Ford Proposes Privately Built Sheppard Subway (Updated)

Updated February 17, 2011 at 10:00 am:

Councillor Doug Ford talked to Matt Galloway today on Metro Morning.  Listen to how he slides all over the place without giving specifics of how the money would be raised and simply says that such schemes have worked elsewhere.  No details, but the usual put-downs of “nay sayers” as if anyone with the nerve to criticize is a foe of progress.  Sounds very 50’s to me.

In a separate interview, MPP Greg Sorbara, former Minister of Finance and heavyweight proponent of the Spadina Subway, explains that, while the proposal may look interesting, the devil is in the details, and at the end the public pays.

Original article from February 16 at 16:44:

Mayor Ford’s office has proposed to Metrolinx that the Sheppard subway be extended west to Downsview and east to Scarborough Town Centre as a private sector deal with the City according to articles in the Globe and the Star.

The expansion would be privately financed, but owned by the City with the cost to be repaid out of development charges and tax increment financing.

What is unclear at this point is the amount of development that would be needed along the extended line to actually pay for its construction without adding to the City’s debt, nor is it clear how much of the proposed Provincial and Federal contributions to the Sheppard LRT would be available for a Sheppard Subway project.

This scheme leaves a number of other projects up in the air including:

  • the remainder of the Sheppard LRT’s scope from Kennedy (where the subway would veer south to STC) to eastern Scarborough and, possibly, to the UofT Scarborough Campus
  • the replacement of the SRT as either an LRT line (part of any remaining LRT-based Transit City network) or as a BD subway extension
  • the status of the proposed Eglinton and Finch LRT lines, although the former as an LRT subway hybrid seems fairly certain to be built

A long term plan to finance a subway using future revenues presumes that the money to pay for its construction, debt financing and developer’s profit will actually materialize.  This begs the question of station location and spacing because there would be little development on land far from stations spaced widely as on the most recent extensions to the subway.  Enough land and development potential must exist to pay for the subway over time, and the locations must be sufficiently attractive to would-be builders that they will pay a premium to locate their buildings on subway sites.

Whether the subway would generate net new development or merely attract buildings away from other sites is hard to say given that major redevelopment of the older commercial/industrial strips in Scarborough and North York is not already underway.

Would existing neighbourhoods in which new stations (and their associated development) would be placed welcome a complete change in their density and character?  This may be viable on Sheppard, but not in other neighbourhoods with well-establish, stable residential land use.  Indeed, some routes, like a Downtown Relief Line, would be built as part of a wider network to spread demand and give access to new parts of the city.  Should the locations a DRL would pass through enroute to downtown pay the cost in redevelopment effects because that’s where a line is drawn on a map?

The extensions would cost $3.4-$4.4-billion according to the Star, and this would translate to an annual debt service cost of $200m at 5%.  That’s a lot of new tax revenue, although the amount would be lower depending on the amount of principal that can be paid off through development charges.

As with other private development schemes around the world, the real challenge lies in the details of any contract.  Who, for example, will be responsible for upkeep of the infrastructure and repair of any premature faults that appear over the period of the lease-purchase?

My reaction to this is mixed.  The Sheppard Subway may be the apple of some advocates’ eyes, but it is not the most important transit expansion project in the GTA.  Regardless of how it is financed or who builds it, this will divert considerable investment and attention from other projects and may well pre-empt any expansion of LRT service to the northeast.

On the other hand, we have been hearing about the wonders of privately developed transit for so long, part of me wants to say “put up or shut up” to those who would pursue this course.  Is the project really viable?  Will the city see the revenues needed to pay for the long term lease-purchase of the new line, or will future taxpayers be on the hook to bail out the project?

67 thoughts on “Ford Proposes Privately Built Sheppard Subway (Updated)

  1. We all know that by the time this crumbles and the taxpayers will be on the hook… Mr. Ford will be long gone and another mayor will have to deal with the aftermath… in the end.. the taxpayer pays more… great way to run the city like a business! Businesses love to increase their expenses! As with the whole water saving boondoggle… I wonder how his family business has not gone bankrupt.

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  2. To pay for a heavy rail subway, heavy density is needed. Will the residents in the area support a 40, 50, or 60 story condo and office buildings in their neighbourhoods?

    Since the Ontario government bailed out the automobile makers for $4 billion, I am sure they will be eager to return the favour (not).

