Updated March 16, 2018 at 5:15 pm: The Fire Ventillation Project which includes second exits from several stations was omitted from the list of major projects in the original version of this post. It has been added.
Updated March 16, 2018 at 3:25 pm: The Ontario Ministry of Infrastructure has clarified that the Ontario funding for the Scarborough Subway is separate from the $4 billion in matching dollars shown in the table below.
On March 14, 2018, the Federal and Provincial governments announced the scale of the second phase of the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund (PTIF) to be spent over the next decade. Some of the details are in a backgrounder.
Funding allocations for the Toronto area are summarized in the table below. The amounts are based on transit ridership, not on population, and so Toronto gets by far the largest share of the pie.
If one believed the ecstatic response of politicians and some media, one might think that all our transit prayers have been answered.
An additional $9 billion is not exactly small change, but Toronto has a huge appetite for transit spending and a daunting project backlog. The new money will help, but with it comes the requirement that Toronto pony up about $3 billion for projects that are not in the city’s long-term budget.
Capital planning for many years understated the infrastructure deficit by hiding projects “below the line” outside of the budget, and even more by leaving important work off of the list completely. The infrastructure deficit is much larger than the TTC reports and city financial plans indicate.
That, in turn, affects the city’s financial planning, subject of a recent report from the City Manager. Despite assurances from city staff that all known TTC costs have been included in their projections, there is a long history of the TTC leaving significant projects out of funding lists to keep their total “ask” down to a politically acceptable number.
Much needed work is not the sexy, photo-op rich stuff of subway extensions, but the mundane business of buying new equipment to replace old cars and buses, and to increase system capacity.
The new plan is to run for ten years. The money will not all land in Toronto’s hands this year, but will be parceled out as projects are approved and actual spending occurs. There is no guarantee that a future government will stick to any commitments especially if the “funded” projects are not the subject of a binding agreement. Toronto has its share of cancelled projects including the Sheppard Subway, cut back to Don Mills, and the Eglinton West Subway (both victims of Mike Harris), not to mention Transit City and the pliable attitude of various governments to the worth of a subway in Scarborough.
Updated March 16, 2018 at 3:25 pm:
Before we even start into the possible projects to be funded, some money is lopped off the top based on a past commitment.
- Ottawa will provide “up to $660 million for the Scarborough Subway extension project, pending submission and approval”.
It is unclear how much of the provincial commitment to the SSE of nearly $2 billion is included in the $4 billion under the new program.
This brings the available federal funding down to about $4.237 billion.
Whether the total available from Queen’s Park is $6 billion ($4b new plus $2b for the Scarborough Subway), we do no know. I have a question in to the Ontario Ministry of Infrastructure to clarify this. They have acknowledged the question, but have not replied as of 11:45 am, March 16.
Update: The Ministry of Infrastructure has clarified how the previous SSE funding fits with the newly announced program:
Ontario is committed to cost-matching federal funding for municipal projects at 33 percent. This equates to $4 billion from the province to match the City of Toronto’s $4.9 billion federal allocation. No previously committed funding for Toronto projects is included in this allocation.
Ontario’s commitment to match this new federal funding at a 33 per cent share is separate from and above the province’s previous commitment of $1.48 billion in 2010 to the Scarborough Subway. [Email from Alex Benac, Press Secretary to the Minister]
Subway Renewal Projects
Bloor-Danforth Subway (Line 2) Renewal
Since mid-2017, TTC management have spoken of the integration of many projects into an overall plan for renewal and improvement of the BD subway. Some components of this are already in the budget, although not necessarily with funding. Others sit in limbo or have not been acknowledged even as “below the line” items. A further complication lies in scheduling where sequencing and co-ordination are needed to minimize cost, disruption and the overall time frame required.
