Mayor John Tory continues to promote the myth that he is building a subway for Scarborough, but it doesn’t appear that he has actually visited many neighbourhoods in Scarborough.
Transit riders in Scarborough know well that it is useless to build a subway station if almost no one can walk to the station. The network building potential for high value rapid transit, like LRTs and BRTs, is washed away from the agenda by a political dynamic that begins with the concerns of car drivers and ends with a hostility towards useful transit. By talking to transit riders, we know that good transit moves beyond fixing a single route. It involves thinking about how to spend $3B to benefit the most number of people.
These images tell the story best. Mayor Tory, who are you really building transit for?
It removes rapid transit access. Four RT stations: Lawrence East, Ellesmere, Midland and McCowan will be eliminated and replaced with one SmartTrack/GO station at Lawrence and a one-stop subway to Scarborough Town Centre.
You will pay more. TTC riders on the 54 Lawrence East bus will have to pay an extra GO fare minus $1.50 to go south from the Lawrence East SmartTrack station to Kennedy or north to Agincourt.
It will be hard to get to. Riders on the 54 Lawrence bus will have to get off at the Lawrence East overpass and walk down several flights of stairs or take an elevator to get to the Lawrence SmartTrack/GO platform.
You will wait longer. Instead of every four minutes riders will wait 15 minutes for “local service” via SmartTrack.
You will be on buses permanently. The Lawrence East RT station will remain open during construction of the SmartTrack station but once the Scarborough subway is complete, the SRT will be dismantled leaving more TTC riders on buses, forever.
You will spend more time on buses. More than 16,700 existing riders use the four RT stations that will close. They will have to take the bus, drive or walk to where they want to go.
No more rapid transit to Scarborough Town Centre – and no replacement bus service either. There is no plan to run a 54 Lawrence East bus to the new Triton (STC) bus station after the Scarborough RT is shut down. Riders will only be able to ride an express 54 Lawrence East bus to Kennedy Station.
You will wait ten years to replace the Scarborough RT with a one-stop subway and one SmartTrack station when we could be replacing the SRT with the seven-stop Scarborough LRT to Centennial College Progress and Sheppard Avenue East in five years.
Our public money is being wasted. Why spend $3.7-billion for a one-stop subway and one SmartTrack station when we could replace the SRT with a seven-stop LRT for a lot less?
Scarborough’s Priority Neighbourhoods are being ignored. With the money for the one-stop subway and the Lawrence East SmartTrack/GO station we could be building a 24-stop Scarborough and Eglinton East LRT, bringing a real rapid transit network to seven Priority Neighbourhoods.
Sign our petition for the seven-stop Scarborough LRT
There is $3.56 billion for rapid transit in Scarborough. John Torys’ one-stop subway extension has already claimed most of this money and it would take 10 years before it was up and running. This leaves the Eglinton East LRT without funding and without a clear plan as to when it would be built. It means most people in Scarborough would continue to be without access to rapid transit for years and years.
But the Eglinton East LRT could be built faster, less expensively and it would serve more people than the one-stop subway extension. So, we say “Build the EELRT now!” Eglinton East LRT to Sheppard East would have at least eighteen-stops, could be built publicly and could be operating by 2022.
Starting at Kennedy station, the Eglinton East LRT to Sheppard East would bring rapid transit to U of T Scarborough and Centennial College Morningside campus as well as six priority neighbourhoods in east Scarborough:
These neighbourhoods have suffered from a rapid transit deficit for too long. A city report on the Eglinton East LRT shows these neighbourhoods have a higher than average transit usage but they can only access half as many jobs as other transit riders in Toronto. We need to bring rapid transit to these neighbourhoods now:
The EELRT would create 1,900 new jobs within walking distance of the stations. And having the TTC deliver, operate and maintain the line would also mean more stable good jobs for our youth, right here in Scarborough.
The EELRT would provide a quick, convenient connection to downtown and more than seventeen destinations in east Scarborough:
Scarborough Golf Club
U of T Scarborough
If it were extended to Sheppard East it could connect with the Sheppard East LRT providing a much needed connection to northeast Scarborough.
