Search Transit Toronto

Three Choices for Scarborough

Scarborough Centre Station

Photo by Calum Tsang. Crossposted to Spacing’s Wire.

Scarborough residents won’t receive the full presentation until later tonight, but the Toronto Star received details of some of what consultants recommend could be done with the aging Scarborough RT line.

The Scarborough RT, a troubled appendage of the Bloor-Danforth subway line, was originally designed as the trunk route for an LRT stretching throughout Scarborough. At the province’s behest, it was upgraded to a “mini-subway” using technology developed by the province’s crown corporation, the Urban Transit Development Corporation (UTDC). You can read the full history of the line here. The route currently does not have the capacity to meet demand for the service, and the facility will reach the end of its design life in 2015.

To renew the service requires either restarting a production line now owned by Bombardier at substantial premium, or purchasing Bombardier’s replacement vehicles and spending as much as $120 million to modify the line to accept the vehicles. At that level of premium, some have suggested that the line should be replaced by an extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway. As a result, the TTC commissioned this study to assess all of its options. The full presentation occurs tonight at 7 p.m. in the Scarborough Community Centre council chambres.

The Star reports that three options are offered as the best solution:

  1. Purchase Bombardier’s replacement vehicles (Mark IIs, now operating in Vancouver) and modify the line to accept them. This includes widening one curve and extending the platforms. Capacity would be increased by 10%. The full cost of this would be $350 million, and the line would be shut down for eight to fifteen months.
  2. Modify the line to accept conventional streetcars operating at high speeds in trains of three or four. Capacity would double over the current RT. Conversion would shut down the line for three years and cost $490 million.
  3. Extend the Bloor-Danforth subway to Scarborough Centre along a different alignment. There would be a single intermediate station at Lawrence. The total cost would be $1.2 billion and the construction would take nine years, but it could take place without shutting down operations on the Scarborough RT, and it would eliminate the transfer up three flights of stairs that exists at Kennedy. The subway could carry seven to eight times the passengers the RT currently handles.

The cheapest option, to replace the RT with a bus expressway, was soundly rejected, as it simply did not have the capacity to handle the crowds.

Councillor De Baeremaeker wants to see the subway extended to Malvern, and will push for this at the meeting. While the subway option allows this to occur, replacing the Scarborough RT with streetcars also leaves open the possibility of further extensions at far lower cost. Extending the RT using Bombardier’s current technology would be nearly as expensive as new subway construction.

The study did not consider ways to raise the funds required, and thus far the province has given no indication that they are willing to offer funds.

After this presentation, it will be up to Torontonians in general and Scarborough residents in particular to decide which option best serves their transit needs, and to encourage their councillors and MPPs to back this pressing investmnt.