TTC v. Metrolinx (Again): Who’s In Charge Here? (Update 2)

Updated June 8, 2012 at 11:00am:  My comments about the Commission’s action appear in an article on the Torontoist website.

Updated June 1, 2012 at 9:15am:  The motions passed at the TTC meeting of May 30 have been added at the end of this article.  The Commission took a much more conciliatory view of their relationship with Metrolinx than the staff report.  I will be writing about this situation in a separate article.

The original May 29 article follows below.

The Supplementary Agenda for the May 30, 2012 TTC meeting includes a report “LRT Projects in Toronto — Project Delivery”.

This report deals with the proposed transfer of responsibility for the Transit City LRT projects on Eglinton, Sheppard, Finch and the SRT replacement from the TTC to Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario.

As TTC reports go, this one is rather oddly worded in that it:

  • asks the Commission to “note” a number of factors,
  • requests that provincial agencies respond to various issues,
  • sets an October 31, 2012 deadline for the transfer of project control, and
  • proposes that the TTC’s own staff now dedicated to the LRT projects be redeployed internally.

In effect, the TTC is taking their ball and going home rather than play with the guys from down the block.  This suggests a strained relationship between agencies notwithstanding the soothing words we hear so often, and a sense that a fed up TTC is telling Queen’s Park to get lost.

From a purely political and administrative point of view, Queen’s Park holds all the cards because they are paying almost the entire cost (with a small Ottawa contribution to Sheppard) for these projects.  It’s their money, and they get to say how it will be spent.  Whether it will be spent wisely, and how the projects might fare with the TTC on the sidelines, these are questions that won’t be answered for years until we see the results.

It is ironic that future transit revenue streams such as a regional sales tax or some form of auto-based levy should, in fairness, be administered by a regional political entity, not by Queen’s Park, but the foot-dragging on an “Investment Strategy” leaves us with Queen’s Park paying the bills and dictating how the projects will be run.  After seizing control, ceding it back to regional politicians will not be an easy step.

Metrolinx has been using TTC’s engineering staff to support the LRT (and, briefly, subway) project planning and early design together with consultants under TTC’s direction.  TTC had expected to have some degree of overall project responsibility, but this now is likely to shift to Metrolinx and/or Infrastructure Ontario.  Although the legislative authority for Metrolinx and IO to run the show has been in place for years, Metrolinx chose to use the TTC as its agent, at least until now.  By joint agreement, the agencies formed:

… a separate organization within the TTC dedicated to the LRT program with an integrated team of TTC, Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario staff and consultants led by the Program Manager acceptable to both Metrolinx and the TTC.

In 2010 the draft Metrolinx-TTC-City of Toronto Master Agreement defined the roles and responsibilities of each of the parties and formalized the project governance based on TTC program management of the delivery of the LRT projects. TTC and Metrolinx agreed that this approach to project delivery would satisfy the Metrolinx role as owner while continuing the momentum and progress on project delivery achieved by TTC. (Page 3)

Various schemes were to be used for different types of work, and the acronyms can be confusing.

  • DBB (Design Bid Build) In this process the design work is done by consultants working for the TTC and the work with complete specifications is tendered.  A construction company builds the work under supervision by the TTC or its agents.  The process is described in more detail on page 6.
  • DB (Design Build) In this process the design work is done only to about 30% by TTC consultants.  The remainder of the design and the construction are tendered.  For some major subsystems such as signals, the design is done entirely by the winning bidder.
  • DBFM (Design Build Finance Maintain) This process, also known as AFP (Alternate Financing and Procurement), hands an entire block of work to a contracted firm or consortium who provide the design, build the infrastructure, finance the project during (and possibly after) construction, and maintain some or all of the infrastructure for a defined period after completion.

Shuffling the letters of the acronyms does not simply move responsibilities around as a “DB” process implies less direct TTC control than a “DBB”.  The party handling the design is not the same in each case.  For DBFM it is not yet clear what level of specifications will be completed before the design work moves from the buyer (IO) to a bidding consortium, or how that consortium would interact with various municipal agencies or the public.

Recently, Metrolinx decided to take more control of the projects by assuming responsibility for implementation.  IO will be the agent for project delivery presuming that a “value for money” analysis indicates that this is appropriate and the Treasury Board at Queen’s Park approves.  At no point has the mechanism by which this “value for money” measure will be calculated been explained to anyone.  Given that IO is the fair-haired child of the Provincial government, it would be amazing for any evaluation to say that IO’s role was not financially beneficial.  We can assume, therefore, that this is a done deal.

Meanwhile, the TTC commissioned a Peer Review of its LRT project plans.  Metrolinx and IO participated in this process.  The review panel has extensive experience notably in New York City and Los Angeles (details are in the report on page 5).  This review took place in May, well after Metrolinx and IO had begun detailed discussion with the TTC about an AFP approach to most of the projects.  Only the Eglinton tunnels would stay as a DBB project because of the advanced status of work on this component.

Metrolinx points to Vancouver’s Canada Line as an example of a successful AFP project, although the TTC points out (as others have already) that the line as implemented was not what was originally proposed.  The problems in Vancouver stem from a lack of transparency between the proponent agency, the consortium who built the project, and the public.  Whether this situation would be remedied in a Metrolinx/IO project is as much a question of good will and good contract language as it is a function of AFP per se.

The TTC notes that all of the Metrolinx AFP projects would be tendered in less than a year starting in mid 2014, and that reaching 30% design on all of them at once will be challenging.  This statement is unclear about who does the 30% design.  In other words, if a consortium is going to be responsible for “the whole project”, just how much of a project definition will exist before they bid on the work, and what level of staffing (or consultants) will be needed just to get to the stage where there is a defined work to be tendered.  There is an obvious possibility for a loss of expertise in the transition.

The biggest challenge lies with underground stations on the Eglinton line about which the TTC says:

The Metrolinx schedule for Eglinton Crosstown LRT is considered by the TTC and the APTA Peer Review Panel to be extremely challenging and that by necessity it increases the risk of disproportionate disruption to communities.

