Toronto Contemplates Transit Funding / Reviews Transit Plans (Updated)

Updated October 9, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Toronto’s Executive Committee considered a report on transit funding mechanisms today.  In the following report, I have included only the most interesting or important of comments to give the flavour of the debate.

The proceedings were rather odd in that a presentation, cued up for City Staff, was never heard, but a “private citizen” managed to give a half-hour long deputation thanks to many friendly questions from Committee members.  That “citizen” was Dr. Gordon Chong, former head of Toronto Transit Infrastructure Limited, an all-but-bankrupt subsidiary of the TTC used to conduct a study of the Sheppard East subway extension for Mayor Ford.

Chong liberally drew on his transit experience including years as head of the Greater Toronto Services Board, a provincial agency predating Metrolinx.  Throughout his deputation, the highly misleading map of four cities’ subway system was projected to emphasize how little Toronto has done.  (That map purports to show how little Toronto has in comparison with London, New York and Madrid while ignoring the fact that these were much larger cities, much sooner.)

A “glaring omission” from the collection of transit plans in the staff report, Chong said, was his own Sheppard report and the information produced by KPMG about tax increment financing (TIF).  Chong clearly implied that the report was biased, but missed the fact that the Council motion directed the inclusion of “approved” plans for review, something Chong’s most emphatically was not.  As for TIF, it is mentioned, but rejected as a funding mechanism as staff argue that such revenue is needed for general support of city services and should not be earmarked just for transit capital projects.

Councillor Michael Thompson pursued the scheme of a Scarborough subway with a BD extension that would loop back along Sheppard to close the loop at Don Mills Station.  Chong replied that if Toronto could deal with the “money issue”, then there is no reason we can’t have the best in transit.  Thompson observed that a casino might bring in $75-100m annually and could fund transit projects.  The oddity here is that both treat any new money as a bonanza to be used for the best possible transit (where they want it) when fiscal conservatives might be expected to argue for careful husbanding of whatever loot might come their way.  There is also the small problem that the municipal share of projected revenue for a Toronto casino is probably an order of magnitude lower than the Councillor’s claim.

Various Councillors mused about a regional agency to dispense transit dollars and decide which projects should be built.  An underlying assumption was that, of course, the network of suburban Toronto subways would rank high on the list, and nobody seemed to contemplate that a 905-dominated agency might have other more pressing needs or think that the investment in all those subways was of dubious value.

Chong had only veiled contempt for the “expert panel” who reviewed his report and recommended, instead, for the LRT option on Sheppard.  He strongly supports subway construction presuming the money is available, supported by the best possible feeder bus network.  Councillor Norm Kelly asked whether the LRT plan was “an aberration”, and Chong replied that all previous TTC Chief General Managers had supported subways.  Although he invoked the name of David Gunn, he neglected to mention that Gunn boycotted the opening ceremonies of the Sheppard line.

Next the Committee turned to questions of staff.

City Manager Joe Pennachetti explained the timeframe for the proposed public consultations.  Through the fall there will be public meetings and online feedback  (a dedicated website, social media) regarding the possible revenue tools and the prioritization process for transit projects.  Staff will summarize the feedback during the winter and report to Council in April or May.  The timing is intended to mesh with a June 2013 release of Metrolinx’ Investment Strategy.

One major issue still to be resolved is the division of any new revenue between regional/provincial projects undertaken by Metrolinx and the considerable need for local funding to operate and maintain the TTC, and to build major works that are not “regional” in nature (e.g. Waterfront projects).  The first priority, according to Pennachetti, is to fund “The Big Move”, the Metrolinx regional plan.  Then come the “local” projects.

Councillor Minnan-Wong, noted for his friendly reception of public input, worried that the consultation process would be dominated by “the usual suspects” and “special interest groups”.  He wanted to hear from the “regular guy” and get “unbiased” feedback without “torquing results”.  Obviously, the opinion of anyone who appears with an interest other than their local bus line or complaints about their taxes can and should be ignored.

Councillor Mammoliti spoke for his constituents who feel an LRT plan on Finch West is being forced on them by downtowners who don’t understand the ward and it aspirations, but who already have their subways and wish to deny them to others.  He argued that LRT lines would be no faster than the buses they would replace.

Councillor Shiner talked about Development Charges which now levy about $11k against every new unit, but of which only about $3k goes to transit and road funding.  He wants provincial caps on this funding stream removed, but chose to ignore the height to which the levy must rise or the number of units required to fund a project like the Sheppard extension.

Business now turned to speakers beginning with Councillors who are not members of the Executive Committee.

TTC Chair Karen Stintz noted that a regional approach will not get Toronto all it wants, particularly for local needs.  It is naïve to expect that the 905 will agree to fund a Downtown Relief Line, and Toronto cannot count on Queen’s Park to fund the city’s plans. Riders’ expectations must be managed through the consultation process so that they don’t expect too much benefit.

Stintz noted that P3s are not a funding mechanism, contrary to several Councillors, but are only another way to finance a project.  She spoke of her “One City” plan as a list of priorities, but failed to note that in fact it is a shopping list of pet projects with no priorities attached.  The hardest problem for anyone is to say “not now” or “no”, and long lists look impressive.

Councillor Josh Matlow took another approach urging that the City focus on what it wants, identify a few key projects and their estimated cost, and then go to voters to identify the tools that might be used to pay for them.

Councillor Doug Ford dismissed all the talk of new taxes which, to him, were the standard approach to any funding problem, and argued that the City should pursue P3 arrangements exclusively.  He did not address the issue of how these would eventually be paid for and, presumably, thinks of them as self-financing.

Councillor Adam Vaughan asked whether Toronto’s goal was to build transit to create density or to serve riders.  In other words, should we be addressing travel demand as it exists, or focus investment where we hope to see new development.  This argument was lost in the shuffle and no other speaker picked up on the thread.  However, it is an important issue because unmet transit need is not necessarily served by lines intended to stimulate growth where population and demand are now thin.

