Metrolinx Toys With 3Ps

The Toronto Star reports that Metrolinx is considering the private sector option for delivery of some or all of the Eglinton LRT project.  This is not much of a surprise given that Queen’s Park has an entire Ministry, Infrastructure Ontario, dedicated to building stuff, and their standard delivery model is a partnership with the private sector.

Advocates and opponents of public-private-partnerships often take extreme views that these schemes are either the saviour of government services, or evil works meant to transfer control (and money) of vital projects from public to private hands.  The devil, as they say, is in the details.

Every project the TTC or Metrolinx undertakes has a large private sector component:  engineering, construction, provision of materials.  Delays and cost overruns can arise from poor planning and design, some of it carried out by those same private sector engineers, or from contractors who view changes and delays as a potential source of profit.  They can also come from a client who can’t make up its mind and changes requirements as the project unfolds.

The most recent whipping boy for the ills of publicly managed projects is, of course, the St. Clair reconstruction.  This project began with insensitive and unresponsive public participation, and continued with competing community views of the street and the neighbourhoods along it.  Requirements changed, sometimes at political instigation, while construction was already underway.  Extra utility and street beautification work was merged into the project with at least one agency, Toronto Hydro, unilaterally changing its construction schedules to the detriment of the overall plan.  Works arbitrarily stopped to make way for street festivals.

Suppose for a moment that the project was entirely in private hands.  Would it have proceeded with the original plans, unchanged?  Would the private sector absorb the cost of delays due to other utilities and to political interference, or would they demand extra payment?  Would the project be open to public consultation and amendment as work proceeded, or would the attitude be “this is what we contracted to do, and that’s what we’re building”?

All of this depends on the original contract, on what was specified.  The biggest difficulty with completely outsourcing any work is that an agency must define what is required in detail and with a presumption that a contractor will exploit every loophole.  Moreover, the agency must manage that contract to ensure performance, and political masters must not let the private partner escape from its responsibilities.

The public sector must entertain the very real possibility that the private partner will default or walk away, and will insulate their other operations from penalties through corporate structure.  The original contractor may not even be the long-term owner after a quick-profit flip to another company, possibly offshore and beyond the reach of local governments.

Highway 407 is an embarrassment for the government, but it’s a moneymaker for the new private owner.  Why?  When Mike Harris sold the highway, the goal was simple:  generate cash quickly to pay for the tax goodies that got him elected, and make an attractive deal with an iron-clad guarantee that the buyer had a free hand to set prices.  If you give away control, don’t be surprised with the outcome.  The private sector is in business to make money, not to charitably give you a low cost drive across the GTA.

The biggest public transit PPP fiasco came in London, UK, where a consortium of private companies, including Bombardier, walked away from a £500-million loss.  Taking this loss was cheaper than actually performing the contract to the agreed specifications, but the consortium probably never expected to be held, tightly, to those terms.  A common outcome in this type of difficulty is a quiet renegotiation in which the public sector assumes at least part of the cost a contractor is unwilling to bear.  The very concept of risk-transfer to a private partner is destroyed when this option is available.

Contract details are important.  Vancouver’s Canada line is touted as an example of “doing it the right way”, but even this project has its difficulties.  Construction was planned as a deep bore tunnel (like Eglinton), but the bidder had the option to change the construction method.  They did so, and neighbourhoods endured months of cut-and-cover work where none was planned to occur.  Stations are big enough to hold the trains that operate today, but not for expansion.  Automatic train control will allow close headways, and unmanned operation removes the cost differential for many short trains vs fewer long ones.  However, there are already concerns about future capacity problems on the line.

These are matters of good or bad planning and contract management, functions that stay firmly in the public sector.  If the specifications are too loose, or just plain wrong, then the fault is not in the contractor’s hands.

On Eglinton, the situation is more complex both because the project is already underway and because there are major political overlays to what might otherwise be a purely technical discussion.

The first and obvious question is to ask just what we plan to build.  Queen’s Park, in terror of “Ford Nation” and the provincial Tories, caved in to Mayor Ford’s demand that no surface construction occur.  Metrolinx agreed to this, but they would never have been presented with the option had Ford not won the election and Council’s left been in such chaos early in the first months of their term.  Times have changed, and it is unclear whether, by the time the first tunnel boring machine makes even modest progress across Eglinton, that Mayor Ford will have the support of Council, much less the voters.  Should we commit to a fully underground route through a design-build contract when we don’t actually know if this option will survive close scrutiny for cost and feasibility or Ford’s fall from power?  Should we entrench a short-sighted political decision in a long-term spending commitment?

