If you thought everything would be sunshine and roses for Scarborough transit riders after Toronto City Council approved extending the Toronto Transit Commission's Line 2 Bloor-Danforth subway to Scarborough Centre… well, think again.
During a fairly hostile public meeting Wednesday night in the council chamber at the Scarborough Civic Centre, residents expressed their frustration with the plan.
"Why are downtown stations only a few hundred metres apart, when this proposal has a gap of more than six kilometres between stations?", one man demanded. "Why are we paying for stations in Vaughan?", he continued, referring to the soon-to-open Line 1 extension. "I know why, it's because Scarborough doesn't count."
City planner Mike Logan explained that City staff do what council directs them to do, which, in this case, was to drop two of the original stations from the project to decrease the costs. In an earlier version of the plan, City and TTC staff proposed building stations on McCowan Road at Lawrence and Sheppard Avenue East.
In 2016, Council agreed to develop the one-stop express subway to Scarborough Centre to save costs and to apply the savings to building an extension of the Crosstown LRT line to the University of Toronto Scarborough. That reduced the cost of the subway from around $4.5 billion to $3.5 billion.
Local Councillor Glenn de Baermaeker explained that downtown and North York councillors were largely to blame for not fully funding the line. "Downtown, you've got subways all over the place. Those councillors, they don't understand what it's like out here in Scarborough. You pay taxes like everyone else. You deserve the same kind of service."
De Baermaker said he supported building the two extra stations originally proposed for the project and another on Eglinton Avenue at Brimley Road. In fact, he would advocate for extending the Sheppard subway east to Scarborough Centre, too.
While some residents cheered the councillor's ideas, many found the plan inadequate to serve their needs.
"Why build a station to Scarborough Centre—basically just to a mall—and not to the hospital, where everyone goes?" asked another resident, referring to the lack of station at Lawrence Avenue East, beside Scarborough General Hospital. Logan explained that the Scarborough Centre area was much more than just the Scarborough Town Centre mall and that it included major office and residential developments and public buildings like the civic centre.
Logan and other staff told the audience that rocky terrain and the general topography of the area requires stations along the extended subway line to be much deeper than other TTC stations. That means more cost for longer escalators, elevators and stairways and more powerful ventilation systems, among other structural elements. The station at Lawrence would have to be particularly deep, so that the line could pass under the Highland Creek valley, just north of the station site. As it is, according to TTC engineer, Greg Thompson, the new Scarborough Centre Station would be "the deepest station we've ever built".
One resident wondered whether the TTC could "rough-in" a station box for a future station at Lawrence, similar to what it did on the Yonge line at North York Centre Station. Thompson explained that, because the TTC built that part of the Yonge line using the cut-and-cover method instead of tunneling, engineers could add the new station without disrupting service along the line. To add a station at Lawrence afterwards, he said, would require shutting down the line during the entire construction process, which might be as long as two years. Contractors would have to pierce the tunnel wall to build an extra station.
North York Councillor David Shiner, despite De Baermaker's contention that North Yorkers opposed the Scarborough subway, had made a motion at the March 28 City Council meeting to support a Lawrence station. During that meeting, when councillors considered the Scarborough subway plan, he moved that Council approve adding a "roughed-in" station at Lawrence. Council rejected Shiner's motion when it learned that the cost of just studying the shell station would be more than $1 million.
Members of advocacy groups like TTC Riders and Scarborough Transit Action and individuals, too, also asked why the City was proceeding with a subway, when, according to them, a network of light rail transit lines would serve more riders at less cost. One woman wondered why staff did not compare the cost of building a subway with the cost of an LRT along the current Line 3 Scarborough route. Logan again pointed out that staff can only follow Council's directives.
Despite all the drama and politics, the open house served an important purpose in moving the project forward and helping people understand what would occur during construction. It was the first step in the transit project assessment process, which will take about six months to complete. Staff encouraged members of the public to fill in comment sheets or go on-line to add their comments to help shape the project.
The audience learned:
- The subway would run under Eglinton Avenue East, Danforth Road and McCowan Roads to just south of Ellesmere Road, where it would curve slightly to the west and then northward to a new station in the area of Triton Road.
- A tunnel boring machine would dig out the tunnel, remove the excavated material and place the initial tunnel lining in a continuous, highly automated process. The front end of the machine consists of a circular cutting face that excavates the soil and pulls it into its round shell.
- The TTC will use a large 10.7-metre-wide (30-feet-wide) borer to dig the single tunnel for the line, unlike the twin tunnels that it used to build the extension to Vaughan or that Metrolinx is using for the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. Staff told the audience that the larger boring machine means less disruption to residents and business and means that contractors can build crossovers and other infrastructure without having to break through the tunnel walls. This also significantly reduces the cost.
- Tunnel construction will mostly not affect nearby residences and businesses. A TTC official explained that disruption along most of the line would be minimal because most of the work would be underground. Residents would feel slight vibration from the tunnel-boring machine for about two weeks before the TBM arrived at a particular site and for about two weeks afterward.
- The contractors launch the tunnel-boring machine on the north side of the Scarborough Town Centre, close to Highway 401. After the machine reaches the location of the future Scarborough Centre Station, crews will haul the machine further south to a new launch site south of the station. From there, the machine will make a single drive southward to the a site just north of Eglinton Avenue East, near Kennedy Station.
- The second launch site will be the main centre of construction activity, where crews will store tunnel liners and other materials that they'll use in building the tunnel. That way, construction of the station can proceed while tunnelling continues. The contractors will then fill in and restore the original launch location near the 401.
- The City and TTC permanently require all or part of 42 properties: full property interest in one commercial property (for a traction power substation); and partial property interests in 35 private properties and six properties under City of Toronto, provincial or federal ownership.
- The line requires the TTC and its contractors to build several buildings on the surface along the subway alignment, including a ventilation structure near Lawrence Avenue, eight emergency-exit buildings and three substations to supply traction power to the trains.
- The TTC and City will proceed with a plan to build a two-level bus terminal on Triton Road at the intersection with a future extension of Borough Drive. The terminal includes platforms for 34 buses, including TTC, GO Transit and Durham Region Transit vehicles.
- Contractors will complete part of the bus terminal that with the Line 3 Scarborough RT structure in place before the subway opens. Buses will use the current bus terminal during this time. However, construction activities around the station area will block Triton Road west of McCowan - potentially for long periods - and most of the buses now using the Scarborough Centre bus terminal will have to enter and exit the current terminal along the Triton Road access on the Brimley Road side of the Scarborough Town Centre.
- Once the subway is open, the TTC will close Line 3 and current bus terminal will close and buses can use that part of the new terminal that the contractors built during Phase 1. Crews will demolish Line 3 and the current Scarborough Centre station and bus terminal and build the rest of the new new bus terminal. The entire new bus terminal will likely be available 1.5-to-2 years after the subway opens.
- The cost of the terminal is less than the $187 million that Council approved in March. Staff will report back to Council to reveal the new, smaller, price tag later this year.
Still, a feeling of cynicism pervaded the room. As the gallery exited from the council chamber, one woman said to her companion, "I don't know why they hold these meetings. They're really just going through the motions. They never listen to us and they'll just do what they do, no matter what we think."
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