Mayor John Tory held a press conference this morning (February 28, 2017) at Kennedy Station in anticipation of a newly released set of reports on the Scarborough Subway:
- Executive Committee Agenda Item EX23.1
- Next Steps on the Scarborough Subway Extension
- Attachment 1: Scarborough Subway Extension – Update to Initial Business Case
- Attachment 2: Draft Environmental Project Report Executive Summary
- Attachment 3: Additional Renderings of Scarborough Centre Station area
- Attachment 4: Value Engineering Report Executive Summary
- Attachment 5: Cost Estimate Peer Review report
Note: Commentaries on the Value Engineering and Cost Estimate reports will be added to this article later.
There are few surprises here. The subway will almost certainly cost more than earlier estimates. There may be ways to save some money on the project, but these are small dollars compared to the overall scope. One proposed increase is a change in the bus terminal at Scarborough Town Centre Station to one that better supports future development even though its construction is more complex.
Despite implications by some Councillors that TTC cost estimates were unreliable, an external review agreed with the values the TTC presents. At this stage, with design work only at 5%, there is a very wide latitude in accuracy because so much of the detail is unknown. A range of -30% to +50% translates to over a billion dollars either way, and claims that the project cost is a hard, fixed number are simply irresponsible.
A long-suspected result is that the subway project, originally sold as part of a package of transit improvements including an extension of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT to the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus, now requires most of the previous “committed” money. The LRT extension used to sweeten the plan and encourage wavering Councillors to support the subway extension is in danger and requires its own funding.
Mayor Tory made an aggressive speech, supported by TTC Chair Josh Colle and Scarborough Subway Champion Glenn De Baeremaeker.
One expects a fair amount of civic boosterism given the history of this project, but I could not help feeling that the Mayor oversells his position and undermines his credibility.
He started off with a heart rending description of riders who for decades have faced the “Scarborough shuffle” of changing between the SRT and the subway at Kennedy Station. This is a tedious process given that four levels separate the two routes, and the TTC’s ability to keep escalators and elevators working over the full path is not sterling. Tory portrayed this connection as an accessibility issue because, of course, when any component of that connection isn’t working, riders face a long climb up or down stairs.
What he failed to mention, as has so often been the case in the subway-vs-LRT debate, is that the proposed LRT station would have been only one level above the subway, and the transfer would have been very much like the interchange at Spadina Station.
Taking a page from Donald Trump’s playbook, Tory argued that those who oppose the subway are working against the democratic will of voters and their representatives. Even newly minted Scarborough Councillor Neethan Shan, who stood at Tory’s side, ran on a pro-subway platform. Council voted many times on the subway and related issues, and approved the Scarborough transit plan by 27 to 16. Tory neglects to mention that the plan both the voters and councillors approved was quite different including a longer subway with more stops, and also the LRT extension to UTSC. This is the bait-and-switch game many suspected it would be all along, while others trying to “keep peace in the family” took the Mayor’s claims at face value.
Tory came dangerously close to portraying “tireless critics” of this project as outside of the political mainstream and subverting the will of the people. “Tell people they voted the wrong way, that they will be better off without a subway” and more in that vein.
Pressed on rising costs, the Mayor refused to say whether there was any cost beyond which he could not support the subway. Meanwhile he looks to Queen’s Park and Ottawa for support on the Eglinton LRT and other transportation projects. Tory describes the Eglinton extension as a “fundamental part of our plan”, but whether other governments will actually chip in remains to be seen.
A frequent claim for the subway is that it will spark development of Scarborough Town Centre, but Tory emphasized how it would provide a faster link for Scarborough residents to jobs downtown. A big problem with many transit plans (not just this subway) is that they do not serve the very high demand for travel to jobs (and other destinations such as schools) that are not downtown.
Tory suggested that the Value Engineering report implies there’s a few hundred million dollars for the taking in adjustments to the project. The report does not actually say this, but merely lists a range of options, some more practical than others, that might be embraced. At the current level of design, a few hundred million could go up in smoke with a cost revision.
