There is no argument that rapid transit, grade-separated underground or elevated transit, is superior to surface transit when it comes to speed. Subways can move at double the speed of a bus, while Transit City LRT surface transit can only move 6 km/h faster than a bus. Doubling the speed of commutes is worth the investment as it will help bring people to their jobs faster and back home to their families quicker. The speed will allow the Sheppard and Eglinton-Scarborough lines to serve their purpose as regional connectors, connecting Scarborough to York University, Uptown, Midtown, and Weston quickly.
Completing the Sheppard and Eglinton-Scarborough lines as rapid transit (subway and elevated) will help eliminate the annoying transfers at Kennedy, Don Mills, Sheppard-Yonge, and Downsview. This will work in addition to the increase in speed from grade-separation to help shorten commutes for Torontonians. By building all of Eglinton underground, it would also help ease Bloor-Yonge station (project to ease Bloor-Yonge station would cost near a billion and take years to do).
The Sheppard and Eglinton subways have been on city plans since 1985. It envisioned that these corridors will form the backbone of Toronto rapid transit midtown and uptown. This was the plan until Transit City came and killed this rapid transit vision in 2007. Look at the 401 and east-west arterials and you will see that Toronto needs these two east-west rapid transit lines as commutes are getting longer going both directions. These two lines will provide multiple connections with GO and TTC routes making them true regional connectors, something that surface LRT transit will not do.
Subway infrastructure lasts decades to centuries. It is forward thinking, encourages growth, support development, and will be there for years for people to enjoy and build upon. It is a solution to the long-term congestion problem that Toronto is facing and will encourage more people to dump their cars and take fast rapid transit that can actually compete with cars. Subway and elevated stations also provide shelter from the elements, especially needed in Canadian winters, providing the quality rapid transit that will attract development.
The Sheppard Subway was identified as a need back in 1985. Because of cuts, it lies incomplete and unable to serve its full function. It is needed as a northern link that will help ease congestion on the 401 and other east-west routes. The section from Don Mills to Scarborough Town Centre is needed to connect Scarborough to North York and to serve the many workers in that area. In fact, even under the Transit City LRT plan, there would need to be an underground section built from Don Mills to Consumers. We have the money to build this today, and this section should be built as a subway which will provide higher capacity and eliminate the transfer at Don Mills that Transit City LRT would bring.
Now to examine the benefits of a fully underground Eglinton line - it will help double the ridership and double the capacity of the line. In fact in 2031, 10 years after construction, ridership will well exceed the need for underground rapid transit, and Transit City LRT surface transit will be insufficient to serve the amount of riders. It will also speed up trips by 10 minutes, provide a better quality ride and a more reliable system. An all underground line will provide a one seat ride for Scarborough riders to Yonge and west to Weston. Torontonians clearly support (55%-45%) an all underground Eglinton line, especially those who live in the areas that the Eglinton and Sheppard lines will serve. Most of the councillors who voted for the surface LRT plan are actually from areas that already have quality subway service, and we must make them see that the rest of the city also need quality rapid transit - not Transit City LRT surface transit.
Click to see Metrolinx’s presentation on the cost/benefit of an all underground Eglinton line.
There has been talk that the two lines above are not economically feasible. This is not true. The province has committed to over $8 billion in funding for the fully grade separated Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown rapid transit line. The province has also earmarked over $600 million and the Government of Canada an additional $300 million dollars for transit on Sheppard - That's enough to build an extension to build an extension to Victoria Park or Downsview. An additional 10-20% of funds would fund Sheppard East from Victoria Park to Scarborough Town Centre, completing the line. There has also been a preliminary report "Toronto Transit: Back On Track" by Gordon Chong, former Chair of GO and Vice-Chair of TTC, to address how we can fund the remainder of the Sheppard subway. These two lines are realistic plans that have been on the books for decades. They will add 2 east-west rapid transit connectors to the city, and should not be stubbed and be filled in with Transit City LRT surface transit for the next generations.