The TTC Board will meet on February 15, 2018. Among the items on the agenda are:
- CEO’s Report
- Additional Funding for Bechtel Staff for TYSSE Project Close Out
- Roncesvalles Carhouse Modifications
Scarborough Subway Extension (SSE)
The SSE itself is not on the agenda, but it has been the subject of much recent debate over when the projected cost and schedule for the extension will be released.
In the November 2017 CEO’s Report, the project scorecard included a schedule showing that 30% design would be complete in the second quarter of 2018, and an RFP [Request for Proposals] would be issued in the third quarter. Even when this report came out, former CEO Andy Byford was hedging his bets about a spring 2018 date saying that more work would be needed to verify and finalize the figures. A key note in this scorecard states:
EFC [Estimated Final Cost] was approved in 2013 based on 0% design. With the alignment/bus terminal now confirmed by City Council, the project budget and schedule will be confirmed as design is developed to the 30% stage, factoring in delivery strategy and risk. The performance scorecard will continue to report relative to the project’s original scope, budget and schedule, as approved by Council in 2013, until the project is rebaselined at the 30% stage in late 2018.
In other words, neither the schedule nor the projected cost reflected the evolving and expanding design of this project.
Jennifer Pagliaro in the Star wrote about the result of a Freedom of Information Request that revealed a briefing to Mayor Tory in September 2017. That briefing included a statement that the cost estimate for a Stage 3, 30% design, would be available in September 2018.
Because Council will not meet until 2019, numbers that might have been available before the election would not be released until after the new Council takes office. After the story appeared, City staff replied:
The cost information referenced in page 9 of the October TTC briefing deck refers to the planned timing for initial cost inputs from TTC engineering staff. These are not the full cost estimates necessary for consideration by Council. Further work will be required to appropriately account for financing, procurement model, market assessment and other critical factors. The final cost estimate, subject to the variability ranges noted below, will include these inputs.
This additional work will be undertaken by various TTC staff as well as city officials from corporate finance, financial planning, city planning and other divisions. [Tweet from Jennifer Pagliaro, February 7, 2018]
I wrote to the TTC’s Brad Ross about this conflicting information, and particularly about the question of how an RFP could be issued in 3Q18 when Council would not be approving that the project pass beyond “stage gate 3” until 2019. He replied:
No RFP will be issued until after Council approval. You will note in the Key Issues and Risks section of the scorecard from November reads, “The performance scorecard will continue to report relative to the project’s original scope, budget and schedule, as approved by Council in 2013, until the project is rebaselined at the 30% stage in late 2018.”
To be consistent with the report to Council in March 2017, only the revenue service date was revised in the scorecard (from Q4 2023 to Q2 2026). The TTC recognizes and acknowledges that this has led to confusion. The TTC will be taking steps to ensure greater clarity in its next CEO Report in March 2018. [Email of February 9, 2018]
The February CEO’s report states:
Work continues to progress design towards Stage Gate 3, expected in fall of 2018. At this time, the project will provide initial cost inputs from the TTC team (includes detailed costs for the Scarborough Centre station, tunnel, Kennedy station, systems, property and utilities). Further work is underway by the new Chief Project Manager with key stakeholders within TTC and the City to define the activities, approval process and timelines to arrive at the final Class 3 Cost Estimate, Level 3 Project Schedule, and associated Risk Analysis.
As requested by City Council, a report will be presented at the first opportunity to the Executive Committee, TTC Board and City Council, which is expected to be Q1 of 2019. [pp 15-16]
The debate, as it now stands, is about releasing whatever material will be available in September 2018 so that it can inform the election debates. Additional costs as cited by the city would sit on top of the September numbers, but at least voters and politicians would know whether the SSE’s cost has gone up just for the basic construction, let alone factors related to financing and procurement that would be added later.
Meanwhile, SSE promoter Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker speaking on CBC’s Metro Morning said:
I don’t think it matters what the costs are.
This has been taken to read that money is no object, and that well may be the political reality in Scarborough – there is no way the many politicians who have so deeply committed to the subway project can back out. De Baeremaeker continued:
Whether the costs go up or the costs go down, people who have tried to sabotage the subway and stop the subway, will continue to try to sabotage it, they’ll continue to try to stop it, and they will never vote for it. So I would challenge the Councillors who say “I want to see the cost”. My response is and if it’s a reasonable cost, will you support the subway? Well, no. [At 3:26 in the linked clip]
What De Baeremaeker does not address is whether he has an upper limit beyond which even his enthusiasm might be dimmed. Also, on the question of a “reasonable cost”, what has been lost here is the fact that the subway “deal” was sold on the basis that the $3.5 billion included the Eglinton LRT extension to UTSC Campus. What had been a $2 billion-plus subway when it was approved as a compromise by Council, quickly grew to $3 billion-plus, and the LRT extension is left to find alternate funding. One could reasonably ask whether the LRT was ever really part of the deal, or was simply there as a sweetener that pulled in wavering supporters who now see just how gullible they were.
