The TTC’s Capital Budget generates much debate over a few items, but there are many, many projects at the detailed level. Understanding those details puts the debate over transit spending, operations and expansion in a better context. This and following articles will look under the covers of the Capital Budget. I will start with the expansion projects because these have seen so much debate, but will turn to the more mundane parts of the budget that keep the wheels turning.
The projects discussed here include:
- The Toronto York Spadina Subway Extension (TYSSE) to Vaughan Metropolitan Centre
- The Scarborough Subway Extension (SSE)
- Various Waterfront proposals
Neither the Downtown Relief Line (DRL) nor the Yonge extension north to Richmond Hill is included because these are not yet official projects.
The Spadina Extension to Vaughan (TYSSE)
This extension has been under construction for several years, and was originally a hoped-for service to Pan Am Games events at York University in July 2015. That target was missed some time ago, and ongoing problems at various stations, notably York University, Pioneer Village (Steeles West), and Highway 407 could make even a late 2016 opening difficult.
The TTC commissioned external reviews of the project from APTA (the American Public Transit Association) and from Bechtel Ltd. CEO Andy Byford stated, during a recent press interview, that these reports would be on the March 2015 TTC agenda. Chair Josh Colle was more circumspect saying that the reports would be delivered to the TTC in March, but Colle was non-committal about when they would be made public.
It is unclear whether the project can be finished within its original $2.6-billion budget or if some parts of the project have been dropped, but will appear later as “enhancements”.
What has not received much public comment is the issue of future operating costs.
Operating costs of the entire subway extension to the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre are estimated to be $33.7 Million on an annual basis in current dollars (estimated net Operating cost of $14.2 Million). A Memorandum of Understanding has been approved by the Region of York and the City of Toronto regarding operating and maintenance cost responsibilities. [TTC Capital Budget Books, Page 1036]
The MOU mentioned above commits York only to the operating cost of some surface facilities such as park-and-ride, but leaves the lion’s share to Toronto. All of the fare revenue will flow to Toronto, although the estimated amount could be high because it assumes no YRT-VIVA-TTC integration for short cross-border trips such as those into York University from the 905.
Leaving aside the agreement, this is an example of how gaining new ridership can also push up subsidy requirements considerably. At 58% cost recovery, the extension falls below the overall system level of about 70%, but is still respectable. However, all those new subsidized TTC rides will push up the contribution needed from Toronto’s taxpayers, or will add to pressures for a fare increase when the line opens.
The Scarborough Subway Extension (SSE)
The Scarborough Subway is the subject of great debate for its technology, alignment and relationship to other rapid transit projects such as SmartTrack. Those issues are beyond the Capital Budget itself which only reflects the current estimates for various portions of the SSE and related works.
The subway extension has an estimated cost of $3.306-billion including inflation. This amount includes provision for 7 new trains (6 for service plus 1 spare, $125m) as well as storage ($262m), with costs stated in 2010$.
SSE_Appendix_3 [High level estimate of Scarborough Subway costs, Attachment 3 to the Council materials in July 2013.]
However, the fleet that will operate the SSE will actually come from existing spares in the pool of T1 trains as shown in the Fleet Plan. This means that the cost estimate for the SSE includes $397m (considerably more with inflation to the likely date of purchase/construction) that is not actually required for this project. I am sure that it will be tempting to shift these funds to options such as additional stations or a longer alignment, rather than simply decreasing the cost of the project and releasing the capital to other deserving parts of the TTC’s portfolio.
There is no estimate yet for the Operating Budget effect of the extension in costs and savings relative to the current network, and in net new fare revenue. Until there is a firm choice of alignment and an updated assessment of ridership with competing nearby services in the GO corridor, this calculation is impossible.
The SSE will not open until 2023, and for coming years, the TTC will have to breath life into the existing Scarborough RT at a total cost, including inflation, of $132m.
