Tracking Metrolinx Project Costs

The Province of Ontario is not exactly transparent when it comes to reconciliation of announced project costs and actual spending, let along the changes that might occur along the way. A project, or group of projects, might be announced with a value in then-current dollars, and without necessarily including all future contract costs. There are various reasons behind this approach including:

  • The government does not want to tip its hand on the amount of money “on the table” to prospective bidders who might tailor their bid to the perceived level of funding.
  • Some contracts include future operating and maintenance costs as well as capital costs. In some case the announced cost does not include the O&M component, only the estimated capital portion.
  • Provincial projects are typically quoted in then-current dollars with future inflation to be added as it occurs, at least to the point where there is a contract in place which includes that provision.

This approach hides the likely as-spent costs and makes provincially run projects appear cheaper, at least in the short run.

This is fundamentally different from the way the City of Toronto tracks projects and how TTC requirements are reported. Specifically:

  • City project cost estimates include inflation to completion because this is factored into future funding requirements.
  • City projects do not bundle future operating costs with capital, but report them separately.

Note that cost estimates shown in the Infrastructure Ontario market reports do not necessarily match values shown by Metrolinx because IO shows these values on a different basis. Future operating and financing costs are no longer included in IO estimates so that a project’s value reflects only design and construction costs, a value that gives potential construction bidders a general size of the project’s scope.

Infrastructure Ontario notes on the November 2022 Market Update that we have modified the methodology used to calculate the estimated costs as presented on the chart. In May 2022, and for Market Updates prior to that, we used the Estimated Total Capital Costs. For the latest update, and going forward, the costs listed only include Design and Construction costs.

These changes were adopted after feedback from our construction industry partners found that including only design and construction costs provided them with a better sense of the scope of the project and would assist in determining if they wished to participate in the bidding process.

Email from Ian McConachie, Infrastructure Ontario, Manager, Media Relations & Communications, November 24, 2022.

This can be confusing with “bundled” projects such as the Ontario Line RSSOM contract which includes both provision/construction of vehicles and infrastructure, as well as future O&M costs. This is probably the reason, or a good chunk of it, for the very large increase in the RSSOM contract value between the initial estimate cited by IO and the contract award. However, the way these contracts are handled generally makes it impossible to know how much of the change is simply due to inflation in materials and labour costs, and how much is due to underestimates or scope changes.

Continue reading

Infrastructure Ontario Procurement Update: November 2022

Infrastructure Ontario has issued an update on its various projects in procurement. I have been tracking the transit projects for some time, and the table linked below shows how they have evolved.

My last article on the subject was for the January 2022 update, but I skipped May because so little had changed. This article (and the table) reflect changes in the May and November bulletins.

Updated Nov 22/22 at 7:20 pm: The status tracking table has been updated to correct the date for the Ontario Line Pape Tunnel project.

IO Status Tracking November 2022

Some of the changes in this update are quite substantial.

Ontario Line

The North Civil, Stations and Tunnel contract previously included both the tunnel segment from Gerrard north to the Don River, the bridge over the river, and the elevated structure north to Eglinton. This has now been split into two separate contracts.

  • Elevated Guideway and Stations
  • Pape Tunnel and Underground Stations

Each of these projects is shown with an estimated cost of $1-2 billion, compared to $3 billion for the combined version.

In May 2022, the North Civil contract execution date was July-Sept 2024.

The Elevated Guideway and Stations contract is now shown in two stages with the Development Phase Agreement (DPA) in Jan-Mar 2024 and the Project Agreement (PA) in Jan-March 2025.

The Pape Tunnel and Underground Stations contract is now shown with a DPA of Jan-Mar 2024 and a PA in July-Sept 2026. [Corrected]

There is no indication of the effect these changes will have on the opening date.

The Rolling Stock, System Operations and Maintenance (RSSOM) contract was awarded in November 2022. In previous updates it was estimated at “>$2B” (greater than $2 billion), but was awarded at a value of $9 billion.

The South Civil, Stations and Tunnel contract was also awarded in November 2022, In previous updates it was estimated at “>$4B”, but was awarded at a value of $6 billion.

Line 2 (Scarborough) Subway Extension

The Stations, Railway and Systems contract project agreement (PA) date was previously cited as Jan-Mar 2024, but this has been changed to July-Sept 2024.

