Does Toronto Owe Metrolinx Half a Billion?

Rummaging in financial reports can lead to interesting discoveries, although we usually read about them when some financial hound exposes dubious accounting practices and drives down the value of a company’s shares. Indeed, the Globe’s David Milstead had a long article on just how pervasive the use of non-standard accounting has become in corporate reports.

In the public sector, various mechanisms are used to reduce apparent debt and exposure to future costs. Some of these involve judgements about just when bills and revenue will roll through the door, or of exactly who will pay these bills as they come due.

In a previous article, I wrote about the TTC’s newfound mechanism called “Capacity to Spend” which reduces future funding requirements by roughly as follows:

  • Project estimates show that the TTC will need about $9 billion to fund its “Base Capital Program” over the next ten years. This does not include special projects such as subway extensions, nor does it include a long list of “below the line” projects that have not yet matured to “approved but unfunded” status.
  • Yearly capital spending by the TTC is typically lower than the budgeted value, but the main reason is that work took longer than expected, or projects were rescheduled into future years. Only a few of the underspent accounts arise from actual savings thanks to lower than expected costs or project cancellations.
  • Nonetheless, the TTC has decided that its real funding requirement for 2017-2026 is now almost a billion lower than has been claimed for many years running.

This is a basic case of revaluing the exposure to future costs to make long term funding (including borrowing) needs appear lower than they really are. This year brings an extra incentive with federal funding that requires matching municipal contributions, money Toronto does not have. But hey, presto!, if we reduce the future spending, at least on paper, we have “found” money with which to pay the local share of the fed’s new program.

Meanwhile up the road at Queen’s Park, a lovely myth for the past near-decade is that there is a “municipal share” to the GO Transit capital program. Most people don’t know about this, and Toronto has refused to actually pay into that pot for several years.

The mechanism was set up back when GO Transit was a separate agency, and it has been passed down through successor organizations to its current home, Metrolinx. The amount of money outstanding is not trivial.

metrolinxmunicipalchargebacksto201603

By the end of Metrolinx’ fiscal year March 31, 2016, the accumulated balance of deferred municipal contributions totalled $1.1 billion. The proportions owed by each municipality are set by regulation, and Toronto’s share is just under half a billion. The proportions assessed to each region have not changed since this charge was instituted although one could argue that population shifts and the focus of GO expansion would suggest a different ratio is in order.

Toronto does not carry an account payable for this amount on its books. Meanwhile, in every financial statement, there is a note in this format:

Metrolinx realized a shortfall in municipal funding related to its capital program. The Province has provided funding to bridge the shortfall in the current year in the amount of $141,097 (2015 – $171,111) and the cumulative amount is $1,114,484 (2015 – $973,387). The Province will work with its municipal partners to address the funding shortfalls. [Note 12 to Metrolinx Draft Financial Statements for the year ended March 31, 2016]

What is unclear is whether Queen’s Park will ever call this debt due, or if it will simply be written off as a provincial contribution to GO expansion.

This charge is intended to recover costs for general GO expansion, and it does not include:

  • Chargebacks for works undertaken as part of a provincial project that improve municipal assets such as replacement of water mains or provision of improved streets. This was a major issue for Toronto on the Georgetown South project.
  • Charges for the abandoned Scarborough LRT project engineering.

Missing from all of the annual reports is any indication of just which GO projects these contributions aided. Indeed, the amounts are intended to go into the general subsidy pot at GO without being tied to its work with the assumption that everyone benefits from “more GO” in the end.

An ongoing problem with provincial funding is that there are various ways that the gas tax grants now paid to municipalities are clawed back. There has been almost no change in the level of gas tax provided, and the amount coming to Toronto has been sitting at about $160m for many years. (Toronto apportions this partly to capital and partly to operations.) The effective value of this contribution falls due to inflation. If Toronto had actually paid their Metrolinx assessment in recent years, this would have wiped out half of the gas tax grant.

In 2017, the TTC is making provision in its budget for additional costs related to Carbon Taxes. This will further erode the contribution from Ontario.

The combined effect of all this will be that, at some point, all of the provincial contribution via gas tax will be consumed by paybacks under various levies and fees.

In an attempt to illuminate this issue, I posed a series of questions to the Minister of Transportation:

Which projects now underway or planned will trigger additions to this outstanding balance including, but not limited to, such things as:

  • Ongoing GO improvements (non-RER)
  • GO RER
  • LRT and BRT projects

In other words, although Ontario has not actually collected on the receivable, will it continue to grow and, in effect, will municipalities be expected to eventually contribute to “provincial” projects, and at what level?

Many projects do not fit into the classic GO Transit model of serving downtown Toronto. For example, York VIVA BRT, The Hurontario and Hamilton LRTs, and the Toronto Crosstown and Finch LRTs serve a very different travel demand from GO’s rail network.

Will the formula for allocating these costs be changed to reflect the service territory and areas benefiting from the projects where municipalities are expected to make a contribution?

Although Ontario makes significant investments in transit, its budgetary effect at the local level will be offset by chargebacks including:

  • The deferred Metrolinx receivable above
  • Future costs for Presto which is expected to become self-sufficient and will require increases in service fees to local providers to do so
  • Future costs for LRT operations

Starting in FY 2011-2012, there was a large increase in the annual charge added to the receivable, an average of $183m/year over the last five years, of which Toronto is responsible for $81.6m/year. What projects contributed to this charge and what was their total value (in effect, my question is what proportion of these projects was back-charged to the municipalities)?

When I receive a reply to these questions, I will update this article.

