Toronto Transit Funding and Development Charges

The real estate industry, their acolytes and even the affordable housing advocate 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.

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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.

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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.

Transit Expansion Update, June 2022

This article reviews two reports on City Council’s agenda of June 15, 2022:

The subjects here are primarily the Ontario Line and the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension. The Eglinton East and Waterfront LRTs were discussed in a previous article.

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TTC To Operate Single-Track Subway Shuttle on June 4-5/22

The TTC had planned a shutdown of subway service on Line 1 Yonge-University-Spadina to permit track repairs between Wilson and Lawrence West Stations. This plan has changed to replace the usual bus shuttle with a subway shuttle because track work will only occur on the southbound side.

  • Subway trains will operate between Vaughan and Wilson Stations terminating on the southbound platform at Wilson. They will return northbound via a crossover north of the station.
  • A subway shuttle will operate between Wilson and Lawrence West Stations running on the northbound rail in each direction. The train will stop at Yorkdale Station.
  • Service northbound to Lawrence West Station will cross over via the centre track north of Glencairn Station and terminate on the southbound platform at Lawrence West.

Passengers travelling through the affected area will make across-the-platform transfers at Wilson and at Lawrence West Stations.

See the full TTC notice here.

Updated June 5, 2022 at 8:00 pm:

There has been great confusion about just what service the TTC is operating and whether there would be a subway shuttle, or simply alternating use of a single track by through service in each direction.

It is actually possible to see both versions of the TTC’s message at the same time. The main text below is the still-active notice of shuttle operation. However, a popup in the corner of the screen displays live service alerts, and this tells a different story.

The TTC has a big problem with contradictory service notices in various parts of its site because they originate from and are maintained by different groups.

Doors Open Toronto: Lower Bay Station, May 28, 2022 (Updated)

On Saturday, May 28, 2022, between 10am and 5pm, the TTC will open the lower level of Bay Station as part of Toronto’s Doors Open event.

May 28, 2022: Updated with photos from the event.

Bay Station is an inverted version of St. George Station with the Bloor line on the upper level (the currently active station) and the University line on the lower level. Tracks connect to Lower Bay from the junctions north of Museum Station and at the west end of Yonge Station. These are regularly used for equipment moves between the two lines as well as by work trains.

This station has rarely been seen by the train-riding public except for a few construction-related subway diversions. It operated in revenue service for the first six months of the Bloor-Danforth subway during the trial of an integrated service on the Yonge-University and Bloor-Danforth lines. When that ended in September 1966, the station took on various uses including storage, training, testing of platform treatments for wayfinding, and movie shoots.

During the event, trains will be parked on the platforms, and there will be displays from the TTC’s centennial book A Century of Moving Toronto.

Access is only by stairway.

Route Map for Integrated Subway Service 1966

Here is a selection of photos from the event.

Lower Bay Station is taller than most because of the alignment of the tunnel which connects to the University line north of Museum by going under the north-to-west track into St. George Station.

Two trains were set up with photos arranged by decade. The display is adapted from the book TTC100 which is available in hardcover or digital version from the TTCShop.

The streetcar system is a lot smaller than it was in 1949 before any of the subway was built. Streetcar trains with Peter Witt cars served Yonge, and trains of PCCs operated on Bloor-Danforth. Many other parallel routes funnelled riders into downtown.

Lower Bay is a bit worse for wear, not having seen revenue service (at least with stopping trains) since 1966. It has been used, among other things, to test various floor treatments for wayfinding.

Once the Yonge Subway opened in 1954, the major interchange was at Bloor-Yonge with a protected unloading and loading platform in the middle of Bloor Street leading directly to the Bloor Station platforms below. This area will see major reconstruction in coming years as Yonge Station and the link with Bloor Station are expanded to provide a separate eastbound platform for Line 2.

Streetcar traffic to the east end was quite intensive with the combined service Bloor and Danforth trains operating close to once a minute between Bedford Loop (now St. George Station) and Coxwell. The view looks northwest on the Prince Edward Viaduct with the trees of Rosedale in the background.

At the east end of Lower Bay, there is a TTC Lego subway train set up which some lucky soul will win in a draw.

Finally, the station name is “BAY Yorkville”. This is a testimonial to the days when Yorkville was a disreputable neighbourhood full of coffee houses, people with long hair, and smokeables you can now find on any street corner. The station’s original name was to be “Yorkville” after the former town, but this was changed. This is not the only original BD station to get a different name when it was built: “Vincent” became “Dundas West”, and “Willowvale” became “Christie”.

Scarborough RT Express Bus Replacement Plan

After extensive study and public consultation, TTC staff will present a plan for bus replacement of the Scarborough RT to their Board at its April 14, 2022 meeting. Although it is a long report, much of it has appeared before during the consultative process and in an interim report to the Board. Interested readers can browse the full version, and I will only touch on the major points here.

My apologies for the resolution on some of the drawings included here. The versions in the TTC report online are not good, but if better renditions show up in the future, I will replace the originals here.

The Scarborough RT is on its last legs and, frankly, should have been replaced years ago. Let us not get into the whole subway/LRT debate as that train has left the station. However, the constant delay in making any decision has now pushed the opening of any replacement service well beyond the reasonable lifetime of the existing SRT fleet, and even that will require work to keep it operating until bus facilities are ready.

