Thoughts On A Liberal Government

This blog has been churning along since January 2006, and for almost all of that time, Stephen Harper and his Conservatives have been running Canada. The idea that Ottawa would have a significant role in transit beyond the occasional showcase project simply was not part of the landscape.

Now, to everyone’s amazement, we have a Liberal majority government, one whose campaign platform includes a very substantial presence in infrastructure spending including the public transit portfolio.

We will get our communities moving again, by giving our provinces, territories, and municipalities the long-term, predictable federal funding they need to make transit plans a reality.

Over the next decade, we will quadruple federal investment in public transit, investing almost $20 billion more in transit infrastructure. [Liberal platform p 12]

That is a lot of new spending, but is has to stretch over the entire country and the next ten years. Advocates of many schemes will project their enthusiasm onto that pot of money saying “Look! We have funding”, but it’s not that simple.

It is instructive to look at how funding is divided up today. The federal gas tax allocations for 2014-15 totalled $2-billion of which $750-million went to Ontario, and of that about 20%, $150-million, to the City of Toronto for transit capital spending. On a proportionate basis, this would yield only $1.5-billion “more” funding over the next decade. This has to be read in the context of targeted funding for specific projects such as the Spadina subway extension that lies outside of the gas tax stream. If all of the new Liberal funding comes from that $20b pot, the actual change, all things considered, may not be as generous as expected.

Other funding lines in the Liberal platform focus on housing and non-transit infrastructure. These are not to be ignored especially to the extent that they relieve municipal governments of spending where they have carried a substantial share of the programs. However, if total spending goes up, Toronto may be forced to bump its investment level in transit and other portfolios because “we don’t have a funding partner” will no longer be a convenient excuse for inaction.

Whatever money does appear on the table, it will not be enough to build every single pet project, and Toronto cannot evade hard decisions about priorities claiming that the Feds will shell out for everything. There is also the delicate question of how much new matching funding will arrive from Queen’s Park Liberals who do not share the deficit spending plans espoused by their federal cousins.

Capital projects, especially on the scale of transit infrastructure, require a long view. Projects may be “shovel ready” in some cities, although Toronto has little in that status thanks to years of dithering and backtracking on transit priorities. Major proposals would do well to reach significant construction spending within the current federal mandate or even well into whatever follows. Toronto may build a bus garage here or renovate a subway station there in the short-to-medium term, but the big projects are years away.

This brings us to the rationale for new spending. If the idea is to stimulate the economy and create employment in the short term, a clear focus of Conservative programs, then long term project funding is doomed. Conversely, if the aim is to invest in the future of Toronto, the GTHA and cities in general, a longer view is possible at the expense of big, immediately visible results and ribbon cutting.

Inevitably, the conflict will be between one shot announcements and “long-term predictable funding”. These address very different political goals and produce very different outcomes. Without a shift away from unpredictable ad hoc decisions (the Scarborough Subway and SmartTrack promises are two examples), local pols will continue to jockey for yet more isolated planning to suit quick political ends, rather than looking at broad-scale goals and benefits. Long-term funding only works with long-term planning.

Absent from any federal platforms was new federal money for transit operating costs. These will grow through the combined pressures of inflation, population growth, shifts from auto to transit and eventually the need to operate all of the new buses, LRVs and subway trains that might arrive thanks to higher capital spending. Operating subsidies, service quality and fare strategies will challenge municipal budgets, and the long-standing question of provincial funding, of getting back to the “Davis formula”, cannot be ignored.

There is a new government, a new outlook on national priorities, and the debate on our transit future begins today. We all want more transit, but nothing is free, and even the “new” money has its limitations. Let us spend it wisely.

73 thoughts on “Thoughts On A Liberal Government

  1. Steve said:

    “The federal gas tax allocations for 2014-15 totalled $2-billion of which $750-million went to Ontario, and of that about 20%, $150-million, to the City of Toronto for transit capital spending. On a proportionate basis, this would yield only $1.5-billion “more” funding over the next decade. This has to be read in the context of targeted funding for specific projects such as the Spadina subway extension that lies outside of the gas tax stream. If all of the new Liberal funding comes from that $20b pot, the actual change, all things considered, may not be as generous as expected.”

    The question becomes – are the governments going to do the right thing from an economic policy perspective or focus on spreading the money across the country? If the planning is done on the basis of likely impact on local and national economies in the longer term – (removing bottlenecks, and permitting continued growth) Toronto represents are far higher priority both provincially and nationally. I believe Montreal, does not currently have the level of pressing needs Toronto does, Calgary is basically finishing a project that will expand the capacity of the C-Train by 30%, Edmonton, has some meaningful needs but not massive, Vancouver, still has some expansion requirements, Ottawa, already has the project that will transform local transit funded and underway – what would amount to the equivalent for them of a DRL and then some, as does Kitchener/Waterloo.

    If it were done on an impact on economic outcome, and the removal of bottlenecks, I would argue that Toronto and the GTA would get about 30-40% of that pot. The impact of 7-8 billion in the GTA could be transformational, if applied properly and reasonably matched. I think in terms of federal money – 3 billion to a long DRL, 2-3 billion to support beyond Toronto borders rapid transit tying to Toronto’s and GO transit, and 2-3 billion for the development of LRT lines within Toronto, tying the region together, both by supporting GO and providing access to regional agencies, and of course better service within the city.

