What Does Building a Subway Cost?

In the previous item here, I wrote about the Metrolinx study tour including a visit to Madrid. A report reviewing that tour was on yesterday’s Metrolinx Board agenda.

The “Madrid Miracle” is always an issue for discussion. How could a city build so much rapid transit so quickly? Part of the answer lies in the political climate where just getting the work done takes priority over endless political posturing, announcements, jurisdictional wrangling and little action. Part of the answer lies in the money lavished on Madrid by other governments. But part is the much lower cost of building subway tunnels in Madrid compared to other cities thereby making subway expansion much more affordable regardless of who pays for it.

The TTC produced a complementary report examining the differences between Madrid and Toronto to determine just where the cost differences lie. The material that follows is a paraphrase from the TTC’s material with a few of my own observations.

First off, even Metrolinx has problems with the numbers. They miscount the number of stations on the Sheppard Line (there are 5, not 6) and omit ancilliary structures (tail tracks) from the length used in their calculations. Although the one-way trip for a train is 5.47 km, the structure is actually 6.4 km long. Any Toronto cost stated “per km” by Metrolinx is automatically inflated by about 17%.

Metrolinx includes property acquisition in the total project costs, but to compare structure-to-structure, this component must be omitted due to large variations, even within a the same city, in the cost of property for a line, its stations and yards.

The MetroSur line in Madrid is much longer than the Sheppard line (a 40.5 km loop) connecting suburban towns south of the city through areas that are relatively undeveloped. MetroSur cost $87.1-million/km versus $142.5-million/km for Sheppard which opened at roughly the same time.

Major differences between the two lines and their construction include:

  • Stations are about 50% longer on Sheppard compared with Madrid and they are designed with provision for expansion for full six-car train operation.
  • Construction that did not involve tunneling was performed 7×24 in Madrid while in Toronto it was constrained to 5×12. Continuous work avoids the overhead of daily startup and shutdown of activities.
  • Madrid used a single large tunnel compared to the dual tunnels in Toronto. Also, the trains in Madrid are smaller and require a smaller combined tunnel than would be the case in Toronto. Single tunnels eliminate the need for cut-and-cover box structures at crossovers and effectively reduce the scope of excavation at stations where these crossovers are located.
  • Because MetroSur ran through open countryside, about 30% of the tunnel structure is cut-and-cover. On Sheppard, only the stations are cut-and cover.
  • Madrid reduced the need for temporary construction support by using slurry walls that become a permanent part of the structure. This method was used successfully on the southern end of the University subway, and less happily on the Harbourfront LRT tunnel where groundwater conditions made the technique completely unsuitable. Note that this applies to box structures, not to bored tunnels.</
  • No Environmental Assessment was conducted in Madrid.
  • The track structure in Toronto is a dual-layer design in which the concrete base holding the rails is mechanically isolated from the underlying structure. This requires additional excavation to provide headroom for the extra support. This technique was first used on the Spadina Subway and on Sheppard, although it was not used for the Harbourfront or Spadina Station tunnels.
  • The Madrid standards for fire safety including ventillation and emergency access are less stringent than in North America. For example, all new Toronto stations must be built with dual exits. On Sheppard, this was implemented with full second exits rather than emergency exit shafts.
  • Ground conditions in Madrid (mainly compacted sand) favour the continuous large bored tunnel approach compared with the situation in Toronto (glacial till, boulders and underground streams).
  • Economies of scale were realized with MetroSur which was part of an ongoing series of projects. Construction activities simply moved from one project to another rather than being reconstituted for each expansion, and more of the design was done during construction.
  • The Sheppard line includes two large interchange stations over its 6km length. MetroSur has five major interchanges over its 40km length.
  • The cost of labour and materials is much lower in Madrid than in other parts of Europe.

In 2003, engineering consultants Hatch Mott MacDonald compared the Sheppard and Madrid projects, and found that if Madrid conditions applied in Toronto, the cost of the two lines would be almost equal. Although this may appear self-serving, a similar review was done in Dublin in 2003 to determine why their airport LRT project was so much more expensive that Madrid’s costs. A review by the then-president of Madrid Metro found that labour and material costs in Ireland would make construction over twice as expensive as in Madrid.

