Toronto Will Finance Its Own Streetcars (Updated)

Updated June 26 at 10:15 pm:

Today, Toronto Council voted 36-6 to proceed with funding of the purchase of 204 new streetcars as described in my original post (below the break).

During debate on the proposal, a few items of clarification were brought out that were not in the initial report.

  • The bus midlife refurbishment project has not been completely dropped, but cut back by 70% of the original allocation.  The TTC will perform a trial refurbishment of one bus in 2011 in anticipation of the first of the recently purchased buses reaching its 9th year.  Based on what is found (body condition, etc.), the future funding for this program will be readjusted.  The new fleets are expected to be much more robust than the older generations of buses, but we won’t know for sure until they actually reach the age when rebuilding would normally be expected.
  • The paving project has been cut back by 50%, and is subject to review based on actual conditions.
  • The fire ventillation upgrade program has been cut back by 50%, but this work has also been consolidated with the second entrance program in stations where this is applicable.
  • All other projects (Eglinton bus terminal, station modernization, Collectors’ booth renewal) have been cut by 100%.  The Eglinton terminal may not actually be needed, or at least at the originally planned size, because the number of routes connecting at Eglinton Station will be far lower after the Eglinton LRT is in operation.

From a financial point of view, all of this is a big shuffle.  For the time being, the TTC defers work that was currently planned for funding via City borrowing.  This is replaced in the capital budget with borrowing for the new streetcars.  In parallel, the City will make application to Ottawa for over $600-million worth of projects that would have been financed by the City, and which can be completed within the timeframe to qualify under Ottawa’s rules for “stimulus”.  On a 1/3 share basis, this will yield about $200-million in federal funding.  Additional funding is expected to be available from other non-stimulus programs.

The net effect is that future City spending will be reduced by an amount roughly equal to the funding for the new streetcars.

Furthermore, the TTC will review its capital budgets for the coming years, and it is possible that parts of some deferred projects could reappear based on then-current funding availability and priorities.

This decision is even more important that the original 1972 move by Toronto Council to save the streetcar network.  Not only does this ensure that network’s continued existence, it will expand the fleet and underpin the Transit City routes.  Indeed, a suburban LRT network was the goal behind Streetcars for Toronto’s activism on behalf of the streetcar system.

We’re not quite at the end of a long road, but I would like to share today with the Streetcars for Toronto Committee, some of whom contribute in the comments on this site from time to time:

  • Andrew Biemiller (original chair), John F. Bromley, Mike Filey, Robert Wightman, Howard J. Levine, Chris Prentice, Ros Bobak and Greg Gormick.  (Apologies if I have omitted anyone in the fog of time.)
  • In our work we were strongly supported by former Aldermen Paul Pickett and the late William Kilbourn, as well as by the office of then-mayor David Crombie.

With luck, we will ride new streetcars and even a new line or two before the 40th anniversary of the decision to retain the streetcar network.

[Original post below]

On Friday, June 26, Toronto Council will hold a special meeting in Room 105, North Building at the Convention Centre at 255 Front Street West.

Only one item is on the agenda: a proposal that the TTC reorganize its capital budget by deferral of certain items into future years to make room for the streetcar purchase.  This would allow the city to fund the share originally earmarked for an Ottawa contribution without affecting its overall capital planning.

The projects to be deferred in 2012-2018 (corresponding to the period when major payments on the streetcar contract will come due) are:

  • Eglinton bus terminal replacement ($34.5-million).  Any new terminal will be built as part of (a) the Eglinton LRT project and (b) whatever development goes on the old terminal site.  I suspect that funding for this already exists in other projects.
  • Fire ventillation upgrade ($54.6-million).  The TTC began a long-running project several years ago to upgrade the fan systems in subway stations.  This program was dragged on far longer and at greater expense than planned, and it is clearly not a priority as a must-do safety measure.  Further delay harms nobody.  (As a side note, the work at Broadview Station was originally to include provision for a new fan shaft, but that was dropped from the project due to budget issues.)
  • Station modernization ($39.5-million).  At this point, a list of the deferred projects is not available.  I will attempt to get one.
  • On-grade paving program ($25.1-million).  This project generally covers paving of loops and yards.  Delaying this work could lead to higher long-term costs if planned maintenance turns into major reconstruction.
  • Collector booth renewal ($4.9-million).  With luck, this will not be used as a further excuse for the presence of home made signage.
  • Mid-life bus rebuilds ($258.4-million).  I am rather surprised by this item.  If, in fact, buses are lasting longer and don’t need to be rebuilt, then this should be reflected generally as a change in ongoing capital (and labour) requirements.