54 thoughts on “Does Toronto Owe Metrolinx Half a Billion?

  1. Steve: Does Toronto Owe Metrolinx Half a Billion?

    Yes, it does. In fact, Toronto owes Metrolinx much more than that. Please pay it ASAP and WITH INTEREST as regional transit (GO + YRT/VIVA) is suffering as our funds have been hijacked by Toronto which refuses to pay it back.

    Steve: “Your funds” have not been hijacked, and York Region also owes into this pot (see the table) along with other regions. Meanwhile, late next year Toronto will open a subway to serve your paragon of a community, and will lose a considerably amount of money on the deal because they were stiffed by York Region on the operating agreement. You can pay for your own transit service, thank you.

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  2. As a quick comparison:

    City      2006 Pop    2011 Pop  2006%  2011%  Paid%  
    Toronto  2,503,281   2,615,060  41.3%  39.8%  44.6%
    Durham     561,186     608,031   9.3%   9.2%  11.3%
    Halton     439,206     501,669   7.2%   7.6%  11.0%
    Hamilton   504,559     519,949   8.3%   7.9%   2.8%
    Peel     1,159,455   1,296,814  19.1%  19.7%  16.5%
    York       892,359   1,032,249  14.7%  15.7%  13.8%
    Total    6,060,046   6,573,772 		
    

    So Toronto, Durham, and Halton are all ‘overpaying’ relative to population, while Hamilton, Peel and York are ‘underpaying’ with Simcoe, Waterloo, and Niagara getting a free ride.

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  3. Steve: Late next year Toronto will open a subway to serve your paragon of a community, and will lose a considerably amount of money on the deal because they were stiffed by York Region on the operating agreement.

    There are several factual inaccuracies in your comment. First, the TTC mismanaged the project already several years late and almost a billion dollars over budget and York Region has had to bear the cost as a result of TTC’s mismanagement. I wish that Metrolinx or YRT/VIVA were responsible for overseeing the project. Also TTC is not having to bear the cost of hundreds of YRT/VIVA bus trips every day for the duration of the several years of subway delay caused by the TTC and we (York Region) have had to pay for all that cost of all those countless bus trips. Also the subway extension is NOT expected to open before 2018 at the earliest which is NOT next year. Also York Region did NOT stifle Toronto on the operating agreement but it was the Liberal government – please feel free to campaign vigorously against the Liberal government if you feel that you were stifled by it. As a matter of fact, the Liberals have won two provincial elections since the said stifling and while you say that you support the NDP, you always campaign vigorously against the Conservatives and NEVER campaigned against the Liberals who did the said stifling you complaint about. You might not support the Liberals but you turn a blind eye to whatever they do or fail to do. I am NOT saying that the Liberals are good or bad but just that please campaign vigorously against them if you feel you were stifled by them.

    Steve: There are several factual inaccuracies in your reply.

    York Region has not had to bear the full cost of the overrun on the TYSSE budget, but has shared this with Toronto. The extra cost was $400m of which York pays $160m.

    The line is scheduled to open at the end of 2017 which is “next year”, albeit not by much.

    York Region was more than happy to accept the agreement which let it off the hook for paying operating costs, and I cannot for a moment believe that the Liberals organized this without encouragement from the municipal politicians.

    In my riding, the Liberals are weak although they did manage to win Federally in the last election after a very long time as an NDP riding. I consider the Tories to be a scourge to be avoided at all costs, and so the NDP is the best alternative here. You should know I have written enough uncomplimentary articles about Metrolinx and provincial policy, including this one, to show that I am hardly in the Liberals’ pocket.

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  4. Jesse from Vaughan, York Region (Ontario’s Rising Star) wrote about the TYSSE: I wish that Metrolinx or YRT/VIVA were responsible for overseeing the project.

    As a York resident, I wish so as well, and hope so for whatever form of rapid transit eventually gets built on Yonge north of Steeles. I’m sure a whole lot of other York residents agree with this.

    Trouble is, I seem to be nearly alone up here in realising that the only way this will happen is if York goes it alone and pays the freight (less whatever provincial and federal money that can be obtained to help). If York came to realise this, it would be clear that an LRT option would be far more practical and leave us with a transit system where we were truly in charge of our future destiny.

    The great majority up here want the full size subway, and want Toronto to pay more than their fare share, especially when it comes to operations. They they cry a hissy fit when they have little to no say in any future extension or even just day-to-day decisions regarding operation. I still contend we will see cutbacks in TYSSE operations north of Steeles at some point that York will have no say in.

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  5. Not to get in between you and Vaughan, but I’ve never understood why you seem to have as much hostility to the Vaughan subway as you do to Scarborough’s. Vaughan represents the kind of planning for the future that used to be a given in what is now the GTA. Scarborough is a waste of money, considering the alternatives, as you have stated many times. Vaughan is not.

    Steve: My hostility to the Vaughan subway is based on the way Toronto was corralled into the deal by Queen’s Park with unfavourable financial terms. Also, one might well argue that now we have GO RER, some of the pressure for subway extensions beyond Steeles might not be justified, and an LRT/BRT network (with frequent service) in York Region would be more appropriate. The problem is that when the TYSSE was in its infancy, the discussion of alternatives was quite limited.

    By contrast, during the whole TYSSE debate, consideration of what we call the DRL was constantly downplayed by the TTC who, for their own reasons, did not want to see a competing project eating up a lot of capital, and by the pols who saw it as a “downtown” project, not one to provide suburban commuting relief.

    It is the constant misrepresentation of the relative worth of projects that galls me the most.

