Toronto Council Endorses Transit Plan, Seeks Background Details

At its meeting of March 31, 2016, Toronto Council passed several motions relating to the proposed rapid transit plan for the city.These evolved first as a set of staff recommendations, then amendments at the Executive Committee and finally amendments at Council. The changes along the way give a sense of how the attempt at a general approach taken in the new transit plan by staff can be warped into an emphasis on individual projects while losing sight of the overall purpose. This is not new in Toronto’s political theatre, but the city and region are at a crucial time when the “big picture” of the transportation network is essential. The challenge for those who would lead this process is to find a responsible balance between wider priorities and local concerns without making every decision only on political merits.

Many of these motions involve requests for additional reports, and at one point there was some concern about whether city staff could actually handle the workload. One might ask whether the city should be making such important decisions if staff are unable to produce sufficient background material and simply want approval trusting their recommendations. While studying issues to death is a well-known delay tactic, rushing decisions without all the details is a classic method of railroading through decisions the city might regret later. There is certainly nothing wrong with asking for a more thorough study of items that have been omitted, provided that the same requests do not surface over and over again.

If anything, Council has been woefully underinformed on transit options, priorities and tradeoffs, and such an environment “debate” often has little to do with the real world. Will every Councillor read every page of every study? No, but at least the material will be there to answer questions, support the good ideas and counter the dubious schemes. We hear a lot about “evidence based planning”, but this can be a double-edged sword where “evidence” might not support fondly-held proposals.

This article groups Council’s motions by topic so that readers do not have to sort through the relationship of recommendations and amendments.

SmartTrack

Staff made the following recommendations (1.a to 1.c) and these were amended at Executive Committee on a motion by Councillor Palacio (1.b.i). The main recommendation is to nail down the definition of just what “SmartTrack” will be with the intent that Council would approve a specific concept in June 2016. The amendment relates to the possible SmartTrack station on the Weston rail corridor at St. Clair & Keele which is included in both surviving station configurations (C and D). The station is in Palacio’s ward.

The decision to drop options A and B is a major blow to SmartTrack because it substantially reduces the level of service that would be provided, and relegates “SmartTrack” to being little more than GO trains with a few extra stops. Needless to say, this is not the interpretation put on things by Mayor Tory who spins the motion as a Council endorsement for his signature plan.

1.  City Council request the City Manager and Metrolinx to finalize the technical and planning analysis phase for SmartTrack and prepare background studies required for Transit Project Assessment Processes (TPAPs), by completing the following: [Staff except 1.b.i]

a.  review the approved environmental assessment for the Eglinton West LRT extension from Mount Dennis to the Mississauga Airport Corporate Centre (MACC) and Pearson Airport to optimize design, and remove the heavy rail options on the western corridor from further consideration;

b.  complete the analysis for SmartTrack/GO RER integration options C and D, and remove from consideration the Separate and Parallel SmartTrack option, option A and option B, as defined in table 3 in the report (March 3, 2016) from the City Manager, the Deputy City Manager, Cluster B, and the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning; and

i.  that the St. Clair West Station being recommended in the integrated GO RER/SmartTrack Options C and D be further considered within the context of the ongoing employment growth in the immediate area, and the purpose of the St. Clair Avenue West (EROW) and St. Clair Avenue Study; and [Added at Exec/Palacio]

c.  report to the June 28, 2016 Executive Committee and June 28, 2016 Metrolinx Board meetings with the recommended SmartTrack concept.

GO-RER

GO-RER is a Metrolinx project over which City Council has little control. The Executive Committee and Council added three motions to the original staff recommendations asking that City Staff and Metrolinx take certain considerations into account.

At Executive, Councillor Thompson asked specifically about a grade separation between the GO-RER/ST corridor in Scarborough and Progress Avenue in his ward. This is only one of the locations where a grade separation will be required.

2. City Council direct the City Manager to request Metrolinx to assess the requirement for grade separation at Progress Avenue as part of the infrastructure required by the Province to implement Regional Express Rail (RER) in the City of Toronto and include the results of the review as part of the RER costs and associated municipal impacts to be included in the June 28, 2016 report to Executive Committee.

At Council, Councillor Crisanti wanted to ensure that frequent service extends beyond Mount Dennis where the SmartTrack service would, originally, have veered off to Pearson Airport via Eglinton Avenue. In fact, the GO-RER service (which is all that is left of SmartTrack in northern Etobicoke) will operate frequently to Bramalea. Whether there will be a stop at Woodbine Racetrack remains to be seen.

7 – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Vincent Crisanti (Carried)

That:

1. City Council request the City Manager and Metrolinx to consider:

a. that service levels north of Mount Dennis on the Kitchener GO Corridor, should be similar to the service levels proposed under SmartTrack/Regional Express Rail integration options C and D, in order to provide improved service to northern Etobicoke; and
b. including an additional station in the vicinity of the Woodbine Racetrack in the GO Regional Express Rail Program.

Also at Council, Councillor Palacio added a motion regarding the other GO crossing in his ward at St. Clair & Caledonia (the former CN St. Clair Station). On this subject, Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat advised that the location was not considered as one with high potential for growth. The Barrie line does not currently include this as a station location, and a new stop is already planned 2km further north at the connection to the Crosstown LRT.

10 – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Cesar Palacio (Carried)

That:

1. City Council direct the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning to further consult with GO Transit Regional Express Railway on the feasibility of implementing the Caledonia/St. Clair GO Transit Station on the Barrie GO Transit Line, in view of the ongoing employment growth and economic revitalization in the area due to the St. Clair Avenue Study, the Exclusive Right of Way, and the five-year Official Plan Review of the north-west quadrant of St. Clair Avenue West and Calendonia Road, and request the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning to report back to the June 28, 2016 Executive Committee Meeting.

Scarborough Subway Extension

The original staff recommendations regarding the Scarborough Subway Extension were:

3.  City Council request the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning, to complete the review of corridor options and related work for the Scarborough Subway Extension, and in doing so:

a.  remove the Bellamy corridor from further consideration;
b.  remove the Scarborough Express Rail (SmartSpur) from further consideration;
c. [See Eglinton LRT section below]
d. report to the June 28, 2016 Executive Committee on Part c above, along with a recommended preferred corridor and alignment.

These were passed with one amendment adding text to clause 3.d on a motion by Councillor Josh Matlow:

… that includes an update, in consultation with Metrolinx, of Item CC39.5 Scarborough Rapid Transit Options: Reporting on Council Terms and Conditions presented to the October 8, 9, 10 and 11, 2013 meeting of City Council, to determine whether all or portions of the Scarborough Subway Extension could be built at-grade along with the number and location of stations.

The effect of this is to keep alive the idea that the subway could be built on a surface alignment using the RT corridor. Replying to a question from Matlow, TTC staff stated that the cost of surface vs tunnel construction was $80m/km vs $150m/km. This statement is misleading in that it only speaks to the running structure and does not include trains or stations. The basic points have been made before, but a definitive TTC report on the subject would sort out exactly what design they have in mind when making claims about this option.

  • An RT corridor alignment will require a large loop track to bring the subway from its east-west orientation at Kennedy Station to a north-south one in the RT corridor. Building a new Kennedy Station on the new alignment is no longer considered a viable proposition.
  • “Surface” construction would only apply to a section from north of Kennedy to south of Ellesmere Station with the remaining structure underground. For the east-west section, cross streets are too close together between the railway corridor and STC for the line to surface. TTC staff claim that only 1.4km of the line would be on the surface, but do not explain why this number is so low given the almost 4km run from Eglinton to Ellesmere.

