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TTC proposes permanently closing Line 3 Scarborough in 2023



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^ Line 3 car #3022 shows off at Kennedy Station, sporting its new blue vinyl paint with the station names along the top and the line’s number prominently displayed on the front and sides. This photo was taken by Jelo Gutierrez Cantos on April 29, 2015.

Next Wednesday, February 10, the Toronto Transit Commission — the TTC’s board of directors — will discuss the future of Line 3 Scarborough rapid transit system (or “SRT”). The issue of whether or not to proceed with extending the life of the SRT is particularly significant, because the SRT’s trains are 10 years past their design life.

A TTC news release quotes TTC chief executive officer Rick Leary. “Our priority is to provide safe, reliable and accessible service to everyone,” he said. “The SRT trains have already been overhauled to maintain their safety. [They] have been in service for 35 years - 10 years past their design life. We know it has become increasingly difficult to maintain reliable service on Line 3 due to the age of the vehicles and obsolescence of critical parts.”

Today, Thursday, February 4, TTC staff released a report to the board, which outlines three options for temporary service until the Government of Ontario and Metrolinx can open the extension to the TTC’s Line 2 Bloor - Danforth — the “Scarborough Subway Extension” (SSE) — in 2030. These options are:

  1. Again investing in overhauling the SRT vehicles and increasing bus service;
  2. Decommissioning the SRT and replacing it with new, hybrid buses operating along the route until provincial agencies have completed the SSE; or
  3. Decommissioning the SRT with new and “currently owned” replacement buses operating along the route until the SSE is completed.

According to the news release, “It is critical to ensure TTC [passengers], local communities and stakeholders are well informed of the state of the SRT as well as the various risks and challenges of operating the SRT until the scheduled opening of the SSE. The report also reviews the investment required for each of the outlined options until the anticipated 2030 completion of the SSE with both bus replacement options being more affordable than extending the life of the SRT trains.”

The TTC is recommending the Board approve further review of Options 2 and 3.

  • Option 1 is the highest-cost option with life cycle cost of $522.4 million and with high risk of not achieving the required service reliability, Option 1 is not recommended for further consideration.
  • Option 2 and Option 3 are both low-risk options for achieving the required service reliability and with lower life cycle costs of $374.8 million for Option 2 and $357.4 million for Option 3. Both are also low risk options from cost, schedule, and deliverability perspectives and staff are recommending the board consider them further.

Option 1 — keeping the SRT operating until 2030 after a major overhaul — presents a number of challenges, including:

  • Costly: Staff estimate that overhauling the SRT to cost more than $520 million, which is unfunded. The staff report declares: “This is a bare minimum and would not guarantee reliable service.”
  • Aging vehicles: The SRT vehicles were designed to be retired in 2010. They are 10 years past their design life of 25 years.
  • Maintenance reliability: The TTC says that SRT vehicles are becoming increasingly more difficult to maintain, reliability continues to degrade, and parts are becoming more difficult to find.
  • Service reliability: The TTC has decreased SRT service by 50 percent from peak in fall 2020 due to technical issues. Only a few spare trains are available. The lack of spare trains means that the TTC is unable to maintain reliable service standards and continues to make service reliability vulnerable.
  • Inclement weather: The SRT is susceptible to inclement weather including overheating in the summer and service suspension in the winter due to snow and ice.

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^ Before the TTC rehabilitated the cars, a train led by vehicle #3026 pauses at Kennedy station on the afternoon of September 17, 2014. Photo by James Bow.

If the board approves the staff recommendations, the TTC will consult with passengers and community members to collect input about possible routing for bus services in the SRT corridor. The aim of the consultation will be to make sure the TTC can plan a high-quality transit service and communicate any service changes well before they come into effect.

The TTC says it will co-ordinate with the City of Toronto’s Transportation Services ‘to develop priority measures to optimize the bus service along the corridor.” It intends to analyze travel times and overall passenger experience in detail to determine potential ways to improve the corridor and keep travel times as efficient and reliable as possible.

TTC staff expect that bus trips may generally require more travel time than trips aboard SRT trains. However, many of the replacement routes may help passengers avoid transferring during their journey and the buses will offer more reliable service.

