Updated November 26, 2015 at 11:00 pm: A follow up article by Jennifer Pagliaro includes reactions from Mayor Tory. My comments appear at the end of this article.
The Toronto Star’s Jennifer Pagliaro reports that the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) will challenge Toronto’s planned increase in Development Charges for the Scarborough Subway Extension (SSE) at the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).
[BILD is] challenging the planning foundation for the three-stop subway — which council controversially approved last term over a seven-stop LRT that was fully funded by the province. BILD is raising red flags about the city’s ridership projections.
Bryan Tuckey, BILD’s president and CEO, says homeowners across the city should not be on the hook for a “political decision.”
“The ridership numbers that we have demonstrate that what’s needed in that area is light rapid transit,” Tuckey, whose background is in city and provincial planning, told the Star.
“We want to have fair and accountable use of development charges.”
This action has implications well beyond the Development Charges (DCs) for the Scarborough Subway and touches on the whole question of transit financing and planning that for years has been more about political gamesmanship than about the actual needs of the City of Toronto.
We know that the development industry does not like paying one cent more than they have to, and preferably less, in taxes. In that sense they are no different than other taxpayers.
However, while homeowners can only express their opposition by voting for politicians with vague promises to fight waste at City Hall, and hope that their “champions” like Ford and Tory will “do right” by them, their only real recourse is at election time. Elections are fought on signature platforms like SmartTrack and “Subways Subways Subways”, and voters don’t get to cherry pick the platform lines they really want. Elected politicians claim they have “a mandate” when their victory may simply depend on “not being the other guy”.
Development Charges, on the other hand, have specific rules about how they are calculated and an appeal mechanism neither of which is available for general property taxes (or many other taxes Council can or could levy of which the Land Transfer Tax is one obvious example). As the Star notes, most of the City’s share of the SSE ($910m) will come from the subway property tax yielding $745m. This tax will rise to 1.6% in 2016 and then stay on tax bills for decades. The amount coming from DCs ($165m) is much smaller, but developers have an appeal option through the OMB.
A Short Primer on Development Charges
Many civic assets are funded, in part, from charges against new developments, and the schedule of projects supported by the charges is updated from time to time for a ten-year plan. The most recent update was in 2013.
These charges must follow specific provincial rules including the provision of a background study showing the amount of development expected (residential and commercial) and providing a list of projects that should, in part, be funded from DCs because they are at least in part driven by new construction activity. For example, the Spadina subway extension (TYSSE) will partly improve the lot of existing riders, but to some extent it will enable or trigger development that will consume part of the line’s capacity. To the extent that it does so, part of the capital cost is recoverable through DCs. (The actual calculation is a bit more complex, but that’s the basic idea.)
The background study for the 2013 bylaw includes a detailed explanation of the calculation as well as a table showing all of the projects to which DCs will contribute. Links to this study are on the 2013 Development Charges Bylaw Review page (scroll down to the “Public Meeting at Executive Committee” for links to the Full Report, Technical Appendices, and other related materials).
In 2015, the Bylaw was updated to include charges for the SSE, and a new Background Study deals only with that project as an amendment to the 2013 report. It is this update which is the subject of the OMB appeal.
Within the list of projects funded by DCs are two categories in the 2013 Bylaw:
- The TYSSE
- Transit (Other)
That “Other” category includes many items, but a bit of digging is required to find out what they are. The Technical Appendix B.2 (starting at page 7 of the linked pdf) provides the details. This includes a long section on existing “service levels”, essential the current assets of the TTC to which new projects that might be eligible for DC funding will be added. These are addressed as “network” improvements benefiting the whole city and any development in it, rather than attempting to link specific projects to development in specific locations.
The list of projects to be funded from DCs begins on page 22 of the pdf, Table 2 in the appendix B.2. This includes:
- New vehicles (all modes) for increased ridership
- Resignalling projects on the YUS and BD subway lines
- Carry-over from the previous DC Bylaw of recovery of the Sheppard Subway construction costs
- Union Station revitalization (City share)
- Waterfront transit (Cherry Street, Queens Quay East, Union Station 2nd Platform)
- Port Lands transit
The SSE Development Charge Bylaw
The report to Council for the 2015 amendment adding the SSE to the projects supported by DCs makes the point that this project, like many others, is a network improvement and therefore should apply to all development in the city regardless of location. One could argue that this is a dubious claim, but that could trigger a debate on many other projects that might look to DCs including the alternative, the LRT network in Scarborough, or the several proposed lines in the eastern Waterfront. Getting into a situation where funding of large transit projects causes local taxes to rise, in effect turning a subway line into a “local improvement project”, would be dangerous because it could undermine the viability of projects in locations where new development subject to DCs is unlikely, but where a line is needed to serve demand originating elsewhere.