Eglinton LRT

Staff recommended taking the Eglinton LRT to the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus, and also proposed that Avenue Studies (detailed reviews of specific sections of major roads) be identified to set the stage for development along the LRT line. The Chief Planner confirmed that the City is working with Metrolinx to expedite both the eastern and western extensions, although more work is required on the west side to finalize the design. She also noted that for the Crosstown West, work is underway to determine where the line should terminate – at the airport or at the Mississauga Corporate Centre as in the SmartTrack scheme.

2.c. develop recommendations to integrate the proposed optimized Eglinton East LRT into the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus secondary plan; and identify areas in need of an Avenue Study to facilitate intensification along the proposed LRT corridor in consultation with the Toronto Transit Commission, Metrolinx and the University of Toronto.

At Executive Committee, Councillor Ainslie added a recommendation that staff work out a “expedited” plan for the Crosstown East, and that the TTC revisit plans for bus service in his ward. Also, at Council, Ainslie moved that staff consider “enhanced” bus service to the Zoo. At Council, Councillor Mihevc amended the clause to specify “by 2021, if at all possible”.

4. City Council request the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning to work with Metrolinx to create an expedited project delivery schedule for the Eglinton Crosstown East LRT by 2021, if at all possible, and report to the June 28, 2016 meeting of Executive Committee.

5.  City Council request the Toronto Transit Commission Board to request the Toronto Transit Commission to add to its service plan the north-south bus route designed for Ward 43 in 2010, considered at its Board meeting on March 24, 2014 for further study, to facilitate ridership to support for the Eglinton Crosstown East LRT.

6b – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Paul Ainslie (Carried)

That:

1. City Council request the Toronto Transit Commission Board to request Toronto Transit Commission staff to report on a possible enhanced bus service from the Eglinton Crosstown East LRT to the Toronto Zoo as a destination.

At Council, Councillor Mihevc moved a complementary motion about project timing for the Crosstown West.

2b – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Joe Mihevc (Carried)

That:

1. City Council request the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning to work with Metrolinx to create an expedited project delivery schedule for the Eglinton Crosstown West LRT by 2021, if at all possible, and report to the June 28, 2016 meeting of Executive Committee.

Also at Council, Councillor Cho moved that staff report on the cost of extending the LRT line beyond UTSC to Malvern Centre. As the Crosstown is a Metrolinx project and a Malvern extension is not part of the shuffle among existing Scarborough project funding plans, it is unclear where the money to build this will come from. At the least, a number will be on the table so that the idea can be debated in the context of many other claims on transit spending.

Chief Planner Keesmaat noted that a decision on the Sheppard East transit line is not yet settled, and that the Malvern extension would be among the routes reviewed in early 2017 for the 15 year plan.

9 – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Raymond Cho (Carried)That:

1. City Council direct the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning to report to the June 28, 2016 Executive Committee on the cost of extending the Eglinton Crosstown LRT from the University of Toronto, Scarborough Campus, to Malvern Town Centre.

Pearson Airport

None of the motions adopted referring to Pearson Airport were in the original Staff recommendations.

At Executive Committee, Councillor Thompson moved that the zone around the airport be incorporated in transit plans. This has been a challenge for years first because the Airport Authority (GTAA) seemed uninterested in transit as an important component of their operation, because the route of an Eglinton or Finch extension (and hence destinations served around the airport) was uncertain, and because SmartTrack completely derailed airport service in exchange for improved access to the Corporate Centre south of the airport itself.

10.  City Council request that the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning to review and consider the transportation needs of the employment zone surrounding Toronto Pearson International Airport in the development of the transit network plan and transit expansions on projects outlined in the report (March 3, 2016) from the City Manager, the Deputy City Manager, Cluster B, and the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning.

At Council, the Finch LRT extension was added for study by Councillor Perruzza (with a minor amendment by Councillor Colle as to the reporting data). This motion also picks up on the Woodbine issue raised by Councillor Crisanti.

8 – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Anthony Perruzza (Carried) as amended by 11 – Motion to Amend Motion moved by Councillor Josh Colle (Carried)

1. City Council direct the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning Division, in collaboration with the Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Transit Commission, to study an extension of the Finch West LRT from Humber College to Pearson International Airport, including a review of the opportunity to create an interchange from Kitchener GO corridor in the vicinity of the Woodbine Racetrack, and to report back to the Executive Committee in the first quarter of 2017.

Relief Line

The staff recommendation was passed without amendment, and for now this has put to rest the Queen/Richmond vs King/Wellington debate on the downtown leg of the route. What remains is a decision on whether there will be an attempt to serve the Great Gulf/Unilever site with the RL, or only with SmartTrack. Again, the challenge here is that “SmartTrack” is not an extra service in its own right, only the GO-RER service planned for the Lake Shore East and Stouffville corridors. Counting only on “SmartTrack” could short change this important future growth centre.

6.  City Council approve Pape to Downtown via Queen/Richmond as the preferred corridor for the Relief Line project and request the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning in consultation with the Toronto Transit Commission to report the preferred alignment and stations to the June 28, 2016 Executive Committee.

Waterfront

The staff recommendation was passed without amendment.

7.  City Council direct the Deputy City Manager, Cluster B and the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning to report to the June 28, 2016 Executive Committee with an update on the Waterfront Transit Reset Study.

Financial Planning

The most important amendment was proposed by Councillor Perks and adopted with the Mayor’s support, a highly unusual situation for Perks and Tory. It directs City and TTC staff to report on the effect many new projects will have on City finances, and also requires than any new or amended agreements with Metrolinx come to Council for approval. Far too much work has been going on out of sight, and tradeoffs are made at the staff level (notably on fare policy and governance) without political debate. Toronto (and 905 municipalities) could end up bearing unexpected costs, or could face de facto policy changes that have been negotiated at a staff level.

Perks argues Toronto should not surrender control of tools such as service standards and fare policy and revenue to Metrolinx, and that their recent treatment of issues related to major construction on the GO corridors show they should not have additional responsibilities.

1 – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Gord Perks (Carried)

That:

1.  City Council direct the City Manager in consultation with the Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Transit Commission to report to the Executive Committee on June 28, 2016 information regarding the capital and operating cost sharing discussions related to the following projects and initiatives, and report any terms and conditions for City Council consideration in order to protect the City’s policy and fiscal interests, prior to entering into any new or amended agreement with the Province and Metrolinx:

a.  Metrolinx Light Rail Transit Program
b.  SmartTrack
c.  Eglinton West LRT and Eglinton East LRT extensions
d.  Scarborough Subway Extension
e.  Relief Line
f.  Regional Express Rail/ GO Transit Capital including grade separations
g.  Fare Policy
h.  Governance

Demand Modeling

No motions spoke to the question of demand models, but the Chief Planner confirmed that updated numbers based on the proposed network would be included with the June 2016 reports. The follow-up question “what would happen to the plan if the model did not show the expected performance” was not asked. This is a critical question for SmartTrack, the Scarborough Subway and the Relief Line because claims about their relative importance were based on a SmartTrack service level that will not be provided, and on the presumption that TTC fares would be available on a service running in the GO corridors.