I suspect that this is only a preliminary shuffle, just enough to allow Council to approve the change and get the contract with Bombardier signed.  Each year’s budget cycle inevitably brings changes in priorities and programs as compared to past years, and some items above will likely reappear .

There is no discussion of Ottawa’s funding for stimulus projects.  As and when Toronto receives federal money, this could allow another shuffle among capital budgets.

38 thoughts on “Toronto Will Finance Its Own Streetcars (Updated)

  1. I really hope this doesn’t mean Toronto ends up with no stimulus money at all!

    (also, there’s some squabbling about the politics/optics of holding the meeting at the Convention Centre instead of city hall, with Councillor Ainslie refusing to show up…)


  2. Now that these projects have been pushed back, perhaps some of them would qualify directly for infrastructure funds, and can be moved up that way, particularly if planning for them has already taken place.

    Steve: As I said in reply somewhere else, these are projects that generally not even progressed to the detailed planning stage, let alone actual execution, and some of them depend on other events.


  3. Sad they had to defer the Station Modernization Program. They are in the middle of rebuillding and redesigning Vic. Park Station and I hope they continue to fund this project. I am sure they will as right now we have to catch our different buses on Vic Park itself or in the parking lot.

    I hope the other stations, Pape, Islington and Kipling eventually follow through with their own modernizing of their stations as well. Since the TTC is doing Vic Park Station near my home it shows me that the TTC cares about us residents within the 416 as well as the 905 who are getting the Spadina Subway extension to Vaughn and a possible Yonge estension to Richmond Hill.

    If Toronto and the TTC continue to invest in infrastructure within the 416 area, making commuting and transferring easier and more convenient it will increase ridership for sure. I have recently moved to Toronto from Vancouver and one design that really impressed me with the transit system here in Toronto is the design of a lot of the subway stations. Victoria Park Station and the other stations on the list for this Modernization treatment are going join the club of really well designed stations. I use Vic Park station frequently but I use Warden Station more and I hope the TTC gets rid of those seperated bus bays at this station as well and puts in an island type of platform that all the different routes will share.

    Without a doubt the streetcar funding is needed when sequenced by priority, I just hope that these deferred projects find some funding soon as well, especially the project I just ranted about.


  4. The TTC could shuffle there spendings around, why can’t Miller and the city do so too? There is still hope for stimulus money if Miller changes his attitude right now. At least Ottawa had hinted.

    I wonder how do they get exactly 417 million dollars.

    Steve: By deferring exactly 417 million worth of work. It’s all accounting anyhow, and will get revised once the feds actually tell us how much we will get. Rumblings in the press suggest that we won’t get the $300-million we had expected, and so once again we are shafted by Ottawa. I suspect they never intended to fund Toronto at the level it “deserves”, but didn’t have the balls to just say so.

    As I have said before, if I have any criticism of how this has been handled, it is in the presumption that we could get Ottawa to come to the table. They have made quite clear, under both Liberal and Tory administrations, that they do not want to establish a precedent of funding all transit projects in the country. Shared cost programs tie us in knots on program applications and administration.


  5. I sure hope they don’t cancel the Kipling/Islington upgrades. The Mississauga and TTC hardly have any space to move and buses are parked on the street waiting their turn to pick up the next load at rush hrs at islington.

    I agree with George C about Warden stn. except about the bus bays. The buses have quick access in and out and although we may have a longer walk,the station does handle very large volumes of traffic very well. Islington is the opposite.


    Steve: The Kipling upgrade is now a GO Transit project, not a TTC project. Warden is contingent on property redevelopment.


