Infrastructure or Operations? A Big Debate?

On June 16, the Transit Alliance hosted a debate, of sorts, on the topic of which is more important: spending on transit infrastructure or on operations. The panel of six was arbitrarily divided into two camps although a few on each side felt it was a faulty premise – both are needed.

The audience was definitely pro-infrastructure. This is not surprising in an environment where the major calls are for building something, anything, new to “fight gridlock” by providing transit alternatives where they either don’t exist today, or are a poor substitute for driving. Only yesterday, we saw this attitude on a grand scale with Stephen Harper’s announcement at TTC’s Hillcrest Shops, of all places, that Ottawa would fund 1/3 of John Tory’s $8-billion SmartTrack scheme even though it has yet to progress beyond preliminary investigations. As a route crossing municipal boundaries, SmartTrack would be a “national” program, although if the Feds actually spend the full $2.6b share, it would take a huge bite out of the 10-year transit funding program, leaving almost nothing else for Toronto or much of Ontario.

Such are the problems of megaprojects. We see the same contradiction at work within Toronto where Queen’s Park regularly trumpets the Eglinton Crosstown line and its billions as an example of provincial commitment while other projects languish for want of funds at the municipal level. The Crosstown is always cited in “look what we’re doing for you” responses to calls for increased provincial funding. The same would no doubt be true if SmartTrack proceeds and Ottawa “buys off” its need to support other transit plans.

A Little Context

Before I get into the actual debate, a few comments about the panel overall, and about the topics that were completely missed.

Misinformation was no stranger to this “debate”, and the poor knowledge of the transit situation politically and at the technical level did little to enlighten the audience. Moreover, the format didn’t allow much scope for corrections even in the cases where the opposing groups might notice them.

The focus on gridlock inevitably meant that for the purpose of debate, commuting trips were almost exclusively the subject. Even then, the debate did not often look beyond the standard trips to and from downtown even though congestion is a pervasive problem in the suburbs where building and operating transit is a greater challenge, and the travel patterns are much more diverse. The “one line to rule them all” solution simply does not work when there are so many origins and destinations.

There was no mention of travel at times that did not match the standard workday commuting pattern, and little discussion of 416-905 cross-border travel including service levels remote from downtown. There was no mention of the large volume of travel by students whose “commute” is not to King & Bay, but to the many schools around the region.

The panel had no representation from any number of minorities, economic or racial, and Toronto’s Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat was the sole woman in the group. The audience had a strong professional tinge in light of the time of day (5:30 pm), location (near Bloor-Yonge) and entrance fee.

Most importantly, the debate took place absent any information about spending patterns today. The common assumption is that we’re not spending much on infrastructure, certainly not enough to overcome a decades-long backlog, and this area deserves more support. Panelists from the construction industry agreed wholeheartedly for obvious reasons.

In 2013-2014, Metrolinx spending [See Annual Report starting at p. 35] on capital projects totalled $1,894.6-million while operating costs consumed only $600m of which 2/3 was funded from the farebox. Metrolinx is very much a construction company, although in years to come the balance will shift to operations and will require a different corporate culture dealing much more with the day-to-day rather than the grand plans.

For 2014, the TTC spent about $1,200m on capital projects and $1,549.7m on operations (not including WheelTrans) with about 3/4 coming from the farebox [See Draft Financial Statement]. These projects include a substantial amount of capital maintenance on the existing system as opposed to expansion. About 3/4 of the capital subsidies received in 2014 came from the City of Toronto. It is important to note that the bulk of spending on widely-shared programs such as the Spadina extension is mainly in past years, and current projects have a far higher proportion of City money in them.

If we consolidate Metrolinx and TTC as the two major transit entities in the GTHA, the totals would be about $3.1b on capital and $2.1 on operations with the majority of the latter coming from the farebox. This puts the level of public spending on infrastructure and operations in context, a tiny detail that was completely absent from the debate.

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Queens Quay West Reopens As A Grand Boulevard

After nearly three years of construction, Queens Quay West saw its official re-opening today. After all of the digging, the dust, the new utilities and track, the constantly shifting road lanes, and the construction barricades always somewhere, in the way, the street is now almost complete. A few odds and ends remain for cleanup in the fall, but you need to know what these are to even spot them along the way.

