TIFF 2019 To Demolish Downtown Transit Service, Again

Updated Aug. 22, 2019 at 8:05 pm: The TTC has advised that temporary stops for the diversions are still to be finalized. Also, there will be Paid Duty Officers to manage traffic at Spadina, York and Church Streets. Thanks to Stuart Green for the update.

The City of Toronto and TTC have announced various road closures and service diversions associated with the 2019 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

As in past years, King Street will be completely closed to traffic including transit operations from University Avenue to Spadina Avenue. This will begin at 5 am on Thursday, September 5 and continue through to 5 am on Monday, September 9.

Additional ad hoc diversions might occur on both Monday and Tuesday, September 9-10, for “red carpet events” from 3:30 pm onward.

Service arrangements this year are somewhat different from 2018 because there is now the split 504A/504B King service and the soon-to-be-restored 508 Lake Shore.

The primary diversion for almost all services will be:

  • From King to Queen on Spadina, both ways
  • From King to Queen on York, northbound/westbound
  • From Queen to King on Church, southbound/eastbound

Riders wishing to transfer from the subway to an eastbound King car to Broadview Station or to the Distillery should do so at Queen, not at King, or they will have to walk from Yonge to Church from King Station. There will be no eastbound King cars at Osgoode Station. It is not yet confirmed whether the TTC will establish a stop at Queen and York for a walking transfer.

Riders wishing to transfer from the subway to a westbound King car must do so at King or Osgoode Stations. There will be no streetcar service at St. Andrew Station, although there will be plenty of King cars nearby at York Street. Whether a temporary stop will be created at King and York is still to be confirmed.

This service design will see ALL of the King Street services, both ways, operating northbound on York Street giving an extremely frequent service, not to mention the potential for a total bottleneck making the turns east and west at Queen Street.

504A Dundas West to Distillery Service

This service will be broken into two segments:

  • From the west, 504A cars to/from Dundas West will loop downtown via Spadina and Queen east to Church, then south to King, then return westbound via King, York, Queen and Spadina.
  • From the east, 504A cars to/from the Distillery will loop downtown via King, York, Queen and Church.

504B Broadview Station Service

The Broadview Station service will use the same loop downtown as the 504A Distillery cars:

  • Westbound on King to York, then north to Queen, east to Church and south to King.

There will be no replacement bus service parallel to King as has been attempted in some past years. Anyone destined for the area between University and Spadina on King will have to walk in from the bounds of the closed area or south from Queen Street. This is of particular concern for anyone going to screenings at TIFF Bell Lightbox which will have no transit service during the diversions.

508 Lake Shore Service

The new 508 Lake Shore trippers will loop downtown via:

  • Eastbound via Spadina, Queen and Church
  • Returning westbound via Richmond and Victoria to Queen, then west to Spadina

304 Night Service

The 304 night cars will divert via Spadina, Queen, Church/York both ways.

A shuttle night bus will operate between Wolseley Loop and Parliament/King bypassing the TIFF district via Adelaide and Richmond Streets.

503 Kingston Road Bus

Not mentioned in the TTC’s announcement is the 503 bus service which consolidates the 502/503 Kingston Road services in September. These buses are supposed to loop via York, Richmond, and University to King including a layover point on York north of King. That area will be thick with streetcar service. It is ironic that the only service that will stop eastbound at St. Andrew Station will be the 503 bus on what is sure to be a “now and then” schedule.

I am a TIFF supporter as a member and donor, and have attended the festival for over three decades. That said, I am disgusted by the gorilla-like behaviour of TIFF in elbowing aside vital transit services on weekdays in Toronto.

These diversions produce severe effects on service not just downtown, but on parts of the King and Queen routes far from the TIFF district. Riders across the city suffer so that TIFF can have its street fair.

Every year we hear that “next year will be different”, but nothing happens.

From the TTC’s diversion announcement:

We encourage you to plan your trip in advance. We thank you for your patience during this important event benefitting Toronto’s economy and international reputation as a world-class city.

A “world class city” would figure out how to integrate its transit service into a major cultural festival.

Metrolinx Shifts Responsibility for Improvements to Future 3P

In the comment thread on the article about GO Transit Service Changes, two readers asked about the status of expansion projects that were supposed to be “in the works” – the addition of track capacity from Don to Scarborough Junction and from Guildwood to Pickering, as well as a contract for signalling upgrades.

I wrote to Metrolinx for comment on these issues, and have received a reply from Matt Llewellyn in Media Relations.

1. Someone left a comment on my blog today claiming that the projects to add a fourth track from Don to Scarborough, and a third track from Guildwood to Pickering, have been cancelled. Is this true, and if so, why?

Through our new rigorous analysis of potential investments we are prioritizing the infrastructure needed right now, giving communities the transit system they need and deserve, while making taxpayer dollars go further.

As part of that process, it was determined it is possible to reduce the entire three-mile three track section while still achieving the current service levels needed between Rouge Hill GO Station and Durham Junction. We’re able to delay these major improvements now thanks to a stronger working relationship we’ve developed with our Railway partners. By finding smarter and better ways to work together, we’re significantly accelerating service improvements to these areas.