The next question would be when will we build this line.  The original timeline for Eglinton would have seen it open in 2018.  This was stretched out to 2020 not for technical reasons, but because Queen’s Park wanted to push many of the Transit City costs into the “out years” of the 10-year plan.  Back in May 2010, Metrolinx adopted its “5-in-10” plan to build five projects over the period to 2020, and all of the completion dates moved into the future:

  • Viva:  From 2015 to 2019
  • Sheppart LRT:  From 2014 to 2015
  • Finch West LRT:  From 2015 to 2019
  • Eglinton LRT:  From 2018 to 2020
  • Scarborough RT/LRT:  From 2015 to 2020

Word on the street now has the Eglinton line, by TTC estimates, not opening until as late as 2023.  How much of this delay is caused by the decision to underground all of the line is unclear, but it’s a delay that plays into the “we can do it faster and cheaper” arguments for giving the work to a PPP.  How there can be any knowledge of comparative completion dates when we don’t even know what will actually be built is a mystery.

If the line is designed and built as a turnkey, private project, the next question would be whether it would also be operated independently of the TTC system, or if the TTC as originally planned, would operate the line as Metrolinx’ agent.  Nobody knows what the TTC may have evolved into by 2020 or later, or if it will still exist.  Much depends on the changing political and economic climate of the coming decade.

The TTC has said that it would have no part of a private operation and raises questions about fare collection, systems integration and the provision of replacement service when the Eglinton line is not running.  None of these is a substantive argument provided that these issues are addressed up front as part of any project plan and contract.

The much larger problem is how much all of this will cost, whether we will have proper control over unexpected future increases, and how we will pay for it.

Already in the Presto implementation proposal for Toronto, we see the beginning of a disturbing shift in project funding.  Rather than paying for the system’s implementation from capital (regardless of which level of government foots the bill), the cost will be recovered as a future operating charge against the TTC.  Negotiations have wrestled this down to a level no greater than the current fare collection costs, but the premise is troubling.  Unless Queen’s Park is prepared to treat something like Eglinton as a capital lease, and fund its cost as an ongoing capital subsidy, we could be faced with loading construction costs onto a budget largely funded by riders and by the City of Toronto.

Will this will be a debate on the merits or on ideology?  How will political struggles evolve between Infrastructure Ontario’s ideological bent and the long-standing, if stodgy and wounded TTC’s preference for public sector project management?  Will Queen’s Park ever address funding issues for transit, or simply continue to meddle in processes and plans without actually making a commitment?

I doubt we will hear any robust discussions on these matters from Metrolinx as they are a provincial agency, not an independent, free-thinking body.  A good debate would be interesting and educational, whatever the outcome, but we’re unlikely to have the received wisdom challenged.  In some ways, Queen’s Park can be just a kinder, gentler version of Rob Ford.

Funding of transit expansion in the GTAH will be a powerful, difficult debate in the next year or two as we wrestle with one basic fact:  more money must come from somewhere.  Tolls, taxes, user fees, whatever we call them, it’s net new money.  We can hide the problem by having someone else borrow it for us — a pension fund, or a construction consortium — but we still have to pay for what we build and use.  We must still debate what we really should be building, how will the network operate, where new and future demands will flow, and what’s a good investment for what are, ultimately, public dollars.

Postscript:  Yes, I know, I have not talked about operation, fare integration and all that sort of stuff.  As and when Metrolinx actually addresses integration of GO and TTC fares and travel, I might believe they could figure out how to operate a local service on Eglinton.  As things stand, they care more about saving money on GO and making its results look good than they do about true “regional integration”.

36 thoughts on “Metrolinx Toys With 3Ps

  1. Coming from Vancouver I can definitely say the 3P Canada Line has some issues in regards to the ‘3P’ choices but it is not as dire as some think. The capacity can be more than doubled from the current capacity by running additional trains. The kicker is even though as an automated system additional trains should not cost much as a ‘3P’ Translink needs to pay the ‘3P partner to add extra trains so the trains sit at the yard and conditions are crowded for trains in use. As for future expansion the underground stations have knockout panels to allow future expansion for a 10m ‘C’ train. To me the bigger issue is the station width, the stations are quite narrow and as ridership grows capacity may not be limited by vehicle capacity but station capacity.