At this point, the Committee broke for lunch.  Just before it resumed, the press cornered Mayor Ford on his return and asked about his position on the matter.  Ford replied that Toronto should be using P3s for its transit projects, and that Torontonians are taxed to death.  However, he felt that the consultation exercise would determine whether people wanted to pay more tax to support transit.

Councillor Cesar Palacio suggested that the backlog in road repairs should be included in the list of targets for new funding.  He was concerned about internal bickering between departments and agencies, and argued for a unified plan.

Councillor Peter Milczyn moved that the recommendations be amended by adding:

The Executive Committee requested the City Manager to report back to Executive Committee in Spring 2013 on options to establish a Rapid Transit Planning Office with a mandate to assess and co-ordinate Toronto’s ongoing rapid transit needs, assign priorities, develop plans, lead and manage the ongoing expansion of rapid transit infrastructure in order to help reduce congestion and commuting times in Toronto. The Office will work cooperatively with City of Toronto Finance, Planning and Transportation Departments, the Toronto Transit Commission, Metrolinx, Infrastructure Ontario and Public Private Partnerships Canada, and other potential partners.

This amendment (together with others available here) passed.  This maintains the TTC’s participation in rapid transit planning, but puts the overall responsibility in a new City office.  Whether it will be populated with responsible, unbiased professionals or politically-motivated appointees remains to be seen.

Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti reiterated his concern that his constituents were being dictated to with the choice of LRT, bemoaned the alleged slowness of future LRT operations and argued that the presence of a maintenance yard on Finch West would further denigrate the Jane/Finch neighbourhood.  He claimed that riders on the Yonge subway benefit from a line “built when there were just trees and woodpeckers” (a claim that is flatly untrue even in its northern reaches), and asked that Finch West residents be given hope they would see a subway too.  The Councillor brought the debate to his accustomed level with a scatological reference to the way his ward is treated.

Councillor Norm Kelly observed that it is never good to follow children or animals on stage, but did not indicate which he might have in mind.

Budget Chief Mike Del Grande, speaking by analogy to the Los Angeles tax referenda, emphasized that there needs to be a package, a list of what the new money will pay for, to make consultation work.  However, these decisions are in provincial hands.  By implication, going to taxpayers without a firm plan will not work.

Councillor Paul Ainslie proposed that several other revenue tools be added to the list for the consultation exercise (see item 1 of the consolidated motions linked above).  Many of these had been omitted in the City Manager’s report because the amounts of revenue were too small or because of difficulties with administration.  During a press scrum later, the City Manager had no concern with this amendment saying that many of the proposals would have come from the public anyhow.

The whole issue now moves to public consultation to start later in the fall.  A great challenge for City staff will be to present information on, in some cases, conflicting transit proposals and viewpoints on how projects might be funded.  They will have to avoid the impression of bias, although any recommendations about best choices for projects and for funding tools are bound to attract political attention no matter which way the staff turns.

When information about this process is available, I will link to it here.

The original post from October 1 follows below.

Two reports coming before Toronto’s Executive Committee on October 9, 2012 deserve reading if only as a matter of general background on transit planning and the challenges of funding a larger network in the GTA.

First is the upcoming review of the Official Plan and its transportation component.  Over the years, there have been many proposed transit networks for Toronto (the report contains a convenient set of maps showing most of them).  Even the most recent are out of date thanks to evolving land use and population patterns, for example in the eastern waterfront where Council has now flagged an LRT connection as a priority project.

Second is a review of possible regional funding mechanisms.  The main report and its detailed review of funding streams cover territory we have already seen in Metrolinx reports going back a few years, but updated with current dollar values and including comments we would be unlikely to see from the provincial agency.

These reports will make their way through Executive Committee and Council.  Assuming that they are adopted in some form, city staff will launch consultations around Toronto on both the Official Plan components and on possible funding schemes.

Notable by its absence, although not far under the surface, is any discussion of transit quality beyond the most obvious of rapid transit projects — how would transit be involved to accommodate shifts in the auto-transit modal split, increased population density in downtown neighbourhoods, and the challenges of handling travel between a wide range of locations in what are now called the “inner suburbs” (areas beyond the classic old City of Toronto, and parts of East York and York).

This focus on “lines on maps” continues the pattern of planners and politicians spending far more time proposing new infrastructure than they do on the day-to-day problems of running a transit system and providing good service.  The funding report mentions the option of diverting part of any new revenue to municipalities (citing the example of 15% in the Los Angeles area), but does not examine the degree to which this would make a significant difference to transit service.

For example, assuming a new funding stream of $2-billion, a 15% cut would yield $300-million of which Toronto would be lucky to see half.  This would cover less than one third of what Toronto now spends on TTC operations and none of the capital.  If Toronto is going to see substantial improvements in transit service, this must come via Toronto-specific funding.  We cannot expect to see regional revenue tools operating at the level needed to fund a “Toronto” level of service.

The Metrolinx “Big Move” was costed at $50b over 25 years, but these are out-of-date capital costs for projects that are years or decades in the future.  An “as spent” number closer to $80b is more reasonable (although still probably inadequate), and that means a much higher demand for capital.  Once a new line is built, there is the small matter of operating it.  Finally there is the problem that new service territories and/or demands for significant service upgrades will appear within the 25-year timeframe of the plan.  A few examples are Toronto’s waterfront transit, GO Transit’s electrification (itself a pre-requisite for high-frequency service), and the expansion of GO’s service territory beyond the original bounds of The Big Move.

Roll all this together — inflation, new projects, scope change, operating costs, municipal transit financing — and you have a very big price tag.  When The Big Move was still in draft, it was a lot more expensive than $50b, but anything above that number was deemed unsaleable and the projects were cut back.  Will Queen’s Park have the nerve to tell people what they really need to hear — better transportation will cost a huge amount of money — or will the politicians hide again and lowball the total costs?