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  6. In the context of the TYSSE, it is critical that there is mismanagement. However, the largest issue, in this, is the simple question of where the subway runs to. The issue, is as usual, extending subway where it does not belong. Density, matters, and York region does not have it, nor does it make sense to extend subway that far.

    It would have made far more sense to run the subway as far as Steeles, and either run LRT or BRT from there, with a transfer point. York could have built a multiple of the amount of BRT, creating much broader coverage, the province could have spent less, and there would still have been more in the kitty, for LRT in Etobicoke, Scarborough and North York, where it is sorely needed now, to make transit work in the entire region.

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  7. Harrison:

    Not to get in between you and Vaughan, but I’ve never understood why you seem to have as much hostility to the Vaughan subway as you do to Scarborough’s. Vaughan represents the kind of planning for the future that used to be a given in what is now the GTA. Scarborough is a waste of money, considering the alternatives, as you have stated many times. Vaughan is not.

    I am from Vaughan (York Region) but what Harrison states is utterly false. Vaughan has far less population and far less job density than Scarborough. Vaughan also has far fewer bus feeder routes (I am NOT counting the number of routes but the amount of riders they bring in) to the subway under construction than the proposed Scarborough subway. Vaughan’s subway ridership will be far smaller than the proposed Scarborough subway’s. It is interesting that Steve does not point this out and Steve seems to have a far greater hostility to the Scarborough subway than the Vaughan subway. The Scarborough subway will have vastly greater ridership than Vaughan subway and Sheppard subway (in it’s current form) COMBINED. The Sheppard subway’s ridership can be dramatically increased if is extended further west to what is now called Downsview station and/or if the Sheppard subway is extended further east to at least Agincourt GO station and/or the Scarborough Town Centre (for STC the line would also have to effectively go a little bit southwards).

    Steve jumps in: I was opposed to the Vaughan Subway in its time, but that horse left the barn a long time ago. The Scarborough subway could still be killed, but it would require a big unexpected cost increase to force a retreat, and we would always be dealing with the idea that LRT is a distant second best.

    I will dismiss Harrison’s comment as pure non-sense designed to justify his own project (the Vaughan subway) and oppose spending on another project (the Scarborough subway) that does not benefit him directly. Contrast that to the logical comment made by

    Malcolm N:

    In the context of the TYSSE, it is critical that there is mismanagement. However, the largest issue, in this, is the simple question of where the subway runs to. The issue, is as usual, extending subway where it does not belong. Density, matters, and York region does not have it, nor does it make sense to extend subway that far. It would have made far more sense to run the subway as far as Steeles, and either run LRT or BRT from there, with a transfer point. York could have built a multiple of the amount of BRT, creating much broader coverage, the province could have spent less, and there would still have been more in the kitty, for LRT in Etobicoke, Scarborough and North York, where it is sorely needed now, to make transit work in the entire region.

    I agree with you Malcolm. Malcolm’s comment is based on what’s needed and what makes sense unlike Harrison’s non-sense. I did not originally prefer a subway to Vaughan (too expensive to build, too long construction time, too expensive to operate regardless of how the operating cost is shared) but I will take it now that it is being built. My problem instead is with the TTC which mismanaged the project resulting in astronomical cost overruns and years upon years upon years of delays. What’s done cannot be undone but I do hope that no matter whether we get the subway or LRT for Richmond Hill, I do hope that the project is overseen by Metrolinx or YRT/VIVA and under no circumstances should we repeat the mistake of letting it be overseen by the TTC (unless Toronto wants to pay 100% of the construction costs).

    Steve: Well, the original planned opening was December 2015, and this was considered to be an aggressive target when it was set. There was an extended period after Council approved the project before the contribution agreements were in place from Queen’s Park and Ottawa, and this delayed startup. By October 2012, it was evident that they would not hit the original tagret, and shifted it back to fall 2016. A later review concluded that this too would not be achieved, and the date is now December 2017. That is not “Years upon years upon years of delays”.

    Most definitely there was a design and project management screw-up, but I have written about this at length elsewhere and won’t bother to repeat the info here. Two of the major delays arose from a construction fatality at York U station (not the TTC’s fault) and a many difficulties with the contractor building Steeles West station. One issue is the degree to which Council wanted the project broken up into small enough pieces that more than a handful of the “big guys” could bid on the work. This created a problem with project management and variability in quality. On the Crosstown project, we’re back to large, turnkey jobs. The pendulum swings back and forth on this sort of thing when the smaller businesses say “we deserve some of that public money too”, and pols listen sympathetically. Yes, the TTC should have managed what they were forced to do better, but there are political issues too.

    Those wonderful 905 municipalities are not without their own share of construction cock-ups and procurement scandals.

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  8. Also I did NOT originally oppose TTC management of constructing transit in York Region until TTC proved its incompetence as highlighted in my comments. Another thing that I am really hoping is for York Region to immediately STOP contracting out bus services to the TTC which the TTC runs very poorly. Besides, I am sure that the TTC is short of buses to even serve just Toronto alone and so let the TTC worry about Toronto transit and let us worry about our own. I have much greater confidence in YRT/VIVA than I do in the TTC (I will also take Metrolinx over the TTC though I like YRT/VIVA more in terms of competency).

