Spadina Subway? What Spadina Subway?

For three years, we have pretended that the Spadina Subway extension was a worthwhile project.  We hoped that  lobbyists from York University and their pals at Queen’s Park would look kindly on poor little Toronto.  Maybe they would give us more powers in a City of Toronto Act.  Maybe they would actually start paying for social services that are really a provincial responsibility.  Maybe they would give us better, ongoing funding for transit.

Three years of tugging our forelocks and saying “please, sir, we want some more” were a total waste of time.  All of the transit spending and social services budget relief go to the 905 and Toronto gets nothing.

Toronto has new taxing powers, and it should use them.  Build the city with the “revenue tools” we have and stop being so dependent on other governments.

We have been duped into an unworkable formula of 1/3 shares by the federal, provincial and municipal governments.  This makes every project, every funding request, hostage to federal and provincial whims most of which avoid spending on Toronto.  Yes, it’s outrageous that we get less transit funding than cities in any other major country, but we should stop holding our breath for this to change.

Now Toronto needs to make its spending priorities fit a Toronto agenda, not one for Queen’s Park.

The Spadina Subway extension exists for two reasons:

  • The combined force of York University’s lobbying and the Finance Minister’s desire to see a subway into his riding.
  • The long-standing resistance of the TTC to examine and promote any alternatives to subway extensions.

Any realistic examination of “value for money” would have killed this line, and especially the extension into Vaughan, long ago.  Any proper examination of alternatives would have examined an extensive network of LRT, busways and commuter rail to serve this sector.  That debate hides in back corridors because nobody in power wants to challenge the inevitability of a subway to York University and beyond, nobody wants to support a fair analysis of alternatives.

Toronto should withdraw support for the Spadina Subway immediately.

64 thoughts on “Spadina Subway? What Spadina Subway?

  1. As an addendum to my previous post about offering a York U / Vaughan / Finch LRT as an alternative to the Spadina Extension, if the federal pot needs stirring, offer to include the Scarborough Malvern LRT (with links to GO’s Guildwood station, and thus Oshawa-Whitby, Mr. Flaherty’s electoral home). Of course this would have to also include the portion of the Eglinton Crosstown line from Kennedy to Don Mills, and the Don Mills line from Eglinton to Pape station. I mean, lets be realistic here. There’s a larger network to consider ;-}.


  2. This debate is quite an interesting one because it pulls in so many different elements, from politics to planning.

    Thinking about the Spadina subway extension has to consider how things are today and how they will be 40 years from now.

    Here in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, a similar situation is being played out. A costly extension of the rapid transit system into two well-connected, mobile, demographically young and wealthy suburban areas, in order to grab votes and build transit at the same time.

    It seems that network planning is thrown onto the back burner when money and politics get involved.

    I agree, Steve, that the Spadina subway extension is not necessary beyond York University, and only with the committment to better LRT service in place.


  3. Steve your objections regarding John Sutka’s comments on public boondoggles is correct. I work in private sector currently and have witnessed numerous disasters that if they had happened in the public sector would have been headlines for weeks and governments would’ve fallen.
    The subway to York is overkill, beyond there is just insanity. BRT or LRT could adequately address the current and future needs at siginificantly less cost. Connecting the subway to the CN Newmarket subdivision (Bradford GO service) would be of limited value as there are currently only 3 trains in each direction weekdays. This station would make far more sense if it was at Eglinton and we had the Transit City infrastructure. If you commute from the northern suburbs Yonge Street anywhere from north of Dundas to Lawerence you’re actually better off driving than taking public transit. The Richmond Hill GO connection at Leslie is a hike and there’s no connection to rapid transit on the Bradford run until Union.


  4. I’m not quite sure I like all this anti-subway talk !

    Let’s get realistic folks. Look at what happened with the St. Clair ROW — do you honestly think that the suburbs are going to give up a lane in each direction on, let’s say, Finch, for LRT?

    I was driving along Finch the other day and realized that it’s only two lanes wide in some places — by reducing it to one lane would create chaos. We would be reducing Finch’s capacity to side street levels.

