Updated November 10, 2015 at 6:00 pm:
The Budget Committee meeting was not the best-organized or well-informed of TTC meetings thanks to a combination of factors. It was held in the boardroom at TTC headquarters which is no longer configured suitably for such events and cannot handle a large presence by the media who were out in force anticipating a story about 2016 fares. Almost all of the material was presented by one person who, unfortunately, trusted to memory rather too often and got the odd fact wrong as the meeting wore on. Moreover, there simply was too much material to absorb in the manner it was presented.
Committee members, for their part, tended to view the situation through their personal lenses of which hobbyhorse needed attention. This did not necessarily make for a broad view of TTC issues, and many erroneous assumptions, often uncorrected, crept into the debate.
We will go through this and much more all over again at the November 23, 2015 meeting of the full Board when we can also expect a very long parade of deputations on the subject of fares.
The entire exercise of having a Budget Committee has been useful, up to a point, in that some Commissioners have been exposed to the gory details, but they remain confused, and we have yet to see an actual philosophical discussion of just what the TTC should be as a basis for the budgets for 2016 and beyond.
The following motions were approved by the Committee:
Regarding Item 1: Operating Budget
Moved by Chair Colle
1. That the TTC Budget Committee recommend the TTC Board approve a freeze for Metropass rates for 2016;
2. That the TTC budget committee request the TTC and City Manager report back to the Board in Q2 2016 on setting a new per rider subsidy formula to index the City’s subsidy to the TTC’s ridership;
3. That the TTC request the Province to:
• increase transit funding to the City of Toronto and the TTC so the per ride subsidy for the TTC is $1.00 in 2017;
• increase the subsidy amount thereafter to get to a subsidy level of $1.30 per ride for the TTC with the Province and City equally sharing costs; and
• address the added operating cost pressures on the TTC that the opening of new lines places, and develop a formula to attach additional operating funds to expansion projects
4. That the TTC request that the City of Toronto direct any Gas Tax top-up funding from the federal government to the TTC; and
5. That the TTC budget committee request TTC staff report back to the TTC budget committee with a list of SOGR projects to be considered for submission to the federal government’s new infrastructure funding programs.
Chair Colle wants to bring down the price of the Metropass relative to single fares, in effect to lower the “multiple” relating the two types of fare from its current value of 50.5 (pass to token price ratio). This would be achieved by increasing the single fare price on tokens and other formats while holding the Metropass (and its relatives) at their current prices. Given that almost half of TTC fare revenue comes from passes, this would require a large offsetting increase in tokens and cash fares, or a large increase in subsidy (separate from any other improvements such as better service). It is unclear what he feels the appropriate price level might be, but obviously the Metropass cannot be frozen forever.
The idea of indexing the City subsidy to ridership is intriguing, but it does not allow for the fact that costs rise independently of ridership thanks to inflation in material and labour costs. A subsidy formula should be based not just on a per rider figure, but be linked to goals such as encouraging transit usage even though this might cost more per new ride than the system average.
A better subsidy will certainly allow fare increases to be moderated (or eliminated), always a popular stance, but that’s really not what new subsidies should go to when the system is still recovering from the underfunding of the Ford era. It is beginning to dawn on some Commissioners just how long it will take and how much it will cost to catch up with the “savings” that the Ford administration’s tax-fighting penny pinching brought to the TTC.
Moved by Commissioner Carroll
Staff are requested to:
1. Report to the Board on the cost to the rider of increasing the Adult Metropass only to achieve an equity of trip multiples with Student/ Senior Metropasses
This arose from ongoing complaints that the senior/student pass is overpriced by comparison to the regular adult pass with the trip multiples being roughly 57 and 50.5 respectively. However Carroll’s motion takes the approach of boosting the adult pass to 57 single fares which would make for a huge increase over and above whatever will happen to the base fare in 2016. For example, if the cost of a token goes up from $2.80 to $2.90, and the multiple goes to 57, the cost of an adult Metropass would rise from $141.50 to $165.30. I am not sure that this is the result Carroll intends, but that is how her motion was drafted.
Commissioner Campbell latched onto the idea that Metropass users should pay more, and that their high usage represents lost revenue for the TTC. This ignores the fact that passes are becoming the dominant form of fare payment, and that a move to Presto will drive even more riders to fixed-price schemes. If the “pass” is implemented as a cap on weekly or monthly fares charged to riders, and they don’t have to pre-pay for a “pass” on the Presto card, it is likely that more riders will benefit from a capped fare than might otherwise have purchased a pass up front. This could also kick in even with daily or weekly maxima even if monthly usage didn’t get to the capped level, and would benefit riders with “spiky” travel patterns that were not high for an entire month.
