Asking Santa For Transit Dollars (Updated)

Updated April 15, 2016: Further information received from the Infrastructure Canada has been incorporated, as noted, in this article.

The new, transit-friendly Trudeau government has announced a major shift in Ottawa’s funding for municipal transit including policy changes to improve the flow of money:

  • Decisions about which projects should be funded with federal dollars will rest with local agencies rather than being dictated by Ottawa.
  • Federal funding will pay for up to 50% of projects compared to previous schemes in which each level of government contributed 1/3 (e.g. the Vaughan subway extension).
  • The pool of funds will be distributed based on ridership, not on population, so that provinces with well-used transit systems will receive most of the money.

In the first three years, $3.4-billion will be allocated with about 44% coming to Ontario. Of this, the TTC expects to see about $880-million according to TTC Chair Josh Colle as quoted by the CBC with money going to “what can be done quickly” with “the greatest customer impact.”

That will be a challenge on a few counts.

The TTC’s Capital Budget for 2016-2025 includes about $2.7-billion in unfunded projects, but some of these are not planned to start, indeed are not even required, in the immediate future.

PrelimANotes_CapBelowTheLine

The table above (from the City Budget Analyst Notes) shuffles around a bit every time we see it, but the outline remains the same. The serious problem with capital funding begins in 2018 when the City’s headroom for additional borrowing (in the absence of some other scheme to finance its capital programs) will be exhausted.

The $55.4m shown for 60 additional streetcars may or may not actually be triggered as a 2016 expense depending (a) on how many cars Bombardier delivers this year, and (b) on how much Toronto trusts Bombardier with an add-on order when the base contract is running so late.

Most of the list above deals simply with replacing or repairing vehicles and infrastructure that are at the end of their natural lives, and only a small part of the total (99 buses, 60 LRVs) would actually bring more service and capacity to the system. Toronto has not shown much enthusiasm for funding additional operating costs that a larger fleet represents and persists in the belief that ridership growth can somehow be handled by “efficiencies” within the base budget.

Another problem, of course, is that if $2.7b is “below the line” in unfunded status, and Ottawa is prepared to contribute only 50%, then the remaining 50% still has to come from somewhere, likely from the City of Toronto which claims to have no ability to finance this spending.

Many other projects are not even included in the ten year budget notably Waterfront transit and the Relief Line, not to mention some costs associated with capacity expansion on the existing subway. Queen’s Park is funding the first wave of LRT construction in Toronto, but other proposals sit on the wish list:

  • The main section of the Crosstown from Mount Dennis to Kennedy is fully funded by Queen’s Park, as is the Finch West LRT from Finch West Station to Humber College.
  • The Crosstown East LRT is to be funded through a shuffle of available money among Scarborough transit projects. It is not yet clear whether changes to SmartTrack and the Scarborough Subway Extension will actually balance out the LRT’s full cost.
  • The Crosstown West LRT would, in theory, be funded from “savings” through the cutback of SmartTrack to Mount Dennis, but ST itself is not fully funded or costed. How much will actually be available remains to be seen, especially when Queen’s Park’s share will only be an “in kind” contribution through GO-RER upgrades.
  • The Finch West LRT extension to the airport, the Crosstown extension north beyond UTSC to Malvern, and a Sheppard East rapid transit line have no funding.

Ottawa’s budget papers describe the commitment in more detail, and beg a few questions about just how much help Toronto will get for its infrastructure funding problems.

The government has a “plan to invest more than $120 billion in infrastructure over 10 years”. That will be quite a feat when the chart for actual spending never exceeds $10b/year and is well below that amount in the early stages.

Federal10YearInfraPlan

Updated: According to Infrastructure Canada, the chart above does not include all classes of proposed spending, and that’s why the total value of the columns is less than the $120 billion cited in the text.

… referencing Chart 2.1 in the Budget, the funding profile included only new funding (i.e. $60 billion) announced for public transit, green, and social infrastructure respectively. It does not include previously existing funds, nor does it include the new commitments to support initiatives such as broadband infrastructure, and infrastructure investments at Post-Secondary Institutions which are above and beyond the commitments in to the three above identified streams. [Email of April 14, 2016]

In other words, some of the $120 billion is “old money”, and some of it lies in areas outside of the scope of the infrastructure announcement. It’s a lot of money, but not quite as big a pot as some might have thought specifically for the transit, green and social infrastructure envelopes.

There is some confusion in the budget papers because they speak of $11.9b over “five” years, although it is fairly obvious that the first three years in the chart above total roughly that amount. Moreover, the public transit component of this spending is a three-year spend, while the others are described as five-year:

Phase 1 of the Government’s infrastructure plan proposes to provide $11.9 billion over five years, starting right away. Budget 2016 puts this plan into action with an immediate down payment on this plan, including:

  • $3.4 billion over three years to upgrade and improve public transit systems across Canada;
  • $5.0 billion over five years for investments in water, wastewater and green infrastructure projects across Canada; and
  • $3.4 billion over five years for social infrastructure, including affordable housing, early learning and child care, cultural and recreational infrastructure, and community health care facilities on reserve.

