LORINC: Ford’s mistake of historic proportions

Mayor Rob Ford’s plan to bury the 19-km Eglinton Crosstown LRT from end to end, instead of just through the crowded core of the city, will be rightly remembered as the single most expensive infrastructure mistake in Toronto history.

In fact, this optimistically-priced $8.2 billion scheme — which is $3.6 billion more than the original amount budgeted for the Crosstown, and includes $1.4 billion to replace the Scarborough RT — will make us harken back nostalgically to an innocent era of smaller flubs, like the Ontario government’s original Scarborough RT or even Mike Harris’ decision to cancel the Eglinton West subway after the province and Metro spent $100 million digging a tunnel stub that was subsequently filled in.

Ford’s vision of an Eglinton Crosstown that’s hidden from view will bring a deep blush of shame to the faces of future generations of Torontonians.

And here’s the pungent irony at the heart of this billion dollar boondoggle: Ford and his fiscally-conservative allies would never approve this kind of wasteful spending if they were using the city’s own money, as opposed to funds provided by Queen’s Park. When the cash is coming out of someone else’s coffers, however, those lofty principles vanish in a miasma of political opportunism.

Why Metrolinx and their bosses in the Liberal cabinet are continuing to play along, then, is anybody’s guess. As the agency’s vice-president of investment strategy and project evaluation John Howe remarked piously during Thursday’s Toronto Talks Mobility conference, “We need to demonstrate that we have credible leadership and projects selected on the basis of good evidence.”

Indeed.

My sense is that most Torontonians have yet to internalize the sheer magnitude of this looming screw-up in stark dollar terms. People’s eyes glaze over when politicians throw around big numbers, so a few comparisons are in order:

The $2.2 billion premium for concealing those awful streetcars from view is almost equivalent to the cost of the entire Spadina subway extension from Downsview to Vaughan city centre. It is slightly more than what the City will spend on all repairs to road and bridges between 2012 and 2020 [PDF]. And it represents one-seventh of the current provincial deficit, and that’s assuming the project comes in on budget, which is doubtful, given complications such as tunneling under the Don.

As a point of principle, any major transit infrastructure project must satisfy some basic tests before government agencies begin to spend the public’s money:

• The new service should provide residents and commuters with efficient transportation alternatives and reduce road congestion over the long run.

• It should be cost effective, insofar as the combination of borrowing and operating costs will eventually achieve an operating deficit comparable to those of other higher-order transit services within the same region.

• It should trigger more compact development patterns.

The proposed Eglinton Crosstown almost certainly fails on the first two, while the hoped-for intensification along the sprawling Eglinton corridor east of the Don (e.g., the Golden Mile) will take generations to materialize.

Consider point 1. The difference between the original Crosstown plan and the new version is at best cosmetic. The road allowances on Eglinton East are so wide that the city never planned to remove lanes to accommodate the right-of-way. But the additional cost of burying the line will mean fewer stations, so the utility of the project is actually reduced compared to the Transit City version.

As for point 2, consider this comparison: the St. Clair right-of-way, at 7.5 km, is about the same length as the stretch of Eglinton East that will be buried as per Ford’s plan. The St. Clair ROW’s capital cost infamously swelled by $58 million, from an estimated $48 million to $106 million — a detail Ford and others used to bludgeon Transit City. Burying the Crosstown east of Brentcliffe, where it was to emerge from a tunnel, will cost about thirty times more than the overrun on St. Clair West.

With that kind of cost structure, it’s difficult to imagine how Ford’s Crosstown will ever earn its keep. Of course, the capital outlay won’t be sitting on the city’s balance sheet, so council isn’t fretting about additional debt charges. Yet Metrolinx, which is looking at outsourcing the line through some kind of design-build-operate deal, is surely asking itself how much overhead and operating risk it must swallow in order to attract a private partner with profit expectations.

None of these questions have been answered in public, nor has there been a cold-eyed evaluation of the opportunity costs associated with the burial scheme.

Indeed, nothing about the new Crosstown has been scrutinized publicly. But that moment is looming. Next year, Metrolinx embarks on a series of environmental assessments, the first of which will deal with how the LRT will get over or under the Don River. Others will assess the environmental impact of burying the line.

The EAs, funded by Metrolinx, will be out for public consultation in early 2012. If the city and council obey their own procedures, those EAs should come before council, as was the case with the Transit City EAs on Finch and Sheppard.

When those reports do turn up on the city’s agenda, every councillor should ask themselves whether it makes financial sense to bury Eglinton from stem to stern. It would also be useful for them to know if Metrolinx, eying a Triple P deal, has developed a cost-benefit analysis of this scheme, and just when the public will have a chance to scrutinize said assessment.

God knows, that’s just the sort of accountability Rob Ford would have been demanding back when he was a crusading defender of the ordinary taxpayer. And I don’t think I’d be going too far out on a limb if I speculated that Ford, the city councillor, would have given this kind of wasteful scheme a big thumb’s down.

photo by Tim Adams

60 comments

  1. Yup, 100% correct.  But to see through this wool the sheep need to:

    a) be familiar with actual conditions along the entire length of Eglinton

    b) have lived in some other leading North American city in recent years long enough to have observed modern LRT

    c) have a brain.

    Hitting all three of the above is a tough one for most of Ford Nation.  The Eglinton LRT was simply the best part of Transit City, one that all lines could have eventually aspired to — you bury it in central sections where the street is tight, traffic intense and intermodal connections needed, then let it run on the surface where room allows on the fringes, getting more for your money and a longer reach.  This is exactly the system that has been in place in Boston for only a hundred years or so (Green Line) and has been replicated in many other cities since.  IT WORKS.