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  3. I’m dubious as to the ability of the private sector to match up with Ford’s optimistic projections. Previous experience suggests that they simply cannot come up with the cash fast enough to make this a reality. HOWEVER, this does sound like the beginnings of a reasonable compromise.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but Ford is essentially saying “if we can come to the table and provide additional private funding to build the Sheppard subway as originally proposed, will you add this to the plan?” The big advantage of this compromise — if it works — is that Ford’s bringing in new money over and above the $8.1 billion the province has set aside for the current Transit City plan.

    This should mean that the Eglinton LRT, Scarborough RT conversion and possibly even the Sheppard East LRT are protected. Metrolinx could even fill in the gaps in funding by cutting back the LRT costs required to build the Sheppard East LRT from Kennedy to Don Mills, or the Finch West LRT east of Keele.

    If this is indeed the compromise, I’m all for it, and if Ford can bring this about, my hat goes off to him.

    But, again, I am dubious that Ford could gather sufficient funds to cover the additional cost of the Sheppard subway, and I would fear that building it would eat into the $8.1 billion already committed for the vital LRT projects in Scarborough and under Eglinton.

    Steve: I have never seen you wearing a hat. As for a “compromise”, I would be very surprised if Ford would stomach the survival of any on-street LRT.

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  4. “The extensions would cost $3.4-$4.4-billion according to the Star, and this would translate to an annual debt service cost of $200m at 5%.”

    Oh yes, 5% will definitely pay for interest and amortization!

    Why stop at tax increment financing? Mr. Ford can establish a special levy area in Scarborough linked to the added expense, and then the people up there who actually voted for this nonsense can pay for it themselves.

    Steve: I picked 5% as a number just to get an order of magnitude of the ongoing cost of paying for the line. The actual charges will depend on how quickly the capital cost is paid down from development charges (presuming that’s the scheme), and whether the interest is back-end loaded to allow time for the tax increment financing to build up. This is all funny money anyhow, but it will be amusing to see the gyrations Ford & Co. go through trying to make the numbers work.

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  5. Amy said: “I wonder how his family business has not gone bankrupt.”

    When you achieve positive brand recognition, it actually takes a large amount of incompetence to bring down a business. The better question to ponder is whether Ford managed to grow his family business or did he live off of the momentum generated by the hard work of others.

    Back to the topic at hand. I’ve really got three major concerns with this whole notion of “funding from the future”.

    First of all, how will property acquisition be handled for redeveloping the areas around the station? Developers like to work with big chunks of land and become increasingly more reluctant as the number of property owners increases. Will the city have to start expropriating land on behalf of developers to ensure that things get done?

    Second, how will future development for the sake of future property tax revenue be determined to justify the amounts the city can borrow for the extension? I mean, can Ford go to any lender and just announce that there will be 20, 100 storey buildings at every station along the extension in 10 years and borrow funds accordingly or will there be a saner standard at play?

    Finally, does this funding plan take into account the existing development up there in terms of a limits to redevelopment? There are a few tall apartment buildings already existing along that part of Sheppard and I doubt that things like “heritage lightning” can be counted on to make them disappear to make room for new buildings.

    The one thing though that can be taken away from all this is that with no plans to replace the RT in any form, it’s going to be tough times for transit users in Scarborough over the next decade. And this is assuming that the Sheppard extension actually gets built to STC.

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  6. Didn’t Mel claim that the original “stubway” would attract all sorts of development (and development charges)?

    While some did occur, didn’t the developers somehow manage to avoid paying what we were lead to believe they would?

    Steve: Yes, Mel arranged for developments to be approved before the development charges were in place, and so they evaded the surcharge.

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  7. It seems that the city is to largely assuming the risk of paying for the subway construction and hoping there would be sufficient development (and development fees) following to offset the construction/interest costs. I am skeptical of development quickly following. Development along the Sheppard line has been rather slow in coming. And if subway locations are so desirable, why are 2 corners of Sheppard & Yonge still undeveloped, and why is there no condo tower over Downsview Station? The city could be waiting many years for its development fees while paying the construction/interest bills as soon as the extensions open.

    And if there are subway stations at Willowdale and Senlac, would the neighbours accept a 30-storey condo over the stations to pay the interest?

    And there still would be the extra operating subsidies for relatively low ridership. ($10/passenger like when the Sheppard line opened versus about $3/passenger for the rest of the system?)

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  8. On reading the articles, it struck me: everything is upside down.

