TTC Meeting Wrapup for December 19, 2012

The Toronto Transit Commission meeting of December 19, 2012, brought a few items of interest, although the desire to get away for Christmas was definitely in the air.  Nonetheless, the public meeting ran close to five hours.

In this article:

  • Leslie Barn(s)
  • A New Approach to Community Relations
  • Subway Station 2nd Exits
  • Presto Update
  • CEO’s Report
  • Gateway Lease
  • City Auditor’s Report on Wheel-Trans

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Looking Back: Toronto By Night I

As a holiday present for my faithful readers, a selection of photos taken at nights on the streets of Toronto.

This set begins in 1967 and runs through to early 1972.  During this period, a friend and I spent a lot of time chasing works equipment to various track projects around town.  Standard M.O.: sit opposite Hillcrest gate waiting for the work cars to depart, follow them on their way, and set up for photos when they stayed put long enough.

Many of the PCC photos are from all-night charters, yes, I admit it, “fantrips” where a bunch of rail buffs of dubious sanity would not only stay up all night riding a streetcar and photographing it, but would charter a car for the purpose.  Professionals have words for such people, and these tend to be dismissive at best suggesting that the “foamers” are unfit to comment on transit policy.  I won’t say anything about the competence of those making such remarks beyond noting that I have a blog now, four decades on, and they don’t.

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TTC Service Changes for January 2013

The TTC will make a small number of service changes in January 2013 that will reduce service on a few routes during underutilized periods.  This change is required because the service improvements in fall 2012 overshot the budgetary mark, and the January 2013 service budget does not cover all of the additions.

Improvements to the budgeted weekly hours are planned later in 2013:

               Budget     Scheduled
November  2012 161,990    163,772
January   2013 163,148    163,242
March          164,763
September      166,289
October        166,799
November       167,119

The numbers above do not include service provided to compensate for construction projects.

2013.01.06 Service Changes

Metrolinx and the Auditor General (Updated)

Updated December 14, 2012 at 1:40pm:

Additional information regarding Presto and Metrolinx’ response to the Auditor General’s report has been added at the end of that section in this article.

Original post from December 13:

The Auditor General of Ontario released his Annual Report on December 12, 2012, and it includes a section on Metrolinx.  For those of us who have wrestled with the secrecy of Metrolinx, some of the information and recommendations in this report are a breath of fresh air.

Metrolinx’ overall reaction to the report is much of the same boilerplate about the wonderful job they are doing and how important they are to the region.  In some cases, Metrolinx dodges the questions raised by the Auditor in a way familiar to anyone who has ever attended one of their press conferences.

The report should be read in the context of March 31, 2012, the end of the period to which the audit applies.

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Metrolinx Meeting Wrapup — December 2012

The Metrolinx Board met on December 5, 2012.  Most of its business was conducted in private, an unfortunate habit of this provincial agency, but some items emerged on the public agenda.

I have already reported on the “Next Wave” of transit projects and the amendments proposed for The Big Move regional plan.  In other news …

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Metrolinx Updates The Big Move, Announces Priorities for Phase 2 Projects (Updated)

Updated December 6, 2012 at 11:20 am:

A warmed over version of the Board of Trade presentation was given to the Metrolinx Board by President & CEO Bruce McCuaig at the Board meeting on December 5.  There were a few clarifications of note:

  • The list of “Next Wave” projects will not be nailed down until the February 2013 Board meeting following a round of public consultation.
  • That consultation will also include a review of the proposed amendments to The Big Move and yet another round of talks about potential revenue tools.  The meetings will probably take place in January at 12 public round tables, as well as a 36-member “Residents’ Reference Panel” doing “deep dives” into the issues at weekend sessions.  This process will report back to the Board in spring 2013.  (There is no info about how the 36 “residents” will be selected for the panel.)
  • It is likely that construction of the Downtown Relief and Yonge Extension subway projects would take place concurrently with Yonge to Steeles opening at roughly the same time as the DRL from Downtown to Danforth.  “Phase 2” of each project would follow.  At this time there is no commitment to going north of Danforth or to any specific route either through downtown or through the east end of Toronto.  This will be the subject of an Environmental Assessment for the project.
  • The goal of TBM was described by McCuaig as having 75% of GTAH residents within 2km of rapid transit at their origin or destination.  That “or” is an important distinction I don’t remember hearing before.  It’s child’s play to have lots of people close to rapid transit at one end of their trip — anyone who works in major centres within Toronto or lives along a subway, LRT, BRT or GO line will qualify.  The more difficult target is to have such access at both ends of the trip because “convenience” is meaningless if only one end is well-served.
  • In an apparent contradiction to the implied 1/3 local funding described in the Star’s article about Mississauga having second thoughts on the LRT project, McCuaig said that we cannot look at traditional federal/provincial/municipal financing models.  Presumably the Investment Strategy will address this problem.

