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?
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.
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.
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.