Any future infrastructure needed in this area will be determined through the OnCorridor Program that is currently in procurement.

We will continue to work closely with the impacted stakeholders and community as we work towards upgrading transit and adding essential regional transportation capacity to our network.

On a related note, has the scheme to build the “Ontario Line” above grade, possibly in the rail corridor from Gerrard west to Parliament, had any effect on the four-track plans for that section of the corridor?

Metrolinx Initial Business Case indicates the Ontario Line will have a portal east of Cherry Street, crossing over the Don River and continuing along the GO Rail corridor, along a widened embankment or elevated structure.

We are currently reviewing the work that is needed to advance the infrastructure necessary to provide more GO service on this stretch of the corridor, alongside the infrastructure needs for the Ontario Line.

What is the status of a project to re-signal GO corridors to allow more frequent headways and better safety control? There was a consulting contract let to Parsons in late 2017 but is the project actually progressing?

Parsons is supporting Metrolinx as a technical advisor for the Signal and Train Control program under Go Expansion.

The signaling and train control program, which will allow for more trains at a lower headway and improved safety, is progressing under Go Expansion.

The Go Expansion program is currently in the procurement phase.

Through the GO Expansion program, we will be leveraging the worldwide expertise of the private sector to drive contractor accountability for delivering on the required service outcomes.

From these answers it is clear that Metrolinx has decided to shift responsibility for any infrastructure upgrades to whichever consortium wins the GO Expansion program bid and takes over responsibility for this work. This could bring a level of expertise to GO not seen before (if the comment above is to be believed), but this could also add yet another layer of opacity and frustration to any meaningful public participation in a review of what might or might not be built.

GO Transit Service Changes Effective September 3, 2019

After the flurry of activity about rumoured widespread cuts to GO Transit’s bus service, the changes announced for September 3 are all “good news”. Whether there is “another shoe to drop” later in the fall remains to be seen. So far, these are not the moves of an agency about to make widespread route cuts.

Bus Routes

Seasonal bus service will end on 12 Niagara Falls. Effective Labour Day weekend, weekday express service will end, and weekend express service will be cut back to every two hours. The weekend express service will end at Thanksgiving.

School trips will be restored on the following routes:

  • 15 Brantford/Burlington
  • 25 Waterloo/Mississauga
  • 29 Guelph/Mississauga
  • 45-46-47-48 Highway 407 West
  • 51-52-54 Highway 407 East
  • 88 Peterborough/Oshawa
  • 93 UOIT/Scarborough

The 60 Canada’s Wonderland route will not return, and riders are encouraged to use TTC or GO services to reach York Region Transit Route 20.

In the announcement of restored and extended service on the Stouffville corridor, there is a note:

Evening bus service will continue to help you transition back to the train.

This implies that the bus service will disappear after the transition is complete, but there is no effective date for this.

Rail Corridors

On the rail network, there are many changes with new trips and hours of service on five corridors.

Lakeshore West

  • Service at West Harbour Station in Hamilton will be doubled to four trips each way from the current two.
    • In the morning peak, two trains that now originate at Aldershot will begin at West Harbour departing at 7:09 and 7:49 am. These are added to departures at 6:09 and 6:39 am.
    • In the afternoon peak, a new train will leave Union at 4:45 pm, run express to Clarkson and then local to West Harbour arriving at 5:57 pm.
    • The 6:30 pm train from Union which now ends at Aldershot will be extended to West Harbour arriving at 7:42 pm.
    • The other two PM peak trips to West Harbour leave Union at 4:00 and 5:15 pm.
  • Two Oakville trips will be extended to Aldershot leaving Union at 3:13 and 6:15 pm.
  • The 8:32 am eastbound train from Oakville will be extended from 10 to 12 cars to add capacity.

In what must be the most over-hyped part of the entire announcement, train service to Niagara Falls will run every day all year. However, weekday service remains one train each way, and otherwise travel between the Falls and Toronto will use buses for the portion of the trip beyond Burlington GO. The weekday trains serve West Harbour Station in Hamilton.

  • The morning commuter train leaves Niagara Falls GO (VIA) Station at 5:19 am arriving at Union at 7:50 am.
  • The afternoon train leaves Union at 5:15 pm arriving at Niagara Falls at 7:47 pm.

Weekend service that is now seasonal will become permanent. Note that these trains do not serve West Harbour, but run express between St. Catharines and Burlington.

  • Trains to Niagara Falls from Union depart at 9:00 am, 4:18 pm and 8:10 pm.
  • Trains to Union from Niagara Falls depart at 8:30 am, 11:30 am, 7:20 pm and 11:00 pm.

Lakeshore East

There are small changes to the Lakeshore East schedule:

  • New eastbound trips will leave Union at 2:58 and 3:28 pm running local to Oshawa arriving there at 3:56 and 4:26 pm.
  • A new westbound trip will leave Oshawa at 4:48 pm running local to Union arriving there at 5:50 pm.
  • The train which now leaves Oshawa westbound at 1:52 pm running express to Union will now depart at 1:53 and will stop at Whitby, Ajax and Pickering, then express to Union.


