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.
Original post from December 3, 2012:
On Thursday, November 29, Metrolinx President & CEO Bruce McCuaig unveiled priorities for a second wave of “Big Move” projects at the Toronto Board of Trade. Presentation materials from that meeting are not yet available on the Metrolinx site, but I was provided with a copy of the media package and have reproduced some of the material here.
A separate report on the Metrolinx Board’s Agenda for December 5 outlines changes to “The Big Move” itself to address changes of context since the original publication, and to bring TBM into line with the GO2020 plans.
The two presentations overlap, but are not identical.
The Board of Trade, November 29, 2012
The presentation lists several projects to be rolled out as Phase 2 of construction within the umbrella of The Big Move. This announcement is fascinating for many reasons including:
- Metrolinx has gone from Board approval of a process to prioritize projects to an actual project list without benefit of any public debate or any background paper explaining how the selected projects made the cut.
- Changes in project scope are made without any public Board debate or approval.
- Although specifics of funding are not discussed, Metrolinx now recognizes that a regional network cannot exist without local services to act as feeders and distributors. 25% of whatever funding comes from a future “Investment Strategy” will be dedicated to local transportation. Metrolinx appears to be inspired by the Los Angeles example where a regional sale tax was “sold” to local municipalities by including a local funding component.
- Not mentioned in the press materials is the likelihood that funding will not be 100% at the provincial level (whatever new or existing revenue streams might be used). Municipalities will be expected to contribute, and Metrolinx hopes for a Federal presence via future infrastructure spending. Indeed, if Metrolinx expects the cities to pony up 33% of the total, they might as well be left to fund the 25% worth of “local improvements” themselves.
This diagram is intended to show the scope of the next set of improvements arising from TBM. It is intended only as a general overview, not as a definitive map, and where it conflicts with individual proposals, the latter take precedence according to Metrolinx.
Of particular note is the Downtown Relief Line shown as running from Dundas West to Pape via Queen Street. The alignment for this far from settled, and in the project details, the map is quite different including only the eastern leg, and giving only a vague sense of the alignment. DRL advocates should avoid reading an actual route selection and project scope into this announcement.
The “Next Wave” presentation is not yet available on Metrolinx website, but I have produced a compressed version of the pdf.
The projects described here are:
- Brampton Queen Street BRT.
- Dundas BRT. This project will create bus lanes from Brant Street in Burlington to Kipling Station in Toronto. There is no mention of the proposed Metrolinx “mobility hub” at Kipling, a project that is currently on hold.
- Durham-Scarborough BRT. This BRT will run from Downtown Oshawa to Scarborough Town Centre via Highway 2 and Ellesmere Road. It is unclear from the project description how much of this will involve new, dedicated lanes and how much will simply be express bus service running in mixed traffic. A related topic will be the disposition of this service while the SRT is under reconstruction, and whether the Durham BRT will be rerouted to Kennedy Station rather than dumping its load on TTC shuttles at STC.
- GO Transit Service Improvements.
- Two-way all day service will be operated on:
- Milton Line to Meadowvale
- Kitchener Line to Mount Pleasant
- Barrie Line to East Gwillimbury
- Richmond Hill Line to Richmond Hill
- Stouffville Line to Mount Joy
- The Lakeshore service will be extended west to Hamilton James Street Station and east to Bowmanville.
- Peak service will be improved on all lines.
- The $4.9-billion price tag associated with this project is likely all for capital. The operating cost may come in part from the “Investment Strategy”, but it is worth noting that GO plans a 2013 fare increase in part to pay for service improvements in the absence of additional government funding.
- Two-way all day service will be operated on:
- GO Lakeshore service improvements and electrification. The intent is to operate frequent service in this corridor at a level where it appears more like a rapid transit line than commuter rail, and passengers no longer need to plan their travel around train schedules.
- GO Kitchener service improvements and electrification (including the ARL, now renamed as the “Union Pearson Express”). Service in this corridor, at least to downtown Brampton, will see improvements although not necessarily on the scale of the Lakeshore line.
- Hamilton LRT from Eastgate Mall to McMaster University.
- Hurontario LRT from Port Credit to Downtown Brampton.
- Downtown Relief Line. This route is a prerequisite for the Richmond Hill subway extension. The exact scope and route of this line are still under study. It is worth noting that second exit changes at Donlands Station have been put on hold pending study work on the DRL because this station could be affected by an alternative route choice.
- Yonge Subway extension from Finch to Richmond Hill Centre.
Notable by their absence is any mention of the rest of the Transit City network including:
- Service to the airport via either Eglinton or Finch LRTs. Metrolinx obviously doesn’t want any competition for its pet project, the Union Pearson Express.
