The Death of Rapid Transit in Scarborough

Overcrowded 54 Lawrence East bus during off-peak hours

Up until a few days ago, the  province was poised to take over the existing subway system and new transit infrastructure delivery from the TTC. At first glance, this appears to be a good thing. It is much easier for the province to generate revenue for the TTC’s $33.5 billion backlog in maintenance and state-of-good-repair. It is also much easier for the province to generate revenue for new transit infrastructure.

However, there is no agreement between the city and the province on what to build. Here’s a comparison of  Mayor Tory and Premier Ford’s transit priorities:


Mayor Tory and Council

Premier Doug Ford

One-stop Scarborough subway to Scarborough Town Centre Three-stop Scarborough subway to McCowan and Sheppard
Relief Line South (Pape to Queen) Ontario Line from Science Centre to Exhibition
Bloor-Yonge station improvements Yonge subway extension to Richmond Hill
SmartTrack stations Eglinton Crosstown West Extension


Instead of the city’s plan for one stop by 2026 for $4 billion, the province would replace the five-stop Scarborough RT with a three-stop subway by 2030 for $5.5 billion. Aside from more delays, this looks like a win-win for Scarborough.


Closer examination indicates the province is not prioritizing the Scarborough subway or rapid transit to Scarborough’s underserved neighbourhoods and campuses, nor is it addressing the backlog in subway repairs. The main priority for the province is the Ontario Line.


    • Eglinton East LRT to UTSC has been dropped from the city’s and the province’s priority list. Both John Tory and Doug Ford reneged on a 2018 election promise to build this line.  
    • The province released an Initial Business Case (IBC) for the Ontario Line and has prioritized an Alternative Funding and Procurement “read: privatization” bidding process  to start in the spring of 2020.  Contract negotiations for the Scarborough Subway Extension, on the other hand, won’t begin until the Winter of 2021, after the bidding process for the Yonge Extension to Richmond Hill has already begun.
    • Instead of joining with the city and federal government to fund subway improvements the Ford government announced $1.1 billion in cuts to the TTC.


Although Mr. Ford has stated the province will put up all the money for the $11 billion Ontario Line if it has to, the province only has $11.2 billion to contribute toward $28.5 billion worth of rapid transit . Without municipal and federal contributions the province is severely limited. Clearly, he needs all three levels of government to buy into his plan. 

The premier just announced he would drop the subway upload if Tory agrees to help fund the Ontario Line. We’ll find out what city staff think about this proposal on October 23rd when a report goes to the Mayor’s Executive. 

Stepping away from the subway upload is a big deal.  But the mayor shouldn’t have to go along with transit plan(s) that don’t make sense to avoid an upload. And Bill 107, Getting Ontario Moving Act  which passed earlier this May,  is about more than just who owns our subway system. It prevents the city from going ahead with new rapid transit lines near provincial ones. It allows the province to confiscate TTC assets without compensation. We would still lose the ability to decide what and where to build new transit lines and whether to deliver these new lines publicly or privately.  Unless the province adopts a more cooperative approach, we should remain vigilant about protecting our ability to make decisions at the local level and keep the TTC public.

Hole in floor of ScarboroughRT vehicle

In the meantime, will anything will be built in Scarborough or are we better off preparing for the inevitable demise of the Scarborough RT and its replacement with buses? 

Part Two – Privatization of  the TTC 

HANDS OF OUR TTC! Where’s the Eglinton East LRT?


Bill 107 Getting Ontario Moving Act was passed in the legislature at Queens Park on June 4, 2019. The province has now taken “Sole Responsibility” for four Toronto transit projects: Ontario Line (formerly Relief Line), an extension of the Yonge Line to Richmond Hill and a three-stop Scarborough Subway. It prevents the city from planning or building transit projects that are similar or near to projects the province is building. And it does not require the province to compensate the city for any assets it expropriates from the TTC.

At the very least, the premier’s plan will disrupt existing transit projects that are already underway in Toronto. The city’s priorities included a one-stop Scarborough subway, Relief Line, SmartTrack and Bloor-Yonge capacity improvement.

And unless there is a loud public outcry, the Ford government will pass legislation to take over our existing subway system after the return of the legislature on October 28th, 2019.

The TTC is the third largest and the least funded transit system in North America. Seventy percent of the $1.5 billion needed to move 1.7 million riders a day, comes from fares. The remaining thirty percent is from municipal property taxes. The Wynne government  contributed about $90 million from the gas tax but the Ford government essentially cut what amounts to $1.1 billion over ten years in spite of the TTC’s $33.5 billion backlog in maintenance and state of good repair.  

