Who Pays for Transit?

Every so often, the question of subsidies shows up in comment threads here.  My usual explanation is “well, it depends, and it’s complicated”.

For those of you who want to see just how complicated, you can look at the TTC’s draft financial statements for 2008.  Scroll down to Notes 12 and 13 which detail where the operating subsidies come from and go to, and in much more excruciating detail, how the capital subsidies work.

This is a testimonial to the madness of project-based, partisan announcements.  Every government has to come up with its own program.  Even if an old one worked, we need a new one clothed in new party colours.  All of this takes a lot of accounting just to keep track that monies received are spent on only those projects for which they were announced.  Perish the thought that a Tory Blue dollar might accidently wind up paying for a Liberal Red bus, or that money intended for “Green” programs simply pays for keeping the transit system going.

We hear a lot from governments about getting out of the way of private business, of simplifying regulations and reporting because this is a huge burden on the private sector.  Canada’s competitiveness depends on the simplest and shortest rules possible.  The concept has not yet reached public sector regulation where the intent seems to be to strangle any ability to use funding productively and quickly.

Sheppard LRT Don Mills Connection Unveiled, Sort Of

The TTC will consider a report this week regarding the link from the Sheppard East LRT to Don Mills Station.  The report includes (at the last page) an illustration of the design for the same-level direct transfer between the LRT and the subway.

It’s not a very good drawing and in particular it doesn’t show whether the intent is for both the subway and the LRT to use both platforms.  This has been discussed in a previous thread here.  I have asked for clarification from the TTC and will update this post when I receive further info.

The design is troublesome because of the way the car is shown ending against at a location with no overrun protection (i.e. a buffer stop and some additional track).  This will almost certainly result in a permanant slow order for cars entering the station.  Just the sort of thing we need for our new “fast” service.  Some adjustments are required.

The report brings out additional information about the predicted use of the LRT and subway lines at this interchange, of unexpected costs, and of yet another Metrolinx boondoggle:

  • About 8,500 passengers will travel between the Sheppard Subway and the Consumers Road area and they will have to transfer between the two routes.  Conversely, if the interchange were at Consumers, more people, 9,500, would have to transfer for through trips from points east to reach Don Mills Station.
  • The cost of bringing the LRT into Don Mills Station is about $120-million less than extending the subway further east.  However, …
  • The Sheppard East project budget (remember that this is the one for which funding was just announced) must be increased by $110-million to pay for the underground connection because this was not originally planned(!!!).  This is yet another example of how the TTC simply cannot publish reliable budget figures even at a time when much political capital was expended just to get project funding, and when accurate projections are important to the credibility of the Transit City plan as a whole.  How can they publish an EA in which the only connections between the subway and LRT involve tunneling, but not update the project cost estimate?
  • Metrolinx, always ready to throw a monkey-wrench into the works, would like to see continuous operation of the Sheppard East, Don Mills and Finch LRT services.  This would require a physical connection through to the Don Mills line for revenue service, not just whatever would be needed for carhouse moves between the lines.  It is self-evident that a through service will be more complex and expensive than a stub operation as now planned.  Metrolinx does not seem to have thought through the future implications of a separate Don Mills LRT nor of the possibility the Finch East line might run east of Don Mills, and they seem bent on creating immensely long routes in the name of “regional” travel.

Somehow, I hope to ride the Sheppard East LRT in my lifetime and, moreover, that this project won’t turn into another “St. Clair” with all manner of screw-ups and construction co-ordination problems along the way.

Updated 6:40 am, May 26:  David Cavlovic left the following comments, but in the wrong thread:

6:09 am:  That photo is so…so…unconvincing! Looks like someone had no idea what to do but photoshop a picture of an LRT in a chopped-off area of the Eastbound train platform.

6:10 am:  EEK. that comment should be with the next article. Need. Coffee!

When Is A Park Not A Park?

Those of you who know Broadview Station will remember the years of construction we who live nearby suffered through as the station gained new streetcar platforms, elevators, an enlarged lobby, a lot of fixes to leaky ceilings, and now roof repairs.  Through much of this the triangle of land between the streetcar loop and sidewalk was transformed from a park to a construction staging area and then, miraculously, our park came back, somewhat gentrified, last year.

That property had been held by the TTC for years in anticipation of, yes, redevelopment, although everyone nearby thought it was a park.  It wasn’t.

Until now.  This week, the TTC will officially declare the land surplus to its needs, and set in motion a transfer to the City Parks Department.  I’m not sure that there will be dancing in the streets, but at last our park is safe from being turned into a rather oddly shaped condo.

Some Things Take A Little Time

Oh dear, oh dear!  That poor old overworked, underappreciated TTC!

The Spadina car opened in July 1997, and one thing immediately obvious to anyone who bothered to look was that “transit priority signalling” was simply not working the way that phrase might imply to mere mortals who ride the service.  Indeed, a newspaper article by Stephen Wickens has taken on legendary status with the claim (valid under some circumstances) that a trip down Bathurst to Western Hospital in mixed traffic makes better time than the Spadina car and its right-of-way.  I’m not going to revisit that debate here .

In June 2005, I spoke to the issue of non-priority for Spadina cars at a Commission meeting.  At that time, then Vice-Chair Olivia Chow moved that staff take the necessary action to implement priority signalling by September 2005 where it is not already active and report back by September 2006 on the impact; and that the recommendations in my submission be forwarded to TTC and City staff with a joint report to fall meetings, presumably in 2005.

The due date for this report has always been a few months away, and I have had the honour of holding the longest outstanding report request at the TTC for some time.  I was expecting the report in April, but that month came and went.  Now, according to this week’s agenda, the report will be at the Commission meeting of December 16, 2009.

That is at least still “fall”, by a few days, albeit not the one Olivia Chow had in mind.