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  9. GTA Population Density Map 2006

    From a density perspective, a western extension to Bloor-Danforth to Hurontario would have made more sense. Second up would have been a Yonge extension to Richmond Hill, or even combining the SSE with a Markham extension.
    I’m basically against any plan that is born out of political backscratching/pandering rather than actual evidence-based planning (no matter how skewed it might be). I’m a frequent used of the Sheppard Subway, but I think it shouldn’t have been built. Now that it and the TYSSE have been built, we’re better off keeping them running. I’d prefer the SSE were shifted to an LRT network, but see it happening against better judgement for political reasons, just like we’ll probably be promised the TYYSE in the run up to the 2018 election.

    Steve: Er, by 2018 the TYSSE should be open. Are you being ironic?

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  10. Steve: Er, by 2018 the TYSSE should be open. Are you being ironic?

    TYYSE = Toronto York Yonge Subway Extension (to Richmond Hill)!

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  11. Well Jesse, I don’t live anywhere near Vaughan, but you seem to be missing out on rush hour, because it’s a nightmare, even compared with Scarborough. My comparison of the 2 subways was philosophical; I know that they’re not competing for the same funds.

    As for you Steve; as you hopefully suggested, the Vaughan spur may be finished by December 31 2017. The magical electric GO line will be up and running, maybe, by 2023. Also, the 2 lines are a good three and a half kilometers from each other in Vaughan. Let’s all pause for a moment and reflect on Mel Lastman’s Crazy Train that delayed the York U/Vaughan extension for at least 5 years.

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  12. Why people don’t learn their mistakes? Kitchener/Waterloo LRT, Eglinton LRT, Finch West LRT, etc are ALL ordering ALL of their vehicles from Bombardier.

    Bombardier (which has delivered only a small fraction of the new streetcars than originally promised and failed to meet every unilaterally watered down promise) is going to end up spelling the end of one or two streetcar lines in Toronto. Those who supported Bombardier no matter what and gave every excuse to not switch suppliers are going to end up regretting when buses permanently replace streetcars on several routes. I don’t think that Bombardier is competent enough to complete any of these orders. At least in this regard, Metrolinx is just as incompetent as the TTC and will only order from Bombardier no matter how high the cost and no matter how poor the quality.

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  13. Speaking of the money it’s gonna cost the TTC (and therefore Toronto taxpayers) to run the Vaughan subway for years (or even decades) until development around the line creates enough demand to make it viable (which I suppose will happen at some point), I’m failing to see what exactly is the long term benefit to Toronto that justifies the cost?

    (Some) People from York Region will have a better, faster, more reliable route to downtown. OK, nice, but why should those people free-ride on Torontonians’ taxes?

    There will be development in Vaughan around the line. Well Vaughan’s city budget will cash in on that, not Toronto’s.

    People who own property along the line will see its value rise – but again, the increased property tax revenue won’t be going to Toronto City Hall.

    Maybe some people from York region will access better paying jobs in Toronto, but again most of the tax revenue resulting from that won’t go to Toronto’s government.

    The only benefits for Toronto are indirect – perhaps the line creates more leisure and shopping trips to Toronto from York R., benefitting the city’s economy. Or the ability to live in Vaughan next to Line 1 of the subway eases the pressure on Toronto’s real estate market a bit, esp. for people renting. But considering the low projected ridership for the first, like, decade at least, I kind of doubt these benefits will pay for the costs. If they happen at all, since a couple of subway stops north of Steeles are small change in terms of effect on the cuty-wide transit situation when you look at the big picture. All pain for no gain?

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  14. Some potentially useful information from Bill 104

    The only portion of the [Metrolinx] act that deals with collecting money from municipalities:

    Section 19
    Subsection 3

    “Despite any other Act, a municipality may enter into an agreement with the Corporation or a subsidiary of the Corporation and, if it does so, it shall agree to pay to the Corporation or the subsidiary corporation all or any portion of the operating or capital expenditures required to meet the terms of the agreement, including any lease arrangements.”

    So if the City and Queen’s Park didn’t agree on the charge to begin with…

    Steve: I do not think that this is the enabling legislation. Originally the scheme was set up under GO Transit when it was part of MTO, then inherited by the Greater Toronto Services Board, and finally by Metrolinx.

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  15. Ban Bombardier from Public Sector Projects said:

    I don’t think that Bombardier is competent enough to complete any of these orders. At least in this regard, Metrolinx is just as incompetent as the TTC and will only order from Bombardier no matter how high the cost and no matter how poor the quality.

    I agree that Bombardier has mucked things up recently. However, I believe marketplace competition keeps companies accountable. Industry consolidation was allowed to proceed too far, so that the last TTC order had two bids, if you ban one of those two companies, it’s basically writing a blank cheque to the other to overcharge and underperform. They need to write these contracts much more conditionally with both the carrot and stick approach (bonuses for ‘early’ delivery or consistently good products as well as penalties for ‘late’ delivery and defective products).

    Steve: Actually, my understanding of things is that Alstom was thinking of bidding, but did not because it wasn’t worth the effort into what they viewed as a closed market, and Skoda was strongly discouraged from bidding by the TTC. Only Siemens bid against Bombardier, and their price was 50% higher.

    Andre S. said:

    Speaking of the money it’s gonna cost the TTC (and therefore Toronto taxpayers) to run the Vaughan subway for years (or even decades) until development around the line creates enough demand to make it viable (which I suppose will happen at some point), I’m failing to see what exactly is the long term benefit to Toronto that justifies the cost?

    The only benefits for Toronto are indirect – perhaps the line creates more leisure and shopping trips to Toronto from York R., benefitting the city’s economy. Or the ability to live in Vaughan next to Line 1 of the subway eases the pressure on Toronto’s real estate market a bit, esp. for people renting.

