The TTC Board held its last scheduled meeting of the current term on July 14. Barring an emergency requiring a special meeting, the next regular meeting will follow reconstitution of the Board after the municipal election in the Fall.
Some items on the agenda have already been covered in previous articles:
- The Varying Strength of Ridership Recovery
- The Myth of “No Short Turns”
- TTC 2023 Annual Service Plan Preview
This article covers:
- The CEO’s Report
- Outsourcing of non-revenue automotive vehicle and equipment maintenance
- Automatic Train Control for Line 1 Yonge-University
- Five and ten year service plans
- Transit network expansion update
I will review the Green Bus program update in a separate article.
The CEO’s Report contains many charts purporting to show the operation of the system. Unfortunately some of these hide as much as they tell by giving a simplistic view of the system.
I have already written about the wide discrepancy between actual short turning of vehicles and the reported number. A distortion this major calls into question the accuracy and honesty of other metrics in the report.
In a future article, I will turn to the appropriateness of various metrics, but here are some key areas:
- Averages do not represent conditions riders experience. Data that are consolidated across hours, days, locations and routes hide the prevalence of disruptions. Service that is fairly good on average can be terrible for riders who try to use it at the wrong time.
- Values for some metrics are reported with capped charts that show only that a target is met, but not by how much it was exceeded. This gives no indication of the room to improve the target value, nor of the variation that could make a higher target difficult to achieve consistently.
- Reliability is shown only for vehicles that actually operate in service, but there is no measure of actual fleet utilization and the headroom for service growth using available buses, streetcars and subway trains.
In discussion of the report, Commissioner Carroll noted that the TTC still has a problem with on time performance for streetcars. CEO Rick Leary replied that there is an On Time Performance team who are looking at details including recognition that there are three types of routes: those that run well, those affected by construction and those with other problems.
Carroll replied that people are quick to complain about King Street and wondering why they are still waiting for the 504. The TTC says that construction is the reason, but do they have a strategy to deal with bunching and communicate with riders. Management replied that they have strategies for keeping riders informed during planned diversions, but for unplanned emergencies there are service alerts. Changes are coming and service should improve.
This discussion was frustrating to hear because, first off, the central part of 504 King between Dufferin and Parliament is not affected by construction. Only the outer ends in Parkdale/Roncesvalles and on Broadview have (or had until recently) bus shuttles. As for keeping riders informed, irregular service plagues all routes in the system as I have documented in articles here many times. The problem is line management, or the absence of it.
On another topic, Carroll noted that the TTC seems to have a lower standard for the condition of stations than it does for vehicles, or at least tracks the latter at more detail. Leary replied that a summer blitz using student workers will scrub down all stations to bring the system back to a better quality for riders returning in the Fall.
The TTC continues to nibble away at work performed by its union staff by hiving off selected functions to an outside contractor.
Lakeshore Garage is used both by Wheel Trans and for maintenance of vehicles (autos and light trucks) that are not part of the revenue fleet. The latter function will move to a property at 1810 Markham Road where work will be contracted to BDS Fleet Services with a five year contract and an optional five year extension.
This will free up space for Wheel Trans at Lakeshore Garage and allow the TTC to implement a contracted out service in a physically separate shop. There is a provision in the union contract for this type of change, but it is not yet clear whether the ATU will grieve this.
A more general question is what effect this move will have on labour-management relations and the framework in which operational changes might occur in support of service management and a new pattern of commuting.
ATC operations are already in place on Line 1 Yonge-University-Spadina from Vaughan Centre to Eglinton Station, and this will be extended to Finch by the end of September 2022. Although this completes the base project on Line 1, there are add-ons and improvements that will form a “phase 6” of the project.
A few specifics for this phase are listed in the report:
- Signal changes at Eglinton Station to shift the stopping point for trains 24m northward (onto an extended platform) so that transfer passengers from Line 5 Crosstown will not overload the north end of trains.
- Changes to avoid an “Osgoode Station” incident in the future where a train under manual control leaving Osgoode pocket track came close to colliding with with a train on the northbound track.
