Ford's subways pricier, reach fewer than LRT: report

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's planned subway expansion will take years longer to implement than the current Transit City light rail plan, is more expensive and will reach fewer people, a new report says.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's planned subway expansion will take years longer to implement than the current Transit City light rail plan, is more expensive and will reach fewer people, a new report says.

Making Tracks to Torontonians, prepared by the Pembina Institute, an energy think tank based in Calgary, was released Wednesday to "inform city council how best to invest the current allocated budget for necessary transit in Toronto."

Transit City Lines

Sheppard LRT. Expected completion date: 2014.

Eglinton Crosstown LRT. Expected completion date: 2020.

Finch West LRT. Expected completion date: 2019.

Scarborough LRT. Expected completion date: 2020.

There are four other lines that are being considered, but they are in a preliminary evaluation stage and have not received any funding.

The report used numbers from the regional transit agency Metrolinx to determine that the portions of the four Transit City light rail lines that have secured $8.15 billion in provincial funding will cost on average $167 million per kilometre to build. That number includes rail yards and tunnelling costs that will be incurred for the underground portion on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT.

Meanwhile, the report pegged the cost of Ford's subway plan at $6.2 billion, based on spending estimates of $300 million per kilometre of track plus a $500 million rail yard.

The total estimated cost per kilometre of Ford's subway plan, the report says, is $344 million.

Ford has pledged to scrap the Transit City plan in favour of expanding the city's subway network by:

  • Linking the Don Mills station to Scarborough Town Centre.
  • Linking Downsview station to Sheppard station.
  • Replacing the Scarborough RT with a full-fledged subway station.

"It's great to have a mayor and council that are committed to investing in Toronto's transit network," Cherise Burda, the co-author of the report, said in a news release. "Taxpayers in this city need to be confident that they're investing in the option that is the most fiscally responsible and will deliver the best commuter service for the most people."

Wait expected for subways

Implementing the current Transit City plan will also be much easier than a new subway plan, the report said.

Rob Ford's transportation plan

Campaign literature outlining transit priorities.

It cites a November Toronto Transit Commission briefing note that estimates construction on Ford's planned Sheppard Avenue subway extension will likely not begin until 2014 at the earliest and will not be completed before 2020. This is contrary to Ford's assertion that all lines would be completed before 2015 in time for the Pan Am Games.

Construction has already begun on the Sheppard Ave. light rail line as envisioned in the Transit City plan, and the first portion of the line, linking Don Mills subway to the Scarborough town centre, is expected to be completed by 2014.

The report compares the relative speeds of the three modes of transit under consideration. It makes the distinction between streetcars, which travel at speeds of 10-20 kilometres an hour in optimal conditions, and light rail vehicles, which top out at 25-30 kilometres an hour. Subway trains travel at a speed of up to 30-40 kilometres an hour.

"These speeds are unlikely to be reached in typical operating conditions but provide a relative comparison between options available," the report says.

According to the report, subway trains can carry more people, with the average capacity of a six-car subway train being around 1,100 individuals. Meanwhile, the Bombardier light rail vehicles that will run in the city have a total capacity of around 175.

The report also estimates that the four LRT lines would serve an additional 290,000 people who live within six minutes' walking distance of one of the stops.

However, Ford's subway plan "would serve just one region of the city" and would place stops within a six-minute walk of 61,000 people.


  • An earlier version of this story reported that the Transit City lines that have received $8.15 billion in provincial funding cost $140 million per kilometre to build. In fact, the $8.15 billion figure has been dedicated to only a portion of those lines. The actual cost per kilometre of the portions of the light rail lines that have secured funding is $167 million.
    Jan 06, 2011 12:50 PM ET