TTC Capital Budget 2014-2023 (Updated)

Updated November 26, 2013 at 5:55 pm:

I have written a commentary on the City of Toronto budget as it affects the TTC on the Torontoist website.

For further information please see:

I will add comments here on some of the details at a later date.

Original article from November 13:

The TTC will discuss its 2014-2023 Capital Budget at its meeting on November 18.  At this point, I have not had a chance to review the detailed budget books and will present only the highlights in this article.  After the meeting and when I have additional info, I will update this piece.

The capital budget lays out projects on a 10-year scope because spending will occur over many years.  The City of Toronto and the TTC Board need to see the broad view of capital needs in order to plan for borrowing and also as a basis for lobbying other funding partners for assistance.

The budget as a whole is divided into items that are “above” and “below” the line.  Those that are “above” have funding either as specific projects (e.g. the Spadina subway extension) or out of the projected yearly capital allocation that the City plans to make (e.g. many ongoing capital maintenance works).  Those that are “below” have no funding, but they are still considered essential to the future of the TTC system and they are prime candidates for any new money that may appear.

It is worth noting that the entire “below the line” group has a value roughly equal to that of the Scarborough Subway.  This is an unfortunate example of how politicians are happy to spend small fortunes on a single project for electoral advantage, but leave necessary work out in the cold because no individual project offers quite the opportunities for fine speeches and ribbon cutting ceremonies.

In the short term, the capital budget is “funded” – that is to say, the amount of money expected from various sources in 2014 is enough to pay for the work planned in that year.  In both 2013 and 2014, the Capital Budget ran a “surplus” in the sense that more money was available than actually needed.  However, this is a short term situation caused by timing differences, and the situation quickly reverses starting in 2015.  (See Appendix C on page 36 of the budget report.)

Over the five years 2014-18, there is a shortfall of almost $833m in funding.  In the next five years, 2019-23, the situation is even worse because of planned reductions in the level of City funding, and there is a $1.856b shortfall.    The TTC has a 10-year capital requirement of just over $9b, but a $2.7b shortfall in money to actually pay for this work.  A detailed description of the unfunded projects begins on page 12 of the report.


Because of lead times involved in procurement, many of these projects will come to the Commission and Council for approval in 2014, an election year.  Readers should note that the amounts shown above only cover costs that fall within the ten-year window.  For example, the T1 subway car replacement would only incur spending at the end of the cycle, and the total project commitment would be considerably higher ($1.22b according to the detailed project budget sheets at page 27 of the report).

Notable among these projects are items to address growing demand on the transit system:

  • 135 additional buses
  • 60 additional streetcars

In the “above the line” budget, there are 60 new subway cars (10 trainsets) to handle riding growth by reducing headways.  No specific provision is made for additional yard space to house these trains which are proposed to be acquired before 2017 with project approval (presumably as an add-on to the TR order) in 2014 (see page 27).  All available space including reactivation of Vincent Yard (east of Keele Station) will be consumed as the current order for TRs including the Spadina extension fleet arrives.

The added buses will be accommodated in a below-the-line second phase of the McNicoll Garage project.  The 60 streetcars will consume all remaining space in the three carhouses (Leslie Barns was deliberately oversized to allow for a larger fleet.)

Without question, fleet expansion on this scale will affect future operating budgets.  Toronto has lived through a few years where we could pretend that transit costs were contained, but this fiction will not be possible in coming years.  The TTC has yet to publish any estimates of the budgetary effects of coming expansions including the Spadina extension and service improvements generally.

All of these capital requirements are over and above anything that is built as part of The Big Move by Metrolinx.  Queens Park is fond of telling us at every opportunity how much they pay for transit in Toronto, but the only non-project funding is the capital portion of the gas tax (about $71m/year).  Many funding programs (see Exhibit 1 beginning on page 3) from Ottawa and Queen’s Park have now wound down.

The Metrolinx Investment Strategy talks of a 25% share for municipal partners out of whatever revenue flow it might produce.  At the originally discussed $2b/year, this would leave $500m/year for municipal projects of which Toronto’s share would, at best, be $250m.  Of that, a good chunk is intended for works other than transit projects.  Finally, of course, it is doubtful that Queen’s Park will actually try for $2b/year.  All-in-all, a visit from more than the Tooth Fairy will be needed to deal with the budgetary shortfall.