The price for this phase is not included in the public report as it is still being negotiated with the supplier, Alstom. Also still to come in early 2023 is a report on completion of the program to adapt work cars to the ATC signalling system, as well as an extended warranty for the Line 1 installation.
There is a separate project to equip Line 2 Bloor-Danforth with ATC that was discussed in a December 2021 Board report: Automatic Train Control – Lessons Learned and Program Update.
Among other things that report sets out the history of the Line 1 project and the complexities that arose from the piecemeal approach to design and implementation. That approach was a direct result of funding limitations and political concerns about dropping a $1-billion project on Council. The Line 2 project is in the budget as a single entity.
The report cites ATC on Line 1 as contributing to reduced running times and shorter headways. This was achieved in the pre-covid era, but the full benefit has not yet been evident with current service levels. An important factor is the ability of trains to safely operate closer together in congested parts of the line such as Bloor Station. Under the old system, an approaching train was held two full signal blocks north or south of the platform until a train completely cleared the station. Now, the approaching trains can move in closer and get more dwell time on the platform to deal with crowded conditions.
This is particularly useful for “run as directed” trains that are inserted in service during crowded periods, notably southbound at Davisville. Adding a train under ATC does not require as much of a gap in the through service from Finch to fit an extra train into the stream.
The TTC also hopes for a reduced round trip time so that it can save on trains either by cutting the number required for service, or by running the trains more frequently.
The presentation deck deals primarily with the Five Year Plan which was the subject of a separate article.
Probably the most important part of the new Service Plan is the concept of “multiple resource scenarios”. In brief, all past plans have taken a marginal increase in annual operations funding whether by fares or subsidies as a given, and service is tailored to fit within that. This can be extremely difficult in years with extraordinary changes such as the opening of a new rapid transit line with higher costs than the services it replaced.
Although 2023 and 2024 budgets will be planned with only a small increment basis, multiple scenarios will be developed for 2025 and beyond. This is similar to the tactic used for Capital Budget plans which, for many years, ignored almost three quarters of actual needs to keep funding requirements within existing budgets.
The City and the TTC Board need to understand what it will cost not just to keep the system running at “business as usual”, but to make good on claims that Toronto could become even more transit-positive and work toward a zero emission future. The CIty’s ZE aims are aggressive, but make big assumptions about the effects of work-from-home and a switch to cycling. If the pandemic has taught anything, it is that large segments of travel demand do not fit these “solutions” and shifting rides away from autos could take more transit than the City has been willing to pay for.
Such a strategy should have begun years ago. Indeed, some members of the TTC Board asked for a budget based on service improvements beyond minimal inflationary financing, but not even a pro-forma scenario was ever presented. Making good on what transit could do will bring surprises both for operating and capital funding.
The new 5YSP will be developed in consultation with customers and stakeholders and:
• Identify key opportunities to improve transit services based on a review of a new “normal” in terms of travel behaviours post-COVID, revised population and employment growth projections, a network performance review and immediate and longer-term enhancements to the higher-order transit network;
• Identify multiple, long-term resource scenarios that are in line with the City’s Net Zero Strategy;
• Prioritize network-level service improvements to be implemented over the next five years under multiple resource scenarios; and
• Outline a five-year, service-focused business plan, including financial, fleet and facility and workforce requirements.
The new 5YSP will continue the TTC’s corporate focus on preparing transparent, customer-facing, multi-year plans that:
• Set the foundation for future annual service plans that will outline in-detail service improvements for the upcoming year;
• Identify and link service-related operating and capital cost requirements over a five-year period, which will provide the public, the TTC Board and elected officials with a transparent blueprint; and
• Bridge the gap between the TTC’s near-term transit planning with long-term population and employment growth projections, rapid transit plans and the Official Plan.