    Plus, it would have been no big deal, for example, to have eventually made it to the airport in a cost-effective future surface/elevated phase because the land around airports is usually rife with wide streets and open space- this is exactly how, say, the Seattle LRT works now and how the Edmonton LRT will work in the future.  You just carve out a ROW on some surface street or rail corridor and keep going.

    But now, stuck in a tunnel, the system will be shortened by the costs involved and likely never make it to the airport in the lifetime of anyone who reads these words.  All that huffing and puffing over diesel vs electric for Blue22, and no one stands up to scream about Ford killing cheap, convenient rapid transit to the airport?

    The experience of dozens of American cities with their shiny new LRT systems will now be wasted because an uneducated boor who knows literally nothing about public transit decided unilaterally to ban as much surface rail from the city as he could.

    As soon as politically possible, Ford needs to be turfed or muzzled (perhaps by turning over all transit planning to Metrolinx and making sure Toronto’s mayor has almost no say in their decisions) and Transit City restored in a tunnel+surface configuration on all lines.  (Which, by the way, includes Sheppard – convert that tunnel to LRT (painful, need a high platform vehicle, but can be done) to then shoot east and west  – that’s how you one day afford to get to STC and Downsview.)

  2. While I don’t agree with Ford’s decision to put this line underground, I’m not sure how you can state the line has less utility underground than overground.

    Metrolinx has estimated that by putting it underground and going to subway-like speeds, ridership during the peak hour will increase from about 7,000 riders at the peak point (somewhere west of Yonge), to about 12,000 riders (somewhere east of Yonge).

    That’s a lot of utility for someone!

    This plan deserves to be criticized, but the criticism needs to be balanced. At 12,000 riders in the peak hour, it makes a heck of a lot more sense than Ford’s Sheppard subway extension, that is only forecast to see less than 7,000 riders per hour on the busiest piece (which is already built, between Yonge and Bayview) – and far less between Downsview and Yonge, and Victoria park and Scarborough Centre.

  3. Why was Rob Ford able to push through the burying of the Crosstown on his own? Why wasn’t it put to a vote?

  4. I have been watching this for a while. For me, I can’t falthom why the roughly $2 billion dollars that are going into fully burying the crosstown haven’t gotten any traction in the media. Basically, two men – the mayor and the premier – have decided that it’s OK to spend TWO BILLION DOLLARS digging a hole. And it’s to dig a hole where Eglinton is 4 to 6 lanes – there’s plenty of room for either a right-of-way or mixed traffic. How any one (or two) elected officials have this kind of power to reallocate funding like this without approval from a democratic body is beyond me. I feel badly for all those people who could have had rapid transit along Jane and Finch who will have to be happy with seeing $ for their transit lines – which would have elevated their community and reconnected them to the city in a meaningful way – getting sunk in a hole.

  5. Sometimes this city just makes me want to bash my head into a wall.

  6. Upsetting, indeed, that Toronto is headed down this path. Worse, still, that Metrolinx rolled over when Ford unilaterally declared Transit City “dead”. When I read last week that engineers were ripping their hair out trying to figure out how to tunnel the Eglinton line under the Don Valley, I was floored by the sheer stupidity of the question. Why would we even attempt to do something so ludicrous and expensive, not to mention unnecessary? And while I know it’s clearly what Ford wants, why is the city and Metrolinx blindly following his lead? Maybe it made political sense to appease Ford when he first came to office and was enjoying his brief honeymoon. But he’s not even a popular mayor anymore, let alone a competent one.

    Time for the province – and especially City Council – to take a stand against the Ford agenda. It’s not about right versus left or Liberal/NDP versus Conservative. It’s about evidence-based policymaking versus scribbles on a napkin.

    Perhaps common sense is a tainted term in Ontario, but we could desperately use some of it right about now.

  7. Bravo for this to Lorinc and Spacing. There is still time for the province to reverse this idiotic waste of money, and go back to the earlier plan of only burying the central part of Eglinton Crosstown, and put it on the surface where it belongs.

    Apart from the convincing arguments Lorinc makes, the other issue is that the line will work better for city-building on the surface. A great advantage of light rail is that it encourages the development of a continuous mixed-use corridor along the line. People riding the line can see stores along the way, and are more likely to chain multiple trips if they know what is along the route.

    The key issue in the inner suburbs is improving the quality of services, retail and jobs opportunities in corridors along improved transit. LRT is likely to do that faster and better than a subway.

    Lets work to convince the province and Metrolinx that Ford is wrong, and that burying the line is a huge mistake.

    Andre Sorensen
    Cities Centre
    Department of Geography and Programme in planning
    University of Toronto

  8. @Niftz. There will be fewer stops, spaced further apart. Part of the goal w/ the LRT was to take buses off Eglinton. But if the stations are spaced like subway stations — which is, in effect, what they are — then getting to the stations becomes a bit of a trek for some people (seniors, young parents w/ strollers, etc.). Remember that we live in an aging society — within a few decades, a very substantial portion of the population will be over 65. We want transit to help older people get around, and a low-floor LRT, running on the surface, would have accomplished this. As it stands, all those additional subway stations will need to be outfitted w/ elevators, etc., to ensure accessibility. And because they will be spaced further apart, it’s likely that the TTC will need to operate local bus service on Eglinton. And so it goes — one mistake begetting the next…

    @ Peanut Gallery — good question, but Transit City never went before council, either. The EAs did, but the original plan did not, and Ford knows it. Question is, do two wrongs make a right?  

  9. John, nice work on getting the discussion and hopefully some citizen mobilization happening around this issue.
    So far most of the discussion has focused on the financial insanity of the project.
    It’s time that we start also start talking about the impact on the quality of life of many transit users along the Eglinton corridor. Less stations and the inevitable removal of buses will reduce the accessibility (and affordability) of public transit for those “captive” riders who rely on transit for their day-to-day activities. Seniors, school children who use transit to get to school, and families with small children will be particularly hard hit. For many, their journey will get longer and the road will be far less safe.

