Sheppard East LRT Funding Announced

It was announced today at the TTC’s Hillcrest facility by Premier Dalton McGuinty and Prime Minister Stephen Harper that $950 million in funding, two thirds from the province and one-third from the federal government, is being provided for the construction of the Sheppard East LRT line.

While budget amounts for Transit City lines includes the cost of vehicles for these lines, the finalization of the order for 204 replacement vehicles for the legacy streetcar system is a prerequisite before vehicles for Transit City can be ordered. A funding announcement for the replacement vehicles is still pending.

8 Responses to “Sheppard East LRT Funding Announced”

  1. W. K. Lis Says:

    Harper had announced that the vehicles for the LRT will be from Bombardier. The TTC had earlier said that the LRV’s for Transit City is an option if Bombardier gets the streetcar order.
    Chicken or egg? Why announce that the federal government will help buy the “option” order first before the “initial” order?

    Cal’s comment: This is no more ass-backwards than when the funding for the Eglinton and Finch LRT lines were announced. The budgets for those involved vehicles as well, but the only difference here is that the Sheppard vehicles will be needed at about the same time as the first of the legacy replacements will be needed. On the other hand, TC vehicles won’t be of any special design. By this I mean that they can come right out of a vendor’s product book with particular options selected (paint scheme, seating layout, and yes, track gauge).

    While many have referred to the “add on” provision in the contract for the legacy vehicles to be pertaining to Transit City vehicles, it is primarily intended to allow additional orders of the specially designed legacy vehicles for such upcoming projects as the waterfront development, which incidently has funding in place even before the initial order.

    That is not to say that the “add on” cannot be used for Transit City orders, but it strikes me that a specially designed vehicle by that very nature would be more expensive than an off-the-shelf model, so what would be so special about a contract provision allowing you to add on some lower cost vehicles for the same price? That said, I am aware that the TC vehicles will be double-ended, which means twice the number of doors and two operator’s controls, but I’m wondering if the cost of the special design work for the legacy vehicles will end up being exactly the cost of having a double-ended vehicle. Given that production is currently designed for double-ended vehicles, it wouldn’t surprise me if building a vehicle with doors on one side and one operator’s control at one end might be more expensive.

  2. Colin K N A U F Says:

    I find it surprising that Prime Minister Harper would announce today the infusion of 900 million to upgrade Toronto transit system to make it “second to none”!
    This is such a laugh. Either he or his advisors are drugged or have done no research.
    Taking ‘Cow Catchers” off the GoTRAIN (now that is an oxymoron) and leaving them on 125 old tracks is throwing good money after bad. We need to stop weighing down transit with DUCT TAPE and whipping the dead horse.

    37 years ago (YES-almost 4 decades ago!)— you could swipe a ‘preloaded’ mag card to open a turnstile and ride the BART. An automated (computer controlled:no operators) elevated rapid transit system in San Francisco for a reasonable price. The view was great. The speed was fantastic. The system worked and attracted users and tourists. It was built quickly and economically.
    Reliable, affordable, sustainable, user friendly, green transit is what we need.
    Why not take half of the desiccating black ribbon that bisects the GTA: the 401, and put in an elevated rapid transit system. One that does not stop and start and arrive on a less than regular basis. One that does not stop with the vaguries of weather and railway crossings. The 401- the desiccating heat sink that keeps paving contractors rich, families waiting and warrants automotive bailouts, is a perfect place to ‘plant’ an above ground rapid transit system. Take the trucks and put them on the GoTRAIN rail-bed.

    Or create an offshore elevated rapid transit system along the Lake Ontario waterfront. Make it maglev and get people to work fast, comfortable, affordable and on time, every time. Increase productivity. Reduce cars downtown. Create a reward for the end of a long day rather than the nightmare we offer now. Removing the Cow Catchers will do little to elevate this system for the benefit of all.

    Cal’s comments: These are wonderful ideas, but are they really practical? By that I mean, what are the sources and destinations of the trips that would benefit from a rapid line along the 401 or out in the waterfront? It is one thing to cite a major artery, and a whole other thing to say that a rapid transit line should run along it. Where would the stations go, keeping in mind that the more stations that are added, the slower the effective ride will be. At the same time, the fewer stations there are, the less useful it will be for people to use. Not too many people I know live conveniently along the 401 that would find a walk to a station near the 401 to be all that convenient, and I sure don’t know all that many people who live out in the lake. A line out in the lake has to come ashore in several places to be useful, and how many places should that be?