The new 5YSP will be realistic in the actions it identifies to ensure what is being planned can be delivered. This includes planning within the constraints of the TTC Operating Budget and Capital Budget. As such, the new 5YSP will be developed noting the following key financial assumptions over the next five years:Source: 5 and 10 Year Service Plan Report, p. 8
• Operating Budget: The TTC 2024 Operating Budget will increase to account for the annualized cost associated with implementing 2023 service changes only. Between 2024 and 2028, multiple funding scenarios will be prepared to account for a range of possible service adjustment scenarios.
• Capital Budget: The availability of fleet, including buses, streetcars and subway trains, and facilities will generally align with the TTC Capital Investment Plan and Real Estate Investment Plan.
The ten year plan includes a review of service design and standards. The TTC also hopes for improved service management, although that will be a tough uphill climb given their long denial that there are problems to address.
Looking at the map of routes where the most riding was lost early in the pandemic, Councillor Carroll wondered how 25 Don Mills was ranked in the bottom 20. It has both a Neighbourhood Improvement Area and an Employment Area along the route. There was really no answer to this question, but looking at riding counts published by the TTC for October 2020, Don Mills recovered quickly. Moreover, in April 2020, the 925 Don Mills Express was still operating and it would have been sharing demand with the local service, whereas in October 2020, only local buses were running and all trips in the corridor would count toward that service.
I will review the recently published ridership stats for 2019 through 2021 in a separate article.
Chair Jaye Robinson noted that the TTC is a lot busier now on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and asked if there were any data about this. Management replied that yes, Monday and Friday are not as busy, but Friday is different because there is more leisure travel. Robinson moved that staff look at weekday variation in demand and how this can be incorporated in service plans.
Councillor Carroll asked about service reliability on 51 Leslie and stated that riders at the north end of the route walk to North York General Hospital (at Sheppard) because of bunching. Staff will look into this.
This limited discussion shows a more general problem that individual routes should even need special pleadings by Board members.
The Network Expansion report is a compendium of status reports on all of the major projects now underway, including those built by Metrolinx.
There is a short video giving an overview that was presented during the meeting. Two items of note about the overall map and details:
- The Eglinton East LRT is now shown as “Line 7”. At some point this will elbow aside the Bathurst Bus which will need a new number just as 5 Avenue Road and 6 Bay made way for the Crosstown and Finch West lines.
- The map shows new routes in the Eastern Waterfront, but nothing in the western waterfront even though this is supposed to be a matter of current study.
Operating Costs for New LRT Lines
Although the opening date for Line 5 is still not settled, there has already been a jump in the projected operating costs. The agreement with Metrolinx specifies various service levels, and the assumption has been that “level 1” would be used when the line opened in 2022 with a move to “level 2” in 2023. However, the implementation is now proposed as “level 6”.
Note that few descriptions of these service levels has been made public, nor have the implications for charges the TTC/City would bear for each level beyond selective references such as in this report. Total costs include both direct TTC costs for the functions they will provide (operation and supervision of the line) plus charges from Metrolinx for the maintenance of vehicles and infrastructure. Both of these are affected by the level of service actually operated.
Here is the proposed service level for Line 5 as described in the report. It is clear that the provincial idea of adequate service is lower than the standard TTC riders are accustomed to.
Service Level 6 is being considered for revenue service. This means planned service levels will be every three-to-four minutes in the peak periods and every five-to-six minutes in the off-peak periods, while late-evening service from 10 p.m. to close will be every ten minutes. As a comparison, Service Level 1 had planned service at every five minutes in the peak periods and every seven-to-eight minutes in the off-peak period, while late-evening service from 10 p.m. to close was every ten minutes. […] Discussions are on-going between both parties to arrive at the best solution to ensure the Line 5 Eglinton customer experience is consistent with the rest of the TTC network.
The table below consolidates cost projections for both lines. Note that these estimates assumed an earlier Line 5 opening date, October 2022, than will actually occur. Additional Metrolinx costs associated with Service Level 6 are not included.
Line 6 Finch West is projected to open in September 2023. Costs shown for that year include the training and testing activities before revenue service begins.
An additional one-time cost of $1.5 million payable by the TTC for fare vending machines for Lines 5 and 6 which were not part of the original project scope. This will be funded from underspending in the 2022 operating budget.