  6. My guess would be that they’re essentially hoping to borrow from the “mid-life bus rebuilds” fund, but top that fund back up once other capital dollars can be found (e.g. if they can get federal money to pay for some already-budgeted bridges, roadwork, library renos, etc.). Not only are bus rebuilds low visibility, but they don’t have as rigid a timeline as the LRV order. In that sense, it’s the perfect place to find $258 million you forgot you had.


  7. Surely the Eglinton bus terminal replacement is unnecessary if the Eglinton LRT is built because there will be little remaining bus service to Eglinton Station. The 32 and 34 will be removed, and presumably the 51, 54, 56 and 100 will be shortened, which leaves only the 5/61 and 74/103 which can be combined (or use an on street loop) and the 97 which loads on the street. Thus there will be no need for a bus terminal there at all.

    Otherwise I am not happy about these cutbacks, and I hope they get reversed once the city gets its stimulus money (for its intended purpose) and can reallocate that money towards the streetcar purchase. In particular, I am not pleased about delaying the fire ventilation upgrade, as this is a safety issue.

    Steve: I might agree with you on the fire ventilation project, except that the TTC seems to be content to let it drag on forever. Frankly, this first showed up almost as a make-work project during a period when the engineering branch had little to do, before money started to flow for various subway extensions, let alone Transit City. It has never been presented as something than must be achieved within “n” years, and what work has been done came in late and over budget. Second entrances are far more important, and they still appear to be on schedule.


  8. Toronto must still be getting stimulus money; won’t this free up capital in transit and other areas that could also be applied to the streetcars? I hesitate to side with Baird here, but I think that was what he suggested Toronto do. Calgary is applying the money to, er, station modernizations along the downtown transitway, and the first new station on the West LRT (that will start construction next spring). This will free up some capital in future years that might allow some other transit projects to be accelerated that could not, at any rate, have been built within the 2-year stimulus window.

    Steve: If that’s what Calgary is doing — hiving off parts of a larger project to fall within the stimulus window — then Baird is holding them to a different standard than Toronto. Either the rules are that the project must complete by 2011, or anything could be subdivided into chunks to qualify. A further problem is that “stimulus” is supposed to be for work that would not happen otherwise. There’s no point in having stimulus now and a recession in the future. Ottawa seems to be making up the rules as they go along.


  9. How much money does the City need? I thought they were asking for $312M from Ottawa, but that mid-life bus rebuild item pushes it over $400M (holding a council meeting at the convention centre is expensive, but not that expensive).

    Steve: One third of the contract is $400M, but Toronto had expected only $312M as its share of the stimulus funding from Ottawa. They were hoping for some monies under other infrastructure programs to make up the balance.


  10. Why can’t some of this work be advanced and undertaken under the stimulus program? The re-paving, station upgrades and operator booth works would all qualify as stimulus. The TTC would get some infrastructure off its list. And the projects would provide cost savings which could be combined with reduced capital spending to help pay for the streetcars.

    Steve: Ottawa plays fast and loose with the “rules” for its own political benefit. Originally, to qualify as a “stimulus”, any work had to be a project that would not occur otherwise to avoid simply moving spending from local to federal budgets. In effect, it had to be work that was paying down the “infrastructure deficit”. Now, Ottawa is saying Toronto should simply bring forward future work. This would break the very rules they accuse Toronto of ignoring.

    Also, some work such as repaving should only be advanced if it is already overdue. Otherwise, we would be paving properties that have not yet reached the end of the useful life of their current surfaces.


  11. Steve: A further problem is that “stimulus” is supposed to be for work that would not happen otherwise.

    If that is the case, then perhaps the TTC can apply for infrastructure funding for the station modernization program … how about accessibility? Can they use the funding to make more TTC stations accessible?

    Steve: The problem here is with timelines. Elevator retrofits take quite a while to design and implement, difficult with the 2011 cutoff date. Moreover, as I said in reply to the previous comment, all the TTC would be doing would be moving work forward that would occur otherwise, not creating net new work as “stimulus”.

    A lot of people are focusing on Miller not following “protocol” and suggesting to use the stimulus funding for something that doesn’t qualify for stimulus funding. But I think you are correct here … it is the resistance of the Federal government to provide stable funding for public transport that is the issue.