  • The train which formerly started eastbound from Mount Pleasant at 9:00 am will now originate in Kitchener at 7:57 am.
  • The 12:53 pm train westbound from Union will now run through to Kitchener arriving at 2:47 pm.
  • The train which formerly started eastbound from Mount Pleasant at 3:52 pm will now originate in Kitchener at 2:57 pm.
  • The 6:00 pm Kitchener train will now run express to Bramalea then local to Kitchener arriving there at 7:47 pm.
  • A new 5:45 pm train from Union will make all local stops to Bramalea.
  • From 6:53 pm hourly westbound trains run at least to Mount Pleasant with some continuing to Guelph or Kitchener.
    • The 6:53 train will run to Kitchener arriving at 8:47 pm.
    • A new train at 9:53 pm will run to Kitchener arriving at 11:47 pm.
    • A new train at 10:53 pm will run to Guelph arriving at 12:22 am.
  • A new train from Kitchener at 8:57 pm will arrive at Union at 10:51 pm.

Other schedule changes will reflect actual operating conditions and will adjust departure times earlier or later. Consult the schedule for details.

Finally, some train lengths will be adjusted to 6 cars:

  • The 9:48 am westbound train from Union
  • The 11:00 am eastbound train from Mount Pleasant
  • The 2:57 pm eastbound train from Kitchener

As a result of the new schedule, eastbound trains originating at Kitchener will run at:

  • 5:20 am, 5:45, 6:10, 6:50, 7:15, 7:57 (new), 2:57 pm (new), 8:57 (new)

Westbound trains running beyond Georgetown will leave Union bound for Kitchener (except as noted) at:

  • 12:53 pm (new), 3:35, 4:50, 5:27, 6:00, 6:53, 9:53 (new), 10:53 (Guelph, new)


On the current schedule, train service southbound to Union ends with the 3:31 pm trip from Mount Joy Station. The last northbound trip to Lincolnville leaves Union at 7:10 pm and the last Mount Joy trip leaves at 8:00 pm.

On the new schedule, southbound train service continues to end at 3:31 pm, but it resumes at 9:31 pm for three trips (hourly to 11:31 pm). The last northbound Lincolnville train remains at 7:10 pm, but train service to Mount Joy at 8:15 pm and hourly thereafter. The 11:15 pm train runs through to Lincolnville.

While this is some improvement, it is still a far cry from frequent, bi-directional all day rail service.

Two trains will be changed to six-car consists:

  • The 12:15 pm trip northbound from Union
  • The 1:31 pm trip southbound from Mount Joy


The schedule for this corridor will not change, but some train lengths will be modified to better match demand.

  • The weekday 7:05 pm train from Union will be extended from six to ten cars.

The following trains will only be six cars long:

  • Weekdays:
    • 7:40, 8:40, 9:40 and 10:40 pm northbound from Union
    • 8:41, 9:41 and 10:41 pm southbound from Aurora
  • Weekends:
    • 11:40 am, 2:00 pm and 6:20 pm northbound from Union
    • 3:01 and 7:21 pm southbound from Aurora
    • 4:20 pm southbound from Allandale Waterfront

The full set of current and future schedules is available on the GO Transit website.

TTC Service Changes Effective Sunday, September 1, 2019

On September 1, TTC routes that had summer service cuts in May and June will revert to their regular service levels.

Several routes will have “reliability improvements”, a catch-all term for a variety of changes.

  • Most commonly, the buses assigned to a route are stretched further apart on wider headways with additional driving and/or recovery time in the hope that the service will stay more on time than it is now. Whether this actually happens is a matter of conjecture because the TTC does not regular report on route performance at a granular enough level to judge the effect of schedule changes.
  • In a few cases, running times are trimmed in recognition that the current schedules are excessive. This usually frees up buses that are either assigned to another branch of the same route, or which go into the pool for improvements on other routes.
  • In a few cases, there are adjustments between the local and express services on a route.

The TTC has not published crowding statistics since March 2019, although this was supposed to happen quarterly.

There will be major changes on the streetcar network, notably on 501 Queen and related routes, due to construction at Kingston Road and Queen, as well as the conversion of service west of Humber Loop to 100% low-floor cars. See my previous article for more information. The service plan for the restructured routes is included in the spreadsheet linked below.

Other changes of note:

  • Construction changes to 34 Eglinton East, 51 Leslie, 54 Lawrence East and 91 Woodbine related to the Crosstown project will end and these routes will resume their normal configuration.
  • Running times on 36 Finch West are extended to compensate for the effects of the Finch West LRT project.
  • Construction at Sheppard West Station will affect many routes there.
    • The 84/984 Sheppard services will not enter the station, but will serve on-street stops.
    • 101 Downsview Park, 106 Sentinel, 107 St. Regis, 108 Driftwood and the Wheel-Trans services will move to new bus bays as the work progresses.
    • A temporary loop will be provided in the passenger pick-up area for use by 104 Faywood, 105 Dufferin North, 117 Alness-Chesswood and YRT services.
  • With the return to fall service levels on Line 2 Bloor-Danforth, the second gap train recently introduced on that line will be removed.

