TTC Plans Flatlined Service and Fares for 2018 (Updated November 17)

Updated November 17, 2017 at 6:30 pm

The TTC Budget Committee met today and considered the draft 2018 Operating Budget. Between the original release (described later in this article) and today’s meeting, Mayor Tory and two members of the TTC Board endorsed the concept of a two-hour fare to replace the complex transfer rules now in place.

Although this was listed as the second item on the revised meeting agenda, Commissioner Mary Fragedakis moved that it be considered first. This re-ordering was a procedural move to forestall a standard tactic used at City Council where a motion setting the next year’s tax increase is introduced and passed before the budget which it will fund. The result is that any proposed budget changes must fit within the already-approved tax level rather than having taxes set after the budget is finalized. In this case, the motion regarding a two-hour fare was only a report request, and the order was less critical. That request passed by a vote of 3-1 with Budget Chair John Campbell in the negative as he opposes the two-hour fare scheme.

The meeting then turned to a series of deputations which, as these things tend to do, fell on largely hostile ears. A favourite tactic is to challenge members of the public to explain “how would you do  it”, despite the fact that the issues are complex and do not fit within an answer of a few sentences. The Budget Committee itself cancels more of its meetings than it holds, and opportunities for an open debate about transit policy options and the budget rarely occur.

Beyond information already in the budget report, there were a few additional items of note in the staff presentation.

The Cost of the Vaughan Extension

This comes up from time to time, and it is clear that the Committee did not fully understand the costs and revenues associated with the extension.

For some time, a cost increase of $30 million annually has been cited for the TYSSE. However, the 2018 Budget only includes a $25 million bump because $5 million had already been included for start-up costs and operation in the 2017 Budget.

The $25 million comes from a combination of new costs, and revised revenues. The TTC now receives $8 million for bus services operated on contract for York Region, but those services will be assumed by the Region when the subway extension opens. The TTC will continue to operate the vehicles, but now at their own cost and so this is a net increase in costs because of the lost revenue. That amount is partly offset by a combination of $3 million in new fare revenue and $1 million in parking revenue.

Ridership

The projected ridership for 2018 is 539 million, a growth of 3 million over the probable results for 2017, but below the originally budgeted target of 543.8 million. The change from 2017 to 2018 arises from several factors:

Increases:

  • 4.8 million rides due to economic growth
  • 2.1 million rides due to service improvements and the GO Transit co-fare
  • 1.5 million more rides by children (who travel free of charge)
  • 1.2 million new rides from the TYSSE
  • 0.5 million additional rides counted due to improved reliability of Presto readers
  • Total: 10.1 million

Note that most of the expected ridership on the TYSSE will be by existing riders changing travel patterns, not by net new riders. This is further constrained because York Region Transit will continue to serve York University directly thanks to a lack of agreement on a co-fare between YRT and TTC. Riders who were anticipated to show up as YRT-TYSSE-YorkU trips will not be using the subway. It is ironic that there will be more new rides by children on the system as a whole than by riders on the subway extension.

Half a million rides were estimated to have not been counted in 2017 because failing Presto readers were unable to charge these fares. The TTC’s Brad Ross advises that these are

“rides not counted, assuming they still rode but couldn’t pay. The TTC is in the process of accounting for all lost revenue due to out-of-service Presto readers.”

Reductions:

  • 0.5 million rides due to increased subway closures
  • 0.7 million rides due to the elimination of the Public Transit Tax Credit
  • 2.8 million rides due to decreasing sales of Metropasses and Day Passes
  • 3.1 million rides due to a reduction in the average number of trips taken on each Metropass
  • Total: 7.1 million

This provides the net increase of 3 million over 2017 probable results.

Expense Risks

The budget has been drawn up on a conservative basis and leaves several areas where the outcomes in 2018 could be different than projected. The $14 million now sitting in the Transit Stabilization Reserve could be used to offset some of this risk, provided that Council does not scoop the reserve simply to hold down the subsidy increase.

Some of the items below refer to savings that allowed 2017 to show a “surplus” (actually a reduced requirement for subsidy), and these might not all continue into 2018.

