Finch West residents need the full 10km of Rapid Transit as planned

Posted on: July 29th, 2014

Some members of city council, and some candidates for council, have recently made statements misrepresenting the current plan for modern light rail transit (LRT) along Finch Avenue West. To assist residents, CodeRedTO has assembled the facts, resource links on the plan, and we have calculated how alternate options would look and perform.

Learn more about light rail transit by visiting our Resources page!

After reviewing reports from the City of Toronto and Metrolinx, our key findings:

  • Given the current $1.2 billion budget committed by the province of Ontario, only about 3km of subway could be built, as opposed to about 10km of modern light rail transit (LRT).
  • If only 3km of subway were to be built, it would not cross highway 400 into Etobicoke at all, and have just two new stations.
  • The Finch West LRT project already has a completed Environmental Assessment, and will be under construction from approximately 2017-2020. Any subway would require at least 2-4 more years before construction could begin, with all planning starting from scratch.
  • The City of Toronto and Metrolinx have a signed legal agreement to deliver this LRT line that includes the province paying for all construction costs. Any change to another mode would require renegotiation and penalties due to contract cancellation with suppliers.



The facts clearly show that a subway along Finch West would be shorter, would take longer to build, and would serve fewer residents. But more significantly for Etobicoke residents, our calculations show that it would save almost no time for a rider traveling between Humber College in western Etobicoke and the new subway station at Finch and Keele.

Buses traveling in mixed traffic along Finch West take over 42 minutes to travel this distance (though of course this varies by time of day). While a subway would provide fast travel over 3km of this distance, the transfer time between bus and subway (estimated by Google at 4 minutes on average) means that the average rider’s travel time would drop by only one minute.

However, the light rail planned for Finch West uses reserved rights-of-way so transit vehicles are never stuck behind single-passenger cars, and are able to travel 50-70% faster than the current buses, consistently in all conditions. Our calculations showed that riders could travel from Humber College to Keele in just 28 minutes with no transfer, a time saving of over 1/3.



Download our fact-check flyer now, and share with candidates at your door to ensure they have the facts.

Find out more by visiting our Resources page!

Options for Scarborough RT Replacement

Posted on: July 8th, 2014

Recent news reports have raised questions regarding the 2013 decision by Toronto City Council selecting a subway extension to replace the previously approved by council light rail plan. To encourage accurate discussions, here are the facts:


(click to view full-size image)

LRT plan:

  • 9.9 km, with 7 stations
  • scheduled to open in 2019
  • serves nearly double the number of Scarborough residents
  • redesigns the transfer at Kennedy to be a one-storey difference
  • costs $1.5+ billion less
  • requires a shutdown of the SRT line for 2-3 years
  • is under current legal contract to be fully funded by the province, including all overruns

Subway plan:

  • 7.6 km, with 3 stations
  • would open in 2023 or later
  • eliminates transfer at Kennedy
  • has not yet been studied so costs and timeframes are estimates
  • requires city to renegotiate existing Master Agreement with the province
  • requires city to pay for all sunk costs and cancellation fees, operations costs, at least $750 million of construction, and all construction overruns

Note that neither option would disrupt mixed-vehicle traffic on city roads once construction is complete.


SSAC Spreads False and Misleading Information on Transit

Posted on: May 26th, 2014

Early on May 26, a new advocacy group named the Sheppard Subway Action Coalition, represented by the founder of a group called “Real Torontonians Build Subways”, Patricia Sinclair, handed out false and misleading information to commuters to influence election results in their area. The only information provided as to their group’s membership and funding is as follows:

“The SSAC is comprised of several groups of concerned ratepayers and businesses who are concerned about the negative impact of an LRT and who support the completion of the Sheppard subway.”

CodeRedTO does not condone misleading voters and we have evaluated their claims below. Of the SSAC’s over two dozen claims, at least six were false, and at least twelve were either too vague or subjective to evaluate, or were presented in a misleading way. Three alleged benefits of subways over light rail in fact apply equally to both modes.

