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.

Additional Streetcars

Moved by Gord Perks:

Toronto Transit Commission – Capital Budget

That City Council direct the City Manager and the Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Transit Commission to report to Council prior to the 2016 budget process on a strategy for increasing the streetcar purchase from 204 streetcars to 264 streetcars.

The TTC has an option for 60 more Flexities that must be exercised before the 60th vehicle of the 204-car base order is delivered. This will likely occur late in 2016, and exercise of the option triggers a down payment of $52.755-million. This was originally budgeted for 2015, but with the manufacturing delays at Bombardier, can be shifted to 2016. Delivery would occur following the base order, likely in 2020-21. These cars would address the anticipated growth in demand on the streetcar network as the population living close to downtown continues to grow.

Regardless of which year the payment falls in, there is a larger problem with the city’s overall capital spending plans. Council maintains a guideline that debt service costs should not exceed 15% of tax revenue. This ratio forces planning of future spending to fit within a debt management envelope. A few recent changes have, however, placed Toronto in a position that it has no headroom for new spending:

  • Advancing work on the Gardiner Expressway reconstruction will finish the project sooner, but also add to its cost and compress the period in which the spending occurs.
  • The Scarborough Subway project includes about $1-billion of City funding that will, in the main, be paid with borrowed money. Although the new transit tax will pay off this debt over almost 30 years, the debt itself accumulates early in the project and pushes up total borrowing costs.

The add-on streetcar order is only the first of many projects that will crash headlong into this problem. Leaving aside any debate on the merits of projects, both the Scarborough Subway Extension (SSE) and SmartTrack could be limited:

  • The SSE’s scope is not yet known, and already there are proposals for a new, longer route and for additional stations. Both of these would increase the project’s cost, and this would all be on the City’s dime because subsidies from Queen’s Park and Ottawa are capped.
  • Although it is claimed that SmartTrack will be self-financing through the miracle of Tax Increment Financing (TIF), this scheme requires the City to front capital at the beginning of a project in the hopes of future recovery through increased taxes. In the interim, the investment adds to the debt load crowding out other projects.

Other future capital spending gaps include the huge backlog of repairs for the City’s public housing stock, and for its road network.

The entire problem is compounded by the ongoing refusal to increase property taxes, the revenue source against which debt charges are measured. Only the transit tax has been explicitly levied, but in the medium term this does not give the needed headroom to spend at the rate needed by the City’s many capital projects.

Automatic Train Control

Moved by Mary Fragedakis:

Toronto Transit Commission – Operating Budget

That Executive Committee Recommendation 298 be amended by adding the words “on both the Yonge-University-Spadina and Bloor-Danforth lines” so that Recommendation 298 now reads:

298. City Council request the Toronto Transit Commission Board of Directors to direct the Chief Executive Officer of the Toronto Transit Commission to report to the Toronto Transit Commission Board of Directors in the third quarter of 2015 with a detailed analysis of the reasons for the delay of the Automatic Train Control and options to accelerate the implementation of Automatic Train Control on both the Yonge-University-Spadina and Bloor-Danforth lines.

The Automatic Train Control project (ATC) on the Yonge-University subway is running well behind schedule, and has now joined the list that appears on the TTC Board’s confidential agenda for updates on problem contracts. Work has proven more difficult than originally thought, but there has been no public indication of whether this is a question of scope creep, of poor original specification by the TTC, or of incompetence by the signalling contractor.

Implementation of ATC is central to the TTC’s plans to increase capacity on the YUS, and the longer this project is delayed, the longer riders will wait for better service. A few “oops” we already know about are:

  • The fleet of T-1 trains, now largely shifted to the BD subway, is not capable of conversion to ATC economically. It is possible, but as these cars come closer to retirement in the 2020s, a major investment in new control equipment becomes dubious. The TTC actually owns more T-1 trains than it can use on BD because the fleet was originally sized for the Spadina extension before the decision to implement ATC on that line. The extra trains will be used initially for the SSE, but would be replaced by new equipment in the mid-2020s.
  • The Spadina extension’s signalling contract did not initially include ATC. This was a late add-on, but it cannot be completed before the line opens. The extension will operate with conventional signals until the ATC retrofit can be installed.

Plans for ATC on the Bloor-Danforth line are further in the future because they trigger several other projects (and spending):

  • The original BD line is almost 50 years old, and its signal system needs to be replaced. An ATC project for this line is in the budget with design work and then procurement to occur in the next few years. Installation would take place in stages from 2018-24 with the contract timed to mostly avoid overlap with the YUS project.
  • New subway cars will be required for BD that have ATC built in, and the changeover would be timed with the planned retirement of the T-1 fleet in the mid 2020s. A possible option for the TTC would be to shift the existing TR trainsets from YUS to BD, and to assign new, longer trainsets to YUS. Exactly how this would balance out for fleet planning (the YUS now requires more trains than BD) depends on the future scope and service levels on both lines.
  • The TTC has no yard space for more equipment on the BD line (or any other project such as a downtown relief subway). The SSE budget includes money for a yard, but there is no sense of where this might be. (It does not have to be physically in Scarborough, only somewhere on the BD line to increase total storage capacity for the route.)

Any increase in line capacity will affect the interchanges at Bloor-Yonge and St. George, but there is no commitment nor firm sense of the scope of work for improvements to platforms and station circulation.

A decision to advance work on the BD line and to acquire a new fleet will accelerate spending and bring many of these projects into a timeframe when the City has no headroom for borrowing, not to mention the strain that concurrent project management will trigger.

The BD line is not in as dire condition as the YUS for peak period capacity, but it is far from empty. Councillor Fragedakis’ motion speaks to difficulties have today in boarding trains on the Danforth Subway which is in her ward.

Waterfront West Transit

Moved by Mark Grimes:

Toronto Transit Commission – Capital Budget

That City Council request the Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Transit Commission to report, prior to the 2016 Budget process, to the Toronto Transit Commission on the possibility of including the following in the 2016 Toronto Transit Commission Capital Budget:

a. relocating the current TTC Humber Loop to Park Lawn Road and Lake Shore Boulevard West, such report to contain cost projections and timelines for relocation; and

b. “Closing the Gap” on a dedicated right-of-way from St. Joseph Hospital to Exhibition Place and connection options.

A Waterfront West LRT project has been on the books since 1990, although it has been amended so many times, the route is almost completely changed from the original proposal. This motion addresses three separate problems:

  • A plan several years ago to shift the western terminus of the 501 Queen-Humber cars west to Park Lawn was deleted from the capital budget as a cost saving measure. The intent was to extend the more-frequent service scheduled to Humber west to serve the growing condo community along the old “motel strip” and former industrial lands on Lake Shore Boulevard.
  • TTC service on the 501 Queen car is irregular, to put things kindly. Scheduled service beyond Humber Loop is only 50% of that to the east. Many cars short turn (some Humber cars don’t even make it that far west) and headways are unreliable. Travel times to and from downtown would be long given traffic conditions, but are worsened by the poor service.
  • Southern Parkdale requires additional capacity into the core, and one proposal to address this has been a westward extension of the 509 Harbourfront service. The degree to which this could serve Parkdale depends a lot on the route such an extension would take.

The Park Lawn Loop scheme is a shortened version of an original proposal to take the streetcar track west to Legion Road which itself was to be extended north. This would put the improved streetcar service close to more of the Lake Shore high rises, but it would trigger construction of a new bridge over Mimico Creek. Beyond Legion Road, the street right-of-way is too narrow to fit a full right-of-way treatment. An obvious first question in any review would be to ask just where the loop should be.

TTC service on the 501 has, for as long as I can remember, treated anything west of Sunnyside as an area not deserving of reliable service. Short turns at Roncesvalles regularly leave gaps in service to what used to be mainly parkland along the south edge of High Park, but which is increasingly a residential neighbourhood between Grenadier Pond and the Humber River. Beyond Humber Loop, a sleepy Lake Shore Boulevard is now filled with new high rises. Nothing in the TTC’s service plans or operations has addressed this major shift in land use.  Regardless of any other changes, the TTC needs to address the fact that service actually provided west of Roncesvalles is considerably less than advertised, particularly on the matter of reliability.