The TTC plans to incorporate changes in their projects based on the Madrid experience.

These include:

  • Using design-build contracts placing the onus for detailed design on the builder (also conceivably the private partner) rather than the traditional TTC approach of extensive detailed design before a shovel even goes into the ground.
  • Using slurry wall and/or single tunnel construction if and where appropriate.
  • Round-the-clock construction subject to the communuity impacts in various areas where lines will be built.

Madrid’s techniques and experience will be reviewed first-hand.

The underlying issue here is that building transit systems is an expensive business although some jurisdictions have much more favourable environments politically, financially and physically than others. There is no magic solution, but the best of each city’s experiences needs to be reviewed and incorporated where possible. Differences in design and construction will not eliminate the huge burden of Toronto’s project-based approvals and the lack of ongoing financial support.

Indeed, systems like Madrid’s are held up as examples of “waste” in Toronto as a way to delay approval for any spending on transit by governments whose preference is to announce often, if at all, and build nothing.

A related issue is the comparison of LRT and subway technologies. In Madrid, underground construction was cheap, subways were relatively easy to build and the money was available for a continuous program of expansion. However, even Madrid is now embracing the concept of “Light Metros” to further reduce cost of expanding their system. In Toronto, the challenges of our geology make the premium for subway construction over LRT higher, and we cannot expect to build full-scale heavy rapid transit easily.

Transit should not be project to a favoured politician’s home turf, it should be a network of lines serving and connecting many areas. Regional rail systems should be an integral part of the system, not a separate network designed and operated just for peak period commuters. These are political decisions, not matters of engineering or cost accounting.

Transit is not a political football, and the future of the GTA cannot turn on who wins which election every few years. If Toronto and the GTA want to emulate the success of Madrid, then all parties and governments must commit to sustained, reliable funding and ongoing expansion of the transit network.

29 thoughts on “What Does Building a Subway Cost?

  1. Am I right in assuming that the single-tunnel, narrow construction of Madrid favours the construction of LRT tunnels, like those proposed for beneath Eglinton and on the Don Mills line south of Overlea?

    Steve: Yes, it would, although the TTC seems bent on building subway-scale infrastructure lest they be accused of “foolishly” under sizing a future subway.


  2. What a concept, no environmental assessments!

    Then again, when the Yonge, University, and Bloor-Danforth subways were being built, there were no environmental assessments here as well. That is the good reason for no environmental assessments, it will built faster and cheaper.

    The bad reason for having an environmental assessment is the Gardiner Expressway. When they were designing the expressway, one of designs was to tunnel the expressway through downtown and put a streetcar right-of-way on top. Chairman Gardiner didn’t want it tunneled. If there was an environmental assessment for the expressway, the tunnel design would have been at least discussed at the time.

    At least today, there is a thinner version of the environmental assessment for the Transit City available.


  3. Even if we could build full subways for the prices Madrid is able to, it makes no sense to do so because those prices will still be 5x those of an LRT. Subway construction is extremely expensive. It only makes sense when demand is predicted to be very high (e.g. Yonge and Bloor). In most cases, an LRT going underground where necessary would make far more sense.

    Remember than it is possible to build extremely long streetcars if desired. It would be quite feasible, for example, to build a 60m or 80m streetcar and run that in the suburbs – although we don’t need streetcars anywhere near this long yet.

    One caveat. If we build underground stations, we need to make sure that their platforms can be extended easily – because otherwise, the cost of doing so will be VERY expensive. If ridership growth is not expected in the short term, building a long flat and straight section at one or both ends of the station would be sufficient.

    Steve: Those long, flat sections you refer to can get expensive. As I have said in other posts, a two-car train of new LRVs would have a capacity of 400, and on a two minute headway, that’s 12K per hour. A three-car train takes us up to 18K and would need a station slightly shorter than those on the Sheppard Subway (without the provision for extension).

    Some stations, such as Bayview/Eglinton and Bathurst/Eglinton are in hilly areas where the idea of staying level for an extended run gets complex. Bayview is also complex because of ground water issues, but that’s another story.


