INTRO: On July 27 Toronto Transit Commission officially opened its Spadina Avenue light rail extension. William D Middleton was there

Chinese dragon dancers, a festival atmosphere the length of lower Spadina Avenue and an estimated 32000 riders were all at hand when the Toronto Transportation Commission celebrated the opening of its Spadina Avenue light rail line (RG 8.97 p502) on July 27. In a curious inversion of what was probably said almost 49 years earlier when the Spadina streetcar line was replaced by buses, politicians at the ribbon-cutting ceremony extolled the advantages of forward-looking light rail over the motor bus.

From its northern terminal at Spadina station on TTC’s east-west Bloor-Danforth subway, the new line extends 3·65 km southwards along Spadina Avenue to Queens Quay, where it joins the 2·1 km Harbourfront line that opened in 1990. The two lines form a new route between Spadina and Union Station subway stations with 17 stops in the ethnic neighbourhoods and fashion district along thriving Spadina Avenue, and the fast-growing residential, commercial and recreation activities of the Harbourfront district along Queens Quay. Construction of the Spadina line began in December 1992 and cost C$104·5m, well below the original budget of C$141m due to depressed conditions in the construction industry.

Boosting capacity

Operating mainly on a reserved right-of-way down the centre of Spadina Avenue, light rail vehicles have increased capacity and introduced faster and more reliable service to what was a busy bus corridor through a heavily-congested distict. Spadina Avenue itself has been upgraded with a rebuilt roadway, wider pavements, new parking bays, public art and extensive landscaping. Street congestion at the intersection of Spadina Avenue and West Bloor Street, the line’s northern terminal, has been avoided by building a 685m underground loop that takes the light rail line into the subway station. A similar underground loop between Queens Quay and Union Station is part of the earlier Harbourfront line.

Initial daily ridership over the new route is expected to average 32000, with ample capacity for growth expected as development of the district continues. While TTC originally planned procurement of a 100% low- floor vehicle for this and other routes, the programme has been deferred indefinitely, and the Spadina line is being operated with standard Canadian LRVs.

Further expansion

Further expansion of Toronto’s light rail system now seems likely following approval by the TTC board in June of an 0·8 km extension along Queens Quay to connect with the existing Bathurst Street line, at a cost of C$13m. Extending from the Bloor-Danforth subway’s Bathurst station to the Canadian National Exhibition grounds, the Bathurst line presently provides the only rail link to this popular exhibition venue, which has recently expanded with the development of a World Trade Centre. The new link would permit additional light rail services to the CNE grounds from Union Station and Spadina subway station. Although the project is not expected to be approved by the newly expanded regional council until next year, TTC hopes to go forward with the link as soon as possible.

Work is already proceeding on the only other TTC rail expansion project likely to be completed in the foreseeable future, the five-station 6·4 km Sheppard subway that will extend east from Sheppard station on the north-south Yonge subway to Don Mills Road in the city of North York. Construction began in late 1994 of a 750m cut-and-cover tailtrack structure to the west of the Yonge-Sheppard station. This work is now substantially complete, and early in September twin tunnel boring machines should begin working westward from an access shaft just west of a planned station at Leslie Street. Work should begin later this year on the Leslie station and a crossing of the Don River, with the balance of station construction scheduled to begin in 1998. Systems installation should start in 1999, and the C$875m project should begin operation by mid-2002, with a projected initial ridership of 30 million passengers a year.

The Sheppard subway is the only survivor of four projects that were originally included in an ambitious C$2·5bn Rapid Transit Expansion Programme announced by the Ontario provincial government early in 1993. Subsequent funding problems led to decisions during 1995 to delay indefinitely a planned 4·7 km Eglinton West subway, a 5·1 km extension of the Spadina subway, and a 3·1 km extension of TTC’s Scarborough rapid transit line.

Given the substantially reduced scope of its expansion programme, TTC has decided not to include in the Sheppard project the transmission-based signalling and platform doors that were initially planned for all four of its subway extensions. o

CAPTION: Reflecting an earlier era on Spadina Avenue, one of Toronto’s historic Peter Witt cars was used for the opening ceremony. TTC Chair Paul Christio helped Toronto Mayor Barbara Hall to cut the ribbon

CAPTION: Left: At the northern terminus, an underground loop provides interchange with east-west trains on the Bloor-Danforth subway