Toronto’s Official Plan certainly needs some work along with the “official story” from the TTC.  It is no secret that the long-ignored “Downtown Relief Line” should have been part of the transit network for decades, and that it is essential both to relieve the Yonge line in anticipation of a Richmond Hill extension and as a mechanism of providing diversity of travel options into the core area.  Both TTC Chair Karen Stintz and CEO Andy Byford have publicly extolled the DRL’s importance.  Meanwhile, the same CEO presented a 2013 Capital Budget that trots out the usual bilge about how we should stuff every rider possible onto the Yonge-University line and forget about the DRL for a few decades.

Funding and completing them [YUS enhancements] could put off the need for the $10 billion or so Downtown Relief Subway Line by 10 or 20 years at a fraction of the cost. [Page 5]

TTC management has never published a cost comparison of their scheme nor addressed the “soft” benefits of having multiple routes into downtown, not just “hard” capacity at Bloor-Yonge.  Notable among many omissions is the absence of the much larger fleet and maintenance facilities needed to achieve a 40% capacity increase.  (I will address TTC’s fleet planning in a separate future article.)

In a long overdue observation, the City Manager gives a clear-eyed view of private sector partnerships:

It is also important to note that Public Private Partnerships (P3s) have not been included on the list, despite the fact that the Province and Metrolinx generally seek to apply their Alternative Financing and Procurement (AFP) process, essentially a P3 approach, where ever possible.

The reason is that P3s are a “project delivery mechanism” intended to reduce cost and improve delivery timelines, not a source of funding. Even in cases where the private partner provides financing, the repayment stream inevitably comes from government controlled revenues, i.e. not private sector funding. [Appendix B, Page 11]

Later in the report, the City Manager observes that taxes levied at a municipal level (e.g. property tax) but used for regional purposes run into the centuries-old problem of taxation without representation:

… when municipalities are required to pay for a program, their taxpayers deserve some control over how the funds are spent (“pay for say”). Currently Metrolinx does not have municipal representation on its board, having removed them after the Big Move plan was adopted, in preparation for the project implementation phase. [Page 12]

Toronto already pays $20m annually toward the GO/Metrolinx capital program [page 13].  Without this payment, Queen’s Park would withhold gas tax revenues.  In effect, there is a tithe on the gas tax money as it goes out the door supposedly in support of local transit spending.  This program is currently slated to end after 2013, but I suspect this depends on its replacement by another mechanism such as the Metrolinx Investment Strategy.

Every recent report about transit financing and new revenue tools has stressed that public buy-in is essential.  The “no new taxes” brigade will be out in force, and they will underpin their arguments with tales of public sector waste and claims that we can somehow do without large-scale spending beyond a few pet projects.  That’s a recipe for another 25 years of do-nothing policies.

For their parts, both the City of Toronto and Metrolinx must be open about their proposals and the costs involved.  Some projects may fall off of the maps, others may be added, but they must make a coherent, buildable network and revenue tools that will take effect in at most a few years.

34 thoughts on “Toronto Contemplates Transit Funding / Reviews Transit Plans (Updated)

  1. There is alot of comment on the online newspapers & the urban blogs about the 3 – 80 story condo development proposed by David Mirvish & Frank Gehry. Leaving the esthetics of the design aside, which to me look like toilet paper wrapped around on-end Kleenex boxes on steroids, any such large development would have massive impact on auto traffic & transit use. I suspect King Street would slow to a crawl or gridlock for all vehicles many more hours of the day.

    I’m all for greater density in Toronto, not even just downtown, but the streetcar network just cannot compete with the ever increasing numbers of autos on the road.

    It’s obvious to me the city needs the Downtown Relief Line subway now, as well as streetcar only lanes. The former is very costly, while the latter is politically unacceptable (especially for the current regime). European cities have adapted to streetcar-cum-LRT lines in their central cities with no urban apocalypse, as feared by car owners & drivers, and has lead to a much more pleasant urban fabric, much more efficient public transportation, and less pollution.

    The city closed off curb lanes on Queen for Nuit Blanche. Traffic adjusted. As seen in the San Francisco earthquake of 1989, removing auto capacity did not result in carmageddon, but more transit use.

    Is now perhaps the time to bring up the subject of dedicated streetcar lanes on Toronto’s major streets?

    I’m guessing streetcars would double in average speed, moving twice as many people per unit of time, faster.

    No doubt businesses would be up in arms at the loss of parking, but better rapid transit means more pedestrians walking around & seeing their shops, vs stressed drivers focused on the traffic.

    Steve: Dare I point out all those signs on King Street indicating that the middle lanes are reserved for transit and taxis? Hard to do when the curb lane is stuffed full of tour buses, delivery vans and, er, more taxis. The signs have been there for years — they were implemented as part of a proposal by Jack Layton when he was a Councillor.


  2. Reading the review of funding streams, there’s a useful table contrasting a ‘Provincial Property Tax’ (like for education) with a ‘Provincial Municipal Levy’ (municipalities have to pay, but they decide the source).

    One thing they didn’t mention about the former is that taxpayers have some direct influence over the spending of education money through elected school boards. I feel that something similar should be in place with any transit property tax.

    Steve: Actually, education taxes are scooped by the province who give some, but not all, of the revenue back to the local boards. A good deal of your school tax subsidizes boards in less-developed parts of the province, and you have no control over that at all.


  3. Steve,

    The latest report has come with 10 tools to fund it (personal income tax of 1%, sales tax of 1%, property tax increase of 1%, payroll tax of 1%, highway tolls 10 cents/km, fuel tax of 10 cents, vehicle tax of $100, commercial parking tax of $365 per space, Land transfer tax of 1%, Development charges of $5,000 per Unit.)