    Our penny-pinching mayor wants to spend billions (albeit of other people’s money) on a high-capacity subway to serve a low-to-medium density suburban road; meanwhile it looks likely that the much-more dense (at least in the centre) Eglinton will get a lower capacity LRT subway.

    The Scarborough Town Centre in nearish future might be served by 2 full subway lines, and the fields of Vaughan will soon have subway service too; meanwhile the TTC doesn’t even want to consider a Downtown Relief/Queen subway line through the densest part of the entire GTA, and has not lifted a finger to defend a well-thought out, financed by the province(though reduced,) much needed, frankly overdue, expansion plan.

    I just don’t get it.

    Steve: This is a perfect example of how, even if we had “experts” running the TTC, there would always be political overrides, and even the best experts would be ignored.

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  9. Hmm … looks like Metrolinx won’t divert money from Eglinton to Sheppard. But, more importantly, if the entire Eglinton line is going to be underground or grade-separated, why build it as LRT? Makes absolutely no sense. It’s better to spend that little extra and build it as heavy rail from the start.

    Steve: I doubt that Metrolinx would fund a completely underground Eglinton line from Kennedy to the airport, and so your argument does not hold up.

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  10. The private sector is only identified for involvement in the capital cost side of the project. Nobody seems to want to think about the operating cost implications, even though we’re talking about a line that already loses $10M/year. We’ve been down this road before… assuming we actually do, ultimately, go down this road.

    The elephant in the room, of course, is the worrisome impact of this on the Yonge Subway…

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  11. The strange thing is that you’d think that the Eglinton Line would be the more attractive target for a Private Partnership – it runs through denser territory and would have higher ridership. The Province could still own the line (TransLink owns the Canada Line in Vancouver; InTransitBC (the private operator) just owns the vehicles used to provide the service (and those would need replacement at the end of the concession period anyways)).

    Steve: Eglinton is not Ford’s pet line, Sheppard is, and he knows that the only way it will be built is if the Tooth Fairy provides the funding. Also, if you think of the station locations proposed for Eglinton, many of those neighbourhoods would be extremely upset at being redeveloped to pay for the new line.

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  12. They ask for a subway, now let them deal with the consequences. I am sure the residents near Sheppard will be the first to whine to their councillors when North York Centre comes to their doorstep.

    (and i say this as an LRT supporter who lives 5 minutes from Sheppard)

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  13. If the city finds a private company to build the Sheppard line, the city has to repay the private company for construction costs regardless of whether or not the city can find developers to build units along the new subway line. If the city fails to securing transit development fees, then taxpayers are on the hook for billions of dollars (+ interest).

    For the “Save the Sheppard” folks who were arguing that an LRT along Sheppard would destroy the character of their neighbourhoods and the “vibrant” street life along Sheppard Avenue East, I hope they enjoy 50 story condos and office buildings sprouting up all along Sheppard Avenue.

    Steve: This presumes that there is actually a market for all that new office and residential space including the premium prices for locating on a subway line.

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  14. The Star article mentioned that the Sheppard line would be owned and operated by the city while the Eglinton line would be owned by the Province. Will a PPP on Sheppard result in a fare by distance payment scheme for that subway line? Will Torontonians have to pay GO transit fares to ride the Eglinton line? What happens to the rest of the transit plan? I take it that Waterfront West, Finch West, Malvern, Jane and Don Mills will never get higher-order transit service.

    Steve: The fares on the Sheppard or any other line will depend on whatever structure is in place by the time it opens. Although Queen’s Park wants TTC to adopt Presto, what nobody has talked about is fares — zones, distance, timed, premium for GO, etc — and this also ties right in to subsidy policy. Of course paying off the construction loan on the subway (in effect, a mortgage) will show up as an ongoing charge on the City’s books, offset in theory by new taxes. Nobody is saying a word about the net operating costs of running a subway on Sheppard.

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  15. Steve,

    I’m with you: put up or shut up. Toronto has been a test-vehicle before with the RT technology. If this development model works for Sheppard, and if it will enhance the appeal of this unnecessary HRT, and if it will be a boon to development along Sheppard, then let’s try. OF COURSE we’ll be on the hook for it if it fails, as it has everywhere else that tried. But Torontonians don’t value North-East North York. Sheppard is “nothing” compared to downtown. So this method can’t be used for (much of) Eglinton, and certainly can’t be used for the vast majority of the DRL. If it makes the stubway a subway, let’s try.

