Metrolinx/Toronto Transit Plan (2011)
Cancelled in 2012
The Metrolinx / Toronto Transit Plan was a plan spearheaded by Toronto mayor Rob Ford that replaced the funded plan for light rail on Sheppard, Finch, and Eglinton Avenues with extensions of the Sheppard subway east and westwards and a fully grade-separated LRT on Eglinton Avenue. Although a plan that was announced and began studies, flaws in achieving the funding necessary for completion of large portions of the plan never allowed for it to progress signifcantly before being cancelled.
The cancellation of Transit City following Rob Ford’s election as mayor of Toronto in late October of 2010 meant that transit plans in the city would shift yet again. While Transit City proposed light rail transit (LRT) running along several key thoroughfares in the city in a dedicated surface right-of-way, Rob Ford’s transit plan focused on building subways, with the extension of the Sheppard subway eastwards to Scarborough Centre Station and westwards to Downsview Station his number one focus.1
By the time of Transit City’s cancellation on the first day of taking office, the Sheppard East LRT was already under construction as construction crews began building a bridge for Stouffville line GO trains over Sheppard Avenue, work that was continued because of its necessity for either plan.2 That left a handful of other funded Transit City and other Toronto transit projects in limbo including the proposed Finch West LRT running from Finch West Station on the yet-unopened Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension to Humber College, the Eglinton LRT between approximately Black Creek Drive to Kennedy Station on the Bloor-Danforth Line, and the refurbishment and extension of the Scarborough rapid transit line from McCowan Station to Sheppard Avenue.3
Scarborough City Centre
Development of Scarborough City Centre had increased significantly since a Sheppard subway to Scarborough City Centre was first proposed in 1985 through Network 2011. Although office development plateaued after the 1990s as metropolitan-level planning trends focused on “recentralization” towards the downtown core, significant growth in high-density residential in the area has increased the population significantly.4
“Scarborough Town Centre (DSC_0387)” by Eric Sehr is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
This image shows the skyline of Scarborough City Centre, a central business district of Toronto and proposed terminus of an extension of the Sheppard subway eastwards
Negotiations for a revised transit plan between the regional transportation agency Metrolinx and the city began shortly after in December 2010, with the province focusing on saving the Eglinton LRT, described as the “centrepiece” of its regional transportation plan.5 Eglinton’s high connectivity with several GO Transit lines, the existing subway, and future extensions towards Toronto Pearson airport and the Mississauga Transitway ultimately saved the project from the chopping block, unlike the Sheppard East and Finch West LRTs, along with the Scarborough rapid transit line refurbishment and extension.6 During negotiations, several cost-saving methods were considered as a method to avoid expensive underground construction, including elevated transit options and bus-only lanes through the Finch hydro corridor as a replacement for the planned Finch West LRT.7
Developments in negotiations peaked in mid-February 2011, with the City of Toronto pitching to Metrolinx an agreement to shift all Transit City funding towards a fully underground Eglinton LRT between approximately Black Creek Drive to Kennedy Station, while the city would work on extending the Sheppard subway east and westwards utilising private-public partnerships.8 An agreement was finally made in April of 2011 in the form of a $12.4 billion transit plan similar to the City of Toronto’s earlier proposal, with the approximately $8.2 billion in provincial funding towards Transit City projects transferred towards building a fully-underground Eglinton LRT running from Black Creek Drive to Kennedy Station, where it would then approach the surface and follow the route of a refurbished Scarborough rapid transit line.9
Meanwhile, $4.2 billion would be spent on extensions east and westwards to the Sheppard subway to Downsview Station in the east and Scarborough Centre Station in the west, set to open in 2019.10 Remaining provincial funds leftover from the $8.2 billion planned to be spent on the Eglinton LRT would also be diverted to completing the Sheppard subway extensions, anticipated to be up to $650 million.11
Sheppard East Extension
This image shows the proposed extension of the Sheppard subway eastwards, with six new stations at Consumers Road, Victoria Park Avenue, Warden Avenue, Kennedy Road, the CN/CP rail interchange, and Progress Avenue. A new connection to a proposed re-built Scarborough Rapid Transit line in the form of an extension of the proposed Eglinton Crosstown LRT would be made at Scarborough Centre Station.
Conceptual alignments of the Sheppard subway’s extension eastwards to Scarborough Town Centre featured six new stations with connections at Scarborough Centre Station to a rebuilt Scarborough Rapid Transit line that would be part of the provinces’ Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown LRT project.12 The alignment closely followed plans for a complete Sheppard subway as laid out in the original 1992 environmental assessment for the project studied between the Let’s Move and Rapid Transit Expansion Program eras.13
Sheppard West Extension
This image shows the alignment of the proposed extension of the Sheppard subway westwards, with three new stations at Senlac Road, Bathurst Avenue, and Wilson Heights Boulevard. A new connection to the Spadina segment of the Yonge-University subway would be made at Downsview station.
