Ontario’s subway uploading could lead to building boom at TTC stations

Bus lands at Yonge and Eglinton as well as Davisville station could be in play

The province insists that uploading the city’s subway to the provincial government will be the solution for the delays in building and expanding the transit system. This belief has largely been perpetuated by the consistent bungling that each new council term seems to bring to transit planning.

If certain realities are set aside, such as the fact that the province has never built a subway expansion, there is an argument to be made that the funder of the project should have control over the construction of the project.

If the province wants to build subways, then it makes sense for it to own the subway. As long at the TTC continues to operate the subway within the city’s system, the province can own pieces of the infrastructure and it should work.

For example, Metrolinx technically owns the Eglinton Crosstown, even though the TTC will operate the line.

Another area of concern is what happens to the subway stations. Technically the stations and all the land owned around the stations would be subject to the province.

Stations with significant developable land such as Davisville, St. Clair West and even the TTC bus lands at Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue could undergo major redevelopment at the invitation of the province to help finance transit expansion.

The TTC headquarters at Yonge and Davisville sits on prime midtown real estate.

If the TTC were to try and redevelop the land today, it would transfer the land to the city, and the city would sell the land at a price consistent with its own redevelopment expectations.

If the province owns the land, it could try to sell the land to the highest bidder resulting in the construction of the largest possible development. The same thing could happen at Yonge and Eglinton with respect to the bus bays.

But although the province may have plans to develop the land, if the terms are not favourable to Toronto, city council could make it difficult for the province to realize its objectives by refusing to approve applications.

The recent reforms to the Ontario Municipal Board, now the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT), give municipalities more authority over the approval process and applications near the subway cannot be appealed. If city council is cranky, any redevelopment plans could be hijacked.

Council has already begun to assert its authority, and developers have already begun to complain.

Unless the province wants to rewrite the rules for the LPAT, developers may or may not wish to invest in a project near the subway line that could be delayed for years.

Relying on the redevelopment of land to finance transit construction is a risky proposition, even when stakeholders involved are in support of the plan.

When all the stakeholders are not in support, it becomes even more risky. Given that Josh Matlow is the city councillor for the area in which several redevelopment sites along the subway are located, the province may wish to reconsider any development plans. Councillor Matlow is generally not supportive of development and is also unsupportive of subway expansion.

Hopefully the province has other financing plans for transit expansion. Otherwise, we could be waiting awhile.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO