|LRT and Subway Construction Costs
This page has been updated to adjusts costs to
reflect 2011 dollars.
|Much of this site is devoted to
promoting LRT as a viable alternative to Subway for rapid
transit expansion within the GTA where capacity needs
exceed or will exceed that of bus operation, but do not
warrant a Subway level of capacity. While Subway
construction requires a minimum peak requirement of 10,000
people per hour per direction to be justified, LRT
operation can easily support up to 12,000 in a roadway
median, and even greater than 20,000 in a fully separated
right of way.
The major advantage of LRT is that its
capacity is high enough for most every outer corridor
within the GTA for today and for well beyond the
foreseeable future. Furthermore, the capacity of one
Subway line can be exceeded with two parallel LRT lines
with numerous advantages:
single rapid transit line requires funneling all
users to the single line; while feeder bus routes
would be ideal, the reality is that many new
users will drive to this single line and will
require parking; stations must be built with
giant parking facilities
a service disruption occurs, the entire corridor
served by a single line is affected, with little
or no alternatives
lines involve single point-to-point operation;
few, if any, opportunities exist for route
interlining that can provide service that
provides more convenient travel options for users
with a reduced need to transfer in order to reach
be shown here, the construction cost of LRT is so
significantly lower than Subway construction that in some
cases it is possible build TWO, or even THREE parallel
lines for a similar cost, often reaching further
this comparison the York Region corridor around Yonge
single rapid transit line down Yonge Street
rapid transit line on Leslie/Don Mills, one on
Yonge, and a third on Dufferin
In case 1,
everyone must get to Yonge. Those close enough could walk,
or they would take a feeder bus. Those west of Bathurst
or east of Bayview will be more likely to drive and need
parking. When an incident occurs on this line, EVERYONE
from this corridor is stuck.
In case 2,
it might sound as if three times the stations spread over
the three lines will each require parking facilities that
are only a third of the facilities needed for the single
Yonge line. However, with more stations spread over a
wider catchment area, far more people are in a position
to walk or use a feeder bus service to reach the rapid
transit line, so the total parking requirements will be
lower. It is possible that the parking requirements would
be the same because the multiple lines will attract even
more riders over a wider area. This means that for the
same amount of money, far more people will reap the
benefits of this investment in public transit.
real is this 3-for-1 idea? Let us look a the sort of
costs for building Subway and LRT lines. Please note:
since the primary purpose of this site is to show the
benefits of LRT, to avoid the accusation of taking the
best of LRT costs and comparing them to the worst of
Subway costs, we will attempt to do the exact opposite.
In coming up with these figures, every allowance and
benefit of doubt has been given to Subway figures, while
attempting to be as critical as possible with LRT figures.
||Of course Subway expansion is more
costly - it's underground!
have the belief that Subways are expensive simply
because the are underground.
is a major increase in the cost of construction, for
building underground is more expensive than building
at grade. Even building an elevated structure tends
adds to cost, though not quite as much as a tunnel.
||That's not the full story...
it is not just the underground issue that makes
Subway more expensive - it is the whole
infrastructure around a Subway that makes it more
expensive. The ROW must be completely isolated. This
means that when it is able to run on the surface, it
requires more space, and must be totally fenced or
walled in to prevent any public access. All street
crossings must be grade separated.
infrastructure is more costly. Think about what costs
more: a station that must have stairs, escalators,
and elevators to go up or down to a level to be able
to cross tracks, or a station that allows crossing
the tracks on foot?
tunnels and other structures are built for Subway,
they are more costly due to the larger loading gauge
(height and width clearances for vehicles). The
greatest effect of this is the extra space needed for
curves and cross-overs.
you will see, the cost range for building LRT
underground is actually comparable to building a
Subway at grade.
||Though LRVs have a significantly lower
loading gauge, they do not have a proportionately lower
capacity due to designs that permit articulation at
shorter intervals. It is not unusual for an LRV to have a
similar seating capacity as a typical Subway vehicle,
though for peak operations the Subway vehicle will hold
about 50% more standees than an LRV will hold.
loading gauge of an LRV is reduced not only by the
narrower dimension, but articulated design allows the
longer vehicle to negociate tighter curves. The
overall costs for a tunnel for an LRT line are often
less costly than a tunnel for Subway. The cut-and-cover
work needed at cross-overs is reduced when an LRT
line is tunneled and this also translates into less
disruption in the neighbourhood during construction.
added cost for Subway is that it requires a complex
signaling infrastructure compared to LRT. The benefit
is that Subway can make use of Automatic Train
Control (ATC) because it already needs this signaling
|What is the Cost of
Building a Subway Line?