Details of the service plans are in the spreadsheet here:


Various construction projects that have required buses to be added to several routes are scheduled to wind down in the coming months. Whether the buses released from construction service will actually shift to service improvements on the network as a whole remains to be seen. A basic budgetary problem for the TTC is that at least some of the extra construction service is paid for in capital project budgets, but this money is not available on an ongoing basis to run the same vehicles in day-to-day operations.

Streetcar Network Changes Coming in September 2019

Several streetcar routes will be affected by construction, schedule changes and the continuing shift from CLRVs to the low-floor Flexitys effective September 1, 2019. I will publish the detailed service plans with my overview of all schedule changes taking effect on that date, but here is a preview of the route changes.

Kingston Road & Queen Construction

Two projects will block streetcar service from The Beach from September 1 until mid-November:

  • Watermain replacement
  • Special trackwork replacement at Kingston Road including Woodbine Loop

501 Queen Service

The 501 Queen route will be operated with several overlapping services:

  • Regular 501A Queen cars will operate between Humber Loop and Russell Carhouse.
  • Buses on 501R will operate between River Street and Neville Loop diverting via Woodbine, Lake Shore and Coxwell.
  • Service to Long Branch on 501L will be provided by low-floor cars running from Humber to Long Branch on ten-minute headways at all times.
  • Late evening service will run through from Long Branch to Russell Carhouse.

Tripper services will operate including the restoration of 508 Lake Shore:

  • Bus trippers on 501 Queen will operate westbound from Coxwell rather than from Kingston Road. In the PM peak, eastbound trippers will run through to Neville using the same diversion as the 501R.
  • Streetcar trippers will operate on 508 Lake Shore with five trippers in each peak period.
    • In the AM peak cars will follow the Queen route from Long Branch to Roncesvalles, then run east to Parliament via King Street. They will return to Roncesvalles Carhouse via Parliament and Carlton/College, a route used by Long Branch trippers years ago to provide supplementary westbound service on Carlton to the University of Toronto. Cars will leave Long Branch Loop between 6:40 and 8:10 am.
    • In the PM peak, the trippers will run east from Roncesvalles to Broadview via King, then loop via Broadview, Dundas and Parliament running west from King and Parliament to Long Branch. Cars will leave Church Street westbound between 4:20 and 5:40 pm.

Overnight service on 301 Queen will terminate at Russell Carhouse, and it will continue to operate on the recently-established 15 minute headway. A 301B bus shuttle will operate from Russell Carhouse east to Neville diverting around the construction zone.

502/503 Downtowner/Kingston Road

For the duration of this project, the 502 and 503 services will be consolidated as 503 Kingston Road, and this route will operate from Bingham Loop to York Street. There will be no 502 bus service to McCaul Loop.

Service will divert around the construction site via Dundas and Coxwell both ways.

The downtown loop will be changed from the usual 503 arrangement. Buses will not operate on Wellington, but will continue on King to York Street. They will then turn north on York to Richmond, west to University and south to King Street. The layover point will be on York Street north of King.

22/322 Coxwell

During weekday daytime, the 22B Coxwell service will use Coxwell-Queen Loop rather than the longer route via Eastern Avenue which will be blocked by construction.

Evening and weekend service on the 22A and 322 services to Victoria Park will divert both ways via Dundas Street but will loop south to Queen via Coxwell-Queen Loop.

512 St. Clair

With the addition of low-floor service to Long Branch operating from Roncesvalles Carhouse, the 512 St. Clair route will move back to Leslie Barns. The carhouse routing will be via Queen, King and Bathurst, and cars will operate with pantographs up over these trips. This will mark the first scheduled pantograph operation over portions of these streets.

The operator relief point will be moved east from Lansdowne to St. Clair Station.

Carhouse Allocations

The routes and vehicles will be allocated to carhouses as shown below. Note that these are the scheduled service numbers, not the total fleet including spares.

Current plans are to begin conversion of 506 Carlton to Flexity operation later in the fall, but the details of this have not yet been published.

TTC Service Changes Effective Sunday, August 4, 2019

The TTC will implement several service changes on August 4, 2019. Normally this is a quiet time of the year for schedule work, but TTC Service Planning is working through “reliability enhancements” for many routes with a batch in the August schedules and more to come in future months.

Unfortunately, the changes almost always involve running the same number of vehicles on wider headways so that there is more driving time, but most importantly, more recovery time at terminals. However, nothing has changed in the TTC’s standard that “on time” has a range of +1 to -5 minutes, and there is no indication that service reliability will actually improve without active management of headways.

