With the release of Ontario’s budget for 2017, City Hall launched into predictable hand-wringing about all the things Toronto didn’t get with the two big-ticket portfolios, transit and housing, taking centre stage. Claims and counterclaims echo between Queen Street and Queen’s Park, and the situation is not helped by the provincial trick of constantly re-announcing money from past budgets while adding comparatively little with new ones.
There was a time when budgets came with projections of three to five years into the future, the life of one government plus some promise of the next mandate, but over time the amounts included within that period simply were not enough to be impressive. Moreover, in a constrained financial environment, much new spending (or at least promises) lies in the “out years” where “commitment” is a difficult thing to pin down, especially if there is a change in government.
Toronto has “out year” problems, but it has even more pressing concerns right now, today and for the next few years. Very little in the provincial budget addresses this beyond the authority to levy a hotel tax, and a gradual doubling of gas tax grants for transit over the next five years. These add tens, not hundreds, of millions to a City budget that runs at $12 billion.
The transit tax credit for seniors will cover eligible public transit costs beginning in July 2017 with a refundable benefit of 15 percent. Whether all seniors actually deserve this credit is a matter for debate, but an important difference from the soon-to-disappear federal credit is that Ontario’s is “refundable”. This means that even if someone does not have enough income to pay tax, they can still receive the credit. The devil is in the details, however, and the degree to which this will be available to casual, as opposed to regular transit users remains to be seen. The term “eligible costs” is key. (The federal credit includes restrictions on eligibility.) In any event, a tax credit does nothing for transit budgets because it adds no revenue either directly to the transit agency or to the City which provides operating subsidies.
There are two major problems with both Ontario’s support for transit and Toronto’s politically-motivated budgets:
- In both cases, the focus is on capital projects, building and buying infrastructure, with little regard for the cost of operating new and existing assets.
- Past decisions on transportation spending have locked billions of dollars into a few projects for short-term political benefit at the expense of long-term flexibility.
Toronto perennially assumes that there will be new money somewhere to backfill the shortage in its capital budget. The Trudeau economic stimulus plan was the most recent magical relief Toronto expected, but it came with dual constraints: Toronto gets a fixed amount over the life of the program, and Ottawa will not contribute more than 40% to any individual project. Toronto had hoped that Ontario would chip in, possibly at the 30% or even 40% level, leaving the City with a manageable, if challenging, task of finding money to pay its share for the backlog of projects. The Ontario budget is quite clear – Toronto is already getting lots of provincial money and at least for now, there’s nothing new to spend.
Ontario is hardly innocent in this whole exercise having meddled for years with Toronto’s transit plans, most notoriously in Scarborough where the whole subway extension debate was twisted to suit political aims. After leading Toronto down the garden path on the SSE, Ontario has capped its project funding leaving Toronto to handle the cost of its ever-changing plans.
Queen’s Park loves to tell Toronto how much provincial money is already spent for Toronto, if not in Toronto, and the distinction gets blurry. GO Transit improvements, for example, will bring more service into Toronto benefiting the core area business district, but they will also improve commuting options for people outside of the City itself.
Before the fiscal crash of 2008, when Ontario was running surpluses, the typical way to handle project funding was to hive off surplus funds at year end into a trust account. That is how the provincial share of the TYSSE was handled. By contrast, Ottawa operates on the pay-as-you-play basis, and only turns over subsidies after work has been done. Each approach suits the spending and accounting goals of the respective governments. In a surplus situation, one wants the money “off the books” right away, but in a deficit, the spending is delayed as long as possible. Further accounting legerdemain arises by making the assets provincial to offset the debt raised to pay for them.
To put all of this into context, here is a review of projects proposed or underway in Toronto.
Toronto York Spadina Subway Extension (TYSSE)
The extension to Vaughan is planned to open in December 2017. Funding comes roughly one third from each level of government, but the provincial and federal contributions were capped based on the original project estimate. 100% of the cost overruns are charged to Toronto and to York Region on a 60/40 basis reflecting the portion of the line in each jurisdiction.
One reason for the overrun was that the project contingency budget, an amount intended to handle unexpected conditions during construction, was substantially consumed by scope creep when bids for the stations came in above the budgeted level.
As a result of budget problems on the TYSSE, Toronto has instituted a new process that requires sign-off by Council at various “stage gates” corresponding to increasingly detailed levels of design where certainty of project costs is improved. That process, now underway for the Scarborough subway extension, is partly responsible for cost increases we have seen recently. Issues that might have been dealt with after the fact now face Council up front.
Union Station Renovation
The renovation of Union Station and very substantial expansion of GO Transit facilities is a joint project of the City of Toronto, Metrolinx and the federal government (a comparatively minor player through heritage funding and Via improvements). The project will finish in 2019, but future demand projections show that Metrolinx will be out of capacity by about 2031 if not sooner, and alternate ways to get riders from GO corridors into downtown will be needed.
Eglinton Crosstown LRT
This line, part of the original Transit City Crosstown line from STC to Pearson Airport, is under construction by Metrolinx with full provincial funding. This project is the most commonly cited by Queen’s Park when people complain that Toronto isn’t getting enough transit dollars.
An intriguing difference between funding “commitments” can be seen with provincial projects. The spending is announced as an estimated value, plus inflation to completion. As a totally provincial project, there is no choice but to eat any overruns, and there is a strong incentive to avoid them. When Queen’s Park has “committed” to provide funding for some municipal projects, they have included an inflation factor, but more commonly they promise a set amount. It is up to the municipal project sponsor to manage their project within the funds available. Similarly, federal contributions are for a set dollar value, and unanticipated costs are on the municipality’s dime.
For the central part of Eglinton, the cost is all on the provincial books, but the situation is different on the outer portions.
Eglinton East LRT
This line, originally dubbed the Scarborough-Malvern LRT, would run from Kennedy Station to UTSC campus. (In a much earlier version, the line ended in Malvern, hence its original name.)
