Don’t let rumours cloud your judgement.
Here are the facts.
(Note: LRT=Light Rail Transit, LRV=Light Rail Vehicle)
Light Rail Transit (LRT) is made up of modern, electricity-powered Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs) that carry passengers in dedicated lanes, separated from motor vehicle traffic.
- LRT is growing in popularity for major cities around the world as it provides significant transit capacity without the expense of subway systems or the density required to make them viable.
- Like a subway, LRVs can be boarded at all doors, sometimes travel underground, carry large numbers of passengers and operate at high speeds.
- Like streetcars, LRVs can operate at street level, have more frequent stops and cost much less to build and maintain than subways.
- LRVs have no local emissions, since they are powered by electricity, and can be run on renewable energy like wind and solar.
- Modern LRT vehicles are fully accessible for wheelchairs, strollers, and shopping carts. They allow faster boarding through multiple doors.
- Modern LRT vehicles carry more than twice as many passengers as buses and can be paired together into “trains” to increase capacity.
LRT vehicles are smaller and slower than subways, but travel faster and carry more passengers than streetcars or buses.
- Subways are larger and longer – a subway train can hold up to 1500 passengers (in ‘crush’ conditions). An LRV can hold 255 people in each vehicle, and can be linked into a train of two or more cars. Streetcars carry between 75 and 100 people per vehicle.
- Like a subway, LRT vehicles can be boarded through all doors at ground level, making them wheelchair accessible and reducing loading time.
- Subways get their power from an electrified rail below the train. This requires larger stations, more infrastructure and safety separation. An LRV gets its power from a cable over head, like a streetcar.
- LRT can run above ground at street level, like streetcars, however it operates in separate lanes, meaning it is not affected by car and truck traffic.
- LRT can also run underground, like a subway, as is planned for much of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT.
- LRT stops are planned to be about 500 metres apart, slightly farther than streetcar stops (about 250 metres apart), but closer than subway stops.
- Older streetcars, like the ones we see in Toronto today, are smaller than LRVs, and require “loops” to turn around. LRVs are larger, and are “double ended” like subways, so they can change direction quickly without loops.
Most of the time, LRT runs down the centre lanes of streets, as this is often the easiest way for all traffic to move.
LRVs run at an average of 27km/h, slightly slower than subways which average 32 km/h. They are faster than buses and streetcars that travel in mixed traffic (17 km/h). LRVs run at speeds similar to subways when they are underground (as much of the Eglinton LRT line will be)
The main reason for the speed difference between subways and LRT is that LRVs have more stops. Subway stations are more expensive to build, so fewer stops are built with longer distances between them.
It costs more to build a subway. A lot more. Subways cost an average of $300 million per km. LRT is $100 million per km for surface routes and $250 million for underground routes.
- It costs more to maintain subways. Not only are underground stations more expensive to build, they also cost more to light, keep safe and secure, and clean.
- By spending less money per kilometre for construction, our money literally takes us further. By some estimates, the Transit City plan would provide 10 times as many people with access to transit than the Scarborough subway extension Mayor Ford proposed.
- Speed is a trade-off with access. Subways go faster by providing stations further apart. LRT stops can be closer together, meaning shorter walks and easier access.
- LRT can be built faster. Some lines could open in as little as two years. The existing Sheppard subway extension took a decade.
- Subways are not needed everywhere. While an area like Finch West or Sheppard East badly needs more service than a bus can provide, it does not have nearly the number of riders required to justify a subway (usually about 20,000 passengers per hour in rush hour is the “floor” for subways. The Yonge line sees about 30,000 passengers in the morning rush hour. The Finch West LRT has fewer than 3,000.
- Being above ground is good for business. When the ride is fast and smooth, passengers like being above ground, where they look can out the window, and see passing businesses as they go by. Some studies have shown that subways, especially when stations are spaced far apart (as on the Sheppard subway line) can actually hurt local business by discouraging passengers from getting off to shop and dine.
- Subway construction is much more disruptive for local businesses, residents, car and bus traffic and pedestrians because it takes longer and requires digging up large sections of road.
- Light Rail Transit is cheaper to operate. The most expensive thing about running a bus is the driver. Since an LRV can carry 5 times more passengers (255) than a bus (55), the number of operators required to carry the same number of passengers is significantly lower.
- It’s more comfortable. Just like a subway or streetcar, an LRT ride is smooth and comfortable, and much quieter (both inside and out) than a bus.