One recent change is a proposal for a different, improved bus terminal at STC. Tory attempted to deflect criticism of this cost by saying that no matter what was built, we would need a terminal and, therefore, it really isn’t part of the subway’s cost. This dodges the issue that an LRT network would have spread out the collection of riders to other sites, and the number of routes converging on STC would have been lower. Pick a one stop subway as your design, and that dictates a large terminal.
The real advantage of the change lies in how it better integrates with planned development at STC.
Of particular note was Tory’s pledge to “get things done in this term of office”. He does not want “to be a leader who accomplishes nothing” on the transit file. He wants to take the long term view, although he is not at all clear on whether Toronto is prepared to spend enough to support it.
TTC Chair Josh Colle spoke of the need to move forward with transit plans, especially the one for Scarborough, as the city is “on the verge of a transit revival”. The condition of the SRT, on which the Mayoral party arrived for the event, shows that decisions cannot be put off.
Colle argued that we should learn from past failures and ensure that there is “accountability”, that a project does not get approved long in advance giving a blank cheque for rising costs. This is a direct reference to the Vaughan subway extension and a proposed tightening of the process for approving project changes (about which more later in this article). Colle neglects to mention that the imperative for TTC managers under the Ford/Stintz regime was to keep the project “on time, on budget” so that a smiling TTC chair could tout how well her TTC was doing. Colle was on that TTC Board and should have known the project was in trouble.
What actually happened was that the station contracts came in well over budget, but this was paid for with money earmarked for contingencies, for unexpected conditions during construction. Between chaotic management of overlapping contracts and raiding the piggy bank to avoid asking for more money, the TYSSE was in deep trouble. This all came to a head when both that project and the related resignalling contracts for the Yonge line had to be reorganized.
The Scarborough subway project will receive better scrutiny, or so the reports claim, but the political problem that saying “no” when the costs rise simply is not an option for the current administration.
Councillor De Baeremaeker emphasized that all but one Scarborough Councillor and all of its MPPs support the subway project. Scarborough has 33% of Toronto’s area and 25% of its population, not unlike North York which has far more subway infrastructure. It might be churlish of me to point out that there has been a heavy transit demand north-south on Yonge Street since the days when cows grazed alongside the road, something Scarborough cannot claim for its rapid transit corridor.
Continuing his theme, De Baeremaeker talked about future daily demand at STC station of 70,000 which would exceed almost all of the downtown stations. Yes, it would, but this also reflects the concentration of all demand for Scarborough at one point roughly like having only a station at Finch on the Yonge line. It will be a busy station, but the bus network will be gerrymandered to feed it.
The real question has always been how well the subway will serve travel demands overall, but that debate is closed.
After the formal statements, Mayor Tory was challenged on locations the subway would not serve. He claimed, falsely, that Scarborough will have more transit stations with the new scheme, including SmartTrack, than before, and that ST work, the double-tracking of the Stouffville GO corridor, was already underway.
SmartTrack adds two stations to the GO corridor at Lawrence and at Finch, but the double-tracking is part of the GO/RER plan and has been in the works for some time. The lightly-used SRT stations at Ellesmere and Midland will disappear, and the new subway effectively consolidates the STC and McCowan RT stations into one location.
What is frustrating in all of this is the sense of people trying too hard to put their case. If the expectation is for overwhelming support at Council, why work so hard at the argument?
The balance of this article reviews the reports linked above.
Next Steps for the Scarborough Subway Extension
This report recommends that:
- Council approve the Draft Environmental Assessment for a subway extension via McCowan to the Scarborough Town Centre including a new option for a bus terminal on Triton Road. Staff will complete the Transit Project Assessment and submit the EA for provincial review.
- Council approve a Design-Build-Finance procurement for the extension with support from Infrastructure Ontario.
- The City Manager report back to Council when the project reaches a class 3 cost estimate with an updated project budget for approval to proceed.