Although most of these costs were foreseen in budget projections already given to Council, they represent a considerable jump in TTC funding requirements at a time when the system is still wrestling back to full post-pandemic operations and the City is strapped for revenue. To what extent this will constrain service growth on the rest of the TTC network remains to be seen in 2023 and 2024 budgets.
Provincial Subway Programs
Although Ontario has taken over responsibility for the Scarborough, Yonge North and Relief (now Ontario) subway lines, they have not yet reimbursed Toronto for work done before the August 2019 transfer. TTC costs of $239 million are still outstanding while negotiations about reimbursement by Ontario continue.
Line 3 SRT Replacement
The SRT will close in November 2023 and convert to bus operation until the Scarborough Subway Extension opens in 2030. There is a substantial cost to providing service in the corridor in the interim.
Capital costs include continued maintenance of the SRT, and construction of facilities for a replacement bus service including installation of a BRT roadway on the SRT corridor between Ellesmere and Kennedy Stations after the SRT closes. This does not include an estimated $150-to-175 million to demolish the remaining SRT infrastructure.
Operating costs for the replacement bus service will be higher than for the SRT by about $10 million annually.
The TTC and City are seeking provincial funding for the net cost of the SRT replacement service, but negotiations are ongoing as part of the wider funding issues for transit. It is not clear how soon, or to what degree, the province will actually come to the table with this support.
Preliminary work is already underway at Kennedy Station to relocate existing TTC signals, communications and electrical cabling in support of future work on the subway extension.
Construction of the station at Yonge will require a full shutdown of Queen Street for about four years. Streetcar service will divert via Richmond and Adelaide Streets between Church and York. Long lead-time items (special trackwork) have already been ordered, and construction is planned to begin in Q4 of 2022.
This is part of a larger project by the City to rebuild and reconfigure Adelaide Street from Bathurst to Parliament.
Another location where the Ontario Line will have a significant effect on streetcar service is at the Riverside/Leslieville Station at Queen & DeGrassi Streets. Construction there includes not just a new station spanning Queen Street, but also widening and regrading of the GO/Ontario Line corridor to provide 5m vertical clearance under the bridge.
Bus replacement service on Queen will be required, and carhouse access to Russell and Leslie Barns will operate via Gerrard and Coxwell. No details of the replacement services have been announced yet.
The Gerrard Station will also affect the streetcar infrastructure but to a much smaller extent as there is no change in the bridge elevation.
Yonge North Extension
Much of the YNSE project is outside of Toronto, but the two Toronto stations are mentioned.
Cummer/Drewry: Although this is not yet an approved station on the line, Metrolinx is keeping their options open:
Metrolinx is continuing with the planning and design work for Cummer-Drewry Station in the event it is added to the Yonge North Subway Extension now or in future.
Steeles: Previous designs for Steeles Station included very large transfer areas either underground or on the surface. Now that the idea of BRT facilities on Steeles is taking root, the design preferred by the municipalities includes a transfer platform in the middle of the street for services that would run through east-west. This would reduce the space needed at an off-street loop.
In York Region, stations at Royal Orchard and Clark, deleted from the original plan to keep project costs down, have been revived thanks to political pressure and a desire to soothe voters before the recent election.
Durham Scarborough and Dundas BRTs
The Durham-Scarborough BRT will be a mix of centre-median and curb operations as described by the TTC below:
Bus services will generally operate in the centre of the road with centre-median bus platforms at stops – where this cannot be accommodated, bus services will operate on the side of the road and serve curbside stops. During the peak periods, the combined bus service on the DSBRT in Toronto, between the TTC, DRT and GO Transit, will have service every two minutes in each direction. TTC customers and TTC buses will make up the majority of customers using the BRT facility in Toronto.
This project has raised design problems during its project assessment phase. It will be interesting to see if Metrolinx is as ham-fisted with this project in a suburban setting as they have with other projects downtown.