Moved by Commissioner Carroll
Staff are requested to:
1. Report to the Board on a multi-year outlook on workforce changes that can be expected based on Ridership Growth, System Expansion, Vehicle and Mode Changes. Such a report to include an explanation of how workforce changes are adjusted in-year based on actuals.
TTC staff have been asked for multi-year plans for several years running, and the best that ever comes out is a small chart simply applying basic inflation and ridership growth assumptions to the basic revenue and expense budget totals. This gives no sense of (a) alternative scenarios, (b) capital requirements to accommodate growth, (c) the effect of significant one-time changes such as opening a new subway line or making major changes in service standards. It also avoids questions of constrained growth thanks to capacity limitations, and “what if” questions about whether riding could be shifted away from peak periods and/or constrained parts of the network.
What is needed is far more than a workforce projection. Without buses, streetcars and trains, the TTC cannot provide service, and these have large effects on budget planning. Moreover, long lead times are involved in acquiring some assets, and plans for them can be badly upset by policy shifts at City Hall (see the current bus capacity crisis as an example).
Moved by Commissioner Mihevc
It is recommended that staff:
Amend recommendation # 3 to include:
a) increasing Bus service reliability;
b) increasing Streetcar service reliability; and
c) to include new and enhanced express bus service
These items actually pull in options from the list of Proposed Service Improvements (below) to the motion on the Operating Budget. Note that (b) here duplicates a motion by Chair Colle below.
Moved by Commissioner Mihevc
Staff are requested to:
Request the province through Metrolinx to use the 2 billion savings from the Eglinton Crosstown project to:
a) Subsidize 53 million required to avoid a fare increase
b) Fund SOGR projects currently unfunded
c) Contribute to TTC expansion projects
And report back through the TTC and the City’s budget process.
This motion attempts to spend money that does not really exist. When Metrolinx announced that the Crosstown operating and maintenance contract came in $2-billion under the estimated value, this became a target many politicians grabbed at as a source of “new” money.
In fact, the “saving” would not start to accrue until 2021 when the Crosstown line opens, and it amounts (on a flat line basis) to only $67m/year. This is not small change, but it won’t solve all of our transit problems.
More importantly, this is not part of the province’s “investment” scheme for transit because it is a saving in the operating account, not capital. This money has not yet been committed by any budget or announcement, and it’s not sitting in neatly wrapped stacks of twenties on the front steps of Queen’s Park.
There is certainly an issue with underfunding on the TTC’s capital projects and plan which now fall substantially to the City budget, but any new money must come from real new revenue such as a higher share of the gas tax (or simply a higher tax), or tolls, or something beyond the ephemeral “savings” of a future maintenance contract.
Regarding Item 3: Proposed Service Improvements
Moved by Chair Colle
That the TTC Budget Committee recommend the TTC Board approve the implementation of the streetcar service reliability initiative.
As noted above, this is duplicated by Commissioner Mihevc’s motion.
Regarding Item 4: Earlier Sunday Morning Subway Service
Moved by Chair Colle
That the TTC Budget Committee recommend the TTC Board endorse the implementation of earlier Sunday subway service for 2016 and approve the implementation of earlier service on connecting bus and streetcar routes.
This picks up two separate budget proposals: the earlier operation of subway service effective January 2016 which is already in the base operating budget, plus the earlier operation of surface feeder routes likely effective in September 2016 which is in the list of optional extras.
Notable in all of these votes is that the provision of streetcar service on Cherry Street was treated as a low-priority item by TTC management and budgeted as an “extra” rather than in the base. We could well see the ludicrous situation of the TTC, having built the line, never gets around to actually operating it.
Regarding Item 6: Park Lawn Streetcar Loop
Moved by Chair Colle
That the staff report be amended to say:
That a decision on removing the Park Lawn Streetcar Loop from the TTC’s Capital Budget be deferred until the City reports back on the reset Waterfront transit.
Colle’s motion is based on the premise that a Park Lawn Loop might be required for a Waterfront West line. If that route is dropped from the City’s rapid transit shopping list, then the loop would disappear too.
Leaving aside the major problems an alignment for a WWLRT has thanks to years of tinkering and half-complete studies, if this loop is to exist only as part of a WWLRT, then it should simply be bundled into that project.
The original article follows below.
The TTC Budget Committee will meet on November 9, 2015 to consider several reports feeding into the TTC Board’s final budget submission to the City at its meeting later in the month. The reports give an overview of the state of budget preparations to date, but some hard decisions remain, notably on fares and service levels.
Notable by its absence in these reports is a single, consolidated recommendation. The Budget Committee and, later, the TTC Board will have to sort among options in setting the course for 2016 with important decisions and recommendations to Council.
- Flat lining subsidies and freezing fares is not an option. Simply to continue existing operations including the full year cost of 2015 improvements requires more revenue. A fast route to the simplistic anti-tax, anti-service nostrums of Rob Ford would be fatal to the transit renaissance John Tory started.
