The cases for the Brampton Queen Street, VIVA Rapidways, 403, and Durham Scarborough schemes are not quite so strong, with Benefit:Cost ratios in the range of 0.7 to 1.1. However, as Metrolinx notes in its BCAs, these schemes are evaluated on the basis of a “fixed matrix,” and assume no changes in land use patterns due to transport policies or investment. With appropriate policies, the benefits of these schemes would likely outweigh the costs. Metrolinx should also be asked to re-evaluate the schemes using a “dynamic” model, assuming substantial but plausible changes to employment patterns due to the schemes.
It also seems some of the schemes were evaluated assuming the existing, fragmented fares system. Schemes should be evaluated assuming integrated fares made possible by the implementation of PRESTO smart cards.
Benefits will be further increased if the GO rail system is upgraded into a regional metro with faster and more frequent services all day. It is not clear what improvements to GO services were assumed in the preparation of the Metrolinx BCAs.
Correcting for these factors is important, not only because the current BCAs probably substantially understate the benefits of schemes relative to alternative uses for Metrolinx’s money, but also because it can affect the ranking of schemes from alternatives. For example, the Metrolinx BCA for the VIVA Next scheme suggests the Benefit:Cost ratio can be raised from 0.7 to 0.9 by deferring some of the expenditure. But if the benefits have been underestimated, deferral might reduce the net benefits. The case for Brampton Queen Street is similar. While the Benefit:Cost ratio of Option 1A is only 0.8, according to Metrolinx analyses, it has the potential to increase employment around transit stations by 126,700, compared with only 87,300 in Option 1B, which includes less investment and which Metrolinx seems to be favouring. Use of a dynamic model could easily push the Benefit:Cost ratio for Option 1A above 1.0. It also is important that policymakers understand that the objective should be to maximize Net Benefits, not the Benefit:Cost Ratio.