Overall, the TTC will likely schedule 75 buses per hour during peak periods to travel into Kennedy Station, if ridership continues at today’s levels. It’s estimating that it would require as many as 86 buses per hour by 2031.

It’s planning the replacement service to operate better than one bus per minute and aiming to replace more than Line 3 Scarborough’s current peak capacity. To do this, the TTC would need about 60 more buses if the bus replacement service option is adopted.

Under options 2 and 3, the TTC would buy hybrid buses as part of a commitment to greening its fleet and some of these vehicles will operate in this corridor. These eco-friendly vehicles incorporate hybrid technology and run off power generated on-board that diesel engines fuel. Though the vehicles are still using fuel to produce energy, they consume as much as 30 per cent less than other non-hybrid buses.

Replacing the SRT with buses may impact commuting time for motorists and residential access. The City and the TTC will investigate, outreach and consult to determine the impacts on businesses, motorists and residents.

The report to the Board also reminds the board of the TTC’s mandate to be completely accessible by 2025. Four of the six SRT stations — McCowan, Midland, Ellesmere and Lawrence East — do not currently meet the requirements of Ontario’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). The provincial legislation commits the TTC to achieving a barrier-free transit system by 2025. The complete bus replacement option supports the TTC’s goal of making public transit accessible to everyone by operating AODA-compliant, all-accessible buses on the line, starting in 2023.


Bus-service plan

The bus-service plan under Options 2 and 3 consists of extending eight major bus routes that currently start and end in Scarborough Centre Station terminal to operate express to and from Kennedy Station. The buses would operate non-stop along north-south streets between Ellesmere Road and Eglinton Avenue. TTC staff will discuss and determine detailed plans for bus routings and transit-priority measures with City of Toronto staff and develop them by consulting with community members and other stakeholders.

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The TTC would extend these major bus routes to serve Kennedy Station and replace Line 3:

  • 38 Highland Creek - currently Scarborough Centre Station to University of Toronto Scarborough Campus, through the Rouge Hill community to Rouge Hill GO Station;
  • 129 McCowan North - currently Scarborough Centre Station to Steeles Avenue and into York Region;
  • 131 Nugget - currently Scarborough Centre Station to Malvern Town Centre and Morningside Avenue;
  • 133 Neilson - currently Scarborough Centre Station to Centenary Hospital, Malvern Town Centre, and Finch Avenue East;
  • 134C Progress - currently Scarborough Centre Station to Centennial College, to be combined with 43B Kennedy branch to terminate at Kennedy Station via Progress Avenue and Kennedy Road;
  • 939A/B Finch express - currently Scarborough Centre Station to Finch Station and Finch West Station; 954 Lawrence East express - currently Lawrence East Station to Starspray Loop, extended to Kennedy Station - future extension to Science Centre Station on Line 5 Eglinton;
  • 985A Sheppard East express - from Scarborough Centre Station to Don Mills Station.

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The buses would operate along one or more north-south streets between Ellesmere and Eglinton (for example: Kennedy Road; Midland Avenue; Brimley Road; or Danforth Road). TTC and City staff would identify appropriate transit priority measures for these routes, which would be subject to approval by City Council. The buses would operate express, with some dropping off or picking up passengers at an intermediate stop at Lawrence Avenue East to replace the current Lawrence East Station connection.

Staff expect that SSE construction will impact the final routing. Construction would likely start in 2021 on Eglinton Avenue East, with extensive tunneling at Midland Avenue. Under several of the possible routings buses would travel through the intersection of Midland and Eglinton East. Accordingly, staff also expect delays to service and longer running time due to the SSE work during the entire period of bus replacement. Planners would factor the effects of these delays into the routing options they propose and the service levels they schedule.

The bus-replacement plan will increase peak bus volume along between Scarborough Centre and Kennedy stations, compared to the service that operates today. More than one express bus per minute would pass along the bus corridor, or about 75 bus trips per hour. The aim is to replace beyond SRT’s current planned capacity, as bus service will likely be more susceptible to delays compared to trains, which could affect the consistent delivery of service on the corridor and cause uneven crowding on buses.

