The Star’s Jennifer Pagliaro reports that City Council has approved a confidential settlement with BILD, the Building Industry and Land Development Association, to avoid an Ontario Municipal Board hearing that could lead to rejection of the Bylaw implementing the Development Charges intended to pay for the Scarborough Subway. The matter was before Council in confidential session on June 7, 2016.
Staff miscalculations on the ridership of the Scarborough subway will leave taxpayers on the hook for millions more, after city council voted to settle a dispute with developers.
According to a secret report before council on Tuesday, the contents of which were shared with the Star, the city’s lawyers advised councillors to accept a settlement with the group representing developers, the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD).
The settlement, which reduces the amount builders will have to pony up to help finance the subway, is expected to cost the city as much as $6 million in lost revenues.
If the settlement is for only $6 million, the City should consider itself lucky because the calculation underlying the DCs is based on flawed ridership estimates and an out of date network design. Moreover, the original authorization appears to double count subway revenue with both a special Scarborough Subway Tax and Development Charges to recover the same costs.
Recent news of a 50% reduction in expected Scarborough Subway ridership from 14,100 to 7,300 passengers in the AM peak hour reignited political debate on the viability of the subway scheme. However, these numbers are not just hypothetical indicators of how the line might perform, they are integral to the calculation of Development Charges (DCs) that would help to fund the City’s share of this project.
See also my previous articles:
The formula to calculate development charges is complex, but at its heart is one key measure: how much of a new transit project will benefit existing properties versus future development. If the primary role of a new subway is to improve the lot of current riders, then only a minority of its cost can be recouped by DCs (and thus from future purchasers of new properties).
Toronto allocates DCs on a city-wide basis rather than assigning each project only to the neighbourhoods it will directly serve. These charges already help pay for many projects as shown in the introduction to the study establishing the level of new charges for the SSE.
The Council of the City of Toronto passed a Development Charges (DC) By-law, By-law 1347-2013 in October 2013, for the recovery of capital costs associated with meeting the increased needs arising from development. The effective date of the Bylaw was November 1, 2013. The recovery of DCs is on a City-wide basis and relates to a wide range of eligible City services:
- Spadina Subway Extension
- Roads and Related
- Sanitary Sewer
- Storm Water Management
- Parks and Recreation
- Subsidized Housing
- Emergency Medical Services
- Development-Related Studies
- Civic Improvements
- Child Care
- Pedestrian Infrastructure
For commercial property, there is some justification to this because increased mobility makes travel to jobs simpler well beyond the location of any one project. For example, the Scarborough Subway might be held out as a way to stimulate growth at the Town Centre, but it would also reduce commute times to other parts of Toronto, notably downtown.
For residential property, especially for the large proportion of new development downtown, this link is less clear, and DCs on new condos can wind up funding transit projects of little benefit to the new residents.
This split is part of the eternal battle between sharing the cost of public services across the city and charging them locally or by user group.
In the case of the Scarborough Subway Extension (SSE), the split between new and existing beneficiaries was determined by the change in ridership projected with the subway project. The benefit was allocated 61% to new development and 39% to existing riders. The ratio is high because, at the time of the calculation, the projected peak hour ridership for the SSE was estimated at 14,100 compared with a base value of 5,500. Both of these numbers are suspect.
The base value was factored up from actual SRT ridership of 4,000 per hour to 5,500 to represent the load the subway would have had were it to exist in 2015. That value of 4,000 is equivalent to a load of about 240 per train when the peak service was 17.14 trains/hour (3’30” headway) as in 2012. However, by 2013 service had been cut to 13.33 trains/hour (4’30” headway) to reduce equipment requirements on the aging line. That is the service operating today, although a further cut to 12 trains/hour (5’00” headway) is planned for June 20, 2016. Some of the demand that would be on the SRT travels via alternate routes, some is packed into fewer trains, and some has probably been lost to the TTC. What the ridership might be today were the RT not capacity constrained is hard to tell, but it should certainly be higher.
The high value for future subway ridership combines with the low value for presumed current demand to load much of the SSE’s cost onto new development.
The situation is complicated by two competing ridership estimates:
- A TTC estimate of 9,500 riders dating from January 2013 (See Response to Commission Enquiry: Service/Technology Choices for Sheppard East and Scarborough RT Corridors at page 13)
- The estimate of 7,300 riders in the recent review of the Scarborough Subway
The contexts for the three estimates differ, and this goes some way to explaining why the numbers are so far apart:
- A line to Sheppard will attract more ridership than one ending at the STC.
- A subway station at Sheppard, in the absence of improvements to the GO corridor such as RER and SmartTrack, will attract ridership from Markham just as Finch Station does from the Yonge corridor north of Steeles.
- Removal of the station at Lawrence East, coupled with new GO corridor services, will reduce demand on the subway.
There is no guarantee that the land use, job and population assumptions underlying the three estimates are the same, especially when the highest number was produced in the context of boosting the importance of STC as a growth centre.