    You raise a lot of great points, but do you have an opinion on which tool would be the most palatable to the masses? The one that stands the greatest chance of bridging the divide? Of course, ideally it would be more than one….but I think we need one single tool as a starting point that that can bring everyone together and go from there.

    Many of them have their pros and cons. I go back and forth on what might be the starting point but I feel highway tolls would be the last choice and the most divisive. Not because it is necessarily wrong, but I just feel that would bring us back to where we are right now in gridlock and nothing would get done!

    Steve: My personal preference has always been a regional sales tax because it is broadly based and has an existing mechanism for collection. Fuel tax could be part of the mix, but this begs the issue of the degree to which motorists will benefit from whatever it is used for. Some of the property-related taxes such as land transfer and development charges will pick up the effects of population growth, although they will catch other transfers in the same net.

    Common to all of them is that there is not too strong a linkage between the additional costs they would generate for certain types of economic activity and any transfer of trips from autos to transit. I think it would be better to view such charges as a general benefit to society and the economy, and measure them on that basis for fairness and ease of implementation.


  4. Steve & Long Branch Mike: simple solution, also recently implemented in San Francisco: cameras on buses/streetcars to enforce transit lanes, front- and rear-mounted. It may not even be too late to build them in to the production vehicles of the new streetcar fleet. The main thorn is legal: passing a law permitting automatic ticketing of anyone driving in a transit lane simply by being caught on camera. Apparently it’s worked like a charm in San Fran.


  5. “… better transportation will cost a huge amount of money.”

    There are two problems with the above quote, first it implicitly treats the money being spent in absolute terms. Yes $50-80 billion dollars amount to a huge amount of money, but this money is being drawn from a local economy of approximately $270 billion dollars and will most likely be amortized over a third of a century.

    Second, there is the struggle between the money being spent as consumption or investment. If transit expansion fell within the category of consumption then I would agree that the amount being proposed was it fact huge. However transit expansion behaves as an investment, giving a significant return on the money spent.

    My suggestion would be that since transit expansion provides a significant return on investment, growing the economy, and as the economy grows the relative value of the original investment continuously shrinks the above sentence should read as follows.

    Better transportation will cost a very small amount of money in relation to its expected return on investment.

    Perspective matters.

    Steve: I agree, but the problem is that politicians and voters are scared out of their wits by large numbers. Even worse, if I say that we will need “only” $50b, and the number turns out to be much bigger, then I am accused of lying. Oddly enough, Transit City took a lot of criticism because its costs were underestimated, but Metrolinx got away with the same thing on a colossal scale.


  6. It is all about perspective and priority. Eisenhower sold the Federal Aid Highway Act to the conservatives as a national defense move and an economic measure to the liberals. This was during a time when the US was running surpluses to pay off World War II. Transit is a national defense and economic improvement. Metro stations can be used as bomb shelters during war and lessen our dependence on foreign sources of oil. It can also keep construction workers employed as condo sales are off the lofty heights.

    Regional sales tax do not work well. It can be circumvented by cross jurisdiction shopping and online shopping. A better way would be to tax electricity. As the population and the economy grows, the tax base widens. At the same time, technology in power saving will reduce the burden over time. Even if electricity use remains constant or increase on a low rate, electricity generation cost will go down to offset this. Uranium and Thorium electricity generation will one day make electricity almost free.

    This is also better than a gasoline tax. Internal combustion engine is on the decline. Even if hybrids and electric cars do not take over the world, improved CAFE standards will increase the efficiency of the nation’s fleet.

    I do question public private partnerships. Due to the amount of land needed for transit projects, it is hard for a private enterprise to appropriate the land without considerable legal risk. Looking at Hong Kong and Japan, the only feasible way is for the government to build the infrastructure and then leases it to a private operator. While it creates a liability on the books, it is not a tax. Future passenger fares and real estate gains pay for it.


  7. I believe that we will need at least two methods of collecting revenue for transit. My main preference is a regional sales tax. While there are ways to avoid paying this through cross-jurisdiction and online shopping, this effect will be relatively minimal for the same reason the “boycot this oil company” schemes don’t work: there are too many people who will opt for what is easiest. If you can manage to shift all your taxable purchases to avoid the tax, power to you, but that will be the exception not the norm.

    My second choice would be a tax on fuel, and not so that the cross-juridiction shoppers avoiding the sales tax. My reason that this could be one of the easiest taxes to implement without a huge backlash, believe it or not. Instead of adding 10 cents overnight, it should be phased in over a month. That’s right – over just a month!

    Think about it, people bitch and complain when the gas prices jump 6 cents overnight, but don’t really do a heck of a lot about it, besides trying to time their fill-ups. Prices go up and down six nights a week and the phase-in of a fuel tax could be done in conjunction with this. Co-ordinate the tax with the oil companies so that 2 cents is added overnight when the pump prices in the region are dropping 3 cents. Sure there is a new 2 cent tax on the fuel, but pump prices just went down a penny!


  8. John Lorinc suggests that Metrolinx won’t survive political changes. Then what happens to the Eglinton et al lines?

    The whole saga since the late 2000s has had more twists and turns than the plot of an overwrought pulp novel.


  9. Bradley Wentworth said:

    simple solution, also recently implemented in San Francisco: cameras on buses/streetcars to enforce transit lanes, front- and rear-mounted. It may not even be too late to build them in to the production vehicles of the new streetcar fleet. The main thorn is legal: passing a law permitting automatic ticketing of anyone driving in a transit lane simply by being caught on camera.

    Another part of that would have to be signage that clearly says that cameras are there, perhaps without specifically saying they are on the streetcars. Thus, drivers will be motivated (let’s hope) to stay out of the transit lanes even when the streetcars aren’t there.

    My question is whether the cameras have to be built in to the vehicles at the moment. How about mounting a computer hooked up to a ‘dash cam’ on a few streetcars and testing it out, see what the number of violations is like for a few weeks, and then determine whether the potential revenue from fines is worth the investment.