- TTC management has wrestled the proposed operating budget increase down by about half, but some of this comes from savings that cannot be reproduced year after year. One third of the reduction comes from deferral of leasing costs for new garage space. Such savings should not be touted as “efficiency”, but seen for what they are – putting off the inevitable.
- Eight scenarios for fare increases are on the table mixing together various permutations of changes either across the board or to individual classes of fares. Each year brings a tug of war between a targeted fare saving (children in 2015, Metropass holders in 2016, the poor always) and a general increase to all rates.
- Basic service increases planned for 2016 keep pace with growing demand and continue the roll out of changes started in 2015. Early Sunday subway service has been fitted into this budget, but additional money is needed to start up feeder surface routes an hour earlier (along with other proposed improvements).
- Wheel-Trans costs continue to rise well above the rate of inflation because of strong ridership growth. Past years saw funding for WT frozen, and a naïve assumption that increased accessibility on the regular system would offset demand for WT van and taxi services.
- Funding of the ten-year capital plan remains a severe problem. For many years, the point of reckoning when expenditures would outstrip available funding loomed ever nearer, but conveniently “not yet” for TTC and Council. 2016 is the last year when known capital funding will actually pay for the planned capital program. Council’s head-in-the-sand attitude to revenue tools and the pressing need for transit capital are about to collide. Add to this the long list of unfunded projects both for major repairs and for system expansion. Provincial and Federal support might arrive, but Toronto should not expect to get off free from demands for more local spending.
Since the September 2015 update, the TTC has sharpened its pencils and found savings in its proposed budget to partly offset the pressure of increasing costs.
Before taking into account any effect of fare changes or additional service improvements, the September estimate was that net costs would rise by $95-million in 2016 on a base budget of $1.69-billion (5.6%). However, from the City budgeting point of view, the increase was measured against the 2015 budgeted subsidy of $474m, and represented a 20% jump in subsidy.
The November estimate reduces the shortfall to $45-million through several cost reductions as well as a $1-million draw against the “stabilization reserve” (left over monies from past “good” years) as a contribution to extra costs for the 2016 Leap Year.
A big change in projected expenses comes from a change in the TTC’s proposed bus garage leasing plan. Originally, they expected to lease a 50-bus site in Concord, but that deal has fallen through. Meanwhile, they are looking at another site for a 250-bus “garage lite” that would provide minimal capabilities to house vehicles pending the combined effect of McNicoll Garage opening in 2020, and a reduction in total fleet requirements after various rapid transit lines come into operation.
Ridership for 2016 is expected to be 555-million, 15m above the probable actual for 2015 and 10m above the 2015 budget number. The TTC describes the 2016 number as a “stretch target”, and this has implications for both revenues and implementation of service improvements these would fund.
Note that none of the 2015 budget or ridership figures include the Pan Am Games which have been excluded to allow comparability between 2015 and other years. A report on actual transit ridership, costs and revenues due to the Pan Am Games has not yet been released.
Before taking into account any fare increase, revenues are projected to rise only $15m while costs will go up by $60m. Even that $60m can be misleading because it includes one-time savings that will not be available as offsets in future years.
The TTC, as in past budgets, lists many areas where savings were implemented in the past. While these are an indication of “efficiencies” found in the organization, they are past savings, not net new ones. Moreover, for 2016, the TTC shows a continued saving from “diesel hedging” when this could as much be a factor of historically low prices for fuel. It may be a saving against originally expected costs, but it cannot be reproduced in future years. Indeed if the $14m “saving” shown were duplicated year after year, it would not take long for fuel costs to drop to zero, an obvious impossibility. It is important to distinguish between past cost reductions, current year one time reductions, and exposure to future cost pressures.
The 2% efficiency target set by Mayor Tory has led to a continued flat-line of the overtime budget. There is no discussion of the effect this might have on service quality, or on the TTC’s ability to operate adequate service for unusual events. A related issue here is the question of scheduling vehicles and crews so that overtime is not a routine occurrence. Changes to improve schedules are working their way through the system, but many routes have not yet been touched.
While some additional “efficiencies” are in the pipeline, some of these [p. 13] are years away. Meanwhile future cost pressures are closer at hand, notably the roughly $30m additional cost of opening the Spadina extension (TYSSE). These and other costs are projected to hit starting in 2017 with a value of $165m, and a further $70m in 2018. [p. 14]
On the Wheel-Trans budget, the subsidy requirement is projected to rise by $8m or 7.4% due mainly to ridership growth now running at 13.7% annually.
Options for New Fares in 2016
The material included in this report does not differ substantially from the September version, and in particular it gives a rather muddied view of what might be done with various permutations of changes. Eight scenarios are proposed.