    It looks like Toronto’s attempt to get more federal government funding backfired and we are going to pay for it with broken down subway stations and who knows what else …

    Cheers, moaz


  12. Slightly off-topic:

    Secondary exit/entrances are required to be completely separate from the mezzanine level?

    If this is true, how do stations such as St. George and Bay/Yorkville who have entrances on both the easternmost and westernmost points of their platforms not-qualify as secondary exits?

    Steve: These are true secondary exits, and those stations are not on the list requiring upgrades.

    Re: Station Modernization

    No one mentioned Dufferin, is this “on the books” in the same sense as all but Victoria Park Station — whose work is actually being done?

    Steve: I plan to ask about the details of the list of deferred work and will post the info here when I get it.


  13. You are right that Ottawa does seem to be making up the rules as they go along, and also that they certainly have no real idea on how to better the urban economic engines of the country.

    It is disgusting that Canada is now projected to have a budget deficit of $50.2 billion in 2009-10 and greater deficits in later years, yet there is no substantive spending on transit. Almost all of the deficit is going to the banks through the Insured Mortgage Purchase Program, while a small percentage of the budget is being spent on transit.

    It is clear that the current generation of federal political leaders lack any vision for Canada, and that they will contribute nothing of real value to the Canadian experience. Understanding the economic importance of urban centres and the integral part that transit plays in them, and then actually funding them and creating long-term funding mechanisms takes vision, or at the least a level of intelligence and competence that seems to be lacking.

    Instead, these people are content to play their politics (“sexy” isotope crisis; every single non-election attack ad) and use every and any opportunity to wrong those they consider their enemies (“fuck off”; denying ‘stimulus funds’ because of what is essentially a technicality).

    And the worst part of about all of it is that they get away with it because no one really cares; political participation and the level of political discourse seems to be very, very low. Parliament was suspended in the middle of an economic meltdown in a highly unusual move and no one cared! If what is happening in Iran was happening right now in Canada (massive election fraud), there would be a total of five people protesting.

    Sorry for the rant, but it is very disheartening to see transit in Canada not being given the funds it deserves.


  14. Steve: Comments from this point onward were edited after Council had voted to fully fund the new streetcar purchase even though the comments may have been submitted earlier. My responses reflect the action taken by Council and supplementary information reported during the meeting of June 26.

    Well, I have an even better idea. The City should withdraw their portion of the Spadina Subway extension and use those funds for the streetcar purchase. After all, maintaining the existing system must take priority over expansion, especially when it’s questionable expansion such as Spadina/VCC. I wonder why Miller didn’t take the opportunity to do this? Most people living in Toronto (416) won’t use this extension and probably won’t care if it gets delayed until after 2018. If anything, it could actually gain Miller some votes in the next election.

    Steve: Actually Toronto has no money in the VCC extension. The City is funding part of the extension to Steeles, and this money is in a trust account along with contributions from Queen’s Park and Ottawa.


  15. Re: Calgary being held to a different standard than Toronto. Would I be overly mischievous in suggesting that the difference lies in a Tory heartland being held to a different standard than a Tory wasteland? The Tories can’t lose seats they don’t have, after all. Forgive the old cynic.


  16. Re: Station Modernization

    A read of the deferred projects from the CGM shows Station Modernization money is only deferred that was listed as occurring between 2015-2018.

    This therefore has no impact on projects already underway/scheduled/tendered for this year. (ie. Dufferin, Pape, Vic. Park, Islington)

    Steve: Islington is on hold pending resolution of funding. Originally, part of this was to be paid by a new development to house the offices of SNC Lavalin (the same folks who hope to bring us Blue 22), but they have backed out.

    What I am not clear on is how much was alloted in the capital budget for the program in the years 2011-2014 (2010 would be mostly carryover work I would assume)

    Steve … wasn’t the TTC supposed to present a report to the Commission on the long-term Station Modernization program, even before these changes?

    Steve: Given that some of the deferred work may be reactivated depending on hte funding situation, we won’t have a definitive schedule until fall 2009 when the 2010-2019 Capital Budget is considered by the TTC and Council.


