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Transit Expansion on Sheppard Avenue East on the GTA

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Engineering
Wordcount: 5145 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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Transit Expansion on Sheppard Avenue Easton the GTA

WSP Canada/Toronto Transit Commission

Letter of Submittal

Dear Dr. Brush.:

This report, entitled “Transit Expansion on Sheppard Avenue East on the GTA,” was prepared as my 3A Work Report for the Toronto Transit Commission. This report is my first out of three work term reports required by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Waterloo. The purpose of this report is to evaluate which would be the best transit infrastructure option that will run along Sheppard Avenue East in a near future and will help reduce congestion on this part of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

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The Toronto Transit Commission is a public transport agency that operates bus, subway, streetcar, and paratransit services in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Throughout my work term, I was employed in Engineering Construction and Expansion (EC&E) department on the East end of the city. The project I was assigned to involved the renovation and expansion of two TTC buildings. I worked as a Construction Inspector, managing and supervising the daily activities on site, the work force and other issues but due to the nature of my job, I was not required to design or analyse a topic that would give me enough information to write a report on.  I decided to write a report on something related and relevant to my employer and the transportation industry in the GTA. I used and analyzed the data collected by the Expert Advisory Panel Regarding Transit on Sheppard Avenue East, TTC and Metrolinx to come to my conclusions. 

This report was written entirely by me and has not received any previous academic credit at this or any other academic institution.




The following report analyses three different suggestions that have been considered in the future transit expansion at Sheppard Avenue East. This report will analyze and compare the transit options, their efficiency and their economic and environmental impact. The first transit option consists of an extension of the current line 4 subway line that ends at Don Mills Station, east of Sheppard Avenue East. The second one, a light-rail transit (LRT) line connecting with the subway at Don Mills, and proceeding east along Sheppard Avenue to Morningside/Conlins Road in its own right-of-way, except at signalized intersections.  The third option is a combination of subway and LRT, expanding the subway from Don Mills to Victoria Park and LRT from there to Morningside.

Either subway, LRT or a combination of both would adequately serve as Rapid Transit on Sheppard East. The option selected will be determined based on projections of future travel demand, difficulties on designing and accommodating the new infrastructure to the current space and cost-effectiveness of the transit infrastructure.

This report considers what changes in the current infrastructure on the GTA can be implemented in this section of the city in the near future to reduce the current congestion problem.  Road and public transit users on the GTA face daily congestions on traffic and delays caused by a lack of infrastructure. Being one of the largest cities in North America and with a continuous growth in population, the transit system and highways are at its capacity limit. Plans to improve and extend the current infrastructure experience numerous challenges. Some of these challenges are caused by not enough funding being allocated into expanding the current transit system infrastructure and the urban sprawl of cities that come as a result of a lifestyle that favors the usage of the automobile. 

Table of Contents


Letter of Submittal


List of Figures

List of Tables

1.0 Introduction

1.1 Background

1.2 Context

2. Proposed Transit Improvements

2.1 Expanding the Subway System

2.2 Expanding Light Rail Transit (LRT)

2.3 Expanding Subway and LRT (Hybrid Option)

3.0 Cost-Benefit Analysis

4.0 Environmental Analysis

5.0 Conclusions

6.0 Recommendations


List of Figures

Figure 2.1.1 Subway Rapid Transit Option for Sheppard Ave East

Figure 2.1.2 Passengers per hour for different transit options on the Sheppard East Corridor

Figure 2.2.1. Metrolinx’s future LRT

Figure 2.2.2. LRT Rapid Transit Option for Sheppard Ave East

Figure 2.2.1 Light Rail Transit Facts

List of Tables

Table 2.1 Transit Options East of Don Mills Station

Table 2.1.1 Peak hours and locations forecasts in the Sheppard East Corridor for 2031

Table 3.1 Cost-effectiveness of each option

Table 4.1 Environmental Analysis

1.0 Introduction

1.1 Background

Historically in North America road space has been a resource that has been over-used and under-priced which overtime resulted in congestion. The problem started appearing after WWII, when oil prices went down and car ownership increased, which in turn, made planning developers to create residential areas over extended land areas, far from the city core (Murphy, 2018). This phenomenon of low density residential areas far away from the work, commerce and leisure areas is known as urban sprawl. This trend of car-ownership has been growing over many decades and at the same time the population has continued increasing.