- The City request confirmation from the provincial and federal governments of their funding commitments.
The report sets out funding sources that are already thought to be in place, but misrepresents them as applying to “the SSE project”. When the project was a three-stop subway running north to Sheppard, all of the funding was earmarked for the subway. (Council decision October 2013)
However, by January 2016, a new plan including a one-stop express subway ending at STC and the Eglinton LRT to UTSC was approved by Council. That report stated:
Initial estimates indicate it is also possible to construct the extension of Line 2 and the Crosstown East for a similar order-of-magnitude cost as the three-stop Scarborough Subway extension originally proposed. The two main reasons for this is the high cost of subway stations and the fact that the Crosstown East (Scarborough-Malvern LRT) has already been through an environmental assessment process meaning that it is close to being “shovel ready”. However, the recommended Scarborough transit network requires further evaluation of cost estimates. [p. 19]
No explicit costs were included in the January 2016 report which was much more a planning aspiration looking at what Scarborough’s transit and development could be than the hard technical details of construction and pricing.
By July 2016, a further report on transit options showed quite clearly that that the subway, even with the shorter express option, would consume much of the available funding. The City now hopes to see funding for the Eglinton extension through the second phase of the federal PTIF program, but even this will require matching local funds.
The updated subway cost estimate that has been cited in statements and media coverage is $3.346 billion leaving, in theory, a few hundred million out of the $3.560 billion in funding. The problem with this assumption is that the final cost will include other factors, some of which are detailed in the report. The new estimate includes an alternate bus terminal design that better fits with planning for STC’s future development, notably along the west side of McCowan Road.
The report includes approval for up to $15 million for procurement support services from Infrastructure Ontario, and anticipates a gross financing cost estimate of $110 million by the builder under the DBF model. This would be offset by savings in public sector financing for a net cost of about $40m.
These items, on a net basis, will add $55 million to the cost estimate in Table 2 above.
In July 2016, Council requested a separate review of TTC’s cost estimates for the SSE with the clear implication that the TTC was overstating the project’s potential cost. This review (detailed in a following section) actually showed that TTC estimates were reasonable and that, if anything, they might be slightly low by a factor of 5.7%. The difference was well within the range of estimates one would have at this stage of the project.
During 2016, the City and TTC undertook a review of capital program delivery in response to the TYSSE budget problems, and a report was commissioned from KPMG. Among their recommendations was that the project scope be changed to include related city building initiatives such as public realm improvements and urban renewal. While not strictly a “transit” cost, these are inevitable add-ons to any major construction project that provides an opportunity to reimagine how public space is used. Public realm options will be costed as the subway design work proceeds, and these will be reported to Council as part of the overall cost review when it reaches the 30% mark. A preliminary estimate for these items is $11 million.
Another add-on is the possibility of installing platform edge doors at STC station. The estimated cost is $14 million.
An important concept in the KPMG recommendations is the creation of a “Management Reserve”. The intent is to segregate contingency/risk provisions so that scope creep is clearly identified, and project changes after budgetary approval at the 30% design point do not plunder the contingency account as they did for the Spadina extension. The amount of reserve that would be provided in the SSE project could vary from $100 to $200 million depending on which estimate one chooses. This money might not all be required, but is needed as a reserve so that supplementary funding does not appear as a surprise later in the project.
Risk costs are estimated at $115 million for cost of construction and $190 million for potential schedule delays. It is not clear how much of this risk would be assumed by the DBF builder, or what the cost of this risk transfer will be. These allowances, if approved by Council, would be folded into the project budget at the 30% design point.
What is quite clear here is that potential costs beyond $3.346 billion are in the pipeline, and to treat that number as if it will not grow would be irresponsible. However, the political process by which projects are approved and funded demands an early commitment to a fixed dollar price leaving the city on the hook (or begging for bailouts) if the estimate is too low.
