Category Archives: Journal 2

A Scarborough Subway Expansion? Get on the Right Track, Please.

Toronto is booming, drawing in hundreds of thousands of new residents continuously, and growing as the fourth largest city in North America. Yet, our transportation network is failing to keep up. Alright, that is quite the understatement. Clearly, it sucks. The TTC drastically lags behind modern transit systems seen in other big cities, doing Torontonians no justice in being ridiculously incomparable to the high-tech, high-speed, highly reliable transit systems ranked among the best in the world. Instead, we must deal with frequent delays, closures and shuttle buses, and horrible bus schedules. The TTC certainly has a great deal of flaws, but in broad terms, it serves its purpose: to provide and facilitate accessible travel within the city for the citizens of Toronto.

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With this in mind, it is indeed indisputable that a replacement for the aging Scarborough RT is long overdue. There has been enough back and forth debate – from subway, light rail, then subway again – to ensue frustration, and a ‘just build SOMETHING’ mentality. Given the following facts, a push to replace the aging system is not unreasonable:

  • Scarborough is home to 650 000 residents
  • Vehicles running on the 30 year old Scarborough RT are reaching the end of their normal lifespan and the system must be replaced
  • The city and TTC needs to deliver a fast, efficient, and reliable subway system extending from the Bloor-Danforth (green) line north from Kennedy Station to Scarborough Centre

However, this type of push is entirely incompetent in deciding which system can better connect neighbourhoods and serve more people. Evidently, John Tory has come down with a case of this narrow-minded mentality. The push for a replacement of the Scarborough RT has become a largely political matter, with Tory insisting on a Scarborough subway while his opponent previously backed light rail. As reported by The Globe and Mail,

“He ran for mayor in 2014 on a promise to stick with the Scarborough subway plan. His opponent on the left, Olivia Chow, wanted to go back to light rail. Mr. Tory won. The provincial government backs the subway. Ottawa signed on too”

However, when we strip away the politics and look about this situation from an economic perspective, we can clearly see the gaping flaws in Tory’s insistence on seeing through with his campaign promise.

Cost vs. Benefits

In short, a subway expansion makes absolutely no sense. We can easily understand the reasoning behind this statement by thinking about the costs and benefits for a mere 2 seconds. Here it goes:

The cost that has risen to be associated with this undertaking is quite simply absurd. According to Metrolinx, the Government of Ontario has committed a $1.48 billion investment to replace the current Scarborough RT. Sure, we can push it a bit, setting a $2 billion budget in early 2016 for the subway expansion, but the problem is, the cost has currently risen to a ridiculous $3.35 billion. In fact, the range of accuracy can be off by a full 50%, meaning costs can come as high as $5.02 billion. What’s more? The plan to build a three-stop subway was cut down to one stop. $3.35 billion just to add a single new stop to the Bloor-Danforth line. If this is not enough, and you are still unfazed, I’d love to study under the tutelage of your coolheaded, strong and steady mind. Or rather, consider this: the city will be spending an estimated $1.45 million for each new rider the subway extension attracts. In what way can this possibly make sense?

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Perhaps we should shift gears, and have a look at the benefits.

Sure, a subway expansion will allow riders to experience a seamless journey to Scarborough Centre without transferring at Kennedy Station, all in the spirit of relieving regional congestion. It can sound pretty good, right? Allegedly, this seamless journey saves time commuting, with Tory even invoking emotion to say that this saved time can be better spent with family. However, according to the Toronto Star:

In a report released in June, city staff said the replacement of the SRT with a one-stop subway could save riders “up to five minutes.”

That’s correct, a mere five minutes, a substantial benefit indeed. Surely, five minutes off the commutes of many people? It’s unfortunate that even there, the benefits look bleak. An estimated 4500 new riders at the beginning of project planning has halved, plummeting to about 2300 last summer.

When it comes down to it, a $3.35 billion to $5.02 billion cost, to replace an old system, shaving 5 minutes off the commute of 2300 people? The costs vastly outweigh the benefits. There have got to be better solutions.

Efficient, Equitable, or Fair?