What we are left with, however, is the likelihood that the level of DCs allocated for the Scarborough Subway project were based on the most optimistic scenario for new ridership, and a network configuration quite different from what will actually be built. If the calculation had been done on the basis of lower ridership numbers, the DC revenue available to fund the Scarborough Subway would have been considerably lower.
The Calculation of SSE Development Charges
The full report on the calculation of new DCs explains the calculation in detail. I will trace through this here only to the extent needed for readers to understand the effect of changes to the underlying assumptions.
Allowable Components of the DC Cost Base
Although the total estimated cost of the SSE is $3.56 billion including inflation to completion, much of this is not eligible for recovery through DCs.
- $2.65 billion contributed by other governments is excluded for the obvious reason that it is not a City cost.
- The SRT life extension is not part of the new line, and so its cost of $78 million is excluded.
- Because the DC study planning period ends in 2022, costs beyond that year are reduced by a net present value calculation to 2022 removing a further $5.5 million.
The remaining amount eligible for the DC cost base is $826.5 million.
- This is suballocated to current and future beneficiaries using the 39:61 split based on projected ridership leaving $501.8 million due to ridership growth.
- A 10% statutory reduction in this allocation brings it down to $451.6 million.
- Costs are then allocated for recovery in the period to mid-2022 (the current DC Bylaw) and after that period (a future DC Bylaw) on a ratio of about 29:71 leaving $130.1 million in the current period.
- Finally, debenture debt service cost is added in bringing the total for 2015-to-2022 charges to $255.1 million.
But What About The Scarborough Subway Tax
When Council approved the implementation of DCs for the SSE project, the report before it contained conflicting goals. Early in the report, the role of the subway tax is clear:
The total estimated cost for the SSE is $3.56 billion (expressed in inflated dollars), with current Federal and Provincial funding commitments of approximately $660 million and $1.99 billion respectively. As a result, the City’s net capital cost is estimated at $910 million, which will be funded through a combination of property taxes ($745 million, with increases of 0.5% and 0.5% approved in 2014 and 2015 respectively, and a planned incremental increase of 0.6% in 2016, for a total increase of 1.6%) and development charges (estimated at $165 million). [p. 2]
At this point, the amount to be recovered from DCs is only $165 million. However, later the report states:
The total estimated cost for the SSE is $3.56 billion (expressed in inflated dollars), with an estimated City share of $910 million (expressed in inflated dollars). After excluding the SRT Life Extension costs, which were determined to be not development-related, and expenditure timing considerations, the eligible City share is reduced to approximately $826.5 million. This amount, along with eligible associated debenture financing costs of $793 million, for a total potential recovery amount of $1,619.5 million, has been included in the development charges analysis. [p. 6]
The DC study was undertaken on this basis, and the contribution of the subway tax appears to have been ignored. In effect, the City appears to be double-dipping through both the special property tax and the use of DCs to recover all of its costs.
The Effect of Reduced Ridership Projections
The table below shows the effect of lower ridership estimates on the allocation of DCs. In this table:
- “Original” refers to the TTC’s January 2013 ridership estimate.
- “Revised” refers to the estimate used during the LRT/subway debate and also as the basis for the DC Bylaw.
- “Jun-16” refers to the new estimate included in recent SSE public presentations.
Over the life of the DC Bylaw, use of the June 2016 ridership forecast would reduce the total revenue to the City from $255.1m to $103.5m, a loss of about $150m. Over the full life of the project financing, the loss is about $525m. The effect of the new forecast is not simply a matter of political football between LRT and subway advocates. It could have a major effect on the Development Charges revenue to which the City is entitled.
The Optimized Scarborough Plan
A further problem for the DC calculation is that it was based on a $3.6 billion project to take the line all the way to Sheppard, but the project now on the table is considerably smaller, and part of the funding has been redirected to the Eglinton LRT. That project is not part of the DC Bylaw study and there is no background on the before/after ridership effects in the corridor.
Similarly, the SmartTrack scheme was touted as a candidate for Tax Increment Financing and no provision was made for this project in the DC Bylaw. Indeed, Council adopted its support of the SSE in October 2013 before SmartTrack was even part of the City’s transportation plans.
To the degree that the SSE actually would cost less than its original estimate, the DCs applicable to it would be reduced proportionately.
It is quite clear that the financial assumptions behind the 2015 Development Charge amendment have changed quite substantially, and the original premise – that the City’s would recover most of its costs through a special property tax – does not align with the base amount used in the DC calculation.
Request for Feedback
Any reader who is knowledgeable about Development Charges is invited to comment on these calculations and observations, anonymously if necessary.
The fallout from the Ford Era continues! The Fords themselves were always mathematically challenged. Witness the many exaggerated attendance counts are Ford events, the exaggerated number of phone calls handled on a daily basis etc. etc.
Looks like the rest of the bunch at Silly Hall can’t count much better either.
Was there ONE transit line that has lived up to its projected ridership in the time frame indicated?
Steve: I think the North Yonge extension did quite well, but that was an established corridor with very heavy bus service.