  4. Steve, Madrid isn’t perfect and I think you are aware of it. Your article states that one of the reason’s that Madrid subway construction is so much less espensive is that they are not burdened by the expensive and time consuming environmental assessments. I have a friend who helped with the EA for the Waterfront Westside streetcar planned route. This EA process is the responsible thing to do for the TTC to properly and reponsibly expand its service here in the GTA. I wish that Toronto could build half the subways that Madrid has been able to construct in the last few years, but, I wouldn’t want a meter dug without a thorough EA first. EA’s account for every aspect of what makes an environment in any neighborhood function.

    Steve: I am not suggesting that we should dispense with EA’s, merely reporting that their cost is a sigificant part of a project like the Sheppard Subway.

    As for the WWLRT, that’s a project where the EA has been gerrymandered to eliminate routes that should have been considered (and I am not just talking about Hamish’s oft-mentioned FSE alignment), and there seems to be a reluctance to look at much beyond the original scheme. One huge problem is that the EA is scoped to eliminate reconsideration of the alignment through the CNE.

    An Environmental Assessment is a wonderful thing, but if the political and bureaucratic will is against you, it can be used to give the impression of review while stifling meaningful input. It can be a mechanism to manage the public, not the project.


  5. The EA process here is overblown, and a waste of scarce resources and time.

    Madrid accomodates everything; they’re not just building subways, but also a vast network of road improvements with tunnels leading into and out of the city, as well as an underground highway that will encircle the entire city. Most streets are also very pedestrian friendly, with wide sidewalks and an innumerable amount of public squares. They don’t waste years or decades doing EAs and studies and public meetings and all the other crap we do here. If there’s a need for something, whatever it is, they just get it done. Period.

    Toronto used to be somewhat similar. The best parts of the city are those that were built in the 19th century and the first half of the last century. Then the idea of ‘planned communities’ took hold and the results are places like Scarborough and Mississauga. It’s a similar story for public transport. True, there was public input on the buidling of our early subways (Terauley St Tube, Queen Subway, Yonge subway, etc), but at least once something was finally decided upon, it got built. Today, so much time is wasted on studies and EAs that by the time we’re ready to build, there’s a new government that does other studies or flat-out cancels projects. It’s truly pathetic.

    Imagine if Network 2011 had been built as planned. We wouldn’t be sitting here looking to Madrid for ‘enlightment’. The sad part is that we really could have used every line that was part of that plan, and our city as a result would have been far more functional than it is today.


  6. Steve

    I thought there was a move away from single bore twin track tunnels on safety grounds – or is that only in some countries? Single bore’s geometry also increases the spoil disposal volume.

    As you say, the Dublin “metro” project (which is less a subway than a high frequency LRT – 90 second headways we’re told) got Professor Melis over to testify before Parliament but even when elements of the Madrid experience were factored in like 7×24 it turned out that there is no magic solution – especially since the delay caused by the reconsideration added inflation (rampant in the Irish construction sector) to the bill.


  7. How did the Sheppard subway come in at only $142.5-million/km? When looking at some of the other proposals on the book such as the Spadina extension, the cost looks more like $290-million/km. Is that because land acquisition is included, because I can’t see that level of savings being made by simply only finishing stations for 4-car lengths.

    In comparing LRT construction costs, is there a known range of estimated costs per km for both at-grade and underground? I know there are a number of factors that can affect the outcome, but a general range. For instance, it has been mentioned here that the estimated cost of the Eglinton LRT is about $75-million/km, but that is overall covering about 10 km tunnelled and 20 km on the surface.

    Looking at the recent T-REX project in Denver, the 30.4 km LRT expansion came in at just under $37-million/km (adjusted for Canadian dollars at the time) and included 34 new vehicles. This project, in my opinion, contains a number of fairly elaborate elevated sections to take the line over a number of roadways.

    Steve: The Sheppard Subway was $969-million total or $154-million/km. Taking out the property gets this down to the lower figure cited in my article. No costs for vehicles or for yard expansion was included in the Sheppard project itself because the vehicles were lumped into the T-1 car order, and existing space at Davisville Yard was used to house the trains. These are 2003 dollars.

