Eglinton Crosstown Update

On December 20, 2013, there was a briefing for media on the Eglinton Crosstown Project at Metrolinx.  Coming the morning after the Press Gallery’s Christmas party, this was a lightly attended event and it received scant coverage.

Tunnel Construction Progress

The tunneling is making better progress than expected.  Originally, the contractor had planned for 12m/day, but they are actually making 20m/day thanks to improved efficiency in removal of spoil with a conveyor system.

At Eglinton West Station, the project faces the problem of getting under the existing Spadina Subway structure.  Original plans called for an extended shutdown of the Allen Road and much of Eglinton Avenue so that the tunnel boring machines (TBMs) could be disassembled, extracted from the west side of the site, lowered into a new access shaft on the east side, and reassembled to continue their journey east to Yonge.

This scheme was not acceptable to the City of Toronto and a new proposal is under consideration.  The access shafts will be longer, but the TBMs will be extracted, moved and lowered back into place in one piece.  The move across the subway structure would be done similarly to rapid bridge replacement projects with a support structure to carry the TBMs (which weigh 420 metric tons) from the west to the east side.   This approach will eliminate the need to disassemble and reassemble the machines.

The eastern tunnel contract includes the launch shaft (between Brentcliffe and the west branch of the Don River), and work will begin there early in 2014.  The eastern tunnels will bore west to Yonge.

The two tunnel contracts – at $283-million for the west side and $177m for the east – are only part of the much larger cost of building an underground transit line.  The tunnels (of which the western section is now under construction) will be provided as empty tubes – physical structures with no installed systems – for the next stage in the project.  Tunneling will complete in 2016.

At each station site, headwalls are built at each end of what will become the station excavation.  As the TBMs reach the headwalls, they bore through and leave behind a completed tunnel that will be partly disassembled when the station construction digs down to them.  Two techniques are used for these walls depending on local conditions:

  • Secant piles require boreholes into which the piles are installed.  These require utility relocations to avoid the boring activity.
  • Jet grouting uses a slurry to form the headwalls without the need to bore.  This approach is being used at Caledonia Station.

The TTC assisted with specifications for the tunnels to ensure that they meet the standard of other Toronto infrastructure.  These will be constructed as empty round tubes that will be transferred to the bidders for the next stage of construction and who will take over the risk for future maintenance.

Request for Proposals Issued

The project is extremely large with an estimated cost of $5.3-billion, and over half of this will be in one large contract for:

  • construction of stations in the tunneled portion of the line;
  • construction of the surface portion east from the portal in Leaside and west from the portal at Black Creek;
  • construction of cut-and-cover stations at Mount Dennis, Don Mills and Kennedy;
  • outfitting of the line and stations; and
  • ongoing maintenance of the infrastructure for 30 years.

It is unclear at this point how much advance provision will be included at Don Mills for a future north-south rapid transit line, and this is one of many important details to be worked out over 2014 as the proposals are finalized.

At Kennedy, the proposed layout shifts the Crosstown LRT station further north compared with earlier proposals.  When the station was intended as a link between the Scarborough LRT and the Eglinton line, including a future eastern extension, the LRT platform was to be located under the north bus roadway.  This would have placed the underground LRT station immediately north of the existing subway structure.

In the now-proposed design, the LRT station is under the north service road and connects via passageways to the existing subway mezzanine.

Metrolinx appears to assume that the Scarborough Subway will take the “City” route east along Eglinton and north via McCowan.  The alternative “Glen Murray” alignment via the SRT corridor would require a new Kennedy Station to sit right where the LRT station is proposed.

The recommended route will not be known for at least a year until the Scarborough Subway EA looks at the two schemes in detail, but Metrolinx plans to finalize the tender that will include Kennedy LRT station before the EA is completed.

The situation will be further complicated should the City change its mind, again, about a preferred technology if the subway proves more expensive after the EA reviews the options in more detail.

Developing the Proposals

The premise behind Infrastructure Ontario’s Alternative Financing and Procurement (AFP) model is that teams of companies bid on large projects and take on the risk involved with integration of the various project components.  They are also responsible for some of the project financing.  This contrasts with “conventional” projects such as the Spadina subway extension where the risk lies with the owner/designer of the project – the TTC and its funding partners.

This is the largest project ever for IO, although they include other transit projects (Ottawa and Kitchener-Waterloo LRTs) in their portfolio.  Ottawa only began construction in 2013, and K-W is still in the preconstruction stage.  The success of IO’s approach on projects of this scale remains to be proven.

Only two consortia responded to the RFQ, and both of these have progressed to the RFP stage.  Metrolinx had hoped to get three or more, but given the extraordinary cost and time commitment needed to prepare a bid ($20-30m), there is a strong disincentive for additional bidders who will only worsen everyone’s chances of winning.  Metrolinx noted that there were only two bidders for the Ottawa project which, at $2.1b, is about two-thirds the value of the the main Eglinton-Crosstown contract.  IO’s experience is that having more bidders leads to more drop-outs during the RFP process, but one might also ask just how many consortia on this scale can be pulled together.

In earlier public comments, Metrolinx had implied that the consortia would be expected to finance about $1b on the project cost.  However, it appears that this will be short-term, not long-term financing as the RFP has been structured so that 85% of costs will have been paid out by the end of construction, and the remaining 15% will be paid over 30 years after the line opens as a holdback, an incentive for quality work.  The maintenance contract for the infrastructure will be separate from the construction contract.

Metrolinx and IO were rather vague in their description of how the winning bidder would be paid.  Some comments implied that there would be no payments until substantial completion, others that these would be on an incremental basis.  There will be payment holdbacks until work is turned over to Metrolinx, but this process is used in conventional contracts.