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I love the restating of ridership, as though it was an innocent staff miscalculations. Really, so that was a mistake – not a political decision? really? It is very clear that the numbers surrounding this, among a couple of projects, have been baked since the start. This is very much the same thing as the numbers around ST, although in this case at least the proposed service could carry the riders it purported it would attract, and you had to think about the implications further west to go – hold on. Nevertheless, the fix was in early. Some of those arguing for it on this site made the point that there should be a seamless connection to the rest of Toronto, and while that is understandable, it also means that many of those that would ride the service, or be induced to ride it, would head all the way to Yonge, and then south, and hence into an issue.
The fact is, there is simply too much being done, in terms of driving these estimates to justify decisions that appear to be in effect already made. Please do not now tell us, it was an honest error, as opposed to a political fix.
Steve: Also the double billing of the same revenue from both the DCs and the subway tax is an immense howler. I am surprised nobody flagged it before.
I agree this certainly shows the ugly side of our Politics. Although just as Politically pathetic is how the downtown media is trying to use this as justification in their fight to hi-jack the SSE. It’s amazing that the only Political decisions worth the media assaulting occur in Scarborough.
Its not about LRT’s and subways, its about design. Scarborough doesn’t want the crappy transfer plan which was being shoved upon us. There is absolutely no reason a subway extension can’t be designed to reach Sheppard whether on surface or underground or a bit of both. Well…. aside from lack of respect from one side of council trying to do everything they can to ensure Scarborough receives the lowest quality & cheapest design possible as they continue their nauseating opposition creating further polarization.
Such a fair inclusive City we’re trying to grow into. The bullying of Scarborough transit from the Left media is real and going strong.
Steve: Leaving aside the lies that were told to get the project approved in the first place. I would have more respect for Scarborough pols if they had not depended on such trickery and outright insults even of people who just wanted straight answers to questions.
What is really a shame is that SmartTrack has actually eaten into potential subway ridership and made it harder to argue for that option. Tory’s advisors have a lot to answer for.
When they talk about 6M$ in “revenue,” does that mean an annual amount? It seems like rather small change, else. (Of course even then it seems low; I suspect the developers could have pushed for more if they’d waited for the numbers you’re analysing.)
Steve: I suspect so, but I have not seen the confidential report on which the Star based their article.
I suspect that when you look at the ones built it will be hard to find this in Toronto for quite some time. The ones we do not want to build have low balled numbers, the ones we want to build get exaggerated ones. ST is a perfect example of this initially, using numbers into the core, which the frequency could not possibly support, assuming there was all the ridership in the world to support it. I suspect that if much of Transit City had been build, much of it would have lived up, and even quickly exceeded the early numbers, simply because I think Toronto has generally underestimated the value of network effects. The Scarborough LRT network, would have made transit more reliable for the supported trips than auto, and sometimes a certain 30 minute trip is better than a 15 minute trip, and can be 45 one time in three. Yes on average is faster on the auto trip, but well, knowing you will be on time with a sure 30 minute trip.
Ridership prediction is NOT a science but pseudo-science. The numbers change from study to study and from one group to another doing the studies depending on their political agenda. The numbers used to justify the DRL are just as artificially cooked up as the new numbers now being used to derail the Scarborough subway project. TTC could not even predict the unexpected decline in ridership recently on the existing network and how can they be intelligent enough to predict future ridership on a future network? If the Scarborough subway is cancelled, then the city has to REFUND WITH INTEREST the Scarborough subway levy collected and CANNOT use it for the Downtown Relief Line or any other project.
Steve: There is one quite distinct difference with DRL estimates — we know that the Yonge subway is full today, and this is not pseudo-science. The debate is about how we deal with this.
Not if it’s run by the TTC where you might have to wait 45 minutes to have five or six of them show up at the same time. Not only is TTC more crowded with rude drivers and rude passengers and not only does it take longer but it is also very unreliable. If the LRT network that you speak of were run by YRT/VIVA or DRT, then we can agree on reliability. I have nothing against the TTC but speak from experience.
Steve: This has to be the most bizarre argument against building something I have ever heard. In effect, you are saying that LRT would be OK provided someone other than the TTC ran it. What ever happened to “Scarborough deserves a subway”?
The ridership for the Scarborough subway obviously went down because it was reduced to one stop from three. Even so, it is still higher than the number of people using Kennedy, Kipling or Downsview stations.
I think that the projected ridership for the Yonge extension to Yonge/Highway 7 is severely inflated and it will end up a lot closer to the Scarborough subway (particularly north of Steeles) than the projections claim. The proposed redevelopment at Richmond Hill Centre is a pipe dream. At least the Scarborough subway has a fair amount of development around it at Scarborough Centre and there is a very heavily used bus terminal there, so I think it will have reasonable levels of ridership.
Richmond Hill Yonge Extension = Bad Idea
Vaughan Spadina Extension = Bad Idea
Mississauga Bloor Extension = Bad Idea
Sheppard Subway = Bad Idea
Sheppard Subway Extension = Bad Idea
Sheppard Subway Conversion = Bad Idea
Sheppard Subway Closure = Bad Idea
The SSE is being chipped away because it’s over-serviced and out of budget. As it stands as a one-stop extension, it’s really just moving the point of transfer. For $3.6B, you can build 24km of LRT at $150M/km. Put it where you will, even bury parts of it.