    Spadina’s numbers are costs to complete in as-spent dollars with inflation to the years in which they occur. Even so, the cost is extremely high and I don’t really understand why this is. Because this line has always been a political pet project, nobody asked embarrassing questions about why it is costing so much. York U would probably keel over in amazement if someone gave them that much money for academic programs, but instead they will get a subway station.


  8. Thanks for relaying this thorough breakdown, Steve.

    When I was last in Madrid, I was told by transit officials that MetroSur has had less ridership than expected.

    I was also told that the metro line that circles the city — #6 meets almost every other line — carries the most riders of all.

    Steve: It would be intriguing to know whether Madrid’s move toward LRT might have affected the technology choice on MetroSur had this shift happened sooner, or whether MetroSur itself was the catalyst.

    The line is built with overhead power collection and large sections run through relatively unpopulated areas — classic conditions for LRT.


  9. Where and when did this EA garbage come from? It is what it is garbage, we can’t get construction going without an EA? It is counter productive and is a waste of my money. I long for LRT/BRT/HRT at least get something built this is getting troublesome, hey the 407’s EA process is in the express lane (sorry no pun intended) why can’t we get transit started? I have to pay 3.75% more this year how about getting construction going? Sorry about the rant. I am just getting frustrated with this liack of commitment.


  10. A three-car Eglinton LRT subway using a single tunnel would be far cheaper then trying to ditto the Sheppard line over Eglinton. There are some things that we just cannot mirror in Madrid – like having good soil for subways, but the main thing we can do that they did in Madrid which is not mentioned – that is getting funding from upper levels of government – is possible if the political will is there.

    And on political will. That’s a fancy little term, but what it means is reality is that you (yes you, the guy reading this; the voter) have to go out there and vote for pro-transit candidates and pro-transit parties. Only then will we see change. When I ran for office I ran on a pro transit platform and I got 5% of the vote despite not doing much of a campaign. If I can do that without any money or voulenteers, imagine what a real political party could do


  11. Andrew Says:

    Even if we could build full subways for the prices Madrid is able to, it makes no sense to do so because those prices will still be 5x those of an LRT.

    So quantity = quality ? As the only subway big-got on this page, I hear that a lot. I support TC, but we need at least one more E-W and one more N-S subway route in this city in addition to TC.

    We can’t have passengers passing out on the Yonge subway (happened this morning) because of intense overcrowding.

    Steve: The overcrowding happened because of a delay. It wouldn’t matter how many trains are on the line, in a delay the service will be backed up. Indeed, the TTC has yet to tell us how the line will operate on a much closer headway when all of the excess time is wrung out of the trips. The stops for leisurely crew changes at Eglinton will be a distant memory.


  12. >Calvin H-C,

    You’re right… there are nominal (construction) savings on Sheppard with a four-car train platform as the station “box” was built to handle 6-car trains in the future with a removeable cinder block wall hiding the unfinished station platform from public view. I suspect operating cost savings of a 4-car train were paramount in the decision over platform finishing costs.

    Next time you’re on the Sheppard subway line walk to the end of the platform, or check it out as you ride by on a train and you’ll see the roughed-in station section behind the temporary wall.


  13. I am familiar with the way the Sheppard line was built, but I am trying to get my head around how its cost differs so much from other proposals I have seen lately. Either Sheppard is not all that far off the norm with modest savings being from cutting back the stations and the other proposals are WAY expensive, or the others are more in line and Sheppard had some miracle in cost savings (I doubt that one).

    To compare, Sheppard was $142.5-million/km; the Spadina extension is costed (with inflation) to be about $290-million/km; in another thread on this site, west extensions of the Bloor-Danforth line had an extension from Kipling to Queensway/The West Mall costing $270-million/km and a further extension to Dixie costing a whopping $333-million/km.

    I have been doing some research on costs, and have found some pretty stable costs of LRT ($25-35-million/km at grade, $70-85-million/km in a tunnel, often including vehicles), but HRT costs tend to be all over the map, as the above shows. Does anyone have any figures on typical ranges for underground and at grade HRT construction costs?