It is not clear how much of the $108.1 billion in the later years would go to public transit, but if the split were on the same basis, then transit would get about $30.9b, Ontario would get $13.6b, and Toronto would get $8b.

Updated: The reason for the mix of three and five year periods for the three funding envelopes is that there is no transit money in years four and five in the “phase 1” spending. The detailed breakdown shows how this works. “Phase 2” is not included in this table, and that is the phase in which major projects (as opposed to catch-up on state of good repair) will occur. Clearly it is intended that the two phases will overlap.

The total of “Toronto” money could be less than the amount originally estimated by me above ($8b) because the total pot from which “transit” spending will be drawn is smaller than $120b as explained in Infrastructure Canada’s email.

If this all goes to fund “below the line” projects, someone has to come up with a matching amount for the local and/or provincial share. Queen’s Park pleads poor and points to the massive investments underway already on GO/RER and other projects, notably the Crosstown LRT line. Toronto says that its borrowing capability is tapped out.

A common phrase used when politicians talk of infrastructure and economic stimulus is “shovel ready projects”. Toronto has some projects that are comparatively close to construction, provided that someone wants to pay for them, but detailed design will soak up a few years before there will be any ribbon-cutting in front of a real construction site. Stimulus, such as it might be, from these projects will occur at best in time for the next election, with the bulk of spending to follow. Indeed, the staging shown in chart 2.1 above pushes the bulk of the spending beyond 2020.

The breakdown of the budget shortfall shows that “state of good repair” funding needs get worse in the latter years of the plan. However, moving some of these items forward just to find something on which the feds might spend money can be counterproductive:

  • As mentioned above, if Ottawa pays 50%, then someone else, probably Toronto, must pay the rest, and this would shift Toronto capital spending into a period when the City is hard against its debt target unless new local revenues are found.
  • Some projects, such as the purchase of new subway cars for Line 2 (BD), are part of a larger bundle of work that must be choreographed to occur in the correct sequence including a new signal system for the line, additional yard capacity, and the completion of the Scarborough Subway extension. (I discussed this problem in detail in a separate article about the TTC’s fleet plans.)
  • Some projects, although included “above or below the line” in TTC plans, can be “nice to haves”, not “must haves”. Advancing spending on them because they easily fit the desire to make work “now” may give them an undeserved priority in the unfunded project list. The largest example of this is a group of projects to increase capacity on Line 1 (YUS), something that should not be launched without the context of a Relief Line’s future effect.

One good aspect of Ottawa’s new plan is that unallocated money at year-end will not be clawed back to help with the federal deficit problem, but will be used to top up funding that now flows through federal gas tax contributions.

The government claims that it will not be prescriptive about the new funding, picking and choosing projects to best suit their own political ends. If they can resist the temptation to build more “Scarborough Subways”, this will count as a small miracle in the evolution of federal transit support. However, new money cannot be dispensed without strings, of which the most important is a need to ensure that Ottawa’s money doesn’t simply offset cuts in City subsidies for transit. We cannot dig ourselves out of the transit infrastructure backlog if we simply redirect money that might buy a new signal system to rebuilding an expressway. This was always a concern at Queen’s Park in the days of open-ended Provincial capital subsidies – that Toronto would simply use the money to save on spending from its own account.

Lurking in the background will be Queen’s Park and their agency, Metrolinx, always hungry for contributions to GO’s service expansion. The new federal money is supposed to be allocated by ridership, and GO’s is only a small slice of the TTC’s numbers. Will they be able to keep their hands out of the cookie jar and allow the money to flow to municipal transit systems?

The challenges for Toronto will be to:

  • Identify projects that should be moved “above the line” in the budget, or be brought onto the books from the extended wish list.
  • Prioritize new projects in the rapid transit plan, and engage in the hard discussions about exactly what the City’s needs might be. Pet projects need not apply.
  • Determine how Toronto will pay its share of projects that, until now, were not part of the City’s capital program.
  • Accept that some projects will have operating cost and subsidy implications. There is no point in buying vehicles if the City won’t pay to operate them, and to expect that service can be improved at no net cost is pure fantasy.

Funding announcements are always a time for gatherings before the media, lots of smiles and back-patting among political colleagues, but the hard work comes in deciding how best to spend new transit dollars while they are flowing.

Postscript

Friday, April 8 brought one of the more outlandish examples of re-announcing old funding for transit when MP Adam Vaughan and other worthies gathered at Main Street Station to celebrate the coming of Presto and the new fare gates. Vaughan noted that Ottawa had helped to fund this, but neglected to mention that the original commitment, $46.7 million, was made under the Paul Martin government in 2004. The money no doubt vanished into the black hole of Presto development years ago.