    And what about the layout with all the left/center turn lanes? How do you handle those? Cars will have to cross the ROW tracks to get into left turn position. If you get rid of the left turn lanes, and put them to the right of the tracks, the party’s over for the traffic lane.

    Sorry folks, this ain’t gonna work.

    If the Spadina extension will pull in 100,000 riders in 20 years, then it’s worth it. To put this into context, when the Bloor line opened, its daily ridership in its first year of operation was 90,000. Now, it’s almost 500,000.

    Steve: The most challenging part of Finch will be in the old section from Yonge west to about Bathurst where houses are built comparatively close to the road. From there as far west as you go, the right of way clearly has room for any widening needed to hold the LRT tracks. The real question is what sort of tradeoffs are we really looking at. Let’s not condemn the plan outright before looking at what can be done with a detailed design.

    As for the Bloor line, I must reiterate that its riding follows directly from its central function in the city and the fact that it has a strong network of feeder lines. The Spadina extension does not have this function nor the potential to grow to the same degree as Bloor-Danforth.

    People often forget that the Bloor-Danforth line is really two lines — a western line serving Etobicoke and an eastern line serving Scarborough, as well as all the places in between. The Spadina line is one line. Even if the same population density existed around the Spadina line, it would attract only have as many riders as the BD line carries because it serves only one catchment area, not two.

    Also, when you talk about the first year of operation (1966), remember that the line only ran from Keele to Woodbine and the suburban bus network was not yet built out. However, the potential was there because Bloor-Danforth already served the development centre at Yonge Street and the Yonge subway line. The Spadina extension serves Downsview Station.


  5. I’m no politician, but I am tempted to register a provincial party and call it Bloc Toronto. After all, it worked for Quebec.


  6. There is no doubt that if inner-city makes a fight to save a lane, the outer 416 suburbs will probably make a riot for it. Also, since most of 416 has *A LOT* of middle turning lanes, i have no idea what will be done to handle the cars that want to turn. 905 suburbs are planned in a way that most roads have medians, so the middle turning lane is not a problem.

    Finch has to have a MINIMUM of 4 through lanes, left turn lanes (maybe even dual, if necessary), and right turn lanes. Then, an LRT will serve as almost 2 or more extra lanes (since one lane carries about 1500 vph). Don’t forget that there are many industrial areas which means Trucks will always be a problem.

    Considering all the extra $$ that it will take to add two lanes for an LRT along Finch, it is probably faster, cheaper, and more attractive to have an LRT along the Finch Hydro Corridor from Near Weston to Yonge. Finch from Weston Road and west of that is very wide open and flows pretty well.

    For local purposes, make bus lanes or bus queue jump lanes on Finch at every intersection where a right turn lane is. They already have some on Queen St in Brampton from City Center to Airport Road…

    Let’s hope this is the last subway extension for a while other then a Bloor extension to Cloverdale and a Yonge Extension to ATLEAST steeles.

    I Like LRT as much of the rest of you, but seeing as this extension is a done deal, i would be at much more peace knowing Toronto is building SOMETHING instead of nothing….and if you think about it, if the city is only paying about 700 million, it can’t be that bad…

    As long as the federal government is a minority, expect to see more sudden transit cash flows in the near future…

    What needs to be done now is make a HUGE Promotional campaign around 2013-2014 to let everyone in the whole GTA know that a new subway line is coming…Similar to Brampton Sending every single homeowner a transit map before the great landmark “May 16th 2005” Transit Service Change…Truly was a historical day.

    Global warming is becoming an issue more important then health care in Canada so transit will definitely get more attention in the coming years.


  7. As I described in the topic “Travels Abroad”, there are some LRT designs that are likely to be useful in the suburban areas of Toronto that we can learn from Minneapolis.

    The LRT’s ROW can be placed next to the road, instead of down the middle. Back in the days when we had a Metro level of government, the main roads that were Metro’s responsibility were designed with space to allow expansion to SEVEN lanes of width (3 in each direction and a double left turn lane in the middle). By shifting a five lane road over to one side of the right of way, there is space for two LRT tracks at the other side. In this configuration, the LRT crosses connecting roads with a railway-type level crossing and traffic signals are interlocked to disallow left turns for traffic travelling to the right of the LRT and to disallow right turns for traffic travelling to the left of the LRT when the crossing is activated.