Underground station construction is the most time intensive part of the project and, as it requires cut and cover construction, has the greatest disruption to the community. The station construction and the extensive utility relocations require about three-four years of construction per in-line station and longer for interchange stations. Once completed one-two years are required for commissioning and testing the project before it can go into service. The Metrolinx schedule does not start final design of the stations until after the AFP contract is awarded in mid 2014. Completing all the station design and construction in four years for opening in 2020 is unrealistic in the opinion of the TTC and the APTA panel.

The Metrolinx schedule carries the risk of disproportionate community disruption. If all of the stations are designed and constructed in the same timeframe, there will inevitably be major disruption for the length of the underground section on Eglinton. In addition, there will be the cumulative impact across the city with Sheppard East LRT and Finch West LRT
construction in the same time period.

AFP requires that the progress made to date on the time critical station designs, be suspended now at about 30% design and re-started once the contract is awarded in mid 2014 — a loss of about two years of progress that could be used to stagger station construction and mitigate disruption if the designs and construction were to proceed.

The construction times cited for stations are quite amazing.  It is unclear what type of disruption a community faces during the period, and this is particularly intriguing given that the Transit City EA includes illustrations of how the surface disruption would be minimized by working beneath a decked street.  This was never going to be a piece of cake, but suddenly the complexity appears to have grown.  The TTC expects Eglinton to be a 10-year project finishing in the 2022-23 time frame.

The major changes the TTC proposes in the Metrolinx schedule are:

  • Extend the Eglinton line’s opening date to 2022-23.  This would relax the design and construction schedule, and would avoid having all of Eglinton torn up (or at least the station sites) at once.
  • Begin the Sheppard LRT construction immediately instead of late 2014.

The TTC criticizes IO for the long lead times on some project starts triggered by the need to more fully specify the design for AFP tendering.  If the TTC is in a position to begin construction of Sheppard now, they should be allowed to do so, not tied up in red tape while IO purports to find a way to build the project “better” two years in the future.

Changing these dates should not significantly affect Provincial goals for most of the project delivery.  Indeed, IO and Metrolinx need to be much more transparent about the effect of various options rather than just saying “AFP or nothing” for many parts of the project.  Unilateralism is not confined to the TTC.

The vehicles and carhouse for Sheppard are separate contracts from the line itself.  Is there some overriding reason, other than procurement ideology, for not beginning work on a line that is already well-advanced on its design?

A far more useful discussion, avoided by everyone to date, would look at staging the Eglinton line’s opening.  At a minimum, this could be done in two parts (west and east of Yonge), and possibly even three (Jane to Eglinton West, then to Yonge, then to Kennedy).  Lines are built and opened in stages all over the world, and nothing (except possibly obstinacy) prevents this from happening here.

When Premier McGuinty announced MoveOntario2020, the premise was that we would build lines quickly to show people what transit could do.  The goal now seems to be that they be built as slowly as possible.  This is counterproductive especially at a time when debates about new funding sources are on everyone’s mind.

If the consortia who build the projects are expected to finance them with payment coming after the fact either as a lump sum or as a lease-purchase, and if the projects are tendered in very large blocks, this could limit the firms who have the capacity to bid on this work.  The TTC seems unclear on the size of the projects citing figures of $1-billion for the surface LRT lines and multi-billions for Eglinton.

However, any of the surface lines include a fleet and carhouse component that is part of their overall billion-dollar estimates.  The infrastructure contract for the line would be considerably lower in value.  On Eglinton, it is already known that Metrolinx plans to tender stations in small groups and that probably limits each contract to roughly half a billion.

The TTC makes a great issue of the potential effect of construction on neighbourhoods and businesses, and the potential for additional cost as unforeseen circumstances are encountered.  This begs the question of how the contract would be written in the first place and whether a consortium would include an allowance for contingencies taking the chance that it has guessed favourably.  The problem is as much one of project definition and contract management as it is a public or private sector delivery mechanism.

The real challenge will be for the public sector — IO and Metrolinx — to be willing to hold a consortium to their contract and enforce penalties where necessary.  In a worst case scenario, the consortium loses its shirt and IO has the project back in its lap, an embarrassing situation for an advocate of private sector participation.  That’s the real issue here — how many problems will be swept under the rug (maybe several rugs) to avoid contract issues coming to public light.  This is not a new phenomenon.

The TTC proposes that various approaches be taken to components of the LRT plan (see Page 13).  This list is not as different from the Metrolinx proposal as it seems, and the TTC would have done well to include a column with those values.  For their part, Metrolinx and IO need to define just what they mean by “AFP” and how much of the design work is still done in the public sector before work is tendered.  The two world views may be closer than we think, but the slew of acronyms and their inconsistent definitions confuse the situation.

Page 14 contains an important statement:

Metrolinx would prefer TTC to stay involved in order to build on TTC expertise and utilize the organization that TTC has in place to continue progress on the projects until the project contracts are awarded. Metrolinx would like TTC to continue to be responsible for utility relocation, property acquisition, community relations and communications for the projects.

TTC has dedicated significant resources and effort to planning and implementation of the LRT projects to-date and clearly has an interest in leading the projects through to implementation and operation. However, up to now, TTC has had clear responsibility for the project planning and construction on behalf of Metrolinx. The change to Infrastructure
Ontario AFP will transfer the responsibility for project delivery to the contractor.

As the future operator, TTC will stay involved to provide the performance standards and design review and construction oversight to ensure that the completed project can be handed over to TTC.

Metrolinx would also like TTC to stay involved to provide advice and technical expertise and to continue with community relations through the development of the RFPs. However, if TTC does not have responsibility for or control over the construction of the projects, it cannot realistically conduct effective community relations.