  17. If it needs to be something that no one was planning on doing and that can be done in two years … we should buy 300 million$ worth of bikes. That would be an easy buy, there has got to be a bike manufacturer in toronto that could suppy the city with a velib type infrastructure. 300 million$ worth of bikes would be a 100$ bike for everyone in the city … how would that change transportation in the city?

    Alternatively, 15,000 cars could be purchased and left in parking lots around the city with keys in the ignition.

    The sad thing is that in this city everything takes longer than two years … it took two years to get new food stands on the street that sold something other than hotdogs … I would imagine that spending the money on staplers would be impossible because of all the planning/environmental assesments that would have to take place.

    Steve: If you bought bikes or autos, this would be no benefit to me as I neither cycle nor drive. I already own a stapler. In fact there are many projects that have been reviewed by City staff as “ready to go” and these will be submitted to Ottawa. The constraint in the past has always been that we can only borrow so much money each year, and some things just need to be put off to the future to spread out the debt load.


  18. Re: Federal funding

    You know, I would not generally be accused of being a supporter of the Harper regime …

    Their Anti-Ontario and and Anti-Toronto rhetoric has been abundant and off-putting.


    Has anyone else noticed that quietly, the Tories have:

    A) Increased Ontario’s health care transfer to the full-amount per capita as with other provinces, more than 4 years ahead of schedule? (a previous deal under the Chretien gov’t stated Ontario would get full healthcare funds by 2013).

    B) That the # of seats for Ontario has now been increased (as of the next election) to the full pro-rata share for Ontario for the first time in my memory.

    C) That to get a long-standing goal of an HST through (this at various times has been supported by all parties in Ontario) They gave McGuinty a whopping $4,300,000,000 (that’s 4.3 Billion, not going to any other province).

    D) That Ontario now has full immigration settlement funding and Regional Eco. Dev. funding in line with other provinces.

    E) That EI will likely be reformed this fall to end the ‘anti-Ontario bias’ implemented more than a decade ago.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, the rhetoric is terrible, the efforts to appease the ‘conservative base’ with a lot of obnoxious fluff (most of which doesn’t get passed mind you), is not remotely endorsable.

    But in the end, I’m not sure the Harper years will prove to have been that bad for Ontario.

    And I’m not unconvinced, based on what I’ve listed above, that Toronto may yet get its money, quietly, after the rest of the Country is satisfied that Toronto has been justly shafted!

    Steve: I think that the operative words you are looking for are “Minority Government”. Also, the HST was part of a package deal. If Ontario refused to implement this Tory holy grail of tax reform, then we wouldn’t get the money from Ottawa. Big carrot, big stick.


  19. If the defered or cancelled mid-life bus overhaul funding allows the TTC to rid themselves of these awful Orion VII buses of any series faster, good riddance! Since low floor is the way of the times now, it’s time to see some Nova LFS and their articulated versions running around Toronto, with their far superior passenger and operator comfort, compared to the Orion VII!


  20. Let’s remember one thing here – Baird isn’t the only one who read the stimulus programme this way. Hazel McCallion and Susan Fennell both said they read it as local work to be completed by March 2011. Karen Stintz says that council required the 1/3 to be federal money, not specifically federal stimulus money since that programme didn’t even exist until a few months ago when Flaherty was forced to admit the economy was faltering. So this is not specifically an issue of what the Fed Govt thinks of transit, not withstanding Baird’s history with the Ottawa LRT project.

    As noted above, Calgary *accelerated* an LRT track project which was spent on largely local cost centres – fulfilling both the local impact and timeframe requirements. The amount of money to be spent in Toronto/GTA before March 2011 on the streetcar project is going to be miniscule when the first finished cars won’t roll off the production line until 2013 – we hope.

    Steve: Actually, prototypes in 2011, production in 2012.

    If Toronto had its act together, the CLRV rebuild and/or the construction of the Cherry/QQE and/or WWLRT tracks could have been funded through this programme. Instead the Miller administration deliberately prevented ALL Toronto infrastructure projects from being considered, including those, to stake the entire bet on the new streetcar contract.

    Steve: The Mayor’s position, as stated today at Council is this: By asking for the Federal money, Toronto also triggered interest and participation at Queen’s Park that may not otherwise have been available.

