Spare Change for Etobicoke?

Two pieces of news caught my eye today, and somehow they seem to fit in the same post.

First up is a report in next week’s TTC agenda about the extension of the Bloor Subway.  At the January 31 meeting, there was a request that staff update information on the planned line in light of a proposed development near the East Mall.  The reply to this can be found on the TTC’s website here:

In this report, we learn that an Environmental Assessment was already approved for this back in 1994, although it is somewhat out of date.   Blowing the dust off of the EA would set us back about $3-million.

The intriguing information is that the estimated cost of the extension in 2007 dollars is roughly $1-billion for 3.7 km to Queensway and The West Mall, and a further $500-million for 1.5 km to get to a Dixie Station in Mississauga.  This translates to $270-million/km to get to West Mall, and a staggering $333-million/km to get to Dixie.  Underground alignments are assumed in both cases, and the report is silent on whether this cost is just for construction or also includes additional subway cars to operate the extended line.

In other news, the Canadian Mint has announced that it will produce a new 100 kilogram gold coin at a face value of $1-million, but with an actual gold content (and price to buy one) over twice that.  There is an article on the Globe & Mail’s website about it here:

although this may not last forever as the Globe tends to archive things fairly quickly.

For all of you who are saving up to build your very own subway line, this might be just the thing you need.  Imagine if people saw a pile of million-dollar coins.  At $270-million/km, or $270,000/metre, each coin would buy (at face value) not quite four metres of subway, or eight metres if you melted it down.

Who needs new tokens?

17 thoughts on “Spare Change for Etobicoke?

  1. $333-million/km!!!

    Not to repeat everything you say Steve, but how much would one of these subway km’s purchase us in improved surface transit?

    Considering that the most flagrantly expensive LRT network we might build will probably come in at no more than $30M/km, you could get about 50 km of LRT for the cost of the extension to Dixie. That would make a wonderful foundation for a Mississauga network.

    The only problem is you have to find the $1.5B in the first place.


  2. Knowing our mint, and also what happend to the old TTC Tokens, I bet the new coin will be forged.

    Or, can you imagine a chocolate coin like that? MMMMM!!!


  3. Well this is silly. If they are going to build this extension, why not build it at grade and/or elevated along the rail corridor for as much of the route as possible?

    I can’t see this extension ever happening. But if somehow it does, can you imagine the outrage we will see with our Scarborough councillors?


  4. At these costs, there are better things to do with such an amount of money.

    But is an underground alignment necessary in getting as far as East Mall? To that point there would be no need of going crossing to the south of the existing rail right of way. What is the nature of the properties it would be running behind?


  5. From my memory of the 1994 Kipling Subway Extension EA, there were various options, at grade, underground, as well as route alternatives.

    The area from Kipling to Queensway/West Mall is low density industrial. Furthermore, the CP tracks (and Georgetown GO Train line) extend southwest from Kipling Station almost directly to Queensway/West Mall and Sherway Gardens. I don’t know if there is space left on the CP right-of-way in that section. There was on the section from Islington to Kipling for the subway.

    Surely we don’t need tunneling for this segment! Even if the subway’s built above grade, it should be cheaper than tunnelling. The mind boggles at the $1 B to get just to Sherway.


  6. These sound like big dollars, to be sure, but it does bear remembering that we did manage to build most of our subway system in the 1950s and 60s when the national wealth and per capita income were at much lower levels. Ontario is at least twice as rich per capita as we were 50 years ago (after inflation), and yet amazingly, we seem to be able to only dream of building these types of projects today.

    There are a number of reasons for this mainly centred around how governments in Canada tax and do their accounting but insufficient wealth is not among them. To put this into perspective, let’s assume we decided to spend the roughly $7 billion it would cost to extend the Spadina and BD subways, rebuild the SRT and finish the Sheppard subway. Logistically this would take at least 10 years given the availability of labour and machinery at a cost of say $750 million per year (to factor in a (big) buffer for inflation).

    This figure is about…0.15% of our provincial GDP. Even if you look at provincial government revenues the number is amazingly tiny (Ontario collects almost $100 billion per year, or at least $1 trillion over ten) such that all this construction would equal 0.7% of government revenue. This isn’t even to mention federal contributions, how much would accrue back in income and sales taxes, or the externalities of a cleaner environment of benefits to future generations.