    I suppose the recordings from the ‘dash cam’s could also be used for driver training.

    Cheers, Moaz


  10. Calvin Henry-Cotnam said:

    Co-ordinate the tax with the oil companies so that 2 cents is added overnight when the pump prices in the region are dropping 3 cents. Sure there is a new 2 cent tax on the fuel, but pump prices just went down a penny!

    Wouldn’t that be clearly stating that the government is colluding with the oil companies who have (according to the competition bureau) never colluded to fix petrol prices because (apparently) prices are determined by the wholesale gasoline price which is manipulated (freely) by speculators.

    In other words, people would ask why the government can work with the oil companies to implement a fuel tax, but cannot work with them to reduce the unexplained (unexplainable?) higher price margins in Canada.

    Methinks that the government would not be interested in so much activity which would open up too many questions. Hence, a fuel tax would come in whenever the government wants, no matter what the public would say.

    Cheers, Moaz

    ps. My view is that, while we need a regional sales tax and a shift of gasoline taxes towards public transit, we also need a fair system of road pricing that works hand in hand with improved public transit. When drivers start to see a “price” for using certain roads at certain times, the length and number of driving trips (especially the discretionary ones) will be reduced.


  11. I agree, but the problem is that politicians and voters are scared out of their wits by large numbers.

    Then we should present the transit investment from a different perspective. Say we are talking about an investment worth $50 billion dollars (in 2012) that will be amortized over 30 years at 5% interest. The yearly payments amount to 1.2% of Toronto’s GDP. If this 1.2% was consumption then I would say that it is an expenditure that most likely should be avoided. However, transit is not consumption it is an investment, a 1.2% investment will deliver by many estimates over 2% growth. Presented with the investment opportunity to invest $1 dollar today to get $2 dollars tomorrow what politician or voter would then shun the investment opportunity, and who in turn would knowingly turn down a transit investment that fundamentally pays for itself through economic growth.

    Fundamentally I believe it is more accurate and honest to present the transit funding debate in relative terms (i.e. the absolute cost as a percentage of the growing economy), and not absolute terms alone. The absolute is highly prone to shifting, but the relative is a lot more stable, giving the reader a more accurate and complete understanding of the nature of the investment.

    Perspective matters a lot, and it can go a long way in making transit investment significantly more palatable to the public and in turn to politicians.


  12. “any such large development [on King St] would have massive impact on auto traffic & transit use”

    Yes. It would significantly reduce auto and transit use. If these building aren’t built people would end up living somewhere else where they would more likely be driving or taking transit to get to downtown instead of being a short walk away from work or the not-yet-over-capacity University subway.


  13. In response to my suggestion that a phased-in approach to a gas tax be co-ordinated with oil companies, Moaz Yusuf Ahmad correctly pointed out,

    “Wouldn’t that be clearly stating that the government is colluding with the oil companies…”

    That occurred to me just after posting. Thinking about it, there are two possibilities. The first would be to just have 2 cent increases weekly for five weeks and odds are that occasionally this will co-incide with a price drop. Of course, knowledge of scheduled tax increases might have those non-colluding oil companies make sure that an increase occurs with the tax increase so they can point the finger at the tax man.

    Alternatively, the wholesale price of fuel is set in the mornings, so it would be nice if a mechanism could be in place that would permit the implementation of an increase on 12 hours notice. Of course, that requires faith that the government can move slightly faster than a treacle flow.

    Maybe these mean that a phased in gas tax is not so simple, but somehow I suspect it would be a slightly easier pill to swallow than 10 cents all at once.


  14. Apparently the “Section 37” charges (development charges that must be paid by developers to “give back” to the community) from the Mirvish+Gehry project will be going towards the museum showcasing the Mirvish collection as well as the proposed OCAD campus.

    One could certainly wish that a portion of that money be dedicated to the improvement of King West, perhaps even the construction of the proposed King St. transit mall.

    If Mirvish is going to use Gehry’s name to “build big” for Toronto, it would be nice if the city would ‘think big’ and make those changes to King West.

    I think that the impact on transit infrastructure with this one project is not going to be as huge as people think, but what about electricity, sidewalks, sewerage and the other minutiae of living in the city?

    Where it comes to transport, if more of these projects are going to be approved on King West, the Downtown Relief Line is going to be absolutely necessary … along with wider sidewalks and improvements to the King Streetcar.

    Cheers, Moaz


  15. Steve said …

    “He claimed that riders on the Yonge subway benefit from a line “built when there were just trees and woodpeckers” (a claim that is flatly untrue even in its northern reaches) …”

    You have to admit he’s right about that. In 1974 Yonge and Finch was grass, woodpeckers, and hydro towers. Your young whipper-snapper readers can dig up some aerial B&W photos from the Archives if they don’t believe me. It was very low density.

    The density threshold for subway construction was much lower 40 years ago. Now, the consensus seems to be that a subway isn’t justified unless it’s going under 2nd Avenue. As for the DRL, it’s not going to be built for at least 20 years, so let’s forget it. Perhaps it would have been built as the Queen subway in the 70s if the original streetcar system had been abandoned, but that’s for a parallel universe, not ours.


  16. So now that Ford has dismissed the whole process as a “waste of time”, we’re going to have to hear how anyone who DOES speak in favor of using the taxation system to fund transit expansion is part of a “special interest group” and that anyone who has time to attend the sham also known as “public consultation” is a jobless “pinko” with nothing better to do but push their socialist agenda to bankrupt the city.

    With regards to the “Rapid Transit Planning Office”, methinks that the executive committee is not very fond of city council taking back control of the TTC from Ford, so they want to set up their own committee.

    Surely it’s obvious that this cabal doesn’t really care if a single kilometre of subway is ever built and all of this supposed “subway vision” is a blind to wrong-foot its political opponents and confuse the voters. What amazes and saddens me at the same time is that there still are a lot of gullible fools who fall for this nonsense.