The following routes have reliability enhancements that result in less frequent service:

  • 11 Bayview
  • 61 Avenue Road North
  • 62 Mortimer
  • 63 Ossington
  • 83 Jones
  • 88 South Leaside
  • 506 Carlton headways will widen at many times. Late Sunday evenings, Carlton will go to a 10’30” headway thereby removing this route, technically speaking, from the 10 Minute Network. This condition will be corrected in the fall when Carlton gets a new schedule for low floor car operation.
  • 512 St. Clair (weekends)

The TTC has not published crowding stats since March 2019, and so there is no indication of the effect of the wider scheduled headways on crowding levels. The real test will come in September when demand rises with the end of the vacation period.

One construction project, at Royal York Station, is now complete and the route structure here will be restored to its normal arrangement.

  • The 15 Evans and 48 Rathburn routes will no longer interline during weekday daytime periods.
  • The 73 Royal York and 76 Royal York South routes will no longer interline.
  • The 315 Evans night bus will no longer divert to Islington Station as its northern terminus.

Additional running time which had been added to 33 Forest Hill to compensate for construction on the Crosstown will be removed, and the route will revert to a 30′ headway at all times.

Even more running time will be added to 505 Dundas to compensate for the effects of watermain construction downtown, and scheduled headways will be wider during most periods. Whether the TTC will do anything about the tendency of buses on this route to operate in herds of two or more vehicles remains to be seen. The change is expected to be in place until the October schedules.

Planned improvements include:

  • One additional “gap” train will be added on 2 Bloor-Danforth in both the AM and PM peak periods.
  • Late evening service on 39 Finch will be extended to Old Finch & Morningview.
  • Early evening service on 64 Main will be improved from every 20′ to every 12′.
  • The 176 Mimico GO shuttle will be changed to loop via Marine Parade rather than at Park Lawn Loop to improve its reach in the Humber Bay Shores area. The afternoon schedule will be adjusted to match the observed (usually late) operation of the GO service at Mimico.

Details of these and other changes are in the spreadsheet linked below.


The Ontario Line: Metrolinx’ Initial Business Case

After leaks to the Star and the Globe, and a private release to the City of Toronto, Metrolinx made public its Initial Business Case for the Ontario Line, Queen Park’s proposed alternative to the Downtown Relief Line.

The entire document reads as if it were drenched in perfume with a rosy comparison of a modern, inexpensive Ontario Line to an expensive DRL complete with outmoded technology. It is as much a sales manual for the Metrolinx proposal as it is an apples-to-apples comparison. Indeed, the DRL comparator is doomed to look worse simply because it is the shorter version of the line. The intent is to convince the reader that no reasonable person would support any other scheme.

The chart below is one of many that inevitably shows the OL as superior for the simple reason that it covers more ground. The question is whether it can all be built for the price quoted and in the projected timeframe. There may be arguments for parts of the OL compared to the DRL, but the Metrolinx comparison goes out of its way to denigrate the DRL wherever possible and in the process reveals some short-sighted “planning” that is more a question of scoring political points than of giving a technical comparison.

Any new rapid transit line, regardless of technology, cannot help but succeed in the DRL/OL corridor given the density of population and jobs along its length. Contrary to the long-established Toronto practice of building rapid transit where politicians and their developer friends hope to spur local centres away from downtown, the DRL/OL corridor is packed with potential demand already. Even more demand will come from provision of an alternate route into the core from the existing crowded subway network.

Travel times from Thorncliffe Park and neighbouring areas to the core are substantially improved by a new line, no surprise at all.

Planning for downtown growth is years behind what is actually happening.

Population and Employment growth in Downtown Toronto has accelerated, and has already exceeded 2031 forecasts. Population growth is also very high in the Downtown; however population density itself is more diffused, with pockets generally along existing subway lines as well as in neighbourhoods with lower average household incomes. [p. 19]

At this point, the OL cost estimate is very preliminary because there is no detailed design for the line. From experience with other Toronto projects, we know that there is a very wide margin for error in cost estimates. Metrolinx flags several potential issues along their route, but gives no indication of how these might affect the design, the cost or the potential construction period. It is simply not practical or reasonable to give a “business case” or a “cost benefit ratio” when there is such a huge potential variation in the estimate.

Moreover, Metrolinx gives a discount to the Ontario line on the dubious pretext that with risk transfer to a private sector partner, the costs incurred will be lower. This depends on a very well-written and managed contract, as well as an owner (the province) willing to hold a loaded gun to the builder’s head if they don’t deliver. The 3P (a purpose created coalition) always has the option of going bankrupt, or asking for an enticement as happened to get the Crosstown project back “on time”.

CEO Phil Verster was filled with optimism speaking on CBC’s Metro Morning, but somewhat more guarded talking to The Star’s Ben Spurr:

On Thursday, Verster gave his clearest acknowledgement yet that it’s possible that date could end up out of reach.

“(The deadline of) 2027 is hugely ambitious,” said Verster, but “this is the time for us to be ambitious.” He asserted that by building much of the line above ground, it can be completed quickly.