Please contact us with any updates, corrections, or questions at any time.

In a website section titled “Why Subway?”, the SSAC lists ten bullet points (shown below in red), with zero supporting context, links, or evidence. Our comments follow each claim.

  • TRAVEL TIME IS REDUCED Correct, underground tunnels do reduce travel time for any vehicle, regardless of technology. This is a major benefit of LRT: it can travel both in tunnels (like under Eglinton and on Sheppard under the 404), and on the surface. Subway trains cannot travel on the surface unless the entire right-of-way is closed off for safety, preventing any other travel options across the route.
  • UNIMPEDED TRAFFIC FLOW PROVIDES GREATER RELIABILITY Correct, underground tunnels do prevent traffic from blocking the vehicle. Since the vast majority of traffic congestion is parallel to the traffic flow, LRT has this benefit for most of its right-of-way as well, since on Sheppard it will travel in an exclusive right-of-way separate from car traffic. This fact is not mentioned at
  • RAPID, RELIABLE TRANSIT ATTRACTS PEOPLE TO PUBLIC TRANSIT Correct, but has nothing to do with subways. All effective, modern transit modes with reliable travel improve ridership and influence travel decisions.
  • REDUCES GRIDLOCK False: Induced demand shows that traffic congestion cannot be reduced. There is always latent demand which will backfill any improvements. This is a well-studied issue and has been shown time and again in new highway development. The Big Move (which includes LRT, subway, bus, and regional train improvements) has been presented as a way to reduce the growth of congestion, not as a way to reduce it.
  • HIGHEST ECONOMIC INDICATORS, CREATION OF MORE JOBS Too vague a claim to evaluate. It is true that improved transit reliability and travel times do improve employment and residential development in various ways. However, a review of the Sheppard Subway shows that employment in that corridor has not grown, only residential, and much of that can be attributed to highway proximity. The vast majority of job growth within the GTHA is in the urban cores, not uniformly along subway lines.
  • GREATEST IMPACT ON DEVELOPMENT Too vague a claim to evaluate. Some subway development areas experience rapid change (many condos on Sheppard), while others experience little change (Toronto’s ward 29, Toronto-Danforth, its lowest-density ward and has had subway service since the 1960’s). It should be noted that some SSAC members (incluing a shared executive member / webmaster) appear to be affiliated with a residents’ association currently protesting against development near an existing subway station.
  • PROPERTY VALUES NEAR SUBWAY STATIONS AND LINES RISE Correct, but this is also true of light rail development, as shown in the Journal of Transport and Land Use which studied the Charlotte LRT from 1997-2008, and by the University of North Texas, which found value jumps of about 25% for properties along the Dallas DART LRT line.
  • BETTER FOR ENVIRONMENT, REDUCES GREENHOUSE GASES False: the carbon emissions and greenhouse gases emitted to create an underground tunnel far outweigh those required for surface development, and the carbon emissions required to ventilate, heat and cool, clean, monitor for security, install escalators and elevators, and to maintain underground construction far outweigh that of surface stations. All transit is “better for environment” and “reduces greenhouse gases”, when compared to personal car traffic.
  • HIGHER QUALITY OF LIFE Too vague to evaluate, but one important point is that quality of life must consider not only the car driver who refuses to ever see a transit vehicle, but also the youth or senior traveler who must travel farther to reach a transit station, usually by walking to a bus stop, then riding that bus in traffic jams, just to reach a distance subway station. LRT surface stations on Sheppard will be placed an average of 600-800m apart, while subway stops are typically twice the distance.

In a second section titled “Why No LRT?”, the SSAC lists eleven bullet points (shown below in red), again with zero supporting context, links, or evidence.

