TTC Board Meeting: July 23, 2014 (Updated)

The TTC board met on July 23 with some items of modest interest on the agenda. This is the second last meeting of the current board before the October municipal election sweeps away at least some of the current crew. Nothing of real substance will happen until the new Council takes office, and a new Mayor attempts to forge an agenda for transit that is more than a simplistic, pandering slogan.

Included in the agenda are:

  • The monthly CEO’s report;
  • A purchase amendment regarding the new TR trainsets to retrofit additional handholds and to provide speakers outside of cars so that riders can hear door closing announcements;
  • The Transit Project Assessment (TPA) for McNicoll Garage (a proposal already contested by the neighbourhood where it will be built);
  • The proposed sale of the Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) used for the Spadina Subway Extension;
  • A proposal from Commissioner Heisey that the City of Toronto seek a change in TTC and Metrolinx governance so that one member would be cross-appointed between each board; and
  • A request from newly minted Commissioner Pasternak for a report on his pet project, the Sheppard Subway extension west to Downsview.

Update: An additional item came in via correspondence: a request for an express bus route from Liberty Village to downtown.

CEO’s Report

Update: There was little discussion of this report as it came near the end of the meeting after a long series of deputations and debate on the proposed McNicoll Garage.

There is little new in this month’s CEO’s Report. Ridership continues to run slightly below budget thanks to the severe winter, but even in the spring (stats are shown only to the end of May), ridership remains slightly below expectations. Combined with a lower average fare than predicted (in part because those pesky Metropass buyers keep trying to save money), the TTC’s projected revenue for 2014 is $7.6m below the budgeted value of $1166.5b.

Meanwhile, expenses are predicted to come in almost exactly on budget, and so there is an $8m “hole” to be filled. This is under one percent on a total budget of $1.6b, but the TTC will sweat bullets to “break even” somehow.

Remember that this is the same TTC whose former Chair attempted to squirrel away a “surplus” from 2013 to finance a 2015 fare freeze.

Route reliability statistics continue to be reported against a goal of ±3 minutes of the scheduled headway. That’s rather generous, especially on routes with frequent service like the subway. New measures to better reflect the actual customer experience have been under development since 2013, but they have yet to make a public appearance in status reports. I understand that this is part of a larger project to improve real-time service monitoring now underway.

The TTC has a new Customer Satisfaction Survey for the first quarter of 2014, but the details have not been published yet. However:

The overall customer satisfaction score in Q1 2014 (71%) was consistent with results observed in the previous quarter and a year ago. Perceptions of streetcar service improved significantly, and currently overall satisfaction is comparable across the different modes of transportation. [Section 2.2, page 6]

It is a mystery why in the dead of winter, riders thought better of streetcars than they did last fall. Possibly last fall was a statistical aberration, but if so this would indicate that the survey has a fairly wide margin of error and should be read accordingly.

According to the report, the second “production” new streetcar was delivered on July 4, 2014. When we will see more depends on the current labour dispute at Bombardier, not to mention their ability to ramp up to the planned 3/month rate.

The TTC has not yet published a revised fleet or rollout plan to explain how service will be maintained with the available cars, nor is there any indication of service improvements beyond some net benefit of larger (even if fewer) new cars as they enter service. Some routes may wait 5 years on current plans before they see any capacity upgrades.

TR Trainset Upgrades

Update: Approved without debate.

For several months, the TTC has been testing handholds in the low ceiling sections of one TR trainset as well as door chimes audible outside of the train.

The handholds were, putting it mildly, an oversight in the original design which left a large area for standees who had nothing but each other for support. The exterior door chimes are an accessibility requirement so that blind passengers will know that the doors are about to close. Both of these are described as “safety” features, and one cannot help asking why they were omitted from the base design.

The cost to retrofit the TR fleet will be $4.3m and $10.9m respectively for these features, but this will be largely offset by reduced costs in other parts of the contract notably liquidated damages (e.g. penalties) for late delivery ($7.2m) and a reduction in the number of spare trucks (the undercarriages including the wheels, axles and primary support for the cars) that will be purchased under this contract ($8.1m).

McNicoll Garage TPA

McNicoll Garage has been on the TTC’s books for years as a site that will permit expansion of the bus fleet. The property was purchased by Metro Toronto for this purpose about 25 years ago. When the Transit City plan would have led to a major reduction in bus requirements, this project went onto the back burner, but as Transit City withered away, the TTC had to bring it forward. Indeed, the project is now a top priority for what TTC management would do if $100m fell into their lap.

It is little surprise that since the land was bought, development has crept around the margins, and the neighbours are now upset about the traffic and other effects a new garage might bring. Deputations are expected at the board meeting, and it will be interesting and instructive to see whether the Board has the courage of its convictions to proceed with approval of the Transit Project Assessment (TPA), or if the whole question will be punted beyond the election to ensure a few more votes for some worthy Councillor.

Update: There was a long series of deputations from residents opposed to this project, followed by a lengthy debate among the board members, but in the end the report was approved with amendments.

The proposed garage site (see page 7 of the report) has two neighbours: the Mon Sheong long term care home and the Scarborough Chinese Baptist Church. In the case of the church, its parking lot on the east side of the site and immediately north of the new garage would be separated from the church by a proposed new road. In the case of the seniors’ home, the concerns are the noise, fumes and potential danger of an industrial facility next door to a home that now borders an open field.