    As for Finch, I have read discussions on here about hydro ROW versus street. It seems to me that it should be on Finch for areas west of Bathurst, where the Metro road right of way standard is more or less in effect, and should jog up to the hydro right of way east of there to Yonge. In that distance, there would likely only be one or perhaps two stops before reaching Yonge and the hydro lands are VERY close to Finch so are not so out of the way they would be a pain for pedestrians to use. They actually cut through the YRT/GO terminal at Finch station.


  8. I like LRT, in principle. But a point that is not commonly addressed by pro-LRT types, such as yourself, is that the TransitCity LRT proposal is likely unbuildable, even if it was fully funded by all levels of government.

    Take the Eglinton line as an example. Imagine every business owner along Eglinton banding together in a Save-Our-Eglinton campaign, which would dwarf the resources and clout of the similar campaign from St Clair. Remember that the St Clair lobby very nearly derailed the project in the courts. A financially larger SOE campaign could present opposition spanning several wards, putting more than one councillor in jeopardy, and maybe even the mayor in a tight race.

    Steve: In common with some media reports, you seem to have missed the fact that the line will be underground through the commercial section of Eglinton from roughly Keele to Laird. These merchants will have to put up with subway construction, not onstreet operation.

    It irritates me greatly that the Spadina extension is vilified by people such as yourself, even though it is one of those very rare transit projects that is supported by all the stakeholders — residents, business, and all levels of government. I would argue that none of these groups is terribly excited about LRT. You seem to want to terminate a success, ready to go right now, in favor of a project that might not get built for decades, if at all.

    And I don’t know how often you get up to York U, but during rush hour, those trains are reasonably full up to Downsivew, and at least half of those aboard will then troop up to the 196 York U Rocket stop. Those buses run on 1-2 minute frequency all day and are jammed to the rafters. The subway might not be the best solution but it is a solution, and a solution is needed right now — not however long from now it takes to get an LRT in.

    Finally, I assume that you were being hyperbolic about calling for the termination of Toronto’s involvement in the Spadina Subway Extension. Surely you are smart enough to realize that reneging on a deal of this high profile would make it easy for any future senior government to refuse Toronto’s funding requests in the future, not to mention poison the environment for GTA-wide transit cooperation.

    Steve: First off, the various supporters of the Spadina extension have never been presented with any alternative and a subway has been assumed from the outset. They have no basis of comparison. As for construction time, LRT is always faster to build than subways because it is not all underground. All that is needed is the desire to proceed.

    My attitude to the York subway is coloured by the arrogance of the university itself and the near-permanent fixture of their lobbyist at the TTC for a long period. He was even there for the Transit City discussion even though that proposal doesn’t touch his subway.

    The recent budgetary announcements including support for the VCC extension were really the last straw. People talk about waste in the public sector, about the city getting its priorities right, about the need for widespread improvements in transit. What do we get? A subway line for which there is no valid rationale unless you assume that this is the only technology available. It is a political decision, not a transit one.

    In that light, I feel justified in demanding that subway proponents actually make their case rather than getting a big handout. Toronto never really wanted the Spadina subway, but played ball to keep the Province (York U has powerful friends there) off of their back. Indeed, many politicians quietly hoped that the Feds would walk away from the project and save them the cost of building it.

    Instead, Harper surprised everyone and bought in big time. For our co-operation, we got nothing. It’s time for Toronto to take a stand for itself and stop wasting our tax money on a Queen’s Park bauble.

    As I have said many times before, an LRT network could provide service to York U from many directions, not just from the Spadina corridor, and could do so much more cheaply. Yes, subway riders would have to transfer at Downsview, although we should find a way to simplify that, but LRT riders would get a direct route into York rather than being forced to transfer to the extended subway at VCC or 407 station.