With the scarce resource in this circumstance being money to fund the expansion of public transit and given the circumstances, I would argue that this project is far from efficient. In choosing to build a Scarborough subway expansion, one forgoes the next best choice of building a light rail, cheaper bus stations, or using the money to serve as a down-payment on other transit projects Toronto desperately needs. There are a great many alternative uses this funding can go towards – in this situation, opportunity cost would be a toss-up between a subway relief-line to ease the pressure on the massively over-crowded Yonge line, or building a light rail for Scarborough. Both of these decisions make an equal or greater amount of people better off. In the case of the cheaper light rail, it makes no people worse off as Scarborough residents still acquire their much-needed transit, however makes some people better off by leaving more funding for other transit projects. This would be a more efficient decision than the absurd subway expansion, and the TTC truly needs to get a grasp on the idea.

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Equity is a difficult concept to describe in this situation, as disagreement surrounds fair methods to allocate funding for public transit. However, in short, by dedicating ridiculous amounts of tax payers’ money, upwards of $3.35 billion, the lack of equity is blatantly seen. The resources would be unfairly distributed among those 2300 riders, costing the government $1.45 million per new rider, a ridiculous plan that leaves funds in no way fairly distributed among citizens.

What are the Alternatives?

We should not allocate such an enormous budget to insist on a subway expansion to Scarborough. Instead, there are many alternatives, some of which may be more beneficial than others. These include:

  • A bus terminal to help pedestrian access and free up more land for development
  • Adapting GO Transit (using Smart Track)
  • Network of LRTs (Light Rail Transit)

A better alternative should include the benefits of a fast trip speed, frequent service, and the currently accepted TTC fare level , 3 factors that will draw more riders with a reasonable demand. It should allow the TTC to prioritize a mission to connect more neighbourhoods and serve more people. With this in mind, I would recommend the light rail alternative to connect the Scarborough community. Despite its growing cost, it remains cheaper than the subway, a sensible project is already being planned: a 17 stop LRT can be built within the funding envelope along Eglinton Ave. E. to the UofT Scarborough campus.

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Residents have even petitioned for this alternative, with one reading:

It’s time for our politicians to understand that we do not just want one stop on the subway; we want transit that takes us to work, school, and all the opportunities this city has to offer.

Source 

This TTCriders advocacy group lobbying for the LRT plan with a petition containing more than 250 signatures are on the right track. Politicians should truly take the time to understand what the people need, and no one knows that better than the people themselves. It is time set the right track in connecting the Scarborough Centre economic hub with greater Toronto opportunities by choosing to fund more realistic and sensible projects like the LRT rather than a subway expansion.

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Scarborough Subway Expansion a.k.a. Spendy Shopaolic Express

As I begin my everyday commute to school on the jam-packed 84 bus, I tiredly gaze with disappointment and sympathy for all the frustrated passengers the bus has passed again. Currently, the daily commuters to and from Scarborough are facing the same struggles. Despite building hope for a faster commute via the Scarborough Subway Expansion line, this project seems to only disappoint.

 

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As I begin my everyday commute to school on the jam-packed 84 bus, I tiredly gaze with disappointment and sympathy for all the frustrated passengers the bus had passed again.

 

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) is responsible for the Scarborough Subway Expansion. Their main values are the quality and quantity of time customers spend on the TTC and the commute should represent the simplest, fastest and most cost-efficient way to move around Toronto. In other words, the priorities of the TTC are their passengers.

Many residents, just like the passengers watching 84 buses passing by, need to have a reliable source of commuting. When the Scarborough Subway Expansion began, a seven-stop light rail line which seemed promising was canceled by Rob Ford. Then, a three-stop line was proposed which was canceled again resulting in the one-stop express line. Riders will be able to board the new Scarborough Subway Extension from Kennedy Station straight to Scarborough Town Centre. This express lane which is only accessible at such far distances questions the purpose of the Subway Expansion. One might even consider this new subway line as a consumers’ train directly to the Scarborough Town Centre shopping mall.

Zuzana Betkova, a past resident of Scarborough who managed to escape the dreadful Scarborough transit, advocates for light rail transits and says:

“[Scarborough needs a] rapid transit network as soon as possible. I’m wondering, though, about the people in Scarborough who do not want to go downtown Toronto, who want to live and work in Scarborough and who do not have transit options within Scarborough and I don’t see how this one-stop Scarborough extension will help those people.”

 

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Wow… five minutes faster is totally a transit congestion relief.