This project was claimed to be fundable as part of the deal including the Scarborough Subway Extension, and Toronto would see both the new subway and an LRT to UTSC as a package. This was not to be, and it was quickly clear that the Scarborough “package” funding would barely pay for the subway, let alone for the LRT line. That subway, remember, was originally advertised as costing only a few hundred million more than the Scarborough RT/LRT replacement proposal, and therefore cheap at the price.
Scarborough, and City Council, were conned on that, and will now be lucky even to see the subway extension if its cost estimates keep climbing. Meanwhile, the LRT is in limbo. Mayor Tory had hoped that a combination of federal and provincial money would save him, and the feds may well come in for their 40%, but that leaves a big gap. He hoped that the provincial budget would include a commitment to help pay for the Eglinton line. Nada. Not a penny.
In effect, the province has turned off the tap for Scarborough, and this puts the entire collection of projects in danger. Whether they will have second thoughts closer to the June 2018 election is a mystery.
Eglinton West LRT
The western branch of the Eglinton Crosstown was revived after the proposed SmartTrack mainline rail operation proved impossible. As such, this extension is entirely a City project, although they hope for assistance from both the federal government (on account of the airport), and from Mississauga for the portion of the line beyond Toronto’s boundary. Of course when SmartTrack was that mythical beast, a self-funding transit scheme, nobody worried about where the money would come from, but now, this is an issue between three governments.
Expecting Queen’s Park to chip in here would show great chutzpah on Toronto’s part considering that this segment was a signature part of Mayor Tory’s campaign.
Scarborough Subway Extension (SSE)
The ongoing comedy which is the “planning” for Scarborough has brought us from a substantial LRT network, to a subway with stations between Kennedy and Sheppard together with, possibly, an LRT line to UTSC, to finally an “express subway” stopping only at the Scarborough Town Centre.
The cost of this scheme continues to rise, and with a 30% detailed design over a year in the future, there is no way to know what the eventual cost might be. Toronto is out on a limb here because both the provincial and federal contributions are capped. There is even a disagreement between Toronto and Queen’s Park about the inflation factor that should be applied to the original “commitment”.
Recently, Toronto Council opted to increase the project cost with a partly underground bus terminal to facilitate property development at Scarborough Town Centre. That cost will be borne by the taxpayers generally across Toronto, not as a “local improvement” chargeable to STC’s owners.
Sheppard East LRT
It is no secret that plans for an LRT on Sheppard have been stymied both by Rob Ford during his term, and by a cabal of Scarborough politicians at City Hall and Queen’s Park would would prefer to see the Sheppard Subway extended further east. As an LRT, the line could have been open by now, but it sits with an indefinite future and no funding.
Finch West LRT
This is a Metrolinx project fully funded by Queen’s Park, and it is now in the procurement stage. If this project is not derailed by a change of government in 2018, or by municipal obstructions, it is intended to open for service in 2021 between Finch West Station (at Keele) and Humber College.
Toronto is conducting a “reset” of past studies of waterfront transit, with some proposals dating back to 1990 and then-Premier David Peterson’s transit scheme that didn’t win him the election. For many years, the focus of studies has been in the eastern waterfront with development along Queens Quay and, eventually, into the Port Lands. An eastern branch of the Harbourfront line ran aground, so to speak, thanks to low-balled costs from the TTC and a general antipathy to LRT expansion during the Ford era.
Recently, political attention has shifted to the western waterfront thanks to the condo developments at Humber Bay, and the western LRT extension planning is back in view. Even though projected demand from the eastern waterfront is well above that from the west, the west has political support from allies of Mayor Tory and could actually displace the eastern line in priority.
There is no funding anywhere committed to either branch of the waterfront line, and the Ontario budget was silent on an important related project, the realignment of the Don River to provide flood control and to open the eastern waterfront for development.
Waterfront Toronto keeps hinting that they expect a funding announcement for the Don River project later in 2017, but there are no details about who would pay or in what proportion. It is unlikely that we will see anything definite on a Waterfront East LRT until the matter of the river’s realignment is settled and timelines for development are clear.
“Downtown” Relief Line
The DRL has progressed into the level of a detailed review pending a Transit Project Assessment, and $150 million was provided by Queen’s Park for detailed study of the route. From a political point of view, the line faces two major challenges. First, it continues to be portrayed by many politicians as a sop to “downtown” even though the primary beneficiaries will be those from the inner suburbs now jammed onto the BD and YUS subways. The benefit will be particularly strong if the route goes north to at least Eglinton, if not beyond to Sheppard.
However, work on this line, even if it can overcome political hurdles, won’t start until well into the 2020s and this is beyond the scope of any funding promises we might see in current budgets.
GO Transit / Regional Express Rail / SmartTrack
The key item in Ontario’s regional transit planning since the last election has been the Regional Express Rail program and the electrification of a substantial portion of GO’s trackage (the parts Metrolinx already owns). This will allow GO to improve service frequency, although the results will not be fully seen until 2024-25. Ontario is on the hook to pay for all of this, but it is not clear how a new government will approach the project, substantial portions of which have not yet gone beyond the study stage.
SmartTrack was supposed to be an overlay on GO with much more frequent service, but it now consists of six new stations on the combined Stouffville/Weston corridor (plus two on the Barrie line), as well as the Eglinton West LRT as noted above. This is a 100% Toronto project although some money may come in from Ottawa’s infrastructure program. From Ontario’s point of view, they are already contributing through the expansion of GO corridor capacity, and there will be no additional funding from them.
This begs the issue of whether the combined cost of the new StartTrack/GO stations plus the Eglinton West extension will rise above original estimates triggering a crisis similar to that in Scarborough. Both projects have not yet advanced to sufficiently detailed cost estimates to be sure on this.
The Big Move
Metrolinx is reviewing its regional plan, “The Big Move” with a view to publishing an update in fall 2017. In a major change from past practice, the province did not pre-announce services that might show up in the revised plan, and saved Metrolinx the embarrassment of rubber stamping what the Minister of Finance had already announced.