During the 30-year contract period, Metrolinx will expect the infrastructure to be maintained in a fit state so that by 2050 it will remain in a state of good repair.  To that end, the contract will include provision for withholding the 15% from the original construction project, although this would not be much of a penalty near the end of the term.  There will be a seven year look-ahead by Metrolinx so that problems can be identified before they become chronic.

What this arrangement skirts, however, is the fact that for the first 30 years, much subway infrastructure is still within the lifespan of the originally installed equipment.  As the TTC has found, older infrastructure has to be repaired and replaced at a considerable ongoing cost.  In effect, the consortia will be bidding on the cheapest one third of the supposed “100 year life” of the subway structure.

IO’s intent is that most or all design changes will be identified during the bid process in 2014 so that pricing proposals can be firm with limited contingencies.  This is an essential part of IO’s style and approach to project cost control – identify as much of the design as possible up front and limit change orders to essentials.  Whether that is actually possible on a project of this scale and duration remains to be seen.

Bids will be prepared on the basis of the net present value of capital works and maintenance.  The latter is a real challenge.  Although having to maintain what you build will be an incentive to build it well, a bid that proves unprofitable in the long term could lead to inferior maintenance especially toward the end of the contract.

During 2014, there will be a series of design presentation meetings to the bidders so that they will clearly understand what is required, and there will be a public component to this as designs are refined.

The bid scoring will encourage partnerships with local firms as well as the provision of apprenticeships for local residents.  The details and scale of this have not been made public, nor is there an indication of whether it is a mandatory requirement or a “nice to have”.

The consortia will review Metrolinx’ proposed design leading to bid submissions, contract award and “financial close” (an IO term denoting the finalization of the contract) in spring 2015.  This implies that no construction beyond the tunneling work will begin until later in that year.

Station construction will occur concurrently at all sites.  This is necessary to fit the 3-year period needed for each station into the overall project target.  Part of the bid process will be the concept of “lane rentals” where bidders will identify how long they will require lanes to be shutdown for access to the construction site below.  Taking longer than the bid amount will incur a penalty to encourage bidders to weigh the cost of unplanned disruptions.

The road decking will use concrete panels rather than timber, a system used in Los Angeles tunnel projects.  These panels are easier to remove and reinstall for short term access.

The station designs will include provision for future redevelopment around the sites.  Some of the “exit only” facilities may be redesigned as automatic entrances to make them more attractive as potential connections to new buildings.  Stations will be designed to have some uniformity of style to “brand” them as part of the Crosstown line.  This is quite different from the approach taken on the Spadina extension where each station is unique.

According to current plans, the Crosstown line will open for service in late 2020.

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36 Responses to Eglinton Crosstown Update

  1. Steve,

    You probably mentioned this in your article but just to make it clear.. is Kennedy Station staying as is or is it being rebuilt? The metrolinx image show it staying pretty much as is.

    Steve: Kennedy Station stays where it is unless the “Glen Murray” plan is used, the one that takes the subway up the RT corridor. In that case, a new station is required.

  2. Steve wrote:

    The station designs will include provision for future redevelopment around the sites. Some of the “exit only” facilities may be redesigned as automatic entrances to make them more attractive as potential connections to new buildings.

    So, will the underground portion of the Crosstown be proof of payment or fare-paid station zones?

    I can see making the subway transfer stations the latter, but if the other stations are to be proof of payment, like surface stops, then by definition there are no “exit only” facilities.

    Steve: I’m not sure they have figured this out, and in part it will depend on how the TTC’s far structure and enforcement evolve once they are completely over to Presto.

  3. Bob Patrick says:

    [Would-be mayoral candidate David] Soknacki said the Scarborough subway fiasco isn’t over yet.

    Anyways, if a mayoral candidate with the support of the councillors who voted for LRT wants Scarborough LRT, does this mean that Toronto will have to cover the cost of re-ordering those LRVs in addition to paying the current 85 million sunk costs?

    Steve: Either way there will be sunk costs for the engineering work needed just to get the two subway proposals to the level needed to support the EA and an updated cost estimate. Only one of these, at most, will survive.

    As for LRT costs, the biggest issue is the carhouse on Sheppard at Conlins which was supposed to start construction imminently, but is now being retendered for a smaller fleet. The subway will be a litmus test on the campaign trail – “does your Scarborough include a subway?” I can hear it now, and it will be intriguing to see how Olivia Chow and John Tory approach that one, especially if the EA process reveals unexpected challenges or higher costs. Then there is the wild card of Queen’s Park depending on the balance of power and who forms the government.

    On the matter of vehicle orders, I suspect that Bombardier won’t be too upset if the LRV order is scaled back in favour of more subway cars. They will have a big enough run as it is between the TTC “legacy” fleet and the Eglinton-Crosstown line (plus the small KW order that was spun off from the Metrolinx share of the contract). Don’t forget that the contract was structured as a base+options, and so we cannot be held accountable for cars that have not actually been ordered, let alone started in production. Metrolinx is also looking at advancing construction of the Sheppard LRT, although that would be contentious in an election where a Sheppard subway is on the table. They could have everything set to roll once the outcome of the election is known. I suspect we won’t hear much about this until after the provincial election.

  4. Steve:

    At Kennedy, the proposed layout shifts the Crosstown LRT station further north compared with earlier proposals. When the station was intended as a link between the Scarborough LRT and the Eglinton line, including a future eastern extension … In the now-proposed design, the LRT station is under the north service road … Metrolinx appears to assume that the Scarborough Subway will take the “City” route east along Eglinton and north via McCowan.

    Can the LRT station as newly proposed can still be used for a connection to a Scarborough LRT … Assuming the Scarborough Subway is not built? Or does this effectively terminate Eglinton with no option for future travel north or east?

