In a recent comment, a reader questioned the disparity between the $34-billion cost of the Metrolinx “Next Wave” projects and the sum of the individual projects listed on the website. These projects are:
Brampton-Queen BRT $ 600 million Dundas BRT 600 Durham BRT 500 GO Expansion 4,900 GO Lakeshore Express 1,700 GO KW Electrification 900 Hamilton RT 1,000 Hurontario LRT 1,600 Downtown Relief Line 7,400 Yonge North Subway 3,400 Total $22,600 million
A big chunk of the difference between these two numbers can be explained by a factor which is new in the “Next Wave”, a provision of 25% of whatever funding is available for local transit, regional highways and other smaller projects. This would eat up $8.5b out of the total leaving $25.5b for the next wave of “Big Move” projects.
I wrote to Metrolinx asking for an explanation of the remaining $2.9b, and this is their response.
Transforming the transportation network in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area is similar to any renovation project, and $50 billion was a planning number that was developed in 2008 for the Regional Transportation Plan, also known as The Big Move. As we move through assessments and delivery, we will have harder numbers, so that figure will change.
However, prior to the assessments and delivery, we’ve built a contingency into the $34 billion cost of the Next Wave projects, which accounts for a difference in numbers.
It should be noted that more than $16 billion from all three levels of government has been allocated to the “first wave” of projects drawn from The Big Moves list of top priorities. This is the largest financial commitment to transit expansion in Canadian history. [Email from Metrolinx February 5, 2013]
I will take at face value the statement that the $2.9b is “contingency”, but note that this was not mentioned in any of the presentation materials nor on the website. To me it looks more like an “oops”.
This is not simply a question of catching Metrolinx out on an incomplete or inaccurate presentation. We are now engaged in a debate about regional transportation and funding, and it is vital that this take place in a fully informed context. An amount of $2b/year is commonly used as a reference point for the amount of funding that must be delivered by any new revenue tools. This was in the original “Big Move” budget of $50b delivered over 25 years, and shows up most recently in the City of Toronto’s “Feeling Congested” outreach program.
That original number was in 2008$ and it included some provision for future operating costs. However, it did not include inflation, nor did it include the recently added provision for local transit and road projects which would take 25% off the top of any new revenue stream.
The $50b was supposed to finance 52 separate projects listed in The Big Move, but between the “first wave” and “next wave” list, many still remain outside of funding plans.
If the Investment Strategy report expected from Metrolinx late this spring is to have any relevance to the discussion, it must include current estimates of capital and operating costs to be funded from new revenues, and must provide for inflation. Either the capital provisions must be escalated to future dollars, or the future revenue from new tools must be discounted to present day. We cannot discuss our long-term funding needs with a mixture of dollar values spanning decades.
Public transit projects have a long history of coming in over budget for various reasons. Some of this is bad planning and some is scope creep, although it could be argued that these are often related. There is always the issue of unexpected circumstances, not to mention the treatment of large public transit projects as an opportunity for every nearby utility to have their plant upgraded at the project’s expense. Past funding for Metrolinx projects has always been announced as $x-billion plus inflation so that a $16b or $34b “commitment” may actually be much larger in as-spent dollars.
A further wrinkle is the use of private sector financing, construction and operation through “AFP” (Alternate Finance and Procurement), a methodology now in favour both in Ottawa and at Queen’s Park. In this scheme, part of the capital cost of a project is assumed by a private partner, and this can reduce the capital outlay required during construction by the public sector. However, that money has to be paid someday, and the payments show up on the operating budgets through mechanisms such as leases and revenue guarantees. That will be a future call on the new revenue streams, and it must be built into the long range Investment Strategy.
Finally, some transit costs have been borne through non-Metrolinx budgets including various transfers to municipalities (now mainly the gas tax, although the infrastructure fund may be revived in a future budget) and a clawback to GO transit via a tithe to help pay for its capital program ($20m from Toronto this year). All of these funding streams need to be sorted out and presented in one place so that a rational view of what is needed going forward is available for everyone to see.