The budget does include reference to a “High Speed Rail” link to southwestern Ontario, but details have not been announced. If Ontario sticks with its original scheme from the last election of an express route that avoids portions of the high-tech corridor from Kitchener-Waterloo to Toronto, the HSR will be dead in the water. An announcement with more details is expected soon, but like many projects there is no funding for a major improvement to that rail corridor (or to building a new one).
Another vital piece of rail infrastructure is the proposed “missing link” that would divert CN rail traffic off of the KW corridor and CP traffic off of the Milton corridor. This would allow for increased service on both lines, but the freight railways might be excused for their skepticism. This is a proposal that requires a long-term commitment, something that Queen’s Park has little of these days.
The opposition parties, both the Tories and the NDP, have yet to give any indication of a transportation policy either at the municipal or provincial level. As an issue, transportation has slipped behind health care and education, a not unsurprising situation given that even with megaprojects underway, there is little to actually show as an improvement, and further funding would only address schemes for the medium to distant future, not for today’s problems.
Ontario’s budget is a disappointment in what it does not do for municipal transit in Toronto, but I have to take the contrary view that if this forces some real examination of priorities, the result might not be entirely bad. Ontario is spending elsewhere, although on a handful of high-profile projects, and large chunks of the province can reasonably wonder what they will see beyond the already announced gas tax bump.
The real challenges for Toronto lie in shifting local spending priorities from capital to operating budgets, and in the danger that a new provincial government could turn off the tap permanently as happened twenty years ago with Mike Harris.
It’s odd. The Liberals are spending $10+bn on RER alone – you’d think the opposition parteis would have something to say!
Re Waterfront Transit:
Clearly, assuming this new LRT is meant to connect with Union Station for commuters, there is a major problem with the TTC streetcar loop underground. Aside from water leakage and a too-sharp curve that causes high screeching and rail wear etc. there is a serious capacity problem. It is already inadequate for existing high volume of riders to/from the Island ferry as well as Harbourfront. There is no way a third route can fit here.
Is there an opportunity with the recently announced new development of two massive high rises on the east side of Bay Street south of Front Street for new CIBC HQ and other tenants in what was the Canadian Pacific Express facility for CPR passenger trains and is now GO Bus terminal and covered public parking, to include a bigger loop multiple platforms for 2 or 3 routes? This might well be a ground level but covered rather than underground as is now the case which was in fact a big mistake in the first place. It should never have been put underground at great expense and poor results. For less money it could have been at street level and operated in a continuous loop along Front Street to Bathurst and Queens Quay.
CIBC is consolidating staff of 15,000 at this site! I am sure there will not be 15,000 parking spaces so, there needs to be ample transit for TTC/GO bus/GO rail, VIA Rail, Porter and other shuttle buses etc. There also needs to be safe large underground pedestrian tunnel under Bay Street to/from TTC and Union Station.
Steve: There are already plans for an enlarged loop with much more loading area. The two concerns/constraints at present are: (a) the scheme to bring in a route via Bremner through the basement of the ACC would really push even the enlarged loop beyond its capacity especially considering the intersection needed for “Bremner” cars to branch off, and (b) more capacity onto and off of the platform is needed than the little tunnel to the subway station.
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It seems likely the proponent for Finch West will be announced before the next provincial election. In the plausible scenario that that proponent is announced, but shovels are not in the ground, how difficult do you imagine it would be for the PCs to kill?
Steve: It would be their call whether the kill fee and political fallout was the lesser evil than proceeding.
The 2017 Ontario budget shows that the province is not a reliable partner for transit. Toronto must seek its own source of money. User fees are the easiest way. All the improvements at YYZ is paid for by user fees. Even though people might argue about it, we have an airport that connects to 6 continents. Even a megahub like NRT is not a 6 continents airport. People complain that user fees will penalize people who live far away from the city center. However, people living in Whitby relies on Highway 412 and 407 which are tolled. A commute from Whitby to Mississauga will be a nightmare without using a tolled road.
As long as there is a captive market, a $5 surcharge to use any newly constructed metro line will over time pay for the construction. I know it will be a burden to many, but being stuck in traffic on a bus should not be the only choice. Once the new section is paid off, the surcharge should disappear. As long as there is a way to pay off something, it will have a business case. Remember the Shinkasen was built with World Bank money. Canada is now a member of the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank), so Toronto can apply there for a loan as well.
Toronto should not be relying on other levels of government. Even in rail friendly Japan, the national government now only funds up to 33% of new Shinkansen construction. Nothing else is funded. If Osaka wants to build a new metro line, the prefecture and city government will have to pay for it. Toronto has already turn down building a gaming facility in its city center. Toronto cannot borrow as the debt limit has been reached. We cannot toll roads here. We cannot even setup a special lottery to build anything. The only thing left is user fees. Realistically, taxing hotels and AirBNB will not build a metro line.
On a side note, the FRA has granted Caltrain a waiver to operate EMUs with mixed freight and locomotive hauled passenger trains. The government of Ontario should lobby Transport Canada to give a similar waiver. Applying for a waiver does not cost money, but it gives more flexibility. At the very least, it will give Smart Track a chance to reach sub 15 minutes frequency.
Steve: For clarity, the City has not yet hit the debt ceiling imposed by provincial law which says that no more than 25% of current tax revenue should go to debt service. The current ratio is under 15%, the City’s self-imposed limit, and even that is being tweaked by averaging over multiple years. This will shave off the peak caused by the Scarborough Subway and Gardiner projects.
The city needs to resolve the potential issues the land transfer tax has on the budget (if the housing market cools it leaves a big gap) – instead of going for tolls and other options that would allow the property tax to continue to rise at less than inflation they need to change the land transfer tax so that it is progressively moved from funding operating to funding capital expenses – so 5% per year escalating at 5% must go to transit or housing. This would force politicians to raise property taxes at a rate closer or above inflation. Ideally this is put into law similar to how the business/residential tax changes have – so that it doesn’t even really come up as an option in the discussions.