Additional funds ($123m) will be required to demolish the existing SRT structure. There has been a proposal to turn this into an elevated linear park (a Scarborough version of New York’s High Line), but the scope and cost of doing this as an alternative are not yet known.
The Toronto Star recently published an article about the SRT overhaul including a design for a new vehicle colour scheme taken from the route’s colour on TTC maps.
Waterfront Toronto Projects
The Capital Budget makes odd reading on this subject because it includes components of some proposed routes such as additional vehicles, but does not include actual construction spending. Acquisition of more streetcars by the TTC is an open question as the city works through its 2015 budget because of delays in the initial Bombardier Flexity order of 204 cars. An add-on of 60 has been proposed, but this is for growth on the existing network. Cars for the waterfront would be additional to that base.
The reconstruction of Union subway station is expected to complete in late spring 2015 providing added platform capacity at this crowded location. Sadly, what is missing from the project is more capacity for the streetcar loop whose access is now actually smaller than before because the northbound-to-Yonge subway platform encroaches into what was formerly queuing space for passengers. Plans to expand the streetcar loop with new platforms and tracks have been around for years, but the project does not have the political appeal of a new subway line.
Although it was closed for over two years during the Queens Quay project, nothing happened to the loop and it will be an even greater bottleneck in the future than it was in 2012 before construction began.
West Don Lands
A spur from King Street has been built south via Cherry Street to just north of the rail corridor. This will not actually enter service until, tentatively, spring 2016 because the area it serves will be the Pan Am Games Athletes’ Village. Following the games, the new condos will be fitted out as homes rather than as temporary quarters, and the new residents will arrive in 2016.
The project cost for the Cherry Street line was $5.7m. A further $30m is included in the budget for 5 additional streetcars.
Plans for the area south of the rail corridor, aka the “Keating Precinct”, include a track connection through to Queens Quay from Cherry, but this requires expansion of the underpass at the corridor to make room for streetcar and cycling lanes. That part of the plan is one of those “nice to haves” that never quite makes it onto a preferred funding list.
A proposed spur would run east from Queens Quay and Bay to a temporary loop at Small Street, just west of Parliament. This will require a tunnel from the existing structure at Queens Quay Station east to a point beyond Yonge Street, a difficult project because of utility conflicts and the nearby Lake Ontario.
Development is well underway of new buildings in this area.
The current budget estimate for the East Bayfront line including modifications to Union Station is $425m plus inflation. There is a separate $36m budget line for 6 additional streetcars.
The lands south of the Keating Channel (Cherry south of Lake Shore) are the location of a large proposed community that would be built around a “new Cherry Street” closer to the water’s edge than the existing street. This would shift New Cherry to be roughly in line with the existing street north of Lake Shore. Streetcars would cross the Keating Channel on a new bridge and run south via New Cherry to the Ship Channel.
There is a budget line of $194m for this expansion.
The Lever / Great Gulf Site
A large block of land lies east of the Don River between Lake Shore and Eastern Avenue. One proposal for the site includes extension of Broadview Avenue south to Lake Shore and a streetcar connection west to the Queens Quay line. This is in the very early stages of planning, and various alternatives to serve the area including both SmartTrack and GO/RER (not to mention a possible DRL) are under study.
The Bremner Streetcar (aka Waterfront West)
Although the Waterfront West LRT (WWLRT) has been on the books for over two decades, it has not been seriously pursued recently. This is due, in part, to confusion about just what the line might accomplish — is the intention to bring people in from southern Etobicoke, or Parkdale, or Liberty Village, or from the condos around Skydome? What role might it have to serve events at Exhibition Place? This mixture of goals with no clear advocacy leaves the whole project in limbo.
Meanwhile, there is a budget line of $24m for 4 new streetcars for the “Bremner” line to serve the area between Union Station and Bathurst Street. However, there is no budget to actually build such a line, much less any agreement about how it would actually be fitted into the streetspace and activity level of Bremner and Fort York Boulevards.
