Cost Estimates
Density Estimates
Ridership Estimates

Cost Estimates

In order to arrive at cost estimates for the Downtown Relief Line, detailed breakdowns of both the Spadina Extension to Vaughan Metropolitan Centre and the Yonge extension to Richmond Hill were used. Given how much construction costs can vary geographically, it was important to use local estimates.

Upon analyzing these breakdowns, it can be established how much different types of stations cost, how much it costs to build tunnelled track, how much property acquisition costs, and how much other factors such as engineering cost. While many of the costs were fairly similar between the two lines, when a cost was higher for one line, the higher cost was factored in at a greater weight to determine pricing of the Downtown Relief Line. While one strategy would be to simply average the data, the goal here was to come up with a realistic estimate of costs. A 2002 report by Flyvbjerg, Holm and Buhl titled “Underestimating Costs in Public Works Projects, Error or Lie?” studied construction of public works projects around the world to find that underestimation of costs for rail projects in North America is around 40%61. Though the TTC seems to be trying to account for that, budgeting a massive 25% of project costs to overruns, it still seems that taking the higher estimate is likely to be closer to the overall cost, especially when construction will not start immediately.

To determine the cost of factors that were not involved in either the Spadina or York lines, such as different types of track construction or a different type of station, estimates were used from other cities to determine costs. While using Spadina estimates made it possible to estimate the cost of at-grade track, cut-and cover track as well as elevated track had their prices established by using a ratio obtained from a 2004 International Tunnelling Association document89, which allowed us to use a fraction of TTC’s tunnelling costs and assume that to be the cost of Cut and Cover. Similar methods were used to establish the cost of elevated track.

Above ground stations were based on costs from Chicago’s planned extensions, using both the high-end estimates of their construction costs, and adding 20-30% to the costs in order to account for the generally high price of construction in Toronto. While not as accurate as track cost calculations, it is decidedly better to err on the side of overestimating, as projects that go over budget can quickly derail the construction.

To establish the cost of bridging the Don Valley, similar bridges were found in length and height to determine how much they cost, and again a premium of 20-30% was added in order to ensure the bridge was well accounted for in the budget.

Engineering costs were a difficult part to estimate, as the Yonge line is almost three times more expensive than the Spadina line in terms of engineering. Using the logic that although some sections of the line will be easy to construct, others will be very challenging from an engineering standpoint, and an average of $80 million per kilometer was taken, which will vary depending on the challenges associated with any given part of the line, ranging between $50 million/km to $102 million/km. It should be noted that, as with other estimates, even the lowest range is higher than that of the Spadina line, while the highest estimate for Stage One of construction is slightly higher than the Yonge estimate.

After talking with Rod McPhail of the City of Toronto105, property costs were determined to be needed for above ground right-of-way and for stations. Though Toronto’s Downtown has higher property values, stations will not need to be as complex and can be built into existing buildings, lowering the overall cost. Thus property cost would remain fairly stable relative to the Spadina and Yonge extensions, with the exception being at grade track, which increased property acquisition.

Both the Subway Yard Costs and Rolling Stock costs had no projection required, as recent estimates of cost were available for these items.

Finally, contingency costs of 25% and tax breaks were added to get the overall total costs of the line.

While a TTC study would need to be done to determine exact costs, I am confident that the costs presented will be fairly accurate, and if anything a little higher than what construction of the line would currently cost. Much effort has gone into ensuring that the project is not significantly underestimated in terms of cost, like so many other infrastructure projects are, in order to ensure that the public supports the line, knowing accurate costs.

Density Estimates

Density was determined by measuring a circle with a radius of 500m from the centre of a proposed station using Google Earth Pro.

Population density was calculated by adding up individual dissemination blocks of the 2006 census that had the majority of the block fall within the 500m radius. The entire block was then measured in Google Earth Pro to obtain an area. The total population of all the blocks in the area was added, and then divided by the total area of all those blocks. In situations where a dissemination block included parkland or other space that lacks population, if the parkland fell within the station radius, it would be included in the estimate. If the parkland fell outside of the 500m radius, it would not be included when measuring the dissemination block, as it would unfairly lead to a lower density around the subway station. After population density had been calculated using numbers from the 2006 census, a list of buildings was compiled and mapped out that had been constructed since the census was taken. The number of units in each of those buildings was multiplied by 1.5 to get an estimate of the population those buildings added to the area. That population was then factored into the density calculation to arrive at a 2010 density level. Next, proposed buildings were mapped and attributed to stations using the same methodology used to get 2010 data to project 2014 population density.

A similar method was used in order to obtain employment density, with some modifications. Employment density figures were obtained from the 2006 Transportation Tomorrow Survey43, using traffic zones for area calculations. Because traffic zones are significantly larger than dissemination blocks, some judgment was necessary. Zones were weighted evenly among corners of an intersection, so that if one traffic zone was double the size of another nearby one, the density of that zone would not be disproportionately represented. If a traffic zone contained strictly residential within 500m of a station, it was taken to have zero jobs, even if the traffic zone held several. This is because the jobs that are more than 500m away should not count towards station density, yet due to the large traffic zone sizes it is possible they would. Using this method means that individuals who work at home are not accounted for, likely under-representing employment density for an area, but it will be closer to being accurate using this method than using a method which includes employment that does not exist within the station catchment zone.