LRTs create greater opportunities for community renewal, redevelopment and walkability. Tell Mayor Tory and council we shouldn’t have to wait ten years for a one-stop subway. Build the Eglinton East LRT to Sheppard East now!
The politicization of subway planning in Toronto began in 2002 with the $10/ride subsidized Sheppard line to nowhere. In 2006, then-Finance Minister Greg Sorbara, finagled a secret deal to extend the Spadina subway beyond York University to an industrial field in Vaughan.
Nothing has changed. The appetite for vote-buying vanity projects among politicians is stronger than ever: a prime example of this is that despite global notoriety for being a white elephant, the $3.35-billion, one-stop Bloor/Danforth extension to the Scarborough Town Centre is going forward.
If Mayor Tory has his way, construction of the Scarborough subway will begin without anyone knowing if it is a wise use of public resources. Councillor Josh Matlow has presented Toronto council with multiple opportunities to find out. As it happens, “fiscally-responsible” members will do anything to avoid the facts when a multi-billion-dollar subway is at stake. They voted 13 – 27 against Matlow’s December 6 city-council motion for a value-for-money analysis comparing the one-stop subway with the shovel-ready seven-stop Scarborough LRT.
Four years ago, a review of Metrolinx’s Big Move conducted by Neptis Foundation found that although the regional transit authority had committed to “issuing a Benefits Case Analysis (BCA) for every project” and using the analyses to prioritize new transit lines, neither Metrolinx nor the city were doing BCAs consistently.
The BCA for the $3.2-billion Spadina subway extension to Vaughan has never been released publicly and the BCA of the Scarborough Subway Extension will not be released until after the next municipal election in October 2018.
The public is growing tired of the lack of transparency and accountability in transit planning.
In 2013, Premier Wynne appointed Anne Golden chair of The Transit Investment Strategy Advisory Panel. The Panel’s report: Making the Move found the public had: “low trust in transit decision-making” and that there was a need for “evidence-based and transparent” transit planning and to “depoliticize decision making.”
The Panel made many recommendations. Among them was Recommendation #18:
… all projects approved by Metrolinx and elected officials must have up-to-date, publicly-available, business case analyses that validate the investment, taking into account life-cycle capital, operating, maintenance, and financing costs.”
The report emphasized the analyses should include operation and maintenance costs and their “relationship to fares and whether a new project would be a financial burden to the system or a source of additional revenue.”
Had Toronto Auditor General Beverly Romeo-Beehler included in her 2018 Work Plan STA’s request for a value-for-money analysis of the Scarborough subway, Panel Recommendation #18 would have been fulfilled. Her refusal to do so is telling. She also refused to do this as part of her report on our complaint regarding the summer-2016 TTC Briefing Note.
…that a sufficiently broad range of solutions has been considered and the options developed from this long list of solutions have been selected through a transparent and defensible process. These options are evaluated against a base case which considers a “business as usual” scenario. (Page 2)
A consistent framework for objectively assessing transit projects is a step in the right direction. So far city planning has avoided the “business as usual” scenario omitting crucial information that would assist council in making an informed decision.
Contrary to the Metrolinx framework, the initial business case for the one-stop Scarborough Subway does not include a comparison with the Scarborough RT, the line it is intended to replace. Instead, it is compared with the three-stop subway; a project that does not even exist.
An earlier business case conducted by Arup consultants for the city planning was never released publicly. It only became available after Toronto Star reporter Jennifer Pagliaro obtained a heavily redacted copy through Freedom of Information. Find a more detailed explanation of what is missing in the Arup report here.
It is a similar situation for the Lawrence East SmartTrack station. Mayor Tory is touting it as a replacement for the Lawrence East RT station that will be eliminated with the build out of the Scarborough subway. A proper evaluation would include a comparison with the Lawrence RT station. Instead GO RER, another incomplete project, is being used as the base case.
We know that to justify a subway, ridership should be between 9,500 and 14,000 per hour and the projected ridership for the Scarborough subway is 7300, half of what was originally projected. We don’t know if the BCA slated for 2019, will show whether or not the Scarborough subway will be a financial burden on the rest of the TTC or a source of additional revenue. We are still waiting to find out which framework the planning department uses to conduct Business Case Analyses of new transit lines in Toronto.
