Yonge Subway Extension: FIVE BILLION DOLLARS!

Just yesterday (January 5), I updated the York Region Options page to reflect more recent information that has come out of the planning process for the Yonge Subway extension. In the update, I mentioned that a number of other conditions would be necessary in order for the extension to work, and that the cost of these, when added to the construction of the extension, would total to about $4.3 billion dollars.

Today news stories (such as this one in the National Post) report this true cost of the subway extension. On the York Region Options page, I made the claim that the public will only be told of the $2.4 billion cost. However, I must commend Mayor David Miller for proving me wrong. In the article he says:

“The province needs to know that costs are not just the $2.4-billion cost of the line, there are all these ancillary costs that are part of the project…. The work that needs to be done for this project is somewhere in the range of $4-to $5-billion.”

It is nice to see that perhaps the public will see the true cost of this extension.

11 Responses to “Yonge Subway Extension: FIVE BILLION DOLLARS!”

  1. City Boy at Heart Says:

    Calvin, Thank God someone is paying attention. Also, thank God Mayor Miller let out numbers that most politicians would never let out. Maybe he’s heard rumblings about possible upcoming money shortfalls and knows that Transit City will definitely be affected with what is going on. I don’t understand all the spending that will be going on for the economic times that are on the horizon. I left a comment yesterday on Steve Munro’s site on the “Richmond Hill or bust” blog. Go in and read it please. I feel a lot of this has been done with tunnel-vision. That southern parking lot is going to dump a hell of a lot more cars into the residential area north of Highway 7,west of Yonge, and south of Carrville Road. That I didn’t put a western boundary is irrelevant. There is only one way out that goes to the northwest and that is by Avenue Road. Go by there any afternoon say from 4:45PM to say 5:30PM. Traffic is backed up most days all the way down to Edgar Avenue. I asked a friend one day about getting in or out of your driveway at that time and he said “you don’t”. Funny thing is that most cars are making left turns onto Carrville westbound(a Maple shortcut?). I just find that there has been no peripheral thinking(all the other things that will be affected by this). Anyway, happy new year Calvin. Keep up the good work and thanks for the pictures. It gives us a more clearer picture of each system and how they operate. C.B.at H

    Cal’s comment: I’ll just add that C.B.at H’s comment on Steve Munro’s website can be read here.

  2. Raymond Jean Says:

    Hello Calvin,

    Right now the $2.4 billion 6.8km Yonge subway extension to Richmond Hill Centre ($352.9 million/km) seems to be amongst the most expensive in the world. So far, only the London Tube’s Jubilee subway extension seems to be more on a per km basis (about $390 million/km),… and that’s BEFORE Toronto & TTC have added billions of dollars of conditional demands that need to be met before proceeding with this extension.

    I noticed you have a great website of various subway extension/line cost per km dealing with TTC only.

    May I suggest a table comparing the cost of subway line/extension per km of various subway systems throughout the world, so we can see how TTC subway extension/line cost vs other similar projects done elsewhere. Take into account total cost, number of km, number of stations, significant notes like tunnelling under river, inclusion of subway cars & yard improvements, etc,… of course, all these cost would need to be converted to a common “apple” like today’s 2009 Canadian dollars,… if it’s still worth anything! :)


    Cal’s comment: Thanks for the suggestion - I might consider it for future additions. In my cost comparison, I was trying to be extra fair to the subway side of things and extra critical on the LRT side. Since my obvious bias is for LRT, I don’t want to be accused of trying to make LRT look better than it really is. Ideally, the comparison should be as local as possible, as many factors effecting cost of goods and labour can greatly alter what a project might cost in one city compared to another. Subway costs are easy to get, since that is what Toronto has been doing or proposing. LRT is not so easy - the only figures available are the proposed costs of Transit City, so I had to use examples from other cities. Changes will increase the Transit City costs, but so far I have not found them to be out of line (e.g.: the Sheppard East LRT went from $550B to $850B, but this was inline on a per-kilometre basis with changing the west end to be underground from Don Mills to Consumers Road, and extending the east end to Meadowvale.

    Despite the examples I used, one will note that the per-kilometre cost that I came up with is lower than what the examples suggest, and that the per-kilometre cost that I came up with is higher than what the examples suggest. Giving subway costs this benefit of the doubt makes my case stronger.

    In the costs of the Yonge extension, the portion north of Steeles is only $1 billion of the $2.4 billion cost, which I find surprising, given that it is twice the length and has four (or maybe only three) stations compared to the two south of Steeles. Of course, what seems to be an unnecessarily large underground bus transfer platform at Steeles no doubt is a factor in this. An LRT line north from Steeles with an underground connection would cost money, but in my figures, it comes out of the $1 billion for the construction north of Steeles. Though I don’t say so in my comparison, an LRT line would reduce the size needed for the underground bus terminal, and therefore reduce the $1.4 billion cost of the south of Steeles project.

