City calls for Sheppard subway financing plan
The clearest indication yet of how Mayor Rob Ford is looking to finance his Sheppard subway extensions is revealed in a new request for proposals posted by the city on behalf of the Toronto Transit Infrastructure Ltd.
That's the consulting arm of the TTC that was pressed into service to apply for federal funding for privately backed infrastructure projects.
The document shows that TTIL is looking for a consultant that would come up with a plan on how development charges, tax increment financing and development rights over subway stations, could be used to pay for the subway, which Ford wants to extend west of Yonge to Downsview station and east to Kennedy, running seamlessly onto the Scarborough RT tracks.
The $200,000 contract would also include revenue forecasts on each of the city's planned transit expansion routes, including the provincially funded Eglinton Crosstown.
The request for bidder proposals suggests that any increase in value and development charges realized along the Eglinton line could potentially be poured back into the Sheppard corridor, something that raised eyebrows at the Toronto Environmental Alliance, which continues to campaign for a return to the more affordable light rail transit plan that Ford rejected.
"This basically means the benefits of any new development or construction along Eglinton are going to be redirected to the Sheppard West or East," said TEA's Jamie Kirkpatrick.
"If I lived along Eglinton or I was a councillor along there I’d be asking a lot of questions about what does this actually mean for my community," he said.
Transit blogger Steve Munro echoed some of those concerns.
"This begs the question of how we would ever fund rapid transit entirely with TIF revenue when we must raid the benefits of other projects," he wrote.
The other thing that's clear from the document is how many revenue sources would be required to build the project that was seen as a white elephant even before the existing Sheppard stubway was constructed.
"You could raise some money but it's not even in the ball park of what you would need," said City Councillor Joe Mihevc, who was a long-serving TTC commissioner and vice-chair of that board before he was exiled by the Ford administration.
Even those who don't re-develop their properties could be asked to pay more in taxes once the subway is built, he said.
In addition, the idea of charging development premiums along the corridor didn't work before and it won't work now, said Mihevc. The last time the city dug a hole on Sheppard it had the effect of encouraging more development on Yonge St. There's still plenty of alternatives for developers who don't want to pay a special levy, he said.
Consultants have until June 1 to bid on the job. The city has until the end of June to apply for Ottawa's $1.2 billion infrastructure program.