The deputations by people involved with Mon Sheong varied in quality and credibility. Their strongest case lay in issues of process and transparency with echoes of the “bad neighbour TTC” we saw on the additional subway exits project for Greenwood and Donlands Stations. The major points here are:

  • A claim that the TTC changed the garage design to shift the entrance and exit traffic from the south to the west side thereby affecting the seniors’ home. This change was made because a proposed grade separation of McNicoll at the GO Stouffville line immediately east of the site would change the road grade and make access from the south impossible.
  • The land is and always has been zoned “industrial” and that is why the City of Toronto bought it in 2005 for a future bus garage. However, because certain institutional uses, notably churches, were having trouble gaining acceptance in residential communities, the term “industrial” was widened to allow their construction in lands that were otherwise sitting unused. The problem here is that the conventional sense of that designation remained setting up an inevitable conflict between old and new uses.
  • It is unclear whether the two affected properties have a caution on title that disruptive uses might spring up next door on what was once vacant land.

Some deputations engaged in irresponsible fear-mongering showing a photo of a major explosion, and citing disasters both in Downsview (Sunrise propane) and Lac Megantic (volatile crude oil) as examples of what might happen at the garage. The deputants also cited bio-diesel as a health and explosion hazard despite the fact that the TTC stopped using this fuel in 2009.

The fact that diesel fuel used by buses is not subject to explosion was not mentioned, and we were even treated to one board member fearing that the bus terminal at Bay and Dundas might endanger the building we sat in, City Hall, a few blocks to the south. The TTC has operated diesel garages in the middle of residential areas for decades. Management finally corrected this misunderstanding quite late in the debate.

By overstating their case and using misleading, dare I say, inflammatory information, opponents of the garage created a perfect environment for their concerns to be discounted.

The board was also well aware of the problem of storage capacity and the shortcomings of the current bus fleet. Staff described McNicoll Garage as something they should have started three years ago.

It is worth tracing the history of this site:

  • Anticipating the need for a new garage in Scarborough, the City bought the site in 2005 after a search for appropriate properties in 2004.
  • When Transit City was announced, the TTC forecast that its future bus storage needs would be replaced by new carhouses for the LRT lines, and the McNicoll project was put on hold.
  • With Transit City delayed by Queen’s Park and then cancelled by Rob Ford, the garage reappeared in the capital project list.
  • When Rob Ford and Karen Stintz engineered the cut in TTC service standards, this allowed the bus garage project to be deferred again, thereby pushing its capital and operating costs into future years and artificially trimming the TTC’s budget.
  • Those “future years” are now upon us thanks to strong ridership growth and the garage is needed even without a return to the more generous “Ridership Growth Strategy” loading standards.

In another of her breathtaking attempts to woo votes any place she can find them, former TTC Chair, now mayoral candidate Karen Stintz proposed that no money be spent on McNicoll until the TTC’s legislatively mandated accessibility program be fully funded. The amount required is $240-million (see last page of the TTC’s Capital Budget). Yes, this is the same Karen Stintz who attempted to divert a $47m “surplus” from 2013 operations into a 2015 fare freeze rather than to capital funding as is the City’s policy. This is the same Karen Stintz who engineered the service cuts for “the greater good” of Toronto’s transit system. Her attempt failed on a 6-to-3 vote with support from board members Josh Colle and James Pasternak.

In the end, the report passed with amendments:

  • The TTC will explore a land swap between the Scarborough Chinese Baptist Church’s parking lot and the lands proposed for the TTC’s own parking. This would make the church’s land contiguous on the west side of the new roadway and  leave the TTC entirely on the east side.
  • Although the design already foresees construction to Toronto’s Green Standard, there will be attempts to improve beyond this.
  • The Toronto Board of Health will be asked for comments on the health issues around urban garages as this has implications for all existing TTC sites.

Separately, the board asked management to report in August on tradeoffs in the Capital Budget that could be made to bring the Accessibility projects back “above the line” into funded status. Management had already flagged the bus garage as its top priority if any new money becomes available, and future changes in priority will depend both on updates to funding projections (including the use of the 2013 surplus) and on any “new money” that may arrive from other governments.

There is also the small matter of a Council that is prepared to levy a special tax to fund its share of the Scarborough Subway, but won’t provide the considerably lower funding needed for accessibility.

The McNicoll Garage has a Project Website.

TTC-Metrolinx Board Cross Appointments

Update: This item has been referred to the August board meeting so that Commissioners can offer additional suggestions and the Board can take a position in advance of the August Council meeting. The general reception of this proposal was “nice in theory, but there are many potential problems”.

Commissioner Heisey, for a variety of reasons listed in his motion, proposes that the TTC and Metrolinx Boards should each include one member cross-appointed from the other agency. The idea is that the goals of both organizations could be better co-ordinated.

Aside from the fact that Queen’s Park is already reviewing the Metrolinx Act and there have been proposals for a return to some municipal representation on that board, there is a much more basic problem with the fact that these are two different levels of government that do not always see eye-to-eye. Moreover, these are two boards whose demonstrated level of involvement in actual policy of their respective agencies is, shall we say, tenuous. Management and external political bodies (Queen’s Park or City Council) make the important decisions and the boards may ask a few soft questions to indicate that they are “in control”.