    Toronto, has long acted as a much larger source of taxation than spending both provincially and nationally, and is in dire need of some substantial re-investment. The Province will need to step up as well the regions municipal governments, and focus the federal money on major infrastructure projects, not just displacing funding that they would have used for replacing vehicles etc. I would note in saying this, I am not a resident of Toronto – and am not planning to be in the near future, but rather a taxpayer in the balance of Ontario, that believes it is critical to keep the goose laying those golden eggs – for the prosperity of the province and nation.

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  2. nice comment sir

    I never really thought of the ‘whole’ country before but it was brought home last night when I heard commentators from B.C. say they are looking forward to the Lib promise of lots of new LRT’s and stable transit money, so you are right, when you start piecing the money out across the entire country , it is not nearly as big for Toronto. Do you think JT would ever increase the gas tax allocation?

    Steve: Maybe, but not right away as gas tax would be seen as more regressive than higher taxes on high earners and closing tax loopholes.

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  3. Steve said:

    There is also the delicate question of how much new matching funding will arrive from Queen’s Park Liberals who do not share the deficit spending plans espoused by their federal cousins.

    The ‘cousins’ in the case of Trudeau’s campaign team have often been the very same people. Also, the Liberals at Queen’s Park are running dual deficits. They have no credible plans to end the much-publicized operating deficit, and no intention at all of ending the almost-never-discussed capital deficits, much of which is spent on transit.

    And it is precisely because of those large deficits that it is difficult to imagine Queen’s Park offering to match any new federal funds. Especially if they are to get roped into new spending on other federal initiatives, like daycare.

    It’s a shame really. The federal gov’t is the one furthest from local planning, and the least well equipped to select or direct local projects. Most local transit falls outside of its bailiwick. Yet it is the only level of gov’t likely to arrive with new funds for quite some time.

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  4. Steve, can you comment on how much more transit funding this will be above the already announced funding (beyond gas taxes) by the outgoing government? How much is actual net new money?

    Steve: According to the quote which I cited from the Liberal platform, there is $20b in new money spread over ten years. More lies in other areas such as infrastructure generically. It’s hard to know how much of the “old” government’s announcements were real or were “new money” because they would tend to mix and match announcements of new programs, and then “commitments” that drew on those leaving the cupboard bare.

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  5. In 2011, the Conservatives won a majority with only 39.62% of the votes cast. There were more people against the Conservatives than for them.

    In 2015, the Liberals won a majority with 54.4% of the votes cast. It is a true majority of over 50% plus one. There are more people for the Liberals than against them.

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  6. The $20 billion earmarked for infrastructure as you point out is for the entire country. To make matters worse, it’s spread over a 10 year period. That’s not a lot of funding for a country with the creaking infrastructure that Canada has. $2 billion could easily be spent in the GTA and given the way governments spend money it would make hardly a dent.

    Furthermore, this is a campaign promise which may or may not materialize when the Liberals are in power. Ten years is a long time.

    In my view, the impact will not be noticeable. If it actually ever happens at all.

    I have been both to Taiwan and Japan. Two countries that take public transit very seriously. When you see their systems in operation, buses, rail and subway, you begin to wonder which is the developed country and which is the less developed country. Sure, they have the population density to support the system. But they also have the political will to undertake these large infrastructure projects. We, in my opinion, don’t. Like the Americans, we are committed to the automobile and that will likely not change materially in the foreseeable future. Notwithstanding all the “lip service” to the contrary.

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  7. “In 2015, the Liberals won a majority with 54.4% of the votes cast. It is a true majority of over 50% plus one. There are more people for the Liberals than against them.”

    CBC has them at 39.5% of the vote, 0.1% less than the conservatives last time. Do you know something CBC doesn’t?

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  8. Re WK LIs note that the Libs got 54.4%, a clear majority, The Libs only got 39.5% of the country’s votes, according to the National Post.

    Liberal majority
    Elected: 184
    39.5%
    Votes: 6,928,096

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  9. You know what this really means, though: your own personal fleet of Swan Boats to use where you feel needed. Perhaps a better alternative to SmartTrack.

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  10. John F Bromley said:

    Re WK LIs note that the Libs got 54.4%, a clear majority, The Libs only got 39.5% of the country’s votes, according to the National Post.

    The Liberals got 54.4% of the vote in the 4 Atlantic provinces, I believe. The 39.5% was their national vote share.

    Steve said:

    Maybe, but not right away as gas tax would be seen as more regressive than higher taxes on high earners and closing tax loopholes.

    I would think the cupboard is pretty bare on taxing higher income earners, especially in Ontario. Between Wynne and Trudeau, they’ve recently issued or promised a 7% increase in the top income bracket, from 46.5 to 53.5%. The new CCB clawback will add 16% for low-income parents and 8% for parents with incomes over $65K, so that parents in the highest bracket face a marginal tax rate of 61.5%.

    That’s up to a 15% rise in marginal tax rates from tax year 2013 to 2016. It’s hard to believe that voters will take much more of this.