Many routes have been proposed for a new link between Exhibition Loop and the western waterfront including:

  • north via Dufferin to King and then west to The Queensway;
  • west parallel to the rail corridor to Sunnyside and then merging into either King Street or The Queensway;
  • west parallel to the rail corridor to Sunnyside, then swinging south into a reconfigured Lake Shore Boulevard west to Colborne Lodge Drive (the middle of High Park), and then north to The Queensway.

Each of these routes has its benefits and issues. The Dufferin scheme would leave the streetcars still in mixed traffic through a particularly congested part of King Street West and, critically, the intersection at Roncesvalles where there are already problems with streetcar and traffic congestion. The Sunnyside connection would likewise add to the complexity of that intersection. The Colborne Lodge connection (the one in favour while Transit City was still under active discussion) would be part of a larger project to improve the western beaches and roads in the area from Sunnyside west.

A common issue in all of this is the role of GO Transit, and the degree to which some demand from southern Etobicoke could or would use the rail corridor if the fares and connections to it were more attractive. It is important to note that the two GO stations, Long Branch and Mimico, are not in convenient walking distance of much of the Queen car’s territory. GO is an option, but it should not be assumed to be an alternative to improvements on the streetcar network.

Finally, there is the question of service and capacity between Exhibition Loop and Union Station including a scheme for a “Bremner Streetcar” and the need to expand Union Loop for any new service, not to mention the related issue of a route to the eastern waterfront.

This entire area has been ignored for far too long and deserves a thorough review. How we will pay for and prioritize all of the needed improvements is a question for future debate.

Cutbacks in TTC Staffing

Moved by Mayor Tory That:

1. and 2. Increase the budget and staffing for the Office of Integrity Commissioner and for the Office of Ombudsman by 1 position each.

3.  City Council offset the above increases totalling $0.174 million gross and net in 2015 with savings arising from the reduction of 25 operating positions proposed for the Toronto Transit Commission.

Moved by Josh Colle That:

1. City Council amend the Toronto Transit Commission 2015 Operating Budget to reflect a decrease of 25 operating positions and initial savings of $0.200 million gross and net in 2015 and a further reduction of $2.300 million gross and net in 2016.

2. City Council direct the Toronto Transit Commission to report back to Budget Committee on the specific 25.0 operating positions to be eliminated and confirm the expenditure savings following the Toronto Transit Commission management and administrative review.

3. City Council amend the Toronto Transit Commission 2015 Operating Budget to reflect a decrease of 43 capital positions resulting in the following amendments to the 2015 – 2024 Capital Budget and Plan for the Toronto Transit Commission:

a. the elimination of 16.0 capital positions resulting in a reduction in the 2015 – 2024 Capital Budget and Plan of $15.268 million gross and debt funding over the 10 year period as reflected in Table 1 attached to this motion;

b. the deferral of 13.0 capital positions resulting in a reduction in the 2015 – 2024 Capital Budget and Plan of $2.495 million gross and debt funding in the years 2015 and 2016; as reflected in Table 1 attached to this motion, and City Council request that the Toronto Transit Commission report to the Budget Committee as part of the 2017 Budget process on the reinstatement of these deferred capital positions, if necessary;

c. the elimination of 6.0 Metrolinx funded capital positions resulting in no adjustment to the Capital Program; and

d. the elimination of 8.0 capital positions supporting the capital delivery of the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension (TYSSE) and that TYSSE capital savings of $1.112 million in 2015 and $1.187 million in 2016 be reflected in future reporting on the capital project.

The motions by Mayor Tory and TTC Chair Josh Colle are interesting on a few counts. First, the 25 positions to be eliminated from the operating budget do not produce much saving in 2015 implying that they would not have been filled until late in the year. We will not know, probably, until the March 26 TTC board meeting exactly what functions these positions were intended to provide. What is critical is that these not be front line operator jobs without which service expansion might be limited, or maintenance jobs that would compromise system reliability.

Second, there is clearly a distrust of the TTC’s ability to manage capital projects reflected in recent reports of budget and progress issues for the Spadina subway extension and other projects. The cuts listed in Table 1 affect several budget lines, and it is unclear what the effect of the staffing reductions will be.

Updated March 13, 2015 at 1:50 pm: The 43 staff reductions listed in clauses 3.a to 3d above are detailed in Appendix A to a report at the recent TTC Board. The TTC has advised me that:

“… we do not expect there to be a detrimental impact on our capital projects because of these reductions.” [Email from Vince Rodo via Brad Ross, March 13, 2015]

TTC Project Management

Moved by Josh Colle:

Toronto Transit Commission – Capital Budget

That:

1.  City Council direct the City Manager to issue a Request For Proposal to expedite a review of Toronto Transit Commission Capital program service delivery including:

a. a review of project management of Toronto Transit Commission Major Capital Projects in the past five years to determine actual project costs and completion dates relative to original schedules and estimated costs;

b. a review of staff reporting mechanisms to the Toronto Transit Commission and City Council related to capital project budget and completion date status; and

c. future organizational options for Transit project management and delivery of Major Capital projects related to Transit expansion and major State of Good Repair projects.

2.  City Council direct the City Manager to co-ordinate the review in Part 1 above with the Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Transit Commission and to report to the Toronto Transit Commission no later than the November 23, 2015 meeting.

This motion is self-explanatory.

In a separate article now in preparation, I will review the Spadina Subway extension’s history of project estimates, contract costs and changes.

41 thoughts on “City of Toronto Budget Amendments 2015 (Updated)

  1. Steve said:

    “Council maintains a guideline that debt service costs should not exceed 15% of tax revenue. This ratio forces planning of future spending to fit within a debt management envelope. A few recent changes have, however, placed Toronto in a position that it has no headroom for new spending.”

    To me this is a fundamental issue of running this too close to the line. Having a cap is reasonable, however, there should also be a very active effort to pay down this debt in the years where there are no large projects. While your debt service level is above say 5% there should no be tax reductions, in order to speed the reduction. There has been too singular a focus on tax reduction instead of long term efficiency or service delivery. Long term efficiency (as opposed to simple belt tightening) will eventually deliver reduced taxes; however, it, not taxes should be the focus.

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  2. The Line 2 Automatic Train Control MIGHT be needed, should it be extended as a branch for three (or four) stations further into Scarborough. The ATC would be of great benefit with short turns of the six-car trains at Kennedy, since the ridership east of Kennedy may not need having six-car trains every 5 minutes in the non-rush hours.

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  3. While Toronto no doubt will require greater tax increases to meet its capital funding needs, it is not true to say that Toronto refuses to raise taxes. The recently passed budget works out to an increase of 3.6% for residential taxpayers, which is nearly 3 times inflation. Even at this multiple of inflation, revenues will not rise fast enough to maintain, replace and expand needed capital projects.

    This is a good measure of just how shockingly far Toronto has fallen behind in capital funding.

    Steve: Don’t forget that the rate on residential properties is a combination of many factors (see chart on page 10 of this presentation).

    The overall budgetary tax increase is 1.5%, but Toronto is mandated by the province to adjust the overall rate between residential and commercial because, it is claimed, residential owners have been living off the taxes paid by commercial property for years. To achieve a goal of matching the ratio found elsewhere in the GTHA, Toronto raises the residential tax class at 3 times the rate of commercial property. This leads to a 2.25% residential, .75% commercial increase to achieve that “1.5%” notional rate. This process will continue to 2020 by which time Toronto’s ratios will match the rest of the GTHA.

    CVA has a small effect on the residential class because this is supposed to be revenue neutral with increases in assessment offset by growth of the overall “pie” of properties. Separate from the 3:1 ratio of tax increases, there are policies set by Council to give tax breaks to certain business classes. This adds a further 0.44%. Finally, there is the 0.50% increase for the Scarborough Subway.

