The Fate of OneCity (Updated)

Several postmortems have appeared on blogs about the supposed death of OneCity and what might follow:

Updated July 19, 2012 at 7:00 am:

Updated July 16, 2012 at 11:15am:

My own take on OneCity’s fate together with the original article detailing proposals for dealing with transit planning follow the break.

I won’t rehash the comments from my colleagues here.  The actions taken by City Council were generally good as far as they went.  The whole question of evaluating the schemes in OneCity and other plans goes off for a staff report that will actually come back this fall for debate, not in some indefinite future when momentum is lost.  That report will propose a mechanism for setting priorities and, if we are very lucky, will also contain some updates on the cost estimates which are a vital part of any evaluation scheme.

Rumour already has it that a Downtown Relief Line (whatever we wind up calling it) will be top of the list because so many other network improvements depend on providing more capacity to the core.

Council asked specifically for proposals on accelerating transit to the Eastern Waterfront, a file that languished for years while transit attention focused on one suburban expansion after another.  Waterfront Toronto had been contemplating “interim” transit solutions for the next 15 years.  That’s no way to treat the largest single development node in Toronto.

Council instructed staff to work with Metrolinx and the GTA regions on preparation of a transit funding strategy.  Although this was underway already, Council has endorsed working at a regional level.

That’s not to say we don’t have local transit issues.  Painfully absent was any motion dealing with ongoing operating and capital budget problems for the TTC (discussed in the main article below).  Council requested a full accounting of the funding for the new streetcars which, with a 2/3 share sitting on Toronto’s shoulders, dominate the capital budget and city debt management for the next few years.  What is really needed is a full examination of TTC capital plans for expansion of service on the bus, subway and streetcar networks.

We must wait for budget proposals later this year to see whether the TTC and Council have the will to undo two years of Ford cuts to transit funding and to look strong ridership growth straight in the eye.  It’s easy to propose a subway that won’t open for a decade, but much harder to tell someone why they can’t get on the Dufferin bus today.  No, worse, that they should not even hope to get on the bus tomorrow or next year.

Last week, I was asked by one journalist whether the so-called defeat of OneCity was a victory for Mayor Ford and his allies.  Yes, a successful launch would have been a joyous alternative, a continuation of the momentum for better transit funding and planning, and further marginalization of the Ford camp on transit issues.

However, this is not a “defeat” considering that transit funding and expansion are very much alive as topics for reports and debate.  OneCity’s advocates “defeated” themselves through poor strategy in preparation and announcement of the plan.  This was an “own goal”, not an example of brilliant footwork from the Mayor.  Transit is now an issue for all of Council, and the debates will be out in the open where they belong.

The original article from July 7:

The OneCity transit plan was announced by TTC’s Karen Stintz and Glenn de Baeremaeker on June 27.  Reception was mixed with many, notably an 80% favourable poll of Toronto residents, in support, but many others opposed for various reasons.  In my initial reaction to the plan, I remarked:

Councillors—and you can bet OneCity’s sponsors already have a majority of votes lined up—have launched a major transit program independently of the mayor and his dwindling band of supporters. [From The Torontoist, June 28, 2012]

As things actually turned out, that majority support was far from a sure thing to the point where we have on-again, off-again articles about OneCity’s chance of surviving the next Council meeting on various websites.  The “dwindling band” may actually be followers of Karen Stintz.

Is OneCity fatally flawed?  No, but it needs a lot of work.  Council should use the coming debate to perform surgery on the OneCity proposal of the type normally reserved for Mayoral schemes that are rewritten holus-bolus on the floor of Council.

How will we pay for OneCity?

Including Current Value Assessment Uplift Capture as OneCity’s funding scheme was an inappropriate strategy guaranteed to confuse the debate.  It was a sad attempt to avoid saying “tax increase” under the guise of creating a locked-in transit fund through changes to the provincial Assessment Act.

City staff are already studying the effects of CVA Uplift Capture and will report to Council in October.  There is no need to tie OneCity (or transit funding generally) to a specific new tax proposal before we have even decided what it is we wish to build and whether we are prepared to pay for it.

  • Council should not link OneCity to a specific funding mechanism until reports on all possible streams (CVA Uplift, Metrolinx Investment Strategy, others) are available and the actual scale of funding needed for OneCity projects is clear.

Operations, Service Quality and Maintenance

The biggest omission from OneCity is any reference to operating costs, service quality, ongoing maintenance and enhancement of the base transit system.  This was done deliberately to avoid having a new tax vanish into a vague pit of TTC funding needs without as much to show (especially in the ribbon-cutting arena) as for a program of entirely new construction.

Council should direct TTC as part of 2013 budget process to:

  • Report on the backlog of demand for service, the implications of the ongoing 3% ridership growth, and the restoration of service standards to Ridership Growth Strategy levels including budget effects in 2013 and in 2013-22 capital plan.
  • Report on the Transit City Bus Plan, updated to reflect current conditions, as a next step in the Ridership Growth Strategy.
  • Report on fleet plans for buses and garages to accommodate growth and restored service standards.
  • Report on fleet plans for streetcars including the backlog of service requirements caused by fleet shortages, and the effect of population intensification on streetcar lines.
  • Report on fleet plans for the subway including the adequacy of Toronto Rocket fleet now on order for the Spadina/Vaughan extension, and whether the Bloor-Danforth fleet is large enough to support extension of that line without more trains or a new yard.
  • Report on the backlog of capital maintenance projects that have been deferred to fit within the City’s debt target.
  • Report on funding for Wheel Trans to maintain and improve service levels without requiring a subsidy transfer from regular operating budget (as done in 2012).
  • Report on system-wide accessibility projects and the degree to which these have been deferred due to limited funding.

What should we do with OneCity?

If Council simply “receives” OneCity but does not send it for detailed review, it will squander an opportunity to become much better informed about transit options.  People spend far too much time drawing lines on maps without having to answer difficult questions about cost-effectiveness or constructability, about the value of lines on a city-wide or regional basis, not just to their own wards and electoral prospects.