    Steve: The curve north would be tighter in the new location. I suspect that if there were a connection, it would be for service moves only and would split off of the Eglinton tracks somewhere west of the station and head north-east under the parking lot. An eastern extension would be possible because the LRT is at “2 below”, the same level as the subway and under any new connection passageways GO builds for an expanded Kennedy-Eglinton station.

    Steve: What this arrangement [a 30 year maintenance contract] skirts, however, is the fact that for the first 30 years, much subway infrastructure is still within the lifespan of the originally installed equipment. As the TTC has found, older infrastructure has to be repaired and replaced at a considerable ongoing cost. In effect, the consortia will be bidding on the cheapest one third of the supposed “100 year life” of the subway structure.

    So effectively in 30 years Metrolinx or the TTC will own a piece of 30 year old infrastructure that is about 10 years away from needing serious refurbishment that taxpayers will have to pay for.

    Are there any examples of “alternative financing” (Build-Own/Operate-Transfer or Build-Own-Transfer or whatever) agreements in which the cost of the infrastructure after the transfer has been taken into account?

    Moreover are there any examples of 30 year old transit network assets that are working well post-transfer? Bombardier finally walked away from their refurbishment contracts with the London Underground. Singapore’s earliest MRT line isn’t even 30 years old so they cannot be used as an example. Kuala Lumpur’s two ‘LRT’ (mini-metro) and monorail lines were taken over by the government before they were a decade old (at a huge loss). Hong Kong’s MTR CORP is effectively a govt-backed monopoly … those are just the examples I can think of offhand.

    Cheers, Moaz

    Steve: I don’t think you will find any examples that match the situation we will be in. Hong Kong does not count not only because it is a government monopoly (despite its quasi private sector status), but also because the “transit” system was set up as an adjunct of a property development company that has substantial income separate from its transit operations. It is in their interest to keep their system in good condition. Of course, by the time anyone has to worry about this, all of the people responsible for this arrangement will be dead or watching with great amusement from a comfortable retirement.

  5. Steven says:

    In regards to the stations being fare paid or proof of payment, I don’t see why they cannot setup them up like a fare paid station with turnstiles and entrances but still enforce proof of payment.

    Rider will simple tap their Presto or buy a ticket and swipe it to enter the through turnstiles but will have to keep their ticket for proof of payment inspection. The majority of the riders on the line will enter through fare paid stations reducing enforcement in the underground portion of the line. Large bus terminals like Mt. Dennis and Don Mills will be fare paid zone and can take advantage of all door bus boarding like current TTC bus terminals at subway stations. This leaves most of the enforcement in the east end of the line with much lower usage. Those who transfer from bus would have paid their fare anyways leaving little room for fare evasion.

    Riders will be reminded to keep POP at all times on the Eglinton line. This will trigger a change in the system as most people don’t get transfers when they don’t need them.

    Steve: By the time Eglinton opens, the entire bus system will also be running on POP and fare receipts (or a Presto card) will be standard practice for all riders. The real issue for “exit only” access points will be how much fare vending support, if any, would be provided there.

    Note that for fire exit design, if there is any kind of barrier, this reduces the capacity of the exit and increases the amount of space needed to handle passenger congestion.

  6. Andrew says:

    I think that if Wynne gets reelected and transit taxes pass, city council will end up having a big debate over whether we really should still be building light rail with $30 billion or so in new revenue and there will be talk of replacing both Eglinton and Sheppard with subways, something which would cost only a small fraction of the proposed transit tax revenue (particularly since making Eglinton elevated means that the SRT replacement subway isn’t needed).

    Given that Metrolinx has only signed a contract to build tunnels and roughed in stations so far, and the big contract isn’t supposed to be signed until 2015, there is plenty of time to change this.

    There are plenty of pro-subway councillors on city council e.g. Norm Kelly, and the LRT votes were rather close and I think largely motivated by lack of funding and Rob Ford making a fool of himself asking for subways. I think that there is widespread public belief that the only justification for LRT on these routes is inadequate funding to build subways.

    We are talking about a budget larger than the cost of Crossrail in London, and comparable to the cost of large subway expansion programs of a city like Beijing, and clearly Toronto needs something similar to this. Of course changing LRT lines to subways will cost money and cause some delays, but it is necessary because increasing GTA transit funding by about 4x means that the whole transit plan needs to be totally reconsidered.

    Steve: You make the huge assumption that all of that $30b is available for subways in Toronto. It isn’t. There are substantial upgrades to GO including a start on electrification plus other projects to serve the 905. All of that money is already spoken for. If Toronto wants more subways, they will have to pay for them out of local tax dollars.

  7. David Aldinger says:

    In reading about how much faster the tunnelling’s going, isn’t there at least some chance that the Eglinton line could well open sooner? Perhaps a year or two sooner?

    Steve: I doubt it. The 2020 date was always considered very aggressive by the TTC. Station construction, outfitting of the tunnels with track, signals, etc., and system testing by the contractor will easily take us to late 2019 at best, more likely into 2020. Also, there is no guarantee that savings on the first part of the contract will continue through the entire tunnel work all the way across the line.

  8. Andrew wrote:

    There are plenty of pro-subway councillors on city council e.g. Norm Kelly

    Norm “Call Me Normie” Kelly is only pro-subway because that is the way the wind is blowing today. He was pro-LRT for both Sheppard East and the SRT replacement when that was on the plan.

    Kelly is a follower, not a leader, and has spent all of his time following whoever was leading the day. He was as much a part of Miller’s “inner circle” as he has been with Ford. If a new mayor wants Swan Boats, Kelly will be the first to wear a T-shirt.