Steve: That would require provincial action which is highly unlikely. Queen’s Park will let Tory twist in the wind before it legislates a tax increase on Torontonians.
YRT would (quietly) beg to differ.
I wrote about this at the time, but when YRT had a fare increase in January 2008 just after the introduction of the federal transit tax credit, they raised the price of an adult monthly pass by 11.8%, a $10 increase from the previous $85 charge at the time. This was done when adult tickets went up by only 4.3%.
So, if the federal government wouldn’t subsidize them directly, they figured that since pass users would be getting a 15% tax credit, why not grab an additional 7.5%? They must have figured, we’ll just split the credit 50/50 and no one would complain since all fares were going up anyways.
Steve: YRT may have pulled that trick, but Toronto didn’t. It says something about York voters (at least those who use passes) that they didn’t howl about the region clawing back the tax benefit through higher prices.
BTW, David Miller was mayor at the time, and I can hear the howls from the right and left wings if he had pulled a stunt like that.
Further to your response Steve, I had in mind a separate LRT line coming up Yonge at street level from Queens Quay and swinging west into the street level of the CIBC north tower. A larger two platform loop could handle 2 routes. Protected pedestrian access to/from Union Station/TTC Union.
Steve: Are you familiar with this area and how congested it already is? Also, are you aware of road changes planned for Yonge Street? There is no space for an LRT right-of-way on Yonge from Queens Quay north to Wellington/Melinda/King.
Perhaps run Harbourfront West (or Spadina) line from present TTC Union loop to CNE. A new route Harbourfront East running via Yonge to QQ and eastward. Move second route from present inadequate loop to new bigger loop. This would allow easier handling of high level ridership in summer to Island ferry and Harbourfront area.
Your article didn’t mention the Yonge North Subway Extension. John Tory seems to fear that the province would fund this extension before the relief line. So would the province dare do that in order to court favour with York Region voters?
Steve: I didn’t include this because it’s not really a “Toronto” project, and that’s what I was concentrating on in the article. It does have an effect on the Relief Line, of course, but I fully expect that if the Liberals (or whoever) are as desperate to kiss York Region’s butt as they were Scarborough’s, what happens to the existing network won’t matter.
You said that the Sheppard East LRT is unfunded. Although the project is on hold, I thought it was fully funded including a contribution from the federal government. Has the funding been revoked?
Would calling the DRL the “Yonge Relief Line” help in its marketability? 🙂
They are going to miss another perfect opportunity to get at least some of the bay tunnel fixed with minimal disruption.
When the York ramp is gone there will be a short period before it is turned into a park where a temporary loop could be built and allow the shutdown of the tunnel to allow for either complete or partial work to happen without shutting the line down from Spadina. Why we are waiting for a reset on this area is beyond me – it’s under active development by everyone – the transit reset is like a delay for no reason. You don’t see the road department or sewer department stopping work for 3 years to reset.
Steve: Actually I don’t think the York ramp is a good location for a temporary loop both for its size and distance from the subway.
Well, either we are serious about transit priority or not. So, if LRT at street level causes congestion for automobiles, that’s life in the big city. Life where endless extreme height towers are approved over and over again with little/no concern for the infrastructure to service said towers.
I am not familiar with the Yonge Street changes you refer to however, if Yonge is not viable then choose another street such as Bay. BTW I was not suggesting going up Yonge north to Wellington/Melinda/King but rather to just south of Front Street westward to the new CIBC tower on north side of RR tracks.
Steve: “Just south of front” and the “north side of RR tracks” are the same thing. There is no place to put an LRT in there, let alone on the surface of Bay Street. Yonge Street is going to be reconfigured both to straighten out the S-curved connection from Harbour to Lake Shore and to reflect the revised landing for the Gardiner ramps. The new CIBC tower is south of the rail corridor opposite the ACC.
I still think that your geography is confused.
Steve speculated that the next provincial government might cancel the Finch West LRT but on this blog, it’s always the next government or the long gone Mike Harris government that’s to blame but never the current Liberals. Mike Harris is still being blamed on this blog for cutting the TTC subsidy but nobody mentions that the Liberals in their 15 years in power have refused to restore even one penny of what Mike Harris is still being blamed of having cut. Besides, if a PC government is to cancel any project, you can bet that it will be the Downtown Relief Line that will be scrapped and not the Finch West LRT as the Finch West LRT costs mere pennies compared to the DRL. Besides, the Liberals promised that the Finch West LRT will begin construction this Spring/Summer and if it still hasn’t begun construction by the time of the next provincial election more than an year later, it will be safe to assume that the Liberals never intended to ever actually build it (won’t be the first project that the Liberals promised before the election but scrapped after winning the election). I personally would like to see an NDP government in power but Andrea Horwath is making big promises like a provincial pharmacare plan, etc without increasing taxes and without cutting any other services (kind of sounds like Rob Ford).
Steve: I have repeatedly criticized the Libs for their many failures of transit funding and planning. Mike Harris only comes into the mix now because of the possibility that we will have a new Tory government who might repeat past history. Finch West will be cancellable because even by the time of a new government, the type of works already underway will be either those that do not affect the road itself (utilities) or which could be reversed at modest cost. The real question would be the break fee for the contract.
As for the NDP, they talk a good line on transit, but have yet to put their money where their mouths are, so to speak. It is clear that Pharmacare is going to be the big issue in the campaign, and I cannot see them making major new spending plans for transit.
The property is literally the same size as the Spadina/Front loop and way bigger than the Union or Distillery loops (from a quick look at google maps)…and there is nowhere closer you can get to union that doesn’t require going under the Gardiner or the rail lines…except if you want to raze Harbor Sixty…the only other alternate that I see is shutting the line down from Spadina while they do the work – which seems a big overkill.