    The point is, what we need now is an improvement to the whole network. Transit City addresses that in a way that can be achieved in the shortest possible time for the least possible cost. At the same time, we will see improvements to GO Transit’s rail network that will move towards all-day service on most, if not all, of its lines, with better frequency of service. I believe that a GTHA-wide fare integration system is badly needed, that include’s GO’s network (see this page for my ideas).

  3. Zweisystem Says:

    The just announced LRT is costing about $1 billion or about $60 million/km. to build. Any insight why the proposed LRT should cost so much. Thanks from Vancouver.

    Cal’s comment: The amount of $950 million is not out of line, all things considered. Last year, I posted this article on June 4 discussing the Sheppard East options at Don Mills. The original estimate for Sheppard East was $555 million and one reader commented that the underground options would push the price to $800 million. I did some rough calculations in my comment and determined that the price tag would be at least $863 million (read the comments from the post to see how I came up with that figure). Shortly after I posted my estimate, the new official estimate came out at $880 million. One must also take inflation into consideration, and by compounding 2% over four years, the price comes in at around $952.5 million. Compounding the whole amount gives a higher figure than would really happen, as money spent earlier in the project will not be subject to later inflation.

    By the way, the $950 million cost comes in at about $55.9 million per kilometre as there will be about 17 km of track, including almost 1 km of non-revenue track on the surface of Sheppard between the tunnel portal and Don Mills. As we go forward, the need for this connection might be eliminated, which would probably save about $40 million.

  4. Pete Davenport Says:

    I would be interested to know where the carhouse/maintanence facility will be located on the Sheppard East LRT line. If there is not one, does not this mean that another connecting line will be announced shortly that will enable the cars to get to a carhouse?

    Cal’s comment: While official announcement of where carhouses will be located are yet to be made, it is likely that property on the north side of Sheppard between Morningside and Meadowvale will be purchased. This was one of the reasons cited for extending the original plan from Morningside to Meadowvale, and also why non-revenue tracks on Sheppard between Don Mills and Consumers were part of the plan to place the line underground at that location.

  5. Zweisystem Says:


    I still find the costs for LRT wildly excessive, especially compared with Europe where new LRT is being built (on-street) for less than $6 million/km. (Helsinki).

    Two questions come to mind:

    1) Is the project heavily engineered with viaducts or tunnels or has lots of “greenfield’s construction?
    2) Is the cost posted the total cost, including debt servicing?

    I find that there will be very little appetite for LRT, especially if costs for the mode spiral ever upwards.

    Cal’s comments: Making a comparison between the entire Sheppard East LRT project and an on-street project in Helsinki is rather disingenous. I have heard the “Under $6 million per kilometre” figure for the project in Helsinki, but have a hard time finding exactly what that entails. In my research on the cost of LRT construction, there are some anominalies where unusually low costs are possible. In St. Louis, the two eastern extensions both came in at between $18 million and $20 million per kilometre (2008 dollars, no vehicles included) and even Edmonton managed to build their original 6.9 kilometre line for $19.8 million per kilometre and that price, in 2008 dollars, included 14 vehicles and five stations, two of which were underground.

    On the other extreme, the Sheppard East LRT project includes about a kilometre of tunneling that must pass under an expressway and interface with an operating subway terminal. This portion alone accounts for just over $227 million of the project’s price tag. Furthermore, the project’s price tag includes the purchase of new vehicles for the line, and new electrical infrastructure beyond the overhead wiring (i.e.: the construction of substations to power the line). There is also the little matter of grade separating the crossing with CN’s Uxbridge subdivision at the Agincourt GO station, also included in the project’s cost.

    While I agree the price is on the high side for some of these frills, including a paved right of way all the way (which can add up to $20 million per kilometre), it is still way less than the $250 million per kilometre for subway construction and it will be in service in half to two thirds the time.

  6. zweisystem Says:

    Ah, but you gave me the answer I wanted, there is heavy engineering on the line; thus subtract $227 million (tunnel) from $950 million = $723 million and then subtract a further $50 million (bridge) gives a grand total of $673 million or about $39.5 million/km. to build.

    Indeed extra engineering added about $15 million/km. to the project.

    Helsinki built new LRT (on-street) for under $6 million/km including overhead, but not cars. But for cheap LRT, try Véléz Malaga, a new LRT line including cars for about $6.6 million per km.!