Any other federal funding would be an accounting exercise of allocating a portion of gas tax revenue explicitly to the TTC side of the project. This is an example of the “catch 22” in generic funding: Queen’s Park and Ottawa have some money on the table, but they are minority partners in funding the TTC’s general capital needs.

Updated: Infrastructure Canada has confirmed that there is no additional funding planned for Presto by Ottawa:

The April 8 Presto event was not a new funding announcement. It was an event to mark a significant milestone in the Presto project with our project partners. The milestone was the installation and full functionality of new fare gates at the Main Street Subway Station and the upcoming installation of faregates at the primary entrances of the 42 remaining subway stations that are not yet PRESTO-enabled by the end of 2016.

The Government of Canada is contributing up to $46.5 million for the deployment of the PRESTO fare card on Toronto Transit Commission buses, streetcars and in subway stations. Federal funding for this project comes from the Canada Strategic Infrastructure Fund.  No further federal contributions are planned for the Presto project. [Email of April 14, 2016]

PrelimANotes_CapSourceOfFunds

45 thoughts on “Asking Santa For Transit Dollars (Updated)

  1. Steve said:

    “In the first three years, $3.4-billion will be allocated with about 44% coming to Ontario. Of this, the TTC expects to see about $880-million according to TTC Chair Josh Colle as quoted by the CBC with money going to “what can be done quickly” with “the greatest customer impact.”

    and

    “It is not clear how much of the $108.1 billion in the later years would go to public transit, but if the split were on the same basis, then transit would get about $30.9b, Ontario would get $13.6b, and Toronto would get $8b.”

    Unfortunately the first three years is not really enough to have a major impact, and by definition the out years have some risk. However, the Toronto seeing that type of capital money reliably would make a huge difference. The $2 billion from the fed / annum type number for major capital projects, that the city really cannot pay for, would go a very long ways actually allowing a real transition in the city. Hopefully it is real, and the regions cities will make plans that include new zoning, in the areas most affected, to provide for a shift in the form of development. A spend rate that this implies should permit a shift to LRT, a reduction in the seas of parking lots, walkable, high density, high service human scale development. Ideally with some Piazza type areas included. Virtually all the regions population growth could be easily absorbed within the developed area this way and the lions share within Toronto proper.

    This would mean enough money to actually build a DRL, and the balance of Transit City, along with a real look at a Lawrence East LRT, and a Finch and/or Steeles LRT as well. Would also provide for some additional North South rapid transit, in Scarborough and Etobicoke.

    Steve: Note that Toronto will not get $2b/annum. $8b divided by 10 years is $800k per annum, although it is back end loaded.

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  2. Steve said:

    “Note that Toronto will not get $2b/annum. $8b divided by 10 years is $800k per annum, although it is back end loaded.”

    I assume you mean $800 million.

    Steve: Ooops. Yes. Million, not Thousand.

    Yes, sorry the $2 billion would have to include gross up from the other levels of government, which would mean 800m from the fed, 800 from the province, and Toronto and area municipalities, might just be able to squeeze the $400 million, or even with the fed at 50% that is still $1.6, which would be a longer roll-out, but would have a DRL funded in 5 years, and enough for an LRT /annum based on the scope of most of the proposed projects. $800 million is certainly a number the province and city can achieve, with a little will.

    Since it is unlikely the region could build and sustain a build rate much higher than this, it would mean a huge change in the nature of regional transit. However, the repair and maintenance backlog is large enough to suck up a considerable chunk of this money.

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  3. I know we’re all skeptical that it will ever happen at this point, but is there not theoretically funding promised from Queen’s Park for the Sheppard LRT?

    Steve: Whatever technology it might be, it’s part of the next phase of transit projects, and who knows who will be minding the store at Queen’s Park by the time it comes to “commitments”.

    On another note, would it be possible to accelerate the ATC signal installation? Particularly, I’m wondering if they could start work on line 2. I know they can’t actually use it until the current trainsets reach end of life, which is still years away, but starting now would at least ensure that it’s actually done and ready for when those new trains arrive, and it’s work that they know, without question, needs to be done. I don’t know how many more opportunities we’ll see where a government offers real funding for non-splashy SOGR projects.

    Steve: The real question for the BD signal project is whether it should start before at least part of the YUS is converted successfully. Also, there is no point in starting so early that the new system has to be left inactive awaiting the full retirement of the T1 trainsets. A related problem is that the Scarborough Subway extension is supposed to open (with ATC) before the T1s have retired.

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  4. $2B makes up about a 50% share of the DRL Phase I. If the TTC can avoid the impulse to simply defray city subsidy contributions to ongoing capital and maintenance, that could help bring that project above the line. More realistically, the TTC could take the year one/two money, plough it into things that it needs now and are more or less ready to go (more buses, expanded LFLRV order, Crosstown West, subway SOGR), and in the meantime rush the DRL EA/TPAP and other stidues to try and get far enough along to get at least some of the fed funding in year 3. I would not really count on the promise of funding beyond then, as once you get that far you are at the whims of an election and campaign promises.

