Updated July 18, 2013 at 1:10 pm:
Ontario Minister of Transportation Glen Murray announced that Queen’s Park would fund 2/3 of the Scarborough Subway, an amount of $1.4-billion (2010$). This was described a cabinet decision taken in light of Toronto Council’s request for a subway to replace the Scarborough RT.
Murray put the political ball firmly back with Mayor Rob Ford and called on him to fight together with Queen’s Park so that Toronto could get the remaining 1/3 share of funding from Ottawa in line with federal contributions to projects in other cities.
With the press conference still in progress, TTC Chair Karen Stintz was demanding that the province pay $1.8-billion even though the lower amount has clearly been settled on by the government and isn’t likely to change. Yesterday, Rob Ford was widely quoted that if the full funding demanded by Toronto was not forthcoming, then the subway deal is dead.
We will see just how dead the subway is, whether Ottawa can be brought to the table with bags of cash, and just how serious Toronto Council was that their subway approval was “contingent” on better funding than they will receive from Ontario. This will all be back for debate, without question, at the October 8 Council meeting.
The original July 17 article follows the break.
Today, July 17, 2013, Toronto Council voted in favour of a subway line between Kennedy Station and Sheppard & McCowan to open in 2023 if all the stars align. There lies the problem — the motion included conditions that are unlikely to be accepted by various parties, and the decision is conditional on events that are unlikely to occur.
What really happened here? Many Toronto Councillors got to do their bit for Scarborough, to wave the flag, to show that Scarborough is really part of our city because it will finally have its own subway. At least that’s what the Councillors want people to think especially those voting in a coming by-election, or in the general municipal (and likely provincial) ballots in fall 2014.
A long series of motions was proposed, and those interested in the gory details can read them in the record of how the item was handled at Council. Here is a brief overview.
Mayor Ford moved the second of two options proposed in the City Manager’s report (Option B, subways), but proposed adding a recommendation related to the tax levies that would fund the subway. These are described in section B.(2)(d) of the report:
(d) Committing to a property tax increase over three years, dedicated to funding a Scarborough Subway, in an amount between 1.1% and 2.4% (depending upon the amount of funding received through Recommendations B(2)(a) and (c)), on the residential property class, and 1/3 of such a rate increase on the non-residential property classes (in accordance with current City policy), starting with a minimum tax rate increase in 2014 of 0.5% on the residential property class, together with the corresponding 1/3 rate increase on the non-residential property classes, with the balance of the residential and non-residential three year rate increase to be phased-in in the years 2015 and 2016.
Ford’s change added a new clause (3) which reads:
3. Notwithstanding Recommendation 2.d., City Council request the Deputy City Manager and Chief Financial Officer to investigate alternative sources of funding for consideration and report to the Budget Committee, such report to include options to reduce or eliminate the recommended tax increase in 2014 and further reduce the tax increase to .25% for the remaining phase in years.
Much later, during the voting, this amendment was defeated by a vote of 21-23 with the result that the original text, which does not include alternative funding and no/lower tax increases, remains.
In any event, the amount of new tax required will vary depending on how much money the provincial and/or federal governments bring to the table. From Queen’s Park, the City seeks the full $1.8-billion budget amount for the SRT/LRT conversion project including inflation, and moreover the City wants an amount equal to the estimated operating costs of the LRT line that would have been borne by Metrolinx.
Queen’s Park has already hinted that only about $1.4b is on the table net of costs that don’t disappear with the LRT project, and net of sunk costs on design, program management and property acquisition to date.. There is no talk of indexing this amount, nor of any payment for operating costs. Transportation Minister Glen Murray has done much sabre rattling, but has not sent the City a definitive statement of how much Queen’s Park will pay.
As for Ottawa, the debate saw an amount of $333-million move on and off of the table a few times yesterday, and I almost thought I was watching a game of Three-card Monte. One moment, this amount was a federal commitment specifically allocated to the Sheppard LRT project. The next, it was money the City could assign to any transit project it desired. It took a bit for reality — the fact that Sheppard is a Metrolinx project, and the money is tied up there by contract — to sink in. Finally, Council insisted that any federal contribution for the subway be “new money” (see Mihevc motion below).