A report on this collection of projects is expected, after many delays, at the April TTC board meeting. The components include:
- A new signal system that will allow automatic train control (ATC) and more frequent service while replacing the obsolete original system
- A new generation of trains that will include ATC equipment, and additional trains for more service
- A new yard and carhouse to store and maintain the new fleet
- The Scarborough Subway Extension (SSE)
The SSE will be built with ATC signalling and this requires that the subway fleet is also ATC-capable even if the rest of the BD line’s conversion is incomplete. This is similar to the current situation on Line 1 Yonge-University where new signalling is used on the Vaughan extension and is in various stages of implementation of the older parts of the line.
The budget for resignalling the existing BD totals $431 million, with $300m to be spent within the 10-year span of the capital budget. The project would end in 2029-2030. The project is funded.
A new ATC-capable fleet must be in place for the SSE opening. This would replace the existing “T1” trains operating on BD, and the deliveries are current planned for 2024 to 2030. This is out of sync with the opening date of 2026 for the SSE. The estimated cost of the project is $1.86 billion, and it is not funded.
The new fleet will provide enough trains to operate full service to STC at the current service level, but not to increase the frequency of service on BD to increase its capacity. The fleet will include equipment for one person train operation (OPTO).
The new fleet must co-exist with the existing one during the changeover, but there is no free space at Greenwood Yard to accommodate this. Moreover, the new trains will be six-car sets like the Toronto Rockets (TRs) operating on Line 1, and the layout of Greenwood does not support this type of train. The TTC plans to build a new yard and shops near Kipling Station on the former CPR Obico Yard. (Greenwood will eventually be repurposed as a home for the Relief Line’s fleet.)
The budget contains funds for property acquisition at Kipling (now in progress), but not for construction at a possible cost of $500 million.
The SSE project is currently funded from various sources, but any increase to the cost will be borne entirely by the City of Toronto. About $2.66 billion of the current $3.56b estimate is already committed from the provincial and federal governments. An updated estimate is expected in late 2018 or early 2019.
Any increase in subway capacity will trigger the need for station improvements at key locations, notably the interchanges with Line 1.
Yonge-University-Spadina Subway (Line 1)
The ATC signalling project on Line 1 will complete in late 2019. Conversion will occur in stages with the next major cutover planned at Wilson Yard and its interchange with the main line between Wilson and Sheppard West Stations in fall 2018. The section south to Dupont already has ATC in place (this was used for testing and training before the Vaughan extension opened), and it will come back on line in 2018. From Dupont south to Union and north to Finch will cut over to ATC in stages through 2019.
Once the line is entirely on ATC, trains will be able to run closer together. The TTC plans to ramp up the scheduled trains/hour gradually to determine what is actually possible and what other constraints might arise. However, achieving the claimed roughly 25% capacity improvement of moving from the present 140 second headway (26 trains/hour) to 110 seconds (33 trains/hour) requires a larger fleet than the TTC now owns.
The budget includes provision for additional trains on both Lines 1 and 2 at a cost of $287 million, but this is not funded. A critical issue here is that the timing of a Relief Line and plans for a Richmond Hill extension depend on the TTC’s ability to implement all of the planned capacity improvements to the existing system.
Station Facilities and Capacity
With the ability to operate more frequent service will come new pressures on several parts of the subway network including:
- The delivery of passengers at a higher rate inbound in the morning peak will affect the time needed to clear platforms at major stations.
- In the afternoon peak, an increase of outbound Line 1 capacity will add to the load on Line 2 which will not have any additional service until the mid 2020s. This affects both train loads and platform capacity, especially if passengers arrive faster than Line 2 trains can take them away at Yonge and St. George stations.
In past years, the TTC has considered schemes for adding platforms to the existing Bloor-Yonge station, but any work of this nature would be complex and very expensive. The north end of Bloor station and much of Yonge station are surrounded by the Hudson’s Bay complex which was built after the subway existed. Foundations of some other buildings are quite close to the subway structure north of Bloor station which could be affected by changes at the station itself. As if that were not enough, there is an underground stream flowing through the area (the Bay sits on an underground bridge that reaches down to bedrock) which routinely appears as leaks in various parts of the station.
