Time is Money
Back in September, CBI crunched the numbers to estimate the value of time savings resulting from the Pilot’s reductions in travel and wait times. In doing that calculation we made a number of assumptions about the data for the King Street Pilot and estimated savings of $11.5 million annually. Following the City’s recent release of new data, we updated our methodology and calculation and found time savings equal to $12.6 million. (For details, see Methodology section at the end of this post). The City of Toronto has estimated an economic value of $2.7 million per year.* (*April 8: the City of Toronto has updated its number to correct an earlier typo.)
In a city where it is estimated that congestion carries a cost of $3.3 billion in lost time for commuters annually, the time savings achieved by the King Street Pilot are the flipside of this burden, and a boon to 84,000 daily riders.
King of a Bargain
At $1.5 million to implement and another $1.5 million to make permanent, the King Street Transit Pilot is a total bargain and serves a huge number of transit riders – 84,000! – daily on the 514 and 504 streetcars (the highest ridership of any surface transit route in the city). Using existing streetcar infrastructure and implementing quick operational fixes to boost reliability, capacity, and speed, the Pilot significantly improved transit service for many, for only a fraction of the capital cost of other large-scale transportation improvements.
Compare this to the planned one-stop Scarborough Subway extension, which carries an estimated price tag of of $3.89 billion and a projected daily ridership of only 31,000. Or the City’s investment to rebuild and reconfigure the Gardiner East (Jarvis to the Don Valley), with a capital budget of $718 million to serve just 110,000 vehicles per day.
At a time when Toronto is pouring multi-billions of dollars into transportation projects that will serve relatively few travelers, the King Street Pilot Project emerges as an exceptional bang for our buck: improving transit service for 84,000 daily riders, almost immediately, for only about $3 million in total.
$ 3.89 billionEstimatedCapital cost of the one-stop Scarborough subway extension (3), which would see an estimated 31,000 daily riders (4).
King St. Pilot Capital CostMost Cost-Effective
$ 3 millionIn totalCapital cost of the King Street Transit Pilot (includes both initial capital cost and cost to make permanent), which would serve 84,000 daily riders (1)
Gardiner Expressway East
$ 718 millionEstimatedCost of the Gardiner Expressway East rebuild/reconfiguration (hybrid option) (5), which would see 110,000 daily drivers (6).
With no east-west rapid transit (13) south of the Bloor-Danforth subway, downtown Toronto is congested on every surface route. As debate continues around a Downtown Relief Line, that will likely not be realized for decades, the King Street Pilot presents an immediate strategy to get Toronto moving, right now: redesign streets and surface routes into dedicated transit corridors, separated and liberated from mixed traffic.
It’s a practical surface solution for rapid transit, and it can yield big results fast. Planning for the Pilot took only a few months; implementation was near-instantaneous, and it carries a total capital cost of just $1.2 million/km (including necessary modifications to make permanent). Not only do we need to make the King Street Pilot permanent, we need to find ways to seize more quick-to-deploy opportunities like this on other existing surface transit routes — particularly in the absence of new transit funding.
- $1.2 million/km: Cost per km to implement the King Street Pilot (7)
- $400 to $800 million/km: Cost per km to construct a subway (8, 9)
- $140 to 300 million/km: Cost per km to construct a new LRT (10)
- 11 years: Estimated time to build the Relief Line South (11)
- 7 Years: Estimated time to build SmartTrack (12)
Time savings of just a few minutes may not seem like much…but the more telling metric here is the improved reliability, showing that transit service and travel experiences along King Street really have improved. For riders choosing to take transit, knowing that a streetcar will arrive on-time and will have capacity to carry you to your destination in a predictable time frame has a big impact. Reliability has led to significant ridership increases as well as improved overall satisfaction for riders.
- 81%: Percentage of riders who reported overall satisfaction with the 504 King streetcar (Q4 2018) (14)
- 5 minutes: Improvement in average travel times within the Pilot, both east and west during the evening commute, for the slowest streetcar (15)
- 75-86%: Percentage of streetcars within the Pilot arriving on within four minutes, during the morning and evening commutes (16)
- 25%: Increase in customer boardings per hour of service in the King corridor (17) (thanks to more reliable service and the deployment of new, low-floor streetcars)
- 17%: Increase in all-day weekday ridership in the King corridor (18)
“Cars don’t shop; people shop”
While 180 on-street parking spaces were removed for the King Pilot, approximately 98% of the 8,000 existing spaces within a 5-minute walk of the study area were left untouched, and 100 new on-street spaces were added on side streets. This resulted in a net loss of only 1% of total area parking spaces. There remains ample parking available near King Street, and drivers still have good access to their destinations.
At the same time, pedestrians continue to flock to King Street. An improved and expanded pedestrian environment with public realm enhancements (including nine new restaurant patios) have helped to stabilize foot traffic on King Street. Pedestrian activity on King is comparable to pre-pilot figures, and in line with seasonal patterns and trends on comparable east-west streets, including Queen (21). Meanwhile, customer spending on King Street remains strong. Year-over-year growth in both retail and service spending in the pilot area increased, while growth in restaurant spending showed a slight dip (in line with city-wide and area trends) (22) – showing that a reduction in car traffic does not result in less commercial activity: cars don’t shop; people do.