  • 9 INTERSECTIONS IN SHEPPARD CORRIDOR AT CAPACITY IN 2008 This may be true, but no information about where this claim was found is provided. As discussed above, induced demand means this will not change regardless of transit technology (or even additional car lanes) being added.
  • SHARING INTERSECTIONS IMPEDES TRAFFIC FLOW Correct, though this is true of all forms of transportation.
  • INCREASED RATE OF ACCCIDENTS [sic] Without any data, impossible to evaluate this claim.
  • TRAVEL TIME UNRELIABLE (weather, breakdowns, accidents) Exposure to the elements does have impact on surface travel, though LRT performs strongly in all weather types as evidenced by successful LRT systems in extreme-winter environments around the world, including Minneapolis, Calgary, and Edmonton. Breakdowns and accidents can occur, though since the Sheppard East LRT design includes dedicated advance-green signals for all vehicles crossing LRT tracks, this is a misleading claim.
  • GREATER LENGTH OF TRAVEL TIME VERSUS SUBWAY OR EXPRESS BUS LRT does take slightly longer than subway to travel a similar distance, but since stops are farther apart the total travel time for LRT vs Subway is often far closer than claimed. Mapped and measured example (using proposed Sheppard East LRT design):


Note: Not shown in this chart are the average 4-minute transfer time (per Google Maps) from one mode to another (such as LRT to subway at Don Mills Station), and the average 1-3 minute travel time (estimated by CodeRedTO) to reach an underground platform to board a subway.
  • CENTRE STREET STOPS INCONVENIENT & UNCOMFORTABLE Subjective, but often false: surface stops are more accessible (no broken escalators and elevators as are common underground) and are faster to access (meaning fewer missed vehicles).
  • BENEFITS OF CONTINUOUS TRANSIT LINE LOST Correct. The transfer from subway or bus to LRT at Don Mills Station will be convenient and quick with the LRT and subway vehicles sitting on the same level along the same platform, but the transfer does introduce a short time penalty.
  • PROPERTY VALUES ALONG RIGHT-OF-WAY DECREASE False, as shown in the Journal of Transport and Land Use which studied the Charlotte LRT from 1997-2008, and by the University of North Texas, which found value jumps of about 25% for properties along the Dallas DART LRT line.
  • REDUCES TRAFFIC LANES False. The Sheppard East LRT Environmental Assessment plan shows nearly no changes to the space allocated to mixed traffic. It is required that four car traffic lanes be maintained for the full length of the LRT line, which matches the current road space in all but one section of Sheppard near Consumers Road (where the LRT will enter its tunnel to connect to the existing subway line). In fact, cars will enjoy increased road space as the frequent Sheppard East buses will disappear from traffic.
  • FOSTERS CAR INFILTRATION INTO STABLE NEIGHBOURHOODS Too vague to evaluate without links or evidence, though we agree car traffic does adapt to changing conditions, just as it does today for the disruptive tunnel construction along Eglinton.

The SSAC has produced a printable flyer that includes additional claims (shown below in red):

  • Eliminate left-hand turns between major intersections. Correct, just as left-hand turns are not possible along University Avenue (above a subway), along Eglinton Avenue East in Scarborough (no subway or LRT), and along Markham Road near Sheppard East (no subway or LRT).
  • Negative impact on reducing greenhouse gases. False. “Rail transportation produces far fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than road,” according to the Pembina Institute, but the carbon emissions and greenhouse gases emitted to create an underground tunnel far outweigh those required for surface development, and the carbon emissions required to ventilate, heat and cool, clean, monitor for security, install escalators and elevators, and to maintain underground construction far outweigh that of surface stations. All transit is “better for environment” and “reduces greenhouse gases”, when compared to personal car traffic.
  • Limited economic development potential and uplift. Too vague to evaluate, though according to Cervero and Duncan in the Transportation Research Record, “substantial capitalization benefits were found, on the order of 23% for a typical commercial parcel near a light rail transit stop”.
  • Highest operating costs per passenger mile. Impossible to evaluate without any links to source. However, the American Public Transportation Association says that “used appropriately, LRT enhances transit efficiency,” and that in six cities across the USA, LRT provided “22 percent of total system boardings and carrying 30 percent of systemwide passenger miles but consuming only 17 percent of the operating and maintenance costs.”
  • Does not meet City’s Official Plan nor Provincial Growth Plan. Too vague to evaluate. The City of Toronto and the Ontario ministries each update official plans regularly (though sparingly), and both plans indicate support for public transit, for travel options, for improved development, and for increased use of solutions that work in other cities and provinces. Both subway and LRT are mentioned in the December 2010 City of Toronto Official Plan, and both subway and LRT are mentioned in the Places To Grow Act’s Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

