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Should the Scarborough RT become an elevated park?

Posted by Chris Bateman / October 9, 2013

scarborough rtWhen the Scarborough RT closes down in 2023, as currently envisioned by city council, the former track bed should become an elevated/linear park in the mould of New York's High Line, if the price is right, says councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker.

City council adopted a motion during last night's transit debate that asks city staff and the TTC to investigate replacing the tracks and electric rails with benches, walking paths, bike trails, and trees from Scarborough Centre to Kennedy station.

Building the park may actually be cheaper than simply pulling down and erasing the old line, which could make the idea more appealing to city councillors.

Speaking during yesterday's debate, TTC CEO Andy Byford said the demolition cost could be around $70 million. "If you were to leave the pylons up and the other basic elements of the structure, then you wouldn't incur the full costs," he said.

What do you think of the idea? Is this the best way to make use of the Scarborough RT when it finally retires?

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Image: Shervin Mandgaryan/blogTO Flickr pool.



Malcolm / October 9, 2013 at 02:58 pm
The High Line is in Chelsea - a densely populated and vibrant neighborhood.

The Scarborough RT is in Scarborough.
Aaron Costain / October 9, 2013 at 02:59 pm
Considering that the first two phases of the High Line cost over $150m in to build and require a further $4-$5m in anual maintenance costs, I doubt that this would be a money-saving venture.
Jeff / October 9, 2013 at 03:05 pm
Well, since New York did it, I expect it here. Except in typical Toronto fashion, it'll go from McCowan to STC, only have one entrance, pedestrians will have to share the route with delivery trucks, and the whole thing will be closed on weekends.

Then four years later, I expect it to be closed due to "declining interest".
Chris / October 9, 2013 at 03:14 pm
De Baeremaeker only suggested this cockamamie idea to try to salvage his credibility following his utter and complete about face/capitulation on the subway file. It's a dumb idea. That corridor is in a sparsely populated area in Scarborough - unlike High Line which is right in Manhattan - no one's going to go there and the "park" will basically collapse from lack of use.
iSkyscraper / October 9, 2013 at 03:14 pm
As others have noted, the High Line is not the right comp here. Don't get me wrong - I walk it all the time, I love it, and it is the most influential piece of landscape architecture of this century. Even idiot politicians from Toronto who fail to notice the LRTs in the New York metro area manage to take note of and remember the High Line. But it is simply not a good direct comparison to the SRT route/structure.

A better comp would be the new Atlanta Beltline. This is how you do a modern inner-suburban rails-to-trails:
jd / October 9, 2013 at 03:25 pm
The Highline in NYC is one of the greatest things to do in NYC (Especially at night). I've always wished they would do it with the gardiner... RT, not so much.
jd / October 9, 2013 at 03:32 pm

Say what you will about cost (whatever they may be). It shows in things like landscaping and art. It's investment like such that truly make cities great. Not just for residents, but for tourism as well. IMO, it's completely worth it.
CW / October 9, 2013 at 03:55 pm
You can almost guarantee that GO Transit is going to eat up the the rail corridor, from Kennedy to Ellesmere, that it shares with the RT.

The remaining portion would make a great park in a commercial/industrial that is perfect for muggings.

Al / October 9, 2013 at 04:24 pm
The elevated walkway at Nathan Phillips Square is always closed because the city can't police it. This seems like a recipe for crime.
Mayor McGrabass / October 9, 2013 at 04:55 pm
While I mostly agree this might not be the greatest idea --or, at least, not comparable to the High Line-- the Railpath here in the west end of Toronto runs along a similarly spooky area and it's been a smashing success.

Yes, it's dark and creepy and in a mostly industrial area that screams "Rape Park" (ew, btw), but it defies the odds and is in fact helping to stitch together a community. So there may be reason enough to save portions of the SRT, if not all, for this purpose.

A more exciting idea would be to save long stretches of the Gardiner. When they were pulling down the Eastern portion, I had the same though: what a waste, this could be a park. I was thinking more about the space delineated underneath, but after visiting the High Line, an elevated park here that cuts across all of Toronto's most popular tourism zones (and play zones, where locals are concerned) is a no-brainer.

Anyone know what happened to that Green Ribbon idea of topping the Gardiner with another level?