    That would leave closing ‘loopholes’, aka eliminating tax expenditures, or more likely, introducing new forms of taxation e.g. carbon taxes. Which are a lot like fuel taxes, and tend to be regressive.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. TTCRiders TIMELY plea to de-rail the SSE:

    Scarborough needs a Rapid Transit Network.

    We’ve been hearing a lot about Smart Track and the Scarborough Subway Extension. Both lines are focussed on getting riders downtown, meanwhile Scarborough’s outer neighbourhoods, college and university campuses are being left behind. A rapid transit network including the Scarborough, Sheppard and Malvern LRTs is still the best plan for transit riders in Scarborough.

    Sign our petition

    The Scarborough, Sheppard and Malvern LRTs would bring more jobs, redevelopment, walkability and connectivity to more residents in Scarborough. With an LRT network they won’t have to own a car to get around their community or commute downtown to get to work. An LRT network is a much more effective way to reduce traffic congestion and bring economic renewal to our outer neighbourhoods.

    Read our position statement.

    Join TTCriders canvass for a Rapid Transit Network for Scarborough at U of T Scarborough campus on Tuesday, October 27, from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. We’ll provide the postcards, directions and a fact sheet. Contact Brenda at scarboroughtransitaction@gmail.com

    Read TTCrider Shaun Cleaver’s blog: An LRT Network best way to get Scarborough moving.

    Brenda Thompson – TTCriders

    Joe M says:

    First of all BS.
    1. The SMLRT was & is not funded.
    2. SSE integrates far better than the SLRT
    3. The SSE funding has nothing to do with the Sheppard LRT
    4. This is a timely Political ditch in an ongoing effort to take money to fund the DRL by sending false hope to Scarborough’s “priority neighborhood’s” by talking about a network that not only integrates poorly with the rest of Toronto but was not even on Metrolinx radar to build in the next 200 years.

    Just build the subway and keep the outside agenda & transfer City out of Scarborough.

    I really hope Trudeau funds the DRL so these outside transit trolls disappear. There’s enough mess with Tory and Smarttrack. Let’s just move forward.

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  12. “The SMLRT was & is not funded.”

    It’s funded if we take the Scarborough Subway money and apply it to LRT in Scarborough.

    “transfer City”

    Using this term marks a person as profoundly unserious. You might as well claim that the RT replacement will impede traffic.

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  13. Isaac Morland said:

    “It’s funded if we take the Scarborough Subway money and apply it to LRT in Scarborough.”

    Yes, equally amusing is the claims that Sheppard funding has nothing to do with the funding for other projects. All the money comes from the same limited funding pots, building high cost, low coverage mega projects, perforce means there is less money for other projects.

    This is also true in operations, if we overbuild to make people going to the core happy here, we are in effect stealing from services that would be more local. Since we should be trying to move more people to transit and create a better local environment, that means serving more local trips as well – not just focusing on those who happen to be core bound. Toronto needs to start building a much broader and more destination neutral system if it is to start to address the needs of more potential riders – and turn more potential riders into actual riders.

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  14. Malcolm N says:

    “Toronto needs to start building a much broader and more destination neutral system if it is to start to address the needs of more potential riders – and turn more potential riders into actual riders.”

    While turning potential rides into actual ones is a good long-term goal, it is surely more important to serve existing customers – many of whom are waiting at a stop or a station but who cannot squeeze into a bus or a streetcar or who are subject to the current very poor headway management and general unreliability.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. @wklis,
    I’m a Liberal supporter, but I’m sad to report they only had 39.47% of the popular vote, slightly less than Harper in 2011.

    @Jake,
    Political will generally boils down to popular support. There is little support in Canada for higher taxes to support higher public spending.

    @Ross Trusler,
    Until 1963, the US had a top tax rate of 91%. Median household income is 77K, so top income rates will only ever be a small minority of voters. Plus, we can raise taxes for 3 years before dropping them once in 2019 election year.

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  16. Anyone who thinks the Feds could ever consider being seen giving Toronto a disproportionate share of the infrastructure investments should watch Albert Nerenberg’s very funny semi-documentary Let’s all hate Toronto It follows a character going across Canada, and trying to organize “Toronto Appreciation Days” in other cities. He goes on local morning shows, he hands out tickets on main streets, oblivious to the howls of abuse the idea of showing appreciation to Toronto triggers.

    I don’t see any way Toronto could ever get a disproportionate share of infrastructure funding.

    Transit is not the only infrastructure they want to repair.

    The public gave the Liberals a mandate for three modest deficits, to rebuild infrastructure. Some of us may think that our infrastructure is so battered that even a decade of substantial investments would pay off, in the long run.

    But most of the public would never agree to a larger deficit.

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  17. Is now a good time to raise gas tax? Has not been changed in many years. Gas prices are so low a 10 cent per litre raise would not hurt. People would still be saving lots. However, it MUST be dedicated to transit. This in turn will ease road congestion.

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  18. DavidC said:

    “While turning potential rides into actual ones is a good long-term goal, it is surely more important to serve existing customers – many of whom are waiting at a stop or a station but who cannot squeeze into a bus or a streetcar or who are subject to the current very poor headway management and general unreliability.”