    I would also observe that we will get federal money one way or another, but the financial shell game now in progress allows Ottawa the fig leaf of claiming that they didn’t fund the streetcar project. If anything, this whole exercise shows the lengths the Tories will go to when any spending that might help Toronto. If a Toronto-centric cabinet (can even imagine such a thing) ever existed and tried doing to Tory ridings what Ottawa does to the GTA, we would hear no end of complaints about the arrogant suits from the big city.


  21. Steve, I think the Tories ARE making it up as they go along, but we haven’t been in this situation in a generation or two. I work in government infrastructure and, well, the precedents are that tri-government funded project often take years before anything actually gets built (witness Toronto’s waterfront).

    If Baird appears to be draconian, it is with these projects in his hindsight. They don’t love Toronto to be sure, but I doubt they are trying to make an example of the city in the lead up to an election.

    I know it’s not sexy to say it, but Toronto has a $200 odd million backlog of road maintenance (not road widening, just state of good repair stuff). I am all for transit, but there is lots of money in the longer term Building Canada fund for long term projects. Maybe Toronto should look to its potholes for stimulus money as a big chunk of transit ridership is on buses that run on, yes, roads. Anyway, I know I am sounding like a partisan hack, even though I don’t mean to; more just based on my own experience in government as a bureaucrat.


  22. Hi Steve.

    After reading the number of anti Miller comments in “The Star” about the new streetcars I am more than ever convinced that Toronto and the mayor have made the right decision. I only hope that Baird and the Tories can be hung out to dry for what they have done.


  23. While we are waiting for the new streetcars the TTC must do their best to maintain some of the fleet that we now have.

    It does us no good if the existing fleet is not maintained properly because we are getting new streetcars in the future…and then the existing fleet starts breaking down faster than we can bring in new streetcars.

    When the new streetcars arrive, I hope to see a portion of the old fleet refurbished and running along streetcar tracks mixed in with the new streetcars – just as we do with the subway cars – for as long as possible.

    I also hope that we can have an ongoing fleet replacement program for our new streetcars so that the fleet can expand, little by little, as demand for public transport continues to grow.

    Sincerely, Moaz Yusuf Ahmad


  24. All the bashing of the Harper government is too damn funny!

    We have a minority government in Ottawa and every single member of the house from Toronto ridings are on the opposition side yet all but dead silence for them. As long as Toronto remains a mail-in vote for the Grits it will never see anything from Ottawa that it “deserves”. The Trudeau, Chretien, Martin eras proved that on a regular basis.

    Regardless “deserves” sounds more like what a petulant child would say, I’d say Toronto is getting what it “deserves”!

    Steve: If Canada were run on your principles, the next time the Liberals are in power, they should just confiscate all of the oil revenue in Alberta as that province is such a bastion of Tory support. People vote for parties because, misguided though they may be, that they will represent their interests. The federal government belongs to everyone, regardless of who may be king-for-a-day.

    In another comment, a reader pointed out that Ottawa has done a lot for Ontario recently to even out inequalities in various programs. Whether this would have happened in a majority government situation is open for debate, but some long-held concerns in this province were being addressed. This happens not because some altruistic member on the government benches says “oh dear, those poor folk from Ontario, we must redress their grievances”, but because Ontarians and their government make lots of noise about funding disparities we suffer. Some call this whining, a term (like “NIMBY”) that is used to dismiss valid argument without debate.


  25. Steve I think the Liberals did try to confiscate the Alberta oil revenues, remember the National Energy Program and Petrocan (aka Pierre Eliot Trudeau Rips Off CANada!).

    Steve: That’s why I suggested a rerun if they refuse to vote Liberal. The idea is just as crazy as shafting Toronto because we vote Liberal and NDP.

    My point is that the Liberal MPs and MPPs from the city seem to forget about Toronto the minute they take their seats (and it appears you missed it). If WE made more noise and turfed some of the less responsive elected officials we could get a fair shake.

    Altruism and politics would make strange bedfellows indeed!

    Steve: No I didn’t miss it. The problem is quite simple. If I decide I don’t think my MP is doing a good job, the options are not too favourable.