 

Mayor John Tory held a conference at the newly-created organization ConnectScarborough advocate for the one-stop subway while members of the citizens’ group Scarborough Transit Action argue that the money would be better spent on a network of LRTs. When Tory asked a Scarborough resident to state his expectation of how much faster he would arrive at his destination via the new Scarborough subway, his dream was merely a reasonable 15 minutes. Disappointment immediately spread when it was revealed that the one-stop subway could only save riders up to five minutes. Especially since the promise as stated on the TTC Scarborough Subway Line website is the proposed new extension is a critical part of relieving regional congestion. Wow… five minutes faster is totally a transit congestion relief.

Thousands of passengers rely on the Scarborough transit. With billions of dollars invested in this transit system, it is extremely unfair and solely benefiting the Scarborough Town Center. John Tory’s transit plans seem to be oblivious to the thousands of passengers along the one-stop express lane. Those passengers would continue to rely on unreliable buses. However, these problems were avoidable from the beginning. The Transit Council and the province planned and settled on a fully fund a seven-stop light rail transit (LRT). Due to conflicting interests, Tory and the senior city staff promised the development of a one-stop subway to Scarborough Town Centre with the 17-stop LRT. The total cost of this project was an estimation of $3.56 billion in January 2016.

However, $3.56 was never the predicted cost of building a new subway line. The estimated cost in 2016 was $2 billion then $2.9 billion, then $3.16 billion, then $3.2 billion, and now $3.35 billion, due mostly to improving a planned new bus station. Yet in a recent report, the range of accuracy for the $3.35 billion estimate may be fully off by 50%, which equates as high as $5.02 billion. Another current report estimates the final price is likely to increase from 70% to 150%. Unfortunately, these prices have left the construction of LRT out of the picture.

Despite the increasing unexpected costs, it does not match the demand rate for the subway. In February 2017, the estimated number of riders on the Scarborough line plummeted from 4,500 to 2,300. Despite the updated reports, the TTC continues to claim the Scarborough Subway Extension will serve 650,000 passengers. Tory continues to blindly state that:

“the proposed station would be one of the busiest on the east-west subway line.”

When the Scarborough residents advocated for the development of the light rail transit instead of the subway line, the budget chief Councillor Gary Crawford ignorantly replied with:

“This is not a referendum about subways and LRTs. We are moving forward diligently.”

Crawford was supported by Tory. Tory stated:

“I’m not going to allow [LRTs] if I have anything to do with it, for it to be delayed by purely political considerations as it has been delayed for years. We’re going to build this subway to Scarborough because it is a great long-term investment for jobs and an investment in people living in Scarborough and across the City of Toronto and we will do it for as little money as possible.”

Considering how the one-stop subway extension in Scarborough is barely 10% funded, Tory’s refusal to explain the financial issues seemed knowledgeable and unprofessional. Tory continues to parade that the project is supported by all three levels of government despite no certainty on the funding from other levels of government or costs certainty.

To evaluate the opportunity costs which is the most costly sacrificed alternative, we shall assess the LRT. The opportunity cost is the LRT transportation method that is more accessible and cost efficient for the decreasing population of riders in Scarborough. In fact, since the subway line only stops once at the Scarborough Center, the population of riders decreases as we are eliminating the riders along the line who are unable to easily access the subway. Therefore, the opportunity cost is extremely high due to the predicted price hike in construction costs and a number of passengers who will not find the subway line useful.
Councilor Josh Matlow, who is a support of LRT says:

“[The Scarborough Subway is] clearly a reckless use of the limited tax dollars that the city has.”

After researching on the current news related to the Scarborough Subway Line, I will prove why the City of Toronto should not have approved the Scarborough subway expansion.

1. Efficiency

An economy is efficient when all opportunities are used to make a person better off without making other people worst off. The Scarborough Subway Expansion is not efficient because it makes a person better off by making other people worst off. Since the subway line required an additional minimum of $910 million funding, this money came straight out of taxpayers’ pockets. Hence residential taxes were raised by 1.6% since 2013 to 2016. This is a clear example where all the residents in Toronto became worst off by losing more money for taxes in order to construct the new subway line that only benefits a selected number of people.