    I agree, however, building a subway extension on a subway that has no capacity downstream is a waste. I agree with a DRL for capacity, but beyond this, LRT to serve more local demand provides both a huge capacity boost, and a great deal more destination neutrality that subway extensions.

    Note my comment is based on Isaac’s comment with regards to funding availability and an SSE extension.

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  19. “The SMLRT was & is not funded.”

    Isaac Morland Said: It’s funded if we take the Scarborough Subway money and apply it to LRT in Scarborough.

    Joe M: Possible but that’s a big hurdle and further unguaranteed delays. Lets just move on. The SSE is much better than the SLRT.

    “transfer City”

    Isaac Morland Said: Using this term marks a person as profoundly unserious. You might as well claim that the RT replacement will impede traffic.

    Joe M: Not even sure what your wise crack means… But calling it “Transfer City” is completely serious and legitimate.

    Unless the Sheppard subway stub is converted to the same LRT technology then we have issues. We’ve basically created an underground subway stub for the Wealthy to be treated as 1st class transit riders and yet people think it acceptable that Scarborough can connect to this line in the same direction? For those riders from Vic park to Kennedy the unnecessary transfer is an absolute joke.

    For the SLRT… the transfer at Kennedy would be OK if there was a FAIR complete local loop around Scarborough. Hacking in an LRT network which integrates horribly with the current infrastructure is absurd. Won’t even get into the current RT route that is another blunder. At least the SLRT would extend out a couple useful stops further. That’s the only good.

    Scarborough has had enough back and forth politicking as this massive area of TORONTO is treated as black and white, LRT vs subway, local network vs fair access to the main transit artery, … etc instead of looking at the full picture. We can build BRT/LRT around the perimeter in generations to come but this is the only opportunity to connect the heart of Scarborough fairly to the CITY. This area is so poorly neglected they are forced to choose between crappy “half baked” plans.

    Since the ridiculous Sheppard LRT design is still funded we could even start on the local network along side the subway, although it’s quite the head scratcher of a transit design at least there would be only one poorly designed line instead of 2. But I’m sure somehow that funding will be hijacked & justified as Scarborough wanted a subway instead of LRT even though that line had nothing to do with the subway extension.

    Let’s move on. The subway extension isn’t perfect but it solves one of the 2 needs of the area. The local network is much easier to build in the future. Also if it’s going to be built with such a poor design & lack of respect it’s better we go back to the drawing board on it.

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  20. @Joe M,
    The transfer from Sheppard Subway to Sheppard LRT is necessary for our pocketbooks. I’m someone that would make this transfer regularly, but prefer we don’t spend $1B more on fixing the mistake of building Sheppard as a subway in the first place.

    The local network is much harder to build in the future slaved to paying off another stubway.

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  21. Congratulations to Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party for their upset win in the federal election. This is a huge change in the governing system, and, to me, at least, the news has not quite sunk in. The implications are tremendous.

    This is now the honeymoon period, when everyone’s expectations are raised and none have been inevitably dashed.

    In the City of Toronto and the surrounding suburban area (Greater Toronto Area), which overwhelmingly elected Liberal members of parliament, the expectations are particularly high. There are dozens of worthwhile projects requiring federal largesse in the form of infrastructure investment. Trudeau was elected not bound by having to balance the budget. [John Lorinc, Spacing Toronto – Trudeau and Canada’s Next Urban Agenda] – quoting Kevin Lynch, a former deputy minister of finance and later clerk of the Privy Council during the Chretien/Martin era, wrote in the August 25, 2015 issue of The Globe and Mail:

    “One obvious fiscal measure…would be a longer term program of strategic infrastructure investment by the federal government, with transparent criteria to distinguish economically strategic investments from politically opportune spending. Borrowing at low interest rates makes such investments attractive now.”

    In Toronto, the Scarborough Subway extension has been promised $660 million, and SmartTrack $2.6 billion by the federal government and the Liberal Party. These promises appear to be on the table as of today. Furthermore, there is promised a share of a larger infrastructure pie.

    The trouble with these promises is, is that they are scattered efforts, a little bit here, a little bit there, but no direct aim at urban transit problems.

    The above-mentioned two Toronto transit projects are incremental extensions of existing service. What these projects do is alleviate, albeit poorly, the problem of the Yonge subway line reaching its capacity.

    The one project that directly and most decidedly addresses the Yonge line’s capacity problem is the Relief Line subway project.

    One by one, the planners and consultants are coming to the realisation that the Relief Line is urgently needed to be started on asap. There are many yet with blinders on, with pet projects elsewhere.

    Let’s say the Relief Line will cost $8 billion in current dollars for the full distance downtown to Sheppard Avenue. This amount is too much for both the municipality and the provincial government to fund at this time, hence hesitation. However, if the federal government were to step in and say, “we will cover $8 billion for the Relief Line project”, any further amounts to be paid provincially and/or locally, this project will have the green light. Of course, the $8 billion will be spent over nearly a decade, not all at once.

