Scarborough riders will be on bus longer with subway option: Study
One-stop subway extension “doesn’t really address any real problem except the re-election of the mayor,” says transit consultant.
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Building a one-stop subway extension in Scarborough will leave most residents facing longer bus rides compared with the light-rail alternative, according to data analyzed by Ryerson University researchers.
Despite subway advocates’ claims of substantial time savings — claims that have not, to date, been backed by evidence — the Ryerson analysis shows most transit users travelling to the proposed Scarborough Town Centre subway station would on average spend longer on the bus than they do today with the existing Scarborough RT and longer than if a seven-stop LRT were built instead.
A transit user travelling from the area near the previously proposed LRT stop at Sheppard Ave. East and Markham Rd. would have to travel an additional 19 minutes by bus with the subway plan compared with the LRT option.
Ryerson University associate professor Murtaza Haider, who specializes in transportation planning and statistical models, and research assistant Liam Donaldson used a standard transit planning method to calculate how long it would take a transit user to get between 123 different census tracts in Scarborough and the closest rapid transit station.
The researchers performed this analysis using federal census data and publicly available data from Google for three scenarios: with the existing SRT; with a previously planned seven-stop LRT that was to be fully funded by the province; and with the planned $3.35-billion one-stop subway extension.
They determined the average travel time by bus to the closest transit stop would be 20.5 minutes with the seven-stop LRT, 23.7 minutes with the existing SRT, and 27.3 minutes with the one-stop subway — meaning the average time spent on the bus with the subway option would be 6.8 minutes longer than with the LRT.
Individual commutes could be longer or shorter than the average times.
On average, a commuter would have to travel an additional 1.4 kilometres on the bus to get to the subway compared with the bus trip to the nearest LRT station.
“It is so obvious, but still one has to quantify it, so we quantified it even though we knew the answer,” Haider said. “When we quantified it we see that most Scarborough residents would experience an increase in their access commutes to the nearest rail transit station.”
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City staff estimate that those using the six-kilometre subway extension to get between Scarborough Town Centre and west of Kennedy Station could save eight minutes compared with the existing SRT. That time saving, staff say, is a result of the quicker “express” subway ride and eliminating the transfer currently required at Kennedy station.
But those travel time savings are partly cancelled out by the additional time the average transit user will have to spend on the bus to get to the subway.
The Star spoke with two veteran transportation planners who vouched for Haider’s expertise.
For Scarborough’s more than 622,000 residents, there is little to gain with a subway, said transportation consultant and former senior TTC planner David Crowley.
“It doesn’t really address any real problem except the re-election of the mayor,” said Crowley, who helped create the Transportation Tomorrow survey that serves as a guide for the city’s transit plans.
Any claims of significant travel time savings with the subway are false, transportation consultant and transit historian Ed Levy told the Star.
“It’s ludicrous,” Levy said of the claim. “The way the Scarborough subway is being proposed now, it will serve very few of the people it needs to serve and result in an overall increase in travel time rather than any savings.”
Levy noted the subway would do little to help residents travel within the region.
Data cited by the city shows that 23 per cent of all transit trips that begin in Scarborough are destined for downtown and 48 per cent of trips started in Scarborough end in Scarborough.
Although Mayor John Tory and city staff have proposed a 17-stop LRT along Eglinton Ave. E. in addition to the subway extension, that plan currently lacks adequate funding.
Those advocating for an LRT network say it could be built with the $3.56 billion in available funding.
“Such a simple logic says that the one-stop location is not going to serve a hell of a lot of people,” Levy said.
“From all indications, the idea is a poor one and an expensive one and unwarranted and all political.”
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