“OneCity” by name and intent is supposed to move Toronto past that sort of planning, and yet it includes a troubling number of dubious proposals meant to keep various Councillors happy.  That’s fine, but only up to a point.  A day will come, and fairly soon, when we should learn which of these schemes are actually worthwhile and which, though sounding good, contribute little or even draw attention and resources away from more deserving routes.

That review needs to be honest, not pander to individual Councillors even though we now live in a city where independent wisdom and advice are less than welcome.  We cannot ask Torontonians to pay new, higher taxes for pet projects that serve few.  That would only confirm the common suspicion that all taxes are wasted.

  • Council should request a review of the OneCity project list including the projected costs of each element and the potential benefits to the transit network.  This work should not be mired in the larger review of the Official Plan, but should instead contribute to the transit component of that Plan.
  • A preliminary review should be completed by the end of 2012.

Scarborough/Etobicoke Express

Obvious targets for review are the proposed service on GO corridors, the Scarborough and Etobicoke Express routes.  They are clearly in Metrolinx territory.

The proposal tweaks Queen’s Park’s nose by including the immediate electrification of the Air Rail Link and its conversion to a local, quasi DRL-west service.  That is simply not going to happen as anyone following debates on the issue knows.  That train left the station a few years ago when Metrolinx and Queen’s Park were still dithering about the merits of electric operation and making bogus claims about how it wouldn’t work here.

The Scarborough Express is a reworking of Markham Councillor Jim Jones’ I-METRO-E scheme which has some rather strange ideas about how a rail corridor and future tax revenues (many within the City of Toronto) could be used to improve service for our friends to the northeast.

Between them, these two express services are a staggering 29% of the total estimated cost of OneCity ($8.4b out of the $28.8b total).  Drop them from the plan, and we wouldn’t have to care whether Ottawa came to the table because we wouldn’t need most of their presumed 1/3 share ($9.6b).

The larger and much more important issue for GO is the provision of local, all-day two-way service between the 416 and 905.  This is part of a regional planning and funding strategy, but it affects OneCity in the sense that handling trips from the outer 416 to the core on GO removes demand that would otherwise flow on the subway.

  • Council should urge Metrolinx and the GTA Regions to review the role of GO as an all-day provider of service on its routes between and within the 416 and 905.
  • Proposals for the Scarborough Express and the Air Rail Link replacement should be dropped from OneCity.

Don Mills Subway / Downtown Relief Line

Next largest (at $5.4b) is the Don Mills subway, better known as the Downtown Relief Line.  This is part of The Big Move, and Metrolinx is known to be interested in it as part of a proposed “Union Station West” project.  Provincial money will be there for this route regardless of the cold shoulder OneCity got from Queen’s Park.

Council needs to know what alignment would be appropriate through the business district, how the line would connect to subways and what potential it might have for extension such as to a redeveloped Exhibition Place.  If this discussion is left to Metrolinx, they will dictate the goals of what is really a local subway route.  Toronto cannot afford to let that happen.

We need to know what is possible for this important route rather than just drawing vague lines on fantasy maps.

  • Council should request a report on preliminary options and alignments for a Don Mills to Downtown subway in the central area, through Riverdale and East York, across the Don to Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park, and thus to Eglinton.

Scarborough Subway

The Scarborough Subway depends for credibility on an allegedly small marginal cost relative to replacement of the SRT by an LRT line ($484m).  Many cost estimates have been cited for the LRT and subway proposals over the years, and they are not always on consistent footings.  The current Metrolinx estimate for LRT ($1.8b) is considerably lower than the cost cited by the TTC in a transition briefing paper for the Ford Administration ($2.5b).  The TTC’s estimate for the subway project is much higher ($3.6b) than the value used in OneCity (about $2.3b).

These discrepancies must be settled quickly so that everyone will  understand whether a Scarborough Subway really is just a low-cost upgrade to the SRT/LRT replacement scheme, or if it represents a major cost to Toronto that could soak up all of any new revenue stream in the near future.

For its part, Metrolinx needs to explain why the shutdown period for the SRT has grown to four years.  Is this a question of project complexity, or of Queen’s Park’s desire to stretch out cash flows?  Back in April 2010, the public information display for the proposed LRT line included this statement about temporary bus replacement services:

The temporary service changes and the temporary terminals are expected to be required for up to three years.

In April 2012, the Metrolinx Board approved a staging plan for the Transit City projects that would see construction on the Scarborough LRT begin in 2014 (with the section from McCowan north to Sheppard) and completing in 2019.  This and other project schedules were modified by the provincial Cabinet in its project approvals, and the completion date has been extended to 2020.

Torontonians need to understand the reason for an extended SRT shutdown.  Queen’s Park owes us an explanation of why they cannot accomplish the conversion in a shorter timeframe.  If the subway option is not viable due to cost, then the shortest possible SRT shutdown is essential.

  • Council should request speedy review of the cost and construction time estimates for SRT replacement and for the proposed Scarborough Subway so that a definitive choice can be made understanding the implications.


The projects discussed above have a major effect on the total cost of OneCity and, thus, on affordability debates about the plan.  Half of OneCity’s projected $28.8b cost is consumed by this handful of projects.

Approving OneCity studies should not imply approval of routes or of the network.  Toronto should determine what is viable, what gives the best benefit for the transit network, not pre-judge or pre-approve all of the lines on the OneCity map.

Motions already before Council

Regional funding

The Executive Committee recommends that:

City Council request the City Manager to engage and participate with Metrolinx in establishing a working group of appropriate officials representing the City of Toronto, Greater Golden Horseshoe municipalities, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, the Ontario Ministry of Finance, the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and any other relevant bodies to provide input into the preparation of a funding strategy for the Metrolinx regional transit plan.

This motion essentially says “let’s participate in what is already happening”.  The issue is not just to be at table, but to ensure that the scope of discussion includes true regional service integration (GO as local carrier, full cross-system fares) and funding of local transit systems including the TTC as part of the coming “Investment Strategy”.  If GO/Metrolinx runs true to form, they will try to limit the future view to a minimal involvement in local travel even though that is the heart of the region’s mobility concerns.  The GTA municipalities must not allow Queen’s Park to preclude a wider role for their “regional” carrier especially if new GTA-wide revenues are going to pay for whatever we build and operate.