Metrolinx should take greater care with its announcements and fiscal plans so that its credibility is not undermined by simple questions about arithmetic, and so that the funding they seek will actually match the funding they will need.
I wonder if any extensions of the current Transit City projects will also have to be tendered as AFP?
Steve: At this point, we don’t know. Jurisdiction among various parts of the network is an obvious problem going forward, and much will depend on the political flavour of the day which way Queen’s Park leans at the time.
To play the devil’s advocate, the DRL is the one line where we have no idea what it looks like. The estimate is at $7.5 billion, but we have no idea of how many stops it will have, where it will link up with the Yonge line, or even if it will complete a half circle and connect back to the Bloor line in the west.
If it came down to it, I’d rather see an extra $3 billion spent to have more stations for local travel, and to complete the half circle. At the very least, if it doesn’t connect back up to Bloor, it should at least reach Parkdale as getting across the south end of Toronto is a pain with transit (usually I will opt to make my way back up to the B-D line, across, and back down than deal with the streetcar).
The LRT along Hurontario is required. Hurontario is already crowded with cars that only slow down service. Although it does raise a question: right now there is the 19 bus that provides local service as well as the 103 Express bus. What will happen to the bus service with the LRT? I would assume that there would be less stops on the LRT than the 19 bus, but would Mississauga Transit continue to operate the 103 bus. At the same time, the LRT would likely be faster than the 19 bus so would provide better service (and might encourage people to leave their cars behind.)
Ben raises good point about the DRL. It needs to provide a reliable alternative to the Yonge Line, while providing service to the west end of Toronto. Even when attending an opera at the Four Seasons, I’d rather take the GO train rather than the 501 streetcar which is way too slow if one is going to western Etobicoke.
I have a question. My daughter works downtown a few blocks north of Union. About a year ago she was talking about another station being proposed – let’s call it “Union 2”, which was supposed to be somewhere under Wellington street. There was also another idea,which could be called “Bathurst”, where GO trains would terminate at area roughly “Front btw. Spadina and Bathurst”. Are these proposals still on the distant project pipeline? Whatever happened to the capacity report, which indicated to Metrolinx, that existing Union station could run out of its capacity by 2025?
Steve: There is no station under Wellington proposed at this time. Wellington happens to be my favoured alignment for the “Downtown Relief Line” for reasons I won’t repeat here, and it would have stations at Yonge and University connecting via walkways to King and St. Andrew Stations. (King Station’s structure actually ends just north of Wellington. St. Andrew is a tad further north, but there is a parking structure sitting on top of the subway tunnel that could be repurposed as a connecting path.)
The Metrolinx Union Station report was on their Board’s agenda back in November 2011. It proposes a second station where the Bathurst North yard is today (north side of the corridor west from Spadina). This station would take the lion’s share of the traffic coming in on the Milton, Kitchener, Barrie and future Bolton services with everything else continuing to run to Union.
Because a connection from Spadina/Front into downtown and the main subway system is needed, Metrolinx proposes that the DRL would serve this spot. However, that is very difficult to achieve from either a Queen or King alignment because of buildings standing in the way of a diagonal swing south to Front Street. Wellington makes this a lot easier, but I don’t think they have looked at this in detail yet.
The big takeaway from this post for me is that we spent too much time looking for “innovative” funding and operating models, when we should have been building.
Had Metrolinx tabled its funding strategy at the same time as it released The Big Move (or even a year later), and then done the old-fashioned approach of selling bonds backed by the future funding, we would be much further along the way on building infrastructure.
We would have been selling those bonds as a safe investment in the depths of an economic downturn (ie giving a very low interest rate), and then actually building in 2008 dollars.
Instead we’re watching project cost creep upward, while a variety of PPPs are under development for questionable risk & cost benefits. Even in the event we get a great deal with this alternate procurement approach, I don’t see how it can possibly save us a penny compared to having just got on with it four years ago.
Steve: What is particularly galling is that the list of “revenue tools” has been in the public view since 2009, but nobody wanted to champion spending more public money when the Tea Party inspired madness of cut-cut-cut was afoot at every level of government, and the economy was falling through the floor thanks to the banking crisis.