What is missing is a simple overview of the effect of each component of the change (this information is sprinkled through the detailed examinations of the options). Although multiple concurrent changes will interact, there are certain basics.
- A $0.05 increase in the adult token fare (with proportionate changes in other fares) plus a $0.25 increase in cash fares would yield $24m. If the token fare goes up by $0.10, this yields an additional $12m (options 2 and 3).
- A $0.25 increase in adult cash fares, leaving all other fares unchanged, would yield $6m in new revenue (option 8).
- A $0.05 increase in the adult Metropass base fare (raising the price by about $2.50) would yield $10m (option 7).
- Elimination of the discounted cash fare for seniors and students would raise up to $5m (options 4/5 contrasted to 2/3).
- If Metropass fares are frozen while other fares rise, the cost would be about $9m (option 6).
None of these scenarios, by itself, raises the $45m needed to balance the basic budget, let alone pay for proposed service improvements. Anyone can “twirl the knobs” from the factors listed here keeping in mind that changes in one fare can shift uses between fare types, and that the effect for larger changes is non-linear (big changes drive away proportionately more demand than small ones). The political challenge is to find the combination of fares and subsidies that achieve a coherent and acceptable outcome.
Cash fares often come up for discussion with various arguments pro and con. Since 2010, the cash fare has been frozen at $3 ($2 for seniors), while the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in Toronto has gone up by 15%. The token fare has crept up to the cash fare reducing the premium that cash represents. In some years, TTC management argued against bumping cash fares because they felt this was an important source of revenue, and did not want to discourage it (perish the thought riders would switch to tokens or tickets). There have also been arguments that the cash fare is disproportionately used by the poor who cannot afford to “stockpile” fare media in advance.
TTC management now argues that cash is not the fare medium of choice for low income riders (defined as below $45k/yr) of whom only 15% pay by cash. Therefore, an increase would not disproportionately affect this group. Many will argue that the income cutoff line is far too high.
In any case, continuing to freeze the cash fare will soon bring us to the point where there is no difference between that fare and tokens. The main beneficiaries of “discounted” fares will be pass users who consume more than the equivalent value of token fares in a month.
Another management proposal (part of scenarios 4 and 5) is the elimination of the discounted cash fare for students and seniors so that it would jump from $2.00 to $3.25. This is hardly a scheme likely to endear the TTC and City Council to that block of voters. As an extra insult, this idea is justified as part of “regional integration” of fare structures. It is amusing that the TTC would cherry pick an aspect of “integration” that would boost their revenue, but not one that has long been asked for (but still not part of a budget proposal), time based transfers.
An option that is not mentioned in the 2016 context, but worth exploring for 2017 and beyond, is to eliminate the linkage between Senior’s and Student’s fares. This was done to simplify fare media (one size fits all), but in a Presto world, nothing prevents the TTC from offering a different fare structure to each group of riders.
Also notably absent from this discussion is any notion of rebalancing fares on an “equity” basis, a scheme for which a report is due from TTC staff.
TTC management recommends against changes to the Metropass fare multiples (the ratio between pass and token/ticket pricing), but TTC Chair Josh Colle is already on record as calling for this option.
It is worth noting the relative use of each type of fare on the TTC.
Passes of one form or another now account for almost 60% of all trips taken on the TTC. Any discussion of fare policy really needs to take this into account and think of a future where the most common fare type is a pass which is billed on a flat rate. Should the TTC fare policy continue to be dictated by single fare usage and transfer rules, or should the primary design be for various forms of bulk purchase? Even a timed transfer is a limited form of a pass.
This has important implications for planning fares – should future years start with an adjustment in pass pricing and work outward from there to other media – and for the way in which Presto will be used. Too much debate turns on the single fare and its machinery when a real move to a “transit” mindset decouples individual trips from the price charged for transit service overall.
How a Metropass price freeze will play, both for tradeoffs in other fares, and with additional subsidy requirements at Council, remains to be seen. This freeze should not come at the “cost” of a reduction in planned and proposed service improvements.
At the September 2015 Budget Committee meeting, staff proposed a number of service improvements for 2016. The cost of these is not included in the proposed budget, and they would require additional subsidy funding over and above the amount discussed above. The list has been updated for the November meeting and includes the following items.
- Bus reliability improvements: This would continue a program tested already on a few routes to adjust schedules to actual operating conditions. The intent is to reduce short turns and provide better service through the ability of buses to stay on time. Changes would affect both peak and off peak operations, and a preliminary list of target routes includes: 85 Sheppard East, 96 Wilson, 102 Markham Road, and 195 Jane Rocket.
- Streetcar reliability improvements: This would continue work already begun on routes such as King, Dundas and Carlton to revise schedules to match actual conditions.
- Subway reliability improvements: This would continue a program of adjusting subway operations and crew practices to better match day to day conditions on lines 1 and 2 (YUS and BD) across most periods of operation, seven days/week.