  2. Whether any new construction belongs to the TTC does not matter. People want to see concrete being poured and see the new lines completed. Even if I have to pay a $3 surcharge to travel on the extended Sheppard Line or the Eglinton line, it is worth it. It is still cheaper than operating a motor vehicle. Can one put a price tag on avoiding traffic jams?

    On a side note, the construction cannot come soon enough. Try asking Suncor to double its production of oil by 2020. It is not possible. Cameco can double its uranium production in 10 years. Which energy source is more cheaper, safer and dependable?

    Presto should be rolled out as soon as possible. Right now, it is hard to expense token purchase since I have to collect all the receipts. With Presto, I just set the date range and download the data. This makes it easy to submit it for expense. Also, it is much faster and reduces the potential for fare disputes.

    Steve: The delays in construction are Queen’s Park’s doing, not the TTC’s. They didn’t want to spend much money until, at least, after the 2015 provincial election by which time they hoped to have alternate revenue streams like tolls flowing.

    As for Presto, the TTC will see zero change in their cost of fare collection for years. Any “savings” will be used to pay off the Presto debt. That’s like building the Sheppard Subway and hoping to pay for it with savings from not running the 190 Rocket to STC.


  3. It looks like Metrolinx wants to contract the Eglinton line out to Bombardier, and convert it to ICTS.

    Steve: I would not be the slightest bit surprised. They tried to pull this stunt in early days of The Big Move, and there were interventions at rather high political circles to stop this. Now David Miller’s gone, and streetcars are not part of City Hall’s preferred menu, this would be no surprise at all.


  4. Even if Metrolinx somehow manages to get ICTS (probably ART), what would happen to the ordered LRT’s? I’m pretty sure riders would be more happy to have ART (maybe TTC too, since it will be fully automated) but… the LRT cancellation fee, the 3rd rail installation fee, overhead wire order cancellation fee, etc….

    Scrapping out the already-planned and on-going Transit City, building Eglinton LRT all the way underground, for the love of Gandhi! How much of gravy left for us?

    Steve: I am sure Bombardier would be more than happy to let them out of the LRV contract in exchange for a chance to build and operate the Eglinton line. They have wanted to do this for years. As for 3rd rail and overhead, we haven’t even started to dig a tunnel yet, much less order track, wire, substations, etc.


  5. Do you have any information on the environmental assessment that is supposed to be looking at options for the Eglinton LRT to cross the Don Valley. I was surprised to hear this as Toronto council has not yet voted on accepting the MOA negotiated between the Mayor and Premier. I am not happy to hear that any work is going forward on this plan without any debate at council.

    Steve: Metrolinx is supposed to be doing preliminary work leading to a formal Transit Project Assessment next spring. The problem is that unlike the City and TTC (under Miller and Giambrone), I doubt Metrolinx will do a thorough job of public participation and will try to rush through a single option. That’s their style.


  6. “It looks like Metrolinx wants to contract the Eglinton line out to Bombardier, and convert it to ICTS.”

    Would it really be that bad though? It would probably make the bridge over Don Valley easier, an elevated section between Leslie & Warden has always been an interest of mine and surely would make the Scarborough RT conversion much faster…

    Now that I think of it, it sounds totally possible since Metrolinx did say that the P3 partner must have the project COMPLETE by 2020. The only way that could be done is if the Scarborough RT kept the same ICTS technology.

    Interesting times…


  7. First the completion date was 2018, then 2020 and now 2023. Regardless of all the ground breaking ceremonies and photo-ops I find it hard to believe that the Eglinton Crosstown line will ever get built. I will only believe it when the trains are in revenue service. I guess I am very skeptical after Transit City was “cancelled.”

    With a minority government that does not seem keen on spending a lot of money to build this line, hence the reason why they keep stretching out the construction timeline and completion date, I still believe it is likely that the project may not come to fruition. If it is completed at all, it is more likely only a portion of it will be built. The length of the line was already cut once. There is no reason why it cannot happen again. I have no faith in our political bureaucracy to deliver any kind of transit improvements.

