New analysis shows Toronto’s proposed subway plan leaves commuters’ best interests behind

Jan. 5, 2011

TORONTO, ON - The subway extension proposed by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford would provide less service per dollar invested than the existing light rail rapid transit plan for Toronto, and wouldn't deliver transit service to the communities that need it most, according to a comparison of Toronto's transit options released today by the Pembina Institute. 

The Institute's report, Making Tracks to Torontonians, examines the costs and benefits of the proposed subway extension, compared to the light rail transit (LRT) plan that is already underway with funding on the table.

"It's great to have a mayor and council that are committed to investing in Toronto's transit network," said Cherise Burda, Ontario policy director with the Pembina Institute, a national sustainable energy think-tank. "Taxpayers in this city need to be confident that they're investing in the option that is the most fiscally responsible and will deliver the best commuter service for the most people."

Highlights of Pembina's analysis:

The analysis compares the four funded light rail transit projects with the proposed subway extension. The study finds:

  • The LRT projects would deliver more than twice as much service for every dollar invested compared to the proposed subway extension.
  • The LRT projects would bring rapid transit service to six times as many low-income residences as an extended subway.
  • The four LRT lines would bring rapid transit to the doorsteps of 290,000 Torontonians (within a six-minute walk) - while this is true for only 60,000 people by extending the subway.
  • The light rail projects would attract 126 million rides each year, getting up to 140,000 vehicles out of traffic; the proposed subway extension would attract half as many rides (65 million) and leave up to 70,000 more vehicles stuck in gridlock.
  • The LRT projects result in cleaner air and less climate change pollution, reducing vehicle emissions by more than 200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2031, compared to just 75,000 tonnes of reductions under the subway plan.
  • The proposed subway plan wouldn't begin operating until 2020, while the planned LRT service is scheduled to start running in 2014.

"The main difference with the current light rail plan is the way it connects people with the places they need to get to," Burda said. "Low-income commuters and people living in underserved areas will have an affordable, reliable way to get to work and around the city. Rapid light rail transit offers an efficient alternative to driving, while revitalizing the neighbourhoods it runs through. It really is a win-win solution."

"As Metrolinx and TTC discuss the options, this analysis brings some numbers to the table - not just costs, but where and who transit will serve."


Download Report: Making Tracks to Torontonians


Cherise Burda
Director, Transportation, Pembina Institute
Cell: 416-824-0256
Phone: 416-644-1016

Media Conference:

Key findings of the report have been graphically illustrated in a map, created by the Toronto Environmental Alliance, that shows which neighbourhoods benefit from the subway expansion and LRT plans. The report and map will be released Wednesday, January 5, 2011, 10:30 a.m. at City Hall Media Gallery.

Blog: Toronto's transit at a crossroads

Graham Haines, Pembina Institute policy analyst writes in his blog that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's plan to replace planned LRT lines with a shorter section of subway will actually reduce the amount of new transit service Torontonians receive and the number of commuters served.


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