But, said Verster, that when Metrolinx starts the procurement process next year, if the bidding companies say “it can’t be done in 2027,” his agency “will declare that immediately.”

That’s all very well, but delivering the full OL two years before the proposed completion of only the DRL South segment from Pape to Osgoode Station is a big selling point, along with the lower pricetag. Get double the line at only a modest extra cost, and get it faster. Who would choose anything else?

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Comfirm or Deny: Big Changes Coming to GO Bus Service

Over the past weekend, a post appeared briefly on Facebook describing proposed changes to GO Transit bus service that were presented to ATU Local 1587 members on Wednesday, July 17. Normally I would take info like this with a grain of salt based on decades of hearing various half-baked stories about TTC plans that pop up from railfan speculation and internal TTC rumours. However, this was too detailed a list and from a first-hand source, and it cannot be ignored.

Updated July 23, 2019 at 8:55 am: The following email was sent to me by ATU 1587 who represent the GO Transit Workers:

A.T.U. Local 1587 was not aware of a posting on social media of service cuts produced by Metrolinx. It was brought to our attention from you, Steve. Thank you.

Metrolinx has however, brought to the union, approx. a month ago, of service cuts in bus that affected Beaverton, Oshawa, Waterloo, Bolton, Cambridge.

Metrolinx is trying to reduce bus service, and force passengers onto trains, which means less local access for our passengers. If there is local transit, then they will have to take that system and  transfer once they are close to a GO station, if not then they will have to use their personal vehicle.

Our members provide an excellent service overall. We don’t however, create the schedules of where we go or don’t go. Our members have voiced their disbelief about the cuts to trips not only for our seniors that use our service for appointments, but our university students as well. Everyone who uses GO Transit/Metrolinx is using us for a reason. Our members are proud of what they do, helping those with disabilities, seniors, children, etc. The pride does not stop at our drivers. Everyone from plant maintenance to station attendants, to our coach tech’s (mechanics), transit safety officers, OFPT. We are all proud of the job we do for the public, our passengers.

Thank you,

Christine Broeze
President/Business Agent
A.T.U. Local 1587

Updated 4:44 pm July 22: Metrolinx claims that the information posted on Facebook is not true.

The rumours are not accurate.

Buses form a vital connection between trains and communities not connected to train service or with limited train service.

Buses will always be an important part of our regional transportation plan. In fact, we are actively recruiting bus drivers to join our team.

We currently have a fleet of 532 buses and approximately 420 are used for service. We have more buses on the road today than we ever have and every year since our existence they have increased.

We are always monitoring our services to ensure we are making the best use of our resources.

We are embarking on the largest expansion of rail service in our history.

At times, when new train service is introduced it makes sense to redeploy bus services to other communities. Trains can carry far more passengers and shorten the trip.

It is difficult for us to comment on the presentation made to union members as we were not there. [Email from Fannie Sunshine 4:35 pm, July 22]

Original post below:

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Ontario Supports Transit? Metrolinx Subsidy Cut By 30% (Updated)

Updated June 27, 2019 at 6:00 am:

Metrolinx has announced that the 38 bus routes, previously cut in the name of “efficiency”, will continue to operate two trips in each of the peak periods. See the end of this article for details.

On June 27, 2019, the Metrolinx Board will meet to consider various items including their 2019-2020 Business Plan and 2018-2019 Draft Annual Report. This will be a challenging year for Metrolinx because its subsidy will fall from the budgeted level of $467 million in 2018-19 to $321.2 million in 2019-20 thanks to the machinations of the Ford government. (The amount provided in the 2018-19 government spending estimates was even higher than Metrolinx’ budget figure at $505 million, but actual requirements were lower.)

There was no press release or photo op announcing this change, and it was buried in the detailed estimates for the Ministry of Transportation. Funding for Metrolinx operating subsidies appears under “Vote 2702” within the estimates.

For 2018-19, this contained many more entries than the following year:

Urban and Regional Transportation
Salaries and wages                                   $  6,744,300
Employee benefits                                         834,500
Transportation and communication                          305,600
Services                                               13,638,700
Transfer payments
 GGRA – Electric Vehicle Education 
  and Awareness                        $  4,919,000
 GGRA - Transportation Demand 
  Management Funding Program              1,000,000
 Community Transportation Grant 
  Program                                 3,000,000
 GGRA - Other                             8,000,000
 Metrolinx Operating Subsidies          505,290,600
 Electric Vehicle Incentive 
  and Infrastructure Program            102,774,100
 GGRA - Green Commercial 
  Vehicle Program                        24,616,000
 Ontario Seniors Public Transit 
  Tax Credit                              9,700,000
 Participation and Awareness Grants         450,000
Subtotal                                             $681,272,800
Less: recoveries                                    ( 173,832,200)
Total operating expense to be voted                  $507,440,600

The corresponding list for 2019-20 is much shorter and smaller. The Metrolinx subsidy has fallen, the green subsidies are gone, and there is an unexplained cut in the Seniors Public Transit Tax Credit.