The 2017 Metrolinx framework is subject to review and approval by the Metrolinx Board. A Business Case Analysis and Benefits Management memorandum was tabled at the December 7, 2017 Metrolinx Board meeting. If adopted, it would also ensure BCAs were released publicly in a timely manner:
In every case, public transparency and accountability will be improved where these business cases are made public in advance of relevant Board decisions.
The original business case for the seven-stop LRT included a comparison with the Scarborough RT. The same should apply to the one-stop Scarborough subway and it should be released publicly, before the 2018 municipal election.
Toronto’s Auditor General Beverly Romeo-Beehler presented her report on the TTC Briefing Note to the Audit Committee on Friday, October 27th. The note, distributed selectively, before a crucial council vote in 2016, showed the costs of the seven-stop Scarborough LRT would be almost as high as the $3.2 billion one-stop Scarborough Subway Extension.
The Toronto Auditor General (AG) concluded that the LRT cost estimate of $2.97 billion was within an acceptable range. But there is no explanation as to why a seven-stop LRT would cost almost twice as much as the proposed eighteen-stop Eglinton East LRT to U of T Scarborough, pegged at $1.56 – 1.67 billion.
However the AG did agree that if we were to go back to replacing the Scarborough RT with an LRT, construction could begin in 2018, not 2021 as stated in the TTC Briefing Note.
Unfortunately, the AG’s report took a very narrow focus when in fact the complaint submitted by Scarborough Transit Action and allies asked for a much broader investigation.
The complainants asked for a value-for-money analysis of the one-stop Scarborough Subway Extension.
The Scarborough subway was approved in 2013. It quickly received funding priority without a comparison with other transit projects in the city’s official plan. Millions have been spent on design and planning without any analysis to determine if it would be good value for money. We have no conclusive evidence that the $3+ billion we are poised to invest would actually result in an improvement over the existing SRT or even an LRT.
The AG has a mandate to assist ‘city council in holding itself and city administrators accountable for the quality of stewardship over public funds and for achievement of value for money in city operations.’
The AG report states a value for money analysis ‘may form part of a future audit’.
We need more than a maybe. We need a value for money analysis of the Scarborough Subway Extension now!
SmartTrack is really just Mayor Tory’s plan to piggyback onto GO Regional Express Rail’s all-day, two-way electrification plan by adding new stations in Toronto. SmartTrack, costing $1.3 billion, is supposed to have trains running every six to ten minutes during peak hours and every fifteen minutes off peak.
At first Tory wanted twenty-two stations but now there are just six. Two stations on the Stouffville GO line are in Scarborough: Finch and Lawrence East.
Metrolinx, the provincial agency that runs GO, withheld a study that compared Lawrence East SmartTrack station with existing GO service and gave it a “Low-Performing Ranking”. The study also looked at charging TTC fares for GO service within Toronto, but this would not alleviate a net ridership loss on the Stouffville Line due to increased travel time the station would add, which would in turn result in increased automobile use.
When Metrolinx board members voted to ignore their own report and approve stations at Lawrence East and Kirby (northwest of the city, with similar dismal projections), Scarborough Transit Action complained to the Provincial Auditor General and requested an investigation.
SmartTrack public consultation
Despite a cloud of controversy over Metrolinx’s decision, Tory insists on the Lawrence East SmartTrack station to go with his one-stop subway replacement of the Scarborough RT. The city will produce a business case for it, but it is unlikely to compare the Smart Track plan with existing RT service or the aborted seven-stop Scarborough LRT. An honest comparison would demolish the business case for a Lawrence East SmartTrack station, as ridership is likely to be less than what the RT carries now.
At the public consultation at Scarborough Civic Centre on October 10, city staff claimed Lawrence East station will have enough riders and supported it. But the facts say otherwise. Peak service to downtown from Lawrence East would be only every six to ten minutes, whereas the RT currently runs every three to four minutes to downtown and the Scarborough Town Centre (STC).