    And so, yes, the City’s base tax rate goes up by only 1.5%, but by the time various policies kick in, the residential class sees a total of 3.20%. If your house or condo has gone up in value (as a percentage) more than other nearby properties, then your taxes will rise by more than 3.2% (your CVA portion will be larger). Conversely if your residence is now proportionately cheaper than others around it, your increase will be less than 3.20%.

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  4. Some people might argue that the problems of TTC Capital Estimates (Cost & Time) are due to understaffing. Specifically, why eliminate positions that Metrolinx was paying for? It is to financial benefit to the City or TTC. It seems inane to fire 25 operations people to hire 2 others.

    As for our debt ceiling problem, the obvious answer is to change the question. Currently, our borrowing is limited to 15% of property tax revenues. Why not just drop the words “property taxes” and increase our debt limit by 198% without getting into the messy issue of raising the number. This doesn’t solve the bigger issue of mounting debt levels, but it does allow breathing room to get needed projects built.

    Steve: Other revenues that the city gets are earmarked for specific parts of the budget. The simplest example is transit fares which go to operate the TTC. They cannot be counted as a potential source of debt financing. Similarly grants from various governments are program-specific and they could not be redirected to debt service.

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  5. Why do we need additional streetcars? Why do we need a Downtown Relief Line? In an age where driverless electric cars (that can prevent gridlock, reduce accidents, reduce travel times, fight pollution) are the future, we are investing in 18th century streetcar technology that has changed little over the centuries. Think outside the box.

    Toronto Star: “The British city of Milton Keynes is one of four that will test driverless taxi pods in its pedestrian friendly central core this year, the Guardian newspaper has reported. Meanwhile, Finland’s capital, Helsinki, has announced plans to transform its public transit system into a driverless taxi-like service that consumers hail with a smart phone app.”

    [Link] [Link]

    But of course even any mention of high speed elevators to connect Richmond Hill Downtown Relief Line to Castle Frank subway gets Steve started on swan boats and what not. The problem with Steve is not that he does not want what is best for transit but that he belongs to another era – the old school and others in his generation are equally skeptical about driverless cars, connection between Richmond Hill line and Castle Frank station, etc. I mean seriously, we can’t build that simple connection in an age of space travel? Let the Scarborough subway expansion be the final subway expansion in Canada for it is time to move on to newer technologies such as driverless road vehicles, flying cars, etc. Us in Scarborough are NOT hell bent on a subway and all you have to give us is a better option like a helicopter ride from STC to Sick Kids Hospital helipad at a SINGLE TTC Fare.

    Steve: My first observation is that business reports are among the more credulous members of the media, and driverless is the latest fad they get to cover.

    There has been talk of various forms of personalized transit of which driverless cars are only the most recent incarnation. The fundamental issue is that a car is a car is a car, and on a road like the 401, the amount of capacity that driverless operation will pick up is negligible. This whole exercise is a wonderful attempt to undermine any spending for transit. Why should the Scarborough Subway be immune from this? If you really believe in the technology, then prepare for the complete shutdown of transit east of Victoria Park. Scarborough can lead by shining example.

    But, no, you want your subway just in case driverless doesn’t pan out in time.

    As for elevators and swan boats, the Richmond Hill line and Castle Frank Station, I suggest that you try visiting Castle Frank in the morning peak and try to board a train there. This is no place to put in a connection with a GO service. The number of elevators you would need to handle any reasonable transfer traffic would be substantial, and in case you have not noticed, the subway station is some distance west of the rail corridor.

    Now please [insert extremely rude epithet here].

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  6. Matthew Phillips said:

    “As for our debt ceiling problem, the obvious answer is to change the question. Currently, our borrowing is limited to 15% of property tax revenues. Why not just drop the words “property taxes” and increase our debt limit by 198% without getting into the messy issue of raising the number. This doesn’t solve the bigger issue of mounting debt levels, but it does allow breathing room to get needed projects built.”

    I can only reasonably see taking this approach to fund a set of projects that would actually present reduced costs to deliver future services, or that had an extremely strong argument in terms of generating a substantial increase in the tax base and little in incremental service delivery costs, with a fairly small expenditure. The point Steve makes here is important – it is very much like a business trying to argue its gross revenue not net margin was a valid basis for a bank loan. If you ask for a loan for something that will actually make more of that gross revenue into net margin, you have a much better chance of succeeding.

    I suspect that the East Bayfront project might fit, as might an investment in a new vehicle locating system and signal control system to support greatly improved transit priority, and perhaps some easy way to control dispatch timing and spacing – but I suspect there are few others. You would basically require a project that increased revenue and service with no substantial costs of operation increase or even a cost of operation decrease associated with better service (projects that should be pursued with great vigor – but ones that you hope are few and far between).

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  7. Toronto has seen absolute tax rates falling while the gross tax revenue rises. We’d have much more money in the pot if rates were fixed for a number of years, and then readjusted once per election cycle. Running a budget surplus put into either a trust for rainy years or advanced debt repayment, if possible.

    As for being able to count other revenues, the whole thing is a political artifact with only two possible benefits: a lower interest rate from lenders and the political clout to say it’s in place. TTC fares are used to pay for TTC operational costs, but could it not be argued that debt servicing for TTC capital projects is also a TTC operational cost? I don’t like muddying the waters as such, but the City treats funds pretty fluidly already. If there is a shortfall in Provincial subsidies, then property taxes can be used to cover it. Vice versa, if there is a windfall to a dedicated provincial subsidy, property taxes can be reallocated to different pots.

    Steve: It’s not quite that simple — voters don’t care about absolute tax rates falling when the bill goes up every year, and the message of taxes staying “below inflation” (whatever that means exactly) is easy to pitch and understand, even when it is a gross simplification.

    TTC fares have not paid for the TTC capital for over 40 years. Even the original Yonge subway was built “from fares” only because of the surplus built up during WWII.

    Any “surplus” the city gets today (i.e. total costs come in lower than expected) is directed partly to capital reserves to avoid future borrowing, and to pay down debt.

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  8. Mike said:

    “But of course even any mention of high speed elevators to connect Richmond Hill Downtown Relief Line to Castle Frank subway gets Steve started on swan boats and what not. The problem with Steve is not that he does not want what is best for transit but that he belongs to another era – the old school and others in his generation are equally skeptical about driverless cars, connection between Richmond Hill line and Castle Frank station, etc. I mean seriously, we can’t build that simple connection in an age of space travel.”

    I am a great lover of technology – but I also really do believe that in the case of transit – there is no first mover advantage. I would stay with the notion of the smartest IT director I ever knew – who had a great expression – “We want to stay on the leading edge but off the bleeding edge” – he was a great believer in letting the big banks play with it first. If they had no issues, then sure, if they did then he would wait until bugs were worked out. I would argue, we should let somebody else pay the cost of the first projects which like the PC will cost many times what the ones only a few years later will. Oh the ones a few years later (like PCs) will be better, faster and more reliable. The Vancouver application of the same basic technology is better than the one in Scarborough, so based on our experience, let somebody else bleed.

    Steve: To be fair to the inventors of the RT technology, the Vancouver situation is a little more complex. They were building a showcase line that would be part of a World’s Fair linking two separate sites with a shuttle service overlaid on a regular rapid transit service. Vancouver was building their “Yonge Street Subway”, not a minor line out in a suburb that was still far from developed. They had a dedication to making the technology work.

    There were a lot of problems on the Vancouver project, to the point that UTDC was fired as the project manager for incompetence. Such a move would have been impossible in Ontario because the UTDC was an instrument of provincial policy.

    My favourite description of the man who headed up that organization (from someone who has long been active in Vancouver) is “nobody ever bought something from him twice”.

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  9. Steve said:

    There were a lot of problems on the Vancouver project, to the point that UTDC was fired as the project manager for incompetence. Such a move would have been impossible in Ontario because the UTDC was an instrument of provincial policy.”

    Oddly enough Steve in my mind this really enforces the original point – there was plenty of blood to be had from even the second mover. I personally see no point in pushing for technologies where they are not already well understood. The costs of being the one creating the understanding can be quite high.