A related issue that has not yet surfaced is the question of whether building the SSE for a 2026 opening will require concurrent changes in timing and/or scope for the planned renewal of the Bloor-Danforth subway including a new signalling system and fleet. A report on the renewal is expected in April 2018, although this date has changed a few times over past months. The TTC/City capital budget and ten year plan do not reflect this project, at least with respect to timing, and probably with respect to total cost.
The February 2018 CEO’s Report contains the usual collection of charts and statistics on system performance. In January, there was a change in presentation of some information to give a longer-term view of some performance measures than simply the current and immediately preceding years. This allows longer-term trends to be visible.
This is a point in the annual cycle where financial and ridership numbers are not yet available for the new year, and figures for the previous year are still being finalized. Updated information might be presented verbally at the Board meeting, and if so, this will be included when this article is revised to reflect debates and actions taken at the meeting.
December 2017 was not a good month on many counts thanks to the extremely cold weather. Ridership and service reliability were down considerably from targets. This was compounded by start-up issues related to service on the Vaughan extension of Line 1 YUS.
A separate report on the events of January 15, 2018, when multiple delays compounded to severely overcrowd the subway will appear in the supplementary agenda which has not yet been published.
The schedule for delivery of the Flexity cars has been revised again, and now contains quarterly rather than monthly targets. As of February 11, 2017, 62 cars are in service (4400, 4402-4462) and two are in testing (4463-64). One car (4465) was recently photographed in Thunder Bay awaiting pickup by CPR for shipment to Toronto.
The chart below implies that we would reach the following targets:
- March 2018: 4468
- June 2018: 4484
- September 2018: 4501
- December 2018: 4522
Bombardier will establish a second production line at Kingston to accelerate deliveries. Whether they will achieve their targets is quite another matter.
As new cars are received, they will be deployed on King replacing older, smaller vehicles on a 1:1 basis to increase the route’s capacity. As of February 18, 504 King will require 41 cars at peak, and with about 10 Flexitys now in use on that route, this conversion will eat up deliveries into the summer of 2018. Meanwhile, 512 St. Clair was planned to shift to all-Flexity schedules in April 2018, but that route has partly switched back to CLRVs to provide cars for King Street. It is unclear whether the schedules will change based on the assumption of larger cars on this route before they are all actually in place. The basic problem is that a political decision to run Flexitys on St. Clair took cars that should have been sent to King Street much sooner.
December 2017 ridership fell from November to December, although this is an expected pattern each year. Ridership for December was 1.4% below budget, and for the entire year 2017 the total of 533.2 million is 1.9% below budget. More telling is that year-over-year ridership is down by 0.6% from 536.6 million in 2016.
Usage of Presto is growing but remains below 20% of trips. This is attributed to a slower-than-expected takeup of Presto by Metropass users. However, a comment at a recent Board meeting revealed that there are capacity issues in the Presto back-end systems, and TTC is not urging users to convert until this is resolved.
Priorities for the Presto roll-out in 2018 include:
• Continue to introduce new pass products on PRESTO (i.e. the new 12 Month Pass (MDP equivalent)), Fair Pass as well as student and post-secondary student monthly passes
• Introduce cross-boundary payment on TTC buses that travel north of Steeles and into Mississauga, a daily maximum on PRESTO, two hour time-based transfer on PRESTO and limited use paper PRESTO card
• Stop selling and stop accepting TTC tickets, tokens and passes
• Ongoing software upgrades to enhance the performance of PRESTO card readers and the fare gates [p 34]
This list includes daily capping for fares which will effectively replace the Day Pass, and also make it available to any rider without the need to pre-purchase and validate a pass. This, combined with the two-hour transfer, will be a boon to many riders both frequent and infrequent (notably tourists) who do not know up front how many fares they might be using on any day. What is needed in the future is the provision of monthly caps so that riders do not have to pre-pay for monthly pass discounts. This functionality is already available to GO Transit riders.
On a regional scale, there is an obvious question of making the count of trips that would trigger capping a region-wide value, rather than being specific to each operator. This would be an important part of regional integration.