Planned platforms at both Finch and Lawrence East stations will be shifted northward to minimize the impact on local residents, but this will extend walking distances by about 250 meters. Finch station buses will go under the GO train overpass, but Lawrence East buses will drop riders off at the Lawrence East overpass; riders will have to walk downstairs or take an elevator to get to the Smart Track/GO station.
Many attendees at the public consultation criticized the Lawrence East station plan. They asked why there is still no announcement of TTC-level fares for SmartTrack riders. Lawrence East ST only goes downtown; it doesn’t go to the STC or other parts of Scarborough like the RT. Walking from a bus stop in the middle of an overpass down to the station below is not very convenient. It should be like the Finch station – or better yet, go back to the plan to replace the Scarborough RT with a seven-stop LRT.
Tory promised that SmartTrack stations would be complete by 2020, but he also promised that the RT would continue to operate until the Scarborough subway extension is completed in 2026. According to Metrolinx, the RT would have to be shut down earlier and riders put on buses to accommodate construction of Lawrence East SmartTrack station.
After surveying riders at the Lawrence East SRT station, STA discovered that just over 85% of respondents are not aware that their station will close, to be replaced with a SmartTrack station. Furthermore, 50% of respondents indicated they are traveling elsewhere in Scarborough from that station; trips that Smart Track will do little to serve.
One good thing: SmartTrack station designs provide access for pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders while limiting parking. This is a step in the right direction. Cars are the problem and building large parking lots around SmartTrack/GO stations won’t help deal with climate change or traffic congestion. At the same time, the city needs to be reminded that more convenient and fast public transit to these stations is also required.
The Transit Project Assessment Process (TPAP) will begin in mid 2018. As with the Scarborough Subway Extension TPAP, this assessment gives free reign to build just about anything, especially if it buys votes. The Minister of Environment and Climate Change is not required to consider concerns raised by the public during public consultations and the city is not required to show whether the project would improve existing transit service. There’s no onus to prove sufficient ridership, shorter travel times, or more access to existing rapid transit network for under served neighbourhoods. The scope is limited to the natural environment, including climate change, cultural heritage or Aboriginal treaty rights.
Proposed changes to bus service on Lawrence Avenue East
Tory’s plan is to have a two-level bus terminal on Triton Avenue to accommodate the elimination of RT stations and the subsequent re-routing of buses to Scarborough Town Centre when the subway is completed in 2026. The existing thirteen TTC bus bays will increase to twenty-four. As yet, there is no plan to provide bus service from Lawrence to the STC.
Existing Lawrence East bus service:
54A Lawrence East to Starspray Blvd (10 minutes or less, all day every day)
54B Lawrence East to Orton Park
54E Lawrence East to Starspray Blvd Express
354 Lawrence East Blue Night Lawrence East to Starspray Blvd
With a one-stop subway, riders traveling west on Lawrence Avenue East will have to transfer to buses. They must take the 43 Kennedy or the 21 Brimley bus (during rush hour only) or wait twenty minutes for the 16 McCowan or the 9 Brimley to get to the STC. Service on the 43 Kennedy was cut in 2016 and is already crowded. The 154 Lawrence East will go to the U of T Scarborough Campus, or the 154 and 254 Lawrence East Express will take them to Kennedy station. Chances are most riders going to Kennedy will stay on the bus all the way rather than get off at the overpass, walk down to the Lawrence East SmartTrack station, pay an additional GO fare (minus $1.50) and wait fifteen minutes to get downtown.
It’s bull-headed of Mayor Tory to push a one-stop subway and one SmartTrack station at Lawrence East as a viable alternative to eliminating five RT stations. The real alternative is to pay one TTC fare to ride the seven-stop Scarborough LRT to the STC – or all the way to Malvern.
Time to let Mayor Tory know the jig is up.
February 14, 2018 UPDATE:
Information obtained by Scarborough Transit Action through Freedom of Information indicated issues between the city and Metrolinx around the construction of the Lawrence East SmartTrack station could mean the Scarborough RT might have to beshut downfor a year and riders put on buses.
However, although a Metrolinx review of the Lawrence East SmartTrack station approval is not scheduled for release until March 2018, spokesperson Anne Marie Aikens told CTV she was confident the Lawrence RT would remain in service during construction.