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  10. Toronto needs to place an order with Bombardier soon for trams and metros. Right now Bombardier Aerospace is not doing so well. Until the CSeries enters service, it will be hard to generate sales. They have already shelved the Lear project. Anything to help them with the cash flow is crucial to the survival of this industry in Canada. In addition, Thunder Bay does not really have a large backlog of orders. Unless GO orders some new DMUs or EMUs for the Regional Express, they might shut down around 2019.

    Driverless cars do increase the overall capacity of roads. For example, in drivers’ ed, we are taught that we need to maintain a 2 second gap with the car ahead. With a driverless system, it is possible to have a road train, where cars operate 1 meter apart of each other at 100 km/h. Computers can close that gap thus creating more capacity. This obviously excludes the possibility of something going wrong. A chain of car crashing would be quite dangerous.

    In addition, it may also reduce the number of cars a household have. This reduces parking requirements which may make a community more livable. For example, right now a husband, wife and a child might have two cars. Husband and wife both drives to work in separate vehicle and then one of the picks up the child at day care at the end of the day. With driverless cars, this family may be able to get by with one car. The car can be programmed to take the husband to work first and then come home pick up the wife and drive it somewhere else. The child would get in a car at the end of day, the car will drive itself to the husband’s work and then the wife’s.

    It is too early to speculate the effect. However, it will not replace transit just yet. A T35A08 trainset can easily carry 1000 passengers. It will still take up less space than 1000 cars even if they are Mini Cooper sized and driven in a road train. It might have an effect on the last mile. Instead of waiting 30 minutes for that bus at the metro station, a driverless car will take people to their destination. This is much better since after getting off a bus or a tram, people would be exposed to the elements. Public transit can never pull up to a driveway or a dropoff area, so this is where the driverless car will excel.

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  11. There were no streetcars in the 18th Century. They were invented in the latter half of the 19th century.

    When I was a boy there were lots of articles in Popular Science and Popular Mechanics about how the world would look in 2000 – about 15 years ago now. According to these articles there would be congestion free monorails running individual driverless cars that would pick us up at our door and deliver us to the door of our destination and automatically be routed over the shortest route. The pictures looked neat but in the actual year 2000 the only real difference between the then current cars and my Dad’s Triumph of Popular Mechanics vintage was that:

    1. They started in cold weather;
    2. Parts were not on a boat in the St. Lawrence when you needed them; and
    3. The new cars had seatbelt (and airbags).

    Even if we skip over the fact that modern LRVs are not streetcars (even the new streetcars are not streetcars in the PCC meaning of the word) it is indisputable that rail transit will be with us for a long time to come.

    The truth is that modern technology has “disrupted” several industries – primarily media and entertainment – but the real world has changed very little. Even supposed revolutionary apps such as UBER have only changed anything because they blatantly disobey the law. I could do the same by driving around with a cardboard hand lettered sign in my window that says “ride sharing”. However, that would be illegal. We are going to need conventional rail transit until something really changes. I am holding out for “Control Room….Energise!!!”

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  12. Benny Cheung says:

    Toronto needs to place an order with Bombardier soon for trams and metros. Right now Bombardier Aerospace is not doing so well. Until the CSeries enters service, it will be hard to generate sales. They have already shelved the Lear project. Anything to help them with the cash flow is crucial to the survival of this industry in Canada.

    Though I understand the idea of supporting home/local industries, Bombardier has not been a reliable supplier to the TTC (subways and streetcars have both been very late and there have been many problems) and I really cannot see why one would give them more business (except probably the extra 60 streetcars that we could buy quite cheaply.) Any completely new transit order should go to open tender. Bombardier might win and that would be good and the Provincial or Federal governments might give them an aid package to make it possible for them to compete but it is really not up to Toronto to give them orders just because they have a plant in Thunder Bay.

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  13. In the Newman and Kenworthy classic tome Sustainability and Cities, they observe p. 351

    “The trail of road expenditures in most cities is a tortuous path, whereas expenditures on transit tend to appear in a few easily identified publications.”

    We live in a “Carservative” town – and not even a simple study of the Vehicle Registration Tax was able to get through the majority, which is a real harbinger of how committed they truly are to better transit and fighting climate chaos.

    They are persisting in the dumb costly things too. It’s pretty outrageous to deepressing really. For the person vexing about not having options for Scarbrorough, using the Gatineau Hydro corridor for transit starting with a busway would have a few benefits, including speed of doing, overall cheapness, and potential for effectiveness especially if it gets more connected with the core in a variety of ways, including a bridge to Thorncliffe Park, and – to be “roadical” – getting on to the Don Valley Excessway and direct to core perhaps.

    The amendment to fill in the gap in the west waterfront may be a bit of progress, but it feels like it is a move-motion-after-train-has-left thing. The Gardiner repairs were rubberstamped with not a single thought of doing transit instead; and the Smart Track may obliterate a very unique and last chance to expedite the King/Queen cars to Front St. and then to the core.

    Moronto!!!

    Like

  14. They need to get the ATC on Bloor-Danforth to the point where they can include it in the contract for Scarborough Subway … otherwise we will be repeating the same mistake again.

    Steve: The problem is that the T-1’s don’t have ATC and would cost a great deal to convert. We are looking at the same problem as with the Spadina extension of installing both conventional signals and ATC for day 1 operation. If the T-1 replacement fleet were required to be in place before the SSE opens, that would advance a large subway car order into a period where Toronto’s capital spending is already badly constrained.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Replying to David C, every new technology has problems and late deliveries. The Boeing 787 was late entering in service and has exploding battery packs. That did not shake the confidence of customers. Aircraft frames are relatively standard versus rolling stock. Every city has their own specs.

    Canada has already lost crown jewels like Nortel and Research in Motion. If we loose Bombardier, where will innovation come from? Without the CSeries, Pratt’s geared turbo fan engine would not have made its commercial debut. The Boeing 737MAX and the Airbus A320 NEO need modified wings to take this type of engine. This is why those two planes are stuck with GE engines. This is why we have to protect it.

    Getting back to the Scarborough extension. There are a few ways to deal with the T1 metros. We can sell it in the open market. Ankara’s metro system uses the same T1 derived trainset. Once reguaged, they can be used in Ankara, Turkey. If Bombardier is desperate enough for an order, they will let the TTC trade them in. This will help offset the acquisition cost. Export Development Canada does this all the time to promote Canadian products.

    Finally, this makes better industrial policy. The Ontario government should be helping other cities to build tracks that can run the T1s. This way, when Toronto gets new trains, the older trains can be donated to the other cities. It helps Bombardier in that there is always a new order for trains. It helps Toronto in that we always get the latest trains. It helps smaller cities in that they get free trains. I was told by a Bombardier rep that the T1s can be converted easily to support pantographs for power. This way, as long as arms drop at railway crossings, they can be used. So, it does not need to be completely grade seperated.

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  16. Mike looks forward to driverless cars. I suggest that anyone with experience of a GPS will want to stay faraway from the roads when they start happening.

    We have twice used a GPS to go to California (and many other places closer). It is upsetting to be following the directions and suddenly hear the comment “Recalculating”.

    If he wants a driverless road train down King St., we could clear the cars out and run a set of T1s.

    Like

  17. Steve said: The SSE budget includes money for a yard, but there is no sense of where this might be. (It does not have to be physically in Scarborough, only somewhere on the BD line to increase total storage capacity for the route.)

    Moaz: Is that Obico yard still available? Alternatively how about just running some track out to the Metro distribution Centre between East Mall and West Mall. Surely we could have a yard there with a grocery store and distribution centre above.

    Steve: I know that both the TTC and Metrolinx are aware of Obico Yard, but what they might be pursuing is anyone’s guess. Property issues are always confidential.

    Steve:

    The Park Lawn Loop scheme is a shortened version of an original proposal to take the streetcar track west to Legion Road which itself was to be extended north. This would put the improved streetcar service close to more of the Lake Shore high rises, but it would trigger construction of a new bridge over Mimico Creek.

