Taking A Bite Out Of Spadina

The City of Toronto Budget Committee fired back at Queen’s Park in their ongoing battle over proper funding of provincial obligations under legislated shared-cost programs.  Ontario’s underpayment for 2007 is $71-million.

Councillor Mihevc, who also sits on the TTC as vice-Chair, moved that the city withdraw $30-million of its contribution to the Spadina Subway Extension trust fund.  The remaining $41-million shortfall will be taken from City reserve funds.

Councillor Rae moved that the City Solicitor be instructed to apply for a judicial interpretation of provincial cost sharing obligations for various social services.

Both motions carried unanimously.  The motion regarding the Spadina funds will go to Council as part of the final budget debates, while the motion about the legal situation for shared cost programs can be approved at Executive Committee next week.

There is already budgetary pressure on the Spadina extension project because final approval has been delayed beyond the date originally anticipated by the TTC (there is a passing reference to this on next week’s TTC agenda without any specific numbers).  Inflation will push up the final project cost if the line is not built on the planned schedule.

The Budget Chief, Councillor Carroll, as well as Councillors Mihevc and Rae, indicated that the Spadina Subway extension is a Provincial priority, not a City priority.

Queen’s Park wants Toronto to spend on a Provincial pet project, but won’t pay their share of social programs forcing Toronto to pick up the tab.

As of midday April 12, Queen’s Park has not responded to this situation.

24 thoughts on “Taking A Bite Out Of Spadina

  1. Finally a shred of hope that OUR money might not be wasted on an unneeded extension of the Spadina Subway. Hopefully Queen’s Park won’t turn the tables on Toronto with a response along the lines that “you wanted money for transit and turned us down, so too bad”.

    As you’ve long argued on your site Steve, we need money to be spent where it derives the best value and not to plump the ego of a politician.


  2. Good.

    I wonder how Sorbara is going to react to this? This is awful. These politicians do not care about the people who put them in office.
    It’s about time the City stepped up to the Province.


  3. It’s about time the City acted with some common sense. This is a smart move, even though it may jeopardize future provincial funding for Transit City. I’m not too worried though, because with the pressure to meet our Kyoto obligations, as well as the City’s new taxing powers, I’m sure Transit City will get built (or at least parts of it), even it it has to be done in small, affordable installments.


  4. MGV said: Finally a shred of hope that OUR money might not be wasted on an unneeded extension of the Spadina Subway. Hopefully Queen’s Park won’t turn the tables on Toronto with a response along the lines that “you wanted money for transit and turned us down, so too bad”.

    If the relationship between the province and the city becomse so acrimonious that the entire Spadina subway extension is scuttled, why would the province turn around and agree to fund an LRT? Given the amount of time it would take to repair the relationship between the two governments, it might actually delay building LRT compared to building the Spadina subway first.

    Please stop talking trash about the Spadina subway. The project has been approved, and reneging on that approval would cause major damage to the city’s reputation and future transit projects.

    At this point the best bet is to present LRT as “the next project”. Presenting it as “instead of Spadina” is unhelpful to transit in general, and is damaging to the LRT movement’s credibility.

    Steve: Queen’s Park renegged on its legal commitment to pay half of various social programs in Toronto ten years ago and despite the absence of Mike Harris, they have done little to rectify the situation. If the Province wants to withhold money that they should pay to support Toronto services, then Toronto should use whatever leverage we have to get Queen’s Park’s attention.

    As for the LRT proposals, Toronto could, if pushed, fund a great deal of this itself out of its new “revenue opportunities” recently granted by the Province. But the real point here is that we need the freedom to spend transit dollars where they will do the most good for riders. If Queen’s Park wants to take its ball and go home, voters will know what’s going on.


  5. While it’s good to see Toronto standing up to McGuinty, isn’t Toronto risking that Ontario will do the same thing here, that Quebec did in Montreal? Essentially remove capital construction responsibility from TTC and transfer it to the new GTTA? Might be fine for building subways to York, but surely that would also be the end of new LRT lines within the city itself. If I was the Premier, I’d be looking for an excuse to do this, and I’m wondering if it’s just been handed to them.

    Steve: Would McGuinty really want to hand John Tory (or the NDP) such an obvious stick to beat them with going into an election? If we always sit back and hope that things will get better but never stand up for ourselves, especially when it’s a legal issue, not a policy one, we will always get walked on by Queen’s Park.