Various dates for the SRT shutdown are proposed, and these depend on completion of alternate bus terminal facilities. Thanksgiving weekend would certainly be an ironic cutover date.

The candidate dates for Q4 2023 would mean the last day of train service could be: Saturday October 14, 2023; or, Saturday November 25, 2023. If construction is complete ahead of schedule, a September closure date could also be possible, on Saturday September 2, 2023.

TTC Report at p. 15

The Recommended Option

When the need to close the SRT before the Scarborough Subway Extension opened became apparent, the first thought was that riders would be consigned to buses plying the roads from Scarborough Town Centre to Kennedy Station for many years.

To no great surprise, there was a better idea that emerged during the consultations: use as much of the existing SRT right-of-way as possible for a bus roadway bypassing local street and intersection congestion and providing a direct access to Kennedy Station. That is the scheme that has been recommended, named in the report “Option 1 Hybrid Line 3 ROW” (Right-of-way).

As shown in the map below, the bus service will operate from STC station to Kennedy on street to Ellesmere Station and then on a new road in the existing SRT right-of-way to Kennedy Station. Stops will roughly match the existing SRT, except for McCowan. A new stop will be added at Tara Avenue, ironically a proposed station location decades ago when the SRT was to be built as a conventional LRT line.

The frequency of service is such that aggressive transit priority measures will be needed for the on-street portion.

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Ontario Line Station Renderings

On March 27, 2022, Premier Doug Ford and a very chilly bunch of his political colleagues gathered near Exhibition Station for an official “groundbreaking” for the Ontario Line. Never mind that Metrolinx will not award the first of the main construction projects until late April, and the posed set of excavation machinery sat idle in the background. This was very much an event plugging the Tories’ overall platform and positioning construction, wherever and whatever it might be, as an economic engine for Ontario.

Concurrently with the press conference, which revealed absolutely nothing new, a new set of renderings for Ontario Line stations was released. In some cases these were quite large and were intended for media use. I have downsized them where needed to work better online.

Absent from these renderings are any of the development schemes that Infrastructure Ontario has proposed under its Transit Oriented Communities program.

The Premier’s speech contained a basic error in math when he claimed that the Ontario Line would add more than 50 per cent to the Toronto subway network. No. it is the four Ford “priority projects” announced in 2019 that will do this. It’s in the press release. Some speech writer screwed up.

Probably the most annoying part of the press conference was a statement by Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster who spoke glowingly of how well Metrolinx had worked with communities both in Riverside and in Thorncliffe Park to create an acceptable design. This materially misrepresents the very contentious relationship with both communities, and continues Metrolinx’ gaslighting of critics to give the impression that all is well, and it is the critics who are out of step.

If Metrolinx had been truly involved with communities along the line while it was being designed, a great deal of contention could have been avoided.

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Ontario Line Environmental Assessment Open Houses: Part IV – Thorncliffe Park

This is the fourth and final article in my series about the Ontario Line Open Houses. See also:

Many issues affect the Thorncliffe Park section of the Ontario Line, to the point where I have split this off into a separate article.

Listening to all of the debates, I cannot help seeing that many problems arose from Metrolinx’ trademark secrecy coupled with a piecemeal approach to planning in a large, important neighbourhood.

The transit line was, in effect, dropped out of the sky as a line on the map fitted as best it could (depending on one’s definition of “best”) through the community without advance consultation. Many wider needs were beyond the project’s scope, and yet it is clear that Thorncliffe Park requires an integrated plan for its future including many elements:

  • The future of lands south of Overlea including an aging mall and its parking lot.
  • Whether low-rise commercial/industrial buildings north of Overlea will remain in the long term, and if not, what will this area become?
  • What should Overlea Boulevard look like as the main street of a future Thorncliffe Park? There is already a plan for the east end of Overlea, but what of the entire street?
  • How will a growing population be served both for public facilities such as schools and businesses providing local, walkable access?
  • What is the target population and demographic? Will Thorncliffe’s growth be driven by a forest of high-priced condos, or a mix of building types and affordability?
  • How will open space and parkland be provided in an area where parking lots are a dominant feature?
  • What is the future of lands in the Leaside Industrial area and how can redevelopment there be linked with the needs of Thorncliffe Park, including the MSF yard’s location?

I fully expect the response to be “this is an important transit project and we cannot wait for an overall plan”. That would be the response of a construction agency eager to do its master’s bidding, not of a city-building agency with a wider outlook. An area plan would be an iterative process that could identify key elements up front, but guarantee a wider scope for the neighbourhood’s future. Most importantly, it would occur in public to bring trust that there was no hidden agenda or deliberate sidelining of community concerns.

The remainder of this article consolidates the Q&A sessions from the online open houses.

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Ontario Line Environmental Assessment Open Houses: Part III – South Section

This article continues a series reviewing the open house sessions conducted online by Metrolinx for the Ontario Line in February and March 2022.

The material here is condensed from recordings of the two meetings about the section from Gerrard to Exhibition Station. The questions and answers have been grouped to bring related topics together, mainly on a geographic basis. This is not an exhaustive Q&A as the topics depend on the interests of those participating.

Statements are not attributed to any specific person (if you really want to know who said what, listen to the recordings), but if anyone feels I have misrepresented their position, please let me know through the comments.

The sections prefaced with “Comment:” are my remarks.

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