I imagine it will be impossible to keep it running while renovations are happening…so there is really only a few limited options that they have…of course that’s assuming they do it to begin with…
Steve: A lot of work can be done “behind the walls” roughly the way the new platform was added at Union Station, but it will still be messy and some shutdowns will be needed.
I’m not altogether surprised that the budget doesn’t contain lots of large goodies for Toronto given that this is clearly an election type budget and therefore has to play well in all of Ontario, not just Toronto, the GTAH, or the golden horseshoe. It’s easy to forget how vast Ontario is. I do a couple of road trips each summer. In 2014, for example, one trip took me to Sault Ste. Marie and another to Ottawa and those were long drives, particularly the one to the Sault. Consider how much further north Ontario extends from either of those locations and that a good chunk also lies to the west of the Sault. This is a big province. Toronto isn’t liked, Queen’s Park isn’t liked, and Kathleen Wynne is in particular extremely disliked in much of the rest of the province. If she’s fighting for re-election with this budget, showering Toronto with money would go over like a lead balloon pretty well everywhere else so it was unlikely to happen given the political reality of the situation.
So where does this leave Toronto? I’m not sure. We can have nice things if we are willing to pay for them but having a mature conversation about that and being willing to pay up is something that doesn’t appear to have been on the table for a very long time in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, or many other countries for a very long time.
The CIBC development is for TWO towers. One north of the tracks and one south of the tracks with an over-the-tracks park connecting the two.
I was referring to the north side which is where the GO Bus Terminal is located now at 141 Bay Street. The track, where it is on Bay or Yonge could curve into the property where the buses now sit and loop under the tracks where is now a auto parking lot.
Another possibility is for Yonge and Bay to be one way possibly with tracks at curbside of street. Or, 1 track on each street leaving 3 lanes of one-way auto traffic. The two streets are so close they could well be a good one-way arrangement especially for transit as riders are used to a short walk, even if only one-way as far north as Front.
Some say “Think outside the box” I say “Throw away the box!”
Thanks for the comprehensive but concise sum-up of many complexities of many projects. Yes, there are a lot of things going on, and larger sums being spent. However, there’s still that very large gap between spending and investment, and some are far more Big Spending than real investment. If we managed to fully list all the ways private automobility gets subsidized, and this includes health care costs and drainages, then some of us might be more able to relax about a billion or two or large follies, and the operating cost burdens of same. Honesty is less likely with how large Ontcario is, and overall, how carrupt we are, with votorists in all parties and places.
Transport still leads our greenhouse gas excess however, and we really needed to do smarter things a decade or two ago. So now we’re kinda beyond tipping points, what is it that can be done more quickly and smarter and more economically (so often on-surface), while still improving transit, ideally in ways and places that don’t really constrain the car drivers? My sense is that surface routes and priority for semi-express transit is a key thing to strive for, and the fixes may be quite unpopular as they’re ‘roadical’, especially in the core, where I’m more keen on changes to ensure safer biking as well.
We could re-paint the Danforth for a reversible centre-lane busway as a priority from Victoria Park to Parliament modelled on the Jarvis St. example, and perhaps have a stop or two en route, if we wanted Danforth relief. Or we could try something on Yonge, also almost overnight and for relatively cheap. As the Don Valley Parkway is a ‘free’ way for the largely single occupant drivers, how about making an exploration of repainting it and having the priority of transit in the centre, largely buses, though of course, yes, how to feed them back up? (Drive them?) An under-used asset right beside the DVP in the core is the spur line from Brickworks to the core – so what can be done with it now that Metrolinx owns it? Could we push through Leslie St. by a transit-only bridge to Thorncliffe Park, and then to one of these north/south routes. Could this be done in a few years and help relieve the Yonge line in a real fashion?
And the better relief for Yonge seems to be with GO and the Richmond Hill line, where a block may be water issues in severe weather. But if we addressed the free storm drainage for many cars/driveways/parking lots in that watershed, and trimmed the storm flow from 70% asphalt/storm-related to an equal portion of natural (p. 193 Bonnell, Reclaiming the Don), we could maybe enable the cheaper/better/faster use of GO for a Relief function, and to help, if we put the proceeds of the drainage fees in to a dedicated/hands-off fund, this might get done in a few years, which is really needed.
Along with surface routes, we also need to press for semi-express routes, and not always to the central core, but develop a proper and wider network, including east of Yonge, which is messed up from the Don, but also from the curtailment of the grid as one gets east in to Scarborough, so diagonals make more sense, if they can be found on maps/google etc. I think if we could offer a 20-minute time saving, and a sense of speed, many would adjust their trips like we cyclists do for a good bike lane – we’ll go out of our way and double back somewhat.
And in the central core, we really need a new corridor oriented along Front St. and extending it west, but we’re often building condos in it, sigh, and the re-set avoided looking too far back in time to give better analysis/options to improving transit that would relieve King/Queen and give a bit of competition/option to the Gardiner/Lakeshore, despite a century of real plans here. So it’s more about recycling inferior options than actually doing the good transit that’s needed in the logical place. Parkdale to the core is about 6kms – but do we talk about robust transit, and including on the Gardiner – to Just Do It? Could we have an LRT on the Gardiner?? Why not? (King was evaluated in the 1993 WWLRT EA report and was found to be inferior, and the heavy cars will shake it all a bit much too, plus it is likely overly harsh on its communities).
This is an interesting point becoming more abject with time. Tory has gone beyond the bounds of gratitude for what Toronto has received so far. One has to question now: ‘How far will Queen’s Park take this?’
Do you [Steve] see possibility of QP, when the funding tap is turned back on (just before the election, doubtless) that Metrolinx is assigned to spend the money on the City’s behalf, taking direct control of the Relief Line and more in future, and bind them into a more regionally connected network?
That gives Toronto what she needs, it satisfies the GTHA and more, and it cuts Tory out of the picture, not just politically, but for very poor choices where funding has been spent in the past and projected to be in the future?