3.4 Billion for the “Yonge North Subway”? What a waste . . . Could be handled by better GO service.
Steve: York Region has been hot on a subway extension for years, and in some ways this has distorted a lot of debates about where transit funding should go (just as pressure to build to Vaughan, and on Sheppard did in earlier years). This is an inevitable result of the “one at a time” focus on projects, and the despair felt by many that nothing but subways will be big enough to attract attention for funding.
As for GO service, it certainly has a place, but addresses a different, parallel market of people bound for the core around Union. There are also riders who want to get to midtown, and GO would not serve them well.
Oddly enough, according to some of the folks at Metrolinx, the demand pattern is shifting east up in York Region, and the service through Stouffville may be as important as one to Richmond Hill. All of the north-south GO services, however, need better service and all-day trains to compete with the subway and be a realistic alternative for many would-be riders.
The 25% that will go to “local” matters needs more information provided by Metrolinx.
For example, how will be divided up – by population or transit ridership or both or something? For those not in Hamilton or Toronto, will it go to the regions or the municipalities or whichever runs transit? Will there be any restrictions on what it can be spent (e.g. not all on roads, not all on operational support)? It seems to be an idea that has just thrown in to placate someone.
Steve: I agree. It’s rather like the way the LA sales tax had a local component so that each city and town within the LA region would be able to spend on its own projects and get local buy-in from voters across the county. The larger problem is that Toronto needs a lot to finance its transit capital and operating needs, and at best can expect half, probably less, of that money. $250m/year doesn’t go very far.
This is related to the problem that the $2b/year number is barely enough and has no provision for inflation to the point we actually start building the Next Wave projects.
Thanks Steve, for the Metrolinx Math follow-up.
If local municipal transit projects total 15.1 Billion, which is say 1 Billion per year. Since the Province has an annual budget of 13 Billion for all transit, roads, bridges, infrastructure projects annually. Wouldn’t it be easier to swallow if 1 Billion Annually is present to the people, not 2 Billion. Second, if the province simply contributed 500 Million Dollars for specifically annual “transit projects”, and the federal government committed say 250 Million Annually, for “Ontario Transit Projects”. They the municipalities collectively are only on the hook for 250 Million Annually between 7 Municipalities. Why does everyone have to complicate things. (gov people that is)
Now between the 7 municipalities, you sign a collective agreement, how much of the 250 Million each municipality must share. You throw that on people’s property taxes, and seniors over 65 can apply for a rebate, if there income is under $ whatever magic number city councils see fit.
Feeling Congested, their motto is “money, money, money”.
Metrolinx, their motto is “money, money, money”.
It simply requires a “business funding strategy plan” negotiated between governments. The money is already there …… Ontario 13 Billion Annually. Federally, I think it is 6.75 Billion Annually. We just need a signed commitment from each level of government, now the bill is cut in HALF. Then to get the shovels into the ground, simply create a funding arrangement, collectively with each municipality. Each municipal Council can then decide separately how they wish to come up with ‘THEIR SHARE LOCALLY”. What may work for one local, may not work for the next local. Now people can have control within their own borders, instead of just “blindfully taxing of the people”. We already pay 65% on every dollar earned.
The GO part is partly due to the TTC — if the Sheppard Line was at least extended to the Stouffville line — either 100% as a subway or 100% as an LRT so that two transfers would get you downtown (on from GO to the Sheppard subway/LRT and then to the Yonge Line.)
A Finch East LRT would, if long enough, cross the Sheppard line, making another potential connection. However, no co-pay option (either cheap TTC fare) and the option for a one seat ride would likely attract people to an extension of the Yonge Line, and not better service along the Richmond Hill and Stouffville Lines.
Steve: I think you mean Finch East would eventually cross the Stouffville line, yes?
Any chance the extension could be built as a separate line south of Finch and connect with the DRL?
Steve: Nope. That would require getting over to Don Mills, a fair hike from Yonge, and the construction of a Don Mills subway. That’s an expensive way to get rapid transit to Richmond Hill — a completely new subway all the way to the core.