    I was always wondering why there was a call for a new loop at Park Lawn along with a GO station. I thought the loop would be at Park Lawn and Lake Shore rather than following along on the south side of the Gardiner to Legion Rd. … in which case an upgraded Humber Loop with GO station would have made far more sense. But a connection following the south side of the Gardiner and Railway corridor to Legion Road makes sense … if the cost of the bridge over Mimico Creek (and a bridge over Park Lawn) is not too high.

    Cheers, Moaz

    Steve: There is a planned extension of Legion Road north to the GO corridor, and the loop would have been at a new station there. The streetcars would stay on Lake Shore, not take a new route west from Humber as that would miss all of the new development and be counterproductive. The project is in the Transportation Services 10-year capital plan for 2020-2022. I suspect that Councillor Grimes and the folks living west of Humber don’t want to wait that long for better streetcar service.

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  18. Used to be able to get reports on requests made by city councillors, taxpayers, and TTC staff for route changes, extensions, and headway changes for the coming year. No longer. Guess that went out when cutbacks happened.

    Just wondering what route changes the TTC would “like” to make, “will” make, “rejected” suggestions, and “hope” to make in the coming year or years.

    Steve: The TTC has not produced a report on evaluation of requests for new service since the Ford/Stintz cutbacks.

    I was wondering, once the surface construction at Union Station completes, will the TTC be considering a Front Street bus (or streetcar) from Bathurst (or further west) to Parliament Street (or vicinity). I have been having to walk from either Spadina or Union Station to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre at times, and wondered why there was no bus service on Front Street to transfer to.

    Steve: There has been no talk of this. If anything, such a proposal should be part of the review of the reinstatement of through service on 72 Pape and 172 Cherry. This is supposed to happen this spring coinciding with completion of work on Front Street, but I have not seen a schedule change announcement for it yet.

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  19. Steve:

    There is a planned extension of Legion Road north to the GO corridor, and the loop would have been at a new station there. The streetcars would stay on Lake Shore, not take a new route west from Humber as that would miss all of the new development and be counterproductive. The project is in the Transportation Services 10-year capital plan for 2020-2022. I suspect that Councillor Grimes and the folks living west of Humber don’t want to wait that long for better streetcar service.

    Oh … so it would be something along the lines of McCaul loop, with the streetcar traveling some distance off the main line and then looping back.

    I couldn’t imagine a westbound 501 traveling all the way up from Lake Shore to the rail corridor then back then continuing west to Long Branch … so this loop would necessitate a new service along Lake Shore West of Park Lawn … the reimagined 507 you have been calling for? But really we don’t need to wait for the loop to be rebuilt to bring back the 507 in modified form and improve frequencies on the 501 and 504.

    Cheers, Moaz

    Like

  20. If we [lose] Bombardier, where will innovation come from?

    We’ve lost a few rail suppliers already

    Canadian Car and Foundry
    Vickers Canada Inc.
    Budd Company
    Pullman Company

    I think Canadian Allied Diesel is still around.

    Like

  21. Benny Cheung said:

    Right now Bombardier Aerospace is not doing so well.

    Rail [vehicles are] produced by Bombardier Transportation, a separate division, which is still in the black. Also both divisions have 99% of their record backlog levels for 2014. They might not make a profit, but they aren’t in danger of running out of work.

    Benny Cheung said:

    A chain of car crashing would be quite dangerous.

    You seem to misunderstand the technology. The reason why driverless cars can follow closer is that they remove the human delay from the equation. Thus, the vehicles can be closer while providing a larger margin of safety. One aspect you missed as well is the potential to increase speed limits. While increasing the legal limit on the 400-series highways to 130kph might not actually increase speeds, areas that are 40 or 60 kph could easily see a 33%-50% increase in capacity merely by increasing the speed limit by 20 kph, well within the design capacity and increasing safety.

    I don’t see driverless cars reducing a 2-car family to one, merely due to the fact of the 9-5 workday. However, door-to-door transit is within the realms of plausibility. Imagine a Wheel-trans-like service, but with a 5-person car. Assuming a price of $0.25/km (probably needs a time-based component as well), each seat is charged at $0.05/km. You can purchase multiple seats to get a weighted priority in the vehicle (purchase 3 and the optimized route gives you priority, purchase 5 and you have a direct private ride). The system would network with other vehicles to minimize journey and wait times. The more people that use the system, the better it would be at optimization.

    Furthermore, to avoid the huge capital outlays for such a system, you could have private vehicles opt-in while idle, similar to Uber. So in your scenario, after dropping dad off at work, rather than driving back empty to pick-up mom, the car joins the transit network and works the day as a taxi/minibus, then returns to the office in time to pick-up dad at the end of the day.

    Steve: This is all a nice fantasy, but it omits one crucial fact: “manual” cars will continue to exist for decades, and all of the benefits of automation can only be achieved if the road network and auto fleet completely changes over. We are talking, in effect, a “transit network” of driverless cars. What happens with commercial vehicles? What happens to visitors who don’t live in this automated Nirvanna?

    Can we concentrate of building the transportation systems we need rather than pretending that somehow they will become obsolete? This is nothing more than a thinly disguised attack on spending for public transit.

    Like

  22. Michael Greason said:

    The truth is that modern technology has “disrupted” several industries – primarily media and entertainment – but the real world has changed very little.

    It’s all a matter of where you draw your line for modern technology. The largest changes are ubiquitous and generally unexpected (or else you would be filthy rich). Digital computers are relatively new, but it was the graphic interface in the 1990s that spurred their popularity. We have telephones without wires. We have cameras you can swallow to map your GI tract. We have brain-to-machine interfaces that can map ‘yes/no’ decisions or when using two even control someone else’s arm. We have water-powered jet-packs and dolphin submarines. We have predator drones and personalized ads. We have cars that can parallel park and we have back-up monitors with collision warnings.

    The reason we don’t have driverless monorails outside Disneyland is because of the cost of electromagnets and the rarity of superconductors. The future will be a mixture of our best ideas brought down to reality by cost and our inane ideas brought up by popularity. Driverless cars are not that limited by cost, as it’s just a computer and sensors in addition to the normal $20K-$50K. Mercedes is doing an Autobahn pilot project next year in Germany; GM is implementing a partial feature in 2017 models of some Cadillacs; Nissan will have a feature by 2018; and by 2020, the list of those selling at least a partially autonomous car will be: GM, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Nissan, BMW, Renault, Tesla, and Google. As transportation accidents can be ranked the third highest cause of death (behind cardiovascular disease and cancer), even a marginal improvement can change our lives.

    Like

  23. br60103 said:

    I suggest that anyone with experience of a GPS will want to stay far away from the roads when they start happening.

    If driverless cars were predicated on using satellites, then I might be worried. Much simpler and cheaper for an autonomous car would be to track its position via accelerometers and velocity. We won’t see these cars in Canada for at least a decade, and much longer to form a majority of traffic, but it will change the basic assumptions of how the transportation system works.

    Steve: The problem is that tracking a position is fine as long as everything else around the car is still where it was when the area was mapped. A “real” motorist has the advantage of being able to gauge whether the objects around them might behave in some “unexpected way”. A pedestrian standing at a street corner may or may not have the right of way legally, or may be judging whether an nominally “illegal” act will fit into the traffic. This knowledge and the ability to “read” behaviour is challenging. Of course, if you’re an auto engineer, pedestrians have no business getting in your way.

    I suggest that we turn a few of these cars loose near a schoolyard and see how long the experiment lasts.

    Moaz Ahmad said:

    Is that Obico yard still available?

    There was a January article in the G&M saying CP was looking at developing the Obico Yard amongst other properties. The location doesn’t really work for Metrolinx, as they’ve been moving to an end-of-the-line storage facility system. For the Milton line, the prime candidate is near Tremaine Rd. or if they ever get that far, Cambridge. Specifically, they want a MF that can exit at both ends to eliminate bottlenecks, which is constrained at Obico Yard. Also, the yard is more of a siding to the Canpa subdivsion, so unless CP is willing to stop freight using this by-pass, then any yard operations could be disrupted by foreign trains.