    Development on the Sheppard Subway is still mediocre. There are two benefits that I can see for Toronto: higher ability to compete for jobs (both companies locating in Toronto and Torontonians filling jobs in Vaughan) and continued provincial support on other projects.

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  16. Steve: I do not think that this is the enabling legislation. Originally the scheme was set up under GO Transit when it was part of MTO, then inherited by the Greater Toronto Services Board, and finally by Metrolinx.

    You may be right. I tried to find the oldest legislation I could. I should have put the full citation. 38:2 Bill 104, Greater Toronto Transportation Authority Act, 2006. An amendment in 2009 doesn’t really change this section. How far back the does the scheme go?

    Steve: About a decade. It predates the GTTA.

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  17. 1) What is the formula for assigning the charges?- Strictly by population? By service? With respect to certain expenditures incurred within that municipality?

    For example, there is always a clamouring from more distant municipalities for expanded GO service. One might make the case that these municipalities contribute towards providing the stations within their borders.

    2) With respect to Toronto how much has GO collected from riders who do not benefit from a co-fare as is the case elsewhere? One could make the case that anyone who uses the TTC to get to the GO station has been paying off Toronto’s contribution via higher fares.

    Steve: The proportions were set a decade ago when this system was created and they have not changed since. As for your second point, who knows. GO does not report revenue at that level of detail, and of course they have claimed that the discriminatory fares within the 416 were a justifiable part of their business model.

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  18. Edited

    @(Ban Bombardier from Public Sector Projects) – Nice link, I agree that we either ban Bombardier from public sector projects or risk losing part of the streetcar system.

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  19. Hmm, a half-billion less-paid… So if there are to be extra stops added on RER, and Metrolinx and Ontario aren’t feeling so generous, will they insist upon having the Smart Track costs AND the half-billion, or having the big bucks paid off first? Smart Track has smelled like a Smart Trick, and while it worked to exit one problem to get Mr. Tory, it still feels like an ongoing set of disasters and squandered opportunities, though when Eglinton gets done that will be good. A transit line that actually makes sense!!

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  20. I don’t know if right thread to post this in but TTC’s revenue problems have NOTHING to do with ridership numbers but TTC’s own incompetence (for example: very poorly introduced POP and very poorly introduced PRESTO – it’s been more than 4 months since there have been no turnstiles or fare gates at North York Centre station (i.e. lots and lots of free entries) and I bet that it’s NOT the only one; every day people also get free rides as often no PRESTO on streetcar replacement buses and no working PRESTO on streetcars, in stations, in streetcar replacement buses, etc).

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  21. hamish wilson said:

    Smart Track has smelled like a Smart Trick, and while it worked to exit one problem to get Mr. Tory, it still feels like an ongoing set of disasters and squandered opportunities, though when Eglinton gets done that will be good. A transit line that actually makes sense!!

    Smart Track is a hollow title. It’s been gutted and filled with RER work that Metrolinx was going to do anyway. The only remainder that I can see is the Stouffville line adding a Toronto station or possibly two with limited service.

    Mikey said:

    I don’t know if right thread to post this in but TTC’s revenue problems have NOTHING to do with ridership numbers but TTC’s own incompetence (for example: very poorly introduced POP and very poorly introduced PRESTO…)

    For 2015, the average fare per rider was $2.073, with a shortfall in the range of $188M to $215M, that’s 90.7M to 103.7M riders who you are suggesting are evading fares. That’s an additional 17.0% to 19.4% ridership. Which would have been quite the spike from previous years.

    Fare evasion and inability to collect fares are problems, but not of that magnitude.

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  22. Mapleson said:

    “Development on the Sheppard Subway is still mediocre. There are two benefits that I can see for Toronto: higher ability to compete for jobs (both companies locating in Toronto and Torontonians filling jobs in Vaughan) and continued provincial support on other projects.”

    Yes, and I am concerned with these benefits being able to persist. To make subway in the area even begin to have a hope of making any sense, you would need a much broader rapid transit network connecting to the York Region stations. This of course raises concerns going forward with regards to capacity. Toronto, really needs to start with the development of a broader rapid transit system itself. This is the key link to the western half of the city, and well, as we have already seen, Yonge is overloaded, and broader rapid transit attached to the Spadina side, should attract additional development resulting in overload here. The blind, dangerous and ridiculous extension of subway has to stop.

    Mapleson said:

    “From a density perspective, a western extension to Bloor-Danforth to Hurontario would have made more sense. Second up would have been a Yonge extension to Richmond Hill, or even combining the SSE with a Markham extension.”

    While I know exactly what you mean, making more sense, implies that it makes sense, and I think it needs to be clear, that TYSSE, from a density perspective makes even less sense (as in they are both nonsensical). The extension to Yonge might almost have made sense — it is suicide for other reasons. I think this is rather like saying, shooting yourself in the foot is better that shooting yourself in the chest, or in the head. The question needs to be -why shoot yourself at all. Yes, extending the BDL west or Yonge North is less stupid, but well, that does not make it not stupid.

    I agree with the rest of your commentary, that you disagree with any of the politically driven extensions. Scarborough is a real stretch to justify, especially when we pull up just south of the 401, and we do not create at least a bridge to a larger area, that has restricted points of crossing. To justify the SSE, you would need to have an actual network of rapid transit, to really create service for a broad area anchored at the STC, and well, that would be nearly as viable at Kennedy, and the money required to build the SSE would pay for said network. Extension beyond and drawing a massive ridership increase becomes a negative here, because there is a transfer problem to the west, that this will greatly worsen. The SSE, could be justified, if it permitted a running of a real grid service for the buses, as opposed to the massive distortions we have today, but well, it will not achieve that, and a rapid transit network is also unlikely to be forthcoming once the SSE money has been spent. Essentially, this only makes sense if we also build the Sheppard East LRT, SSE actually meets it, and there is a real solid rapid transit connection by York Region, that comes down to meet them. However, essentially this is a classic case of politics, sinking Scarborough again, as they will not get a viable system, because voters and politicians will over ride planners again.