    If my MP is an NDP member (in my case, it’s Jack Layton, who doesn’t fit your description), then I can either vote Liberal and allow them to be even more arrogant in ignoring me, or I can completely waste my vote on a Tory. If I am terminally foolish, I would vote Green and let everyone else in the riding decide who was going to represent me.

    If my MP is a Liberal, there’s a chance this person might actually be doing good work (they’re not all a waste of time). Just across the valley from me is Bill Graham’s old riding, now occupied by Bob Rae. Bill was an excellent member of the House greatly respected on all sides. Some Liberals just make up the numbers, and if there’s a chance of the seat shifting to the NDP, well then I would vote NDP. However, if a vote for the NDP effectively hands the seat to the Tories, then I must vote Liberal — the lesser of two evils.

    Altruism has nothing to do with it, and Canadians routinely vote against rather than for parties.


  26. More than ever, the problems with the funding formula makes itself crystal clear… and it will likely be Miller that takes the fall for this, based on most media revolving around the issue.


  27. “They gave McGuinty a whopping $4,300,000,000 (that’s 4.3 Billion, not going to any other province).”

    Untrue. The HST support was requested from Ottawa based on prior support given to Atlantic provinces who had migrated to a HST regime.

    The Wikipedia article on the C-Train notes that Calgary has often accelerated their timelines for LRT expansion – this seems to indicate a transit system that keeps plans ready for available money. Meanwhile, the first TC line is going to be a streetcar to nowhere along Sheppard because there will not be a connection to any other transit line!

    The K-W LRT post is interesting – while the Region claim to be surprised at the local Tory Fed MPs willingness to shovel in dollars (with the Lib MPPs following suit), isn’t it nice when local representatives in higher levels of government take note of projects in their ridings and find ways to get them funded (see also Peterborough) as opposed to George “what streetcars?” Smitherman – and that from a guy some deranged folk think would make a good Mayor of Toronto?


  28. Anything to save Bombardier’s bacon, eh? This deal has been a set-up from the word go. So, let’s just wait to see how many more add-ons will go with this deal in order to make these not-yet-prototyped beasts run on our tracks and under our existing overheard. I see another CLRV/ALRV a-headin’ our way from Thunder Bay even as I write this.


  29. There were a couple of reasons given by the federal government for rejecting funding the streetcars under the stimulus plan.

    1) The streetcars wouldn’t be delivered until after the cut-off date.

    But some of the intitial set-up work has to be done now. Would that sort of work meet the eligibility criteria in terms of being completed before the deadline?

    2) The streetcars would be manufactured in Thunder Bay not Toronto.

    -Would some of that “leak” back to the GTA in terms of suppliers, subcontractors, etc.? If so, there would be some local component to the work.
    -Are there other federal programs-e.g. Regional Economic Development for Northern Ontario- which could help with the initial work? When you add up the vehicles for this order plus the Transit City order and other LRT’s proposed for other municipalities such as Waterloo, Bombardier could be going for some time.

    Steve: The Feds did not explicitly reject the proposed streetcar project, even though they were directly asked, until the last minute. Now, they are trying all sorts of games to make this look as if it was Toronto’s fault while approving projects in other cities that would fail if held to the same criteria as the Toronto application. Counting the development/setup work as a stimulus project, as you suggest, was rejected by Ottawa.


  30. I don’t remember the Martin Liberal minority government funding much in the way of transit in the GTA – nor redressing any program imbalances for that matter. Martin did , OTOH, grant Atlantic provinces rich exemptions on resource revenue with respect to Equalization. The Tories have paid a steep price for redressing some of these things.

    Did Martin help fund a subway? an LRT? No.

    Steve: Martin only provided transit funding when forced into it by the NDP.

    The idea of funding development of the manufacturing site for the LRV only has two problems. First, very little of the up front costs – say during two to three years – are going to be incurred in Thunder Bay (or in Canada.) The engineering and machine tooling is all going to come from Europe. The Canadian content in terms of value will be back-end loaded.

    Second, the contract terms are to pay for delivered, working cars – not the infrastructure to build them.


