Brother, Can You Spare $500-million?

The board of Toronto Transit Infrastructure Limited (a TTC subsidiary) met today to consider various matters, among them the need for more money.

A report by TTIL President and CEO, Gordon Chong ends with the statement

“the existing budget is woefully inadequate to complete the tasks of the Working Group.”

Paul Maloney of the Star covered the meeting (I was unable to attend due to a conflict elsewhere).  Although it’s early days, we now know that the projected cost of the subway has gone up from $4.2 to $4.7-billion.  Just to pay for that increase would take over 10 years’ worth of development charges levied in Toronto.

Chong lists six possible revenue sources to finance the Sheppard line:

  • Tax increment financing in the Sheppard and Eglinton-Crosstown corridors
  • A special city-wide transit development charge
  • Development rights on city-owned land in the Sheppard corridor
  • Federal funding original destined for the Sheppard LRT project
  • New federal funding from PPP Canada
  • Left-over Metrolinx funds from the Eglinton project

It is amusing to note that a subway touted as a “private sector” undertaking would be funded largely by new taxes and public sector money.

The Sheppard subway fantasy will, no doubt, become even more bizarre as details unfold.  Chong plans a report to Council in fall 2011.  Meanwhile, he estimates that the preliminary work needed to determine the cost and feasibility will set TTIL back up to $300-million.

Maybe they can start pre-selling sponsorships for the stations.  After all, condo developers understand the concept of selling vacant land.  Buy early!  Get ’em cheap!

[Elizabeth Church in The Globe also reported on this meeting.]

13 thoughts on “Brother, Can You Spare $500-million?

  1. Good grief! How much higher will the cost go before we quite flogging this dead horse? The Sheppard line should never have been built and now listening to Ford bluster in The Star about how ‘people want subways’ is getting old fast. People want Ferraris too, that doesn’t mean we all run out and buy one. What else could we do for the city with almost 5 billion? We could probably bury the Gardiner for that price and avoid people getting hit by falling concrete.


  2. Hi Steve

    I am not the least bit surprised at this. As I recall, this subway was supposed to be built in four years. At least at this pace it will take at least that length of time to dither around with it and then it could be cancelled when we have a realistic new mayor. So much for respect for the taxpayer.


  3. So… Rob Ford’s folly is going to cost $300 million just for the planning (AKA 1/3rd the total cost of constructing the Sheppard LRT), and will still be in the planning stages about the time that the Sheppard LRT would have been opening. And it’s going to serve dramatically fewer of Toronto’s citizens, and we’ll all be a few billion dollars poorer.

    Now that’s respect for taxpayers!


  4. Did TTIL give any reasons why the projected cost of the Sheppard subway extension increased by $500 million?

    Steve: I was not at the meeting and only know what was reported. Reading between the lines, they are now refining their original estimates based on input from engineering staff.


  5. Chong estimated it could cost $250 million to $300 million to complete the work needed to determine if the project is feasible.

    I am curious. Why would it cost so much to do a feasibility study? Does the study involve detail design work?

    And what would they be studying? Is it whether it is feasible to bore the tunnels or whether it is feasible to find the money?

    Steve: That may have been a poor choice of words. The money will pay for a lot of preliminary engineering which may lead to a more credible cost estimate. It is possible that they are already realizing that the private sector isn’t going to pay for this scheme. However, yes, the idea that Chong would even suggest that the line is not “feasible” says a lot.


  6. I looked at the Metrolinx report posted in the Eglinton Crosstown article and I was disappointed to see that Jane St. and points west are left to a “future” extension. The issue I take with this is that Ford & Co. expect leftover money from Eglinton to fund the Sheppard subway extension whose cost has just jumped up by half a billion dollars. The cost is likely to climb more between now and completion, assuming it’s ever built.

    My opinion is that the Eglinton line shouldn’t be truncated unnecessarily so that there’s leftover money to throw away on Sheppard. The full budget for Transit City should be used to take the Eglinton line as far west as possible leaving a minimum of funds left over for Sheppard, even if it’s confined to building tail tracks in preparation for that future extension west.


  7. I can save the City the cost of the $300 million feasibility study. Rob Ford’s subway plan is not feasible. Not until 2+2=7 will the private sector be able to pay for it.

    Although “I told you so” does not make a good election slogan, it is getting to be time to plan for the post-Ford regime after the next election.

    In the mean time, back in the real world, the only form of public transportation in Toronto that gets zero government subsidy is Bixi. And the only cost-effective way of providing any significant relief to the Yonge subway line and overburdened surface routes like King and Queen is cycling. Which just got Councillor Denzil Minnan Wong’s surprisingly sensible plan trashed at the latest PWIC meeting.

    Transit City all over again… Sigh… A realistic, cost-effective plan to actually improve transportation in Toronto gets trashed for reasons of mindless right-wing ideology. Including particular stupidities like a vote to remove the Jarvis bike lanes.