Provincial cuts from the mid-nineties and Mayor Tory’s reluctance to raise property taxes has made breakdowns and delays the new normal of “the better way”. Uploading by the province will not solve this crisis. We would be giving up local control of a complex transit system of buses, streetcars and subways that are integrated to get people where they need to go. A provincial takeover could break the system apart and separate subways and LRTs from streetcars and buses. How long before we are charged an extra fare to go from a TTC bus to the Metrolinx Scarborough Subway?

Ten years of flip flopping and we still don’t have a construction start date for the Scarborough Subway. If the city was in charge it would have started this year and be complete in 2026. With Bill 107 it will be delayed again. Ford claims his three-stop subway will be up and running by 2030. Will the Scarborough RT still be running by then?

Former mayor John Sewell and TTCriders Robyn Vilde spoke to the city’s review of Bill 107 at the Mayor’s Executive Committee meeting on June 6th.

You can watch their deputations here.

John Sewell urged Mayor Tory to refuse to hand over any assets to the province. “Governments should never have the ability to take away the property of others without compensation and without legal recourse… The proper response of the city is to refuse to provide to the province whatever it demands…. You should force the province and or Metrolinx to take the city and or the TTC to court…. I suspect the courts will be very reluctant to [rule in favour] of such an odious act.”

Robyn Vilde raised concerns that the Waterfront and Eglinton East LRTs were missing from the province’s plan.

Eglinton East LRT is mentioned but only in relation to how it would impact or be impacted by additional Scarborough subway stations:


The proposed multiple-stop Line 2 East Extension could potentially change the demand

for the Eglinton East LRT (particularly if a fourth station is built at Eglinton/Brimley). The

extension may also impact the design of how the Eglinton East LRT connects to the rest

of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT at Kennedy Station. Further, the Province’s future

direction for rapid transit along Sheppard Avenue East could impact aspects of the

Eglinton East LRT design. Travel demand modelling is being undertaken to analyze the

impacts to demand in the Eglinton East corridor.


The city is now proposing a fourth station at Eglinton and Brimley for the Scarborough subway. More analysis to accommodate three or four subway stops pushes the Eglinton East LRT  further down the list.

On the other hand, Toronto Council still has to decide if it will endorse the province’s plan to the extent that it is willing to request federal funding.

Toronto’s endorsement of the additional Provincial transit priorities for ICIP PTIF2* is subject to the completion of the above-noted assessment. Staff will report results to City Council when completed, anticipated in September or October 2019.

So far, talks between the federal government and the province about money have been stalled by the federal government’s demand for more information.

Both levels of government need to come together to properly fund day-to-day operations and maintenance of the TTC. And politicians need to stop changing transit plans with every election.  Were it not for Rob Ford’s replacement of Transit City with “subways, subways, subways” we would be riding a seven-stop LRT this year, instead of the ailing Scarborough RT. The Sheppard East LRT to Malvern would be up and running and construction of the Eglinton East LRT to University of Toronto Scarborough Campus would be underway.

*Canada Infrastructure Plan – Public Transit Infrastructure Fund Phase 2


The city has set up a 14-member expert advisory panel and there will be public information meetings to give residents an opportunity to review the province’s plan.

The meeting in Scarborough is Saturday, June 22, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Scarborough Civic Centre, 150 Borough Drive.

You can get more information about the city’s review here

Register with TTCriders here

Transit Review  survey and TTCriders cheat sheet

No money for the Eglinton East LRT. NOW WHAT?

What’s that loud sucking noise? That’s the $4 billion Scarborough Subway Extension (SSE) soaking up all the rapid transit money for Scarborough. Had the SSE been judged on cost-effectiveness, we might not be poised to spend $4 billion on a one-stop subway that will carry only 31,000 riders a day.

Taken from


And had rapid transit to underserved neighbourhoods and campuses been a top priority, there would be enough money for the much-needed Eglinton East LRT (EELRT) from Kennedy to Malvern.

An Environmental Assessment for the EELRT was approved in 2009. But the LRT keeps falling off the priority list. Without a commitment of at least $150 million to take it to shovel-readiness, Scarborough residents will remain stuck with inadequate bus service.

On May 7, 2018, Toronto Mayor John Tory promised to extend the Eglinton East LRT to Malvern – in one shot. But a year later, there’s no money. At least, that was the gist of Mayor Tory’s message at our packed Save the Eglinton East LRT town hall on April 10. Scarborough Rouge Councillor Jennifer McKelvie spoke to the urgent need for rapid transit to Malvern. But neither politician tried to add it to Toronto’s transit priorities at the April 17 City Council meeting.