Negotiations between the agencies for, say, an operating agreement for a fare card system or a shared piece of infrastructure could run into delicate problems of inter-agency conflict with board members wearing two hats at once. And we won’t even talk about a TTC board member whose mission in life is to get one pet project built even if other plans must be distorted around it, or a Metrolinx member with no appreciation for transit’s function at the fine-grained, local level.

Challenges of provincial-municipal relationships on transit require far more than simply having a seat at each other’s table. Neither a transit commissioner nor a Metrolinx director can commit their respective governments to policy or funding directions, and may not even be aware of work happening within, nominally, their own sphere. I have been at enough meetings listening to badly informed board members at both agencies to know that the idea they might fruitfully interpret each other’s world has the makings of comic opera.

Sale of Tunnel Boring Machines

Update: This item was withdrawn from the agenda as the potential purchaser no longer wishes to pursue the purchase of the TBMs. Meanwhile, Mayor Ford has objected to the proposed sale, but TTC management remains convinced that as and when new subway construction begins, it should be with new boring machines.

In the continuing search for ways to build a Scarborough Subway as quickly as possible, the Board asked for a report on whether the Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) from the Spadina extension project could be reused for the Scarborough line. This option is not recommended by management because:

  • the cost to retain and refurbish the four-year old machines would be about $28.8m;
  • new machines are expected to be more productive based on improvements already seen in the TBMs used for the Sheppard Subway vs the Spadina extension project, and the value of this productivity in reduced construction time is about $22m;
  • the company that produced the TBMs, Lovat (subsequently bought and then closed by Caterpillar), no longer exists and there is no ongoing support for their technology;
  • the TTC has a buyer willing to pay $9.2m to purchase the Spadina TBMs.

The Sheppard West Subway

Update: This item was referred to staff for a report.

With the election of former Councillor and TTC Board member Peter Milczyn to the Ontario Legislature, Council was faced with a vacancy to fill. Who should show up as our new Commissioner: Counciller Pasternak from North York.

His pet project is the extension of the Sheppard Subway to Downsview Station, and to that end he has a motion on the agenda asking for a staff report on the status of any past studies on this option, timelines for conducting an EA, and estimated costs.

Never mind that the Sheppard West line isn’t even part of The Big Move’s phase 1 or 2 “waves” of projects. With Toronto’s rapid transit plans being gerrymandered to suit every election campaign, what’s one more change?

If nothing else, this will get us an update on the status of the proposal, and a clear statement of the cost and possibilities. All that is needed then is a by-election in the appropriate riding, and the Sheppard West line will be home free!

To answer some of Pasternak’s questions in advance:

No, there is no track heading east from Downsview Station. When that part of the Spadina line was built, the structure was set up to allow either an extension northwest (the TYSSE now under construction) or east along Sheppard. It was not designed to permit a blended service, and most certainly not to allow trains to originate north of Downsview and head east on Sheppard.

This was a political compromise between the then deadlocked advocates of a York U subway and those who wanted the Sheppard line. The Downsview extension from Wilson Station was common to both, and it was designed so that either could be built.

West of Sheppard-Yonge station, there are tail tracks extending beyond the station, but that doesn’t take the line very far, and a 4km extension, including a new crossing of the west branch of the Don River, would be required to reach Downsview Station. We are easily looking at over $1b even if the line has only one net new station at Bathurst. That sort of spacing will not do well to support intensification of Sheppard Avenue except at a few locations.

Liberty Village Express Bus

As if we don’t have enough Councillors trolling for votes with transit proposals, Mike Layton has asked the TTC to study the possibility of an express bus from Liberty Village to downtown to supplement the King car.

Leaving aside just how “express” any such service could be and the resources it would entail, this is symptomatic of a much deeper problem with Toronto’s transit. Rather than making what we have work better (the trunk streetcar routes), we see bandaid “solutions” that are at best applicable only to specific trips that might have a “bypass” route to their destination.

The TTC does not publish cost and revenue stats for its express downtown routes and this leaves the impression that they are a cost-effective way of serving demand. The fact that they only come into existence when a Councillor (often also a Commission board member) lobbies for them speaks volumes about their true place in the network.

96 thoughts on “TTC Board Meeting: July 23, 2014 (Updated)

  1. Steve said:

    “A direct effect of our neo-conservative political climate is that everything has to be “businesslike”, not in the old tradition that governments spend money thoughtlessly without proper analysis (the “gravy train” is only the latest incarnation of that attitude). What this translates to is a game where “business cases” are concocted to justify programs. I have no objection to analysis of what’s good and what isn’t, but it would be nice if a consistent, defensible methodology were used, and if analyses were on a network basis, not simply a smokescreen to “justify” the pet project of the day.”

    I am an old fashioned progressive conservative. Government should not be in the business of being a business. It should be about looking at total social effects, and staying out of the way where should not be. I would like to see everything modelled on a network basis, or at least considered from a system perspective.

    Projects need to be looked at from the perspective of the public good, simply, not a “business case” where government is involved. If there really was a business case, it would mean that there would be the potential that a business would do it. To me the public good would mean it would also generate ridership, as it would serve a real need, other than just the increase in the land value of a government holding.