Both the government and the users of the GTA’s roads and public transit find congestion a problem of importance. It supposes a huge economic loss in terms of hours wasted on traffic (time-value of money measured using the average salary metric) and it also pollutes the environment (Green House Gases).

1.2 Context

Currently the average GTA resident has lifestyle that is very car dependant and public transit is often not a convenient alternative to the car. The congestion problem in the GTA is mainly caused by private vehicle commuters, especially during peak hours. Overall almost 3 out of 4 commuters use private vehicles (Statistics Canada, 2017). Out of all private vehicles, single-occupant vehicles represent close to 90% of vehicles on the road. This congestion is also shared by the surface transit vehicles since they share the road with private vehicles and, in addition to that, the former require additional stops to pick up/drop out passengers making commuting even more time consuming.

At the same time, Canada historically has underinvested on transportation infrastructure compared to many European cities of similar size. This is in part due to the funding relying heavily in public funding and due to political reasons. For example, in Paris, France, besides public funding there are also dedicated business taxes for capital costs on its commuter rail system and high speed trains.

Over the past years, the federal government has increased its investment on transit infrastructure, such as the Spadina subway extension, but investing on infrastructure is not the only solution for the congestion problem. Even if an efficient network of public transit is achieved across the GTA, the public would require to gradually move away from a lifestyle that is a mostly car-dependent to a more transit oriented one within the city

2. Proposed Transit Improvements

The selection of a transit system depends on the land use and population density of a city. Toronto’s Official Plan is the one responsible for forecasting how many people will live and work in the city in the future, as well as the zoning reserved for residential, industrial and green space areas (Dobson, 2008). These projections gather information about how people travel around the city and try to predict which routes commuters would most likely take through the city either by car, transit, walking or biking.

 It is not always easy to predict how the population is going to change in the next decades and what capacity would be necessary. Toronto’s currently city planning has more demand for lower-density and more-dispersed development as opposed to the predicted high-density development urban centres that what was projected in the mid-1980s (Crombie et al., 2012). As a result, Toronto’s neighborhoods have grown enough to attract employment and are dispersed across the city as opposed to the predicted employment centres back in the day.  

The transportation demand can be provided by a different number of transit vehicles but the choice made has to take into account things like land use, demand, effects on the local community, ease of access to the transportation method, environmental sustainably, etc.  The chosen transit technology mush also prioritize being as cost effective as possible given that the budget for this project is limited.

This report studies the future connection of two centres along the Sheppard Avenue corridor, North York Centre and Scarborough Centre. In the mid-1980s, this corridor had a projection of a total employment 160,000 by 2011 and currently the total employment is closer to 44,000. This requires less demand than it was originally predicted.

It must be decided which type of transit will run along Sheppard Avenue after Don Mills subway station. These three options are discussed. Table 2 below summarizes the 3 options:

  1. An extension of the current subway line up to Scarborough Civic Center(McCowan Avenue) 
  2. An LRT line that would connect with the subway at Don Mills and go until Collins Road/Morningside using their own right-of way.
  3. A combination of subway and LRT. Continuing the subway from Don Mills to Victoria Park and from there, LRT until Morningside.