It should also be noted that the SSAC does not use any of the following words or phrases on their website or in their printed materials:

  • price
  • dollars
  • construction time
  • construction cost

The only mention of this key aspect of transit development comes in the phrase “subways necessitate large upfront costs” – note the costs are usually double that of light rail – but there is no comparison of ridership (which would not double), travel time (which would not halve), or construction time (which would be longer by at least 1-2 years at minimum due to the EA and design process).

Since Sheppard East provides wide suburban roadways with room for both car lanes and LRT lanes, the same investment can create improved transit speed and options for a far greater portion of Scarborough – roughly double the distance can be built along Sheppard using LRT, at the same cost. A subway extension would help some riders to be sure, but it would also perhaps irreversibly damage transit improvement for all of Scarborough east of McCowan Road.

Subways and light rail are both great solutions for different situations. In the past, Toronto has only built subways, slowly and with great expense, meaning huge sections of our city are left without modern transit. Since light rail is being built and used in over 80 cities worldwide (and more every year), we have an opportunity to improve options for more of our city without incurring greater cost and more delays.

In the case of Sheppard East, CodeRedTO endorses the smart transit option: LRT.

Survey shows GTHA residents support taxes and new revenue sources for transit

Posted on: April 23rd, 2014

CodeRedTO today announced a new infographic today showcasing some of the surprising results of a recent Angus Reid Forum survey it commissioned as part of the Move The GTHA collaborative. The full infographic can be downloaded below, and the survey methodology and results can also be found at Move The GTHA.

The survey, designed in collaboration with Move The GTHA partners and the Angus Reid Global research team at Vision Critical, showed strong support across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area for better public transit funding, increased infrastructure spending, and 59% support region-wide for “an increase in taxes or fees to improve public transit infrastructure in the GTHA.”

Our newly-released infographic:


Full results at Move The GTHA

New poll: support growing for transportation investment

Posted on: April 16th, 2014

On April 11, 2014, the Move the GTHA collaborative, which includes CodeRedTO, released a new Angus Reid Forum poll, showing nearly 60% of Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area residents are now more likely to support a political leader who brought in new funding sources for transportation improvements.    Support for new revenue sources for transportation infrastructure has increased in the past few months.

This is a significant result as we work toward better transit options, for more residents, sooner. For full details see

How much would replacing streetcars with buses cost?

Posted on: January 13th, 2014

On January 12, CodeRedTO’s Executive Director Cameron MacLeod was a guest on Edward Keenan’s radio show on NewsTalk1010, discussing the hypothetical idea of replacing streetcars on King and Queen streets with new articulated buses.

The theory behind this oft-floated but never-costed idea is to help traffic move, but the positioning is invariably that of a driver ‘stuck behind a streetcar’. Little attention is paid to the many residents on that streetcar who also wish to travel somewhere and have just as much right to do so. It’s key that improvements help people travel more efficiently, not that cars necessarily travel more efficiently, as the average car in Toronto carries just 1.1 people, according to a previous Chair of the TTC. This means that old rusty streetcar could be carrying nearly 120 cars worth of traffic!

Capacity is the big issue with this idea: King and Queen combined carry over 100,000 riders per day – more than double the Sheppard subway, and more than the entire GO Transit bus network combined. Any change needs to take into account how those thousands of riders will get where they’re going.

