Have you ever arrived at the airport after a long flight and then realized you still have a 90 minute commute home on TTC? Torontonians agree that the city is in desperate need of faster transit to the airport from across the GTA, not just from the downtown core. Currently, two options are being discussed that both have positive and negative aspects. The Eglinton Crosstown LRT extension and SmartTrack route to the Airport Corporate Centre are two options presented by Metrolinx and the City of Toronto respectively. But, which one should we adopt?
Eglinton Crosstown LRT Extension
Pros: The Eglinton Crosstown LRT is a good option to allow citizens access from the airport because it’s cost-effective. A surface LRT costs $85 million per kilometre and is easier to build because it doesn’t require underground construction or tunnelling to the airport centre. Metrolinx has also already approved an extension to the Eglinton Crosstown LRT to the airport, including 19 km of track and 6 stops. One of the biggest benefits of the LRT is that this particular line would go directly to Pearson Airport, not to the Airport Corporate Centre, as the SmartTrack proposes. The Eglinton Crosstown is currently being built on time and under budget, which is unheard of in Toronto transit history, and may just be the most viable solution for access to the airport because of its successes thus far in its creation.
Cons: The biggest challenge for the Crosstown Extension is its limited capacity—it can only carry a maximum of 15,000 passengers per hour. An LRT system is also impacted by traffic because it must adhere to stop lights. Heavy snow, ice, and wind can also have a negative impact on the LRT network because it runs on cables, which are similar to the ones used by Toronto’s streetcars. These cables can be affected by bad weather. However, the price tag of an LRT can climb quite quickly if tunnels are included in its construction. If the airport extension were to include a tunnel, the price difference as compared to the SmartTrack would lower significantly. Most importantly though, the LRT is not an effective long-term solution because this form of transit does not have the durability of heavy rail.
Using Regional Express Rail (RER) to the airport
Pros: This section of the SmartTrack would split off at Mt. Dennis and extend to the airport centre, building a new tunnel and connecting millions with an important hub in the city. Regional Express Rail is much faster than the LRT because it is not impeded by traffic. Due to the tunneling, the SmartTrack is unaffected by adverse weather patterns and will have less chance of breaking down in the winter months. Heavy rail is a resolute long-term solution to transit and is extremely durable.
Cons: According to media reports, the cost of the SmartTrack plan is an estimated $3 to $5 billion. The high cost results from the need to build this portion of SmartTrack underground due to issues of land availability in the area. The LRT takes up less room and is able to run down the middle of certain roads, something which is not feasible for SmartTrack. The SmartTrack extension specifically has a few structural issues associated with its location that need to be solved. The Mt.Dennis station will be very congested with a GO station on the Kitchener route as well as the LRT station. Adding an additional underground line towards the airport will make the area congested and difficult to navigate. The cost of tunneling through the uphill terrain near Mt.Dennis will be exponentially more expensive as well.
The LRT and RER options for access to the airport both have their merits. It stands to say though, is it more essential to have short-term, cost-effective transit or a long-term, albeit expensive, solution?
It is up to you Toronto, what would you choose?