    If this plan had been pursued actively, it could have been built and operating by now, but we have wasted years trying to put together the subway plan and funding. Toronto’s ignorance of LRT capabilities and the TTC’s active connivance at presenting subway-only plans show how badly served we are compared with many other urban areas.


  9. I am in favour of LRTs criss-crossing our city but it makes me so upset when majority of Torontonians do not stand up, voice their opinions, and demand improvements to transit from senior levels of government. We received absolutely no money for Transit City in 2 budgets, yet many Torontonians just carried on like nothing happened. Maybe it is because the majority of people still see subways as the best option and anything else as being ‘second class’ and not worth fighting for. I do not know the answer to that but it worth finding out

    Besides TTC, City of Toronto, and transit and envrionmental advocates, we have to start dragging many ‘quiet’ transit riders of this city out of their homes to educate them about the pros of LRTs and fight this transit battle. The only way we will get LRTs and better transit in Toronto is if we ‘all’ come together and fight (not just a very small segment of the population).

    Someone should put together several major transit rallies at Queens Park or at Nathan Phillips Square between now and the provincial elections (and even beyond that).


  10. As often mentioned on this site we “get more bang for our buck” building LRT’s than any subway extensions that are being proposed. This would be one reason to say no to the Spadina extension.

    If we look at what is being proposed in the Transit City plan we don’t need the subway extension. LRT routes are being proposed for both Jane and Finch. The Jane route could turn east on Steeles and loop somewhere on the north side of the York Campus.

    With York Region’s/Vaughan’s money that they were going to put into the subway extension they could enhance YRT service in Vaughan whether VIVA or LRT.

    If you have east-west LRT’s along Finch and Eglinton then if you improve GO service you have better connections for passengers getting off before downtown.


  11. Agreed on that, if you can educate everyone in a campaign about a TRUE Suburban LRT, the best one of course!!! then people will understand. My own father asked me, what do you think about this Transit City Proposal? Followed by, LRT means the Scarborough LRT right?

    I say we build the Finch West LRT first with parts in the Hydro Corridor up to around 400 and then on Finch up to Humber College. Phase it! Build from Finch to Finch West first, im sure the TTC can find money to do that if it has money to build the Spadina and St. Clair LRT’s

    Finch is basically a perfect, wide standard suburban road except for a small portion in the vicinity of Yonge, LRT would run fast, and in the suburbs, speed is most important since everything is further apart.

    But before anything, stop wasting money on a useless 1 Cent GST Campaign that nobody supports and put that money into educating people of what an LRT is! Build Finch to Finch West! Show the City that Subway isnt the only way, LRT is also an option. Spending money for this does work and can be seen by the large amount of money York Region spent for VIVA “Education”.

    Currently, the only other option people think of, other then Subway is Elevated, as in the SRT! Let’s also include LRT….

    Build Finch to Finch West! ASAP! Best Deal for the $$ and if the hydro-corridor is used, a true rapid line, and probably the cheapest one in TTC History.


  12. York is a huge facility in Toronto — a public institution which is one of the city’s major employers, major destinations, and so forth. If they didn’t play the political game, they simply wouldn’t exist; it’s what very large public institutions do.

    York University “arrogant”? “Powerful friends”? That sounds a bit harsh, don’t you think? I am no insider and I have no special knowledge, so maybe I am missing something. And perhaps York doesn’t play in as genteel a manner as I imagine the U of T or Ryerson, say, to. Still, from my admittedly-uninformed vantage point, it is hard to imagine so much vitriol is warranted. What gives?

    Steve: My feelings about York U come from the way they threw their weight around at the TTC.


  13. Andrew says:

    It irritates me greatly that the Spadina extension is vilified by people such as yourself, even though it is one of those very rare transit projects that is supported by all the stakeholders — residents, business, and all levels of government.

    I object strongly to this statement. Anyone who lives in Toronto or the GTA is a stake holder and this is NOT a wise use of our limited capital pool. The Provincial and Federal Governments are trying to buy seats in the 905 ridings. The extension does not do anything for most of Toronto or the GTA that could not be done a lot cheaper. I believe that York U still has an inferiority complex because U of T and Ryerson have rapid transit access and they don’t. They don’t care what the cost or consequences of building the line is as long as they can say we have our own subway stop. If this line is built then it will mean that more useful lines will not be built for a long, long time. If York U, York region and other governments want this extension then let them pay for it and let Toronto put its money into more useful lines.