Exactly what “Fare Integration” means will not be known until Metrolinx reports in June. This begs the question of how one can model travel behaviour when fares are known to be a key determinant of rider behaviour. Deputy City Manager John Livey stated that discussions between the City, TTC and Metrolinx are ongoing, and that he will report and comment on Metrolinx fare integration proposals in June.

TTC Chair Josh Colle warned that a June date may be premature because work between the TTC and Metrolinx is still ongoing. On the contrary, to me this is a topic that has hidden out of sight for too long and Toronto riders could find themselves locked into new, higher fares thanks to secret negotiations. Council needs to review the available options and set clear guidelines for staff, especially considering that the Board who should do this work, the TTC, continues to avoid the issue.

Long Range Planning

The staff recommendation adds the transit plan into the fiscal planning pot. This is a procedural move to ensure that Council has actually approved the plan in principle as part of the overall fiscal framework.

8.  City Council direct the City Manager and the Deputy City Manager and Chief Financial Officer to include the transit network plan priorities for the next 15 years in the inventory of projects for funding consideration in the development of the City’s fiscal plan.

At Executive, Councillor Pasternak managed to get his pet project, the Sheppard-Downsview subway link, added to the overall list of future projects for review in the fall. The real question here is whether staff will finally say “this project is a non-starter” and be supported by Mayor Tory, or if the plan will be gerrymandered to keep the Councillor happy.

The “Feeling Congested?” exercise by City Planning underlines the actual development patterns of Toronto because it highly ranks new routes downtown – the Relief Line and Waterfront transit.

11. City Council direct the Deputy City Manager, Cluster B, the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning, and the Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Transit Commission to include in their Fall 2016 re-evaluation of all candidate projects using “Feeling Congested?” criteria, a cost range and funding options for an environmental assessment for the Downsview Station – Sheppard -Yonge Line connection as outlined in Communication EX13.3.8.

Also at Executive, Councillor Shiner moved a report request to get a more explicit link between transit priorities and the plans for growth centres around the City. A not-so-subtle aspect of this discussion will be the very high growth rate in downtown as compared to the regional centres like STC.

12. City Council direct the City Manager to report to the Executive Committee by the end of 2016 on potential projects to be included in phase two of the City’s Transit Network Plan, such plan to include priority transit projects which connect urban growth centres across the City, in order to address the intensification that had already occurred and to ensure that the City’s transit planning keeps pace with the development of the City’s Urban growth centres.

Shiner was also concerned that future plans address areas of traffic congestion. The Chief Planner replied that there are already 25 projects identified and the next phase of work will set the priorities among them. This dodges the question a bit because a basic problem in the GTHA is that many potential transit corridors do not address severe suburb-to-suburb congestion. Toronto, of course, is only able to plan for routes within its boundaries.

At Council, Councillor Holyday asked that City Planning undertake a detailed study of the Eglinton West corridor. He argued that land use plans should be in place before the City settles on a transit plan. Amusingly, he referred to the “rural” nature of Etobicoke and was unconvinced that Eglinton was the best way to connect to the airport.

3 – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Stephen Holyday (Carried)

That City Council direct to the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning to commence a comprehensive planning framework review for the Eglinton Avenue West corridor from Mount Dennis to the Etobicoke Creek to articulate the future of this linear tract and catchment area, along with an integrated approach to the community’s long term vision, such review will:

a. build upon and extend the work of Eglinton Connects and the Mount Dennis Nodal Study, and better inform land use, transportation and transit planning with an aim to define specific future growth potential;
b. include, but not be limited to, Official Plan designations, zoning bylaws, Avenue overlays where they exist, a market feasibility study, nodal opportunities, roads, infrastructure and public realm associated with transit and transportation infrastructure investments, and an enhanced public communication and consultation process; and
c. incorporate Eglinton Avenue West itself, and significant points of potential such as plazas, apartment lands infill sites, and under-utilized sites within 750 metres of transit along the avenue.

Also at Council, Councillor Ainslie asked for a report on the possibility of an Avenue study for the Kingston Road area. This makes explicit a request for an area (as did other motions) even though there is a general staff recommendation (2.c above) addressing this issue.

6a – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Paul Ainslie (Carried)

That:

1. City Council request the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning to include in her report to the June 28, 2016 Executive Committee meeting whether an Avenue Study in the vicinity of Kingston Road from Celeste Drive (Guildwood GO Station) to the intersection of Kingston Road and Old Kingston Road is beneficial given the impacts to the area.

Public Consultation and Process

The important motions here were amendments at Council to ensure that all reports for these complex issues be issued well ahead of their consideration by Executive Committee and Council, and that a special Executive meeting be called with only the transit plan on the agenda. These arise from a sense by many Councillors that information appears at the last moment, and yet major decisions are expected from politicians.

Whether all of the material will be available in time, and whether it will address all of the outstanding questions, is quite another matter. The next Metrolinx Board meeting is scheduled for the same day as the next Executive Committee meeting, although that conflict will be resolved if there is a separate session just for the transit reports. However, some issues require Metrolinx input, and policy options would likely not be made public before they go to the Metrolinx Board unless the Minister and the Mayor decide to pre-empt debate with a press conference.

9.  City Council direct the City Manager, the Deputy City Manager, Cluster B, and the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning to undertake additional consultation and stakeholder engagement with respect to the transit network plan and rapid transit expansion projects outlined in the report (March 3, 2016) from the City Manager, the Deputy City Manager, Cluster B, and the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning, in advance of the June 28, 2016 report to Executive Committee.

13. City Council direct the City Manager and the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning to forward the report and appendices (March 3, 2016) from the City Manager, the Deputy City Manager, Cluster B and the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning to Metrolinx for consideration in the review of the Regional Transportation Plan (“The Big Move”), and Regional Express Rail planning.

4 – Motion to Amend Item moved by Councillor Josh Matlow (Carried)

That:

2. City Council request the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning to release all reports identified for the June 28, 2016 Executive Committee on or before June 14, 2016.

3. City Council request the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning to hold one public information meeting between June 14, 2016 and June 27, 2016 regarding all reports identified for the June 28, 2016 Executive Committee.

5b – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Janet Davis (Carried)

That City Council request the Chair of the Executive Committee to call a special meeting of the Executive Committee to consider the Toronto Transit Network reports and related matters, on a date prior to June 28, 2016 as determined by the Chair.

58 thoughts on “Toronto Council Endorses Transit Plan, Seeks Background Details

  1. When I heard Councillor Matlow’s comments on the SSE, I thought it had been dealt with and decidedly built underground but alas I was wrong. Council has been told many MANY times about the reasons for tunnelling the route and yet they seek to drag on debate endlessly rather than build anything.

    Steve: I think this is a case of a final kick at that particular can to bury the idea. Some of this is fallout from the “Smart Spur” proposal. If the route were going to follow the RT, it should be the original LRT proposal, but that’s a nettle no Councillor will grasp.

    Factoring in the desire to build the relief line so that it connects to City Hall I am starting to wonder if the City of Toronto should continue to have any control over transit construction or for that matter transit operations. I got the impression that no matter what the experts say, a subway to City Hall was always the end game.

    Steve: The Queen Street alignment is fairly clearly an attempt to avoid the competition King would represent for SmartTrack. Of course, there really is no “SmartTrack” as such, but we’re still pretending it exists.

    All we ever hear about now is how the councillors request more information or how they try and suit their pet projects. At this rate nothing will ever be built because all we get are reports and studies.

