The Metrolinx Board will meet on June 29. This article is a preview of the agenda, and I will report on the meeting itself later in the week.
Among the items of interest:
The line would run south on Morningside from Sheppard and terminate at one of three options available:
- The Aquatic Centre
- The main UTSC campus
- Centennial College campus
Because UTSC has a master plan that conflicts with the approved Scarborough-Malvern LRT alignment in its Environmental Assessment, the cost of the extension is about 10% higher than originally thought. One might ask why the EA didn’t take UTSC’s master plan into account.
New funding for this extension would be required, and this could not be justified for a two-week event. However, building this connection will provide an eastern anchor for the Sheppard LRT and connections to other services focussed on the UTSC campus.
This would make a nice pre-election goody in the 2011 budget.
Four Benefits Case Analyses have come forward for approval:
- Dundas BRT
- Hurontario LRT
- Durham-Scarborough BRT
- GO Stouffville Full Service
In addition to the report linked above, there is a presentation deck in pdf format.
For some time I have been planning to comment on the Metrolinx BCA methodology, but other things have distracted me from this (and many other) task.
Three major complaints I would make about the process are that:
- The BCAs treat the economic activity of building a new line as a benefit, but do not consider this in relation to what might be generated by another project. In effect, expensive projects are rewarded with higher standings on this count than cheap ones.
- The BCAs treat the monetized value of avoided auto trips at a fully-allocated price per kilometre rather than a marginal cost. Early BCAs used the marginal cost and, therefore, presumed that trips diverted to transit would save only the cost of operating an existing vehicle for the full distance of a commute, not that they would eliminate the cost of the vehicle. However, much of the GO/Metrolinx plan presumes that people will still make a car trip to reach transit, and therefore the cost of owning the car will not be avoided for all of the new transit riders.
- The BCAs look at projects in isolation rather than considering the combined effect of multiple implementations. The best-known example of this is the trio of Richmond Hill GO and Subway projects as well as the Downtown Relief Line and capacity expansion on the existing subway system. These must be reviewed as a package, not in isolation. In the case of the two Mississauga services reviewed here, it is obvious that a Mississauga LRT network would have an economy of scale — only one shops and carhouse, not two — if both the Dundas and Hurontario lines were built as LRT. There would also be routing options for service using both of the routes depending on demand patterns.
Metrolinx has come to recognize, like many outside of the organization, that The Big Move was a good first step, but even when it was published it needed work, and leaving a review for a full five-year cycle is impractical. Many factors including the economy, a recognition that some of TBM’s assumptions were faulty (for starters, a demand model unconstrained by the inherent capacity of network elements), and the need to integrate GO Transit’s own 2020 plan lead to a need for reworking “TBM 1.0”.
Metrolinx will launch a “2.0” version with a draft version this fall and a final version in late 2012. This work ties in with the need for a funding mechanism that actually matches the level of spending Ontario needs to provide if we are to achieve the hoped-for modal shift from auto to transit travel.
Consultations on TBM 2.0 are planned following release of the draft.
I hope that there will be a better understanding of the options available in producing a regional plan, and a realistic appreciation of the cost of diverting trips to transit over coming decades. Also, this time around, transit advocates might be regarded as potential allies rather than as enemies to be neutralized.
A related report to TBM 2.0 talks about prioritization of projects. Despite all the fine words in Move Ontario, GO 2020, and other pronouncements, it is clear we cannot build everything at once. A mechanism to prioritize is needed.
However, what bothers me is that this could become a de facto way to delay projects indefinitely, or prevent their even getting into TBM 2.0 just as many projects in early drafts of TBM 1.0 never saw the light of day in the public reports. If we are to rewrite TBM, we need to know what has fallen off of the table, what we have conciously decided not to build because, it will be claimed, we cannot afford it. Those decisions should not be taken as a prelude to publishing a draft plan, or at a minimum, the “nice things we can’t afford” list should be an appendix to the draft so that everyone can debate what’s in and what’s out.
The appendices to the report show clearly how GO and Metrolinx have their own set of projects. Some of these are common to both plans, but many GO projects are system expansions (additional tracks, for example) that would not show up in capital planning for TBM. Similarly, the TTC has a huge capital budget for maintenance and replacement of older equipment and plant. These projects compete with new builds for money at all levels, and too often, the prioritization exercises forget that keeping the wheels turning and the lights on is an integral part of running a transit network.
Metrolinx recognizes that “State of Good Repair” takes priority, but it will be interesting to see how they weave this into their overall plans. In particular, one must ask why SOGR on GO should be able to compete for funding on a Metrolinx list when even larger TTC projects go begging. Regional planning should include regional capital planning regardless of who operates the service. Even if Queen’s Park on contributes part of the cost, that’s money from provincial revenues than could be crowded out by a shiny new project, or GO’s special relationship as an operator within Metrolinx.
This report is an overview of the current status of the process, and it’s already out of date. For full information, please go to the Electrification mini-site. That site includes the recent Technology Assessment report that was discussed at a few recent public meetings. I will comment on that report elsewhere, but in brief, find that it is a level-headed document giving a realistic view of what is and is not possible with various real and hypothetical rail propulsion technologies given the corridors to be operated and the service designs proposed.