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

Open Letter to Elected Officials across the GTHA

Posted on: June 11th, 2013

This morning, the Move the GTHA coalition released an open letter to elected officials across the GTHA, signed by three dozen organizations across all sectors and across the region. This letter calls for political leaders to work together and establish new sources of revenue for transportation improvements that are dedicated, accountable, fair, regionally balanced and sustainable. The letter is reproduced below, and you can learn more at


Spacing and CodeRedTO present Jarrett Walker, author of “Human Transit”, June 19

Posted on: June 10th, 2013

Register here! Only 17 tickets remain as of 9:30am Monday! The pre-sale has ended already, but there are 60 seats available at the door – arrive early to guarantee a seat!

Learn more about Jarrett Walker here:

Spring Public Meetings Roundup

Posted on: May 10th, 2013

In April and May CodeRedTO held a series of public meetings in Etobicoke (Jane and Finch, and Richview Gardens), Scarborough (Malvern), Leaside (Thorncliffe Park) and East York (Danforth and Coxwell) to share detailed information with the public on transit expansion projects happening in and near their communities. Metrolinx also presented information about future transit funding and their research into how other regions around North America and the world have paid for major transit expansion.

Invited were all Toronto city councillors, and all nearby provincial MPPs and federal MPs, and turnout was most impressive! Some councillors chose to not respond to our invitations to events in their wards but we extend our sincere thanks to the following elected representatives for attending:

  • Councillor Mary Fragedakis, ward 29
  • Councillor Paula Fletcher, ward 30
  • Councillor Janet Davis, ward 31
  • Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon, ward 32
  • Councillor Maria Augimeri, ward 9
  • Councillor Chin Lee,  ward 41
  • MPP Peter Tabuns, Toronto – Danforth
  • MPP Michael Prue, Beaches – East York

CodeRedTO extends an open invitation to any community organization or elected representative who would like more information on transit presented at their event to contact us at any time. We have presented for MPs, MPPs, city councillors, and the University of Toronto, and we only use information from official sources and checked by transit agency officials.

To review our presentation, just click below to download the PDF version of our slides.

Some great questions were raised during our presentations, and we will share detailed answers soon. If you have any questions on transit expansion or funding, email and we will get answers from the experts.

Ward 17 Event: “Public transit for the future: Who pays?”

Posted on: May 6th, 2013

Join CodeRedTO, Metrolinx, CivicAction, and TTCriders to talk about the future of public transit in the GTHA. Note we are listed as an expert but while CodeRedTO shares information found in research, please note that we do not have expert urban planning or transit engineering knowledge.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013, 6-8 pm

Dufferin/St. Clair Library 1625 Dufferin Street

Expanding public transit in our region is a pressing need. There is a plan (The Big Move) and there have been consultations from the province’s regional transit planning agency Metrolinx, the City of Toronto and civic groups.

Now we want to hear from Ward 17 residents.

To pay for the new buses, LRTs and subways, should government create new revenue tools? Pay for it with taxes? Raise fares?

This is a chance for Ward 17 residents to hear from experts about the region’s pressing needs, the plans to build transit, and the options to pay for it. And like every Civic17 event, it’s a chance for residents to connect with each other and share their own views.

Expert Panel:
Dina Graser, Metrolinx
Luca De Franco, TTCriders
Cameron MacLeod, CodeRedTO
Linda Wichel, CivicAction

Invited to share their position:
Councillor Palacio
MPP Jonah Schein
MP Andrew Cash

For more information visit:  or

Link to map and transit directions

Future Transit Question of the Month: Are Cemeteries Being Expropriated?

Posted on: April 12th, 2013

#CodeRedTO takes your questions and finds answers! This month: To widen the road and maintain two lanes of traffic in both directions, is land required for the Sheppard East LRT from any Cemeteries?

We spoke to both the TTC and Metrolinx, and here’s their response:

At this time, land is not required from any cemeteries for the widening of Sheppard Ave East. For example,  at the cemetery at Knox United, the line has been designed to veer slightly to the south so that it minimizes any impact to the church property.  There will still be enough room on the north side of Sheppard, east of Midland Ave to have a sidewalk and maintain the church property. This is a very historic part of Scarborough and it will be treated with great sensitivity.  Here is a slide that depicts the alignment at Midland Ave and Sheppard Ave East (from Sept 2010)

Got a question you can’t find the answer to? Email or find us on Twitter at @CodeRedTO!

How to Help

JOIN our email list to stay informed!

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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