    In the 70’s or 80’s I remember some US cities stopped applying for federal grants for transit construction because the increased cost and time to build the line that resulted from federal requirements were not worth the monies gained. I believe that the same is true here. The other two levels of government are not supporting transit in Toronto so it is time that Toronto realized this and pushed on with out them. Toronto should also only vote green or orange in the next elections and turf out the Big Red and Blue machines. If they did not have any 416 seat then maybe they would pay some attention.


  14. Well, the “spatial mismatch” hypothesis is a fairly well understood planning hypothesis that suggests that the urban poor have a hard time escaping poverty because there is no transportation available to the suburbs, where most new jobs are created. But the reason I mention it is to bring up the fact that there are many riders – who may not be represented on this website – that will benefit from this subway extension.

    Another things that hasn’t been mentioned is the effect the Spadina extension will have on the ridership of VIVA and the new Brampton ACCELERIDE, not to mention YRT local routes in the area. I think it would be beyond question that a subway will increase bus ridership in this area a lot more than light rail would.

    Steve: I am quoting the demand estimates from the TTC and YRT studies. If there were thousands of riders to be had from improved connections with other networks, they certainly are not reflected in the official projections.

    Thinking about it more, it occurs to me that light rail in the Finch, Jane, and Don Mills corridor could be replaced with bus rapid transit that would probably produce 90% of the benefits at a fraction of the cost. How about putting bus rapid transit on those corridors, at least to start, and use the savings to extend the Sheppard subway? Let’s have everybody in Toronto within a 20 minute bus ride of a subway (as much as practical) before we begin filling in areas with additional rail.

    Steve: I am going to address the issue of BRT capacity in a separate post. Basically, the decision with Transit City was to aim at Light Rail rather than a BRT “intermediate”.

    If I remember correctly, the built out Sheppard subway had a ridership estimate reasonably close to the Bloor line and it was the only subway extension that got all around high scores in the rapid transit report.

    Steve: Actually, the projected ridership on the Sheppard line was around 13,000 passengers at peak with almost all of them going downtown via the Yonge line. This demand projection would have totally overwhelmed the Yonge line and triggered a truly mad scheme to massively expand Bloor-Yonge station to handle the transfer loads. The basic problem is that a large number of people want to go from Agincourt to Downtown, and the only transit facility in the model the TTC used was the subway. They did not do a projection of the same network with improved service on the GO Stouffville line (Uxbridge Subdivision) or a new service on the CPR Havelock Subdivision that goes, wait for it, right through the heart of Agincourt.

    Demand models are wonderful things, especially when the only major line you add to the model is the one you want to justify.


  15. A couple of people have complained about the lack of funding for Transit City in the federal and Ontario budgets, including Peter Malinski (“We received absolutely no money for Transit City in 2 budgets, yet many Torontonians just carried on like nothing happened.”) Let’s look at a few facts:

    Transit City was released on March 16, the 477-page federal budget on March 19, and the 213-page Ontario budget on March 22. If anyone thinks that federal and provincial budgets can be changed just days before they are released, let me disabuse them of this notion. The fiscal figures for revenues and spending are finalized at least a couple of weeks before budget day. The budget papers themselves are written, vetted, translated, printed and bound before budget day as well. Coming up with money for the TTC at that last minute would mean changing all of the numbers, and revising all of the budget papers. That just would not happen.

    Transit City is described as a “high level” plan in the plan itself. The technical matters have not been addressed, routes have not been determined except in general terms, environmental assessments have not been started, public consultations have not been held, and the cost estimates are only ballpark figures. No one should be surprised that other levels of government didn’t rush in to throw money at what is essentially a discussion paper.

    But yet in true Toronto style (maybe in true Canadian style), some are interpreting this as an insult to Toronto. A little bit of perspective is due here.

