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.

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Ontario Line Environmental Assessment Open Houses: Part I – General Thoughts

After the publication of the monumental draft Ontario Line Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR), Metrolinx organized four online “open houses” to present an overview of the report and to address questions. These took place in late February and early March during a 30-day period for public comment that ends on March 9. Those of you with a desire to spend many unproductive hours hours waiting for occasional pearls of wisdom to emerge can do so through the Metrolinx Engage website:

  • North segment: February 22 and 24
  • South segment: March 1 and 3

In two separate articles, I will summarize the major questions from each pair of sessions. However, there are general issues raised by the draft EIAR and the process for public input that deserve their own debate.

Politicians and managers who never read beyond the glossy brochures, or, maybe, the Executive Summary, might mistake sheer volume as a measure of transparency, an heroic effort to inform and involve affected communities.

Back in the days of real telephone directories, the size of the phone book was, among other things, a measure of how grand a community might be. Big thick book equals lots of phones and lots of people, a matter of pride even if the type got smaller and smaller as years wore on. But for all its heft, the directory had a basic organizing principle: if you knew how to spell someone’s name, or even made a reasonable guess, you could find their address and phone number.

The many thousands of pages in the EIAR and its sundry appendices, not to mention equally large reports that preceded it, are bricks in a wall of obfuscation, not revealing windows into our future. Nobody (no, not even I) has read every page if only because there is only so much time to devote to the subject, and there is a lot of badly organized, repetitive information. Key topics one might expect based on past projects (including the Relief Line South study) are missing because these details will not be worked out until after the design/construction contracts are awarded, and the opportunity for public comment only a distant memory.

If the desire were to construct a project that would frustrate public participation, it is hard to imagine how Metrolinx could have “improved” on what they achieved. An exercise in going through the motions. A triumph of superficiality disguised by the sheer volume of reports.

Continue reading

Ontario Line South Open Houses

Metrolinx will hold two online open houses covering the draft Environmental Assessment Impact Report as it relates to the southern portion of the line from Gerrard to Exhibition.

No sessions have been announced yet for the northern portion of the line from Gerrard north to Science Centre Station.

Correction: The north segment sessions took place in late February, but somehow I missed them. I will consolidate notes about them all in due course.

I will post news from these sessions in coming days.

Ontario Line: Transit Oriented Community Designs

In a previous article, I gave a grand tour of the Ontario line showing the general layout of stations and the alignment of the route. However, Metrolinx has yet to publish anything beyond station footprints – the areas stations will occupy, and by extension the buildings that will be removed or altered to accommodate them.

See: Webinar for Smart Density: An Ontario Line Tour

Infrastructure Ontario (IO) has a parallel process for the design of Transit Oriented Communities (TOCs) which are intended to focus development at stations and, in part, to recoup the cost of construction. To date they have conducted public consultations for four locations: Corktown, Exhibition, King-Bathurst, and Queen-Spadina.

Within each site’s page there are links to the videos, presentation decks and to the detailed building plans as submitted to the City of Toronto.

The illustrations in this article are taken from these presentation decks:

The online sessions have a format familiar to those who have watched or participated in Ontario Line sessions: a lengthy presentation followed by a short, moderated Q&A. For those interested in details of specific sites, to the extent that IO revealed them, I recommend watching the videos of the consultation sessions.

The proposals shown are conceptual, and there is no guarantee that what is eventually built will include key details worked out with communities and city planners. The provincial record on transit projects and consultation is far from trustworthy.

These developments are quite large compared to what is there today. Affected communities have pushed back about the scale and density. IO has made some changes, but mainly by rearranging the physical volume of buildings while leaving their overall size intact.

A common point IO makes, just as any other developer would do, is that the neighbourhoods around stations should be judged not on their current form, but on what they will become with developments already in the pipeline. This sort of catch-22 plays out all over the city. Once a very tall building is approved, often by force of provincial decisions, not by local planning, this sets a precedent for everything that will follow.

Land nearby a transit station (defined as within 800m or a 10 minute walk) puts a great deal of the city under its umbrella. Provincially-mandated growth is a blanket excuse for larger buildings even if the resulting density greatly exceeds provincial targets.

There is a more general issue about TOCs in that they are primary residential. Transit demand is easier to concentrate with commercial buildings such as in the core because of the many-to-one commuting pattern. Residential buildings tend to generate trips outward in whatever direction there is a convenient path such as a nearby highway or transit line provided to a destination. A related issue with new residential development is the amount of parking included and, therefore, the relative attractiveness of longer road trips vs transit trips.

If a so-called transit community features parking for all of its residents, this does not give transit a “leg up”. These sites, as planned, do have a preponderance of bicycle parking over auto spaces, and many buildings have no auto parking at all. Whether this ratio survives to actual construction remains to be seen.

Another key point is timing. Occupancy of the proposed buildings is aimed at the early 2030s because they will sit on top of future stations. Even at Exhibition where the TOC development is north of the joint GO/OL corridor, construction is not slated to start until 2029.

The upside is that transit will already be there when residents move in. This is totally unlike what happened on Queens Quay where development has preceded good transit service.

To jump to a specific station, click the links below:

Continue reading

Ontario Line Draft EA : Part I (Updated)

Updated April 7, 2022 at 9:45 am: Metrolinx has responded to a query about possible errors and inconsistencies in the EA. See the Errata section at the end of this article.

The Draft Environmental Assessment for the Ontario Line was published on February 7, and it is a very, very long read. In addition to the main report, there are appendices dealing with Natural Environment, Heritage, Archaeology, Socio-Economics and Land Use, Air Quality, Noise and Vibration, and Transportation and Traffic.

In this article, I will primarily review the alignment drawings provided in the EA and some of the information about station form and construction, to the extent that Metrolinx has provided this.

Notable by their absence from these documents are drawings of the actual structures above or below ground. This makes it almost impossible to assess, for example, the on street presence of the elevated structure between the north end of the Leaside Bridge and Science Centre Station, nor of new station buildings wherever the line is above ground. Underground structures, essential to an understanding of how the stations will connect to neighbouring buildings and to other transit lines, are also not shown.

I wrote to Metrolinx asking about this, and they initially referred me to the Neighbourhood Updates segment of their engagement website. There is less information there, in most cases, than in the EA or other already-public presentations (which could be out of date). I wrote again, and they replied:

Hi Steve – those additional images will be posted as soon as they are available.

We know folks are anxious to see those images and we are working to get that information available.

It is baffling how people are supposed to assess information in the EA if they cannot see what Metrolinx proposes to build.

On a similar note, there is a general problem along the line in that significant incursions on green space have yet to be detailed, and by the time the plans are actually published, it will be impossible to adjust the design. Metrolinx misled communities giving the impression that tree inventories and replacement plans would be available during the consultation period, but it is now clear that this was never going to be the case.

For additional background, please see my recent article An Ontario Line Tour and the associated webinar.

In future articles I will turn in more detail to issues such as Natural Environment, Noise & Vibration and the effects on buildings and structures along the route.

Continue reading