    The Relief Line project is unique in that:

    – it is a very large infrastructure project
    – it is crucial to the economic well-being of Canada’s largest city
    – lower levels of government have limited ability to fund
    – it needs to be urgently started, taking into account that building will take a decade
    – it is “Big Bang”, not merely “bang for the buck”

    This is in no way meant to pooh-pooh other capital projects. Toronto’s public housing has a $1 billion backlog in repairs and new building. Cities from St. John’s to Victoria to Whitehorse have infrastructure needs, too.

    However, this one project is mega-sized, and ought to be particularly looked at. My opinion.

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  22. Articdriver said:

    ”I don’t see any way Toronto could ever get a disproportionate share of infrastructure funding.”

    The issue is – how is the $20 billion in transit infrastructure going to be divided up. If you base it on only large cities, and the add the component of growth in the last decade, as a factor, then Toronto is in the way of a much larger portion of the pie. The GTA is really the only region in Ontario with massive – unfunded project needs, which is what the federal government is supposedly looking at – and Ontario is nearly 40% by pop of Canada. There are few places in Ontario that have substantial need remaining. Ottawa, Kitchener/Waterloo, have already funded their mega projects. London and Windsor are not in real need, Guelph, Kingston, Sarnia … are not really in a position to have substantial projects.

    At the least Toronto, has projects that were already scoped out at greater length and then reduced for funding reasons – Crosstown to the airport and Finch West LRT to the Yonge line. To get this sort of thing moving, and create the impression of movement, these are from a political perspective, easy moves.

    Then when you look on a national basis – Vancouver also substantial need, and a mess to deal with, Montreal has a light rail project – to serve the west end required, but well, in scope of dollars it is not that large (~2 billion I gather). Less politically favorable Calgary – has need of another LRT line in its long term future, but the problem in Calgary pales by comparison to the one in Toronto, and everybody knows it, given the city just increased LRT capacity by 30%. I would hope that the new Government will work to balance things – by spending money out of different pots according to need, and be clear about this, so everybody gets what they think they need – and is happy about it, not getting balance within every pot of money – which is ridiculous.

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  23. Mapleson Said:

    The local network is much harder to build in the future slaved to paying off another stubway.

    A subway extension is far from a stubway. Sheppard east is a stubway. No comparison & the hate the SSE receives is ridiculous.

    The Sheppard LRT extension is also still funded & your wish should come true as it has very LITTLE to do with the SSE being built.

    I personally am OK with Sheppard LRT if Scarborough receive the subway extension. It’ll be proof we are headed for a local network in the future while still putting the heart of Scarborough on Toronto’s MAIN transit artery. Instead of trying to segregate us with patch lines and transfers which will not only unnecessarily inconvenience many riders in Scarborough it will certainly put the stamp to deter anyone from the west to ever travel this way. Scarborough has enough problem with untrue perceptions and attracting business.

    Although benefits from the LRT will be seen… Any form of City segregation will not help and should not be the footprint we build.

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  24. Joe M. wrote:

    A subway extension is far from a stubway. Sheppard east is a stubway. No comparison & the hate the SSE receives is ridiculous.

    Joe, the Sheppard Subway is about the same length as the very first leg of the Yonge Subway, completed in 1954. That first leg was a success, right from day one, because it was built serving part of the densest parts of Toronto. Hasn’t it been suggested to you, before, that the Sheppard Subway was an expensive failure, and the Scarborough Subway Extension will be the same kind of expensive failure, because they weren’t built in a part of Toronto dense enough to justify a high capacity heavy rail service?

    Could you explain what you mean by:

    * “SSE integrates far better than the SLRT”?
    * “The SSE is much better than the SLRT”?

    Joe M wrote:

    Unless the Sheppard subway stub is converted to the same LRT technology then we have issues.

    I asked about converting the current Sheppard line to LRT last May, so a longer Sheppard line could be entirely LRT all the way. Steve replied

    “We have been through this many times, and it’s a non starter. The Flexities won’t fit in the box sections of the tunnel, and major changes would be needed at stations.”

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  25. I asked about converting the current Sheppard line to LRT last May, so a longer Sheppard line could be entirely LRT all the way. Steve replied

    “We have been through this many times, and it’s a non starter. The Flexities won’t fit in the box sections of the tunnel, and major changes would be needed at stations.”

    Then put the North York section above ground just like SCARBOROUGH. There’s no excuse for building different classes of transit in this City not matter what the circumstance. You guys expect Scarborough to just turn a blind eye to what has gone in the rest of the City. This is nonsense and terrible transit building on all levels.

    Steve: And so in order to get rid of the transfer at Don Mills, which will be much, much simpler than the existing bus transfer there or the RT/subway transfer at Kennedy, you would replace an existing subway line with a surface LRT line? This is utter madness.

    Also on you question of how the SSE integrates better… Should be self explanatory but since you asked the no transfer with the City’s main artery is a huge benefit in terms of equality, convince, and attractiveness. The route to STC provides better coverage than the current RT route. The only benefit of the SLRT is the stop on Progress and the Markham Sheppard area.

    Steve: There is also the small matter of cost. If you want to talk about equity, let’s start talking about all he things that won’t be built elsewhere in the city because every penny we have will go to building a subway for Scarborough.

