The Toronto Transit Commission Board will meet on March 26, 2014 at 1:00 pm in Council Chambers at City Hall. The Agenda contains a number of items of interest.
- An update on the Union Station project (Revised to add info from Metrolinx)
- The March 2014 CEO’s report
- Purchase of 10 additional “TR” subway trains for future demand growth
- A report on Community Bus services
- A proposed design for Kennedy Station’s interface to the Eglinton LRT line
- A report on a temporary bus terminal at Islington Station
Union Station Project [NB: large pdf]
This presentation ties together the various aspects of work now in progress around Union Station. I believe that it arose from a request at a previous Board meeting for a briefing on the subject because the relationship between and status of various sub-projects were poorly understood.
- Union Station Revitalization. Much of the work on this project is behind the scenes as new concourses for GO and a retail area below are under construction with a “dig down” and replacement of the existing columns under the railway tracks.
- GO Transit train shed roof. The roof over the station platforms is being completely rebuilt to include a glass atrium.
- North West Path link. A new link in the PATH system is under construction from the northwest corner of the railway station. It will run north up York Street to connect with the existing passages north of Wellington.
- Front Street Reconstruction. After work on the subway station and the North West Path link are completed, Front Street will be restored with a narrower roadway than it previously had, and with improved space and crossing provisions for pedestrians.
- TTC Union Station Second Platform. A separate platform for Yonge-bound trains will provide added capacity and will split the flows for the two lines at this very busy station. The existing platform will be used only by University-bound trains, and vertical accesses (stairs, escalators, elevator) will be widened and/or relocated to the south wall of the platform (see slide 35). A glass wall will line the south edge of the University-bound platform to protect passengers from Yonge-bound trains.
In the first phase of the subway station reconstruction, the grade difference between the subway mezzanine and the moat leading to the existing GO concourse will remain. However, the new retail concourse (which provides access to the new GO concourse) will be at the same level as the subway mezzanine. Part of the moat will be lowered to provide a direct path between the two stations (see slide 43).
Access to the streetcar loop for Harbourfront/Spadina service will be directly off of the new Yonge-bound platform of the subway.
The new platform is expected to open in summer 2014.
Update March 29, 2014 at 3:45 pm: Mark Osler at Metrolinx sent the following info about GO’s move into the west concourse:
GO Transit is working closely with the City of Toronto to complete the construction of the York Concourse. It is anticipated that the City will be able to turn the concourse over to GO Transit in the fall of 2014. Following that, GO Transit will need some time to outfit the concourse with GO service counters, departure PINs boards, PRESTO machines, waiting area furniture, directional signage and the like. We anticipate being able to open the York Concourse to customers before the end of the year. Once open and operational, we will start to close the Bay Concourse for its revitalization treatment.
All of the usual charts showing performance on many aspects of TTC operations are here.
Although ridership for period 1 (January) 2014 was up 2.4% over the same period in 2013, it was down 3.5% relative to budget. This implies a very aggressive budget projection for ridership growth (6%) that was not achieved only because of the very poor weather in 2014.
Reliability on the two major rapid transit lines continues to be below the target level. The causes cited did not include bad weather (see page 8) but rather internal issues and the physical constraints posed by heavy demands on the system.
The report includes only financial information for 2013. There was a “surplus” of $7.3-million (actually a lower draw from the approved subsidy), but it is important to understand what went into this. Fare revenue was below expectations because of December’s ice storm, but this was offset by lower than budgeted costs in labour (“gapping” or leaving approve positions vacant); health and dental care; reduced maintenance costs for buses, CLRV streetcars and SRT cars; and diesel fuel. Costs for accident claims and electricity were higher than budgeted.
Going into 2014, the TTC received a higher subsidy allocation. Although they do not get to keep the “surplus” from 2013, it appears as part of 2014 funding because the starting point is actual, not budgeted, spending in 2013.
The Spadina subway extension’s opening date is still officially in fall 2016, but this is unlikely to be achieved because of construction delays, especially at Pioneer Village (Steeles West) Station.
The TTC will order 10 more “TR” trainset from Bombardier at a total project cost, including provision for inflation, of $217-million. These are in addition to the 60 sets now being delivered to replace the H4, H5 and H6 fleets, and the 10 sets on order for the Spadina extension. Their purpose is to allow more frequent service beginning in 2018 when the conversion to Automatic Train Control (ATC) will be complete.
The report sets out details of each stage of the order including the need to add ATC to the first 70 trains because it had not been part of the base contract. The total cost of the 80 trains will be $1.454-billion, or about $18m/trainset on average.
The report contains interesting reading about the cost of manufacturing subway cars, and the unexpectedly large increase in unit costs for this additional order. Under the terms of the contract, Bombardier is allowed to adjust its pricing based on actual manufacturing costs, although it is working to bring these down.
The next order of subway cars will not be until 2025 with the retirement of the T1 fleet, but this does not take into account the planned Scarborough Subway. The T1 fleet is large enough to handle that extension, but the signal system there will have to be built with the non-ATC T1 fleet in mind. The TTC’s plan to convert the BD line to ATC has dropped in priority due to funding constraints and the fact that BD capacity is less of an issue than on the Yonge line.