The Customer Satisfaction score has been dropping since the second quarter high and is now back to 79%, roughly the level at the start of the year. The annual average sits at 80%, and it is not clear whether a downward trend in future months will pull the TTC back from this level especially with the events of recent winter months.
Key issues for riders remain the quality of service, and this needs to be repeated and repeated amid all the hand-wringing over ridership losses. If the City of Toronto is not willing to pay for better service, then no “strategy” is going to undo the effects of actual rider experience.
The top four key drivers across all three modes are: trip duration, comfort of ride, wait time and level of crowding in vehicle. [p 29]
The Customer Charter
The TTC has a customer charter which lists many goals for the TTC to achieve. In its early years, many components consisted of delivering works already in progress, and one might argue that “the sun will come up tomorrow” was not a hard target to hit, qualified of course with the usual TTC excuse that weather might interfere with delivery of their mission.
For 2017, 16 of 38 commitments were not met, but the majority of these were a question of timing. Among the more substantial “misses” are:
d) Installing time-saving signal priority technology at 15 intersections to speed up bus travel time in Q2; we continue to have a number of technical issues with firmware etc., 6 have been installed in Q2.
e) Starting construction on four priority bus lanes, to reduce delays and improve travel time in Q3; construction on Eastbound Steeles at Don Mills and Lake Shore at Browns lane will start in spring of 2018; construction on Lawrence (westbound) at Dufferin is expect to start in summer of 2018; construction on Keele (northbound) at Finch is being postponed for a 5-year period.
j) Reducing delays by 10% on all subway lines (incidents and minutes) in Q4; the number of incidents in Q4 were reduced by only 3.5% and the number of delay minutes were reduced by only 1.8%. Extreme cold weather in Q4 2017 resulted in increases in incidents and delay minutes mainly due to door issues on Lines 1, 2 & 3; signal and track circuit issues on Lines 1 & 2; and, switch issues on Line 3. The weather also negatively impacted the trains on Line 3 with a significant increase in door issues. Passenger related security issues in Q4 2017 also resulted in increases in the number of incidents and delay minutes with a 43.2% increase in the number of passenger assault incidents; a 22.7% increase in delay minutes due to disorderly customers; and, a 38.3% increase in delay minutes due to other passenger security issues versus Q4 2016. The introduction of Automatic Train Control on Line 1 also resulted in additional delays and incident minutes that would not have been present in Q4 2016.
m) Consulting with customers and other stakeholders to revise service in three neighbourhoods (Kingston/Lawrence/Morningside; Junction; and Rexdale/Airport) in Q4; we completed initial consultation for Kingston/Lawrence/Morningside and Junction. However, we were not able to fit in consultation for the Rexdale/Airport area. We have started the background review. We anticipate consultation will happen later in 2018.
There is no announced data for the service changes that might result from the neighbourhood consultations (item “m” above), but in any event the 2018 Operating Budget contains no provision for additional service hours. Any changes would involve reallocation of resources, not net additions.
A carry-over commitment from past years that is consistently ignored in the CEO’s report was the provision of quarterly reports on service quality for all surface routes. These were last issued in the first quarter of 2015. The commitment has vanished from the Customer Charter in 2018.
From the 2017 Customer Charter page:
Posting the performance of all surface routes on our website so you know how your route is performing.
Rapid Transit Delay Incidents and Duration
Both the number and duration of delays rose in December 2017 due primarily to the cold weather, but with some line-specific issues:
- 21% of the delay minutes on Line 1 YUS are attributed to the new Automatic Train Control technology on the TYSSE.
- The schedule implemented on Line 1 has encountered problems with dispatching trains from Wilson Yard due to conflicts with overnight work trains returning while the service build-up is in progress.
- Although the number of delays on Line 2 BD was up only slightly over November, the length of delays rose considerably because there were 5 suicides on that line contributing 35% of the delay time.
Delays related to ATC are intriguing considering that this technology was supposed to reduce, not add to, problems on the subway. I wrote to Brad Ross asking about delays on the TYSSE:
Q: Signal problems have been cited on the TYSSE for some recent delays/slowdowns. Is there a trend developing with the new system, or are these “one of’s”?