    Not building subways is a choice governments have made, to preserve a very narrow view of fiscal conservatism and extreme degree of risk aversion. One could argue that by not investing in these types of mega projects we are diminishing future growth potential and that there could be a net overall loss. I for one would happily pay a small surcharge on my income, sales or other taxes (that would be pennies a day) to make this (and many other transit service improvements) possible. People need to become more active about this, and demand more from our leaders than rigid, short-sighted parsimony.

    Steve: There are days I wind up sounding neo-conservative, and it pains me greatly to do this, but here goes. There is this little question of value for money, and the fact that we do not have anywhere near enough to pay for everything we want. We shouldn’t be wasting money on flagrantly expensive subways when the same money could be going to many more transit improvements, or to hospitals, or schools, or housing, or other social programs. We might even build a road or two.

    The basic point is that if we are going to extend the BD line, then we should do as much of it as possible on the surface since the right-of-way is available. From another point of view, is Kipling the place to change to another mode as the beginning of a suburban LRT network. This is the same question as we face in Scarborough. Why just build a subway to the West Mall when we could be starting an Etobicoke/Mississauga LRT network?


  7. I’m really not a fan of interim terminal stations. Every terminal station seems to require extra switches and track, staff facilities, extra bus bays, and public washrooms (as a building code requirement), much of which becomes surplus when the line is extended any further. Construction-wise it seems like there’d be overhead to ramping up a subway project of any size, both in terms of staff and equipment.

    Wouldn’t a BRT corridor along Dundas make a lot more sense? (I know this is listed in the Building a Transit City report; I don’t know its status.) It would provide enough service given the current density of the area, could also be used by Mississauga Transit, and would cost a whole lot less. The BRT would help build up ridership and encourage higher densities, which would eventually support a Cloverdale station as part of a longer westward extension.


  8. If I remember correctly, there was provision for an LRT platform over top of the south track at the Kipling station (I think it was intended to be an airport link). Maybe an alternate to subway extension is an LRT extension either on the north side of the CPR right of way or even along the center of Dundas street (effectively replacing the current HOV lanes).

    One problem of course would be connecting this section to the rest of the system. An extension to Sherway Gardens would be about 3.4 km, but a service connection down Kipling to connect with Lake Shore would be 5.1 km, a respectable line in its own right.


  9. I think it is a great idea to do this because it not only leads to a future extension to the airport, it can connect Mississauga to Toronto Via Subway.

    Now I think They have money as of right now because I remember in the budget last year they had a “saving” account for the York University Line, but they only have A third of it and thats about 500million. If the TTC gets more money in this budget they can go with it. Now people always talk about how hard it can be for connecting it to the Line, but I’m sure theres a possibility. As for the York Line, I really don’t think its a good idea because they are not getting ANY money from the univesrity and thats its number one goal is to deliver people over there.

    The TTC better start making subway lines now because in 10 years from now the cost of living will be too high.


  10. Just to help put transit in perspective, to paint a bike lane on a street is about $25,000 a km., but there has to be political will to do that, as much of the public roads are car-dominated.

    But the flood of people I passed by on Bloor today waiting for the buses as the “subway was @#$%ed” as I overheard someone say might have liked the option.
    And it doesn’t make sense to bury it all underground anyway – do the cut, and maybe not the cover, unless it proves to be really a problem with switches being frozen up etc.


  11. Un. Believable.

    Seriously, *everyone* knows that the major construction costs when building transportation infrastructure are in civil engineering.

    In order from least to most expensive:
    * Surface / Embankment / Open cut.
    * Elevated structure / Cut and cover tunnel.
    * Bored tunnel.

    The below-grade versions seem to be slightly more expensive than the above-grade versions, but the differences between these three categories are much huger.

    Doing an estimate based on underground construction for a line where a good surface route is available is completely insane. Clearly there’s no seriousness here: this is an attempt to kill the proposal by inflating the cost estimates.


  12. Nathanael, you’re absolutely right. I think the TTC is worried that if they were to build a westward extension in Etobicoke, they would in fact be opening up a can of worms, so to speak. There would be a huge outcry from Scarborough, with councillors saying that they are being ‘ingored’ again while other parts of the city get subway extensions. So the TTC probably wants to make it finacially impossible to build a westward extension of the Bloor line. This is the only logical explanation in my mind.


  13. I’d have to agree that the proposed below grade alignment for an extension of B-D west of Kipling makes no sense. The line from Islington to Kipling is on the surface.