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  2. Robert Wightman said:

    “The Richmond Hill line is a non starter for any type of rapid transit line, LRT or RER because it runs in the valley, is not near to anything and north of the York Sub CN would not let you put in the necessary service. Extending the Yonge Subway should never happen because there is not the capacity on it to absorb the riders from York Region while still carrying the riders from within the 416. I am sorry but if you bought a house in York Region you should not expect to ride the subway to your door, especially for one fare. If York wants another subway let them pay to extend the DRL from Eglinton and Don Mills to York”

    Robert, just dreaming here, however, if you used the Richmond Hill ROW as far as say Steeles, and then did build new to Richmond Hill Centre, would you not be able on this to still hit the Steeles bus, the Finch bus, the Sheppard Subway, the Lawrence bus and could you not tunnel under the current CP bridge to meet a Don Mills subway at Don Mills & Eglinton? A little narrow for 2 way tracks all the way, with a small amount of widening (expropriation) would it not be possible to run this with either EMU cars or LRT cars? Would mean you did not have to meet Bloor-Danforth, and would leave the Don Mills roadway for more local service. If it could be made to work, would provide York Region another point of connection without diverting traffic on to Yonge, or taking away a local route. Likely be quite a lot of traffic using the Sheppard subway and the Crosstown to get to Yonge, but at least these would not be core bound, and would not plug that line the entire length. Perhaps a sub-optimal trip for York region riders, but I suspect it would be easier on the network.

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  3. “the question is never asked “where else might this be spent” (and not necessarily even on a transit project).”

    I agree with you here. However another benefit of the Downsview plan is that it directly deals with the serious political issues that have been bogging down rational political discourse. By alleviating the major political issues in a very reasonable way as I have proposed, we will be able to give our political system the necessary room to maneuver, and the leverage needed to accomplish many other very important projects.

    The political problems around the Sheppard subway have gone on long enough, and have destroyed way too much political capital. It is time to resolve the debate in a reasonable manner to alleviate the paralysis and get working on matters of importance.

    I accept that the approach that I have outlined is basic and in need of further study, as it is constrained by the medium through which we are communicating. However, what I have outlined balances risk between all levels of government, it minimizes the need for external financing, it optimizes the economic and social dynamics in the region, and it solves major political problems. It is very reasonable and it deserves to be properly studied as a component within the overall strategy.

    Steve: And so your “solution” boils down to spending billions to fix a political problem which, in the broader scheme of the GTHA, is rather small change? That’s a rather dubious “cost benefit” analysis. You yourself say that we need to get on with “matters of importance” and therefore appear to admit that Sheppard West is not one of these.

    That is squeaky wheel politics, not good planning.

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  4. Jon Johnson said:

    “The political problems around the Sheppard subway have gone on long enough, and have destroyed way too much political capital. It is time to resolve the debate in a reasonable manner to alleviate the paralysis and get working on matters of importance.”

    The issue at Sheppard West would appear to me to be very low bore. This argument applies better to the situation in Scarborough. You could certainly not justify providing North York yet another under used subway line. This line is likely to be more lightly used than the existing Sheppard line. From a ridership perspective Sheppard West would struggle to justify an LRT, let alone a subway. I would suggest that there should be a reasonable debate around a BRT or nothing.

    There are still substantial political issues surrounding the Sheppard East line. Its construction held back rapid transit city wide for some time, as there was a loss of credibility as a result of building a line without riders. Repeating such politically driven waste is to be avoided if the cause of transit, and the general social advantages surrounding it are to be advanced. If you want to maintain political support, it is important that spending this money lead to reasonably obvious success in terms of ridership and improvement in general service.

    Build the projects that are most likely to succeed in terms of ridership, and have the largest possibility of improving service for as much of the city as possible. Projects that will overload the system, or serve few riders are a waste of both limited financial resources, and limited political capital that backs transit. Building projects that attract success, unbind constraints to growth, and limit growth in congestion, will build political capital, and the fiscal capacity to add to the network.

    I suspect that like Sheppard East, Sheppard West will consume considerable political capital, and consume a large chunk of fiscal capacity, and make assignment of more much harder. It may eventually be a worthy choice, but that is a someday thing. Even if this line were somehow to bring huge success and ridership, it is hard to imagine how it could do so without adding considerable load in areas that could manage its success.

    Steve: It will be interesting to see whether Council is so spendthrift as to actually take Councillor Pasternak’s “North York Relief Line” serious after the election.

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  5. Steve said:

    “One other point, however, is that it is not just a question of whether Downsview is “underperforming”, but whether the investment of several billions in a Sheppard West line is the best use of available funds compared with other projects”

    One of the costs that should be added to every analysis is the opportunity cost. We should be looking specifically at what the politically and financially competing options are, so that the public is not just arguing for a billion for themselves in an area, but clearly identifying what else has to go as a consequence. Clearly this is politically unrealistic, not least because it would require honest push back to the voter.

    Scarborough for instance should be told, if you get a subway, that is your allocation for the next couple of decades, and you have in essence written off finer grained transit out of traffic. I cannot imagine what it would reasonably cost North York to get and operate a Sheppard Subway. These may feel like false choices, but ultimately the fiscal resources allocated dictate choices. We cannot continue to allocate things without consideration to what other services are therefore sacrificed.

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  6. Malcolm N said:

    “One of the costs that should be added to every analysis is the opportunity cost. We should be looking specifically at what the politically and financially competing options are, so that the public is not just arguing for a billion for themselves in an area, but clearly identifying what else has to go as a consequence. Clearly this is politically unrealistic, not least because it would require honest push back to the voter.