    At this point I do not really care what technology they use along Eglinton. HRT, LRT, ART-ICTS. As long as the line gets built. Toronto desperately needs improved transit along a number of corridors. Transit City would have put LRT’s on seven corridors much more cheaply and quickly than the alternatives being considered now but I do not see the point in reversing course now. All we will do is waste more time by constantly going back and forth between different plans, alignments and technology choices. Unfortunately, I am resigned to the position that something is better than nothing. By the look of things, I fear we will end up with nothing once again.


  8. So what will happen to the Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown LRT line and would they still get the Bombardier’s Flexity Freedom. The TTC or Metrolinx still do the project too?

    Steve: At this point, we don’t know because the entire discussion has been behind closed doors.


  9. Have people forgotten that ICTS is hideously unreliable in snowy/icy climates like Toronto winters? And that the SRT isn’t going to be underground?

    What was curious to see when going through the Union Station studies on the Bathurst North satellite station with DRL interceptor concept was that the DRL was shown as using ICTS Mk1 vehicles. Even with 8-car trains (as was in the rendered image), the capacity would still fall short of projections on a 105-second headway by a couple of thousand riders an hour per direction. They’d need at least 10 cars with those toy trains.


  10. The Ontario Provincial government has serious financial problems.

    A down grade is coming , and maybe worse.

    Economic growth is less than 2.0 % of GDP( more or less) since 2008 and yet governement is spending 3.0% plus of GDP( more or less) and shows no sign of decrease or even a freeze.

    Not sustainable.

    Some day in the near future no one will wnat to buy Ontario government debt.



  11. As long as the private partner isn’t allowed to cut corners by for instance shortening platform lengths I support this move. (Assuming that the Sheppard extension is not built I think that the Eglinton line needs to have a maximum capacity equal to the parallel Highway 401, say about 20000 passengers per hour per direction, which requires relatively long trains and grade separation.) Otherwise, I would encourage cost cuts where they make sense. For instance, elevating the line between Leslie and Kennedy (not LRT), cut and cover construction (short term pain in exchange for lower construction costs) and automation of the line. Also I can’t exactly say that the TTC has a terribly good track record in operating the existing subway system, so I have a suspicion that a private operator would do a better job.


  12. @Joseph C: I think that switching to ICTS / ART on Eglinton is not a good idea:

    1) That would seal the need of full grade separation for the whole length of the line, including the future extension from Jane to the airport. While a faster route to the airport is nice to have, the cost of that section (8 km) if fully grade-separate would be at least $2.5 billion. Thus, the risk that it never gets built increases substantially.

    2) If Eglinton gets LRT, it can help future N-S surface light rail lines (for example Kipling, Victoria Park, perhaps Jane) by providing access to carhouses and other facilities. With ICTS / ART on Eglinton, that option will be lost.


  13. The problem is the TTC still owns the SRT portion of the line, so how would that work with Metrolinx owning the rest, or a private operator running it? No interlining? It reminds me of a similar situation in the past where the OMB actually had the authority to force the TTC to build, but not operate, Bay Lower and the now defunct wye.

    I doubt Eglinton will switch to ICTS at this point — the tunnel boring machines are already purchased for large diameter tunnels to accommodate LRT vehicles with overhead. I do question the wisdom of running low-floor vehicles in a high-speed “subway”, whatever the technology. That could lead to safety issues. I saw a nutcase crossing the tracks at Christie station yesterday and can imagine people doing it on the Eglinton LRT if the platforms are at track level.


  14. What I don’t get (and I did notice your postscript Steve) is who is going to pay to operate it if the TTC doesn’t want to/end up running it. Does the province/Metrolinx really want to pay the operating budget of the Eglinton line? That doesn’t make much sense to me – just look at their refusal to increase funding for the TTC as it is.


  15. Coming from Vancouver, I can definitely saw P3 is completely not the way to go. The Canada Line is fantastically convenient, sure, but it’s already over-capacity and the stations are shockingly, just shockingly, tiny. It’s sufficient now but if you’re going to spend literally billions of dollars on transit infrastructure, shouldn’t your capacity far exceed current demand to allow room for expansion? And it’s not like the Lower Mainland is a jurisdiction in any danger of a population growth slowdown. Also, any capacity expansion it has is moot if the cost to pay the private partner to expand is too high. And given the aforementioned tiny size of the stations and the fact they are for the most part completely underground (unlike most of the rest of rapid transit in Vancouver), its future expansion has a very, very hard limit.

