would have to be updated through proper design to address the changes noted above.
The $1.48B has recently been reported as the total cost of a seven stop LRT. To facilitate a high level cost comparison of the current subway estimate to the costs of an LRT at this time, the $1.8B was escalated to an end of 2025 opening (2% per year from 2011 to 2013 and 4% per year from 2014 to mid-2023), adding SRT Life Extension and SRT Shutdown service.
$1.8B escalated $2.7B
SRT Life Extension .108
SRT Shutdown .171
Rick Thompson, Chief Project Manager, Scarborough Subway Extension