We calculated that to replace the King and Queen streetcars would require a purchase of up to 185 articulated buses just to maintain the capacity the TTC has scheduled, not provide any increase. That would mean a capital cost of $174M to purchase the articulated buses, and additional driver salaries of up to $8.2M per year – a significant outlay for a transit system that for several years has ‘robbed Peter to pay Paul’ in its operating budget, and and is facing a multi-billion-dollar shortage of capital funding in just the next 10 years.

Other costs would be required as well: fuel for these vehicles versus electricity costs for the streetcars, a new garage to store these vehicles, new maintenance and cleaning staff to keep the buses running, and more. Never mind the cost to cancel or redirect the current $1.2B contract for 204 new accessible low-floor streetcars, which the TTC is hoping to expand by 60 more to help upgrade capacity across the network.

Even should the costs concerns be waved away, buses would encounter many of the same challenges as streetcars in the crowded and busy King and Queen corridors: blocked lanes due to left turns, parking, taxis, and delivery trucks; bunching due to route management issues or disruptions; blocking other traffic by leaving their “tail” sticking into the left lane as they weave around parked cars, etc. These issues can and should be addressed regardless of the type of vehicle being used on a specific street.

There’s a legitimate conversation to have about transit modes, technologies, and where each one fits best. But simply swapping out one type for another lower-capacity option is very expensive, and does not address the underlying issues.


Data and Sources:

CodeRedTO recently gathered data to compare the capacity of each type of vehicle in the TTC fleet, including the new low-floow streetcars entering service this summer. Click below, or click here for the Excel spreadsheet if you’d like a copy.


On January 12th’s radio show, one caller disagreed with our capacity and cost numbers, so source links are included in the above spreadsheet for all capacity numbers. For costs:

  • 204 streetcars at $1.2B = $5,882,352.94 each, so we estimated $6,000,000 each. (source)
  • 153 articulated buses at $143.7M = $939,215.69 each. (source)


Free Event: Public Transit as an Instrument of Freedom

Posted on: January 13th, 2014

UPCOMING FREE EVENT:  Thurs, Jan 23, 7:00 pm.

As part of the City of Toronto’s Feeling Congested campaign, featuring international transit planning expert Jarrett Walker and Toronto’s Chief Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat, in discussion about major transit planning projects around the world. Hosted by Metrolinx and the City of Toronto.

LOCATION: St. Paul’s Church, 227 Bloor Street East.

Misinformation On Council Is Putting Scarborough Rapid Transit At Risk

Posted on: July 17th, 2013


Motion 37.17 cancels the 7-stop, 9.9km Scarborough RT replacement & extension to Malvern, and begins the process of finding cash, starting an EA, and designing a 3-stop, 7.6km subway extension to serve about half as many Scarborough residents. It may also put at risk the 26-stop, 12km Sheppard East LRT by removing over $330M from its funding, as stated by both Mayor Ford and Finance Minister Flaherty on July 16.*
It doesn’t confirm sufficient funds for subway extension, but does cancel at least 1 line that is already funded.

Councillors putting
Scarborough Rapid Transit At Risk:

Augimeri, Bailão, Berardinetti, Colle, Crawford, De Baeremaeker, Del Grande, Fletcher, Kelly, Lee, McConnell, McMahon, Mihevc, Parker, Pasternak, Perruzza, Robinson, Stintz, Thompson

Call and email your councillor today
to protect Scarborough rapid transit.


* Update: The Chair of the TTC, the Toronto City Manager, Metrolinx, and the provincial Minister of Transportation all indicated on July 17 that the funds slated for the Sheppard East LRT are intended for that project only and would not be redirected. However, no written guarantee has been produced on this at this time.

A Prescription from Toronto Public Health & The Registered Nurses Association of Ontario

Posted on: June 27th, 2013

Toronto Public Health and the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario have released a position statement highlighting the need for investment in a healthy transportation system to improve public health overall. The health voice is central to the argument for investment, and CodeRedTO is happy to see our umbrella organization, Move The GTHA, connect with these important voices.


Read the prescription (PDF), and
visit Move The GTHA to learn more!

