This is the second round following preliminary sessions in June-July. The planners reviewed overall goals in light of changing demand patterns and system-wide rerouting associated with the closing of Line 3 SRT and opening of Line 6 Finch West. (The network changes for Line 5 Eglinton Crosstown were dealt with in the 2022 ASP, although there has been slight tweaking.)
Some of the 2022 Plan’s proposals have not yet been implemented, although they remain on the books as “approved”:
8 Broadview: Extension south from O’Connor to Coxwell Station
118 Thistle Down: Extension northwest to Claireport Crescent
150 Eastern: A new route from downtown to Woodbine Loop (on hold due to potential construction disruptions)
In 2023, there are considerably more proposed changes than in 2022, and for the purpose of consultation the TTC broke the system into segments. Each of these is detailed later in this article.
Consultation is now underway with the following planned schedule:
October-November: Public consultation. (See schedule above.)
Late 2022/Early 2023: Councillor briefings
February 2023: Final report to the TTC Board
Spring 2023: Implementation begins
Through 2023: Five Year Service Plan “reset” continues
The 2023 Annual Service Plan web page includes a deck of panels that will be used for the consultations. In this article, some maps are taken from that deck, and some from presentations to community groups.
One key point we will not know until late 2022 or even early 2023 will be the TTC’s budget target. How will this shape service changes, be they additions, re-allocations or cuts? Mayor Tory talks about supporting transit, but we will see just what this means when he tables the City’s 2023 budget.
Note: I have not included all of the information posted by the TTC here, and I urge readers to review the presentation panels and any other information the TTC publishes as this process goes on.
Although this article is open for comment, is you have specific concerns and wish to participate in the consultation process, be sure to complete the TTC’s survey or otherwise communicate your feelings to the TTC. I am not the TTC Planning Department, and grousing to me, or proposing your own maps here will not feed into the process.
On October 13, 2022, the TTC issued a Request for Proposals for a new fleet of subway trains. The submission deadline is July 28, 2023, and the anticipated contract award date is December 22, 2023.
This article is not an exhaustive review of the specification which is over 1,200 pages long, but an attempt to pick up major points including differences between the new fleet and the existing TR trains. The information has been organized for easy reading with related points grouped together, not necessarily the sequence in which they appear in the RFP.
Updated October 21, 2022 at 9:10 am:
A section has been added with information on car ventilation as it relates to health concerns and air quality.
A section has been added with more details of the emergency detrainment at the cab ends of the train.
The initial order would be for 480 cars (80 6-car trains) to replace the existing T1 fleet which operates on Line 2 Bloor-Danforth and to provide both for ridership growth and added trains for the Scarborough and Yonge North extensions. The delivery window is 2027-2033.
The trains are intended to be operated as much as possible like the existing TR fleet on Line 1 to minimize retraining requirements.
Although it is buried in an appendix, the TTC proposes a new exterior livery for the trains bringing the red from surface vehicles back into subway territory.
The requested design life for the cars is 35 years, somewhat longer than the 30 year span usually associated with a new fleet, but not unreasonable given the usual lag in replacement orders. For example, the T1 fleet of 370 cars was delivered between 1995 and 2001, and so the first of them will be 33 years old when the first new trains arrive.
Pre-pandemic service on Line 2 was provided at peak by 46 trains (January 2020 schedules). Allowing for spares at 20 per cent, this makes the peak requirement 55 trains compared to the present T1 fleet of 61 trains. (The extra T1s were displaced from Line 4 Sheppard when it converted to 4-car TR sets.)
The initial round of industry consultation took place in 2021 and resulted in pre-qualification of four potential suppliers:
Alstom Transport Canada Inc.
CRRC Qingdao Sifang Co., Ltd.
Hyundai Rotem Company
Kawasaki Rail Car, Inc
The next round of vendor consultations and proposals will only occur with these four companies.
