On October 29, 2019, Toronto Council approved the proposed deal between the City and the Province of Ontario whereby the Province takes full responsibility for construction of four new rapid transit projects while the City retains control of the existing subway. The details of that agreement were examined in previous articles and I will not repeat their content here.
- A Big Announcement, or a Transit Three Card Monte?
- The Ford/Tory Subway Plan: Part II – Technical Appendices
The debate ran all day, and it is no surprise that in the end the vote went in favour of the deal. Queen’s Park is in a position to impose its will on the City, and the offer of “free” new lines and retention of control of the TTC’s existing network was too much to turn down. Moreover, this becomes the Mayor’s signature transit “accomplishment” while his previous fantasy, SmartTrack, is a shadow of its original promise, for practical purposes a dead issue.
Several amendments were adopted in an attempt to put conditions or restraints mainly on the Ontario Line project. These are really more suggestions that the Province might, if it’s not too much trouble, modify aspects of their plans. However, Council is in no position to impose any conditions on Provincial actions as they have ceded control and pledged co-operation for whatever the Province eventually builds.
The following motions were adopted (quoted text is from the Council agenda item EX9.1 Toronto-Ontario Transit Update).
2b – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Mike Layton (Carried)
That City Council request the City Manager and the Deputy City Manager, Infrastructure and Development to request Metrolinx to ensure that transit-oriented development prioritizes inclusionary zoning and affordable housing requirements, while advancing the principles of good city planning, to the satisfaction of the Deputy City Manager, Infrastructure Development Services, and the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning.
This is simply a request that planning for intensification around stations addresses a range of housing needs, not simply the highest end of the market. It does not affect the route’s design.
2c – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Mike Layton (Carried)
That City Council direct the Deputy City Manager, Infrastructure and Development Services and the Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Transit Commission to ensure there will be enough buses available should the Scarborough Rapid Transit fail earlier than the completion date of the Line 2 extension, and that this does not impact other services provided by the Toronto Transit Commission.
The TTC plans to report late in 2Q20 on the work needed to keep the SRT running for the next decade while we await completion of the Scarborough extension to Sheppard. This motion formalizes the need to build plans into future budgets to ensure that if the SRT fails, there will be vehicles and all this implies (garage space, operators, subsidy) to operate a replacement bus route without stealing service from the rest of the system.
3a – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Paula Fletcher (Carried)
That City Council direct the Deputy City Manager, Infrastructure and Development Services to immediately study the impact on road operations of the significant expansion of the rail bridges at Eastern Avenue, Queen Street East, Dundas Street East, Logan Avenue, Carlaw Avenue and Gerrard Street in order to safely service 6 new tracks and railbed, and the required rebuild of the Lakeshore Bridge as part of the Gardiner take down; and that this information be forwarded to Metrolinx to be considered in their amended Transit Project Assessment Process.
3b – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Paula Fletcher (Carried)
That City Council request the Deputy City Manager, Infrastructure and Development Services to formally inform Metrolinx of the City’s safety standard requirements to operate passenger rail in a shared track bed with heavy rail.
These amendments are the most substantial within the group because they address a technical issue that Metrolinx has not addressed according to City staff. There are minimum separation requirements between mainline railways and tracks for lighter equipment like subway trains or an LRT. These were discussed at Council as if they were a local standard, but there are also Federal standards for this that cannot waived easily by provincial fiat.
Councillor Fletcher showed a diagram of the space required allowing for this separation. This includes the existing three GO tracks plus the one additional proposed as part of the Metrolinx RER project to increase corridor capacity.
Updated 2:00 pm October 30: It has been pointed out quite rightly by a comment on this article that the chart below is not drawn to scale.
By contrast, Metrolinx appears to assume a corridor with all six tracks running side-by-side. (The diagram below, taken from a Metrolinx Blog article, does not show the space needed for platforms at stations.)
The effect of the at grade Ontario Line corridor will be very substantially different depending on the configuration. This also affects noise and vibration concerns.
A widened corridor will affect six bridges between Eastern Avenue and Gerrard Street. The diagram below is from Councillor Fletcher’s presentation to Council.
3c – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Paula Fletcher (Carried)
That City Council request CreateTO to determine impact on future development opportunities and land value if the underground portals of the Ontario Line are built on the Riverdale Plaza site.