    The bigger challenge is learning from mistakes.
    “Once every (four) years, everyone chooses to forget what they’ve learned. Democracy in action.” ~ the 11th Doctor.

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  16. Is it too much to ask for conservative politicians and their supporters to come up with a better idea for funding vital infrastructure needs than the Underpants Gnomes from South Park?

    1. Get the private sector to pay for a subway
    2. ?????
    3. Profit!

    And yes, to echo what W.K. Lis said above, I doubt the same NIMBYs complaining about the LRT line are going to accept the same kind of office/condo development that Lastman managed to get around North York Centre. They want their single-family homes, strip malls and wide-open streets to themselves. What kind of holes would they have to blow in the Official Plan to allow that kind of density? This is just a sop to the suburanite voters who want their cake without picking up the tab.

    Steve: To be fair to the suburbanites, there are greedy, self-centred, NIMBY Ford supporters downtown too. Some of them even know what “tax increment financing” is and believe it to be the hold grail of public sector development. The gyrations conservatives will go through to avoid the basic fact that if you want to build something, you have to pay for it, amaze me. Taxes are the devil’s work, except when they can be used to make money fall out of the sky for your pet projects.

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  17. There must be a vast assumption lurking behind the notion of TIF: untapped demand for development. While it’s true that there are plenty of developers lining up at City Hall with applications, the City can’t look at one corridor in isolation. Of course if they build a subway developers will be interested, property values will increase, and tax revenue from that area will go up, but will it be a net increase compared to not doing it? Toronto has plenty of desirable, undeveloped land in the Portlands and there seems to still be appetite for more condos near the western waterfront and elsewhere in every borough. If developers build on Sheppard instead of somewhere else, the city has just moved tax revenue to a different ward of the city, not increased it. Toronto increased its population by 1% from 2001 to 2006 so despite a tight real estate market it’s not like we’re bursting at the seams crying out for more density that has to go on Sheppard and nowhere else.

    Steve: The other wrinkle here is whether the “tax increment” would apply only to new buildings or to existing property as well. Imagine how happy neighbourhoods would be to learn that their taxes were going up to pay for the new subway. This is a major concern for homeowners who don’t get to reap the benefit of what their higher taxes bought unless they sell, and there’s no guarantee that the market will value the subway highly enough to offset the extra carrying cost of the property. Add in the compound effect of current value assessment, and then try to explain why a property owner should be happy about this.

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  18. So Ford is willing to bring in several billion dollars worth of development charges, but believes that requiring condo developers to buy one year’s worth of metro passes for each unit is a unfair burden.

    ??????????

    I just don’t get this.

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  19. Sometimes I think the story of the builders of the Bloor viaduct having the foresight to include a railroad potential is oversold. Politicians are all wanting to create a legacy like that, to say “See, we thought of the potential.” But, in this case, there isn’t one. Even 30 years from now, I don’t see this making sense at all.

    ***

    Have they costed the extension realistically? 4.4 billion wouldn’t go far given some estimates for the bridge over the Don at Sheppard alone to be 800 million.

    That, and there isn’t the demand on the Spadina line to justify a northern crossover. Do that many people go from Scarborough to York University? Are they thinking all the 60 and 196B Traffic is going to go through here? And if so, what does that relieve – the 30 people every 5 minutes that take a 196B or 84 during rush hour that would stop at Bathurst and Downsview?

    Realistically, only Bathurst really deserves a subway station – Senlac is not busy enough and has no density potential – Bessarion would be busier. We are talking customer levels maybe 40% of what the 85 Sheppard West corridor was doing before the stubway was created -with almost no capacity on adjacent suburban lines to fiddle them in to add people to make that part of the system close to effective.

    I realise the Sheppard extension is all to placate the Scarborough councillors who want a subway too, but you would think adding this pricey little bit out to Downsview would make somebody pause and say its a bridge too far. Its for an area not asking for a subway, with councillors who aren’t really big supporters of Ford and is going to cost a lot. It looks good on a map but it makes no sense, politically.

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  20. Presumably this really means that the Sheppard subway extension will be financed partly by debt, except that the borrowing will be done by a private company not the city. Obviously this means that the city will have to pay interest on the debt, and the presumption is that increased tax revenue from development will
    help pay off part of that debt. The risk is that development will fall short of expectations and that the city will be on the hook for paying off the debt.