    On the note of political will brought up by Nick J Boragina, I would add that supporting a pro-transit candidate is the easy part. FINDING a pro-transit candidate that UNDERSTANDS transit, is harder. During the last provincial election, I spoke with the candidates of the four parties in Thornhill and Richmond Hill and found quite consistently that they knew little more than what most of the public knows (“Oh transit, yea, I’m in favour of building a subway”). A little help on our part can make a great difference. A week after speaking with one candidate about LRT as an option, when I was talking with another candidate in the same riding, I was told that the first had begun to speak of LRT at all-candidates’ meetings.

    Steve: I am going to put up a separate post with some of the numbers from the TTC’s comparative review of construction costs. Stay tuned.


  14. OK, but if ridership is at such a high level that the Yonge subway can’t tolerate a minor 9-minute delay without passengers falling ill from the overcrowding, I’d say we have a serious problem.

    You’re right — extra trains aren’t going to solve that, and a relief subway line may not solve it either because so many of the stops on Yonge take passengers EXACTLY where they want to go.

    When University opened in 1963, passengers still took the heavily overcrowded Yonge line because its stops were much closer to their destinations. The only pull University had from ’63 to ’65 came from absorbing Bloor streetcar passengers from the west at St. George, and only because they could continuously travel “around the horn” to exit at the same Yonge station they would have used by going south on Yonge.

    I really don’t know what the solution to Yonge overcrowding is … GO rail doesn’t seem to draw enough riders away for the same reason — cost, and it only serves Union. Passenger loads south of Bloor-Yonge are very evenly distributed across all the stations, and people have an aversion to backtracking. This behaviour was seen even in the Y-operation — passengers would not backtrack further north than Queen.

    The only solution I can think of on Yonge involves expensive double-tracking over the busiest section (perhaps one level under). Too expensive, and it will never happen.


  15. It’s worth noting that the next major city in Europe planning a large rail transit investment is kind of splitting the difference between LRT and subway. The Madrid example has loomed large in planning for Dublin’s new Metro, as has the other major new system installed from scratch recently in Europe, the one in Porto.

    Interestingly, Dublin’s proposed Metro (not to be confused with its existing Luas LRT or DART electrified heavy rail) has been getting a lot of politicized flack precisely because it isn’t a “full” metro like “real European capital cities” have… it’ll run off pantographs, and the outer suburban orbital line (MetroWest) will be almost entirely on the surface and cross some roads at grade. However bad you might think it is as a Torontonian to look slobberingly across the Atlantic at places that “get” public transport, it’s even rougher on Dubliners, in that they very much see other European capitals as their peer group. Having done without a proper system for so long, there’s real pressure to let prestige dictate planning decisions rather than pure transit smarts.

    Dublin’s urban form is, perhaps surprisingly, more North American than European. (All sorts of interesting historical and political reasons for this I’ll avoid for the time being.) It is far less dense than London or Paris, there’s a nasty sprawl problem today that they’re only beginning to get a handle on, and its metro will run out to exurbs like Swords across a fair amount of greenfield. Certainly there’s a case to be made that pure LRT would have been the way to go.

    It’s been a while since I’ve seen detailed-ish plans, but I think the core section running North-South through the city centre is slated to be in a dual-bore tunnel with a mixture of bored and cut-and-cover stations. The centrepiece of the line will be a huge bored station directly underneath the River Liffey, opening onto both sides, which I imagine will cost of fair chunk of change.

    As tends to be the case in all of these things, during the planning process there was pressure to stick increasing portions of it underground, but perhaps unusually, there seems to have been a willingness to cave on all of those, and the underground portion–particularly of the MetroNorth line–grew with each revised draft. Unsurprisingly, there’ve been early signs that the sticker price keeps going up and up. I recall reading some time back that cost pruning has begun in earnest, with frills like escalators up to enclosed entrances chopped.


  16. Nick and Calvin raises a very good point one echoed in a study quoted in today’s Globe and Mail.

    The report was commissioned by the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario, which also makes me suspicious of some of the conclusions. One being converting Sheppard to an LRT, it’s been built as a subway, right or wrong let’s get over it.