Metrolinx wants TTC involvement, but only up to a point, mainly for some of the messier public-facing sides of the projects.  Rather than being the project builders, TTC could wind up as a glorified facilitator, a consultant running public meetings for another agency.  That’s not what the TTC had in mind.

In light of the political support IO and Metrolinx enjoy, the TTC proposes to step back to roles directly related to the interfaces with existing TTC systems (e.g. the interchange stations) and for standards relating to the eventual operation of the lines.  Everything else would be handed to Metrolinx.

Staff now working on the LRT projects would be absorbed within the TTC displacing consultants now working on other projects.

If this happens, we would come to a sad point in the Transit City saga with its almost complete takeover by Metrolinx.  That agency is not well-known for its love of LRT and the survival of the plan overall (or any future LRT projects) is uncertain.

The TTC, Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario really need to figure out how to work together.  If this is simply a power play by IO to shove TTC aside, then there is little hope for agreement.  We don’t have Metrolinx’ side of this debate, and given their secrecy, we are unlikely to ever know what it might be.

Of particular concern is the role Metrolinx would have in future rapid transit lines within Toronto.  They are already on record as saying that Waterfront LRT lines are a local responsibility.  Where and how long does a transit route have to be to qualify as “regional” and therefore under Metrolinx control?  If new revenue sources flow to GTA municipalities, who will be the project owner for new lines?

Maybe Queen’s Park will create a regional board with Mayors and Chairs from the affected municipalities and, this time, let them actually work on the region’s transit problems.

Updated June 1, 2012:

In response to the staff report and presentation, the Commission took a more conciliatory view of Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario.  Two motions were passed at the meeting (note that these are from the preliminary minutes which will not be official until confirmed at the next Commission meeting).

Moved by: Commissioner Josh Colle

Replace staff recommendations with the following:

It is recommended that the Commission:

1. Confirm its commitment to work with the Province of Ontario, Metrolinx, & Infrastructure Ontario to deliver Toronto’s Light Rail Transit (LRT) program and;

2. Note that TTC has been program managing the delivery of the LRT program in Toronto since 2008 and now that responsibility will transfer to Metrolinx. The TTC intends to continue to assist in the development of the design, build, operate, and/or maintain functions and;

3. Note that the Province of Ontario has indicated that it intends to change project delivery from TTC program management to a model using Alternative Finance and Delivery (AFP) Design Build Finance and Maintain. To further note that while the TTC recognizes it as a viable model to deliver transit infrastructure, the TTC has some concerns about the use of such a model (as outlined in this paper);

4. Request Metrolinx/Infrastructure Ontario to respond to the issues and concerns around project finance, cost, schedule and delivery model raised in this paper and;

5. Inform Metrolinx that the Province of Ontario decision to implement LRT by AFP and Infrastructure Ontario will require the transfer of program management functions, project design, construction and community relations from the TTC Transit Expansion Program to Metrolinx to be completed by October 31, 2012;

6. Direct the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to commence the reallocation of TTC staff, in consultation and cooperation with Metrolinx, and to the extent possible, from the LRT program to TTC’s on-going state of good repair construction and rehabilitation program and to the Spadina Subway Extension; and

7. Forward this report to the Toronto City Manager, Metrolinx, and the Minister of Transportation & Infrastructure.

8. That the TTC direct staff to expedite the signing of a Master Agreement with Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario that outlines provisions such as a governance model, dispute resolution mechanism, and amendment clauses, by the September 2012 Commission Meeting.

The text in boldface is different from the original staff recommendations in the report.  Clause 1 is completely new and establishes the Commission’s support for delivery of the LRT network together with provincial agencies.

The amended clause 2 (originally 1) replaces a long recitation of the past work the TTC has done with an acknowledgement that responsibility will move to Metrolinx, but that the TTC will continue to participate in the process.

Clause 3 (originally 2) amends the original text to state that the Commission accepts that AFP is a viable way to deliver projects, it has concern about specifics relating to the LRT plans.  The original text did not include an acceptance that AFP could be an appropriate process.

Clause 6 (originally 5) is amended to make the reassignment of staff subject to consultation with Metrolinx so that TTC management cannot pull resources from the LRT projects and trigger transitional problems of staffing and expertise.

Clause 8 (new) directs staff to negotiate with provincial agencies and to bring a Master Agreement to the Commission’s meeting scheduled for September 27, 2012.  This holds management’s feet to the fire to produce an agreement or explain why this is not possible on a timely basis.

In short, the Commission has decided that there is no point in waging a campaign against the supposed shortcomings in experience or expertise by Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario.  Getting the projects built is seen as more important for the City of Toronto than the outcome of any turf war between agencies, and co-operation is the order of the day.  How Metrolinx and IO will respond to the concerns raised by the TTC remains to be seen.

A separate motion by Commissioner Peter Milczyn proposed:

The Commission advise Metrolinx and the Province of Ontario that further discussions are required to review whether the TTC should be the operator of all of the new LRT Lines.

The provincial policy on this to date has been that TTC should be the operator, but many details of this arrangement need to be worked out notably the financial arrangements regarding fare revenue and subsidies.  Milczyn’s intent is to draw Queen’s Park into a discussion of increasing operating subsidies directly by operating part of the Toronto network.

I will write about the implications of the Commission’s stance on these matters and Metrolinx’ response to them in a separate post.


34 thoughts on “TTC v. Metrolinx (Again): Who’s In Charge Here? (Update 2)

  1. There’s now a 76-page report from TTC on the delivery of Transit City.

    Seems they are not agreeable about Metrolinx’s decision to remove the project management from TTC.

    Steve: I will write up my thoughts on this report tomorrow (May 29). The TTC seems to be saying “you want it, you take it … ALL of it” while warning that Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario probably will screw things up through inexperience and their ham-fisted attitude to public participation.