  10. @nfitz

    Correct, Metrolinx did project a much higher peak point ridership closer to the 10,000 pphpd required to justify a subway. But the conclusion cannot be made that simply burying the line would result in this large ridership increase.

    Metrolinx, in their modelling, neglected any extension of the Sheppard Subway and a handful of other MoveOntario2020 projects (notably the Agincourt-Crosstown line). With fewer parallel routes, more East-West travel would concentrate along Eglinton. Furthermore, Metrolinx also applied a 2031 population density in their model.

    This is not a fair comparison.

  11. I await for the upcoming show-down at city hall over transit issues. Councillor Mihevc suggests that Transit City might have to be revived once the financials of Ford’s folly make their way into the city’s budget.

  12. Thank you John and Spacing for posting this. It’s great the article is on the wire here, but I can’t help but think that getting it in the G&M would get the message out to a bigger audience that needs to see this kind of analysis.

  13. Isn’t one of the main reasons to put our transit system underground the fact we live in Canada and have loads of snow and icy winter weather from January – April? The subway system doesn’t seem to be affected by the weather half as much as the Go Train and other surface routes do.  And the city is only going to continue to grow making traffic worse so isn’t underground transit better to lessen the congestion? I hate the transit system along St Clair and Spadina myself. 
    Just say’in.

  14. Devil’s Advocate: From a gut-instinct perspective I can see how you’d think LRT and snow is a problem, but in reality its not. Look at Edmonton and Calgary — two very snowy cities, and much more so than Toronto — which both have LRT lines and experience only minimal problems due to the weather.

    Your second gut instinct is wrong too: because the city is growing doesn’t mean that car ownership will necessarily grow: that’s why you build a Crosstown LRT line (or any or all of the Transit City lines). You provide better options than folks will get out of their cars. One person on transit is small, but one person in a car is huge.

    While you may hate St Clair and Spadina, most people prefer to have sunlight and look out the window rather than be underground for an entire trip.

    But the trust of this arguement isn’t so much about above ground vs underground: its about the cost of building the parts of the Eglinton line underground when there is more than enough road space to put an LRT line on the road without losing any car capacity (the west and east ends of the line). I doubt anyone would argue that underground between Keele and Laird makes a lot of sense. But building it all underground means spending way more money.

    The main question is: do you leave Eglinton above ground in the west and east ends and build the line for $4 billion, or bury those parts and have it cost $8 billion? You’re still getting the line but at twice the cost. Why not spend that extra $4 billion on building more cost effective LRT lines (essentially what Transit City was proposing?).

  15. Concern about winter weather was one reason why the Montreal metro went with a 100% underground system (the mindless worship of all things French was another, but that’s a rant for another day). But the very high cost of putting everything underground means that expansion of the metro system is nearly impossible to sell politically. It seems silly to me that Toronto doesn’t take advantage of the possibility of surface routes where feasible.

  16. @Devil’s Advocate:

    “Isn’t one of the main reasons to put our transit system underground the fact we live in Canada and have loads of snow and icy winter weather from January – April? The subway system doesn’t seem to be affected by the weather half as much as the Go Train and other surface routes do.”

    Not really a valid criticism. For one, our existing subway system isn’t entirely underground and that hasn’t really presented a problem. And as for LRT, why not ask folks in Edmonton?

    “And the city is only going to continue to grow making traffic worse so isn’t underground transit better to lessen the congestion?”

    Many of the surface routes planned for Transit City – such as the eastern portion of the Eglinton Crosstown line – would not have required the removal of lanes from the streets in question. At the same time, they would have presented commuters with a viable alternative to driving and a vast improvement over taking a bus. The end result would have been fewer cars on the road.

    “I hate the transit system along St Clair and Spadina myself.”

    Those are streetcar lines, not LRT, so they aren’t really valid points of comparison to Transit City. The cars are smaller, slower and make more frequent stops than they would have on the suburban TC lines.

  17. I think that McGuinty is to blame for this just as much as Ford is, if not more so. The province held all the money, thus all the cards, and could have told Ford tough luck. I believe the province wanted more control over the design line, and used this opportunity to do so. As well, they used it as an opportunity to get Presto on the TTC.

    With that said, I believe the outcome has been more positive than negative. While it may be more expensive, Eglinton will be getting a higher end transit solution. And unlike Sheppard, it will be more likely to break even. The Scarborough RT will become more than a shuttle between Kennedy and Scarborough Town Centre and become integrated with our transit network. Stop spacing will be more appropriate to the scope of this project (which I will discuss in the next paragraph), the Danforth line and Bloor-Yonge station will see a significant drop in crowding as well, and the TTC will have an integrated fare structure with the rest of the region.

    On the topic of stop spacing, urban rapid transit should have stops located approximately a kilometer apart to provide a balance between speed and accessibility. People need to be able to get across not just the region, but the city itself quickly and efficiently, and Transit City’s stop spacing was not going to achieve this. As for John’s comment, I don’t see it as a waste to have local buses accompanying rapid services. In most cases, if there is enough demand along a line to warrant an investment in higher order services, there are enough people needing to travel long distance as well as shorter ones to have dual services along the corridor. In Manhattan, you have streets which have local buses, express buses, local subways, and express subways all operating along the same corridor!

  18. @Devil’s Advocate

    As a former Calgarian, I can assure you that the city’s aboveground LRT was easily able to handle snow, cold, and surface-level debris. In fact, anecdotally speaking, there seemed to be far fewer delays on it than on Toronto’s below-ground subway.

