The Evolution of TTC Signaling Contracts (Updated)

Updated September 29, 2022 at 1:30 pm: Links to TTC reports have been updated to point to the “new” TTC website except in cases where the report is no longer online. In those cases, a copy from my archives is linked on this site.

Updated April 4, 2015 at 6:00 am: The review of options for consolidation of the signal contracts by Parsons is now available as part of the TTC’s report online. Comments have been added at the end of this article.

Recently much attention has focused on the runaway project to extend the Spadina Subway north to Vaughan with a flurry of questions about project management, scope creep and cost controls. Another of the TTC’s megaprojects, one that is actually far more critical to the subway as a whole, is the replacement and upgrading of the signal system controlling the movement of trains. This project has dragged on for years while riders endure service problems with antique equipment and line shutdowns for installation and testing of the replacement system.

At its recent meeting, the TTC Board approved a proposal to restructure existing contracts for new signal systems and to simplify the signaling technology that will emerge as the standard on Yonge-University (Line 1) by 2020 with the remainder of the subway system to follow.

In order to make sense of the evolving design for new TTC signals, this article will begin with a short history of the system as it existed and the limitations the new system is designed to remove.

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TTC Board Meeting March 26, 2015 (Update 2)

The TTC Board met on March 26, and considered a meaty agenda that begins to address some important policy issues.

Updated March 29, 2015 at 3:45 pm: The presentation on One Person Train Operation (OPTO) given at the meeting has been added along with comments.

Updated March 24, 2015 at 8:10 am: After this was published, the TTC posted the CEO’s Report.

In a previous article, I wrote about the Spadina subway extension project update. This will undoubtedly be the main attraction both for board members and the media. Other items of interest include:

  • An overhaul of system key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • A door monitoring system for Toronto Rocket trains and one person train crews (Updated March 29)
  • Revision and consolidation of the resignalling contract for the Yonge-University line
  • A study of express bus routes
  • CEO’s Report

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How Much Will The Spadina Extension Cost? (III) (Update 3)

Updated April 13, 2015:

The TTC has issued a press release regarding the management of the Spadina subway extension project:

The Toronto Transit Commission has entered into an agreement with Bechtel Canada Co. for project management of the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension (TYSSE) for up to $80 million.

The contract value to Bechtel is based on staffing costs, management fees and incentives to open the subway extension by Dec. 31, 2017. Bechtel staff begin work today and will form an integrated team with existing TTC personnel. The Bechtel contract will expire March 31, 2018. Bechtel’s project director will report directly to TTC CEO Andy Byford.

On March 26, the TTC board approved a report from staff that recommended TTC enter into a sole source agreement with a project manager with a proven track record of delivering similar-sized projects on time, and with experience working with multiple contractors, in order to have the TYSSE in service by Dec. 31, 2017.

Toronto City Council subsequently authorized the expenditure of $90 million, while the Regional Municipality of York authorized the expenditure of $60 million, for a total of $150 million (third party contractor, plus in-house project costs), to fully deliver TYSSE by the end of 2017.

The release is silent on the issue of what might be done with the remaining $70m of Toronto/York’s $160m authorization.

Original article of March 29, 2015:

In a previous article, I reviewed information from a media briefing by Andy Byford on the status of the Toronto York Spadina Subway Extension (TYSSE) project. At the TTC Board meeting on March 26, 2015, further information was made public both in Byford’s presentation, and in additional material appended to his report.

Updated March 30, 2015 at 1:30 pm: The slides from Byford’s presentation are now available starting at page 58 of the linked pdf.

Updated March 30, 2015 at 11:30 pm: A new report from the Toronto City Manager to Council advises that the interest earnings on the “Move Ontario Trust” (the repository for provincial contributions to the TYSSE project) have not achieved the target rate of 4% resulting in an $85m shortfall. Oliver Moore reports in the Globe that Ontario has refused to make up this amount as per the original agreement between the funding partners. Toronto and York Region are on the hook for this additional cost estimated at $51m for Toronto and $34m for York Region. This expense is over and above the cost overruns on various contracts, but at least Council cannot blame the TTC because the trust fund is not under TTC control.

Appendix F (beginning at page 33 of the linked PDF), is a presentation given to the Executive Task Force who oversee the project on behalf of the sponsoring governments on July 28, 2014. The presentation was given by Parsons Brinkerhoff who had been retained by the TTC to review the project.

Appendix G (beginning at page 56) is a two-page summary of Bechtel’s work reviewing PB’s original study and a subsequent APTA (American Public Transit Association) peer review. APTA concluded that an earlier completion date would be possible than PB had projected, but only with major changes to the project management structure. Bechtel concurred in these findings.

It is abundantly clear from this material that the TYSSE’s problems were known at the top level of the project in mid-2014 at the latest. At the time, their severity was so great that the project would still be incomplete by the time of the next municipal and provincial election cycles, and that considerable additional cost could be facing the funding partners. This very serious issue did not arise in public discussion until six months later, notably after Toronto’s 2015 budget cycle was complete.

