Subway extensions to Vaughan and Richmond Hill

Spadina Line to Vaughan

TTC is now completing the extension of the subway from Downsview via York University to Vaughan Metropolitan Centre. Metrolinx has not issued a Benefits Case Analysis for this extension. Evaluating this line means piecing together figures from various sources. Overall, our analysis suggests that the economic case for this scheme is fairly weak, with benefits just slightly in excess of costs. Benefits could be increased if the line succeeds in stimulating intensive development. Cost to the taxpayer can be reduced if TTC makes use of the PRESTO Farecard to introduce “smart pricing,” as discussed in Chapter 10. Doing so could capture some of the $1.4 billion NPV time savings that would benefit riders, but would be paid for with public funds. 

In 2005, TTC forecast weekday ridership at about 100,000 for a line ending at Steeles.[1] Of course, the line is actually being built further, to Highway 7, so ridership should be higher. But no estimates seem to have been provided, nor is there any information available as to how many of these riders will be new to transit.

Information on capital costs is a bit better. Metrolinx has provided data on infrastructure capital costs for the line to Vaughan, but not data on rolling stock costs, operating costs, or ridership. TTC will need 6 to 10 more trains to operate the extended line, costing about $120 million. We estimate that incremental operating costs will be about $25 million per year or $575 million NPV. See Table A5 in the Appendix.

The extension from Steeles to Highway 7 (Vaughan Metropolitan Centre) will allow a direct interchange to the VIVA bus rapid transit system of York Region. We estimate that it might attract 20% more riders than the scheme studied by TTC, which was to end at Steeles, so weekday ridership on the line to Vaughan might be 120,000, or 3.6 million per year. Of this, two-thirds might be diverted from existing TTC services, with one-third or 40,000 per day being new riders. New ridership might double to 80,000 per day by 2033, with complementary planning policies.

TTC will need to use the capabilities of PRESTO to offer reasonable integrated fares for passengers travelling from York and Peel regions by bus, who are travelling only as far as York University. But it could also use PRESTO to charge more than $3, perhaps something like the $5 fare GO charges, for passengers travelling from Vaughan all the way to downtown. TTC could also charge $5 for integrated fares from VIVA and Zum to downtown, and $4 for passengers transferring onto the subway from TTC buses within the city boundary. In our evaluation we assume an average incremental “yield” of $1 per diverted passenger, although in fact many will pay less and some will pay more. The additional income of about $1 per diverted passenger would generate extra revenue of about $552 million NPV. Road user benefits could be in the order of $5 per new rider.

Yonge Line to Richmond Hill

The Yonge Subway is Toronto’s most intensively used transit line, carrying more than 700,000 passengers per day. While it is now operating near to capacity south of Bloor, the diversion of passengers from east and west on to GO services, as we have already suggested, would release capacity for more passengers to travel into the downtown on the Yonge Subway. This will allow further extension of the line. Our analysis indicates that the scheme is worthwhile with benefits well in excess of costs. Net benefits can be increased further and costs to the taxpayer reduced by deferring construction of most of the intermediate stations, unless developers make substantial contributions to costs. As with the Vaughan extension, revenues and ridership can be increased by using smart pricing.

There is now continuous development beyond Richmond Hill. There are also intensive bus and BRT routes on intersecting east-west streets, with many routes turning south to connect with the subway at Finch. Extension of the subway 6.8 km to Richmond Hill Centre seems an obvious next step.

Metrolinx has prepared a Benefits Case Analysis for this extension, and it contains most of the information we need to evaluate the scheme. TTC has also provided some relevant data. TTC has estimated costs of $2.4 billion (in 2008 dollars), including six new stations and the renovation of the Finch station.[2] Incremental rolling stock and operating and maintenance costs would be about 80% as much as for the Vaughan extension, which is 8.6 km. It would significantly reduce travel times, and support transit-oriented development in the corridor.

We believe that costs can be reduced about $800 million by deferring construction of stations at Cummer, Clark, Royal Orchard, and Langstaff/Longbridge. At about $200 million each, the cost of these stations will far exceed the incremental riders and benefits, perhaps 90% of which would be captured with an extension to a single terminal at Richmond Hill Centre, perhaps with one intermediate station at Steeles Avenue. The other stations should be added over time in partnership with developers: Vancouver and London have shown how local developers can be persuaded to pay for intermediate stations.[3] Deferring stations will also reduce incremental rolling stock and O&M costs

Ridership might be 25% higher than on the Vaughan extension, reflecting the higher density of development. TTC suggests ridership at Finch might grow by 8,400 in the peak hour or perhaps 80,000 per day by 2031.[4] Obviously much of this growth would happen even if the subway is not extended. We assume a daily incremental ridership of 150,000 with six stations, of which 50,000 are new riders. Ridership would be reduced 10% if there are only two new stations. Incremental ridership could increase about 50% to 2033 with complementary policies, somewhat less than on the Vaughan extension because the traffic will be starting at a higher base. 

Incremental revenues are about three times O&M costs. There could also be substantial benefits to TTC of having a yard at the north end of the line. Currently, TTC must run about 10 trains empty each morning and evening from Wilson to Finch, a distance of 30 km. These trains are apparently crewed with two employees, even though there are no passengers and no need to open or close the doors. The yard could be located under the hydro lines, immediately south and west of the Yonge-407 interchange. TTC could store trains there overnight, and some drivers could be assigned to sign on for work there.

Time savings to existing passengers will be similar to the Vaughan extension. Again, much of this benefit could be captured with smart pricing, reducing the net cost to the taxpayer. As on the Vaughan extension, fares might be $5 for travel from north of Steeles to downtown, $4 for passengers boarding at Steeles, but with a lower fare of perhaps $3 for passengers travelling from Richmond Hill, but all the way not to downtown Toronto (perhaps to York Mills). Smart pricing is possible with the PRESTO smartcard.

Road user benefits are likely to be similar to those for the Vaughan extension, about $5 per new rider, because trips will be relatively long and originating in the suburbs.

[1] TTC: Spadina Subway Extension Environmental Assessment, Appendix M, August 2005.
[3] Vancouver and London have successfully extracted large contributions from developers, in return for provision and sometimes modification of transit stations. In Vancouver, developers at Main Street and Metrotown stations on the initial Skytrain line made up-front capital payments as well as ongoing payments per square metre of space developed on their sites. In return, Translink agreed to shift the station locations, and to feed passengers through the sites for access to bus interchanges. In London, the Canary Wharf developer entered into a similar arrangement for construction of an extension to the Jubilee Line, and also for the Crossrail scheme now under construction. At Cutty Sark (Greenwich Waterfront), North Greenwich, and Woolwich Arsenal, developers also made substantial contributions. In each case, the Government could make a credible threat that it would not build the station, or would even run the line on a different route, unless the contribution was made.