Transit priorities in the Official Plan

The Planning and Growth Management Committee recommends that:

City Council request that the Acting Chief Planner and Executive Director of City Planning work collaboratively with the Toronto Transit Commission to develop a list of transit priorities, to be approved by City Council, and that these priorities be included in the Official Plan review.

This is a longer range task.  The Official Plan won’t be decided by this fall, and its transit component will need extensive study and debate.  That debate must be informed by a better understanding of the OneCity proposals (and whatever else may be on the table) than a one-page list of projects and cost estimates.  As I recommended above, a preliminary review should be completed in 2012.

East Bayfront LRT

The Planning and Growth Management Committee recommends that:

1. City Council support and endorse the East Bayfront LRT line as an added priority for Toronto’s transit network.

2. City Council request the City Manager and the Chief Executive Officer of the Toronto Transit Commission, in consultation with Waterfront Toronto and Metrolinx, to report to the Planning and Growth Management Committee meeting on October 12, 2012, addressing the following:

a. explore funding and financial tools that may be available to complete the waterfront rapid transit plan, and

b. explore connecting East Bayfront with Cherry Street to facilitate transportation for the Pan/Parapan Am Games Athletes’ Village and future residents in the West Don Lands and East Bayfront.

OneCity cites a total cost of $290m for the expansion of Union Loop and the construction of an East Bayfront LRT.  However, this amount only takes the route to Parliament Street and does not include the connection through the “Keating Precinct” to Cherry Street.

(From Keating Channel Precinct Plan, Page 74)

The portion of this plan south of Queen’s Quay is entangled in the debate over a new plan for the Port Lands, but nothing prevents execution of the northern part except the will and the funding to proceed.

Accurate information about the East Bayfront LRT project is urgently needed so that construction can get underway to support developments already in progress.  Waterfront Toronto is considering a set of 15-year “interim” solutions that would condemn this area to poor transit service simply because Toronto does not have the will to support its “transit first” strategy in the waterfront with proper funding.

  • Council should approve the recommendations from Planning and Growth Management Committee, and OneCity should be amended to include the cost of the Keating Precinct LRT connection through to Cherry Street.

37 thoughts on “The Fate of OneCity (Updated)

  1. This is an excellent review of the issues that need to be addressed. Knowing Toronto’s track record when it comes to transit, I’m skeptical that these issues will be resolved with fact-based research. Rather ideological solutions seem to be the trend these days. I’m also skeptical that the majority of these projects will actually get built considering how vulnerable transit plans are to the whims of a newly elected government and the slow pace of cash flow for the current projects.


  2. Steve,

    Great write up. What I found interesting was the admission from Stintz in a Star article that she shouldn’t have done this on her own and she didn’t have the necessary support, yet the very next day in a Star article it states that the plan “might” be saved after a meeting with the Mayor’s office.

    Do you have any information on what the “price” of support would be from the Mayor’s office? This may be pure speculation on my part, but given Ford’s subway dogma combined with the Province’s refusal to change plans from the SRT conversion to Eglinton LRT one can’t help but wonder if the price of support was a change to OneCity from the extension of the Danforth Subway to Scarborough (since the province has essentially blocked it) to an extension of Sheppard East to STC as a subway for Scarborough? That would certainly bring the mayor and his like minded Scarborough councillors on board?

    A Sheppard East subway (if built first) would also have big numbers as a replacement for the SRT during it’s shutdown. Perhaps you have numbers that could confirm that the vast majority of SRT riders are only using it because of the connection it brings to the Danforth subway? A Sheppard Subway would allow a one transfer connection to downtown via the Yonge line (or eventually the Spadina Line) while the SRT is replaced – if, in fact, the majority of people who take the SRT are actually going downtown in the first place.

    Any thoughts or speculation on the mayor’s “support” on this?

    Steve: I think Stintz is dreaming. Previous attempts by her to get the Mayor on side have failed, and there’s no love left for her in that quarter. A Sheppard Subway is not going to happen, not after the whole business of reviewing options and getting a Council vote plus provincial support for the LRT line.

    What has come off the table is the tax proposal which, as I wrote, should not have been bundled with OneCity anyhow. I don’t think that’s enough to keep the Mayor and his circle onside, unless they try to vote strategically to foul up whatever the left might bring to the debate.


  3. Steve, there is no better TTC Commissioner than you. It is a travesty not to put you where your wisdom and sense can help us the most!

    Steve: Until I have a sense that Council is willing to tell its members who think the TTC exists to serve their pet projects to get stuffed, it is clear that there is still an “old boy’s network” very much in operation. I can do far more from the outside.


  4. I have to say I can see why the Province would be offended by this ‘surprise’ announcement. For whatever the reason, the City has accepted an 8 or 9 billion dollar transit gift. Before most shovels are even in the ground, the City then runs right back to the Province asking for even more money. Couple this with a still unopened subway extension to nowhere, so I can easily see why Dalton’s gang thinks we are spoiled kids running back for more. Also because, for whatever reason, we chose to (and correct me if I’m wrong) put zero dollars in the pot and let QP contribute all, we therefore have no right to have any input at all really. Usually the guy who puts up the money gets to say where and why it goes. Why shouldn’t Metrolinx call the shots? If they want an SRT shutdown of years so be it. If we (City T.O.) wanted a say we should have put up some money. I know we are desperate for these transit improvements but don’t you think we are acting like spoiled kids and coming back to ‘daddy’ for more $$$ so soon? How can we expect a great reception from QP or the Feds?? Also I do not think it matters at all who the next PM is or will be. Whoever it is, I seriously doubt they will be running to give Toronto more transit billions. Wish they would but I doubt it. Just my opinion.


  5. I’m curious as to why this fiscal “epiphany” for the Scarborough subway didn’t hit Stintz (and De Baeremaeker) earlier this year. While a few aspects of OneCity have merit, the entire plan reeks too much of political gamesmanship.

    Hire transit experts to pull the crayolas out of the super-duper 64-color box and plan this from the bottom up. At least they’ll have the courtesy to actually sit down at a table with Metrolinx staff first, and not keep the coveted silver and gold ones for themselves. Sorry, but Stintz has shown everyone that she is a politician through and through … not a transit visionary.