Toronto now has a new type of street – one with generous space for pedestrians, a wide separated pair of cycling lanes, a transit right-of-way and a two-lane road for cars. No longer a speedway (it’s amazing what years of construction can do to “evaporate” traffic), but a space shared among everyone. In these early days, some motorists are confused about where their lanes actually are, especially when turning onto Queens Quay from the north-south streets. Pedestrians have not yet quite figured out where to stand at intersections, and cyclists are getting used to their own sets of traffic signals. But with luck it will all work out.

The street itself is a cut above the usual for Toronto with patterns throughout granite pavers covering not just the public sidewalk but most of the private lands between that narrow strip and surrounding buildings.

Politicians who attended were suitably impressed, although the usual amount of back-patting (“look what my government did”) was inevitable, especially from the federal representative, Finance Minister Joe Oliver. The challenge is to get the same pols on board for the Queens Quay East project now that everyone can see just what the “new Queens Quay” is all about, and to have a more generous attitude to the value of good street design rather than minimalist utilitarianism, beyond the criticism of the most arduous opponents of “fat” in public projects.

One notable transit improvement is that the “transit priority” signals actually work, although I’ve been told there remains a tiny amount of tweaking to be done. For its part, the TTC has still not fixed the switches at Queens Quay & Spadina so that they operate automatically, and they are paying someone to do point duty there. The line has been open for months, but never let it be said that the TTC rushed into anything.

Here is a gallery of photos from the first day with all of the barricades down.

TTC Subway and Streetcar Plan Updates

At its meeting on June 22, 2015, the TTC Board will consider two reports affecting the future subway and streetcar fleets in Toronto.

In the case of the subway fleet, plans have been updated to provide for implementation of four-car Toronto Rocket (TR) train operation on the 4 Sheppard subway line.

For the streetcar fleet, there is an update, albeit with some doubts on the TTC’s part, regarding delivery of the new Flexity fleet by Bombardier.

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TTC Service Changes: Summer 2015 (Updated June 21, 2015)

The summer schedules will be unusual for the TTC this year because of the Pan Am Games. There will be three periods running from:

  • June 21 to July 10 (pre-games)
  • July 11 to July 26 (Pan Am Games)
  • July 27 to September 5 (Para-Pan Games and CNE)

To condense the information about schedule and service changes, I have adopted a different format from the usual tables to show (a) all of the time periods for affected routes and (b) the periods where there is actually a change from the “standard” summer service (the pre-games period). Where there is a change, it is highlighted in red.

For this type of event, the day-to-day requirements on each route are hard to predict, and so the TTC has scheduled a much larger than usual pool of standby or “run as directed” vehicles that will be available throughout the network.

Schedule changes implemented on June 21, 2015 have already been detailed in a separate post. Pre-games service levels are shown for reference in the table linked below only for routes that are affected by the Games schedule changes.

Updated June 21:

Pan Am routes will operate on the following days:

  • 194 Aquatics Rocket: July 9-26 and August 8-14
  • 193 Exhibition Rocket: July 11-26
  • 60F Steeles Express (added service): July 11-25
  • 95E York Mills Express (added service): July 11-25
  • 406 Venue Shuttle Downtown: July 13-25 and August 8-15
  • 408 Venue Shuttle East: August 8-14

Additional service beyond the scheduled level will operate for the Para-Pan Games on the several routes serving Para-Pan venues:

  • 38 Highland Creek
  • 195 Jane Rocket
  • 60 Steeles West
  • 198 UTSC Rocket
  • 95 York Mills
  • 196 York U Rocket

From Friday, July 10 to Sunday, July 26, late night repair work on the Yonge subway tunnel north of Eglinton will be suspended, and service will run until 2:00 am on all days.

Weekday service on 7 Bathurst Bus will revert to regular buses on the schedule used in July 2013. This will free up articulated buses for Pan Am routes.

Low floor streetcars will operate on 509 Harbourfront, 510 Spadina and 511 Bathurst during the games period. All service on Queens Quay will be provided by Harbourfront cars, and the Spadina route will terminate at Queens Quay Loop.

Buses will replace streetcars on 502 Downtowner from July 13 to 24 to free up vehicles for other routes. The 503 Kingston Road Tripper will continue to operate with streetcars. On Friday, July 10, Wellington Street will be closed after 4:00pm as part of the opening ceremonies. 503 Kingston Road Tripper cars will operate to Charlotte Loop.

Because the CNE grounds will be closed, all 29 Dufferin buses will loop at Dufferin Loop (CNE western entrance). Additional shuttle service will operate between Dufferin Station and Dufferin Loop. The 329 Dufferin Night Bus will also turn back from Dufferin Loop rather than operating to the Princes’ Gates. This change remains in effect until September 6 due to the CNE.

