Is The Scarborough Subway Extension A Mistake?

The Scarborough Subway Extension is one of TTC’s many “improvements” to our subway system, if it can be called that. What does this extension entail, exactly? According to their website, the SSE is a one-stop, 6.2 km subway that will connect Kennedy station to the Scarborough Town Centre.

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Map of the planned update (blue dotted line). Source

This long, unnecessary extension is still in the planning phase, and it needs to be known to the public that it is a complete waste of time and resources. Here’s why:


According to a news article by The Star, the planned costs of the subway extension rose to $3.35 billion. This cost has gone up from the original estimate of 2 billion in early 2016. and that estimate could be off by over 50%, which means that the overall extension could cost as much as $5.02 billion! With the cost continuously rising like this, there’s still not a concrete price. The price could continue to skyrocket into the ~$6 billion range, and all of that money is coming out of taxpayer’s pockets. This money could be used to actually give the Residents of Toronto and Scarborough some benefits, such as cleaner and more reliable buses.

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Many people are forced to wait in the cold for the TTC due to its unreliable service. Source

In addition to this, the ridership of the Scarborough line is extremely low compared to the rest of the TTC. The Toronto Star compared ridership numbers between various 6 kilometre segments of the subway, and they found that the Kennedy to Scarborough Centre section had the lowest amount of riders at 64,000, while the Museum to Bloor-Yonge section had over 755,000. Having a multi-billion dollar extension for the lowest amount of riders seems like a very poor use of money.

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Graph comparing the amount of riders of various 6km sections of the TTC Subway. Source


As The Star reports:

“City staff have estimated up to five minutes will be saved by replacing the existing Scarborough RT with a one-stop subway extension. That doesn’t include the elimination of a transfer at Kennedy Station. It also doesn’t factor in the bus trips for individual users, who may spend more time on a bus getting to a rapid transit station with the one-stop plan. It also doesn’t consider or compare the travel time of the original plan to build a seven-stop LRT to replace the SRT.”

Saving five minutes of time seems to definitely be worth the billions of dollars that the extension costs. The one fact that really tops the cake, however, is that this five-minute quote doesn’t factor in the external travel time, which would end up costing people more time in the long run.

The Scarborough Subway Expansion will still benefit the residents of Scarborough by providing them with an easier way to get from Kennedy Station to Scarborough Town Centre.

In Summary:


  • Possible $5 billion or more to build one stop
  • Might hinder more people than it benefits
  • Not enough riders to be considered viable
  • Spends money that could be used elsewhere, such as the Eglinton LRT


  • Possible time-save for most Scarborough residents
  • Better transportation experience (less traffic, less garbage, etc) for riders


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Breakdown of subway costs. Source

Is This Extension Efficient/Equitable/Fair?

To put it simply: no.

According to Investopedia, efficiency is defined as “…a process that uses the lowest amount of inputs to create the greatest amount of outputs.” This extension already costs $3.35 billion dollars, and it only affects ~64,000 riders. This is definitely not an efficient solution to the “problem” that the Scarborough line has.

Equity is defined as a fair distribution amongst everyone in a society. Even though the Scarborough Subway Extension benefits the residents of Scarborough, it does not benefit the taxpayers. According to this article, there is a special property tax that was approved in 2013 in order to pay for the city’s $910 million share. That $910 million, over 30 years, is coming out of taxpayer’s pockets. This is definitely not a fair distribution amongst society, because the entire city has to pay for an extension that will only affect the residents of Scarborough.

What Opportunity Costs Are There For This Expansion?

Investopedia describes opportunity costs as: “a benefit that a person could have received, but gave up, to take another course of action.”

The major opportunity that is lost while constructing the SSE is the loss of funding for a light rail along Eglinton Avenue. This light rail proposed 17 stops for only $9.1 billion dollars, which sounds like a much better deal than 1 stop for $3.35 billion.

Another opportunity that is lost is the LRT network that was previously proposed. This LRT would have 25 stops, over 2 light rail lines; one seven stops, the other 18 stops. The 25 stop LRT was proposed to be $1.67 billion in 2010 dollars, which would be an amazing improvement over the 1 stop $3.35 billion SSE. If the SSE goes through, we will have missed out on an amazing opportunity for less money.

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Other Options For The TTC

The TTC, instead of constructing the SSE, could spend the money on more worthwhile endeavours. They could:

  1. Improve the quality of most trains and upgrade the tracks for higher trafficked areas, such as line 1 and the downtown portion of line 2
  2. Improve the reliability of most bus times, since many people have to wait for long periods of time outside in the cold
  3. Fund the Eglinton LRT (even though it costs more money at $9.1 billion, it still provides more for the city)
  4. Fund the Scarborough LRT network, which costs less and provides more for the residents of Scarborough
  5. Put more funding into the SmartTrack, which will provide new options and choices for people to get around the city

Even though the SSE might seem like a decent idea to John Tory, it is not something that should be considered for the residents of Scarborough. I feel like John Tory is pulling some strings to get the Scarborough Subway Extension through, especially after this report of him being investigated by the auditor general for the approval of the extension. Mayor John Tory promised residents both the one-stop subway and the Eglinton East LRT line with the $3.56 billion cost, which is a blatant lie. I think that the mayor only wants to complete this subway expansion because he wants to be the mayor that completes an endeavour.

Overall, I think that the Scarborough Subway Extension should not be continued. The costs outweigh the benefits (there are barely any benefits anyway), it is not fair/equitable/efficient, and there are better things that the government and the TTC could spend their money on, that would affect everyone positively. It’s not too late to cancel the Scarborough Subway Extension, so that is exactly what we must do. This extension is definitely a mistake.


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