This motion attempts to determine whether there is a cost in lost development potential or property value for the Gerrard Station and the portal to the at grade section of the Ontario Line as compared with the underground design for the original Relief Line South.
4 – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Mike Colle (Amended)
1. City Council direct the City Manager to request the Province of Ontario to defer its planned up-zoning in the Yonge-Eglinton area until the Ontario Line is completed. (ruled out of order)
2. City Council direct the City Manager to re-affirm the City’s concern about the existing overcrowding on Line 1, and the increased overcrowding that will occur at Eglinton Station as a result of proposed higher densities proposed by the Province as a result of Bill 108 and overriding of the “Midtown in Focus Plan” OPA 405. (ruled out of order)
3. City Council direct the City Manager to inform the Province of Ontario that the increased overcrowding at Eglinton Station will dramatically increase when the Eglinton Crosstown is completed in 2021.
Councillor Colle attempted to have some consideration of slowing growth at Yonge-Eglinton imposed at least until transit capacity improves, but Speaker Nunziata ruled much of his motion out of order on the grounds that Council had already dealt with the Yonge-Eglinton density question.
On a related note, the TTC’s current plans, once Automatic Train Control (ATC) is active on the entire Line 1, are to gradually build up the trains/hour service level over several years to ensure that the more frequent service can actually be operated. They will not operate the full 33 trains/hour (110 second headway) immediately. Moreover, the TTC owns only 76 6-car trainsets for Line 1, and of these 65 are used for peak service. Moving from the current 25.7 trains/hour to 32.7 would require about 80 trains plus spares, but the TTC does not have them. Until additional trains are ordered and delivered, the TTC will be in no position to move to the full service possible with ATC even assuming they can resolve operational problems that the shorter headways will trigger, notably terminal operations and station dwell time limits.
5 – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong (Carried)
1. City Council confirm its position that capacity and reliability improvements on Line 1 remain a top priority for future capital investment.
2. City Council request the Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Transit Commission to accelerate the study of the Line 1 Capacity Requirements and provide an updated report to the Toronto Transit Commission Board as soon as feasible to be considered in the allocation of new capital investment funds.
3. City Council request the Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Transit Commission to proactively monitor and review platform congestion and safety at all major interchange stations, and in particular Eglinton Station, once the Eglinton Crosstown LRT is in operation.
This motion is self-explanatory. Council is well aware that there will be capacity problems in the interim period before the Ontario Line actually opens, and even that benefit will be short-lived in the planning sense with the limits of Line 1 only two decades in the future. An intriguing change reported by TTC staff is that the peak point on Line 1 will shift from south of Bloor Station to north of it in the completed network of the 2030s.
6 – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor John Filion (Carried)
1. City Council direct the City Manager, in consultation with the Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Transit Commission, in the negotiation of the applicable Master Agreement and/or other applicable Agreements with the Province and/or any other relevant provincial agency, to include a requirement that the in-service date for the Ontario Line be prior to the in-service date of the Yonge North Subway Extension, as stated in the 2019 Provincial Budget, and that the relative construction schedules be planned accordingly.
2. City Council request the City Manager to report to City Council by the third quarter of 2020 on a funding plan for the Line 1 Capacity Enhancement program so that funding sources will be secured in order that such enhancements occur prior to the opening of the Line 1 extension.
This motion, too, speaks to the need to ensure that a crisis on Line 1 will not be created by funneling more riders onto it from an extension before all of the capacity improvements are in place. An obvious concern is that if the Ontario Line and other works are delayed, but the extension is built in parallel and completed first, there will be strong political pressure to open it whether the line can absorb the riders or not.
7 – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (Carried)
That City Council affirm its support for the maintenance of new and existing lines to be done by the integrated and professional workforce at the Toronto Transit Commission.
Council can support the TTC workers, but there is no guarantee they will actually be used especially for new lines. Already the Crosstown LRT is to be operated by the TTC, but all maintenance is the responsibility of the P3 consortium.
8a – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Shelley Carroll (Carried)
That City Council direct the City Manager and the Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Transit Commission, as part of the negotiations with the Province and/or any other relevant provincial agency, to ensure that the parties set a timeline for negotiating a joint operating subsidy.
This motion addressed a smouldering issue for Council which faces the operating costs for all new lines, including the relatively soon-to-open Crosstown. Metrolinx has refused to discuss operating costs with the City for years, but the new deal makes a definitive arrangement and cost estimate much more pressing.
