Queen 501 Operational Review

The supplementary agenda for January’s TTC meeting includes a report on the various experiments with Queen car operations.  Unsurprisingly, it concludes that the split route operation was an abject failure, and recommends that the “step forward” crewing technique be formally implemented on the route during periods when the line is subject to disruption.  This scheme keeps operators on time but allows vehicles to continue without short turning.

I will not comment in detail on this report until after the Commission meeting and any discussions there.  At this point, I am still waiting for vehicle monitoring data for October and November 2009 so that I can perform a detailed analysis of the split and “normal” operations.

Because this report deals only with the various operational models actually tried to date, there is no discussion of alternative route structures such as splitting off the 507 in some form as a dedicated Long Branch service.  I suspect that any mention of this would trigger a “we tried to split the route and it didn’t work” response even though the Dufferin/Broadview split was a completely different design than, say, a 507 service to Dundas West Station.

This post will be updated with further comments or information when available.

Starting Finch West LRT Construction in 2010

At the December 2009 TTC meeting, a question arose about the proposed delay of the Finch West construction to 2011 when so many projects serving the east end were to be accelerated in the name of the Pan Am Games.

TTC staff explained that Metrolinx had wanted to defer the Finch West start date, but this didn’t sit well with the Commission.  A report on the situation is on the TTC agenda for January.  This report makes three important points.

  1. Some preliminary construction work for bridge widening at the West Don River (east of Dufferin) and the Humber River (at Islington) is possible in 2010 subject to funding.  Property acquisition is another task that can be undertaken early in the project.
  2. Metrolinx wants the Finch West project to be handled as Design-Build-Finance (DBF) where a bidder accepts responsibility not just for constructing a line, but for a substantial part of the design work and project financing.
  3. The TTC wants to keep some of the project in house (notably the junctions between the Finch LRT and the YUS at Finch and Finch West Stations).

The TTC and Metrolinx have exchanged letters (Appendices A and B in the report), and I am intrigued to see that Metrolinx is worried about cash flow if work planned for 2011 is brought forward.

The FY 2010/11 budget for Finch West assumed continuing preliminary engineering, real estate acquisition and some early utility relocation activities to clear the way for the design-build contractor, but no major construction activities.


… our overall funding and cash flow assumptions may not allow advancing some construction activities to 2010.

It’s amusing to see that even Metrolinx, an agency that once talked of multi-billion dollar plans as if money grew on trees (or rather the money that would come from “Alternate Financing” sources), is now worrying about cash flow just like every other government.  The problem here is that the bridges are already City property, and Metrolinx cannot wish away the cost of widening them as an accounting trick where the infrastructure is held as a long term asset by Queen’s Park rather than paying for the widening as a current expense.

As for the method of tendering and managing construction at the two subway interfaces, the TTC appears unhappy with giving away control of this work.  At Finch West, this would really make sense if the station and the LRT interface were to be tendered as one piece of work within the subway extension project.

The station design is included in the printed agenda distributed to the media last week as item 2b, but it is not included online.  At this point, the design shows only a proposed connection between the two stations.

The desire for control at Finch Station no doubt relates to underground construction around the existing subway station.  However, as I have discussed elsewhere, there is still good reason to rethink the placement of Yonge Station on the Finch line, and a final decision about who will actually manage this part of the project is not needed immediately.

From a political point of view, the TTC and City are more than a little miffed that Metrolinx is suffling the construction schedules around.  To a point, I sympathize, but only in that these events show just how constrained Metrolinx is by the money Queen’s Park is making available.  AFP was supposed to solve this financing problem, but clearly Metrolinx plans are in the same cash flow straightjacket as the TTC’s.

What will this mean for the future of transit expansion in the GTA?  Are we back to “everybody loves transit, but nobody wants to pay for it”?

TTC staff will brief the Commission on their discussions with Metrolinx at the January 20 meeting, and I will update this post with any additional info when it is available.