Toronto transit issues often revolve around the downtown core and leave the outliers of transit in the dark. The results of focusing on access to the center of the city leaves several other transit projects in the dust. This is certainly the case in regards to the Sheppard East LRT line, a project that has been sidelined for close to 10 years. Future transit plans need to provide a link between Sheppard station and Agincourt GO station. The Sheppard East LRT is one possible solution, if it ever reaches a projected completion date.
One of the options is for SmartTrack to consider expanding to create a connection between the two stations. According to the city, the eastern corridors are currently being reviewed and are slotted to be in the first phase of construction. SmartTrack will extend from Union station to Scarborough and then feeds northbound to Unionville. However, residents trying to get from the northern end of the GTA to the Sheppard line have to either take a bus from Agincourt or take the long round-about route using rapid express rail. It is necessary to ensure Don Mills station can reach Agincourt GO station so that residents commuting from this area towards Yonge St. don’t have to take numerous modes of transit.
Metrolinx had previously promised the Sheppard East Light Rail Transit Project, which would adequately respond to this issue. The Sheppard East LRT is one of several rapid transit projects that has been in limbo for years due to Rob Ford’s previous cancellation of the city project. This leg of the LRT would have 13 km of rail with 26 transit stops and would intersect with the Agincourt GO station.
The cost of the Sheppard East LRT is projected at 1 billion dollars. Initially, the project was presented as a part of Transit City in 2007. In December 2010, then mayor Rob Ford canceled the Transit City project and the 2014 open date for the LRT was put on hold. In 2012, city council overturned the decision and the Sheppard East line was projected to be completed by 2017. Construction of an underpass at the Agincourt GO station as part of the project was completed in 2012. The Sheppard LRT connection has since been pushed back again in favour of finishing the Finch West LRT. The projected completion date for the Sheppard East LRT is now 2024.
The Sheppard East LRT project has been repeatedly pushed aside for other transit options, highlighting an issue in TTC and Metrolinx planning. Access to the core of Toronto is important, yet completing projects that were in the throes of construction should remain high on the list as well. Granting the residents at Don Mills station access to Agincourt station will elevate ridership numbers and grant residents in the area more accessibility to other areas of the city. Hopefully, this LRT project will be completed by 2024 and riders will be commuting north and south at record rates.