P.S. Notice Dave isn't here to comment? It's because that grinch isn't even remotely interested in making this city better than it can be. He isn't up for city-building, just city-starving. City-mediocring??
jd / October 9, 2013 at 04:58 pm

That's not the reason for the closures. It has to do with maintenance issues and nothing to do with crime.
tommy replying to a comment from CW / October 9, 2013 at 05:37 pm
CW's got it. GO will definitely want to double track that portion of the rail line for better train service. Makes the most sense.
Too much talk / October 9, 2013 at 07:23 pm
Toronto is funny. There's all these venues for commentary and tons of opinions about social policy. I suppose that's good. On the other hand, it's seems like most stuff, never actually happens. You'd think that if the proper authorities or people oh could actually make good things happen were in place, at least something would happen. I thin in done ways the city is a victim of its own beginning. It was done quickly, a very long time ago and was built out from there. In order to overcome what may be called poor urban planning, we need to think bigger but actually accomplish something. The weather is hard here, so yes we need subways they are better. Why is that so hard? It's the money. The govt takes it from us, then doesn't give it back where we need it. Look at the subway system here with an open mind. Seriously look at it. It probably looked better walking into a subway station 30 years ago. And there aren't many new ones since then, but the talk. It goes on and on while the govt keeps taking in the dough. There should be like 8 subway lines here. It would serve the people. Not the car dealerships and gas stations and insurance companies who make their careers on Toronto gridlock. People, please wake up. We are owned by crooks.
Garenau replying to a comment from Too much talk / October 9, 2013 at 09:58 pm
You're right. Toronto is a wonderful, vibrant, city. And to some extent, I would argue that the sensible people abandoning their vehicles in light of the transportation chaos has resulted in more wealth being kept inside the neighbourhoods and out of the box-stores that line the city's perimeter, which makes it an even better place to live. But as summer ends and my bike goes into the shed, my 15 minute commute to work turns into a 40 - 60 minute I shake my head at how it could ever have become so bad. Sure, we would find something to whine about if we had enough subways, but the city is literally at a breaking point that will only be solved by a council with vision. Is that really too much to ask for?
Willy / October 9, 2013 at 10:08 pm
How about using the existing transit line and stations, for, say, a train, instead of spending an extra 1.5 billion dollars to bury it nearby?

I seriously can't believe this is happening. Have half of our politicians gone nuts?
Moaz Ahmad / October 9, 2013 at 10:30 pm
This is one of those times when I would point to Ford and GDB and say 'Show me the money"...I mean, developers in Scarborough should be salivating at the possibilities of turning the area around Scarborough Town Centre into Condo East...maintaining this 'High Line' in perpetuity would be a great use of development charges.

The thing about the High line is not just its location in a dense city, but that it is is accessible and provides an alternative to walking on the streets and waiting for signals to change.

Are commuters going to use this Scarborough High Libe? Maybe if there are hundreds of condos in STC and a GO Station on the Stouffville line at Ellesmere.

Cheers, Moaz
Walter replying to a comment from Willy / October 9, 2013 at 10:42 pm
The Murray subway wants to abandon the Kennedy Station and the entire elevated infrastructure.
The Stintz/Ford plan wants to abandon the elevated infrastructure.
The Transit City plan refuses to make any compromise to eliminate the transfer at Kennedy and insists on building 2 LRT stations and an underground loop at Kennedy.
It seems that there is plenty of blame to go around for all sides.
Maybe if someone would have suggested connecting the SRT to the Eglinton line, and grade-separating the Eglinton line from Don Mills to Kennedy - then an effecient and agreeable solution could have been found. It looks like Ford almost nailed it when he first got in, but it appears that an elevated portion was never suggested to him since the Province did not want to save large sums of money that could be used for the Sheppard Subway.
stonr1 / October 9, 2013 at 11:08 pm
Hell yeah they should do this! As someone who lives close to the RT line, and is an avid park walker/ hiker, I would LOVE THIS!!!

Dunno why so many of you are opposed. There is no reason to be. The subway line will be a great thing, and repurposing this stretch of track will be too. Calm down guys. Yeeesh....
stonr1 replying to a comment from Rob / October 9, 2013 at 11:13 pm
.... The kay gardner beltine trail is similar, with few exits, I presume you think we should scrap that park?
Stupid comment on your behalf.