  31. This article ( shows how Edmonton accelerated its LRT to take advantage of stimulus funding. Bottom line:

    “the $200 million dollar injection over two years increases the annual LRT construction budget by 50 per cent each year and will allow work originally scheduled for 2011-2014 to be substantially completed before it was supposed to start. ”

    Steve: Our problem is that we only have one line — Sheppard East — with a completed EA and substantial progress through detailed design. Timing is everything.


  32. In all the furor over streetcar deal-meeting at the Convention Centre instead of City Hall, brinkmanship regarding stimulus funding infrastructure, signing a deal before all funding is in place-one thing seems to have been ignored. The existing streetcar fleet is on its last legs and something had to be done.

    The options were:

    1) new streetcars
    2) refurbish/rebuild exsiting fleet
    3) replace streetcars with buses (and thus buy more buses because we don’t have enough now)

    Regardless which one was chosen the city would have to pay out some big money.

    If they had chosen to refurbish or replace with buses would they have gotten the same (1/3) subsidy from the province?


  33. Replacing with buses is not an option at all, except maybe on Bathurst. I would mention Lake Shore and Kingston Road, but they don’t have much service to replace anyway.


  34. All routes run on buses when there is trackwork – so it’s not a question of be possible or not. For the $1.2 billion for 204 LRVs, 2400 or so buses could be purchased – larger than the whole of the TTC bus fleet if I recall correctly.

    Steve: Well let’s see. One new streetcar has roughly the capacity of three buses. Although a non-hybrid bus may cost only $500K, the vehicle will have to go through a major overhaul half way through its life at a cost of at least $100K; it will have to be replaced when it is about 18 years old, and that replacement vehicle will itself half a midlife overhaul. That’s an outlay of about $1.2-million per bus, and you need three of them to equal a streetcar, hence $3.6-million.

    Now you have to provide three operators where previously you needed only one. That’s a marginal cost for buses of two operators per shift, and the average vehicle on a streetcar-type route (where the off peak service is fairly frequent) uses two shifts/vehicle. That’s four additional staff at an annual cost of say $300K, and I haven’t even added in weekends and vacation/sick coverage. Over the comparative life, that’s roughly $9-million additional cost for the operators to drive those cheap buses.

    So on the bus side of the ledger we have a capital saving of, say, $2.4-million offset by an added operating cost of $9-million. That leaves a lot over to pay for things like track maintenance.

    This is a rough-and-ready calculation, and all sorts of stuff like a net present value analysis could be done, but the fundamental point is that streetcars have been getting bigger at the same time buses are getting smaller in comparative capacity.


  35. On the LRV side of the ledger, there are also overhaul costs. The current ones get an heavy overhaul every four years. The LRV parts are more specialized – and hence more expensive. During peak hours and at the central part of the route, the LRV will actually be carrying more people.

    However, for the most, the LRV is closer to empty (e.g. the current 501 ALRVs cars are about 1/2 to 1/3 full only by they time they reach Broadview of so Eastbound ). Hence, in real service, you don’t need three buses to replace the 1 new LRV – maybe two or fewer if service is scheduled intelligently.

    Steve: The loading characteristics vary from line to line. Some fall off toward the outer ends, others don’t. Queen is a particular example where the TTC has done a great job of driving away riding through poor service. As for four-year overhauls, that’s not much of a testimonial to the quality of the CLRVs. And, by the way, “overhaul” for the buses includes things like rebuilding/replacing the engine and fairly heavy body work. That is not what happens to a streetcar because it is more robustly built in the first place and the “engine” doesn’t wear out.


  36. I see that Bombardier has put together a website for the new Toronto streetcars ( including a “preliminary concept” drawing of the new vehicles. They look good in the drawing, and I am looking forward to seeing one in person. I just hope they ultimately have more than two passenger entrances per car, which is all they show in the drawing, to make good on the promise of faster loading!

    Steve: Actually, that site is a bit out of date. It was created when they were still bidding for the order. The “preliminary concept” I see there today has four doors although they are not positioned exactly as planned for the new Toronto cars.


  37. I think that we all need to remember the one important lesson that we see everyday, be it a refrigerator, a car or a transit bus. And that is “they don’t build them like they used to”. Longevity is not something that should be assumed with practically anything mechanical today. LRV’s should be no exception.


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