Right now, the likelihood that either government will ante up is extremely low, especially with a drop-dead date of September 30, 2013.
Attempts to Amend Mayor Ford’s Motion
Councillor Joe Mihevc proposed changing Ford’s motion so that the approval is contingent on:
a. new federal funding equal to 50% of the net capital costs
b. provincial contribution of $1.8 billion (2010 $);
c. no other funding outlined in the Metrolinx and City of Toronto Master Agreement being re-allocated to the extension of the Bloor Danforth line from:
i. Sheppard LRT;
ii. Finch LRT;
iii. Eglinton LRT; and
d. no reallocation of existing City revenues from other services to pay for the subway.
This amendment passed 40-4. Its effect is that the approval of the subway option fails if the senior governments do not come through with the requested shares of funding. The amendment also prevents raiding of other transit projects or budget lines to make up shortfalls.
Councillor Mary Fragedakis moved to restrict the City Manager’s ability to renegotiate the Master Agreement with Metrolinx so that only terms pertaining to the proposed subway conversion are on the table. This prevents terms related to other LRT projects from being adjusted as part of the process. This amendement passed 42-2.
Councillor Adam Vaughan moved that the City Manager be required to bring back to Council any changes in the Master Agreement for ratification. This was ruled to be redundant by the Speaker as the previous motion conferred direct responsibility on the City Manager. A dispute over this ensued, but Council voted to uphold the Speaker’s ruling. I believe that this was a procedural error, and if there had been a possibility of Vaughan’s motion being overridden by Fragedakis’ motion, then Vaughan’s motion should have been voted on first. At this point the issue is moot.
Councillor David Shiner moved that the Land Transfer Tax be investigated as a potential source of general transit expansion funding at $25m/year, and that the provincial and federal governments be asked to contribute an equal share to this fund. The motion lost on a 21-23 vote.
Councillor Paula Fletcher moved that the City request the provincial and federal governments to confirm their share of the funding by September 30, 2013. This motion passed on a 28-16 vote. Its effect, coupled with Mihevc’s motion, is to set a date by which both governments must respond favourably to the City’s request. If this does not occur, then the conditional nature of the approval fails, and we are back to an LRT line.
However, there are two related events. First come the provincial by-elections on August 1. If the Liberals do well in these, especially in Scarborough, then the need to meet Toronto’s demand drops off. Next comes the October 8 Council meeting, the next chance when this issue could surface yet again.
The next vote was on the new part 3 of Ford’s motion as discussed above. This failed leaving the originally proposed range of tax increases in the proposal. The remainder of Mayor Ford’s amendment was adopted 28-16, the same margin as the entire item (as amended).
In an amusing sideshow, Council also voted 27-17 on Councillor Michelle Berardinetti’s motion that:
City Council request the Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Transit Commission to arrange a third party audit of the sunk costs declared by Metrolinx, to ensure that such costs are accurate and valid.
The idea of a municipal agency marching into Metrolinx to perform an audit is laughable, and this probably won’t get far. The purpose is to validate (and with luck to reduce) the Metrolinx clawback of monies related to “sunk costs” on the LRT proposal.
TTC Chair Councillor Karen Stintz tried to jump start the subway process by moving:
1. City Council request the Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Transit Commission to:
a. immediately commence the work to obtain the Scarborough Subway Transit Project Environmental Assessment approvals;
b. establish a dedicated team similar to the Spadina Subway Extension to deliver the Scarborough Subway; and
c. consider the financial merit of transferring the Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) at the completion of the tunneling for the Spadina Subway Extension to the Scarborough Subway project (at fair market value credited to the Spadina Subway).
2. City Council increase the Toronto Transit Commission Capital Budget by $10 million for 2013-2014 to commence work on the Scarborough Subway immediately.
This motion was ruled out of order by the Speaker as the Capital Budget was not before Council, and an amendment to it could not be introduced in this manner. I would not be surprised to see Stintz bring something forward at the TTC Board meeting on July 24 to get at least a scope of work discussion going even without funding approval.