    I am not saying Metrolinx is perfect but at least they have got shovels in the ground far more often than the city ever has. While the city has been debating the SSE, a transit terminal has been built at Square One, the Mississauga Transitway is well under construction, new vehicles have been purchased for GO and planning is underway for an LRT in Mississauga. This has all be done while Toronto City Council keeps requesting more studies and more information.

    Something has got to give otherwise nothing is ever going to be built. The Eglinton Crosstown is being built by Metrolinx and is going smoothly. The planning process was handled well and there were not endless requests for more information and studies like there is with the City of Toronto. If the City of Toronto had built the Crosstown we would still be studying it and likely still debating which vehicles to use and which route to take.

    Sorry for the rant Steve but I am getting annoyed by the endless delays by Toronto City Council for what at one point was a somewhat confirmed project. If City Council keeps up with their political grandstanding then they deserve to lose control over transit in the city.

    Steve: The problem in Toronto has always been the lack of money. As long as we can never actually start anything, or spend all the time competing for limited funds, then reports are the natural result.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I really don’t understand why Keesmaat thought there was very little re-development happening in the St. Clair and Caledonia region. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Condos are being planned at Oakwood (a little far yes, but this station could serve that community), Dufferin and Osler. Properties between Dufferin and Keele are starting to be bought up and actively re-developed.

    On top of that, you’ve got a streetcar right of way line intersecting with the Barrie line. What an opportunity!

    In her letter to Metrolinx, Keesmaat said that St. Clair and Caledonia is 2KM north of Bloor and 2KM south of Eglinton. This deep in the city, wouldn’t you want rail stations a little closer than 4km apart?

    With Metrolinx’s proposed elevated rail and trenches between Bloor and Caledonia, you’d think the city would be fighting tooth and nail to better serve the communities these proposals intersect.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It seems that the most important legacy of SmartTrack will be pushing the Relief line to Queen Street rather than on King where it belongs. Sigh – not feeling great about local politics right now.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “I really don’t understand why Keesmaat thought there was very little re-development happening in the St. Clair and Caledonia region.”

    It’s a pragmatic statement, I assume.

    As you note, there is no redevelopment happening right there. People around Oakwood are probably going to the subway still, because the frequency is so much better. So we are only looking at development west of Dufferin.

    Meanwhile, the city would like a station at St. Clair & Keele on the Kitchener line, because the area west of Keele has far more redevelopment potential. But the two lines are so close on St. Clair (800 m) that stops at both can’t be justified. Given that, it makes sense to downplay the Barrie station, because a successful attempt could risk the Kitchener one.

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  5. Steve said:

    “At Council, Councillor Crisanti wanted to ensure that frequent service extends beyond Mount Dennis where the SmartTrack service would, originally, have veered off to Pearson Airport via Eglinton Avenue. In fact, the GO-RER service (which is all that is left of SmartTrack in northern Etobicoke) will operate frequently to Bramalea. Whether there will be a stop at Woodbine Racetrack remains to be seen.”

    It is really too bad that this is not easily supported as far as Brampton GO. If it could be, it would make much better regional integration in the long term, as long as the LRT is to connect there (of course assuming city council gets on side).

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  6. Steve, could you answer a couple of questions since you have a lot more experience first-hand with understanding how city planners and politicians think?

    Keep one thing in mind when reading my questions – I support LRT where it fits, but I also believe that our “subway” system is vastly lacking in range or distance covered compared to other major international cities (large like London & NYC or small like Berlin).

    1. If we could save costs by using as much of the original SRT alignment for the SSE, the east-west section you noted that the TTC believes needs to be below-grade, couldn’t we use cut & cover for that? It would save a lot more money than using boring machines AND they could likely build that a lot faster. If my brain is working, they could possibly simultaneously work on the tunnel curve under Midland/Ellesmere at the same time as digging the trench and creating the E-W tunnel to STC.

    Steve: The section east of Ellesmere Station runs along beside Highland Creek and this will be a challenge to build in if cut and cover. There is also the question of an alignment through STC where cut and cover would be very disruptive. I suspect that the TTC would propose a bore running from somewhere south of Ellesmere, dropping from grade level to get under the railway, and then east through STC.

    2. Why is city council short-sighted when it comes to the DRL? Why aren’t they looking at plans and initiating environmental assessments to take the DRL to connect with Eglinton Crosstown, if not further up to Fairview Mall to connect with the Stubway?

    Taking into account regional rail expansion plans/changes, Metrolinx got one thing right. The DRL should be going up to Eglinton, and preferrably Sheppard, when it is actually being built. If you want to relieve capacity on Yonge, you need to intercept as many people from reaching Yonge. Subway cars are sardine cans by the time you reach Eglinton and I wouldn’t be surprised if they are fairly full after loading up at Finch, North York Centre, and Sheppard-Yonge.

    Steve: This is the result of a historical situation where TTC engineering were dead set against the DRL and claimed that they could provide much higher capacity on the Yonge line. The standard response to pro-DRL arguments was “why spend money on an expensive new line when there is more capacity on the existing one. The basic problem there is that the claims were simply not technically sound (very frequent service well beyond what the TTC now proposes with ATC) and would require massive reconstruction of Bloor-Yonge Station to increase passenger handling capacity.

    Then there was the political imperative to extend to Richmond Hill. Not only was there a pro-Richmond Hill fifth column within the TTC, but regionally, the idea of spending more money “downtown” didn’t fly. The TTC had done such a good job of convincing people that we didn’t need the DRL that they never looked at the potential of going further north even though this was included in their own plans back in the 1960s. The ridership fall in the 1990s recession made it look as if there was spare capacity on Yonge, when in fact there was not once employment and ridership rebounded.

    In brief, the TTC screwed up downtown transport quite royally with its short-sighted attitude and the seductive lure of the lands to the north. This is probably the most serious failure of transit planning visited on us by the TTC in the past half-century.

    3. I can’t remember if this was in the plans, but is there any appetite to swallow the costs within the next 15-20 years and extend the Stubway to Downsview? Possibly building a wye or at least West-to-South and/or North-to-East tracks to access Line 1 and then the Wilson Yard (not sure how the entrances to the yard are designed to connect to Line 1 – I will have to Google Maps that).

    Steve: This project is a perennial favourite of Councillor Pasternak whose ward it would serve, but it always does very poorly on demand models. The line could connect in to Wilson Yard, but running Sheppard as a branch of the Spadina operation poses difficulties with train length. The structure at Downsview is not designed to permit through running from Sheppard to the north.

    4. Why did the city and Metrolinx refuse to tunnel between Laird & Brentcliffe and swallow the additional costs of tunneling and also building a station deep below for those condo owners by that Toyota dealership that begged for a station on the Crosstown line?

    Steve: The line is underground between Laird and Brentcliffe. It will not emerge until part way down the hill into the river valley. As for a station for the condo, one development does not generate enough demand to justify a station, especially one so close to both Laird and Leslie. At one point there was a proposal to move Laird Station to Brentcliffe, but this was not well-received by people living further west who are there “now” as opposed to future condo dwellers whose buildings did not exist when the decision was made. A related issue is that if the line were tunnelled under the River, the station could not be at Brentcliffe because it would be extremely deep on the approach to the valley.