To calculate our value of time savings figure ($12.6 million) we:
- Assumed 30,000 minutes in weekday travel time savings, per the City’s new Staff Report;
- Assumed 29% of ridership (and likewise equivalent time savings) on weekends compared to weekdays (23);
- Added estimated wait time savings of 0.625 minutes per rider;
- Applied Metrolinx’s value of time number ($17.36/hour), and wait time factor (2.5x—this is higher than in our initial calculation which used a 1.5x wait time factor) (24)
(1) City of Toronto. Proposed King Street Transit Pilot: Bathurst Street to Jarvis Street.
City of Toronto. The Future of King Street: Results of the Transit Pilot. https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2019/ex/bgrd/backgroundfile-131188.pdf
(2) City of Toronto. The Future of King Street: Results of the Transit Pilot. https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2019/ex/bgrd/backgroundfile-131188.pdf
(3) City of Toronto. Transit Expansion Program – Update and Next Steps: Line 2 East Extension. https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2019/ex/bgrd/backgroundfile-131526.pdf
(4) City of Toronto. Fact Sheet: Scarborough Subway Extension – ridership numbers, March 1, 2017.
(5) City of Toronto. Gardiner Expressway and Lake Shore Boulevard East Reconfiguration Environmental Assessment (EA) and Integrated Urban Design Study – Evaluation of Preferred Design. https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2016/pw/bgrd/backgroundfile-90624.pdf
(6) City of Toronto. Gardiner Expressway and Lake Shore Boulevard East Reconfiguration Environmental Assessment (EA) and Integrated Urban Design Study – Updated Evaluation of Alternatives. https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2015/pw/bgrd/backgroundfile-79902.pdf
(7) Based on an estimated total cost of $3 million for the 2.6 km length of the pilot project area.
(8) The Spadina Subway extension cost $3.2 billion and delivered 8.6 km of subway. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/transportation/2017/12/16/after-delays-cost-overruns-and-tragedy-a-subway-to-vaughan-is-complete.html
(9) The Toronto Relief Line was recently costed at $5.2 – $5.5 billion for 5.8-6.3 km of subway. http://www.metrolinx.com/en/docs/pdf/board_agenda/20190207/20190207_BoardMtg_ReliefLineBusinessCaseDevelopment_EN.pdf
(10) The Finch West LRT has a capital cost of $1.5 billion for 11 km of LRT. The Eglinton Crosstown LRT has a capital cost of $5.3 billion for 19 km of LRT. https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2019/ex/bgrd/backgroundfile-131525.pdf
(11) City of Toronto. Transit Expansion Program – Update and Next Steps: Transit Expansion Program – Status Update. https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2019/ex/bgrd/backgroundfile-131525.pdf
(12) City of Toronto. Transit Expansion Program – Update and Next Steps: Transit Expansion Program – Status Update. https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2019/ex/bgrd/backgroundfile-131525.pdf
(13) “Rapid transit” includes public transit that operates in an exclusive right-of-way, with priority signaling, all-day two-way service with minimal wait times, optimized stop spacing, off-board fare collection, and connectivity to a larger transit network (Singer, Geoffrey and Cherise Burda, 2014. Fast Cities: A comparison of rapid transit in major Canadian cities. Pembina Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.pembina.org/reports/fast-cities-report.pdf).
(14) City of Toronto. The Future of King Street: Results of the Transit Pilot, Appendix 4: Transit Performance Summary. https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2019/ex/bgrd/backgroundfile-131388.pdf
(15) City of Toronto. King Street Transit Pilot Annual Summary. https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2019/ex/bgrd/backgroundfile-131386.pdf
(16) City of Toronto. King Street Transit Pilot Annual Summary. https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2019/ex/bgrd/backgroundfile-131386.pdf
(17) City of Toronto. The Future of King Street: Results of the Transit Pilot, Appendix 4: Transit Performance Summary. https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2019/ex/bgrd/backgroundfile-131388.pdf
(18) City of Toronto. King Street Transit Pilot Annual Summary. https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2019/ex/bgrd/backgroundfile-131386.pdf
(19) City of Toronto. The Future of King Street: Results of the Transit Pilot. https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2019/ex/bgrd/backgroundfile-131188.pdf
(20) City of Toronto. King Street Transit Pilot Annual Summary. https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2019/ex/bgrd/backgroundfile-131386.pdf
(21) City of Toronto. King Street Transit Pilot Annual Summary. https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2019/ex/bgrd/backgroundfile-131386.pdf
(22) City of Toronto. King Street Transit Pilot Annual Summary. https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2019/ex/bgrd/backgroundfile-131386.pdf
(23) TTC Ridership Growth Strategy 2018-2022, Preliminary Report. http://ttc.ca/About_the_TTC/Commission_reports_and_information/Commission_meetings/2017/December_11/Reports/10_Ridership_Growth_Strategy_2018_2022_Preliminary_Report.pdf
(24) Metrolinx Business Case Manual Volume 2: Guidance. http://www.metrolinx.com/en/regionalplanning/projectevaluation/benefitscases/Metrolinx%20Business%20Case%20Guidance%20Volume%202.pdf