The salient point here is that Council’s approval is contingent on funding they do not yet have, and committing money to a detailed assessment is premature.
We now must wait to hear from Queen’s Park and Ottawa, preferably to the sound of sleigh bells, a merry ho-ho-ho and large sacks of cash dropped off at Nathan Phillips Square. Without this largesse, Council’s conditional approval fails.
How Metrolinx will respond given their August 2 deadline is unclear, but this uncertainty is a direct result of Minister Murray and Premier Wynne’s lack of a definitive position and dollar value for the provincial contribution. This should have been settled, in writing, well before the vote so that there was no ambiguity.
Subway advocates have little to cheer about here as their option depends on funding commitments in a very short time period.
I agree. Planners and politicians should work to minimise transfers. Convert the Sheppard subway to lrt and make it continuous from Downsview to Malvern. How much would the subway to lrt conversion cost?
A transfer is a cost.
A massive building project is a cost.
Ignoring all the other issues that go into a proper design decision, there is some maximum amount of money it is reasonable to spend on a massive building project to avoid transfers. If the number of transfers is high and/or the transfer is inconvenient, it may make sense to spend quite a bit on a massive building project. On the other hand, if the number is low and/or the transfer is convenient, then the cost of the transfers is less than the cost of the building project and it does not make sense to build. Of course in real life it is more complicated than this because there is more than one project that could be built.
So unless your goal is to participate in bumper-sticker argumentation, you need to at least try to make an actual argument, in this case, that three subway stations are somehow better than 20 or so LRT stops on two lines (Scarborough RT and Scarborough Malvern, both of which could be built for approximately the cost of the 3-station subway, and which would serve many more Scarborough residents than the subway proposal), one of which is planned to be 100% separated from road traffic and the other I believe is planned to occupy reserved lanes that are to be added to the existing lanes on the streets on which it runs.
Despite what I have read from many people on this blog and other forums, reducing transfers is not the be all and end all of improving transit in Scarborough. Yes, it would be nice to have a one seat ride from a departure point to a destination, but to say that it is essential, or that it should be prioritized above all other considerations does a disservice, I believe, to transit users.
The number one priority to improving transit in Scarborough should be getting people off of buses on to higher order transit so that buses can do what they do best – the ‘last mile’. Riding a packed bus on a medium to long trip might be the worst experience one can have on the TTC. It is uncomfortable and makes people feel like second class citizens.
Unfortunately, Scarborough is also saddled with the second worst part of the transit network – The RT. Let’s be real here: it is slow, looks like a children’s version of a real subway train, is dilapidated, and looks and feels unsafe. Of course there is also the infamous Kennedy transfer.
So when this hypothetical average Scarberian says that he wants ‘subways’ is that really what he’s asking for? I personally don’t think so. In a city where the subway is the only form of true higher order transit currently the term ‘subway’ becomes a synonym for ‘higher-order transit’. This was driven home to me by a caller on the mayor’s radio show. Bill (from Whitby) said that we should build subways above ground but still grade separated to save money. Doug Ford agreed with him. This is the Scarborough LRT. The Scarborough LRT is Scarborough’s subway by a different name.
I believe the call for subways comes from exasperation. It comes from having to transfer off the metro to go on the RT (which is basically lower order transit), and then transferring onto a bus, which they will take for a significant portion of their trip. It’s not so much the transfers that are the problem, but that the trip decreases in quality at each transfer. It is a trip of diminishing returns so to speak. The LRT plan improves every part of this trip.
I live in Scarborough East. Us Scarberians are tired of being used in political games. We’ll always lose out to the political planners. I take 3 buses an RT and Subway on average everyday for work. We are now being asked to accept a “funded” transit system that looks great on paper but does little to ease congestion and to link into the rest of “Toronto” transit system. Its the “you better take it now because its the best we can give you” approach. Mostly being pushed from people that believe they know what’s best for Scarborough
The one thing you learn about working in trades is that if you build it right the first time, you won’t have to go back. Scarberians want a properly funded transit strategy that will build proper transit when funding is available, instead of near sighted political transit games.