The rules about DCs do protect to some extent against this by looking at the proportion of demand that is due to new development versus simply improving travel conditions and capacity for the existing population, but the cost is still spread across the entire city. A new condo near STC, for example, does not have to bear the cost of the subway alone. Any change could add yet another layer to the difficulties of choosing between transit options.
There is an interesting parallel in the premise that areas served by rapid transit should be densified to both generate new tax revenue and to generate long-term demand. This has a local effect of destabilizing existing neighbourhoods and, ironically, giving an incentive to develop at a density to which Council might not otherwise agree. If you like your existing low-rise neighbourhood and want it to stay that way, then upzoning is a bad thing. If you look to make a killing on a house you bought decades ago when land was cheaper, you will welcome new development. This model obviously has problems because neighbourhoods will not be unanimous, and in a worst case situation residents might actually oppose a rapid transit project because of the effects it would bring. A good example of a transformed neighbourhood is Willowdale around the Yonge extension to Finch.
The Hemson study which is the background to the SSE DC is intriguing because it states, at p 3:
The ridership analysis estimates that, if the expanded subway line were currently available for use, approximately 5,500 single peak direction passenger trips would be taken each hour (PPHPD) during peak hours.
The number of PPHPD trips is projected to increase to 14,000 in 2041.
The delta in ridership, 8,500 passengers or 61%, is considered to be the effect of new development and hence the basis for allocating “benefit” for DC calculations. Obviously if the number is high, then the benefit is reduced accordingly and hence the amount recoverable through DCs. The build-up of ridership estimates is shown in more detail in Table 2 on p 16.
There is a fundamental flaw in the methodology here on two counts. The most obvious, and the one triggering the appeal, is that the ridership projection is inflated for political reasons to “justify” the subway project. It will certainly be interesting to have this challenged in a venue where chest-thumping politicians don’t get to hijack the proceedings. Moreover, updated ridership projections are likely to appear soon as part of the combined study of the SSE, SmartTrack, GO/RER and the Relief Line. (They have not yet shown up because the model is being “calibrated”.)
The second, and much more important issue, is the presumption that all of the increase (to whatever number might be appropriate) is actually due to development within Toronto (the scope to which the DCs apply). Two factors that are commonly cited regarding transit demand are not taken into account here:
- Growth outside of the 416 that adds riders to inside-416 services. A point made during the SSE debates was that some of the projected ridership would originate in Markham much as demand at Finch travels south across Steeles. The actual number may change once the new ridership estimates taking GO/RER and SmartTrack into account have been calculated. Even without parallel services to bleed off demand, there would be the basic issue that if, say, 25% of the new SSE demand originates outside of the 416, then this should reduce the 416-based development charge. However, Toronto has no recourse to north-of-Steeles development as a source of funding.
- Changes in travel choices will occur for various reasons including the relative popularity/affordability of car ownership and shifting demographics. Some of the growth on any transit line will (or at least might) occur as a result of a general shift toward transit as a preferred mode of travel, not because of new developments.
Given their absence from the background studies, it appears that the DC legislation does not include a mechanism for this sort of thing, and that’s a big flaw. DCs really should only pay for new demand that can be reasonably expected to arise from the development, not from other parallel factors, and by implication that the costs should be borne through broad-based revenues including from the 905 where applicable.
The increase in DCs for the SSE is not trivial – about 10% (see table, p5). If the amount of new ridership due to development were cut in half, this percentage would be correspondingly reduced. Therefore, the ridership projection is an important issue in the OMB appeal.
The 2013 list includes works that may or may not occur, notably those in the waterfront, but also the general expansion of the TTC fleets to handle increased ridership. To what extent does the presence of a project in the DC list commit the City to actually carry out the work, and is there recourse (possibly even retroactively) if this work does not take place? What if the City (as it did under Ford) decides to reduce its target for transit service quality thereby reducing the need for new vehicles that are growth-related?