Councillor Paul Ainslie brought a deputation to the Commission asking for a new Community Bus service in eastern Scarborough. The request was opposed by TTC staff because they argue that use of these routes (the 400-series) has fallen off as the regular bus fleet’s accessibility has improved, and because there are many outstanding requests for this type of service that should be evaluated together.
The community representatives were not happy about this state of affairs as they had been involved with TTC staff in discussions about a possible route two years ago. Unfortunately, they brought no documentation of this nor a map of the proposed route to the meeting possibly on the assumption that staff and the Board would have some familiarity. Sadly, with the many changes in TTC management and the Board itself, the institutional memory is a bit thin and this hampered the discussion.
The question of an east Scarborough community bus has been on the table since at least 2009 as shown by a letter from Ainslie to the TTC which is posted on his website. Major problems for the affected part of Scarborough include long walking distances to bus stops, infrequent bus services, and the lack of direct routes between concentrations of potential riders and the services to which they require access.
Community Buses in general suffer at the TTC because they fall between Wheel Trans and the regular services. They operate with WT vehicles and are poorly publicized leading to arguments that low ridership arises from lack of awareness that these routes exist and can be taken by riders who are not WT eligible.
It is particularly galling that Toronto has billions to spend on a new subway for Scarborough, but running community services is beyond our financial capability.
In the end, the Board decided to refer the whole matter of Community routes off to staff for a report that will come back in 2015.
The report presents a revised design for Kennedy Station that had been shown at the Metrolinx Board meeting in February. This iteration of the design does not include the Scarborough LRT which has been replaced by the extension of the subway line.
The Eglinton-Crosstown LRT station will be located under the access roadway north of the existing bus terminal, and it will be connected by a passageway to the concourse level of the station.
During the discussion of this report, I was greatly amused by Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker’s query about the elimination of stairs between the subway and future LRT. He had seen an earlier presentation that suggested that the connection would be quite simple. Responses from TTC staff didn’t help one bit because they all suffered a collective amnesia of the Scarborough LRT project. De Baeremaeker talks about subway-poor Scarborough on the slightest provocation (almost as frequently as Rob Ford comes out with “tax saving” talking points), but forgets that the convenient transfer at Kennedy was designed around the now-abandoned LRT.
The Scarborough LRT platform would have been above the Eglinton LRT, and would have been part of a large underground loop (think Spadina Station, but bigger) where the Scarborough trains would use a single platform for loading and unloading. This would allow a stair-free walk to the existing ticket concourse under the bus terminal where riders would walk/ride down one level to the subway.
The Eglinton line has a centre platform and this means that a direct connection to the concourse is impossible. However, connections between all routes at Kennedy will be simpler than today’s multi-level exchange from the subway to the SRT.
The evolution of Islington and Kipling Stations has not been anywhere as speedy as many hoped years ago. The TTC had a scheme to improve and expand Kipling bus terminal including provision for regional services, and there was an office development proposal for some of the lands at Islington where a new bus terminal would replace the crumbling, inaccessible structure now in place.
Things didn’t quite work out as planned. Metrolinx took over the Kipling project, but it immediately stalled because Hydro has plans for some of the land where a new terminal would be built. Meanwhile at Islington, the office block fell off the plans when the proposed occupant, SNC Lavalin, ran into business difficulties. Hopes at the TTC that developments would help pay for the revised station grew dim. The TTC bus roadways became less and less safe for continued operation and these cannot be used much longer.
The situation now is that:
- A new condo will be built on the former Cordova parking lot at Islington. This land has been sold to Tridel.
- Space on the Bloor Street frontage will be leased to Tridel for a temporary condo sales building.
- The southwestern part of the parking area will become a temporary terminal for MiWay bus operations. (An alternative, shorter-lived scheme involves shoring the existing bus bays.)
- TTC bus operations would relocate to a temporary terminal between the existing bus bays and Bloor Street.
The layout is shown in Figure 2, the last page of the linked report.
The TTC seeks funding from Metrolinx for this work because it arises directly from the delay in provision of the new terminal at Kipling. Based on comments at the meeting, Metrolinx has suddenly awakened to the effect of the ongoing delay in their project on operations elsewhere.
As for a smaller, permanent TTC-only bus terminal at Islington once MiWay relocates to Kipling, there is no word.
Streetcar Track Switches
The matter of streetcar track-switches and the large number that are out of service came up among many issues in a deputation by Alan Yule that also flagged outdated signage on the Queens Quay project. In a rather testy exchange, CEO Andy Byford took umbrage at criticism of the many things the TTC doesn’t get right, try though they might, and opined that if money were available he would spend it on fixing the track switches.
Well, actually, there is a project in the 2014 capital budget already to do just that, and TTC’s Chris Upfold confirmed to me that “a big overhaul” is planned to start this summer.
This is an important project not just to improve safety and speed operations, but because transit priority signals are activated by the switch electronics.
Commissioner Josh Colle brought a motion asking for a report on various aspects of bus operations including the possibility of more express services. I will address this in a separate post as part of “improving service now” series.