The Yonge North Subway Extension (YNSE), from Finch Station in Toronto to Richmond Hill Centre in York Region, is one of Ontario’s four priority subway projects. Transport Action Ontario has long supported this project, in conjunction with a relief line for the Yonge Subway, as ridership on the extension is expected to easily meet subway thresholds.
The project recently reached a milestone with the signing of the “Ontario-York Region Transit Partnership Preliminary Agreement”, which outlines the responsibilities of each level of government. However, the project still faces significant challenges, which include:
- Federal funding. The project is looking for 40% federal commitment, but currently there is nearly zero. The funding instrument that the feds have been using is their PTIF-2 program, which allocates money to municipalities based on current population and current transit ridership, not growth potential. Toronto is using their $4.9B allocation on other projects in the City. York Region has received $200M from PTIF-2, which will be directed to YNSE, but is obviously insufficient.
- Municipal funding. The Province is looking for a capital commitment from York Region of about 15%, or $1.1B. Much of this will come from Development Charges, but the Region will need new revenue tools, e.g. land transfer tax like Toronto has. This requirement for municipal funds is different than the Ontario-Toronto transit agreement inked last fall, where the municipal contribution on the 4 subway projects within Toronto was agreed to be zero.
- Capital cost escalation. The capital costs are rumoured to have increased dramatically, from the $5.6B cited in the agreement to over $9 B. There is talk about reducing the number of stations and perhaps changing the alignment.
- Operating and maintenance costs. The agreement also specifies that York will have a responsibility to share in the operating and maintenance cost subsidy. This is new for York and is in contrast to the Spadina subway extension to Vaughan, where Toronto picks up 100% of operating and maintenance costs.
An updated Initial Business Case is slated to be presented to the Metrolinx Board soon, perhaps in June. It should be an interesting discussion, particularly about capital cost reduction ideas!