If Doug Ford is elected, will he actually be able to build all those subways?

If Doug Ford is elected, will he actually be able to build all those subways?


If Doug Ford’s transit plan has one thing going for it, it’s simplicity. He wants to do one thing, and one thing only: build subways. In the first phase of his Toronto Subway Expansion Plan, a scheme originally advanced by his brother, he proposes not only following through with the Scarborough subway, but also building a Sheppard extension connecting Don Mills to McCowan, a downtown relief line from Queen to Pape, and a Finch West line, to Humber College. He also wants to bury the rest of the Eglinton Crosstown (or however you spell it). Then, in the second phase of the plan, he says he’ll extend the Sheppard line west to Downsview, lengthen the relief line on both ends, burrow the Eglinton line farther west of Mount Dennis and connect Kipling to Humber College with a north-south line. Altogether, the plan would create 32 new kilometres of subway. Ford claims the price tag for the first phase would be $9 billion—an amount he says he’ll raise using a series of measures that would include reallocating existing LRT funding (and, in the process, cancelling approved LRT lines), forging public-private partnerships, instituting development charges, using tax increment financing and selling air rights above stations.

election-idea-evaluator-red-smallIF FORD IS ELECTED, WILL IT HAPPEN?

As a map, Ford’s plan is far superior to any other transit platform. “From a point of view of coverage, he’s got a big network that covers the whole city,” says transit advocate and writer Steve Munro. “The problem is there’s no way we can afford to build the damn thing.”

As Munro details in an article on Torontoist, Ford appears to have unintentionally skewed his funding predictions by counting the reallocated LRT money twice over. And Munro, along with other critics, maintains that the other revenue tools on Ford’s “laundry list” simply won’t work: “These have already been studied, and it has been shown that they won’t raise money,” he says. (For example, see our evaluation of Ford’s plan to use Build Toronto revenues.) Plus, experts generally agree that the first phase would cost far more than Ford’s projected $9 billion, and that it would require a lot more work than Ford’s literature lets on.

It’s not likely things will ever get that far, though. “If he’s elected, council is going to be counting votes to see how quickly they can strip him of all his powers,” Munro says. Because of Ford’s reputation as a bully, Munro adds, “I cannot imagine him making the kinds of compromises with council that will be necessary to get anything remotely like his plan approved.”

Eric Miller, a transit expert and University of Toronto engineering professor, thinks Ford may make some progress with the downtown relief life. “That would be the one thing where there would be some tangency between his program and what council might be interested in,” Miller says. But the tunnelling spree would likely go no further.

“It’s the same old plan. These are policies that have been defeated once [under Rob Ford], and I can’t imagine the new council is going to be any more supportive of them because, frankly, they’re not good ideas,” Miller says. “I’m very skeptical that almost anything Ford is talking about would happen. His is a plan for inaction.”

How do other 2014 mayoral candidates’ ideas measure up? Click here to find out.