A key issue here is funding. The RFP states:
The TTC has secured commitment to date of $624 million from the municipal government and is actively pursuing additional funding from the other orders of government (Provincial and Federal) towards the full estimated cost of the project. Timelines associated with this RFP have been communicated to potential funding partners, and a request for confirmation of funding by early 2023 has been requested. In order to receive the NST [“New Subway Train”] deliveries in time for the legacy fleet replacement and to meet growth needs, the TTC has elected to commence the procurement at this time, however, contract award is subject to receiving full funding commitments.
TTC RFP, Page 4, Section 1.2.2
There is a 25 per cent Canadian content requirement in the RFP.
There is an ironic leftover in the specification that the trains should be capable of operation on existing lines, new extensions and a new “Relief Line”. This spec has been around for a while. [Technical Specification section 1.1.1]
In past financial plans, TTC management warned about due dates for funding needed to acquire trains in a timeframe that would fit with earlier proposals for a Line 2 Renewal project. That timeline has now passed, and it is clear that delivery of the new fleet might not be completed in time for the Scarborough and Yonge North proposed opening dates in 2030. This could leave more of the old T1 fleet in operation until enough trains are available to provide full service on extended Lines 1 and 2. That, in turn, has implications for the full transition to ATC signalling on Line 2.
It is possible that the total train requirement will be reduced from pre-pandemic levels by operation of both lines at a higher average speed taking advantage of Automatic Train Control and of the “high rate” available but not used. However, that option comes with caveats about the timing of ATC installation on Line 2 as well as the effect of higher speeds on track maintenance and power consumption.
The proposed delivery schedule is shown in the table below. The first two trains are planned for 2027 to allow acceptance testing and tweaking of the specification should problems arise before the main production run. Cars will be delivered to Wilson Carhouse by flatbed truck.
The 32 optional trains are allocated as below:
7 for the new Scarborough Subway Extension
8 for the new Yonge North Extension
5 for the headway improvement on Line 1
8 for the maturity service on the new Yonge North Extension
4 for the maturity service on the new Scarborough Subway Extension
Delivery schedule relative to Notice to Proceed:
40 months: Availability of first train at Wilson Carhouse for testing and commissioning
42 months: Availability of second train at Wilson Carhouse for testing and commissioning
52 months: Trains 3 to 10
60 months: Trains 11 to 20
66 months: Trains 21 to 30
72 months: Trains 31 to 40
77 months: Trains 41 to 50
81 months: Trains 51 to 60
85 months: Trains 61 to 70
89 months: Trains 71 to 80
Availability for service is one month later. To put it another way, when a train arrives, it is expected to work more or less “out of the box” without months of testing and fixes.
Over five decades, I’ve had a hand in many of the issues described here, but I didn’t want this piece to give the impression of a one-man band. Many people contributed along the way including other activists, media, politicians, and professional staff within various agencies and consultants. My thanks to them all for being part of this journey.
Updated October 17 at 12:25 pm: Corrected opening date of Spadina streetcar (oops!)
When I was very young, I liked streetcars. A lot. Trains were OK, but streetcars were the genuine article. My Dad and I would go for rides around Toronto on most weekends exploring where all the lines went. Through him I got to know the world beyond Mount Pleasant and Eglinton and the loop where my local streetcar line ended.
I’m willing to bet that a lot of “transit advocates” and their equivalents in subways, buses and the mainline railways got their start that way. As such, I’m proud to be called a “railfan”, but not the pejorative term “trolley jolley” concocted by the anti-streetcar elements of the transit industry.
Roll forward to 1971. Toronto was a hotbed of citizen activism with the big focus of the Spadina Expressway, a road that would tear through downtown and provide the justification for even more destruction including the Crosstown, Scarborough and 400 South Expressways, not to mention conversion of local streets like Dundas and Front to serve as arterials through the core. This was an era when fighting City Hall was very much part of the body politic, and this was the context for my entry into transit activism.