2. Equality

An economy is equal when everyone gets his or her equal share of the benefits from the resources. The Scarborough Subway Expansion does not practice equality. The people living in the Scarborough community do not have an equal share of the subway benefits. With two stops throughout the entire line, one at Kennedy and the other at Scarborough Center, people are unable to benefit from the convenience of the fast subway transit due to the stops only available at the terminal stations. Hence the inconvenience and lack of accessibility along the Scarborough Subway law prevents people from experiencing equal benefits compared to those living at the terminal stations.

3. Equity

An economy is equitable when the benefits of resources are fairly distributed among the members of society. The Scarborough Subway Expansion is not equitable. The one-stop station at the Scarborough Town Center is also home to major transportation services including Greyhound, GO Transit, York Region Transit buses, and 14 TTC buses. Since Scarborough Town Center already has huge transportation benefits, the new Scarborough Subway Expansion should have stops elsewhere. By planning a stop further from the Scarborough Town Center, the transportation resources will become fairer in terms of the transit options allocated to the Scarborough residents not living at the Scarborough Town Center.

The Scarborough Subway Expansion has yet to be physically constructed. Since October 30, 2017, the Transit Project Assessment Process affiliation with the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change’s permitted the construction to proceed. As the funding of the expansion is continuously cost increases, the plans for the Scarbrough Line Expansion should change. Instead of developing a subway line, a LRT should be built. According to the Toronto Environment Alliance, Subways cost an average of $300 million per km. LRT is $100 million per km for surface routes and $250 million for underground routes. The estimated cost to build the seven top LRT line is $1.6 billion and is much more efficient, equitable, and equal for all of the TTC passengers to enjoy.

3.35 Billion Dollars For One Subway Station

LOL

Here, we have a representation of the Toronto Subway system map. Taking a closer look at the blue line, we can see that four of the 5 stations on the blue line are “dead” since that RT line is over three decades old and is gravely under-utilized. Toronto Mayor John Tory has a plan in mind to “revitalize” the transit system in Scarborough. But will it make the RT into the “Rapid Transit” it was meant to be, or just a rehash of the “Really Tired” old system?

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After
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Before

Currently, the government is planning to get rid of the old Scarborough RT entirely and replace it with a 3.35 billion dollar extension of line 2 Bloor-Danforth subway line. However, staff says that even this estimate could be off by a 50%, which sets the new price at a  whopping 5.02 billion dollars. The subway line will be extended by one single station, connecting Kennedy station to Scarborough Town Centre. The station will also consist of an expensive, 187 million dollar underground bus terminal.

So, how efficient is this plan? Is the government doing whatever it can to bring the most benefit to people without negatively affecting others? Well, the government is not doing so, and this plan is not efficient. The three levels of government granted 3.56 billion dollars to fund the transit system for all of Scarborough, not just one subway stop. Talk about putting all your eggs in one basket! The planned subway station will use over 94% of the granted funds, which is not an efficient way of allocating the city’s scarce resources. The money could be put to better use by building Light Rail Transit systems with more stations to benefit even more commuters. Furthermore, commuters who regularly use other stations of the Line Three subway will be negatively affected. Once the other stations are gone, they will be forced to take an alternate route with longer commute times.

The government certainly is not making an equitable decision with this subway plan. An equitable decision is where everyone is equally benefited and receive an equal share of resources. Unfortunately, the resources will not be distributed fairly among the many commuters of Scarborough. Only the very few who often travel to Scarborough Town Centre will be benefitted. Meanwhile, it is not fair for everyone else in Scarborough who will have to pay for an expensive transit system that they will not use. An equitable system would be a network of rapid transport systems that will be able to serve the majority of commuters.

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After 33 years of being in service, the RT system is deteriorating and desperately needs to be replaced. The one-stop subway extension will be taking its place. The subway will move at about 32km/h and carry 15,000 to 36,000 travelers per hour, which is both a faster speed and greater capacity than the LRT. People will also experience shorter commute times since they do not have to transfer to another vehicle at Kennedy station. However, they are very expensive to build, costing 3.35 billion dollars, as well as maintain. Additionally, the new subway will only attract about 2300 new riders. To put it in perspective, that’s over 1.45 million dollars spent on each new rider. City planner Jennifer Keesmaat said, “ It wouldn’t be serving the people of Scarborough, because a lot of them, they would have a subway going through their community but they wouldn’t actually be able to get on it.”