Route 116 Morningside will divert southbound via Ellesmere and Morningside, bypassing Military Trail, to avoid congestion at the Aquatics Centre during the games.

Route 198 UTSC Rocket will terminate at the Aquatics Centre rather than the usual UTSC loop during the games.

Route 106 York University will divert westbound in the campus via The Pond Road, York U Busway and York Boulevard to The Common because Ian MacDonald Boulevard is closed. This change began on June 15 and is scheduled to continue until September 6. Route 196 York U Rocket will operate with articulated buses and with additional service.

From July 11 to August 8, 172 Cherry will loop downtown to City Hall via York, Queen and Bay to King.

Route 94 Wellesley will divert via Bloor between Queen’s Park and Spadina as Hoskin Avenue is closed as a games venue. This diversion is scheduled until September 6.

Route 6 Bay will divert via Dundas, Yonge and Queen on the afternoon of Saturday, August 15 for the Para-Pan closing ceremonies at City Hall.

On Saturdays July 18 and 25, and on August 8, Parkside Drive will be closed for marathon and cycling races. The following routes are affected:

  • 506 Carlton will divert to Dundas West Station
  • 80 Queensway will divert via Bloor, Dundas, Roncesvalles and The Queensway

The base schedule for Sunday July 26 will be a Holiday schedule. Because this is the last day of the games, some Pan Am services will not operate: express services on Steeles West (60F) and York Mills (95E), the 194 Aquatics Rocket, and the 406 Downtown Venue Shuttle.

Route Changes Effective July 27:

  • 17A Birchmount peak period service will be extended from 14th Avenue to Highway 7, and headways north of Steeles will widen. This is a York Region request.
  • 127 Davenport will be extended south to loop via Spadina Crescent to accommodate construction at Spadina Station. Buses will connect with the subway at on-street stops. This project is expected to be completed by the end of November.
  • 47 Lansdowne will be adjusted to allow for delays due to road construction on Caledonia between Rogers Road and Eglinton. A northbound diversion is planned, but the route has not  been announced.
  • Due to paving and reconstruction at Eglinton Station, routes serving this location will be diverted as the work progresses to serve the south entrance of the station on Yonge Street. Service relief buses will be scheduled at Eglinton Station. The exact details of dates and the diversion routes are TBA.
  • Due to paving and reconstruction of the bus roadway at St. Clair Station, routes 74 Mt. Pleasant and 88 South Leaside will loop on street via Avoca, Pleasant Blvd., Yonge and St. Clair. 97 Yonge midday service will use the streetcar loop.
  • From August 1 to September 5, water main work on Broadview north of Danforth will require that streetcars be replaced by buses. 504 King cars will loop via Parliament, Dundas and Broadview to Queen. 505 Dundas cars will loop via Parliament, Gerrard and Broadview to Dundas. The schedules will not be changed. A replacement bus will operate on Broadview looping at the south end via Queen, Parliament, Dundas and River. This service was operated in the summer of 2014 when the construction work was originally scheduled, but not actually carried out.

201507_PAG_ServiceChanges

PAG2015Routes

PAG2015ParaPanRoutes

TTC (Re)Announces Ten Minute Network

On June 15, TTC Chair Josh Colle and Deputy CEO Chris Upfold held a press conference at Bathurst Station to announce the “Ten Minute Network”, one more step in restoring transit’s lustre after the Ford/Stintz regime of cutbacks.

The announcement trumpeted the change for more than it actually represents:

The improvements include all four subway lines, 10 streetcar routes and 37 bus routes and will be implemented through the end of 2015 and into 2016.

Of course the subway lines already run at better than a 10 minute headway, as do most streetcar lines most of the time. Colle talked about how people would not be waiting as long for their bus. Technically, that is true, provided that their bus is one that now runs less frequently. Changes are planned for subway services, but they are not included in this package (I suspect we will see those in the 2016 budget proposals).

For convenience, I have consolidated all of the current service levels (May 10, 2015 schedules) for the affected routes into a chart.

TenMinuteNet201506

The routes are colour coded to indicate their current status:

  • Green indicates a route that already has service every 10 minutes or better
  • Red flags a change that was implemented in the May 10, 2015 schedules
  • Blue flags a change that will be implemented in the June 21, 2015 schedules
  • Purple flags a route and time period where the service has not yet been improved to the 10 minute standard

Where times are shown in black, they were already at 10′ or better before May 10, are are not affected by the announcement. A considerable amount of service already operates at better than 10′ headways, or will by June 21.