The project completed a Transit Project Assessment Process (TPAP) in January 20, 2022, and is now advancing to detailed design. Through the detailed design, a number of outstanding challenges that require additional analysis and mitigation measures will be addressed, such as impacts on goods movement operations along the corridor, particularly around Markham Road, and impacts to multi-modal traffic operations in the residential neighbourhood areas on Ellesmere Road between Military Trail and Kingston Road.
The Dundas BRT project is currently in the Preliminary Design Business Case stage by Metrolinx.
Commissioner Carroll asked whether TTC services would be able to operate on Metrolinx’ BRT corridors. Management replied that TTC would use the infrastructure Metrolinx builds, but would keep revenue from their own routes.
City Priority Programs
Eglinton East LRT
The TTC’s report claims that:
The Eglinton East LRT project is led by the City of Toronto and the TTC, and has no funds committed to this project.
I have confirmed with the City of Toronto that the funding previously allocated to the Scarborough Subway Extension by the City was redirected to the EELRT.
The following response is provided by the Transit Expansion Office:
In February 2021, City Council approved the redirection of the City’s existing contribution to the Scarborough Subway Extension ($1.2 billion) to the construction of the Eglinton East Light Rail Transit (EELRT). As per Council direction, City staff advised the Provincial and Federal governments of City Council’s funding commitment and requested intergovernmental funding to fully fund the construction of the project. Previously approved budgets will support the planning and design work on the EELRT contemplated in the 2022.EX33.2 report.
More information can be found in these recent reports:
On a related note, the recently approved Development Charges bylaw includes nearly $1 billion for the EELRT. This is quite likely the same money, but shows where it would come from.
The next EELRT report will come to council in Q3 2023.
Updated July 21, 2022 at 4:10 pm:
The TTC has replied to this situation by saying “you have caught us in a poorly placed comma typo”.
The original report text is:
The Eglinton East LRT project is led by the City of Toronto and the TTC, and has no funds committed to this project.
The revised text is:
The Eglinton East LRT project is led by the City of Toronto, and the TTC has no funds committed to this project.Email from Stuart Green, TTC Media Relations, July 21, 2022
The basic problem here is the difference in how the City defines its funding status for projects as against how this is shown in the TTC’s report.
Waterfront East LRT
Design work on the WELRT is at the 30 per cent stage, although “value engineering” is underway to trim project costs. Specifics of possible changes are not yet public.
An important issue for this scheme will be project phasing and co-ordination with other work in the eastern waterfront. The most complex and expensive part of the work will be changes to the Bay Street tunnel, and throughout public consultations there has been a strong desire to make a through east-west service on Queens Quay connecting to Cherry Street as early as possible. There is also the matter of a new LRT underpass south of Distillery Loop and trackage south onto Villiers Island.
The exact location of the southern terminus is not settled, and there remains the issue of future service south on Cherry to the Ship Channel, and east on Commissioners connecting with the planned Broadview extension and eventually to Leslie Barns. All of these are contemplated in the Development Charges Bylaw for financial support, but the actual timing is uncertain. (Note that DCs do not cover the entire project cost.)
The next report to Council will be in Q2 2023 as part of a wider review of Waterfront Revitalization.
Waterfront West LRT
Although it is not mentioned in the current TTC report, on June 15, 2022, Council directed staff to determine what is needed to advance the extension of the WWLRT. Detailed design work is already underway for the section from Exhibition Loop to Dufferin.
11. City Council direct the City Manager [as part of a planned Waterfront report in Q2 2023] to determine potential undertakings to expedite the budgetary and design processes for the western extension of the Western Waterfront Light Rail Transit from Exhibition Place Loop to close the gap on dedicated streetcar right-of-way service between Humber Bay Shores and Exhibition Place.
12. City Council direct the City Manager to engage with officials of the Provincial and Federal Governments to identify and secure funding to advance the Waterfront West Light Rail Transit line as expeditiously as possible.
Despite the ongoing focus on Waterfront East, the Waterfront West project is included in the new Development Charges Bylaw among many other extensions of the streetcar/LRT network.
The next report to Council will be in Q2 2023.