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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TTC 2023 Annual Service Plan Preview

The TTC began consultations for its 2023 Service Plan on June 29 with a pair of online meetings for community groups, and more will follow. There will be an online survey available starting on July 11.

At this point, the Service Plan is only a collection of proposals. The TTC seeks feedback on them that will lead to a revised version in the fall and a second consultation round before they go to the TTC Board for approval. The round one proposals relate mainly to the SRT shutdown in fall 2023 and the opening of Line 6 Finch West. In the second round, these proposals will be fine-tuned and other possible changes unrelated to the rapid transit plans will be added.

2022 Service Plan Follow-Up

Some service changes proposed in the 2022 plan have been implemented, and others will follow later this year:

  • Seasonal service on the new 172 Cherry Beach route (replacing the former 121 Front-Esplanade bus) was implemented in May, but the planned route through the Distillery District was impossible due to construction on Cherry at Lake Shore.
  • 65 Parliament will be extended to George Brown College’s Waterfront Campus in September. There is no word on an extension of the 365 Parliament Blue Night bus which originally was going to be dropped. The 365 lost its weekend service in 2021, but that was recently restored.
  • The 118 Thistledown extension to Claireport & Albion and the 8 Broadview extension to Coxwell Station will occur later in the fall, date TBA.

With the completion of the Line 1 Automatic Train Control project later this year, the TTC will be able to improve service on the subway. However, just what this means depends on the base against which “improvement” is measured.

  • There is a planned service improvement in September. Current service is not running at pre-pandemic levels, and we do not yet know if September will see a full restoration.
  • ATC will provide two benefits: trains can run closer together, but also travel times can be trimmed to reduce the number of trains needed. The degree that each of these will show up in new schedules remains to be seen. A related problem is that more frequent service can compound with excess running time to worsen terminal approach queues driving up travel time for riders.

Overall system ridership was at 57 per cent of pre-pandemic levels in June 2022 and is expected to rise to 70 percent in the fall. The TTC is finalizing their fall service plan to accommodate some return to in person office travel and post secondary demand. They plan to restore services to post secondary schools that were cut because of online courses. Details TBA.

There is no announced date for the opening of Line 5 Crosstown by Metrolinx, and so the planned route restructuring to support that line will likely not occur in 2022.

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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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Broadview Avenue Extension Open House

The City of Toronto is completing an Environmental Assessment for the extension of Broadview Avenue south to Commissioners Street. Upcoming events:

  • June 20, 2022 6:30 to 8:30 pm: In person open house at the Jimmie Simpson Centre, 870 Queen Street East
  • June 21, 2022 6:30 to 8:30 pm: Online open house (the link to join is on the Public Consultation page)
  • July 7, 2022: Report to the Infrastructure & Environment Committee
  • July 19, 2022: Council

The project website contains assorted information including a presentation deck. This article is an abridged version of that presentation plus my own comments.

Context for the Extension

The lands east of the Don River, south of Eastern Avenue and north of Lake Shore Boulevard were for many years the site of a Lever Bros. factory, now known as the Unilever site. Massive redevelopment of this property was proposed first by Great Gulf, and more recently by Cadillac Fairview who now own it. Right in the middle of the site is the future East Harbour Station of the Ontario Line and GO Transit.

The Broadview extension will run under East Harbour Station, and an extended streetcar network will be part of the transit hub there.

This map includes some items that do not yet exist, and some that are unlikely to be built.

  • Broadview south from Queen to Eastern (yellow) would be rebuilt with streetcar tracks in mixed traffic just as on Broadview north of Queen.
  • The intersection of Broadview & Eastern will be reconfigured to provide a transition to reserved streetcar lanes, and to improve pedestrian safety.
  • Broadview south from Eastern to Lake Shore would be rebuilt to include a transit right-of-way. It is not clear that this is a logical stopping point for construction without continuing south to Commissioners.
  • The map shows Broadview extending south across the Ship Channel to Unwin including a loop for streecars beside the Hearn Generating Station. This would require a new bridge over the channel that could provide clearance for large ships as the existing bridge at Cherry does today.
  • The map also shows track on Commissioners from Cherry to Leslie, but it is not clear how soon the link east of Broadview would actually be built.
  • Cherry Street trackage would be extended south meeting up with the Waterfront East line at Queens Quay and continuing south to the Port Lands. The map shows a loop at the Ship Channel, but it is possible that the terminus will actually be north of the new river channel on Villiers Island.

Design options for each segment of the extension are shown below.

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Eglinton East & Waterfront LRT Update

On June 15, 2022, City Council debated a report about future LRT lines in the Waterfront and on Eglinton Avenue East. As with all transit discussions transit discussions, other topics including the Sheppard West subway made an appearance. A short staff presentation added a few more details about problems at Kennedy Station that triggered changes in the Eglinton East proposal.

