Today’s Star has an article by this title, except there’s no question mark. The question of property development on TTC lands comes up from time to time with an unfortunate feeling that a “gold rush” is just around the corner. The TTC could do everything we want if only it would develop its surplus property.
To save you flipping over the Star for reference, here are the properties under consideration. For more details on some of them, go to the sidebar article.
- Finch Station (the TTC does not own the land on which the commuter parking sits)
- Sheppard Station, northwest corner of Yonge & Sheppard plus bus loop
- York Mills Station, south entrance parking lot (there is already a building over the main entrance and bus loop)
- Lawrence Station (limited space available above the bus ramps)
- Eglinton Station, old bus terminal
- Davisville Yard
- Rosedale Station (park)
- Wilson Station (parking lots)
- Islington Station (redevelopment scheme already in progress as discussed previously on this site)
- Lansdowne Garage site
- Greenwood Yard
- Danforth Garage site
- Warden Station
- Leslie Station (lots of open space on a prime corner)
I’m not going to get into the specifics of any proposal (most sites don’t have anything actually designed yet), but my concern is that the Star headline presents this as the TTC’s way out of a financial crunch. The article quotes Raymond Wong, national director of research for CB Richard Ellis Limited, as saying that there’s a limit to what the TTC can get. A recent sale near Leslie Station of surplus Canadian Tire land came in at about $3.8-million per acre.
[One acre, 43,560 square feet, is roughly the space that two subway stations would occupy. 500 feet long x 45 feet wide x 2. For those familiar with Imperial measure, an acre is one furlong long and one surveyor’s chain wide, or 10 square chains.]
The Canadian Tire lands are not encumbered by the need to keep a subway and bus station operating within whatever is built on them. Indeed, this sort of thing can be quite challenging for some developments. A building over a subway yard cannot, for obvious reasons, have an underground parking garage, and buses roaring into and out of a bus loop may be inconsistent with the quiet life of condo dwellers.
In any event, sales of this nature are a one-time event. Once you have the money, that’s it. You can’t do this again next year and count on property development as an ongoing revenue source. Moreover, the scheme at Islington Station doesn’t come near paying for the cost of redeveloping the existing bus loop or of moving the Mississauga and GO Transit operations to Kipling.
Let’s put this in context of TTC capital needs assuming that the $3.8-million per acre is a reasonable figure.
That would buy, say, one new LRV about 100 feet long if we got a good price, or five hybrid buses, or just under 1/5 of one percent of the cost of the Spadina Subway extension. Flip that on its head, and the TTC would need 553 acres of land to pay for that subway. That’s an area roughly equal to Yonge to Bathurst, Bloor to College. It is larger than the Steeles Campus of York University.
The TTC does not own anywhere near that much property even assuming they could get a good price for it. Without question, some redevelopment of TTC lands will bring more riders to the system and will fill in some otherwise empty spaces that are totally inappropriate for subway station sites. However, this redevelopment will not come close to solving the TTC’s financial problems. Anyone who pretends it will has their head in the sand.