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The end of the line for the much-maligned Scarborough Rapid Transit?

April 2021

The Scarborough RT (Rapid Transit) Line is one of the light-rail transit (LRT) lines used by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) in Toronto, Ontario, for urban public transit.  The light rail lines also include the original subway section and the newer streetcar LRT sections.

Opened in March 1985, the Scarborough RT line is a four-mile line, with six station stops, running from the Kennedy Subway Station, north, then eastward, and terminating at McCowan Road.  The north-south section is at ground level, but the east-west section is elevated, with a small section going under Ellesmere Avenue.

Unlike the subway trains, which have a driver, the RT is a fully automated system, powered by linear induction motors, and running on 4 ft 8 12 in standard gauge tracks, in contrast to the city’s subway and streetcar lines, which are4 ft 10 78 in Toronto-gauge tracks.

While it was high-tech in 1985, the RT has been plagued with problems throughout its life. The line was known for being unreliable and difficult to maintain, leading to reduced service and frequent service interruptions.

By 2006, the administration of Mayor David Miller was exploring plans to replace the RT with a modern light-rail system; a part of his Transit City project.

Since the election of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford in 2010, there has been a plan to replace the aging Scarborough RT with a subway extension, but political bickering and constantly changing attitudes of the subway vs LRT options has stalled any replacement system.  What was originally supposed to be a six-stop Scarborough Subway has been reduced to between one and three stops.  

The Scarborough RT now at 35-years old, well past the 25-year life expectancy, and any subway extension to Scarborough at least 10 years away. As it has become unreliable and difficult to maintain, the Scarborough RT, officially known since 2015 as Line 3, will likely have to be shut down long before 2030.

The TTC made a recommendation to Toronto City Council in February 2021 that Line 3 be permanently shut down by 2023, and that it be replaced with bus service until the Line 2 extension opens. Proposals have been put forth for Scarborough RT’s right-of-way to be converted to parkland or a recreational trail, including elevated portion, since the subway extension would follow a different route.

Sources:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Line_3_Scarborough, https://www.cp24.com/news/staff-recommend-that-scarborough-rt-be-shut-down-in-2023-seven-years-ahead-of-subway-completion-1.5295804, Transit City – Wikipedia.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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