The mayor's $9-billion plan is big on subways, but involves some dubious math.
Mayor Rob Ford unveiled his transit plan this morning, which is unsurprisingly big on subways, subways, subways.
The plan, which was leaked from the mayor’s campaign website last night, calls for 32 kilometres of underground transit to be built at a cost of $9 billion. Proposals include halting planned LRT routes on Sheppard Avenue and Finch Avenue West and replacing them with subways; burying the eastern (Scarborough) portion of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT (Ford seemed to suggest that he was responsible for burying the line as it passes through midtown, which had in fact always been the plan: “There’s one reason Eglinton is underground,” he said during a presser at his Etobicoke campaign headquarters, “it’s because of Mayor Rob Ford”); and prioritizing a “Yonge relief line” stretching initially from Pape Station to Queen Station—all apparently without raising taxes.
“My detractors will say my subway plan is too ambitious,” Ford said. “They will say it’s too expensive.” In fact, the plan appears to lowball significantly the cost of building subways. As the Toronto Star reports, the going rate for a subway in Toronto is $300 million per kilometre—which means Ford’s proposed 11-kilometre Finch subway, for example, would cost $3.3 billion, not $2.6 billion as the mayor claims.
Ford pitched public-private partnerships, development charges, the sale of air rights above new subway stations, revenue from Build Toronto, tax increment financing (which entails borrowing against development that subways might induce), the sale of assets along proposed transit corridors, and reallocating funding for LRTs to new subways as revenue sources that would ostensibly eliminate the need for a tax hike—although he has already hiked taxes to pay for his Scarborough subway extension legacy project. (Curiously, Ford spoke throughout the presser as though the line had already been built: “In 2010 I promised to build a subway in Scarborough,” he said, “and I’m very proud to have delivered on that promise.”)