Here’s what projects are slated for funding:

  • $3.887 billion – Scarborough Subway Extension to STC
  • $3.151 billion – toward $7.2 billion Relief Line South from Pape to Osgoode
  • $1.46 billion – SmartTrack stations
  • $0.5 billion – toward $1.05 billion Bloor-Yonge capacity Improvement

A motion to change that list was made by Toronto St. Paul’s Councillor Josh Matlow. It would have returned to building Scarborough’s original LRT network plan – which included the Scarborough LRT from Kennedy to Sheppard and an extension to Malvern Town Centre, as well as the Eglinton East LRT to U of T’s Scarborough Campus.

The motion did not pass. During a heated exchange around Matlow’s motion, the usual (and disingenuous) rhetoric about “only Scarborough councillors care about Scarborough” erupted.

Don Valley North Councillor Shelley Carroll, who also attended our town hall, had this to say on Twitter:

@shelleycarroll Apr 17

Replying to @shelleycarroll @TransitScarb and 5 others

The people you have been told don’t care about Scarborough, actually care more deeply than you will ever know, how badly you have been misled. We drove every councillor we could right out there to see what was possible. Councillor R Ford declined the invite.

It is important that you understand that once the Scarborough Subway is underway, it will soak up funds for the foreseeable. The EELRT will then be pushed back, & so on. It is very hard to ever forget the moment, the eleventh hour of driving his campaign to kill the LRT that …

…really would have extended a whole loop to Malvern, Rob Ford, learned from Josh Matlow that the LRT he was cancelling so it wouldn’t block car traffic was actually entirely off road and away from cars. Ford cancelled it anyway purely out of embarrassment. Devastating.


Notwithstanding Council’s recommendation to seek  “opportunities to accelerate engineering and design of the Eglinton East LRT….if there are cost savings derived from the negotiations with the Provincie related to the subway upload….”, here are some other options to explore:

  1. New federal Public Transit Infrastructure Fund money
  2. New municipal revenue tools: an EELRT levy, congestion pricing, vehicle registration tax, etc.
  3. Premier Ford suddenly has a change of heart and decides to keep his 2018 election promise to build the Eglinton East LRT.

The province has announced a $1.1 billion gas tax cut – money promised to the TTC that it had already budgeted for capital repairs. The existing TTC system has a $33.5 billion backlog of needed work on maintenance and state of good repair.

Toronto’s transit priorities list does not include the full cost of the Relief Line South or Yonge Capacity Improvement. Will full funding for these two projects continue to move forward ahead of the Eglinton East LRT?

In light of these financial pressures and competing priorities, what are the odds of obtaining funding for the Eglinton East LRT when Toronto’s Transit Expansion Program comes back to Council on June 18 and 19?

I think we have our answer. Unless Mayor Tory commits to funding at least all the EELRT’s design costs, we should not hold our breath. And the next time a politician talks about building rapid transit to Malvern, we should insist that they ‘show us the money’.

Brenda Thompson

How to get funding for the Eglinton East LRT

“In 2016, Mayor Tory promised to build the Eglinton East LRT (EELRT) as part of Scarborough’s rapid transit network. In 2018, he promised to extend it from University of Toronto Scarborough campus to Malvern Town Centre.

The EELRT is shovel-ready but funding must be approved before construction can begin.

A report will go before the Mayor’s Executive on  April 9th, 2019. It’s our chance to tell Council we need this vital rapid transit line built publicly, now!

We’ve got the talking points and letter writing/speaking template.  Find out who your councillor is and how to contact them here.

Sign up to make a deputation here:  647-974-2928

Sign our petition to build the Eglinton East LRT.

Who will champion the Eglinton East LRT?


Scarborough politicians love to complain about how our part of the city is ignored while overlooking rapid transit to our under served neighbourhoods. Funding for the Eglinton East LRT (EELRT) has been eliminated twice over the past eight years while funding for $3.56B Scarborough subway and $1.46B SmartTrack  remain firmly in place.  Though there is more overall public support for this line and it’s  improved access to jobs, education and services in seven Priority Neighbourhoods, it will take more than lines on a map to secure the future of this 21-stop LRT from Kennedy to Malvern.