The budget contains a provision for $4.1 million in extra costs through the provincially mandated payment for two emergency leave days per year. This has been estimated conservatively, and TTC staff advised the Committee that the worst case cost could be $18 million.

The History of TTC Budget Variances and Subsidies

For many years, the TTC has consistently come in under budget for the annual subsidy requirement. In the table below, the amounts are for the subsidies, not for the overall operating costs. This always leaves the TTC in a position for its next year estimates that a budget-to-budget subsidy flat-line actually represents an increase over actual requirements in the current year.

The subsidy per rider will go up in 2018 because of the fare freeze. Although this takes Toronto back to the level of 2010, that does not allow for cost inflation over that period which has been well above the CPI.

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TTC Service Changes Effective Sunday, December 17, 2017

The December schedules bring the opening of the Spadina subway extension to Vaughan Metropolitan Centre Station and a major reorganization of bus routes along the subway corridor.

2017.12.17_Service_Changes

Bus routes will be reorganized to serve the subway stations, and in some cases services will be split at the subway corridor. The map below is taken from the TTC’s project page for the line.

Services north of Steeles Avenue that were formerly operated by the TTC on behalf of York Region under contract will now be run by their own transit agency. Fares on the subway have yet to be integrated with YRT, and so a TTC fare will apply to subway journeys while a local YRT fare will apply to the bus feeder network. This is the subject of ongoing discussion, and as usual the issue is who will pay to subsidize a lower co-fare between the two agencies.

The subway will continue the same hours of service it now provides, and the new first/last train times are shown in the table below.

The first train of the day inbound from Vaughan will be at about 5:50 am except on Sundays when service begins at 7:50.

The late night schedule is driven by the long-standing meet at Bloor-Yonge between outbound trains to Finch, Kennedy and Kipling stations at 1:54 am. The last inbound train from Vaughan will leave just after 1 am, and the last outbound train will arrive at about 2:30.

Service on the bus routes affected by the subway is generally at levels similar to what operates today with only a few exceptions.

York Region Transit will take over service north of Steeles Avenue now provided by the following routes:

  • 35 Jane
  • 105 Dufferin North
  • 107 Keele North
  • 165 Weston Road North

Route changes:

  • 35 Jane and 195 Jane Rocket: Extended to Pioneer Village Station (Steeles).
  • 36 Finch West: Route split at Finch West Station (Keele & Finch) during most operating periods. Peak service west of Keele Street improved. Service east of Keele will be reduced in many periods recognizing that many riders will not ride east of the station.
  • 41 Keele: Local service extended to Pioneer Village Station. Express service terminated at Finch West Station.
  • 60 Steeles West: Service reorganized to focus on Pioneer Village Station rather than York University.
  • 84 Sheppard West: Peak period Oakdale service extended to Pioneer Village Station. 84E express from Yonge to Sheppard West Station replaces 196B York University Rocket.
  • 106 Sentinel: Formerly named 106 York University. Extended to Pioneer Village Station.
  • 107 St. Regis: Formerly named 107 Keele North. York U service rerouted and extended to Pioneer Village Station.
  • 108 Driftwood: Formerly named 108 Downsview. Extended to Pioneer Village Station.
  • 117 Alness-Chesswood: Formerly named 117 Alness. Rerouted to better serve the area west of Dufferin Street.
  • 196 York U Rocket: Replaced by the subway extension.
  • 199 Finch Rocket: York U branch cut back to Finch West Station.

Night service will be provided to the York U ring road by 335 Jane, 341 Keele and 353 Steeles. The 336 Finch bus will not serve Finch West Station.

Holiday Period Service

The summary of the schedule changes linked at the top of this article includes a page outlining the service to be provided through the December-January holidays. The highlights are:

  • Service on many surface routes and on Line 2 Bloor-Danforth will operate with summer schedules from Monday, December 18 to Friday, January 5. Extra school trips will not operate.
  • Christmas and New Year’s Days will operate with Sunday service including the 8:00 am opening time for the subway.
  • New Year’s Eve service will be extended on many routes until roughly 4:00 am with extra service on the subway.
  • Regular service resume on Monday, January 8, 2018.