The TTC planned to dismantle the streetcar system line-by-line up to 1980 when, yes, the Queen Subway would take over the heavy lifting of getting people into the business district and the streetcars would disappear.
TTC held on to its streetcars longer than most cities by buying up used vehicles as others disposed of them, often under the influence of a cabal of bus-gasoline-tire companies more than happy to finance the conversion. Streetcars came to Toronto from Cincinnati, Cleveland, Louisville (almost brand new, those), Birmingham and Kansas City. But the policy of streetcar abandonment had been in place for years, and the early 70s were to see the first lines go – St. Clair, Earlscourt and Rogers Road.
What would replace them? Trolleybuses. With the opening of the Yonge Subway north to York Mills Station, the TTC no longer needed a very frequent trolleybus service between Glen Echo Loop and Eglinton Station, itself a remnant of the Yonge streetcars that disappeared with the original subway in 1954.
Although this might have been the beginning of the end, the TTC made a crucial mistake: the level of service they planned for St. Clair was sized to the available trolleybus fleet, not to the existing capacity of the streetcar lines. In that era the peak service between Yonge and Oakwood ran every 60 seconds, and this was not a trivial route for service cuts.
The summer of 1972 saw the birth of the Streetcars for Toronto Committee under the leadership of Professor Andy Biemiller with political support from Aldermen (as they were then called) Paul Pickett and William Kilbourn. Later, Mayor David Crombie’s office lent support.
By October, the Committee was issuing press releases, making deputations and gaining political support from City Council. On November 7, 1972, the TTC board voted to reverse management’s position and to retain most of the streetcar system. The only exception would be the Rogers Road car that operated outside of the old City in York (a remnant of York Township Railways), and later the service on Mount Pleasant (a victim of bridge reconstruction at the Belt Line Railway).
This was not just a fight to save one car line, but for streetcars as the backbone of the old City of Toronto’s transit network, and as a basis for expansion into the suburbs, something the TTC had planned in the late 1960s.
Here are some of the Streetcars for Toronto Committee members at the TTC Board meeting.
From the left along the wall: the late Mike Filey and John Bromley, Chris Prentice, Steve Munro, Professor Andrew Biemiller and Alderman William Kilbourn. In the foreground at the table are Commissioner Gordon Hurlburt and Pat Paterson, General Manager of Engineering.
Not shown: Howard Levine, Robert Wightman, Ros Bobak.
In those days, the estimated cost of a new streetcar was quite low, and the TTC had already been working with Hawker-Siddeley (then proprietors of the Thunder Bay plant now owned by Alstom) on a design for an updated streetcar. These would be used both on exiting streetcar routes, pending the Queen subway, and on suburban lines to what is now Scarborough Town Centre, across the Finch hydro corridor, southwest through Etobicoke and even with a branch to the airport.
But Queen’s Park had other ideas, and in the same month, November 1972, Premier Bill Davis announced his scheme for a network of maglev trains that would criss-cross the city and make subways obsolete. The premise was that subways were too expensive, and buses were limited in speed and capacity. The “missing link” would be “GO Urban”.
In the Toronto Mayoral race for 2022, there is only one person I could vote for: Gil Penalosa.
His many policy planks cover a wide variety of topics, some more thoroughly than others, but they share a common goal of making Toronto a better city.
After nearly three years of pandemic, and many more of fiscal austerity before them, Toronto needs to think beyond this to ask what should the city be? What could it be?
Too often we begin with the premise that we cannot afford anything, and plan on that basis.
In John Tory’s Toronto, we see the cumulative effect of spending, when it happens, focused on pet projects like SmartTrack (itself a shadow of the original promise), misplaced priorities (the Gardiner rebuild), and credit taken for programs by others (Ontario’s transit plan). On other areas talk demonstrably exceeds action. The big ticket items are capital works, projects that will not show results for years, while day-to-day services crumble.