    Cal’s comment: According to a comment from Steve Munro, only $650-700 million is for construction, with the rest for vehicles. Using the high value of $700 million, and subtracting $277 million for the tunnel and grade separation, the line comes in at $423 million, or about $24.9 million per kilometre, including 1 km of non-revenue track. Still higher than the examples cited above, but what are the construction techniques and what was the original state of the right of way before construction?

    The design of a curb-separated median that is fully encased in concrete is an expensive way to build an LRT line, but the need for emergency vehicle capabilities has been decided an important feature (not that I am total favour of that option). Building the line with ballasted tie construction would significantly reduce the cost. Additionally, if an LRT line were built to the side of a road (not practical in most situations in Toronto, unfortunately), the construction cost is further reduced since there is no tear-up of the roadway.

    I would also be interested in what sort of power substation infrastructure and traffic signalling hardware was needed on these low cost examples. While one can cite specific low cost examples, they must be looked at in the context of local conditions that may or may not allow using certain options. It should be noted that the second example cited

    It should be noted that the second example cited above had to add additional electrical infrastructure after testing the vehicles, but it is not clear if the cost of this was included in the total. Also, this 4.6 km system included the purchase of three vehicles. If that is extrapolated to compare the Sheppard East LRT, we are talking about comparing with a purchase of only 11 vehicles. That is not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison, as I believe the car order for Sheppard will be more like 40. To translate back to Véléz Malaga, they would need another eight vehicles, which would add about another $8 million per kilometre to the cost of that line. It does not serve LRT advocacy any benefit to cite unusually low cost examples.

  7. zweisystem Says:

    I think the $24.9 million/km. cost is acceptable. Here is the problem, the SkyTrain lobby (ICTS in your neck of the woods) and their continued anti-LRT rhetoric. All I wanted to know was why the cost was so high for your LRT Line and you have answered that.

    The reason I mention Helsinki and Velez, is to illustrate that LRT can be built cheaply if needed. Our group is trying to reinstate the Vancouver to Chilliwack Interurban on its original route and now decided to take the offensive against gold-plated transit projects, like our 19 km, $2.5 billion RAV/Canada line!

    I am glad that the TC is going with LRT and I just worry that high LRT costs will deter other projects.

    Cal’s comment: I wish you luck with your efforts - I am in the same boat when it comes to the $2.5 billion Spadina Subway Extension (the “Sorbara Subway”) and the $1.4 billion price tag for the Yonge Extension north of Steeles (what I call the “Jones Express”, the full price tag for the extension from Finch is $2.4 billion, but I support extending the line to Steeles, though the need for a station half way is questionable).

    While citing how LRT can be much less expensive, I find the argument in favour of LRT gains credibility when one compares more typical costs for LRT with best-case costs for an alternative. It is really nice to say that LRT can be “ten times less expensive” by cherry-picking an example, but if it starts to look only seven times better, opponents will use that to turn support against you (even though that is still a very good argument in favour). If you make the case that it is five times less expensive and it ends up more like seven, the opponents are left in the wilderness. The really good examples are nice to have, but don’t make them the centre of your case - just my two cents.

    By the way, I enjoy having the numbers I support put to the test - it helps me keep things in perspective and take a step back to look at the big picture!

  8. zweisystem Says:

    There is an article in the December 1983 “Modern Tramway and Light Rail Transit” by Philip Webb - The Direction of TTC planning in the 1980’s ( a bit stale I know), but it does mention the “ART” Study and some interesting cost comparisons with LRT, ICTS, and metro.

    That being said, out in Lotus Land, TransLink (our operating authority) still alludes that the cost of LRT is over $100 million/km. thus comparable with SkyTrain (ICTS/ALRT/ART)! The cheap illustrations of building LRT tends to enrage them. Of course the cost of light rail is dependent on the amount of engineering involves as the Sheppard East Line has illustrated.

    Cal’s comment: It sounds to me that TransLink may be throwing in a maintenance facility and a few other things into the per kilometre price.

    Our problem out here is trying to install Diesel LRT (O-Train) [Cal: also known as “DMU”] from Vancouver to Chilliwack on existing railway infrastructure (the old interurban route) and TransLink stands monolithic with their metro and SkyTrain planning.

    Now with Harper funding Toronto’s LRT, I wait for baited breath for him to do the same with the SkyTrain “Evergreen Line”, another 11 Km. $1.5 billion+ light-metro. TransLink would have us to believe that SkyTrain (ICTS) alone will attract 2 to 3 times more ridership than LRT! You can see why I tend to be cheeky with numbers!

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