New Year’s Eve services include:

  • Service is expected to operate free after 7:00 pm as in past years, but the details have not yet been announced.
  • The last train meet at Bloor-Yonge for outbound service will occur at 3:37 am rather than the usual 1:54 am. The last trains on 4 Sheppard and 3 SRT will wait for the last trains on 1 Yonge and 2 Bloor-Danforth respectively.
  • 501 Queen will divert via Church, King and Spadina after 11:00 pm for festivities at City Hall.
  • 509 Harbourfront will have extra service every 9 minutes until 2:00 am and every 15 minutes thereafter.
  • 510/310 Spadina will have extra service every 6 minutes until 1:30 am, every 8 minutes until 3:00 and every 12 minutes thereafter.
  • Gap and standby buses will be provided downtown and at other locations to provide extra service as needed.
  • Contract service outside of Toronto on 52 Lawrence West, 129 McCowan North and 68 Warden will be extended to 4:00 am. Service on 160 Bathurst North, 17 Birchmount and 102 Markham Rd will end at the usual time.

TTC Service Changes Effective Sunday, November 26, 2017

The November 2017 schedules bring only minor changes, with one big exception: trains on Line 1 will begin operating to Vaughan Metropolitan Centre Station, albeit as “ghosts” for training and testing. Revenue service will begin, using the same schedules, on Sunday, December 17, 2017.

The revised subway schedule preserves existing headways, more or less, including the AM peak short turn at Glencairn which is not being extended further north. Service beyond Glencairn in the AM peak will operate every 4’42”. In the PM peak, it will operate every 2’36” with no short turn.

Queen streetcars return between Neville and Sunnyside with no diversions. A date for return of service at least to Humber has not yet been announced. Service beyond Humber to Long Branch is planned for mid 2018 due to ongoing road reconstruction on Lake Shore Boulevard. Please see my article on the Queen West projects for more details on the status of this work.

2017.11.26_Service_Changes

The December 17, 2017 schedules will appear in a separate article. They include all of the surface route changes associated with opening the Vaughan subway extension, as well as plans for special schedules over the holiday period.

TTC Board Meeting October 16, 2017 (Updated)

The TTC Board will meet on October 16. Among items of interest on the agenda are:

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SmartTrack Update: More Questions Than Answers (October 13 Update)

For the coming three evenings, October 10-12, the City of Toronto, Metrolinx and the TTC will host open houses to present and discuss plans for six new SmartTrack and two new GO Transit stations. Although material for all stations will be part of each event, stations “local” to each site will receive more emphasis than others.

Each meeting will run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., with a presentation at 7 p.m.

  • Tuesday, October 10, Scarborough Civic Centre, 150 Borough Dr.
  • Wednesday, October 11, Riverdale Collegiate Institute, 1094 Gerrard St. E.
  • Thursday, October 12, New Horizons Tower, 1140 Bloor St. W. (new location)

Note: The location of the Oct. 12 meeting has been changed and it is now across the street from the originally announced site (which was Bloor Collegiate).

Updated October 11 at 10:30 pm: There continues to be confusion about just what “SmartTrack” service will look like, and this is not helped by the City’s presentation. Details can be found in the June 2016 Metrolinx report. For further info, see the update at the end of this article.

Updated October 13 at noon: Metrolinx has confirmed that the Barrie corridor trains will operate through to Union Station, not terminate at Spadina/Bathurst Station as I had originally thought. However, the operational details have not yet been worked out. For further discussion, scroll down to the section on the Spadina/Bathurst Station.

I attended a media briefing that covered the materials to be presented and the following article is based on that briefing which was conducted by City of Toronto staff. Illustrations here are taken from the deck for the media briefing which is available on the City of Toronto’s site. Resolution of some images is constrained by the quality of data in the deck.

[In the interest of full disclosure: A “Stakeholder Advisory Committee” (or SAC) has already been meeting on this, and I was invited to participate, but declined given my concern with a potential conflict between “advisory” and “journalist/commentator” roles. It is no secret that I believe SmartTrack is a deeply flawed concept. Its implementation is compromised by fitting a poorly-conceived election promise into a workable, operational scheme for the commuter rail network. Any “debate” is skewed by the need to pretend that this is anything beyond campaign literature.]