    Ditto for Edmonton–and, presumably, the many cold-weather European cities with surface LRT systems.

  19. There are open cuts in the subway system and SRT but these arguably cause more problems than those in the streetcar system. Why? Because snowdrifts bury the third rail and cause power outages (notably at the Warden open cut on the B-D as well as on SRT).

    As for Eglinton East not requiring lane removals – could it be that some with Toronto Roads and the Ford administration would seek to ADD lanes to Eglinton East?

  20. Wasn’t the negative reaction to Transit City’s surface routes at least partially in response to the perception that the process of getting the St. Clair right-of-way built was expensive and painful for the neighbourhood? I seem to remember a lot of stories about construction delays and businesses being unhappy about it, and that when the new LRTs were announced there were some cries of “St. Clair: NEVER AGAIN.”

    Of course, whenever I go along St. Clair (which admittedly isn’t often), it sure doesn’t look like a desolate ghost town to me. Anyone who lives along there can correct me if I’m wrong, but the neighhourhood got through it–as any area deserving of an LRT would.

  21. I agree with the that the money would be best spent elsewhere than on a tunnel east of Brentcliffe (or a future west of Black Creek/Keele).  
    On station spacing, our current experience shows that proposed station spacing will not require retaining much, if any, of an Eglinton bus infrastructure. The current frequency and use of the Yonge 97 shows that the demand for buses is pretty low once an underground subway is built. And the station spacing between Yonge line north of Eglinton greater than what is proposed for the crosstown.

  22. 1) Rob Ford does not know the difference between the light rail proposed for Transit City and the streetcars used downtown.

    2) Rob Ford does not want to SEE the public transit taxpayers as he drives by himself in his SUV.

  23. I do not support the Ford Administration in any shape or form, and I don’t think his intentions with Eglinton Crosstown were good, but the end result isn’t going to be bad. I’m surprised the OP/ED piece here is so vehemently anti-underground transit. Investments in infrastructure are never cheap and to do it on the cheap is a mistake. Transit City was transit done on the cheap… A half-hearted effort to put streetcars all over Toronto, forced to move through pokey intersections. Sure, it would have “stoplight preference” but that doesn’t make it not slow. I’ve used LRT all over North America and Europe, and trams that run in the street will NEVER be faster than those that run in their own right of way. I dislike Ford, I was an ardent Smitherman supporter, and I’m a die hard Liberal. I think Ford is an arrogant idiot. But I like the Crosstown Eglinton LRT being underground – where it belongs – to offer faster, higher quality transit to its users. I like it underground DESPITE Ford and his idiotic leadership. It will be a great thing for Toronto, now we need to focus on a DRL instead of Sheppard.

  24. @Ben Smith

    Sorry, but you’re wrong. We should not be building subway lines to zip people across the region when:

    -there is little transit demand for long-distance east-west travel
    -there already exists rail corridors where high-speed or express service can be implemented at a much lower cost.

    This means neither Sheppard nor Eglinton needs to have this high-capacity express service.

    Now if you could prove me wrong by providing me with a number and source that indicates adequate demand for high-capacity east-west service, then I would stand corrected.

  25. @Jon: You’re quite right, that the vibrancy of business on St Clair is better now than it was before the right of way was built. Businesses that fail when the street gets torn up for construction are marginal, and after the work is complete the vacancies created allow other entrepreneurs to move in, increasing the overall diversity of the strip. Look at the new Roncevalles, for example.

  26. Many are concerned about the surface quality improvements along Eglinton. When St-Clair Avenue was completed, the sidewalks and roads were re-done. This would not be the case if you tunnel underneath Eglinton – few surface improvements (new roads/sidewalks/lamp posts/etc.). Also burying Eglinton would be drastically more expensive than having a surface route, which was already pointed out.

  27. Brandon: The argument is about not putting the ENTIRE line underground. No one is arguing the middle section should be above ground. But where the road is wide enough to accommodate the above ground tracks the line shouldn’t be underground.

  28. @John Lorinc re: “@ Peanut Gallery — good question, but Transit City never went before council, either. The EAs did, but the original plan did not, and Ford knows it. Question is, do two wrongs make a right?”

    The entire plan went to Council and was adopted unanimously as part of the environment plan in, I believe, July 2007. Even Rob Ford supported it at the time. All staff needed was authority to undertake Environmental Assessments – which were being led by the TTC, which had also voted on it.

    So no, two wrongs don’t make a right. In the same way that Mayor Ford relentlessly repeating something does not make it true.

  29. The thing that Ford always seems to forget (or just not mention) is the amount of chaos that burying the subway will have on traffic.
    THe War on the Car will be waged by construction and between Bayview and Don Mills, there are limited cross streets until you get north to York Mills.

    The rail road tracks that would be constructed for above ground would be built MUCH faster, just compare the time taken to build the Sheppard subway and the St Clair streetcar tracks.

    The city will likely not see any construction on transit while Ford is the mayor. His promise of having most of this completed for the Pan Am Games just illustrated that his ‘plan’ was not realistic and was actually a Bill of Goods that the city just bought when he was elected.

  30. @Brendan — with all due respect, that 2007 motion, which I’ve read and reported on, did not constitute a full debate. The LRT proposal was part of a lengthy environmental strategy w/ no cost estimates, no debate about routes, operational details, etc. Council in 2008 had, if you recall, a full-throated debate about the new tax levies (not once, but twice). There was heat and light. That never happened w/ TC b/c the city’s money wasn’t on the table. 