    Assuming that the private financing is a small portion of the total cost, with most of the funding being from the 8 billion originally allocated for Transit City, I am cautiously optimistic about this deal, though I would have preferred that the money be spent on higher priority projects ie the Downtown Relief line and GO expansion. Financing of infrastructure projects with debt is perfectly reasonable, but Ford should not use “private partnerships” to hide the fact that this is a form of debt financing.

    Steve: The standard accounting rules for this sort of “off book” financing were tightened up over past years so that governments could not hide future obligations in external companies. The only way the books come out ok is the presumption of future revenue from new taxes and developments.

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  21. I hope they incorporate a set of switches in the York/Spadina extension at Downsview to connect with a future Sheppard line. Such a change was done as a late addition to the Millenium Line (at Lougheed Mall) in Vancouver – to minimize disruption to the initial line when the later one (Evergreen) was built.

    This would allow every 3rd train to run Vaughan / York to Scarborough. Lots of connectivity, for those heading to say Finch or St Clair or VV.

    Steve: Don’t hold your breath. The long-planned connection between Sheppard and Spadina faces south, not north, and will be used for carhouse moves from Wilson onto the Sheppard line (and also to the Yonge line during late nights and early mornings).

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  22. Sheppard & Yonge to Sheppard & Allen is 4.4km. At $350,000,000 per subway kilometre: $1,540,000,000

    ONE point FIVE FOUR BILLION DOLLARS

    What if they build a thing at Bloor-Yonge (like they have at Museum/St. George.Spadina) so they can switch over from Yonge line to Spadina line at Bloor-Yonge. Is it even possible? would this be cheaper as main reason I have been hearing to extend the sheppard stubway to downsview is so trains can be transferred to Spadina line without going all the way around via Union.

    Steve: There are two problems with trying to link the Yonge line to the University line. Most importantly, there are buildings in the way, but also there isn’t room for more trains going down University if you split some of the service off from Yonge north of Bloor.

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  23. Seeing that the original Sheppard Ave East LRT is some what dead in the water and that IO has put the Maintenance Facility tender on hold for 2 months until the dust settles any idea whats happening to the Enabling Works contact that was awarded late last year? I would think this project would be a waste of money if it continues.

    Steve: One of the biggest “enabling works” is the Agincourt grade separation which is needed for GO no matter what else happens here. As for the others, well, they can always change the scope of work as part of winding down Transit City. At this point we don’t know what’s happening with the rest of the LRT network because Metrolinx is being very quiet on its options.

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  24. Doug Ford was on Metro Morning this morning pitching the subway extension. I was less amazed by his theories on financing than on the way that the Ford brothers have overthrown conventional physics. I was disappointed that Matt Galloway did not pursue this, and wrote the following comment to Metro Morning:

    I think you missed the greatest piece of news that came out of Doug Ford’s mouth in your interview with him this morning.

    Doug said that people in Scarborough couldn’t work downtown, because it took two hours just to get there by transit. The proposed subway would let them make the trip in twenty-five minutes.

    This means that a privately-funded subway will make time run backwards!

    Because a quick check on the TTC’s own trip planner shows that:

    * a trip from Don Mills Station to Bloor and Yonge will take 31 minutes as I write this
    * a trip from Kennedy Station to Bloor and Yonge will take 23 minutes as I write this

    Both of these are all-subway journeys, Sheppard and Yonge in the first case, and a single seat on the Bloor-Danforth line in the second case

    So in the future it will be at least six minutes faster to take the Sheppard subway from Scarborough Town Centre to Sheppard-Yonge to Bloor and Yonge than it takes at present to take the Sheppard subway from Don Mills Station!

    Surely this overthrow of physics, including Albert Einstein’s relativity, must be newsworthy?

    But wait–there’s more!

    Presumably these Scarboroughites will still have to take the bus to access Scarborough Town Centre, from where they will be whisked downtown on the new extended privately-funded Sheppard subway.

    The TTC’s trip planner shows that it will take anywhere between 26 and 35 minutes to travel from Morningside and Finch to Scarborough Town Centre. So the rest of the trip via the Magic Subway Train to Bloor and Yonge will take anywhere between minus one and minus ten minutes. Amazing!

    By the way, the TTC’s trip planner also shows that a trip from Finch and Morningside to Bloor and Yonge currently, without any magic subway, will take anywhere between 70 and 76 minutes. I guess the mere threat of Transit City is adding forty-five to fifty minutes to the trip, making it “Two hours” as Doug Ford said.