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  23. Nathanael wrote: It is indeed time for Toronto to order from Siemens or Kinki Sharyo or someone else.

    Perhaps we should be looking at Alstom. They are providing 34 Citadis Spirit LRVs for Ottawa’s LRT system currently being built.

    This is the first sale of LRVs by Alstom in the North American market, and they are assembling them at – wait for it… Belfast Yard on OC Transpo’s property.

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  24. Calvin Henry-Cortnam said: “Perhaps we should be looking at Alstom. They are providing 34 Citadis Spirit LRVs for Ottawa’s LRT system currently being built.”

    Yes, these appear to be much more capacious cars. Bombardier was the only serious provider that offered a plan for the old streetcar lines, however that should not mean that for the rest of the region, we stick with them. It should also not mean, that we are not looking for ways to over time change the routing of those tracks so as to permit wider turns, and hence a broader range of suppliers.

    Too much of the issue is the industrial policy portion, and this was what sunk Scarborough with the RT, and I think we need to have a serious look and discussion with regards to the costs we are facing by insisting that this assembly be done in Ontario. There is a point where you are spending 3 dollars to keep it at home instead of 1 to buy it elsewhere, and the overall impact on your other programs actually kills more jobs and benefits than it creates.

    Steve: The curve radii are a function of intersection geometry and the properties used for loops. Yes, it would be possible to switch to double-ended cars, but this would require creation of layover spaces in the middle of the street, difficult with four-lane roads. For an example of a curve that simply cannot be widened, see Queen & Broadview, NW corner, where the track is close to the curb, and swingout from streetcars puts the clearance line over the sidewalk.

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  25. Steve said:

    The curve radii are a function of intersection geometry and the properties used for loops. Yes, it would be possible to switch to double-ended cars, but this would require creation of layover spaces in the middle of the street, difficult with four-lane roads. For an example of a curve that simply cannot be widened, see Queen & Broadview, NW corner, where the track is close to the curb, and swingout from streetcars puts the clearance line over the sidewalk.

    Yes, and this is why I say, over time. This is not something that will change this year, or next, or within this buying cycle, but we might have some small impact on it by the next with careful choices, and a material impact by the time the cycle after comes, but only because it is a 30 year cycle. Changing things like this, is a very long time horizon, and can only be done, when there is a significant redevelopment, and with a readiness to acquire property at corners etc. However there are a few spots that the only way this could be done, is to acquire the corner lot and remove the offending building. Although if someone were actually redeveloping the block, you might (maybe perhaps) be able to negotiate a broader sweep for the roadway, in exchange for more times coverage, if your developer, was also looking to do something that covered a substantial portion of the block.

    Steve: The Broadview House is not going anywhere, as are other buildings that dictate intersection geometry. You are pursuing an unreachable goal, certainly one that would not be achievable in even the lifetime of one generation of new streetcars, probably not in two. My sense is that you have a profound lack of detailed knowledge of central Toronto where these curves are located, or conversely that we should earmark a large number of locations for redevelopment with the very long term hope of changing the streetcar network’s geometry.

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  26. Steve said:

    “The Broadview House is not going anywhere, as are other buildings that dictate intersection geometry. You are pursuing an unreachable goal, certainly one that would not be achievable in even the lifetime of one generation of new streetcars, probably not in two. My sense is that you have a profound lack of detailed knowledge of central Toronto where these curves are located, or conversely that we should earmark a large number of locations for redevelopment with the very long term hope of changing the streetcar network’s geometry.”

    Actually I am acutely aware of a few, however I do not spend as much time as I used to, but that would not change the reality, that as we redevelop the old downtown, there will be opportunities and choices to be made, in terms of how these intersections are configured. Note I am saying a small impact in the next cycle (ie between now and 2045) and a notable one in the cycle after (ie by 2075). It would require extreme discipline, a very detailed plan, and remarkable focus. This is certainly not something that the City of Toronto, has shown it wants to do, let alone can do. I am not as convinced as you that Broadview house or any structure in Toronto is beyond question between now and 2075.

    I am however convinced that the city will not make a serious plan that covers all the period between now and 2045 let alone 2075. Steve, if you are going to attack me for dreaming, you got to go after me, on where I really am seeing technicolor. I have no problem seeing 50-75% of the existing older building being gone beyond the financial core, and even a substantial number of those, just cannot see a plan to cover the reality of that long a time horizon in the planning of the city today. I would actually think it is more likely that Broadview house and the entire block will be replaced and the curve of the track will not even be considered. To what degree was this a consideration in the more recent building permits in the core? Anybody even think to try and get easement at the corners?

    Steve: After an extensive restoration, Broadview House is to be unveiled next week. It’s there for a long time, certainly longer that the lifetime of every transit vehicle in Toronto. I might also offer the corner of Queen and Victoria where a brand new extension of St. Michael’s Hospital is built right out to the sidewalk. There are other examples. My point here is that you are trying to address a short term problem (ability of any builder’s cars to fit our geometry) with a very long term solution. It is a waste of time to even have this discussion.