We do appreciate the efforts of people trying. We really do. But there is a good reason you have a knob for a Mayor & transit is only one of the items we so called “Suburban, Scarberians” get the short end on.
Agreed … I just have a feeling that Metrolinx will be more likely to bring a project forward if it looks like it has some kind of an “interregional” benefit rather than just “Toronto-only/Toronto-mostly” benefits.
I know this topic has been beaten to death … but I have a question regarding a possible subway extension to Malvern. I am curious and somewhat playing devil’s advocate before all of you jump on me.
We’ve heard a lot about how the routing for the Scarb subway is not final, but I *believe* it will terminate at McCowan & Shepherd, or maybe Markham road? (I realize this is up in the air, like so much with the plan).
So, with all that in mind, what is stopping “1-more stop” extension to Malvern and/or the zoo? I’m thinking about geography/routing/logistics vs. sound planning based on cost/ridership etc. It is mainly the curve radius?
It seems just north of Shep & McCowan there is a rail corridor, couldn’t the sub swing NE and come into the Neilson & Mclevin area (which I assuming is the Malvern city centre, don’t know otherwise). From there, it’s a direct line to the zoo? Could do a mix of overground subway and underground as needed
Just doing my homework to ensure I “understand” the design implications/limitations outside of cost. Everyone talks about McCowan & Shep being the be all and end all of the line if the subway happens instead but why?!
Steve: Leaving aside the extra cost, the alignment you propose would have to run under the CPR corridor (that’s the one just north of McCowan and Nugget which itself is a bit north of Sheppard). You would be able to reach Malvern Centre but (a) by going along a corridor with little hope of intensification and (b) certainly no hope of elevated construction (I very much doubt CPR would want an el intruding on their main line).
Yes, the zoo is just “down the road”, but the whole proposal shows the kind of problem one has by pushing subways further and further out. There is a declining return in ridership unless you have a massive terminal (see Kennedy, Finch, Kipling) to bring riders in via feeder buses. This also triggers the problem of filling up the subway well before it gets anywhere near the riders it serves now.
The question should always be “I have $X (or at least I am willing to engage in the political fight to get the money” — what is the best use of this in a system-wide context, not simply to keep adding to one pet project. The further out into Scarborough the subway goes, the more it becomes a vanity project, one that shows that “(insert community name here) matters”.
In the same timeframe, Karen Stintz has also brought forward a scheme for GO electrification as an alternative to subway construction. Places like Malvern — for the long haul trips into downtown — are definitely territory where there should be a discussion about the most cost-effective way to provide fast trips over those distances. If we just keep extending the subway on paper, we never have that discussion.
Last question about this. If the “loss” of Malvern/the Zoo as possible future LRT stops are a casualty, I am curious about the options for a “split” line for Shep East?
I.e. one branch would continue on Shepherd, and the other branch would break north to Malvern/the zoo?
They seem to do “interlining” or route sharing in other cities, so I’m curious why this didn’t make sense. I know there is an aversion to this based on reading on this site about some stuff with the BAY station downtown, but it seems like a logical path for some of those random 1-way lines to nowhere, vs. a network (a la Human Transit).
Steve: There should be no problem with running a split service. The real question is the level of demand to the Zoo as opposed to Malvern or other locations such as UTSC. If there were a subway on Sheppard going that far east, the Zoo is certainly not an obvious destination, but it would make a perfect “vanity” or “pet” terminal for some Councillors.
Seeing how the Scarborough Subway was a core part of Mitzie Hunter’s platform, can the Liberals back off as easily as you had initially thought?
Steve: As you can see from my article about advancing the schedule for the Sheppard LRT, I already have taken up a “Plan B” given that the subway has an unstoppable momentum, at least until and if the cost spirals out of control. I may not agree with the subway, but if we’re going to build it, then the rest of the LRT network should get the attention people like Hunter claim it deserves.
In all the fighting about modal differences, density and funding, there’s one very important point that is being missed: What’s more useful?