    Transit City is a remarkable and important document for changing the parameters of the discussion on the next phase of transit expansion in Toronto. Instead of weighing the merits of a Sheppard subway extension versus extending the Bloor subway to Square One, or whatever, we are now discussing an integrated LRT network across the whole city. This is a sea change in the transit discussion in Toronto. But let’s not imagine that we have a plan that is ready to implement and that other levels of government will be ready to fund. This is a starting point, and an excellent one at that, but nothing more.

    Transit City can be used to lobby for more funds, but until the points identified above have been better addressed, the best that we can expect are general expressions of support. The taps won’t be turned on for a while yet, comrades.

    Steve: Probably the greatest insult was Finance Minister Flaherty’s comment, in response to Transit City, that Toronto should put together a budget before it comes out with a plan. That is total poppycock! First you discuss what you would like to have and you compare the likely cost with the kind of revenue stream that looks reasonable. Transit City did that. Yes, $400-million a year for 15 years looks like a lot, but it’s chicken feed compared with what a subway network would cost, and there’s a good chance most of us will live to ride these lines. If Flaherty had said something like “…interesting, at least they’re looking at alternatives, maybe we can talk next year…” I would see this as the natural flow of the Budget process. His out of hand dismissal told us loud and clear that it didn’t matter what we did, we were not going to see a penny.

    Similarly, the Ontario Budget shelled out megabucks for capital projects in the 905, but was silent on improved and sustained operating funds for the GTA transit systems. I didn’t expect to see a printed mention of Transit City in the Budget Papers, but again it’s the sort of thing Minister Sorbara (or even Premier McGuinty) could have acknowledged as something worth talking about.

    There’s a lot of give-and-take in politics, and there’s an art to saying enough to make people feel you are listening and care even though you don’t plan to give them the time of day. Neither Queen’s Park nor Ottawa took an easy opportunity to acknowledge what Toronto had done with Transit City, and for that they deserve all the scorn I and my readers can muster.


  16. I dislike that this extension supercedes more deserving projects but it’d be nice to finally have a direct subway link into York Region, although Yonge’s the better option. The only qualm is that apart from through campus grounds most of this could be at grade through Downsview Park, elevated between there and the university and at an one-below depression that’s not covered through to VCC. A true subway should be the last resort.

    Steve: The line will be at grade north of Steeles West Station.

    Another problem a lot of people have is that all this time it appears Torontonians generally have had a social apathy to public transit planning up to now. Hence when York U/VCC steps to the forefront, everyone complains about their community being left behind. While Transit City is a nice blueprint concept it criminally neglects the core. Based on ridership volumes and projections, Toronto only needs one more true subway line (e-w through downtown city core) plus extensions to the existing infrastructure to complete the system.

    Steve: Torontonians have social apathy to transit because (a) it used to be a lot better and (b) the one or two megaprojects on the table don’t do anything for most riders current or potential. Suburbanites within Toronto regard transit as a distant second choice while even within the old City, “TTC” means “Take The Car”. I have heard more than one suburban councillor/TTC member reply to complaints about service downtown with the sentiment “I wish the service was that good in my ward”. Poor service is poor service wherever it is, but the TTC has been run by far too many people who (a) don’t use it and (b) regard it as litle more than a commuter service with a side serving of social worthiness for those too poor to afford a car.

    Funding of the TTC’s operations has been systematically cut with huge losses in service quality and ridership from which we are only now recovering. Part of those cuts came with the promise of all those savings after amalgamation, a claim that conveniently forgot that the two largest city agencies, the TTC and the Police Force, were already amalgamated.


  17. I was checking into how much of the line in York Region would be at grade, and due to the various circumstances the entire line will be underground! On page 10 of one of the EA’s is a cross section of the York Region portion and nowhere along the line does it reach the surface.

    The Steeles West station is slated to be a huge commuter parking lot à la Finch. It then crosses a UPS property who are not willing to give any of their land up to surface the line. Then comes Jane St. where the line goes under followed by the Black Creek and the CN tracks. Hyrdo One won’t allow them to surface either, then it’s the 407. After that you’re left with what will become the future Vaughan downtown. You could surface here in a 15m trench and then deck over it once development begins before going back underground at Hwy. 7.