    Looking at London as an example, a good deal (over 50% I believe) the ‘tube’ runs on the surface. Outside of the Circle line, you’ll likely be riding above ground.

    Toronto doesn’t enjoy London’s temperate climate – but surface alignment is being used here already, and works.

    It would great if cycling were the answer to the city’s transportation problem. The vast majority of people aren’t going to bike to work – even during fair weather.


  14. I didn’t mean to suggest that we should build subways to the exclusion of everything else; in fact I support Steve’s notion of focusing in the short term on better service and surface-based transit. I just bristle at the notion that it is absurd to be in favour of new subways when it is, apparently, clear we can’t afford them (where they are necessary – which isn’t everywhere).

    A similar argument could have been (and likely was) advocated in the 50s and 60s against building very expensive subways in Toronto, when all of North America was building expressways (I would bet that Spadina and Scarborough expressways could have been built for less than the cost of the BD subway). I’m not left-wing and am not suggesting a huge expansion in government, but we can do a lot if people would be more forceful in putting pressure on government to use the real resources we have, as a wealthy society, to give Toronto and region the world class transit system we deserve (not to even mention our (now) legislated Kyoto commitments).

    Steve: Just for clarity: I do not oppose subway construction per se, but it has to be in the context of actual and reasonable projections for demand and how we can best “invest” transit dollars. For example, an argument could be made for extending the Yonge subway north a short distance for operational reasons (terminal reconfiguration), and to spread out the bus feeder network. Many of the proposed subway lines don’t have and never will have the demand to justify their existence, and their construction will drain capital from other projects giving the transit system greater reach and overall attractiveness.


  15. Jeff Gray in today’s Globe & Mail Dr. Gridlock column said:

    “… if would-be ribbon cutters [politicians] faced a target to produce, say, a certain number of new transit riders in five years, they might think twice before pushing political pet projects that planners don’t expect to deliver enough of those new riders — a description some critics apply to the Spadina subway extension and most everybody applies to the TTC’s Sheppard line. Instead, money might flow to projects that are expected to take the maximum numbers of cars off the roads…”

    This opinion contrasts sharply with what Royson James has written in the Star, that to be a great mayor (or something to that effect), David Miller should commit to building a certain number of kilometers of subway per year and that streetcar / subway ROW’s are not sufficiently impressive.

    Steve: What is “not sufficiently impressive” is the big empty space on our transit map where a rapid transit network could have been if only we hadn’t wasted all our time and what little money we had planning an all-subway network building a monument to Mel Lastman’s ego. Toronto fell behind on transit expansion because we convinced ourselves that only subways were good enough for us.

    I remember Mal saying “Real cities don’t use streetcars”. That’s the sort of enlightened leadership we had, and the engineering and construction fraternity at the TTC did nothing to correct him. Subways keep construction companies busy, they keep workers busy, they soak up gobs of money, but they don’t deliver good service across Toronto.


  16. Um, Samuel, well, it is true that York is one of the major lobbyists for the extension for the Spadina subway line, but it isn’t the end of the line. If you go looking, you’ll see the end of the line is where the new Vaughan Corporate centre will be, and that is supposed to be a huge regional bus hub.

    But on another note, am I the only female to comment on this?

    I personally, don’t think York is particularly well served by a new subway (although that is one of the reasons they’re going to put the new Ontario archives there), I think a light rail, or even dedicated bus lanes in the hydro corridors, would be far more effective. And while they’re at it, dedicated bike lanes on the same routes.

    Steve: What saddens me so much through all of the presentations York U made at the TTC was their blindness to the sort of York-focussed network we could build if only they didn’t soak up every penny for their subway. I don’t hate York (although I think their ability to analyze transit plans is a bit wonky), but they’re not interested in alternatives.


  17. Subway to York/Steeles is fine, it’s a trip generator, a logical location for a mixed terminus of bus/LRT/subway. Hwy 7 is not, and on top of that introduces inter-municipal haggling to subway funding.

    The EA for Steeles is done but unfortunately there’s no chance of building the Steeles bit without the Vaughan bit because then the 905 might start voting Tory.

    For me, the Hwy 7 extension should be scrapped and a “fan” of LRT/BRT built from the Steeles terminus to various parts of the 905 to feed York – not downtown. Downtown is GO Transit’s job.


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