Slicing Up a $9 billion Pie

Yesterday, it was announced that $9 billion of the provincial government’s infrastructure funding in last week’s budget will be going to transit in the GTHA. Now that a day has passed since that announcement, I have managed to let its details sink in, because it was not exactly clear-cut about what this fully entailed and what it didn’t. A fair bit of interpolation and extrapolation is necessary, along with piecing in various bits of other information.

Here are the points with some of this interpretation:

The Eglinton Crosstown line will run from Pearson Airport to Kennedy with a future extension to Malvern (this is the Scarborough-Malvern TC line).  The line will be tunneled between Keele and Leslie, and the total price-tag is $4.6-billion.  Construction will run from 2010 to 2016. 

The choice of technology for this line is not stated in the announcement. The original Transit City plans are for LRT, but Metrolinx had been suggesting ART technology (formerly known as ICTS). Metrolinx’s own Benefits Case Analysis (BCA) for Eglinton expected to be out in the next month or so, so the decision may involve what that says. The comment about a future extension involving the Scarborough-Malvern line does hint at using LRT technology. Another hint in this direction is the price tag. $4.6 billion is more than  double the original $2.28 billion estimate for this line, but the tunnelled section is longer than the original plan.

Originally it was planned to be 10 km long, but yesterday’s press release mentions 13 km. Also, this tunnel will likely be built to “subway standards”, which adds further to the cost. The final addition to the cost is the western extension all the way to Pearson, where the last stretch may also have to be tunnelled. Add in some inflation, and $4.6 billion is looking like a good fit for LRT technology. It is rather dubious to think that this entire line could be built with ART technology for the same price, as ART requires a 100% isolated right of way.

The Scarborough RT will undergo vehicle replacement, infrastructure upgrades and extension to Malvern Town Centre or to Markham Road.  This project will cost $1.4-billion “depending on the technology choice”, and construction will run from 2010 to 2015.  Connecting lines include “the proposed Sheppard East LRT”. 

I suggest that the “depending on the technology choice” caveat may apply more to the extension’s terminus rather than the project cost. The two choices for vehicle replacement are ART MARK-II or LRT. This line requires some substantial changes for the MARK-II cars to operate on it, and it is obvious that a change to low-floor LRT vehicles is also substantial. Both would require a comparable amount of money and shut-down time for the change. However, extending the line is substantially less expensive with LRT.

My prediction in all this: if ART MARK-II is chosen, the line will be extended only to Markham and Sheppard; if LRT is chosen, the line will be extended all the way to Malvern Town Centre.

A few months back, the Scarborough RT BCA looked favourably on the LRT option. If the residents of Malvern are vocal enough, LRT has a very good chance of being the replacement. Given that the funding for Eglinton-Crosstown may mean that LRT is used there, there is no good reason to retain the orphaned ART technology.

The Finch LRT will run from Humber College to Don Mills, and then south to Don Mills Station where it will connect with the “proposed Sheppard Avenue East LRT”.  The project will cost $1.2-billion with construction running from 2010 to 2013. 

This is what was originally the Finch West line in Transit City, but has an eastward extension to Don Mills and south to Sheppard and the Don Mills subway station. There remains a number of questions about this eastern extension, such as will it serve Seneca College just east of Finch and Don Mills, and how it will interface at the Don Mills subway station.

One suggestion that I have, though I am not firm in this, would be to take it over to the 404 and have it run down there to Sheppard. This would have it serve Seneca, and connect with the Sheppard East LRT to either head back west to the subway station, or to provide through service to the east.

Viva Next MapUpgrading of York VIVA BRT corridors with dedicated lanes. The estimated cost for the York VIVA project is $1.4-billion. York Viva construction will begin in 2009 with the first segment along Highway 7 from Markham Centre to Richmond Hill Centre, to be completed in 2011 and all segments in service by the end of 2013.

VIVA’s plans for bus lanes have two phases and according to a new post on the Viva Next blog, this funding will allow the construction of: 

  1. Highway 7 – from about Jane St. in Vaughan to Kennedy Rd. in Markham
  2. Yonge St. – from about Highway 7 to 19th Ave. in Richmond Hill
  3. Yonge St. – from Mulock Dr. to Davis Dr. in Newmarket
  4. Davis Dr. – from Yonge St. to the Southlake Regional Hospital

These four points constitute all of the first phase shown in the map except for the section along Green Lane and from there down Yonge Street to Davis Drive. What is not clear is whether this funding includes the purchase of additional vehicles. The Viva Next plans for these bus-ways did involve additional vehicles, so it is possible this is included. 

Queen’s Park will also fund rapid transit studies in Hamilton with $3 million. Hamilton is currently developing rapid transit plans for two major corridors: East-West Corridor (King-Main Streets) and James-Upper James Street Corridor. This funding will assist Hamilton (in cooperation with Metrolinx) in finalizing their plans for these corridors, with that planning study to be completed by spring 2010.

No technology is mentioned, but Hamilton’s city council voted unanimously back on October 31 to support that city’s light rail bid prepared by public works staff after a year of research and public consultation. They are awaiting a blessing from Metrolinx, and hopefully this study will provide that and perhaps some cash in the near future as well.

Not explicit in this announcement is that of funding for the Sheppard East LRT, though it is mentioned as a connection to both the Scarborough RT extension and the Finch LRT. Matthew Blackett of Spacing reported that Sheppard East will be receiving funding, but that was not in yesterday’s announcement.

The other funding issue missing in all of this is that for the new streetcars for our legacy network. Funding for the new LRT lines has the vehicle costs included in the project cost, but the legacy system is in desperate need of new vehicles. The awarding of the contract will come later in the month, and I suspect that funding will be announced in conjunction with the awarding of the contract. I don’t see the announcement for this funding earlier because an announcement of funding without saying the amount is not much of an announcement, and you can’t announce the amount without exposing who the contract will go to.

One Response to “Slicing Up a $9 billion Pie”

  1. Jordan Says:

    From everything I can find out, more funding has been secured for new buses to accompany the rapidways that were recently funded with $1.4 billion.
    I work for the people responsible for designing and building the rapidways and subway extensions in York Region and I gotta tell you, as a resident of Markham, I’m looking forward to the day when the rapidways are complete.

    Cal’s comment: I was under the assumption that the $1.4 billion included new vehicles, not just the rapidway construction. Is there in fact a separate amount that was not announced?

    I should also mention that the EA process for the rapidways was completed some time ago and the documents for them indicate that these will be built with “protection for future LRT”, meaning that such a conversion would be possible when warranted. Of course, this is not the most complicated thing to do, since a median for buses requires more space than for LRT.

    Our head of communications started a blog to discuss all issues related to the next phase of rapid transit in York Region. He updates it about twice a week – usually Tuesdays and Fridays - and responds to most comments. Comm guy, what do you expect?

    You should post questions or comments about transit to him – at least he has the inside track about the projects. You can find it at

    Cal’s comment: I mentioned this in another posting and have added a clickable image on the main page of this site.