    Scarborough for instance should be told, if you get a subway, that is your allocation for the next couple of decades, and you have in essence written off finer grained transit out of traffic. These may feel like false choices, but ultimately the fiscal resources allocated dictate choices. We cannot continue to allocate things without consideration to what other services are therefore sacrificed.”

    Steve said:

    “… typically network models have not been used often in the past in part because it takes a lot of work to set one up (region-wide vs corridor land use, population and jobs projections, and service network) and because for some circumstances, network alternatives are not on the table. What I do know is that as part of the whole regional relief study now underway, Metrolinx is supposed to be running various network configurations to determine the optimal choices for lines and buildout sequencing.”

    Malcolm N said: “Building one of these [major projects] in the wrong sequence, especially if you ran out of funding partway, could lead to some real issues for transit for a fairly substantial swath of the city. Overloading the Yonge or Danforth Lines at the outer ends, would be a disaster.”

    Both gentlemen understand the big picture. Overall, the question is the allocation, including timing, of scarce resources (taxpayers’ money), but not for transit only. There are competing necessities, such as health and education. But the trump card is the willingness or ability of the taxpayer to provide the money. We saw this prior to the provincial election when proposing increasing of taxes became politically impossible.

    After funds become available for transit, issues of granularity, scale, and network come into play – ranging from local service with closely spaced stops to regional rapid transit using high speed trains. I see allocation towards operations and capital projects as a continuum, not an “either-or”. Capital stock wears out, depreciates, needs to be replaced. Replacements are very often improvements on the previous, and might cost more on a unit basis. Growth of urban density and area requires upgrading the network model. You might need more buses, but you might need to replace buses with LRT or subway. Some of this is operations, but some of this is capital projects. Some can be implemented quickly, some needs a decade or more to implement.

    But, a lot is going wrong with the process. That is the general gist of this thread of Steve’s blog.

    One problem is the split responsibility for planning & implementation (Metrolinx vs municipal transit services). This is creating chaos, because there is lack of defined responsibility, co-ordination, and efficient funding allocation.

    Even worse is the problem of political interference in the planning process. Subways, subways, subways!!! We have three politically-induced pet project subways being discussed on this thread: Sheppard West, Bloor-Danforth-McCowan, and Yonge-Richmond Hill. Obviously, none of these solves much for commuters yet threaten to create a lot of trouble for the whole network. Then, we have the DRL or Don Mills subway plan. Is this Steve’s pet project, or is this really one of the best solutions? Yes, we have a lot of good minds supporting this plan, but it has never been officially incorporated into network planning. Talk is mainly for half-a-DRL, from downtown to Danforth, not to Eglinton.

    Steve: Correction: The DRL appears (to Danforth) as part of the MetroLinx Big Move, and it is certainly part of the current City/Metrolinx study of network relief. It existed (all the way to Eglinton) in a much earlier network plan, but was traded away for the Sheppard Subway. I did not invent this — it is a matter of historical record.

    Last but not least, we have uninformed or misinformed or apathetic voters. It cannot be expected that the entire public be up to speed on transit. That is why people run for office, in order to represent the best interests of the public. But, a glib and charismatic politician, especially one with a wealthy campaign, can more likely convince voters than a studious and analytical type.

    Mayoralty candidates all talk transit, but none have a comprehensive plan. They are not campaigning solely on transit, there are many other issues. As well, giving too many details gives opponents more ammunition. That is why they speak in generalities and sound bites.

    So, I got to thinking –

    How about electing “transit trustees”? Similar to school trustees but dedicated to transit issues.

    I propose a solution:
    Lop off transit into a Greater Toronto Transit Board (GTTB) – like education (school boards), health (LHIN’s), environment (Toronto Region Conservation Authority).

    Province retains overall control, determines general policies, allocates funding & annual budget of the GTTB. The relationship between the GTTB and the minister or provincial cabinet would be a matter of periodic funding and general policy only.

    GTTB would consist of both locally elected trustees and municipal appointees. Further, the trustees would sit on committees which specialise in and advocate particular interests. Examples: a Toronto committee, a Peel Region committee, a GO Transit committee, a Presto committee. Perhaps a Transit Vehicles Purchasing Committee to obtain economies of scale.

    The trustees (and appointees) would campaign on local transit issues and be accountable to their constituents. However, being part of a larger council, their local issues become part of the big picture. Meanwhile, other municipal and provincial politicians would be generally relieved of the transit issue, and would not be able twist the planning process.

    GTTB would be responsible for regional planning and funds allocation both for capital works and also for operations to municipal bodies such as TTC. TTC would no longer report to Toronto City council but to GTTB. TTC would plan & build subways and LRT’s within Toronto, not Metrolinx. Metrolinx would also report to GTTB, not to provincial minister of transportation, and would be responsible for the GO system. TTC and Metrolinx, or any other combination of transit agencies would have to co-ordinate because they all report to GTTB.

    The relationship between a municipal transit authority such as TTC and the municipality would mostly be retained. For example, the City of Toronto would continue to appoint the TTC board. There needs to continue to be co-ordination between the municipal transit authority and the municipal council (example: parking restrictions, street design – Roncesvalles, Queen’s Quay). Furthermore, municipal appointees to the GTTB will maintain a connection.

    If this model works, could expand GTTB into OTB (Ontario Transit Board) by adding Hamilton, Ottawa, Kitchener-Waterloo, and elsewhere.