  9. AL says:

    As someone who lives along Eglinton, I’m eager to be able to use this line, and I’m happy to hear about the progress being made (I know I’ll have to wait a while longer).

    Hopefully this line finishes as planned and on time as an LRT, and is extended in the future. I also appreciate that you have defended it as an LRT over the years and writing this blog to keep us informed.

    With regards to the original Scarborough-Malvern LRT route from Transit City, is there a reason why it wasn’t an eastern extension of the Eglinton LRT? I kind of like the idea of the LRT running the whole width of Eglinton, maybe even into Mississauga in the very long term.

    Steve: Because the Scarborough-Malvern line has lower projected demand, it was considered as a second-phase project. Now, thanks to Metrolinx, it has fallen off the table completely and is not part of even their “Next Wave”. If Toronto does extend the Danforth subway east to McCowan, this will probably kill off hopes for an Eglinton East LRT, at least as a through route, as it might be considered to be a duplication. Meanwhile, the “Morningside Hook” from Sheppard down to UTSC also sits on the back burner. It was on the verge of formally becoming part of the Metrolinx plan, but then Rob Ford was elected and everything stopped.

    Also, this may be too early to know, but do you know if they will run 2 or 3-car trains, and the frequency? Will the frequency in the tunnel be higher than on surface?

    Steve: There is talk of 3-car trains eventually, but not likely from day 1. It is possible that we may see different levels of service on parts of the line, but at this point I don’t think the eventual demand patterns are well-understood. For example, if a DRL intercepts traffic at Don Mills and Eglinton, then the demand from that point west will almost certainly be lower than if the DRL were not present. As to headways, nothing has been announced.

    If we look simply at the services now operated on Eglinton, we have:

    • 34 Eglinton East: 15 buses/hour
    • 54 Lawrence East: 14 buses/hour
    • 100 Flemingdon Park: 5 buses/hour
    • 51 Leslie: 5 buses/hour
    • 56 Leaside: 3 buses/hour
    • 32 Eglinton West: 25 buses/hour

    This gives us a total of 42 buses/hour east of Yonge, and 25 west of Yonge. If we presume a service design capacity of 50 for buses and 150 for LRVs, this means a 3:1 ratio giving a service level of 14 LRVs/hour to the east and about 8/hour to the west. Then comes the question of ridership growth, redirection and induced demand. I cannot see this getting us to 3-car trains in the short term, especially with a DRL siphoning off demand at Don Mills.

    For the future west extension, do you prefer it running in the centre of the street like it will in the east or along the Richview corridor in a trench or something of that nature?

    Thanks Steve!

    Steve: The Richview corridor is no longer available as a continuous path west of Jane because the City has declared parts of it surplus and sold the lands for redevelopment.

    I know that some of the traffic engineers just love the idea of a trench because it puts the LRT out of the way. However, this would require considerably more land (compare to the width of the subway right-of-way north of Rosedale) because there is a limit on the slope of a hill. Alternately, the line could run in an open concrete box taking less space, but also a lot less attractive. Grade separating it in this way would trigger accessibility issues at stations and add to their cost.

    It has always been amusing to hear two conflicting arguments that run roughly like this:

    • A surface LRT will interfere with other traffic and make intersection operations difficult especially with a “side of the road” alignment.
    • The demand west of Jane is insufficient to justify an LRT and therefore we should just run buses.

    These are arguments of convenience trotted out depending on the position the speaker is advocating. An alternative viewpoint is that the corridor will grow eventually, and a rail link (and not UPX) to the airport employment area, not just to the air terminal, would be a major improvement for access from the east. We keep talking about the importance of the airport as a major transportation node, but other than a few showcase projects, we don’t actually do much to serve it or its considerable employment district.

  10. Tom West says:

    Calvin Henry-Cotnam says:

    “So, will the underground portion of the Crosstown be proof of payment or fare-paid station zones?”

    In a post-token Presto world, the streetcars will be proof-of-payment. That means the subway system will be proof-of-payment (because of those stations where you can transfer directly) (which in turn makes many (most?) bus routes proof-of-payment, but that’s a separate point). The published station designs for Eglinton West and Yonge-Eglinton both imply direct transfers will be possible. This means that the underground portion of the Crosstown be proof-of-payment (and by extension, so will the entire line).

    So, the current plan for Presto on streetcars has set the TTC on course for a system-wide proof-of-payment system!

  11. Bob Patrick says:

    Will Metrolinx or the city of Toronto eventually say no to planting trees near wires that can cause power outages if branches fall onto the wires? That has happened in the ice storm and in the future could disrupt all transit that uses electricity.

    Steve: The city is really big on its tree canopy and there is no way to avoid having wires and trees near each other. The real question is of tree maintenance and of upgrading hydro construction so that main feeds are not disrupted. A related issue is the mandatory provision of generators for all multi-unit buildings. It’s easy to blame the trees for problems during a worst-ever storm, but actually addressing the problem of less-than-ideal maintenance and construction is quite another matter. There are many problems beyond the trees.

  12. Walter says:

    My understanding of P3 (or AFP as the Provincial Liberals and nobody else call it) is that a consortium that can plan an entire project can find ways of doing things more efficiently. One would expect costs to be up to 10% more due to the lack of competition since only Mega consortia can bid. But, given the entire project, there is the potential for savings up to 25%.

    I expect that by already giving the tunnelling out as a separate contract, we have reduced the consortia’s ability to find savings from altering the route (horizontal or vertical alignment), or from choosing the technology. I would say we are using the worst parts of P3 and will wind up paying more.