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  25. I’m a bit leery about the thinking that development charges will pay for everything (or even a significant part), since

    a) development charges have been used too often to broker deals on other aspects of these buildings
    b) what development charges are levied will already be committed to paying for the extra sewers/water etc. that these buildings demand, so is BILD’s Stephen Dupuis going to sit still for a massive increment to pay for subways? I bet he’s firing up his PR/op-ed campaign as I type.

    Steve: The value of building permits in Toronto runs around $1-billion annually. If we presume a development charge of 5% (I believe that it works out to about this level), that brings in $50-million per year. At that rate, it will take a very long time to build a subway from all of Toronto’s development, not just Sheppard’s, never mind paying interest on the construction debt and operating costs. This whole scheme reeks of political cant untempered by any basic checks on reality.

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  26. I heard the same interview as Ed, and agree that I couldn’t believe Doug Ford’s “25 minutes” comment, and that wasn’t the only thing that he spewed. We went on and on about how St. Clair was a failure and how everyone was against it, conveniently ignoring the fact that Joe Mihevc was re-elected handily on the issue, twice.

    Does the man believe what he’s saying or, what I think is more likely, is he just making things up as he goes along in the hopes of baffling people so that he isn’t called on his BS?

    Steve: In other news, Doug Ford wants a strong Mayor system where Council need not bother showing up for work, and the Mayor (or his brother) gets to do everything. This is the mentality of the family we have elected to run Toronto. Next thing we know, he will want a “job for life”, just like his idol Mayor Daley.

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  27. Steve: I doubt that Metrolinx would fund a completely underground Eglinton line from Kennedy to the airport, and so your argument does not hold up.

    Not having the whole line underground doesn’t preclude making it subway as opposed to LRT.

    Steve: No, but if subway, the cost goes up. How high is “up”, and how much is Metrolinx (that is, Queen’s Park) prepared to spend on a project within Toronto when there are many less expansive projects crying for money in the 905.

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  28. Working with a private entity to construct a transit line is far from revolutionary, but like Mr. Sorbara notes: “the devil is in the details”.

    We have to ask who will be responsible for cost overruns, the quality of construction and design, and on-going financing and maintenance. A number of limitations can induce cost overruns in P3 contracts:

    1. opening up a contract to bidders often results in underpricing of construction (companies trying to show they are the cheapest option),
    2. political processes are not automatically removed from construction as politicians can/will still demand value-added pieces to the construction (new artwork, new sewers or cables, etc….),
    3. poor cost projections that fail to take into account other policy directives (connections to other planned transit links, connections to future developments, etc…).

    Finally, we have to question whether development can actually pay for a subway line along Sheppard when it may face opposition from locals opposing intensification. This is extremely important considering the potential revenues collected from development would be going towards paying for the capital cost of construction rather than on-going service delivery costs – which given the example of the current Sheppard line and limitations to increasing capacity on the Yonge line (in which Sheppard would be a feeder) would likely require a considerable subsidy.

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  29. I guess the 407 is a fine example for everyone to follow for how perfect privately built can be done. Maybe the same company can bid for it.

    Steve: Don’t forget that the 407 was a public project, but Mike Harris sold it to a private company for far less than it was worth simply to balance his budget. What kind of sweetheart deals will we see on Sheppard?

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  30. There was quite a bit more in that interview then mentioned in other reports.

    Doug Ford said, “For people to think we are going to put skyscrapers along Sheppard….that’s not the case. We would be putting increased density along St. Clair and along Eglinton.”

    What the…….? We are going to build a subway, but pay for it with increased density along a streetcar line and on a bus line. But then he kind of clarified it later when he said the plan is to use the current boring machines to do Eglinton, “and then maybe we can add a subway later”.

    Is that not one of the first confirmations from and administration official of Eglinton getting its underground LRT? No wonder Metrolinx is thinking about this. Get some LRT built in exchange for expanding the white elephant line, and don’t have to pay for the operating costs.

    OK, its going to be a HUGE mess and it isn’t what it should be and who knows how it will be funded to operate, but at least there is some thought of something beyond the Sheppard line.

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  31. Here’s a fun nuance to get people’s thinking caps on: Sheppard runs T1s, is expected to continue to operate with T1s, and YUS will operate TRs, from a TR-exclusive facility at Wilson that is not intended to accommodate any T1s, and the tail tracks between Beecroft Rd and Fennell St will no longer be available to park trains on the Sheppard line. Davisville should be expected to be off-limits to Sheppard fleet by the time any extension to it would enter service.