    Since this portion of the line is completely within York Region tehy will bear the full cost of construction. I hope they realize what they’re getting themselves into. But given the physical constraints outlined above, I’m sure they’ve rationalized it as a trade-off for getting a subway.

    Steve: You are correct. Unless I was misinformed, it appears that the VCC subway will in fact be underground. At least there is comparatively little on top of it, and one hopes that construction should be cheaper than a “typical” TTC subway line.


  18. Why bother improving transit in this city? So long as commercial property tax keeps driving away businesses and jobs, people will have to increasingly travel into the 905 region to work. This is what is happening today (see the Corodon Count). Building a subway to Vaughan will not help unless local transit can complete the commute (unlikely) and the same goes for increasing transit in the city. If people in the city must travel outside to work, and public transit is inadequate to get them from point to point, the necessity to drive remains.

    Steve: The commercial property taxes in Toronto are high because Queen’s Park sets the education tax on Toronto properties much higher than on property in any other part of the GTA. This is to be fixed over the next seven years. Meanwhile, the Social Services levies on the 905 that helped out Toronto’s budget problems were removed from the 905 tax base overnight.

    If you want lower commercial taxes in Toronto, the first person to ask is Dalton McGuinty.


  19. Yes the education tax is(was) an issue in the over-taxation of Toronto businesses, but only a portion of it. Excluding the education portion the city still taxes businesses at a rate that is four to five times that of residential properties and double that of the surrounding 905 region. While the city has implemented a 15 year plan to reduce non residential taxes to two and half times that of residential, matching the average today’s 905 rate, that does not consider what the 905 taxes will be 15 years from now. Considering the Municipal Act deems a fair ratio to be .8 to 1.2 times residential It would be safe to assume that in 15 years, with a growing commercial base unlike Toronto, the ratios in the 905 region will continue to improve.

    Steve: Yes, this is true too, but people are still building in the 416. Yes, the cordon counts to areas outside downtown will go up because there’s more “there” to act as a destination. This does not mean that the core is about to collapse.

    And finally, once the 905 has to start actually paying to rebuild its first-generation infrastructure, starts having to support the kind of social programs we have in the 416, starts having to pay for a real transit system, then people will see some horrific tax increases where today it looks like a bargain.


  20. Sorry Steve, I am not deliberately trying to sidetrack this thread, but your point, “but people are still building in the 416”, should not go unchallenged. According to the city’s own statistics the non-residential assessment base is shrinking, not growing. With the exception of a few hotels and a couple of office buildings there has been very little activity in this city over the last decade and a half. Most building activity is in the residential sector, usually on former non residential land. Looking outside the ‘core’, where many businesses require the proximity to public institutions, where has any reasonable amount of building takes place? I referred to the Cordon Count to highlight the point that this is not a issue of the downtown core but the whole city itself. The CC shows increasingly that residents in the 416 area are commuting to the 905 area to find work. This relates to my first point, that if people need to rely on public transit to get to and from work, it must be from point to point. Having one system (the TTC) get you part way there, only to be left relatively stranded in the poorly served 905 region, negates the use of public transit in the first place.

    If you have any stats to show the health of Toronto’s non-residential base, I would love to see it.

    Steve: I will have to talk to my friends in City Planning to get the current stats, but do have one observation: the biggest problem we have is the aging industrial belt in the suburbs. The changing makeup of Toronto’s industry, and the gradual change from industry to office jobs, makes new buildings in the 905 more attractive than the older ones within the 416. Some of the land-use is changing, but this is very slow because industrial areas are not always well-suited for residential redevelopment. One example is the old Leaside industrial area where old companies have disappeared one by one, and the land has been largely recycled as a box store mall. The old Goodyear site on the Lake Shore in Etobicoke was redeveloped, although there is still room for more housing on this property, and there is a lot of empty “brownlands” throughout the band from Queensway south.

    I do agree that if the 416 becomes a residential “suburb” of the 905’s industry and office sectors, there will be a huge requirement for transit outward into the 905.