    Steve: There is at least $3-billion worth of work including all of the station projects on the table. If the consortia can’t find some savings there, I would be surprised. However, it is almost impossible to know whether the cost will be lower than what we would have had in a conventional project. Infrastructure Ontario’s main claim to fame is the idea that the design is nailed down before construction and change orders are rare. This requires much more up front work and pre-empts political changes of heart once the design is frozen. That’s the theory, but I think too much of IO’s experience has been on relatively small, well-defined projects (at the scale of a single building like a hospital), not for complex multi-site work including a lot of systems integration.

  13. Adjei says:

    If the LRT is extended westwards to the airport, what are the possible options for the connection at the airport and where exactly would this connection be made?

    Also a bit off topic but isn’t the Finch LRT also eventually supposed to go to the airport, how would it get to the airport from Humber College, what is the optimal route?

    Steve: There is already a route into the airport from the south that has been protected for years. The LRT would approach from the southeast of the site via Silver Dart Drive. There was some debate at the time of the EA about whether this was ideal, but the selection was driven by a desire to connect with the Mississauga Busway. An alternative route in from the northeast via Dixon Road (that would be shared with the Finch line) was rejected because of cost even though it would better serve the businesses in that part of the airport “hub”. If everything were built, we would wind up with Eglinton coming in via the south route and Finch from the northeast. The exact route for Finch, and within the airport itself, has not yet been defined, and all work is on hold thanks to meddling by Queen’s Park and City Hall.

  14. Robert Wightman says:

    Bob Patrick says:
    January 4, 2014 at 10:59 am

    “Will Metrolinx or the city of Toronto eventually say no to planting trees near wires that can cause power outages if branches fall onto the wires? That has happened in the ice storm and in the future could disrupt all transit that uses electricity.”

    Wires will also come down from the weight of ice that builds up on them. During the big ice storm that hit Quebec a few years ago many high voltage transmission towers collapsed from the ice. Hydro Quebec has upgraded their towers but wires can still be torn down by ice.

    Every wooden pole on Bramalea Rd. in Brampton north of Queen St. snapped under the weight of the ice for over 1 km. and there were no trees near them. There is much to be said for putting power lines underground but it costs money and there is only a finite amount available. The higher the voltage goes the greater the energy losses in underground electrical lines. This is why all the high voltage transmission lines are strung on high towers. The height is for more than safety as the losses drop with increased distance from the ground.

  15. M. Briganti says:

    Can’t wait to see the reports showing millions and millions in lost revenue/fare evasion from POP before it’s discontinued in Toronto. For an organization that operates on hairline margins, it can’t possibly work. It will be far too easy to cheat and evade inspectors, and it’s not cost effective to have enough inspectors out there.

  16. A quiet guy from Oakville says:

    Hi Steve, long time reader, first time poster. Despite my location (haha) I have a high interest in transit.

    My questions are this

    1) Glen Murray’s press secretary has said that the Crosstown LRT Pearson extension is a low priority.

    Do you have any idea why that is? And do you think they will change their minds? I think the Airport express will fail for a mryiad of reasons.

    Steve: Everything is focussed on the UPX and anything that might compete with it goes on the back burner. Also, the section through Etobicoke needs some redesign work because of very contentious intersection treatments. In the current political climate, it’s easier to defer than engage in fixing the problems. It’s quite amusing to see Metrolinx shortchange the airport given that it is one of the two busiest transportation hubs in the GTHA, second after Union Station (subway plus GO/Via) by passenger count.

    2) What happened to the Scarborough Malvern LRT? is the any chance of it being brought back? I think the people of east Scarborough are being neglected by just the subway.

    Steve: Like Eglinton West, it is a lower demand part of the corridor, and there is an attitude in some circles that buses will do just fine for the foreseeable future. Murray himself subscribes to the idea that the UTSC/Centennial campus on Morningside, a major anchor for counterpeak traffic on the route, draws its primary student base from the east (Durham) and that an express bus is all the students need. The students may not agree. In general, there is a lot of gerrymandering of “priority” going on to trim pieces of Transit City off of the map and reduce costs.

    Also, the Scarborough Subway project, if it goes east along Eglinton, would to some extent duplicate the inner end of the Scarborough-Malvern line.

    3) Finally, as we know Scarborough is getting a subway, for now. Which corridor do you personally think is better. Because to be honest, I think they should revert back to LRT and extend it to Malvern Town Centre. The Bloor Subway proposal on McCowan Road will never be extended beyond Finch Avenue if it ever reaches there.

    Steve: If a subway must be built, and that’s a big “if”, then I lean to the Eglinton/McCowan alignment. However, what should be built is the original LRT proposal, and all the way to Malvern. Again, as with Eglinton West and Scarborough-Malvern, there is a condescending attitude that we don’t need rapid transit out to the end of the proposed LRT line. This “justifies” using a subway that will never be extended and may not even get across the 401 depending on which version is built.

    It’s a self-fulfilling argument: the outer ends of lines have lower demand (exactly the reason for looking at LRT) and they don’t “count” in the bigger picture. Therefore they can be dropped in favour of, at most, better bus service while the inner part can be built as a subway, even though it will be hopelessly underutilized. Meanwhile, demand projections are cooked to boost subway figures, but the extra riders actually come from GO Transit territory and should in fact be on improved/new services.

    It will be quite telling to see how the network options for Scarborough and the north-east are treated in the EA and in Metrolinx’s review of “downtown relief”. We claim to be looking at how all of the lines work together, but we study projects one by one as if none of the others exists.

    Thanks for the answers! I enjoy read this blog greatly.

    Steve: You’re welcome!

  17. AL says:

    Thank you for the detailed response. If you don’t mind clarifying something though:

    Why would the Scarborough Danforth subway extension be considered a duplication of the Scarborough-Malvern LRT route?