In 2010, the late Rob Ford cancelled the original Scarborough Malvern LRT without a peep from Scarborough councillors. The only outcry came from students at U of T Scarborough. Had more politicians rallied behind it, construction would have started in 2014 and it would be up and running next year.  It happened again in 2016 when the costs of John Tory’s one-stop, “Express Subway” skyrocketed from $2-billion to $3.35-billion, eating up any money left over for the EELRT.  Only Scarborough Guildwood councillor Paul Ainslie proposed a better use of $3.56 billion would be a 24-stop LRT network including both the 17-stop Eglinton East LRT and the 7-stop Scarborough LRT.

Yet Mayor Tory continues to use the unfunded EELRT to prop up his Scarborough “transit network” (a 6 km tunnel to a shopping mall and one SmartTrack/GO station at Lawrence East). Perhaps he is hoping no one will notice that without the EELRT riders will be left with two separate access points on two separate lines, instead of the five RT stops they have now.

Higher levels of government have promised $9 billion  for Toronto’s transit priorities. With $3.56-billion already allocated for the Scarborough Subway Extension (SSE) and $1.46-billion in SmartTrack funding secured from this new money,  the $6.8-billion Relief  Line, $2.2-billion Eglinton East LRT and $1.98-billion Waterfront LRT are left to compete for the remaining $7.5-billion.

During the 2018 provincial election, Doug Ford promised another $5-billion toward transit in Toronto with the Sheppard Loop (three-stop SSE), Relief Line and Yonge Extension to Richmond Hill as their priority.

The Conservative party platform included the Eglinton East LRT with the proviso that it be tunneled:

“The Eglinton Crosstown is currently being built across the city. There will be two additional expansions to this project: Westward expansion to Pearson International Airport, and eastward expansion to the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus.

However, future expansions of the Eglinton Crosstown should be built underground to help reduce congestion once construction is completed.”

Tunneling the 27 km Eglinton East LRT from Kennedy  to Malvern  would add  billions in costs. Clearly, sensible transit planning for the suburbs is not on Ford Nation’s agenda.  However, both the EELRT and Sheppard Loop were promised to Scarborough before a “line by line review” of Ontario’s finances revealed a $15-billion deficit. If the province is willing to cancel  university expansion projects worth $300 million to cut costs, how will it justify the expenditure of billions of dollars for transit?

Although it would serve Centennial College Morningside, U of T Scarborough and three out of six Scarborough wards, Scarborough councillors, with the exception of Paul Ainslie,  have focused most of their energy on a subway extension from either Kennedy or Don Mills to Scarborough Town Centre.

We can thank  councillor Paul Ainslie for convincing Council to take the Eglinton East LRT to the 30% design stage. However, given that there is not enough money to build all of Toronto’s transit priorities, the growing urgency of a Relief Line to address overcrowding on the Bloor Danforth subway line and Premier Ford’s plan to upload TTC subways, how do we ensure  Mayor Tory keeps his promise to fund the EELRT to Malvern Town Centre?

Faith groups, community associations. BIA’s, student organizations and community leaders will need to come together and demand construction start now. I can think of no better cause for residents who are tired of waiting and want our politicians to “just build something.”

Brenda Thompson, March 5, 2019


Our vision – RAPID TRANSIT For All of Scarborough!

Source: maQSeaimages

Scarborough’s residents love our part of the city! We want our neighbourhoods to thrive.  As we’re home to some of Toronto’s poorest neighbourhoods, with the highest number of racialized people and rates of unemployment, we need a fast, modern and convenient rapid transit system that connects us to each other and the rest of the city.  A one-stop subway won’t do this. A 50-Stop Scarborough Light Rapid Transit (LRT) Network will.

A publicly-built, operated and maintained LRT Network made up of the Scarborough, Sheppard East and Eglinton East LRT lines would bring equity and prosperity to Scarborough by:

  • Connecting our communities with a fast, convenient and affordable way to get to  work, schools, shopping, appointments and entertainment.
  • Creating 14,390 new jobs including good TTC operations and maintenance jobs.
  • Providing training opportunities and apprenticeships for our young people.
  • Facilitating redevelopment along each LRT route.
  • Increasing walkability and accessibility for seniors and those with mobility issues.
  • Reducing congestion and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Making our streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Keeping our four SRT stations and eliminating the need to reroute buses to a  33-bay underground bus terminal at the Scarborough Town Centre.

The Scarborough LRT Network coalition brings together grassroots transit advocacy groups Connect Sheppard East and Scarborough Transit Action in calling on the new Toronto Council to build modern, high capacity transit to connect our neighbourhoods.  We are calling for the previously-planned and approved (Transit City) Scarborough LRTs to be built without further delay.