  21. Hi Steve,

    In light of the Vital Signs report that showed that Toronto is still losing jobs while the 905 region is gaining I thought we again ask the question. Why increase transit in Toronto?

    How many more people in Toronto now go to work in the 905 region during 2000-2006. Using figures from the Vital Signs report published by the Toronto Community Foundation, it is hard not to conclude that a large portion of the job growth in the 905 region must be filled by Toronto residents.

    In the 905, the employment base grew by 28% while population grew at 9%. Using historical employment figures (jobs = 50% population), the 905 went from having an employment base of 2,341,448 million in 2000 to 2,973,638 in 2006. This gives an increase of 632,190 jobs in the 905 region. At the same time population grew by 430,252 persons.

    Again using the 50% historical average that means that 417,064 (632,190-(432,252*50%)) of those jobs must have been filled by people living outside of the 905 region. I think that it would be a fair assumption that more than half of those were filled from Toronto.

    Steve: Your argument only looks at where the jobs are or might be, not at overall demand for transportation. There are many related issues here:

    1. People who drive today might be better off by taking transit tomorrow even for their existing trips. Indeed, there is a latent demand throughout the 416 for better transit service so that people don’t need a second or third car in every family.

    2. There are huge benefits to the city in diverting trips from car to transit including better use of road space, and the ability to house the growing 416 population in areas where a major increase in road capacity is impossible.

    3. A major problem in the 905 is that people from the 416 cannot get to jobs there by transit, or at least not very quickly or reliably. For this we need better transit both within Toronto and outward to the 905. Most plans to date for regional travel still focus on getting people to Union Station, and this does nothing for someone who lives in Scarborough but wants to consider jobs north of Steeles.

    4. Within Toronto, there has been a rebalancing of the job market, and a lot of light industrial jobs have moved out to the 905 while white-collar jobs grew in the core. It’s interesting that the relatively recent “downtown North York” towers on Yonge Street are not well occupied because firms would rather locate right downtown (where the real estate market is tight and demand is growing) or out in the 905. The biggest problems within the 416 lie in the outer suburbs because people cannot get from “here” to “there”.

    5. Looking a few decades into the future (the timeframe of any current plans like Transit City), there is going to be a big issue with rising fuel costs and availability. Leaving aside any doomsday scenarios about peak oil, the real problem lies with emerging demand in Asia where the rate of growth of car ownership dwarfs any savings in energy consumption even the most ardently green program in North America might bring. Without investment in better transit now, we will face a region where transportation is uneconomic for most people.

    That’s not an exhaustive list, but it will do for now.


  22. 1. Agree, but meeting density requirements to affordably justify public transit is still a necessary consideration.

    2. The 416 population is not growing. The 905 population is. (see Vital Signs). Stagnant population with a decreasing job market in Toronto means as more people must go to the 905 for work, transit is not an option.

    3. I agree.

    4. Here I disagree. The biggest problem within the 416is not that “here” to “there”. Downtown North York is on a subway line. The problem is that for those companies that do not require being downtown they move not to North York but out of Toronto all together. TO areas where it is even harder to get from “here to there”.

    5. Agree.


  23. Between 2000 and 2006, slightly over 14 million s.f. of office space has been developed across the GTA with the overwhelming majority (90%) taking place in suburbs. The development community in the suburban west district has been the most active, building more than seven million s.f. or 50% of the overall new supply during this period. Of this, over three-quarters (77%), representing an estimated 5.4 million s.f. has been built in Mississauga.

    Why is so much being built in Mississauga (and elsewhere in the 905) when there is vacant space in Toronto?


  24. While I support the need for subway service, yes the money could be better invested elsewhere. What makes no sense is why they don’t extend the Yonge line to Steeles. That could be done a lot faster and provide relief to commuters there.

    Steve: The line stopped at Finch due to the availability of lots of parking and the fact, in the early 70s, there really wasn’t all that much north of Steeles Avenue, certainly not the level of development and transit service we have today. Originally, the line was only going to Sheppard, but was pushed north to serve North York Centre (eventually) and the parking at Finch.


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