At its February 16, 2012 meeting, the Metrolinx Board received a presentation and report on the status of projects in Toronto arising out of the Council action taken on February 8. The report does not add much to information already reported, but it consolidates various documents in one convenient location.
The map of the 5-in-10 plan (the version of Transit City agreed to by Toronto Council in 2009 and disavowed by Mayor Ford) appears in both documents. This map includes:
- The Eglinton line from Jane to Kennedy with an underground section from Keele station to Laird station. In the press scrum following the meeting, I asked about the possibility of redesign of the section through Mount Dennis (Weston Road) and near Don Mills and the DVP. Metrolinx confirmed that details of these areas are still being worked out. (See below)
- The SRT rebuilt as LRT from Kennedy Station to Sheppard.
- The Sheppard LRT from Don Mills Station to Morningside including a new carhouse at Conlins Road.
- The Finch West LRT from Finch West Station to Humber College.
A note I received from Rick Ciccarelli (long active in transit affairs in Weston) gave further information from a public meeting on February 15 in Weston:
In speaking with Jack Collins [Metrolinx Vice-President, Rapid Transit Implementation] last night at Councillor di Giorgio’s Kodak Town Hall, he said underground [is] still in play and indicated the loading and unloading of trains at the start and end of service will be a problem for at-grade, and he also expects an interconnecting GO/TTC station to work better. He is not sure if it will go underground past this station. They are also looking at a bridge across Black Creek Drive to service the yards, plus bus connections for both TTC and regional service. The Kodak building could become a bus terminal. He said there are multiple issues to sort through before the design can be finalized including whether they are designing for 3 car LRT or full subway vehicles, and the relationship with the GO rail corridor track expansion project and the new station.
Collins confirmed at the Metrolinx meeting that the purchase of the Kodak site was concluded at about the beginning of February. The remark about possibly designing the carhouse for full subway vehicles dates, I suspect, from a period when the actual technology to be used for the line had not been settled by Council. Changing to full subway requires far more extensive design modifications than simply at the carhouse.
During the Board’s discussion, the question arose of interference in Council’s decision by the Ford brothers and their “Save Our Subways” scheme. CEO and President Bruce McCuaig replied that Queen’s Park has indicated that they will listen to Council. Chair Rob Prichard said that Metrolinx’ job was to be respectful of the Council process, and that it was not for Metrolinx to take sides with individual Councillors, but to wait for Council’s decision-making process to complete.
Director Lee Parsons asked what risk there might be that the Council debate will not be resolved by the end of March. McCuaig replied that Metrolinx needs “certainty and clarity” from Council. Prichard said that the “end game” is an agreement with the City, a binding agreement, and that McCuaig and his staff would move forward to a full master agreement as quickly as possible. In the press scrum, Prichard hopes that Council will take a position endorsing a new master agreement, and referred to comments by individual members as “noise on the side”.
Director Douglas Turnbull worried that the longer the LRT versus subway debate continues — a false one he believed because LRT is the only reasonable option — that a window of opportunity for transit expansion may be lost.
Director Peter Smith noted that both Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario are strong supporters of arrangements where the entire provision of a line would be outsourced. Bruce McCuaig replied that the province is committed to AFP (alternative financing and procurement) models, but various types of “package” may be appropriate. Smith wondered whether the TTC was in any position to dictate an alternative arrangement for a facility that was not their own, and thought that the public did not understand the situation well (blaming the media for this state of affairs).
On the status of penalties for cancelled projects, Rob Prichard stated that Metrolinx would provide the City’s “expert panel” reviewing options for Sheppard with information about these and the effect of various possible options on which sunk costs could be reinstated as part of active projects. Jack Collins said that Metrolinx has now broken down the costs per project and that the amount of sunk (unrecoverable) costs will go down as original route designs come back into the plan. There will be some loss from the work done on tunnel design for the eastern section of Eglinton, although to whose cost this might be is an interesting point considering that Council never requested the change.
The vehicle delivery schedule must be revisited now that Finch and possibly Sheppard are back in the mix. Delivery dates can now move back to something close to the original contract based on the 5-in-10 plan.
Director Joe Halstead asked what differences there were between the Council motion of February 8 and the Transit City 5-in-10 plan. Collins replied that the big issue is the status of Sheppard East although this also would have an effect on the SRT/LRT project. If there is no Sheppard LRT and carhouse, then extension of the SRT beyond McCowan Station is unlikely. Rob Prichard noted that the sequencing of projects may be changed depending on what is planned for Sheppard to accommodate constraints on the cash flow acceptable to Queen’s Park.
During the press scrum, the Star’s Tess Kalinowski asked at what point is Council’s position considered to have “coalesced”. Bruce McCuaig replied that there are two points:
- What position will Council take after the report of the Expert Panel on Sheppard?
- How much power will they delegate to staff to negotiate the Master Agreement with Metrolinx, and will the agreement have to come back to Council for ratification?
McCuaig noted that a lot of work on the language of an agreement already existed from previous work on the 5-in-10 plan.
I asked about press reports that the Presto implementation in Toronto might be held hostage now that the Ford MoU which purported to commit Toronto to Presto was of no force. Bruce McCuaig replied that work on Presto is still moving forward, and that implementation of the fare card is linked to other funding agreements including the streetcar purchase and the provincial gas tax share. Metrolinx expects that an agreement for Presto implementation will go to the TTC Commission at its March 2012 meeting.
[I will report on other issues from the Metrolinx meeting as an update to my "preview" article.]