    Beyond that, though, the P3 brings in all the potentially higher costs of a fully public project (and I say “potentially” because I don’t necessarily buy that a private venture is always noticeably cheaper than a public one) but with huge losses in transparency and accountability because of the private partner and the structure of the deal. It also made the switch to cut-and-cover tunnelling at the last minute–when everyone along Cambie had been assured the tunnel would be bored–much more easy to accomplish. I’m not saying it wouldn’t have happened if the project was solely a TransLink endeavour but I suspect TransLink would have been more reluctant to face the public outcry that resulted. With the private partner, they had a super-convenient scapegoat and the mystic aura of the “cost savings” that cut-and-cover would provide.

    P3: it’s the worst of both worlds.


  16. @Karl Junkin,

    With a fully underground line (aside from the existing SRT), it wouldn’t matter.

    Also, as if Ford cares about future extendibility.


  17. With a fully underground line (aside from the existing SRT), it wouldn’t matter.

    It has impacts beyond the SRT. There’s the Don Valley crossing, but more importantly there’s the carhouse. Are all trains going to be in underground or at least covered/dry storage? That’d be a big split from existing practice and an added cost.


  18. Is there a case that a company other than Bombardier could object to an untendered change of technology and that essentially the whole line should retendered in a way which gives no advantage to retaining any part of the existing ICTS infrastructure?

    Steve: I am sure there would be kvetching, and the whole idea of going PPP and then having no tender suggests a conflict between the principle of the free market and the convenience of a single proponent with an inside track. It’s worth noting that the Canada Line in Vancouver was not built by Bombardier, although in that case there was no existing infrastructure to be recycled.


  19. Joseph C said about using ICTS on the Eglinton-Crosstown line, “…and surely would make the Scarborough RT conversion much faster…”

    Where did you get that idea from? From what I have heard in the past, conversion to either LRT or Mark-II ART cars of the existing line will take roughly the same time and cost. That negates your point.

    For that same cost (time and money), we have a choice of having the same problems in the winter on the SRT part of the line. Sure, a wholly-underground Eglinton line can still operate with problems on the SRT portion, but don’t forget that a major justification of the wholly-underground Eglinton line is the passenger numbers created by the interlining. We will also be left with a line that is MUCH more expensive to extend, leaving us with little-to-never extensions west of Jane and north-east of STC.


  20. Mr. Ford is not that stupid. There is no precedent in the world for an underground train yard. There is no cost justification for burying a train yard. If one has time, one can use Google Map to take a look at Osaki Station (Tokyo) and Osaka Station. On the most expensive real estate in Asia, even they do not put a train yard underground. Now, Tokyo Metro does have some large pocket tracks underground for train storage.

    In Hong Kong, there are some precedents for covering a train yard. However, that is to put condos over it to make more money. It was not done for beautifying the city. One can see that near Sha Tin.


  21. Car-sharing is going to be quite the trick, given that (as far as I’m aware) Metrolinx has opted for standard track gauge instead of the existing streetcar network’s.

    Steve, has our gravy-hating mayor (or anyone else planning this thing) considered the increased costs of simply operating an underground line? Seems to me that for a system with chronic a chronic operating fund problem, that the maintenance costs of underground stations far exceed those of St Clair-style surface stops. I mean, all of the Crosstown’s 26 (or however many) stations will have at least two escalators, at least one elevator, at least two bathrooms, electricity costs, cleaning costs, plumbing, security cameras… the list goes on. For a city hell-bent on closing tiny zoos for minuscule savings, this is almost willfully hypocritical.


  22. Our utter lack of and demand for more crosstown rapid transit lines in this city makes it necessary for governments to find alternative ways to complete BOTH Sheppard and Eglinton Crosstown lines in the near term. Tolls will never generate enough income to finance both operating and capital costs to take on subway construction.

    If it has to involve private-sector investment, so be it. I think that station design is the most expensive part of the process at $100 million per station average. If a private consortium could pony up $4.2 billion for the approximately 42 new stations involved (19 on Eglinton phase 1, 10 on Shepard phase 1, and an additional 13 stops – 8 to take Eglinton into PIA and 5 to take Sheppard into Malvern Town Centre); then I’d be all for it.