    I find it ironic that in the past the TTC was slightly “forward-looking” and built the Sheppard Subway platforms to 6-car train lengths but built walls to block off excess space beyond the initial 4-car train lengths, yet now they and the city don’t even appropriately look forward anymore. Also, wasn’t it the city who built the Prince Edward Viaduct in the 1920s with a subway deck below in anticipation of a subway running on it eventually, even though it took another 40 years? What happened to that forward thinking? Why are we playing a poor man’s game of “catch-up” and still failing?

    Steve: I am not sure exactly what you are driving at. What “look ahead” is the city not doing? If Sheppard West, the only reason that line will ever be built will be that someone wants to drop about $1b to keep a small number of voters (and one Councillor) happy.

    As for the Viaduct, that was designed in anticipation of interurban railways coming into Toronto that would be operated in a subway downtown. It was a reasonable assumption at the time, but Toronto did not get around to building a subway until almost 50 years after the Viaduct opened. Leaving space in the structure was a good design decision, but it did not vastly increase the cost. Building a subway where none is required is a completely different situation.

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  7. Did I just miss it or did no one ask for the planning department to elaborate on a westward extension of the DRL from city hall. Potential routes? What the city needs to do to protect possible corridors?

    I realize that there may never be a westward extension and that at the very earliest it will be decades, but to not make some provision for the possibility of building it really cripples future councillors in their decision making.

    Steve: Nobody asked about this, and Metrolinx has been silent on how this potentially cuts off a link to their “Bathurst Yard” station.

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  8. Gary McIntosh said:

    “I realize that there may never be a westward extension and that at the very earliest it will be decades, but to not make some provision for the possibility of building it really cripples future councillors in their decision making.”

    Yes, if we do not act now, we will be very hard pressed to build the eastern side. Somehow, everybody seems to forget all the stuff underground, so it somehow just remains pristine and unencumbered. We all seem to forget about all the stuff that bridges under streets, and goes down 4, 5 ,6 and more stories. We should really be looking at corridors, to link for a western LRT that could have real capacity whether it be Waterfront or not, and a way back up to Bloor, and beyond.

    If we build what we should eventually, we will have a fully used DRL in the east, and capacity will likely become an issue on the western leg of the YUS, at least south of Bloor. We need at to least consider a provision for it.

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  9. Did I just miss it or did no one ask for the planning department to elaborate on a westward extension of the DRL from city hall. Potential routes? What the city needs to do to protect possible corridors?

    Some people did but the planners gave evasive non-answers.

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  10. Steve said:

    “Leaving space in the structure was a good design decision, but it did not vastly increase the cost.”

    Of course, failing to future proof the curves on the viaduct turned out to be a poor one with the Rosedale valley portion. It’s strange how that point always gets overlooked whenever people talk about our forward thinking elders in Toronto.

    Steve: The curve at Rosedale Valley Road was quite acceptable for the type of car that was foreseen at the time, essentially a streetcar, not a 75′ long subway car.

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  11. Steve said

    “The effect of this is to keep alive the idea that the subway could be built on a surface alignment using the RT corridor. Replying to a question from Matlow, TTC staff stated that the cost of surface vs tunnel construction was $80m/km vs $150m/km. This statement is misleading in that it only speaks to the running structure and does not include trains or stations. The basic points have been made before, but a definitive TTC report on the subject would sort out exactly what design they have in mind when making claims about this option.”

    Steve said:

    “Also at Council, Councillor Ainslie asked for a report on the possibility of an Avenue study for the Kingston Road area. This makes explicit a request for an area (as did other motions) even though there is a general staff recommendation (2.c above) addressing this issue.”

    Steve, why does it seem, that staff, council, and Tory, are quietly, and slowly, moving, towards surface rail, and implementations, that are closer to Transit City than ST. Surface subway, sounds like a very interesting compromise. Pursuing the Avenues study for Kingston road and the Eglinton LRT extensions, sounds very much like Transit City, by stealth. I would still be very concerned about a failure to cross the 401, and a long chunk of subway operated, with little ridership, and a lack of intermediate stops. However, a surface alignment should also make building future stops easier.

    If subway was extended to the STC along the old RT alignment, would a couple of intermediate stops make sense, and could the be better located to support local transit connectivity?

    Also would an LRT going north across the 401, then make sense from the STC to say Steeles?

    Steve: What you are seeing is the combined effect of small changes such as Crosstown East, the subway-via-SRT scheme, and proposed land use studies, as if they were part of a consolidated plan, when they are still really ideas floated up by individuals.

    Crossing the 401 is very important for local travel within Scarborough, but that part always seems to be lopped off as a cost saving measure, both for the subway extension and the Crosstown East. STC to Steeles? I’m not sure in part because an LRT line to STC would head northeast to Malvern not necessarily straight north.

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  12. Steve said:

    “The curve at Rosedale Valley Road was quite acceptable for the type of car that was foreseen at the time, essentially a streetcar, not a 75′ long subway car.”

    Indeed. However, if the city had been truly thinking of the future in terms of what the “build for tomorrow” subway advocates are thinking, the curves on the viaduct would have been built to railway standards which would have handled an 85′ car and saved the TTC from building the Rosedale Valley bridge for the BD line. That’s why it’s curious that point always gets skipped when they bring up the viaduct as a reason why we need to overbuild today.

    Steve: There are no curves on the viaduct. The issue is the curve at Parliament Street where eastbound trains crossing Rosedale Valley Road would have to swing sharply back to the north. Straightening out the bridge alignment would have required a substantial fill into the Rosedale Valley ravine so that Bloor Street would not have such a sharp kink in it.

    At the time, interurban railway cars were not 85′ long as a standard, much more like streetcars because it was common for such lines to have sections of street trackage are curves more like a street railway.

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  13. Hi Steve,

    Could you kindly edit my comment/question 4 to read between east of Leslie and Brentcliffe? I did not proofread my long comment. I meant to cover the distance between the portal already under construction and the one that will end up opening where the uphill section is at the Celestica lands to the north prior to reaching Don Mills.

    Steve: I’m going to leave your original comment and my response as they are. There was a proposal for an alternative alignment underground through this segment, but with it there would not have been a Leslie Station because the cost could not be justified for low use.

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  14. Malcolm N said

    “…Surface subway, sounds like a very interesting compromise…

    If subway was extended to the STC along the old RT alignment, would a couple of intermediate stops make sense, and could the be better located to support local transit connectivity?
    would an LRT going north across the 401, then make sense from the STC to say Steeles?”

    Here’s another idea.

    Convert the Stouffville line to EMU with 3-4 minute headways. The route goes along the Lakeshore (4th track installed), then at Gerrard and Pape we go down the DRL tunnel, switching the DRL technology to EMU as well. The Crosstown under Queen is now EMU avoiding all the Union Station issues. We meet up with the UPX, which we then salvage by converting it to EMU and add a few more stations and serve west Toronto. With the DRL now underground EMU we go up Pape, build a couple of bridges across the Don Valley and then up Don Mills Road.

    Let’s call it SmartTrack 2.0. LOL

    Steve: You appear to have two separate service both using the same tunnel into downtown: the Stouffville line operation and the Don Mills subway. Is this your intent?

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  15. Steve said:

    “What you are seeing is the combined effect of small changes such as Crosstown East, the subway-via-SRT scheme, and proposed land use studies, as if they were part of a consolidated plan, when they are still really ideas floated up by individuals.”

    So if I am seeing what looks more like Transit City, that is because it is still a ghost in the backs of the mind. I was thinking in terms of going north [of] STC being a whole new thought process. However, it is hard to imagine it not being a new version of one the old proposal.