  3. Raymond Jean Says:

    Hello Calvin,

    You might be confusing the $2.6 Billion Spadina subway extension with the $2.4 Billion Yonge subway extension. The $1 Billion cost north of Steeles on Yonge subway extension doesn’t make much sense,.. that means it cost $1.4-1.6 Billion from Steeles to Finch,.. but Finch tail track undergound storage basically go up to Cummer anyways,… so that 1 km of subway track between Cummer and Steeles would cost $1.4-1.6 Billion,… wow, that better be covered in GOLD! :)

    I think the $1 Billion north of Steeles refer to the Spadina subway extension where it’ll cover about 1.5-2 km from Steeles to Hwy 7,… vs the 4-5km north of Steeles to Hwy 7 on the Yonge subway extension.


    Cal’s comment: I mistakenly typed “2.6″ in my original comment (which I have now edited to correctly say “2.4″). It is just a coincidence that I happened to use the figure for the Spadina extension, as this was not on my mind when I wrote the comment.

    Going back over the materials, I cannot find a breakdown of how much of the project cost is south of Steeles and how much is north, and I strongly suspect that the cost of the project north of Steeles is more than one billion dollars. That strengthens my position that LRT should be implemented, because three LRT lines (one on Yonge from Steeles to Major Mac, one on Dufferin from Downsview station to Langstaff, and one on Don Mills/Leslie from Steeles to Highway 7) only cost $1.005 billion!

    So given that this would replace a subway project that is somewhat more than a billion dollars, there is a significant cost savings here. Not to mention that there is talk of extending the Don Mills LRT line all the way up to Highway 7, which could be built with this funding instead of the need for more funding in the future.

  4. W. K. Lis Says:

    The Yonge HRT subway extension of 6.8 km is estimated to cost $5 billion.

    The Transit City LRT network of 120 km is estimated to cost $ 6 billion.

    For $5 billion, an LRT could be built from the Finch station all the way up Yonge Street to Barrie, a distance of approximately 75 km, and have enough left over for an extra 25 km of LRT beyond or put elsewhere.

  5. John Says:

    Just because something is cheaper (LRT) doesn’t make it better. If room exists for a LRT that has no interaction with on road traffic I am a supporter however if it is a somewhat shared right of way i.e. at intersections or in narrow areas I support it less. People need to be moved quickly and comfortably or else they wont use it, and I do not believe a LRT provides this and couldn’t along yonge. A subway provides this however at a very high price. What needs to be done, is the GO train from Richmond Hill Centre needs to be more reliable and frequent, and fares for all GTA transit authorities need to be better integrated so someone can take the GO from RHill to Union and jump on the Subway to get to their destination in downtown at a reasonable cost.

    Cal’s comment: I agree that something should not be considered simply due to cost. One must look at cost versus benefits, and paying for the extension of a transit mode capable of capacities three to four times what is needed for the foreseeable future is not a wise use of money.

    While York Region has more opportunities to implement LRT on totally isolated right of ways, or on parallel to the road right of ways, placing LRT in a median can be very rapid when proper signaling is installed. This has been done in other cities and works very well.

    Plans for improved GO service is something that must be taken into account when looking at the ridership figures. Better fare integration is also needed across the entire GTA, and this should involve GO. I would argue that GO should not cost any more than the fare needed to take alternatives. I also believe that crossing between different zones should only involve a supplement (as YRT implements between their three zones), not a full fare (as is the case when crossing Steeles).

  6. Michael Forest Says:

    It should be noted that most of the Yonge subway upgrades might be necessary regardless to the technology selected for the northern extension. In other words, even if LRT is built north of Steeles instead of subway, but many passengers of that LRT continue downtown using the subway, Yonge line still might be at a risk of overload and in need of upgrades.

    Diverting a large portion of downtown-bound passengers via the upgraded Richmond Hill GO service would be helpful. But it looks like we don’t have an estimate of how much the Richmond Hill GO service upgrade might cost.

    Cal’s comments: The Yonge line will need upgrades, that is for sure. However the extent of the upgrades really depends on the overall analysis of the network, GO included. The need for capacity improvements such as at Bloor-Yonge might be a good reason for building a DRL, at least the eastern leg. I would go so far as to promote such a line to be built all the way north to Don Mills and Eglinton, as this would pull a fair bit of the current ridership heading west on Eglinton to Yonge.

    A big chunk of the “extra” costs for an extension north of Steeles comes from equipment storage needs. A small yard would be needed, possibly underground at the Langstaff/Longbridge site. For a lot less money, there is room at Wilson - except that this would involve the operational costs of deadheading forever. A billion dollar western extension of Sheppard will save this cost, and since it is always easier to squeeze money for capital projects (with ribbon cutting ceremonies) from government than to get more money for operating costs, guess which option is preferred by the TTC?