Scarborough residents can’t afford to waste ten more years waiting for a subway extension to Scarborough Town Centre.  Nor can we afford the huge expense for a subway that does nothing to connect our underserved neighbourhoods. We need transit now. Join us in our call for a Scarborough LRT Network!

Next Stop: Equity and Prosperity – Let’s Get Scarborough Moving!

The dark underside of the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension


Keith Sibley, Bechtel Director at the TYSSE construction site, May 4, 2015.                                                                                                 Joell Ann Vanderwagen


Bechtel’s contract for the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension signals privatization of new transit delivery

For the most part, mainstream media has bought the political spin about the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension (TYSSE) being pulled from the brink of disaster to become a win-win for the TTC and the people of Toronto and Vaughan.

The reality is that this project marks another private-sector takeover of transit megaprojects – and a harbinger of crippling indebtedness for the TTC and Toronto as a whole.

The top-notch TTC managers overseeing construction of the TYSSE were replaced with American construction and engineering firm Bechtel in March 2015, and privatization of the TTC has continued ever since. This has opened another major front in a three-pronged attack on the TTC: to de-fund existing services, dismantle public control over the delivery of new transit lines and download regional responsibilities and costs (TYSSE to Vaughan, Yonge subway extension to Richmond Hill) onto a local service provider. Correspondingly, it has contributed to a drastic hollowing out of TTC expertise gained over decades of managing transit projects.

In March 2015, the TTC and the city of Toronto, together with York Region, committed to paying $150 million for 46 Bechtel personnel to manage delivery of the TYSSE by December 2017. This was a silent coup. While Toronto Mayor John Tory and TTC Chair Josh Colle demonized in-house TTC management, TTC CEO Andy Byford beheaded the TTC’s Project Expansion Department to provide cover for the huge multinationals takeover of new-project management.

In his December 16, 2017, newsletter, Tory glories in the TYSSE opening and revisits the original delays and cost overruns of the project, describing himself and Byford as saviours:

The day after I was elected, TTC CEO Andy Byford told me that this project was badly behind schedule and over budget. He developed a plan to fix the schedule and focus the work. Because the previous administration has completely mismanaged the project, the subway was looking like it was going to open in 2019. Because of my interventions, and the good work of Mr. Byford and his team of the TTC, we got the subway back on track and it will open to the public on Sunday.

However, a close look at the two studies on the TYSSE that Byford commissioned in early 2015 shows that the mayor’s pronouncements are disingenuous.

Enter Bechtel  

The $3.2-billion TYSSE is an 8.5-kilometre, six-station extension running between Sheppard West station in the south and Vaughan Metropolitan Centre in the north. It was supposed to open in 2015 but was delayed by the death of a worker, design changes and disputes between TTC management and contractors.

At the TTC’s March 2015 board meeting, Chair Josh Colle endorsed Byford’s prior decision to fire TTC managers Sameh Ghaly and Andy Bertolo, blaming them for TYSSE delays and the subsequent $400 million in cost overruns. To support his position, Colle cited the two reports: a peer review by an Expert Panel of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), and an assessment conducted by Bechtel, the San-Francisco-based, global engineering, construction and project-management firm.

The APTA Peer Review Panel had been asked by Byford to examine the “scheduling and budgeting strategy of the TYSSE.” Contrary to Colle’s statements about the APTA report, the panel members did not blame TTC management for the delays. In fact the panel praised managers, stating, “TTC is devoting considerable effort to reset the project” and that delays were not due to TTC management, but to “contractor work, funding-decision making, and inexperience of contractors working in Canada.” In general, the APTA peers expressed great respect for the TTC’s management capacity under Chief Capital Officer Sameh Ghaly and Project Manager Andy Bertolo. Previously, the TTC’s professional excellence had been recognized with an international award for having delivered the Sheppard subway project on time and on budget.

In contrast, Bechtel Canada Co.’s assessment blamed TTC management for the delays and cost overruns. The Bechtel report said, for example, that TTC management adopted a “non-collaborative approach,” and that “[t]he relationship between each Contractor and the [TYSSE] Project [managers] is strained due to friction over how the contract is being administered.”

The Bechtel report also asserted that  contractors appear to be capable of delivering the project and finishing the work as soon as possible … The consistent complaint from the Contractors is that, without the required support from the Project staff on resolving issues, the present schedule dates will be pushed out farther.

Curiously, the Bechtel report analyzed costs and contractor claims for the TYSSE project, even though financial information of such a commercial nature is normally privileged (the TTC may make such information accessible to an accounting firm it hires). A freedom of information application produced Order MO-3347, stating (page 7, [33]) that Bechtel’s review of the TYSSE project “is not dissimilar in form and content to an audit report.”