  31. Nfitz said: ” increase from about 7,000 riders (LRT) at peak (somewhere w. of Yonge), to about 12,000 riders (underground) (e. of Yonge).”
    Yes but.. the gains are based on the assumption that the new line incorporates the SRT ending at Scarborough Centre with no need for transfer. The older LRT numbers assumed the Eglinton line stopped at Kennedy and required a transfer. For maps + explanation http://stevemunro.ca/?p=5461

  32. “The province held all the money, thus all the cards, and could have told Ford tough luck.”

    Not really. It isn’t practical to build an LRT network without the city’s cooperation. Ford would have turned down all the money rather then see cars inconvenienced.

  33. @Brandon

    Would you like to explain:

    -How could the TTC have predicted an average speed of 28-32 km/hr on the west-surface segment of the Eglinton LRT, the same speed as the Bloor-Danforth Subway (which travels at an average speed of 29 km/hr in the underground portions where the stations are closer). Read it here at:

    http://www.toronto.ca/involved/projects/eglinton_crosstown_lrt

    -Why subways with station spacing less than 1 km rarely travel above 60 km/hr? That happens to be the posted speed limit on many arterial suburban roads.

  34. @Transity Cyclist: I do not have any specifics available, and have a lot going on right now, but consider these two points:

    1. How many cars use the 401 to get across Toronto (the city, not the region) because there is no transit alternative?
    2. How much employment is occurring throughout the suburbs versus downtown?

    I’m not saying it needs to be designed to get people from Scarborough to Oakville, but it should be designed to get people from Scarborough to Etobicoke, and points in between, relatively quickly. Though not ideal,,you could even stretch your trip into Mississauga if you would rather pay dual fares rather than the GO premium.

  35. Yes, to getting this folly in the slimelight, including the process or lack of it that has meant Ford has thus far been able to get away with unilateralism, aided and abetted by a supine new Transit Commission, filled up with his caronies and car-onlies.

    The excess cost may be quite deliberate – remember Mr. Snobelen saying the way to “fix” something was to bankrupt it?

    For me the outrage is in how we have hundreds of millions for megaprojects of dubious quality, and meanwhile, for perhaps the cost of a funera we might have been able to have had the Sterling Road intersection repainted for bike safety, and a full 8kms of Bloor bike lane would be merely $200,000, with the attendant benefit of basically expanding the subway for the price of paint.

    We’ve been having some of the wheels fall off of the Fords – let’s keep it up!!l

  36. @Ben Smith

    The amount of traffic going east-west still does not justify building expensive subways under Sheppard or Eglinton, when we could built high-capacity express service on existing rail-corridors (eg. Agincourt-Crosstown line) at a fraction of the cost.

    Furthermore, transit demand along Sheppard is along the entire route, not just at major intersections 1 km apart.

  37. All this valley tunneling talk reminds me of the York Mills debacle back in the 70’s. Initially the Yonge street subway was to travel through Hoggs Hollow via elevated outdoor rail line, but NIMBY’s got their way, and the TTC was forced to tunnel UNDERNEATH the Don River. So it’s been done before, and at great expense. How quick Toronto is to forget! The line obviously works now, but consider the indirect costs of such a design. Deep cut stations at York Mills and Lawrence require a mountain-like climb to the surface, and the placement of the York Mills bus station is awkward and delay prone. The slab of concrete protecting the tunnel from the river apparently leaks in the summer and awaits a maintenance nightmare. All this for aesthetics.

  38. It is clear that objectivity is lost in this article.  The ridership forecast by Metrolinx for the underground project show 12,000 peak hour riders, if I remember correctly, the vaunted Transit City Eglinton line was 5,400 riders (if you read the presentation those numbers were developed with TTC).

    So, $2 billion for double the peak hour ridership – that doesn’t seem cosmetic to me.  I guess letting the facts get in the way of your political views wouldn’t be good journalism now would it?

    Ok so there are less stations in the east and that is why it travels faster, now the suggestion here is that seniors and people with strollers will be inconvenienced.  Looks to me like the station spacing is the same as the original Transit City plan had for the Keele to Brencliffe section, where was John Lorinc during the Transit City EA?  Why now with the social conscience for those on the east end – the real density is in the Keele to Brentcliffe section – I guess it is ok to have wider station spacing there.

    The Transit City plan suffered from St. Clair, no doubt, but it was also a very bad plan.  Why would you mix subway with streetcar and build the worst of both worlds.  To be competitive  with the car, transit should be fast and reliable.  The density and people are all in the Keele to Brentcliffe section the Transit City plan would see the trains slow down as they go east, providing slow, second rate service to people in Scarborough.

    The problem with transit in Toronto is too many complaints and not enough action – this article is another good example.

  39. It needs to be said that Eglinton completely underground as scheduled and even a fully completed Sheppard from STC to Downsview will be a massive success the day they open. That is a fact.

    The underlying problem remains a question of value. Is there better bang for the buck with alternative plans? I have yet to see what the alternative is. Please do NOT say Transit City. That was a neighbourhood regeneration project with a Transportation policy as a side effect. Those are not my words – they are Miller’s on this very website! (Episode 2). Also, Transit City became capped at the knees when McGuinty slashed the original funding in half.

    This city is twice as wide as it is long. People on this site may hate the 905 but if you look at Durham and York they have 1 road to come in to the city and 1 road to get downtown. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not every person’s dream to drive a 12 year old car and sit in traffic for 2 hours each day. They do it because they can’t afford to live under the warm glow of the bank towers.

    If alternatives were available that were: a) Fast. b) Cheap. c) Reliable…then you would start the process of eliminating the dependency on the car. Underground Eglinton and a finished Sheppard would go a long way to changing their behaviour pattern.

