Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Subway's Coming

Part Three

Written by Lorne Ross, March 2017.

Your Glen Andrew representatives were invited to meet Mayor Tory’s Chief of Staff on February 24th to discuss our ideas for the subway. I attended for Iain McLeod who was travelling out of the country. Joining us were Gary Comeau from Glen Andrew, Gail Doehler from North Bendale and Lai Chu from Agincourt.

The Mayor’s Staff brought in James Perttula from City Planning and Gary Carr from TTC to listen once again to our presentation.

Results of the Meeting

No subway station at Lawrence. Not now. Not ever.

The main reason is because the TTC proposes to tunnel under the creek which runs under McCowan just north of the hospital. That means the subway tunnel is VERY deep when it passes under Lawrence. So deep that it would be incredibly disruptive and expensive to build a station there.  And expensive to operate with quite likely multiple escalator lifts to street level.

We showed them their own plans for bridging over the Don River when they did plans in 2009 to extend the Yonge Subway to Richmond Hill. They looked at tunneling under. Compared it to bridging over. And chose to bridge.

They even did an artist’s rendering of what a double deck bridge over the Don would look like. That’s Yonge Street on top and the subway running underneath.
 We showed them all their own arguments about the benefits of bridging over as opposed to tunneling under a watercourse.  We asked why those same benefits don’t apply to bridging over the humble Highland Creek. No answer.
Then we heard a very unusual word from the TTC engineers. They said their engineers studied it and studied it for over a year and they just “can’t” make a bridge work.
A lot of people in Glen Andrew have worked in the building, design and engineering trades. I bet like me they must be very surprised to hear an engineer say ‘can’t’ when it comes to designing a bridge over a little creek like we have coming out of Thompson Park.
So we said well if you’ve studied it for over a year, can we have a copy of the study to better understand why not. And the answer is: there is no study. They can’t give us anything.
Their second reason for no station at Lawrence is there is not enough ‘walk in’ trade from the surrounding area. 
It’s really difficult to remain sitting down in a meeting when you hear that kind of stuff from TTC-City Planning. They know:
1. The key to getting riders onto a subway station anywhere outside of the downtown is to bring them in on TTC bus routes and Kiss’n’Ride facilities;
2. Subway stations outside the downtown core that have really poor bus service have pathetically low usage. High Park, Donlands, Greenwood, Museum, Castle Frank, Chester, Rosedale, Old Mill, Summerhill and Glencairn subway stations have very low usage and really weak bus service to bring in passengers. 
3. The Lawrence East bus in contrast carries over 36,000 passengers a day. It’s the sixth busiest bus route in the whole city. Once the subway to Vaughan opens, Lawrence East could be the third or fourth busiest bus route in the city;
 4. The TTC is busy building magnificent new subway stations on the Vaughan subway at Pioneer Village, Downsview Park and here’s my favourite, on Jane Street across the road from one of the city’s largest cemeteries. How much ‘walk in trade’ will they generate? How much density is there around Pioneer Village?
5. And here’s the kicker: they don’t want a station at Lawrence because if the subway stopped there it would add maybe 40 seconds to the ride from Scarborough Centre to Kennedy station. I tend to think you would want to stop a subway at a hospital, a nursing home, a seniors’ apartment, lots of other health care services AND ESPECIALLY AT THE CITY’S 6TH BUSIEST BUS ROUTE.  I don’t see any talk about shutting down the stations at Donlands, Chester, Greenwood and Castle Frank, all of which have pathetically low usage. That would ‘save’ Scarborough commuters almost 3 minutes on their trip downtown! And save a ton of maintenance costs. Let those people take the bus to the next station. That’s what Scarborough transit riders do.
The real reason is they simply don’t want a station at Lawrence. They want people to stay on the Lawrence East bus and ride over to the proposed Lawrence Station on the Smart Track-Stouffville GO line. 
A lot of people want more than a ‘one stop subway’. They want a station at Lawrence, maybe a future station down Danforth Road where it meets Eglinton. A three stop subway. They are hoping the TTC can ‘rough in’ the stations now and come back later to finish the job.
Let’s be very clear about one thing: there is no such thing as ‘roughing in’ a station.  You either build a station now when you build the subway or you forget about it. And the answer we’re getting from the TTC and City Planning is ‘Forget about it.’
The Staff report and Executive Committee decision of March 7th pretty much put The Big Bend Alignment to bed. TTC engineers had another one of those mysterious “Can’t do it” moments. They looked at two tunnels curving out of Scarborough Centre Station: one  was such a tight curve it ran into the foundations of the YMCA; and the other was so broad a curve it ran way out and under 22 homes on the east side of McCowan. 
That’s funny. Did they look at a curve somewhere been ‘too tight’ and ‘too broad’? 
It just might miss the YMCA on the one side and the homes on Stanwell on the other.  
We’ll never know.
We never did get the apples to apples cost comparison to their alignment we’ve been asking for since May last year. No costs were provided to keep the SRT cars running nor for the ‘extensive structural repairs’ required to the SRT track.
 Here’s the plan for the subway and bus terminal recommended by Staff.