    As for fare structure, commuters are already accustomed to paying double fares for cross-regional travel, so a fare supplement to transfer between Eglinton or Sheppard to the other TTC services isn’t as detrimental as some may think. Lower-income residents who can demonstrate need may even be eligible for discounted fares similar to those given to seniors. I believe that Montreal as such a program wherein their monthly pass for lower-incomes only costs $65.

    Steve: You have more faith than I do in the private sector’s desire/ability to cough up $4-billion. They will only do this if they can expect a reasonable rate of return on their investment.

    As for fares, try telling that story to people who now ride on Eglinton or Sheppard.


  23. If it integrates directly with the GO system… why shouldn’t GO be running it… alter their own funding + they figure out fares between them + the TTC… GO might get away with charging a small increase from TTC to GO or a large up front like $4 if they provided a really nice service… or we pressure them in to making it the same… and they do… where’s the problem?

    Steve: There’s no problem at all. Until now, however, GO has strenuously resisted any proposals to provide integrated fares with the TTC, and the two systems have been planned as if they were on separate planets.


  24. Also, ICTS now has a non-LIM option. So, they could rip out the reaction rail and use ICTS high platform vehicles — snow and ice would no longer be an issue.

    Steve: At which point, it’s a generic, if undersized, subway car. Why not let others bid on it, as in Vancouver, rather than just handing the contract to Bombardier as usual? What ever happened to the benefits of private enterprise and competition we hear so much about?


  25. I think that station design is the most expensive part of the process at $100 million per station average.

    Not even 10 years ago, I would have agreed with this. Today, $100M is clearly too low as demonstrated by TYSSE.

    Steve: To be fair, the TYSSE was lumbered with a desire for architectural excellence and not a few change orders, some of which required major redesigns. Of course a private developer would (a) never “waste” money on beautiful stations unless he was paid to do this and (b) would always get the design right the first time. After that, it’s an extra cost change order when they find streams or hydro pylons that were missed on the site survey, or when politicians want to move the station to suit another agency or developer.


  26. The back-room dealing of Metrolinx and the mayor continues. The main reason for interlining the SRT with the Eglinton line is to increase the ridership so that a private operator will at least look at the line. The costs of putting it all underground basically made it uneconomical for any private operator unless the ridership could be significantly increased. The best way to do that is to take the business away from the TTC’s aging B-D subway. And while they are at it, they’ll create a new bottleneck and capacity issue at Eglinton Station, for which there is no scope and no money in the Eglinton LRT project to fix. That problem and significant expense will be left to the TTC which will take the flak for not keeping up their end in contrast to the shiny new LRT. There will be no money left for the TTC to upgrade and automate its existing subway lines, service cuts will continue, and demands for further privatization and balkanization of the system will follow from the hard-liners on Council and the fed-up public.

    Steve: You sound almost as cynical as I am about Metrolinx.

    As for Andrew’s comment that the TTC has a “terrible track record” of operating the current subway, perhaps he is too young to remember when the subway was relatively new, all the equipment and systems worked well and required minimal maintenance, and investment in keeping up the existing infrastructure wasn’t a dirty word. I can guarantee you that there isn’t a private operator around with any business smarts that would take on the current subway system, as is, and agree to maintain it and operate it without requiring a significant revenue premium to shield it from the risk associated with the aging infrastructure.

    My question to you, Andrew and others who think the same, is where were you when the TTC’s funding was being cut just when the equipment needed investment and renewal? Where were you when private companies were posting record profits year after year, governments posting annual surpluses, and taxes being frozen and cut, but there was, apparently no money available to invest in and renew an aging transit system? Now, it seems to be easier (and more fun) to just blame the employees or the unions or the management for the state of the system, rather than for us all to look in the mirror. Even the mayor’s efficiency review of the TTC stated that the organization has continuously directed scarce funds to the provision of service, rather than to the upgrading of the support systems which would have increased administrative efficiency. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

    Yes, the TTC is often its own worst enemy, but historically, it has built subways on time and on budget, and the newest line, Sheppard, as short as it is, seldom suffers delays due to “switches” or “mechanical problems” like the older subway lines do. The TTC was already designing the Eglinton line to be fully automated, including fare collection, and was moving in that direction for the existing subways too, but it is not as simple as just deciding one morning to let the trains drive themselves. It takes time, new equipment and money, all of which continue to be in short supply, yet the organization is labelled as “obstructionist” and “stuck in the past”, is even accused of pandering to the union to stop automation, which is patently ridiculous.