Whether or not it was proper to grant Bechtel access to financial and other information about the project, this access indisputably gave Bechtel Canada Co. an unfair advantage from which to advise and influence the TTC Board regarding replacing TTC project staff with 46 Bechtel personnel. As Stephen Bauld, a Canadian government- procurement expert, wrote in Daily Commercial News,

Conflict of interest problems also arise where the consultant has an interest in the outcome of the study that the consultant is hired to conduct, or where the consultant’s prospect of further employment is likely to be influenced by the advice given,”

The Bechtel report was never released publicly. Brenda Thompson obtained a heavily redacted copy through a Freedom of Information appeal 17 months after Ghaly and Bertolo were fired and the $150-million, sole-source contract (for delivery of the TYSSE by December 2017) had been awarded to Bechtel.

Tory, Colle and Byford surely knew who they were going to dance with: Bechtel’s long and dubious history is well documented. In The Profiteers, author Sally Denton commented, “When I started out this book, I saw Bechtel as the corporate arm of the U.S. government. But by the end of the book I saw the government as the public policy arm of Bechtel.” The following summarizes an account of Bechtel’s past performance:

In 1985, Bechtel partnered with rival Parsons Brinckerhoff to oversee the Boston Big Dig Central Artery/ Tunneling Project, at a projected cost of $2.6 billion and expected completion in 1998. Numerous delays and overruns led to a December 2007 delivery and a price tag of $24.3-billion — the most expensive highway project in U.S. history. Various state and federal agencies spent millions on more than 15 separate investigations of the project’s managers, which included Bechtel-Parsons Brinckerhoff, for “shoddy design, construction and engineering, fraud and corruption.”

The overlooked TYSSE option

At the March 26, 2015, TTC board meeting, Byford presented his recommendations for speeding up the TYSSE completion, giving the commissioners four options, shown in Table 1, below (from the TTC report). However, Byford had already largely precluded options 3 and 4 with the pre-emptive firing of top TTC construction managers a week earlier, on March 19.

At the urging of Byford and Colle, the board approved Option 1: sole source management. This recommendation went to City Council on March 31, 2015.

What Byford and Colle neglected to tell either the TTC Board or city councillors was that an earlier study suggested two other options. In 2014, a recovery and risk-analysis workshop for TTC Project management, facilitated by Parsons Brinckerhoff, had created two options, shown below, indicating that $263 million was required to finish the TYSSE project.

Option 1 shows that by keeping TTC managers in charge of the project and spending $95 million to resolve contractor claims, delivery could be accomplished by December 2017 – as it was under Bechtel.

Taken from Bechtel Canada -Toronto -York Spadina Extension assessment, page 5-1, February 2015

TBM = tunnel boring machine

However, 2014’s Option 1 was not included in the report that Byford presented to the TTC commission’s March 2015 meeting. His report said only that contractor claims would be addressed “with a further report to the Board by the end of 2015.” Thus the TTC board presented City Council, at its March 31, 2015 meeting, with only the recommendation to authorize Byford to hire an unnamed “outside contractor” to manage the TYSSE project—sole source, with no tendering.  

The recommendation raised suspicion amongst progressive councillors and a contentious, five-hour debate ensued.

Watch the March 31, 2015 Toronto Council meeting (1:07:10) video.

 They were being asked to accept Byford’s reasoning without having access to the information that informed it. The TTC report was held back from councillors who were not members of the TTC Commission until the night before the council meeting. These same councillors were denied access to the Bechtel assessment and APTA peer review on the basis of confidentiality. To further limit debate, Tory had his deputy mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong introduce a motion to lump the TYSSE sole source recommendation item together with another item requesting a report on TTC delivery options which effectively reduced the time allowed for questions from ten minutes to five. The recommendation was approved 40 to 3.

Read a transcript of the council debate here.

Byford’s sole source turned out to be Bechtel, the same contractor hired to study the project—in contravention of normal conflict-of-interest protocols. On April 10, 2015, The TTC board approved the contract with Bechtel to take over management of the project for $150 million. Council gave final approval to take $60 million from York Region and $90 million from the city’s reserve fund to pay for the 46 Bechtel personnel.

A complaint was submitted to Toronto Auditor General  Beverly Romeo-Beehler on May 24, 2017 but her office declined to investigate.

March to more privatization

Did the public pay $150 million to Bechtel to deliver the TYSSE by December 2017 for the benefit of Toronto and York Region residents? Or was this an opportunity for one of the largest construction firms in the world to move in on the TTC by demonizing in-house TTC management?”