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  5. Steve said:

    “A related problem is that the Scarborough Subway extension is supposed to open (with ATC) before the T1s have retired.”

    Sigh, so basically the new portion would perforce need to support both signals, or a massive refit would be required shortly after. I of course still struggle with this being subway, even though I understand why so many in Scarborough want subway to the STC, as the local center of so many bus routes. As part of an overall massive project, that brought much higher rapid transit from north and east to the STC, and a substantial rezoning of those areas. If it is part of a drive to higher density, and a lower use of cars, I get it.

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  6. P.S. This does not quite live up to the fantasy level of discussion for funding, nor quite the level, that will be required for Canada to actually make the progress it needs to in terms of greenhouse gases, if we are actually going to live up to real commitments. To me, transit, density, local services, and the lifestyle changes, are really what is going to be required to achieve a credible move. The federal government, could make this easier still, by being clear, that there is even more money for things that would help that.

    Increasing density, and hence tax base, without requiring longer sewer, water and road runs, is part of making a shift financial viable, but there are large dollars required, to enable this to work, in the form of attractive, broad, and within walking distance rapid transit. Shifting to transit, without adding 1000s of drivers (hence massive continuing cost), and diesel fumes to the local space, in high transit service areas, requires substantial dollars, and dedicated space. A transit focused city, is likely more financially as well as environmentally sustainable, however the shift requires big bucks.

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  7. The Federal government seems to have two priorities for funding. Phase 1 is for projects that can start very fast, phase 2 is for longer term projects. This seems quite sensible and it would help the discussions if the ‘possibles’ on the “Transit List” could be slotted into one of these categories.

    Buying new buses can, presumably, happen quite fast and could bring immediate benefits to the bus makers. (The same would apply to the extra streetcars but Bombardier are still far behind in filling the main order so any extra funds allocated now would not actually be spent for x years. ) I also suspect that replacing track, overhead etc is something that can be tendered and completed fairly fast. For the transit expansion projects, some already have completed EAs (e,g. East Bayfront); others have just been thought-of by Councillors and have received no proper scrutiny. Those with completed EAs could presumably happen fairly quickly, those that have just been ‘invented’ will take years.

    Your points about the foolishness of assuming that extra service will not require more subsidy and the conversion of Line 2 to ATC before it can be used by (new) subway cars are, of course, well made and obviously true.

    Steve: There is no point in having buses with no garage. The TTC and Council screwed around with the new garage for Scarborough as to both site and timing. It’s a facility that should already be open, but we won’t have it until 2019 at best. That just soaks up the existing fleet and the 99 net new buses later this decade.

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  8. It seems that some of the monies may be a fight between Toronto and the City of Ottawa for competing LRT construction projects. Ottawa has been selling the Phase 2 Expansion of the Confederation Line both east and west. It would like, however, to extend the eastern portion of Phase 2 one more stop, from Place D’Orleans Stn. to Trim Stn, for much the same reason the BD Line extensions to Kipling and Kennedy, and the YUS extension to Downsview were built; to ease traffic parking/bus congestion. However, the extra money split between the cities in Ontario has not been clearly articulated. Lately, though, the City of Ottawa has been better at presenting their case for transit improvement than has Toronto.

    Steve: No doubt because Ottawa has a much shorter shopping list and a Council that wants to build rather than debating vanity subway projects for years on end.

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  9. Maybe they can finally fix the streetcar switches. Optimistic, I know.

    Steve: Yes, it is outrageous that this problem remains on the books with an indeterminate future completion date. If this were the subway, we would hear endless calls to the god of “safety” and it would have been fixed yesterday. For the streetcars, nobody cares.

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  10. Steve:

    If this were the subway, we would hear endless calls to the god of “safety” and it would have been fixed yesterday. For the streetcars, nobody cares.

    I’m puzzled why ATU hasn’t seized upon operators manually throwing switches on busy downtown thoroughfares as a major safety issue. It’s unsafe almost to the point if recklessness.

    Steve: I share this concern. It is one thing to deal with unusual movements now and then, but for regular services and oft-used diversions and short turns, the switches should all work automatically and reliably all of the time.

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  11. @DiCK ATU may not mind it as much because their people are the ones getting the extra overtime standing around and throwing the switches at some intersections.

    Steve: Actually, I have seen very few on point duty recently, even at well-used switches such as Broadview/Dundas southbound which has been out of service for months. And if you think standing around in the middle of winter to throw switches for 8 hours is a fun way to earn overtime, well, you must be really desperate.

    BTW this type of work tends to be officially crewed, or given to ops on the extra board or as modified duties. All paid at straight time.

