Drifting Timelines on Metrolinx Projects (Fall 2020 Update) (Revised)

Back in June 2020, I wrote about the gradual drift in the planned dates for various Metrolinx projects as reported by Infrastructure Ontario [IO for short].

See: Drifting Timelines on Metrolinx Projects

The September 2020 Market Update has been issued by IO and it shows changes in some projects from the June update.

Sept 26, 2020: Revised to include the change in financing method for the OnCorr GO Corridor project.

Is The P3 Model Falling Apart?

Two revisions in the large GO project procurement model involve a change from private sector financing to traditional government borrowing.

This suggests that the market willingness to finance projects on behalf of the government, or at least to do so at rates competitive with direct government borrowing, may be on the wane. That implies that the “P3” model may be coming unglued.

At its heart, this was always seen as an accounting mechanism to shift debt off of the government’s books, and without this shell game, a major argument for P3s could vanish.

The Future of Electrification

The change in financing model could shift any decision on propulsion technology back to the government.

Metrolinx had pushed this off its plate by saying that the bidders who were going to design and operate a future GO network would make that choice. This punted the knotty political problem of hydrogen trains touted former Premier McGuinty out of Metrolinx itself.

Will Ontario be willing to finance the large up-front capital costs of electrification itself with so many other pressures on financial resources, or is electrification about to fall out of consideration while spending focuses on service expansion?

Ontario Line

The project is in three sections of which the last will be the “Northern Civil, Stations and Tunnel” which includes the portion of the line east of the Don River and north to Eglinton, but not the Maintenance Facility which is included with the “South Civil” portion as it is needed relatively early in the project.

Some of the work on the North section between the Don River and Gerrard Station might be undertaken as part of the GO Corridor improvements, but exactly what this might entail has not been made public.

Since the last update, there are three changes for the North section:

  • The date for RFQ (Request for Qualifications) issue has been changed from Winter to Spring 2022.
  • The RFP (Request for Proposals) issue has been changed from Spring 2022 to Fall 2022.
  • The Financial Close (in effect, the contract signing) has been changed from Fall 2023 to Spring 2024.

The remaining portions of the line are on the same timeline as before.

The timelines for this project, with financial close for the first two portions in fall 2022 and for the third in spring 2024 puts this beyond the next provincial election expected in mid 2022, the four-year anniversary of the Ford government’s election. Who will be in place to make final decisions, and what the government’s financial position will be by then, remain to be seen.

Line 2 East Extension (Scarborough Subway)

This project is now shown with two portions: one for the tunnel, and the other for the stations, railway and systems.

There is no change in the tunnel portion of the project, but the remaining portion has reverted to the dates shown for the overall project in the Winter 2020 update.

GO Expansion Lakeshore West Corridor

The financial close for this project has been changed from Winter 2021 to Spring 2021.

GO Expansion Lakeshore East-West Corridor

This was originally to have been a “Build-Finance” project, but it is now “Design-Bid-Build”, a change that was made in August 2020 according to the IO report.

GO OnCorr Projects

[Added to this article on September 26, 2020]

This is a very large project including future operation of GO Transit and possible changes in the propulsion technology.

The procurement model has been changed from “DBOFM” (Design-Build-Operate-Finance-Maintain) to “DBOM”. The proponent will no longer finance the project which has a projected value of over $10 billion.

All other projects are unchanged. A summary of the Metrolinx projects tracking their changing status is available in this spreadsheet (revised version).

TTC Service Changes Effective October 11, 2020

The TTC will make changes on several of its routes in the schedules taking effect Thanksgiving weekend. Among the updates, the major groups are:

  • Changes to 116 Morningside, 86 Scarborough and 12 Kingston Road related to the implementation of the bus-only lanes on Eglinton, Kingston Road and Morningside.
  • Restoration of service on 905 Eglinton East and 986 Scarborough express services, also as part of the bus-only lane implementation.
  • A substantial increase in the number of 600-series crews (run as directed buses) to provide service for school trips.
  • Service cuts on certain routes during poor-performing periods.
  • Removal of seasonal services.

Eglinton East Bus Lanes

The travel time savings have two effects on routes, sometimes a mixture of both:

  • Reduced travel times allow the same level of service to be provided by fewer buses.
  • Reduced travel times allow service improvements by retaining the existing allocation of buses.

Service on the 86/986 Scarborough corridor will improve during peak periods with the return of the express service. The total number of buses operating on the two routes will be increased, even though running time savings allow some reductions in the number of buses allocated.

Weekday midday and early evening service on 86 Scarborough will be reduced by the elimination of the 86B Highland Creek service.

During all other periods, there is generally a reduction of one bus on 86 Scarborough but no change in service levels. This is made possible by the anticipated faster travel times on the reserved lanes.

The 986 Express service is restored at approximately the same service level as in March 2020, but with one less bus because of travel time savings.

On 116 Morningside, there are minor improvements in service during some periods by using the same vehicles on shorter travel times.

The 905 Express service is restored with the same number of vehicles as in the March 2020 schedules except for the AM peak and midday weekdays. This provides slightly more frequent service during all periods except the AM peak (when it is unchanged) due to reduced trip times.

The 12D Kingston Road to UTSC service will be slightly improved in the PM peak by the addition of one bus. It will also have more, not less, travel time than in the previous schedule and will have generous layover/recovery provisions. It is not clear why the TTC does not simply improve the service and trim the layovers which total over 20 minutes per round trip.

Seasonal Changes

The following seasonal services will not run after Thanksgiving Day, Monday, October 12, 2020:

  • 121D Front-Esplanade service to Ontario Place and Cherry Beach
  • 175 Bluffers Park

The 92 Woodbine South route will revert to its winter schedule due to reduced travel to Woodbine Beach.

Service Cuts

Some routes will have service trimmed during periods of light demand to free up resources for the 600 demand-responsive services.

  • 38 Highland Creek weekday late evening
  • 42 Cummer AM peak and weekday late evening
  • 51 Leslie AM and PM peak
  • 56B Leaside to Brentcliffe AM and PM peak service removed with partly offsetting improvements to 56A Leaside to Eglinton Station.
  • 121 Front-Esplanade moves to a 30 minute headway all day on weekdays.
  • 122 Graydon Hall AM peak
  • 134 Progress: All off peak service will operate as 134D to Finch via Centennial College, and articulated buses assigned to some runs on this route will be replaced with standard sized buses.
  • 900 Airport Express early and late weekday evening
  • 927 Highway 27 Express weekday midday

Other Changes

53A Steeles East will have scheduled peak service restored correcting an error when the 953 Steeles Express (which formerly provided this service) was suspended.

During the period when 505 Dundas cars are looping via Lansdowne, College and Ossington due to construction, a 505S shuttle bus will operate between Lansdowne and Ossington on Dundas.

512 St. Clair has operated with a irregular headways due to cancelled runs. These will be restored resulting in much more even scheduled service.

Details of the October changes are in this spreadsheet.

Coming in Mid-November

The mid-November schedule changes will include restoration of the following express services:

902 Markham Road, 929 Dufferin, 935 Jane, 941 Keele, 945 Kipling, 952 Lawrence West, 954 Lawrence East, 996 Wilson

No details about service levels have been released yet.

The TTC plans to restore the remaining express routes in early 2021.