The intent of these three meetings is to conduct the first detailed conversation about these stations with the general public. Early designs appeared in the “Initial Business Case” for the stations, but these have been revised both for technical and for philosophical reasons. Specifically:

  • The City does not want to build traditional GO stations dominated by parking.
  • The interface between the new stations and the transit network (both rapid transit and surface routes) should be optimized.
  • Strong pedestrian and cycling connections are required.
  • Stations should be close to main streets.
  • Stations should support other City objectives such as the West Toronto Railpath and parallel projects such as the St. Clair/Weston study now in progress.
  • Transit-oriented development should be possible at stations.

This is a list that to a typical GO Transit proposal in the 905 would be unrecognizable. GO Transit’s plan ever since its creation has been to serve auto-based commuting first and foremost with ever larger parking structures that poison the land around stations. Local transit was something GO, and later Metrolinx, simply “didn’t do”, and the idea that Queen’s Park might fund strong local transit as a feeder to GO services has been limited to co-fare arrangements.

The situation within Toronto is very different, and there are connecting routes on the TTC that individually carry a substantial proportion of the daily ridership of the entire GO network. Moreover, if GO (or SmartTrack, whatever it is called) will be a real benefit to TTC riders, then the process of getting people to and from stations must not depend on parking lots that are full before the morning peak is even completed.

The new stations will go into existing built-up areas, not into fields with sites determined primarily by which well-connected developer owns nearby property. Residents will be consulted about how these stations will fit their neighbourhoods, how they will be accessed, and what might eventually become of the community and future development.

A big problem facing those who would present “SmartTrack” to the public beyond City Hall insiders and neighbourhood activists is that almost nobody knows what SmartTrack actually is. This is a direct result of Mayor Tory running on a design that could not be achieved, and which has evolved a great deal since he announced it in May 2014. In brief, it is three GO corridors (Stouffville, Lake Shore East and Kitchener) plus an Eglinton West LRT extension, but this differs greatly from what was promised in the election.

Service levels for SmartTrack are described as every 6-10 minutes peak, with off-peak trains every 15, but this does not necessarily match Metrolinx’ announced service plans for their GO RER network onto which SmartTrack is overlaid. The idea that there would be extra SmartTrack trains added to the GO service was killed off in 2016 in the evaluation of possible operating modes for the corridor.

Fares on “SmartTrack” are supposed to be “TTC fares”, but this is a moving target. Voters understood the term to mean free transfer onto and off of SmartTrack trains as part of their TTC fare, but with all the talk of regional fare integration, it is far from clear just what a “TTC fare” will be by the time SmartTrack is operating.

Even that date appears to be a moving target. City Staff referred to 2025 when GO RER would be fully up and running as the target date for “integration”, but Mayor Tory still speaks of being able to ride SmartTrack by 2021 while he is presumably still in office to cut the ribbon.

At the briefing, many questions arose from the media, and the answer to almost all of them was “we don’t know yet”. It is clear that the Mayor’s plan has not proceeded beyond the half-baked stage, and many important details remain to be sorted out.

  • What is the status of Lawrence East Station and how does it fit with the recently announced review of this (and Kirby) stations by the Auditor General?
  • How will an expanded GO/ST presence at Lawrence East co-exist with the SRT which will operate until at least 2025, if not beyond to whenever the Scarborough Subway opens?
  • What are the arrangements for City/Province cost sharing on the stations, especially since Lawrence East was originally to be a GO station, but its future as such is unknown?
  • What will be the cost of the new stations once design reaches a level where the numbers are credible? The range of $700 million to $1.1 billion has not been updated since the matter was before Council.
  • Will all stations on the SmartTrack corridor honour ST fare arrangements regardless of whether this is a city-built station under the ST banner?
  • Why should GO riders who are not on the SmartTrack corridor pay regular GO fares, while those using the ST route have a “TTC fare” for their journey? The most obvious contrast in this case is between the existing Exhibition Station on the Lake Shore corridor and the proposed Liberty Village Station on the ST/Kitchener corridor, but there are many others.
  • What service levels will be provided, and how will they affect projected demand at the stations? Were previously published estimates based on more ST service than Metrolinx actually plans to  operate? How will constraints at Union affect the ability to through-route service between the Stouffville to the Weston/Kitchener corridors?
  • If the City wants more service than Metrolinx plans (assuming it would even fit on the available trackage), how much would Toronto have to pay Metrolinx to operate it?
  • Where are the residents and jobs that are expected to generate ST demand, and how convenient will access to the service actually be considering walking time, station geometry (stairs, tunnels, bridges, etc) and service frequency?