The budget for the Scarborough transit system is only 3.56 billion dollars from the three levels of government, federal, provincial and municipal. To stay within budget the city had to reduce the three-stop subway extension to the now one-stop subway extension. The Eglinton East LRT that is 17 stops long also needs to be funded from this budget of 3.56 billion. With the increasing costs of the one-stop subway, it just isn’t going to work. The City will need to receive more funding from the provincial government or the federal government. 

 

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An LRT train

 

A new 7-stop LRT route with would be the biggest opportunity cost of building the new subway alignment. The LRT is the system with of the highest value that will be forgone. The LRT offers seven stops throughout Scarborough with stops at major streets, STC and Centennial College. This line will allow approximately 47,000 people to be within walking distance to a station. The LRT plan is only 1.8 billion dollars, which is now 2.45 billion dollars due to inflation, and the provincial government will fund the project. What better way to transport our beloved Scarborough residents while offering the maximum cost efficiency?

Anyone who has taken the TTC will know how frequent the delays, signal problems and track closures are. The announcements will constantly come on with a woman informing the commuters about a new subway delay, and then apologizing for the inconvenience. Well, yes, the delays are very inconvenient for the commuters. The TTC could be fixing some or many of these problems with its multi-billion dollar budget. However, ongoing problems will not be solved if the TTC decides to dump most of its budget into building one new subway station. Therefore, the repairing of these problems will be another possible opportunity cost.

The main goal of the TTC is to provide a transport system that meets the demand of Toronto in the most cost-effective way possible. Toronto commuters need a convenient, accessible and smooth-running system that will get them places. One really expensive subway station will not be able to do that. In an economics point of view, the new station is not efficient, not equitable and the opportunity costs are high. The TTC needs to remember what their priorities are and build a transit system for the people.

The One-Stop McCowan Alignment: There’s No Light at the End of This Tunnel

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Don’t you just love the TTC?

If you live in Toronto, you have probably used the services of the TTC at least once in your life. Even if you haven’t, you would’ve definitely heard about the fantastic service it provides. From subway delays, to weekend closures, to buses passing by your stop even though you’ve been waiting for AN HOUR, there’s never a dull moment when riding (or at least trying to ride) the TTC. If you haven’t heard already, the TTC wants to build a single subway extension that costs $3.35 billion. I bet you’re not even surprised. As you might have realized, this is NOT the best way to spend the hard-earned money of taxpayers. If you haven’t realized, you will very soon.


The Scarborough Rapid Transit (SRT) first opened in 1985 and currently consists of six stations running Intermediate Capacity Transit System Mark I trains. Unlike regular subway trains that are used on lines 1, 2, and 4, these trains are much smaller and run on a mostly-elevated track. Although the SRT has provided great service for more than 30 years, the time has come for this system to be replaced. Now you may be wondering, why is the TTC making such a big deal out of this? Why can’t they just perform regular maintenance by closing off that portion of Line 3? Everyone is used to these wonderful scheduled weekend closures anyways. The City of Toronto and the Toronto Transit Commission released the following statement in regards to that question:

“Relatively simple system enhancements – such as replacing and adding RT vehicles – are not possible because the existing vehicles are outdated and no longer available for purchase.”

This means that there will soon be huge changes to public transit in the Scarborough area. I bet you can’t wait for there to be even more delays and closures!

After much debate over how the SRT would be replaced over these past few years, the decision makers seem to have come to an agreement. On March 28th, 2017, the Toronto City Council approved of the Scarborough Subway Extension, also known as the one-stop McCowan alignment. This alignment is a 6.2 km extension of Line 2 that enables passengers to travel by subway from Kennedy Station to Scarborough Centre. This extended subway line is planned to run through Eglinton Avenue, Danforth Road, and McCowan Road.

The new Scarborough Centre Station will be between Progress Avenue and Triton Road while Kennedy Station will remain in its current location. The cost for this extension is an estimated 3.35 billion dollars, a number that has increased significantly since this plan was created. Three levels of government have provided $3.56 billion in funding for transit in Scarborough. A large portion of this money will be used to pay for the alignment. Under the current plan, the alignment should be in operation by 2025-26.

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Proposed one-stop McCowan alignment.

The Toronto City Council had also approved of a large bus terminalthe Triton Bus Terminalon the same day. This station is planned to have enough platforms to support 34 local and regional buses. The current cost for this bus terminal is $187 million dollars.