The issue isn’t that people are attacking Scarborough politics/planning because they don’t like Scarborough, it’s because they don’t like the politics/planning that Scarborough seems to embrace.
So I guess everything from economics to climatology to quantum physics are pseudo-science as well? I would argue that it is a science in that it is testable, repeatable, and capable of improvement. However, I would also say it’s a very poorly undertaken science that too often is warped by political meddling (similar to the suppression/altering of climate change studies/recommendations).
I would posit this the opposite way. The TTC might have predicted the decline in bus ridership (while subway ridership is increasing), but it’s against their best interests to do so.
You have ‘nothing against the TTC’ except the believe that they can only operate a subway efficiently and LRT/bus poorly. So you’d be happier if Metrolinx did a DBFMO of a Scarborough LRT network?
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Wait, you want to build a surface subway to Sheppard? Where?!?
Of course a subway extension can be designed to reach Sheppard. You can design a subway extension to reach Barrie, you just can’t afford it. Everyone agrees that Scarborough deserves investment in improved transit, but they can’t have all the investment.
While I think you are right, I think the issue needs to be about achieving the largest impact with the dollars available. I think there are only really 2 ways to go with the subway in Scarborough, either do not extend it, ensure that the transfer is great, and build a very large amount of high quality LRT instead or alternately, spend the extra money to get subway to Sheppard. The 401 represents a notable barrier to other services, and really the North needs service as well. I strongly favor the former – ie a massive amount of LRT instead.
I will say without reservation, I have not supported a number of subway extension, and do not a number of other ones on the list. TYSSE beyond York U, has been, and will be an expensive and pointless drain on resources. The extra money would have been better spent on a more extensive network of LRT and BRT to serve the area, including the area to the East as well as north and west of the University. North of Finch on Yonge, the only extension I would actively support would be one as far as Steeles, and that mostly to provide additional turning capacity at the north end of the line. Beyond Steeles, there should be a mode change, simply, because it is hard to imagine justifying long extension based on a line running for many KM with 8 or 9 k riders peak on it (especially knowing this is likely a stretch, and if real is an issue). Mapleson’s view on the subways, specifically including Sheppard, is one that actually makes sense to me. If we could cheaply convert the existing Sheppard Line – I would support that, as the ridership is, and will continue to be within LRT capacity, and making this seamless to the east end of the city is a laudable goal, but not one worth many billions to support.
The goals should be to reduce the real, and hence perceived issues around transfers. The current Kennedy transfer is study in what not to do. The Spadina station transfer is really not great either. However, the system should be about creating frequent, rapid, reliable transit. If you are transferring across a platform between 2 services that run on 150 second headway, where that means in reality no more than say 200 seconds, well, transfers should not be seen as a huge deal. The goal should be about speed, comfort, wait times, reliability and cost. How do we achieve the goals really, and hence make transit the better way, it should be. Extending subway as it stands means making the current capacity issues worse. It means expending many dollars to bring little service. I personally question ridership numbers making sense to get subway to Don Mills and Sheppard, and would like to see what the break is at Eglinton, yes they look great peak point peak direction from Sheppard to Danforth, but where is that point, and what makes sense north of that point.
Steve: Few transfer between trains at Spadina Station when it is so much easier at St. George. The Spadina north station only exists because TTC at one point thought of operating the line independently of the YUS, notably when the University line was closed during the evening.
I’d add SSE = Bad idea
Crosstown LRT in Scarborough = no so good for people trying to get downtown, it only takes them to the Kennedy Station.
Steve: But many people on Scarborough are not trying to go downtown, and that’s where the LRT network would have come in as a backbone. Also, Eglinton will eventually connect with Relief Line if pols ever build it rather than prattling on about yet another suburb that “deserves” a subway.
Any debate on this SmartTrack 2.0?
Steve: I would prefer that such debate stay on the forum where it was posted.
I totally agree that Scarborough needs a backbone. The major problem is there is no rapid public transit north/south. There are many 6 lane east/west routes, one partial north/south. There are no roads that can service express north/south bus routes.
SmartTrack can at least be a north/south axis for west Scarborough. Markham Road is a candidate for an express bus in the east. This grid would help travel within Scarborough.
There are people north of the 401 who have go to St. Michael’s Hospital, Sick Kids Hospital, A/C & Rogers Centers with no good TTC options. Surely there is a way to spend $3.56 billion to improve the quality of life of us citizens.
The Line 1 Spadina extension is expected to run with alternate trains during the morning rush hour, with Sheppard West Station (name changed from Downsview, to protect the innocent) as the short turn terminal.
With the Line 2 Scarborough extension, alternate trains would probably need to be run, with Kennedy as the short turn terminal. I’m assuming that it would be with the morning rush. However, with the shortage of riders, they could run alternate trains during the afternoon rush, and in the “worst” case all day.
Steve: Scarborough will demand that it gets “all” of its trains, and we will wind up ordering TR sets we don’t need just to keep them happy.