    Never mind inconvenient facts, like the City staff’s counts showing that the number of cyclists tripled on Jarvis after the installation of the lanes. The right wing has got ideology! This enables conclusions to be reached without bothering with those annoying inconveniences known as “facts” or “logic” or “mathematics.”


  8. Kevin Love says:

    Never mind inconvenient facts, like the City staff’s counts showing that the number of cyclists tripled on Jarvis after the installation of the lanes. The right wing has got ideology! This enables conclusions to be reached without bothering with those annoying inconveniences known as “facts” or “logic” or “mathematics.”

    Please avoid the use of comparatives like tripled without a numeric value attached. Does this mean the number of cyclists has gone from 3 to 9 or from 300 per hour to 900 per hour. I would like to see more cycling lanes but if you are going to argue for their benefit show real numbers or compare volume to auto volume, especially with regard to the amount of road space occupied.

    I am reminded of G. Wendell Cox’s claim that the average bus in the US has only 11 passengers. After riding a number of cities in the US have only hourly service for 12 hours per day 6 days per week I can honestly say most of the buses never had more than 11 passengers. If Cox weights the average load for these cities with the average load for New York and Chicago and gives each city the same weight he is probably correct. You need to be careful when using relative comparisons.

    Given that I am about to announce my plan for a committee to Restore Equitable Sidewalks To Avenue Road, or RESTAR. I want to take out two lanes of traffic, widen the side walks and put in bicycle lanes. Of course you would need a cable assist for most of the north bound cyclists.

    Steve: And there will be apres-ski chalets at suitable points along the route, no doubt.


  9. Kevin Love said: And the only cost-effective way of providing any significant relief to the Yonge subway line and overburdened surface routes like King and Queen is cycling.

    You’ll never alleviate the Yonge line by cycling. Jarvis and its tripled rate of usage carries less than 1 subway train over an entire day, which likely translates to less than half a train in each direction per day. Cycling to alleviate Yonge is a fallacy right out the gate. To alleviate Yonge by even 1%, you’d need 3,000 cyclists in the peak one-hour period to get off the subway – not going to happen, especially in winter when demand tends to be highest.

    The only way to alleviate the Yonge line, meaningfully and permanently, is a combination of the DRL and transformative change on the Richmond Hill GO corridor. Cycling is not helpful to Yonge. Planning initiatives that get large numbers of people living closer to work (i.e. within walking distance) are more helpful than cycling.


  10. Robert,

    You are absolutely right. The absolute numbers are important. Dave Meslin quotes from a City staff report that cycle counts increased from 290 to 890. In the same 8-hour time period, before and after car counts stayed constant at a bit over 12,000.

    A 13:1 ratio is not bad in the first year, considering the multiple failures of these bike lanes to meet the CROW engineering standards for cycle safety. Particularly disturbing is the sub-standard 1.5 metre width (CROW standard is 2.5 metres). The lack of protective barriers and intersection protection is also a serious issue. As is the fact that Jarvis is not part of a coherent network to get from A to B anywhere in downtown Toronto.

    Acid test: Do I let my 9-year-old daughter cycle on it? The answer is no. Failure to meet the CROW standards resulted in a profoundly unsafe and unpleasant piece of infrastructure.

    I do not seem to be the only parent that reached the same conclusion. In spite of a large number of schools and other child destinations in the area, I rarely see children using these lanes. Even an experienced adult like myself finds it very intimidating and unpleasant to use these crappy, sub-standard lanes.

    Still, even these crappy, dangerous non-CROW-compliant lanes managed to triple the number of cyclists to 890. This raises the issue of what would happen if we got CROW compliant infrastructure that was part of a coherent network. I predict that the result would be the same as in every other city in the world that did this.


  11. Will the inevitable cost overruns alone on the Eglinton line, leaving no surplus, be the eventual (and convenient) nail-in-the-coffin for the Sheppard scheme?

    Steve: You are assuming that there will be a “Sheppard Scheme” by the time we know the final cost of the Eglinton project. If we believe the Mayor, Sheppard should have been finished years before Eglinton opens. Any cost transfer will be based on an early estimate for Eglinton, and then Queen’s Park will be left holding the bag.


  12. Kevin Love said: “This raises the issue of what would happen if we got CROW compliant infrastructure that was part of a coherent network.”

    Considering the way that the separated bike lanes are being installed on the Bloor viaduct, it’s going to be a while before we find out. I’m specifically referring to the fact that when they decided that they were going to use the existing lanes, they didn’t properly consider the issues the DVP on ramp on the south side would cause with a separated eastbound bike lane.

    Steve: Not to mention the frequency with which the police park in the curb lane.


  13. Kevin: “…Jarvis is not part of a coherent network…”

    The fact is TO doesn’t have any coherent network for cyclists. It simply crazy to move around the downtown on bike as many lanes simply starts and ends in nowhere. New bike lanes plan is promising to improve that but the reality is that we are not moving anywhere. It’s just one step forward, two steps backward. For example, they are creating narrow separated lanes. OK, more safety for cyclists, but there is no possibility to go around slower cyclists. Also, why create new lanes when we are cancelling old ones?


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