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TTC to announce LRT plans Friday

cross-posted to the Spacing Wire

The TTC is planning an announcement tomorrow that will highlight the transit authority’s LRT plans for the future (at 10:30am, City Hall, Committee Room 2). The Toronto Star has an article and interview with TTC Chair Adam Giambrone. The basic premise is to turn-over major traffic corridors in the city to LRT lines along Finch West, Don Mills, Sheppard East, the western Waterfront, and extending the Scarborough RT northeast. These LRT lines would use more modern vehicles than the streetcars Toronto currently employs. On top of what the Star is reporting, Spacing has also learned a few more highlights from the report that we’re working on to confirm. Updates will follow.

What is most interesting about the LRT proposals is the estimated cost: $2.4 billion. That’s roughly the same amount it will cost to build the subway extension to York University and into Vaughan. That new subway line will span 6 kilometres. The LRT proposals will cover 60-80 kilometres and could help bring much needed rapid transit to ten times more people than the Spadina subway extension will help. This is not to say I think subways are bad, but no one can argue that the construction of underground networks are not black holes for cash. Considering the tight budgetary constraints the TTC finds itself in, a vast LRT network is much more cost-effective and doable.

The Star reports:

  • A dedicated transit corridor on Finch Ave., in part utilizing the hydro right of way, to connect north Scarborough and north Etobicoke to the subway;
  • A west waterfront line linking Etobicoke to Union Station;
  • Connecting the Sheppard subway line to Scarborough Town Centre;
  • Extending the Scarborough Rapid Transit (SRT) line to northeastern Scarborough. Since the SRT is due to wear out by about 2011 in any case, it’s the subject of a separate planning process.

Another important rapid transit route that will likely be covered in the TTC report tomorrow is the Don Mills corridor, Giambrone said. Planning work is already under way on Don Mills.

Environmental assessment work has also been done on several of the other proposed lines.

The cost of the new system will be huge.

Giambrone said the all-in costs of building light rapid transit lines is about $30 million a kilometre. That would put the price tag for an 80-kilometre system at $2.4 billion.

Giambrone shied away from saying that tomorrow’s report will be an implementation plan with firm schedules and costs.

Let’s hear your comments.

photo by Toronto Star

(Update: 3:55 p.m.): Steve Munro weighs in on this development. He seems happy.