Of course, all the VIVA lines running into Finch would go to the extension, so many passengers would simply get on at a stop further north. How many new passengers will the York Region extension actually add to the line? And the obvious question: north of Steeles, who should pay the costs of operating the line? I’d send the bill to the York Region, the only benefit to the extension for the City of Toronto would be a stop at Steeles. North of this and the advantage would be only for York Region.
Steve: York struck a good deal (for them) by leaving the TTC with most of the cost of running the Vaughan extension in return for the revenue which leaves a $10m/year hole for Toronto to backfill. I have few hopes this will be corrected for any other lines crossing the border. Of course Queen’s Park could take the whole thing over as a “regional” service, but then they would be stuck with the bills.
I was at a roundtable this weekend (the Brampton one!) and I believe it was John Howe who mentioned that the Brampton-Queen RT route isn’t even set in stone whether it’ll be BRT or LRT yet, so costs could rise even further for the next wave projects.
From what I’ve heard, the first phase of the LRT will run from Square One (at Hurontario and Rathburn) to Shopper’s World (Hurontario and Steeles) with extensions north and south in the 2nd phase. This would replicate the overlapping express bus service offered by BT Zum 502 and MiExpress 103. This means that initially there would be no change to service on route 19 (which currently runs up to the terminal at Hurontario and Highway 407.
Once the LRT is extended to Port Credit, I think they will cut back the 19B to run the Port Credit-Square One route that it used to. Another possibility is to reroute the money-losing route 8 (Square One-Cawthra-Lakeshore-Port Credit) to just serve Port Credit and Lakeview … but this would have to wait until the BRT station at Cawthra opens.
Ray Lawlor said:
We can only hope that the Yonge North extension will be accompanied by better GO service (for long-haul and express travel) and a redevelopment of Yonge that brings increased density and urban, pedestrian-friendly environments. The challenge is to do that while still accommodating all the people who are going to drive there.
Yes – thanks for correcting me.
Yes, but depending on the number of new passengers it generates, the route would still get people downtown but not on the Yonge Line. The DRL would help get some people off the Yonge Line, but at the same time, I was just thinking of something slightly different which would achieve the same results, and anyway its combining one new route (the DRL) with an extension of another route (the Yonge Line to Richmond Hill) so simply a redesign, but not necessarily the best option I admit.
Its good to still have some combined service, which retaining the #19 bus would do. I always find the #8 route name misleading as it is called the “Cawthra” bus but misses out on a lot of Cawthra. Once Hurontario has the LRT and the BRT is up and running, I think the #8 route should be revised to operate along Lakeshore and up Cawthra to Burnhamthorpe and then west to the City Centre – or at least offer a split route – the #8 on its current route to Cawthra (via Mineola) and the #8B that operates from the Cawthra & Lakeshore intersection right up to Burnhamthorpe.
There is a lot of talk throwing billion dollar values around. I wonder if these people consider that $1b is $77 for every person in Ontario, including all poor and homeless. For a family of 5 people, this comes to $385, but probably more like at least 4 times this amount.
Steve: Yes, it is a lot of money, the product of not spending for years when we should have. All the more reason to spend wisely, and on very big ticket projects like subways only where they are genuinely needed for demand and network capacity, not for the vanity of a local politician, or to assuage the bruised feelings of a suburban populous that is convinced they are being stiffed by those elite downtown lefties.
Toronto Streetcars wrote:
There’s no point to altering the southern portion of the #8 bus other than to improve frequencies along Lakeshore itself (why the #23’s only every 15 minutes I have no idea) as Atwater is only 3 blocks north of where Cawthra starts. I think the long term plan is to have the #8 terminate at Cawthra Stn on the new Miway Transit BRT line.
I wouldn’t mind some alterations to the 19, post-LRT. The LRT really would not be economical south of the QEW and poses the most disruption to road traffic as the road can’t be widened through this area. As such the route could be grade separated from the QEW to Eglinton and surface north of Eglinton. The 19 could still exist for local trips as Moaz suggested or provided a uniform stop frequency north of the QEW (North Service, Queensway/Paisley, Dundas, John, Central Pkwy/Elm, Burnhamthrope, City Centre Dr-Duke of York, Square One Terminal, Elia/Eglinton) 28 Confederation could be extended south of Queensway to Port Credit along Hurontario.
