Next week’s TTC agenda contains a report on potential ridership, costs and revenues for the Spadina Subway extension.
This is fascinating reading because we now begin to see vaguely real numbers about this project. Contrary to claims in an earlier report to Council, the line will not recover 80% of its costs from opening day and a special subsidy will be needed.
One particular observation notes that York University students now ride in from the 905 on a single York Region fare. They will not be willing to pay an extra fare for a “TTC” fare zone on the subway, and therefore won’t contribute much revenue to it. They are the single most important part of the revenue projections for the new line, but the marginal revenue they will actually generate is small.
The City of Toronto has been asked, through the operating agreement for the new line, to shoulder all of the future costs and losses despite the considerable benefits for both York Region and Queen’s Park. The TTC holds that this should justify a special operating subsidy.
The Toronto portion of the subway is projected to open with a 62% cost recovery for operations. This is quite respectable, but below average for the system and operating dollars will have to be found (or diverted) to run this line. On Sheppard, we got no special subsidy and absorbed the extra operating cost into the base budget. Remember that the next time the TTC says it cannot afford to run better service on your bus route.
The TTC is quite clear in saying that subways require a density of 100 persons and/or jobs per hectare, and that:
… the Spadina Subway Extension, especially the portion north of Steeles Avenue, is not expected to reach this density threshold for some time after the commencement of revenue service …
Revenue service is almost a decade away, and “some time after” even further in the future. Meanwhile, we have many pressing transportation requirements in the GTA that will go unfunded. The report ends by stating:
A substantial operating cost contribution from the Province of Ontario to the estimated $14.2-million in net operating costs for the entire line should be pursued to offset the City’s financial risk.
I’m sure further study of this problem will magically reduce the projected losses to politically acceptable levels. The Emperor’s tailor will be visiting any day now.