    Like

  24. Josh said:

    Google I am sure can do this even in mixed traffic

    Actually, the Google Car can’t drive itself in the rain or snow yet, so that would be a big crimp in Toronto. Plus, the driver does at least four things: fare enforcement, crowd control, driving, and emergency response.

    Steve said:

    All of the benefits of automation can only be achieved if the road network and auto fleet completely changes over.

    Not so, benefits are proportional to use. By the time the DRL is built, there should be a slight, but noticable impact on hourly capacity per lane. It will bring another competing component into the transportation mix. For non-autonomous vehicles, they drive as always, only possibly with some restrictions to use. Commercial vehicles are no different, only their reactions differ.

    Steve: The first time a driverless car crashes into the back of a driven car that “did something unexpected”, I look forward to the “following too closely” charges against Google.

    Steve said:

    Can we concentrate of building the transportation systems we need rather than pretending that somehow they will become obsolete? This is nothing more than a thinly disguised attack on spending for public transit.

    Isn’t examining the basis of our need a valid contribution to the debate? We are still decades from any revolution in our transportation habits, so any thought of reducing spending is very premature. It does not help to lose sight of the forest for looking at the trees.

    Steve: If, however, someone says that we have a “forestry problem” that can be solved by technology, and that we should stop planting trees as we know them, then we have a big problem.

    The issue is to deal with the finite capacity of roads by removing traffic from them that can be carried by an alternative mode. Even if you could recapture the “wasted” capacity with automation, this is a one-time fix.

    Another issue nobody talks about is that if a driverless car becomes, in effect, a taxi, then I should not need to have a license (or even know how the car works) to use it. I want to be dropped off somewhere the car may never have seen, and where the navigation may be unpredictable (a building surrounded by a parking lot). I will not be able to drive the car from the nearby roadway, let alone guide it, empty, back to the land it knows.

    Don’t forget that we have seen an analysis roughly like this: we don’t need the DRL because SmartTrack will do everything … we don’t need SmartTrack or more subways because driverless cars will do everything … that’s the sort of BS argument that shows up here from time to time.

    Working in IT all my life, I’ve hard more than a few utterly ridiculous technology pitches that, inevitably, are aimed at gullible senior execs (some even in IT), who don’t want to heard about problems, only “solutions” that make them look good.

    Like

  25. All this talk of driverless road vehicles is nice and all but they are far from ready. The Google car mentioned above, as I understand it, only works properly under perfect conditions (sunny, clear, no snow on the ground) and as far as I know, it doesn’t actually learn or adapt as it still relies on humans going out and manually mapping everything before it can “drive” at a locale.

    Like

  26. In reply to Matthew. For better or worse, what happens at Bombardier Aerospace will affect Transportation. Moody, S&P and Fitch assigns one credit rating to Bombardier Inc and not the divisions separately. If the CSeries are not selling well, it will impair Transportation’s access to credit markets.

    Bombardier Transportation might have a reasonable amount of backlog, but that is spread over a large territory. Thunder Bay does not produce the bogies used in a Swiss National Railway Order. The only line that is exclusive to Thunder Bay is ICTS. Even if China orders 500 ICTS railcars, they will be made here. However, a 500 metro cars order will be produced by the Chinese joint venture in China. Thunder Bay exists mainly to fill North American markets and this is not really true given the existence of Buy America legislation. At the end of the day, we want to promote jobs in Canada with our transit orders. Remember the old saying, “Travel across America in a Chevrolet”.

    Driverless cars needs a way to handle mechanical breakdown. Operating cars in a road train requires that every car to be mechanically sound. If one car has a tire blowout, that 20 car road train will have a serious problem unless they can stop quickly. Cars can be operated closer to each other because computers can talk to each other and respond faster. They do not need that 200ms or so to respond to a brake light since they know where the brake point is.

    Driverless cars still assume private ownership and not renting the car out (a la Uber). People have preferences. Most people want their own car to be waiting for them and not sit in a shared space. Does one really want to sit in a car after work with coffee stains on the seat? From what I have read, this is what people are visualizing. Car drives dad to work, comes back and picks up kid for school. Car goes back to dad’s office and wait for dad to leave work. If mom needs to buy groceries, car will go back home and get mom.

    I am not advocating driverless cars as a replacement for transit. However, it works very well as a last mile solution. Having a car waiting at the station is very appealing. It beats connecting to a bus and then walking home from a bus stop. One last point, cars these days do not even have mechanical controls. Everything is fly by wire. Technically, if one can connect a driverless module to the car’s CANBUS network, older cars can be retrofitted to be automated. Just sharing a thought.

    Like

  27. Steve said:
    A “real” motorist has the advantage of being able to gauge whether the objects around them might behave in some “unexpected way”.

    Actually, that’s exactly where humans are at a disadvantage. We are forgetful, distracted, and slow. Here is a year old video of how the Google Car tracks the world around it. The car simulates the future behavior of both seen and unseen objects (like a pedestrian seen before passing a 18-wheeler). It’s 1.3 million readings per second, mean it tracks everything within a 100m circle over 50 times per second. They’ve operated over 1M km with only one accident, when a human rear-ended the car while it was stopped a traffic light.

    Steve: There is no link in your comment at “Here”.

    Steve said:

    The first time a driverless car crashes

    I look forward to it too, as it will set a lot of precedents regarding liability and factors of safety.

    Steve said:

    The issue is to deal with the finite capacity of roads

    Yes, the whole issue is to increase the density of road usage. Traditionally, we’ve done this through mass transit, and we will continue as such until at least the middle of this century, but there is the glimmer of an alternative solution.

    Steve: Well, no, as I said it is a one time “solution” with many issues of transition between technological paradigms to be addressed. It does not deal with many of the basic issues of a “personal” vehicle as others have noted here.

    Steve said:

    Another issue nobody talks about is that if a driverless car becomes, in effect, a taxi, then I should not need to have a license (or even know how the car works) to use it.

    That’s absolutely right. That’s why there is a legally blind man in Arizona who now has private transportation.

    Steve said:

    I want to be dropped off somewhere the car may never have seen, and where the navigation may be unpredictable

    With usage, such areas should disappear. However, parking lots are a problem still to be resolved (along with traffic cops). However, I can imagine a voice “override” feature that allows the passenger to direct the vehicle in general directions, like GPS in reverse.

    Steve: Tell me again about the blind man and his ability to use a voice override? This is a wider issue because it presumes there is always a “responsible person” who can issue such an override or assist the car in finding its way. Can a drunk ride alone in such a vehicle? Could a child be sent to school in such a vehicle unaccompanied?

    While we are a long way from a 100% autonomous car, Delphi had $1.4B in revenue of autonomous features, like automatic parallel parking or reverse cameras.

    Steve: A camera is not an automation feature. It’s a higher tech mirror.

    Benny Cheung said:

    Driverless cars needs a way to handle mechanical breakdown.

    While networking is an option, it’s actually a 20ms LIDaR reading that informs the following car as to the conditions ahead. There have been a few such situations in which the Google Car has successful responded.

    Steve: The issue is not just one of response, but of what to do when a vehicle that is no longer “your” car stops working. If it can break down and stop, it can also fail in other ways that may not be as “graceful”. I return to the dual issues of reliability and responsibility.

    Benny Cheung said:

    Driverless cars still assume private ownership and not renting the car out.

    The future will be interesting and unpredictable. We can only posit the possibilities.

    Steve: Meanwhile, we have a transit system to build. Do we tell the folks in Scarborough they’re not getting anything because, by the time it is only a decade old or so, it will be obsolete?

    Like

  28. “We’ve lost a few rail suppliers already

    Canadian Car and Foundry
    Vickers Canada Inc.
    Budd Company
    Pullman Company”

    Interestingly, Bombardier bought up the leftovers of three of these (CCF, Budd, Pullman).

    —-

    Regarding driverless cars, they’ve been 20 years away for over 50 years. I’ve also looked into them in detail. They’re not a realistic technology, unfortunately. The reason is that the road environment is extremely unpredictable — and the pattern-matching problem has not been solved. (It’s a very hard problem. Nobody has any clue how humans do this sort of pattern matching. It could take us hundreds of years to figure it out.).

