We hear a lot from subway advocates about the need for an ongoing project to expand the subway system. Leaving aside the question of how we will pay for it, what would we actually see for our efforts?
The building rate proposed is two km/year. If we were going to build west from Yonge Street and we started today, it would be late 2010 before we reached Jane Street, late 2014 to reach the western boundary of the city, somewhere like the airport for example. Every penny we could scrounge would go into that line, and by 2015 we would still have big transit problems in most of the city. This assumes we start tomorrow, and we all know that nothing will happen for at least two years while we debate where the line will go, design it and get EA approval.
If we are serious about expanding the transit network in a meaningful timeframe, we have two choices:
- build much more than two km/year and be prepared to pay for it, or
- use something other than subways to expand transit capacity, and build lots of that.
Mayoral hopefuls and other subway advocates need to be honest about the costs and benefits of their plans. The two km rate was once floated by Rick Ducharme, back when we actually thought that would cost $200-million or so. The Sheppard Subway, our most recent project, was 6 km long and cost us almost $1-billion not including the vehicles that were purchased separately. Even allowing for the huge expense of the junction at Yonge Street, $200-million hasn’t bought two km of subway for a long time.
I will return to the issues involved in building LRT in a future post and will incorporate many of the comments that are stacked up in feedbacks from various readers that have accumulated in my inbox.