It is one thing to have a project-specific DC charge such as those for the TYSSE and the SSE, but that “other” component includes improvements we might never actually see.
There is also the question of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) as a financing tool, something that was only yesterday the subject of a presentation at the Munk School (a video of this is not available online). As with DCs, the critical part is the presumption of an “increment” that is due to new development and through which infrastructure investments by the public sector can be recovered. There have been some quite outlandish projections of the amount of money available from this scheme, and TIF advocates often ignore the fact that new development triggers costs beyond basic enabling infrastructure.
The degree to which new development would happen anyway in the absence of public investment, and especially in areas such as the central business district which is already well-served by transit, brings us to the question of how one calculates the increment for a city with or without SmartTrack, and hence the delta from which TIF would be allocated. Improperly used, TIF is a sham designed to poach future revenues that should be in general revenues rather than paying down debt for a signature project. Its potential is badly overrated for political reasons, simply the lure of “free” money. If we can assume future TIF funding, we don’t have to bump current general taxes or DCs when we “commit” to a project because we are robbing future tax years.
There may be a place for TIF in brownfield developments that simply would not occur without the public investment, but it is quite another thing to talk of its application to existing areas such as the core and Liberty Village. A good chunk of waterfront development will probably happen simply because of its location, and only investments that really “unlock” development potential could reasonably be considered for TIF. This would include major works such as flood protection and the utilities needed to service a once-industrial area as high density housing and commercial space.
By analogy to “local improvement taxes”, if TIF were the mechanism for the SSE financing, we would be expecting, nay encouraging and demanding large-scale investment in development around the new stations to ensure that we get our money back.
In some cases, both for SmartTrack and for an earlier proposal floated by a Markham Councillor for rapid transit in the Stouffville corridor, huge swaths of Toronto were included in the TIF zone to generate revenue for the projects. This is blatant dishonesty wrapped in the currently acceptable neo-conservative financial mythology.
A situation where developers challenge tax regimes at court or the OMB is hardly new. Downtown office tower owners achieved a tax reduction on the premise that they were unfairly overtaxed, and there has been a multi-year project to rebalance commercial and residential property taxes in Toronto that is nearing completion. When it finishes, residential owners will stop shouldering the lion’s share of year-over-year tax increases, and commercial owners will have to find some new way to argue for tax relief.
What is unclear is how long this appeal will take to work its way through the OMB and reflect back into the Council debates about transit options for Scarborough. The cautionary tale is that a project cannot simply invent numbers out of the air to justify taxes that are targeted at a specific group. Pretending that the subway is the “best” option for Scarborough regardless of how the demand projections come out might continue, but charging taxes based on unsupportable figures is quite another matter.
Updated November 26, 2011 at 11:00 pm:
Jennifer Pagliaro has published a follow up article in The Star entitled “Mayor John Tory ‘surprised’ by developer opposition to Scarborough subway”. Some of Mayor Tory’s comments suggest that he is rather out of touch with just how Development Charges work.
Tory is quoted:
“I think the important thing to keep in mind here is that when you build transit, the land interests of those who own land around transit increases. And I think it’s only fair that those who are going to benefit pay some of the costs of servicing this land with new transit. That’s the principle we operated on. We operated within the law and the appeal will take its course.”
“Those who are going to benefit from the increase in the value of land because you put transit or other services there paid for by the taxpayers, should pay a fair portion of the cost of doing that,” he said. “They are going to be the beneficiaries, ultimately, when they sell that land whether it’s in the form of condominiums or houses, and so I just think it should be fair, fair to everybody, fair to the developers but also fair to the taxpayers who otherwise end up funding all of this on their own backs.”
Well, Mr. Mayor, what you don’t seem to know is that the new DC applies city-wide, not just in the SSE corridor. A new condo in Mimico pays just as much toward the subway extension as one built right at Scarborough Town Centre. Everybody pays into the pot whether they directly benefit or not. There is an underlying assumption that improvements benefit the network as a whole, but when they are so infrequent and highly localized (as are subway extensions), this is not the same as a collection of works scattered around the city, or a systemic change such as the provision of more capacity on the subway.
Also, of course, DCs only cover the portion of a capital project that is required for development-induced growth, and there are many other beneficiaries (notably homeowners in areas that become more attractive) who are not touched by DCs which would kick in only if their property were actually redeveloped. Indeed, given the geographic pattern of development in Toronto for the foreseeable future, it is the buyers of new condos in the core area where most growth occurs who will pay the DCs associated with the Scarborough extension which will be little used by most of them.