Yes the subway extension runs through low-density subdivisions, but all of the proposed station locations either hit relatively significant density (Sheppard East, Scarborough Centre, Brimley) or have the potential to generate it (Lawrence East). The line would also run along McCowan Road, a relatively busy corridor that people actually use. Its alignment along a major street ensures better walking and bus connections.
The SRT does none of these things. It runs through a vast prairie of warehouses and industry. For its entire run it does not orient itself along a busy corridor, but rather between and inconveniently far away from several of them which could use better service. Connectivity to surface routes is extremely poor and pedestrian access is essentially nonexistent. Its out-of-the-way location has produced some of the least productive stations on the system and ensured future dependency on Scarborough Centre’s bus connections and a station at Sheppard Avenue.
Is it necessarily worth going with the easiest and cheapest option simply due to its convenience if it comes at the cost of creating a corridor with greater potential? What’s built doesn’t have to be gold-plated – it can be an extension of the Eglinton line past Kennedy and up McCowan to Sheppard. A subway could be built on an elevated guideway or trenched like the original Yonge line north of Bloor/Yonge. Even a shallow cut-and-cover tunnel could do. Whatever does end up being built should not follow the SRT route.
Don’t make me laugh with your idea of “relatively significant density”. STC is far ahead of everything else on your list and a rebuilt SRT would have a much better transfer facility compared to the subway. Your “relatively busy corridor” of McCowan on the south end which the subway would serve sees a whopping 7 buses per hour at peak, a whole bus every 9 minutes! Wow! 350 people per hour! Let’s build a subway!
How would a subway reduce dependency on STC bus connections? Oh wait. That’s because it wouldn’t. In fact it would probably make things worse for bus riders because the transfer facility will be in a poor location.
Hmm. Maybe I’m confusing routes. I admit it’s been a while since I looked at the individual ridership stats for each route.
That doesn’t however, invalidate my point that McCowan is more useful as a corridor than the current SRT route. Really any street can do as long as it’s east of the SRT corridor, and LRT could serve the route equally well (a point you obviously missed).
Yes, STC is way ahead of everything else on the list. Brimley and Eglinton hosts a large block of mid-rise apartment buildings that can generate a good amount of walk-in traffic. A station there could also serve as the connection point for the 12, 16 and 21. Lawrence East is a much better connection to the 54 and might actually be effective at drawing passengers into the rapid transit system. A new Scarborough Centre station that’s actually located at a useful intersection can divert passengers off the 95 and still serve about half the surface routes it currently does while driving a more sustainable pattern of development than currently exists there. Because the line that is built extends to Sheppard, STC’s importance as a transfer point to surface routes is diminished as several routes (16, 129, 130, 131, 132, 133, 169, 199, 190 eliminated) move to Sheppard East station, where traffic is boosted by the 85/ Sheppard LRT and pedestrian traffic from the townhouse developments on the southeast corner.
Once again, a subway could be built on an elevated guideway or trenched like the original Yonge line north of Bloor/Yonge. An extension of the Eglinton LRT can also follow the proposed route, but it should not follow the SRT corridor.
Steve: I am going to say this again. I want anyone who thinks that they can build a guideway up, say, the middle of McCowan complete with elevated stations for six-car BD subway trains to explain how they will sell this concept to folks in Scarborough. Even better, with a Yonge-like trench, we would have to expropriate all of the properties in the subway’s path. I will sell tickets to the public meeting where you explain this concept.
One thing folks who decry the SRT’s alignment forget is that, originally, the line was to travel diagonally up the old rail corridor (the same one the subway follows from Warden to Kennedy). There was such vociferous opposition to this from residents whose properties bordered the line that it was shifted to the rail/hydro corridor where (a) there already was some train activity and (b) where the SRT could be further away from houses. Even then, the TTC has to keep the track between Eglinton and Lawrence in good condition to avoid noise from corrugations (one of those technical problems that the SRT was not supposed to have, but which magically appeared anyhow because the boffins didn’t understand how wheels on rails actually work).