A study is now underway to determine what changes to the station are physically possible to add capacity to this interchange. No comparable work has been done at St. George.
The list of “below the line” projects includes a provision of $1 billion for Yonge-Bloor improvements, but nothing for St. George.
Stations south of Bloor have problems today clearing passengers from platforms between trains especially when exit capacity is reduced (e.g. for escalator repairs). Some stations have only one exit path, and this violates current fire codes. Of particular concern are College and Dundas stations. Second exits have been talked of in the past, but the ideas went nowhere thanks to a lack of funding.
These do not appear on either the list of unfunded projects, or the “below the line” projects for “future consideration”. Their cost will depend on how substantial the new entrances would be and connections, if any, to nearby buildings.
Updated March 16, 2018 at 6:00 pm:
The second exits for College and Dundas are included in the Fire Ventilation program discussed later in this article, but it is not clear whether they are designed primarily as emergency exits or as substantial additions to platform capacity. Much will depend on the destination of riders. For example, a new full-scale entrance to Dundas station at Gould Street would be useful to Ryerson students, whereas it is not as clear what inherent demand there would be for an exit onto Yonge via College Park. There is an analogy at Bloor station where despite new exits, most traffic flows through through the north, main entrance because it links to most of the destinations for riders at the station including the PATH network. [End of update]
Recent passenger safety issues at crowded stations have triggered new discussion of Platform Edge Doors (PEDs). These would be integrated with the ATC signal system, and so they are more likely to appear on Line 1 in the medium term than on Line 2. One can argue whether ATC is strictly required for this, but the real question is the purpose of the installation.
Depending on the issue of the day, the TTC has cited various reasons for installing PEDs:
- Suicide prevention and keeping passengers off of the tracks both as an humanitarian issue and to reduce delays
- Avoiding the need for slow operation of trains through overcrowded stations
- Keeping garbage from blowing onto the tracks and providing fuel for track fires
For the sake of this discussion, let us assume that the technology works and does not create a new constraint on capacity. Presto gate vendors need not apply.
The current estimate for gates on Line 1 is $348 million, and Line 2 would not be much cheaper. Recent media reports suggest that the estimate might be low. An important question is which of the goals does the TTC really wish to achieve, and are PEDs required at all locations or only key ones with capacity problems? Is it politically acceptable to only install them at selected stations?
In any event, PEDs are not in the capital budget, but appear “below the line”.
Accessibility is a big issue for the TTC because some key stations remain without access between train platforms, streets and bus terminals. The project to fund elevators throughout the subway system is funded, but there are two notable exceptions: Islington and Warden stations. Both sites have bus transfer platforms in dedicated bays, and accessibility would require an elevator for each bay. Moreover, the structures are 50 years old. Parts of Islington station are off limits because of structural deterioration.
Proposals to rebuild both sites into island configurations found at locations such as Kennedy and Kipling were bound up in development proposals that never got off of the ground. The idea that a major reconstruction will be funded from land development proceeds works provided that there actually is development.
Islington is in the “below the line” list at $79 million, and this is unfunded. Warden is no listed anywhere.
Fire Ventilation Project
This project includes two components:
- the upgrade of ventilation systems with new, more powerful fans, control systems and associated infrastructure;
- installation of second exits at Chester, Donlands, Greenwood, College, Dundas, Summerhill, Museum and Dundas West stations.
The total project budget for 2018 to 2017 is $274 million, but $162m of this is unfunded.