The stations under consideration are shown on the map below. A common question for all of these locations will be that of available capacity on the GO trains that will originate further out in the corridor. Without knowing the planned service design for “GO” trains and “SmartTrack” trains, it is unclear how often, if at all, there will be short-haul ST trains originating within Toronto as opposed to longer-haul GO trains from the 905. The availability of space on trains could affect the perceived service frequency if people cannot board at stations near Union (just as long-suffering riders of the King car complain about full streetcars).

Updated October 10, 2017 at 10:30 pm

After I posted this article, I realized that there was an important part missing, a commentary on the “consultation” process  itself.

A big problem with many attempts to seek public input is that the wrong question is posed, and factors are taken as given when they should be challenged. In the case of SmartTrack, the basic question is “why do we have SmartTrack at all”.

The original scheme was essentially a real estate ploy to make property in Markham and south of the Airport more valuable by linking both areas with a frequent rail service to downtown. Reverse commuters were a big potential market for this service. In the course of becoming part of the Tory election campaign, the focus turned inward, and SmartTrack became the line that would solve every transit problem. The claims about service frequency, fares and integration with other local and regional service were complete fantasies, but they gave the impression that Tory “had a plan” as distinct from the bumbling proposals of his opponent, Doug Ford, and the lackluster efforts of Olivia Chow. Tory even got professionals to declare his scheme a great idea, one giving it an “A+” on CBC’s Metro Morning, but this was for a version of SmartTrack that was unbuildable.

Now, over three years later, we are still faced with the myth that SmartTrack is a real plan, that it is anything more than what GO Transit would have done in the fullness of time. We are, in effect, being asked about the colour of tiles in stations when we should be asking whether the stations should even be built at all. There is no guarantee that service can be overlaid on GO’s existing plans to provide anywhere near what was promised in the campaign – a “surface subway”. Metrolinx has been quite firm on the subject, and going to the frequencies assumed by ST advocates would be well beyond the infrastructure we are likely to see on GO corridors.

The City will conduct its consultations, but the hard question – Why SmartTrack? – will never be asked.

For the October 11 update, please scroll to the end of the article.

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How Clean Is My Station? (2017 Edition)

Recently, the Toronto Star ran an article with the headline “19 of Toronto’s 20 dirtiest subway stations are on the Bloor-Danforth line”. One could (mis)read that as implying that the BD line is some sort of cesspool of poorly maintained stations, while the YUS is a sparkling beacon. There is also an unfortunate echo of arguments made by some that the BD line gets second class treatment because of the people it serves.

Intrigued to learn what the details of station cleanliness scores actually looked like, I asked for a copy from the TTC, and this was provided by Stuart Green, a sidekick in TTC Communications of the better-known Brad Ross.

Green provided a few comments to flesh out the numbers:

You will see an obvious upward trend globally, notwithstanding a few peaks and valleys.

Andy [Byford] has made station cleanliness a priority and our customers have noticed. Our modernized station management model and the hard work of our frontline janitorial staff are making a tremendous difference.

In a subway environment, the TTC is one of the cleanest systems in the world (just visit NYC). Our customer satisfaction surveys also reflect customer appreciation for just how clean stations – and vehicles – are today over five years ago.

FYI, we are also in the process of procuring new equipment which can blast clean the terrazzo surfaces with much better results (see attached pic).