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  26. Steve:

    And so in order to get rid of the transfer at Don Mills, which will be much, much simpler than the existing bus transfer there or the RT/subway transfer at Kennedy, you would replace an existing subway line with a surface LRT line? This is utter madness.

    Joe M:

    No the madness was already created by putting a subway stub and now trying to connect a different technology in the same direction.

    Madness is class & Politcal warfare in this City,

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  27. Steve:

    “We have been through this many times, and it’s a non starter. The Flexities won’t fit in the box sections of the tunnel, and major changes would be needed at stations.”

    And we shouldn’t have been ordering Flexities for these lines in the first place. Design & procure the technology that integrates seamlessly, efficiently & in a fair manner. If that was done initially there would have been minimal debate on the Sheppard line.

    Now we are all paying for this poor design. The argument of subway vs. LRT is ridiculous for this line & it avoids dealing with the root cause of the problem.

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  28. “the hate the SSE receives is ridiculous.”

    Ask yourself a simple question: would you accept cuts to the feeder bus network to offset the operating loss of the SSE even if the metrics used to determine the cuts are fair and reasonable but results in Scarborough being hit much harder than the rest of the city?

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  29. Nick L. Said:

    “the hate the SSE receives is ridiculous.”

    Ask yourself a simple question: would you accept cuts to the feeder bus network to offset the operating loss of the SSE even if the metrics used to determine the cuts are fair and reasonable but results in Scarborough being hit much harder than the rest of the city?

    Feel free to ask a simple question. Once you explain to me or define what is considered to be paying “fair share” operating costs historically from others areas and stop locations maybe we could start at that point.

    This is not the absurd Sheppard line. It’s an extension which will have stops located in areas which will already have solid ridership.

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  30. Steve wrote:
    “We have been through this many times, and it’s a non starter. The Flexities won’t fit in the box sections of the tunnel, and major changes would be needed at stations.”

    Joe M. wrote:

    Then put the North York section above ground just like SCARBOROUGH. There’s no excuse for building different classes of transit in this City not matter what the circumstance. You guys expect Scarborough to just turn a blind eye to what has gone in the rest of the City. This is nonsense and terrible transit building on all levels.

    When you wrote: You guys expect Scarborough to just turn a blind eye to what has gone in the rest of the City — did you mean that Mel Lastman somehow got North York a third subway, when it already had two? Did you mean that part of the Eglinton Crosstown will be buried, just like a subway?

    On the day MetroLinx placed the first TBM at Black Creek Drive I took an excursion across Eglinton, planning to travel from Mount Dennis to Kennedy, stopping to take “before” pictures at the site of every future stop. I ran out of batteries, and had to return a second day, to capture pics on the Yonge to Kennedy leg.

    Anyhow, if you ride that Eglinton bus, as I did, you will see for yourself that there just isn’t room to run the LRT at street level on the section planning staff recommended should be buried. And you will see the portion where they recommend surface running is where the streetscape has opened up. Eglinton has more lanes, and is lined by strip malls, regular malls, or landscaping surrounding industrial parks. In this section, where there is enough room for surface running, tunneling would be a waste of money.

    I plan to take a day, each, and go ride the Finch West and Sheppard East buses, and take a “before” picture at each future stop on those routes.

    Joe M., I was going to start off telling you about my photo excursion, and the information it confirmed for me, using the phrase “trust me”. But you are a determined person, with strongly held views, so I don’t actually want you to trust me. Rather, I would prefer you to, and ride the Eglinton bus yourself. Ride it yourself. Please.

    I’ve lived in Scarborough. I know very little of it has the density to justify heavy rail. I know that most of the arterial roads are broad, with plenty of room for surface running LRT.

    Yes, I understand many proponents of the SSE think that Scarborough will be shortchanged if an extra two or three billion dollars isn’t spent tunneling the Bloor-Danforth line to Sheppard. Because of this promise I think we should consider moving up the schedule on an additional LRT in Scarborough. So, even though $4 billion isn’t spent on the SSE, $1.7 will be spent on extending the Eglinton Crosstown to Sheppard, and another $2 billion on building the Sheppard LRT, or the Malvern LRT. Scarborough riders would get the same amount spent, and get several times the benefit of the SSE, because they would get several times as many kilometers of beautiful, fast, comfortable rapid transit.

    With regard to the great waste the Sheppard Subway, I don’t think anyone here will defend that waste of funds. But note, Politicians forced it to be a subway, not an LRT. The 1975 Metroplan report had recommended that it should be an LRT. Please note the similarity to the SSE. Planners recommended an LRT there too, only to be over-ridden by short-sighted politicians.

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  31. And we shouldn’t have been ordering Flexities for these lines in the first place. Design & procure the technology that integrates seamlessly, efficiently & in a fair manner. If that was done initially there would have been minimal debate on the Sheppard line.

    We all support the general principle of “fairness”. It is not obvious to me how the design of the Flexity vehicles, of the layout of the LRT routes and stations, suffer from a lack of fairness.

    With regard to seamlessness and efficiency — there is a joke engineers, and other technology types make. They will name three qualities they are being asked for, like cost, speed, and reliability, and then they will say “now pick two”. Compromises have to be made, often for reasons that boil down to cost.