Conceptual alignments of the Sheppard subway’s extension westwards to Downsview Station (later renamed Sheppard West Station) included three new stations with a new connection to the Yonge-University subway at Downsview Station.14
Almost immediately, concerns over the city’s proposal to raise funds necessary for the Sheppard subway extensions were raised. While Rob Ford maintained that the extensions could be built using funds from private-public partnerships, it quickly became apparent that other revenue tools would be necessary to raise funds for the project, with Gordon Chong, head of the TTC’s investment division suggesting road tolls, congestion charges, and development fees.15 By June 2011, further study into the project found the estimated cost would be $500 million more than originally pegged at, now totalling $4.7 billion.16
Opposition to the project from within the TTC and the city also developed, beginning with TTC chief general manager Gary Webster who refused to support the Sheppard subway extensions, much to the ire of mayor Rob Ford, whose allies on the TTC board later fired Gary Webster.17 Then, following a series of victories in cancelling proposed budget cuts, Toronto city councillors led by TTC chair Karen Stintz began calling for a compromise transit plan, one that would see the original plan for an Eglinton LRT running underground between Keele Street and Laird Drive only, with a surface right-of-way for the rest of the route.18
Sheppard Subway
The focal point of the Metrolinx/Toronto Transit Plan was extensions of the Sheppard subway both east and westwards, similarly to the original Sheppard subway as proposed in Network 2011. The subway was planned to utilise significant private investment, mainly from developers, but the plan fell through as further analysis found a funding pitfall of over $1 billion.19
“IMG_4538” by wyliepoon is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
This image shows Sheppard-Yonge station at platform-level.
In a new transit plan spearheaded by Karen Stintz, the savings from the Eglinton LRT would be utilised to extend the Sheppard subway eastwards two stations to Victoria Park Avenue, with remaining funds spent on some sort of rapid transit on Finch Avenue West.20 Costs saved from avoiding tunnelling were estimated to be as much as $1.5 billion.21
Her plan, debated in council in early February of 2012, restored the original Transit City plans for the Finch West and Eglinton LRTs, while pausing plans for a Sheppard subway in anticipation of recommendations from an expert panel on whether surface light rail or underground subway technology would be more effective.22 Soon after, city staff concluded that Rob Ford’s plan to almost exclusively utilise private investment towards extensions of the Sheppard subway were unviable, with a funding gap of almost $1 billion on the section between Don Mills Station and Scarborough Centre Station alone.23
Finally, with the release of the report in mid-March of 2012 showing that light rail technology would be more effective, council voted 24-19 to restore the previous funded plan for light rail on Sheppard East, Finch West, and Eglinton Avenues, much to the dismay of the mayor.24 Appealing to the province, which would have wholly funded the $8.4 billion light rail plan, Rob Ford urged the province not to fund the plan, which was denied.25
City-council backed plan
This image shows the network of transit lines that were fully funded prior to their cancellation by Rob Ford. It features the Finch West LRT, the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, and the Sheppard East LRT.
As funding issues for the Sheppard subway continued to arise, city council voted to restore original plans for provincially-funded light rail lines on Sheppard, Finch, and Eglinton Avenues.
Attempts to revive the subway-focused plan through a city-wide referendum were unsuccessful, as were efforts to delay the light rail plan, which’s development was transferred from the TTC to the province through Metrolinx.26 Construction on light rail would begin on Sheppard Avenue East in 2014 and Finch Avenue West in 2015, which along with the then already under construction Eglinton LRT would see completion in 2020.27 In the end, the Sheppard East LRT was further delayed, deferred, and eventually replaced with proposals for a future extension of the Sheppard subway in 2019, while the Finch West LRT began preparatory construction in 2019, with a completion date set for 2023.28
The saga that led to the creation of the Metrolinx/Toronto Transit Plan was ultimately a blip from the province’s original plan for a watered-down Transit City proposal. Although certain elements of the Metrolinx/Toronto Transit Plan from 2011 survive today through the Doug Ford Progressive Conservative administration’s plan for an eventual extension of the Sheppard subway eastwards, such a project is neither funded or a priority. Meanwhile, Rob Ford’s vision for a fully-underground Eglinton LRT was never realized, with current construction on a mixed-grade LRT planned for completion in fall of 2021. Despite so, the Metrolinx/Toronto Transit Plan represented the culmination of previous transit plans such as the Rapid Transit Expansion Program and Network 2011, which foresaw the construction of a complete Sheppard subway as well as grade-separated rapid transit on Eglinton Avenue West.
  1. Kristin, Rushowy, and Kalinowski Tess. “Sheppard Not a Priority - Yet: Despite Ford's Comments, Transit Plan Won't Be Set until the New Year.” Toronto Star, December 22, 2010, sec. GT2.
  2. Tess, Kalinowski, and Rider David. “'War on the Car Is over': Ford Scraps Transit City: Move Could Leave Toronto on Hook for Millions in Penalties, Wasted Work.” Toronto Star, December 2, 2010, sec. A1.
  3. David, Rider. “Eglinton Rail Back on Table in Ford's New Transit Plan: Signs Point to Compromise with Metrolinx, TTC That Would Save LRT Line.” Toronto Star, January 4, 2011, sec. A1.