    If we had actually said “no” to the Spadina York extension the last time we had the chance, or at least subjected it to more rigourous alternatives analysis, we might not be in this mess.

    As for the GTTA, I have yet to see any indication that the 905 municipalities have any interest in spending serious money on subway construction. The Spadina line is an anomaly brought on, I suspect, by political arm twisting and the influence of property developers.


  6. I don’t know the dynamics of the Spadina Subway Trust Fund. Is there more money in to remove? Can more be taken from it instead of the reserve fund? If they think it is such a great idea then let the province, York region and York U can pay to build AND operate the line to Downsview. I bet that they won’t unless they can access Toronto’s money. There is a federal minority government, let York, York and Ontario go after them for money as I believe they said they would contribute.

    Seriously if John Tory wants to make inroads into the 416 area, then he should come out against the Spadina extension, be in favour of the “Transit City” plan and pledge money to it. If he can remember when Davis had the PROGESSIVE Conservatives, and he worked for Davis, he could reclaim the Centre and start another 41 year dynasty. The Progressive Conservatives where not a bad group; the problems started when the Big C REGRESSIVE Conservatives took over. I would even vote for them IF I could be sure they would be progressive. Perhaps we can have a new electoral system in place so we won’t get a majority government and then they would have to listen to everyone and not just the pressure groups.


  7. As the Province does not pay its bills I think this is a very smart move and one hopes the court case will come out in the City’s favour, soon. The Province can then, of course, change the law – but that would be political suicide. In fact, if the City now finds the Spadina extension ‘expendable’ maybe they could take the rest of their (or our!) money from this trust fund and put it towards Transit City projects.


  8. This is good news.

    One more step in this direction and the whole fuddle will fall apart.

    I would like to thank the city councilors who stood up to the province on this one. Lets see what ol’ Dalton’s move will be on this.


  9. Doesn’t Toronto have $600 million invested in this?

    Regardless, McGuinty will just laugh this off. He doesn’t care, Toronto will give him 18 of 22 seats again, and be done with it.

    Now of course, if residents of Toronto had a backbone, this wouldn’t be, but instead, we get this garbage. This is what happens when we elect a mayor who’s a professional panhandler.

    Steve: Toronto has money in a trust account that exists on paper. “Invested” is a grand overstatement. As for panhandlers, Greg Sorbara spends so much time crying poor that I expect to see him selling pencils on the corner any day now.


  10. Instead of introducing new taxes, when Toronto needs to cut business taxes to remain competitive; why doesn’t the city take advantage of Tax Increment Financing (TIFs).

    Most of the new roads in Alberta, are being built using TIFs. Transit ironically is not being built by TIFs. Instead the province comes by and gives Calgary and Edmonton a billion dollar cheque. London too used Public Bonds, the British equivalence of TIFs.

    TIFs are simply a method to build infrastructure or improve brown fields by taking out a loan. But instead of the whole city paying of the loan, only those living neighbourhoods, which benefit from infrastructure pay off the loan.

    TIFs are paid off using increase in property values, which a neighbourhood sees when infrastructure is improved. A new LRT line, if done right, would cause [increased] property values. It would allow the city, to pay off the costs of Transit City in about 10 years.

    Steve: There is a fundamental policy question here: Do we build transit lines simply for the benefit of the abutting property owners, or for the overall benefit of the city? For the residents who need to travel, or for the businesses that benefit from better access to a workforce and to customers?

    The idea that infrastructure should be paid for out of property value increases along the line assumes that the kind of facility we are building would actually generate that much added revenue from taxes where the line is built. Bluntly, I do not believe that this formula is workable either from a policy basis (see above) or from a policy basis in an already-developed city.

    One way or another, you are claiming that we will gain $600-million in added tax revenue annually (for a ten-year payback). This would be a huge tax increase on the city as a whole let alone concentrated on the corridors with new LRT lines. The numbers just don’t add up.


  11. I was wonder which player in the municipal part of the funding would blink first: Toronto or York Region. Now that Toronto has made a move, watch for York Region to follow.

    As for the provincial part of the equation, Robert Wightman writes, “if John Tory wants to make inroads into the 416 area, then he should come out against the Spadina extension, be in favour of the “Transit City” plan and pledge money to it”.