I concur about the cost issue – if things were built over the course of a number of years – or better like they do in Europe where they add transit to the subdivision before they finish developing an area so there is good transit from day one.
If the DRL had been built when the idea was first created, we could be talking about expanding an already built system, not building now. But it’s too late now.
Of course let’s not forget that the Eglington LRT was supposed to be a subway 20 years ago – so its possible for people to point to things like that as well and not just complain that the downtowners are being treated better.
Yes, not just billions matter, but so do tens of thousands. We could expand the Bloor subway for the price of paint with bike lanes all along Bloor/Danforth for the cost of the severance of Mr. Webster @$25,000/km. A key segment is the 4kms between Dundas St. W. and Spadina which would be $100,000 – and will the repaving opportunity this year fail to see the obvious? This could include putting in some wires for transit priority signals when the subway is crashed ie. message to cars: get off Bloor for buses!!!
Also, it’s a pretty easy bike ride from Danforth and Pape to the core vs. first phase of DRL – and yes, Wellington makes more sense for a Front St. transitway/DRL eh?
But speaking of billions, the Globe some years back quoted a Vancouver planner that they found each car got a subsidy of $2700 each year. If we have soo many cars that the VRT could generate $60,000,000 then hmm, maybe total car subsidies are $2.7B – each year?!!! Just in Caronto alone.
The Hurontario LRT and Dundas BRT (rumored to have a dedicated lane) aren’t going to receive much public support in Mississauga. Taking away a lane each way is just going to piss off the motorists. Mississauga was designed for the automobile. Mississauga is not like Old Toronto where commercial development is densely condensed. Old Toronto is actually almost three times smaller than Mississauga in terms of land mass and everything is spaced out here in Mississauga. The dense commercial development is the reason why the TTC seems to be adequate enough for lots of people in Old Toronto. The TTC streetcars and buses suck too. The difference is that people in Mississauga generally have to travel greater distances to get to where they want to go than people in Toronto. That’s why people think the TTC is so great (in relation to Mississauga Transit anyway) when really it isn’t.
A TTC trip from say Yonge/Eglinton to Little Italy (let’s say I lived in Yonge/Eg but I wanted to grab a nice Italian veal sandwich in Little Italy) is about the same distance-wise as a Mississauga Transit commute from my residence in Mavis/Eglinton to my job near Hurontario/Derry. But guess what? The TTC commute is barely faster because the Carlton streetcar is slooooowwww and takes away all of the speed advantage the Yonge subway offers. TTC surface transit (in mixed traffic. St. Clair doesn’t count) is terrible thanks to all the traffic slowing things down. The main reasons why Mississauga Transit sucks in relation to the TTC has to do with places being further spaced apart in Mississauga, the longer headways (especially during off-peak periods. Saturday service is bad. Sunday service is terrible), limited bus routes during off-peak hours (especially Sunday) and lack of all-night bus service.
The reason why lots of people in Old Toronto (especially downtown) are satisfied without a car is because they typically stay within their own little radius and don’t venture too far out into the city very often (or if they do, they don’t stray too far from a subway line). This isn’t really an option for people in Mississauga. I’ve talked to people in Etobicoke, York and North York who even claim that they are happy they live in the city because they don’t have to get a car. But I know what transit is like in the 416 boroughs. That is not true at all. People in Toronto who can’t afford a car are just forced to adapt to a car-less lifestyle and travel more selectively. Here in Mississauga, that’s not an option. I remember taking an hour+ to get to job interviews in certain sections of Mississauga. Mississauga is like a Megacity of it’s own. I think most motorists in Mississauga who had to relocate to Toronto would be unwilling to give up their car if they didn’t live near a subway line or frequented places far from subway lines. If they had to give up their car, it would be because the parking fees and the higher auto insurance premiums would tip them over the edge.