The Vaughan and Richmond Hill subway extension schemes give reasonable value for money. The costs of the Richmond Hill extension can be reduced, and the benefits increased, by building intermediate stations only if developers make major financial contributions.
The Toronto “Transit City” LRT schemes, as currently configured, give poor value for money and do not serve regional needs. They will swallow about two-thirds of Metrolinx’s initial $11 billion, but will not attract many new riders onto transit or reduce average daily commute times at a reasonable cost. While advocates like to claim that LRT offers “the service of a subway for the price of a streetcar,” the Eglinton Crosstown and Scarborough schemes will offer the service quality and speed of a streetcar, at costs that are not much less than for a full subway. Nor will they stimulate substantial higher-density development. Implementing them is not consistent with Metrolinx’s principles of “regional focus” or “investing where it matters most.”
Extending the Bloor-Danforth subway to Scarborough Centre, as currently supported by Toronto City Council, is also not an effective way to attract new inter-regional riders. The capital cost will be high, while journey times to downtown Toronto via the subway will still not be attractive. Commuters from northern and eastern Scarborough will still prefer to use GO rail for trips to downtown, or will drive to jobs elsewhere in the GTHA (as most of them already do).
The Transit City schemes could be improved. We show, in concept, how Automated Light Rapid Transit (ALRT, or “Skytrain”) technology, as pioneered in Vancouver and now operating in more than 20 other cities worldwide could be used to integrate the Scarborough, Sheppard, and Eglinton schemes into a true Scarborough-Crosstown scheme that would act as an effective regional distributor, connecting directly into the Yonge Subway and the GO regional system. Although LRT cars have been ordered and the tunnels are being dug, it is not too late to make changes. With faster trains and fewer stations, the case for the Eglinton Crosstown scheme can be substantially improved, although the Benefit:Cost ratio may still be less than 1.