    Having said all this, the issue of a BD extension was studied to death eons ago along with an ICTS upgrade option. The TTC’s report concluded at that time that ICTS was the fastest and least expensive (and painful) way to upgrade the line, followed by LRT, followed by an entirely new subway alignment. ICTS was recommended, but LRT was chosen later on because of route integration possibilities with the other Transit City lines.

    Light rail can easily handle the loads on that stretch, and the line is already grade-separated, and isn’t that what counts? As for the transfer at Kennedy, the SRT can be properly interlaced with the Eglinton LRT. The fact that they keep trumping service continuity at Kennedy really says they feel the surface portion of the Eglinton LRT is no better than a bus. Thru-route them. We’re not limited by 35mm film and rotary stepping switch technology.

    Steve: Too much of this has the feel of somehow making Scarborough feel wanted, and ensuring that de Baeremaeker will be remembered as the man who brought them a subway. OneCity has a disproportionate amount of spending east of Victoria Park, although part of the problem is the grossly expensive price of the “Scarborough Express” on the Uxbridge Sub. It’s so far out of whack with the estimate in Cllr. Jones proposal that I think someone really screwed up on the estimate used in OneCity.


  6. Steve said: I can do far more from the outside.

    Steve, I think you just did. Not only does this post review & comment on OneCity, but you have also suggested a simple & effective action plan and given recommendations in a format that any politician or member of the public can read, understand & appreciate.

    Even if you aren’t made a commissioner of the TTC, you have done a lot for TTC & Council with this post.

    Cheers, Moaz


  7. Just where did “Daddy” get his money from in the first place. The Province raises far more taxes in the GTA than it spends there. As a socially progressive person, I am proud to pay my taxes and expect that my tax burden would include spending to help those with greater needs than me. However, while there is a component of “social good” in the Province’s tax redistribution, there is also a sizable component of robbing from “Peter” (GTA) to pay equally prosperous “Pauls” (elsewhere). When John Tory ran for Mayor he campaigned on the premise that higher levels of government (Federal as well as Provincial) were transferring $9 Billion a year from Toronto to elsewhere. Dalton McGuinty has done nothing to reverse the hugely unfair education tax burden, for example, placed on Toronto (and the rest of the GTA) or to stop subsidising middle class taxpayers elsewhere with our money.

    Nothing gets my blood boiling like the suggestion that when Toronto asks the Province for support for essential infrastructure that it is whining and asking for some kind of special consideration.

    As I said at the outset, I am happy to pay my share of the taxes that are spent on social good – equality for all Ontarians. However, I am sick of paying for infrastructure elsewhere – shouldering the burden of equally prosperous people who pay lower taxes and get the infrastructure – while the infrastructure in my home crumbles and falls behind necessary expansions.

    The City is a “Child of the Province” (legally). It is the duty of the Province to build essential infrastructure for its citizens – both those who live in Toronto and elsewhere. When the Province builds infrastructure it is a core Provincial function, not a gift for an ungrateful City.


  8. Steve says:

    “Too much of this has the feel of somehow making Scarborough feel wanted, and ensuring that de Baeremaeker will be remembered as the man who brought them a subway. OneCity has a disproportionate amount of spending east of Victoria Park, although part of the problem is the grossly expensive price of the “Scarborough Express” on the Uxbridge Sub. It’s so far out of whack with the estimate in Cllr. Jones proposal that I think someone really screwed up on the estimate used in OneCity.”

    There are over 600,000 people in Scarborough, 23% of the City of Toronto’s population. Scarborough also comprises close to 30% of the City’s area. Not to mention that the main bus routes are jam packed during rush hour.

    Eglinton East carries 26,900 passengers daily while the 3 routes on Finch ferry 45,200 commuters. The 43 Kennedy is also fairly busy at 14,500 passengers while Lawrence East with its terrible rush hour service is used by 33,800 daily riders. The Markham, McCowan, Midland and Morningside buses carry 20,800, 13,100, 11,900 and 21,300 commuters respectively. The 86 and 190 have 16,400 and 10,100 daily riders respectively. Sheppard East carries an additional 27,100 passengers in addition to the 190’s 10,000+. The Steeles and Victoria Park buses carry over 23,000 commuters respectively while Warden boasts ridership of 16,200 transit users. The York Mills bus, which runs on Ellesmere Rd. in Scarborough, boasts a ridership of nearly 25,000 commuters.

    My point is, the Scarborough buses are crowded during morning rush hour. There are many other routes in Scarborough that average 8000-9000 passengers. On top of that traffic congestion has been growing worse every year. Given all of this, I disagree that a disproportionate amount of spending is happening east of Victoria Park. People actually live east of Victoria Park and the transit situation is a disaster. Better service was needed 10 years ago and we may get one new LRT line, Sheppard East, 10 years from now if we’re very lucky. I won’t hold my breath. I’m not counting the Scarborough LRT as a new line since it is replacing an existing service.

    Steve: I am not disputing this. If they had left out the proposal for the Uxbridge Sub (which does far more to serve people coming from southern York Region than it does much of Scarborough) or had a much more reasonable price tag on it, then the balance with the rest of Toronto would have been better. I am already on record as agreeing that the subway scheme isn’t bad provided that it could actually be built for a small increment over the LRT proposal. The tradeoff with construction and shutdown timelines is worth the price provided that it’s not going to be 2X the cost of the LRT option.

    Scarborough is not the only part of Toronto with packed bus routes. It’s a problem everywhere, and yet OneCity has nothing in it to deal with overcrowding on the basic transit network. Instead we must all wait a decade or more until various construction projects finish.


  9. Instead of showing weak points in the OneCity plan and using it as a stepping stone, we have Rob Ford saying “no” to all transit plans, except his.

    I look at OneCity as taking most of previous needs and plans, and producing a long term implementation plan. Of course, if it included expressways, Rob may say it was a “good” step for him, and a bad step for the rest of us.


