Transit City: Half a Loaf? (Update 4)

Today, May 17, 2010, Metrolinx CEO Rob Prichard addressed the Toronto Board of Trade with an overview of plans for Transit City projects.  The presentation slides are available on the Metrolinx website.

The final transcript version of the accompanying speech is also available online.

Updated May 18 at 6:20pm : An updated version of the Metrolinx plan is now online.  This includes more information about the staging and cash flows for each of the five projects, and confirmation that Metrolinx will be ordering 182 LRVs for the four Transit City lines.

Queen’s Park announced the Ontario Budget in March 2010 including a $4-billion cut to the short-term funding for the “Big 5” Metrolinx projects — VIVA BRT, Sheppard East LRT, Eglinton LRT, Finch West LRT, and Scarborough RT to LRT conversion and extension.  This triggered a vigorous debate between Provincial and Municipal politicians about the real effect of the cut and the true extent of Provincial commitment to transit funding.

The primary concern at Queen’s Park is constraining the growth of the Provincial debt.  In the short term, the Metrolinx projects were seen as easy to shift into future years, beyond the point where debt would be a problem.  However, in political circles, deferral can mean outright cancellation especially if the government changes or another portfolio takes precedence for spending.

Only half of Transit City has any funding commitment to date, and now half of that commitment is in question.  Where does this leave the plan and, more generally, the growth of a robust transit network in the GTA?

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More Toronto Rockets for the TTC

At its meeting on May 6, the TTC approved two add-on orders of Toronto Rocket subway cars.

  • 21 6-car trainsets to replace the H-6 fleet
  • 10 6-car trainsets to provision the Spadina subway extension to Vaughan

The unit cost of the first 21 sets is approximately $15.1-million, while the remaining 10 will cost about $16.3-million each.

These orders will follow the current TR car production at Bombardier’s Thunder Bay plant allowing continuous production at a lower price than if a small Spadina-only order were to be placed closer to the opening date in 2015.

Once these trainsets are delivered, the Yonge-University-Spadina line will operate entirely with TR trains, and the T1 fleet will be shifted to the Bloor-Danforth line.  (The Sheppard line will continue to use T1 equipment that will likely be stored on the YUS, but serviced at Greenwood Carhouse.)

The TTC’s subway fleet plan, presented as part of the 2010-2014 Capital Budget, foresees an eventual fleet of 69 trains on the YUS calculated as follows:

  • Existing service is 48 trains (T1 equivalent)
  • Add 3 for extension of the short-turn operation to Glencairn
  • Add 5 for growth and closer headways with Automated Train Operation (ATO)
  • Add 9 for extension of the short-turn operation to Wilson (when the Vaughan extension opens)
  • Add 1 for growth in each of 2019 and 2020

This gives a total of 67 “T1” equivalent trains.  At this point, the calculation gets a bit murky, but the outcome is roughly the same.  The TTC deducts the extra capacity of the TR trainsets to reduce train requirements by 7, although this very capacity bump is often mentioned as one of the reasons for buying the TRs in the first place.  However, additional effective capacity will be available through the implementation of ATO.

The TTC talks about this in terms of station dwell time, but I believe this is a red herring.  Passenger loading times have nothing to do with ATO.  What will be possible, however, is for trains to operate at a higher speed on those parts of the line where stations are further apart, and this will not require complete re-engineering of the signal system as would have been the case for the existing block signals.  Faster trips mean that the same number of trains can operate on a shorter headway and, thereby, increase capacity.

After allowing for spares at 13%, the total fleet requirement is 69 trainsets and this is the combined size of the three TR orders now on the books.