He said the city needs to be mindful of how development charges get passed down to home buyers, but called the new development charge a “modest adjustment.”
The adjustment is not exactly modest, and it increases the DCs by ten percent. This is hardly the sort of increase Tory would approve were in it the general tax rates.
Going into the 2016 budget cycle, it is distressing to see how much Mayor Tory doesn’t know about city finances after a year in office.
Does ‘calibrated’ mean getting the numbers to fit the desired results? Mathemagics? Decision-based evidence-making??
Usually I think of devilopers as being less-ok; but in this instance, since the facts don’t seem to have worked, it’s almost a public service to give the City friction on this folly, though yes, we need to spend money on transit.
Steve: The official story is that the new model has to be able to reproduce what actually happened in 2011 to verify that it is working properly. One must assume that this has yet to be achieved. A more cynical person might wonder if the numbers are being cooked, but there is a basic problem. There are three services competing for the same pool of riders in western Scarborough: SmartTrack, the SSE, and GO/RER. The two services in the rail corridor need to show good results to justify their existence, but this would happen at the expense of the SSE (and vice-versa).
The really shoddy work lay in the original justification for the SSE itself and the claim of high ridership. From comments by the Chief Planner at the time, we know the extra riders came from north of the subway’s “local” area much as they do at Finch Station on the Yonge line. With new service(s) tapping that area directly (something that any planner worth their salt should have foreseen, or at least provided for), this premise falls apart.
Thanks to Rob Ford, Karen Stintz, Glenn De Baeremaeker, and everyone else who stuck their heads in the sand for blatant political opportunism. As for John Tory’s “experts” of whom one touted that SmartTrack rated an “A+” grade, well, I am sure he can look forward to a long life as a consultant if nothing else.
Used to be that Toronto would have seen many referendums on “local opinions”. The last “big” one that I knew about was for an opinion on amalgamation. That didn’t change much, the province just ignored that “mandate” and went their own way. What good did that “local opinion” give us, if the politicians “know” better. Guess that Mayor Tory “knows” better than the rest of us peasants.
Abolish the OMB. They should have nothing to do with transit planning in Toronto.
Steve: This is not actually a transit planning issue, but rather a fair taxation issue. I agree that the OMB should be abolished, but they are the appeal mechanism for this sort of problem. There is a good chance that an alternate mechanism through the courts would be provided if the OMB did not have jurisdiction.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Is quoting Tory even worth it?
The guy is useless to quote. He’s going to do what his people tell him and it usually doesn’t align with what comes out of his mouth. We all have no clue what to expect from this Mayor aside from the fact he’s going all-in on SmartTrack.
Also thanks to “expert” McGuinty for not properly funding transit City & thanks to “expert” Miller for not paying to convert the Sheppard stubway to LRT. Let’s blame all politicians fairly.
Both side have contributed to the divide in Toronto & the local divide in Scarborough.
Steve: There was never any intention of converting the Sheppard subway to LRT. It would have cost too much (and we still don’t know if it is technically feasible), and the fight would have diverted attention from the LRT network.
i.e. homeowners across the city should not be on the hook for the Scarborough subway
Me: Homeowners across the city should not be on the hook for the streetcars that are already several years late. We should have had 204 vehicles by now but instead we have only 9 and 2 of which are only test vehicles and of the remaining 7 only 5 that are actually working as 2 are broken. It is time to cancel the streetcar order. I am not saying NO to streetcars, just NO to Bombardier. Not to mention the first few streetcars were so poorly made that TTC refused to accept them as would risk lives and screws and what not have been falling from day one.
Steve: No, we should not have had all 204 cars by now, nor are two “broken” (one is a test vehicle, and one is at Thunder Bay for retrofits, both are prototypes which exposed many of the problems with Bpmbardier’s vehicle quality in the first place).
You yourself do not question the need for streetcars, only the supply from Bombardier. The issue with the SSE is that a strong argument can be made for the alternative LRT network that might have been built (and even partly completed by now) if Transit City had not been abandoned.