Table 2.1 Transit Options East of Don Mills Station (adapted from Crombie et al., 2012)

Option A

Option B

Option C

Transit Technology



LRT and Subway hybrid

Route Alignment

Don Mills to Morningside

Don Mills to Scarborough Center

Don Mills to Victoria Park (subway)

Victoria Park to Morningside (LRT)






25 stations

7 stations

2 subway stations and 24 surface stations

Capital Costs

$1.0 B1

$2.7 to $3.7 B1

$1.5 to 1.8B1

1: Note that these estimates should be revised by TTC and Metrolinx since the project has been paralyzed for few years 

2.1 Expanding the Subway System

The subway extension would run 8km east of Don Mill station until Scarborough City Centre and a total of 7 stations (Walker, 2013).  In the next page there is a map of the tentative subway extension

Figure 2.1.1 Subway Rapid Transit Option for Sheppard Ave East (Walker, 2013)

The main benefits of the subway option are its higher speed, it is supposed to be more reliable and have a higher quality service, it eliminates transferring to another system at Don Mills subway Station and has a capacity for a higher ridership.

Figure 2.1.2 below and Table 2.1.1 in the next page indicate the capacity of different transit options and the predicted ridership during peak hours in 2031

Figure 2.1.2 Passengers per hour for different transit options on the Sheppard East Corridor (Crombie et al., 2012)

Table 2.1.1 Peak hours and locations forecasts in the Sheppard East Corridor for 2031 (adapted from Crombie et al., 2012)

Westbound AM Peak

Existing Ridership

LRT Don Mills to Morningside

Subway Yonge to Scarborough Center

Approaching Consumers Business Park




Approaching Sheppard-Yonge Station




From the figure and table data, it can be said that although current estimates (a maximum of 7800 passengers per hour) don’t call for high enough demand in ridership to justify the capital costs of a subway (with a capacity over 20000 passengers per hour), a higher capacity could be especially beneficial if the population density on the area significantly increases above projections and the LRT’s capacity cannot satisfy the future demand. It could be speculated that a higher speeds and capacity could potentially attract many users to use the subway as opposed to driving or other means of transit.

2.2 Expanding Light Rail Transit (LRT)

LRTs are electricity powered and run at street level along dedicated lanes separated from the rest of the traffic but with shared intersections with the rest of the road-users.

Figure 2.2.1. Metrolinx’s future LRT (“Metrolinx Toronto Light Rail Transit Projects”, 2018)

The LRT would provide 13 km of rails east of Don Mills station up to Morningside and would have up to 25 stops.

Figure 2.2.2. LRT Rapid Transit Option for Sheppard Ave East. (Walker, 2013)

The LRT has more frequent stops than the subway and costs less to build and maintain. They have a capacity of around 250 passengers per train and three trains can be paired together to carry up to 750 passengers. It has the advantage of having a higher capacity than the bus (around 55 passengers per bus), a higher speed than the bus and significant lower costs than the subway.  Other advantages are the quieter and smoother tracks making the ride more enjoyable for the passengers, stops at street level that don’t require accessing stairs or an elevator. It is also an environmentally friendly option with zero local emissions. The figure below shows Metrolinx’s infographic with facts about the tentative LRTs.

Figure 2.2.1 Light Rail Transit Facts (LRT Infographics, 2018)

Toronto’s Official Plan projected a future travel demand 3000 to 4500 passengers per hour east of Shepard Avenue. The LRT can easily accommodate up to 8000 passengers per hour, thus providing enough capacity for even the most optimistic demand of 6000 passengers per hour. The cost of constructing a subway line with a capacity for up to 30000 passengers per hour cannot be justified.

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The access to the light rail would be more convenient for a bigger number of commuters since there would be stops every 400-500m compared to 1-1.5km for the subway. It also includes its own right-of-way except for some intersections and all-door boarding. Disadvantages include a lower operation speed than the subway (23km/hr compared to 31km/hr for the subway) but it is still faster than the regular streetcar lines which operate at 13km/hr.

2.3 Expanding Subway and LRT (Hybrid Option)

The third alternative consists of approximately 2.7 km of subway tunnel and 2 stations at Consumers and Victoria Park. From there, a transfer would be required to the LRT portion, which would be approximately 10.3 km and 24 stops until Morningside.