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  12. Steve | April 11, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    “Maybe they can finally fix the streetcar switches. Optimistic, I know.”

    The TTC already has a solution. It is called an “Mark I Switch Tender” The switch tender can operate in bad weather snow, even power failures, though the service can’t. All that it needs is periodic washroom and food breaks.

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  13. Robert Wightman said:

    “The TTC already has a solution. It is called an “Mark I Switch Tender” The switch tender can operate in bad weather snow, even power failures, though the service can’t. All that it needs is periodic washroom and food breaks.”

    Yes, however, this solution clearly highlights some kind of issue. Most business in low interest environments, try to substitute capital for labour. The TTC, clearly faces a different set of issues, as this is replacing capital with labour. Makes one wonder, if that is where we are headed, why not just have flag people and telegraphs instead of signals for the subway refit.

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  14. Malcolm says

    “Yes, however, this solution clearly highlights some kind of issue. Most business in low interest environments, try to substitute capital for labour. The TTC, clearly faces a different set of issues, as this is replacing capital with labour. Makes one wonder, if that is where we are headed, why not just have flag people and telegraphs instead of signals for the subway refit.”

    This would provide more employment in the 416. However the flag people would also require lights for use in the tunnels. I do remember an incident when the signals were bad between St. Andrews and Union and the TTC had a supervisor at each station communicating on hand-helds to let the train know when to proceed from St. Andrews.

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  15. David Cavlovic said:

    “Expansion of the Confederation Line both east and west. It would like, however, to extend the eastern portion of Phase 2 one more stop, from Place D’Orleans Stn. to Trim Stn, for much the same reason the BD Line extensions to Kipling and Kennedy, and the YUS extension to Downsview were built; to ease traffic parking/bus congestion. “

    The difference however in timing is important. The extension of the BDL happened well after it had opened to relieve a situation that was already extremely clear and well established. Since the transit growth in Ottawa after the opening of the busway has been consistent and substantial, the project makes a great deal of sense, but it also highlights issues surrounding a lack of planning in the GTA. The push for this extension is happening today, in light of modelling that shows a need.

    If Toronto would get out of its own way, and actually implement more, and come up with, and stick to a real plan, it would at least be in a position to be able to create a sensible set of projects beyond the ones that it has in motion. However, Toronto seems to struggle mightily with getting in motion. The East Bayfront should have long ago been completed, space at Union for this and support for a Waterfront West LRT should have been created when Union was first altered to accommodate streetcars. A reservation in the Railway lands for transit (ie a road allowance wide enough to hold a median LRT) could and should have been made. The planning allowance for a DRL should have been completed decades ago, as the complete overloading of the YUS was very near in 1990. This should have been a “shovel ready” project when federal funds were available a few years ago.

    Most of Toronto’s transit woes seem to flow from transit and services being a matter of politics not planning, and as such only matter when they are actually required, and hence to late to plan properly.

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  16. PS – the Waterfront West and DRL are especially frustrating, because talk of these goes back to a time, when making planning allowances would not have been that hard. Waterfront West, to a time before development between the tracks and the Gardiner, did not form the barrier it does today. Think of the area south of the Dome in say 1990, or even 1994. Think of the core in the 1990, when we were looking at a near capacity subway. Planning then, ROW protection then, would totally change things today.

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  17. While the Federal Santa may be giving out (some) money it appears that the provincial Grinch may be trying to take some away. See this article in the Ottawa Citizen.

    Steve: Queen’s Park has been great at getting local municipalities to underwrite its programs, and until recently, Toronto coughed up a fair chunk of change to subsidize GO Transit. The idea was that GO allowed the city to avoid other costs, and therefore it should help pay for the system. To be fair, Ontario is paying the tab for the LRT lines, although we don’t know what the operating agreement will look like, nor whether there will be an attempt to recover some of the capital cost through operating charges.

    I’m quite sure that lower percentage for Presto services date from earlier contracts when (a) there was no real sense of how much the system would eventually cost, and (b) the province was more than happy to give the service away to get the many small operators around the GTHA on board with Presto.

    This is another of those ironies about proposals that Metrolinx take over the TTC because the costs would go along with the “prestige” of running the system. Of course Queen’s Park could always send Toronto a bill for the services.

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  18. Robert Wightman said:

    I do remember an incident when the signals were bad between St. Andrews and Union and the TTC had a supervisor at each station communicating on hand-helds to let the train know when to proceed from St. Andrews.

    IIRC they did this in 2007 when they ran trains through the wye. They had someone at Museum co-coordinating the situation radioing in which trains were coming next etc.

    Not sure how well it worked but thankfully this is just hypothetical. I doubt given all the regulations that this would be permissible otherwise they would have done this on past occasions when communications and signals went out at the same time.

    Steve: The signals were active, but supervisors needed to know in advance what was coming so that they could make appropriate announcements.

