Yesterday, I was interviewed on CIUT about the TTC’s Capital Budget, and was on the air right after TTC Chair Adam Giambrone. An issue raised for both of us was my claim that the TTC has just discovered that it has nearly a billion dollars worth of projects that are not only “below the line” (unfunded) but not even in the budget.
(See the previous article in this series, and scroll down to Surprise Projects.)
Giambrone replied that, yes, the TTC knew about these costs and they were in the budget. Well, no, they are not. I spent a few hours this morning combing through the budget books, again, checking on these and other items.
Resignalling the Subway and Converting to Automatic Train Control / Operation
There is a project for the Yonge-University-Spadina subway including provision for ATO gear in the Toronto Rocket trains now on order (the TTC forgot to include it in the base specification). The estimated cost of the project is $342-million with a 2019 completion date.
There is, however, nothing in the budget for resignalling the Bloor-Danforth line, nor for retrofitting ATO to the T-1 fleet that will, by the time this happens, be the only trains on the BD line. The BD line will be 50 years old in 2016 and, according to the TTC’s view of signal system longevity, be up for a complete retrofit. Why has this not been included in the budget?
Purchase of Subway Cars
Tracking down the money for new subway cars can be tricky because it’s salted away in various budgets. The budget includes:
- Provision for replacing all of the H-series cars with 60 new trainsets. 39 of these are already on order, and the TTC must exercise a followup option for the remaining 21 by mid-2010.
- Provision for cars for the Spadina subway extension. Funding for 9 trainsets is included in the extension project’s budget.
- Provision for cars for the Richmond Hill subway extension. The project estimate includes 12 trainsets plus additional yard space to support them. This is a “below the line” project because it has no funding yet.
However, the TTC has finally accepted, internally at least, that they cannot count the 10% additional capacity of the TR trains twice in their estimates — once as additional line capacity and once as an opportunity to downsize the fleet. That’s what they actually do in both last year’s and this year’s fleet plans. Correcting for this will require 7 trains (plus a spare), but there is no budget for this purchase, nor for the yard expansion, power, etc., needed to store the additional trains.
Ontario’s legislation regarding accessibility requires a number of changes on the TTC. These fall broadly into two categories — IT systems (including those used only internally), and various on-board features and signage. There is about $100-million already in the budget for these items, and I cannot help wondering why another $100m is included in the list of “additional needs” from the TTC’s budget presentation. In any event, the $100m budget breaks down like this:
- IT Systems: $60m
- Buses: $0.75m
- Wheeltrans: $4.36m (signs and location calling devices)
- SRT: $0.58m
- Streetcars: $15m
- Subways: $22m
All of the streetcar fleet, the SRT fleet and much of the subway fleet will be replaced over the coming decade, and will have all of the necessary changes built into the new cars. There is no legal requirement to retrofit equipment that will be retired soon.
Many of the TTC’s IT systems are getting long in the tooth and there is a substantial budget for their upgrade and replacement. Accessibility features should be built into new systems rather than being grafted, probably at great difficulty for older applications, onto systems scheduled for replacement.
In this case, the TTC may have actually overstated their requirements.
These are the big items the TTC has flagged, but without question there will be many small ones. The TTC does everyone no favours with major omissions like this. New signals, new cars, accessibility are all things we will need within the 10-year budget window. When they suddenly appear as “necessary state of good repair” or “safety” or “legislated requirements”, they will elbow aside other needed projects possibly including some system expansion.
If we don’t know the size of the budget problem, we can’t plan for it, and we can’t intelligently discuss alternate ways to finance it.
Not long ago, the TTC’s capital needs for ongoing maintenance were $400-million a year, and they are now up to a billion. Part of the problem is that many deferred items, notably the need for new vehicles, have all piled up into current spending for the next few years.
We can sweep these problems “below the line”, but they won’t go away.
“All of the streetcar fleet, the SRT fleet and much of the subway fleet will be replaced over the coming decade”
Again, it seems the Sheppard line, and its shorter trains, are treated is if they don’t exist. I suppose the simple answer would be that the TTC would order 4 or 5 shorter trainsets when the time comes, but that would make too much sense.
Steve: The Sheppard line uses T1’s and is part of the “BD” fleet for planning purposes. These cars are not due for replacement until 2026.
The reason for all this cash and why the capital budget for State of Good of Repair has jumped is because of the large amount of vehicles that need to be replaced.
It isn’t so much that but the existing vehicles are not wheelchair accessible and we are on a tight schedule to have it accessible by 2025.
They could have rebuilt the streetcars for only 200 MILLION but they had to be replaced which I respect that because the streetcars are not accessible and they couldn’t be converted into wheelchair accessible streetcars.
The H6 and T1 will be replaced at their end of life since they are more expensive to maintain than the new articulated Toronto Rocket Trains.
But the new buses could receive life extensions since they now have a much better steel body than the older ones where they rapidly rusted such as the old Orion Ikarus Artics.