  2. There’s this section from the “LRT PROJECTS IN TORONTO – PROJECT DELIVERY” report that reads:

    “The Metrolinx schedule delays construction start of the Sheppard East LRT to 2014 to accommodate the timelines for the AFP process.
    The TTC, supported by the independent APTA Peer Review Panel, recommend:

    • A realistic target in-service date of 2022-2023 for the Eglinton Crosstown LRT.
    • Construction should be staged to address community impacts and operational constraints.
    • Sufficient time for commissioning the line should be provided in the schedule.
    • Continue to complete the Crosstown station designs and proceed immediately to DB to stagger the construction and major disruptions on Eglinton.
    • Start construction of the Sheppard East LRT immediately.
    • Start the Finch West LRT construction in 2015 consistent with Provincial cash flow requirements.
    • Start the Scarborough RT construction in 2015 immediately after the Pan/Parapan American Games.
    TTC staff recommend that Metrolinx be asked to comment on this alternative schedule, given the concerns expressed above and as noted by the APTA Peer Review Panel.”

    It seems to add 2 to 3 years for delivery of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. As if Rob Ford delaying of the project is not enough.

    Steve: The TTC has always felt that Metrolinx’ schedule for Eglinton was aggressive, while Metrolinx thinks the TTC is dragging its feet. The addition of IO’s machinations for the way the work will be tendered just adds to the mix. The funniest part is the idea that Metrolinx would independently comment on anything without an OK from the Premier’s and Minister’s offices.

    I despair that these lines will be built even vaguely on time, whatever that will mean in a few years.


  3. It seems like neither party trusts the other to deliver the TC lines properly. Metrolinx hopes to avoid another St. Clair by taking TC out of the TTC’s hands, while the TTC has a hard time “delegating” or trusting other organizations, thinking only IT can do things properly.

    As for the subway performance KPI, the current standard is very low. At least they’re tracking it. When the old 2 minute headway was in effect on the Yonge line, the bean counters at the TTC actually didn’t know what was going on until they analyzed all of the data from the system’s pen records. The afternoon rush hour *never* finished on time because of the turnaround constraints at Finch. I’d like to see how ATO solves this.

    It’s also interesting to note that the current subway KPI allows for a cumulative delay of close to 23 hours per month, with a passing grade. When the Y was in operation, and subway schedule adherence was at its absolute worst historically, the cumulative delay from the system’s timetable was approx. 25 hours per month … and that was considered unacceptable at the time. Now, it would be considered acceptable.


  4. Isn’t the construction of any in-line station along the ECLRT considered to be high-risk to the neighbourhood and traffic, especially if the stations are to be cut and cover? Therefore, I fail to understand why the Design-Build approach is somehow less risky for in-line stations than Design-Build-Finance-Maintain. Are there risks to the community after construction is complete that the TTC would like to be able to control?

    If anything, I would have thought all in-line stations make more sense as Design-Bid-Build.

    Steve: There is an undercurrent in the TTC’s remarks that implies the construction process will not be as sensitive to communities if it is just handed off to a separate agency rather than staying under the TTC’s control. Each contractor for a set of stations will be have a primary goal of optimizing their work and minimizing their costs. This may not fit with being good neighbours to affected communities. A related problem is that any rules/guidelines that are concocted after the contracts are signed (for example a requirement to keep road lanes open) could be the basis for a claim of extra costs. Because these are “commercial” contracts, their terms will be hidden under confidentiality rules.

    The real issue here is with how the contracts are written, and what provision for community protection is included in them.


  5. “Steve: There is an undercurrent in the TTC’s remarks that implies the construction process will not be as sensitive to communities if it is just handed off to a separate agency rather than staying under the TTC’s control. Each contractor for a set of stations will be have a primary goal of optimizing their work and minimizing their costs. This may not fit with being good neighbours to affected communities. A related problem is that any rules/guidelines that are concocted after the contracts are signed (for example a requirement to keep road lanes open) could be the basis for a claim of extra costs.”

    Isn’t this a problem for both DB and DBFM methods? My understanding is that both methods would involve handing off the construction contract directly from the designers/consultants to the in-house contractors, with limited input from the TTC. If so, why would DB be any more preferable than DBFM?

    Steve: Yes, the real issue is making sure that the constraints are all identified up front and taking responsibility for whatever changes come down the pipeline afterwards. Those of us who have watched TTC projects and change orders (those big enough to come through the Commission for approval) know that lots of things happen after the fact thanks to errors in the design stage (even though that work is often done by outside contractors now). Some of this reflects bad or changed specs from the client, and some is an “oops” by the designer. For example, it’s amazing that a lot of the underground infrastructure near Ashbridges Bay Carhouse was not discovered until the project was way past approval because, it is claimed, that sort of detailed investigation is done during detailed design. That’s almost like buying land in Florida without first checking for swamps and alligators.

    The challenge for Metrolinx and IO will be to avoid this sort of “gotcha” in their design stage. They are lucky that a lot of the detailed work has already been done for the Eglinton tunnel alignment, and much of the rest of Transit City is on the surface.


  6. Steve noted:

    “There is an undercurrent in the TTC’s remarks that implies the construction process will not be as sensitive to communities if it is just handed off to a separate agency rather than staying under the TTC’s control”

    Which would be fine if TTC had a reputation for being sensitive to communities, I suppose… they are definitely improving on this front but old grievances die hard.

    Steve: And oddly enough, nobody mentions GO Transit and the West Toronto Grade Separation Project.


  7. Your points about Metrolinx are taken, but I really have to agree that the TTC’s record on major project isn’t very good in its own right. At this point I’m just not that concerned about handing off to Metrolinx as long as we get some kind structure that avoids the Canada Line fiasco.

    Steve: Which TTC projects do you have in mind, and why?

    I agree that the structure of any P3 contract is essential, and it’s easy to get hosed by the argument that the private sector can’t live with a restrictive, demanding contract. This usually means “we can’t game the system to make more money off of you”.


  8. Steve,

    Your readers cannot possibly thank you enough for all the hard work you do, analyzing reams of data and taking the time to put things into technical and historical context. Your writing is clear, concise, and informative. I’m sure I speak for all your readers when I say that we truly, truly, appreciate what you are doing here.