    But, by all means, let some unknown private operator come in, build a shiny new line, operate it while it’s easy, steal the riders away from the public system which will have to share its revenue to force the new line to be profitable at the expense of the TTC, and then claim how great a success privatization is, and how awful the public system continues to be in comparison.

    The single best feature of the TTC is the full integration of the entire system — it is the one thing that transit experts from all over the world continue to come here to see how it’s done. And now we have the municipal and provincial governments conspiring to take it apart, piece by piece. And it looks like the people of this city will just let it happen because it is selfishly expedient in the short-term to do it. Public service and human labour is devalued now because the official long-term vision for the city is defined solely in terms of the amount of money each taxpayer will get to keep so they can have that latest new iPhone as soon as it hits the market. I simply don’t know how to fight this insidiousness anymore. And I don’t hold out a lot of hope that there is anyone on Council who has the smarts and the passion to reveal this shell game for what it is, a ruse to undermine public transit and sell it off to the highest bidder. After all, as Mark Towhey said, all transit should be private and if you can’t afford a taxi, then you should get to know your neighbour and bum a ride from them. Such is the new transit policy for Toronto.

    P.S. Why are property taxes going up by 2.5% in 2012 if total expenses are decreasing by $50 million, as Ford is bragging? Another ruse?

    Steve: Taxes are only one of many sources of income that the city has. Total expenses may be down (and some of that’s an accounting trick anyhow), but if some of the revenue sources are down even more, then taxes go up to balance.


  27. And while they are at it, they’ll create a new bottleneck and capacity issue at Eglinton Station, for which there is no scope and no money in the Eglinton LRT project to fix.

    If only the problem were as simple as a single transfer station. The situation is actually far worse as there is a very major capacity crunch flying under the radar in this scheme.

    It is fairly well-known that at Wellesley, the Yonge Subway is cracking 30K/hr southbound in the morning. What people are less aware of that at Rosedale the same subway is carrying 28K/hr in the morning southbound.

    To state the obvious, Bloor picks up way more than 2,000/hr southbound in the morning. 15,000 would be more like it. This accommodated because there is a very substantial volume of passengers (around 10,000 in the peak hour?) that get off the southbound trains, a good number of which head west along Bloor.

    Yonge is able to cope because Bloor offers a “trade” of riders in a sense, and this prevents the subway from being overloaded. However, if Bloor is being substantially alleviated in the east by Eglinton, the new ridership patterns would almost certainly ensure that the Eg-Bloor stretch has higher ridership than the Bloor-Dundas stretch. Something to the tune of 35K/hr southbound at Rosedale.

    The system can’t realistically handle this imbalance. Even with all the expansion measures in place, and assuming they work in practice as on paper, the system is still close to the edge.

    Steve: Meanwhile, those who think that the drop in riding on Bloor thanks to an Eglinton line is a benefit are deluded because the effect primarily occurs on the Danforth (east) leg, and the drop to the west is lower. Therefore the amount of service that can be removed (or avoided) on BD is less than the diversion quantity would imply because the same level of service must operate over the entire line. The demand projections in The Big Move, by the way, included a DRL to bleed the BD line although I am told by Metrolinx that more recent simulations for the Eglinton project do not include this component.

    In any event, all of this deserves thorough and public airing. The TTC appears to be backing off its position that the Yonge line can somehow be made to carry over 50K/hour, and this has all sorts of spin-off effects in plans elsewhere.


  28. Benny Cheung said:

    There is no precedent in the world for an underground train yard. There is no cost justification for burying a train yard.

    Among other places, Singapore’s City Circle Line has a fully underground train yard. I believe that their Downtown Line is also going to have a fully underground train yard, as will other future lines.

    Cheers, Moaz


  29. Michael says:

    “For a city hell-bent on closing tiny zoos for minuscule savings, this is almost willfully hypocritical.”

    Almost? It is hypocritical. Ford never cared about wasteful spending. He cares about reducing the size of government.