Urban and Regional Transportation
Salaries and wages                                   $    780,100
Employee benefits                                          96,600
Services                                                  189,800
Transfer payments
  Metrolinx Operating Subsidies         $321,214,300
  Ontario Seniors Public Transit 
   Tax Credit                              3,578,600
  Participation and Awareness Grants         450,000

Total operating expense to be voted                  $326,309,400

Last week, I asked Metrolinx how they planned to deal with this cut, but they are still looking into it. Meanwhile, the reports before the Metrolinx Board give some indication of what is happening.

The table below consolidates information from the Annual Report for 2018-19 and the Business Plan for 2019-20.


  • Capital lines such as contributions from the province and amortization of existing assets have been removed to show only the operating revenues and expenses.
  • Presto fee revenue projections for 2018-19 are not available because Metrolinx did not publish a Business Plan for that year. Actual results are shown separately in a chart on page 26 of the Annual Report.
  • UPX service was consolidated with GO Transit operations a few years ago and its financial results are not reported separately.

[The same table as a PDF: 2019V2018_BudgetAndPlan]

2018-19 Results

Thanks to a better-than-budgeted year in 2018-19, Metrolinx is already one step ahead of the game, at least on a budget-to-budget basis. This is not unlike the situation commonly seen at the TTC where the actual results are better than budget, and this gives a leg up on the following year’s requirements.

Fare revenue was 5.1% above budget, although other revenues were below budget giving an overall increase of only 3.2%.

The wide take-up of Presto by TTC riders with the elimination of legacy fare media drives a big jump in Presto fee revenue for 2019-20. A comparable jump in revenue will not be available in future years to offset rising costs. However, Presto operating costs have come down a lot. This is good to see, but such drops cannot be reproduced indefinitely for future savings.

PRESTO will also continue its work on the ambitious objectives of delivering new forms of payment (PRESTO Tickets) and reducing its operational costs by 25%. These will remain focus areas heading into the new fiscal year with significant progress having been made on these objectives to date. In 2018-19, twelve cost savings initiatives were identified and savings targets for the year were achieved with the largest contributor being vendor consolidation and maintenance optimization. Moving forward, PRESTO’s 2019-20 operating budget is already reduced by the 25% cost savings and PRESTO will include the execution and realization of savings from many of the remaining opportunities. [Annual Report, p 41]

Metrolinx may be considering a shift of more front line support to transit clients (e.g. the TTC). This could improve maintenance turnaround times, but also would represent a transfer of costs between vendor and client.

Payment Equipment: Over time, reduce PRESTO’s role in managing equipment, focusing on facilitating transit agencies to directly purchase fare equipment and associated services. [Annual Report, p 43]

On the expense side, the total was only 0.7% over budget although this was achieved by a variety of reductions offset by a large increase in “Supplies and Services” which includes consulting fees.

Although there was a budget of $508.1 million for required subsidy, the net amount came in at $494.9 million.

Of particular note in 2018-19 is the considerable over-budget spending on “Supplies and Services” which includes consulting contracts. This was mostly offset by underspending on Operations, Equipment Maintenance and Facilities & Track.

2019-20 Budget and Plan

For 2019-20, fare revenue is expected to grow by 16.7% over the previous year’s budget amount, or 10.7% over the actual results. This comes from a projected 7.7% rise in ridership over 2018-19 actual results plus the effect of the current year fare increase. Fares account for about three quarters of total operating revenue, and overall results, as on the TTC, can be influenced by how closely Metrolinx hits its ridership expectations.

What is less clear is how any ridership growth will interact with proposed fare improvements including reduced costs for short trips and better co-fares with local operators, notably the TTC. Although Metrolinx crows about how Presto “enables” various discounts, these are not available to all riders.

  • Users of the UPX, the much more frequent service in the Weston corridor, recently lost their fare discount for trips transferring to/from the TTC, as well as their monthly loyalty fare cap.
  • TTC riders who travel with monthly or yearly passes on Presto do not receive any discount for GO+TTC trips.
  • Co-fare discounts for seniors and students are lower than for adults, and as with adult riders, these do not apply to pass holders, only to full single fare rides.

If there is any move to better “integrate” fares for all riders, not just those paying full fare, this will be a cost either to Metrolinx or to local transit systems depending on the cost sharing arrangement. Metrolinx’ attitude to subsidies for fare reductions is that this takes money from service provision, and they expect other transit agencies to benefit from added ridership and, by implication, to provide fare subsidies at the local level.

The budget also includes one-time revenue of $40 million for sale of surplus assets. Although this helps to reduce the call on subsidies, it creates a gap that will have to be backfilled with other savings or revenues in future years. The Business Plan describes this revenue as supporting the Transit Oriented Development Program, and yet its actual effect is to reduce the operating subsidy.

On the expense side, there will be a big drop in “Supplies and Services” over previous year actuals, but a smaller drop on a budget-to-budget basis because of the overrun in 2018-19. Spending on “Facilities and Track” will also fall in the coming year. It is unclear whether this represents a reduction in the quantity and quality of maintenance, or if some sort of “efficiency” program is underway.

