This is the final installment in my review of the TTC 2013-2022 Capital Budget.
The TTC owns a great deal of track and tunnels, although nowhere near as much as larger systems in major cities like New York or London. Even though our lines are generally more recent than those in places Toronto subway fans list after, ours are getting on and need some major overhauls. (An interesting statistic: the subway yards account for about 20% of all of the track in the system — 23 single track miles of yards vs 82 single track miles of revenue track.)
The typical lifespan of subway tangent track is 30 years, but only 10-15 years for curves. Ties last 35 years, and the TTC hopes to raise this number.
The roadbed on open-cut sections of the subway is built like a mainline railway with ties and ballast. The ties carry the track while the ballast distributes the load and provides drainage. Some of the ballast now in use is 45 years old or more, and its ability to provide support has been compromised by the growth of weeds. Ballast should actually be “springy”, not a mass of rock glued together with mud and roots.
The section from St. Clair to Eglinton is scheduled for reconstruction in 2014. There is no info in the budget papers indicating how extensive this work is or what type of shutdown(s) will be needed. Regular riders of this section will know that there have been slow orders on the curves north of Davisville for quite some time.
The budget for track rehabilitation was $8-million in 2012, but beginning in 2014 it ramps up and over the ten years 2013-22 it will average about $14m. A separate budget line covers turnouts (switches and associated track), and starting in 2013 the TTC will replace 6 turnouts per year (the 2013 projects are 2 at Islington centre track and 4 at Victoria Park crossover). The ten-year budget for turnouts averages about $11.5m per year.
Since the subway opened, visual track inspection with walking crews has looked after the lion’s share of the review. The TTC proposes to move to inspection from a rail vehicle fitted out for the purpose. Photos and videos of infrastructure condition will document what is in the field and allow detailed office-based reviews to replace walking patrols. Conditions that could be missed by a walking visual inspection will be picked up and recorded. The budget contains $5m in 2013 for this project.
Details of the subway track budget are on page 14 of the pdf.
The resignalling of the Yonge-University Spadina line will be substantially completed by 2017 at an estimated final cost of $408m. This is roughly the time when work on the Bloor-Danforth line would begin on a $431m budget running into the mid 2020s. This date ties in with the presumed availability of TR trains displaced from YUS to BD.
The BD line has capacity problems that might be addressed by upgraded signalling subject to the issues of terminal capacity discussed elsewhere on this site. A related problem is the capacity of various yards to hold the BD fleet, and the number of trains that can be accommodated and fed into service.
Davisville Yard still has its original signal system including many manually operated switches from the 1950s. This will be replaced starting in 2016 at a cost of $7m.
Wilson Yard is much newer, but its signals from the 1970s are “obsolete and inferior quality”. Starting in 2016 they will be replaced at a cost of $41m.
Details of the signalling budget lines begin on page 19 of the pdf.
Postscript: Streetcars and LRT vs Subways
Owning a subway (or, more generically, an underground railway) is expensive. There are major pieces of infrastructure with no equivalent on a surface system.
Not long ago, in the comment thread for the Downtown Relief Line article, someone challenged the validity of my position regarding the high cost of subways versus surface rail maintenance. My reply bears repeating.
These are capital, not day-to-day operating, but they are for renewal of existing infrastructure, not new builds. They are as much an “operating cost” as cleaning trains and stations because these capital costs tend to occur in various parts of the system that are at different ages on an ongoing basis.
The figures below are the 10-year totals for 2013 to 2022. I have used the consolidated figures to flatten out the effect of year-to-year variations in project timing.
For track itself, costs will be $249-million for the subway and $322m for the surface network. The streetcar routes total roughly 1.5 times as much as the subway routes (about 90km for streetcars vs about 66km for subway and RT), and this does not include the track retained for diversions and short-turns. If the total cost is expressed per km, the cost for subway track is higher. Moreover, we still have two years left to rebuild the worst of the poorly built tangent track from the period before 1993, and it will be several years to catch up on badly built intersections. This inflates surface track costs above what they would look like for LRT lines built to current standards.
Communications and Signals together amount to about $750m, and much of this cost is chargeable to the subway. Part of this is the cost of upgrading signals on the older part of the system, an activity with no equivalent on the surface system.
Power Distribution is about $66m. Some of this includes projects to update the overhead system for pantographs on the new streetcars.
Under Facilities, the TTC has a line for “Finishes” which applies mainly to subway stations totaling about $170m.
Bridges and Tunnels, most of which are subway facilities, total $452m. Buildings and Structures, again mainly the subway, total $1.49-billion.
These are real numbers, not something I invented.
It is self-evident that underground operation, regardless of the vehicle, has certain advantages including complete exclusion from traffic and weather and faster operation generally as a result of wider station spacing. Closer headways and shorter waiting times are dictated by policy regardless of demand during off-peak periods. Where passenger volume warrants (that is to say, reaches a level where vehicle and pedestrian congestion would be intolerable on the surface), then some form of grade-separation makes sense. However, choosing this option brings future operating and ongoing capital maintenance costs that rarely show up in subway advocacy.
Just on the operating side of the ledger, the TTC expects to be short $14.2-million annually net of new revenue when the Spadina Subway opens to Vaughan (gross costs will be $33.7m; ref: page 1230 of the “Blue Books”). This does not include costs further down the road as the new infrastructure ages and triggers costs on the capital program. Will York Region and Queen’s Park chip in, or will they leave such costs entirely to Toronto?