    Problem, if a municipality wants to supplement its own transit service by local taxes & levies (examples: parking tax, congestion tolls), will surrounding municipalities steal funding allocation?

    Problem, this adds a new layer of bureaucracy. True, but the advantages and cost savings should outweigh the new costs. By reducing political interference from outside the transit planning process, a better allocation of tax money will occur, resulting in a better overall “transit experience” to commuters. This is more efficient use of money. Also, increased co-ordination, in purchasing for example, should result in actual savings. It could also be said that this increases democracy. People are elected to represent their constituents and their concerns, and it gives more people a chance to be in public office.

    Right now there is a freshly elected majority government at Queen’s Park. But, is there any political will to solve transit?

    Oh, yes, I expect this idea to be trounced and laughed at. Too many details, not invented here.

    Steve: Ah, but it has already been invented here: it was called the Greater Toronto Services Board, an agency that morphed into GO and eventually Metrolinx. There used to be local representation until Queen’s Park decided that this was too pesky. As for modelling your GTTB on the school boards, please do not take us down that path. We will have “Trustees” with an abiding interest in their local projects and absolutely no sense of or care for things at the metropolitan scale. If we pay the trustees a nominal salary, we will only get people who regard this as a hobby (i.e. they don’t depend on it as their primary income) or people who spend exactly one day a month (meeting day) on transit issues.

    Finally, if you think a board with such responsibility will actually attract people who know something even vaguely relevant to transit and that they would actually be appointed/elected to it, you are dreaming. The usual politically well-connect and well-financed will dominate such a board and will simply provide an extra layer of abstraction to isolate the real government decision-makers from the public.

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  7. Now that bus requirement problems have become public (see CPTDB and this thread on reddit, do you see the Commissioners and Andy publicly acknowledge there are fleet problems in the next meeting? I think that this is the first time that internal problems were leaked out into a public forum instead of being vetted by TTC staff or those in the know such as you. Looks like Andy, Brad and Chris have their hands full trying to soothe the masses.

    P.S. Its no wonder the TTC has fleet problems. As Night_Bus_Pirate says, running bus replacements on 502/503/504/505/509/510 (six streetcar routes!) would basically eat up any spares available.

    Steve: I don’t know if there will be a report on the agenda, but I certainly intend to speak to it (one of my rare deps these days) under the cover of the CEO’s Report which has consistently ignored this problem.

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  8. Malcolm N says:

    “Robert, just dreaming here, however, if you used the Richmond Hill ROW as far as say Steeles, and then did build new to Richmond Hill Centre, would you not be able on this to still hit the Steeles bus, the Finch bus, the Sheppard Subway, the Lawrence bus and could you not tunnel under the current CP bridge to meet a Don Mills subway at Don Mills & Eglinton? A little narrow for 2 way tracks all the way, with a small amount of widening (expropriation) would it not be possible to run this with either EMU cars or LRT cars? Would mean you did not have to meet Bloor-Danforth, and would leave the Don Mills roadway for more local service. If it could be made to work, would provide York Region another point of connection without diverting traffic on to Yonge, or taking away a local route. Likely be quite a lot of traffic using the Sheppard subway and the Crosstown to get to Yonge, but at least these would not be core bound, and would not plug that line the entire length. Perhaps a sub-optimal trip for York region riders, but I suspect it would be easier on the network.”

    I am not quite sure that I understand your route but I am answering using the following assumptions:

    1. You are using the CN Bala Sub from Steeles to some where north of Eglinton.
    2. You are tunnelling over to meet the DRL at Don Mills and Eglinton. Which CP bridge are thinking of tunnelling under, hopefully not the one at Eglinton and Leslie?
    3. You are NOT thinking of using the Leaside spur that runs beside Leslie. It is a NON starter. People are going to resent having a rail line running in their backyard.

    Questions:

    1. Are you thinking of continuing this down to Union some way? If so Why?
    2. What is the main purpose of this line? Is it to provide regional rail express from Richmond Hill to Union, to be a local RT or a local LRT? It cannot really do more than one of these.
    3. What would you do with the line north of Steeles?

    Again I believe that this is a case of connecting a bunch of disconnected pieces of right of way to make up a line that is not justified by any network analysis. A connection at Lawrence with the 54 would be on a hill near a freeway interchange. Not a great spot to build a station aside from the fact that it would be expensive to make it handicap accessible because of the grade.

    The CN crosses Eglinton well east of the DVP so I must assume you are trying to use the Leaside Spur. A non starter as it runs at grade through an established residential community. The normal minimum width for a rail line is 10′ for the track plus 16′ on either side so it should be 42′ minimum but there are many exceptions.

    If one were to try and use the Bala Sub the only part that might be useful would be from Don Mills Road up to The York Sub but after that what? Given all of the rail corridors in Toronto the Bala sub is probably the least useful for transit.

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  9. Robert Wightman said

    “1. Are you thinking of continuing this down to Union some way? If so Why?

    2. What is the main purpose of this line? Is it to provide regional rail express from Richmond Hill to Union, to be a local RT or a local LRT? It cannot really do more than one of these.

    3. What would you do with the line north of Steeles?”

    1: I was actually thinking it would end right there at the start of the DRL, or whatever point south of that made the easiest intercept. Might be easier to come back across the valley south of Eglinton and join there. If the line uses very large trains, it needs to go further, but if it were to uses much smaller more frequent trains it could just join a subway.