A few points…

The rating criteria is established by the TTC and provided to our external auditors.

The summary of it as follows:

  • The scoring for each component (glass, metal, platform edge markers, elevators etc) is rated on a low-high scale of 1-5.  The auditors assess the cleanliness of the components based on the criteria listed in the contract and scores it accordingly.
  • The audit report takes the score for each component and averages them together to come up with a station score.
  • Components of the stations are also averaged to see what specific items are problematic in a station.

The data are revealing when they are split apart in various ways. First, the system average scores including the maximum and minimum values attained in each survey by individual stations.

As Green notes, there is an upward trend, although it stalled for a considerable period  from 2012-14, and after an improvement in 2015-16, values fell again in 2017. Quite clearly there was a wide range of scores back in 2008 when this process started, but a lot of the improvement over early years was to pull up the bottom performers (thereby increasing both the minimum score and the average). The maximum score did not start to rise substantially until 2015.

There are two obvious points where there are changes in the data:

  • The gap for the first part of 2011 was caused by a change in the contractors doing the condition surveys. It is intriguing that the first results from the new contractor showed a dip in values although this was quickly reset. Whether this was due to a change in TTC practices, or a re-calibration of the survey is hard to know.
  • There is a marked improvement starting in 2015, although more so in the maximum values. Much of this improvement fell away by 2017.

When the data are split apart by route, here is what we see:

The biggest jump for 2015 came on the Sheppard line with Yonge a close second and then the SRT. What is quite striking is that the improvement had little effect on the Bloor-Danforth line.

Another factor that stands out here are dips in Q1 of recent years probably due to winter conditions. This could well be a function of when the surveys were done as past years show data explicitly for December and March, but not for January or February.

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TTC Board “Discovers” Cost of Bloor-Danforth Subway Renovation

The TTC Board met on July 11, and the public agenda contained little that prompted extensive debate. The entire meeting was over in 75 minutes, a quite unusual situation reflecting the onset of the summer break at City Hall.

The status of the streetcar order from Bombardier prompted a spin-off discussion of the subway. CEO Andy Byford had noted that reliability on the Yonge line’s fleet of TR (Toronto Rocket) trains has reached a world-class level, and it is quite substantially better than that of the T1 trains operating on Bloor-Danforth, although their performance is reasonable for cars of their age (about 15 years) and technology.

This prompted a question from Vice Chair Alan Heisey who asked when the TTC should be making plans to replace the T1 fleet. Chief Operating Officer Mike Palmer replied that “we probably had to order the cars last week”. (See YouTube video of meeting.) This came as something of a surprise to the Board thanks to the way that planning for the Scarborough Subway Estension (SSE) and Line 2 BD in general have been handled, with information dribbling out bit by bit, and with plans in the TTC Capital Budget not fully reflecting future needs.

I wrote about this in a previous article, but as an update, here is the status of various projects related to the BD line’s future.

Summary

There are four major components to upgrades facing the TTC for subway expansion on Line 2 Bloor Danforth. Here is their status:

  • Replace T1 subway car fleet
    • Estimated cost: $1.737 billion
    • “Below the line” in the City Budget (i.e. not funded)
    • Current replacement schedule is out of step with plans for other projects
  • New subway yard at Kipling
    • Approximate cost: $500 million
    • Only $7m for planning work is included in the Capital Budget, but nothing for construction
    • Carhouse and yard are a prerequisite for the T1 replacement fleet
  • Automatic Train Control
    • Estimated cost: $431 million
    • Only about $250m currently allocated in the City’s approved Capital Budget
    • Current signal system dates from 1966-69 when the BD line was built and it uses obsolete technology
  • Bloor-Yonge Station capacity relief
    • Estimated cost: $1.117 billion
    • Only $6m for planning work is included in the Capital Budget, but nothing for construction
    • Scope of work and feasibility have not been published

This is not simply a matter of TTC management providing a rosy view of capital needs, or of the City choosing to ignore the scope of the problem. When projects of this scale don’t appear in the “to do list”, they are not considered any time another government comes calling with a funding offer. Many projects that will receive money from Ottawa’s infrastructure fund (PTIF) are on that list because they were acknowledged as part of the TTC’s outstanding requirements.

