Last week, Toronto Star journalist Jennifer Pagliaro had us wondering, yet again, what Mayor Tory is hiding vis a vis the one-stop Scarborough Subway Extension (SSE). The image in her article showed a redacted page from a business case analysis of four city projects: Smart Track, Relief Line, SSE and Eglinton East LRT. The study carried out by Arup consultants for the city last June, was never shared publicly.
Looking at the results for the one-stop SSE it’s plain to see why Mayor Tory and pro-subway councillors would want this report shelved. Even before costs of the one-stop jumped from $2 billion to $3.2 billion, the business case analysis paints a gloomy prognosis for this line.
On the cost side the subway would have a “significant amount of travel time disbenefit.” Could this be because riders who take the Scarborough RT to stations in between Kennedy and Scarborough Town Centre will be on slower buses? The only benefit is that after construction and operation costs of $252 million, there will be $0.75 billion remaining. But as already mentioned, this positive is eliminated with the increase in cost of the one-stop subway from $2 to $3.2 billion.
At Executive and Council meetings, when Chief Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat answers questions from councillors about the one-stop subway she regularly qualifies her answer with: “Assuming the three-stop subway as the base case…” The significance of this qualifier did not hit me until I read the Arup report.
In the last two columns of this chart we see the “Scarborough Subway” and the “Eglinton East LRT.” The base case for the Eglinton East LRT is the buses that currently serve the Eglinton Avenue East corridor. It seems logical that if you want to know if the Eglinton East LRT is good value for money it would have to provide shorter travel time, less crowding etc., than the existing bus system.
Where things go off the rails, is in the choice of a base case for the one-stop “McCowan Express” option. “Base Case 1” for this option is the three-stop subway. This is problematic because there was never a base case for the three-stop subway. It should have been compared to the Scarborough RT, as was the business case analysis of the seven-stop Scarborough LRT. In other words, we have no idea if the three-stop subway will provide value for money as a replacement for the Scarborough RT or not, but it is being used as a comparator for the one-stop, anyway.
After discussing the lack of base case for the three-stop SSE, the consultant proposes some explanatory text:
Would the Mayor and pro-subway councillors like to explain why the public is not allowed to see this explanation?
When people talk about the Scarborough Subway, they say they don’t want any more flip-flops, that we need to “get on with it and build something”. They conveniently forget the flip-flop started back in 2013, when council rejected a shovel-ready, funded LRT for a back-of-a-napkin, subway plan. They forget that to switch to a subway you have to go back to square one and at the very least, determine if it is an improvement over the SRT line you want to replace.
We have already lost three and a half years studying the one-stop Scarborough Subway Extension and we still don’t know if it would provide value for money. However, according to the findings of this report it will increase travel time and the current $3.35 billion cost would eliminate any potential savings. Add to this the Metrolinx report (also never released) stating that in order for a subway to be viable option it would require a $5 billion investment around STC and you have all the ingredients for a megaproject boondoggle.
The just released, city report includes a business case analysis but it does nothing to address these concerns. Instead, it merely provides us with a comparison between a Brimley and McCowan subway alignment. The full report on the one-stop will go to the Mayor’s Executive next Tuesday, March 7th.
You can read the Toronto Star article about the city report here.
Let’s lay this albatross to rest and start building some sensible transit lines for the 48% of transit riders travelling within Scarborough and the 23% heading downtown. Build the seven-stop Scarborough LRT now!
Sign our petition for the 7-stop LRT here.