Read STA’s letter to Metrolinx regarding Lawrence East SmartTrack station here.
Yesterday, we were treated to the news that Metrolinx has released its own internal report recommending against approval of the Kirby and Lawrence East GO stations. Of course, anyone who has not been living under a rock lately knows these two additions to the regional train network have been mired in controversy, as Kirby is located in provincial Transportation Minister Del Duca’s riding and Lawrence East is meant as a replacement for the well-used SRT station of the same name, which will be closed as part of the Scarborough Subway Extension. The fact that these stations were approved in 2016, in spite of this report, showing that the two stations might actually REDUCE ridership on the GO system, being in Metrolinx board members hands is evidence enough that parochial interests rule in discussions of transit construction in the Toronto area.
We at STA know we can do better as a city. The release of this report and a promise by Metrolinx to release the minutes of board meetings are welcome steps but we would like to see the agency commit itself to evidence-based decision-making. Furthermore, we need greater representation for the views of transit riders at Metrolinx, perhaps along the lines of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of New York rider councils. These commitments would ensure that we do not have a repeat of such shady station approvals that are made in the face of conflicting evidence and that riders do not want.
John Tory is committing to build upon the TTC’s already successful express buses by adding five new routes to the network. These will be offered on Dufferin, Lawrence West. Islington, Weston Road and (the only Scarborough addition) Markham Road. All of these routes are in the inner suburbs, with the partial exception of Dufferin (where much of the proposed route is in the “old city”.) This is significant, as it shows official recognition of what we Scarborough transit riders have known for a long time: inner suburban bus routes are overcrowded and improvements along some of our city’s busiest arterials are needed to alleviate the situation and, in the long term, shift the emphasis of these roads from being hostile “car sewers” to more functional urban streets.
Of course, express routes are a start for this kind of process and we are naturally very happy to see the Mayor put some weight behind the TTC’s plans. However, in many key ways, simply adding express buses is extremely inadequate. To begin with, in Toronto, express bus denotes a limited stop service that only runs during peak hours. Examples in Scarborough would be the 53E Steeles East; providing very good service if one is traveling in the morning or evening rush. However, at any other time, you’re reduced to the regular trunk route. Getting commuters to a 9-5 job is one thing but in a city with an increasingly 24-hour economy (not to mention that to reduce car dependence, good transit cannot just exist in the peak hours) having no alternative to what is rapidly becoming an overcrowded route in a growing area of town is unconscionable. In Toronto, our transit system also runs what are called “Rocket” services, essentially running the same limited stop service, only such buses run outside of peak hours. In our view, these Rockets represent a minimum useful improvement along major roads. For example, the 185 Don Mills Rocket offers much-needed relief to the regular routes along that road and is extremely heavily used at all times of the day. Offering a Rocket instead of just a peak hours express is what we hope the TTC is considering for the new “express” services.
But why stop there? Relieving crowded trunk routes is important but we at STA think the city should dream big and seek to bring dignity to those without cars, hopefully getting more people to dump the SUV in the process! To have this happen, we need to move beyond just reconfiguring bus routes….we need to reconfigure the roads they are on as well. No matter how busy a Rocket bus is, it can still be stuck in traffic or have to wait for right hand turning vehicles when pulling into a stop. Passengers themselves are still standing in small bus shelters during all kinds of weather. Dedicated bus lanes, large stations (similar to what exist on the VIVA BRT in York Region) signal priority, wider sidewalks and bike lanes…..these are all things that would improve the transit experience immesurably on these express corridors. Why is the mayor not doing any of them? We can’t peer into his mind but we could assume that it is just too “hard”. The voices of transit riders are drowned by those of the motorist lobby or folks who could not imagine their streets being anything other than expanses of pavement.
Of course, the logical culmination of these improvements would be LRT. If we are going to put in dedicated lanes, why not tracks? If large stations, why not LRT platforms? In fact, if the Mayor understands enough about transit to know that more express buses are needed, surely he can follow the path from that transit investment to LRT? We don’t doubt he knows this, as do our councillors. What is in doubt is the political will to fight for transit riders and our job is to keep fighting, keep pushing, until our dream of fast, dignified rapid transit in Scarborough is realized.