    Steve: And even that he does not understand (at least chooses not to publicly). He rails on about the lack of staff consolidation after the megacity was created, but forgets that many services were already amalgamated (police, TTC, and others) under the old Metro government. Other services (fire for one) didn’t have a lot of overlap and there was already an informal arrangement for the old city forces to cover off for each other across boundaries. The big jump in TTC staffing was a direct result of recovery from the 90’s recession and Mike Harris, plus a decision to improve service quality and attract more riders. That’s not gravy.


  30. I don’t necessarily think ICTS is a foregone conclusion despite what Metrolinx might want to do because of the minority government. Look at how the details play out:

    1) The provincial government’s paying the freight on the Eglinton line and burying it at huge, unnecessary expense to keep the mayor of Toronto happy.
    2) The leftover money’s being given to the mayor of Toronto to spend on an ill-conceived subway extension.
    3) If Metrolinx goes to some kind of arrangement where the Eglinton line becomes an ICTS, it for all intents and purposes becomes more of the same of the Scarborough RT, which is already a well known costly technological basketcase. ICTS only exists in a handful of installations around the world vs. hundreds (thousands?) of LRT lines that don’t have expensive technical problems or maintenance requirements unique to ICTS.

    I don’t think any of those three points would go over well with opposition MPPs, especially those representing ridings outside of Toronto, particularly if they started receiving letters starting out with “Dear MPP, would you like to know how Dalton McGuinty’s agency Metrolinx is wasting $8 billion of taxpayer money in Toronto?” or words to that effect.


  31. We should clarify underground train yards. Yes there are many places in the world where underground tracks are built to store trains for service. However, many of them do not perform major functions like body overhauls or bogie replacements. New York has an underground yard for storing trains at 134 Street (from memory) for their Line 1 service.

    A typical train yard for 1 metro line requires about 4 acres of space. The Tokyo Ginza Line metro trains are stored at the Ueno Kenshaku. 2 acres are above ground and 2 acres are below ground. Before the Nakano yard came into service, functions like body overhauls are performed at the above ground facilities. It make sense since hoisting a train body upwards require more space. Digging 2 acres is already expensive, digging 2 acres with a 3 meter high ceiling is even more expensive.

    This is why I say Rob Ford is not that stupid. Even if the yard is used only to store trains, he would still have to build above ground access so that the new trams can be trucked to Greenwood yard for major overhauls. Also, unless the people at Eglinton can endure cut and cover construction for an underground train yard, boring 4 acres of space will bankrupt the city for a long time. For comparison, the NORAD command at Cheyenne Mountain covers about 4.5 acres of area. It took about 5 years of boring to built. Do we really have 5 years just for a train yard?


  32. One of my concerns about any 3P arrangement is how it will influence the layout of Kennedy station. If for example a rider who travels to Yonge from STC is considered to be more “valuable” than one who only goes to Kennedy from STC and then transfers to the BD line, it might give incentive to make the transfer at Kennedy station as inconvenient as possible to discourage it.


  33. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought that the yard was going to be on the old Kodak lands east of Weston? That’s the rumbling I’ve heard from several activist folk who should know, and from the information meeting held at York Civic Centre earlier this year. Or (like so many other things with this project) has this been quietly changed without public consultation? And would it be terribly dependent on the burying of the line to Weston and Jane (if the line goes there at all)?

    Steve: You are correct, the yard will be on the Kodak lands. However, the grades in the area as well as the physical layout of the rail corridor, bridges and retaining walls make each possible alignment a challenge depending on whether you are in the middle of the road or off to one side, and at what level vertically. The road goes under the railway at a level below the embankment on the north side, but a north side alignment cannot stay on the surface because it would have to cross the railway at grade. The next problem is the alignment west of the rail corridor, the design of Weston Station, and the effect all of this has on surrounding buildings.


  34. For fully underground lines with no surface connection, look at the Waterloo and City line in London, Eng., and the Subway in Glasgow.

    Both operated for years (around a century?) with no direct connection to the shops. The Glasgow line had no switches at all — just 2 circles of track. They used to use cranes or similar to get cars up to the shed. It now has a track connection to the maintenance depot.

    The W&C had crossovers and a 7 track storage/maintenance yard. Cars were raised on an elevator to the main line.


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