    2: It would be a replacement to current GO commuter rail so either a express rail or fairly express LRT, with widely spaced stops (only the ones I mentioned inside Toronto).

    3: The issue is the what you do north of Steeles, my understanding is that this rail line has reasonable freight traffic north of this point, and hence is an issue. If there was room in the ROW to run an extra set of tracks I would say build in that ROW, and run EMU to Richmond Hill. Otherwise, I would say it would need to be in median on Bayview or something.

    Robert Wightman said:

    “If one were to try and use the Bala Sub the only part that might be useful would be from Don Mills Road up to The York Sub but after that what? Given all of the rail corridors in Toronto the Bala sub is probably the least useful for transit.”

    That is in effect what I am trying to use, I was thinking, however, of pushing a little further south, although I agree it gets tricky there.

    Robert Wightman said:

    “The CN crosses Eglinton well east of the DVP so I must assume you are trying to use the Leaside Spur. A non starter as it runs at grade through an established residential community. The normal minimum width for a rail line is 10′ for the track plus 16′ on either side so it should be 42′ minimum but there are many exceptions”

    I was actually looking at Bala, then turning south north of Wynford Drive and the CP main line, and running straight south either west of the DVP (likely meaning a tunnel due to space constraints), or coming back across the valley south of Eglinton.

    The issue really seems to be at the north end. Again if there is room for more tracks in the existing ROW, then well, you would add them.

    Also I would add that this is really about connecting Richmond Hill to the subway, or as you said – subway (or express Rail or express LRT) at their door, because while you are correct this should be something that should not really be being considered, politics will otherwise likely dictate an extension of Yonge, which I believe would be a network disaster. I know you were being flippant when you said they should be responsible for building something to the DRL, but I suspect that the politics of it will make this a choice between that and Yonge, and well I have despair. In my mind it makes no difference the technology, just creating a situation where Richmond Hill, and York region is offered a good enough alternate route, to stop a Yonge extension and keep much this traffic off the Yonge subway.

    I would note I started the previous comment with- “just dreaming”, I note this, as I am not convinced that this is a particularly good idea, just that the connection to Yonge is a nightmare for the network. I think LRT levels of capacity would suffice (EMU likely better given the stop spacing), although I can already hear, the chants that why force a transfer. I would also say however, noise is an important consideration, as such a route would be very close to a lot of residences, and making it as quiet as possible is important. My knee jerk would be to say it would be an express LRT, however, that is strictly a knee jerk, based on my perception of the local impact of such an LRT. Robert, what I was really hoping was, that you or Steve had a better idea, that would come up as you knocked that one down.

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  10. Malcolm N says

    “1: I was actually thinking it would end right there at the start of the DRL, or whatever point south of that made the easiest intercept. Might be easier to come back across the valley south of Eglinton and join there. If the line uses very large trains, it needs to go further, but if it were to uses much smaller more frequent trains it could just join a subway.”

    It would need to cut cross country, i.e. not under streets, and this could prove problematic given proposed redevelopment.

    “2: It would be a replacement to current GO commuter rail so either a express rail or fairly express LRT, with widely spaced stops (only the ones I mentioned inside Toronto).”

    You are trying to do two conflicting jobs. It cannot be a replacement for the GO train if it becomes the DRL. One is a fast regional service while the other becomes a local rapid transit line. There are probably 2 sets of clientele to serve and this does neither well.

    “3: The issue is the what you do north of Steeles, my understanding is that this rail line has reasonable freight traffic north of this point, and hence is an issue. If there was room in the ROW to run an extra set of track s I would say build in that ROW, and run EMU to Richmond Hill. Otherwise, I would say it would need to be in median on Bayview or something.”

    There is not room in the Bala Sub for two extra tracks which is what would be needed. Running an EMU that stops at Don Mills and Eglinton does not makes sense. If you are going to run EMUs in the north then run them to Union but I don’t think the lion is viable except as what it is now.

    “Also I would add that this is really about connecting Richmond Hill to the subway, or as you said – subway (or express Rail or express LRT) at their door, because while you are correct this should be something that should not really be being considered, politics will otherwise likely dictate an extension of Yonge, which I believe would be a network disaster. I know you were being flippant when you said they should be responsible for building something to the DRL, but I suspect that the politics of it will make this a choice between that and Yonge, and well I have despair. In my mind it makes no difference the technology, just creating a situation where Richmond Hill, and York region is offered a good enough alternate route, to stop a Yonge extension and keep much this traffic off the Yonge subway.”

    Whoever is elected mayor of Toronto should say forcefully that the Yonge Subway will end at Steeles and NEVER go any farther. As you say it would be a network disaster and it is not the TTC’s responsibility to solve York Region’s transit problems. If Metrolinx wants to build an RER up there, or extend the DRL, then good but you are dreaming and the time for an express LRT, i.e. interurban or radial line, in Toronto area has passed into history.

    Steve: I think we have beaten this issue to death. Please do not add any more “but if only it went here, or here, or maybe over there” because I will simply delete the comments.

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  11. Steve: I think we have beaten this issue to death. Please do not add any more “but if only it went here, or here, or maybe over there” because I will simply delete the comments.

