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The SRT is seen near the Scarborough Town Centre in Scarborough, Ont. on Sept. 27, 2013.Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

Scarborough residents would be riding the bus for at least seven years under a transit agency plan to shut down the trains that connect the area to the city’s main east-west subway line.

The Rapid Transit (RT) line in Toronto’s east end has become increasingly rickety, and transportation and political officials have said it would not survive until 2030, the projected completion date of the subway extension into Scarborough. The full magnitude of the service interruption was revealed on Thursday.

A report from Toronto Transit Commission staff to be debated next week by the agency’s board recommends not trying to keep the RT going until the subway opens. Instead, staff propose to shut the RT in 2023 and replace its service with extra buses.

The suggestion undermines a key argument for pursuing a new subway instead of the light rail project that was already approved and funded. The light rail proposal would have required the RT to be shut down during construction, meaning replacement buses. A subway could be built without shutting the RT, proponents argued, and require no extra buses.

The subway extension was approved in 2013, with its opening set for 2023. The project’s budget included $132-million to keep the RT running until the subway was ready. However, development has been so protracted that the RT is close to the end of its practical lifespan before its replacement is near ready.

To fill the lengthy gap, TTC staff propose two options.

Under one scenario, Toronto buys enough new buses to meet the demand of ferrying RT passengers – in normal times about 35,000 a day – to the eastern terminus of the Bloor-Danforth subway line. That would cost about $375-million.

The other option is to divert existing buses to Scarborough until 2026 – meaning more of the TTC fleet would be in use at any given time – and supplement with new buses in 2027. This would cost about $358-million.

The advocacy group TTC Riders says enough buses must be available to match frequency of the RT, which comes every five minutes. The group also says passengers should be able to transfer free to the GO network instead of paying extra. And it wants dedicated space on the roads to speed bus service in Scarborough.

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