  10. Steve, you have made one extremely important point in your write-up that always seems to be neglected in every transit plan I have seen to date:

    “Operations, Service Quality and Maintenance

    The biggest omission from OneCity is any reference to operating costs, service quality, ongoing maintenance and enhancement of the base transit system.  This was done deliberately to avoid having a new tax vanish into a vague pit of TTC funding needs without as much to show (especially in the ribbon-cutting arena) as for a program of entirely new construction.”.

    As you have noted many times in the past, especially with regards to the York extension of the Spadina Line, photo-ops and ribbon cutting ceremonies are great for the various politicians involved. However, if there is no discussion of the ongoing operating costs associated with these magnificent projects, what is the point. As a TTC Operator, I am currently spending my days driving an overcrowded, less frequent bus all in the name of “operation efficiency”. Mayor Ford and his inner circle would have us believe that a more crowded bus that arrives less frequently is an efficient bus: more customers to lower the operating cost per vehicle (and operator)!!


  11. To be honest, I was offended when OneCity was announced. Stintz, de Baeremaeker, the Fords, whoever, I really don’t feel like their is a lot of respect for Torontonians / citizens / constituents at City Hall these days.

    It’s particularly insulting when de Baeremaeker says words to the effect of “It’s been 100% costed… And you can take that to the bank!” Right. Followed up by, paraphrasing, “Oh, we didn’t think to consult other levels of government ahead of time. We thought it best to present them with a complete idea [so that they could refute it immediately].”

    I hate to be so cynical but, after so many ultimately pointless announcements, I’d like to remind our beloved politicians that government isn’t the equivalent of a grade seven geography project! Please stop wasting our time, and our hopes and aspirations with nonsense drawn on a map. And, if you must draw a map, please show us how bus routes would change as well. After all, it is a transit network, not just a rapid transit network!

    At the end of the day, I feel the most sorry for our poor civil servants (and some paid consultants) that keep being asked to rework and to rework (and to rework thrice for good measure) the same tired, barely practical proposals that ultimately go nowhere. What a bunch of busybody work!

    Also, never trust a man who wears his glasses on a string… Or those who openly associate with him! Okay, granted, that last one was a bit unfair.


  12. Thanks for including the status of council’s actual transport planning, such as it is, and for the specific proposals councillors should consider. I too doubt the ability of the government class to see the complex short and long term needs of the system, but at least they are recorded here.


  13. Steve said …

    “I am already on record as agreeing that the subway scheme isn’t bad provided that it could actually be built for a small increment over the LRT proposal”

    Here’s where you’re not thinking Steve. If you compare the length of the Scarborough subway against the length of a Sheppard subway to STC, you’ll notice that they’re roughly the same.

    If you’re going to support a Scarborough subway, doesn’t it make more sense to simply abandon the RT completely, take the money set aside for the SRT conversion and Sheppard LRT, and redirect those funds to build the Sheppard subway east to STC?

    People here are not thinking out of the box. The RT is simply a feeder for BD. Redirect that feed to Sheppard-Yonge and you kill many birds with one stone. The Sheppard subway debate will finally come to an end once and for all and Scarborough gets a subway link to STC. How is this worse than a BD extension? Both will overload YUS, just at different points. The BD extension only makes sense if the DRL goes first.

    Steve: Many people riding the BD line are not transferring to the YUS. Your scheme would force those riders to make this connection whether they needed to or not thereby adding to the crowding on the worst part of the network.

    This sounds like force feeding a Sheppard Subway to make it appear viable when it isn’t.


  14. What happens if OneCity were to get approval sometime as early as next week lets say?

    Will the Eglinton Line & Finch West LRT still proceed and not get delayed since it is not in the path of the Scarborough RT/Bloor Danforth Extension project?

    Steve: Well, it’s not going to be approved next week, and so this question is really hypothetical. Even the proponents agree that the whole thing needs study. As for timing on Eglinton and Finch, that’s up to Queen’s Park, tempered by their own calculations and whatever policy shifts occur at City Hall. I’m not worried about Eglinton, but there is a big threat to Finch because of constant delays in the announced construction date.


  15. Steve, is City Council in any position to implement a new transit tax by the upcoming Council meeting?

    OneCity may be losing steam, but I would be very surprised not to see, at the very least, a vote to study revenue tools that can be implemented in the short term.

    Steve: In theory yes, but in practice no. Nothing this big would be approved without a detailed study of how it would operate or who would wind up paying how much. Property tax changes have unintended consequences and you don’t shuffle them around just because someone has a pretty map.


  16. Not to belabor the point, but if we look back on your site four years ago … … and refer to pages 10 and 11 for the SRT OD studies you’ll see that force-feeding all RT riders (who mostly get on at STC) to Sheppard-Yonge via a full Sheppard subway only inconveniences a very small percentage (< 10%). Based on that study, the rest are no worse off, and in fact the ones heading to midtown locations are better off taking a Sheppard subway that runs to STC.

    Steve: Although 55% of SRT riders are forecast to ride into the core, this is an area that encompasses Bloor Street on the north.


  17. “force-feeding all RT riders (who mostly get on at STC) to Sheppard-Yonge via a full Sheppard subway only inconveniences a very small percentage (< 10%)."

    Make that argument at Davisville, St. Clair, Summerhill and Rosedale (already facing less and less space in arriving trains from the Eglinton LRT and a putative Yonge Extension). Bring some friends for protection.

    The net effect at/south of Bloor will be harder to quantify, depending on whether currently disaffected riders return to an emptier BD line with demand having been shifted to the LRT and this notional subway.


  18. Michael said:

    “I am sick of paying for infrastructure elsewhere – shouldering the burden of equally prosperous people who pay lower taxes and get the infrastructure – while the infrastructure in my home crumbles and falls behind necessary expansions.

    The City is a “Child of the Province” (legally). It is the duty of the Province to build essential infrastructure for its citizens – both those who live in Toronto and elsewhere. When the Province builds infrastructure it is a core Provincial function, not a gift for an ungrateful City.”

    This really can’t be repeated often enough. Yes, it is a fallacy to say that year over year we can or should expect true equity in spending, but for far too long Toronto, and cities in general, have paid for everything in this country and got almost nothing back for it.