    I suggest that this will only happen if he, and his candidates, start hearing this idea from the electorate. So, if you can take a few minutes to post a comment on here, spend the same time to write a note or make a call to your local candidate and put this bug in her or his ear.


  12. I’m sure that most Councillors were hoping that the Federal government would not help pay for the line so they could avoid this step. It is a risky move considering that the city is at the mercy of the Province in so many ways and this project is extremely important to at least one important member of the party. It doesn’t help that a few people in north west Toronto may be angry at the mayor if he were to come out strong against the line. While transit experts may be able to prove that this line is a bad choice many people still view any subway project as pro-transit.

    On the other hand it is an election year, the Province is not paying their share of the bills and the city is not keen on the negative financial costs of the line, considering the many other deserving needs. For Miller’s sake it’s best that other councillors (that don’t need to get elected in this area) speak out strongly on the issue. One way or the other let’s hope the Spadina money is better spent.


  13. Sorry I don’t buy the 6 billion dollar price tag. There is something wrong with that number.

    Calgary is quoting $1,391,480,000 to build the Western Leg and SE eLg of the LRT. Don’t forget we are using highfloor stations, with a full station.

    It also includes tunnels under Stephens Avenue (8th ave pedestrian mall), 9th street and refurbishing the 7th ave LRT stations (202 will always remain atgrade in downtown).

    They city is also quoting $408,163,000, to build extensions and purchasing new LRVs.

    Toronto is using low floor LRVs, building about as many kilometers as Calgary, has higher inflation levels than Toronto. Yet your city is quoting a 6 billion dollar price tag. There is something wrong with that number.

    Steve: I am not sure why you have posted this comment in a thread concerning the Spadina Subway extension. The $6-billion figure applies to Transit City, a 175-km network of LRT that includes over 10km of underground construction. The projected fleet is about 220 low-floor LRVs. This is somewhat larger than the Calgary plans. Average costs lie in the $40-50-million-per-km range except for the Eglinton line at roughly $70-million-per-km due to the tunneled portion.

    The Spadina subway extension from Downsview to Vaughan Centre is projected to cost about $2.5-billion. It is considerably shorter than 175-km.


  14. Interesting move.

    Maybe the city should also institute two-tier fees based on residency. I.E. if you don’t live and pay taxes in Toronto you’ll have to pay double for your metropass or golf course fee or whatever.

    There are also too many people on city payrolls – police, teachers, TTC employees, etc. who move far afield to shirk their tax responsibilities.

    Maybe we’ll just have to put up a big wall like in medieval times and charge entry fees.

    Steve: I agree that far too many “Toronto” people live outside of the 416, but we are now seeing an intriguing problem — people who live downtown and commute outward into the 905.

    There are two issues: First, on funding, Queen’s Park finds every excuse it can to stiff Toronto (and other large cities) on cost sharing programs. On the property tax system, the school portion is roughly half and it is administered by Queen’s Park. That tax is slanted so that the 416 pays far more than its share and winds up subsidizing boards in other areas.

    On transport in general, the growing population of the GTA requires vastly more transportation capacity and it cannot all be handled with roads. One thing that congestion (and future increases in energy costs) will drive will be that people will live closer to their work, if possible, because savings on commuting cost and time will more than offset increased housing costs. Already, industries in the 905 complain that they cannot attract workers because of poor or non-existent transit service. Yes, I know, this has big implications for multiple-income households and I am not sure how that will sort itself out. Providing those transportation services is a regional and provincial responsibility.

    Some day, we may have a system of representation that gives fair weight to city voters (by “city” I don’t stop at the 416 boundary) that will see Queen’s Park support the urban areas as it should right across the province. When I hear Ontario moaning about the “fiscal deficit” with Ottawa where the math and the arguments are exactly the same as those between Toronto and Queen’s Park, I weep a few crocodile tears, but no more.


  15. It has been asked whether or not York Region will step back from the spadina extension project now that Toronto is wavering.

    I think it is a distinct possibility. YR might love the idea of a subway, but there is another reality to consider:

    that money to be used for a subway can be used to put VIVA into ROW or convert VIVA to LRT lines alot faster…or build the ROW along Yonge St. or put more buses on the streets of York Region…

    I think York Region will blink soon.