Of particular note is the inclusion of 501 Queen from Neville to Long Branch in the list. Riders in southern Etobicoke will finally get “frequent” service. Moreover, the TTC plans to revise scheduled running times so that streetcars do not have to short turn as often just to stay on time.

The list of routes includes a note that peak period constraints on fleet size will prevent improvements on 501 Queen, 65 Parliament and 96 Wilson until there are more vehicles. This may be true for peak periods, but nothing prevents the TTC from adding off-peak service immediately.

The schedules going into effect on June 21 will be used through the summer except for the Pan Am Games period in July. Therefore, the next “new” schedules will not appear until September.

 

Joint Metrolinx, City and TTC Consultation on Transit Studies (Updated June 21, 2015)

Updated June 21, 2015 at 12:45 am: SmartTrack alignment option 1C which was included in the presentation deck, but not in the individual illustrations on the project website, has been added to the consolidated set.

Updated June 12, 2015 at 6:30 am: Details of SmartTrack and Relief Line alignment options added.

The City of Toronto, Metrolinx and the TTC will conduct a series of eight meetings at locations around Toronto over coming weeks to present current information on studies now in progress regarding GO’s Regional Express Rail (RER) plan, SmartTrack, the Scarborough Subway Extension (SSE) and the Relief Line (aka “DRL”). Some of these meetings will focus on specific projects (noted below), while others are general overviews.

  • Sat. June 13 9:30am: Burnhamthorpe Collegiate Institute, 500 The East Mall
  • Mon. June 15 6:30 pm: Estonian House, 958 Broadview Avenue (Relief Line)
  • Wed. June 17 6:30 pm: Spring Garden Church, 112 Spring Garden Avenue
  • Thurs. June 18 6:30 pm: Archbishop Romero Catholic SS, 99 Humber Boulevard South (SmartTrack)
  • Sat. June 20 9:30 am: Hyatt Regency Hotel, 370 King Street West
  • Mon. June 22 6:30 pm: Winston Churchill Collegiate Institute, 2239 Lawrence Avenue East
  • Wed. June 24 6:30 pm: Scarborough Civic Centre, 150 Borough Drive (SSE)
  • Thurs. June 25 6:30pm: Riverdale Collegiate Institute, 1094 Gerrard Street East (Relief Line)

Consultation in Mississauga, Peel, Markham and York Region will occur in September according to the City’s press release.

Recommendations will be presented by TTC and City staff to the TTC Board and Council in Fall 2015 on SmartTrack, the SSE and the Relief Line.

Update June 12:

SmartTrack

The presentation boards and alignment options for the western leg of SmartTrack are now available online. For convenience, I have collected the illustrations in one file [PDF 2MB].

Broadly the study is considering three alignment groups for the link between Mount Dennis and the Mississauga Airport Corporate Centre:

  • A direct connection via Eglinton from the Kitchener rail corridor
  • A separate heavy rail corridor via Eglinton from Mount Dennis
  • A direct connection south from the Kitchener rail corridor through the airport

The “base case” for the study is the already-approved second phase of the Crosstown LRT.

The options include:

  • 1: Direct links with the SmartTrack alignment:
    • 1A: Swinging east of the KW rail corridor south of Eglinton, and then turning west to make a direct connection with the Crosstown line.
    • 1B: Turning west from the KW rail corridor south of Eglinton. This is the original SmartTrack proposal.
    • 1C: Continuing north of Eglinton, and then veering back south through a vaguely defined area west of Weston Road [illustration added June 21]
  • 3A: A separate line west from Mount Dennis.
  • 2: Links north via the rail corridor and then south into the airport lands:
    • 2A: To a point beyond the UPX airport spur, then south through the airport. The “Airport” station would be a connection to the UPX at Airport Road.
    • 2B: The same alignment as 2A at the north end, but following Dixon Road and Carlingview south to 427/401.
    • 2C: To a point east of the UPX spur with a station at the east side of the airport, then south via Carlingview as in 2B.

Some alignments require tight turns and tunneling will be needed for all of them contrary to the original claims that SmartTrack would be a “surface subway”. This will also force the issue of electrification without which a tunnel alignment is impossible, but Metrolinx plans now claim that the first electric operations will not begin until 2023.

The option 2 alignments will face technical challenges including curve radii depending on the exact details of the alignment and the equipment chosen for the route.