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  19. This is infrastructure money and not necessarily transit money and so I would like to see some of it spent on new highways and bike lanes.

    Steve: Read the announcement text in the blog. One chunk of the money is specifically for transit.

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  20. When Malcolm wrote: Makes one wonder, if that is where we are headed, why not just have flag people and telegraphs instead of signals for the subway refit.

    Robert Wightman responded: I do remember an incident when the signals were bad between St. Andrews and Union and the TTC had a supervisor at each station communicating on hand-helds to let the train know when to proceed from St. Andrews.

    How frequently does that occur?

    When we hear of signalling problems on the subway, it is the reason why the subway is not operating between particular locations. In New York, the NYCT’s practice is to keep the traffic moving, even if that means getting people at track level with flags.

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  21. Jimmy said: “This is infrastructure money and not necessarily transit money and so I would like to see some of it spent on new highways and bike lanes.”

    Steve said: “Read the announcement text in the blog. One chunk of the money is specifically for transit.”

    I think we also need to look at what can and will work. Bike lanes, and even corridors in Toronto, yes, absolutely, and I believe that transit and cycle can and should be used to reinforce each other. Highway for the GTA is really a non-starter.

    1-encourage further sprawl

    2-cannot begin to provide enough capacity to actually accommodate the level of growth in the GTHA and will mean mostly that the traffic jams start further out.

    3-There is no reasonable place to route highway to current employment concentrations, without consuming the entire ROW for minor impact on capacity.

    Infrastructure needs to suit its environment, and Toronto and region at this point need to grow with higher capacity, lower impact means of transportation. I agree, that reconstruction of some highways is required, perhaps a dedicated Toronto bypass for trucks sure (support just in time deliveries for plants either side of Toronto), highway reconstruction for other areas of the province, yes.

    The GTA, requires a great broadening of rapid transit, that better serves both origins and destinations spread across the region. Certain commentators drive me nuts with Scarborough centric rants, however, in terms of growth going forward, they are right, that Scarborough must be much better served, for trips within and beyond. The point being however, so must Etobicoke, Mississauga, North York, Brampton, York region and Durham region. This will be the best way of addressing the issues for those who must drive as well, if we actually make transit “the better way” for 75% of trips, there will be lots of road space, and a situation no worse than today, with another 3 million people living in the region. If I can get on a bus, in say Brooklyn Ontario, and get to say the Yorkville firehall (the commute a fireman I know used to do) in a time competitive with driving, as opposed to the current twice as long or longer, I likely will do so. If I can walk to the first transit point, and can take rapid transit out of traffic from that point on, rapid transit becomes both faster (or nearly as fast) and more reliable.

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  22. “The new federal money is supposed to be allocated by ridership, and GO’s is only a small slice of the TTC’s numbers.”

    I imagine that the funding is going to regions based on their ridership, and to individual projects based on ridership growth regardless of the agency running the project. GO could sell receiving a large chunk of the funds.

    Steve: It is not sufficient to base allocation on ridership growth for a specific project, but on cost-effective growth. In that context “cost effective” is not just the price per new rider, but also the network benefit of a route. For example, the Relief Line’s ridership may substantially come from the existing base, but in the process it would open up room elsewhere in the network for growth. Vanity subway lines with fanciful, politically motivated projections of new riders in three decades need not apply.

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  23. Hi Steve.

    Where did the Sheppard LRT funding disappear to? I was under the impression the SSE increases was being paid thru the new tax. I understand the future of Sheppard transit is up in the air but I’ve never heard anything of the funding being taken for another project.

    Steve: The feds promised $660m in new money for the subway project and claimed that the $330m they had offered for Sheppard is still on the table. Whether this is actually true, or will be by the time Toronto gets around to deciding what it wants to build there, is quite another matter. My gut feeling is that by that time, the Sheppard project, whatever it turns into, will have to find completely new funding simply by virtue of its age.

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  24. Calvin Henry-Cotnam

    “How frequently does that occur?

    “When we hear of signalling problems on the subway, it is the reason why the subway is not operating between particular locations. In New York, the NYCT’s practice is to keep the traffic moving, even if that means getting people at track level with flags.”

    I don’t know how often it occurs these days as I do not get into Toronto a lot but when I lived in Toronto and rode the subway it was not unheard of. It was usually causes by a bad track circuits show the line as occupied when it wasn’t. The TTC would hold a train at one station until the next was clear then send it through. This had to be done by people in the stations as the signal indicators could not be trusted. It is one reason why they are rebuilding the signal system. If the outage affects track switches that are used then it gets to be a larger problem. I believe that crossovers at terminal can be controlled locally but Steve would probably have more info on this.

    Steve: If there is a signal circuit failure, it is not possible to throw the switches electrically on an “override” basis, but they have to revert to manual operation. In practice, this is a tedious procedure and it is impossible to maintain a decent headway from a terminal under this operating mode.