    The report seems to favour BRT over LRT. The logic being that LRT takes lanes from cars, whereas BRT doesn’t. It isn’t BRT if the buses are running in mixed traffic and we already know that reserved lanes are largely ignored. And aren’t we trying to get people out of their cars?

    I have my doubts that a busway would be significantly more cost effective than an LRT on high volume routes as proposed in Transit City. Especially given the fact that buses have a lower capacity, thus requiring more on-going costs (i.e. vehicles, operators, garages). That’s not to say that only LRTs should be built. But you also have to factor in the costs once demand grows for conversion from BRT to LRT. The conversion exercise would be injurious to the “xRT” concept by causing interruptions and delays driving the customers away from transit.

    The point that the report does raise is that transit planning is being driven by politics and not by actual need (see Spadina extension and the aforementioned Sheppard line). I fully agree that a pro-transit candidate is not necessarily one that actually understands transit!

    Steve: As you will have seen by now, I have posted an extensive critique of the RCCAO’s study.


  17. Steve

    This is an issue which may surface with Eglinton as it has with Sheppard. It seems to be the case that when a subsurface RT/LRT/HRT is considered, the question of stop lengths, the cost of stations and the provision of surface alternatives becomes an issue. Criticisms of the Sheppard include that (a) a bus remains on the street or (b) that said bus doesn’t run often enough.

    Should any new subsurface route include a parallel surface route, and if so what frequency should it run on?

    Steve: Yes, a surface route should be provided at a headway no worse than every 15 minutes, preferably 10 during busier periods. When the new standards for service quality kick in later this year, it will be interesting to see how they are applied on Sheppard.


  18. I am surprised they didn’t take inflation into account. In Europe the high Interest Rates, combined with Higher Sales Taxes generally result in a much lower level of inflation, since it discourages excessive spending. That combined with Spain’s relatively weak economy would reduce inflation costs astronomically.

    Just think about it before the 1980s Toronto and Montréal had no problem expanding their existing Metro Systems. However after the Iran Revolution, inflation levels skyrocked. Interests rates in the 1980s had risen almost 13 percent, to combat the inflation levels. Thus it became almost impossible to build any new Metro Systems in any city in Canada, unless they were based on Light Rail Technology. Even roadways were redesigned. Most “expressways” build post 1980 have more graded intersections with smart lights rather than massive interchanges.

    One last point I would like to point out is that Madrid is a city-province in Spain. Whereas here in Canada no city has its own Provincial boundaries. Toronto and Montréal probably qualify for such a status, but the political realities of amending the constitution combined with Québec desire to be the protectorate of the French Language would never allow such a thing to happen.


  19. Steve

    one point I left out of my previous post – should we have a daytime bus on Bloor and if not (given the closer stop spacing), what spacing makes it acceptable to not have a bus route.

    If we assume the point you made in answer to my question, a planned subsurface route would not only have to clear the hurdle of passenger demand as such, but would have to exclude any demand the surface route would siphon off.


  20. I know the topic is not yonge line overcrowding, but it’s been mentioned.

    I’ve mulled this one over for years, and the sad reality is there is only one idea I can come up with that will actually work, and that’s to build a parallel subway. I’m not talking about out at Don Mills, but an express line within 100 meters of the existing subway, that only stops at certain places. It might not even stop between Finch and Eglinton (maybe at York Mills) but really if we intend to increase transit’s mode share any great amount then we will need more capacity on Yonge.

    The Eglinton LRT and Lakeshore LRT lines will help pressure on the Bloor line a bit, but the Yonge corridor is so dense it needs help. If such an express route were built, then it would make sence to finally build those mid-block stations between Eglinton and Lawrence, Lawrence and York Mills, and maybe even between York Mills and Sheppard. On the flip side this will give us the ability to build stations at places like Yonge and Cummer, or Yonge and Clark when we finally extend the line north.

    The question becomes would the new express line be a full fledged subway? I say no. I refer to my earlier post and how digging one tunnel is cheaper then two. We need narrower trains to make this work right, and best of all would be to have GO like pay-by-distance funding; this would allow you to jump the queue, for a price.