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  16. @ Malcolm N

    It’s certainly an improved roll out of part of Transit City but as Steve said it all just another concept for the time being at least. The seamless end to end Eglinton crosstown to UTSC will be great for many areas & if they manage to save a few pennies on the surface subway it may be possible to extended across the 401.

    As for Sheppard, there’s another bi-election in Rouge-River which is a conflicted riding on the LRT/Subway plans. Most west of McCowan have no use for the extra transfer to the Stubway but for many to the East it’s not as big of a deal. I would still assume the larger support would be for a revival of a subway extension from STC across 401 and/or an Sheppard extension connecting to wherever the subway would end up at STC or across the 401.

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  17. Before we spend 20 billion dollars on a brand new subway in the name of overcrowding, why don’t we try using longer trains? It seems that the TTC deliberately wants crowded trains to justify the DRL. Also a DRL on Queen would threats the world famous main street type character of Queen St West and so please push the subway further south.

    Steve: One scheme the TTC had is for 7-car trains on Yonge, although this has not been mentioned in recent plans. The likely way this would be done is that when the next set of TRs is ordered to replace the T1s now on the BD line, they would be configured as 7-car sets with a short central car for operation on YUS, and the existing 6-car sets would move to BD. However, this only gets at best 10% more capacity, probably less when allowing for the fact it would be at the extremities of the trains.

    By contrast, the DRL to Sheppard and Don Mills would cut about 1/3 off of the current demand on the Yonge line and would provide substantial capacity for growth of travel in a new corridor.

    And by the way, it’s not $20b to get from downtown to Sheppard.

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  18. I’m fine with the Queen alignment for the relief line, especially if the RER/Smartrack will have additional stations serving the rail corridor.

    But here’s an idea. Remember that Union Station study that had a proposal for a GO Queen tunnel, for a second Union Station at City Hall? Why not combine both ideas, with a double tracked Queen tunnel for both the Relief Line and some electrified GO/RER/Smartrack trains. A City Hall station would be more useful in serving the core than Bathurst.

    The two most pressing issues for Toronto transit, are the capacity of the Yonge line, and capacity of Union Station. All of these LRT and RER/Smartrack proposals are just going to funnel more people onto Yonge and into Union, ignoring the real issues.

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  19. RyanM said:

    But here’s an idea. Remember that Union Station study that had a proposal for a GO Queen tunnel, for a second Union Station at City Hall? Why not combine both ideas, with a double tracked Queen tunnel for both the Relief Line and some electrified GO/RER/Smartrack trains. A City Hall station would be more useful in serving the core than Bathurst.

    @RyanM Your idea is a non-starter. There is no way in hell you could run GO trains under the Downtown Core.

    There is no room anywhere in the Downtown Core to build a new station without demolishing half of it. It is one thing to build a small subway entrance akin to Bessarion but another to build a GO station. Even a small Subway station is workable but to build a Subway station AND a GO station… there is no room to put it anywhere at Queen and Bay.

    When you factor in regulations pertaining to railway operations in Canada such as bells, crossings and horns there is no way in hell you could run GO trains under office buildings. Can you imagine the reaction when GO trains blow their horns approaching the station.

    With the Path system running under and around City Hall this idea would be laughed out of any meetings it came up in.

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  20. Bombardier once again made BIG promises about delivering 4 streetcars per month by April and also one at the end of March; however, not a single one had arrived in the last two months. What’s going on?

    Steve: 4416, delivered in January, entered service on February 1. The February car, 4417, has been in service since February 19. 4418, delivered in late March, went into revenue service today. It is on Spadina. Your claim that “not a single one …” is wrong, begging the question of how carefully you are paying attention to what is actually happening.

    The 4/month deliveries are supposed to start in April, and I’m still waiting to see 4419, let alone 4420, 21, 22 … That’s the real test.

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  21. RyanM said:

    But here’s an idea. Remember that Union Station study that had a proposal for a GO Queen tunnel, for a second Union Station at City Hall? Why not combine both ideas, with a double tracked Queen tunnel for both the Relief Line and some electrified GO/RER/Smartrack trains. A City Hall station would be more useful in serving the core than Bathurst.

    Are you proposing a single level with both services sharing platforms?

    Steve: I think by “double tracked” RyanM implies a separate track for each service. That would be a big tunnel with even bigger stations.

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  22. @Richard White, I’m not talking about bi-level diesel GO trains. It would be EMU’s. They don’t have to be much bigger than subway trains. Anyway, it’s not my proposal, it’s from the Union Station 2031 study. It doesn’t have to be a massive complex like Union, it could be a two level station like St. George.

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  23. Joe M said:

    “It’s certainly an improved roll out of part of Transit City but as Steve said it all just another concept for the time being at least. The seamless end to end Eglinton crosstown to UTSC will be great for many areas & if they manage to save a few pennies on the surface subway it may be possible to extended across the 401.”

    The problem Joe, is it really does not show itself as a Transit City improvement, unless it is purely by stealth. Much of TCs advantage was that it covered so much of the currently low service areas.

    I would not have a problem with another integrated plan, even or especially if it did a better job at also supporting other local centres within Toronto, and integrating beyond 416 transit. Even more so if it does a better job at creating highly desirable, high service, high density neighborhoods, that reduce sprawl, increase walkability, and make for a better local life for residents. Human scale high density is highly desirable massive impersonal towers centre around a periodic subway station much less so.

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  24. Steve said:

    “You appear to have two separate service both using the same tunnel into downtown: the Stouffville line operation and the Don Mills subway. Is this your intent?”

    The origin of the ideas was an Unionville Subway proposal.

    The Don Mills/Stouffville tunnel would be triple track.

    A less effective alternative would be to merge the two lines together, the outside track requiring a flying junction. The most effective method is to use 4 tracks.

    The cheapest would to terminate one line at Pape and Gerrard and continue in town with the other line, not sure riders would go for it.

    Apparently the triple track function doesn’t work well in New York because the return track can’t handle the load of two tracks. Maybe using station bypasses to let trains pass each other to help move trains out of the tunnel on the middle track. The idea is to have both dedicated tracks inbound in the morning and outbound for the evening. At some point after the morning rush hour all trains on both lines have to pull into a station and all crews have to reverse direction. Both lines require signals in both directions. You can tell, I have not transit knowledge.

    This idea is for brainstorming. The idea is to get Metrolinx to work on a digestible project where they can gain experience with PTC and EMU’s. It would be easy on Stouffville and UPX. Toronto needs both crosstown and RL (DRL) so it would be a good connector. We can isolate all the Union Station issues. Can anyone shape a realistic plan from these ideas?

    Steve: I can see where the three-track plan would run into problems. If you intend to operate very frequent service, then dodging around trains via the third track gets quite tricky and is almost certain to encounter timing problems. With less frequent service, it is possible, although there is still the possibility that if service is screwed up, things won’t work perfectly.

    A three-track structure also needs more platform space at stations than two tracks, and this would be challenging for the restricted space between building foundations downtown.

    What is quite striking here, for those who complain about the high cost of the Relief Line, is that it still has all the elements of a Don Mills subway plus the proposed Stouffville service. The only advantage, assuming operational issues can be avoided, is that the Stouffville trains do not go to Union. However, Union has problems with many more services, especially to the west where four lines converge (Lake Shore, Milton, Weston, Barrie). I am not sure that the added complexity of merging the two eastern corridors buys enough to offset the added expense of the more complex structures once the lines merge at Pape/Gerrard.