    The Scarborough subway travels along Eglinton, however, as far as I know there won’t be a stop on Eglinton. If the LRT goes on Eglinton, Kingston, Morningside, it doesn’t seem to duplicate the subway on McCowan Rd.

    I understand that this is somewhat irrelevant however, given that it is unlikely that LRT route will happen anytime soon.

    It should be fun to watch the construction of the Crosstown over the next 6 years. I like the idea that the stations will have an overall theme, although hopefully there will be some variation to help identify what station you’re at. I also love the fact that Mt Pleasant station will use the heritage building on the NW corner.

    Steve: I suspect that before the EA is done, there will be a station somewhere around Brimley. Frankly it would be ridiculous to perpetuate the very frequent bus service that pours into Kennedy Station from the east if it could connect with the subway at an earlier point.

    As for Mt. Pleasant Station, that bank (now a Second Cup) was where I had my very first account accumulating money from my Toronto Star paper route in my distant youth. There are so many undistinguished buildings along that stretch of Eglinton, I am glad it will survive as an entrance.

  18. Nick L says:

    Robert Wightman said:

    The height is for more than safety as the losses drop with increased distance from the ground.

    That’s not exactly true. The reason why there is a greater loss of energy is because the additional shielding needed to prevent grounding, and the simple fact that dirt is a good thermal insulator, means that underground transmission lines have a more difficult time radiating away waste heat compared to a line on a high tower. It is a problem which can be dealt with as Toronto’s existing underground high voltage transmission lines prove, but it’s much more costly option than just putting up towers.

  19. ottawan says:

    There were three bidders for the Ottawa LRT afp, not two.

    The Ottawa process worked fairly well, and the winning bidder had innovative cost saving ideas, like mining the tunnel instead of TBM or cut and cover.

    But Toronto is demonstrating a unique capacity to screw things up, whether in electing mayors, school maintenance, or food trucks. I’m sure something will go wrong.

    Steve: Intriguing that the folks from IO said that there were only two bidders in Ottawa too, in effect to make the Toronto situation look comparable. There is a certain sense that they are desperate to prove that having started down this road, they can actually deliver, and so it’s “good news” all the way.

    We will have a better sense when the detailed bids are received.

    I would be interested in further background on the change in the proposed construction technique.

    The Ottawa situation is different from Toronto’s in several ways. First and most obvious is that it is a rock tunnel, not one through complex and changing strata containing everything but hard rock. Mining, in the manner used in Ottawa, is not an option for Toronto because the bedrock is much further underground. On Eglinton the bedrock is only close to the surface where river valleys carve away a very substantial amount of till.

    Second, the tunnel is only 2.5km, a pittance by comparison to Eglinton, and it represents a small portion of the line overall. Buying a TBM for a short tunnel rather than using off-the-shelf rock mining equipment may not be cost effective.

    Browsing through many reports from the EA, I get the impression that the original plan was to tunnel somewhat further with a TBM including through a section that would not be a rock tunnel. This change may also be part of the decision to go with a different mining technique.

  20. Steve:

    The exact route for Finch, and within the airport itself, has not yet been defined, and all work is on hold thanks to meddling by Queen’s Park and City Hall.

    And while there isn’t much point in discussing it now, Carlingview Drive ends at Entrance Road just south of the Woodbine Racetrack. A Finch West LRT spur running to the Airport via Hwy 27, Queen’s Plate Drive, Entrance Road, Carlingview and Dixon/Airport could make sense if Woodbine were to be redeveloped. On the other hand I figure the City would prefer a route along major roads … namely Hwy 27 and Dixon/Airport.

    Cheers, Moaz

  21. One comment about what Mimmio said,

    In Budapest as Robert can probably attest to there is complete POP much like what will be done with Presto.

    There is very limited enforcement on the surface routes (I have rode the streetcars, buses and trolley buses hundreds of times there) and only seen fare inspectors once; however on Subway routes they randomly set up checkpoints at stations both at entry and exit points with no sort of pattern.

    This works well actually and catches most people off guard. I find that most times you could pass through a station with no fare inspectors and an hour later on your way back they would be there … either that or they would be there just switch directions from entry to exit points.

    For those who say doing this at exit points at the top of an escalator (like they do in Budapest) would cause a backlog note that the citizens are accustomed to this sort of checkpoint and usually have their tickets and passes within reach just in case.

    It works well and brings in a ton of revenue … the checkpoints at the subways alone are enough to keep people in line … it gets people to realize that they do check things from time to time.

    The fines for not having a valid fare are steep almost 25000 Forint (roughly 150 to 200 dollars CAD based on the exchange rate) and must be paid on the spot … no ifs, ands or buts which are an incentive given that people do not usually carry that much cash on them.

    All in all POP can be work, people just need to see that the enforcement is there … not like the current POP methods on Queen. Fine people on the spot and randomly check … instilling fear in people goes a long way towards successful POP systems.

  22. DavidAH_Ca says:

    Steve: The city is really big on its tree canopy and there is no way to avoid having wires and trees near each other. The real question is of tree maintenance and of upgrading hydro construction so that main feeds are not disrupted.

    I have attended a number of the Eglinton Connects ‘consultations’ and one subject that is constantly brought up is that of burying the hydro lines along Eglinton since they are planning to reconstruct large sections of it. This was partly for aesthetic reasons, but also because the city is planning to plant even larger trees (think Roncesvalles).

    This is not one of the options in the study and is always dismissed, but it is supported by a large number of the attendees at each meetings. What is the betting that this will be even more strongly – and vocally – supported in future?