Headways for all option 1 and 2 alignments will be constrained by the need to share trackage with the UPX operation.

Relief Line

Four corridor options are under consideration. At its northern end, the corridor would start at either Broadview or Pape Station, and through the core area, the line would follow either Queen or King/Wellington. I have collected the four maps together in one file for convenience.

Detailed discussions of the pros and cons of these options are on the respective pages of the project site. The Pape alignment has clear advantages over Broadview, and a Wellington alignment through the core has advantages over King or Queen.

Toronto To Propose Peak-Hour Extensions on Queen, Dundas, Carlton/College

The City of Toronto will hold three public meetings regarding proposed changes in rush hour traffic restrictions on Queen, Dundas and Carlton/College between Parliament and Roncesvalles.

  • Wed. June 17 at 6:30 pm: Mary McCormick Community Centre, 66 Sheridan Avenue
  • Thurs. June 25 at 6:00 pm: Scadding Court Community Centre, 707 Dundas Street West
  • Mon. June 29 at 6:00 pm: City Hall, Committee Room 2

Work underway by City Transportation Services and the TTC includes:

The project team is currently:

  • Analyzing GPS-based data for the streetcar routes along Dundas Street, College/Carlton Streets, and Queen Street West
  • Looking at how existing peak-hour restrictions function along the routes
  • Finding opportunities to improve streetcar travel times and reliability. For example, where streetcar travel times increase sharply after current restrictions end (e.g. 6pm), the project team is considering extending the peak period by a half-hour or hour on each end to improve the flow of transit, general traffic, and cyclists
  • In a few cases, where no clear benefit is observed from an existing extension, peak hours are being reduced

Additional measures to improve transit operations, in various stages of implementation, include:

  • Re-timing signals to give more green time to the priority direction
  • Active Transit Signal Priority (extended green or shortened red when transit vehicles are detected and meet certain requirements)
  • All-door boarding / Proof of Payment (POP)
  • Greater enforcement of restrictions

[From the “Overview” tab]

Disclosure: I have acted as a consultant to this project in the analysis of TTC vehicle tracking data.

TTC Board Meeting Wrapup: May 27, 2015

The TTC Board met on May 27, 2015 with an unusually rich agenda that took the public session straight through from 1:00 to 7:30pm, except for a break of roughly half an hour to discuss some items in camera. Rather than the relentlessly cheery, swift, but vapid meetings of the ancien régime, this one had some substance.

Reports on the Scarborough Subway, and on the surface route improvements are discussed in separate articles.

This article deals with:

  • TTC Governance
  • TTC and City Joint Transportation Initiatives
  • Draft Financial Statements
  • CEO’s Report

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The Gardiner, SmartTrack and the Scarborough Subway

Three major projects face approvals at Toronto Council and Queen’s Park in coming months.

  • Should we replace the Gardiner Expressway with an at-grade boulevard between Jarvis and the Don River?
  • Should “SmartTrack”, John Tory’s signature campaign plank, form a U-shaped line from Markham to Pearson Airport providing both regional and local service in parallel with GO Transit?
  • Should the Bloor-Danforth subway be extended through Scarborough in place of the once-proposed LRT network, via which route and at what cost?

None of these is a simple problem, and they are linked by a combination of forces: polarized political views of what Toronto’s future transportation network should look like, very substantial present and future capital and operating costs, and competing claims of transportation planning models regarding the behaviour of a new network.

On the political front, Mayor Tory is playing for a trifecta against considerable odds. Winning on all three would cement his influence at Council, but it is far from clear that he will win on any of them. Council is split on the expressway options, SmartTrack has already sprouted an alternative western alignment, and the Scarborough Subway fights for its life with alternative route proposals and the threat of demand canibalized by the Mayor’s own SmartTrack plans.

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UPX Was Never To Break Even

With all the hoopla surrounding the launch of service on the Union-Pearson Express (aka UPX or UP Express), it was refreshing to learn today from no less than the CEO of Metrolinx, Bruce McCuaig, that the line will never cover its costs.

Cast your mind back to the days of Prime Minister Chrétien and his Transport Minister, David Collonette (1997-2003). They had a dream of an express train from Union Station to Pearson Airport, a service that would be built, owned and operated at no cost to the government through the magic of private enterprise. SNC Lavalin was to be the lucky proprietor.