A: In general terms, we have had issues with the migration points (transitioning from legacy signalling to atc or vice versa), and trains failing to set up in ATO and requiring remedial action to overcome that. These are to be expected in the normal course of a transition of this scale, and I would characterize them as ‘teething pains’. As our staff become increasingly familiar with how the system operates, the frequency of these issues, and the length of time required to clear them and move on, is decreasing steadily. The failure at Vaughan yesterday [February 8] was not at all related, and was traced to a seized switch motor bearing. The root cause of the failure is still under investigation, but we should note that monitoring equipment in place at other terminals will be installed at Vaughan later this year. This equipment monitors the current draw and time to throw for each switch, so that intervention can become predictive rather than reactive. [Email of February 9, 2018]
Q: The CEO’s report mentions problems with getting service out of Wilson Yard as the reason for capacity reported well below target on Line 1 after the TYSSE opened. To what extent is this caused by the not yet completed north exit from the yard and/or the lack of ATC in the Wilson Yard area to speed the entrance of trains onto the line? Will the problem “fix itself” once these facilities are in place? What are the implications for service build up/down in the future when more trains are scheduled for a shorter headway?
A: The hostler will be addressed at Easter. We see conflicts with workcars and revenue service in the morning. [Email of February 9, 2018]
The TTC intends to address problems in various ways:
Pre-service inspection of vital switches in all train yards
- Changes in overnight train storage and storm train deployment
- A revised Line 1 schedule to ensure that service can actually be operated
Rapid Transit Capacity
Both major subway lines deliver capacity below the theoretical levels routinely cited in debates about system crowding. The target level is 96% of theoretical capacity, but the 1-YUS has not achieved much over 90% for an extended period. The fall in December 2017 was particularly severe, but a downward trend was already visible through the fall. The 2-BD line results are closer to target, but it too shows a fall from a summer peak.
Surface On Time Performance, Short Turns and Service Delivery
Streetcar on time performance was at a relatively high level early in 2017 but fell through the year with a turnaround only in December. The bus network did much better. Streetcar problems are ascribed to problems with the aging fleet, and routes operating with new cars are claimed to show better results (although these are not included in the report).
2017 has remained below 2016 On-Time Departures achievements due to the aging legacy fleet, which is now more susceptible to colder climates and the reduction in the spare ratio.
Over the same period, LFLRV routes have maintained performance and proven more resilient to the colder climate. In addition, the planned 2018 route improvements are underway to ensure an upward trend in the OTD measure. [p 51]
This explanation does not entirely hold water as such a huge difference in streetcar vs bus numbers would imply a very high rate of on-street vehicle failures for the streetcar network. An important distinction between routes is that the majority of the new cars operate on short routes that have their own rights-of-way (509 Harbourfront, 510 Spadina, 512 St. Clair) where service management should be relatively easier.
The TTC does not have a metric for bunching and gapping either at terminals or along the routes, and so the six minute “on time” window (-1 to +5 minutes) provides considerable leeway. Even then, the service does not achieve it. There is no measurement of service versus scheduled headway rather than against planned departure times, although for frequent routes such as the streetcar lines, this would be much more meaningful from a “customer service” perspective. The metric in these charts looks only at the ability to be “on time” at terminals, not at the quality of service actually provided along the routes.
Short turning has been tamed in recent years and the numbers are down substantially. Some of this was achieved through longer running times and wider scheduled headways, and some simply by an edict that short turns be used only as a last resort. The upshot is that most of the service reaches the terminal rather, but the situation varies from line to line, hour to hour. The TTC does not break down these statistics by route to show where the problems and the best improvements lie.
Service hours for both streetcar and bus fleets are running below the budgeted and scheduled levels. In the case of streetcars, the budget line (dotted green) runs well above the scheduled line (blue) because the streetcar shortage has forced a reduction in scheduled vehicles from the planned level of 200 to 166 (and this will drop further in February 2018). December saw the actual service fall below the scheduled level as the older cars could not cope with the cold weather.
Numbers for the bus fleet are not quite as clear. The drop in scheduled service relative to budget is caused by the deferral of service improvements originally planned for 2017, offset somewhat by the higher-than-planned use of buses on streetcar routes. However, the actual bus service operated has run consistently below the scheduled level for most of 2017.
I have asked the TTC for an explanation of this, and await a reply.
The Mean Distance Between Failures (MDBF) for the T1 subway car fleet (used on Line 2 BD) has bounced around between 200k and 400k for much of 2017. The range is not surprising considering that the total number of failures is relatively small, and only a slight change in any one type of failure can move the average substantially.
In the CEO’s report as published, the wrong text was included to describe the situation, and this was obvious because it referred to ATC failures which cannot occur for the T1 fleet. The TTC has provided a replacement text for that in the CEO’s report:
There appears to have been an error in the comments, and what is noted for T1 reliability is actually for TR. While we’re figuring out how that happened, the T1 comments should read:
In December, there were 11 delay incidents, a reduction of 8 incidents from Period 11.
