Have you ever thought: “Man, I wish they’d connect the Scarborough Center to Kennedy station so that I don’t have to transfer to switch between line 2 and 3!”?
If you’ve answered no, then congratulations! You probably don’t live in Scarborough to truly experience the struggle of atrocious subway service.
For those of you who do, worry not! Because our wise Toronto mayor John Tory and his council are proud to show you a solution to this problem: The Scarborough Subway Expansion! (Do you feel/hear the sarcasm while reading this?)
Instead of oh, I don’t know, refurbishing and replacing the old Bloor-Danforth with new trains and rails, our genius Mayor believes that the best possible idea is to create a one-stop, 6.2-kilometre subway connecting Kennedy Station to the Scarborough Town Centre.
“I’m going to try and make the case to you for why what we’re doing is the right thing to do,” states John Tory to the room of 150 people at the Centennial Recreation Center of Scarborough.
To add-on to the absurdity, this one stop expansion’s estimated costs come around to $3.35 billion dollars (disregarding potential construction problems and other obstacles.):
In fact, as the Star’s Jennifer Pagliaro and Ben Spurr report, city staff acknowledge that the range of accuracy for the latest estimate could be off by fully 50 per cent, meaning it could come in as high as $5.02 billion. All that to add a single new stop to the Bloor-Danforth line.
To top it all off, a new report suggests that the estimated number of new riders (4500) has gone down by about 50% (2300)! That’s around 1.45 million dollars spent on each new rider!
Talk about inefficient. Efficiency is defined as producing goods and services for the least total possible costs. It can also be defined as when an economy or service takes all opportunities to make some people better off without making others worse off. On the topic of inefficiency, here is a small excerpt from a The Star report about the amount of time saved using the new extension:
City staff have estimated up to five minutes will be saved by replacing the existing Scarborough RT with a one-stop subway extension. That doesn’t include the elimination of a transfer at Kennedy Station. It also doesn’t factor in the bus trips for individual users, who may spend more time on a bus getting to a rapid transit station with the one-stop plan. It also doesn’t consider or compare the travel time of the original plan to build a seven-stop LRT to replace the SRT.
Basically speaking, the Scarborough extension would increase the amount of travel time, which is ironic because that’s the complete opposite of what it’s going for (Which is to decrease travel times)! While it may (Somewhat? Not really) benefit people in Scarborough, it would negatively affect the generation that has to pay for this project through taxes. As a result, making this extension inefficient and a waste of time.
On the topic of Equity, I completely agree with the argument that it is fair to make this extension for Scarboroughians . Equity means that every person in our society gets their fair share. It is also defined as a fair distribution among members within a society. While I believe that everyone deserves fair access to decent rapid transit, I also believe that it shouldn’t negatively impact others just for the sake of an extra transit stop (Which also goes against the whole idea of efficiency).
So you guys are probably thinking: How is this being funded? Just like how any capital type service is funded: Property Taxes and Development Charges.
Well, that’s not entirely true. Most of it is paid by the provincial and federal government. However, this excerpt from a The Star article outlines the absurd providence of money from the province as well as property tax Torontonians need to pay:
The province committed $1.48 billion (in 2010 dollars) originally pledged to the LRT; the federal government committed $660 million; and the city is meant to contribute $910 million. Of that city contribution, the majority is being raised through a special property tax from all Toronto residents that began in 2014 and will continue for the next 30 years.
Tory states that “he supports no more than a 0.25 percent tax increase each year for four years, which he claimed in a July council debate would only cost $5 per household each year.” Doesn’t seem too bad right? David Hains from the Torontoist thinks otherwise:
This is true for the first year of that plan, but by year four it would cost about $23 per average household each year, because property tax increases are cumulative. Another thing the mayor seems not to understand is that even if this tax increase were in place for 30 years, it wouldn’t be enough to finance the subway extension.
With an assumed 4.2 per cent interest rate, the 30-year loan for the subway extension would cost an estimated $38 million per year in additional property taxes. With one million households in Toronto, that’s $38 per home in 2013 dollars until at least 2044.
Not only that, the costs outweigh the benefits by a ton!
Here’s a list of possible benefits for the expansion:
- A better, accessible subway system for people in Scarborough
- Attraction of new riders
- Makes transit easier for riders in the Scarborough Center area by decreasing traffic congestion
And now here’s a list of possible costs for the expansion:
- A large cost of money that is ballooning (3.35 billion present)
- May not attract enough new riders to be worth it
- Reported to increase in price up to 5 billion for a single new stop on the Bloor- Danforth line
- Threatens funding for proposed light rail along Eglinton Ave. West (18 stop LRT vs 1 stop)
- Costs may increase even further due to construction risks and problems along the way
- Interest-rate risks may add nearly 5 million dollars to the project (The equivalent of a 0.25 percent increase in taxes!)
- Additional debt added onto the City’s debt charges would increase the debt threshold of property taxes by 1%, going from 12 to 13% (Within 2% of its self-imposed debt ceiling!)