Summary of Subway Projects
This is by no means an exhaustive list of subway projects, but it covers the major ones of concern over the next decade.
|Line 2 ATC Signalling||$431 million||Funded|
|Line 2 Fleet Replacement||$1.86 billion||Not funded|
|Trains for Ridership Growth||$287 million||Not funded|
|Kipling Yard Property||$120 million||Funded – Acquisition in progress|
|Kipling Yard and Shops||$500 million (est)||Not funded|
|Scarborough Subway Extension||$3.56 billion||Funded to estimated cost|
|Bloor-Yonge Improvements||$1 billion||Unfunded|
|St. George Improvements||Unknown||Not on TTC project lists|
|College and Dundas 2nd Entrances||Unknown||Scale and location of second entrance project for fire safety may not address capacity issues.|
|Platform Edge Doors (Line 1)||$348 million||Unfunded|
|Islington Station Renovation||$79 million||Unfunded|
|Warden Station Renovation||Unknown||Not on TTC project lists|
|Fire Ventilation & Second Exits||$274 million||$162 million unfunded|
Surface Network Projects
Buses and Garages
The TTC bus network is capacity-constrained by the amount of space available to store buses. In 2018, the combined capacity of all garages will be 1,680 vehicles (based on standard-sized buses) while the actual number of vehicles assigned to them will be 1,900. This causes much inefficiency in the need to juggle vehicles especially at night when most of them are not out in service.
McNicoll Garage, now under construction at a budgeted cost of $181 million, will simply bring system capacity up to 1,930, slightly above today’s fleet level, but will provide no room for growth when it opens in 2020. Even allowing for the offset provided with opening the Crosstown and Finch LRT lines in 2021 and 2022, and with only a modest increase in service elsewhere, the TTC expects to be consistently beyond garage capacity from 2022 onward, albeit not as severely as today.
The TTC is contemplating at least one more garage to be located in the north-western part of the city, and a property search is underway. There is no provision in the budget or in the unfunded project lists for either a new garage or for buses that would operate from it.
A further consideration is a possible shift to battery-powered vehicles. This would affect both the design of a new garage specifically for an electric fleet, and would increase the cost of vehicles by about 50%. Advocates for this technology have already suggested that this premium could be offset from PTIF funding.
Almost all of the currently planned bus orders are funded from various sources, notably PTIF Phase 1, assuming that they are diesels. If the TTC changes to electric buses, then new funding will be required to make up the difference.
If the TTC decides to pursue a conversion to electric buses beyond a first garage, this is likely to occur beyond the 10-year window for the capital budget, but could affect plans for renovations at the more elderly bus garages.
Streetcars and Carhouses
The order for new streetcars from Bombardier is supposed to be completed by the end of 2019, although a date in 2020 is more likely. This will give the TTC a fleet of 204 Flexitys and they will completely replace the existing CLRV and ALRV fleets which are well over their design lives. The past ice-cold winter was not kind to the old fleets, especially the ALRVs.
With 204 cars, the TTC could replace most existing services on a one-for-one basis bringing much-needed capacity to routes that serve a growing part of the city, but which are still operating at capacities from two decades ago.
An additional order for 60 cars is optional under the Bombardier contract, but whether it will be exercised is quite another matter. The TTC is already sounding out the market for an alternate supplier, and Metrolinx has ordered cars from Alstom as a stopgap should the Bombardier vehicles for Crosstown not be ready in time. Whether the Alstom cars can run on the TTC’s streetcar network is unknown.
The $360 million required for the 60 addition cars is not funded.
A further need for new cars will come from the Waterfront West and East LRT extensions. It is unclear whether the roughly $2 billion figure cited for waterfront transit includes these vehicles, but however they are funded, they will add to the pressure for more streetcar storage.
Leslie Barns was designed taking into account the potential for an expanding fleet. However, this site will also take over as the primary streetcar maintenance facility from Harvey Shops which is not suitable for the much larger Flexitys compared to CLRVs and earlier generations of PCCs, Witts and pre-TTC vehicles that made up the fleet when it was designed. The TTC is studying how it would accommodate a larger fleet, and Hillcrest (the site of Harvey Shops) is a potential location, at least for a small yard and running maintenance. This would allow some of the central routes such as 512 St. Clair, 511 Bathurst and 510 Spadina to shift operations out of Leslie Barns.