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  27. I remember looking at some long-abandoned streetcar tracks in Buenos Airies. Because the streets were so narrow, the tracks would curve to the left side of the street before making a right turn at the corner, thus increasing the radius. This may be more feasible than tearing down all corner buildings at track junctions. Note I’m not saying that this is totally feasible.

    Steve: Turning left then right creates a non-clearance problem with opposing traffic. I have seen curves like that on old lines in Pittsburgh (now abandoned), but they were single track, single direction.

    What is the curve radius of a swan boat?

    Steve: Swan Boats pivot. They do not require curve clearance!

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  28. Steve said:

    “My point here is that you are trying to address a short term problem (ability of any builder’s cars to fit our geometry) with a very long term solution. It is a waste of time to even have this discussion”

    I would only be concerned that Toronto seems to not be able to plan for the long term generally. The real issue is that we have not made allowances for this in the past even when opportunity was presented. It seems that there has been a general lack of long term planning, and this is reflected where we had a chances, like the railway lands, the Union Station underground, etc, to allow for approaches, and viable routes.

    Steve: You have completely forgotten that the question of “viable routes” as is relates to wider curves is a condition that only came into view with the move to low floor cars. It’s not as if 50 years ago we might have started earmarking intersections for widening. Also, don’t forget that 50 years ago, all of the streetcars would have been gone by 1980.

    “Long term planning” is very dependent on what we think the future will look like.

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  29. Mapleson Said: “Development on the Sheppard Subway is still mediocre.”

    Sorry Mapleson but this can’t go unchallenged. The development on Sheppard between Don Mills and Yonge is one of the busiest residential construction zones in all of Canada.

    If one of the busiest construction booms in the country is “mediocre” then I don’t know what could possibly count as “acceptable” to you?

    And if you’re going to point to the subway itself, I would also suggest that only a fool would build 1/3rd of something and definitively call it a success or failure. I’ve ridden it during rush hour as I’m sure many transit advocates who read this blog have and I can tell you first hand that it is standing room only in the morning and evening rush. Imagine what it could do as a full northern crosstown line (be it connected with LRT or Subway). Sadly, the inability of all 3 levels of government (Toronto City Council, the Province and the Feds) to remain focused on a transit project and to jump from project to project depending on the flavour of the day leaves all of us in a mess.

    Also, a better question would be why did the density take a full 20 years after the opening of the truncated Sheppard Subway for the construction boom to start? Is this what’s going to happen to TYSSE too? Or can lessons be learned to speed up the density timeline along the route?

    Steve: Standing room on trains that are 2/3 the standard length and run every 5’30” rather than 2’21” on the two main lines. That translates to about 28% of the capacity provided on lines 1 YUS and 2 BD. Counter peak and off peak, the line is rather empty compared to the other subway routes.

    If you want to talk about delayed density, have a look at the Spadina subway south from Wilson where there has been almost no development since the line opened.

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  30. Jesse from Vaughan said: I am from Vaughan (York Region) but what Harrison states is utterly false. Vaughan has far less population and far less job density than Scarborough

    York region is lucky it doesn’t have special interests & a select group of Politicians from the core out to blatant kill quality and fairly integrated infrastructure proposals from within its own City. The disdain for the Toronto suburbs is absolute shameful from some people within the core of this City. Be thankful York embraces its entire suburbs and attempts to build to a high standard possible with minimal internal opposition.

    It’s truly a shame. But from living in downtown for 3 years and Scarborough for 7 I realize some people with the City just don’t even really understand life outside the public transit map nor do they to care to acknowledge the lack of detail, promotion required to grow Toronto burbs into the future. The media hasn’t helped shed proper light on this issues here either & do to the polarization its created It seems to be finally identified Politically as a problem. But it will be another couple decades before we see if the Political will continues to grow merge and grow the City together.

    Although it does make me sad to see some of the comments here..

    Steve: And your attitude to those “downtown” is precisely why some of us treat the suburbs as whining, spoiled brats. There are many big problems with suburban transit, but the idea that they can be fixed with one or two megaprojects (subways), and that “downtown” is plotting to take money away from suburban improvements is a convenient fiction to get votes, but do little to really improve transit.

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  31. Steve said:

    “Also, don’t forget that 50 years ago, all of the streetcars would have been gone by 1980.

    “Long term planning” is very dependent on what we think the future will look like.”

    Yes, in terms of the streetcars being gone, this is something that I do not believe ever really made sense. This was a move to reduce, not increase options. I think truly long term planning, means doing more than we have been to widen not narrow choice. Having said that, it would [look] like an expensive waste if we find that we can build a completely different transit form, or the downtown fails to continue to intensify.

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  32. WHEN PIGS FLY there will be a Vaughan council that will get along with its professional staff, and itself; there will be a north Yonge subway to RH; the Sheppard subway will be considered a big success by someone not named JW Mel; and the happy people in Scarborough will profusely thank the post Fordians for foisting a subway to nowhere, with no hinterland LRTs, ever.

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  33. JW: can you say that the development along Sheppard is due to the subway? It looks maybe like what we’re getting at Lake Shore and Park Lawn, and there’s not a subway in sight there, just a hundred-year-old streetcar route and a local bus. There may be growth along Sheppard, but the growth due specifically to the subway may indeed be mediocre at best.

    Harrison: isn’t Vaughan Council the one where they had a vicious fight between a couple of people, I seem to remember Di Biase? Not sure if there were lawsuits and/or police investigations. Then there’s Susan Fennel and Brampton Council. Toronto and the Fords aren’t the only gong show in the GTHA.