The tunnel contract was awarded in May 2021 and is already underway.

Line 1 (Yonge North) Subway Extension

The tunnel contract Request for Qualifications issue date has slipped from Jan-Mar 2022 in the January 2022 update to Jan-Mar 2023 in the November update. For some reason, the estimated cost has gone down from $2-4 billion to $1-2 billion. I have asked Infrastructure Ontario to clarify this.

The Request for Proposal issue date was supposed to be Jul-Sept 2022, but is now Apr-June 2023.

Contract execution has slipped from July-Sept 2023 to Apr-June 2024. It is not clear what effect this will have on the planned opening date.

Eglinton-Crosstown West Extension

This project has four components:

  • The tunnel contract for the segment from Renforth to Scarlett was awarded in May 2021.
  • The tunnel contract for the segment from Jane to Mount Dennis closed its RFP process in November 2022. Award is expected in Jan-Mar 2023.
  • The elevated structure between the two tunnels is in a separate contract now at the RFQ stage.
  • The Stations, Railway and System contract has not been issued yet.

Lines In Planning

Three lines are in the planning stage only with one added in the May 2022 update:

  • Line 4 (Sheppard East) Subway Extension
  • Hamilton LRT
  • Eglinton West Crosstown Airport Segment (new in May 2022)

GO Expansion

All of the contracts for the expansion program have now been awarded, and they will not appear in the IO updates.

Metrolinx Vandals And Osgoode Hall (Updated)

Updated November 21, 2022 at 10:45 am: The Sir William Campbell Foundation has written to Metrolinx challenging their plans for Osgoode Hall’s garden and noting specifically their previous commitments to await a City-commissioned study.

Earlier this year, after considerable debate about the future of the trees in the park at Osgoode Hall, Metrolinx agreed to the City undertaking a study of alternative designs for the new Ontario Line station there. No action would be taken until a consultant’s report, commissioned by the City, was delivered and presented to Council.

The report is supposed to be completed in 2022 and reported to Council in the first quarter of 2023.

Now, Metrolinx has advised the Law Society of Ontario that tree clearing will begin on December 5, 2022. This is in direct contravention of the agreement Metrolinx made with the City, the Law Society and other community groups.

It is no secret among any groups and politicians, with the possible exception of the Premier, that Metrolinx’ word cannot be trusted on any “promises” or “commitments”. This outcome does not surprise me one bit based on their past behaviour. Why should anyone participate in their public participation shams?

There is no word from our all-powerful Mayor who made threatening noises – back when he was trying to get re-elected – about protecting Osgoode Hall. How long has he known that this would be the outcome, that Metrolinx would forge ahead with their plans on their schedule, and the City’s position be damned?

It is entirely possible that Metrolinx knows what the consultant report says based on discussions they have already had. If so, and if the consultant’s position was “gee whiz guys, I really would like to save your trees, but …”, then simple decency demands that the report be released and the options debated before Metrolinx launches into their tree clearing. But that’s not how Metrolinx works. Bull ahead, make an irreversible move and to hell with the consequences.

My opinion of Metrolinx is no secret, even though I keep trying to find touches of good will, of professional quality among the dross and endless feel-good PR they churn out. Sadly, Metrolinx never surprises, never actually listens and consults, beyond asking what colour of toilet paper we want to clean up their inevitable mess.

The timing of the announcement, right as the new City Council is getting established and distracted by its own problems, is typical. Catch the opponents when they have other things on their plate.

This is a disgrace for Metrolinx, and a disgrace for Mayor Tory who can huff and puff for the cameras, but when it counts turns out to be Doug Ford’s puppet.

TTC Service Changes Effective November 20, 2022 (Updated)

Updated November 20, 2022: Information regarding diversions for 504 King and 503 Kingston Road has been updated with current details.

The TTC is making a few service changes for the November board period affecting mainly streetcars and the Yonge subway (Line 1).

1 Yonge-University-Spadina

With the complete implementation of Automatic Train Control on Line 1, the full route will switch to one person train operation (aka “OPTO”). Service will be improved during peak periods as well as some off-peak. Some running times will be reduced.

The peak service improvement is achieved through a combination of running time reduction and the conversion of two of the “gap” trains in each peak to regular service trains.