    Sure, put driverless cars on a freeway with striped lanes and no snow, and you can make them work.

    But put them on a country road with deer wandering across … or a city street with pedestrians jaywalking … and they simply can’t do the job. For example, they can’t tell that a deer at the side of the road means SLOW DOWN — they can’t even identify that there is a deer at the side of the road. Similarly, they can’t be cautious because there’s a huge crowd of pedestrians almost spilling off the sidewalk, or kids playing with a ball in a park just off the road. Not to mention the inability to spot things like bridges out, black ice, flooding in the road, etc…

    The urban applications of driverless vehicles so far have been at low speeds — low enough that it simply doesn’t matter if the vehicle collides with someone. This will also work, but it doesn’t gain you any throughput.

    A lot of humans can’t do the job either, which is why we need strong drivers’ license standards. But humans are in general much better at this vague, poorly specified pattern-matching problem.

    Why do driverless trains work? No grade crossings. Line completely cleared of obstructions before they travel. Driverless cars will of course work under the same circumstances… but have you looked at your local road network, and does it resemble that at all?

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  29. @Benny Cheung – I think we are some time from full on self driving cars that do not need a driver there to take over when things deviate from the expected. I also think the first uses will be on more predictable long distance expressway driving. However low speed local use also may be possible, where the route is well understood. I do not think we should be holding our breath though, and your vision of last mile application while compelling and likely less complex than some others is still decades away, not least as Steve points out for liability reasons – although small very light 20 km/h vehicles may come sooner, 3 wheeled electric shell with the weight of a bicycle more like my enclosed recumbent, than a car. This at least would not seriously injured anyone, at low speed and mass.

    Steve: I look forward to a fleet of these replacing connecting bus services for all of the counter-peak flows on the GO RER network.

    Like

  30. Matthew Phillips writes:

    For the Milton line, the prime candidate is near Tremaine Rd. or if they ever get that far, Cambridge

    Just read (Today’s Star) about CN wanting to develop a property on Britannia Road into a yard. If the developer crowd doesn’t scuttle it maybe metrolinx could haggle some space. It wouldn’t be far from the CN/CP junction in Milton.

    Matthew Phillips also writes:

    The location doesn’t really work for Metrolinx, as they’ve been moving to an end-of-the-line storage facility system. […] Also, the yard is more of a siding to the Canpa subdivsion, so unless CP is willing to stop freight using this by-pass, then any yard operations could be disrupted by foreign trains.:

    I think it’s better suited for TTC use. As for freight use, I was not aware that CP was sending so many freights down Canpa to CN tracks. I think there’s enough land to keep a mainline for this purpose and put in new TTC gauge yard tracks. From the looks of the latest google satellite image the yard is much bigger than a siding and the yard tracks are actually quite full. (If it is so busy I have to wonder why they are selling it.) The big cost would be a tunnel to avoid a level crossing near Kipling.

    Like

  31. Nathanael writes:

    Interestingly, Bombardier bought up the leftovers of […] Budd

    I have a new direction for Bombardier. Resurrect the stainless steel Budd MUs. New silverliners, new dayliners, it’ll be a smash hit! Bombardier, you may send me your job offers now… What do you mean my lack of experience is a problem?

    Like

  32. Steve said:

    There is no link in your comment at “Here”.

    Here is a year old video of how the Google Car tracks the world around it. I forgot the close quote.

    Steve said:

    It does not deal with many of the basic issues of a “personal” vehicle as others have noted here.

    We are very perverse in driving family-sized vehicles for solitary use. Around the world, it’s not that unusual for a bicycle being a family vehicle (in Holland, I once saw a family of 5 riding a single bike). In general, we have “personal” vehicles because of four things: need, reliability, cost, and status. We all need to get to work and elsewhere. There is a perception that cars beat the TTC on reliability and beat taxis on cost. The status symbol factor will mean private vehicle ownership will never completely fade. If there was a cheap, reliable alternative to driving yourself, why would people pay $20K-$50K for a normal car plus $2-5K per year in gas, maintenance, and insurance? There will always be a need for mass transit, it’s just a matter of what the competition is.

    Steve said:

    This is a wider issue because it presumes there is always a “responsible person” who can issue such an override or assist the car in finding its way.

    I would suggest the default be any available responsible individual in the vehicle, but in cases where that is not possible (blind, drunk, child), then there are two fallback positions. First, a remote operator can tap into the car’s systems and provide the needed directions to resolve the situation. Second, if the car has left a coverage area, after an given amount of time, a physical individual would be set to the last known location, like a tow truck after a crash.

    Steve: Please. You are proposing a “solution” that does not scale to the size of the problem as a way of avoiding a technological limitation. How many children will travel to school every day in one of these vehicles? Does a drunk wait in a bar because the command centre is short staffed, or worse, cut back on staffing because they were not making enough money driving everyone’s car for them?

    Steve said:

    A camera is not an automation feature. It’s a higher tech mirror.

    I disagree in that it proves “collision detection” beyond just a picture.

    Steve said:

    The issue is not just one of response, but of what to do when a vehicle that is no longer “your” car stops working. If it can break down and stop, it can also fail in other ways that may not be as “graceful”. I return to the dual issues of reliability and responsibility.

    We already have vehicles that will break automatically if the driver doesn’t respond quickly enough. I would posit that while a “ungraceful failure” may be possible, it is still better than the current situation. We don’t complain about CO2 emissions from our streetcars due to the carbon burnt in the electricity grid, because it’s much better than the alternative. A smart-car has the potential for much better self-monitoring, from tire tread depth and surface friction to wear on the axle ball-joint. Responsibility would fall to the manufacturer and programmer for an inherent defect and the owner for negligent maintenance.

    Steve: I thought these were shared vehicles. This has nothing to do with how electricity is generated, but with systems that have to work at a high level of reliability across a very large fleet under a wide variety of conditions. The effect of a failure is very different in what would be, in effect, a fleet of transit vehicles operating at close tolerances to maximize road capacity, than for individually operated and owned vehicles.

    Steve said:

    Do we tell the folks in Scarborough they’re not getting anything because, by the time it is only a decade old or so, it will be obsolete?

    Oh, can we please? Of course, they’d then want to use the same argument for the DRL, and we’d need to get creative and talk about densities and through-put capacity.

    Steve: The arguments are being made now that transit will be obsolete and we should stop spending on it. Not my argument, but your position is right in that territory. I was using the SSE because it’s flavour of the month. We could be talking about the Dufferin bus or the King car.

    Nathanael said:

    For example, they can’t tell that a deer at the side of the road means SLOW DOWN

    I’m guessing you haven’t looked into autonomous cars in a while, because deer are a solved problem, squirrels are still an issue.

    Nathanael said:

    Not to mention the inability to spot things like bridges out, black ice, flooding in the road

    Again, all these are not large issues. The vehicles can detect all of these, and the issue right now is an overly cautious response (for example, 10cm of flooding is treated equal to 1m).

    Nathanael said:

    Why do driverless trains work? No grade crossings. Line completely cleared of obstructions before they travel.

    Actually, modern driverless trains, such as the ones London bought last year, can detect “line obstructions” and slow or stop.

    Like

  33. Giancarlo said:

    Just read (Today’s Star) about CN wanting to develop a property on Britannia Road into a yard. If the developer crowd doesn’t scuttle it maybe metrolinx could haggle some space. It wouldn’t be far from the CN/CP junction in Milton.

    The block in question is between Britannia Rd and Lower Base Line, Tremaine Rd and First Line Nassagaweya. The CN subdivision is single track and grade separated with the CP Galt subdivision. The current preferred option would be closer, cheaper, better accessed, and fully Metrolinx space.

    Giancarlo said:

    As for freight use, I was not aware that CP was sending so many freights down Canpa to CN tracks.

    They send practically zero, but they want to keep their emergency detour options open, unless they’ll make enough money to pay for the extra emergency delay by selling.

    Giancarlo said:

    If it is so busy I have to wonder why they are selling it.

