Scarborough Subway

As this report was being written, Toronto City Council voted to extend the Bloor-Danforth subway to Scarborough Centre, instead of converting the RT to LRT technology as part of the Transit City scheme. The subway would be extended along Eglinton and McCowan Avenue, at a cost of about $1.9 billion to Scarborough City Centre.[1]

Figure 11: Metrolinx and TTC are now proposing to extend the subway to Scarborough City Centre, and eventually to Sheppard Avenue, but on different alignments. Although the routes are very different, most passengers would arrive using feeder buses, so the two schemes would serve similar markets albeit in somewhat different ways. Source: TTC Report Scarborough Subway Options, September 25, 2013.

The Province then announced support for a subway scheme, but along the route of the existing Scarborough RT. The cost would be similar to Scarborough Centre. Either scheme could be extended to Sheppard, but on different routes.

TTC argued that the route via McCowan could be built with less disruption to transit riders, and could offer faster journeys because it has fewer sharp curves and fewer stations. Metrolinx seemed to prefer the RT alignment because it would require less tunnelling, and had more stations to serve “Priority Neighbourhoods.” 

No Benefits Case Analysis has been made public for either scheme, although Metrolinx has produced a Benefits Case Analysis for the plan to convert the Scarborough RT to LRT technology.

Operating the line as a subway, with 6-car trains, would certainly cost more than the existing RT that it would replace. Neither scheme would attract many new passengers. Journey times on the TTC route may be slightly less, but mostly because the new line will have fewer stations. This result could be achieved at far lower cost simply by closing some of the stations on the existing line. Speeds will be similar on the subway extension: Toronto subway cars have a top speed of only about 80 km/h, the same as RT and LRT cars.

Passengers would be able to travel through Kennedy station without having to change trains. This would save about five minutes per trip for the typical passenger. However, journey times to downtown, about an hour from Scarborough Centre, would still be too long to be attractive, at least in comparison with the GO service or with driving.

We conclude that the expenditure of almost $2 billion will bring little benefit to existing transit riders or to the region. Much greater benefits, at lower cost, could be achieved by modernizing the Scarborough RT, and integrating it with the GO Rail system, which can offer the required capacity and much faster journey times, not just to downtown Toronto but across the GTHA.

[1] See TTC Report Scarborough Subway Options, September 25, 2013.