The Globe and Mail's Marcus Gee is profoundly skeptical that in a time of fiscal restraint, the Ontario provincial government is going to fund an expansion of the subway network.
Transit czar Rob Prichard has a message for those who dream of criss-crossing Toronto with new subway lines: get real. Mr. Prichard, chief of the Metrolinx transit agency, says he is buttonholed all the time at cocktail parties, on transit and even by people on the street who ask him: “Why aren’t you building more subways?”
The question clearly drives him a little mad. First of all, he tells them, 12 kilometres of the proposed Eglinton light rapid transit line – one of the priority projects for Metrolinx – run through an underground tunnel. The big, modern LRT cars would whiz along as fast as a subway. A second priority project, replacement of the aging Scarborough rapid transit line, would run on dedicated track at subway speeds.
On two of the other main rail projects planned by Metrolinx, the Sheppard and Finch LRT lines, a subway makes no sense. The density of people and buildings on those suburban routes is not even close to enough to justify the enormous expense of building, then operating, subway lines. Subways cost around three times as much as light rail. Expanding the Spadina subway north to York University, for example, is costing about $300-million a kilometre. Do the math. At 33 kilometres, the Eglinton LRT, if converted into a subway, would cost $9.9-billion, about half the size of the national defence budget.
Yet some of our candidates for mayor seem to think they can conjure subways out of the wind. No fewer than four of the six main candidates have talked about expanding the subway network.