And to think that these wasted four years, as well as the $2B extra for that Scarborough Subway and the entire $8B SmartTrack “plan” could have been avoided if they just spent a few hundred million on connecting the SRT to an elevated Eglinton line. I know I sound like a broken record, but in hindsight (although some could see this coming), it appears that we set ourselves on a path of waste.
Steve: Yes, definitely a broken record. The SSE and SmartTrack both have problems, notably that they compete for the same market, but overspending and bad planning there do not justify turning Eglinton into an elevated line.
I generally agree with that, as it tends to be used to override established regulations that, if needed to be changed, should be done through local councils, even if that requires electing new councilors to do so.
That said, it is nice to see that since it is there, it may end up shaking out some sense regarding just how unnecessary the SSE is and how essential a light rail network in Scarborough really is. Even if that is that last thing on the minds at BILD.
Really? I’m sure the current fight on Sheppard for subways has a lot to do with this line being so unfairly integrated to a subway. Politicians are likely too afraid to right a wrong because they’d have to admit there incompetence to some extent by integrated Sheppard to LRT.
And will it cost more the subway extension that’s being debated? Here we are dealing with poor planning & poor politics on both sides.
Steve: Sheppard is a subway because Mel Lastman refused to have “streetcars” in his precious “downtown North York”, an oxymoron if ever there was one. That decision came many years before Transit City was even a sketch on the back of a napkin, and we’re stuck with it.
How can anyone seriously defend Sheppard being left in its current state & not see how that take away from a large chuck of benefit this line could bring. Insanity.
The history is obvious.. We are now left a giant Elephant in the room causing chaos & no one want to deal with it.
You say we are “stuck with it”, I fully disagree and that’s a sweep it under the rug classic Toronto approach. The benefits of this line over bus are negligible with this transfer & quite incontinent for many who live closer to the transfer
Why would many support this in Scarborough? It absurd & we are now going to continue to debate subways unfortunately. I know in this City it’s OK do spend major capital for bad decisions but that shouldn’t stop us from sending the money to do things right thing.
Unbelievable this is what passes for transit. Expensive Subways are poorly integrated LRT. What a disgrace.
Steve: In all of this, you have not addressed the basic issue that conversion of the subway tunnel and stations for through LRT service would be, at best, a very difficult undertaking. The result might look nicer on a map, but is this the best use of capital dollars?
It’s worth every penny to integrate the line for fairness & efficiency for Scarborough commuters. I agree it may be difficult but it’s quite far from rocket science. Either way the LRT line in its current form provides minimal improvement for commuters & in some cases does the opposite of improvement in terms of convenience.
It has absolutely nothing to do with how it looks on a map. What matters is spending money that actually makes a sense. This line offers minimal value for the money.
Politicians of the past, present, red, blue, orange are all to blame for poor designs, lack of funding & gamesmanship in Scarborough. And yet we still wont spend the money to make seamless connections or Scarborough commuters without a subway. Guess that’s where we are.
I fully respect your opinion Steve & can fully understand many alternatives instead of building the SSE but this Sheppard line is a non-starter & completely unacceptable.
Steve: To you, maybe. Let us end this thread here as we must agree to disagree.
Best thing they could do with the Sheppard Stubway is to shut it down! Save a fortune operating it. Turn it in to a tourist attraction “Abandoned subway from the past!” Let people walk through it and marvel at it. Mel Lastman can greet visitors and tell them all about it and how many people once rode it. Nooobody! Halloween it will be really scary!
Professor Eric Miller has confirmed that Smart Track is indeed a viable alternative to the much touted Downtown Relief Line. Any further waste of money on the DRL is simply for political reasons. The Scarborough subway on the other hand serves a totally different ridership than SmartTrack and so am glad that it is marching ahead in spite of all the political propaganda against it.
Steve: Miller has been shilling for Tory and SmartTrack since the scheme was first proposed despite ongoing problems that have arisen with its design, potential service level, ridership and financing. Metrolinx demand projections show that a DRL to Don Mills and Sheppard has a much, much larger “relief” effect than SmartTrack. As for the SSE, its inflated ridership projections drew on the same riders SmartTrack and GO/RER hope to capture.
Miller gave SmartTrack an “A+” on Metro Morning, but he’s a soft marker when it comes to his own work. A blatant conflict of interest.
I love to flog dead horses. In addition to agreeing with every nasty comment regarding Mel and his toy train, there is something that I’ve always wondered since the Sheppard Subway was first announced. If it had somehow been a success, where were all the people going to ride, once they arrived at the fully involved southbound Yonge line in the AM rush hour?