Summary of Surface Projects
|New Northwest Bus Garage||$200 million||Not on TTC project lists|
|250 Battery-Electric Buses||$250 million||Not on TTC project lists|
|60 Additional Streetcars||$360 million||Unfunded|
|Fourth Streetcar Yard||Unknown||Not on TTC project lists|
Expansion of the Waterfront LRT both to the east and the west is the subject of the Waterfront Reset study now in progress. This has a nominal pricetag of $2 billion, although that amount is very preliminary and just what this might include is unclear.
The first major issue is the scope of work likely to be undertaken in the timeframe where the new PTIF money might apply. This is likely to be an eastern extension from Bay to at least Parliament, and west from the Exhibition Loop to Park Lawn. A further extension east to Broadview might be triggered as part of work for the East Harbour development which will also be served by GO, SmartTrack and, eventually, the Relief Line.
The second issue is the nature of the connection at Union Station. Will it be via an expanded loop and platform space for streetcars, or will this be replaced by some other technology as a shuttle from Union to the Ferry Docks.
Until the study reports and a scope of work is known, the timing and cost, not to mention the need for vehicles, cannot be nailed down. If there is too much delay, or wrangling over scope, the PTIF money which might have built both extensions will be soaked up by other projects.
Other Rapid Transit Projects
Davisville Carhouse and Yard
Davisville Carhouse dates from the original Yonge Subway in 1954. It was designed for a small fleet of trains operating the line between Eglinton and Union stations. The cars were only 56 feet long (compared to 75 feet for all subsequent equipment), and they operated in two- and four-car sets. This allowed Davisville to be designed for relatively small trainsets, not for the full-length six-car trains now operating on Line 1. The carhouse has already been extended in part, and renovations are now underway so that a full train will fit indoors on all tracks.
There is a “below the line” project at $317 million for design and construction of a new facility at Davisville. This would not be possible if the yard and carhouse were still in use for day-to-day operations, and that begs the question of where this would be relocated during construction.
A further consideration would be to design any replacement such that foundations for development above the yard could be fitted between the tracks and through any new carhouse building.
Richmond Hill Extension
Extending the Yonge line to Richmond Hill has been a dream of York Region for over a decade. However, the PTIF funding to York is only $203.6 million from Ottawa with $168.0 million from Queen’s Park. This will pay barely for one kilometre of subway and a station at current prices.
It is not clear how York Region would pay for almost 5km of subway structure and stations north of Steeles Avenue, and this should definitely not come out of Toronto’s share of the overall PTIF funding for Ontario.
In a recent update to their evaluation of new GO/RER and SmartTrack stations, Metrolinx published a cost estimate of $1.195 billion for six stations at St. Clair, Liberty Village, East Harbour, Gerrard, Lawrence East and Finch East. The City of Toronto has agreed to pay this cost, subject to a Stage Gate 3 review when these costs are nailed down.
The rules for PTIF funding say that Ottawa will pay up to 40% of a project’s cost, and there would be a further 33% from the province with 27% left to the city. However, the agreement between Toronto and Queen’s Park for SmartTrack places all of the responsibility for extra costs on Toronto, in effect making the city responsible for what would otherwise be the provincial share.
Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster, responding to questions about service levels at the new stations, has said that Metrolinx is looking at ways to accommodate more service on the SmartTrack corridor. Whether this can be done with existing and planned infrastructure is unknown, and one must ask whether Toronto would be on the hook for the cost of additional tracks (facilitating express and local trains) and for additional trainsets to operate the service.
So much of the SmartTrack proposal is shrouded in mystery to avoid embarrassment all around with capital and operating cost sharing arrangements still to be worked out. How much this might increase SmartTrack’s draw against the PTIF funding remains to be seen.