The TTC has flagged the need for much greater support in its capital spending, and operating budget needs are lurking just out of sight.  How will the TTC Board and Council react to these requirements?  Will we hear all about “gravy” and “tax fighting”, or will we finally see politicians with the backbone to fight for better transit throughout the city and the spending needed to provide it?

This article will be updated following the budget debate at TTC.

17 thoughts on “TTC Capital Budget 2014-2023 (Updated)

  1. I’m pleased about the addition request for 60 new streetcars. While, as you say, Russel, Leslie, and Roncesvalles could handle the increase in the number, I still think that another carbarn maybe needed. With maintenance going to the Leslie barns, do you know of any new plans for Hillcrest? Seems to be a good site to serve St. Clair and Bathurst, and maybe Spadina.

    Steve: There are no plans yet for Hillcrest, or more particularly for Harvey Shops where streetcars are maintained today. Some functions of this building also serve the bus fleet, and so it’s not simply a case that once the CLRV/ALRV fleets are retired, that the whole thing becomes surplus. But, yes, as a fourth carhouse it would make a good site.


  2. TTC and Metrolinx should buy the now-closed CPR Obico Intermodal Yard at Kipling and Dundas area. About 200 acres of land in an industrial area with no residential around. Along with the little-used CPR track between there and Long Branch. It would allow GO trains to reroute between the Milton line and Lakeshore during line blockage etc. Added storage and maintenance for future GO trains as well as a new TTC carbarn that could be reached from the end of the Long Branch route. Added TTC subway train storage for Bloor-Danforth line. A future LRT extension from Eglinton or St.Clair could also make use of this property.


  3. Correct me if I am wrong but wasn’t Davenport garage located (and still is) at Hillcrest? If I am not mistaken it still just exists just decommissioned.

    Steve: Davenport is a small garage that was not designed for modern buses. It housed a small fleet until it was closed, but is nowhere near the size needed for a new bus garage, let alone car barn.


  4. I am okay with any fare increases as long as it used to expedite the building of the already approved Scarborough subway but since these funds are not going for that purpose, I oppose the proposed fare increases.

    Steve: There are far more important things to spend a fare increase on than the Scarborough Subway which, in any event, will be paid for with money from Queen’s Park, Ottawa and Toronto property taxes. Believe it or not, there are people all over Toronto, including Scarborough, who want better service today, not just a subway that won’t be ready for a decade. To produce an equivalent revenue stream through fares to that which the planned tax increase (1.5%) will generate would require roughly a 6% increase in fares (fare revenue is about 1/4 of property tax revenue). That’s about a 15-cent hike in adult fares.

    I know that we won’t pay it all through fares, but I wanted to give readers a sense of just what a fare-based capital program would cost.


  5. Steve,

    The TTC still owns the ‘Danforth’ barn does it not? (Danforth/Coxwell).

    Given the dead-head time to many routes w/virtually no inner-city bus storage facilities remaining, might it not make more sense to reactivate this?

    Are there any plans for this site that you know of?

    Steve: Part of the garage site has been redeveloped. The building is used for various TTC departments, but there is no longer enough property in a layout that would suit operations as a bus garage.


    As a side note, Ray’s Obico suggestion is interesting, not a great spot for an LRT yard, would favour Hillcrest; but the various other suggestions might make a great deal of sense. Particularly subway storage.

    Steve: Yes, I think it is more important to find a new location for a subway yard fairly quickly.


  6. Steve, do you know what the “SRT Overhaul” will comprise of? in previous budgets I have seen provision for purchsing Vancouver’s Mark I cars but now this seems to be cancelled.

    As a regular rider of the SRT, I can’t imagine how they can keep this line running for 2 more years let alone nearly 10 more!

    Steve: No details of the work needed to keep the SRT operating have been published. Only a few years ago, the TTC claimed that it would be all it could do to keep the line alive to 2015.

    I think it is quite scandalous that the TTC plans to begin retiring CLRVs and ALRVs as fast as possible when the new LFLRVs enter service rather than using the expanded fleet to improve service while we build up the stock of new, larger cars. We have money to look after the SRT, but not to improve streetcar service.