Steve: You have to remember that back in the 1990s, thanks to a huge drop in TTC demand with the recession, the Yonge line had lots of “spare” capacity. This was used to justify various projects including the Sheppard line and the Richmond Hill extension. At least the line was never built further north or we would be in a horrible problem today.
Basically, the TTC lied (or were manifestly incompetent in their planning) about the ability to handle additional demand on the Yonge corridor.
I think the OMB could and should be useful, however, it needs to raise the evidence required to even re-examine let alone overturn a city decision. While a specialty court is required, the burden of evidence needs to be much more strongly on the person appealing to the OMB – to make a case – that the municipal decision was not appropriate. There are many smaller municipalities where the process seems more arbitrary than in Toronto, and it is especially needed there – just to ensure they are fair.
However the ease with which the OMB appears to be using rules of thumb to overturn decisions without understanding important on the ground detail, rings of the same issue of having provincial arbitrators using previous awards – from elsewhere. Windsor essential service workers are getting raises based on Toronto wages, even though cost of living, and even its rate of growth are much lower in Windsor – as is the city’s ability to pay. The board is out of touch, and needs to require a clear and obvious miscarriage to make a ruling different than the initial city one – and this needs to be based on local facts. It should require a compelling case be filed to even hear an appeal. If city planning would not provide an exception to a very broadly and consistently applied rule that has been in place for a long time, the OMB should leave well enough alone – not even hearing the case. They are making city planning harder, and investing more of a lottery. However, some process is required – to ensure consistency and fairness, however, this cannot become in effect the primary decision maker, that in effect blows up local planning.
Steve: And do you honestly expect me to believe that “planning” and “Scarborough Subway” belong in the same sentence?
I do not agree that the OMB should be abolished – however, it does need to get its chain yanked. The burden on the group appealing to the OMB needs to be much higher, especially if the city has had a plan or bylaw in place for a reasonable time, and the initial ruling is clearly consistent with both that, and previous rulings.
However, this out of touch with local facts appears to be an issue with the Arbitration Board as well, where Toronto, facts are being imposed for Essential Service workers in places like Windsor as well, where pay is being determined by previous decisions, based on Toronto precedence, where cost of living bears no resemblance at all. Local facts need to be primary, and as long as the rules are being consistently applied, there is no reason to override them. Just because I want to build a 30 story tower, with 5 times coverage is no reason I should be able to appeal to the OMB, where the city turned me down, because local allowance was only 2 with a max building height of 6 stories – and that zoning was in place long before I acquired the land.
Steve: All true, but in this case there is an argument to be made that the inflated ridership numbers for SSE have created an unreasonable burden on new home buyers across the city. This is not a trivia matter.
Yes absolutely, “The Scarborough Subway, is a clear example of politics overriding good planning decisions” so in fact they fit perfectly in a single sentence, just not a supportive one.
Fine – let’s start building from Don Mills and Sheppard southwards. The problem is that Downtown will never allow it to get north of Bloor/Danforth. If you could start building it from Sheppard southwards, then you will have almost all of North York and Scarborough and also a large portion of York Region throwing their support behind it but building only the southern portion (i.e. going no further north than Bloor/Danforth) in phase 1 and promising a northern extension in some phase 2 that will NEVER happen – you will NEVER get support of people other than those in the Greater Downtown Area.
Steve: Your premise is really not valid. You presume that “downtown” ends at Bloor Street, and yet the beneficiaries of a line that would take a very large amount of traffic off of the Yonge line live both north and south of Bloor. A line running only a short distance south from Sheppard won’t relieve anything, except perhaps a few suburban political egos.
I am tired of this us-vs-them attitude to transit planning, and will not engage in this thread further.
Actually this challenge would be in keeping with the original intent of the board as it was set up in 1906 as the “Ontario Railway and Municipal Board”.
From the Ontario Government website:
While I would not argue that the OMB should be abolished or severely reined in, it is interesting to see it being put to its original use. Just a little tidbit for historically minded.