None of the waterfront projects, other than the almost complete Union Station rebuild, is funded and this is all “below the line” stuff. However, the TTC and City really do need to figure out the priority and potential timing for these, not to mention a consolidated budget.
I don’t understand why the St. Clair ROW isn’t connected to Jane St., or why this isn’t a priority. Jane is one of the busiest routes in the city, connecting it to St. Clair would only make sense.
Steve: There was a plan to extend trackage west to Jane Street and link up St. Clair with the proposed Jane LRT line. This would have seen the operation of route 512 moved to Black Creek carhouse on Eglinton. However, two thinks got in the way. First, Metrolinx decreed that all of its LRT lines would be standard gauge, not TTC gauge, and so a hookup with St. Clair was not in the cards. Also, the Metrolinx system will run on 750 volts while the TTC system uses 550 volts. Second, Rob Ford was elected and any moves to expand the streetcar network stopped dead.
I don’t think that you will see the Jane extension proposed again for quite some time.
The new development of 45 Bay Street (which was recently approved by the Committee of Adjustment) has a new streetcar platform in the basement – presumably this is an extra station between the Ferry Docks and Union. This will be really quite close to Union loop (it is just south of the rail berm) and will also be linked by PATH to Union so it may take some of the pressure off the Union.
Also, Council in July 2012) stated that the East Bayfront line is a high priority (“City Council support and endorse the East Bayfront LRT line as an added priority for Toronto’s transit network.”) The new developments announced recently for QQ east of Jarvis – the Innovation Centre, the Daniels project at Lower Jarvis and Bayside and Aqualina etc (to say nothing of the Lower Yonge precinct plans) would seem to make it more and more urgent.
Steve: Considering the gloomy sounds coming out of Waterfront Toronto, that Council motion isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. Until John Tory accepts that SmartTrack will not solve every transportation issue between downtown and the Quebec border, we will see proposals such as a Sherbourne and Don ST stations being all that’s needed for the waterfront. This is a joke of course, given the walking distances involved and the likely lead time before we see any service in the rail corridor.
Adding projects to the capital budget (the funded part) for at least the next six years will be quite a challenge.
Do you know of any forthcoming town house meetings, audience question & answer meetings, or even interviews scheduling between the mayor and/or TTC chair? Would like to find out if the public can ask questions that can be answered “on air” about the TTC (IE. Union Station streetcar loop).
Miss the Adam Giambrone’s “On The Rocket” cable TV show. The new Chair should bring that back. At least then viewers could attempt to call in to ask questions to the TTC Chair.
Steve: Nothing that I know of beyond the TTC’s regular Town Hall meetings.
Why not extend the line regardless to a loop near Jane? Agreed they probably couldn’t share a loop since TTC gauge is too close to standard to be accommodated by a third rail. Nonetheless a nearby loop would be much more convenient than the current short hop on the 79b needed to go from Jane to Keele and opens up destinations on St Clair to Jane riders.
Does a 512 extension really need access to a new carhouse? Or are they planning to convert the whole network over to standard gauge?
Steve: There is no plan to convert the “legacy” network to standard gauge. The remaining problem is that without the incentive of a hookup to trackage on Jane, the demand on St. Clair west of Keele is rather light for a streetcar extension. Other parts of the network, notably the eastern waterfront, need it far, far more.
So ill-thought-out suburban subway projects are sucking the money away from obvious improvements to the LRT / streetcar network. This seems like the same story we’ve been reading for *30 years*.
I really hope that the Eglinton LRT changes people’s thinking.
Man, I hope all the waterfront stuff happens – particularly the loop expansion at union. It’s a scary place at rush hour…and with the new longer low floor units the drivers will be just as pressed for station space as the passengers!
I think making the Eglinton LRT standard gauge was silly (same for the electrica, but to a lesser extent). The entire rest of the network (save the soon-to-be-gone SRT) is “Toronto Gauge”, and while I fully understand that it makes maintenance/parts costs higher because everything is custom, I can’t imagine it will be better to maintain two full systems … and it’s not like this is removing the current issue the TTC has! It also makes any link between the two networks impossible, which I find a bit ridiculous – even if St. Clair to Jane is impractical now, it might not be in the future, and other links may also find merit.