    Take Yonge-Bloor station. It is a bottleneck. The trains have to dwell in the station a long time, during rush hour, because so many people want to get on, and get off. It puts a limit on the entire YUS line. If money was absolutely not a factor Yonge-Bloor could be rebuilt. If the stations were rebuilt, and the platforms could be relocated, so riders could get on and get off using the doors on both side of the train, at the same time, riders could get on and off more quickly. But the rebuild might require expropriating much of the HBC. New tunnels would have to be carved, and that might require expropriating the basements of other building, and maybe moving sewers lines, electrical tunnels, and the other things we bury. It might cost a billion dollars, or more.

    I’d say, when rebuilding Yonge-Bloor station costs a substantial fraction of building the DRL, you build the DRL instead, and live with some seamfulness. It is the same with our debate over a short SSE and a much longer network of LRT, that serves more people, and to which more people are within walking distance. The genuine greater utility of the longer LRT network justifies some seams, like the transfer point where the Sheppard subway ends and the Sheppard LRT begins.

    Mind you, if I were designing any brand new underground lines, I would try to anticipate whether stations that were on multiple lines would have the same problem as Bloor-Yonge — heavily crowded vehicles arriving, where half the riders want to change trains.

    Those stations could be built extra large, providing platforms on either side of each train, for quicker loading and unloading. Alternatively each time two lines cross, design them so they run parallel to one another, so the two lines share two or more stations. For years I have looked at transit systems in other cities, where multiple line have parallel sections, for many stations. It never occurred to me that since those parallel sections provide many stations where a rider can switch lines, they aren’t as likely to have bottlenecks like Bloor-Yonge station. Mind you, I think on some of those systems, when two lines go parallel, they share the same track for the parallel sections.

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  32. Articdriver said:

    “We all support the general principle of “fairness”. It is not obvious to me how the design of the Flexity vehicles, of the layout of the LRT routes and stations, suffer from a lack of fairness.”

    Yes, I think we all support “fairness” as a general principal, but we need to be careful in its application. Fairness – needs to be looked at in terms of the application across a broad set of measures, not just a single one. Fairness can easily mean – in terms of total city spending – per capita, which would mean more spending on say roads, and other things in lower density areas, more on transit in areas where it is likely to be most heavily used.

    It is also not fair to expect to get the same frequency and mode of service to serve a line likely to see 8000 riders, as one likely as one that will see 24,000 riders per hour, especially if those 8,000 are also travelling through and are included in the 24,000, especially as the 8 will have taken all the seats. Why should the 8 enjoy a level of expenditure 3 times higher than the 24? The real issue with using fair – in this application, it is extremely likely to be turned to favor the writer, where its general application would likely to be the other way. I also personally do not think in terms of Scarborough, North York, Etobicoke, or downtown, but in terms of people served.

    A dollar spent to create service for many is a better spent dollar, than the one to create service for one. It is also much closer to fair. I am with you in terms of not repeating the mistakes of the past, and while I would prefer to see Sheppard East converted believe it is a non starter, given the limits on monies available.

    However – having it meet the Sheppard Subway, and a DRL at the same location makes it appear to me – to make it a least a little more viable. I also think that new development in the area, along the Sheppard subway, should be rezoned to allow developers to reduce the parking allowances, and hopefully they will – hence making it more transit oriented. We may not be able to force less parking, but we should at least stop forcing excess parking. Perhaps someday the Sheppard Subway – won’t look like quite the waste it does now.

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  33. Joe M said:

    “Feel free to ask a simple question. Once you explain to me or define what is considered to be paying “fair share” operating costs historically from others areas and stop locations maybe we could start at that point.”

    When someone asks you to ask yourself a question, they don’t expect you to make an obvious deflection to avoid giving an answer. I don’t need to provide specifics to ask you if you would be fine with the axe falling harder on Scarborough to cover the SSE operating loss only because of the number and length of bus routes in Scarborough.

    It’s also telling that you didn’t immediately question how could Scarborough be hit harder than Etobicoke when it comes to feeder bus network cuts when you didn’t answer the original question. That alone suggests that the hatred for the SSE is not as ridiculous as you would want us to think.

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  34. @ Nick L

    I really don’t see the SSE extension being the cause of an operating loss along the line. As it’s not the Sheppard stubway or even close.

    Should we be looking at specific areas to pay more? Possibly. I can’t answer directly without reviewing all the facts. As there is a lot. But I’m not fully against it at first blush.

    We should all be paying more on the bill in TORONTO not only to build fairly but effectively operate & maintain our transit system.

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  35. Someone may have asked this before, but surely we might be able to order a vehicle from Bombardier that’s workable in the Sheppard tunnels. Its not like they built the damn things yet. They probably haven’t even ordered the materials or placed the contracts.

    Also I realize the impetus is there to fix Sheppard but what if they did some light rail on Finch end to end through the city? Or Sheppard. Always seemed stupid to me to have Sheppard east and Finch west lines.

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  36. Someone may have asked this before, but surely we might be able to order a vehicle from Bombardier that’s workable in the Sheppard tunnels. Its not like they built the damn things yet. They probably haven’t even ordered the materials or placed the contracts.