  40. Yeah, the “Snobelen argument” makes sense. Turn the Eglinton scheme into something so ludicrous, it collapses in on itself before it has a chance to take shape–and presto: cost savings where everyone expected waste. Of course, it also means no more Eglinton line for the foreseeable future: but, them’s the breaks…

  41. It’s a shame that the Globe and Mail chose someone like Marcus Gee to write their city hall column when there are so many more knowledgeable people out there, like you. The guy thought the Iraq war was a great idea, for god’s sake. What sort of critical thinking ability does that demonstrate?

  42. Using the 401 as evidence that we need fast “express” crosstown transit is a mistake in analysis.  While some may travel across town. the strongest reason that car travel is faster is due to its flexibility.  The route is flexible – no transfers and no waiting for connections.  Many cars join the 401 and many leave for the driver’s various suburban destinations.  While the 401 is often congested and moves at a crawl, the final 2 or 3 kms. of a suburban journey may make transit unfeasible – there is no bus or at least no convenient bus to the end point and it is too far to walk..  

    It is easy to travel in a car several kms. out of your way to access the “express route”.  In that way the 401 is a concentration of travel to many diverse locations and from many diverse starting points that are not necessarily naturally local to this route. 

    Transit City was the best improvement to transit in underserved areas.  It may not have been able to serve every final destination or staring point of a 401 commuter, but by offering higher order transit to underserved parts of the City it was more likely to have accomplished that end than an underground “express route” that sucks up all the development and operating funding and leaves nearby areas not served at all.  I mean nearby in the sense that higher order transit could serve that area efficiently, but it is too far to walk or too far to wait for a low service bus.  

  43. @Adam G

    As I’ve said earlier, you cannot attribute the double increase in peak point ridership on the underground alignment alone.

    Metrolinx, in their modelling, neglected any extension of the Sheppard Subway and a handful of other MoveOntario2020 projects (notably the Agincourt-Crosstown line). With fewer parallel routes, more East-West travel would concentrate along Eglinton. Furthermore, Metrolinx also applied a 2031 population density in their model, even though they used a 2020 transit network.

    Their justification for omitting various MoveOntario2020 projects was that they would consider only the projects with confirmed funding in place. Gee, that’s not a very long-term perspective now, is it?

    The peak point ridership predicted by the TTC and Metrolinx CANNOT be compared.

  44. @ JON: The people objecting to St. Clair were full of &%$#, plain and simple. Most of these were business owners who were afraid that their businesses (places that according to one person had the same declining clientele patronizing them) would go under due to the construction and then afterwards because of the scarcity of parking spaces. Of course now, all of their bullroar has been exposed for what it is-ignorance about street cars and light rail exploited by a fat clown and his servile neocon drones. St. Clair is thriving, and everything’s okay, so what was all of it about other than people in Canada generally need to take ‘study vacations’ to figure out how other nations/cities that are efficient and effective handle things.

    @ADAM G: Transit City was a great plan, NOT a failure,and would have worked. Metrolinx is wrong about burying any lines down Eglington, and you know it. It looks like your views about things are getting in the way of common sense about transit,and not the other way around.

  45. I didn’t realize we had so many transit planners with such diverse backgrounds in this city. I guess that old adage that opinions are like a##holes everybody has one is true. What happens when you mix light rail transit with personal vehicle traffic and take the buses off the route? You have a street car that runs less frequently than the transit service it is displacing with longer distances between stops. So where is the huge benefit to going with surface LRT. If it is underground then it doesn’t interfere with surface traffic and avoids any additional congestion which we already have too much of. A very important point to improved mass transit is to resolve congestion not make it worse.

  46. I’ve been taking the TTC all my life… I remember as a kid riding the bus for the first time, peeking out the window of a subway car, and riding the 501 Queen streetcar from the Beaches to Long Branch (it was an hour and 45 minute trip back then, now almost 3 hours).

    Why is any of all that relevant to this topic?  Because once upon a time, it didn’t matter to me the state of the TTC, it was just fun to ride.

    But that was the past when I was a kid. I’m a grown adult, capable determining the true value of anything… this includes transit!

    Now I am no math wizard, but a 4-year-old could tell you that chocolate bars for the price of one is a SWEET deal (no pun intended). Transit City is that chocolate bar! You have an extensive, well thought out plan (except for Jane on the original plan) where the key areas of the city are in desperate need for transit improvements, and of course, as customary in Toronto, the plan gets scrapped!

    Rob Ford cannot justify scrapping Transit CIty and Metrolinx is full of crap with their assessment for the new Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown. with the old Transit City plan, the idea was to separate the Eglinton line and the SRT but make a provision (i.e. merging the two lines) as to have some trains service both lines. Keeping then separate protects them better for service disruptions (i.e. waiting on a WB LRT at Warden, but the line is backed up from Ellesmere – THIS HAPPENS ALL THE TIME WITH BUSES)!

    And one thing Rob Ford didn’t tell you, but because the whole line would be underground, further stop distance means you STILL NEED TO RUN BUSES ON EGLINTON TO FILL THE GAPS! Which means ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WAS FIXED!!

    Eglinton, east of Don Mills is wide enough to maintain 3 lanes of traffic flow in either direction.

    Don’t get me started on Sheppard… Get rid of that farce of a subway! If the TTC was smart, the Spadina extension should have been the Sheppard extension… THAT would have been a smarter idea! instead, TTC and the City of Toronto think 1 dimensional. I say build the LRT, scarp the subway and convert/extend. AND you STILL get 2 lanes of traffic flow!

    Finch: I’m surprised no one is pissed. You guys got it the worst. You get: NOTHING! Which means Finch Station will STILL be packed, buses: packed!

    SRT: STILL NO SERVICE TO MALVERN!! 

    You see, if I were a kid, I wouldn’t care about ANY of what I just wrote. I would just be content looking out the window, asking my mom why are they filling up yet another hole…

    Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Those who don’t care are just simply doomed.