I suspect the Eglinton LRT will find it’s true identity once it’s been judged in operation by the city. Slow, poor headways, blocks up traffic on the surface route portion, generally gets poor reviews? “The Eglinton *streetcar* is horrible, get rid of it and don’t build any others!”. Fast, reliable, convenient, no downside to cars, and generally the best thing since sliced bread? “Gosh what a nice new *subway* there is on Eglinton! Build all the others, and then some!”
P.S. Steve I always seem to have issues posting – am I spamming your server in my repeated attempts? I also have to ask – does Munro St, Broadview and Dundas ish, have any relation / story behind it?
Steve: This site sits on WordPress.com which hosts millions of blogs. There might have been problems on my old site, but not the one I have been using since January. As for Munro Street (and its intersection with Mountstephen Street), there is no relationship.
I too hope that the Eglinton Crosstown LRT will help Torontonians in the suburbs see the benefits of affordable, effective and quick to deploy suburban light rail.
I was so demoralized to see the Scarborough subway extension plan come out of nowhere and then sit as I watched city council ram it through. All of that was done even though there were no detailed plans.
There has even never been any long term plans or discussions of extending the Danforth subway to Scarborough Town Centre. The last time there was a plan was for the extension of the RT to Sheppard and Markham under Bob Rae’s Rapid Transit Expansion Program plan.
It is a shame to see short sighted thinking prevail for now. Hopefully at some later time Scarberians will be able to see the potential of having a whole integrated web network of light rail going everywhere, not just for a small subway extension with a steep price tag. So many of the suburbs’ thoroughfares could see the same magic and beauty that Spadina Ave saw with the completion of the then dubbed Spadina LRT /510 Spadina streetcar. I yearn for the ushering in of more grand avenues for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, the tramways will get us to that point and beyond..
All true, and I too was aghast and upset to endure the meeting. However, my twisted mind was inspired by some of the 24 who voted for this folly – “Clowncillors”, and thus begat “Clowncil”. It seems like such an obvious thing unlike things like origin-destination studies and business cases and system redundancy and integrated planning assessments, so I’m not sure I can really claim credit on a global basis, but it sure is apt for Caronto. Or is that now Moronto?
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Any idea of where the temp garage is suppose to be for the 50 Buses, and 250 buses. I assume somewhere near McNicoll and Kennedy, where McNicoll garage is suppose to be? Or a facility or property that TTC already has for the temp garage. Wouldn’t be smarter for them to just look for a place to temporarily store 250 buses instead of two separate places.
Steve: I am not sure what they are looking at, but there has been talk of a former YRT garage being available.
Regarding extending St.Clair _CAR_ westward to Jane. If the thinking was changed to “extend St. Clair _SERVICE_westward” this could be done with buses. Create a St.Clair WEST route and promote this as an alternative to travelling via Keele or Weston Road routes. See how many people use it and expand accordingly. The new Stockyards Plaza and older big box stores nearby are poorly served by a crappy 71 Runnymede bus and a second transfer at St.Clair & Runnymede with 79B Scarlett Road. No wonder people didn’t shop at Target!
This morning service on Scarborough RT was suspended again and you know what the announcement was? “Subway service on Line 3 Scarborough RT has been suspended …” I laugh at this yet another attempt to sell us the Scarborough RT as an already existing subway. First, there was dropping of line names in favour of line numbers when all we have is 2 lines. Toronto Star said that it was to promote the Downtown Relief Line by dropping the controversial word Downtown from it. But another purpose of the unpopular line numbering scheme was to brand the Scarborough RT a subway to quell down demands of a Scarborough subway. Anyway if the Scarborough RT can be called a subway, then I believe that many of the GO Lines and streetcar lines can be called the Downtown Relief Line we seek. I think that whether or not Scarborough subway is built (which it should have been long ago but likely will never be built due to heavy opposition by Downtown heavyweights who want even more subways in a subway rich Downtown), the completely unreliable Scarborough RT should be demolished today. I would be willing to pay higher taxes to pay for the demolition provided that the demolition starts today (Wed, March 04, 2015).