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  34. Steve wrote:

    Yes, it would be possible to switch to double-ended cars, but this would require creation of layover spaces in the middle of the street, difficult with four-lane roads.

    This is true, however it should be noted that the space needed can be done at the end of lines using no more space than the existing tracks. Many of Melbourne’s lines have single-track terminals, such as this one at Camberwell where Route 72 turns back.

    Steve: What I was really driving at is that the cars will lay over on that track, and with the way we tend to have multiple cars at terminals, that takes a chunk of road space away. Not the same thing as a carstop where the streetcar arrives and leaves in short order.

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  35. JW said:

    Also, a better question would be why did the density take a full 20 years after the opening of the truncated Sheppard Subway for the construction boom to start? Is this what’s going to happen to TYSSE too? Or can lessons be learned to speed up the density timeline along the route?

    It’s been 14 years since the Sheppard Subway opened in 2002. I don’t count the growth of North York Centre or Sheppard-Yonge as development on the Sheppard Subway, as it’s primarily focused on the Yonge Subway. Likewise, development in and around Don Mills Station has to be discounted due in its attribution to the subway due to the proximity of the 401/DVP/404.

    Bessarion Station is finally got some construction, but MEC and Ikea are there because it’s cheap land, and the 50-unit Park Towns is a far cry compared to say Finch Station area, which is getting 4-tower 1660-unit redevelopment, if it gets out of the planning stage. Bayview has really gained some legs and Leslie has a bit more density, but still very sporadic. Willowdale Station never got built. Bessarion is still more a waste of rider’s time than a convenient stop.

    I would compare the development due to the Sheppard Subway (anything from Willowdale to Shaughnessy) to Sheppard Ave. W. in general (Yorkland to Kennedy). It’s mediocre.

    Get back to me in 2022, when some of the current projects in construction or planning are actually sold, built, and occupied.

    JW said:

    I’ve ridden it during rush hour as I’m sure many transit advocates who read this blog have and I can tell you first hand that it is standing room only in the morning and evening rush.

    Over the past 8 years I’ve slowly migrated east along Sheppard (doing a ‘reverse commute’ by working on the east side of 401/Sheppard) from Willowdale to Bayview to Shaughnessy to Don Mills to Victoria Park. By “Standing room only” do you mean if you aren’t waiting a couple minutes for the next train you won’t get a seat? With a ridership of 4500 pphpd, you have a 1/3 chance of having a seat (1440 seated pphpd capacity). Put it this way: Of all the stations on the Yonge-University-Spadina Subway, Sheppard-Yonge on Line 1 is the sixth busiest station after Bloor-Yonge, St George, Union, Finch, and Eglinton. Sheppard-Yonge on Line 4 would fall to 12th below Dundas, King, Queen, St. Andrew, and College. The 504 King streetcar on Saturdays has 51% the ridership of Sheppard-Yonge on weekdays or 82% of weekday Line 4 ridership.

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  36. Joe M said:

    York region is lucky it doesn’t have special interests & a select group of Politicians from the core out to blatant kill quality and fairly integrated infrastructure proposals from within its own City.

    York Regional Council is worse. It has 9 mayors and 11 councillors plus a Chair. The three big cities have 12 votes between them, basically the opposite of what happened with Metro Toronto, resulting in YRT having “Zones” which charge the remote parts more for using transit to the “core” and the TTC having a flat fare.

    You seem to characterize everything as a conflict of “downtown” vs “suburbs”, but then also attack North York as “privileged”. Scarborough has been neglected. If not for Rob Ford’s “subways, subways, subways” 4-year dream diversion, Scarborough would have address at least a small part of that neglect. Rather than spending billions to prop up development at STC, I think Scarborough would benefit more from neighbourhood transit.

    I’ve never lived south of Sheppard, but because I don’t think the SSE is the best thing since sliced bread (invented in 1928), I’m a “downtown elite”.

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  37. Joe M:

    York region is lucky it doesn’t have special interests & a select group of Politicians from the core out to blatant kill quality and fairly integrated infrastructure proposals from within its own City. The disdain for the Toronto suburbs is absolute shameful from some people within the core of this City. Be thankful York embraces its entire suburbs and attempts to build to a high standard possible with minimal internal opposition. [remainder of quote clipped]

    STANDING OVATION to that. I think that Joe M is speaking about the likes of Councillor Josh Matlow, Adam Vaughan (now MP and formerly a city councillor), etc who will continue to fight the Scarborough subway no matter how many times it gets approved. In contrast, you can’t find a single Scarborough politician who opposes any Downtown project already approved. It is truly unfortunate that Downtown politicians only see Scarborough as a part of the city when it comes to collecting taxes but NOT when it comes to spending the said taxes.

    Steve: “Already approved” is the key part of your statement. The DRL is not yet “approved”, nor is the Waterfront East LRT. When I hear suburban councillors recognizing that a DRL to at least Eglinton if not Sheppard is a benefit to their constituents, then I will agree the suburbs understand that “downtown” affects everybody, including those trying to get there from Scarborough.

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  38. Ed:

    You’ve got the pulse of Vaughan politics to perfection; and there’s no sign that things will improve. People create their fiefdoms and maul anyone who hints at any form of wrongdoing. Brampton, of course, was in a class by itself. Sadly, there are examples of political chicanery or stupidity all over southern Ontario. The mayor of Cambridge led the local fight against the KW LRT, claiming that Cambridge should demand GO service instead so that the 23 souls who live in Cambridge and work in Toronto could ride the CP to glory.

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