  19. My question is would extensions to the Bloor line east, or extensions to the Sheppard line east effectively be the same as an extension of Yonge north with regards to Bloor/Yonge capacity. Sheppard east would definitely have a larger catchment zone (and hence more rides funneled to Yonge/Bloor….replacing the srt with lrt seemed to be about a 1:1 (maybe a bit more) replacement when it came to capacity…but getting rid of the transfer would appear to be a more attractive service with way more capacity (and frequency)…and would make people more willing to make a bus transfer…so the zone would grow (along with the “we love subways” crowd)….

    So does a subway in Scarborough require a DRL as well?

    Steve: I would turn the argument around by saying that a DRL is required no matter what is added to the network. Any attempt to weight a choice of a new subway between the advocates of a Sheppard or Bloor extension based on “saving” the cost of a DRL is a diversion from a long overdue review of how to improve capacity into the core area.


  20. Do you think Commissioners knew what they were getting Transit City into when they voted to transfer the projects to Metrolinx? I note that while they endorse Metrolinx’s as the project manager, nowhere does it say that they endorse Metrolinx’s proposed construction timelines and project delivery methods. I wonder how they feel about Queens Park’s new and improved timeline.

    What I don’t understand is why there’s so little chatter in response to Queens Park’s new timeline from City Councillors.

    Steve: The current TTC seems unwilling to bite the provincial hand. When Toronto celebrated 100% funding of Transit City, they gave up any control over the projects. As and when we actually see a funding formula (Metrolinx Investment Strategy), we can start to talk about project schedules based on an expected rate of capital flow rather than on the whims of the provincial budget.


  21. @George Bell:

    SRT’s LRT conversion is not a 1:1 conversion, it is about 3:1 in terms of capacity. The projected demand relative to today is about 2.5:1 for actual rail service usage in the SRT corridor and about 2.0:1 for “corridor demand” that would include the current bus services whose reason d’être is to divert people from the SRT due to its capacity shortage (a mere 3,800/hr, which even a well-designed BRT could carry).

    So even LRT replacing the SRT would add a lot to Bloor-Yonge stress, reinforcing Steve’s point about the DRL.


  22. Steve wrote,

    “I would turn the argument around by saying that a DRL is required no matter what is added to the network. Any attempt to weight a choice of a new subway between the advocates of a Sheppard or Bloor extension based on ‘saving’ the cost of a DRL is a diversion from a long overdue review of how to improve capacity into the core area.”

    I agree that the east DRL is needed no matter what, and am of the opinion that this should be at the top of any subway priority list. That should make an extension of BD a far better choice than a Sheppard extension in terms of the network’s ability to transport people between STC and downtown.


  23. In response to this Globe and Mail article (), I just have to ask.

    I wonder if Metrolinx/Queens Park’s push for AFP/P3 for Sheppard was influenced or caused by Gordon Chong’s application to the P3 Canada fund. The Globe and Mail article writes that Chong’s application intended for Sheppard and Eglinton subway stations to be implemented by DBFM-eerily familiar to what Metrolinx is proposing for all current LRT projects.

    Steve: No, Queen’s Park has been big on P3s for a lot longer than Chong and his report/proposal were around. A lot of this is creative accounting to make debt vanish into the private sector’s hands and off of provincial books.


  24. The latest in the Toronto Star is that OneCity was voted down but council has agreed to prioritize an LRT on the East Bayfront.

    Oh, and Andy Byford is looking for a Chief of Staff. MBA and experience in a union environment apparently required.

    Cheers, Moaz

    Steve: I was pleased to see how the Waterfront vote went. This part of the network has been ignored for far too long. As for Byford’s Chief of Staff, what’s really interesting is that this position sits firmly outside of the Operations and Engineering structures within the TTC, and is part of the executive. The right person could do very well here, or could be a royal pain in the butt of they turned an open doorway into a locked gate. Much depends on the selection criteria, and I sense that Byford’s goals are honourable in this. Some of this work was part of his original job description before Gary Webster was fired, and he needs a right hand to look after a lot of he liaison/co-ordination stuff.


  25. As much as I hate to say it the province and the feds need to kill 100% of transit funding until council gets their act together. I ride transit daily and I want shovels in the ground. One City is a nice plan but we cannot keep coming up with new ideas to debate every other day, shovels need to be put in the ground and work started. Stintz and the rest of council need to approve one plan to the exclusion of all others not debate every idea that someone cooks up on a napkin.

    Nothing is getting done while council debates new ways to solve transit problems in Toronto. All I can say is.. subway, LRT, BRT, even Zeppelins at this point just come up with one plan, stick to it and build it. As a transit user in Toronto, nothing makes me madder than sitting in a crush loaded vehicle while council comes up with half-baked schemes like One City all the time without actually building something.

    The time for debate is over, we need a solution and we need it now now in 2016 during the next council. What sickens me the most is that council is essentially using Transit as a ploy to get elected. They come up with all these plans to appeal to people and then when their numbers are low in another segment come up with another plan to appeal to them. All in all, we need to build something now and not in 20 years and the only way council will actually act is if the province and the feds start making following through and concrete plans a condition of receiving funding. If the feds and the province cut transit funding as a result of councils indecision watch how fast things would be finalized and projects started.

    Sorry for ranting Steve but it had to be said.. getting off my soapbox now!

    Steve: Rant away! I will look after the Swan Boat network.


  26. I pretty much expected the “One City” plan to be rejected though nearly all of council agreed have staff draft a plan for future transit expansion. There were two issues that seemed to have doomed it. One was the apparent flip-flop back to extending the BD subway to STC (something that the Mayor had championed but was rejected by council). And the most odious part of “One City” that was quickly dropped was the one that I thought most important to filling the gap in the City’s transit need, namely the funding formula. Everyone agrees we need more transit service, whatever it might be, but no one seems willing to pay for it. Much as I’d like to see a plan for transit expansion, I’d also like to see a credible plan for funding it, and the latter is sadly lacking. So far every “tool” suggested (parking levies, property tax increases or road tolls, etc) have been rejected.