  17. There is a very good reason why Mr. Chong’s “report” was not approved. As I pointed out at the time, this report is significantly mathematically-impaired. If someone believes that 2+2=7 then they may be able to swallow Chong math. Toronto City Council did not.

    One thing that Mr. Chong did do was spend a lot of taxpayer’s money in preparing this worthless report. The Ford/Chong gravy train seems to be the only train in sight here.

    Another thing that I have never understood is why the pro-subway crowd is so fixated on Sheppard and ignores the DRL. On any rational basis of comparison of value for money the DRL blows Sheppard out of the water.

    Which leads me to conclude that it is not about rational comparisons or logical thought or even achieving basic math skills such as addition. It is about ideology trumping reality. And if those nasty things like “facts” get in the way then Ford et al will just have to work harder at ignoring those horrible “facts” by yelling louder and stomping their feet and holding their breath.

    Of course, for a spectacular example of reality impairment we get Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti who “argued that the presence of a maintenance yard on Finch West would further denigrate the Jane/Finch neighbourhood.”

    The mind boggles. Bringing high-paying, secure jobs to the neighbourhood “denigrates” it? I wish that someone would denigrate me like that!


  18. Thompson observed that a casino might bring in $75-100m annually and could fund transit projects.

    Even if it was true, it’s still not enough to fund their fantasy subway.


  19. M. Briganti

    “You have to admit he’s right about that. In 1974 Yonge and Finch was grass, woodpeckers, and hydro towers. Your young whipper-snapper readers can dig up some aerial B&W photos from the Archives if they don’t believe me. It was very low density.”

    Not exactly true sir. Both sides of Yonge were long built up (Willowdale to Senlac) right up to Steeles. Transit: NORTH YONGE buses were BUSY! Rush hours in 1972 59E Steeles ran FS(less than 10 min), “C” via Willowdale ran 10min, “D” via Senalc ran 10min 59 Richmond Hill ran 20min, 59B Finch via Yonge short turn ran every 5min (59 Steeles) buses even ran 10min headways during midday and evening! FINCH 36 buses ran past Yonge (RH) 36 Martin Grove-Seneca) every 20min, 36A Islington, every 20min and 36C Weston every 30min. STEELES 60 buses ran every 20min. That, was an awful lot of service for “grass, woodpeckers, and hydro towers”

    Here, below is an archive shot, one of lots, that an old whippersnapper dug up for you from Finch and Yonge 1972. FAR from open fields.

    Steve: I have replaced the URL supplied in this comment because it only led to the general search screen, not to a photo. However, here is one of several photos in the City Archives of Yonge and Finch circa 1972 showing the decking for construction of Finch Station.


  20. What Long Branch Mike says is something that has been bouncing in my mind as well.

    One Saturday a few weeks ago I waited for a King streetcar at Jarvis, then chose to walk instead heading west to Spadina. Around Duncan/John St, a CLRV came pretty close, but even by the time I reached Spadina we were still pretty close. And of course now there are going to be three supertall condo towers at King and John. Even if the decision takes another twenty years to be made, the push should be made for the streetcars to have right of way, as I see on some YouTube videos of light rail tram lines in parts of Europe. As we all know the idea for the Spadina LRT was originally made back in the early-mid 70s and of course it was not until well over twenty years later that it became a reality, with plenty of fighting over the planning. Now the dust has settled on that project and the streetcar right of way is accepted.

    If the downtown streets are so choked then the solution is obvious, although I imagine there are many who would detest such measures. When the mayoralty and council right themselves for the better I’m sure there will be more open reception to these ideas.


  21. Sorry — that isn’t even medium density, and feeder buses don’t count. I could feed the terminal of an Eglinton subway like that and still obtain the high ridership you claim existed in 1974. The truth is that ridership was so lukewarm at first, that only every 2nd train went to Finch during the rush hours. They reused the old Identra 4-color route ID system on the panels at Hillcrest to identify and route these trains automatically.

    If today’s standards had been applied back then, the Yonge line would have remained at Eglinton, and gone no further. Mammoliti may be obnoxious at times, but he’s right about that. Who’s to say that a Finch line (as an wyed arm of YUS) wouldn’t pull in more ridership than the extension currently under construction to Vaughan? Sounds silly at first, but try thinking out of the box for a moment, and you’ll realize that the idea isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds.

    Steve: Finch and Yonge was certainly not the centre of a forest wilderness even if demand there did not justify running full peak service, just as service to Vaughan (even to York U) won’t run every two minutes when that line opens. At least there will be some bus lines feeding into the Vaughan extension. There is no comparable pattern for Finch.

    If we want an example of rapid transit through trees and woodpeckers, look no further than the BD line from Warden west to Victoria Park. Somehow the trains manage to have riders on them, and it’s not walk-in trade.


  22. Subways should be built for one reason and one reason only: to get as many people from as many outlying communities to the Central Business District (CBD) as efficiently as possible so those same people do not drive their cars to the CBD and cause complete traffic gridlock. The transit system should be geared to minimize transfers so people will want to use the system.

    With 4 LRTs approved and ready to be built, there seems to be an obvious problem: the Sheppard and Scarborough LRTs will terminate at the terminal of a subway that does not go directly to the CBD. It seems incongruent to me that a commuter should have to take a bus to an LRT to a subway just to get off that subway to wait on a crowded platform (Sheppard-Yonge or Yonge-Bloor) to get on an even more crowded subway to go to the CBD. Barring the unlikely event the DRL will be approved and paid for, interlining (a word that seems to be anathema to the TTC) should be reintroduced but with a twist.