- Improved off-peak service on Line 1 (YUS): Service would be operated every three minutes or better on the YUS until 10:00 pm every day. Off-peak crowding is quite common, and a three minute headway would represent a considerable improvement in service from the 3’30” weekday midday and 3’25” weekday evening service (with wider headways on weekends).
- Earlier Sunday service: A separate proposal calls for subway service to begin at 8:00 am on Sunday rather than 9:00 at present (see below). Many surface routes also begin operation at 9:00 and they would be adjusted to provide service from 8:00 onward.
- Off-peak express buses: New peak period express services are planned for Finch, Kennedy, Kipling and Wilson. This is part of the base 2016 budget. The additional improvement would see this extended to off-peak service (see map below). Note that among the proposed routes is a through service from Scarborough Town Centre to York University.
- New streetcar service on Cherry Street: It is odd to see such a small extension of the transit network listed as if it were an optional extra when this should be part of the base budget. The TTC has not yet published a service design for how the Cherry branch will fit in with the King car. One obvious question is how much of the new “cost” is actually an improvement on King Street as opposed to the cost of serving Cherry itself. Claims that the line will have no new revenue (see footnote below) are odd considering that a brand new population will be moving into the area. Such are the mysteries of TTC budgeting, and this status asks an obvious question of just how committed the TTC actually is to serving new development in the eastern waterfront.
The cost and projected revenue from these proposals is summarized below:
With a 3:1 ratio of annual to 2016 costs, it is clear that these changes would not be implemented until fall 2016 (4 months’ operation).
Map of proposed off-peak express bus routes:
The TTC proposes to begin operating Sunday morning subway service starting from 8:00 am on Sunday, January 3, 2016. The cost of this ($1m/yr) is small enough that it has been built into the base operating budget. What is missing, however, is the cost of bringing 8:00 am service to those subway feeder routes which do not already have it.
TTC management has resisted moving to an 8:00 am Sunday opening because they want the maximum possible maintenance window overnight Saturday/Sunday. To address the loss of the hour, they propose two changes.
- Rather than bringing trains out of the yard early enough to have full service in place for opening, the service will build up from various locations along the line. Some stations/directions will not see their first train until well into the “new” hour. For example, the first eastbound train at Broadview must travel from the west end of the BD line where it will originate at 8:00 am.
- Weekend shutdowns of portions of the network will be used increasingly for “bundles” of work projects so that more can be achieved within a single shutdown, and less work will depend on the Saturday/Sunday overnight window.
Earlier Sunday service has already been endorse by Mayor Tory, although the subway service, at least, was already planned as an early 2016 change.
The TTC Capital Plan contains a very long list of projects which can be broadly subdivided into a few groups:
- Maintenance work (replacement and major reconstruction) for the existing system that should not be delayed
- Maintenance than will be necessary but for which there is no funding
- System expansion projects that have been approved and which have dedicated funding streams
- Major projects including network and capacity expansion that remain on a “nice to have” list
The first two groups broadly comprise the TTC’s “State of Good Repair” budget (SOGR) with a small minority of projects addressing other needs (such as meeting new legislative requirements). The ten-year total for these groups is $9.316-billion with $1.170b spent on the first line in 2016. Over the ten-year plan, $2.785b is “unfunded” – the work is needed, but known capital subsidies from all sources fall short of requirements. This problem grows in future years with the end of some project-specific funding streams (e.g. provincial subsidy for the new streetcars, funding of the new subway signal system).
Two expansion projects are carried separately from the base budget: the Spadina extension to Vaughan (aka “TYSSE”) and the Scarborough Subway extension (“SSE”). These have funding from a variety of sources, but that money is not available for other capital projects.
The intricate details of each of these budget lines (the Capital Budget “Blue Books”) are not yet available.
Federal funding is shown at a constant level based on existing Gas Tax allocations to the City of Toronto. With a new government in Ottawa, this number might go up, but the temptation to cherry-pick specific projects could leave funding for basic capital maintenance at a steadily declining level when inflation is taken into account. The Gas Tax is supposed to be indexed, but for Toronto this could be offset by national population shifts giving the city a lower share of the overall pot.
Provincial funding includes two components. In the short term, project-specific funding adds to the base Gas Tax revenue that comes to Toronto. This tax totals about $160m annually, but of that $90m is dedicated to the Operation Budget. As with the federal subsidy, the value of this declines thanks to inflation.
City Debt ramps down to zero in the early 2020s because the self-imposed ceiling on debt relative to property tax income will be reached thanks to the combined effect of various large city projects. This shows how dedication of funds to showcase projects can crowd out routine spending in future years as debt service costs mount.
“Other funding” includes a variety of sources including Development Charges and, in the short term, some project-specific funding.