$250 million to $300 million per kilometre
At grade: $150 million to $200 million per kilometre
(roughly 65-70% of the underground cost)
the cost of vehicles. Note that stations are
typically 1.5 to 2 km apart - more stations drive up
Toronto has recent examples of constructed and
proposed Subway construction, it is easy to find
reasonably recent figures. Despite this, the
estimates stated above are LOWER than the estimated
costs outlined here. Only the construction of the
Sheppard line, taking inflation into mind, falls
within the range above at $172 million per kilometre.
Extension: $275.6 million per kilometre, vehicles and
yard improvements excluded
extension from Downsview station to a station in
the Vaughan Corporate Centre (VCC) in the Highway
7 and Jane Street area is budgeted at
approximately $2.6 billion (2010 dollars). As
this extension is 8.6 km, that makes the cost per
kilometre about $302 million.
figure includes the purchase of 36 subway cars
and improvements to Wilson Yard. The amount for
these were $108 million and $85 million
respectively in 2005 dollars according to the
Environmental Assessment on the extension to
Steeles. This comes to $229.3 million in 2011
dollars. Removing this from the $2.6 billion
project budget leaves $2.37 billion, or a per
kilometre cost of $275.6 million.
East Extension Proposal: $273.1 million per kilometre
March of 2003, the TTC issued a report that
outlined the costs of extending the Sheppard line
from Don Mills to Scarborough Town Centre. This
extension would have added 7 stations over a
distance of 8 km for an estimated cost of $1.75
billion, or about $218.75 per kilometre.
Factoring in inflation, this is about $273.1
million per kilometre for the whole line. That
makes the full cost of this expense in 2011
dollars to be $2.18 billion for the line, which
does not include a western extension to Downsview
nor the completion of a station at Willowdale, as
in Rob Ford's vision.
extension would have opened in three stages:
- Don Mills to Victoria Park:
2 km with two stations for $470 million ($293.4
million / km in 2011 dollars)
- Victoria Park to Agincourt
(GO Station): 3.7 km with three stations
for $730 million ($246.3 million / km in
- Agincourt to STC: 2.3 km
with two stations for $550 million ($298.6
million / km in 2011 dollars)
was not stated in the report if any of these
costs included the purchase of new vehicles.
West Extension Proposal: $270.3 million per kilometre
other proposal from a few years ago was to extend
the Bloor-Danforth Subway line beyond Kipling.
This was to involve a 3.7 km extension to the
Queensway/West Mall area for a cost of about $1
billion. This translates to $270.3 million per
further extension of 1.5 km from there to Dixie
in Mississauga was estimated to cost another $500
million, making that piece a whopping $333
million per kilometre!
of these extensions would have been at grade, not
tunneled! Typical at-grade subway construction
tends to be about 65-70% of the tunneled cost, so
the estimates of this proposal seem quite
||What is the Cost of Building an LRT
$130 million to $225 million per kilometre
At grade in concrete: $50 million to $60 million per
At grade with ballasted ties: $30 million to $40
million per kilometre
the cost of vehicles.
Toronto has not embraced LRT construction until the
release of the Transit City plan, it is necessary to
look at other cities.
summary for each example has had annually compounded
inflation added to the actual cost at a rate of 2.5%
to make a fair comparison with 2011 dollars. All
costs quoted were converted to Canadian dollars using
an approximate exchange rate in effect when the line
was completed (stated in each case).
City Eglinton Crosstown Line Line: $55 million per
kilometre for surface, $269 million per kilometre
Phase one of this line is 19 km
long with 27 stops from Jane to Kennedy. The full
line is to be 33 km with 43 stops from Pearson
Airport to Kennedy with funding for this line at
$4.6 billion from the province. Approximately 13
km between Keele and Laird will be underground.
This averages to about $139.4
million per kilometre. If one were to use $55
million per kilometre as an estimate for the
surface portion, that would make the tunneled
portion about $269 million per kilometre.
In actual fact, the Don Mills
station and the interface at Kennedy will be
underground. If these costs were also removed
from the total along with the surface amount, the
per kilometre cost for the tunneled portion will
be somewhat lower.
Transit City Sheppard East Line
Line: $56.7 million per kilometre
Phase one of this line is 12 km
long with 30 stops from Don Mills to Morningside.