I have no illusions that in a Gil Penalosa Toronto all would be perfection. I have already written about shortcomings in the FastLane proposal for a Bus Rapid Transit network. To his credit, Penalosa has released a second policy regarding transit priority, the FastLane Quick Fixes that proposes extensive priority changes for streetcars, especially those already on reserved lanes.
More is needed, including a commitment to much improved service, but my sense is that Penalosa is not stuck on one map as the master solution to transit problems. Too many elections are fought on grand plans, on maps with great promise for the 2030s, but with nothing for today’s transit riders. Steak tomorrow, but gruel today.
Penalosa also proposes reducing fares to $1 for low income riders. This would be a substantial cut below the “Fair Pass” that now gives approximately the same discount as Seniors’ and Students’ fares and therefore offers no benefit to low-income riders in these groups.
The challenge for any new Mayor will be how to pay for everything, and what programs will take priority.
From John Tory, we know that a tax increase below inflation is his target, although the current economic figures give him far more leeway than in past years. However property taxes are only about one third of Toronto’s total revenues, and money from other sources is not a sure thing, notably from the Land Transfer Tax. After a covid-era fare freeze, there is no word on what might happen to TTC fares which accounted for over $1 billion in City revenue in pre-pandemic times.
What we do know is that there will not be new money for anything without offsets elsewhere. The TTC’s 2023 Draft Service Plan includes restructured routes and new services, but they are all on a no-net-cost basis. If you want something new, you have to sacrifice something that’s already there. The TTC will be lucky to achieve even that unless it receives funding to replace covid supports from Ontario and Canada. (Details of the 2023 plan have been shared via consultations with various groups, and they will appear on the TTC’s website soon.)
The same problem applies across the city. We face the combined effect of revenues that do not rise to cover even inflationary costs, let alone new services, and the cutback of pandemic-related subsidies that will dwindle or vanish in 2023 and beyond.
Penalosa would face the same fiscal problems. The next few years will not be easy for Toronto no matter who is in the Mayor’s office. The difference would be the direction, the aim, the choice of top priorities for real change and improvement.
I voted for Gil Penalosa even though the polls show an almost certain Tory win because Toronto’s body politic must see that there is support for an alternative, for a better city. The debate about our future must continue even after the election as Toronto looks ahead to better economic times and to new regimes at both City Hall and Queen’s Park.
For the record: I was not asked for advice on nor did I contribute to any of Penalosa’s policy development.
Election day is Monday October 24, but I have already voted by mail. If you’re thinking of getting my vote, it’s too late.
Those of us who can remember back to days before the pandemic, when Andy Byford was the TTC’s CEO, will know that there were frequent questions at the TTC Board about upgrades to the Bloor-Danforth subway, Line 2. All of the focus seemed to be on the Yonge-University-Spadina Line 1 with new signalling, trains and the Vaughan extension.
Byford confirmed that work on a Line 2 plan was underway, but never presented one in public. However, it does not take a lot to work out what might have been in this plan.
Automatic Train Control (ATC) signalling to replace the 1960s-era technology still in use.
New trains to replace the existing fleet of T-1 trains that would reach their design life of 30 years in the late-2020s.
Additional trains for service increases possible with ATC as well as for the Scarborough extension.
Additional/new maintenance facilities for a larger Line 2 fleet, plus provision for the then-planned stabling of Relief Line trains at Greenwood Yard.
Storage and maintenance facilities for the growing fleet of subway work cars.
Potential integration of a western yard project with an extension of Line 2 beyond Kipling Station.
This plan requires a lot of funding that the TTC still does not have, action to launch procurement of long lead time rolling stock and infrastructure, and a level of project co-ordination for which the TTC is not particularly noted.
That co-ordination issue arises in part from the funding challenge, and the tendency politically to ask for only what is strictly needed for “today’s” work hoping that Santa Claus will arrive in time to fund the rest. This was a direct cause of technical problems with the Line 1 ATC project that was cobbled together over time. It started with a superficially simple desire to replace the then-existing 1950s signals on the original line from Eglinton to Union. The feeling was quite clear: the TTC Board and Council would never commit to a full ATC conversion project because it would be too expensive.