    It does get depressing, though, reading about all the things that have gone wrong,. are going wrong, or could go wrong. Is there anything that the TTC does right that you can tell us about? I ask that question not because I’m trying to take a jab at what you do here (and elsewhere), and not because I think negatives should be glossed over (not at all), but in the hopes that maybe there’s a little bit a silver lining amongst all these clouds. Sometimes transit in Toronto seems so hopeless. Is there anything going right?

    Steve: The “new” TTC both at the Commission and management level has promise of better days ahead, although I am not yet convinced. There are two challenges: completely seizing control of the transit agenda (including budget) at Council, and getting Metrolinx/GO to stop thinking of local transit as something somebody else does. Part of this is advocacy, part of it is having the political will to vote down the Ford faction and provide a credible alternative to their policies.


  9. You stated:

    Metrolinx wants TTC involvement, but only up to a point, mainly for some of the messier public-facing sides of the projects. Rather than being the project builders, TTC could wind up as a glorified facilitator, a consultant running public meetings for another agency. That’s not what the TTC had in mind.

    I wonder if the problems on St. Clair may not play a significant part in the TTC’s position.

    As I understand it, the TTC’s work was pretty much on budget and most of the delay was caused by external interference like the court case and City Hall interference. On the other hand other departments like Hydro refused to cooperate fully, keeping the street in construction mode for far longer than necessary. Yet all we hear is that the TTC was the one that fouled everything up.

    As I read the revised plan, Metrolinx will be the one who will hold the contractors to the contract (or not), but TTC is to be the public face of the project, explaining why things aren’t proceeding as promised, eve though they have no control.

    I certainly would not want to be in this position.

    Actually, when I first read this I immediately recalled a bit of doggerel that was quoted a lot a few decades ago:

    I’m not allowed to run the train
    The whistle I can’t blow
    I’m not the one who designates
    How far the train will go
    I’m not allowed to blow the steam
    Or even ring the bell
    But let the damn thing jump the track
    And see who catches hell.


  10. “For DBFM it is not yet clear what level of specifications will be completed before the design work moves from the buyer (IO) to a bidding consortium, or how that consortium would interact with various municipal agencies or the public.”

    Based on the information in the report, we know that the TTC will be involved somewhat in the design (30% detailed) if DB is chosen for stations. So I guess my confusion comes from whether DBFM necessarily involves the TTC in the design phase at all or not?

    In other words, I had thought that both DB and DBFM would allow the TTC to be involved in the design, up to 30% detailed. So would it therefore be correct to say that DBFM would entail even less involvement with the TTC than DB (less than 30% before the contract leaves the TTC to the consortium)?

    If the TTC is so concerned about community and traffic disruption during station construction, I still remain confused as to why they’re settling for DB rather than the traditional DBB for the in-line stations (despite your previous replies). Is this some sort of compromise with Metrolinx’s advocacy for AFP?

    Steve: Partly it’s a compromise, partly it’s bad report writing. The TTC does a poor job of contrasting what happens under each scenario and, in the process, makes the distinction between what they and Metrolinx want to do much more difficult to understand.


  11. Also, the most cynical would suggest that those subway-advocating Liberal MPP’s somehow have undue influence over what Metrolinx does.


  12. “Extend the Eglinton line’s opening date to 2022-23”

    That little quote seems to me to allow the cost of the project to be spread out over an extra two or three years. Less overtime, more time for inspections and safety, and more time for designing.

    Of course, they can do it the Chinese way, and just bulldoze away, ignore safety concerns, and pay minimum wages (or else).


  13. “There’s now a 76-page report from TTC on the delivery of Transit City.”

    Transit City is dead. Transit City has 7 lines. Finch went from Humber river to Yonge, Sheppard as today, Eglinton from Malvern to Airport via Kennedy. Both Current Finch/Eggie planned lines are bastardized short versions. Just so you know. Please stop using Transit City. What David Miller gave and what plan we have now are not the same.

    Just had to get that out of my system.

    Steve: I hope you feel better. What we have today is a fragment of Transit City, but it’s still LRT with hopes that more will follow. I will continue to use the name. (After all, I invented it.)

    Now for my real comment:

    I honestly think all the GTHA transit systems should merge. Hamilton to Oshawa, Toronto to Barrie.

    We have to think regional. Many people who use TTC come from outside 416/647.

    Imagine if Metrolinx absorbed GTHA transit systems, in a way extending GO Transit.

    Toronto would get fare zones/# of stops based system/distance based fares/etc…whatever you want to call it.

    I think it is on Burnhamthorpe that when Missisauga Transit buses come, they can’t pick up passengers in Toronto when they go to Islington. VERY STUPID.

    With fare based system…there could be more money…even buy swan boats for a new route.

    That new route would start at Bayview and Steeles along the Don River and go all the way down to lake Ontario to the Portlands area. Making a lot of the stops locally.

    The vehicles would be the Steve Swan Boats.

    How come the only connecting to Durham Transit from Toronto (or from DT to Toronto) is a rush hour only route to Rouge Hill GO Station?

    Steve: Durham Transit is not exactly the TTC, and transit anywhere east of the 416 is not as high a political priority as it is in Toronto. You may want to merge all of the systems to sort out fare issues, but do you really want service standards for the entire region to be unified too? Everyone talks a good line about the importance of transit, but local systems cut service all over the place because they are underfunded.


  14. Steve, is the currently Spadina-York subway extension a TTC project, or a Metrolinx project?

    Steve: TTC.


  15. How much design work has been completed for the Sheppard LRT?

    Steve: According to the TTC, enough on part of the line that it could be tendered next year. According to Metrolinx that would cover half of the line, but there’s still the tunnel at the DVP as a major piece of design work plus the western half of the surface right-of-way.