    Steve: Leaving aside the issue of cost, there are severe engineering problems with what you propose.

    Going either side of the existing line would involve tunneling under existing buildings, not the cut-and-cover method that was used for the original line from Eglinton down to Union. Stations would be particularly tricky in this context unless the route goes down a parallel street such as Bay or Church. Station arrangements at common “express” locations will be quite tricky (e.g. Sheppard/Yonge or Eglinton/Yonge), and I don’t even want to think about the connection to the Bloor line.

    As for filling in stations north of Eglinton, the problem here is that no provision was left in the tunnel alignment for this at the locations you mention are almost all on grades where platforms cannot be retrofitted, not to mention fitting station structure into the surrounding neighbourhoods.

    As for a separate fleet, it is never a good idea to have cars that cannot be part of a larger family. Of course, we could build the new Yonge line as an express LRT subway. This may sound facetious, but if we are going to look for a smaller car, at least it should be something that’s already in the fleet.



    Steve: I have left this comment exactly as received, and don’t think that I need to comment further.


  22. Given your mostly-justified slant towards LRT, is there anywhere at all in Toronto where you see any justification for subway expansion?

    Steve: In the short term no. Launching any new subway scheme consumes so much money that it pushes everything else off of the table for about eight years. Longer term, demand into the core may trigger the need for more subway capacity, but I don’t think we should be railroaded [sorry about that] into concentrating on only that facility when there is so much else to be done. I think it will be decades until other corridors build up to the point of needing a full-blown subway line.


  23. Hi Steve:-

    Whew! A question needs to be asked, who is Roger Sanchez and what are his vested interests? Probably not a friend of Jane Jacobs, eh?

    Mr. D.

    Steve: There are comments that just beg to be published “as is”, all caps, bad grammar, rant and all. Adding my own remarks is not worth the effort when someone’s own words do the job far more eloquently.


  24. Further to Nick’s comment about building a Yonge Express line, let’s not worry too much about capacity on Yonge at this point. Yes, it would be great to have an express line on Yonge, but it will never happen for a large number of reasons, the biggest one being cost.

    With the ongoing rate of residential construction all along the Yonge corridor, and with the additional riders that TC may bring to Yonge, we will eventually reach a point where there will be absolutely no choice but to build some form of relief line east of the Yonge subway. And by that time, we will have a Don Mills LRT built as far as Danforth, ripe and ready for a southwesterly extension downtown.


  25. Leo – that assumes Don Mills LRT happens. The TTC might be losing their nerve on that one given the cost of the alignment beyond Don Mills Avenue.

    Steve: I’m not so sure. If we can build an LRT tunnel all the way from Leaside to Weston, we can certainly build a new crossing of the Don Valley and a tunnel to get us down to at least Danforth with provision to go further. I think an LRT viaduct from Thorncliffe Park down to O’Connor would be extremely attractive addition to the system, and a wonderful advertisement for all the folks stuck in traffic.


  26. I’ve always been curious about how the Yonge Subway corridor between Bloor and St. Clair was conceived. It is quite clear that the width of the trench and more importantly the underpasses left enough room for up to four tracks. Was there ever any consideration given to adding extra tracks in the future at the time of the design? I can’t see any other reason for the road bridges being built with such a wide span over the cut. It is really unfortunate that the choices made later essentially prevented ever adding any meaningful length of express trackage over this stretch (and beyond). It wouldn’t actually be wildly complicated though to add just one express track that would duck under or beside St. Clair Station and run through both yard ladder tracks at Davisville, passing through the third platform track before merging back in for a stop at Eglinton. Trains would re-enter a new express tunnel bore via the current tail track north of Eglinton. Another easy interchange with the ‘local’ tracks would be possible with the 12-car-length pocket track further north on the line.

    Of course the benefits of such a scheme would probably be miniscule, but one can always dream. I just find it unfortunate how much we could have learned from New York City. We already copied their signal system.