I can see no advantage for QP to pass on pimping their own feather in hat for the sake of Tory’s. Average Toronto Taxpayer will see this as a reason to vote Lib, the Libs see that and a longer term solution to RER and regional planning, and Tory is left to “twist in the wind” (Doing The Twist with Patrick Brown alone)
Steve: There are some important issues of timing here that everyone including Tory seems to have missed.
First off, actual construction of a DRL will not start until after Tory has left office (he is running for re-election in 2018 and has said it will be his last term). Therefore, serious commitments of resources will not occur until at least partway through Tory’s second/final term by which time who knows who will be in charge at Queen’s Park. Moreover, we can reasonably expect the Feds to have some money in this project.
Next comes the issue that the Tories are quite firm that they regard Metrolinx as a blight on the landscape. What they would replace it with remains to be seen. There is nothing to be gained in taking over transit projects that are entirely within Toronto. The only reason McGuinty did this with Transit City was an accounting dodge so that he could show, for example, the Eglinton line as a provincial “asset” offsetting the borrowing done to build it. Also, I suspect Queen’s Park does not want to have to answer for problems with local transit.
Meanwhile, the pressing need for current dollars is in the housing file (and social services more generally) with a much smaller call (something, but far less) for transit service improvements. It is important to separate individual projects and “commitments” from when the money is actually spent. TCHC is a big problem for Tory because he has to spend money on it now to prevent total collapse, whereas transit spending (beyond projects already in the works) is in the future.
Is it logistically possible to double track the Barrie corridor between the junction south of Dundas and (Lawrence) without expropriation?
Steve: I’m not sure. Metrolinx is working on this line further north where double tracking is easy. There is definitely a pinch point at the south end and this came up in the possible design for an extra track and station at “Liberty Village” (actually near King) where the railpath and a new track cannot co-exist as things now stand. Further north, I’m not sure, and Metrolinx has not issued any detailed studies.
Steve said: Another vital piece of rail infrastructure is the proposed “missing link” that would divert CN rail traffic off of the KW corridor and CP traffic off of the Milton corridor. This would allow for increased service on both lines, but the freight railways might be excused for their skepticism. This is a proposal that requires a long-term commitment, something that Queen’s Park has little of these days.
What would be theoretically involved in the “missing link?” Is this an entirely new corridor or just an extra dedicated freight track?
Steve: A new corridor, although much of the land required is already in public ownership.
Steve like yourself (hamish wilson) and Malcolm N is always concise.
Only a PC government can deliver what the Liberals have failed to deliver in their nearly two decades in power. How much will the “missing link” cost? No matter what the cost, the Ontario PCs have got you covered.
Steve: Your naive belief in the Ontario PCs is touching. I look forward to your disenchantment just as those who hoped the Libs would see a breath of fresh air with a new leader were so bitterly disappointed.
This is click bait, but I can’t help but reply. Setting aside the QP Libs for whatever their shortcomings, if Patrick Brown were astute enough, he’d be promoting exactly what the Federal Liberals are championing right now as per an Infrastructure Bank to fund whatever projects QP finds unsavoury to do out of general coffers, but represents a good business case. A business case criteria alone will slash a lot of the inane projects Tory is promoting, with cash he doesn’t have or will likely to have in the future, but if they make sense, it’s like comfortably renting a house instead of starving to buy one. Let private or private/public capital build it. I’m a Centrist, but many nations’ cities have done this and have a vastly superior transit system to ours. This has not been missed by Metrolinx in their GO RER Initial Business Case report and others. Surely we can learn how they accomplished this?
Oddly, while the PCs and NDP alike are lambasting initiative to get things built (let alone going into debt if government builds them alone), the Australian Green Party promotes it as do right of centre institutions.
If Brown had half a mind, he’d realize that the abjectly necessary transit infrastructure can, with caveats, be built “On Time, On Budget”. The devil is in the details how that is affected, but oddly, what is a win for the public, a win for investment (often our own money in terms of pension funds) and a win for the nation’s productivity is alien to reactionary conservatives. Where are the sensible centrist conservatives of yesterday?
It remains to be seen if Wynne et al can ‘capitalize’ on the federal Infrastructure Bank. But getting back to the Missing Link, it is touted to be doable by the IBI study for approx $5B. Double that … everyone low-balls the cost of massive projects, but even at $10B, done right, perhaps dare I say it, as a consortium including CN and CP (with attendant trade-offs for property and compensation under the Relocations Act, with the Feds using the Act as both carrot and stick) through the Infrastructure Bank working with Infrastructure Ontario and Metrolinx, it would pay for itself manifold times over, and radically change what Metrolinx must do to effectively deliver RER.
And what does Brown have to say on that? Nothing.
Wynne might yet pipe up on it, time will tell … The Fed Libs are pioneering it, and getting flak from all directions.
From talking to Greg Percy at one public meeting and some engineers from a consulting company the right of way they are looking at would start at a point were the Halton sub emerges on the north side of the 401 in Milton and make a large 180 to the East to pick up a Hydro One Corridor and pass back under the 401 then head east along the Hydro One Corridor to rejoin the Halton Sub East of Bramalea. It would pass over or under the 407, 403 and the Weston sub plus a lot of regional roads, and a few rivers. There is a list of the number of bridges that will need to be built, Hydro Pylons moved, these are probably the big 500,000 volt ones, and miles of new track built. The Hydro Rights of Way are apparently owned by the province and not Hydro One.
CP apparently wants no part of it because they don’t want to be running on the CN by-pass tracks around Toronto where CN controls the lines. The Feds could try to force this upon CN and CP using the Railway Relocation and Crossing act would it would probably turn into a long battle.
CN is amenable to this Missing Link for their use only because they want to build a huge inter-modal terminal in Milton and could use the province’s help in getting it built plus feeder roads to the 401.