Offsetting these costs are potential value engineering changes to the design (described in a section below). One round of this has already taken place, and a major change – from twin tunnels to a single 10m diameter bore – has already been incorporated in the plans and estimate. There is some confusion about which potential savings have already been rolled into the preliminary budget, and which would be examined in more detail as design progresses. The report recommends a further review at the 20% design stage.
The report includes a review of various alignment options including the express version via Brimley, a route along the existing SRT corridor, and the “Big Bend” option proposed by the Glen Andrews Community Association.
- The Brimley option is dropped because it leaves the “Town Centre” station far to the east of the entire planning area that stretches east to Bellamy Road (see SSE business case update below).
- The SRT corridor route is dropped because it cannot be built while keeping the SRT in service.
- The Big Bend scheme is dropped because it would have more severe effects on properties along its route than the preferred alignment, and construction of the new STC station underneath the existing one could not be done without shutting down the SRT.
However, review of the Big Bend option led to a new plan for the tunneling work sites within STC itself rather than at McCowan and Ellesmere.
The new bus terminal under Triton Road is described in the section below on the Draft Environmental Assessment. It would lie south of the existing mall building, and would partly overlap with the existing SRT structure.
SSE – Update to Initial Business Case
Lest anyone think that this might be a review of the subway proposals against alternatives such as an LRT line, dream on. The only options considered here are the Brimley and McCowan subway alignments, and it’s really no contest between them. Brimley is shorter and slightly less expensive, but McCowan results in a better-placed station within the wider context of the entire planning for STC and adjacent areas, notably the equally large “McCowan Precinct” east of McCowan.
The new riders paradox:
The expected travel time between Scarborough Centre Station and Kennedy Station is expected to be 6.7-to-7.5 minutes for both the McCowan option and the Brimley option. Both options would involve a similar distance of travel, with the Brimley option approximately 200m shorter than the McCowan option.
The McCowan option would incent approximately 1,000 more net new riders to the transit system compared with the Brimley option. The McCowan option is expected to result in 500 more boardings in the morning peak hour than the Brimley option, and 3,800 additional riders throughout the day.
Net new riders were calculated in Spring 2016 using Option 1 (3-stop McCowan) as the base case and assuming SmartTrack ‘Option C’ and assumed a station at Ellesmere. In this update to the Business Case, the SRT is used as a reference case for the purposes of comparing the McCowan option and the Brimley option. Additionally, the network model was updated to reflect more recent assumptions, e.g. removing several Smart Track stations including Ellesmere. As a result, the base network has improved, resulting in fewer net new riders than previously estimated in the analysis reported for the July 12, 2016 Initial Business Case. [p. 13]
This discussion shows how sensitive the demand model is to changes in the underlying assumptions. The number of SmartTrack stations has the following effects:
- ST configurations with more stations provide slower trips. This causes the model to assign fewer riders to ST as opposed to the subway extension.
- Having fewer stations improves speed, but adds to access time for riders who might otherwise have a shorter trip to the rapid transit corridor. This affected projections for the three stop vs one stop subways in an unpublished study of subway options.
- These factors will interact depending on which stations are added or dropped, the demand expected at each station, and the relative benefit/disbenefit to various groups of riders including those beyond STC itself for whom a faster trip through Scarborough would make GO/RER more attractive.
Because the most recent modelling of the network is based on a more attractive version of SmartTrack (fewer stations, faster trips), ST has more riders in the base case to which the subway options are compared.
There is also a possibility that the model surface network is configured to force feed the subway causing ST to lose ridership it might otherwise have with a different network configuration.
Conversely, SmartTrack service will open five years before the subway, and will have a well-establish user base. The bus network will be oriented to feeding ST, and rearranging things to force-feed the subway could meet with resistance from riders. The degree to which the subway will attract net new riding by 2026 is compromised by drawing from a similar market to what will, by then, be the five year old ST service.
Lawrence East GO/ST station is unlikely to open until after the subway because it conflicts with continued operation of the SRT. However, service north of the 401 will be available at Steeles, Finch and Agincourt (Sheppard). The unknown factor in future demand is the nature of “fare integration” between the TTC and GO.
