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Battle Stations: How the TTC has failed to expand in every direction

For as long as the city’s public transit system has existed, squabbles between the suburbs and downtown have resulted in belated, scrapped or substandard service

Battle Stations: How the TTC has failed to expand in every direction
Photo by Patrick Marcoux

There are only so many transit dollars to go around, and not every neighbourhood likes to share. The announcement of a big project can spark both fanfare and jealousy, often pitting downtown and suburban interests against each other. These geographic squabbles invariably result in belated, scrapped or substandard transit—in every direction. Here, a brief history of the biggest casualties.


North

The on-again, off-again Eglinton plan

1985: The city proposes a dedicated bus lane along Eglinton West. Politicians in York and Etobicoke are miffed, questioning why North York should get a subway along Sheppard while all they get is a measly busway.

1994: Premier Bob Rae tries to appease everyone by beginning construction on a five-stop subway line along Eglinton, matching the length of the Sheppard route.

1995: Mike Harris moves into Queen’s Park and cancels the project, infuriating former TTC chair Mike Colle, who says, “[The Conservatives] are going to put their money where they’re going to get their political returns. And their political returns are not in some poor part of Metro.”

2007: Mayor David Miller resurrects an Eglinton West line, this time in the form of light-rail transit.

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2010: Rob Ford cans Miller’s plans, but council votes to proceed with the Eglinton Crosstown LRT anyway.

2023: The Crosstown is delayed once again, and it’s now been nearly 50 years since the city first proposed rapid transit along Eglinton.


East

The sad saga of the Scarborough subway

1968: The TTC considers extending the Bloor–Danforth line farther northeast into Scarborough. Local politicians are thrilled, but downtown councillors waffle, arguing that the neighbourhood isn’t dense enough to warrant a subway.

1975: The province pursues a compromise: an elevated light-rail line, which falls somewhere between a streetcar and a subway.

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1985: The Scarborough RT opens two years late, eating up more than double its projected $103-million price tag. Costly repairs are required almost immediately.

2013: City council decides that RT maintenance is too expensive and approves a plan to replace it with a three-stop subway extension.

2016: Due to rising cost projections, the extension is scaled back to just one stop.

2019: Premier Doug Ford revives the three-stop plan.

2023: The RT is expected to shut down later this year, forcing riders onto buses until the subway opens in 2030, more than 60 years after a Scarborough subway was first proposed.

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South

The tortured path to downtown relief

1910: The city proposes a U-shaped line that dips through downtown along Queen.

1954: The city drafts an underground streetcar stop beneath Queen station, anticipating the arrival of an east-west line.

1958: Council approves the Bloor–Danforth subway, arguing that addressing increased suburban traffic is more important than an underground route along Queen.

1985: The recession causes ridership on the Yonge line to drop, and a study for a new TTC transit plan, Network 2011, recommends again delaying the downtown relief line, this time in favour of the Sheppard subway.

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2013: Even as the Yonge line officially exceeds capacity, mayor Rob Ford refuses to pursue a relief line, saying, “The downtown people have enough subways already.”

2016: Under Tory, council approves a relief-line route from Osgoode to Pape stations.

2019: Doug Ford folds existing plans into his own project, the Ontario Line, which will run from Ontario Place to the Ontario Science Centre. It’s expected to open in 2031, 121 years after the city first considered a similar route.


West

The Etobicoke RT that never came to be

1980: The Bloor–Danforth line grows on both ends, extending to Kennedy in the east and Kipling in the west. To appease Etobicoke politicians, who are jealous of the planned rapid-transit line in Scarborough, the TTC roughs in a light-rail station above the Kipling subway platform.

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1981: The TTC releases its annual report, which briefly mentions building a light-rail line extending north from Kipling to the airport, and proponents of the idea dream of extending the route as far north as York University.

1985: The Scarborough RT opens late and over budget. Council quietly shelves plans for its western counterpart, concluding that light-rail routes through low-density suburbs aren’t worth the expense.

2015: The Union Pearson Express opens, officially killing dreams of a line connecting Kipling to the airport.

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