    They shut it down as a cargo terminal in 2012.

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  34. Steve said:

    How many children will travel to school every day in one of these vehicles? Does a drunk wait in a bar because the command centre is short staffed, or worse, cut back on staffing because they were not making enough money driving everyone’s car for them?

    The issue of scale is a matter of the percentage of trips that require special intervention. Why would children or drunks wouldn’t need personalized care, unless the car had encountered a problem area? For children going to school, this wouldn’t be the case as it’s a routine trip. For drunks, I would prefer an autonomous car to self-service.

    Steve: It’s a routine trip to a location that is routinely unpredictable.

    Steve said:

    This has nothing to do with how electricity is generated,

    My point about CO2 and electricity is that there are definitely areas of drawbacks and problems, it’s a question if they are insurmountable or cause an overall negative effect.

    Steve said:

    but with systems that have to work at a high level of reliability across a very large fleet under a wide variety of conditions. The effect of a failure is very different in what would be, in effect, a fleet of transit vehicles operating at close tolerances to maximize road capacity, than for individually operated and owned vehicles.

    I disagree here. Any widespread system (such as inter-car data sharing) would be on top of individual vehicle decisions. While physically tolerances would be smaller, the actual factor of safety would be higher due to removing the human limiting factor of our technology. For example, braking distance is dominated by the actual time to stop a car plus response time. How many accidents on the 401 are made worse by people tailgating?

    Steve said:

    The arguments are being made now that transit will be obsolete and we should stop spending on it. Not my argument, but your position is right in that territory.

    Transit will never be obsolete, but it’s delivery will definitely change. For example, we have a very small share of mixed private-public vehicle use for journeys due to the time and cost of transferring as well as convenience. If Benny’s “last mile” model were to become popular, maybe more people would drive to their nearest mass-transit locale and take the LRT or subway to work because they don’t have to pay for parking. In the end, it’s just a possibility to keep in the back on the mind rather than determining today’s policy (beyond investment in R&D).

    Steve: Please consider this discussion closed. We can keep making example and counter-example forever.

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  35. Giancarlo wrote:

    As for freight use, I was not aware that CP was sending so many freights down Canpa to CN tracks. I think there’s enough land to keep a mainline for this purpose and put in new TTC gauge yard tracks. From the looks of the latest google satellite image the yard is much bigger than a siding and the yard tracks are actually quite full. (If it is so busy I have to wonder why they are selling it.) The big cost would be a tunnel to avoid a level crossing near Kipling.

    You have to be careful when looking at the satellite images; they can be (and frequently are) several years out of date, but they will always claim a current-year copyright.

    Looking at the images along the length of the Canpa sub, I notice it still shows the old Sico plant at the south end (making the map at least 3 years old), and there’s a missing condo tower north of Kipling station (ditto).

    It also still shows 2 tracks from the Canpa sub merging onto tracks 1 and 2 of the CN Oakville sub (now owned by Metrolinx in this area, IIRC), but that has been reduced to a single track merging onto track 1 for a while now. (More support for the claim that they’re not actively using the Canpa sub anymore.)

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  36. I’ve worked on autonomous vehicles and modelling over the last two decades. Most discussions (like this one) assume an increase in passenger throughput. In Steve’s case, a ‘one time increase’. However, most sophisticated holistic modelling postulates that AVs will *reduce* passenger throughput, increasing demand for denser forms of ‘traditional’ higher order public transit.

    Why? Deadheading and induced demand, mostly.

    Consider:
    – many more trips will be made with no passengers at all
    – the lower cost of operation (more cost efficient driving, plus no driver), will induce enough zero-passenger ‘freight’ trips to multiply demand by several times. No large urban areas have the road capacity to meet this demand, even taking into account more efficient use of roads by AVs.
    – private AVs will be routinely sent on trips requiring deadheading
    – where parking rates are higher than the cost of hourly operation, which is most urban areas, there is incentive to simply have cars repeatedly circle the block. The roads themselves will become our new moving parking lots.

    Some of these issues are mitigated by widespread sharing, but most models find this dominating in few cultures. Sharing is not expected to dominate in places with large rural areas or that exhibit high rates of home and/or auto ownership. Canada is one of the least likeliest locales to abandon private ownership among all but the poorest echelons. In any case, the effects of sharing are also not enough to counteract the effects of induced demand.

    The future of the urban landscape, unfortunately, may be to have roads mostly filled with empty robots, moving slowly in far worse congestion than any seen today. For this reason, higher-order transit is likely to become even more vital to the life of cities.

    Transit planning should most definitely not be hindered or even affected by the introduction of autonomous vehicles for many decades.

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  37. Regarding the ATC issues with the T1’s on the Yonge line, what’s your take on the news that the TTC is going to switch the Sheppard line to Rockets before the end of the decade? Would it be best to spend the money to develop a four car set or bite the bullet and modify the line for six car operations now for the sake of simplicity?

    Steve: I will be commenting on this when I write up the reports for the March 26 board meeting. What you are asking is not as simple as it may sound, nor as cheap. A shorter TR train is mainly a software change. Longer stations involve some non-trivial construction to remove temporary end walls and finish the remaining 1/3 of each station.

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  38. Steve said:

    “I will be commenting on this when I write up the reports for the March 26 board meeting. What you are asking is not as simple as it may sound, nor as cheap. A shorter TR train is mainly a software change. Longer stations involve some non-trivial construction to remove temporary end walls and finish the remaining 1/3 of each station.”

    Well, by simple, I was referring to the idea of having common equipment with the YUS line and the chance to test out the proposed one man crew trial that’s part of the conversion on full length Rockets before rolling it out on the other two lines.

    Steve: Sheppard will not be a good test of one man crews because it operates much more reliably with short trips and fairly generous terminal times. A big issue with one man crews is that the current practice of swapping trains in the middle of a route will require the drivers of each train to walk an entire train length just to trade trains rather than walking across the platform at a centre-platform station. Short turns will take a bit more to execute than they do today.

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  39. Steve said: “Sheppard will not be a good test of one man crews because it operates much more reliably with short trips and fairly generous terminal times. A big issue with one man crews is that the current practice of swapping trains in the middle of a route will require the drivers of each train to walk an entire train length just to trade trains rather than walking across the platform at a centre-platform station. Short turns will take a bit more to execute than they do today.”

    Well, from my interpretation, it’s more of a “can it work at all?” trial on Sheppard. As a result, I’m just wondering if going for broke and trying it on six car trains would be the best way to see if it might work on the entire subway network.

    Steve: The TTC won’t be running 6-car trains on Sheppard for years, if ever. There is a basic problem of overhang at stations with the extra unfinished portion of the stations not being consistently at the same end of the train. If the TTC wanted to test one man crews on Sheppard or any other line, they could do this today. An artificial linkage is being set up between train length, signal systems and crewing practices.

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  40. Nick L. | March 21, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    “Regarding the ATC issues with the T1’s on the Yonge line, what’s your take on the news that the TTC is going to switch the Sheppard line to Rockets before the end of the decade? Would it be best to spend the money to develop a four car set or bite the bullet and modify the line for six car operations now for the sake of simplicity?”

    The TRs do have 6 cars that can be uncoupled, though it is not a simple procedure. If I recall the configuration correctly if you want to run a 4 car train then you only need to couple 2 A or cab cars and 2 B or motorized trailers with air compressors. The six car trains have an additional B car and a C car which is like a B car but no compressor. Bombardier’s “Movia” platform is capable of running in various configurations from 4 to 8 cars.

    The A cars have only 1 powered truck while the B and C cars have 2 powered trucks. The Yonge trains have 10 of 12 trucks powered while the Sheppard would have only 6 of 8. Since most modern equipment with AC motors only powers every second truck this should not be a problem on Sheppard. The TTC has more trucks powered because of the need to push a dead train up the hills on line 1. They would need 6 trains for the line because it needs 4 for service, 1 as a hot spare and 1 for maintenance. It would not be feasible to use a 6 car train on Sheppard as a spare because removing 2 cars is not a quick operation.

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