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.