    As a general note, please don’t turn this thread into a fantasy subway map discussion such as is found on Urban Toronto. Those threads tend to go miles off topic, and become mired in claims that there is “a solution”, but the authors tend not to brook any criticism.

    It will be hard enough to get the RL built as things stand without complicating the whole business by merging it with GO operations.

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  25. Steve said:

    “As a general note, please don’t turn this thread into a fantasy subway map discussion such as is found on Urban Toronto. Those threads tend to go miles off topic, and become mired in claims that there is “a solution”, but the authors tend not to brook any criticism.”

    Can we have a fantasy funding discussion instead. Or do we have to keep it down to slight increases in gas tax transfers? Seriously, this should be the real discussion surrounding the greenhouse gas issues. If Canada is going to make a serious move, it is going to have to involve commuting as one of its key elements, and making transit, especially electrified transit, the default way of moving, and pushing more compact cities, is an absolute requirement to make any real headway. Wynne, should be pushing this, ie the DRL and a widening of the LRT projects, as Ontario’s next major contribution to Canada’s plan, and hit the feds up for funds that way (infrastructure, jobs, and environment). However, that is where the fantasy starts, a fed that was actually willing to transfer 2-3 billion per annum for new transit, and 1 for repairs/upgrades/rejuvenation in the GTA. That is enough money, that real planning itself would be a serious issue, not just pretend politicking.

    Steve: A related issue will be who will be in power at Queen’s Park in four years or so when the serious money for new projects is supposed to flow from Ottawa. The Visigoths (aka the Conservative party) may be back and with them the end of hope for an enlightened transit policy.

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  26. Brian Lynn said

    “It seems that the most important legacy of SmartTrack will be pushing the Relief line to Queen Street rather than on King where it belongs. Sigh – not feeling great about local politics right now.”

    It depends on how you look at the issue. If you take a purely transit based approach to this issue, then I would say that their choice of alignment is correct. However, if you prioritize maximizing business and development potential the King/Wellington alignment is superior.

    Competition between SmartTrack and the DRL effectively lowers transport cost for the affected businesses along the corridor, creating the framework that would allow the city to significantly increase zoning densities within the corridor. There is research evidence coming out of ICP and the Bank of Canada that would suggest that density along that corridor would support economies of scale in industries were Ontario has significant competitive advantage, and businesses that have comparatively lower risk and higher returns than the average. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the minor increase in costs associated with the more southerly route of the DRL would be more than offset by the improved business environment.

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  27. It seems that the most important legacy of SmartTrack will be pushing the Relief line to Queen Street rather than on King where it belongs. Sigh – not feeling great about local politics right now.

    What can really be done at this point if TPTB made up their minds months ago?

    I’m surprised by how little talk there is about that subject to be honest. In the past there wasn’t a moment that would go by where any random post would get derailed by talk about RL alignments but in this post and the other recent posts where RL alignment and stations would actually be relevant to the subject there’s been little chatter. Strange isn’t it?

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  28. L. Wall says

    I’m surprised by how little talk there is about that subject to be honest. In the past there wasn’t a moment that would go by where any random post would get derailed by talk about RL alignments but in this post and the other recent posts where RL alignment and stations would actually be relevant to the subject there’s been little chatter. Strange isn’t it?

    Indeed.

    The real problem is that by not optimizing the net present value of the project they are taking on significant risk, and increasing the likelihood of failure.

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  29. Jon Johnson said:

    “Indeed.

    The real problem is that by not optimizing the net present value of the project they are taking on significant risk, and increasing the likelihood of failure.”

    The question I would have, is what interest rate should they be using? I would argue, that giving the limits on the ability of the Government to borrow, and more importantly pay back this debt, the Net Present Value (NPV) calculation needs to be done with a much higher cost of capital than the prevailing interest rate. 1: because the opportunity costs are higher than the interest rate and 2: the debt will be subject to much higher rates in the out years, long before it is paid off. The very fact that something as simple as the appropriate cost of money is hard to pin down makes this more difficult, this does not even begin to address issues surrounding, impact on development, etc, all of which are somewhat uncertain. The NPV calculation becomes extremely subjective, depending on what values you assign. Reducing construction costs becomes much more important when you make the cost of money 8% instead of 3%.

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  30. Malcolm N says

    The question I would have, is what interest rate should they be using?

    I would argue that the discount rate used should be close to the 200 year average to help smooth out the effects of atypical economic conditions that tend to be transitory.

    “The NPV calculation becomes extremely subjective, depending on what values you assign.”

    Subjectivity is dependent on the strength of your cost accounting, as with all project evaluation techniques the quality of the output is directly dependent on the quality of the data input. NPV remains an excellent tool so long as those using it do their job correctly.

    I generally agree with what you have to say, but I want to emphasis the relationship between existing discount rates and the provincial government’s ability to service its debt. Under conditions where the global discount rate regresses towards the historic mean, the province’s ability to take on projects that have excessively negative NPV like the DRL (within its current design) would be severely limited. It does not matter what party is in charge at Queen’s Park, if they lose access to the bond market the project will get cancelled.

    I posit that the best way to insulate the DRL from unnecessary risk is to expand the primary goals of the project to include building economic competitiveness through building significant density within the core business district. Density is the best way to create value within the context of this project.

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  31. Jon Johnson said:

    The real problem is that by not optimizing the net present value of the project they are taking on significant risk, and increasing the likelihood of failure.

    I’d have to agree that a higher NPV doesn’t equate to more or less risk or risk of failure. Specifically, how are you defining failure? If both a Queen alignment and King alignment would provide ridership and system-relief beyond a critical value, then either should be acceptable, while one would obviously be preferred/ideal. I would say that the higher risk or ability to maximize the NPV is in the location on the northern terminus rather than the specific alignment of the downtown terminus.

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  32. Jon Johnson said:

    “I would argue that the discount rate used should be close to the 200 year average to help smooth out the effects of atypical economic conditions that tend to be transitory.”

    I would argue that it should in fact be somewhat higher than that for a couple of reasons.

    1- most of the excess capital that is currently driving insanely low interest rates essentially has only a couple of sources -China, and the baby boom. Both of these are present because of generational imbalances, and in the intermediate term, we should actually see a substantial reduction in savings pools, going forward, to likely levels slightly below long term average, from positions way above, and much of the period of interest rates you discuss are in a world of Gold Standard acting as a barrier to inflation. Therefore, the early period in this, has a low expectation of inflation that is deeply rooted. This factors into required rates of return on savings.

    2- More importantly the province, needs to focus on the limits of its financial capacity, and thus must look at this as an allocation method. I would actually be inclined to use a rate based on this at something closer to 8 or even 9%. As opposed to say 5-6.

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  33. Jon Johnson said:

    I would argue that the discount rate used should be close to the 200 year average to help smooth out the effects of atypical economic conditions that tend to be transitory.

    The 200-year average of what? I would say that there are more atypical economic conditions from growth related to the third industrial revolution within a 200-year window than anything since we came off the Gold Standard. In fact, it could be argued that capturing those transitory economic conditions is preferred as it connects the project to the real/expected economic conditions rather than some abstract leveling.

    Steve: I am trying to imagine someone in 1816 deciding on the life cycle costs of their proposed new regional steam railway express network.