Before Bechtel got the TYSSE project, Metrolinx had already taken over the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, which had also started under Ghaly and Bertolo at the TTC Expansion Department. As a result of the Metrolinx takeover, in-house TTC expertise was eliminated and the project was delayed by two years, while Metrolinx invited private consortia to bid on a complex contract to design, build, finance and maintain (DBFM) the Crosstown.

Now SNC-Lavalin, Grupo ACS, Dragados and OHL (a Spanish multinational that tunnelled the TYSSE) have a 30-year, $9.1-billion contract to design, build, finance and maintain the Crosstown line. Only the operation may be left to the TTC. Meanwhile, the project has significantly ballooned in duration and cost.

The Auditor General of Ontario has repeatedly brought to light poor cost- and project-control by Metrolinx and its contractors. Yet Metrolinx continues to do relatively little in response to these warnings, and allows costs to mount with little oversight. As well, study after study has also shown that privatization results in higher financing costs, ultimately passed on to the taxpayers.

Next on the horizon is the $3.35-billion – and climbing – Scarborough subway extension. This one-stop project is set to be a DBF (design, build and finance). If all new city transit infrastructure is to be delivered privately and the TTC loses in-house capacity to oversee these projects who will protect the public interest against the Bechtels of this world?

By Brenda Thompson with Joell Ann Vanderwagen and Rosemary Frei

SmartTrack funding approval puts the cart before the horse

Update on April 25, 2018 approval of SmartTrack by Toronto Council 

Last month, a delegation of Scarborough residents and transit advocates spoke to City Council’s Executive Committee regarding the SmartTrack Stations and Metrolinx Regional Express Rail (GO RER) programs (agenda item EX:33.1). We objected to Mayor Tory’s plan to replace the existing five Scarborough RT stations with one GO/SmartTrack station at Lawrence East and a one-stop subway from Kennedy station to Scarborough Town Centre (STC). 

 Watch Anil Lewis, who resides near the Lawrence East RT station, speaking to the mayor’s handpicked committee here. Read how the Lawrence East GO RER/SmartTrack station will leave more transit riders on buses here 

Scarborough subway boosters who wanted a station at Lawrence and McCowan were offered the Lawrence East GO/SmartTrack station instead. But it is not a good substitute for transit riders who rely on the Scarborough RT.  

 GO/SmartTrack is a separate line from the Scarborough subway, and would only connect to it at Kennedy station, not at the STC terminus.  Replacing five SRT stops with two north-south lines will take commuters downtown, but it won’t get them around Scarborough. The SRT connects to downtown as well as to Lawrence, Midland, Ellesmere, STC and McCowan. A seven-stop LRT to replace the RT – as originally planned – would add stops at Centennial College Progress and Sheppard Avenue East.   

But that’s not all. A seven-stop LRT would let you transfer from a bus at no extra cost and wait no more than five minutes for the next train. Not so with SmartTrack.  

Notwithstanding the Lawrence East GO/SmartTrack station’s inadequacy as a replacement for the RT stop, Scarborough Transit Action supports GO RER/SmartTrack if it can attract enough riders to help reduce overcrowding on the Bloor/Danforth subway line. A 2016 study by University of Toronto professor Eric Miller concluded that RER service every five minutes for a TTC fare would serve more than 300,000 daily riders. (Charging GO fares would cut ridership by up to two-thirds.) (pg. 41)


Since 2016, the number of SmartTrack stations promised has been cut from 22 to six, and with service levels and full fare integration unresolved, ridership is predictably less:  

TTC/GO/SmartTrack fare integration 

Because SmartTrack is “local” GO service with additional stations in Toronto, it has been included in the discussion around fare integration between TTC, GO and Union Pearson Express. The April 26, 2018, Metrolinx decision improved the affordability of using these services under the following terms: 

  • $3 Presto adult fare between all GO stations within the City of Toronto. 
  • Discounts of up to $1.50 for transit users who transfer between these municipal transit networks and the TTC using Presto. 
  • The province will replace lost revenue for the next three years, so the TTC does not need to raise fares to make up the revenue shortfall. 

This makes SmartTrack more affordable, but the Presto discount is not the same as full fare integration. Full fare integration would be to pay just one TTC fare to and from SmartTrack to GO or UP Express. If the Lawrence East GO/SmartTrack station is to replace the Lawrence East RT station or a subway station at Lawrence and McCowan, it shouldn’t cost more than one TTC fare to transfer from the 54 Lawrence East bus. 