    Steve: A related issue is the mandatory provision of generators for all multi-unit buildings. It’s easy to blame the trees for problems during a worst-ever storm, but actually addressing the problem of less-than-ideal maintenance and construction is quite another matter. There are many problems beyond the trees.

    People cannot be expected to install generators that will power an entire multi-unit building during a blackout. The cost would be prohibitive for an item that is to be used only very occasionally.

    To give an example, I live in a 15-story building with somewhat fewer than 200 units. It currently has a generator that provides power for corridor and garage lighting, garage doors and elevators. It doesn’t have the power to supply the heating system, the individual units, or the water pumps (this lack means no-one above the 7th floor has any running water).

    After an accident to the feed to the vault that required rebuilding it, a generator was leased to supply the building. It filled an entire semi-trailer. Imagine the size – and cost – of the generator required to supply a large building.

    Steve: To be clear, I was not proposing that there be a generator to power an entire building (any more than I would propose one to power a neighbourhood). The big issue for multi-unit buildings was that they had no power at all for fundamental services such as elevators and corridor lighting. Power to water pumps would also be useful in very cold weather to avoid having pipes freeze and burst, let alone for keeping units warm even if they were dark, provided that hot water heating was the method used in the building.

    The building I live in has a generator that is tested monthly, and it’s astounding that this is not a commonplace, mandatory feature in all multi-unit buildings.

  23. ottawan says:

    Yes, mining is working for Ottawa, but I am not suggesting it would be right for Toronto. But it is possible the afp process will lead to other unexpected cost saving innovations.

    Really, the bidding process, because of the detail, is like getting multiple consulting reports on your project. The ideas of the losing bidders belong to the city and can be used to improve the winning bid. The losing bidders receive a few million In compensation for their troubles.

    Be aware that the specifications of the bid can change after the process starts, as the bidders provide feedback on what is feasible within the cost envelope. One of our stations was moved west to after bidder feedback to keep the cost down. And, as you point out, the tunnel was made shallower to cut costs.

    One downside to the process is the secrecy. The public has no information on the losing bids. We must trust our city experts. That worked in Ottawa, but I have a suspicion it will not go over as well in your city.

    Steve: Metrolinx invokes “commercial confidentiality” over things like this to prevent public debate and access to information on any deals they may cut with their vendors. It is an extremely frustrating state of affairs to have “confidentiality” be the default position, rather than one that is applied only when it really matters.

  24. MarkE says:

    The contractual penalties you outline, payable by contractors overstaying lane occupations, is interesting and brings to mind a financial discipline that could apply in a good many instances including public hazards at worksites. Even governmental services such as Toronto Hydro, in projects such as the Waterfront, could be required to outline a schedule and pay penalties for non compliance. The CEO with a substantial ‘penalties paid’ account could be called ‘to account’.

    The splitting of contracts for Tunnels and Everything Else, with a substantial time before Everything Else contracts are signed, and having built those tunnels to accommodate every vehicle type, means vehicle choice is in effect fluid until then. Equally fluid is whether certain individual stations get built or not.

    Also interesting is the cost split of Tunnels vs Everything Else, with Tunnels substantially less than 50%, gives rise to the possibility of intentionally starting tunneling long before final plans are in place, and in which sunk costs would not be that onerous if Everything Else was delayed.

    Steve: Possibly we could give walking tours of the empty tunnels as a future tourist attraction.

  25. L. Wall says:

    Ending buses at a theoretical Brimley station seems anti-network to me. In an ideal world where GO has their act together and fare integration works it would be better to have buses feeding the station at Kennedy.

    Steve: So in the name of an integration that won’t serve very many trips, we continue to operate 30+ buses/hour an extra two kilometres each way. That’s around $1.5-million annually just for the peak period operator wages. An expensive “integration”. Remember that the 116 Morningside bus already connects with GO further east.

  26. Nick L wrote:

    The reason why there is a greater loss of energy is because the additional shielding needed to prevent grounding.

    Air has a lower dielectric constant than any insulating material needed for underground cabling. This means that underground cables have a higher capacitance and therefore will contribute to a higher capacitive (leading) reactive current.

    This translates into the need for heavier infrastructure (cables, transformers, switchgear) to carry this higher reactive current. More importantly, the additional current results in a greater loss factor on the transmission system.

    Our current electric bills take our meter reading and increase that amount by 3.45% to cover the cost of losses in transmisison that the current we draw cause. With more underground infrastructure, I would be surprised if this factor were to remain unchanged.

  27. Robert Wightman says:

    Nick L says:
    January 4, 2014 at 11:46 pm

    Robert Wightman said:

    The height is for more than safety as the losses drop with increased distance from the ground.

    “That’s not exactly true. The reason why there is a greater loss of energy is because the additional shielding needed to prevent grounding, and the simple fact that dirt is a good thermal insulator, means that underground transmission lines have a more difficult time radiating away waste heat compared to a line on a high tower. It is a problem which can be dealt with as Toronto’s existing underground high voltage transmission lines prove, but it’s much more costly option than just putting up towers.”

    There is also the capacitive loss caused by the fact the current is AC. Very high voltage lines, 220 – 500 kV can go underground but the losses get very costly. Lines are under ground for short distances at 220 kV in the urban area. There are not a lot of high voltage transmission lines within Toronto that are in danger of being brought down by trees which is what the original comment was about.

    Steve: I think the whole discussion needs a greater amount of detail to reflect different types of cables — transmission lines, main feeders, individual circuits to buildings — and the fact that there are still multiple styles of construction to be found in different parts of the city. The degree to which each is vulnerable to trees varies, and a “one size fits all solution” is not appropriate. The benefits of undergrounding will similarly vary from type to type and place to place.