 As with the LRT, due to the greater number of stops it has the benefit of providing more access points across Scarborough but due to the subway portion it is significantly less cost-effective than the LRT.

3.0 Cost-Benefit Analysis

Congestion on the GTA is a problem that severely affects the economy, the environment and people’s lives. In 2008 a study conducted by Metrolinx estimated that the annual costs of congestion on the GTA and Hamilton Area (GTHA) are approximately of $3.3 billion and that by 2031 that number will rise to $7.2 billion if the problem is not resolved (Institute for Competitiveness & Prosperity, 2018). This study calculated the costs differences between the “optimal” speed and congestion speed.

Many road users may not be aware of the real costs of congestion for the economy that go beyond the direct form of wasted gas and time. There is a misconception between the true economic impact of congestion and the perceived impact by car-owners. Some indirect costs effects are loss on productivity, higher cost of production, loss of time that could be used for other purposes, and an increase in pollution and greenhouse gases.

When comparing the subway and LRT investments, the Toronto Transit Infrastructure Limited (TTIL) stated the following: 

“The investment in Subway is predicted to provide a total economic impact of $3.8 billion compared to $1.6 billion for LRT, generate more than 22,800 person-years of direct and indirect employment compared to 9,500 for LRT, and increase business sales by $7.2 billion compared to $3.0 billion for LRT.” (Toronto Transit: Back on Track – Presentation to Toronto Executive Committee, 2012)

The subway is the option that received a higher score in terms of economic development followed by the LRT.  However, doing future projections is just speculating and in the past they have significantly overestimated the number of employment and population growth in the area making this statement not reliable truth. For the hybrid option, a rough estimate of $325 million/km was made (in 2010 dollars) for the subway portion. An additional 20% should be added to these estimates to make a connection to the remaining LRT portion. 

Toronto received $8.7 billion by the Provincial and Federal Governments to invent on the Sheppard Avenue East Corridor and other Rapid Transit projects across the city. Either for the hybrid or the subway options, additional funding would be required by the city. Based on the 2031 projections the LRT can bring near the same economic development as a subway and the funding would probably be better allocated in other projects. 

Below is a summary of the approximate costs of the three transit options for Sheppard Avenue, east of Don Mills:

Table 3.1 Cost-effectiveness of each option (adapted from Crombie et al., 2012)

Option A: LRT

Option B: subway

Option C: hybrid

Annual New Riders (millions)




Capital Costs ($billions)


2.7 to 3.7

1.5 to 1.8

Cost/New Rider ($)


221 to 303

185 to 222

Based on this results the LRT is the most cost-effective system out of the three in terms of attracting new riders, capital costs and cost per passenger (almost double than the LRT in the subway option). As seen in Table 2.1.1, the 2031forecasted peak ridership for the LRT in the busiest direction is 3000 passengers/hour and for the subway 4200 passengers/hour. It is on average 60%-70% cheaper to build per kilometre than a subway.  It can be concluded that the LRT effectively serves that area at a much lower cost than the subway.

4.0 Environmental Analysis

Another important objective for this future transit option is that it needs to be sustainable on the environment and promote a cleaner and healthier community that would divert people from using the car.  Table 4.1 below summarizes the Panel’s forecasting on Green House Gases (GHG) emissions:

Table 4.1 Environmental Analysis (adapted from Crombie et al., 2012)

Option A: LRT

Option B: Subway

Option C: Hybrid

Annual New Riders (M)




Annual Car Trips Diverted (M)




Annual Reduction in GHS’s (tonnes)




Capital Cost ($B)




Annual Car Trips Diverted per Billion Capital Cost




Annual GHG Reduction per Billion in Capital Cost




When viewing the results solely in terms of GHS’s reduction per year, the subway obtains better results than the LRT and the hybrid options. However, since the funding aspect of the project has a bigger weight in determining the preferred transit system than the environmental sustainability by itself, the LRT has a much greater GHG reduction per billion in capital cost.