501 Queen

The originally announced service for 501 Queen in October would have seen the route extended to Roncesvalles from Dufferin. This proved impractical, and the route continued as it had been in September. The official schedule now reverts to September’s version for both the streetcar and bus services. There is almost no change to scheduled headways.

503 Kingston Road

The 503 Kingston Road car will be converted to bus operation until March 2023 to allow overhead conversion on Kingston Road. The buses will operate to the “standard” downtown route 503 destination at King & York via Wellington.

Update: The downtown loop of the 503 buses will be via King to York Street, north to Richmond, west to University, south to King and returning east.

504 King

The intersection of King & Shaw is expected to reopen in early December for streetcars and buses. In anticipation, the November schedules are based on the service plan after the reopening.

Update: The TTC has posted a service change notice dated December 1, 2022 stating that the reopening will occur in “early December”. December 1st is a Thursday, and so it is not clear exactly when this change will take place. There is no comparable notice for 63 Ossington which is also diverting around King & Shaw.

Before reopening:

  • All 504 King cars will operate to Exhibition Loop, but they will not serve stops on Bathurst or Fleet Streets.

In practice, much of the 504 King service has not reached Exhibition Loop in recent weeks short turning either at Fleet Loop or at Charlotte Loop (King/Spadina).

After reopening:

  • 504A Distillery cars will operate to Dufferin Loop.
  • 504B Broadview Station cars will operate to Wolseley Loop (at Queen & Bathurst).

This arrangement reduces the number of transit vehicles attempting to use Dufferin Loop while this is still the western terminus for 501 Queen streetcars.

The 504C King shuttle bus was originally scheduled to operate to Exhibition via Strachan, but instead it will run east to Bathurst and King looping via Bathurst, Adelaide and Portland. Additional service will be provided if necessary from the run-as-directed pool.

929 Dufferin Express

All trips will terminate at Dufferin Loop.

Seasonal Changes

  • 86 Scarborough service on Saturdays to the Zoo for Terra Lumina will now end at 9:20 pm to match the planned earlier closing time.
  • 172 Cherry Beach weekday service will be discontinued for the winter (typically until May).

The changes are summarized in the spreadsheet linked below.

Continue reading

TTC 2023 Annual Service Plan, Round 2

The TTC recently launched public consultation for its 2023 Annual Service Plan (ASP).

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)

See also:

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.

An online consultation is available from October 25 to November 6.

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.

Continue reading

Will Line 2 Renewal Ever Happen?

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.

Continue reading

An Update Re Subway Special Work

There was a conversation recently in comments on this blog about a perceived improvement in the noise (or lack of it) of subway trains on special work (switches and crossovers, also known as “frogs”) at Lawrence and Keele Stations. I postulated a few possible answers, but wrote to the TTC to ask what they had done.

Their response, from Stuart Green, Senior Communications Specialist, confirms what I had expected and provides additional details.

Lawrence Double Cross-Over

  • It is an improved design with different type of heel that eliminates the joint at the heel of the switch.
  • Two turnouts are now flange bearing lift frogs that means continuous rail at the crossing – no jumping over the toe of the frog.
  • Newer rails that have no end battering at the joints
  • New ballast that provides better load transfer and required stiffness/flexibility to track.

Keele Double Cross-Over

  • New double cross-over is of the same design with some improvement in the design to make it smoother. The main reasons for smoother ride are new rails and new frog that do not have any end battering or excessive wear.
  • New ballast that provides better load transfer and required stiffness/flexibility to track.

Toronto Transit Funding and Development Charges

The real estate industry, their acolytes and even the affordable housing advocates went into meltdown when the 2022 update to the Development Charges landed at Toronto’s Executive Committee. This proposal was approved recently by City Council, but with a few carve outs such as exempting certain types of housing (up to 4 dwellings on a lot) from these charges.

The main trigger for the uproar was that the new DCs are much higher than those they replaced. With transit being the primary driver of this increase, it is worth understanding how DCs work and what the new charges will and won’t fund.

First, a comparison of the base data for the 2018 and 2022 reports. The tables below are in almost the same format making comparison easy.

The important column is on the right end of both charts “Total DC Eligible Costs for Recovery”. The total in 2018 was $9.3 billion while in 2022 it is $14.7 billion.