  7. I presume that the TTC is planning to come to some deal with with Bombardier that LRVs for the cancelled Scarborough LRT will be swapped for new subway cars (to replace worn out T1s/to add more trains to the YUS line when the new signalling system is turned on/for the proposed Scarborough subway extension) or new legacy streetcars? Bombardier ought to be perfectly happy making any kind of rail vehicle, as they are all made in Thunder Bay, and LRVs for Eglinton are ridiculously far in the future right now (the official website says that they won’t start manufacturing anything other than a test “pilot” vehicle until 2016). I have also heard rumors that the Eglinton LRT airport extension might be happening sooner rather than later, but nothing definitive on that.

    Steve: I won’t believe that Metrolinx is going ahead with any other LRT lines until they actually announce them, although I do know that with the changes in Scarborough, staff who had been working on the SLRT have shifted their attention to Sheppard. As for the airport, a lot depends on whether this is seen as competition for the UPX, and also whether some of the design issues in Etobicoke (intersection layouts) are resolved. The TTC did a good job of pissing everyone off with their bizarre plans for handling left turning traffic.


  8. Out of curiosity, is the TTC considering going with a shorter Flexity design for those additional 60 streetcars to have more operational flexibility or would they just be more of the same design already on order?

    Steve: No details yet. Based on the amount of money in the proposed budget, I would say that it’s more of the same.


  9. Absent from the report seemed the mention of property acquisition for a new Bloor Yard. Is there currently a review underway to determine where the yard should go?

    Likewise is Wilson Yard being expanded to its completed maximum capacity or only incrementally? TTC report a few years back recommended an expanded Wilson and possibility of new underground storage north of Finch/Yonge. Do you know whats up with this?

    Steve: The problem at Wilson is that even though there is space, there is a limit to how quickly trains can move between the yard and the main line. The TTC now acknowledges that it would be impossible to actually get all of the AM peak service out of the yard before the peak completed based on the higher number of trains needed for both the Spadina extension and the proposed shorter headways. That’s where the Finch “yard” concept came from, but there has not been anything definite on that. Meanwhile, on BD, all available space is being used to handle the influx of surplus T1 trains from YUS. This actually gives them a fleet big enough to run the Scarborough Subway with every other train turning back at Kennedy, but by the time that line opens, the T1 fleet will be up for replacement.

    On non-subway matters, the 60 additional streetcars are a good idea and should receive city support. I doubt the current administration will be sympathetic. However by bringing the idea out already the TTC creates better awareness and a better case for itself once it finally is approved. People might not view it as a last minute politically driven tack on item for “downtowners”.



  10. Raymond Kennedy said:

    TTC and Metrolinx should buy the now-closed CPR Obico Intermodal Yard at Kipling and Dundas area. About 200 acres of land in an industrial area with no residential around. Along with the little-used CPR track between there and Long Branch. It would allow GO trains to reroute between the Milton line and Lakeshore during line blockage etc.

    As an aside, there is apparently going to be a planned weekend closure of the GO Lakeshore West line at the end of November / beginning of December to allow for repairs to the Dufferin bridge.

    I asked Metrolinx spokesperson if Metrolinx would stop train service at Port Credit and Union (since Long Branch is not an accessible station) and run buses, or would they try to use the Weston sub and CP tracks so they could still offer continuous train service (whole bypassing Exhibition and Mimico).

    Of course I was told that they are looking at all the options … so I’ll be pleasantly surprised if GO Trains continue running.

    Cheers, Moaz


  11. GO has already looked at all options and committed to not running service. Service would be horribly unreliable if trains were detoured.


  12. I see they are still including platform doors – I had assumed that this idea was already dead. It is certainly not top of my list!

    I assume that you will, as usual, post their multi-year plan for streetcar track replacement (Adelaide?) and suggest that if you can get details it would be interesting to see their schedule for overhead replacement too.

    Steve: Yes, those platform doors just never die, do they. They are nowhere near the middle, let alone the top of my list either.

    As for the track and overhead plans, I will publish the track plans and other info when I get access to the detailed budget papers where all of this stuff lives. I am not so sure about the overhead plans. Last year I didn’t publish them because they simply did not make sense in terms of the likely rollout of LFLRVs and the sections of the network that would have to be converted first.

    I suspect that the Adelaide track is a dead issue, but it would be nice if the TTC would simply confirm this.


