Mayor Rob Ford promises to deliver new Sheppard subway
Says if private cash not available, private sector will step in
(Written for Town Crier Feb. 17)
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is moving forward with a public-private partnership to fulfill his election promise to extend the Sheppard subway.
The city has submitted a proposal to Metrolinx, the provincial agency that looks after public transit funding in the GTA, to adjust its plan for the route from LRT to subway.
Ford was short on details at a 3 minute and 21 second press scrum, that also covered his health after an operation to help pass a painful kidney stone and his brother Doug Ford’s proposal to give the mayor veto power.
“I said I’m going to build subways. I am going to build subways,” Ford told the media this afternoon. “People know you can’t always rely on government to build subways and that’s where the private sector will come in.”
Neither Metrolinx nor the mayor provided details requested by the Town Crier on the cost of the city’s proposal for a Sheppard subway. However, Ford’s election platform does refer to a $3 billion Sheppard subway with 10 stops between Downsview and Scarborough Town Centre to be completed by 2015.
TTC chair Karen Stintz confirmed to the Town Crier the city will try to use the existing funding envelope of about $1 billion from the province and feds for Sheppard and then get the rest from the private sector.
“The discussion are at very high level now,” she said. “The Big Move has been approved by the Metrolinx board so if they make any changes it would be made by their board and then they would make those amendments and then the city would carry forward with its plans.”
Former TTC chair Joe Mihevc said the private sector would have to kick in $3.6 billion to keep the mayor’s plan on track.
He added that involving the private sector might make the project more expensive due to the city’s low cost of borrowing.
“Interest payments are higher (for) the private sector,” said Mihevc.
If the city wanted to finance the project itself there are several options for financing at the city’s disposal including enacting a special tax levy for the area, development charges for Sheppard, raising property taxes across the city, or tax increment financing which would spend money now and reaping new money later when the property tax base increases in the future.
Ford mentions in his transportation platform garnering about $300 million in capital dollars for subways by selling development rights along the subway corridors.
Mihevc said this can be done but it’s a long process of 20-30 years to get enough money from those projects.
In a media scrum after the mayor spoke, Mihevc questioned whether a Sheppard subway was good public planning.
“Is this a good use of scarce capital dollars to get the maximum bang for the maximum dollar?”Mihevc asked.
“The current Sheppard subway line costs us each year an extra $7 million because we don¹t have the densities on Sheppard,” he said. “So by extending it all you are doing is increasing operating costs.”