  16. Miroslav Glavic says:

    “How come the only connecting to Durham Transit from Toronto (or from DT to Toronto) is a rush hour only route to Rouge Hill GO Station?”

    It’s not … local service along Highway 2 is provided by GO’s route 94 for historic reasons. That provides a connection between Durham and Toronto. That route will (one day) be off-loaded onto DRT. Further, come July, DRT is extending an all-day route from Bayly St to UofT Scarborough.


  17. First question: Why can’t TTC just shut up and let it be, before they mess it up?

    Second question: Why won’t Metrolinx consider the feasibility of converting/extending the Sheppard line to LRT?

    Steve: Because from their point of view, this option is not on the table.

    Last question: Why aren’t shovels in the ground yet??? It makes absolutely no sense!!

    Steve: Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario want to tender things in big packages, and what’s ready to go now isn’t big enough for their liking.


  18. It is most likely the TTC start date for Eglinton of 2022/3 is correct. A common thread between this and several other Metrolinx undertakings is that they are pushing the expenditure dates down the road. Perhaps we should not talk about the $8 billion for TC, but $8 billion WHEN. Sheppard could start much quicker than 2014, as could Finch, and Eglinton could open in stages. But finding reasons not to do so kicks all those expenditures way down the road.

    It would be interesting to see a chart showing the steady creep in planned expenditures for TC. Call it a ‘$ Creep Chart’.

    Having scuttled half of the original TC with funding cuts, the provincial government seems to to be doing its best to scuttle the other half with delays.

    On the Georgetown GO line they have omitted one track for now, which delays both all day service and the expenditure for 6+ years.

    How many more elections can the Liberals win with the same promises?


  19. Is the TTC’s insistence on DBB for tunneling to prevent an engineering firm from pursuing a cut-and-cover method of tunneling without the TTC’s approval?

    Steve: It’s not a question of the TTC’s insistence — that part of the project was already far enough along and very prominently advertised as work “finally” underway that to delay it to go through another procurement process would not be a politically acceptable delay. We already own two tunnel boring machines and the stations are designed with the idea that the tunnel is a long way underground. The alignment as designed could not be done cut-and-cover because it’s too deep and there’s a lot of stuff in the way closer to the surface.

    More generally, a change in construction techniques is a matter of good or bad contract language. The Canada Line’s proponents were either gullible fools (and left a gaping hole in their specification), or they fully intended the builder to look at and possibly change the construction from deep bore to cut-and-cover. It is Metrolinx’ job to write a tight enough contract that this sort of thing does not happen.


  20. While I realize that the situation is not completely the same, I can’t help but think of the failure of Metronet on the London Underground, where the private sector contractor responsible for maintenance of the lines went bankrupt, leaving the TfL to carry the can, and making the mayor of the time, Ken Livingstone, even smugger than usual. Livingstone had fought tooth and nail against PPP, suing the British government twice in an attempt to stop it. Transport for London had to step in and clear up the mess, but not before billions of pounds had been wasted.

    What happens in the event of one (or more) contractors going belly-up while the Eglinton line is under construction? Who steps in? What if there is no-one left to sue for breach of contract? Why on earth should the TTC get all the flak for a situation it has zero control over?

    Success has a thousand fathers. Failure is an orphan. The province and Metrolinx will run away from this if things go south.


  21. Hi, Steve,

    I have to second ‘A Hopeless TTC Rider’s’ great appreciation for your highly-skilled and in-depth analyses here, and the effort you put in to make them understandable to laypeople like myself. Thank you!

    As for his despairing over your concern that, between Metrolynx and the TTC, Transit City appears becalmed, out of fuel and captainless far out to sea with a dead radio and no help within reach. I cannot but think that this is delighting your mayor, his brother and all their cohorts who, I suspect, may be doing everything in their power (sub-rosa, of course!) to ensure that Transit City gets exactly nowhere.

    I would not be the least surprised to eventually learn that Metrolinx is and was deeply in their pockets and not about to undertake any actual Transit City construction – and will obfuscate and blather on endlessly until HMS Transit City founders and slips beneath the waves, never again to be seen.

    What you are describing in your “Who’s In Charge Here” essay sounds to me like the perfect storm of your mayor and his cohorts working their influence on Metrolinx. I hope Chairperson Karen Stintz and City Council as well as TTC chief Byford are on top of this possible scenario, if there’s credible reason to think it’s taking place backstage.


  22. The Globe is reporting that TTC endorsed the timeline for Eglinton, despite Staff recommendations.

    I assume this is relating to recommendation 3 “Request Metrolinx/Infrastructure Ontario to respond to the issues and concerns around project finance, cost, schedule and delivery model raised in this paper”

    Steve, do you know how this was modified? Or how the other recommendations were modified?

    It’s a shame that it take a month for TTC to issue the minutes of the meeting. It’s near instantaneous for city committees these days.

    Steve: I have updated the article with the official text of the motions approved by the Commission including the differences between them and the original staff recommendation. Interim versions of minutes are always available on request from the General Secretary’s OFfice.


  23. I think that the TTC needs to be careful with any private sector involvement in design/construction of LRT lines. Since Eglinton Avenue is one of the few continuous east west roads in the city and severely congested as it is, road closures need to be minimized and closing Allen Road during construction is unacceptable. The construction of three light rail lines simultaneously will cause traffic headaches as it is (probably causing increased congestion on Highway 401) but disruptions absolutely need to be minimized. Another issue is that the Eglinton LRT line at Weston Road (when extended westward) should be tunneled and I really think that the Eglinton LRT line needs to be grade separated (probably above ground) between Laird and Don Mills to reduce the risk of severe capacity problems in this stretch. Any private sector contract needs to be strict to avoid cutting corners during design or construction.

    Nevertheless a private sector partner would be valuable when doing the design work. The TTC needs private sector expertise to design the above ground light rail sections properly so that they are similar to other high capacity LRT lines in the world like Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, etc. This means that there needs to be an effective signal prioritization system (not the ineffective ones on St. Clair/Spadina) and there should be proper platforms with high capacity rather than the tiny islands seen on St. Clair (which many of the newer American LRT systems have).