    Amen brother Steve

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  12. I certainly agree with Steve about comments regarding if it went here or there. Drawing lines on a map is academic, and we should let the engineers worry about it once we have SECURED FUNDING. I repeat, SECURED FUNDING. There is no point in talking about where to build a line because: a) it does not impact current service b) it does not impact how people use transit on a day to day basis like transfer policy, interconnections with different transit agencies, and c) service quality will be the downfall of any new form of transit (see how articulated buses did nothing about the fundamental problems on Bathurst and Dufferin).

    To explain it succinctly: No point in talking about tomorrow when there is the sufferin on Dufferin today (and other routes as well).

    Feel free to discuss your fantasy maps at Canadian public transit discussion forum.

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  13. Ernie said:

    “I certainly agree with Steve about comments regarding if it went here or there. Drawing lines on a map is academic, and we should let the engineers worry about it once we have SECURED FUNDING. I repeat, SECURED FUNDING. There is no point in talking about where to build a line because: a) it does not impact current service b) it does not impact how people use transit on a day to day basis like transfer policy, interconnections with different transit agencies, and c) service quality will be the downfall of any new form of transit (see how articulated buses did nothing about the fundamental problems on Bathurst and Dufferin).

    To explain it succinctly: No point in talking about tomorrow when there is the sufferin on Dufferin today (and other routes as well).”

    I do not think it is a matter of solving the engineering issues here or on Dufferin for that matter, but rather addressing the issues of politics, and alternatives. The framing of the questions at a political level seems to be happening based only on what the public sees, and the engineering is being done in that light only. I suspect this is how we ended up with the Vaughan extension, and will likely end up with a Scarborough subway, and how I suspect we will end up with a Yonge extension.

    The funding is going to projects that were ill conceived before the engineers were involved as the notion of alternatives was not really understood by the public. Politics today is to get out in front of a parade not lead it.

    Yes, Dufferin and many more lines need more buses, or even conversion to streetcars that should be in that fleet plan. However, we have a Vaughan extension instead! Was there a robust discussion of alternatives there? Engineers study what they are directed to, and it is important to make sure that direction is broad enough to capture the best solution, as politicians will not push issues against the public knee jerk. To put it simply, shiny expensive baubles win elections if the public does not first have a serious discussion.

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  14. Malcolm N said:

    The framing of the questions at a political level seems to be happening based only on what the public sees, and the engineering is being done in that light only. I suspect this is how we ended up with the Vaughan extension, and will likely end up with a Scarborough subway, and how I suspect we will end up with a Yonge extension.

    Moaz: We ended up with the Vaughan extension because the project had a powerful champion (Greg Sorbara, the Finance Minister) in the Provincial Government. Similarly the Scarborough Subway extension has Brad Duguid as champion, and if there is a powerful Liberal MPP in Thornhill or Richmond Hill you can bet the Yonge Extension would have its own champion too.

    That said, there is some irony in that Kathleen Wynne has not chosen to publicly champion the Eglinton Crosstown and Don Mills & City Line (a.k.a. DRL/YRL/RRL) even though both lines* would serve her riding of Don Valley West.

    Cheers, Moaz

    *admittedly the Don Mills & City Line would need to be extended across the Don Valley into Leaside to be a part of Don Valley West…but that’s actually a good idea. M

    Steve: It would be so nice to have a champion for a network, not just for individual pet projects.

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  15. Steve:

    It would be so nice to have a champion for a network, not just for individual pet projects.

    We had one … sort of … but people questioned everything he said and he was recently shuffled to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.:)

    It would be nice to have a network champion that didn’t go rogue … maybe that will have to be Premier Wynne herself. But here is an interesting coincidence … the MPP for Richmond Hill (Reza Moridi) is also Minister of Innovation. The MPP for Thornhill is a PC but only retained the seat by less than 1000 votes.

    Based on the (possibly coincidental) connection between subway extension and Cabinet Ministers … and the all important winnable seats … I’m curious if the Richmond Hill extension will start being talked up in about 3 years.

    Cheers, Moaz

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  16. Moaz said:

    “We ended up with the Vaughan extension because the project had a powerful champion (Greg Sorbara, the Finance Minister) in the Provincial Government. Similarly the Scarborough Subway extension has Brad Duguid as champion, and if there is a powerful Liberal MPP in Thornhill or Richmond Hill you can bet the Yonge Extension would have its own champion too.”

    The issue here, is that the political champions, and their voters defined the basic nature of the project long before the engineers were engaged. There needs to be a broad discussion of the network and potential lines to address needs, and this has to include adjoining areas (not just Toronto proper). Otherwise, their needs will intrude on Toronto plans and networks with very unfortunate consequences.

    I believe that Richmond Hill will be connected one way or another, as politics will dictate it. Toronto voters will not alter their vote as a large block against it, but many York voters will alter their vote for it (single issue voting). If there is a significantly attractive method of connecting it without undermining the network, it needs to be part of the consideration before the engineers are excluded from looking at it (Vaughan and LRT, Scarborough). The same will be true over time in all directions. If RER or other alternatives can be made sufficiently attractive (ideally more so than the extension on the table), and is well enough connected to the TTC, it will not present an issue, however, otherwise you see the subway system extended and overwhelmed. Saying it is a bad idea, or that it is a self evident disaster will not stop it being done (as we are now seeing in Scarborough) unless there is a broad understanding of its impact and a better alternative on the table.

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