Joe M, from Scarborough, I’ve been doing my best to take your comments at face value, and really try to understand your overall position.
A year or so ago I requested that you make a greater effort to be specific. I am going to ask you to make that effort to be specific again, now.
A year ago, two years ago, we ere discussing whether it was better for Scarborough, better for the City, to extend the Crosstown along the SRT right-of way, and add an additional 2 km to enable it to connect with Sheppard, or build a more expensive white elephant extension to the BD line on a new right of way to Sheppard. Many of your posts stated Scarborough was neglected, that vast areas, like its southeast, were poorly served by transit, and weren’t served by rapid transit, at all. You seemed to be demanding expenditures of capital to generally improve the poorly served regions, particularly in the southeast.
At the same time, you seemed to be stating that showing respect for Scarborough required the City pay considerably more to build the SSE, without regard to whether it would be a white elephant, like the Sheppard Subway.
Well, different proposals are on the table today.
Tory proposed a one-stop extension of the BD line, to STC, AND an eastbound LRT.
Doesn’t that eastbound LRT start to address the transit needs of Scarborough’s southeast – one of your stated goals?
I said, a year ago, that I thought that after Scarborough had been promised a $3 billion heavy rail line, that, even if reason prevailed, and we went back to the overall better Crosstown extension on the LRT, we would have to spend he $1.5 billion that saved in Scarborough. Explaining why the Crosstown extension was better for Scarborough has proven beyond politicians. It has proven beyond us here to explain it to you, Joe M. So, what I would prefer now, would be to extend the Crosstown on he SRT right of way, as originally planned — and build the Eastbound line too.
To answer your question, above, while there may be no technical reason why the TTC couldn’t tunnel a heavy rail extension, to Sheppard, from Kennedy, there are two practical reasons why we should not do so. Cost and potential ridership.
If we were to build a heavy rail connection from the BD line, to Sheppard, it should be built as an extension to the DRL, because that is where he demand for more capacity is.
What understanding you have needs to shift depending on which subway plan is on the table and being advanced on any given day. Remember, McCowan Road was Scarborough’s “Yonge Street” just a few months ago but that factoid is conveniently forgotten when something else, say a surface subway in the SRT right of way pops up.
My only problem with this is that if this subway is just going to STC, then people will cave on Sheppard in the future as well.
The Eastbound LRT is fantastic for many reason:
1. It’s SEAMLESS
2. It runs through neglected priority areas that should never have been left out to begin with
3. It make the Sheppard LRT serve a slight purpose connecting to that stub
5. GO connections
Now that doesn’t mean we have fixed all the problems. The simpleton planning model that goes on in this City as the latest administration always believe they have a solution to the transit neglect in this City without paying the real cost of connecting a network with some form of equity. We can pick side of the crappy plans but in the end they were both irresponsible.
The Subway to STC is still a HUGE part of the plan for Scarborough’s future & we need to do it right. If surface is available take it as far as it will go with the funds at hand. If underground make provisions for 1-2 more stops during construction and move on.
Scarborough is not asking for ALL the investment. It just happens it’s a HUGE part of Toronto which needs to be addressed soon and addressees effectively. The SLRT was headed to Markham/Milner & there is no reason a subway cant from a design standpoint. If money can take it further. DO IT. It’s still needed whether now or soon. But again I only mention that route because council choose to review this route option once again. Otherwise add a stop at Lawrence and build what they can to STC for now because we just need to start.
No one from Scarborough is fighting for all the money. We are asking for the money to actually build a connected network. Not a segregated transfer laden LRT hack job. Although regarding all the transit dollars I would say there are areas in this City trying to prevent Scarborough from that as they have a different issue in that they need to build caused by growth from previous transit blessings whereas Scarborough needs transit desperately to start it growth and stop deteriorating socially & economically.
Lets build it together and build it right. The DRL, SSE and the local LRT network is all equally important and should be funded. There is no reason whatsoever to try to cut corners in certain areas of transit building just because we are so far behind. It needs to be done right..
Now that doesn’t mean we have fixed all the problems.
I believe the priority problem is to provide equitable TTC service to people in Scarborough living north of the 401.
The LRT route only provides the Scarborough residents in the north/east access to the Kennedy station hub. It would be quicker for those residents to take buses along Ellesmere to the STC hub or along Lawrence to a Lawrence East subway station. We ignore residents living in the north/west of Scarborough who get no change in service.
The LRT’s reduce Eglinton and Kingston Rd to 4 lanes which will jam up Lawrence and St. Clair. The traffic congestion will discourage any economic development.
The LRT from Victoria Park to Kennedy should be underground, it’s a short distance.
The fact of the matter is that the ill advised unneeded subway to STC is receiving virtually all of the available capital funding. The 30 year City wide tax increase is dedicated to this vanity project and nothing else. The ridership does not justify this expenditure (any more than building a subway to a field in York Region is justified.) We are not going to get a proper balanced load appropriate transit system until political interference and propaganda based planning are put behind us.
These white elephants are not only vacuuming up capital funds that could be deployed to actually improve transit throughout the City, but will also require ongoing operating subsidies an a elevated level for a long time to come, if not perpetually.