The funding for this line totals to $930 million
($613 million from the province, and $317 million
from the federal government).
Approximately $250 million of this
is the cost of the underground portion from Don
Mills to Consumers. This is approximately 1 km of
tunnel construction, with a somewhat deep
interface with the Sheppard Subway to provide a
same platform transfer.
Taking the remaining $680 million
in funding, that translates to $56.7 million per
kilometre. This includes the cost of the grade
separation at the Agincourt GO station as well as
the cost of vehicles, but does not include the
cost of the maintenance facility.
Transit City Etobicoke Finch
West Line: $50-70.6 million per kilometre
Phase one of this line is 11 km
long with 20 stops from Humber College to Keele.
The full line is to be 17 km with
30 stops from Humber College to Yonge Street.
Funding for this line was set at $1.2 billion,
but this amount included an eastern extension to
Sheppard and Don Mills (approximately an
additional 7 km).
The connections with both the
Spadina Subway at Keele and Yonge Subway are to
If one considers the length of the
eastern extension, this line is $50 million per
kilometre. Assuming the full $1.2 billion is
needed just to go to Yonge, the cost is $70.6
million per kilometre.
Denver's T-REX project: $41.5
million per kilometre, 34 new vehicles included
The whole T-REX project involved
new LRT construction in the south-east portion of
the city plus freeway expansion. The costs of the
LRT construction was US$879 million for 30.4 km
of new lines and 13 new stations. Added to this
was US$91.8 million for 34 new LRVs. This made
the total cost US$970.80 - adding in 2.5% for
inflation since this line opened at the end of
2006, then adding 15% for the exchange rate in
effect at the time, this cost in Canadian dollars
is about $1.144 billion.
That makes the per kilometre cost
only $41.5 million, and that includes vehicles!
Added to this, a significant amount
of this new construction had elevated structures
(see photo) to take the line over main roads, and
all but one of the new stations has parking
facilities, with several of the stations having a
multi-level parking garage.
This entire extension was built
with ballasted tie construction, which helps keep
the cost down.
Louis: $35.7 million per kilometre, vehicles included
initial construction in St. Louis cost US$465 for
27.4 km of line with 17 stations, including 31
vehicles. Most of this line is at grade, with 2.4
km elevated near the airport and the downtown
section was built through an existing railway
tunnel. The line crosses the Mississippi River
using an already existing bridge. This fully
opened in 1994, making the inflation-adjusted
cost in Canadian dollars about $887 million (35%
makes the per kilometre cost only $35.7 million
in 2011 dollars.
Louis St. Clair County extension to Shiloh-Scott: $21.6
million per kilometre, no vehicles included
This 5.6 km extension added 1
station in 2003 for a cost of US$75 million. The
inflation-adjusted cost in Canadian dollars was
about $110.3 million (30% exchange rate).
That makes the per kilometre cost
only $21.6 million in 2011 dollars.
It should be noted that much of
this portion of the line is in rural territory
where ballasted tie construction is used for the
track. This likely contributes to the low cost of
Louis Cross-County extension: $66.5 million per
kilometre, no vehicles included
13 km branch line added 9 stations in 2006 for a
cost of US$686 million. Portions of this line are
elevated, almost 2 km is tunneled and the rest is
in a fenced ROW. The inflation-adjusted cost in
Canadian dollars was about $865 million (with a
20% exchange rate).
makes the per kilometre cost $66.5 million in
Hiawatha Line: $53.7 million, 24 vehicles included
19.2 km line has 17 stations including one in a
tunneled section at the airport. Fully opened at
the end of 2004, the total cost of US$715.3
million included 24 LRVs and a servicing facility.
The inflation-adjusted cost in Canadian dollars
was about $935.7 million (20% exchange rate).
makes the overall average per kilometre cost $53.7
million in 2011 dollars.
LRT Expansion to NAIT: $224 million per kilometre,
with 0.7 km underground
under construction, this 3.1 km extension from
Churchill Station to the Northern Alberta
Institute of Technology will include 700 metres
of tunnel and adds three new stations (all at
grade). The tunneled portion interfaces with the
existing tunneled portion of the LRT system, thus
adding to the cost of the project.
project was costed in 2008 at $815 million,
including 10 new LRVs, and $70 million for land
acquisition. That makes construction of the line
about $695 million, or about $224 million per
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This page last updated January 24, 2012