Sorry Steve – if I may could I comment on the general attitude. Oddly this is the dominant political method today -and this sort of approach- can create ridiculous comparisons, all over the place. I can remember hearing this type of thing from a friend from Thunder Bay – who felt that Toronto already had more than its fair share of roads, and it was ridiculous to even consider more – until Thunder Bay had 4 lane highways, linking it to Winnipeg and the Sault and on to Toronto. This is the same as the people in Windsor, saying the London-Windsor highway needed to be expanded to 6 lanes, before anything more was done elsewhere (and I drive this road at times, and while it was busy at 4 lanes, there were more urgent places to invest). Generally this fair thing – completely misses what people already have themselves, where load starts and ends (like the 402 feeding the 401 as well, and London and area also being a decent source of load itself).
It does not matter where people start or where they are headed to or where a system is overloaded or whether a line/highway (or whatever) would actually be most used – in this mindset, only that I get my “fair” share of the particular dessert on offer, and it does not matter if I got twice as much ice cream as everyone else, because now we are talking pie. Why should Sarnia not have all the medical services and specialties that London (let alone Toronto) does? It would only be fair (and I personally suspect that I would have a friend alive today – who died before 50- if it did)!! Of course this approach would bankrupt the province (and we are getting there).
I do not believe that most people in the downtown are particularly anxious to bring more high rise development to their own backyard, and as a result likely care not a wit for more subway. Look at how little has changed in Rosedale (other than the house prices going up) since 1995, 20 years, how many new buildings (and what kept it that way)? This is the ultimate expression of what is wanted by the locals in place (this group being very good at defending their own), because those downtown, by and large do not need a subway to get there. This is the sort of mindset that leads to the Sheppard Subway, a very very expensive line, that will be prohibitive to expand, and serves less well than what the best alternative was, which would have been 1/3 the cost. Planning should be about balance, and creating the best overall outcome, which means, that everybody needs to give a little, and this means some long time downtown residents, being burdened with more high density development. I suspect the long time residents would have been happier to not allow all that development in Liberty Village and elsewhere, and simply had room on their Streetcars. Also – those new buildings block the views for the old.
A single-technology Sheppard line would remove one transfer, and have a modest improvement in travel times and ridership levels. However, the same money could be spent elsewhere on the network for a much greater impact, for example a Don Mills or Malvern LRT line.
Politicians aren’t afraid to “right a wrong” by labelling their predecessors as incompetent, it’s almost a political rite of passage to overturn the plans of the previous regime. As none of the key figures in the Sheppard Subway history are still in politics, there is no one with a reputation at stake.
In an ideal world, either Sheppard would have been built as an LRT in the first place, or we’d have enough money that we’d build everything else that has a more significant impact on improving transit in Toronto. That’s not our reality, and so as a potential frequent user of the Sheppard transfer, I support the idea that this inconvenience in my commute is less important that some other network issues.
If the benefits of the Sheppard LRT are “negligible” with the transfer, maybe we need to be looking at no capital spending on Sheppard then, because the benefits removing the transfer are secondary.
(I wrote this reply before seeing you capped the discussion, Steve.)
It’s interesting how Prof. Miller can confirm that both ST is viable and the SSE serves a different group, when the GTA V4 Model hasn’t been finalized. “Miller stressed that the institute is not an advocate for any one plan.“ Beyond that, we don’t have a realistic price tag for ST, so no one can say that it’s better value-for-money than a DRL. Offering some relief doesn’t mean that ST offers enough relief to remove the need for other expansion, nor does it mean that ST has a better ROI.
Another major issue of us-vs-them is that it ignores system-wide impacts. Building a DRL shifts riders away from Yonge-Bloor, so people using the Sheppard Subway would have more space on part of their journey. The converse is also true where lines are extended, increasing upstream usage so that there is less space when the vehicle gets to your station. I think this is one thing lacking from most public presentations (if designs get that far): “how does it help me”.
Steve: My opinion of Eric Miller, after his shilling for SmartTrack, is not printable.
Malcolm N’s comments about Liberty Village offer a good segue back to the OMB, which I think had a major role in the extra developments all through the area but along with the City, ZERO real interest in improving transit along with all the developments. My sense is lots of larger buildings were built beyond what zoning was with no transit change, so it’s overload, and thus a bit ironic to have it as an arena to have a welcome challenge to the SSE folly. There likely should be a development freeze on much of the central west core land until there are real changes in the transit quality, (and options like a single linked east-west bikeway) to be fair.