Unfortunately what resulted was a mixed bag of signalling technologies that were incompatible with each other. To rescue the project, Byford recommended ripping out some already-installed equipment so that the line could be standardized. A related decision was that the Vaughan extension would open with ATC in place rather than, as originally planned, a traditional block signal system that would have to be replaced as a separate project.
I have often written here and on Twitter about the proliferation of service change cards and posters as the constant changes in streetcar routes occur. Combined with conflicting and out-of-date online information, it is common to find at least two different versions of notices at the same stop, not to mention “stop not in service” notices in locations where streetcars are actually running.
Without question, the constant shifts in the operating plan are challenging to keep up with, but the lack of attention to removal of out of date information, particularly when new notices go up at the same location, does not serve riders well at all. Operating staff, in good faith, give out incorrect info leading passengers astray, and I have rescued a few lost travellers over past weeks.
This is a very serious issue given the amount of construction that will affect TTC routes (and not just the streetcar network) in coming years. Riders have enough challenges with service quality without having to divine whatever route their service might be taking today. There is a clear fragmentation of responsibility for keeping route information up-to-date and consistent within the TTC. Even in a recently announced reorganization, the responsibility for “closures and diversions” is in a separate branch (Operations and Infrastructure) of the TTC from “service delivery” (Transportation and Vehicles).
The phrase “Beware of the leopard”, for those who know the reference, seems particularly apt for some TTC “communications”.
The TTC needs to figure out how communications about service plans and changes can be centrally accessed and administered so that all notices speak with the same voice and contain current, accurate information.
Updated October 9, 2022 at 11:40pm: It turns out that there are four pages within the TTC website where service information might be found. At last count, the list includes:
There is the parent Service Advisories which links three of the four above. Some but not all of the items in the Updates page are also displayed on the main page under “Latest News”.
Although the same topic might be found through different pages, the text is not always the same indicating that multiple versions of the information have been posted. In this situation it is easy for their content to drift thanks to selective updating.
Out of sight of most in Toronto, the mouth of the Don River has been transformed by Waterfront Toronto with earth moving and landscaping on a scale rarely seen in these parts. The work will shift the Don River’s course and provide floodproofing for a large area to be developed under the name “Villiers Island” after a street in the northern edge of the district.
Cherry Street will shift to the west the equivalent of a short city block, and the New Cherry will eventually have a branch of the Waterfront East streetcar service if the City ever gets around to financing and building it.
Three new bridges were built in Nova Scotia by Cherubini Metal Works. Waterfront Toronto has an article about the design process and, of course, many articles and photos of the overall project. The map below shows the positioning of the three bridges.
The bridges share a common design, but each is unique in its own way.
The Cherry Street North bridges, one for road traffic and one for transit, will connect the New Cherry Street across the Keating Channel to a reconfigured Cherry and Queens Quay intersection. Eventually, there will be streetcars on a realigned Queens Quay East as well as south from Distillery Loop connecting to New Cherry. These bridges are red.
The Cherry Street South Bridge is a road bridge over the future river connecting New Cherry to the existing road at Polson Street. This bridge is yellow. Depending on the route taken by the new streetcar service, there could be a loop somewhere north of the Ship Channel. If so, the Cherry South bridge will gain a transit twin like the north bridge.
The Commissioners Street bridge carries Commissioners Street over the future path of the river. Because of its length, it is a double span. This bridge is orange. Like the Cherry South bridge, it could gain a twin set of spans for transit if trackage is ever extended east from New Cherry either to an extended Broadview Avenue or further east to Leslie Barns at Commissioners & Leslie.
The new river is not yet flooded and so there is water in the old Polson Slip west of the Cherry South Bridge, but the riverbed east and north of there is completely dry as work to prepare it continues.
There are few service changes in the October schedules taking effect on Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend.