    First thing, use the connection that already exists to bring revenue trains from the Sheppard line to the Yonge line as follows: After westbound Sheppard trains stop at the Shepprd-Yonge station the train operator will move the train into the tail tracks area while the conductor moves to the rear of the train. When the train operator has reached the turn back marker he will dump the train and he will go to the new conductor’s position. The conductor on the other end will then charge the train and wait for Control to line up the train to the Yonge line. After the proper lineup has been established the conductor will operate the train onto the Yonge line and operate the train as the train operator. Northbound Sheppard trains will leave the Yonge line and move onto the Sheppard line bypassing the Sheppard-Yonge station and going straight to Bayview.

    Once this procedure is enacted and lower Bay is prepared for service, 4 subway lines should then be established: Yonge-University-Spadina (YUS) from Finch to Downsview, Bloor-Danforth (BD) from Kipling to Kennedy, Yonge-University-Danforth (YUD) from Finch to Kennedy (using lower Bay), and Sheppard-Yonge-University-Bloor (SYUB) from Don Mills to Kipling (using the Sheppard line to Yonge line connection described above). Each line will have an interval of 6 minutes during rush hours and 12 minutes off-hours. With interlining, a commuter can get to the CBD from any station using a single train. During rush hour, there will be service every 2 minutes from York Mills to Museum, every 3 minutes from Kennedy to Kipling and Finch to Sheppard-Yonge, and every 6 minutes from Downsview to Dupont and from Bayview to Don Mills. This of course is not the DRL but it does serve to route 75% of all subway intervals through the CBD which might make it better than the DRL (debatable).

    Steve: Your proposal overlooks a few important facts of which the most important is that a 6 minute headway (12 off peak) is far from adequate for the Spadina line especially once the Vaughan extension opens.

    There would be issues with interlining the TRs and T1s onto the Bloor-Danforth line because inevitably some of these trains would be scheduled to be based at Greenwood. The carhouse there has not been adapted for six-car trainsets. Also, T1s would wind up on the Yonge line where they could not interact with the new ATO signal system now being installed. The T1s are not ATO-capable, but to have any hope of operating a blended two minute headway through the wye, you would need the extra elbow room ATO allows, and a dispatching system that worked on a first come, first served basis to maximize throughput.

    Your proposed service levels on BD are insufficient. It already operates well below a 3 minute headway at peak and leaves passengers on the platforms. Off-peak, the five minute headway regular carries good standing loads at midday and until late in the evening. Headways today are 2’21” am peak (2’30” pm), and under 5 minutes at all other times including weekends.

    This has always been the problem of the wye’s geometry — it takes four services to cover the variations in train routes such as you describe, but there are only three branches. Something has to suffer. You spread the sufferin around, but in the process give less service than most parts of the system have today. It’s relatively easy to make the wye “work” when you don’t run enough trains.


  23. Steve said:

    “There would be issues with interlining the TRs and T1s onto the Bloor-Danforth line because inevitably some of these trains would be scheduled to be based at Greenwood. The carhouse there has not been adapted for six-car trainsets.”

    In regards to the wye scheme described by the poster, TR trains could simply be stabled at Greenwood the same way that G trains were stabled at there prior to the opening of Wilson Yard when several Yonge-University runs were based there or the way that TR trains are stored at Davisville every day. Shop facilities for their repair would not be required if they were just “staying the night” for yard storage. A TR train could go through the wash the same as any other six-car train, but major repairs would have to be done at Wilson.

    Steve: Given the degree to which the services would intermix and the number of trainsets involved, I don’t think it’s quite the same thing. In any event, the proposed schedule is totally impractical because service levels are wrong. Fixing this destroys the ability to fit all of the trains onto critical parts of the system because there would be too many of them.


  24. In response to Allan A. Jordan’s post above, interlining can’t ever work again, except on a very limited basis. The history behind its death is quite interesting though.

    The trailing junctions at the wye did have a native automatic FCFS (first come first serve) mode, irrespective of schedule, and the TTC dropped megabucks on a system that identified and routed every train automatically at each facing route selection point. The routes you describe (YUB, YUD, BD, and YU only) would all show up in different colors on the control boards — opal, green, red, and yellow.

    FCFS mode was enabled only when the alternating service pattern became deranged after any branch became severely delayed. It was not the usual mode of operation. The usual mode was “flip flop” (A-B-A-B route alternation) on the exits, and Identra on the facing junctions. For a brief period of time, an additional layer of departure time control was also used on the exits, but this was quickly abandoned.

    The solution, which was never tried, was to keep the exits in FCFS all the time and use stepback crewing at the terminals to dynamically resequence trains that left the wye out of their proper batting order. The TTC couldn’t be bothered with this. You have to remember that back in those days, only the route colors showed up at St. George, and not the actual train run numbers themselves.

    The TTC felt it was better to simply let the interlocking plant sort out the traffic in A-B-A-B mode so that they could manually track the run numbers more easily based on a printed schedule, while they took it easy and watched Peyton Place on the tube! Ever since then, interlining in Toronto has been a dirty word.


  25. When it comes to the denigration of Jane/Finch comment, there has been a long tradition of area councillors tut-tuting at any jobs not considered “worthy” of the people of the neighbourhood.

    I remember one particular city councillor getting bothered at the name of a federal project because it used the word warehouse.

    Of course people in the neighbourhood would be happy to have what has been a long time brown field, fenced off from pedestrian traffic, turned into something … anything … that provides jobs.

    The paternalism of the councillors, for decades largely elected by the few house dwellers in the neighbourhood, towards the poor in the area has been particularly galling to watch.


  26. RE: Kevin Love

    “I have never understood is why the pro-subway crowd is so fixated on Sheppard and ignores the DRL”

    I too have wonder why the Right-Wing has been so obsessed with the Sheppard Subway over the years? I have thought there is something fishy going on in the backrooms.


  27. KA: I don’t think the right wing per se is obsessed with the Sheppard Subway, or subway-building in general. It just happened that two-right wing politicians pushed the Sheppard subway agenda for two different reasons. Lastman first pushed it heavy-handedly (“it’s a subway or nothing” approach) as his own pet project to develop the rather mythical North York civic centre and successfully persuaded Mike Harris not to kill the project, although what we ended up with is a shorter line than originally planned.