Another important point to consider is that by choosing the LRT option, more funding can be allocated in expanding LRT’s lines across the other parts of the city, which in turn contributes in furthering reducing the GHG.

5.0 Conclusions

From how the city has grown these last decades,  the idea of having only a few very-high capacity subway lines that connect the city’s main centres is no longer applicable. Toronto is in need for a wide network of Rapid Transit that can service every part of the city. Today, there are many thriving neighborhoods across the city that are in need of better transit to access their employment and education centres.

A system of LRT lines are the most affordable and achievable for most of city for many reasons. It provides many advantages over the subway lines such as it is faster to build and therefore less disruptive, easier to maintain, can run on the winter, costs 60-70% less per kilometre than a subway and has right of way on traffic.  The government can’t easily afford the high capital-costs of extending the current subway lines and it would be a better investment to use the funding to deliver a LRT system that will have more stops and serve a higher number of passengers such as for the case of the Sheppard Avenue corridor.  In terms of environmental sustainability, the LRT system would greatly divert the number of car trips thus reducing GHG and creating more walkable, bike-friendly and cleaner neighborhoods.

The LRT, with is greater area coverage, enough capacity and a better cost-effectiveness would be an effective transit system to run along Sheppard Avenue  The project would run 13km from Don Mills Subway Station to east of Morningside and have 26 stops. The total capital costs of the project are $1 billion (in 2010 dollars) with a projected ridership of 3000 passengers per hour at peak times.

6.0 Recommendations

Metrolinx’s revised date for the opening was 2014. However, in mid-2014, Toronto’s Major, Rob Ford, cancelled the project and by 2016 it was informed that it has been deferred indefinitely. It has been announced that the Sheppard Avenue East LRT extension would not start until 2021 and there are political interests planning on reverting the project and extending Line 4 of the subway instead (Sheppard East LRT, 2018).

The costs of the project would have likely increased by now since it has not advanced significantly since the project was first planned. However, if the project ends up being implemented in the next few years, the same conclusions in favor for the LRT would apply.






  • Crombie, D., Miller, E., Chong, G., Hunter, M., Khosla, P., Ahmed, I., & McCullough, E. (2012). Report of the Expert Advisory Panel Regarding Transit on Sheppard Avenue East. Retrieved from: https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2012/cc/bgrd/backgroundfile-45908.pdf
  • Dobson, S. (2008). The Big Move. [online] Metrolinx.com. Retrieved from: http://www.metrolinx.com/thebigmove/Docs/big_move/TheBigMove_020109.pdf [Accessed 20 Nov. 2018].
  • Executive Committee Toronto City Council. (2012). Toronto Transit: Back on Track – Presentation to Toronto Executive Committee [Ebook]. Toronto.
  • Metrolinx Toronto Light Rail Transit Projects. (2018). Retrieved from:  http://www.metrolinx.com/en/projectsandprograms/transitexpansionprojects/toronto_lrt.aspx
  • Metrolinx. (2018). LRT Infographics [Ebook] (p. 1). Toronto. Retrieved from:  http://www.metrolinx.com/en/projectsandprograms/transitexpansionprojects/toronto_lrt_facts.aspx
  • Murphy, D. (2018). Where is the world’s most sprawling city? Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/apr/19/where-world-most-sprawling-city-los-angeles https://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1016302913909
  • Statistics Canada (2017). Focus on Geography Series, 2016 Census. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 98-404-X2016001. Ottawa, Ontario. Data products, 2016 Census.
  • Sheppard East LRT (2018). [online] In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheppard_East_LRT [Accessed 20 Nov. 2018]
  • Walker, H. (2013). Response To Commission Enquiry for January 21, 2013. [pdf] (pp. 1-6). Toronto: TTC. Retrieved from: https://www.ttc.ca/About_the_TTC/Commission_reports_and_information/Commission_meetings/2013/January_21/Supplementary_Reports/Response_to_Commissi.pdf


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