The various categories of expense and revenue are described in the Business Plan:

In the 2019-20 operating budget, the largest allocation is operations expense, which accounts for 35% of the total operating budget. This includes items such as support train crew wages, train control dispatch and PRESTO operations.

Next, labour and benefits account for 30% of the operating budget, supporting transit ridership growth. Facilities and tracks account for 13% of the operating budget, and include rent, property taxes, hydro, winter maintenance and other facility repairs. Equipment maintenance accounts for 11%, covering support services, inventory, inspections and yard operations. Finally, supplies and services represent 11% of the budget, which includes all types of professional services, bank fees, staff development and advertising.

Transit operations fare revenue is based on a year-over-year increase in ridership and GO fare changes implemented on April 20, 2019.

Non-fare revenue sources typically include billboard advertising, track usage fees from corridor ownership, transit operations partnerships on UP Express line, interest on working capital and reserved parking fees. In addition to these more typical sources of non-fare revenue, the total PRESTO fee revenue and proceeds from sale of assets to support the Transit Oriented Development Program are projected to be $107.2 million and $40.0 million for 2019-20, respectively. [p 62]

At a recent Metrolinx Town Hall, the question of the drop in subsidy was raised from the floor, and CEO Phil Verster deflected this by saying that Metrolinx is improving efficiency in the use of its assets. This is not entirely true in that the budget mixes one time and recurring revenues, and depends on strong growth in Presto fees both in the current and future years.

Part of that “efficiency” is the reallocation of services, something that happened recently with the removal of service from a few GO bus routes without notice or consultation. Meanwhile, GO added rail service to Niagara Falls that carries even fewer passengers than the bus services that were cut. Even though there is one train a day each way at hours when almost no ridership is attracted, Metrolinx trumpets this new service as an “accomplishment”. Clearly the political influence over Metrolinx decisions continues from the Liberals into the Conservative government.

Updated June 27: Limited service on the 38 Bolton/Malton service will be preserved pending implementation of a local replacement by the Town of Caledon. See details at the end of the article.

There is a fundamental problem with the overlaps and gaps between GO as a regional operator and local transit systems, where they exist. When GO decides to cut a service, there may be no local route to take up the slack, or it may not provide as convenient a service. This shows the degree to which Metrolinx is unaccountable and is a fundamental issue in “regional integration”. Although they are looking at alternatives such as shuttles with smaller vehicles or autonomous vehicles, the reality is that routes will vanish until Metrolinx gets around to serving the area again.

Videos from Town Hall:

Looking Ahead to 2022

The three year projections for Metrolinx operating revenues and expenses are shown in Exhibit 7 of the Business Plan.

Fare revenue growth is projected at about 7% into 2020-21, and at 5.6% in 2021-22. There is no ridership projection for these years.

Presto fee revenues will also grow, but they will not keep up with projected operating costs. The $37.4 million shortfall in 2019-20 is projected to fall to $16.8m by 2021-22 thanks largely to strong growth in fee revenue. How much of the fee growth will be due to greater takeup of Presto as a fare medium and how much is due to changes in the fee structure for various Presto client systems is not specified.

“Metrolinx Internal” comprises $8.4 million in non-fare revenue plus $40 million from asset sales. It is not clear that the latter amount would actually be available in future years, and in any event this is described above as supporting the TOD program which is part of the Capital Budget, not Operating. This cannot be both a source of operating revenue and contribute to the capital program.

The “Net Operating Requirement” grows by $37.1 million in 2020-21, or 11.8%, but only by $8.4 million or 2.4% in 2021-22. Fare revenue will grow by $90.6 million (13.5%) while transit operating costs will grow by $148.4 million (16.2%). This spread is partly offset by the projected reduction in Presto costs net of fees, but the large growth in fee revenue (36%) is essential to these projections.

The big change in the third year is the “Capital Through Operating” line which consumes almost all of the planned increase in “Operating” subsidy.

What is not shown, at least not explicitly, is the effect of the opening of the Eglinton-Crosstown line planned for fall 2021. This will affect at least six months of the 2021-22 fiscal year for Metrolinx, but there is no indication of the associated costs and revenues, let alone how these might be split between Metrolinx and the TTC.

Updated June 27, 2019 at 6:00 am

Following pushback at the Town Hall on June 24 and intervention by the Mayor of Caledon, Metrolinx has announced that it will retain limited peak service on the 38 GO bus pending implementation of an alternative local service by Caledon. In the best Twitter tradition, there is a typo.

The existing schedule provides 6 and 7 trips on route 38 Bolton/Malton in the AM and PM peak respectively, and 2 in each peak on the 38A Bolton/North York. The new schedule goes into effect on July 2, 2019 and provides only 2 trips in each peak period on the 38, and no service on the 38A. The GO Transit Service Changes page encourages riders to use alternative means to make their trips.

To what extent this is a “victory” for riders remains to be seen with an agency and a government that are deaf to consultation.