Friday, April 28, 2006

Subway to Scaborough???

Earlier this week- and it's been a very long week - I attended a presentation and Q&A session about the options being considered for replacing etc. the Scarborough RT system. The rolling stock used on the line will have worn out by 2015. Given how long it can take to make transit decisions involving any type of track-based RT, this might give us enough time to have a solution in place.

The crux of the issue is that no-one ever bought into the Ontario-sponsored car design. Replacement cars are not available on the market - and it's deemed too costly to have them custom-built.

Prof. Richard Soberman is spearheading the study. At this stage of the studt, three high-level options are being considered:

1. Replace the existing RT with upgraded technology

- 'Mark II' RT rolling stock - as used in Vancouver on the Sky Train - would be purchased
- the track would be modified to handle the new cars
- the line would be out of service for about 18 months

This option was the lowest cost with the least amount of service disruption.

2. Replace the RT technology with LRT type trains that use overhead wires

- this envisages using the same vehicle design as the TTC might use to replace its existing streetcar

This option has higher costs than #1 because:
- a number of stations must undergo major reconstruction to handle the low floor loading envisaged on the new cars
- because the TTC wishes to use the same design as for the streetcar replacements, there is a bump of about $1,000,000 per car - as the TTC projects this is what it will take to modify off-the-shelf LRT equipment for the downtown street track network

My take is that this option should be shelved because of the requirement for non-standard cars. This puts us back in the same long term predicament - expensive and eventually unreliable and unservicable cars. Unless the TTC bites the bullet and goes with off-the-shelf technology for LRT in general - scratch option #2.

3. A subway line from Kennedy to Scarborough Town Center

This would run on a different route than the existing RT. In addition, the number of stations would be reduced.

Price tag is $1.2 billion + some land and utilities costs.

The meeting was interesting. There were many politicians in attendance. Scarborough coucillors - and the majority of deputants - prefer the subway option. I'm leaning that way as well - for the following reasons:

- it will use standard technology - i.e. subway cars
- it eliminates the transfer between the line and the existing subway
- in the long term, a transit system based on investment in subway + supporting buses - such as in Montreal - is delivering better cost and ridership performance than any other North American system.

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