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  34. Mapleson says

    I’d have to agree that a higher NPV doesn’t equate to more or less risk or risk of failure. Specifically, how are you defining failure?

    The problem is as interest rates change the project return must be able to remain viable within the changing constraints. If the project becomes a significant burden on the public purse then it will fail. Please see Malcolm N | April 19, 2016 at 12:51 pm for more details.

    “If both a Queen alignment and King alignment would provide ridership and system-relief beyond a critical value, then either should be acceptable, while one would obviously be preferred/ideal.”

    There are several points regarding NPV:

    1) NPV is very useful in comparing projects, why should the government spend scarce resources on the DRL when it can spend them elsewhere on projects that can be of greater benefit to society.
    2) Projects should be designed to create the greatest value for the investment they receive to do otherwise is simply poor planning.

    Steve: The problem is in what one counts as “greater benefit”. I would argue that eliminating 1/3 of the demand on the Yonge subway is a huge benefit in that it would improve operations there, provide headroom for growth, and avoid the need for massive intervention in station capacity. If we only look at the DRL as a Pape to Union bypass, it doesn’t hold up, but that may suit someone trying to argue for spending elsewhere.

    Equally, we can make bogus claims about the future development of the Scarborough Centre precinct even though the city’s own forecasts show that it will not develop the level of jobs so dearly hoped for by the politicians. That is an example of determining a “value” based on a false premise.

    Frankly, there is more bogus work being done on that score than any debate about 200-year interest rates will solve.

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  35. Malcolm N says

    I would argue that it should in fact be somewhat higher than that for a couple of reasons.

    I would agree with your statement and the points that you raise. Although you must remember that current calculations of value tend to ignore “soft” numbers that are tied positive externalities which in the case of a public works project like the DRL will understate its value. I would suggest the use of your more robust evaluation techniques only if a full cost accounting approach is used to determine all relevant costs and benefits. The method takes more effort up front but will deliver significantly better results for the public.

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  36. Steve:

    Equally, we can make bogus claims about the future development of the Scarborough Centre precinct even though the city’s own forecasts show that it will not develop the level of jobs so dearly hoped for by the politicians. That is an example of determining a “value” based on a false premise. Frankly, there is more bogus work being done on that score than any debate about 200-year interest rates will solve.

    The SSE isn’t the only project being backed by such bogus claims of development. That applies very much to the Queen RL as proposed by the City although in this case the city makes a valiant effort to avoid supporting job growth.

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  37. The key point I am trying to make is that as the province tries to de-industrialize or as they say in the vernacular shift to a “low carbon” economy they need to coordinate their efforts across all relevant ministries to ensure a smooth successful transition. In the case of transportation, finding ways to maximize growth potential by creating synergy between GO’s RER and the DRL alignment can provide significant benefit.

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  38. “Mapleson says, In fact, it could be argued that capturing those transitory economic conditions is preferred as it connects the project to the real/expected economic conditions rather than some abstract leveling.”

    I proposed the 200 year average discount rate because I like to be cautious and lenient with government projects that tend to have significant un-priced positive externalities associated with them. Using a higher discount rate in line with what Malcolm N proposed is likely better for the reasons he identifies, but if it is applied for comparative reasons across the board at the provincial level it is likely to cancel a bunch of projects that should not be cancelled.

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  39. Jon Johnson said:

    “Using a higher discount rate in line with what Malcolm N proposed is likely better for the reasons he identifies, but if it is applied for comparative reasons across the board at the provincial level it is likely to cancel a bunch of projects that should not be cancelled.”

    The problem is that while this is likely true, it also means that we have not been smart about doing the balance of the analysis. Much of this comes from a lack of discipline in general spending, but also wasting resources (hence increasing cost of them) on projects like the TYSSE, and not being strict enough in our approach with regards to SSE, or for that matter the DRL or RER. The timing, and roll-out with a higher cost of capital matters more.

    Running the DRL from Eglinton, makes the most sense to me, as it provides really solid relief, a large area of development, and an accessible terminus, without blowing the extra billions to go far beyond that. I can see a need to get to Sheppard eventually, but most of the required relief would come from starting at Eglinton.

    Pursuing electrification on Kitchener, instead of just supporting more trains for now – falls in the same lines. If we can transfer trains from Lakeshore, then we can push back the additional spending. Focusing on getting 2 tracks to Brampton, instead of electrification to Bramalea, means bigger impact for similar dollars.

    Aligning projects so that we roll them out, so that we gain maximum advantage at every move is critical, and would less of an issue, if transit itself were not such a political football. The added uncertainty, due to vastly different political positions encourages pulling projects forward into a time frame that adds marginally to their benefit, but massively to their expense.

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  40. My point is mostly that you can rationalize various discount rates with different rhetoric. It’s an arbitrary number that should be selected to make the most sense. Maybe it is similar to a 200-year average. It’s not a magic number than changes the fundamental benefits/flaws of the project, just a tool for comparing dissimilar projects.

    As a consultant, I know how easy it is to manipulate the criteria of analysis to reach the desired outcome. That’s why you and Malcolm each have a preferred number that results in a system as you’d prefer to see it.

    Malcolm N said:

    Running the DRL from Eglinton, makes the most sense to me, as it provides really solid relief, a large area of development, and an accessible terminus, without blowing the extra billions to go far beyond that. I can see a need to get to Sheppard eventually, but most of the required relief would come from starting at Eglinton.

    I’d like to see the modelling. The assumption is that the DRL improved Yonge-Bloor by removing westbound Bloor transfers. However, if the DRL extended to Sheppard, it should also reduce the Yonge-Bloor pressure by removing some southbound Yonge transfers from north Scarborough and York Region. For example, living near Victoria Park/Sheppard, I travel west on the Sheppard Subway and south to Union. However, I’d probably switch to a DRL that was as far east as Kennedy (Markham subway to Pacific Mall, anyone?)

    Malcolm N said:

    Pursuing electrification on Kitchener, instead of just supporting more trains for now – falls in the same lines.

    Electrification is pretty cheap. The issue is that it was an EA commitment in order to expand the corridor, so you can’t support more trains without electrification (or else other air/noise mitigation measures).

    Malcolm N said:

    Focusing on getting 2 tracks to Brampton, instead of electrification to Bramalea, means bigger impact for similar dollars.

    That’s a false dichotomy. It’s like saying focus on getting robotic legs rather than buying new sneakers. It might be bigger impact for similar dollars, but there is an external barrier. This isn’t an either-or situation. Metrolinx is deep in negotiations with CN/CP about how to get out of these bottlenecks (neither side likes it). If/when they get a deal, then you’ll get big announcements and a change in public direction (because it’s moved from preferred/possible to plausible). In the meantime, electrifying as far as they can means everything else is ready when an expanded corridor (the current internally preferred solution is for a 4-track corridor though Brampton).

    Malcolm N said:

    Aligning projects so that we roll them out, so that we gain maximum advantage at every move is critical, and would less of an issue, if transit itself were not such a political football. The added uncertainty, due to vastly different political positions encourages pulling projects forward into a time frame that adds marginally to their benefit, but massively to their expense.

    I’d flip this. Because transit is so inherently a political issue, making headway where we can is critical rather than focusing on some idealistic maximum advantage. There is only so much political capital to go around and not spending it just means it disappears.

    Electrification isn’t the best possible use of the money, but it provides an advantage to the system and enables future leveraging of that advantage onto other projects.

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