  47. In response to the speed issue, I’ve read Transit City’s proposed speeds, and they are still a bit optimistic at best, a bit dishonest at worst. Every transit service observed that has to cross intersections, even with stoplight preference, and even if it has its own dedicated lanes so that traffic doesn’t intermingle do not travel as fastly as a tram running entirely in its own right of way.

    It would create delay nightmares for people when the trains get held up 30 seconds here, 1 minute there every so often. A schedule is essentially useless when trams run into intersections. No stoplight preference can overcome what the old TC design would have been, the truth is that having it entirely underground is a great way to urbanize Eglinton without choking Eglinton. Streetcars/Trams in the street aren’t going to urbanize Eglinton. Healthy urban planning and urban design will do that. An underground subway-like tram/LRT will be the most effective way to serve Eglinton in 50 years. If Toronto were to have made the mistake of building half-baked streetcars all over the city, it would have been insufficient for the needs of the city in 10 years… Forget about Toronto in 2060. Eglinton Underground LRT is rapid transit, the old Transit City plan was point-to-point local transit service that went on for 20-30km per line… It was a bad concept, just ask any urban planning specialist in Europe and get away from the LRT hoopla in North America. European designers use Trams to get people to Rapid Transit lines, they don’t use Trams as the backbone of an entire city-wide solution.

  48. @TransitCity Cyclist

    The 5,400 peak period riders figure from the TTC that I cited predates the Metrolinx plan – it is from the EA.  There is no way it includes all of those projects you mentioned above.   As it said above read the presentation that talks about the ridership on the underground line, it says TTC and Metrolinx did them together.  The only thing that makes them not comparable is the fact that they double peak point ridership.

    To be clear, underground isn’t the difference, it is speed of travel – so why not consider an elevated line?  

    @Simon Tarses

    Transit City was a terrible plan, if you look at the numbers BRT would be a better investment on all but the Eglinton corridor.   You’d get five times as many corridors served by rapid transit with BRT than LRT due to cost and it would be just as effective.   TTC should get on with improving bus service with express bus services and BRT and take advantage equipment and roads that are under are already paid for and under their control.

  49. Another point to discuss which at some point may have been discussed..apologies if it has. Does surface LRT encourage growth in the neighborhoods it services? When I think of underground service I see the danforth and bloor line, while providing what it was meant to do..move people has it promoted commercial growth and intensification in those areas. It some locations yes but overall I find that the B-D line has yet to fulfill what many believe will happen when new transit of that magnitude and investment are built. Someone mentioned that there is little long distance east – west travel in that corridor. I agree and by burying the entire line you further alienate the real user which will be the regular citizens that don’t want to use or don’t have a car that only need to go a few stops. On the surface people will see the shops and as a result will demand more services and opportunities in the vicinity of stops which by the way should be much closer than 1 km…but not as insanely close as bus stops.
    If I had my way I would have the line on the surface the entire route. Eliminate any street parking on Eglinton and have one lane each way through the core….You would see a drastic change in the way eglinton is used and it would see even more intensification in the areas that could support it.
    I really hope when the public gets to speak on the issue the decision by ford to bury the line is reversed. Its a waste of money will little benefit and Lorinc said we will look back and shake out head at the decision.

  50. @John: I know you are aware of the previous vote on the issue. If I comment, it’s because you have very high standards and are an authoritative voice on municipal issues.

    There was no debate on details in 2007, because there were no details. They come out of the studies that Council were directing staff to start.

    When the details were available, in November 2009, Eglinton was subject to a full, dedicated debate, which it passed 37-2: http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2009.CC42.7

  51. The first lesson any civil engineer learns about transit is that it has two main objectives: Accessibility (in terms of entry and exit points onto the system, not accessibility for low mobility persons) and Mobility (speed of the transit mode). These two components are inversely related. In a road system built for cars, we see Expressways (low accessibility with entrances spaced 2 km apart, high mobility with speeds ~100km/hr), we see Arterials and we see residential roads. If only one type of road existed and it only met one objective, then it is incomplete.
    Similarly for transit. The argument is not whether we should have all subways (high mobility, low accessibility) or all streetcars, but rather how to integrate and combine multiple modes. TC was an opportunity to provide the equivalent of arterial roads – medium levels of both mobility and accessibility. It is absolutely imperative to have some type of medium level of transit, in addition to a good subway system (i.e. a DRL) and continued bus/streetcar service where it makes sense. The added social benefit of transit was the city doing its civic duty to care for everyone living in our city.

  52. @ Adam G: BRT would be a GREATER investment for the TTC… if we had the ridership of Durham Transit perhaps.

    The TTC is limited to only 2 subway lines, with the rest of the city being served by buses and streetcars. A city this big that moves the entire population almost 5 times over per week needs to have PROPER rapid transit, not more buses!

    If the Eglinton subway was built, we would be talking about extending it. If the Sheppard subway was built properly, we would be talking about improving it.

    Neither is the case and we’re stuck repeating history, yet again.

    This is why no one takes Toronto seriously anymore. We have a culture of undoing what the last guy did so the people who put there will like him more… and it’s always at OUR EXPENSE! Literally!

    Any pipe dreams of a new subway died with the Eglinton West subway and the installation of Sheppard line (it’s NOT a subway)! Most of Toronto is over-developed now, so the installation of subways is either expensive or impossible! 

    Transit City worked for these reasons:

    1. It put the infrastructure in place to bring a better transit option to ALL of Toronto in a short period of time.

    2. That same infrastructure could be EASILY expanded farther and more affordable/cost effectively than any other mode (proven)

    3. And most importantly: DId anyone forget about the Pan Am Games in 2015? If nothing is in place by next year, they aren’t coming AND we’ll have to pay a penalty!