I find it interesting that top spokesorganization for the development industry is basically saying that they do not want transit to be overbuilt at the expense of city wide DC increases, while neighbours living near subway and LRT stations object to the intensification that would justify the some of the costs of those transit lines. Two wholly different groups, both unhappy with transit “planning” on the backs of their members.
It should be pointed out that BILD would likely have to have heard some murmuring or rumbling from their members before launching this appeal. The optics alone make it look like a “rich developers don’t want to pay” situation when things are a lot more complicated.
I’m willing to say that if project values were high enough, there would be little concern about development charges increasing. The developers I have talked to have made it clear to me that their investments south of Bloor and along Yonge do pay well and higher development charges are less of an issue. Outside of those areas and in Toronto’so inner suburbs, some projects manage to profit while others just pay their costs. In the 905 area very few multi-storey developments are paying back their costs.
Add to this equation the issues of the lack of commercial office space being built in the suburban “centres” and around GO stations, plus the unbuilt transit (Sheppard East & Scarborough LRT lines would have been operating now if built at their original pace…and now Sheppard East has been postponed to “whenever”) … and we really have a big mess.
Yes, ultimately – those LRTs to fill in the web around GO, and to make GO effectively serve some of those suburban centers. It is critical to make the network support broader development. Toronto and the balance of the GTA’s continued focus on lines, not on a network, is causing huge issues. Beyond Sheppard East linking Lakeshore East to the SRT, and Stouffville (either extending the Crosstown to Eglinton GO – 2 3/4 more KM, or the Scarborough Malvern LRT), would mean it could also support commuters to the STC and Markham office areas. GTA politicians and Metrolinx, need to start discussing transit as a web. We are both making the notion of competing centers harder, and of course increasing the congestion, by failing to support other commutes. It is not just about the lines, but just as critically how they connect.
Steve, have you considered financing new transit through a return to public banking with the Bank of Canada? From 1938-1974 Canada brought itself out of the Depression and funded all kinds of infrastructure like the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Trans Canada Highway with near interest-free loans from the BoC, until Trudeau Sr. caved to pressure from the European private central bankers at the Bank for International Settlements and dismantled that function. All levels of government debt have sky-rocketed since.
All these arguments about where to get the money, this imaginary virtual thing we call money, when it can easily be created for the public good by the government instead of expensive borrowing selling bonds on capital markets. Search Rocco Galati and the Bank of Canada lawsuit, the group COMER is suing the government to restore that function right now.
Steve: Frankly, if you pin your hopes on such a fundamental change in the banking system to fund public works projects, we are doomed before we start.
I think this would be a disaster anyway. The BofC has specific responsibilities, and this would directly conflict with a very core one. If we are going to appeal to a federal body, it should be to the government proper, with a reallocation of spending/subsidy priority. Simplify the tax code, and allow some of the extra revenue that flowed from it to support this. Also stop growing long term program spending where there is a large employment base required, and start investing in infrastructure, that will help the economy. The resources are there, and should be taking from where they should be.
Steve…sorry for the tardy reply. I loved this post and learned a lot from reading the SSE Background Document from cover to cover. You quote The Star as saying that, of the $910M capital City share, DCs will cover $165M and property taxes the rest. I am having difficulty reconciling this with the Hemson Background Study. In summary, Hemson starts with the $910M city share and:
• Removes SRT Life Extension costs – $910M becomes $832M
• Converts post 2022 capital expenditures to 2022 – $832M becomes $826M
• Concludes that 39% of the capital is beneficial to current development and only 61% relates to new development – $826M becomes $502M
• Applies mandatory 10% deduction for transit – $502M becomes $452M
• Splits the $452M into charges for 2015-2022 developments ($130M) with balance charged against post 2022 developments ($321M)
• Applies financing costs to each – $130M becomes $255M; $321M becomes $629M
• Allocates the $255M to anticipated 2015-2022 residential and non-residential development at a ratio 62/38. Presumably post-2022 developments will pay for the remaining $629M
• Calculates the final DCs to generate $255M between 2015 and 2022
Bottom line – of the original $910M capital, DCs will pay for about $450M and property taxes the balance of $460M. In other words, about 50/50, which is wildly different than The Star says. Am I missing something?
Steve: From the Deputy City Manager’s Report:
Where you err is that the $910m includes inflation during construction, but does not include financing costs. The total take from DCs will be larger than $165m, but that is offset by financing costs so that the lion’s share is still paid out of property taxes.