A flurry of new reports, aimed at the June 28th meeting of Toronto's Executive Committee, are making clearer the costs of the City's ambitious transit network plan and they make grim reading when counting the dollars. The projected costs of both the Relief Line and the Scarborough Subway Extension (SSE) have risen sharply. The cost of the SSE is now $3.1b for a single stop to be built by 2025. As a result, the cost of this plus the planned accompanying Eglinton East LRT would be at least $1b more than the money allocated for it by the City, provincial, and federal governments. The Relief Line—estimated to cost $3.2b four years ago—is now estimated to cost $6.8b, partly because it is now planned to stop at the West Don Lands site ("Sumach" as per below) and Unilever site ("Broadview" in the map below), partly because of the very preliminary nature of the earlier estimate.

Relief Line mapCity of Toronto's preferred relief line route source: City of Toronto

One of the reasons given for the sharp rise in the estimated cost of the SSE is that previous estimates were made, "based on 0% design". The estimates for the Relief Line and most of the other projects in Toronto's transit plan to 2031 are currently also made on that basis too, so could change further over time; in fact the relief line initial business case document states explicitly, "the costs included in this initial business case should not be used for budgeting purposes". Several of the other projects deemed priorities, notably the Waterfront transit 'reboot', are still in early stages of public consultation with several quite different options possible and no costs have yet been estimated.

Three years ago Jennifer Keesmaat, the City's chief planner, said that an LRT in Scarborough would be preferable to a subway. Now it appears that there may not be money enough to do both, she recently tweeted that "sober second thoughts" on transit options for the area would be needed.

SmartTrack is the one piece of good news from a funding perspective. Because it is now a more limited scheme than was originally envisaged, its stations will only cost $700m to $1.1b to implement, and in the election campaign Trudeau pledged up to $2.6bn in matching funding when it was thought to be a $8bn plan. The Eglinton West LRT portion of SmartTrack is currently pegged between $1.5b and $2.1b, so it's possible that SmartTrack may only be a $3.3b plan now.

The federal government has already promised $840m to fund essential TTC repairs and maintenance as part of its infrastructure fund. This is just phase one of a planned ten years of infrastructure spending, with public transit spending being around a third of the allocation, being handed out to municipalities proportional to their size. But crucially, it has to be matched by municipal or provincial funds to be released (and of course there is no guarantee that future forecast funding will indeed be forthcoming).

Federal infrastructure fund graphProjected Canada-wide federal Infrastructure Fund spending until 2026 Source: Budget 2016

Meanwhile, Ontario has announced a five year, $8.3b climate action plan. This will include funding for electric cars and cycle paths but its transit funding is limited to between $355 and $675m to accelerate deployment of the GO RER program: this may speed aspects of SmartTrack's plans but won't otherwise help Toronto to meet its transportation goals. The provincial government device for that is its Moving Ontario Forward plan, which is putting about $16b towards GO Regional Express Rail and several other art and bus rapid transit project across the GTHA over 10 years. Some of that money was also recently allocated to further plan and design the Relief Line ($150m) and the Yonge North extension ($55m). 

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