Things didn’t quite work out. SNC Lavalin discovered that the cost recovery for “Blue 22″ as it was called in the early days simply didn’t pan out, and they looked for government support. When the Tories came to power, Ottawa’s love for this project waned, and they dumped it … right into the willing lap of Dalton McGuinty who embraced the scheme as a way for Ontario to show the world what we’re made of. Don’t be the last city without an air rail link! The matter was especially crucial as part of the Pan Am Games bid — there would be an express train to the airport.

Alas, the numbers still didn’t work, and SNC Lavalin looked to Queen’s Park for financial support. McGuinty showed them the door, and that might have been the end of things but for the usual Ontario hubris. The project became a public sector job 100%, but there was still the sense that it wouldn’t be a burden on the taxpayer.

On Friday, June 5, 2015, the Star’s Tess Kalinowski had an online Q&A with Bruce McCuaig, and it was quite revealing.

When will the line be electrified?

“The recent provincial budget set aside funding for Regional Express Rail, which includes electrification of the corridors, including UPX. We are folding the UPX electrification into the electrification of the Kitchener corridor as far as Bramalea, and we expect electrification to start being operational on five of the lines in 2023.”

There was a time when electrification was promised for only a few years after UPX began operation. Clearly, this is not going to happen even on a small scale for 8 years, let alone a full buildout. Whether there will even be a government left in office willing to undertake this project remains to be seen.

Back in September 2014, McCuaig claimed that the government’s promised electrification within 10 years was possible. Hmmm. Maybe a few kilometers here and there, but certainly not the full buildout if they’re only going to start in 2023. After a burst of election fever and enthusiasm for electrified GO services, Queen’s Park is getting cool, if not cold feet.

What about additional stations?

“We are building in plans for a new GO station and UPX station into the construction contract for the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. The Crosstown phase 1 ends at Mount Dennis and I think it would be a great place to have an interchange to give people more choice. At Woodbine, we have done what transit planners call “protect” for a potential future station.

“More stations connected in to the subway (like Dundas West/Bloor) and a future location at Mount Dennis means you can access the service at a lower cost. The trip from Dundas West/Bloor to the airport will have a fare of $15.20 if you use your PRESTO card”

It’s nice to know that Metrolinx still implies that the Crosstown will have a “phase 2″, although the almost certainly lower fare on this local transit service would make one wonder why one would choose to transfer off of the Crosstown and onto UPX, especially at a premium fare. As for the fare from Dundas West, it might just be a tolerable alternative to the 192 Airport Rocket from Kipling Station once Metrolinx builds a convenient link from the UPX station to the subway. The current arrangement is not exactly a “first class” link the fare would imply.

How many riders will UPX need to break even, and will it pay off its capital costs?

We plan to have the fare box for UPX cover its operating costs within three to five years. As you would expect, it will take a few years to build the ridership, just like any other system. We are not expecting fares to pay back the capital costs at this time. The province has invested the $456 million in the capital and it would be unusual in a North American context to expect customers to pay back the capital cost through their fares. I don’t know off the top of my head how many riders per day will be needed for cost recovery, but we do expect that level of ridership by year three to five.

So let’s get this straight: what started out as a sure thing for the private sector will take maybe three years just to reach a break-even state on operating costs. This also happens to be the period by which Metrolinx expects ridership to stabilize, and one wonders just how much room for growth in demand and revenue there will be beyond that. As for capital costs, oh we could never expect passengers to pay those. No wonder SNC Lavalin wanted a subsidy.

By the way, remember that phrase the next time someone tries to slip capital-from-current spending into an operating budget as John Tory did this year with the TTC’s bus purchase.

What we don’t know is the amount of subsidy the UPX will divert from other transit needs within GO or other transit systems. There will inevitably be pressure to bring fares on UPX down, especially if service in the corridor is combined with a route like SmartTrack. Then there is the small matter that UPX is a separate division complete with its own president. This is rather like having a President of the Scarborough RT except that Line 3 carries nearly 40,000 riders a day, more than UPX can physically handle if it were packed from 6am to midnight.

I will be magnanimous. Get the line open. Enjoy Balzac’s coffee in the station. Thrill to the glorious view of Toronto’s former industrial might along the rail corridor. Impress the hell out of those Pan Am visitors (although of course the officials and athletes have limos and buses and reserved lanes on expressways for their delicate sensibilities).

Once the games are over, let’s get serious about the money we have invested in the Weston/Georgetown corridor and figure out how to run an actual transit service that caters to more than the well-off who can afford to pay extra for a fast ride downtown.