Holey & Moley; Scarborough Wants You! – Letter by Patricia Sinclair

TorSubPlan

Dear Messrs. Pennachetti, Byford, Rossini and Ford,

The people of Toronto have been very clear in their demands for subways not streetcars since David Miller’s bogus consultation meetings.

In Scarborough, the call for subways has been consistent; repeated in writing, street and park demonstrations, and petitions (most recently from the Business Owners in the Sheppard East Village BIA).

Instinctively, most Torontonians realize subways are the superior system despite the rhetoric we have been bombarded with by the light rail ideologues and those set to profit.

This position has been supported globally by numerous Auditor General Reports, Grand Jury Investigations and independent research.  The findings are worth repeating:

•       LRT will not improve commuter travel times, energy conservation and safety;

•       LRT will not resolve traffic congestion because it attracts few automobile drivers from their cars;

•       LRT cost and ridership forecasts will be erroneous and biased in favor of LRT;

•       LRT will not spur development. Development along LRT corridors is spurred by tax subsidies, not LRT.

When the issue of cost and funding is raised, Metrolinx and the Light Rail ideologues, fail to acknowledge and discuss the full opportunity costs [1].

Opportunity costs more than offset the difference in direct costs.  The costs of transit and roads, the costs of travel time delays and lost development opportunities are ultimately all born by the taxpayer.  The C.D. Howe Institute now estimates the cost of Toronto gridlock at $11 billion annually [2].

Toronto has failed to analyze the success of the Sheppard Stubway [3] to understand the payback we are receiving from development along this transit corridor.  That is negligent.  Development allows transit infrastructure to pay for itself.

Our original subway infrastructure was built and funded by the City of Toronto.  Today, we have more resources at our disposal and willing partners (P3s).  Although we must work around a dysfunctional City Council, I believe we employ City Staff with the necessary education and capabilities to find the ways and means that will enable us to go, via subway, where work has gone: Downtown; Airport and area; Markham [4].

It is time to start acting like a City State!  Beginning now, to build out our Subway Network, to serve the whole city/region before our economy is permanently crippled.

Please understand that Network is of paramount importance.  It is what makes all great transit systems work beyond the level of their individual components. Riders are lost due to detours from direct line routes and/or requirements to transfer between different technologies.  The Network concept of direct, interconnected and continuous line routing is critical to the success of any system.  There is a compound affect of an integrated Network; the sum of the parts being greater than the whole.

We need to advance the most cost-effective transit solutions to meet the long-term growth of our city.  This means subway lines in the right places, with the right spacing (one bus route apart: 8-10 Km), not stretched beyond their ideal length of 50 Km (5 bus routes); connecting with our feeder bus system, and GO Transit.

In order to be rapid, transit requires its own right-of-way. Competing for travel time with traffic signals along a route significantly adds to travel time and potential erratic round trip running times.   Mass transit rail, built at grade in an urban environment, interferes with vehicular traffic.  The result is increased traffic congestion/gridlock.

Naturally, this is of no concern to a government that negotiated the Samsung deal under the Green Energy Act, imposed Presto, contrived Ornge, re-located Gas Plants…

Cheap talk won’t build new subways but understanding the economics, land use, transit utility/planning, and finding new creative ways to raise money will.

Here are 10 suggestions from your average taxpayer:

1.         Cost Management

TTC is notorious for high prices and Metrolinx is vying to outdo them.  Paris [5] can build for $160M/Km; the Sheppard Stubway cost $285M/Km in today’s dollar.  This disparity needs to be addressed.

Get a per unit price list for tunnel sections, signals, track work, vehicles, etc. rather than the current practice of lumping everything together and then dividing by distance (and then multiplying by 2 or more).

Conduct an open, competitive tender process; no awarding of sole sourced contracts.

Yorkie and Torkie are completing their tunneling work and will be available at the end of the year.  The availability of 4 tunnel diggers is a huge savings.

2.         $8.4 billion “fully-funded”?  Reallocate the money

Evidence-based Scarborough Subway plans have existed for decades.  The Sheppard Subway Extension has been TTC’s top priority since the 1980s.

– TTC now recognizes the need to bring the Sheppard Extension to McCowan.

– Re-routing the Bloor-Danforth extension to Scarborough City Centre (Exhibit 6, Option 1) [6]  helps serve those travelling to Scarborough Hospital.

3.         Provincial Money – Gas Taxes/HST

How much money do Toronto taxpayers send to Queens Park and Ottawa?  What is our fair share of those receipts?  This is not a general revenue tax.

4.         Federal Money – Economic Action Plan 2013

New Building Canada Plan.  Starting in 2014-15, through three key funds, $47 billion in new funding for infrastructure will become available.  The Community Improvement Fund ($32.2B over 10 years) comes from the gas taxes.  Ensure we receive our fair share.