Poor planning is nothing new. The Spadina subway’s location was forced by expressway loving politicians who wanted to preserve a “transportation corridor” over their chosen expressway route. It would have made more sense and provided much more utility if it was underneath Dufferin Street. Over the past 40 years we have allowed the best transit system in North America to wither from underfunding and ill advised decisions. It is time for that to stop.
Here’s a reason: the city has a debt ceiling. If you put back the Sheppard and Lawrence stops, you’re adding another billion dollars to the cost. Even if the city agreed that they should spend 4.5 billion in Scarborough alone over the next 10 years, where would they find this money? What else would we have to cut to run a mostly empty subway?
And while we’re on that subject, here’s another reason: running mostly empty subways costs the city lots of money in the long run. So the 4.5 billion price tag would be just the start.
It’s time to get over the idea of transferring. I live and work in the old city of Toronto and I transfer twice every day. Between bus and subway and between the two subway lines (at Spadina, no less). It’s fine, I live.
It’s over 3 kilometers, with four stops (not counting Kennedy station)! To tunnel that distance and build four more full stations would be very, very expensive.
Steve: And widening the road is easier and much cheaper.
These ridership projections, etc are based on population, etc which come from the census. To increase government services in my area, I have been grossly inflating the number of people in my household in Scarborough and we have been asking our friends and family to do the same and we have been lying since the 1996 survey and government services have improved considerably as a result of this mass deception but we have to lie as we are underserved. I live in Scarborough Town Centre area and so I just enter the TTC from the bus area but the reason that I don’t pay for the TTC is because we are underserved by transit. Once we get the subway, I would start paying as long as there are no distance based fares.
Steve: Considering that fare revenue comes from real boardings, I hope you will consider overpaying proportionately when the time comes to pay your share of the cost of operating the subway, or at least riding it a lot — paying a single fare each time — to make up for all of the phantom riders. As for property tax contributions, they have nothing to do with population numbers.
One interesting side effect of inflated ridership numbers is that losses from lower than expected revenue could result in service cuts on your bus routes so that enough is left over to keep the subway operating frequently all day. Hoist by your own petard, I would say.
This attitude is a good example of what’s wrong with civic engagement in today’s world. Your comment shows your a selfish, self interested person who cares not for the prosperity and strength of the city as a whole. But only for what you can get out of it. This gross sense of entitlement only further degrades our society and spawns more people with similar attitudes. There was a time when everyone wanted to help build up their city, country and community. and willingness to self sacrifice lead to truly progressive things. It’s a shame people like this can’t look past their own two car garage.
My ridiculous answer to a ridiculous problem.
Although you are correct, we need to ask however why this particular alignment of the subway was selected and why so much of Scarborough’s transit planning is fixated on a mall? Getting over the mall fixation allows for much greater planning flexibility that would allow for a much higher return on investment.
Take for example the recent changes to the DRL that recognize the synergies created by bringing the subway and GO together at Eastern Avenue. The potential for growth is much higher when multiple lines are close together. If you take that principle and apply it to the Scarborough context I say ignore the mall and run the subway north along the existing corridor up to Sheppard and then loop it to connect it to the existing Sheppard subway. It would cost less and the returns would be much higher.
They should seriously look at using the old RT alignment and have one branch to STC and one branch to Sheppard. Then the Lawrence station can stay. That would probably save an enormous amount of money.
Really how much has the TTC studied the solutions that are in between a subway and a at grade LRT – elevated rail, surface rail, etc?
Steve: A subway in the RT alignment would be complex, disruptive and expensive (regardless of whether it was below grade or at the surface) because Kennedy Station does not point north and would have to be substantially rebuilt. There was an LRT plan, once upon a time, and of course it could have had a northern branch, but fate intervened and the idea was sacrificed on the altar of subways, subways, subways.
Providing deliberately misleading information on your census is a serious offence. Stealing transit rides is just that – stealing. I would never stoop so low as to do such things – but if for some unfathomable reason my moral compass slipped to the extent that I did, I would be deeply ashamed. I certainly would not be boasting about it on the internet.
I have a test for the kind of wrongdoings where we try and persuade ourselves that we are “entitled” and the action is OK. It is “If everyone behaved this way would the world work?” In the case of lying on the census and stealing transit the answer is clearly no. This is not civil disobedience – it is lawbreaking and it is wrong.
As far as I know, the TTC has truly studied these options and Steve has reflected the results of these studies. While one obstacle is the turn at Kennedy to go north, other obstacles are the distance required to surface then make a sharp turn east to STC.
What is less known is that Metrolinx faced the same problem trying to get the Crosstown LRT to turn, north up the RT corridor and decided it was not possible. They were very happy that City Council voted in October 2013 to kill the LRT and go subway.
Steve: There have been designs for the LRT-based Kennedy Station that clearly showed the west to north link between the Crosstown and the Scarborough LRT. At least they would not have to demolish an existing station to make this work.
