Sunday, October 20, 2013

What Might A Finch Subway Look Like?

Rob Ford says he wants to replace the in-flight project to build the Finch Ave West LRT with a subway.  No details of any plan have been released.  What could such a subway look like?

First, here is the planned Finch LRT, running between a yet-to-be-built subway station at Finch & Keele, and Humber college's north campus.

This route is about 11KM long, and Metrolinx has $1B in 2010 dollars budgeted to build it. How much subway does this buy?

Steve Munro suggests a planning figure of $300M/km of subway, assuming stations every 2KM and $350M/KM for stations every KM.  I will take the former, and maybe let's throw in a bit of Federal cash from that same municipal infrastructure program now partly funding the Scarborough subway extension, let's round up to $1.5B in funding (current dollars).  That gives us 5KM of traditional below ground subway with 2 additional stations.

The picture above shows where that gets you.  Basically just past Weston road. Not even half way to Humber college.  For that, we are talking another $1.8B for 6KM more tunnelling.

Steve also noted over twitter that Finch subway enthusiasts seem to favour not a line running west from the Spadina subway line, but instead a line connecting the Spadina and Yonge lines.  What does that look like?

This too, at 6.3KM, is not attainable even at the generously rounded up budget I have suggested.  Here we're only something like $400M short.

Is this what Ford & co have in mind?  I don't know.  Ford's 2010 campaign platform called for BRT on Finch along the hydro corridor running slightly north of it.  You can see it on the third map in particular (the hydro corridor veers south at Weston road in the first two maps, making it an impractical approach for getting transit to Humber college).  Perhaps the subway could run on the surface between the Yonge and Spadina lines.  If so, it might be attainable within something like the $1B (2010) budget for the LRT.  Would the residents adjacent to the hydro corridor like a rail line there?  During the Scarborough transit debate there was considerable angst over the idea that any form of rapid transit wouldn't run below ground, and Ford pushed very hard to bury the whole Eglinton LRT for pretty poor reasons.

Such a route also comes at cost of course of providing actual transit not just to Humber college, but as well the designated low-income "priority neighbourhood" of Jane-Finch, people who could benefit immensely from access to fixed link rapid transit.  Much like the Scarborough Subway expansion passes over two priority neighbourhoods that would have been served by the LRT, there is a social justice aspect to all this not reflected just in raw ridership numbers.  Against that we have some advantage (maybe) of allowing some amount of Yonge line traffic diversion to the underutilized Spadina line (that is, if the amount of traffic from the Spadina line to the Yonge line doesn't make the overcrowding on the Yonge line worse).  Of course, as a rider on the Yonge line, you need to transfer 1-2 extra times in order to move over to the Spadina line, so while I'm sure some people who detest the crowds would do so, it's not clear how many.  Again too, Finch station is the current north terminus of the Yonge line - the people getting on at Finch are not generally facing overcrowding, that happens further down at Eglinton and especially at Bloor stations.

I dearly hope that the TTC puts together some actual mock ups of what options exist for this, with better numbers than this kind of hasty estimate, because absent some official numbers, Ford will be free to demagogue the issue and use highly speculative & unrealistic numbers.  We are talking about a guy who thought he could get the private sector to build him subways despite the lack of any viable business model to do so (especially given the low density areas he wants to build these subways - no for-profit transit company would build subways in the places Ford wants to build them, because the economics wouldn't support it).

Transit surrealism won in Scarborough, but that doesn't mean it has to turn out that way again.  

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