    Think on that!

  53. @Transity Cyclist: To your second question, the answer is in the question. The train simply does not have enough distance to get up to 60 km/h, at least not safely before having to slam on the brakes for the next station. Which I imagine would not make for the smoothest of rides. If you can find a major metro transit system where trains operate at, heck, 45 km/h or faster, please post. London, Paris, Moscow, New York trains all go below that speed.

    @A Random Transit Rider: I live on Finch, and yes, I’m mad. We’re getting an express bus lane maybe sometime possibly. And that won’t even BE on Finch, but in a hydro corridor two blocks north. All hail the genius that is … Chong!

    @nfitz: You’re taking Metrolinx’s numbers (12,000) on blind faith. I’d take a closer look at those numbers and ask whether they’re realistic, or whether they’re being optimistic because this is the only project left out of the ashes of TC, and they’ve got to make it look good somehow.

  54. @Michael Greason: Obviously the LRT won’t get everyone everywhere they want to go, no transit line could. This is where local transit connecting to rapid services comes into play.

    Let’s assume that in 20 years, most all of the current plans are completed. Someone who lives in a condo near Scarborough Town Centre needs to get to his office in midtown, so he takes the train straight there (travel time: 30 minutes, currently: 50 minutes). Around 1PM, he has to get to a meeting at an office at Steeles and Weston, so he takes the LRT and subway to Steeles West Station and transfers on to a local bus to complete his trip (travel time with transfers: 40 minutes, currently: 60 minutes). Finally, he has a date at Square One, so he takes the local bus down to Eglinton and Royal York to take the Mississauga BRT out there (travel time: 50 minutes, currently: 1 hour, 20 minutes). Being a little far out, he decides to take the GO bus back home.

    Not including the GO connection, he spends 2 hours on transit versus over 3 hours! Obviously it doesn’t make sense to build a transit line specifically for this guy’s travels, but it does make sense to build a strong network to handle the various mobility needs of its citizens.

    Going back to the 401, it is important to remember that as the region grows, so will its congestion unless we construct alternatives. If we are building mass transit to satisfy only very local needs while ignoring longer trips, maybe we should build new highways because people are not going to tolerate spending 5+ hours per day in gridlock or on transit.

  55. @Edmun O’Connor: Using my phone’s GPS, between Wilson and Eglinton West with 1km stop spacing, the train’s top speed clocked in at around 60km/h+. 

  56. The underlying problem lies with the switch of two project management methods. Pre-PMI (Project management institute) methodology was to use CPM (Critical path method), which tried to fully review a project,identify its “critical path”,approve critical path, approve overall design,secure financing and proceed. The CPM would have identified the stretch of Eglinton from Banff (west of Bayview) to VicPk( top of hill) as critical and would have asked for detailed and approved design. PMI methodology talks about phases and gives an impression,that by going thru phases the project will be able to handle obstacles without being delayed at the start time and the efforts of project team would concentrate on problem area,as it is approached. That may be true,if the problem area is small or other tasks within a project can continue – however if the “problem area” is 4km wide,50m deep and it contains two railway lines and is in the core area of a project,then project shouldn’t even start before the “critical area” has been fully designed and approved.

  57. @Adam G

    The “updated” peak hourly numbers on the underground Eglinton LRT (that shows a 9,000 pphpd westbound of Kennedy Station) was done very recently (this year), months after Ford was elected.

    The original peak numbers that Metrolinx and TTC did for the original surface/underground line was published in the original Environmental Assessment (while Miller was still in office).

  58. 1. How many cars use the 401 to get across Toronto (the city, not the region) because there is no transit alternative?

    The numbers are on the MTO website – http://www.raqsb.mto.gov.on.ca/techpubs/TrafficVolumes.nsf/tvweb – it’s about 300000-400000 cars per day through Toronto depending on the section. The section through Etobicoke is the busiest, the section east of Scarborough Centre the least busy.

    2. How much employment is occurring throughout the suburbs versus downtown?

    Most employment in the GTA is in the suburbs. There is employment all over North York, Scarborough, Markham, Richmond Hill, Vaughan, Mississauga, Brampton, Oakville, etc.

    In my opinion the traffic congestion on the 401 is a huge problem, and that building surface light rail on Eglinton east of Laird is a bad idea because it will create a bottleneck, with many people wanting to go from Scarborough to Yonge/Eglinton even if there is little traffic originating from the Golden Mile area. Elevated would seem to be the best alternative if at all possible, due to its lower cost than subway and higher capacity than light rail. Surface light rail is not all that effective as a backbone of a transit system – cities like Los Angeles have tried it and it is not very effective at relieving traffic congestion on highways.

  59. For sure the author and Spacing do not agree with comments posted. Some commentors are not communists. As an expert on public space, I was forced to work withe Transit City  on St. Clair and protested the pissful plan for Spadina LRT when it was first built by Metro. There is no space for street cars unless you kick evryone else out – the car, turn ;lanes, utilities underground, trees, etc. LRT’s have been the biggest mistake in Toronto namely because they are in the middle of the road to accomodate turning raidius.  The newer harbourfront LRT all concentrated on the south side of QueensQuay will prove to be more successful. Eglinton LRt if built all on the surface will be a disaster for the street, the trees, the businesses,  the trafic.  Every other city builds underground except Toronto. The cancellation costs are the price to pay for idiot decisions of the past. I preach the environment for decades and I will drive to downtown to avoid the turtle pace of the street cars.  The Spadina LRT in the 90’s was about $120 million at least to save 65 seconds from the travel time from Queens Quay to Bloor.  Tell me that was not a waste of money!

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