The round shape on the left with ‘Triton Rd’ written on it is the movie theatres.
The proposed bus terminal is 70% larger than the existing Scarborough Centre bus terminal on Triton Road: this one has 34 bus bays although the plan to the left seems to show 30. It will be the ‘largest bus terminal in the TTC system’. 
It’s a ‘stacked’ bus terminal. The majority of the bus bays are down at the level of McCowan Road. The dark grey shape on the left noted as 12 bay bus platform is up at the level of the YMCA and Borough Drive.
Which means we are going to have a four level subway-bus station, pretty much like we have now at Kennedy Station. The subway boarding level will be way below ground. Above that but still well below ground is the subway mezzanine level. Above that is the first level bus terminal, level with McCowan Road. And the fourth level for 12 or 16 more buses will be higher up still.
They cannot start building the upper level bus terminal until after the subway opens. The SRT guideway is in the way. And their plan is somehow to keep the SRT running until the subway opens.  It may take 2 years after the subway opens to demolish the SRT guideway and open this upper level bus platform for Scarborough commuters.
This stacked station apparently costs as additional $178Million. Councillors once again rummaged under the couch cushions at City Hall and said “YUP! We found it! Carry on.”
This is the point where we finally understand the City Planning Department’s resistance to the Big Bend Alignment. They want the station to be on McCowan Road because it is the catalyst they need to completely rebuild McCowan and Progress north of Town Centre Court.  If the station were where we proposed it, their ideas to change McCowan-Progress would have to stand on their own. This way they are tied into the subway. 
Here’s what they said:
Today, McCowan Road is a challenging environment for pedestrians, including transit users. The road has been designed primarily for vehicles, with grade separated intersections at Progress Avenue and several free-flow access ramps. In order to achieve the vision for Scarborough Centre, it is critical to change the nature of McCowan Road in this area. Pedestrians must be able to access destinations, including the subway station, and they must feel safe walking along McCowan Road and crossing it.
Here’s an illustration from the staff report of McCowan looking north past the lower level bus terminal. The Progress Overpass is demolished. Progress is lowered down to intersect with McCowan at a new signalized intersection. Just north of that is another signalized intersection where a new street runs west from McCowan roughly where Jack Astor’s is today.  All the buildings you see will come along after the subway is built. And I’m sure you eagle eyed Glen Andrew folk will note there’s almost no traffic on McCowan! That’s what we want: two more traffic signals, the city’s largest bus terminal, and all the traffic disappears!
 As an aside, and to tie into my article about Grade Separations, if I found $178Million under City Hall couch cushions  I’d start work immediately on the 4 grade separations we need to keep Danforth, Progress, Huntingwood and McNicoll open once the expanded GO service starts through Scarborough.
Connecting to the Sheppard Subway
As far as ever connecting this subway into a future Sheppard Subway we’ve been told that’s not in the plans. In fact City Planners told us in December that they want to start the process to take the Sheppard Subway out of the Toronto Official Plan this year.
But, not to worry. If it is ever built they said it could come in from the west and they’d just excavate another station underneath this one they want to build on McCowan so you could transfer from one to the other.
This from the folks who ‘can’t’ figure out how to get a bridge over the Highland Creek.
Or, what the heck, maybe the Sheppard Subway runs east all the way to McCowan, then turns south and runs right into this new station they want to build.
Or maybe not.
Lorne Ross.

1 comment:

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