  13. TTC have just finished tearing up the waiting island at Bingham Loop (even though it was beautifully rebuilt just last year) and re-worked it for LFLRV height etc. How is it that this was not done last year when the entire loop was rebuilt? Seems an awful waste of $$$ to do it twice in a year!

    Did someone just forget last year?

    Steve: Considering that last year they were already rebuilding islands on Spadina to the correct height, I suspect that the answer is “yes”.


  14. The City are now recommending Adelaide as a one-way bike track street (paired with Richmond). Their latest announcement says

    “We are now planning to propose a Summer 2014 pilot cycle track installation on some lengths of streets in the study area, to be determined. This pilot proposal is being drafted now and will be presented to Council in early 2014.”

    Perhaps either the pilot or final version of the cycle track will force a final decision (or announcement) on Adelaide? The City already intends to fix up Richmond next year as soon as the new watermain work is finished in the York to Church segment (they started work on it last week) and I assume Adelaide is also in line for serious street work – it is a real mess now.

    I think we may get a clue soon because the TTC are supposed to replace the track on both Richmond and Victoria next year and if they do not replace the north-bound track on Victoria from Adelaide to Richmond and the north to west curve on Richmond it will be clear that they have given up on Adelaide between Victoria and Charlotte. (Too bad, in my opinion as it could be a very useful link but it has been unused for over a decade so it’s hard to say it’s ‘necessary”.)


  15. Steve,

    RoFo has tried to make political hay with respect to making TTC an essential service. If I am not mistaken, this leaves future salary/benefit adjustments up to an arbitrator, and most likely lead to higher wage increases than if collectively bargained. If so, I suspect this will also lead to higher than anticipated operating costs.

    Yet another example of our “fiscally” responsible Mayor not really understanding what that means.

    Steve: Never mind “future” settlements. ATU 113 received annual 2% increments by arbitration effective April 1, 2011, 2012 and 2013.


  16. I am opposed to the fare increase especially since it is going to fix something that does not need fixing i.e. the dropping of the colour coded line names in favour of a numbering system.

    Steve argued that it is necessary because of many people being colour blind. I just read in today’s Toronto Star that holiday lighting can trigger epileptic seizures (which is frankly much more serious than being colour blind), are you then going to recommend that all Christmas lighting be banned from all public spaces?

    There are so many people who are allergic to certain kinds of perfumes (myself included) and so how about banning cosmetics on the transit system.

    The point is that not every disability can be accommodated everywhere all the time at reasonable cost. Just last Monday, I helped a blind man on to a train and so if blind people can live with the current colour coded line names and ask for help when needed, then why can’t colour blind blind people who are infinitely times LESS disabled than a completely blind person? If a selfish person wears exorbitant amounts of perfume next to me, then I just get up and go to the next car or whatever.

    To be honest, as some people have suggested; this was never about accommodating any colour blind people but about getting rid of the word Downtown from the Downtown Relief Line (it was even suggested in the Toronto Star and many other major media outlets) by conveniently calling it Line 5 or whatever the actual number may be. A Downtown Relief Line is needed but what is not needed is a wasteful numbering system.

    Steve: The fare increase will not be eaten up numbering the lines, and you are merging two separate topics. I did not argue that this change was “necessary”, but simply recounted a rationale advanced by the TTC. It is worth noting that the lines are NEVER referred to as the “Yellow” or “Green” lines, but by their names. I agree that the numbering is one more of the superficial changes that the TTC is making that are more show than substance, and this has to stop. There may be perfectly good reasons for making some of the cosmetic changes that are underway or proposed, but the absence of real quality of service changes leads to the impression that superficiality is all the TTC cares about.

    All sorts of things can trigger epileptic seizures depending on the blinking frequency. This has affected, over the years, things like the blink rate of cursors on computer monitors (remember when there were cursors?), and the spacing of illumination poles on highways. If someone is manufacturing ornaments that use the wrong frequency, they deserve to be called out for this, but it has little to do with your argument.

    Concentrate on why the TTC is doing very little to improve service until well into the new year even though the fare increase comes in January. I will be writing about this soon with further details.


  17. The TTC needs more articulated buses. The 25 Don Mills desperately needs these. I am a little surprised to see 6 Bay on the list, I never thought it was crowded enough to justify artics.


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