This item is a potpourri of news from the TTC meeting including:
- New simplified EA Process approved by Queen’s Park
- Ottawa says “not now” on Transit City funding
- More pieces of the Waterfront West project
- Progress on the new streetcar tender plus streetcar survey results
- Are ridership projections too low?
The Simplified EA Process
On September 6, the Minister of the Environment approved the new “Class EA” process that greatly simplies the studies we will need for many upcoming transit projects. The major changes in the new process are:
- An agency no longer has to develop a “terms of reference” for their study with the public and affected agencies or submit it for Ministerial approval. This will cut one year off of the time for typical studies.
- Once an EA study is completed, it is merely filed with the Minister for information, but no approval is required.
This puts most transit projects (subway lines must still go through the individual EA process) on the same footing as roads. However, simplification also reinforces the need for strong public participation and advocacy. I don’t like to say this sort of thing, but the removal of a formal review process opens the doors to unscrupulous studies that pay lip service to public concerns and, in particular, the whole issue of looking at alternatives.
Ottawa Says “Not Now” on Transit City Funding
Today’s agenda included a letter dated July 12, 2007 in which Lawrence Cannon, the federal Minister of Transport, advises Mayor Miller and Chair Giambrone of Ottawa’s position on additional transit funding. I will leave out the recitation of all of the spending commitments already in place for various projects, and skip to the important parts:
- Ottawa thinks Move Ontario is a wonderful initiative and looks forward to working with Ontario on it, but the Minister has not yet received a formal request for funding from Queen’s Park.
- All funds allocated to Ontario under existing programs are fully committed, however, new funds were included in the 2007 budget.
- Ottawa will develop a National Transit Strategy in consultation with governments and the transit industry. I understand that no consultation with the Federation of Canadian municipalities (FCM) or the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) has acually taken place to date.
Strictly speaking, some of the 2007 money is “new” only to people who think like governments with time-limited funding for schemes that should be open ended. This includes:
- Continuing the full GST rebate to municipalities.
- Extending the gas tax fund to 2014.
Such is the nature of transit funding — we have to keep asking for it over and over again, and programs that we think are permanent may vanish overnight. This is no way to make long-term spending plans. Other new money is for a variety of projects that may or may not be for public transit.
The bottom line here is that Ottawa may come to the table, someday, probably with funding promises that will kick in after a future election if only we give that nice Mr. Harper the majority he so desperatly craves. Meanwhile, we should prepare to fund transit in the GTA from Ontario and local funds, and send Ottawa postcards of the ribbon-cutting ceremonies where the “Canada” logo will be noticeably absent.
More Pieces of the Waterfront West Project
The TTC has approved proceeding with an EA for the Waterfront West line from Park Lawn west to Brown’s Line. This brings the full “Long Branch” car into the scope of the WWLRT as shown in the Transit City scheme.
On a related note, there is a public meeting on the proposed Park Lawn streetcar/LRT loop scheduled for Monday, September 24 at 7:00 pm at the Polish Alliance Hall, 2282 Lake Shore W., just west of Legion Road. The page linked here includes the display boards with the loop design presented at a previous meeting in November 2006.
Progress on the New Streetcar Tender / Streetcar Survey Results
The new streetcar tender will be released on October 2007, and the TTC has entered a blackout period where only authorized parties within the organization are allowed to talk to potential bidders. The intent is to avoid all manner of lobbying and side dealing that would undermine a fair tender.
Of course, nothing prevents the lobbyists from wining and dining their friends on Council who could provide pesky interference with whatever the TTC staff and Commission decide next spring.
A report with details of the process and specifications is available online.
Also online are detailed results from the “My New Streetcar” campaign.
The most interesting point about the survey was that a major issue for riders was the quality of service. No surprise here, but the issue of service trumps everything else the TTC does. Anyone who tries to pretend otherwise is in for a big shock as soon as they talk to riders.
Are Ridership Projections Too Low?
Bob Brent, who contributes comments here from time to time, presented a deptutation detailing the ongoing problem at the TTC of underestimated ridership. This is not just an academic exercise where the TTC guesses low and is then pleasantly surprised to find a surplus at year end. The TTC sets its budget for service based on anticipated ridership, and past attempts to bump service beyond this level between budget approvals runs into a brick wall at the City Budget Committee.
For 2007, the TTC now expects to get 461-million rides without allowing for whatever effect the November fare increase might have. For 2008, the estimate is only 468-million. They assume some headroom wil be created by the fare impact, but don’t bother to make a counter-adjustment for the planned service improvements that will make service more attractive. Moreover, 2008 is a leap year, and the net additional day is a weekday — this means that about 1.5-million added rides are simply a calendar effect and the room for growth in the estimate is even lower than it seems.
My suspicion is that if additional funding is found for additional Ridership Growth Strategy improvements, all of this will be swept under the carpet in time for the fall 2008 schedules. However, we’re not at all sure of funding today, and it’s too early to give up your reserved seat on the roof.