    I do believe that the costs of upgrading the GO line must be considered. Then there is the fare integration issue and it’s nasty sibling: figuring out who pays for it.

  7. Mat Slowikowski Says:

    First of all I found your website very informative; thanks for all the clarification.
    With regard to your website, there are some things that I don’t agree with. Extending the younge line to steeles, then having an underground LRT doesn’t work: Someone trying to get to Hwy 407 and taking a train that terminates at Finch would have to change trains twice: once for the subway for one stop, and the other for the LRT. This line is a pretty main artery; to upgrade this line toa full service or 2/3 service line it would cost less to build the subway aswell.

    Cal’s comment: The second turn back location would only be required during peak service operations. At other times, a single terminal can accommodate the headways. This will be the case whether the line is extended only to Steeles, or if it is extended all the way to Richmond Hill.

    Additionally, compare the possibility of having to change to an LRT which is a short few steps across a platform with changing to a bus as is done now at Finch or will be done at Richmond Hill. While the commuter who is only going to Richmond Hill would be better off with a one-seat ride, most commuters have to travel farther and would benefit more from a change at Steeles that is across the platform than a change at Richmond Hill that is up some stairs, through a mezzanine, and up some more stairs (with a cold and windy wait in the winter).

    $5 billion is alot of money. However the above mentioned thing could drive down future costs (eliminating future construction costs it the LRT line would ever be changed to subway to eliminate transfer) and another thing: the Don river bridge. I haven’t read the documentation, but if the Don river bridge is included in the project, it could significantly drive up the total cost of the project, even if LRT were chosen.

    That is a good point. However, the bridge proposed for the subway is a double-deck bridge that would take the subway over the river at an altitude that is higher than the existing road. With the road above the subway, the new road will not dip down as low as it does today. In my alternative, I was assuming no re-grading of Yonge Street, so the existing bridge would be used. I will admit that the existing bridge might need some upgrading, however my analysis only takes $1 billion from the subway project as it was created before the full project costs were better known ($2.6 billion for just the subway construction - the $5 billion includes the pre-requisites). In reality, to extend the line to Steeles will only cost about $1 billion, so that leaves $600 million for a new bridge over the Don River, and I suspect we could get very nice bridge with some change left over for that money.

  8. Jordan Says:

    VivaNext is the future of Viva – rapid transit in york region. The plan will see not only subway extensions, but the current fleet of rapid transit vehicles will increase from about 90 to 190. This is expected to raise the number of trips taken by transit to 30 % by 2026, up from 8% now.

    Will the plan help you – speak up! A new blog has been created by the people responsible for planning, designing and building the system. Read what they’re saying and have a say at vivanext.com/blog. They also have a poll to see if people support the Yonge subway extension. Go and vote!

    Cal’s comment: When this comment first came in, I immediately approved it without comment. This sounds like a great idea and I encourage all to go and post their comments. That said, I posted my own comment early in the afternoon of March 20, and it has yet to be approved by the moderator. Since that time, no comments have been approved, so it is possible they simply haven’t gotten around to it. I will wait until the afternoon of March 24 to see if my comment becomes visible and if it is edited or not. I suspect this blog may be intended to be a love-in for the plans as they currently stand. If my comment has disappeared into the abyss, or if it is edited, I will post it on this blog.

    The policy of this site is to allow ALL comments through without any editing to the comments themselves. I may add comments or fix a link that does not end up clickable, but everything in the comment is left as-is. Obviously, a derogatory comment would be edited or removed, but if I ever have to do this, I will make it clear to anyone reading it. The last thing I want to do is to edit out comments that are not in line with my own thinking. Such comments allow me to clarify my own points, and sometimes even alter them!

  9. Jon Almeida Says:

    We can go on and on about the cost. The mere fact is that the goverment overlooked this problem for a long time and hence this growing cost. I look at the LRT as a complete failure because the commute is going to be very time consuming due to street signals, people may take about the same time to get to their destination. It would be best if all these routes went underground.

    In that case the yonge and downsview extensions are fine , but the relief line must also come in soon along with east-west corridor extensions

  10. Robert Wightman Says:

    I am posting a copy of what I wrote on Steve Munro’s site here.

    R. Wightman

    Kevin says:
    October 30, 2009 at 11:51 am

    “I strongly believe that the Yonge corridor needs a subway and not an LRT system like some suggest on this site. Though LRT maybe more feasible in terms of cost it doesn’t address that type of commuting pattern that exist in that area. LRTs are meant for local trips and a majority of the people coming in from York Region will be using system for long haul trips. ..”

