Metrolinx Dumps TTC as LRT Partner (Maybe)

Updated October 4, 2012 at 9:20 am:

Mr reaction to the announcement yesterday that TTC would remain as “operator” of the LRT lines is on the Torontoist website.

Although the TTC sees this as a “good news” story, I am less impressed because Toronto is still very much the junior partner.  We get to drive the trains, and that’s about all.  With all maintenance remaining in the hands of Metrolinx private partner, whoever that will eventually be, this is a big step in outsourcing transit operations.

Updated October 1, 2012 at 10:00 pm:

The Toronto Star reports that discussions continue between Metrolinx, the City of Toronto and the TTC regarding the possible operation of the planned LRT lines by the TTC rather than a private contractor.

Exactly how much “operation” would entail is not mentioned, although the TTC is known to be concerned about responsibility for safety-sensitive systems such as vehicle, signal and track maintenance.

A related issue is the amount of detail that must be worked out before a master contract is let by Infrastructure Ontario.  If the private work ends when operation begins (with possible exceptions such as building and station maintenance), then this is a much simpler contract to draft than one that would require all of the details of future operations to be bundled with a design and construction contract.

Whether Queen’s Park and Metrolinx are aware of or care about the delay inherent in needing to specify so much detail so far in advance for a single contract remains to be seen.

September 21, 2012

My thoughts on recent announcements that Metrolinx would completely take over the LRT projects formerly part of Transit City are in an article on the Torontoist website.


86 thoughts on “Metrolinx Dumps TTC as LRT Partner (Maybe)

  1. Who operates the new lines ten years from now is inevitably subject to change. This is assuming, of course, that the TTC even exists ten years from now and that there hasn’t been some reform merging it with Metrolinx or whatever. Also, this is assuming that there isn’t another yet another radically changed transit plan before then, as nothing other than Eglinton is scheduled to begin construction before 2015 (2017 for Sheppard), and there will have been a municipal/provincial (probably)/federal election by then.

    For all intents and purposes, Metrolinx wants to take over complete control of the proposed LRT lines from the city. Giving the city control of operating the lines in 2020-whatever is a token gesture to silence opposition from the TTC.


  2. I would suggest that City Council offer to foot part of the Transit City bill, but Chiarelli would probably decry this as another unnecessary delay from City Council. Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but even David Miller offered for City Council to pay for some of the costs upfront when the first round of cuts was announced.

    Steve: As we have seen with subsequent schedule changes, Queen’s Park really didn’t want to spend the money in anything like the original timeframe. Also in the current political climate, I suspect Ford would have cancelled any agreement to pay for Transit City lines the day he became mayor. Little enough of the work would have progressed beyond the point of no return.


  3. “I suspect Ford would have cancelled any agreement to pay for Transit City lines the day he became mayor.”

    Cancelling city funding would still need to go through council, just like the January 2012 vote. I can’t say Ford would have been any less chicken to have brought it to council immediately, even with city funding at stake.


  4. An abbreviated case for giving more power to Metrolinx.

    Point 1

    The main problem with funding transit development is being caused by the incongruence between what is being offered and what communities desire. Transit City is magnificent at providing superior local transit; the problem is that most of the communities affected want commuter transportation to get them to the downtown. The reality is that most commuter demand can be satisfied very easily and very cheaply by expanding GO transit and integrating its fare structure with the TTC. Think about it as having 7 Downtown relief lines for a fraction of the cost of the one DRL currently being proposed. If the Transit City LRT lines are to succeed they must be complemented by enhanced GO transit service. The main problem is that the current structure of Metrolinx does not allow it to properly overcome parochial and vested interests to get the job done.

    Simplified integrated service can provide greater benefit for much less then the alternatives.

    Steve: Much of that parochialism comes from Metrolinx who refuse to accept that their job is to handle both regional and local travel. They have a phobia about trips entirely within the 416 and refuse to look at GO as a potential alternative rapid transit network. That said, there are limits on the capacity of Union Station to handle a large added volume of trains. This is not just a case of where corridors are on the map but how the lines would operate if we put that level of service on them.

    Point 2

    The second major problem facing transit is political revision of historic agreements. Transit in the GTA is overexposed to the political process; the region is constantly in a crisis of confidence because every successive government tries to overhaul what its predecessor set out to do. A glaring example of this is the Sheppard subway, at its heart the Sheppard subway was a bi-partisan agreement that was a fundamental expression of the democratic process. It was researched and analyzed with the same rigor that its predecessors and successors were subjected to. By overhauling it the covenant between the government and the people has been undermined, creating a crisis of confidence. If there can be no commitment to a long term plan that was a fundamental expression of a bipartisan democratically elected government then there will most likely be very little commitment to any other plan that might be developed as a successor.

    Respect for the past can go a long way to build confidence in the future.

    Steve: Should we just ignore the fact that some of the “research” behind the Sheppard subway was based on a premise that was of dubious value when it was written, and of declining value ever since?

    We must see Metrolinx for what it is, a very young government body that must constantly evolve to meet the growing and changing needs of the region. A stronger more representative Metrolinx will be able to go a long way to harmonize and integrate local and commuter transit, and it can be a very powerful ballast to protect transit projects from political revision. The conflict between Metrolinx and its junior partners (in this case the TTC) represents a type of interaction that must be overcome and internalized within the Metrolinx organization.

    Steve: “more representative” is the key phrase here. If Metrolinx were not such a secretive organization run by a board that has no political accountability to the public, then I might feel that anything they choose to take over could be in good hands, or at least hands whose knuckles we could rap if things went wrong.


  5. I think that Metrolinx changed its mind for 2 reasons:

    1) Someone at Queen’s Park was surprised at the negative publicity they were getting in the 416 from not letting he TTC operate the line. There is an election coming up in the near future and the Liberals do not need any more bad publicity. The Waterfront East LRT could probably be built for less than the true cost of moving the gas powered generating plants.

    2) Someone at Metrolinx finally realized that if the TTC were not operating Eglinton and if the service were shut down for an emergency or to relay track, the TTC would be in no hurry to provide substitute bus service. They could just say “not our line not our problem.”

    I really don’t think that Metrolinx had fully thought through the problems that would be created by having two separate operators running in Toronto. They can get away doing this for GO because the CP crews never operate on the old CN trackage, the Bombardier crews never operate on the Milton line and there are not enough buses to even think about busing people if a line is closed by an accident or emergency. Can anyone remember if GO has ever supplied buses to move people when an entire line was shut down? I can’t.


  6. As most consultants know the extent to which they can provide advice and “research” to a client is limited by the research frame work the client provides. In the case of transit, much of the research that is accepted must satisfy parochial political needs. If parochial interests were not at play the bulk of the conversation would be on electrifying GO transit and integrating its fare structure all the respective municipalities it serves. To say that, “’research’ behind the Sheppard subway was based on a premise that was of dubious value when it was written, and of declining value ever since,” is to ignore the fact that to those who subscribe to the same parochial interests that framed the original Sheppard Subway research the subway is as legitimate today as it was then.

    It will likely be politically necessary to see some form of Sheppard Subway extension, in what will likely be a barter to preserve the Eglinton LRT. Hopefully GO transit will receive the attention it deserves, so that the return on investment that it generates will subsidize the other parochial projects.

    Transit development in Toronto reminds me of an old saying, “a camel is a horse by committee.”


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