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The approved comment odometer rolled over to 40,000 today with an observation from Robert Wightman.


A big “thank you” to everyone who has been contributing their thoughts to this site over the years. Some of you are more prolific than others, some of you just lurk in the shadows, some I meet when they say hello on the subway, some are mysteriously “out there” in the ether.

A dinner party that never seems to end — even if some guests don’t know when it’s time to leave!

All the best to my readers!

How Much Will The Spadina Extension Cost (II)?

In a previous article, I reviewed the history of the Toronto York Spadina Subway Extension (TYSSE). This project has been widely reported to be both late and over budget, but details only began to emerge on March 20, 2015 when TTC CEO Andy Byford fired two senior members of the engineering staff.

On March 21, 2015, Byford presented a briefing to the media as a preview of a report to be discussed by the TTC Board on March 26, 2015. This report includes both current information on the project and an October 2012 update that was issued when the TYSSE deadline was shifted to fall 2016.

The key points of the briefing were:

  • The earliest possible opening date for the TYSSE to Vaughan is the end of 2017.
  • Relations between TTC project management and the various contractors working on the TYSSE are badly strained, and this cannot be remedied by those now in charge.
  • Byford recommends that the TTC “retain a third party project-management firm as an incentivized project manager” (the terms of the proposed arrangement are confidential pending execution of the agreement).
  • Alternate schemes for continuing the TYSSE project with TTC staff in part or all of this role will extend the period needed to resolve outstanding issues and reach project completion, and will increase total project costs.
  • Additional funding to keep the project active to the end of 2017 of $150-million is required with Toronto paying $90m and York Region paying $60m. Toronto’s share could come from a TTC operating surplus in 2015 (mistakenly cited as “2014” in the report), property sales and/or deferral of projects. There is no word on how York Region might fund its share of the extra costs.
  • The project is subject to many claims by contractors against the TTC, and some counterclaims on the TTC’s part. The eventual value of settling these is unknown, and this is a potential additional cost beyond the $150m. Whether this can be accommodated by the existing project budget remains to be seen.

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TTC Service Changes Effective May 10, 2015

The schedule changes for May 10 will bring the first wave of improvements from the recently adopted City of Toronto budget and increased transit subsidy.

  • Many routes will gain service to begin implementation of the “Ten Minute Network” on core routes across the system. This stage mainly affects weekend service. Weekday changes to some of these routes will follow with the June schedules.
    • 192 Airport Rocket
    • 506 Carlton
    • 25 Don Mills
    • 36 Finch West (to Humberwood)
    • 191 Highway 27 Rocket
    • 504 King
    • 44 Kipling South
    • 47 Lansdowne (Queen to St. Clair)
    • 129 McCowan North (to Steeles)
    • 116 Morningside (to Finch)
    • 63 Ossington (to St. Clair)
    • 86 Scarborough (to Sheppard)
    • 24 Victoria Park (to Steeles)
  • The implementation of “All day, every day” service will begin.
    • 108A Downsview to Jane via Grandravine on Sundays late evening.
  • Expansion of express bus services will begin.
    • 196 York U Rocket to Sheppard-Yonge Station on weekends daytime.

The Scarborough RT will now be officially known as “3 Scarborough”.

Branch name changes will continue the move to use of the “A” designation for the primary branch of routes:

  • 6A Bay Dupont to Queens Quay & Sherbourne (formerly 6)
  • 38A Highland Creek to Rouge Hill GO (formerly 38)
  • 24A Victoria Park to Steeles (formerly 24)
  • 165A Weston Road N to Steeles (formerly 165)
  • 165C Weston Road N to Canada’s Wonderland (formerly 165A)

The 102D Markham Road contract service in York Region will be extended to Major Mackenzie Drive.

At the request of York Region Transit, the 102D (Warden Stn-Mount Joy GO Stn) service will be extended to Major Mackenzie Drive via Bur Oak Avenue and Mingay Avenue. Service will be removed on Castlemore Avenue, Anderson Avenue and Bur Oak Avenue, and from Mount Joy GO Station.

Retirement of the 7200-series Nova RTS buses at Arrow Road will continue through the spring. These vehicles have been used on 96 Wilson and 165 Weston Road North, but they will be confined to peak-hour runs if any remain in service for the May schedule period.

Reconstruction of the south ladder track at Russell Carhouse on Eastern Avenue will require significant operational changes. Some runs will be reassigned to Roncesvalles Carhouse, and the use of Exhibition Loop to store cars overnight will increase. Cars remaining at Russell Carhouse will be backed into the yard from the north entrance.

Various seasonal changes reflecting the decline in school-related travel and the increase in demand for recreational trips will be implemented. However, due to the timing of the Pan Am Games and the Indy car race, the seasonal expansion of 29 Dufferin service to the Princes’ Gates will not occur (weekday midday and evening, Saturday late evening, Sunday/Holiday evening).