HILARIOUS! I’m assuming this is an ironic joke about the lengths that some Scarberians will go to in order to advance their agenda as a forsaken “underserviced” area that has it worse than sub-Saharan Africa, when in fact they are being given a huge subsidy by the rest of the city to build the Scarborough Subway Boondoggle.
Because if not and you’re being serious and actually think you have influenced public policy by gaming a few census responses, you need to take a a few lessons in statistics … StatsCan is very much aware of the possibility of content/response errors in the census. Books have been written on how to handle response errors in surveys/census collection, and they DEFINITELY have built-in models and methods for accounting for this kind of gamesmanship including cross-referencing with other government databases (like, say, the CRA’s giant list of how much each person paid in taxes, whether they had dependents etc and where they live)!
Steve already left Marco a note. I’d like to make sure Marco understands that John Tory’s disastrous SmartTrack is supposed to run North on the same railway right-of-way that the northbound portion of the SRT used.
Marco, when you suggest running an extension to the BD line up the old SRT right-of-way, and suggest it would “save an enormous amount of money”, are you overlooking several elements that would make this conversion expensive?
These include: (1) current SRT stations are too short for a subway train set; (2) SRT vehicles are narrower than subway vehicles, so all the platforms would have to be rebuilt; (3) TTC subway vehicles use a non-standard gauge, while the SRT uses standard gauge, so all the tracks would have to be brand new; (4) SRT vehicles have a tighter turning circle than subway vehicle, so the curves need adjustment to the right of way.
Is it really hopeless that reason will prevail? I was under the impression that if the City told the Minister of Transport that, after study, it was decided not to build an SSE, we could go back to the original LRT plan.
Steve: But this Mayor and this City Council will never say this, and the Scarborough Liberal Caucus would be apoplectic if they did. A big problem is tha the leader of this caucus is also the Minister of Infrastructure.
Okay, let us count the ways this will not work:
As Steve mentioned below, you’d have to pretty much rebuild Kennedy station. This would mean shutting it down for an extended period. I’m not sure if Warden could handle the necessary bus traffic, and if the TTC would have enough buses, because…
You’d have to shut down the SRT before construction could begin. So you’d be running shuttle buses from STC all the way to Warden for years.
To reach Don Mills station from the rail corridor, you would need 5 km of tunneled subway, with a minimum of three more stations (Victoria Park, Warden, and Kennedy). That alone is going to cost almost as much as the 3.5 billion three stop SSE plan to Sheppard. So it would not cost less by any means.
For the majority of Scarborough residents, under this plan, TTC rapid transit gets further away.
For all its flaws, STC has enough traffic and density that you wouldn’t want to not serve it at all, while the remaining surface subway would still run through an industrial area.
In general this is a crazy, expensive plan. If we’re going to lose the fixation with malls, why can’t we lose the fixation with subways, subways, subways, and build lots and lots of LRT throughout Scarborough. For this money, you could probably build the Scarborough LRT, the SMLRT, the Sheppard LRT, and LRT on Lawrence East and Markham Road as well.
I thought that the LRT replacing the existing Rt would run in isolation from traffic (i.e not in a median like surface section of the Eglinton Crosstown). Now it wouldn’t be underground but then neither is a good chunk of the existing Spadina subway. So to satilsfy those who want “subways, subways, subways” just rename as a subway! Problem solved, big $ saved!
Steve: Rather like Queen’s Park calling the RT’s ICTS technology “Advanced LRT” to make that pig seem like an improvement on “streetcars”. I think Scarborough is onto that trick.
I am skeptical.
The SRT vehicles have a much smaller turning circle than the The TTC’s subway trains. But, so do the Flexity Freedom vehicles. As I understand it, Metrolinx Flexity Freedom vehicles have a wider turning circle than the TTC’s Flexity Outlook vehicles. Surely if Metrolinx needed the vehicles to have a tighter turning circle they would have discussed this requirement with Bombardier when the specifications were being negotiated?
This is not atypical, and is in line with the more realistic historic proposals for this line.
Yes. Again this is not a deviation from the historic more realistic and useful proposals.
This cost is offset by the fact that there is no tunneling necessary along the north south section; the fact that the money allocated to Sheppard LRT included tunneling to Consumers Rd; and the fact the original Bloor-Danforth extension included funds to allow for tunneling to Sheppard via a several km eastern approach. Overall there is likely less tunneling in my proposal than in the combined LRT and the original BD extension proposal. So overall the price variance is likely to be marginal.
Given the current proposal for a one stop extension I would say that you are wrong, and that any residual issues can be mitigated through a realignment of the feeder bus system.
The main strength of my proposal is that it creates a seamless system that provides the users with excellent access to every corner of the city. It focuses on a corridor where the land ownership structure would allow it to be repurposed with relative ease. A confluence of transit lines would allow for significantly higher densities. As a result it would have a much better return on investment over the projects life.
If you are asking me do I believe all these subways are an optimal investment my honest answer would be no. But given the government’s commitments it is imperative to maximize the value created within the constraints we face. The alternative is to accept a plan that is nothing more than a sclerotic boondoggle.