    Steve: Metrolinx plans a construction technique at stations that is based on the scheme used in Los Angeles whereby a temporary roof is built over the station site so that work can be done below it while at least part of the street above continues to operate. The roof is built of cast sections, in effect large tiles, that can be removed as need be for access and material deliveries, but just as easily put back in place. This is much different from the decking many will remember from the construction of Sheppard-Yonge Station.

    At the Allen Road, the situation is different in that the tunnel boring machine cannot go under the existing subway structure. The reason for this is that the Eglinton tunnel will be immediately below the Spadina structure and there would not be enough soil above the new tunnel to support the old one as the TBM moved through the site. This will require considerable disruption on Eglinton to remove the TBMs on the west side of the existing line and place them in a new launch area east of the station.

    The design of the section through Weston is not yet settled, although Metrolinx hopes to have a new proposal for fall 2012. It’s not just a question of surface vs tunneling because an underground station will conflict with several nearby buildings.

    The section from Laird to Don Mills will almost certainly not be built as an elevated structure for budgetary reasons. I do not agree with your premise that grade separation is needed here for capacity reasons especially if demand coming west on Eglinton is intercepted by a DRL at Don Mills.

    Stations for the surface sections are already designed with considerable capacity, and these locations are not constrained by street width as the St. Clair project was. The traffic signals bring up the long-standing debate that Toronto’s traffic engineers do not confer as much “priority” to transit as some plans and the experience of other cities would suggest is possible and preferable. Part of this relates to the frequency of TTC surface routes (if there is always a transit vehicle nearby, the transit route is always getting priority), and part to a lack of policy direction from Council that signals should clearly favour transit and the rest of the traffic can take second place. That is not the prevailing mood of Council for whom “congestion” and related issues takes precedence over transit.


  24. MarkE said

    “How many more elections can the Liberals win with the same promises?”

    You’d be surprised. I would be confident to start betting right now that the Liberals will be pointing to their public transit “track record” (pun intended) when it comes to the election campaign, and doing their best to raise fears that the PC party (if elected) will gut public transit projects, while the NDP will overbuild public transit and raise the defecit & the provincial debt.

    It will be interesting to see if the provincial Liberals can avoid the spectre of Bob Rae (then NDP Premier and now Federal Liberal “interim” leader but always a Liberal at heart) when it comes to the election.

    By the way … just a thought … wouldn’t the Liberals have more political capital in the GTA (just in time for an upcoming election) if they started talking about (not building, but talking seriously about) LRT projects in, say, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo & Mississauga+Brampton? I have to wonder if we will start hearing more about those projects in, say, late 2013.

    Cheers, Moaz

    Steve: I suspect that this will all be bound up in discussions about new revenue tools. Once there is some commitment to raising more capital and operating support for transit, then any talk of further projects can be more than empty election rhetoric.


  25. Funny, I don’t see anything in the revised motion that indicates that TTC endorsed the Metrolinx schedule. Doesn’t it do the opposite, it actually questions it? Not sure what the Globe is smoking …

    The issue about who runs the service is interesting. Combined with the Bombardier prototype Transit City LRV showing up in town in Metrolinx green, rather than TTC red, does this imply that Metrolinx has already made a decision?


  26. Could the TTC begin operating parts of the line in 2020, even if the whole thing is not finished? Perhaps between Jane and Eglinton West or Yonge, and then run buses between this point and where it continues on the surface in the east until the tunnel is complete?

    This could also be used as an experiment to see if through running the Scarborough LRT would be a good idea. If a lot of people who board the SLRT continue along the line across Eglinton, we would be able to see that there is demand from eastern Scarborough to points along Eglinton, rather than fearing that everyone on board would simply overcrowd the Yonge line.

    Steve: Metrolinx, for reasons of their own, want to open the whole line as a “big bang” rather than staging the opening. I think they are making a big mistake politically by missing a chance for an earlier demonstration of what this project will bring Toronto, but their mind seems to be made up. Part of this has to do with the sequencing of various sub-projects and the way the work is being bundled in the AFP procurement process.


  27. Steve said:
    At the Allen Road, the situation is different in that the tunnel boring machine cannot go under the existing subway structure. The reason for this is that the Eglinton tunnel will be immediately below the Spadina structure and there would not be enough soil above the new tunnel to support the old one as the TBM moved through the site. This will require considerable disruption on Eglinton to remove the TBMs on the west side of the existing line and place them in a new launch area east of the station.

    With Harris’ cancellation of the Eglinton subway back in the 90s, I remember tunnels being filled in at Eglinton West station. I’ve always assumed that these were right under the existing station.

    If so, shouldn’t the YUS portion of the station already be supported well enough thanks to the earlier work?

    If not, do you have any idea where the filled-in tunnels run and whether their existence will make the new boring easier or more difficult? I assume they’re not of a large enough diameter for the LRT, but am still curious.

    Unrelatedly, the TTC staff report recommended starting work on Sheppard now but the Commission’s motions don’t specifically mention it. Did the Commission decide against making this request, or am I misreading it?

    Steve: I believe that the partial construction at Eglinton West was not under the existing station but adjacent to it. I’m sure whatever structure was abandoned underground will be one more problem for the new project to deal with.

    As for Sheppard, the TTC did not discuss that much one way or another. All of the “air in the room” was taken up with the debate about whether Metrolinx and IO were competent to do the work and challenges to staff’s report that had a “sky is falling” character to parts of it. Staff claim that Sheppard could be started next year, although Metrolinx does not agree claiming that some utility and property acquisition work that should already have been completed was stopped when Ford changed course on the project.


  28. I’m glad Commissioner Milczyn raised the question about who is the operator. The question goes beyond Eglinton to all the LRT lines. There are at least two models.