    Cheers, Moaz

    ps. this is a little unrelated but I want to ask anyways. With all the questions and comments about extending Yonge northwards (and the resulting effects on capacity down the line) I wonder about the possibility of expanding surface transit on Yonge (e.g. a more frequent Yonge Bus and VIVA service) or creating rapid transit along Yonge St. (e.g. combining the GO, VIVA, and Yonge Buses into one bus route, or even an LRT line).

    Expanded surface rapid transit on Yonge could carry alot of the local service and that would pull alot of people out of the Yonge subway. Thoughts? mya


  16. With regard to rapid transit that would combine the GO, VIVA, and Yonge buses, Moaz, the net result for most commuters on those lines would be to have to go to Finch station and take two, rather than one, bus.

    Every intermodal transfer is a significant time loss and, I believe, deterrent. So I suspect the net effect of causing commuters living in car country to increase the number of buses they have to take, would be to lose more commuters to cars.

    With regard to expanding surface transit, my gut feeling is that that would not work, either. The overcrowdedness seems, to me, to be from long-haul commuters, not short-haul, get-on-get-off types. A bus in mixed traffic makes even less sense for long-haul commuters.

    I continue to believe that the most effective solution would be to swallow hard and do what it takes to reconfigure the Richmond Hill GO line as a Yonge express running every 10 minutes — with stops at Union, on the Danforth line, on the Sheppard line (Oriole/Leslie), and on the VIVA Blue, Purple, and Pink lines (Langstaff/”Richmond Hill Centre”).


  17. LRT on GO ROWs makes the most sense to me (three acronyms in one sentence – is that a record?). But a Richmond Hill line station at Danforth would need really long escalators since that ROW runs along the bottom of the Don Valley far below the Bloor-Danforth subway line as it crosses over the valley on the Prince Edward viaduct.

    Not ruling it out but the GO ROW running from Brampton to Union to Scarborough would be better.


  18. Wow — more and more complicated. Elevators?

    The thing is that the Richmond Hill, at its extremities especially, essentially doubles the origin and destination of a lot of longer-haul subway riders along the Yonge line, so you’d have what amounts to an express route.

    If a Danforth stop couldn’t work, then it couldn’t work (but what a feat of engineering if it could). The rest would still have a significant impact, though — and every 10 minutes, and tight VIVA/YRT/TTC integration, are challenges enough.

    Steve: Slingshots and waterslides. Technologies already developed for the swan boats.


  19. Disparishun said:

    “I continue to believe that the most effective solution would be to swallow hard and do what it takes to reconfigure the Richmond Hill GO line as a Yonge express running every 10 minutes — with stops at Union, on the Danforth line, on the Sheppard line (Oriole/Leslie), and on the VIVA Blue, Purple, and Pink lines (Langstaff/”Richmond Hill Centre”).”

    Richmond Hill is at mile 21 on the Bala Sub. In order to operate a 10 minute headway another track will need to be built for the entire distance and a grade separation built at Doncaster. The grade separation for the Uxbridge Sub is $47 million. The cost to build a mile or railway is difficult to pin down because you need to take into consideration the terrain involved but it appears to be costing GO $60 million to build 5 mile of track from Burlington to Bayview but this is an extremely difficult section to build. If we use a value of $3 million per mile plus bridges, the total cost will be $300 to $400 million capital costs for right of way.

    The round trip time would probably be 120 minutes requiring 12 trains; this is 8 more than exist now. The cost of 8 locomotives is $33 million and 80 cars is $ 180 million or about $250 million with spares. The total cost with new stations and interchanges is $650 to $900 million. An interchange with Bloor Danforth is almost physically impossible.

    Since the province is spending $1 billion over 7 years to upgrade GO with $385 million each from the provincial and federal governments and the rest from the local municipalities under the infra structure update it is difficult to see where the $900 million would come from. I doubt that the municipalities were consulted about their $230 million input into this. According to a GO transit release the benefits to Toronto are:

    [Steve: For clarity, the following lists are claims by GO, not by the writer.]