Lawrence East GO/SmartTrack vs. SRT and Scarborough LRT 

The only advantage of the Lawrence East GO/SmartTrack station is that riders will not have to take buses during construction as they would with the Scarborough LRT.  But Scarborough LRT construction could begin at Sheppard Avenue East, allowing two new stations to be built before shutting the RT. Given the choice between riding on buses permanently after the RT is dismantled and riding on buses temporarily, most transit riders – knowing they would gain two new rapid transit stops – would likely put up with the inconvenience of LRT construction. 

 SmartTrack service frequency unresolved 

Below is the city’s estimate of SmartTrack service including Lawrence East:


But is this realistic? There are unresolved technical issues around eight- and five-minute service that neither the city nor Metrolinx is talking about: 

  • A modern signaling system is needed to run five-minute trains, but there is no mention of new signalling for SmartTrack. 
  • The GO/SmartTrack trains’ bi-level Electrical Multiple Units (EMUs) will make it difficult to provide five minute-service. It takes a long time for passengers to load and unload bi-level trains since they have fewer doors than subways or LRT cars, and some passengers will be descending from the upper deck.   
  • The GO/SmartTrack RER’s Stouffville track is also used for freight. Eight-minute SmartTrack service violates current freight train regulations, which require 15 minutes between trains.  
  • At Union Station, difficulty getting trains in and out and platform design creates a bottleneck. 

It is disturbing how little Metrolinx and the city have discussed or explained SmartTrack frequency. At the March 2018 public consultation meeting in Scarborough, Metrolinx officials announced that “local service would be every 15 minutes” – a far cry from  the city’s claim of eight- and five-minute service.  

Frequency is crucial to SmartTrack’s success, and should have been resolved soon after the U of T report showed five-minute service was required to make it viable. Instead, Council approved a funding and financial strategy before signing a service level agreement with Metrolinx, the operator of the trains. The city is now committed to spending $1.46 billion for SmartTrack.   

The GO/Lawrence East SmartTrack station will not rescue the $3.35+ billion, one-stop Scarborough subway boondoggle. And in prioritizing both of these lines for funding, much-needed east-west rapid transit lines like the Eglinton East LRT must compete with the Waterfront LRT and the relief subway line for scarce transit dollars. Meanwhile, the provincially defunded Sheppard East LRT from Don Mills to Morningside has all but disappeared from the city’s list of priority projects.  

Watch Jamaal Myers speak to the Executive Committee about going ahead with the Eglinton East LRT instead of the Scarborough subway here  

Scarborough needs a rapid transit network. Prioritizing the Scarborough, Eglinton East and Sheppard East LRTs would bring much-needed connectivity to our outer neighbourhoods. Toronto needs relief from overcrowding on the Bloor/Danforth line. But we shouldn’t have to sacrifice one for the other. If we allow Mayor Tory and his allies on council to chart the course on transit, we could forfeit both. 

Brenda Thompson

Sign our petition for the seven-stop Scarborough LRT

Ten reasons why Lawrence East GO/SmartTrack station will hurt transit riders here.

Lawrence East SmartTrack will leave more riders on buses here.

Read our submission to the SmartTrack Transit Project Assessment Process (TPAP) here.



Does Mayor John Tory really want to build the Eglinton East LRT further into Scarborough?

On Tuesday, May 22, Toronto City Council voted to proceed with plans to extend the Eglinton East LRT, despite the fact there is no money to pay for it. An extended Eglinton East LRT network is consistent with our wish for a robust, reliable, well-functioning public transit network in Scarborough but there’s one problem — Mayor John Tory continues to spend all of the approved funding on the Scarborough subway.

The Eglinton East LRT extension to Malvern, formerly known as the Crosstown East LRT, formerly known as the Scarborough-Malvern LRT, has already been studied, planned and designed for the last decade. It would have been built many years ago, but for lack of political will to pay for the project.

On the other hand, Mayor Tory stubbornly continues to promise Scarborough residents a one-stop, $4B subway station to Scarborough Town Centre within the next ten years, when a seven-stop Scarborough Centre LRT would add more stations and leave money available to immediately construct and open the Eglinton East line to Malvern within the next five years.

It is time to cancel the near $4B Scarborough subway project, reinstate funding for the Scarborough Centre LRT, and use the remaining funds to pay for an extended Eglinton East LRT to Malvern. If Mayor Tory really wants to build the Eglinton East LRT, he should explain to Scarborough residents, Toronto taxpayers and TTC riders how he intends to pay for it.

Milan Gokhale