Linking North York: a case for extending the Finch West LRT

Toronto residents likely look at current TTC maps and notice the gap between the northern portions of Line 1 Yonge-University. In its initial planning stage, the Finch West LRT would have linked Finch Station to Humber College’s North Campus instead of its current plan to end at Finch West Station, but constructing the full line was deemed too costly at the time. Since then multiple proposals have been put forth regarding how to best link the two segments of Line 1 operating in North York. Extending the Finch West LRT would be a better allocation of funds over spending money on an inner suburban subway that lacks the density required for a subway line.

Some have argued for an extension of Line 4 Sheppard westward from Yonge to Sheppard West station, but this proposal encounters several issues when compared with a LRT extension. Constructing subways are more expensive per kilometer of track built and are more costly to operate in the long run given the cost of maintenance upkeep. Subway stops are also comparatively further apart given their high construction costs which can limit access to transit in less dense regions like North York.

Furthermore, while subways can carry the greatest number of passengers more quickly, they require high population densities to support their use. The Sheppard line has two of the TTC’s least used subway stations and the line’s current daily usage rates only place it slightly above the 36 Finch West bus.

Conversely, a surface LRT can be built at a lower cost per kilometer on a dedicated right of way with more stops so it is more accessible North York residents. A good comparison here is city council’s decision to go with a $3.4 billion single-stop subway extension to Scarborough Town Center instead of a multi-stop or multi-line LRT network in Scarborough that could have substantially cut commuting times for far more residents.

In the TTC’s most recent Corporate Plan for 2018-2022 outlining their envisioned transit network, the Finch West LRT is shown reaching Finch Station. Hopefully, this means that council will make the right decision when the time comes to link the North York segments of Line 1.

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