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TTC explores selling station 'air rights'

Joseph Hall

The TTC is looking to the skies to help generate new revenues for the cash-strapped transit system, according to a report to be presented to a commission meeting today.

The report, prepared by TTC and city staff, identifies 10 subway stations and transit properties that could generate millions of dollars through the sale or lease of “air rights” — space for building — over the sites.

“We have a lot of land and air rights over our properties that could be sold for development,” said TTC commissioner Joe Mihevc, who has been pushing the idea for two years.

“We have to find ways to intensify (development) in the city, and what better way to do it than building right on top of our subway lines?’

Mihevc says the system could realize “tens of millions of dollars” for capital growth and maintenance through selling air rights — and provide itself with new passengers in the process.

“We’ve identified a number of sites we could take to the market, which we’ll be presenting at (today’s) commission meeting,” Mihevc said.

“And these will create ready-made customers for the TTC. They could allow people to access the system without even putting their coats on in the winter.”

The 10 properties identified as being the most attractive to potential builders could all be developed within five years and would pose the fewest impediments to normal TTC operations, the report says.

They would also align most readily with current zoning regulations and best enhance the city’s emerging official plan, which envisions a million new residents moving into Toronto over the next two decades.

The most promising sites:

  • A 1.1-hectare commuter parking lot beside the York Mills subway station, which would give residents or businesses there access to Highway 401 and prestigious Yonge St. frontage.

  • The 0.7-hectare Eglinton/Yonge bus terminal, which has already attracted interest from several developers.

  • The Sheppard/Yonge station bus terminal, which would allow direct access to the Yonge subway line as well as the new Sheppard line.

  • A 0.2-hectare slice of vacant land adjoining the Spadina station. TTC engineers are studying the structural soundness of this site for a potential high-rise development in the Annex.

The other top 10 potential sites include a 1.3-hectare lot adjacent to the Lansdowne bus garage near Bloor St., and the Warden, Victoria Park, Islington and Downsview subway stations.

“The building would go up over and above TTC properties, and we’re trying to spur that kind of development,” said general manager Vince Rodo.

“From our perspective, this is all designed to help try and generate some revenues for the TTC,” Rodo said.

TTC chair Brian Ashton said the potential of air rights sales to add revenue and new riders presents “one of those rare occasions where we can have our cake and eat it too.”

Also under review is the development potential above or next to eight more sites: Davisville, Finch, High Park, Lawrence, Leslie, Rosedale and Wilson stations and the Greenwood streetcar yard on Queen St. E.

If the commission approves, TTC and city staff will begin formalizing detailed work plans, environmental assessments, and sales or lease agreements for each property.