The actual timing of the Next Wave projects varies depending on which document one reads or how one parses the announcements.

  • In the Next Wave handout (linked later in this article), this is described as a 15-year, $34-billion project.
  • The spend rate implied by another part of the same handout is only $1.2b/year, and this translates to a 28+ year timeframe.
  • Metrolinx, in an email responding to this article and my concerns about the status of projects such as the Eglinton LRT to the Airport, said that there would be a “Third Wave” in 2025.
  • At the press briefing following the Board meeting, McCuaig confirmed that for the “15 year plan”, year zero has been reset to 2012.  This implies that TBM’s original 15 year timeframe is now stretched to roughly 20.  Moreover, McCuaig hinted that projects started within the next 15 years may not finish by then.
  • Despite all of the delays, the year 2031 is still the target for completing all of The Big Move.

In previous discussions of the Investment Strategy, Metrolinx has included an allowance for operating the new facilities as they come into service.  This is missing from the $34b of the Next Wave, but will have to be incorporated into the IS discussions.  Moreover operating costs are ongoing while capital are one-time.

In all of this discussion it was amusing to listen to Metrolinx talk about revenue tools, code for the very things some politicians in Toronto find utterly unacceptable preferring to imagine that pools of private capital are available at little or no cost.

The presentation materials from the Board meeting are not yet online, but the hard copy version comes under the unhappy title of “The Big Move In Action”.  Deleting only one space would give a good description of the treatment of project schedules for Transit City by Queen’s Park.  The presentation ends with a page titled “Keep the wheels moving” and a picture of a stone wheel and hammer.  Ontario makes a lot of claims for its triumphs in transportation technology, and I can’t help wondering if this is an early product of the Ontario Transportation Development Corporation.

I mention this because Metrolinx appears to have embraced a new, quaint graphic style for their Big Move and Union Pearson Express websites.

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The 501 — Toronto in Transit

At Theatre Passe Muraille from December 4-8, 2012

The Queen car, known since the advent of the “new” streetcars by its route number 501, is almost 25km from Long Branch to Neville.  It runs through many neighbourhoods each with its own history, quirks and stories.  Some of these are very much part of the evolving city, others exist only in the memory of those who lived in Toronto through the gains and losses of decades.

Justin Many Fingers, Bob Nasmith and Donna-Michelle St. Bernard spent half a year collecting stories from their travels on the 501.  Some are humourous events we will all recognize (a teacher shepherding a class of children), some are vignettes from a long-vanished youth (bathing cars to Sunnyside), some are the trying and at times dangerous effects of service riders can’t count on when they need it.

Each of the three actors/creators brings their own style and background.  Many Fingers is a First Nations actor/dancer from Alberta, and physical movement is part of his stories.  St. Bernard’s work in spoken word and hip-hop translate her experiences on the 501 to song.  Nasmith, long associated with Theatre Passe Muraille, is a story-teller.  He provides the thread linking episodes as we travel from Long Branch far in the west to Neville Loop in the now so-trendy Beach.

The three styles don’t completely gel into one work, but that’s the nature of Toronto — many people whose lives reflect different origins and experiences of the city.  There is no attempt at plot here beyond the journey across town as, in cinema terms, we fade in and out on each passing neighbourhood.

This is a Backspace production at TPM, and the set is rudimentary — four TTC seats and a pole — all the better because we are left to conjure each scene as it is told without a lot of stage business to get in the way.  That’s the magic of storytelling — we each bring our own knowledge of Queen Street, chuckle at familiar sights in our mind’s eye, and share in the pain of the inevitable short turn.

I saw the November 29th performance, a preview, and this bodes well for the opening on December 4.

The 501 — Toronto in Transit is part of TPM’s fall 2012 season Theatre Beyond Walls with plays by and about the community around the theatre.  More information is available at the TPM website.