That’s the cover story. You’ll note that there is *zero* action from CN, PR announcements to the contrary, and perhaps some “studies” to dress up the announcement. CN and CP alike are holding their cards close to their chests. They’re used to getting their own way with Metrolinx and VIA alike.
I’ve done a fair amount of digging on this, and there are many examples of them co-operating on sharing tracks. Sometimes that’s mandated by the Relocation Act, sometimes by pragmatism and good business sense. I will itemize examples later if need be or apt for this string.
Let’s put it this way: If the Feds via the Infrastructure Bank made them “an offer they couldn’t refuse”…with *shared or private consortium track*, as was done by the National Capital Commission in Ottawa, (and a number of other cities) they’d both be all over this. The powers in the Act are so powerful that if made a good offer, either party would be a fool to refuse, let alone the real estate windfall they’d realize in Toronto.
The key to making this work without court action (and even that is detailed in the various Rail Acts) is a large consortium with massive funds inviting CP and CN to join. I hope Steve does a piece on how the Infrastructure Bank could be pivotal to exactly this and other major rail projects. Bruce McCuaig’s appointment as an “adviser” to the nascent InfraBank is conspicuous in a number of ways, not least that Metrolinx is the prime actor behind The Missing Link. Look for state of the art signalling and track control to be part of this, as sizable investment in itself that both Class 1s and Metrolinx/VIA would all find to their great advantage at a lowered cost by sharing.
To be continued if Steve blogs on this.
Steve: One thing that came out quite early in the discussion of the Infrastructure Bank is that potential investors such as the big pension funds wanted a “bank” that was not under political control, that is, something that would not turn into a gigantic pork barrel for favoured projects that were not necessarily in the bank’s investors interests. The operation of the Caisse de Depots in Quebec is a good example where Quebec uses this to prop up companies/projects that fit with government policy. Can you say “Bombardier” for starters? I cannot help thinking that the Caisse’s interest in a Montreal LRT line is related to this.
What has still not been explained, beyond the usual accounting finagles, is why a project should be financed through the Infrastructure Bank at a cost of borrowing higher than the government can get itself on the open market. This sends more money to “our” pension funds (assuming that this is where the dollars come from), but by siphoning future interest payments out of other portfolios such as transit as debt payments. As a beneficiary of OMERS and CPP, I should be overjoyed, but we have already seen how “my” pension plan, through its subsidiary Oxford Properties, owner of STC, stands to benefit from “public” investment in the Scarborough subway with no cost or risk to itself.
It was pretty standard for rail lines to have a wide enough right of way to allow for the addition of sidings/passing tracks on the same right of way. From looking at it on Google Earth it appears to be wide enough except were some neighbouring properties, especially near Dundas, have encroached onto the right of way but they can be removed.
The Bridge over Davenport road has space for 3 tracks and the one over St. Clair appears to have room for 2 tracks. There used to be a lot of light industry in this area that needed rail access. Some of the industry north of St. Clair on the east side appears to be encroaching. There is also a 110,000 volt transmission line running along the right of way north of St. Clair to past Rogers Road then it moves to the east side until it heads east along the old Beltline walking trail.
At Keith there appears to be a parking lot that encroaches onto the Hydro RoW. I don’t know if this is also the rail RoW. The underpass at Eglinton is wide enough for 2 tracks. There is a grade crossing at Castlefield that needs to be removed. AT Lotherton Pathway there appears to be vegetable gardens on the east side of the RofW next to a basketball and tennis court. A number of the industrial properties on Eugene St. appear to be encroaching on the east side of the RoW. The Bridge over Lawrence has room for three tracks.
The bridge under the 401 has room for 2 tracks and the one over Wilson appears to have room for 3 tracks. At Carl Hall Rd. there appear to be a number of black structures on the east side of the tracks definitely on the RoW. on the military base. The bridge over Sheppard is three lanes wide. There is a passing track from just south of Finch to almost the York U busway The bridge overpass at Finch has 2 tracks and room for a third.
So in answer to your question the right of way while narrow in place should be wide enough for two tracks because they built all the under and overpass for at least two tracks and often three. In many places private property owners appear to be encroaching but they can be removed.
In case anyone thinks this a case of planning by google maps or google earth I did do two courses in “Air Photo Interpretation,” one was a civil engineering course and one was physical geography. Since it is along an existing right of way one can be fairly confident about the grade being slight. It is difficult though to completely determine the topography where it is on fill or in a cut because it is only two dimensions on the screen and not 3D but fence lines are quite prominent in the photos.
The REM situation raises many alarm bells, not least the complication for AMT and VIA being barred from using the Deux Montagnes tunnel. The REM proposal, initially touted as not needing taxpayer contribution, is looking more dependent on it as time goes by. That shouldn’t come as any great surprise, but what does concern me is that Michael Sabia, Pres and CEO of The Caisse, sits on the board of the still nascent Infrastructure Bank. And he has overwhelming support behind him from various Quebec and Montreal politicians and interests … even at the expense of the AMT and funds sunk into heavy passenger rail expansion.
As stated prior, the “Devil is in the Details” as to how the Bank machinates. McCuaig will ostensibly be a foil as “executive adviser”. What’s curious to me about REM and Caisse funding it, and then asking for taxpayer participation, is that Caisse could easily fund the entirety of this project. They’re looking for more than just owning the leasehold. And BBD Rail is part of that, doubtless.
Leaving transit projects aside for now (and I’d love to discuss this further, after more is revealed in the press) the Missing Link presents itself as more neutral from the pitfalls of private funding participation for public transit. CN and CP are of course private. The Link is a classic case of where the Feds can bring legislation to the table of a consortium in an Infrastructure Bank shell. I’d noted the National Capital Commission prior, and the enabling Act allows powers for the Commission the same as municipalities under the Transportation, Relocation and other Acts. This allows the province to play a supporting and secondary role but with legal powers by proxy of the Federal Gov. The Province brings the Electricity Act and the clause mandating “shared corridor use”, whether that corridor is privatized or not. And land use and planning powers.