Yes, we are still paying for the Spadina Subway which gets its very own line in the table, and the Sheppard line shows up in the details under “Transit (Balance)”. Large increases lie in:

  • Transit, about $2 billion
  • Roads, about $1.2 billion
  • Housing Services, about $1 billion
  • Parks & Recreation, about $550 million

Some lines go up by a lot proportionately, but the dollar amount is comparatively low. For example, Pedestrian Infrastructure went from $15.7 million to $52.8 million, over triple, but the actual dollars pale by comparison with transit.

A major difference between 2018 and 2022 is the proportion of total costs recovered from subsidies and contributions from other parties.

In the 2018 DC calculation a grand total of $43.5 billion gross was reduced by $14.1 billion to a net value of $29.4 billion.

In the 2022 DC calculation, a grand total of $66.9 billion gross is reduced by $19.8 billion to a net value of $47.2 billion.

The increase in gross figures, 54 percent, is much higher than the increase in recoveries through subsidies and other revenue, 40 percent. This causes a disproportionate growth in the net of 61 percent.

Where Do Those Numbers Come From?

The background study that recommends new Development Charges starts with a list of every capital project in the City. The TTC has the biggest capital budget, even with some major projects taken over by the province, and it therefore generates the biggest part of the DC tithe.

For each project some costs are included and others are excluded. The headings on the charts above show the breakdown:

  • Net Project Cost: The cost of the project borne by the City after deducting provincial and federal subsidies and contributions by others (for example, York Region’s contribution to the Spadina Subway). (The gross costs for those who are interested are in the detailed tables.)
  • Replacement: Costs to replace existing infrastructure (such as new buses that replace old ones) are not eligible for DCs because this cost does not address growth, only worn out assets.
  • Benefit to Existing (BTE) Share: Demand that would rise if the improvements were already in place determines the portion of the benefit that is not due to new development.
  • DC Reserves: Some groups of projects did not manage to spend all of the money collected for them, and this sits in a carry over reserve offsetting new charges.
  • Other Development Related: Some costs are deferred to future rounds of DCs as reflecting the value of a project like a new subway line well beyond the five year cycle of DC updates.

The BTE share is calculated from existing and projected ridership (see below).

Looking at the 2022 chart above, of the $47.2 billion in net project costs, only $14.8 billion will be recovered in the current period from DCs. (The gross cost, by the way, is $66.9 billion.) This does not include provincial projects like the Ontario Line and Scarborough Subway which are no longer on the TTC’s books. It also does not include much of the Green Bus plan because that is mostly replacing existing buses, not adding to the fleet for ridership growth.

Continue reading

TTC Board Meeting: July 14, 2022

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:

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.

CEO’s Report

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.

Continue reading

Adelaide Street Reconstruction Open House

The City of Toronto will hold an online open house for the Adelaide Street project on Thursday, July 21 from 6:30 to 8:00 pm.

A link to register for this session is on the project page.

Track on Adelaide has been inactive for many years thanks to various cuts for utility projects and the high level of building construction along the street. The TTC contemplated reactivating the track as a bypass for, among other things, the Tiff street fair, but the opportunity did not present itself until now.

The Ontario Line open cut construction at Queen Station will require diversion of streetcar service around Queen and Yonge for several years. Cars will operate westbound via existing track on Church, Richmond and York. Eastbound service will run via York, Adelaide and Church.

This requires reconstruction of the Adelaide Street trackage as well as installation of new tracks southbound on York from Queen to Adelaide. Although only the track east from York is required for the Ontario Line diversion, the TTC will restore the track between Spadina and York making provision for a longer diversion. York will become two-way from Queen to Adelaide.

It is not yet clear which special work will be added at intersections, notably Adelaide and York where a north-to-east curve would be useful, especially if the TTC adds an east-to-north at King and York when this is rebuilt in a pending King Street project. Unfortunately, with the lead time between planning and execution, the TTC has forgotten on occasion (or chosen for budgetary reasons) to include missing curves that would make their operations more flexible notably at Broadview and Gerrard and, this year at Church and Carlton. These opportunities only come along every 25-30 years.

The project also includes water main reconstruction from York to Church, and repaving. Parts of the street are in very bad condition after years of condo construction trucks pounding the pavement.

From Bathurst to Parliament, the bike lane will shift to the north side of the street where there will be less conflict with the streetcars and with vehicles stopped in the eastbound curb lane.

I will update this article with more info after the open house.