Opportunity cost refers to a benefit that a person could have received, but gave up, to take another course of action. Stated differently, an opportunity cost represents an alternative given up when a decision is made. This cost is, therefore, most relevant for two mutually exclusive events.
Opportunities that are lost include:
- Flood protection for the Lower Don River (Underfunded)
- Reducing the TTC’s $2.5 billion state of good repair backlog by 32%
- Resurrecting the 16.5 km Jane Street LRT Line ($630 million)
- Creating a network of cheaper, low-cost LRT lines that reach lower-income neighborhoods, University of Toronto Scarborough campus and Centennial College and;
- Losing proper funding for proposed light rail along Eglinton Ave. West (17 stops for 9.1 billion dollars)
Despite the subway not reaching his ward and the need for his residents to be bused further to get to the proposed Scarborough Town Centre station, Shan said that line is the first priority before the planned but still unfunded 17-stop LRT that would travel along Eglinton Ave. E. to the University of Scarborough campus. That line could be extended to Malvern — something Shan says he plans to advocate for.To add on to the unfunded Eglinton Ave. West light rail,
Even a Scarborough Councillor understands the importance and potential of a fully funded Eglinton Ave. E LRT line! Despite his advocation, he still believes that the Scarborough Expansion is the first priority!
In spite of all my arguments, I (kind of) understand as to why the Scarborough council and our wise Mayor John Tory loves the Scarborough Expansion so much. If you’ve never taken Economics during your high school career, you probably don’t know what Economic Incentives are. Here is a nicely worded definition of what an Economic Incentive is:
Economic incentives are what motivates you to behave in a certain way, while preferences are your needs, wants and desires. Economic incentives provide you the motivation to pursue your preferences.
There are three types of Economic Incentives: Financial, Social and Moral Incentives. Out of the three, only moral incentives and financial incentives apply:
- Moral incentives: These incentives change someone’s behaviour based on questioning their morals. If you can get someone to ask themselves: “Is this the right thing to do?”, you’ve probably fulfilled your purpose. I agree with the fact that the Bloor-Danforth Line needs to be revamped; It’s old, outdated, extremely congested and extremely unsanitary. In a sense, it is unfair that the people in Scarborough get such a skewed transit line while all of us get a pretty decent one. Mayor John Tory most likely believes that by expanding the Bloor-Danforth Line, he is doing the right thing by giving Scarboroughians an efficient, fairer rapid transit system. As a result, he feels the need to help out Scarborough people by creating a “solution” to the problem due to the incentive.
- Financial Incentives: Financial incentives are when the person you are trying to convince is being compensated/awarded for performing a task or changing a behaviour that may benefit yourself. An excellent example of this is when your parents give you allowance for doing the chores every week. You get the financial award of money while they get the financial compensation of a cleaner house. Tory also believes that the expansion of the Bloor-Danforth Line will attract new customers (Which he isn’t wrong about). A revamp in the Bloor-Danforth is a financial incentive for new people to ride (and spend money on) the Subway line. This change of behaviour will bring in revenue for the TTC, which means that both the consumer and the services get financial gain (Eventually).
Notwithstanding the city’s good intentions, there are plenty of other ways you can revamp the quality of rapid transit for people living in Scarborough without spending 3 billion dollars on one stop:
- Revamping the Bloor-Danforth line by replacing old/outdated trains,
- Creating a network of relatively cheaper LRT lines with multiple stops that connect and span Scarborough to Downtown and other places in the GTA (University of Toronto Scarborough Campus and Centennial College)
- Providing an easier way for people to transfer from Kennedy Station to the blue line (Easier navigational path)
- Putting more emphasis on the sanitary department and it’s workers (Keep the line cleaner + more jobs!)
I believe the best alternative is to fully fund the Eglinton Avenue East LRT. While it is nearly 3 times more expensive than the Scarborough Expansion ($9.1 Billion yikes!), it is a lot more efficient in cost since we’re working with 17 stops that span all the way to the University of Toronto Scarborough campus and even Centennial College! (Comes to around $535,294,118 dollars per stop vs a $3.35 billion one stop extension)
If that can’t be done, the next best alternative is to completely refurbish and revamp the Bloor-Danforth Line as well as the blue line.
Most people probably understand the unsanitary horror of the trains in line 2. The air is stale due to improper ventilation, the seats are stained and faded, and there is dust everywhere! If John Tory and the TTC really want Scarborough riders to get the full experience of TTC transit, the first thing they need to do is replace those dusty trains. The easiest way to do that quicker is to use the money dedicated to the expansion and spending it on new trains!
BOTTOM LINE: The Scarborough Expansion SUCKS.
Hopefully, Mr. John Tory comes to his senses and realizes that his plans will ultimately become a huge bust before it’s too late. Our oh-so-ever technologically revolutionized generation may have to ultimately pay for a useless, redundant, capital addition to the already terrible Bloor-Danforth line with OUR hard earned tax money. I find that extremely unfair and a complete waste of our tax dollars.
Sorry for going off the rails.
That was a trainwreck attempt of a joke!
Okay, I’ll stop.