Steve: You are not entirely correct.
Another source of spending on state of good repair is the age of old systems. For example, the resignalling of the YUS is “state of good repair”, and other ongoing structural maintenance falls into the same category. The stuff we built in the 50s, 60s and 70s is wearing out, and this drives up SOGR spending to a higher level than during the era when we were building.
The H6 trains are being replaced at the 25-year mark rather than going to 30 because (a) the TTC claims that they will save money on maintenance and (b) they are getting a low price on an add-on order of TR trains (roughly $15-million per trainset). Without that attractive price, the economics of early replacement would not work out quite so well.
The T1 trains were supposed to be much more reliable than the equipment they replaced, and in turn the TTC claims that the TR’s will be even better. There is a point at which this is simply not credible, particularly when the TTC always replaces trains on a 1:1 basis with no allowance for any reduction in spare requirements. In any event, the T1 trains will not hit 30 years until 2026, and there is nothing in the current 10-year budget to replace them sooner.
I suspect that some CLRVs may hang around a bit longer than planned unless the TTC extends the new streetcar order. It has some provision for growth, but there is already a backlog of service requirement. (I will turn to this in a separate post about streetcar fleet planning.)
On the bus fleet, the TTC has dropped the mid-life overhaul for new buses “below the line”. This is an accounting trick to make the cost disappear, but it also means that there is a lurking expense that has to come back “above the line” while the “new” buses can still be rebuilt.
With all of the budget short falls plus the looming provincial deficit and debt how can “THEY” justify the billions of dollars required to build the Spadina extension to York U and Vaughan plus the Yonge extension to Richmond Hill. I fear that there is going to be such a backlash to the debt that the Regressive Conservatives will get in and cancel all transit spending like Harris did.
Steve: The money is already committed for the line to Vaughan, but not a penny for Richmond Hill. It’s worth noting that the idea of these subways originated in an area noted for its Tory voters who will probably want vastly improved transit with a single TTC fare ride to downtown but won’t want to pay for it.
By the way, the projected additional TTC subsidy required to open the Spadina line is $14-million per year. That is operating cost net of additional fare revenue. This info is buried in the Capital Budget.
The subway to York University (Vaughn) which has been funded by the Government of Ontario is protected meaning that the money spent on that project will NOT GO BACK TO ANY FUTURE GOVERNMENTS.
Considering the fact that Construction will be probably be much closer to completion than the Eglinton West Subway.
Steve: I hate to break the illusion, but 1/3 of the cost of the TYSSE is being paid by the City of Toronto and York Region roughly proportionately to the length of the line in each city. There is money from Ottawa, Queen’s Park and the cities all sitting in trust to build the line.
The projected operating loss for the line is $14-million annually, and that will come out of the TTC operating budget of which about 70% is paid by fares. York Region won’t contribute a dime.
I’m with Robert here. Although the money for specific extensions might well be safe, we need to build a network. All we need is another hack-and-slash conservative to get elected provincially, and we might not be able to turn the clock back.
“1/3 of the cost of the TYSSE is being paid by the City of Toronto and York Region roughly proportionately to the length of the line in each city. There is money from Ottawa, Queen’s Park and the cities all sitting in trust to build the line.” – not to mention that the grants from higher levels are fixed so in the event the line comes in overbudget due to construction or scheduling issues who’s going to pick up the tab?
Steve: This has been the subject of discussion at the TTC and City. The TTC is wrestling with cost overruns caused by problems such as unexpected site conditions, additional design requirements for stations and higher than anticipated inflation in construction cost estimates. At this point, the changes are within the contingency provision of the overall project, but what might happen if they overshoot is not yet known.
I suspect that there will be no subway conversion on Eglinton, since they can effectively accomplish the same thing just by running even longer LRT trains. Extending the platforms would surely be cheaper than both raising them and adding a third rail.
Steve: You and I, plus many others who actually understand the likely evolution of demand on Eglinton, say the same thing. However, there is a strong push that if we build a tunnel, it be able to take a subway “some day”. At least nobody is asking us to make provision for four tracks with local and express operation. At least not yet.
Steve said: The money is already committed for the line to Vaughan, but not a penny for Richmond Hill. It’s worth noting that the idea of these subways originated in an area noted for its Tory voters who will probably want vastly improved transit with a single TTC fare ride to downtown but won’t want to pay for it.
Better check your maps, Steve: federally, the Thornhill riding (which has the York part of TYSSE as well as the majority of the Richmond Hill extension may have voted Tory in 2008, but prior to that it was Eleanor Caplan’s riding for a long, long time; the Richmond Hill riding has long been Bryon Wilfert’s and of course the Vaughan riding is Maurizio Bevilacqua’s (and previously, John MacCallum’s).
I don’t think that any Tory voters in the 905 for the Common (non)Sense Revolution of 1995 wanted transit unless it was a free car. They were the ones who cut the TTC’s provincial subsidy, after all.