The split operation of 72 Pape and 172 Cherry was planned to end with the May schedules. However, construction on Front Street at Union Station continues and a date for resumption of the unified route has not been settled. The TTC advises that, except for Pan Am Games, no other changes are planned until at least September.

With the completion of construction at College & Spadina and at Spadina Station, streetcars will return to 510 Spadina. Other changes this triggers include a reduction of service on 509 Harbourfront and resumption of buses for peak extras on 504 King. Two runs on 509 Harbourfront will be scheduled and crewed for LFLRV operation in anticipation of vehicle availability.

Details of individual route changes are in the spreadsheet linked below.

2015.05.10 Service Changes

TTC 2015-2024 Capital Budget: Streetcar Infrastructure

Updated March 15, 2015 at 8:40 pm: An example of a vintage tram adapted for pantograph operation in Munich has been added to the end of this article. Thanks to John F. Bromley for the photo.

The TTC’s Capital Budget includes ongoing programs to replace worn streetcar rail as well as to upgrade the overhead power distribution system for compatibility with the new Flexity LRVs.

Replacement of streetcar track with infrastructure built to new, robust standards is almost complete on the main lines used by all routes. What remains are sections used for diversions and short turns.

Tangent track on Spadina south from College that was installed for the resumption of streetcar service in 1997 is scheduled for replacement in 2018. The table and the map differ on whether this work will end at Queen or at King. In any event, this will be the first major track replacement over a section constructed to new standards, and only the surface layer (track down to the tie attachments) should have to be removed.

Replacement of overhead contact wire with thicker 4/0 gauge is also well underway, as is the replacement of feeder cables, some of which are very old and are shedding their insulating covering. Intersection and yard upgrades will, together with the new tangent wire, make the system 100% pantograph compatible. When the last of the cars using trolley poles has been retired, the overhead can be further adjusted to remove pole-specific hardware and simplify future maintenance.

This article contains lists and maps of the work planned for 2015-2019.

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How Much Will The Spadina Subway Extension Cost?

The Toronto York Spadina Subway Extension (TYSSE) to Vaughan has been much in the news lately thanks to its delayed opening and cost overruns. The line was originally expected to open in 2015, even in early rosy estimates before the Pan Am Games, but now will not be in service until 2017. The project was repeatedly cited (as recently as December 2014’s CEO Report) to be on its budget of approximately $2.6-billion. The exact final cost is not known but has been reported to be up to $400-million more.

To date, the TYSSE project is on budget with a total budget of $2,634 Million. The in-service date is targeted for the fall of 2016 however the project is facing a serious schedule challenge. [CEO’s Report for November-December 2014, p. 29]

The “on budget” statement, which had appeared in all previous CEO reports, vanished with the January 2015 report.

A peer review was conducted by an APTA panel in late 2014 largely to assess schedule and budget challenges. A report is expected at the end of January related to schedule and budget challenges and will make recommendations to mitigate these challenges.

Bechtel Ltd., a consulting firm, was also retained at the CEO’s specific direction to conduct a thorough in depth analysis of the project and likewise is expected to present its findings at the end of January. [CEO’s Report for January 2015, p. 30]

The results of these reviews are to be tabled at the March 26, 2015 TTC Board meeting.

There are two issues in play here. First and most obvious is the question of how a major project can suddenly be found to have budget problems, and why these were not discovered and reported sooner. How much oversight did the TTC Board actually have beyond the one-line monthly assurance that the project was “on budget”? Second is the more general question of the tracking of major projects, and why this is not regularly reported to the Board and through them to City Council and other funding governments.

To learn as much as I could from publicly available sources, I culled through TTC meeting reports going back to the early days of design work on the TYSSE. Tracking a project’s history this way can be challenging for various reasons:

  • Some agendas exist only as a PDF file without links to the underlying reports.
  • TTC procurement policy allows contracts of up to $5-million to be approved by management without a report to the TTC Board. (This is in line with the City of Toronto’s policy.)
  • A monthly report listing all expenditures authorized by management in the $1-5m range was discontinued in March 2012.
  • Changes in the total authorized spending on a line item only appear in public when there is an update involving a large contract change.
  • The CEO’s report tracks variations in capital spending, but this is only against the expected amount for the current year, not for a project overall. Because of various delays, the TYSSE tended to underspend versus plans even though the estimated total cost to completion might actually be rising.

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City of Toronto Budget Amendments 2015 (Updated)

At its meeting of March 11 and 12, 2015, City Council passed a few budget amendments affecting the Toronto Transit Commission. Some of these reflect a sense that the TTC has not been “minding the store” quite as well as it claims, and a little belt tightening is good for any organization. Others address specific concerns that, quite frankly, should have been on the TTC’s agenda before now, but were buried under the rapid transit debates.

The motions address the following topics:

  • Additional Streetcars
  • Automatic Train Control
  • Waterfront West Transit
  • TTC Staffing and Project Management

Updated March 13, 2015 at 1:50 pm with further information about proposed staffing reductions.

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