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The extra bus volume between Scarborough Centre and Kennedy stations would noticeably impact the residential neighborhoods beside the north-south streets. The number of buses would create more traffic congestion on the roadway, resulting in more noise and higher emissions, and could make residential driveway access more difficult for people travelling in private automobiles.

Buses would operate similar hours as SRT does today, from about 6 a.m. until 1:30 a.m. Buses along most of the local routes (38, 129, 131, and 133) that the TTC proposes to extend already operate during all times of the week, except overnight and with a similar service span to SRT. Buses along the rest of the routes (134C, 939, 954, and 985) would continue to operate during their current periods and would provide the extra capacity to meet passengers demand during the busiest periods. The TTC would add more service and periods of operation, if passenger demand requires it.

Overall, the bus-service plan would require about 45 extra in-service buses during rush hours and 5,000 more weekly service hours, starting in 2023, and as many as 60 more in-service peak buses and 5,600 weekly service hours by 2030.


Travel times

The bus-service plan would result in more direct service compared to Line 3 train service, as many passengers aboard buses along the eight extended bus routes would have a direct ride to Kennedy Station and avoid the transfer at Scarborough Centre Station. The eight routes serve about 21,000 daily passenger-trips, and account for about 75 percent of the bus passengers who currently transfer between bus and train at Scarborough Centre Station. The remaining passengers will have to transfer from their local bus route to the buses along one of the eight extended routes in the fare-paid bus platform at Scarborough Centre Station.

While 75 percent of passengers will no longer have to transfer to reach Kennedy Station, passengers who usually travel aboard Line 3 trains will have a longer journey time aboard the buses. Current travel time from Scarborough Centre Station to Kennedy Station aboard the SRT is about 10 minutes one-way. Staff expect the bus service to require 15 to 18 minutes for the trip, increasing travel time by 50 to 80 percent.

Travel times.jpg

One of the main concerns with the bus-replacement options is more travel time variability due to buses operating in mixed traffic. In 2019, buses along the 903 Kennedy - Scarborough Centre express route experienced travel time variability of as much as eight minutes per direction.

All passengers will experience this variability, so staff are recommending that the City implement transit-priority measures to ensure service reliability.

Overall, TTC staff expects that the bus-service plan will decrease ridership along the corridor in 2023. These changes largely result from the longer travel time for all passengers and the less reliable transfer between buses at Scarborough Centre Station.


Transit-priority measures

To provide reliable bus service along the proposed route, the TTC is working with the City’s Transportation Services to examine a variety of transit-priority measures that would form part of an overall contingency planning strategy for the permanent shutdown of SRT. In the short term, the City could change signal timing and designate bus lanes to provide immediate benefits to bus operations between Scarborough Centre and Kennedy stations. In the medium term, the City could implement queue-jump lanes, transit signal-priority and larger bus stops to further improve bus operations and passenger experience on the bus-replacement services. In the travel times identified in the chart above, the low range of travel time reflects the highest level of transit=priority measures.


Bus platforms

The bus-service plan will require more service platforms at Scarborough Centre and Kennedy stations. At Scarborough Centre Station, the plan would require six to eight more bus bays to accommodate two-way service along the eight extended routes. At Kennedy Station, the plan requires at least four for the new routes starting and ending at the station, and possible space for for layover and circulation.

The TTC, Metrolinx and the City must identify potential locations for expansion of terminal facilities including using the temporary bus platform that contractors for the Eglinton Crosstown light rail transit built in the commuter parking lot at Kennedy station and using bus bays the Metrolinx currently leases at Scarborough Centre station bus terminal for GO Transit services, when the current lease expires.


From the Transit Toronto archives, read:

  • “The Scarborough rapid transit line” by James Bow, here.

See also:

  • “Scarborough RT will fail before replacement subway will open, Toronto mayor admits”, here.
  • ”‘“Has Scarborough been taken for a ride?’ More than ten years of failed transit plans”, here.
  • “Transit Toronto history and news posts outline Scarborough transit history”, here.
  • “Metrolinx releases business case for ‘Scarborough subway extension’”, here.