@A Quiet Guy From Oakville – I also don’t pay for transit but my reason is different – I am not greedy like most of you who don’t pay but I hate it when I am waiting in line to pay and some smartass pulls the exit turnstile back to create enough space to simply walk through without paying. The TTC has lost more than a billion dollars to this simple trick over the course of it’s long history. Anyway, why should I have to wait in line to pay when cheaters like you not only don’t wait but also don’t pay. I am willing to pay but I don’t want to wait in line.
Perhaps, but it does cost millions of dollars, require years of planning, and have a massive detrimental impact on transit operations in Scarborough for years. That cannot be ignored. You may lose customers and never get them back. And it might wreak havoc on the Crosstown, which requires major work on Kennedy within a timeline that is not compatible with a subway plan that has not even begun studies yet.
Firstly, it’s not at all true that there would be no tunneling required along the north-south section. The subway cannot magically appear at grade, you would need a section of tunnel for it to emerge. Then, at the north end, it would need to enter a tunnel well before it has to make the curve west.
And while your plan *may* have less tunneling than the SSE and Sheppard LRT combined, it has many more full subway stations to offset that cost (a minimum of five, plus a rebuild of Kennedy), and in the end it has no rapid transit on Sheppard east of Kennedy, in south-east Scarborough along the SMLRT route to UTSC, or to the STC district. Oh, and don’t forget the (admittedly minor) costs to retrofit the Sheppard stations to support full length trains.
Look at a map: the vast majority of Scarborough is east of the rail corridor. 10+ km of it, roughly the same distance as Yonge to Royal York. Almost all those people would now have to come further to reach rapid transit than the status quo, let alone the plan in which there are LRT lines built. So it does not provide “excellent access” to their corners.
I’m not arguing we should build subway all the way out there, I think the density and land use calls for an LRT network to serve those people, and not wasting money on a subway that’ll run mostly empty. Because do you really think the bidirectional demand exists to justify subway? Are there enough people boarding at Lawrence and going north-east to Victoria Park? Or getting on at Warden/Sheppard and riding to Main Street? How many people are going not just against peak demand, but in a route not even oriented to downtown? I’m sure there are some, but I’m also sure there are not anywhere near enough to justify a subway.
I am a more reasonable Scarborough citizen open to compromise and I don’t think that anyone deserves a subway and I think that LRT/streetcar is okay but only if it’s underground and underground LRT/streetcar is something that we can live with in Scarborough.
Steve: A subway by any other name. The reason we call it “L”RT is that it does not require a full grade separation where circumstances do not warrant it.
Michael Greason wrote about another poster claiming to cheat on the census form and use transit without paying:
I would agree, but here is the acid test of civil disobedience: ask the perpetrator if they are willing to go to jail. I’m simplifying, but civil disobedience involves getting arrested and going to jail so a constitutional challenge can be made on appeal to the conviction, with an eye on not only getting the conviction overturned, but also on getting the law tossed.
I think it is safe to assume the original poster is not interested in any of this.
Buy a Metropass and do one of two things when there is a lineup:
1) Go to the front of the line and squeeze by the person holding up the line paying cash, or
2) Use the wheelchair/stroller gates (while they still exist) – be sure to close them back if you had to open them.
Either way, make sure to hold your Metropass high in the air so the collector can see it.
Further to Calvin Henry Catnap’s point – here is a honourable case of civil disobedience (quoted from today’s Guardian):
This noble gentleman will go to jail (until the protest gets too loud) at age 84 not because he is looking for an excuse to avoid his taxes, rather he is willing to go to jail to make his point that he believes society is unjust.
Steve: Clearly here is someone willing to be caught at failing to pay, and willing to pay the penalty for this rather then thumbing his nose at the rest of us.
@Michael Greason – So, is that your justification for evading taxes? Pathetic for just because someone else is doing it, it doesn’t make it right.
Steve: Greason’s distinction is not to praise tax evasion as a means of saving money, but of political protest. An entire country was founded on the same basis.
This is standard in all public works projects. It is no different from the construction of the St. Clair streetcar route, Eglinton LRT, or the Sheppard subway. They all require some degree of disruption. With proper planning the disruptive elements can be mitigated and limited to reasonable levels.
Whether or not you get these riders back is dependent on the quality of the project built. In the case of my proposal the transit system would quickly and seamlessly connect the user to every major destination in the city, and would arguably create the best connected region of the city. It would be very hard for a transit user to avoid such value.
I disagree with your use of cost as a direct metric for value. Yes the project *may* cost slightly more but the confluence of multiple transit lines in a seamless network would significantly improve redevelopment potential, it would expand the users transit options while simultaneously lowering the cost of those options. In aggregate the Net Present Value would be significantly higher with my approach.
Good public policy has two main elements first the regressive element that seeks to understand and utilize historic data, and second the progressive element that seeks to understand a system’s internal dynamics that will shape the future. The business park at Victoria Park is known to have note worthy growth potential, the IBI Group, Neptis Foundation, and others have all identified this to be true. The problem is that the existing system makes these travel patterns uncompetitive and prohibitive.
My proposal is a better utilization of public funds in a way that is true to the original spirit of the projects, but improves on both their economic and political viability.