  4. Eric Sehr. Scarborough Town Centre (DSC_0387), 2013, colour digital, Flickr, Toronto, accessed January 21, 2020, Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0),
  5. Rider. “Eglinton Rail Back on Table.” sec. A1; Tess, Kalinowski. “Ford Pitches Private-Public Partnership for Subway: Metrolinx Would Still Build Eglinton Light Rail, at Least to Kennedy Station.” Toronto Star, February 17, 2011, sec. A3.
  6. Rider. “Eglinton Rail Back on Table.” sec. A1
  7. Rider. “Eglinton Rail Back on Table.” sec. A1
  8. Kalinowski. “Ford Pitches Private-Public Partnership for Subway.” sec. A3.
  9. Tess, Kalinowski. “It's Full Steam Ahead for Eglinton LRT: Province and City Agree to Underground Rail Plan.” Toronto Star, April 1, 2011, sec. GT3.
  10. Robert, Benzies, and Kalinowski Tess. “$12.4 Billion TTC Deal 'Close': Queen's Park, City Agree to Extend Sheppard Subway, Build Underground Eglinton Light Rail Line.” Toronto Star, March 31, 2011, sec. GT1.
  11. Kalinowski. “It's Full Steam Ahead for Eglinton LRT” sec. GT3.
  12. David, Crombie, Miller Eric, Chong Gordon, Hunter Mitzie, Khosla Prabha, Ahmed Israt, and McCullough Ernie. “Report of the Expert Advisory Panel Regarding Transit on Sheppard Avenue East.” Toronto, 2012; “Ontario And Toronto Moving Forward On Public Transit.” Ontario And Toronto Moving Forward On Public Transit. Office of the Premier, March 31, 2011.
  13. Canada. Ontario. Ministry of the Environment. Review of the environmental assessment Sheppard Subway. Toronto: Ontario Ministry of the Environment, 1993
  14. “Sheppard Subway Extensions Analysis of Funding Options for Toronto Transit Infrastructure Limited and the City of Toronto.” Toronto: KPMG, 2011.
  15. James, Royson. “Caution: Road Tolls Ahead: Ford's Transit Guru Predicts Drivers Will Pay the Price for Subway Expansion.” Toronto Star, May 28, 2011, sec. A1.
  16. Paul, Moloney. “Sheppard Subway Cost Soars.” Toronto Star, June 25, 2011, sec. GT4.
  17. Elizabeth, Church. “TTC Chief Fired as Province Runs out of Patience.” The Globe and Mail. February 22, 2012, sec. A1; Tess, Kalinowski. “Ford Plots to Oust TTC Chief: Shakeup Likely as General Manager's Opposition to Sheppard Subway Extension Puts Job at Risk.” Toronto Star, July 22, 2011, sec. A1.
  18. Tess, Kalinowski. “New Eglinton LRT Plan Could Be a Step Closer.” Toronto Star, January 24, 2012, sec. GT1.
  19. Wyliepoon. IMG_4538, 2009, colour digital, Flickr, Toronto, accessed January 21, 2020, Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0),
  20. Daniel, Dale, and David Rider. “Ford's TTC Plans Lack Support: More Councillors Back Vision of Transit Chair Karen Stintz.” Toronto Star, January 28, 2012, sec. GT2.
  21. Dale, and Rider. “Ford's TTC Plans Lack Support.” sec. GT2.
  22. Tess, Kalinowski, and Dale Daniel. “Ford Trounced in Transit Vote: Mayor Calls Council Defeat 'Irrelevant' as Stintz Wins Vote to Restore Above-Ground LRT Plan.” Toronto Star, February 9, 2012, sec. A1.
  23. James, Royson. “Ford Fumbles as City Staff Pan Subway.” Toronto Star, March 1, 2012, sec. A1.
  24. James, Royson. “Ford's Last Subway Lifeline.” Toronto Star, March 17, 2012, sec. GT2; James, Royson. “Ford Refuses to Accept Subway Loss: Council Votes 24-19 for Light Rail, but Combative Mayor Wants to Turn down Province's $8.4B Cheque.” Toronto Star, March 23, 2012, sec. A1.
  25. James, Royson. “Ford Refuses to Accept Subway Loss.” sec. A1.
  26. Tess, Kalinowski, Dale Daniel, and Benzie Robert. “Detailed LRT Plan Few Months Away: Metrolinx Ponders Scheduling and Cash, Ford Eyes Referendum.” Toronto Star, March 24, 2012, sec. GT2; Tess, Kalinowski. “Ford Fails to Delay LRT Master Plan.” Toronto Star, November 2, 2012, sec. GT3; Tess, Kalinowski. “Province Takes Lead on LRT Project: TTC Differs on Timeline for Eglinton Line Work.” Toronto Star, May 31, 2012, sec. GT2.
  27. Tess, Kalinowski. “Metrolinx to Build Sheppard LRT First: Finch Will Follow, with All Four of Toronto's Light Rail Lines Expected to Be Done by 2020.” Toronto Star, April 25, 2012, sec. GT1.
  28. Rhianna, Jackson-Kelso, and Bensadoun Emerald. “How Ford's TTC Overhaul Compares to Toronto City Plans.” Toronto Star, April 11, 2019, sec. GT10.