    That seems like an interesting suggestion to me.

    I know some of the London underground lines have to use extra low vehicles, due to extra low legacy tunnels. Boston’s Blue Line also has to use special smaller vehicles, as it was originally designed for single streetcars.

    Steve: “Originally designed for streetcars” is the operative phrase here. This was the tunnel that connected the streetcars from East Boston under the harbour into downtown. The Blue Line subway cars have pantographs for the portion of he line in East Boston, but there is clearance for this in the tunnel because there once was streetcar overhead. Sheppard is a completely different animal.

    Would MetroLinx order 50 or 100 specialty LRT vehicles, at extra expense, and not be able to use the standard MetroLinx vehicles used in Hamilton, Kitchener, Mississauga, and on Toronto’s other LRT routes?

    Also I realize the impetus is there to fix Sheppard but what if they did some light rail on Finch end to end through the city? Or Sheppard. Always seemed stupid to me to have Sheppard east and Finch west lines

    Once the Sheppard route connected to the Sheppard subway, perhaps it could curve up to Finch, or Steeles, or Highway 7, and Proceed West, until it curved back to connect to the Finch West LRT on the YUS? Having it parallel the Sheppard subway, along Finch, might further reduce ridership on the Sheppard Subway, so Steeles or Highway 7 might be a better choice.

    Steve: The disconnect between development patterns east and west of Yonge is the bane of planners’ existence and leads to all sorts of gerrymandered line drawing attempting to connect the two disparate streets. This is always going to be two separate lines, and we really have more important transit problems than trying to figure out how to link them.

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  37. Giancarlo Said:

    Someone may have asked this before, but surely we might be able to order a vehicle from Bombardier that’s workable in the Sheppard tunnels. Its not like they built the damn things yet. They probably haven’t even ordered the materials or placed the contracts.

    You would think so & anything but a single technology on this route should never have got passed the pre-design stage. But this is what passes for a fair transit network in Toronto. It’s a design that beyond absurd & the main reason a “subway” on Sheppard is even discussed or debated heavily today.

    The “easy way out” designs (or so they thought) creates an extra layer of transit divide in Scarborough itself.

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  38. Joe M. said:

    “You would think so & anything but a single technology on this route should never have got passed the pre-design stage. But this is what passes for a fair transit network in Toronto. It’s a design that beyond absurd & the main reason a “subway” on Sheppard is even discussed or debated heavily today.”

    I would really like to understand the actual costs of correcting this, and get very frustrated with the initial choice to build this subway. The route never justified a subway, and was not clear that this was the best place to build first – anyway. Having said that, I do not believe that a transfer – a properly designed one that is between highly frequent well managed routes – needs to be a big deal. If the transfer is cross platform, and the subway either frequent enough or coordinated with the LRT run, why this need be a big deal – as a cross platform transfer.

    The poor choices in the past are making this much harder than it need be – the choices around the Scarborough RT with a poorly designed transfer, a frequency that did not come close to matching, and deliberately inflexible infrastructure – will color the debate for a long time.

    However if you accept that the cost is somewhere above 600 million to fix – and that is the lowest number I have seen – and I believe that was 2005-6 dollars, and likely slightly over $1billion, then well depending on where it is built and assuming it is an increment of rail on another line (car house facilities in place), that is something between 10 and 20km of light rail. While I agree it would be nice that have this as a single line, I do not believe that we can justify the conversion now – with so many other screaming needs.

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  39. Giancarlo,

    If you are willing to pay for it, they’ll make you a gold-plated swan boat that can fly. As someone that would use this line regularly (subway + LRT + feeder bus/walk), I prefer that we don’t pay $1B (plus expensive vehicles with double maintenance costs, downtime, and less seating) to avoid a couple hundred meter connection. For that cost savings, you could probably build LRT on Don Mills from Sheppard to Eglinton.

    arcticredriver,

    It’s not just an issue of overhead clearance. Sheppard subway has high-floor platforms and third-rail power. LRT have narrow bodies for running within a normal car lane and overhead power. Unlike what Joe M suggests as the “easy way out” design, both have been optimized for their conditions. If we could go back in time and change things, we’d build the Sheppard subway as a street-level LRT. According to Joe’s logic, only subway transit on Yonge St. in Barrie should be considered in the future.

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  40. It should be possible to establish a continuous LRT operation on Sheppard East, by using high-floor vehicles with dual power (3rd rail in the tunnel, pantograph at the street level).

    Of course, such choice will incur a number of extra costs:
    1. More expensive surface stops, to meet accessibility requirements while operating high-floor LRTs.
    2. Likely, wider stop spacing; that’s good for long-range riders, but will require parallel bus service and additional operating costs.
    3. Loss of full compatibility with other (low-floor) LRT routes. It may be possible to retain compatibility for non-revenue trips in the surface sections (same gauge and same voltage), and the ability to share the maintenance facilities.
    4. The cost of subway conversion to high-floor LRT may be lower than that of conversion to low-floor, but still nontrivial. The platforms would have to be widened, and the platform height is not guaranteed to remain exactly same.

    I do not know if the whole exercise will be worth the costs and efforts; but it would be interesting to see the cost estimates.

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