    Tax increment funding has been the only one supported by the Mayor and his allies, but I recently read in one of the newspapers that a report from the City’s CFO stated TIFs would be at best break-even, since any increased revenues the TIFs would deliver would be offset but increased costs to service new development.

    I find it ironic that Los Angeles, a city well know for car-dependence and gridlock has found consensus and revenue tools that seem to elude Toronto. It’s interesting that Taras Grescoe’s book “Straphanger” is rather timely. I head him interviewed on CBC’s Metro Morning and he was actually quite excited by the “One City” transit plan, as he saw it as the first truly visionary plan for transit from Toronto. Alas, the current council did not share that enthusiasm.


    Steve: I found the whole question of funding in OneCity to be dubious on two counts. First, only averages were discussed. While $180/year might be the effect on the average house, many people do not own “average” houses. In parts of the city where prices are rising at an above average rate, CVA uplift will in effect double-tax owners both by increasing their base taxes relative to the “average” house, and by in effect surtaxing that above-average rise in value. This rise does not necessarily represent a real increase in wealth, only that a property is in a location that, were it to be sold, a higher price would be obtained. This is a basic problem with CVA, let alone CVA uplift.

    I did not include these comments in my main article because the operation of the tax system is complex depending on many factors, and because I myself am part-owner of a property that fits this category and could be accused of a conflict of interest.


  27. “Steve: No, Queen’s Park has been big on P3s for a lot longer than Chong and his report/proposal were around. A lot of this is creative accounting to make debt vanish into the private sector’s hands and off of provincial books.”

    I understood that. But given how the Sheppard LRT was supposed to be a traditionally publicly-financed project before Ford, I can’t help but think that had it not been for Chong’s application that it would still be a publicly financed-project. Obviously, something must have triggered the switch to private-sector finance, and I don’t think it’s Queen’s Park’s love for P3 that triggered this change. Else, they would have insisted on P3 from the very beginning.

    Steve: Queen’s Park’s interest in P3s relates to the worsening financial situation and the desire to defer as much spending as possible, or failing that, to move it “off book”. Also Infrastructure Ontario is much more involved as an agent of program delivery. Considering that the former head of IO is now the Premier’s Chief of Staff, I would expect this organization to lead a charmed life.


  28. If the idea of a Scarborough subway is really dead, as the Toronto Star reported today, then at least Commissioner Stintz has successfully focused some attention on the less-than-ideal Scarborough RT-LRT conversion.

    A four year shut-down is much less than less than ideal. It will be an absolute disaster for Scarborough commuters, in cars and in transit. We need over a 100 buses. Really? From where? How will all these buses plodding along in heavier traffic along Ellesmere and Midland replace a rapid transit system? Why spend all that money to re-do an expensive RT technology with an expensive LRT that will probably become outgrow LRT capacity in the lifetime of many Scarborough commuters.

    Is it too late to re-consider Mark II trains? Would Mark II necessitate such an extensive re-construction of the infrastructure?

    Shame we didn’t get it right the first time.

    Steve: Yes, if we got it right the first time, we would have had an LRT line all the way to Malvern that would have been celebrating its 30th birthday by now. Instead we got an overpriced line with unreliable equipment as a “showcase” of Ontario technology. Fortunately for the UTDC (and later Bombardier), Vancouver did a better job with their line, but it wasn’t a gold-plated wonder where the TTC got to pick up all of the UTDC’s cost overruns and, in the process, lose its appetite for “intermediate capacity” transit. We were told a lot of lies about what LRT could and could not do many decades back and the TTC, despite its protestations, colluded in the whole business.

    Even with Vancouver’s example, LRT systems outnumber ICTS lines the world over by a very, very wide margin.

    (Those who have followed the disinformation campaign by GO/Metrolinx about mainline electrification will notice certain parallels in a provincial agency denying that any alternative technology to their own scheme is workable.)


  29. “Also Infrastructure Ontario is much more involved as an agent of program delivery. Considering that the former head of IO is now the Premier’s Chief of Staff, I would expect this organization to lead a charmed life.”

    I guess IO and P3 advocates at Queen’s Park can’t thank Ford enough then.


  30. Regarding the funding plan. The reason it needed Provincial approval lies solely in the fact the tax increase would have been applied equally across all property classes. Due to Toronto having the among the most, if not the most, unequal tax ratios in the Province there are in place provincial regulations that limit the city’s ability to increase taxes on nonresidential (apartments and commercial properties). If not for this, meaning the CVA Uplift was applied at a rate of 1/3 of residential to the already overtaxed multi residential and commercial classes, it would have not required Provincial approval.

    Steve: Thanks for this clarification.


  31. A final word about the Province’s role,

    Not only did the City lose control of Transit City timing when the commission voted to transfer project management responsibilities to Metrolinx, but it should never have expected any meaningful control if 100% of the funding is to come from an entirely different party (i.e. the Province). I think one of Miller’s biggest mistakes is his faith that the province would follow through with whatever it promises, while Miller himself did nothing to have city funding involved in those projects.

    The Province is wrong to delay Transit City once again, but the city is in no position to complain about it. Next time we want to secure the future of another initiative in a timely manner, it is only prudent for us to look for ways to pay for it ourselves.


  32. I know this is off topic, but does anyone know why Mikes website, TransitStop is offline? It was working a few days ago, but not anymore. I wanted to use some of the streetcar/ subway car measurement images for some illustration work I am doing. Thanks!


  33. Is there a risk that whatever the staff come up with as transit priorities may be influenced by the mayor’s office (as we have seen during the Waterfront Port Lands debate)?

    Steve: The staff would have to be suicidal to attempt to play to one side of Council or another in this. Only by producing a document that suggests a prioritization scheme, showing what it would do, and letting Council decide whether the methodology should be rebalanced do staff have a hope of credibility.


  34. Hi Steve

    Is it just me being paranoid, or is there a reason to be concerned about council reviewing the city’s funding of the new streetcars?

    Steve: This was initiated by Cllr Pasternak, a mushy middle member who tips toward the Ford side fairly easily. His pet project is the Sheppard West subway, and he is on the hunt for any “wasted” money elsewhere in capital plans. Council decided to use much of its ongoing “surplus” to fund a reserve account from which the City’s 2/3 share of the streetcar order will be paid.