    So where exactly are they planning to drop a T1 yard to park Sheppard trains? It’s worth noting that the trains on the line will not require lengthening beyond their current 4-car lengths as far as demand goes, but they’d need 18 of those 4-car trains before spares to meet the current headway. The TTC doesn’t have quite that many spare T1s on the horizon kicking around. Will the private sector cover these costs?

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  32. Steve said: “I would be very surprised if Ford would stomach the survival of any on-street LRT.”

    But isn’t Queen’s Park forcing the issue by completing the Eglinton LRT from Don Mills to Kennedy contrary to the mayor’s wishes? Or would there be a compromise to make Don Mills the eastern terminal?

    At a public meeting this year, Joe Mihevc said that some of the right-wing councillors in Scarborough favor (or are at least open-minded about) the Eglinton LRT, but are afraid to say so because it might upset the mayor.

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  33. Hi Steve,
    Someone quoted the current Sheppard subway as having an operating cost of $10 million a year. Does that include amortization? How much is that per rider? And how does it compare to the subway system overall?

    I assume that when both are operating around near their peak capacity that subways are cheaper to operate than buses. Maybe a graph showing cost/passenger versus total number of passengers would help people understand the arguments you and many transit advocates are making. I would imagine the bus would be relatively insensitive to total ridership except in the very low end of the scale. Streetcars and LRT would be more sensitive because of the up-front and maintenance cost for rails, power, platforms and signals. And, of course, the subway would be extremely sensitive to ridership.

    Steve: The $10m figure was the TTC’s estimate of the marginal cost of service in the Sheppard Corridor after the subway opened. Since then, riding has grown, and the amount of bus service needed to replace the subway would also be greater. Therefore the marginal cost is now closer. This is purely an operating cost with no allowance for capital amortization. The Sheppard line cost almost $1-billion, and that is now sitting in a mixture of debts at various levels of government.

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  34. So Ford is going to scrap Finch West, and opt for “enhanced bus” service. Does Ford realize more buses on Finch means less space for cars?

    3 more years of the Fords *sigh*

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  35. Did Doug Ford really say that this would be the biggest infrastructure project in the world? I find that funny considering that China is spending a lot more than 13 billion each year on high speed rail alone.

    At the same time, I find it amusing that he cites how St Clair is such a miserable failure and then turns around and talks about how they are going to put all of these skyscrapers on it rather than on Sheppard. I guess he has a magic hoverbus line in the works to handle all of those people who apparently won’t use the 512. Although, I wouldn’t put it past him to resurrect “Rossi’s ditch” idea from the election to solve any congestion problems caused by such a scheme.

    Steve: Ford also talks about picking up development fees from Eglinton which was not, the last time I looked, part of his brother’s plan. Consistency is not their strong suit.

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  36. Mayor Ford and his moronic muppet (who shall be left unnamed – I don’t want to be sued by Jim Henson’s estate) couldn’t develop a kid’s playground, never mind a viable transit plan. I don’t know who they think they’re kidding, but taxpayers are waking up to the nightmare these idiots are saddling us with. When will Toronto’s citizens sit up and take note of how the middle east gets rid of bad government?

    Steve: Given recent news, one must ask who is the puppet and who the puppet-master.

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  37. Right now, on Sheppard, transit service east of Don Mills is currently being provided by buses. The bus service is in place and working and will continue to do so while the issue of subway vs. LRT construction is settled. The bigger problem is with the Scarborough RT whose replacement with light rail is (or was) closely tied in with the Sheppard LRT but is now up in the air too. If the result of Rob, Doug & Company’s mess is that nothing, ultimately, is built along Sheppard and takes down the Scarborough RT replacement with it, it obviously means the status quo for bus service east of Don Mills, but does it also implicitly mean a hefty slide backwards for people in Scarborough when maintaining the RT becomes completely unviable economically and eventually has to be bused?

    As for the public/private subway extension, this is just the latest of Rob, Doug, & Company skating all over the map on municipal policy. We see them going through gyrations with a fairly simple budget (balancing that should have been easy since only some of the gravy they claimed existed would need to have been dealt with to do so) with no indication of how they seriously plan to deal with next year’s when they won’t have the benefit of a surplus from the previous year. They’re all over the map – literally – with transit expansion and dismissive, almost contemptuous, of people who use the existing TTC system on a daily basis now. You get attacked if you question any of these antics coming out of city hall. And, if you live south of Wilson Avenue, have a degree or diploma, take the subway to work, and enjoy having a good cup of coffee, you are Public Enemy #1. I think the public/private subway extension is grasping at straws the same way putting off dealing with all the alleged gravy until next year was, when balancing the budget turned out not to be so simple as trimming out some easy to find low hanging gravy. I think no subway extension is more likely than a privately financed one.