Route 501 Queen streetcar service will be extended nominally to Sunnyside Loop, although pending completion of overhead in the loop, cars will circle Roncesvalles Carhouse instead. The last westbound and first eastbound stops will be on the east side of Roncesvalles at Queen. 501L bus service will continue to operate from Dufferin to Long Branch with a small reduction of service in some periods.
Some routes have added trips to serve school trips and other time-of-day specific demands (details in the linked spreadsheet):
25 Don Mills
84 Sheppard West
New express stops are added on:
905 Eglinton East Express
985 Sheppard East Express
86 Scarborough Saturday late evening service adjusted for earlier Terra Lumina closing time.
172 Cherry Beach weekend service suspended (weekday service will operate until November 18).
175 Bluffer’s Park service suspended.
31B Greenwood to Eastern Ave service end-of-line location shifted west from Minto to Knox and Eastern.
55 Warren Park adjusted to consistently leave Jane Station on the :15 and :45 after the hour.
506 Carlton shifted from Roncesvalles Carhouse to Leslie Barns.
This article continues a review of what the TTC aims for, at least on paper, in service quality, and how their success (or lack of it) in providing good service is reported for public and political consumption. The framework for this commentary is the CEO’s Report, using the August 2022 version as a reference point.
I deliberately broke this discussion into two parts. The first looked at the various figures related to system performance are presented and how they reveal or hide critical information.
The TTC Board is notoriously unwilling to get into the weeds on system statistics, operations and finances. Superficial analyses in the CEO report give them nice pictures and charts to look at, but that is not the same as a discussion of key issues and future risk. This is vital in any planning for recovery from a pandemic that will continue to affect the TTC in 2023 and beyond. There is a separate detailed quarterly report that reviews finances and the state of major capital projects, but it does not address many issues notably the cost and capability for growth as ridership returns to the system.
While it may suit those who run the TTC and the City to keep this discussion under wraps, that cannot be done for long as the 2023 budgets will be upon us immediately after the coming municipal election. There is a lot of great talk about the importance of transit, but this does not translate into real understanding and support beyond a few very large construction projects. (That statement applies equally to Metrolinx and GO, but my focus here is on the TTC.)
Although fare revenue recovery is reported, this is not matched against cost growth. Fares have been frozen through the pandemic. Even at recovery to 100 percent of pre-pandemic ridership, the proportion of costs borne by fares will have fallen and the need for subsidy will be higher. “Full service” will cost more in 2023 than it did in 2020, even without the added cost of improving beyond historic levels.
Ridership recovery takes place at a different rate on different routes and modes, not to mention time-of-day.
Underutilized fleets provide a reserve for service improvements, provided there are drivers for the vehicles, up to the point where the need for spare buses and streetcars limits service growth. After that point, growth hits a knee in the cost curve as new capital assets must be acquired.
Asset reliability is reported as the proportion of scheduled service actually operated, but with no sense of how much reserve exists in the fleet.
Fleet reliability is reported in a way that prevents direct comparison between segments, notably various types of buses. Although there is a target for reliability, the degree to which this is exceeded (in effect the headroom for better utilization) is not reported.
Service reliability and quality are reported on broad averages across routes and days, with no indication of the variation across the system. Purported “on time” metrics do not reveal actual rider experience.
There is no report of:
the amount of scheduled service that does not operate because no driver is available;
the utilization and effectiveness of Run-As-Directed buses;
the amount of bunching and gaps as a proportion of service operated;
routes with demand, service levels, crowding and headway reliability issues.
This review does not look at the WheelTrans system and accessibility in general because it has a raft of issues of its own on matters such as adequacy of service, dispatching, the online booking interface, qualification for service and the TTC’s attempt to shift riders at least partly onto the “conventional” system through the “Family of Services” program. An important issue for WheelTrans overall is that it is entirely funded by the City of Toronto with no assistance from other governments. This makes it particularly vulnerable to penny-pinching efforts by those who guard our “precious tax dollars”.