Following lots of research and careful analysis of how efficient, equitable, and fair this decision is along with the costs, benefits, and opportunity costs associated with the approval of the one-stop McCowan alignment, I strongly believe that the City Council’s decision should be reconsidered. There is no doubt that the SRT needs to be replaced. However, I think that the one-stop McCowan alignment is not the way to do so. Let’s take a look at why.


How Efficient and Equitable/Fair is the McCowan Alignment?

When making any decision, it is important to look at the effects that the decision has on the people involved. Do many people benefit or does it make their lives worse? One way this can be done is by examining how efficient and equitable/fair the decision is.

Efficient

Something is described as being efficient when all opportunities are taken to make a group of people better off without making others worse off. It can also been seen as a society getting the most that it can from its limited resources. In this case, we need to determine if the implementation of the one-stop McCowan alignment makes the users of the SRT better off without making any one of them worse off.

When you look at the McCowan alignment from a broad perspective, you may be tricked into believing that it is efficient. Why wouldn’t it be, you ask? Won’t a new system replacing the old SRT ensure that “high quality transit” continues in Scarborough, therefore benefiting everyone? The answer is no. Not everyone benefits. If you look more closely at the alignment plan, you will come to realize that it benefits a certain group of public transit commuters while putting the remainder at a huge disadvantage.

A report released in June of 2016 states that if the SRT were to be replaced with the McCowan alignment, riders could cut “up to five minutes” off their commute time. However, what most people fail to realize is that this only applies to people living relatively near Kennedy Station or the new Scarborough Town Centre Station. Riders who are not near these stations will see their travel times increasing as they now have to spend more time on the bus to reach a subway station. For example, people living east to the STC will have to bus to STC station instead of the current McCowan station, lengthening their usual transit time.

If the TTC wanted to implement a plan that is more efficient, the only way to do so is to replace the current SRT with the exact same Rapid Transit System. This way, all SRT riders will benefit from the new and improved service and no one is worse off than before.

Therefore, we can conclude that the one-stop McCowan alignment is NOT efficient.

Equitable/Fair

Equitability means that the benefits of the available resources are shared fairly among the members of society—everyone gets their fair share. For this analysis, I will be looking at whether or not the McCowan alignment is equitable/fair for the people that are paying for it.

I’m sure everyone can agree that $3.35 billion is a lot of money—especially when it is taxpayers’ money we are talking about. Will every single taxpayer benefit from the McCowan alignment? No. Understandably, it is near impossible to come up with a way to replace the SRT that will benefit all taxpayers since not all citizens use public transportation in that area. However, do we really need to spend this much money on one small section of the transit system? Clearly, the McCowan alignment is also not equitable or fair. With this in mind, there are ways to make it more fair to those that do not benefit. One way to do so is by finding another method to replace the SRTone that costs significantly less than the $3.35 billion we are currently scheduled to pay.

There have been many suggestions over the years on what should be done to replace the aging SRT. One possibility is replacing it with a Light Rail Transit (LRT) and we will take a closer look at this option later on.


What Are the Costs Versus the Benefits of the McCowan Alignment?

Costs

As with any public transit replacement, there is a high cost. Nevertheless, the costs for this particular replacement appears to be higher than necessary. Councillor Anthony Perruzza makes this clear:

“The subway would burn through the available funds for Scarborough transit while serving a small number of residents. We are making a colossal mistake.”

First of all, let’s take a moment of silence for the soon-to-be empty wallets of all Ontario taxpayers. As of March of last year, the estimated cost for the one-stop McCowan alignment was an astonishing $3.35 billion in addition to the $187 million cost for the Triton Bus Terminal. If you thought it couldn’t get worse, think again. A report from the Star tells us that these costs could increase:

“[City] staff said in the report that because the new $3.35 billion estimate is still based on very little design work being completed at this point, the range of accuracy for that estimate is massive. The estimate, staff said, could be off by up to 50 per cent—putting the high-end estimate at $5.02 billion.”

Since the McCowan alignment plan was first proposed in 2016, the cost has increased from $2 billion to $3.35 billion. The Star’s Andrew Wallace described the cost as “a runaway train and there’s no telling where it’s going to stop”. Is it really worth it to pay this much for a single subway stop?