    I don’t thing this order is endangered. The contract has been let for building Ashbridge Carhouse, and much has already been invested in development of the new cars and preparations for their arrival.

    A decision to stop running streetcars would have widespread effects on the TTC’s ability to serve major routes where riding will grow with intensification. Indeed, riding would grow more now if they had enough working vehicles to improve service. The TTC has used the delicate state of the CLRV/ALRV fleet for years as an excuse not to build up service even where demand is strong. A move to buses (aside from the cost of buying a new fleet and building at least two large garages) would eliminate this excuse and would push up operating expenses. I would be very surprised if Queen’s Park would let Toronto scoop the money committed for the provincial share of the streetcar order to redirect to other purposes.


  35. The Business section in today’s Toronto Star (July 18) contains the information that Canadian Pacific intends to cease operations at the Obico container terminal in south Etobicoke, transferring those operations to their terminal in Vaughan and closing Obico. No mention is made about prospects the property will be sold; however, if a sale is to be held, and given the property’s proximity to the Bloor-Danforth subway, there might be an excellent opportunity for the T.T.C. to acquire land in support of storage and maintenance facilities’ net expansion. Perhaps, too: acquire land strategically in support of operations rights-of-way improvement with respect to connectivity within south Etobicoke, and between south Etobicoke and elsewhere. No doubt, residential-property developers and, perhaps, industry would express interest in support of their own business goals.

    Bruce Ramsay

    Steve: Either for a subway yard, or for GO Transit, this property is well-located. A related question is what will happen to the CP cpur south from this yard connecting into the CNR just west of the main GO yard. Given the history of rail lines and property in Toronto, I suspect we will see GO snatch up this before the TTC.


  36. Regarding transit planning for the city of Toronto and its surrounding regions I would like to encourage the reader to consider three very important concepts.

    (1) When considering funding sources there should be SIGNIFICANT attention to the externalities created by different funding sources. That is to say that with respect to taxes, all taxes are not equal, and that certain taxes create good behaviour and others create bad behaviour.

    (2) Regarding who should pay for transit projects, payment should be proportional to the net benefit the respective government receives from the increase in tax revenues caused by the transit improvement, and payment should be proportional to benefit gained. He who gains the most should pay the most.

    (3) Transit planning must be acutely tuned to what is politically possible. There is the implicit assumption that there is a given level of “stretch” in public opinion where public education can bring public opinion in line with a given plan, but if the public is expected to “stretch” too much the plan will fail.

    Regarding the discussion on One City I would like to suggest the following for consideration.

    First and foremost the provincial government needs to establish GO transit service that has fare integration, all day two way service and increased number of urban and suburban stops. The province can easily fund the expansion of GO transit with a two percent increase in the HST. The tax increase brings the rate inline with historical norms, it is an effective carbon tax, and does not decrease investment in productive capital, unlike the CVA Uplift Capture that will skew regional growth dynamics limiting the potential success of the transit investment.

    An expanded GO transit network will make significant progress in expanding the political and practical appeal of the currently proposed LRT network making the combined plan significantly more likely to get voter approval in the next election then the LRT plan would on its own.

    Finally an integrated plan as stated above would provide superior social and economic benefits that will more than justify the relatively small investment needed.

    Steve: Re your point (1), I am not sure that we should be trying to influence behaviour primarily through the tax system. Some transit advocates talk rather a lot about pricing auto travel out of the market, but forget that the best ad for people to switch is an attractive alternative. If we know nothing else from past decades, it is that auto users are relatively insensitive to pricing, but they are very sensitive to quality of travel. I’m not sure if this was what you are driving at, as there is also the problem of taxes that encourage people to “game the system” to minimize the effect on them personally.

    Re (2), one big problem is that a benefit may actually be long term or spread over a wide area rather than producing an immediately obvious benefit. As an example, the “DRL” makes travel directly better for one group of riders (those who would actually use it), but also enables travel elsewhere in the network by freeing up capacity. The flip side of this is that some improvements such as running frequent all-day, two-way service may appear to some people as a “waste” because the trains will be nowhere near full, nor will many of the connecting bus services on local systems. There will be a delicate balance between improved convenience for transit riders and perceived “waste of taxpayers’ dollars” by those who still drive, probably because they have no choice.

    Re (3), I agree that an informed public is essential, and life won’t be easy if there is a fifth column of naysayers who argue that no transit improvement is worth the money. Projects must not be oversold, a big problem both for politicians and career-building professionals who would have us believe that somehow we will make congestion vanish in our lifetimes. When I started this paragraph, I was going to say an “educated public”, but that has too much the tone of “you must be carefully taught”. An informed public understands the options and, with luck, supports the choices and tradeoffs. An “educated” public only knows what they have been told to believe.

    Re GO Transit, it is essential as you say that GO has very large expansion of its hours and type of service, but that means operating dollars, something Queen’s Park is loathe to part with because they cannot make this disappear on their books through creative accounting. Once there is a new revenue stream, I really hope that a chunk of it will be devoted to the operating side of the ledger or we will be building billions of infrastructure, but running the same old tired system.


  37. I would like too recommend that the reader have a look at this article to better understand the social and economic factors that are shaping the political dynamics affecting the transit debate. The research is from the well respected Centre for Urban &Community Studies at the University of Toronto.

    The political ramifications of the realities outlined in the above article are significant. Transit City was defeated through the municipal election because of the polarization exhibited in the article, and its remnants survived only by the skin of their teeth. As good as the LRT plan is, without a significant expansion and fare integration in the commuter rail system (GO transit) the LRT plan will have a very tough time gaining the political support needed in the next election. GO transit is definitively the capstone centerpiece that enhances all other transit projects in the City of Toronto and the GTA. GO transit is a very powerful tool in dealing with many of the concerns and complaints that many “anti-LRT” communities have by combining the superior local transit (LRT) with the superior commuter transit (GO), by combining the two system it is likely that the reader will find that those who once opposed the LRT plan will most likely embrace the combined plan.

    Swan boats + Rocket engines = Awesome


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