Public Transit as an Instrument of Freedom

Posted on: June 23rd, 2013

Spearheaded by passionate local transit advocate/guru and prolific blogger Steve Munro, on June 19th Spacing Magazine, CodeRedTO, the ITE, and the Cities Centre welcomed Jarrett Walker, author of Human Transit: How Clearer Thinking Can Enrich Our Communities and Our Lives, for a lecture on improving our thinking on transportation.


Titled “Abundant Access: Public Transit as an Instrument of Freedom”, Walker took the crowd of over 120 through important concepts in transportation, and discussed how some of the least visible attributes of a transit service can be the most important.

Walker’s opening defined his topic for the audience:

“Abundant Access means
as many people as possible…
able to reach as many destinations as possible…
as quickly as possible..
so they have as many real choices as possible…
are therefore truly…

The principles of good network design lead to finding appropriate technology, whereas choosing a technology first can lead to implementing the wrong transit. Walker encourages us to determine our values, so decisions can flow from them. As you are likely aware, Toronto has a bad habit of getting hung up on technology choice! Regularly asked how he feels about a specific type of transit mode, Walker said that it is “very much like asking a poet for their favourite vowel.”

He also discussed the challenge that transit planners face in creating useful transit. Too often, new lines are unintentionally restricted to less useful operation, reducing their likelihood of success. The most common examples are standalone loops, which visit every required location and therefore seem like a tidy solution. “But very few of us wish to travel in circles,” Walker reminds us. Another example is separating each direction of travel onto different streets. This seems to help traffic flow or bring a larger population into the catchment area, but in fact it reduces the usefulness of a service as now fewer people are within walking distance of both directions of travel – a requirement should they wish to actually use the service!


The key messages shared by Walker were to consider how accessible and abundant transit truly creates choice, and that you can’t actually design based on predicting where people will go. Planning based on seniors like to go here, this neighbourhood goes to that temple, etc cannot succeed, because in reality “everybody is always going everywhere.”

For this reason, Walker said, he is far more excited about Toronto’s Eglinton Crosstown LRT than he is about the Finch West or Sheppard East lines. They are stub lines near the outside of the system, which he said translates into “transferring to keep going in the same direction,” whereas the Eglinton line cuts across almost the entire city and touches multiple subway lines and many major bus lines, vastly multiplying its impact. The grid approach to transit service allows much greater flexibility and ease of use, and “Toronto should be very proud of its grid,” said Walker.


Walker also made a point that will resonate in some way with nearly everyone familiar with transit issues in the GTHA: it doesn’t matter whether it’s on rails or wheels (i.e. LRT or BRT), but rather it’s the service design (the “RT” part) that has the impact. Rails that can’t move due to mixed traffic blocking its way, or buses that can’t move due to mixed traffic blocking their way, are equally poor service offerings, and don’t create real choice through revolutionizing the transit available. A poor design is inefficient, and therefore is not providing the goal: Abundant Access.

To learn more about Jarrett Walker, visit His book, Human Transit, can be found at Chapters, Amazon, and Island Press

How to Help

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LEARN about Transit and why there's room for subways, light rail, and streetcars in our region, and how light rail is actually a great city-building choice for the lower-density neighbourhoods in Etobicoke, Scarborough, North York, Mississauga, Brampton, Hamilton, and Kitchener-Waterloo.

CALL your City Councillor, and tell them that you want rational, affordable, and rapid transit in Toronto to benefit everyone, not just one small section of the city. Rapid transit to Malvern, Morningside, Jane & Finch are achievable if we learn from successful transit networks around the world.

TELL your friends and family that subways are amazing - they really are! - but with limited funding we have to make rational decisions about whether to support more residents or leave people waiting for crowded buses for decades longer.

Did you know: The bus routes on Finch have over 85% of the ridership of the (much shorter) Sheppard Subway, and the bus routes on Eglinton already have over 140%! The lengths differ but the need is common in many areas of the city. We are decades behind and need better transit options for our residents now.

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