Keeping the full needs of the Bloor-Danforth subway out of view short-changes the TTC system and the riding public, and politicians are surprised to find that the “ask” for transit spending is a lot bigger than they thought. Meanwhile new projects make claims on “spending room” that might exist only because needs of the existing system have been downplayed.

TTC management plans to bring a consolidated report on the renewal of the Bloor-Danforth line to the Board in September 2017.

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Honesty in Subway Planning

Toronto Council recently approved further study on both the “Relief” subway line, and the Yonge Subway Extension north to Richmond Hill. This approval came with several caveats about the timing of projects and the sharing of both capital and operating costs for the YSE.

Meanwhile riders who attempt to use the system as it is are expected to take hope from the fact that “Relief” might appear in only 15 years.

The entire debate about subway capacity in Toronto has, for many years, taken place in among incomplete information, policy directions that looked outward from the core to the suburbs, and in some cases blatant misrepresentation of the complexity of problems the City of Toronto faces.

A major issue throughout the debates has been that individual projects, or even components of projects, are discussed as if they are free-standing “solutions” to the problem when they are only one of many necessary components. Costs are low-balled by omission of critical parts of an overall plan, and the pressures on capital spending are understated by artificially planning major projects beyond the 10-year funding window used for City budgets. This gives the impression that money is “available” for other projects within the City’s financial capacity by stealing headroom in future plans to pay for things that, strictly speaking, should have a lower priority.

The situation is not helped one bit by the lack of strategic planning at the TTC and City where serving the political philosophy of the day often takes precedence over taking a wider view. Indeed the TTC Board, at times, almost prefers to be ignorant of the details because this would force a re-examination of cherished political stances. At Council, although Toronto now has its “Feeling Congested” study and an attempt at prioritization of projects, efforts continue to advance schemes near and dear to individual Councillors who simply will not accept that their wards are not the centre of the known universe.

What Toronto desperately needs is a thorough review of its rapid transit plans and the funding needed to achieve them. This must take into account, and modify where needed, the historical reasons we are in the current situation, and examine what can be done for the future, when this can be achieved and at what cost. The cost question must come second, in the sense that determining what the City needs is an essential first step. Only then can we examine possible alternative ways to address the issues, the cost this will bring and the funding mechanisms that might be used.

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Inching Ahead on Subway Plans

Toronto’s Executive Committee will consider a report from the City Manager at its meeting of May 15, 2017 regarding the preferred alignment for the southern end of the “Relief Line” subway, as well as the current status of the Yonge Subway Extension to Richmond Hill.

This report has taken on a more political context with Mayor Tory’s recent statements that unless Queen’s Park coughs up financial support for the RL, he will block any further work on the YSE. Needless to say, this stance did not play well in York Region or at Queen’s Park.

The two lines, as they currently are proposed, look like this:

One might cast a though back only a few years to Tory’s election campaign in which he claimed that SmartTrack would eliminate the need for a Relief Line, that it would have frequent service with many new stops, that it would operate with TTC fares, and that it would be self-financing. Most of these claims were demonstrably false or impossible at the time, and the project scope has changed dramatically. Even the question of a “TTC fare” is tangled up in the Metrolinx Fare Integration study which could well bring higher rapid transit fares to the TTC as a way of “integrating” them with regional systems.

Tory’s convoluted evolution into a Relief Line supporter undermines his credibility on many issues not the least of which is an understanding of when money he demands might actually be spent. There is no point in getting a “commitment” from Queen’s Park when the government will be unrecognizable by the time the bills come due. Toronto has far more pressing demands in the short and medium term, and meanwhile there is $150 million of provincial money going into design work for the RL.

As for the YSE, it has been on York Region’s wish list for years, and is more advanced than the Scarborough Subway which is mired in debates about the alignment and number of stations. The problem for Toronto is that there is no capacity for additional riders from an extension on the Yonge line, and indeed it is already over capacity according to a CBC interview with TTC Deputy CEO Chris Upfold on May 10.

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