Anyone can be assaulted anywhere. The eatons centre is no safer than this proposed park.
lowrez / October 9, 2013 at 11:16 pm
If it's anything like the West Toronto Railpath, this will be terrific. You all HAVE heard of this, right? Besides Mayor McGrabass, nobody has mentioned it -- I'll bet less than half of the people posting here are even aware of it.
Michael / October 10, 2013 at 01:00 am
Sean / October 10, 2013 at 03:02 am

It will eventually decay and taxpayers will be stuck with the repair bill. Nobody wants that anymore.
marty / October 10, 2013 at 05:25 am
This would be great if it includes a railpath along the Ellesmere-to-Kennedy stretch. Then you would have a direct connection to the existing Gatineau corridor trail (which, supposedly, is to be extended to the Lower Don system by 2016, as part of the 'Pan Am Trail'). However, I do have supreme faith in city council finding a way to blow this opportunity, so I won't yet hold my breath.
foo / October 10, 2013 at 07:39 am
Just let it decay into a post-modern apocalyptic hellscape and rat sanctuary. No need to mess with a good thing.
Rob replying to a comment from stonr1 / October 10, 2013 at 08:04 am
I know you're trying to be progressive in your thinking, but unfortunately reality has a way of interfering.

Don't compare an at grade trail which runs through some of the city's richest residential neighbourhoods with a proposed elevated trail through industrial areas of Scarborough.

Forget about the potential for danger, who the hell would want to take a stroll in SRT Park anyway? To get where exactly? Horrible idea.
MER1978 / October 10, 2013 at 09:35 am
Since we'll be wasting an obscene amount of money on a subway extension instead of reusing this infrastructure properly.. Scarborough "deserves" a long term eyesore in my opinion.
MER1978 replying to a comment from jd / October 10, 2013 at 11:11 am
@jd "Say what you will about cost (whatever they may be). It shows in things like landscaping and art. It's investment like such that truly make cities great. Not just for residents, but for tourism as well."

Other than the Toronto Zoo... how many tourists do you think visit Scarborough?
jd / October 10, 2013 at 12:55 pm

My comment was on The Highline. Not Scarborough. I wouldn't support it in Scarborough, but downtown yes.
MER1978 / October 10, 2013 at 01:32 pm
"My comment was on The Highline. Not Scarborough. I wouldn't support it in Scarborough, but downtown yes."

This article is about a specific proposal in Scarborough..
McRib replying to a comment from lowrez / October 10, 2013 at 02:48 pm
just because no one mentioned it, doesn't mean no one has heard of it. They are fairly different things.

(and yes i use the railpath quite regularly, cant wait for the possible expansion to become reality.
jd replying to a comment from MER1978 / October 10, 2013 at 06:19 pm
"This article is about a specific proposal in Scarborough.."


Right in the first sentence it states "the former track bed should become an elevated/linear park in the mould of New York's High Line".

And I suspect that's what anyone would be trying to emulate by proposing doing this.

This still doesn't take away from my comment you originally quoted. Which was a reply to Aaron's comment. We were both talking about The Highline. Not Scarborough.
junctionist / October 10, 2013 at 08:39 pm
At first, the High Line comparison may seem ridiculous, but it's an excellent idea. The elevated part of the RT goes through the densely built up part of Scarborough with skyscrapers and the civic centre. It's better to copy New York to create something novel and unexpected where what you copied doesn't matter as much anyway--like in Scarborough--as opposed to downtown.

So what if it wouldn't be as incredible as the High Line? It would still be a fantastic amenity. This would be a linear park that would link the LRT bike lanes on Eglinton at Kennedy station to central Scarborough where the growing density will make walking and cycling more viable.
Zach / October 11, 2013 at 10:41 pm
Great idea, but then again...its in Scarborough...

Perhaps not the whole line, maybe just the segment between McCowan and STC MAYBE even Midland, but I wouldn't see it going much further.
Zach replying to a comment from MER1978 / October 11, 2013 at 10:45 pm
Come to Scarborough! See out many buildings left over from the 80's! Marvel in wonder as a coked out homeless man breast feeds a squirrel! Be amazed at our four different types of apartment building colors yellow, brown, red, and what used to be white!
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