The cost comparison between the two options shows that they differ by about 10%, well within the range of estimates at this stage. However, the numbers below are qualified with the note that they do not include project delivery, management reserve or risk allowances.
Draft Environment Assessment Executive Summary
This draft rehashes information that has been presented in several previous studies of the subway line, but reveals a few design and construction details that are not mentioned elsewhere.
The station itself still requires cut-and-cover construction. However, because the tunnel will extend to within a short distance on either side of the subway station box, it is not possible to divert the tracks to either side to create room for a large centre platform as is the case when both the station and special trackwork are constructed using a very long section of cut-and-cover construction. Hence, the tracks must remain at their minimum separation through the station and this requires the use of side platforms.
The use of side platforms at a busy stations is a major annoyance for riders because they must be directed to the correct platform for the next train. An alternative scheme, at least for busy periods when both platforms will be required, is to use one platform for offloading and the other for loading with turnarounds occurring in the tail tracks beyond the station. This in effect makes the terminal operate like a “line” station. It is unknown whether the TTC plans such an approach.
The study of potential locations for this very large terminal concluded that the Triton Road corridor is the preferred location because it would best meet the project objectives related to future development and potential improvements to the road network within Scarborough Centre. The base terminal concept is shown in Exhibit E4-1. The terminal concept shown has two levels. The lower level is in a widened Triton Road and would accommodate 18 bus bays at an elevation similar to McCowan Road. An upper level, at the Borough Drive elevation, would accommodate a further 12 bays and the four remaining bays would be provided on the east side of the new extension of Borough Drive. This road extension, already part of the City’s plans for road improvements in this area, is required for this bus terminal and will be constructed as part of this project.
The two-level bus terminal nestles into an existing space occupied by a parking lot and Triton Road, and it would sit astride the station structure making for a convenient vertical link. However, part of the proposed terminal conflicts with the existing SRT structure, and the two level design also depends on road changes planned for the east side of STC. This will force a two-stage construction and implementation of the terminal.
Staged Construction of the Bus Terminal
The existing SRT structure is an impediment to the completion of the new bus terminal. For this reason, the bus terminal must be constructed, and opened, in two separate phases:
Phase 1: … The portion of the bus terminal that can be constructed with the SRT structure in place will be completed prior to the opening of the subway. Buses will have use of the existing bus terminal during this time. However, as a result of the construction activities around the station area, Triton Road will be closed west of McCowan – potentially for lengthy periods of time – and the majority of buses now using the SRT bus terminal will have to be rerouted to the Triton Road access at the Brimley Road side of the mall.
Phase 2: … Once the subway is opened, the SRT and existing SRT bus terminal will be closed and buses will be able to use that portion of the new bus terminal that was constructed during Phase 1. An interim plan will be developed for bus service to serve the new subway station. This will involve using the partially-completed bus terminal to the greatest extent possible, supplemented as necessary by temporary bus stops in the southbound bus-only right turn lane on McCowan Road at the station entrance and/or on the newly constructed Borough Drive.
The SRT, including the existing SRT station and bus terminal, will be demolished and the remainder of the bus terminal completed. The preliminary schedule for these activities suggests that the entire new bus terminal will be available 1.5-to-2 years after the subway is operational.
For those unfamiliar with the area, here is the Google street view looking west from McCowan along Triton Road showing the existing arrangement.
Additional Renderings of STC Area
This report contains illustrations of how the Town Centre would look with each of the two bus terminal options. Here is a view from the southwest showing the Triton terminal.
By contrast, the originally proposed “at grade terminal” sitting parallel to McCowan and the subway structure would remove a large block of land at the centre of the planning area and would reinforce the character of McCowan as an express roadway, not as a street welcoming any traffic beyond motorists.
Value Engineering Report
(To be added)
Cost Estimate Peer Review Report
(To be added)