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.

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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 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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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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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.

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