Oddly, McCuaig is quoted as stating:
To be brief, my impression of the Pearson ‘Hub’ report was not good, at all. But what was interesting is McCuaig’s mention of it. I think he was being purposely obtuse. The real plum is a few kms to the north and west of there.
The Missing Link could/would be an absolute winner in many respects for any parties associated with it. And be Christmas squared for Metrolinx. It would be an excellent project for the InfraBank.
Reference to prior post as per Transmission corridor used for ‘other purposes’: (this may also be covered under other legislation, perhaps federal)
Ontario Electricity Act:
2002, c. 1, Sched. A, s. 23 – 31/12/2002
Duty re use of corridor land
114.7 A person or entity who has the statutory right to use corridor land shall, to the extent practicable, ensure that the design and construction of any transmission system on the land maximizes the area available for other uses. 2002, c. 1, Sched. A, s. 23.
Steve: That may be so, but Hydro One has not been happy to entertain joint use of its rights-of-way for anything beyond a transient structure that would not be affected (seriously) if repairs/construction on the hydro facilities required them to take over the land below. Also, Hydro vetoed the idea of a TTC yard on the Richmond Hill line under their corridor on the grounds that a large underground area would be a security risk for Hydro (without going into the details, this was not long after 9/11).
I was at a meeting where WSP Parsons Brinkerhoff made a presentation about the upgrade work for Metrolinx on which they are lead consultants. GO RER is going to get Communications Based Train Control (CBTC) which in theory could allow trains to be withing 2 minutes of each other, but CN and CP which will still have running rights on their former lines will not be using CBTC but will rely on the upgraded signalling system. The problem is that Union Station cannot handle the number of passengers that would be brought in by this headway.
All the switch machines are to be upgraded and the old mechanical interlocking is going to be replaced by a modern one which would allow for slightly faster train speed in the Union Station Rail Corridor. They said that their mandate does not cover the actual operation of the passenger shed.
CN and CP do share tracks in some areas, going into Vancouver and in the Muskokas, were all the trains run one way on CP and the other on CN. This allows for more trains to use these tracks as there is no reverse direction movement, but since each railway retains control over its tracks there is no incentive to screw the other company as they would be delayed going the other way. CP does not want to use the CN’s Halton and York subs because they have no control or ability to screw CN if CN screws them. Also the residents along the line are not to pleased at the thoughts of having all the CP freights that would be added to the corridor.
Robert: You post some very interesting information, ironically, I’ve been in discussion with someone in the biz on exactly the point you make on CBTC, I can’t do the discussion justice at this point, I’m sure Steve Munro will be revisiting this, but for now, you and others reading will find ERTMS and CBTC Side By Side / A Comparison of State of the Art Rail Traffic Management Systems interesting.
The questions asked to download the paper are very straightforward, and it’s worth it for the read.
Thanks Steve, it is an interesting read. The big problem will be to get the freight lines to agree to go to CBTC. I doubt that they will do it without a big fight; especially since they have had to install PTC on all the equipment that runs in the US. It would be nice if these two could be interconnected.
Another interesting tid bit I learned from WSP Parsons Brinkerhoff at this presentation was that there is going to be diesel backup generators for the signals and switches on the GO rail network. Each section of the signalling system will have electrical feeds at one end from two different electrical feeders and at the other end from one electrical feeder and a diesel generator. If there is a total power blackout the GO trains will be able to operate. This is done on the MTA’s commuter rail system in New York. Even though most of the trains are electric they have enough diesel locomotives so that they can haul all the electric trains to the ends of the lines, eventually.
Metrolinx will still have a lot of diesel locomotives after they electrify. The UP Express system has already been converted so if there is a major blackout air travellers, and those who live in Weston can still get home, downtown or to the airport.
I wondered how to put the answer to this, as the term being used by the leading edge is “convergence” on systems, and the link I provided prior was a *software* approach to melding them all to work in a common manner, but doing different things, much like aircraft landing systems, which in fact the software company sponsoring the white paper does.
I Googled to find some way to link this altogether, and Robert provides it!
That saves huge amounts of conjecture on my part. CBTC per-se will be unnecessary for the freight operators! (Highly desirable in a perfect world, but we already know the resistance there’s been on even the PTC, but Transport Canada is going to have to move on requiring PTC, at least in urban areas at some point.
And lo and behold:
2013 Joint Rail Conference
Knoxville, Tennessee, USA, April 15–18, 2013
Conference Sponsors: Rail Transportation Division
Copyright © 2013 by ASME
Note the date! That’s four years back. The prior link posted is the software to make that happen. I’m going to have to be brief here, so here’s more links to expand the point:
From Rail Journal
From Transportation Research Procedia
From Railway Gazette International (requires subscription)
I think the gist of this is absolutely right. Given the chance, Hydro One will ‘protect their turf’ … unless buttered with an offer of state of the art single pole towers and perhaps even a chance to work ‘with’ a rail consortium rather than ‘against’ them. The US (albeit electricity is a federally regulated jurisdiction) mandates exactly this, and many papers are published on it.
Here’s an existing example.
Steve jumps in: The proposal I refer to was a scheme to put a storage yard under the Hydro corridor west of Yonge Street on the Richmond Hill extension.
Whether these are de-facto examples or not, the point is that the Law(s) are going to be imposed for RoW along that alignment to make the Missing Link happen. The highway alignment was built with a rail RoW in mind. The Transportation Act also makes reference IIRC to electric transmission rights of way being shared.
Today’s news saw a number of significant announcements on the Infrastructure Bank. Going to be a lot more discussion on this in the press imminently, and many points to elaborate on, will have to wait, but this was so absurd, I have to mention it now. From the Star
The term “Münchhausen Syndrome” comes to mind. One of the beautiful aspects of beady-eyed Bay Street types and their business models is making a business case for a project. John’s best bet is to keep begging at Queen’s Park for operating money.