    If the line is built like St. Clair or Spadina then I agree with you, but LRT is a range of operations and it does provide high speed limited stop service in many areas. The subway would not replace local bus service along Yonge Street and neither should LRT. The St. Louis LRT is 74 km long with 37 stations for an average spacing of 1 station every 2 km with a top speed of 90 km/h. This is a far cry for St. Clair or Spadina and to be honest is closer to commuter rail.

    I agree that the subway should probably be extended to Steeles with three LRT lines coming into it through an underground connection. The length of the subway in York is 4.9 km with 4 stations (not counting Steeles) for an average spacing of 1.2 km. If you built the LRT with longer station spacings and higher average speed then it would be more useful than a subway. It would require a better form of signal priority to ensure that it always got a green at intersections without stops but this is possible. Two billion dollars would build a lot of high speed LRT, even if you put in some tunnels or grade separations. I wish that the SRT could be rebuilt quickly as an LRT to show people the other end of the LRT spectrum.

    Cal’s comment: Well said. I would add that except for people living within walking distance of a subway station, very few will benefit from the one-seat ride. The idea of “another mode” is often cited as a negative for LRT on Yonge north of Steeles, but service that approaches the rapidness of subway is possible with LRT and will be closer to more people due to the ability to build it farther than subway. People beyond Richmond Hill Centre will have to transfer from bus to subway, which will involve walking and using stairs and/or escalators. Many of those would be able to have a more comfortable ride to Steeles with a no-stairs transfer. For a Major Mac/Yonge commuter, which is faster: 4 km of bus, transfer, and 4 km of subway, or 8 km of LRT with an across-the-platform transfer at Steeles?

  11. Robert Wightman Says:

    I sent a copy of this to Metrolinx and to Steve Munro’s web site. I believe that a combination of this super GO and high speed LRT would be a more cost effective solution that the extensions of the Subway to Vaughn and Richmond Hill. The subway ride would soon become tiresome on a regular basis.

    GO DRL.

    Since GO’s electrification study is to also look I know a split infinitive) at segregated Rights of Way and other types of service I suggest that they look at City Rail in Sydney, Australia. It runs with 65 foot bi-level electric cars with the doors at the ends over the trucks for high platform loading. Rather than build a 5 to 8 track line up the Weston Sub to run A mix of GO and Pearson Air Rail Link Trains and then spend a fortune 4 tracking the Belleville Sub to run GO trains to North Oshawa and Peterborough Metrolinx should build a totally segregated electric operation from northeast Scarborough down the Belleville sub to around Don Mills and Eglinton. They would then go underground {probably) through Flemington Park and Thornecliffe park down Green wood or Donlands hopefully to find room on the Kingston Sub to either Richmond or Adelaide. It would then go in a subway to the Weston Sub and up it to the airport.

    The line would have the following advantages:

    1. Since this line would have station spacing of 3 km or more it would provide a high speed service from the northwest and northeast into the downtown. Since it would have a segregated Right of Way it could operate at a much more frequent headway than GO does.

    2. Since it is electric, high platform and large vehicles it would have a high enough capacity to act as a downtown relief line and a super GO.

    3. It would need to be part of the TTC’s fare structure and not part of GO’s, if they still have separate fare systems.

    4. It would be cheaper to build than GO’s super corridor through Weston and would provide better service.

    5. The Georgetown, Brampton, Kitchener and perhaps Stratford trains would make a transfer connection in North West Etobicoke and still stop and Bloor.

    6. The GO trains to North Oshawa and Peterborough could be routed down the Uxbridge Sub to the Kingston Sub and go to Union that way. There would be a transfer connection around Agincourt.

    7. The line would avoid Union Station and would divert many riders from Union. It would make connections to Yonge at King and University at St. Andrew or perhaps at Queen and Osgoode.

    Before Metrolinx ruins these Rights of Way with ill conceived expansion of GO it should look at something that is cheaper, faster and serves more people. Unfortunately I do not think that there is enough room on the Kinston or Oakville Subs to provide this type of service so they are stuck with GO or the TTC. This line would need a catchy name something like “METROLINX” or “METRO RAIL.” I would have stations in the east starting at Queen, Danforth Thornecliffe Park, Flemington Park, Eglinton, Don Mills, Lawrence and Victoria Park, Ellesmere and Warden, Kennedy, and finally Agincourt. In the West I would have Parkdale, Bloor, St. Clair, Eglinton, Lawrence, Islington or Kipling, Woodbine mall/race track and the airport.

    Cal’s comment: I have used Sydney’s City Rail and it is a good example of a commuter rail system - dare I say a hybrid of GO and the TTC’s subway. On a similar note, I have had even more experience using the rail service in Melbourne, which is another good example of this. Melbourne’s rail network is operated by Connex, a division of of Veolia, the same company that operates VIVA for YRT.