Toronto transit debates explained in one map

Toronto city council is expected to set its transit priorities for the next 15 years at a meeting on Wednesday.

Scarborough subway extension, SmartTrack, Sheppard East LRT, Eglinton East and West LRTs on agenda

Toronto city council meets Wednesday to discuss transit priorities for the next 15 years. There are many proposals on the table. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Toronto city council is expected to set its transit priorities for the next 15 years at a meeting on Wednesday.

Council will consider a motion to endorse the one-stop Scarborough subway extension and direct staff to hire a consultant to look at a full cost estimate and risk analysis of the project.

Council will also be called upon to give staff direction on the Relief Line, SmartTrack stations and the proposed Eglinton East and Eglinton West LRTs.

Toronto's transit priorities for the next 15 years on a map as council is set to debate the issues today. (Google Maps)

The interactive map is included below, if you're on mobile and can't see it click here.

Here's what council needs to consider:

Scarborough subway extension

What it is: A one-stop extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway line east of Kennedy station to Scarborough Town Centre. 

How much it will cost: $2.9 to $3.2 billion.

What's the issue? The existing Scarborough RT is at the end of its usable life and must be replaced. Council initially approved a seven-stop light rail transit (LRT) line for that purpose; that LRT would have followed the current RT route but then extended it to Centennial College, ending at Sheppard Avenue.

Under former mayor Rob Ford, Toronto council voted to scrap that plan and build a shorter subway. The political messaging had been that Scarborough deserved a subway, and that riders would benefit from a seamless transition through Kennedy station rather than having to switch from the subway to the LRT.

As cost estimates for the project rose, council began considering a one-stop version of the subway. They have already voted to pursue it in principle; today's vote will be about whether to continue with that process by formally removing the three-stop subway from consideration and proceeding with risk and cost assessments, and other groundwork for the one-stop option. 

In light, however, of the growing costs — and new ridership numbers showing an LRT could handle the number of passengers projected — Coun. Paul Ainslie has said he will introduce a motion asking council to return to the original LRT plan.

Read more: City staff report

Revised SmartTrack proposal

What it is: Mayor John Tory's marquee campaign promise was to use existing GO rail corridors to create new rapid transit through Toronto, by using a mix of existing GO stops and building some new local stops in between them. 

How much it will cost: Unknown.

What's the issue? During the municipal election, Tory described a version of SmartTrack that would have seen 22 stops. As other transit plans developed and financial estimates began coming in, SmartTrack plans were scaled back to avoid duplication of service — and bring costs down. 

Today council will decide whether to proceed with that pared-down version, which calls for "up to" six new stops; the report coming to council recommends four or five.

Read more: City staff report

Eglinton West LRT extension

What it is: An eight- to 12-stop expansion of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, currently under construction, running west towards Pearson International Airport. 

How much it will cost: Between $1 billion and $3 billion, depending on how many stops it adopts, and how much of the route is constructed to run in its own corridor rather than in mixed traffic.

What's the issue? This route was part of the original plan for the Eglinton Crosstown, however it was set aside for a subsequent stage of development due to budget constraints. Though the reports coming to council include two options for a new route to the airport — there is both the LRT and one included as part of the SmartTrack — councillors will be asked to look at the two projects jointly. They will vote instead on a combined motion that would see a shorter version of SmartTrack — that ends at Mount Dennis instead of the airport — while the Eglinton West LRT extension would cover the gap to the airport.

Read more: City staff report

Eglinton East LRT Extension

What it is: A 17- to 18-stop expansion of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT moving east to University of Toronto's Scarborough campus, potentially up to Sheppard Avenue.

How much it will cost: $1.3 to $1.9 billion

What's the issue? The project is expected to improve transit to the Eglinton East-Kingston Road corridor in Scarborough, U of T's Scarborough campus and several Neighbourhood Improvement Areas. The hope is that it would also stimulate residential and employment growth and renew neighbourhoods in the area. No level of government, however, has ever committed funding to the project. 

Read more: City staff report.

Sheppard East LRT 

What it is: A 13 kilometre LRT that would connect Don Mills station on the Sheppard subway line to east of Morningside Avenue. 

How much it will cost: $1 billion

What's the issue? The province has effectively put the project on hold: everyone agrees that it should be built, but there are no clear timelines attached; currently construction is slated to begin in 2021, long after it was originally planned. Council will vote on whether to ask the provincial government (which is responsible for the construction) to "confirm the timing" of this project so that other Scarborough transit plans can be developed in tandem.

Relief Line

What it is: A rapid transit line that would connect commuters in northeast (and later) west ends of Toronto to the transit network via a new U-shaped subway line.

How much it will cost: $3.2 billion for the first phase, from Pape to Osgoode stations.

What's the issue? The Relief Line is expected to relieve crowding on the Yonge subway line and the Bloor-Yonge station as well as provide riders with more travel options. In a proposed route preferred by city planners, the new line would run south from Pape Station along Pape Avenue, turn west at Eastern Avenue, then connect to Queen and Osgoode stations. The entire route will run underground in both directions, with several stops along the way.

The line would not be "operational" for many years, even with funding and approvals in place. The transit technology being recommended for the Relief Line is a subway. There is currently no government money set aside for the project and it will require "enormous investment," according to the city.

Read more: City staff report.

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