Now that the Liberals are safely ensconced in Scarborough-Guildwood with their “subway champion” the member-elect, let us turn to the question of what that subway will cost the taxpayers of Toronto.
Back in July, Toronto Council adopted a convoluted motion supporting the Scarborough Subway, but with many options designed to act as “poison pills” if things didn’t go exactly as planned. This tactic bought the co-operation of Councillors who might otherwise rebel against an open-ended spending spree designed to prop up the fortunes of Mayor Ford and TTC Chair Karen Stintz.
Although Queen’s Park has signed on to the subway project, they are firm in setting a cap of $1.4-billion (2010$) on their contribution. Karen Stintz flailed around for a few days claiming that the subway was dead, only to come to an agreement with Transportation Minister Glen Murray on air on CP24.
We know from the City Manager’s Report (see Table 1) that the subway cost estimate is $2.3b (2010$) or $3.283b including inflation, a rise of 42.7%. By that token, the provincial share will be just a hair under $2b inflated dollars leaving almost $1.3b to be raised by the City of Toronto and its hoped-for friends in Ottawa. There is a further $250m needed to cover the cost of keeping the SRT in operation until 2023 and then to decommission and remove the old infrastructure.
This brings the as yet unfunded total up to $1.55b, a 50% jump from the City Manager’s estimate. Splitting this half-and-half with Ottawa would leave each government on the hook for, say, $750m.
Then we come to the inevitable scope creep in the project.
Already, there is talk of a station near Brimley and Eglinton. If we take current costs and inflate them to the era of the Scarborough project, an extra station will come in at about $200m.
The TTC says that its cost estimate for the subway has a 30% margin of error, although they don’t expect to use all of that. Even a 15% increase in the subway’s cost would represent about $500m.
On a 50/50 basis, the City and Ottawa shares could reach a cool $1b each.
Working backwards from the estimate of new taxes needed to support such an expense, a 2% increase would finance roughly $1b in new capital spending (see Table 2 in the City Manager’s report).
Potential Capital Cost of Scarborough Subway (2010$) (Inflated) Cost estimate from TTC $2.300b $3.283b Provincial contribution $1.400b $1.998b Net cost to City $0.900b $1.285b SRT Extension/Decommissioning $0.250b Minimum funding required $1.535b Possible Extras Brimley Station $0.200b 15% cost increase $0.492b
This is the path Toronto is launched on thanks to a cynical election campaign based on the premise that Scarborough should get “first class” transit.
How generous is Council feeling toward Scarborough? Will Council extend similar largesse to other parts of the city pining for new transit services, or will we spend every last penny we can scrape together on this one project?
If this were an LRT scheme, just for an example, there would be cries for an accurate cost estimate and guaranteed funding, not to mention an alternatives analysis including consideration of how GO Transit improvements might be a better way to serve Scarborough and Markham beyond. But subways lead a charmed life in these parts, and the idea of subjecting them to careful scrutiny is not part of our municipal or provincial ethos.