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  25. Steve said:

    “The feds promised $660m in new money for the subway project and claimed that the $330m they had offered for Sheppard is still on the table. Whether this is actually true, or will be by the time Toronto gets around to deciding what it wants to build there, is quite another matter. My gut feeling is that by that time, the Sheppard project, whatever it turns into, will have to find completely new funding simply by virtue of its age.”

    That is only right, and one of the reasons that Toronto manages to cause itself so much grief. You cannot expect to hold open dollars for decades at a time. This is remarkably frustrating, in that what has been proposed on Sheppard itself, should not really change all that much. Whether it is subway, LRT to the STC, whether ST is built or not, a Sheppard LRT, a tie to the Stouffville GO station, and east to at least past Morningside makes sense. The presence of other projects may affect loading, etc, but the fact that council allowed itself to be pushed so dramatically of course, based on so little speaks to the fundamental issues in Toronto.

    Unless we are actually debating Sheppard vs Finch, why should this not proceed. If the GTA is actually going somewhere with Transit, it needs to make its roll out more predictable. A meaningful transit connection from Sheppard LRT to the STC, and also the BDL is important in terms of development, but frankly, the mere presence of the Sheppard LRT will help create a target to link to. The dithering and reversals here are beyond painful, and hurt Scarborough, resulting again in giving up the great and good, to pursue the illusion of the perfect forever receding into the distant future.

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  26. While I’m sure problems come up at terminal stations where the whole issue of switch operation comes into play, my comment comparing TTC shut-downs versus NYTC efforts to keep everything moving was directed at middle-of-the-line situations, which anecdotally seem to be unusually common in recent times. I should have made it clearer than simply adding the phrase, “not operating between particular locations”.

    My comment was spawned out of a conversation I had with someone the day before regarding the situation on the NYCT, where the person I was speaking with explicitly cited the usual TTC practice of effectively shrugging their shoulders at a press conference when part of a line is down. Unfortunately, I am not at liberty to discuss in a public forum the context of the conversation. 😦

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  27. Steve:
    Note that Toronto will not get $2B/annum. $8B divided by 10 years is $800M per annum, although it is back end loaded.

    Shouldn’t it be more?

    $880M of $11.9B for a Toronto-transit rate of 7.4% and $293M per year (Years 1-3)
    7.4% of $108.1B for the remainder for $8.994B or $1.14B per year (Years 4-10)
    $8.874B over 10 years or $887M per year

    Steve: The arithmetic about this is messy because of the way the figures are stated in the budget. I have an update pending to the article based on info received from the Ministry of Infrastructure to clarify things somewhat.

    Malcolm N said:
    Highway for the GTA is really a non-starter.

    Beyond your points is the issue of induced demand. More highways means more highway traffic, and the downstream effect is more cars flooding the local network. Really, we have a decent amount of highways and just need to allow cars to move on our local streets better to be able to use our highways more efficiently. It’s basically the same story as the DRL: local capacity increases create network relief.

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  28. I just hope that the federal funding lasts beyond the next federal general election. Ditto with the provincial funding.

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  29. Steve said:

    “The feds promised $660m in new money for the subway project and claimed that the $330m they had offered for Sheppard is still on the table.”

    If the funding for Sheppard LRT is still on the table; $330m federal and the rest provincial, for the total of more than $1B; then I would suggest re-purposing them for a new LRT line in Scarborough.

    That new line would connect to the subway terminus at Scarborough Centre, run east to serve Centennial Progress campus, then veer north, cross 401 and Sheppard, and run to Malvern Centre. Basically, that’s the route of the eastern section of SLRT, except that it might not be necessary to tunnel between Sheppard and Malvern Centre; Neilson Ave has a very wide right-of-way and is probably suitable for LRT.

    If some money remain after that, they can be used to build a branch that goes from Centennial to UofT Scarborough, and connects to Crosstown East there. Plus, a westerly extension can run along Progress Ave, with stops at Brimley and Midland, and then connect to SmartTrack.

    Such a line will immediately improve transit service to the north-east of Scarborough, while the decision on the future of Sheppard corridor can be deferred for 10-20 years.

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  30. Hello Steve: Was there any talk on the fleet plans on if the hybrid buses will still retire early and if they got funding for more buses possibly novabuses as well.

    Steve: There have been no details yet on what might be done with the new funding. Certainly there should be a clear business case to establish more than just “we want new buses”. The irony is that we have hybrids because they were forced on Toronto as the only way to get federal funding by a previous administration who wanted to be “green”.

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  31. I thought TTC already decided on what to do with the hybrids based on the last fleet plans.

    Steve: Yes, they have a plan, but it is always amazing how the sudden arrival of “free money” can distort decision-making.

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  32. The Orion-Ikarus articulated buses were acquired in the 1980’s, but were retired early. Ditto it seems with the hybrid buses. Today, the TTC has re-acquired articulated buses. Hopefully, they will not be retired early.