Closing the gap in this funding plan will be a huge challenge for the City of Toronto. The problem has existed for years going back to before the Ford era, but there has always been a hope that a “Fairy Godmother” might appear to substantially change the outlook. Pots of gold are hard to come by these days, and Queen’s Park has busied itself with signature programs such as GO/RER and the Eglinton-Crosstown line. The Wynne government is quite clear that major new funding for Toronto is not in the cards. Ottawa under Harper played a shell game with lots of announcements, but the money was largely in future years, and tied up with complex eligibility rules and a demand for 3P procurement to push as much work (and profit) as possible into the private sector. Toronto’s share of federal programs, even assuming the city could access this, was small compared to overall needs.
For its part, the City rejected a wide range of “revenue tools” as part of its pre-election orgy of tax fighting (not to mention an attempt to deny the Ford faction of an election issue). This is irresponsible on two counts. First off, the need for more revenue on the capital side of the budget has long been clear, and the City even levied a special tax to fund its share of the SSE. Routine maintenance does not have the same political cachet, and there’s always the claim that somehow we could “find efficiencies” as an excuse not to raise revenue. Oddly this approach does not apply when seeking higher grants from other governments. Second, the City claims to be supportive of transit, provided that someone else pays for it. That’s no support at all as the inevitable effect is to leave the TTC scrambling year-to-year to keep its system running, and needed work is put off, at least until something critical breaks.
Much of the unfunded list relates to future vehicle purchases either to replace existing fleets or to expand for ridership growth. Some of this can be tinkered with (and inevitably will), but the spending cannot be avoided. Indeed, the TTC’s bus fleet plan includes an attempt to move to steady-state procurement rather than long fallow periods followed by a burst of spending. Putting off today’s replacements only worsens the “hump” in future budget requirements.
The subway cars listed above would replace the existing T-1 fleet on Line 2 (BD), with the intent that the new fleet will make use of Automatic Train Control (ATC) and the new signal system planned for that line in the early 2020s. It is not yet clear, but one might suspect, that the early date for the order is in part an attempt to piggyback on the TR production line at Bombardier’s Thunder Bay plant.
An important change for 2016 is that the Easier Access program (primarily elevators in the subway) has been moved from unfunded to funded status. In past years, this line had been deliberately placed in “unfunded” in an attempt to shake some money loose from Queen’s Park as a special subsidy. The TTC has rightly changed its approach to recognizing that accessibility upgrades should not be hostage to political gamesmanship.
Plans for the three major vehicle modes are summarized in the tables below.
These charts show the Capital Plan by mode rather than by organizational unit (Buildings, Vehicles, etc), but there are two shortfalls in this presentation.
First, they do not distinguish between past and future costs in the “EFC” column (Estimated Final Cost) and so give no indication of the spending beyond 2025 which commitment to each project line entails. Some projects, such as the purchase of 234 subway cars, are already finished and have no current or future cost. Others, notably 372 cars for Line 2, have almost half of their cost beyond the 10-year planning window. Projects which are in progress lie somewhere in between.
Second, the charts do not show the proportion of each line which is unfunded and therefore threatened by the City’s financial situation.
The report includes a “waterfall” chart that baffled TTC Board members at previous meetings, but which has not been updated for clarification in this iteration. The purpose is to show that there has only been a modest change in the planned value of existing projects, but the methodology takes some explanation.
In 2015, Council approved a 10-year plan that included the nine years 2016-2024 for all projects. This included two components: the value of approved (funded) projects for 2016-2024 and the value of the unfunded projects. To derive the “delta” value for existing projects requires the calculation which the chart attempts to illustrate:
- The total funding request (including unfunded projects) for 2016-2025 (ten years) is $3.49b greater than the previously approved funding for 2016-2024 (nine years).
- Of this, $2.342 is due to the unfunded projects leaving a net increase of $1.148b.
- For approved projects, their now-tenth year (2025) becomes part of the request accounting for $814m.
- This leaves $334m as the net increase which is broken down into three categories:
- $22m for new projects,
- $198m for capital approved but not spent in 2015, and
- $114m for increases to existing projects (the degree to which this is due to inflation or scope change is not dealt with here).
Finally, we come to the projects that are so far down the list that they do not even show up in the Capital Plan.
This list must be taken with a few grains of salt because it represents a very TTC-management centric world view of what is important.
- Fire Ventilation Upgrades have long appeared in the TTC Capital Plan, but they progress very slowly. At almost $1.5b, this should be broken down into costs for the second entrance program as well as determining which are “must have” station projects because of their importance and passenger load. One example is Eglinton Station that will undergo major changes as part of the Metrolinx Crosstown LRT project whose budget does not cover retrofits to the existing subway station beyond the physical connections to the new line.