Additionally, during the summer of 2016, it was estimated that the McCowan alignment would attract 4,500 new public transit customers. Half a year later, a report comes out stating that the number of new riders has significantly decreased to 2,300. This means it will cost approximately $1.45 million for each new rider. Talk about expensive.

Clearly, these unreasonably high costs indicate that something needs to be changed.

Benefits

Thankfully, the one-stop McCowan alignment does not only come with high costs—it also has a few benefits:

  • Riders no longer need to transfer at Kennedy Station and can stay on the subway.
  • It attracts more people to the Scarborough Centre which helps with the centre’s growth and development.
  • It is the fastest connection between Kennedy Station and the Scarborough Centre.
  • Throughout the construction of the alignment, the SRT can continue operating which is very good for people currently using it.
  • The time saved by passengers can be put towards other things, such as spending time with their families.

Despite how great the benefits may seem, don’t be fooled! The costs significantly outweigh the benefits. Furthermore, there are other ways these benefits can be achieved without having to go through with the costly McCowan alignment plan.


What Are the Opportunity Costs Associated with the McCowan Alignment?

After learning about all the costs associated with the McCowan alignment, I bet you though that was it. There’s no way there could possibly be any more costs to the McCowan Alignment. Well, what if I told you that there still is one very important cost to look at?

When making any decision, another thing that should be considered are the opportunity costs associated with the decision that is being made. Opportunity cost refers to the value of the benefits of the next best alternative that was not chosen. In this case, they refer to all the things that could have been done with the money and time used to build the McCowan alignment.

Here’s a list of opportunity costs:

1. Building a Light Rail Transit System

One of the main opportunity costs of going with the McCowan alignment is building a Light Rail Transit system in Scarborough to replace the SRT. Not only is this option significantly cheaper (approximately $1.8 billion), it also passes through low-income neighborhoods, Centennial College, and University of Toronto Scarborough campuses, providing a larger group of people with access.

If the seven-stop LRT was chosen instead of the McCowan alignment, the funds provided by the three levels of government would not only be enough to cover the costs of building the Scarborough LRT, but also the costs of building the Eglinton East LRT.

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Comparison between the one-stop McCowan alignment and the seven-stop LRT.

As you can see, the Scarborough LRT is a significantly better option compared to the McCowan alignment.

2. Funding the Eglinton East LRT

Another opportunity cost of building the McCowan alignment is having enough funding for the Eglinton East LRT. With the money-hungry McCowan alignment in existence, people are starting to get concerned about the Eglinton East LRT. This is what Councillor Paul Ainslie had to say:

“[My] residents are concerned that with the subway taking up nearly all of the money earmarked for Scarborough transit, the Eglinton East LRT is at risk of not being built.”

Scarborough transit was given $3.56 billion in funding from the government. This budget was supposed to be shared between the Eglinton East LRT and the Scarborough Subway Extension. As the cost for the extension continued to increase however, the Eglinton East LRT is now $1.4 billion short on funding.

3. Fixing Major (Or Minor) TTC Problems

An additional opportunity cost of the alignment is fixing the many problems the TTC has. I’m sure you can think of more than one problem that needs to be addressed. As stated in this article, there are many things that the TTC needs to work on if they had the money:

“At the same time, the money now earmarked for the one-stop Scarborough extension would better serve as a down-payment on other transit projects that Toronto truly needs — in particular, on a subway “relief line” designed to ease pressure on the massively over-crowded Yonge line.”

Hopefully you noticed a trend between all three of the opportunity costs. What needs to happen is clear. By switching to a less costly replacement of the SRT (such as building a LRT system instead), a large sum of money can be freed up for other pressing matters.


It is imperative that the City Council reconsiders their decision as the one-stop McCowan alignment should not have been approved in the first place. Not only is it not efficient, equitable, and fair—the opportunity costs are also greater than the benefits the alignment provides.

The main priority of the TTC should be to provide riders with the best service possible through affordable means. They should always make decisions based on their principles, which are to “Serve People, Strengthen Places, and Support Prosperity”. By choosing to build a one-stop extension that costs $3.35 billion, they are not choosing the best option. There are other alternative solutions, such as building a LRT, that is affordable and benefits a larger group of people. If the TTC wants to live up to being named “Transit System of the Year”, they need to get their priorities straightened out.

Pic4
Throwback to when the TTC was named “Transit System of the Year”.