    96% of GO’s rail ridership is destined to downtown Toronto
    The office towers in downtown Toronto and, by extension, Toronto’s commercial property tax base, is a clear beneficiary of the GO system
    GO has 16 rail stations and five bus terminals within the city ofToronto, serving Toronto residents
    About 9.5 million of GO’s passengers transfer onto the TTC every year, feeding revenue into the city’s system
    About 30,000 people move through Union Station every hour during the peak period, carrying the equivalent of 3 Gardiner Expressways or 3 Don Valley Parkways

    Municipal Contributions to GO Transit

    The Province pays 100% of GO’s operating deficit, and 100 % of GO’s rehabilitation capital expenses.
    Total municipal contributions invoiced in 02/03 were $16.849M. All municipalities paid their share, except Toronto, which was paid by the province ($7.515M)
    Total municipal contributions invoiced in 03/04 were $27.912M. All municipalities paid their share, except Toronto ($12.449M) and Hamilton ($781K), which were paid by the province
    In 04/05, total municipal contributions are forecasted at $34.478M, and Toronto’s share is $15.377M
    So, to date, Toronto is in arrears for 02/03 and 03/04, to the tune of $19.964M, plus the amount to be billed this year ($15.377M), for a total of $35.341M
    It is unfair that Toronto is not honouring its obligations,especially when their GTA neighbours are
    Future year cost allocations are not available since the municipalities are in the process of updating the background studies for the development charge by-laws, which includes an update of the allocation formula
    In Peel, Halton, York and Durham, their costs are partially supported by development charges. These cover, depending on the municipality, about 40% of their contributions to the GO system

    GO Transit and the GTA

    The province is doing its share to invest in GO Transit, committing over $300M this year
    The province is simply asking Toronto to honour its obligations to contribute its share ($15.377M this year)
    The 1/3-1/3-1/3 funding relationship is the one put forward by municipalities
    In addition to the transit funding provided to the city, the province relieved Toronto of $50.4 million every year when it uploaded GO – money that was to be invested in local and regional transit
    The GTA is an integrated region, and we all need to contribute to the transportation system to make it work
    The GTA, of which Toronto is an important part, is the economic engine for the province, and Ontario is doing its part

    While this is from 2004 it does come from after the McGuinty Government took over. I do not know if they collected or are still trying to collect this money but is a warning that the province is not the bearer of gifts that they want to be seen as. They seem to want to be seen to support Transit in Toronto while telling Toronto where to spend its money and how much.

    I fear that a GTA transit authority will force Toronto to spend money on lines that benefit 905 area residents instead of Toronto residents and I live in Brampton if you are interested. People in the 905 chose to live there to get cheaper housing or larger lots. If they then wish to work in Toronto the Toronto taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize them so they can have the best (or worst) of both worlds. It is time that Toronto stood up to the province and the 905 area and told them to pay for the roads and transit service that gets their residents into Toronto. If they continue to bury Toronto under a load of debt then all of Ontario and Canada will suffer. I think that is more like $0.25 worth instead of $0.02


  20. Anybody watch the Price is Right? Do you remember that game where you have to guess the price of an object (well duh), and depending how many dollars you were off, a cut-out figure of a mountain climber would ascend the side of a cardboard mountain, to background music of a Swiss yodeller.

    I know I’ve suggested that a route into the Don Valley (either Don Mills LRT, BRT, or a connection with GO Transit) could connect with Castle Frank station, possibly by a long escalator up the side of the valley. I still believe it. But should this ever be built, I’m going to find a copy of the yodelling music somewhere, put it on tape, and then park myself at the bottom of the escalator complex and play it as commuters ascend.


  21. Thanks, Robert. That’s helpful. (The part about costing out what a Yonge express line would look like, I mean. On the other part, I see your point vis-a-vis Toronto already being squeezed — and, I agree, it’s conceivable that we could do with a little less mobility into the core, and a little more offices moving into the 905 to follow the people overcrowding the subways — but, while I’d love my future Toronto office to move from Bay-King to North York Centre, I’m a little skeptical of Iron Fortress 416.)


  22. All of this is of course merely indicates why we need the PR referendum to succeed: Minority governments are

    a) Easier to extort
    b) Would actually campaign for Toronto votes


    c) PR ensures cities are not underrepresented.

    The low (too low perhaps, but YMMV) threshold also would make it fairly easier for urban voters to actually elect “Toronto Party” or “Urban League” MPPs who would do things like advocate for proper funding and powers for the city in the legislature.


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