- Yonge-Bloor capacity improvements at over $1b is a project that could well be offset substantially by the construction of a Relief Line into downtown. What is badly needed from the TTC is a breakdown of the “must have” improvements that would be carried out even with a Relief Line, and those that would not be required. Their value would be an offset to the Relief Line’s cost.
- Platform doors are another response to overcrowding on the subway. It is not clear that these would be required at all stations.
- The “rail yards” project recognizes the need for a new yard as the subway fleet expands, but (a) there is already provision in the SSE budget for a new yard and (b) future needs are in part dictated by whether any more subway lines are built and their fleet requirements. This line may refer to the proposed Richmond Hill extension and an associated yard, but this should be included in the project budget, not as a general requirement.
- Notable for its relatively small cost is the Waterfront network which comes in at about $1b of which about one quarter is due to the expansion of Union Station Loop. (The Bremner project is not the full Waterfront West line and would only create a new corridor between Union and Exhibition Place.)
In the years beyond the Capital Plan lie both the Relief Line and the Richmond Hill subway extension.
Part of the 2015 additions to the Operating Budget subsidy included the purchase of additional buses, although it was unclear where these would be housed. Subsequently, TTC management recommended that the former York Region Concord Garage be leased for these vehicles.
Concord Bus Storage and Maintenance Facility – 8301 Keele Street
Subsequent to the Board’s pre-approval, TTC staff continued to negotiate an offer to lease with the owner of 8301 Keele Street. Unfortunately, a satisfactory agreement could not be reached with the landlord to finalise the offer to lease. [p. 5]
As an alternative, the TTC looked for a site on a par with its existing 250-bus garages. The report is somewhat contradictory in its description of this process.
An extensive search for an interim bus facility was conducted by TTC staff to meet these specific requirements. Several sites are suitable for these purposes and provided that this strategy is approved, the recommended site is expected to be available to meet the timelines required for bringing the facility into operation in early 2017. This facility will permit the maintenance and storage of 250 additional buses. Securing this facility will enable the TTC to improve express bus service, reduces peak crowding levels and help to prevent further overcrowding at existing garages. [p. 1]
However, later in the report, we learn:
A review of existing City and Agency infrastructure was undertaken, however no property/buildings were found to be suitable. TTC staff, through a real estate brokerage firm, also conducted a thorough search of all potential sites available within, or near to the City of Toronto. Due to the need for an appropriately zoned site, the size of the property required and the size of the building needed, available options were very limited. Further limiting options, is the requirement to have convenient traffic access to ensure timely run out of service in the morning and afternoon peak periods. [p. 6]
Obviously they have found a site, and negotiations to lease it will get underway subject to Board approval. This will not be a full-blown garage, only a site to store and do basic fuelling and maintenance on vehicles.
Interim Bus Storage and Maintenance Facility (Interim Facility) – Requirements
To minimize the cost of an Interim Facility, the facility requirements will be significantly reduced from a standard garage, by eliminating all but critical equipment and infrastructure. The following are examples of some of the significant items that will be excluded from this facility:
- No inground bus hoists or pits, all lifting of buses will be done by mobile hoists,
- No fueling of buses inside the facility, this will be done externally to the building, and
- No paint or body repair booths at the facility.
This facility will be a “Garage Lite”, resulting in reduced productivity and requiring some functions and work to be transferred to other garages or shops. [pp. 5-6]
The new site will not be available for operations until 2017. The delay in providing added garage space will produce a saving in the Operating Budget in 2016 at the cost of continued crowding at existing garages.
The proposal for a new loop somewhere west of Humber Loop has been around for a very, very long time. Back in January 2007, I wrote about this project which had already been underway for some time. With the growth in population along what was once the “Motel Strip” west of the Humber, and a long-standing complaint that the amalgamated 501/507 Queen/Long Branch service badly short-changed residents, demands for better service come up regularly, and are just as regularly ignored by the TTC. One item from 2007 is worth quoting:
What action is being taken to improve reliability on the 501 Queen and 508 Lake Shore services to Long Branch?
The TTC is well aware of the problems in the Queen Street corridor and has been evaluating the situation across the line. Potential solutions, including revised schedules and splitting the route into shorter, more manageable pieces are now being reviewed for implementation. Any changes implemented will be monitored over time to evaluate their effectiveness in improving service reliability.
That was nine years ago.
Lake Shore Boulevard West is a fast-growing area, but transit has not kept pace. The long-promised Waterfront West LRT line (which dates back a quarter-century) never appears, and even worse there is much confusion about just where it would go. Detailed planning for the Western Beaches and incorporation of the WWLRT line was underway under David Miller’s administration, but all work stopped with Rob Ford’s arrival in the Mayor’s office. Meanwhile, TTC staff appear to be stuck on alignments that were never practical (for example, using Dufferin and King Streets to reach The Queensway).
