The TTC Board met on July 24, 2013, with a rather threadbare agenda. The most important item discussed — a proposal for a new Downtown Relief Line on GO corridors — wasn’t even on the agenda. It was walked in by Chair Karen Stintz, proposed as a report request and voted on with almost no debate near the end of the meeting.
Included in this wrapup:
- Steeles West Station gets a new name (again)
- Evaluation of contract bids
- Bixi and the TTC
- CEO’s Report
- Trial Service Changes on 53 Steeles East and 95 York Mills
- Implementation of New Streetcars (update)
What passes for deep policy debate was reserved for the never-ending consideration of new names for Spadina Subway extension stations. After agreeing to rename “Steeles West” station as “Black Creek Pioneer Village” at a previous meeting, the Board was back with the same issue. Why? It’s such a long name that the major architectural decoration (imagine the “Hollywood” sign from Los Angeles in rust brown letters wrapped around the station entrance parapet) that the new name would make for significant extra cost. Never mind that the site in question is at Jane Street, well west of the station itself, and that the name violates an approved TTC policy that station names should reflect the actual location.
Chair Stintz favoured “Steeles West” but hooked her campaign, such as it was, to the length and cost issues. As a “compromise”, Commissioner Augimeri proposed “Pioneer Village” which is only slightly longer than “Steeles West” and has, as she described it, a lot of thin letters like “I” and “L”. Another alternative — putting “Black Creek Pioneer Village” in smaller letters under the main name (as is done with “Yorkville” at Bay Station) — got only brief attention. Most of the Board was happy to support Augimeri and her version won the day.
Evaluation of Contract Bids
Commissioners Colle and Heisey raised questions about two contracts for services related to capital construction projects:
- Retention of MMM Group to provide construction management services for a five-year period with an upset contract limit of $30-million
- Retention of Stantec Consulting to provide design services for the planned McNicoll Bus Garage at a cost of $11.5-million
Some Commissioners wanted more information about the projects and the bid evaluation process so that they could give approvals with a clearer sense of what was behind the award. Staff replied that this should be provided in the confidential session of the Board meetings because bidders on future contracts could obtain vital information about rivals if too much detail appeared in the public version of the reports.
Awards often come under attack by bidders who feel that they have unfairly lost a contract, and they sometimes attempt to circumvent the process by bringing their case directly to the Board. After the findings of the Bellamy Commission and the computer leasing scandal, City of Toronto procurement practices were tightened and lobbying by bidders was strictly limited. There is a tricky balance between the need for informed consent by Council and its Boards and the avoidance of political interference in bid evaluation.
A proposal for the TTC to take over the Bixi bicycle rental system (now privately operated, but in financial difficulty) met a cool reception from TTC management as they do not regard cycling as part of their core business. Moreover, Bixi as it exists is a money-losing proposition that would simply add to the TTC’s deficit with no guarantee of additional support from Council.
The matter was deferred to the October 2013 meeting to await the outcome of a Council debate.
There was little discussion of this report although a deputation at the meeting mentioned the problem of service reliability especially at evenings and weekends, and the issue of route capacity that should trigger more subsidy and service.
The second quarter 2013 route performance report is now available. I will publish a consolidated version of this information with the first quarter report at a later date.
There is nothing particularly new in this month’s CEO’s Report. Riding continues to grow (2.9% over the corresponding period for 2012), but not quite at the rate predicted in the budget. Fare revenue is also below budget because of a continued shift to discount media (passes). An offsetting reduction in expenses (primarily diesel fuel and utility costs) means that the projected subsidy requirement will match the budget.
Effective September 2013, there will be three trial changes to these routes:
- The peak period Pharmacy short turn on 53 Steeles East will be eliminated, and the buses used for it will be redistributed to the route as a whole. All service will operate at least as far east as Markham Road.
- The 53 Steeles East service looping via McCowan, Elson and Markham Road will be changed to loop via Tapscott, Passmore and Markham. This will bring two-way service on Steeles east of McCowan by buses looping at Markham Road.
- The 95A York Mills short turn that operates around the triangle of York Mills, Victoria Park and Parkwoods Village will be extended to Ellesmere Station to provide additional service east of Victoria Park.
Further details including route histories and maps of the changes are available in the report.
Implementation of New Streetcars
This report was held down from the June meeting to permit deputations and discussion by the Commission. Very little occurred, and the report was approved without amendment. The full presentation can be found in the June 2013 version.
CEO Andy Byford raised the issue of limitations with the vehicle monitoring system, CIS, and its antique, decades-old hardware. He would like to find some way to fit a new system into the budget, but at this point the TTC is examining systems used by other operators to see what is available in the market.