New employment was also calculated for buildings constructed up to 2010, and proposed through 2014, using a measure of 1 employee per 50m2 of office space, or 40 employees per floor if office space was not available, with that estimate varying depending on the footprint of the building.

Recently constructed and newly constructed buildings were found through a combination of websites, most notably The Urban Building Database161, TOBuilt141, and Emporis53. Similar to TTC density calculations, if a building fell in an area of overlap for multiple stations it would be included in the density calculations for both stations.

Using these methods, density calculation is as accurate as possible given the availability of information and the age of the census.

Ridership Estimates

Ridership estimates are difficult to obtain, and without the use of EMME/2 modeling software, are largely unscientific guesses. The ridership estimates used on this website attempt to be as accurate as possible given the lack of modeling software.

To estimate potential ridership, first an estimate of new ridership to the system had to be obtained. This was done by using the Transportation Tomorrow Survey and finding the transit modal split around a given station for work commutes. The station was then compared to other existing stations in the TTC network in terms of density, distance from downtown, and income level, all which are determining factors in ridership level, and contribute to the transit modal split of an area. The density and current station modal splits were obtained from the Rapid Transit Expansion Study119, which while dated, is acceptable for these purposes as we do not need to ensure the densities are currently accurate, but only to compare levels of density and modal splits. Income levels were obtained from the Canadian Census, and Google Earth was used to measure distances from Yonge St. south of Bloor. After finding between 3 and 5 comparable stations, an average weighted towards the most comparable station was obtained to determine the projected new ridership to a station. Generally, this seemed to result in an increase in the transit split of an additional 5-7% of the overall modal split, which seemed like a reasonable gain in ridership.

After a new modal split was obtained, the exact number of passengers was calculated for the traffic zones using both the previous modal split, and the new one. The difference resulted in the new number of daily riders throughout the day. Riders will travel both to and from work, so this number was then doubled. An estimate was made based on that number of new passengers that would enter the system as a result to being closer to the subway, even if not within the catchment zone. This estimate was higher for stations such as Wynford where no nearby rapid transit exists than stations such as Financial District, where the subway is already nearby. With a few exceptions, these estimates were generally between 50-100% of new ridership within the catchment zone. Certain stations, such as Cherry, saw a significant number of new riders as a result of massive growth in the area between 2006-2014 which will bring in new population, thus these are counted as new riders rather than riders siphoned from existing bus routes, though admittedly it is possible that a group of these riders formerly used transit in Toronto before moving to their new homes. Because the goal was to calculate peak hour ridership, the number of new passengers was then multiplied by a percentage, based upon what percentage of passengers throughout the day would be headed south/westbound during the peak hour. This varied by station, as stations such as St. Lawrence will have fewer of its passengers heading south/west than a station such as Flemingdon Park, where almost all passengers will be heading south/west. Estimates were taken from existing stations and their relative position to downtown, from the 2009 Station Platform Usage Counts document3, and ranged generally from 9-17%, with the Financial District and Rogers Centre being outliers as a result of the few number of stations directly west, resulting in only 2 and 1% respectively.

Next, an estimate of existing riders who currently use the bus network was added to the new ridership figures. These numbers were estimates based upon daily bus ridership figures for buses that served the station132;a fraction similar to the subway numbers was taken in order to determine the number of those individuals which would be riding the bus in the AM peak hour, and then further shrunk the estimates by around half to account for passengers not heading to the subway, or possibly heading to the Yonge subway instead of the Downtown Relief Line. At Pape Station, a figure of 12,300 was added to comply with the Metrolinx estimates of how much ridership the DRL from Pape would take off the Yonge subway line in 2031, but adjusted to current ridership figures based on a diversionary effect of 41%, as stated in the TTC’s Yonge Subway Extension –Additional Information Concerning Costs And Ridership/Capacity document172. Another estimate was done for the Financial District to account for the subway transfer there, though a much lower one, as the transfer potential would be less in the peak hour than at Pape. Finally, 400 riders were added to Wynford to account for a proposed car park.

From these numbers, I obtained an estimate of total boardings for the Downtown Relief Line in the south/west direction, which results in slightly under 35,000 in the peak hour. Those 35,000 passengers need to disembark, and to establish where they were likely to leave the system, estimates were done to determine the amount of employment at or around any given station, then compared to the total amount of employment along the rest of the subway line, with a certain percentage of passengers diverting to Bloor-Danforth. That percentage would then be used to find the number of passengers on the train in the peak hour at that station point that would disembark at the station. The diversionary effect of Bloor-Danforth was calculated based on Bloor-Yonge station, and the number of passengers who transfer from the Yonge line to the Bloor line in the peak hour. That number was compared to the number who transfer from Bloor to Yonge, and viewed as a percentage. That percentage was then applied to the 12,300 passenger estimate from Metrolinx of passengers transferring from Danforth to the DRL at Pape, to result in a figure of 6,200.

After this analysis was complete, a peak hour maximum figure of 23,959 passengers was found to exist between Parliament and St. Lawrence, where the loads would go down as a result of more disembarkments than embarkments from there. The train would largely empty at Financial District Station, with approximately 6,000 passengers continuing to Rogers Centre and Cityplace.

© 2010 Phil Orr & Andrew Perry