    With the hybrid buses, they could return in thirty years… if they fix their problem. Hopefully, sooner than later.

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  33. @wklis The Ikarus artics were retired due to rust issues. They were not up to snuff when it came to Canadian winters. They also had a hard time at some stations. My father got one as a change off on Cliffside many years ago.

    He had to thread the needle and navigate a fully loaded Kennedy Station at rush hour in an artic. He did it but in doing so earned his safe driving awards along with the admiration of everyone else at the station.

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  34. There’s nothing to fix on the Hybrids, they’re trash. NYC and other TAs that have Orion VII Hybrids appear to have problems with them as well. NYC is already trying to replace the Orion VII CNG. Unless it’s a straight diesel TTC will have problems. I don’t want to veer off, but TTC should bring back trolley buses, the only reason why they were scrapped is due to age of the system overall. If they put in the same will and strength for Trolleys as they do for streetcars we would have them. Unfortunately there is no political will to bring them back. Other than politics I don’t see a reason why we can’t get trolleybuses back in this city.

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  35. Jason said:

    “Unfortunately there is no political will to bring them back. Other than politics I don’t see a reason why we can’t get trolleybuses back in this city.”

    I think this would make an interesting compromise on very busy routes that did not have the volume to justify LRT. Would reduce the noise and local pollution on routes where there is a bus on virtually every signal cycle. It would make an incredible way of running a BRT, with truly frequent service. Capital cost would be very hard to justify anywhere except the busiest routes.

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  36. wklis said:

    “With the hybrid buses, they could return in thirty years… if they fix their problem. Hopefully, sooner than later.”

    Hopefully, in thirty years, hybrid vehicles (as a whole) will be an obsolete technology and we’ll have plenty of full-electric buses to choose from.

    Malcolm N said:

    “I think this would make an interesting compromise on very busy routes that did not have the volume to justify LRT. Would reduce the noise and local pollution on routes where there is a bus on virtually every signal cycle. It would make an incredible way of running a BRT, with truly frequent service. Capital cost would be very hard to justify anywhere except the busiest routes.”

    You don’t have to make trolleybuses into a BRT. They can run as “regular” buses (which is how they run in most places in the world). Of course, it would be nice to a have a trolleyBRT on those routes where it is justifiable (and possible). Capital costs for trolleybuses (regular ones, not BRT) are not that high (it’s a matter of installing the overhead wires) and are offset by lower costs of operation. A trolleybus lasts much longer than a typical bus, and is easier and cheaper to maintain (as an electric vehicle, the motor is much simpler with much less moving parts, plus there is no battery to worry about as in EVs). It is also cheaper to run (electricity is typically cheaper than any oil-derived fuel, plus the electric motor of the trolleybus is much more energy efficient than any internal combustion engine). Trolleybuses can be articulated or “solo”, so they are not restricted necessarily to the busiest routes. It should also be remembered that trolleybuses excel in hilly terrain – they are much faster in navigating it than int. comb. engine buses (due to the electric motor’s near-instant torque) but are also better at it then streetcars (due to being on tires and often smaller and therefore more agile) – and many cities have trolleybuses for just that reason (on routes that go up and down a lot, or have steep inclines) – think San Francisco for example. Now Toronto is pretty flat, I don’t know if there are any routes which would justify conversion simply based on steepness, maybe Steve would know?

    Steve: There are several north-south routes in west central Toronto that would be candidates starting from Bathurst and working west to Jane. One known problem for years has been that wires cannot be strung along the south end of Downsview Air Base along Wilson Ave., and this was a block to conversion of 29 Dufferin years ago. Off wire capability might be a workaround, but this is not the only issue.

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  37. Andre S.

    “Trolleybuses can be articulated or “solo”, so they are not restricted necessarily to the busiest routes. It should also be remembered that trolleybuses excel in hilly terrain.”

    I was not restricting them to BRT or busiest routes because of the that, but rather, while the buses themselves are not that expensive, the cost of running all that wire is. Also there are costs of maintenance for that wire. So the benefit from costs of operations makes sense with a busy route, but with a bus every 30 minutes not so much. The busiest routes would be ones that justified a BRT, hence the cost of the wires would be easier to justify as well.

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  38. Hi Malcolm N,

    I misunderstood “busiest routes” then. Of course it doesn’t make sense to install infrastructure on routes where there are buses only twice per hour. I thought you meant the most busiest routes in the bus system, ie. a few, not that you meant basically any route which is very frequent and gets buses full with such frequency.

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  39. With respect to trolley buses there is one other big advantage. The new AC electric motors can fit in the hubs of the wheels so there can be more than one set of driving axles. I saw many 3 section articulated trolley buses in Europe, many on hilly streets in Switzerland. Their use would require a change to the highway traffic act in Ontario. The only problem is that with really long trolley buses the TTC would probably implement really long headways.

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