    Amy – I think wondering why the Fords’ business hasn’t gone under based on the way they’re running the city is a bit of a false premise. I suspect the two are being run differently because the Fords don’t have a personal stake in the city. With the city, they’re playing with other people’s money and if they get ‘fired’ in the next election, which is the worst that can happen no matter what they do to Toronto, they’re no worse off because they’ve got the business to go back to. The business is a company they own and it’s very much their money at stake. If it goes under or suffers from bad management, they’re directly affected so I doubt the Fords would be willing to tolerate managers running their business with the same cavalier attitude and carelessness with which they appear to run the city of Toronto.

    Steve: And making labels for computer printers is a lot simpler than running a city the size of Toronto.

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  38. Hi Steve, thanks for your blog and it’s insights. I have a pointed question. If I understand Council structure correctly, council has a final say in any policy initiatives the city enacts. Or rather, Council has final say on legislative and administrative decisions made by the city (presumably decided by taking a vote).

    Committees simply makes recommendations to council, that helps them inform their decisions. Wrt Transit City, why can’t council members simply take a vote and decide to move Transit City Forward? Is it a matter that there simply isn’t enough support at the moment? Do some members not see it as politically healthy for their careers? Or maybe I’ve gotten the governance structure wrong?

    Steve: Although the Miller/Giambrone crowd were vilified for the way that “their” TTC made decisions independently from Council, the legal situation is that the TTC is a separate entity and could, in theory, make up its own transit plan. However, they have to convince someone to actually pay for it, and to make the necessary changes in the City’s Official Plan. That’s where Council comes in, although the Ford faction would like to pretend otherwise. Indeed, Ford seems to operate on the basis that if no funding is required from Council (either because it’s a private sector job, or because other governments pay for the project), then Council has no say. It’s worth noting that the Miller crowd took exactly the same attitude when they were in power, to their detriment, and handed Ford a perfect excuse to behave the same way.

    The context for this question, is Doug Ford wanting the Mayor to have veto (read, dictator) powers over council:

    I thought the Mayor already had enhanced powers to lead, as proposed by a 2006 Staff Report on a governance model that would help city prepare for new powers under the “City Of Toronto Act”

    Thanks for any clarification
    Tim

    Steve: The Mayor has greater powers including the ability to name much of the Executive Committee through appointments of the standing committee chairs. In the old scheme, these were not under the Mayor’s direct control and he had to ensure voting support to get the executive he wanted. The Mayor cannot override Council, although his office can throw enough roadblocks in the way of a project to make life difficult. It is control of the executive that gives the Mayor the ability to throttle and direct the city because it is much more difficult to bring proposals to the floor of Council for approval if they don’t go through the executive first. Miller used this mechanism quite regularly, and now Ford is just copying his predecessor, albeit with gusto and outright vindictiveness.

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  39. I’d like to add my somewhat “offensive” opinion about T.O. politicians. They have softly declared WWIII against whole world on the subject of transportation and none is able to admit that they were wrong.

    Our friends in Australia were “rednecks” – of course, they are burned from all that sun – the fact that two largest street rail operations in the world are there was ignored. France as birth place of TGV was ignored due to all those (perceived) strikes. Germans were regarded as canibals – and I am not even talking about nations east of Iron Curtain.

    You may not believe me – there was recently a discussion on CP24 with one well-known moderator, Minister of Transport and a fellow from Pembina Institute. I didn’t follow the discussion – but suddenly the moderator says – Can these things (LRT trains) run underground? The discussion continues for a few minutes and then the moderator suddenly exclaims – We (!!) do not want to live like in Communist Eastern Europe. – so – here “we” are pretending one to another (at least officially), that somehow magically we can re-invent success of Madrid (we dare not go further east to Vienna), that we can quickly change official city zoning plan, that tail-taxing will somehow pay for this whole mess and that this little factor, known as BOC interest rate, does not matter to us.

    Steve: Sounds like a certain CP24 moderator — all bluster and no facts, and cut off anyone who actually is starting to make a point.

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