  28. Robert Wightman says:

    Richard White says:
    January 5, 2014 at 1:37 am

    “In Budapest as Robert can probably attest to there is complete POP much like what will be done with Presto.”

    Yes, I was stopped twice in 3 days in Budapest, once going down the escalator to line 2 and once on the platform in line 1. Line one, the second oldest underground in the world, has platforms that are only about 25 m long so it is not hard to do it on the platform.

    In 4 different cities in France I only met a ticket inspector once. In Italy I ran into one at least once a day. They would often descend on a vehicle en masse and check everyone’s ticket during a stop without slowing down the line.

    Amsterdam and Rotterdam both have conductors on the trams. They had the honour system in the 70s the last time I was here but somewhere they seem to have gone backwards in times. The Rotterdam conductor wandered about the train while the one in Amsterdam was in a little booth like the Witt cars and trailers. Back to the future in the Netherlands.

  29. MarkE said: also interesting is the cost split of Tunnels vs Everything Else, with Tunnels substantially less than 50%, gives rise to the possibility of intentionally starting tunneling long before final plans are in place, and in which sunk costs would not be that onerous if Everything Else was delayed.

    Moaz: And here I thought that was just something that only monorail builders do…erect support pillars as quickly as possible to give the impression that all is good and he project is moving ahead quickly.

    Steve: Possibly we could give walking tours of the empty tunnels as a future tourist attraction.

    Moaz: so that’s what those media events at the end of TYSSE tunneling were for … viral marketing.

    Although I must say I did take a tour of the pillars for the unbuilt Jakarta Monorail on my first trip to Indonesia.

    Steve: So in the name of an integration that won’t serve very many trips, we continue to operate 30+ buses/hour an extra two kilometres each way. That’s around $1.5-million annually just for the peak period operator wages.

    For the past 33 years Mississauga Transit buses have made the trip into Islington Station. It might have made sense until, say, 1996 when they moved to a fully accessible fleet (and Islington Station is not accessible). I wonder how much money and time has been effectively wasted since 1996 alone.

    If they couldn’t build the integrated hub at Kipling between the Station and Dundas why not make use of the GO Transit station parking lot on the south side instead? A bridge too far?

    Cheers, Moaz

  30. J. Routh says:

    Any idea what they are doing with all the fill that is being excavated? I imagine that there must be alot of it and it is no small task to find a place to dump it.

    Steve: There are a few projects around to use up fill. I will ask the folks at Metrolinx the next time I’m chatting with them about this.

    Update: The excavated material is going to a site near Newmarket, according to Metrolinx.

  31. J. MacMillan says:

    One proposal for fill was to create an artificial island or two in Lake Ontario near the mouth of the Humber.

  32. Dan Lee says:

    On my way to visit a friend close to Lake Shore and Islington last Friday, departing from at 7pm from Christie station, there was a fire investigation at Keele that stopped all trains at Ossington.

    Knowing that the Long Branch Queen streetcar goes right in front of her doorstep, I decided to give it a whirl. Took the Ossington bus to Queen and just missed one that was going to whole way to Long Branch.

    I looked at my Rocket Man app, and the next 2 cars were only to Humber loop. The next to Long Branch was over 35 minutes away – at which point 3 were going to show up within 10 minutes.

    The trip which normally takes around 30 to 40 minutes, took over 90 minutes. I can often drive to the outer limits of the GTA (such as Newmarket) in less time.

    The TTC’s surface routes are not reliable and have been this way for decades. The lack of line management is a huge reason why there is such a strong anti-LRT and pro-subway attitude in Toronto.

  33. Ed says:

    “I looked at my Rocket Man app, and the next 2 cars were only to Humber loop. The next to Long Branch was over 35 minutes away – at which point 3 were going to show up within 10 minutes.

    The trip which normally takes around 30 to 40 minutes, took over 90 minutes. I can often drive to the outer limits of the GTA (such as Newmarket) in less time.”

    In situations like this, it can’t hurt to make your way out to Humber loop and see if a shuttle bus or a late-running 508 picks you up. (Some 508s are supposed to turn at Humber loop and take another run to Long Branch. This happens much less that the schedule indicates, though.)

    Predictions are very useful for determining the arrival of a nearby vehicle, but in cases of major gaps they can give the worst case scenario, not showing you gap vehicles or shuttles further down the line.

  34. L. Wall says:

    I was thinking more along the lines of Markham bound commuters. The number of buses traveling between Kennedy and Brimley will likely decrease anyhow once the extension is done and travel patterns change.

  35. Bob Patrick says:

    So when is it too late to change the crosstown into a full blown subway?

    Steve: When someone comes up with at least a few billion dollars, including the extra cost to make the section from Mount Dennis to the Airport a subway, then maybe we can talk.

  36. Bob Patrick: So when is it too late to change the crosstown into a full blown subway?

    Steve: When someone comes up with at least a few billion dollars, including the extra cost to make the section from Mount Dennis to the Airport a subway, then maybe we can talk.

    The Bloor streetcar survived for a few years after the Bloor-Danforth-Scarborough subway opened. The proposed Sheppard East LRT is an LRT extension of the Sheppard subway (which should have been a cross-town LRT from the get go). A proposal for a DRL up to Don Mills & Eglinton includes an LRT north on Eglinton.

    So why couldn’t a subway on Eglinton be supplemented with an LRT to the airport? Because the design would be pretty complicated :-) A subway/LRT combination would require elevation at Jane (think of what Keele/Old Mill look like from outside), tunnel from east of Jane to east of Weston, open cut at Black Creek and then a full tunnel from Black Creek portal to Kennedy.

    That would definitely be a costly addition … which is why if the line were converted to a subway it would be staying at Weston for a long time.

    Cheers, Moaz

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