The SRT was supposed to have been decommissioned by now, but it’s been keep on life support because of the change from Transit City to the Scarborough Subway. So it’s very ironic that you would prefer nothing. If the SRT were demolished today, there wouldn’t be replacement buses without decreasing service everywhere else in the city to compensate. So what you have today when service is suspended would be your new norm.
As for line numbering, you seem to have forgotten the Sheppard subway. The reason for line numbers lies with the language diversity of Toronto. English illiteracy is much higher than Arabic innumeracy. Different nationalities read and pronounce “Yonge” very differently, if at all, but “1” is much more universal and can even be communicated without words.
You mean, you’re going to get rid of streetcars on St Clair? Raymond for mayor, Raymond for mayor; where can I donate money towards your campaign?
Steve: It shows the sort of backwards planning that you would justify ditching an important busy streetcar service to allow for a bus service west to Jane.
If you don’t like streetcars, don’t invent bogus excuses to get rid of them, just say so.
A minor quibble with your article – at no time did anyone within TTC say TYSSE would be in service for Pan Am. I know councillors had voiced hopes, but the scheduled in-service date was December 2015 from the start of the design phase.
Steve: It doesn’t matter what the TTC thinks the plan might have been, the bid book was quite clear that funding had just been approved for extension of the subway system and that rapid transit would be provided to venues for a number of activities around Toronto. The bid team may have oversold the city (no big surprise there), but to say there was never an implication that the Spadina extension would be ready is simply not true.
I think it was a mistake to maintain “Toronto Gauge” in the first place. It should have been replaced many many years ago and I don’t understand why they use it for the subway. Beyond maintenance and custom parts, it also makes it difficult to acquire used equipment from other cities. I doubt there’d be any support to convert the subway to standard gauge and it would be near impossible to redo the streetcar tracks without serious disruptions. Nonetheless, I don’t see how maintaining two gauges will be more expensive than procuring for even more Toronto gauge services.
Steve: Actually, Toronto has had no problem procuring “Toronto gauge” cars. Changing the system’s gauge simply is not practical. Siemens complained that the different gauge made it difficult to bid in Toronto, but their real problem was Bombardier’s cost advantage and long-standing relationship with Queen’s Park. In the end, Siemens bid 50% higher than Bombardier for the new streetcars. That’s not a gauge problem.
Right, but it’s not fair to hold the TTC responsible for someone else making claims on their behalf. TTC themselves never implied the line would be ready for summer 2015. (For that matter, whatever happened to the 10,000 seat baseball venue in Richmond Hill?)
Steve: The TTC remained diplomatically silent on the issue because it suited political interests to pretend that we would have a rail transit network serving the games.
I don’t like streetcars.
Question: Do you actually ride street cars or do they get in your road when you are trying to drive? Most people who use transit, not all, prefer the ride of a rail vehicle to that of a bus. Granted if your CLRV is frozen and can’t run on cold days then I can see why most people would not like them.
Regarding gauge, an opportunity could have been taken to change the surface system gauge back when all the streetcar lines were derelict, when they needed wholesale trackbed replacement and when entire lines were being shut down for a year at a time for rebuilding. It would have cost extra but it would have been useful. Of course, at the time, everything was underfunded and there was no money for new streetcars, so it wasn’t possible. :sigh: It’s much too late to change the gauge now.
It does add cost to every single order, but not *much* cost.
Steve: The streetcar system was never “derelict” to the point where entire carlines would be replaced as you suggest. Moreover, carhouse operations would have been challenging given that routes share trackage to reach their home locations, and carhouse (notably their pits) are gauge specific. A non-starter, that idea, on a few counts.