What Will the Spadina Subway Cost?

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.

4 thoughts on “What Will the Spadina Subway Cost?

  1. “As outlined in the proposed Memorandum of Understanding on operating issues approved by City Council on May 22, 23 and 24, 2007, the TTC/City will be fully responsible for the gross operating cost of the SSE to the Vaughan Corporate Centre”

    uh-oh. So York doesn’t have to pay any contribution to the shortfall?

    Steve: Not a penny. Your tax dollars (and fares) at work here. Nice to have an Old Boy who’s Mister Moneybags (and uses other people’s money to pay for his toys).

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  2. David Shiner will run for the provincial Tories because, according to the Globe & Mail, “he said Mr. Tory was committed to spending more on public transit, unlike Mr. McGuinty, whom he accused of doing nothing but promising to build a “pet project” subway line to York Region.”

    One gets the impression that John Tory is somewhat in agreement with Steve Munro on certain aspects of transit. Have the Tories mellowed so much?

    Steve: David Shiner was one of the tub-thumpers for the Sheppard Subway, and I don’t remember him saying anything unkind about the York U extension either. As Budget Chief he was none too kind to the TTC.

    This sounds like a miraculous conversion from someone who will have little influence in a predominantly rural Tory caucus. When I start to hear John Tory slagging the York U / VCC subway, then I will believe that Tory policies have changed.

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  3. Does this mean the northbound AM service would alternate like this:

    WILSON
    STEELES WEST
    WILSON
    VCC
    WILSON
    STEELES WEST
    WILSON
    VCC

    That means that, from St. George, only one train in four would head to VCC? Did I understand this correctly.

    Steve: I think that it is one train in three. I am mystified by references to a Wilson turnback seeing that the TTC is going to the trouble of putting a long, high-speed three-track section north of Downsview Station specifically for a turnback on close headways.

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  4. Hi Steve:-

    Well, well, well; even as this report seems to peg much lower numbers closer to what the probable reality of the radial line to almost nowhere will give us, I’m skeptical if even these figures mightn’t be too high! It’s not enough to justify a subway yet, is it? It is though a really great arguement for our City and our TTC to put this boondoggle on the backburner and get on with building and improving OUR transit SYSTEM, rather than spending any more money and time on theirs. If the projections aren’t meeting south of Steeles targets for proposing possible subway routes here, why do we continue to entertain the notion of spending any pennies North of Steeles?

    Toronto can appease the 905ers with the Trudeau shrug and paraphrase his promises of help for City Transit Systems. Well we agreed to it, it’s coming, be patient. It kept Canadians believing in the PET myth for lotsa years. It might work for us too! Doesn’t Allan Gardens grow roses suitable for Mayor Miller’s lapels?

    Dennis Rankin

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