The top offending system was the Passenger Door system with 8 delay incidents greater than or equal to 5 minutes. This was followed by the HVAC, Brakes and Compressed Air systems each with 1 delay incident greater than or equal to 5 minutes.
A program is scheduled in 2018 to install remanufactured door lock assemblies which include upgraded door close switches and would restore reliability to many of the current passenger door related incidents. The T1 Door pocket guides overhaul program was completed in 2017 which has resulted in improved reliability.
In addition to this, master controller upgrades commenced in 2014-Q2, and were completed in 2017-Q1. Benefits from both the Door Pocket guides and Master Controller overhauls should be observed in the following periods. The Rail Vehicle Engineering group is working with the OEM to develop improvement solutions that will increase the reliability of the Friction Brake Electronic Control Unit’s. [Email from Brad Ross, February 9, 2018]
The TR fleet (used on Line 1 YUS) has achieved some very high MDBF numbers, although this dropped substantially in December 2017. The CEO’s report text applicable to the TRs (reported under the T1 heading as noted above) is shown below. It is clear that this drop cannot be attributed to ATC alone, and two other types of failure continue to affect these cars. Retrofits continue to address the problems.
In December, there were 10 delay incidents. The top 2 offending systems were the Passenger Door and Brake systems each with 3 delay incidents greater than or equal to 5 minutes. This was followed by the new Automatic Train Control system with 2 delay incidents, then the Propulsion and Cab Door Systems each with 1 delay incident greater than or equal to 5 minutes.
The streetcar fleet suffered a blow in December with the effect of cold weather on the CLRV fleet. Meanwhile, the ALRV fleet’s reliability has been falling since mid-summer despite the investment of almost $1 million per car on 25 vehicles. It turns out that the money went to cosmetic improvements (body, paint) but did not address technical problems which, if anything, have worsened long before the onset of bad weather.
There is a clear editorial problem with the description of the CLRV situation where the report states:
The MDBF increased in December to 2,177 kilometres, falling marginally below the target of 6,000 kilometres and last year’s Period 12 results.
In fact the chart clearly shows that the 2017 actual value fell very substantially to just over 2K. The text and the chart do not match each other. It is not uncommon for the CEO’s report to contain editorial problems like this. Pretty pictures may distract, but the text should be accurate and informative.
The new Flexity fleet’s reliability is improving, but is still nowhere near the target level that was to be reached by the time the 60th car was delivered. MDBF numbers are not subdivided by the age of the cars and so it is difficult to know whether the improvement comes from new cars delivered in better condition that older ones, or that older ones have had the kinks worked out. Either way, this is another sign that Bombardier’s quality leaves much to be desired. The one bright spot in this is that the Flexitys performed well during the cold weather.
The bus fleet’s reliability continued to improve during 2017 as a result of the retirement of the least dependable older vehicles in the fleet, and a change in maintenance practices to pro-actively address issues before in service failures occur, rather than afterwards.
Follow Up Contract for Extension of Bechtel Staff for Project Closeout
Although the TYSSE opened in December 2017, there is still work to do and consultants to pay to finish out the. This simple report requests up to $3 million (pocket change as subway projects go) to retain up to 10 staff for 6 additional months.
Yes, you read that correctly, $300,000 each for six months’ work.
There’s gold in consulting, I tell you.
Roncesvalles Track and Carhouse Modifications
From February 18, 2018, Roncesvalles Carhouse will be closed for trackwork and building modifications for the remainder of the year. Some of the work will spill over into 2019 so that it can be co-ordinated with the planned replacement of the King-Queen-Roncesvalles intersection and both sets of entrance tracks to the carhouse.
The scope of the work is shown in these diagrams.
A complete shutdown is possible because the active fleet can be handled at Russell and Leslie Barns.
Roncesvalles is scheduled to operate at 50% service delivery and storage capacity as the number of new LFLRVs expected by end of 2018 will result in Leslie Barns and Russell being at full capacity. Full capacity will be restored at Roncesvalles upon completion of the construction work which is expected by the end of 2020.
It is unclear why work of this nature should take three years, especially with operations from this location suspended.
The trackwork in the remaining parts of this site have already been replaced, and only the north ladder remains.
The TTC’s carhouses and yards have a collective capacity sufficient to house the proposed 60-car add-on to the Flexity order (or whatever the TTC ends up buying).