Five reasons why Toronto can build proper subways for $200 million per km

The first thing that we need in order to calculate transit costs with better optics, is having the private sector’s participation for, at least, part of the financing. For example, Vancouver’s Canada Line was built at a rate of $105 million per km (roughly 50% tunneled, and 50% elevated), and the private sector contributed with 1/3 of its financing. On the other hand, a similar project in Vancouver, the all publicly-funded Evergreen Line (roughly 20% tunneled, 45% elevated and 35% ground level) is expected to cost about $130 million per km, even though 4 of its 6 stations are already built. As soon as you remove the private sector, the budgets explode.

– Second, the current Sheppard subway cost roughly $140 million per km, and was opened 10 years ago. Inflation for the last 10 years have rose by 20%, so we can expect it to cost, today, about $170 million per km, which is almost in line to Metrolinx’s $177 M/km, as shown in TTIL’s report “Toronto Transit: Back On Track – page 11”.

– Third, the Spadina subway extension includes 6 stations that will cost altogether between $800 to $900 million, as currently proposed. If we replace these stations with simple ones at about $50 million each (the original design for the Sheppard West subway station was budgeted at less than $60 million – see, we can save over $500 million, and that will automatically put the cost down from $306 M/km to $244 M/km. These subway stations costs can even be taken away from the equation if we just allow the private sector to develop right above it, which will bring the figure further down to $209 M/km.

– Fourth, when you have a subway construction program, like the one in Madrid, you’ll get significant economies of scale, by reusing boring machines, construction crews, engineering designs, etc.

– Fifth, the Eglinton Crosstown tunneling budget has been consistently increasing since it was presented only 5 years ago, from about $200 M/km, to about $500 M/km. See Eglinton LRT tunnel table at: This shows that most politicians have no understanding of their proposed transit costs.

3 thoughts on “Five reasons why Toronto can build proper subways for $200 million per km

  1. Pingback: Open letter to CivicAction « Transportation Toronto

  2. How feasible is suggestion four for Toronto? What would be the requisites for such a program?

    How does the fifth point demonstrate that subways can be built for $200 million/km? It actually seems to suggest that they can’t be built so cheaply, as budgets are almost always underestimated, not overestimated.

  3. Hi Bernhard,
    And thanks for your questions.

    How feasible? Well, Metrolinx is already contemplating the use of these economies, since they will utilize the same boring machines from Eglinton’s Crosstown line, to dig through the first kilometer of tunnel on the Sheppard LRT. As a matter of fact, that is one of the reasons that they won’t begin the Sheppard LRT sooner.

    Also, there could be significant savings on engineering work, by maintaining standard station designs. Most machinery can also be reused, and when you achieve a regular subway construction schedule, you can also achieve savings by utilizing prefabricated elements.

    As for the fifth point that you inquire, TTC has historically overestimated their budgets by at least 30%. Sheppard subway was built at less than $200 million/km, in today’s dollars, so my point is why are politicians now saying that the Eglinton LRT will cost more than double? What I see, is that some politicians have purposely overestimated their transit budgets, as an artificial argument against having enough resources to build other subway lines, like a Sheppard East extension. With the $8.6 billion that the province has pledged, so far, they can build the entire Eglinton Crosstown line, and the Sheppard subway extension. At the end, is nothing more than political argument manipulation.

    As for the Spadina subway extension, their $300 million/km price tag is a consequence of palatial-type subway stations, and other lack of efficiencies. We can do better than that.

    As an appropriate comparison, Vancouver has just signed an agreement with a private consortium to design-build-finance the new Evergreen Line, at a cost of $889 million. This includes 2 km of tunnels and another 9 km at-grade and elevated, plus 7 new stations. If we use Toronto politician’s budget numbers, only the 2 km of tunnels would eat the entire $889 million cost. Again, it’s just a matter of political manipulation.



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