The current report even talks about running the line via Dufferin and Queen which would entail a difficult curve at the bottom of two grades. At one point the TTC thought of adding the missing curves in the southwest quadrant at this location, but rejected the idea as technically unsound because of the interaction of grades and curves. Nobody thought to tell the Planning Department about this decision.
A “Waterfront Transit Reset” is already underway that will, among other things review various proposals including:
- Reconfiguration of the King/Queen/Roncesvalles intersection and improvements to streetcar operations there.
- Improvement of passenger facilities at Humber Loop (the transfer point for 80 Queensway and 66 Prince Edward services).
- Electrification of the switch at Kipling Loop to reduce delays at this location from short turns. (This is particularly amusing considering that the TTC is working to very substantially minimize the need for short turns.)
- Implementation of a transit right-of-way on Lake Shore to Park Lawn Road.
- Implementation of a Roncesvalles-type configuration on Queen between Roncesvalles and Dufferin Street.
- Many other issues related to the WWLRT including its potential alignment from Union Station to The Queensway.
How much of this will actually be implemented is uncertain, but one definite point in the report is that the Ten Minute Network will be extended west from Humber Loop to Long Branch in January 2016. This, together with new schedules giving cars enough time to make their trips, should substantially improve service on Lake Shore compared to today when at best half of the Queen service goes west of Humber Loop.
On this basis, the TTC will drop the Park Lawn Loop from its Capital Budget where it was an unfunded project.
The Poverty Reduction Strategy was adopted unanimously by Council on November 4, 2015. It contains three groups of recommendations related to transit, some of which have already been implemented in whole or in part:
Address immediate needs:
7. RECOMMENDATION: Make transit more affordable.
7.1 Children 12 and under ride free
7.2 Ensure the roll-out of the new Presto Pass technology includes a fare-geared-to-income capacity
7.3 Consider new fare and service models for transit users who require accessibility assistance
Create pathways to prosperity:
8. RECOMMENDATION: Improve services in the inner suburbs.
8.1 Evaluate a demand model that includes fare-geared-to-income criteria
8.2 Integrate seamlessly with the rest of the GTA transit system
8.3 Ensure the existing system is maintained and improved (do not cut services)
8.4 Restore previous service cuts that disproportionately impact the inner suburbs
Drive systemic change:
9. RECOMMENDATION: Make decisions on services and capital planning that prioritize those most in need of services.
9.1 Ensure that low-income people are not disproportionately affected when considering service reductions
9.2 Increase capital investment in the bus fleet to improve reliability
9.3 Develop a capital and service planning approach that focuses on building infrastructure improvements faster and meeting the immediate needs of the inner suburbs
9.4 Increase transit capacity when new high-density housing is built
Many of these recommendations have already been acted on, and if anything, as a piece of advocacy, the strategy falls well short of a strong call for substantial transit improvements. On transit fares, there are annual requests for fare discounts for the less well-off, but the combined problems of administration, implementation and cost have always held the TTC and the City back from actually doing anything (or, equally, provided the excuse for inaction). If a Presto card can be associated with a discount (much as a senior now registers their card for reduced fares), then these can be provided without the need for a special card (a privacy issue regarding social status), and there is no operational overhead for special fare media. All that remains is the definition of who is eligible (including their dependents) and the will to pay whatever extra subsidy is required.
There will continue to be an issue with Presto cards and the mechanism for loading them with fares for people who do not have bank accounts, or who do not want Presto dipping into those accounts at unpredictable times to reload the card balance. This would partly be addressed by a pass equivalent that has a predicted cost and timing for the reload, but this does not address all users’ needs.
As for service quality, this is a general issue and it is unclear what the effect would be of linking service levels with the economic status of neighbourhoods served. This is a particular challenge for routes that cover a lot of territory and serve a wide range of income levels. As for the “inner suburbs”, this term now embraces all of Toronto outside of the old City, and it is unclear just what this goal would mean for the relative priority of transit projects, or the types of demand they might serve.
On the capital side, many neighbourhoods could make claim for the need to provide a higher-capacity transit link, but they do not always lie conveniently on a likely rapid transit route. For example, the Scarborough Subway misses a great deal of Scarborough and only very modestly reduces travel times for riders whose trips lie along that corridor.
Some Toronto politicians, notably the Mayor and TTC Chair, have taken to speaking of transit as being a service on which the poor depend. This is a dangerous position to advocate because it implies that transit spending is a social service, not a general benefit to the city. When “taxpayers” complain about rising transit subsidies, they need to feel that transit is something they benefit from, not a service provided to people who simply cannot afford to drive a car (or avoid it by living downtown close their workplace).
Good transit has widespread benefits for Toronto, and it must not slip into the political morass seen in too many USA cities where minimal service exists for “other people”.