8b – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Shelley Carroll (Carried)
That City Council request the City Manager, in consultation with the Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Transit Commission to report back to Executive Committee on the state of good repair burden at the Toronto Transit Commission, separating out vehicle life cycle needs across subway, streetcar, bus and Wheeltrans vehicles, including assumptions of vehicle purchase programs possible at the City’s cost under the new terms negotiated with the Province.
New vehicle purchases have generally received special subsidies from both the Provincial and Federal governments, but it is not clear what, if any, funding streams will be available to pay for the TTC’s needs over coming years. A further consideration here will be that the TTC will be buying new subway cars that will actually serve extensions outside of the City.
9 – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Jim Karygiannis (Carried)
That City Council request the City Manager to communicate to the Province and the Federal Governments that, in future stages of transit planning, they strongly consider extending the current Sheppard Subway to connect with the new proposed station at Sheppard Avenue and McCowan Road and to identify this in their upcoming budget processes.
A motion to “strongly consider” does not commit Council to the Sheppard Subway project, but this was not a battle to be fought now. In any event, the request is to two governments over which the City has no control.
Notable by its absence from the discussion was the “North York Relief Line” as the Sheppard West extension is styled by Councillor Pasternak in his frequent advocacy for it.
11 – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Joe Cressy (Carried)
That City Council direct the Deputy City Manager, Infrastructure and Development Services, in consultation with the Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Transit Commission, as part of work with Metrolinx and as part of any future expansion of the Ontario Line, to ensure that:
a. there is full and affordable fare integration between all lines, systems and technologies, as per previous plans to implement fare integration approved by City Council, including a single fare for rides within the City of Toronto;
b. fares not be established based on distance; and
c. fares for any new lines be established by the Toronto Transit Commission Board.
The problem with demanding a fare structure is that it is not a Metrolinx decision, but rather one at the Provincial level to set subsidy levels for GO Transit such that it could afford its share of “fare integration”. As for fare levels generally, the new agreement dictates that all fare revenue flows to the City to partly offset the operating costs it will bear. The decision about how much riders would pay will directly affect the City’s revenue and subsidy planning.
12 – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Anthony Perruzza (Carried)
That City Council direct the City Manager to work with the Province of Ontario to identify all opportunities to accelerate the delivery of the expansion projects and to include an update on the measures taken in the City Manager’s semi-annual update to City Council regarding the status of the provincial transit expansion program.
This is something of a motherhood motion in that the constraints on project timing are already well known including the very preliminary nature of plans for the Ontario Line, the capacity of the industry to undertake concurrent projects and the rate at which Ontario will spend real dollars, as opposed to promises, especially if cost estimates rise above the announced levels.
Two losing motions (there were others) were of interest.
2d – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Mike Layton (Lost)
That City Council request the Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer, in consultation with the General Manager, Toronto Transit Commission, as part of the 2020 capital budget, to report on an accelerated Capital Plan for the Toronto Transit Commission made possible by a one percent increase to the City Building Fund.
Although we still don’t know what the 2020 Budget or 2020-29 Capital Plan will look like, this was an attempt to accelerate discussion of priorities if new tax revenue were allocated. What we did learn, however, is that a one percent increase would fund debt of about $640 million. This shows the amount of new tax revenue that would be needed to fund a substantial state of good repair program not to mention the unfunded portion of the billions in City commitments freed up by the Provincial deal.
10 – Motion to Amend Item moved by Councillor Gord Perks (Lost)
That City Council amend Executive Committee Recommendation 3 by adding the following between “Preliminary Agreement” and “and in anticipation”:
and an agreement which requires the Provincial and Federal governments to pay two-thirds of the Toronto Transit Commission’s state of good repair and rolling stock costs, …
This was a motion doomed to lose because it would make the whole deal subject to an agreement from two governments to substantially increase TTC capital funding, and by implication funding for comparable transit systems elsewhere in Ontario and Canada. When we do get an updated TTC Capital Plan, it will be interesting to contemplate just how much spending this would represent.
Toronto faces massive future costs to keep its transit system running, and the implications this has both for transit’s ability to move people in the region and for the City’s financial state are unsettling to put it mildly. Even so, Council persists in throwing any money it thinks might be available to more new lines rather than to maintaining and operating what it has won back after the Province decided that taking over the subway, let alone the rest of the transit system, was not worth the effort.