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.