    Steve: Actually, the width of the bridge has to do with the gradient needed for a stable slope up from track level to street level on the embankment, not with provision for four tracks. A four-track operation was never intended and it is physically impossible in some key locations. One of these is immediately north of Bloor Station where walls of adjacent buildings are feet away from the subway structure. At least one of these buildings is considerably older than the subway, and so this is not a case of our losing the opportunity to post-subway development. Many other locations are similarly constrained.


  27. An earlier comment made about relief lines not being able to completely solve the problem is half right. A relief line routed through Union would not solve anything. It is too far from some of the office building built near Queen and Dundas. Plus, unless the waterfront east of Jarvis were to be redeveloped, there would be no other reason to ride it.

    The best option would be to have a relief line routed below Queen St. With the line at this location, it would run right through the heart of the business district. Anyone who would normally get off at King or Dundas could take this line, and use the PATH to complete their trip, since it would still make for a short walk, while not warranting another subway ride to get to it.

    This routing also has other ridership opportunities, namely taking in some of the passengers fron the Queen streetcar. It is also quite overcrouded, with rides from Jarvis to Spadina, for instance, taking upwards of 15 minutes. With some of these longer trips, the subway would accomodate them with half the travel time or less in some cases. For those few who have a shorter trip to make and just insist on not walking, it might be possible to run a streetcar parallel to the subway at about 1/2 the current frequency.

    Going north to the Bloor-Danforth line, it could turn off in the east at Carlaw, transitioning to Pape north of Gerrard, or maybe it could run under the GO train corridor, turning off at Pape. The line would end at Pape station, either in a stub, with passengers transferring to the Danforth line manually, or maybe with transfer tracks so trains would automatically route onto the Bloor line toward Scarborough. In the west, it could turn off again at the railway corridor at Dufferin and run north, turning off at Dundas and running until it reaches Bloor, ending in a stub, or connecting to the Bloor line perhaps through the old yard just west of the station.

    If the line were to connect with the Bloor/Danforth line, it could use some of the trips that would normally be made on the Bloor/Danforth line, since a number of passengers would make the transfer anyway, therefore decreasing the number of trips that need to be made between Dundas West and Pape. If the line was to be made into stubs at either end, though, it could accomodate future extensions to Don Mills and/or Weston easier.


  28. I’ve heard this rule of thumb from sr developers in Toronto. That wherever you build it in the city, a subway will cost you 9 Billion and take 9 years from conception to completion.

    Steve: We have never built a 9-billion dollar subway, but the co-incidence of the numbers is intriguing. By extension, since a few subway proposals have been around for over 50 years, we had better start saving today!


  29. I’ve mentioned this before with little fanfare, but what about looking at monorails for future heavy rail transit growth? I will admit I may have been a little misguided when I first brought the idea up as an alternative to Toronto’s Transit City plans since ultimately monorail are currently too expensive to compete with light rail, but I do think this post illustrates how they could be an excellent alternative to tunneling subways. While there are many monorails out there which have people-mover capacities, there are some which can carry just as many people as a standard subway train can, or close to it (according to Hitachi’s website, their largest monorail with 4 cars can move over 900 people at crush load).

    From what I’ve been able to find, it seems that monorails tend to cost about 50-75% of what it would cost to build a subway through a similar corridor. And in areas with extreme density, I’m confident it could be much less. For example, the new subway line in Manhattan it expected to cost approximately $1.13 BILLION per mile (if my math is correct, which it probably isn’t, it would come to about $700 million per kilometer). In a situation like this, there is probably room for a good argument that a high capacity monorail could be just as effective and of a much better value.

    Steve: The basic problem with monorails, even if you believe the capacity figures, is that they require a structure completely separate from the corridor they serve. This places not just an elevated structure down the middle of a street, but a large elevated station structure over intersections. This poisons the space under the stations for pedestrian activity.

    This is the same complaint I have about proposals for expansion of the RT technology. In Toronto (and in a lot of the Vancouver implementations), the RT/Skytrain does not run down the middle of a street, but runs along railway corridors. This means that stations straddle streets rather than covering them in. Where new lines in Vancouver have followed streets, they were generally placed underground. As design gets underway for the northerly extension of the RT in Scarborough, it will be intriguing to see what sort of designs the TTC comes up with to mitigate the impact of elevated structures.


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