    (1) York Region and Metrolinx have agreed upon a Master Agreement for the VIVA rapidways. Metrolinx owns the fixed assets – stations, rapidway pavement, fare-collection media, intelligent transportation system components – and is responsible for maintenance. The Region maintains operating responsibility at intersections and for fare collection. The Region will be the route operator, which makes sense, because the rapidways are just segments in between normal mixed-traffic operation. The Region continues to own the vehicles and is responsible for maintenance of the vehicles. The region is responsible for operating subsidies. Because of the requirements of The Metrolinx Act, 2006, a bylaw has to be passed empowering VIVA to be operator, and specifying service levels, schedules and fares on this provincially-owned asset.

    (2) The Canada Line is another model. This was a DBFOM contract. For operations, the concessionaire has a 35 year contract to operate and maintain. They are compensated basically on % availability (ie % of trains requested by Translink that actually run) as well as other measurable parameters like train cleanliness and elevator availability. A small percentage of compensation is tied to passenger load. The contract has mechanisms to negotiate new performance targets and compensation if Translink asks for more service.

    It seems to be working well, and the contractor is achieving 98% performance requirements.

    Steve: From my talks with Metrolinx staff, the operating model for the Toronto lines is not yet finalized, but the Province has already announced that it wants the TTC to operate the lines. I suspect they are looking at the VIVA model. I do not believe that responsibility for the lines should be split off from TTC, but there is a question of the additional operating costs for an improved level of service on these routes. We have seen the same thing on the Spadina and Sheppard subways — a new line increases operating subsidy requirements, and the City (or whoever is funding transit operations) has to go into this with their eyes open. What is missing in this whole discussion is the subject of new revenue tools and what proportion of the new revenues will flow to the GTA operators as additional operating subsidy to support new and improved services. This is a much bigger issue than just our LRT lines as it affects the buildout of the GO network and local collection/distribution roles.


  29. “Staff claim that Sheppard could be started next year, although Metrolinx does not agree claiming that some utility and property acquisition work that should already have been completed was stopped when Ford changed course on the project.”

    Are utility relocations generally packaged into the same construction contract? Perhaps what’s confusing is the language: I would say Metrolinx is correct that they can’t start laying rails immediately, but I can’t see what’s stopping them from relocating the utilities (if a utility-relocation contract has already been crafted). Maybe utility-relocations is what the TTC means when they say that construction can restart immediately.

    Steve: Part of this has to do with how Metrolinx wants to bundle the work, and part is a plain old turf war. The TTC could have done a much better job of presenting an inventory of where various components of the project stood and how soon work might get underway. Instead, they spent a lot of time whining about the perceived inability of Metrolinx to carry out the contracts even though the same consultants would be working on the job, and the TTC would still be involved in the design process. Too much innuendo and not enough hard details did not help TTC staff’s credibility.


  30. “Because these are “commercial” contracts, their terms will be hidden under confidentiality rules.”

    Just to be clear, will the public be able to at least view the general requirements and demands of the design-build contracts? When you said that the terms are confidential, I couldn’t help but think that whoever is crafting the contract can slip the words “underground all the way to Kennedy”, but then I’d be surprised if this would be allowed to slip by without anyone noticing.


    Regarding the Metrolinx versus TTC construction timeline for the Eglinton line, I also agree that phased-openings would have been a good compromise between those who want it soon, and those who worry about the impacts of overly-expedited construction. It is my understanding that the reason why the original Transit City plan was able to open something on Eglinton as early as 2016 is because it was only part of the line.

    As for the design, a lot of this depends on the good will of Metrolinx and their claim that preliminary design work leading to a contract will be open to the public view. However, the fine details won’t be visible until after a project has been awarded, and based on material released recently for the 407 East project, those details will be rather scanty. It is not clear what documents are in the public realm for easy review, or how much information would be considered part of a confidential arrangement between the Province and a bidder. The suspicious among us might view this as an opportunity for a bait-and-switch design, and it will only be with actual experience that we will learn whether Metrolinx can be trusted. It is worth noting that the TTC has made changes to approved projects after the fact without going through a formal public review. Suspicion is valid regarless of who “owns” the process.


  31. “2. Note that TTC has been program managing the delivery of the LRT program in Toronto since 2008 and now that responsibility will transfer to Metrolinx. The TTC intends to continue to assist in the development of the design, build, operate, and/or maintain functions”

    I guess that the commission has approved the transfer of project management responsibility of also Sheppard and Finch to Metrolinx (or to IO, in effect). However, I don’t believe that this is an endorsement of Metrolinx’s proposed timelines for these lines.

    Is the commission trying to let Metrolinx take the projects, but trying to convince them to tweak their timelines? If so, agreeing to transfer all LRT projects away from the TTC may just make it more difficult.


  32. “Steve: Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario want to tender things in big packages, and what’s ready to go now isn’t big enough for their liking.”

    That seems really bad. New York City and LA have both found in recent years that breaking projects up into smaller tenders gives better results.

    Steve: It appears that IO is rather stubborn on this. Whether they will learn in time by seeing the difficulty of packaging it all in one tender remains to be seen.


  33. I support Metrolinx running the show on principle. If this region is ever to have a real regional transit authority, then Metrolinx is going to have to have some skin in the game and be allowed to put some muscle into the effort.

    I don’t even care about their supposed dislike for LRT. Not because I would have liked to see a short subway expansion on Sheppard. But rather because I think a regional approach to transportation should be prioritized. We can’t say we care about transportation in the GTA and not support the regionalization of transportation management.

    Yes, the TTC has lots of experience. They can put that to use by helping Metrolinx find their legs.


  34. “Regionalization” of transit in the GTHA should not be at the expense of good service at the local level. That’s where some of the concern exists. Both regional and local travel are important to a transit system for a geographic area the size of the GTHA, but while local transit can be successful without a regional counterpart for shorter trip markets, regional transit has a certain reliance on connections to strong local transit services if is to be truly successful.


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