- The Morningside LRT extension of the Sheppard line south to University of Toronto Scarborough Campus.
- Extension of the Scarborough LRT to Malvern.
- LRT service on Eglinton east of Kennedy, Don Mills or Jane.
- Support for Waterfront transit.
- Funding for additional subway projects related to improved capacity.
The funding stream for the Next Wave includes 25% to be directed at a variety of projects.
- 15% ($180m annually) would go to support municipal operations and improvements to the road network benefitting transit.
- 5% ($60m annually) would be used primarily for the construction of more HOV lanes on major highways.
- 5% would go to smaller projects such as walking and cycling networks, mobility hubs, wayfinding and passenger information, and support for fare integration on cross-border travel.
This spending level implies an annual rate of $1.2-billion and hence the target for whatever revenues the Investment Strategy might bring. With a total pricetag of $34b, this implies 28 years for project completion. This is not a viable schedule as it goes well beyond the 25-year “Big Move” plan window of 2033 (relative to a 2008 base in the original plan). Additional funding will be required to compress this schedule, and that will bring us to the complexities of municipal and federal funding.
At the federal level, there is no entrenched infrastructure funding, and what funding streams do exist are already spoken for. New funding anywhere near a $1b annual level for the GTA would require comparable funding for other parts of the country, and we are unlikely to see spending at this rate by a government focussed on deficit elimination. Moreover, Ottawa prefers to announce project-specific funding targeted to its political aims, not a general entitlement to a large pool of money it does not control.
At the municipal level, the level of support for the Metrolinx plans may be soft if a 1/3 local share is expected. Mississauga may back away from its LRT plans according to The Star, and the political environment to sell the plan will be much different from the Santa Claus approach to recent Toronto projects with 100% provincial funding. Most of the Yonge extension lies in York Region who would be on the hook for about $1b. The Downtown Relief Line is priced at $7.4b, and Toronto might well ask why it should contribute one third to a line whose purpose is to enhance capacity on Yonge for 905 travellers. The local share would dwarf the $800m spent on the low floor LRV order which has been the subject of much hand-wringing over the pressure this creates on the city’s capital budget and borrowing capacity.
I cannot help seeing a pattern here comparable to many other transit schemes where dependency on three levels of funding guarantees construction of almost nothing. In particular, priorities at the municipal level may differ from those at Queen’s Park and the network may not fill in as cleanly as the plans imply.
Another report from the Board of Trade session is an update on the current Big Move projects. Like the Next Wave document, I have compressed it for this site, and will link to a Metrolinx copy when it is available.
Little in this document is new, and it simply consolidates current status information on works in progress. One notable item still remains unanswered — the actual shutdown period for the SRT to LRT conversion. We know that work will be begin in fall 2015 after the Pan Am Games, and Metrolinx has stated that they hope this will be completed in under three years. However, the project is still described as “complete by 2020”.
The following changes to The Big Move are proposed for adoption by the Board.
- Two-way all day service on three route segments is pushed back from the 15-year to the 25-year plan:
- Milton from Meadowvale to Milton
- Kitchener from Mount Pleasant to Georgetown
- Barrie from East Gwillimbury to Bradford
- Add the word “electrified” to the Union Pearson Express description.
- Move the GO Bolton and Havelock lines from the 15-year to the 25-year plan.
- Advance the eastern section of the DRL from the 25-year to the 15-year plan.
- Shorten the Richmond Hill GO extension from Aurora Road to Bloomington Road as per the conclusions in the EA for this line.
- Move the Oshawa GO Mobility hub north to the CPR Belleville Subdivision to correspond with the route of the Bowmanville service.
- Incorporate explicit reference to the Board-approved strategic directions re goods movement.
- Revise the Investment Strategy section to reflect its imminent publication in 2013.
- Add a discussion of transit project prioritization.
- Add the GO Kitchener service which is now in operation.
- Remove GO 407 bus service in Durham because operations there will not be at the level of BRT.
- Update the Lakeshore route to reflect the Bowmanville via CPR recommended alignment from the EA.
These changes, interesting though they may be, pale by comparison with the scope of the “Next Wave” announcement at the Board of Trade. I cannot help wondering just what the Metrolinx Board actually does when the substantive materials are presented at a business conference while tidying up the map is left to formal Board approval.
The real challenge for Metrolinx will be the funding strategy. Without a coherent explanation of why each of the Next Wave projects is on the list (and why others were missing), together with a proper explanation of the financial implications of an implementation plan, it will be hard to bring other funding partners on board. Meanwhile, The Big Move’s Phase 2 threatens to become even more delayed than Phase 1, while Ontario’s credibility and dedication to solving transportation problems vanish.