City staff have proposed adding a fourth stop to the controversial Scarborough subway extension, a decision that would add millions of dollars to the cost of a transit project already heavily criticized as being too expensive.
According to a city report released Monday, municipal and provincial officials are discussing a proposal for an additional station at Eglinton Ave. E. and Brimley Rd. near Danforth Rd. as part of ongoing talks about changes the Ontario PCs intend to make to Toronto’s transit plans.
The city report states the station at Eglinton and Brimley is being considered either as an additional stop on the three-stop extension pushed by Premier Doug Ford’s government, or as a replacement for the proposed station at Lawrence Ave. E. and McCowan Ave. Stops are also planned at Sheppard Ave. E. and the Scarborough Town Centre as a part of Ford’s plan.
City spokesperson Brad Ross confirmed that it was the TTC and municipal government that had “raised the potential of a fourth station” with the province. He said city officials pitched the idea “as we consider the potential impacts of a Lawrence subway station” on a different transit stop planned nearby for Mayor John Tory’s SmartTrack project.
The SmartTrack stop would also be on Lawrence, just west of Midland Ave., and a subway station nearby would risk cannibalizing ridership for the mayor’s plan, which has already shrunk considerably from the version he pitched during his successful 2014 campaign.
Ross couldn’t say who authorized city staff to raise the expensive proposal with the province, saying only it was still a “staff-to-staff discussion right now.”
Councillor Josh Matlow, who has been pushing for an LRT network in Scarborough amid a lack of justification for various subway plans, questioned the city now pitching a fourth stop.
“Almost 10 years after the Fords ripped up an agreement for a fully-funded seven-stop LRT that would have been in service this year, Scarborough transit plans are being derailed yet again,” said Matlow (Ward 12 Toronto—St. Paul’s).
“Under whose direction is the City proposing a further delay that will leave Scarborough residents on the bus? The public deserves answers.”
Despite its potential impact on his signature SmartTrack plan, Tory declined to weigh in on the potential for a subway stop at a fourth location when asked about it Tuesday, saying the city should hammer out such issues during the formal talks with the province.
“I’m not going to get into four stops or two stops versus one stop versus any number of stops, because we have a table right now, where there are very constructive discussions going on,” he said.
“My focus remains the same, to get on with building transit, to have these discussion conclude as quickly as we can,” he added.
Council approved a one-stop version of the extension of Line 2 (Bloor-Danforth) to the Scarborough Town Centre in 2016.
But as part of a major shakeup of Toronto transit plans Ford unveiled in April, the Ontario PCs promised to revert to an earlier proposal for a three-stop version. It would be complete by about 2029, compared to the projected 2026 opening date for the city’s one-stop plan.
At the time of Ford’s announcement the province pegged the cost of a three-stop extension at $5.5 billion. It’s not clear how much adding a station to the extension would cost, but the price for some stops on the TTC’s new Spadina subway extension approached $200 million.
Andrew Buttigieg, a spokesperson for Ontario Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek, said a station at a fourth location isn’t part of the province’s plans.
“We remain committed to a three-stop subway” with stops at the original locations, he said.
Although it hasn’t been publicly discussed at length, the idea of adding a fourth stop on the extension isn’t new.
Former Scarborough councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker advocated for an extra station at Eglinton and Brimley in 2014, and as early as January 2015 city officials appear to have been considering the option.
In an email from a former senior city transportation planning lead Tim Laspa to TTC project managers Gary Carr and Rick Thompson, obtained by the Star through a freedom of information request, Laspa talks about a briefing city officials had with Tory in which a “4th station scenario” was discussed.
A spokesperson for Tory said Tuesday the mayor “doesn’t recall this specific scenario coming up in a briefing.”
In 2016, TTC officials were actively discussing and also modelling the possibility of a fourth station at Brimley, according to internal emails.
That included TTC senior planner Mark Mis noting in one Jan. 25 email between TTC modellers noting the potential ridership of the extension would be boosted by a station at Brimley because bus connections would transfer at Brimley rather than the existing Kennedy station.
“The net result is that with Brimley and network changes we end up with 30% greater peak point volume,” Conor Adami, a service planning analyst for the TTC, wrote to his colleagues.
At the time, staff had been directed by council to plan and build a three-stop subway. In late January 2016, then chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat and Tory’s office came up with and pitched the plan to build the single-stop subway.
The report the city released Monday was intended to update council on ongoing talks between the municipal and provincial officials on the Ontario government’s plans to take ownership of the TTC subway network.
Those plans took a step forward Tuesday when the provincial legislature passed a bill that enables Queen’s Park to take over new Toronto rapid transit projects. The government plans to pass a law next year to upload ownership of the existing TTC subway network to the province.
According to the report, talks to date have focused primarily on the Scarborough extension and the Ontario Line, the province’s $10.9-billion light metro project that would replace council-approved plans for a relief line subway.
The report says the “conceptual plans” the province has presented so far “have some positive aspects that could improve the TTC’s rapid transit service,” but staff need to undertake further assessments before they can make a recommendation to council about whether to approve them. Staff plan to report back in the third or fourth quarter of 2019.
With files from Francine Kopun
Ben Spurr is a Toronto-based reporter covering transportation. Reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr
Jennifer Pagliaro is a Toronto-based reporter covering city politics. Follow her on Twitter: @jpags