5.         Tax Increment Financing

We do not need all the money up front.  Tax Increment Financing could be an effective financing tool.  If the province would write the Regulations we can get on with a Pilot Project.

Note:  This tool was proposed for the Sheppard Stubway, believing 25% of the bill could be raised.  At a cost of $0.9 billion and realizing $3.0 billion construction value (to date) in this transit corridor, it could have/should have/needs to be explored.

6.         Development Charge Increase

Is this an increase [7] or, simply reeling Toronto in with the rest of the GTA?  Our current rates are ridiculously low.  Given the Toronto housing market, it may also be an effective tool to help cool an overheated market. [8]

In a mature city, why is 19% of the Residential D.C. going to Parks & Recreation?

7.         Property Tax (Residential Only) Surcharge

We have the lowest residential property tax in the GTA.  We funded the original subway infrastructure with a surcharge.  Once built, the surcharge was removed.

8.         Station Naming Rights

Sell the naming rights; for perpetuity.  The McCowan/Lawrence station could attract a large pharmaceutical company (i.e. Eli Lilly).  Every million counts!

9.         Increased ridership = Fare box revenue

Transit demand is well-established for kilometers surrounding both the Sheppard and Kennedy extensions making the economics guaranteed to work.  Build it and they will come.

Understand that given Toronto’s unique Feeder System (Bus-Subway), the argument of lack of density used against further subway building is a red herring. There are less than twenty stations along the existing Toronto system with sufficient density to generate a significant amount of local walk-in traffic. Over 75% of Toronto subway users arrive via bus.

10.       Woodbine Casino Revenues

A Mega Entertainment Complex, with a casino as part of the mix, serving Tourism Region 5 and the GTHA is long overdue.  Revenues directed to: transit building and State of Good Repair.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Patricia Sinclair
Real Torontonians Dig Subways
 
Cc:       Mr. Bruce McCuaig, President & CEO Metrolinx
            The Honourable Glen Murray, Minister of Transportation
            Metrolinx Board of Directors
            Toronto City Councillors
            GTA MPPS
            Toronto City Staff:
            Robert Hatton, Karyn Spiegelman, Samuel Malvea, Jennifer Keesmaat, Peter Viducis, Casey Brendon, David Whitaker

Editor’s Note:

The Sheppard subway cost $170 M/km in 2002, which in today’s dollars is about $200 M/km. On the other hand, the Spadina subway extension is budgeted to cost just over $300 M/km; while Metrolinx is now budgeting the Yonge subway extension at a staggering $570 M/km.

We need to have a serious Adult Conversation about the way that TTC and Metrolinx are pricing future transit development, since at these rates it will be unaffordable to fund any further transit development. A solution to this, is to let the private sector participate in the financing of transit projects, in order to rationalize its overall capital and operational costs.


[1] http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2013/cc/bgrd/backgroundfile-60240.pdf

Opportunity Costs: SRT replacement with the new light rail vehicles.

1.          Running buses for 3 years plus??, while the line is shut down must include new buses, manpower, mileage, garaging, etc.

2.          Additional delays and passenger trip transfer times at Kennedy due to additional buses.

3.          Additional traffic (buses) on Birchmount, Kennedy, Brimley, Midland and McCowan causing traffic delays on already crowded streets.

4.          The cost of 6 laning the 5 roads noted above since the LRT alternative only maintains the capacity status quo and doesn’t allow for future transit ridership growth which otherwise will need to be accommodated with road widenings.

5.          The negative impact on property values by as much as -15% along right of ways, as documented by Metrolinx.

VERSUS

1.          Continuing to run the SRT while the subway is constructed underground.

2.          The potential to take even more traffic off the streets noted above, thus freeing road capacity for future development.

3.          The stimulus to development along the line and particularly at the Scarborough Town Centre and the resulting new development revenue.

 

[2] http://www.cdhowe.org/pdf/Commentary_385.pdf

[3] http://uwspace.uwaterloo.ca/bitstream/10012/5152/1/Lee_Matthew.pdf

[4] Page 49 –  http://www.canurb.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=121:new-report-by-strategic-regional-research-a-region-in-transition&catid=14:cui-news&Itemid=101

[5] http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/in-paris-a-different-vision-for-subways/article12901813/

[6] http://ttc.ca/About_the_TTC/Commission_reports_and_information/Commission_meetings/2013/January_21/Supplementary_Reports/Response_to_Commissi.pdf

[7] http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2013/ex/bgrd/backgroundfile-59642.pdf

[8] http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/housing/housing-starts-jump-in-may-as-builders-developers-bounce-back/article12445382/

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