- The average life span of a bus is much shorter than a streetcar or an LRV. The average bus lasts about 15 years, while streetcars and LRVs can keep running for over 30 years.
- Because LRVs carry many more passengers, your chances of being left waiting at the stop, while full vehicles pass you by during busy rush hour, are much lower.
- LRT is faster. While the average speed for buses in mixed traffic is 17 km/hr, LRVs travel on their own dedicated lanes and travel at an average speed of 27 km/hr.
The city has spent about $140 million on public consultation, design, and construction, and has signed contracts worth approximately $1.3 billion more. This includes a $54 million contract to build the tunnel-boring machines for the 20 km tunnel portion of the Eglinton line. Cancelling these contracts could cost taxpayers hundreds of millions in cancellation fees.
- The province has committed to $8.1 billion in funding, through Metrolinx (Metrolinx is the agency created by the Province to coordinate transit across the GTA). In 2010, the Province announced that the first half of the full funding will be available for the first phase of Transit City, the four main LRT lines.
The complete transit project is expected to create approximately 200,000 new jobs in Ontario from $8.1 billion invested. This includes construction and manufacturing jobs, as well as economic spin-off effects.
Additionally, it has been shown that LRT expansion will provide greater benefit to local businesses than subway expansion, once it is built. Above-ground travel allows riders to see and access local businesses on major streets.
The Premier has stated that there is no additional money available for transit funding.
- If Mayor Ford’s plan to reallocate all funding for the four LRT lines to the construction of a subway extension in Scarborough were to be approved, this could cancel all additional transit projects.
- Not only are subways more expensive, they would require years of more studies, which would delay the construction of new transit in Toronto for at least 5-10 years.
All infrastructure work can be disruptive.
- Because LRT construction is faster, and requires fewer complex stations and less tunnelling, it is less disruptive than subway construction.
- The TTC and the City have learned lessons from past projects, including the St. Clair R.O.W., to improve communication and construction coordination and minimize delays.
- While the process may be disruptive during construction, residents and businesses end up with reduced congestion and improved infrastructure, a great benefit over the medium and long term.
The planned Eglinton LRT would run from Kennedy Station in the east and eventually terminate at Pearson International Airport.
- The LRT would connect with GO service, the Scarborough RT, and Bloor-Danforth subway in the east, the Yonge subway at Eglinton Station, and the University-Spadina subway at Eglinton West station. It would also interchange with future proposed routes such as the Don Mills and Jane LRTs.
- The Eglinton LRT would be underground throughout the busiest, centre stretch of the city from approximately Laird Drive to Keele Street, (about 20km) with the rest of the line running in a separated right-of-way.
- The LRT would include 26 stops along the route.
- Phase 1 of the project (Jane to Kennedy) was slated to start in 2011 with the tunnel launch at Black Creek, followed by tunnel boring in 2012 and construction of all stations in 2013. This will be completed by 2020. However, substantial portions of the line would begin opening as soon as 2016.
- Phase 2 (Jane to Pearson Airport) would commence following the completion of phase 1, pending confirmation of funding from the provincial government.
Sheppard East LRT has already begun heavy construction, and is scheduled to open in 2014.
- The Sheppard LRT is planned to run 14 km with 30 stops, beginning at the end of the Sheppard subway (at Don Mills) and continuing to Meadowvale).
- The Sheppard East LRT would run on the surface, in dedicated lanes throughout its length.
- Projected ridership on this line is 3,100 passengers per hour at peak (compared with 30,000 on the Yonge Subway, and the “floor” of 15-20,000 considered necessary to make a subway viable.)
The Finch West LRT is proposed to be 11 km in length, with 20 stops and is planned to run from Humber College in the west to the future Finch West station of the University-Spadina subway line.
- An additional 6 km extension would eventually take the line to Yonge Street.
- The line would connect with the proposed future Jane LRT, the University-Spadina subway line at the future Finch West station, and eventually with Finch Station on the Yonge subway line.
With the Scarborough RT nearing the end of its life, the Transit City plan proposed to convert the line to LRT, and extend it north to Sheppard Avenue, to interface with the Sheppard East LRT.
- The total length of the new line would be 11.4 km, with 9 stations (compared with 6 stations on the existing Scarborough RT.)
- While originally planned to be completed prior to the PanAm games in 2016, current plans call for construction to start after the games with the line to open in 2020.