    Rob Ford simply uses the Sheppard subway as a smokescreen to hide his disdain for anything that even vaguely resembles a streetcar and indirectly promote his anti-transit agenda, at the same time pretending he wants the best possible transit for Scarborough, but in reality bringing almost all transit development to a halt. And he was very successful in this regard.

    Even if a subway does get built on Sheppard all the way to Scarborough Town Centre, eastern Scarborough will get shafted and will have to make do with existing bus service probably forever.

    Unfortunately, it seems to have worked with uninformed individuals who prefer catchy slogans rather than doing their own informed reasearch. And who knows what is going to happen after 2014? “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups” as George Carlin aptly pointed out.


  28. Kevin Love said:

    Another thing that I have never understood is why the pro-subway crowd is so fixated on Sheppard and ignores the DRL. On any rational basis of comparison of value for money the DRL blows Sheppard out of the water.

    The fixation on the Sheppard subway is due to a combination of grade school thinking (“It’s my/our turn!”) and the flawed philosophy that if something is under performing, it simply needs more money thrown at it regardless of the real reasons for its performance (“Of course people aren’t using it because it’s ‘not finished’!”).


  29. In the 1980s, it was the TTC who said that the Sheppard corridor warranted a subway — because of the sheer number of branches, and buses, that traversed the route. The idea at the time was that a faster E-W route would also result in improved service on the connecting N-S surface routes.

    The DRL, or the Queen subway, was deemed unnecessary at the time, because the streetcar network had been retained. The Queen subway was married to the eventual death of the streetcar network, because the belief was that buses couldn’t handle all of the demand.

    I think that the Sheppard subway, and the SRT, are unfairly demonized in the discussions here. Things don’t always turn out the way they’re planned, but that doesn’t mean that the Sheppard subway and the SRT resulted from an anti-streetcar conspiracy.

    Steve: The Sheppard subway arose in part because nothing else was acceptable to Mel Lastman, the “subways subways subways” man of his day. As for the SRT, it was a product of Ontario’s ongoing fascination with inventing new technology rather than using something off the shelf. The original proposal was for LRT all the way to Malvern. If it had been built, we would have had an example of LRT that could have spread elsewhere. Instead, what we got was an expensive, unreliable implementation of, to be fair, a technology that others made work much better (Vancouver). I can’t help feeling that the TTC’s heart has never really been in ICTS either.


  30. Steve said …

    “I can’t help feeling that the TTC’s heart has never really been in ICTS either.”

    You’re right about that. Originally, the TTC hated the RT. Internally, they used to call it “Rancid Transit”. When Sheppard finally opened, they didn’t seem to be all that enthusiastic either, yet they designed Sheppard-Yonge with centre and outside platforms as insurance. Clearly, they must have honestly thought that the line would someday be a complete success with extensions both ways, and that the station would eventually see the kind of transfer traffic that occurs at Bloor-Yonge — ie., far in excess of what an LRT line could handle.


  31. Apparently Oxford Properties, not to be outdone, is now planning another downtown mega-development to rival the recent Gehry/Mirvish announcement.

    Steve -> in discussions of Union Station/GO capacity limits one of the key factors was the choke point west of the station between the convention centre and the Skydome. Now I’m not usually a big gambler but given this new development is supposed to include a casino . . . would you (or anyone else) care to place bets on the chances that our intrepid bureaucrats/politicians will seize the opportunity to reclaim some of that valuable corridor? Perhaps in exchange for approving this megalith?

    Steve: I don’t think the geometry of the situation will allow the corridor to be widened. The really narrow point is the John Street bridge where the limit is forced by the position of the Skydome.


  32. Steve said:

    I don’t think the geometry of the situation will allow the corridor to be widened. The really narrow point is the John Street bridge where the limit is forced by the position of the Skydome.

    I’m not so sure about that though I understand the skepticism. The media releases show the complex spanning Blue Jays Way to Simcoe, presumably involving demolition of the north side buildings. Judging from how things look from outer space, the condo at the southwest corner of Blue Jay’s Way and Front might pose somewhat of an obstacle but otherwise there may be real estate to play with. I’m not saying it would be easy, but I think it at least deserves a look.


  33. Back in September 26, 2008, free commuter parking ended for Metropass holders near the major TTC subway terminals. This was under Miller, by the the way. In 2012, I continue to see full parking lots. But is it the TTC who gets the funds from the lots, or is it directed towards general revenue for the city? Just wondering.

    Steve: The revenue goes to the TTC, and amounts to over $10-million annually.


  34. Thank you, Mr. Munro, for clarifying some points for me about the subway system. With that clarification in mind, four subway lines should still be established: Yonge-University-Spadina (YUS) from Finch to Downsview, Bloor-Danforth (BD) from Kipling to Kennedy, Sheppard-Yonge-University-Danforth (SYUD) from Don Mills to Kennedy (using lower Bay), and Sheppard-Yonge-University-Bloor (SYUB) from Don Mills to Kipling (using the Sheppard line to Yonge line connection described prevoiusly). YUS and BD will have an interval of 4 minutes during rush hours and 8 minutes off-hours and SYUD and SYUB will have an interval of 8 minutes during rush hours and 16 minutes off-hours. This will serve to keep all TR trains on YUS and all T1 trains on the other 3 lines. With interlining, a commuter can get to the CBD from any station using a single train. During rush hour, there will be service every 2 minutes from York Mills to Museum, every 2’40” from Kennedy to Kipling and every 4 minutes from Finch to Sheppard-Yonge, from Downsview to Dupont and from Bayview to Don Mills. (An effort should be undertaken to balance the passenger volume north of Sheppard-Yonge with the passenger volume east of Sheppard-Yonge by diverting buses to the Sheppard line stations that now service the Finch station so that uneven crowding of trains does not occur.)


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