The Changing Configuration of the Scarborough Subway Extension and LRT

Some of the issues at Kennedy Station arise from changes made over the years in the Scarborough Subway Extension (SSE) project effecting the alignment and size of the subway tunnel. The staff presentation did not explore all of this history, but one cannot really understand what has happened without all of the details.

The City talks of Metrolinx deciding to widen the subway structure, but the story is more complicated.

The original plan for Kennedy Station (when the Scarborough network was LRT-based under Transit City) would have seen the new LRT station immediately north of and adjacent to the subway station. It would have been a multi-level station given the number of lines it would serve.

  • The bottom level, at the same elevation as the subway platform, would have served the Crosstown (Line 5). This would have provision for eastward extension under the GO corridor and then surfacing in Eglinton Avenue as the Scarborough-Malvern LRT line (now known as the Eglinton East LRT, or EELRT).
  • The upper level, at the same elevation as the mezzanine of the subway station and one below the surface bus loop, would have served the LRT replacement for the SRT (SLRT). There would have been a large loop and loading platform at the north side of the mezzanine somewhat like the arrangement at Spadina Station for the 510 Spadina streetcar, but considerably larger given the passenger volumes and size of trains that would operate on the SLRT.

This configuration would give a short transfer connection to the subway via the mezzanine up one and then down one level for the Crosstown, or simply across the mezzanine from the SLRT and down one level to the subway. Connections to surface bus routes would not change.

Drawings for this design are in the following article from July 2016:

Here is a cross section showing the platforms for the SLRT and Crosstown stacked west of the GO corridor, and the SMLRT to the east. It was already in its own station and shows a two-car train rather than a three-car train for the Crosstown and SLRT.

When the City proposed the SSE, the extension included a third track east of Kennedy Station that would be used to short turn half of the peak period service similar to what was done at Glencairn Station on the Spadina leg of Line 1 in pre-pandemic service. This scheme also had the advantage that it could be operated with the existing fleet of T-1 trains on Line 2, and for time there were plans to rebuild these trains for life to 2040 to avoid a new car order.

This is an example of the budgetary machinations needed to keep TTC spending within unrealistic City targets.

Scarborough Councillors and activists objected to getting only half of the full service, and the third track was deleted from the plan. This made the tunnel narrower, and that was the version of the project Metrolinx inherited in the provincial takeover of the SSE.

Subsequently, Metrolinx reinstated the third track causing the tunnel to widen again. (Any decision on the future service plan will affect the size of the new train order when the T-1 fleet is replaced later in the 2020s.)

Meanwhile, with the deletion of the SLRT from the plan, Metrolinx changed the elevation of the Crosstown station to be at the mezzanine level as they no longer had to provide for an SLRT interchange. The EELRT, if built as an extension of the Crosstown, would cross under the GO corridor at Mezzanine level and then rise to the surface.

However, the widened subway tunnel does not give enough room for the EELRT tunnel above it, although obviously if this had been designed as a single structure that would not have been an issue. A good example is St. George Station which houses two lines within a single structure. This shows what happens when the province designed its own projects, and the City dropped the ball on necessary integration because the EELRT was much less important politically than the SSE.

As an alternative scheme, a completely separate tunnel would be needed along the north side of Eglinton for the EELRT. This would be built cut-and-cover given how close to the surface it would have to be, and this would mean the acquisition and demolition of many properties along Eglinton.

As I reported in a previous article, the EELRT station at Kennedy will now be on the surface south of Eglinton and East of the GO corridor. It will share access to the subway and the Crosstown line via the existing tunnel to the station mezzanine. No details beyond the drawing below have been provided yet.

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Waterfront LRT Update, June 2022

This is the second article in a series of transit project updates. See also:

Toronto’s Executive Committee will consider reports updating the status of various projects at its meeting of June 8, 2022 including:

The section of this report covering the Waterfront projects is a tad on the threadbare side compared to previous iterations such as the presentation almost a year ago. With luck there will be more detail in presentation materials at the meeting.

The report text implies that there have been design changes but does not go into details. One might hope for additional information when staff presents the report.

Cherry Street

At the eastern end, the Waterfront line is projected to end on Cherry somewhere on Villiers Island. It is not clear whether the southern terminus of the WELRT on Cherry will be north or south of the new river. Some reports and drawings talk of the line going south of Villiers Island to the ship channel, but the current report talks of a new loop within Villiers Island itself (i.e. north of the new river). Note that the map above includes an arrow showing a potential extension south over the new river as well as east on Commissioners.

Wherever the new loop is, it will replace the existing Distillery Loop which conflicts with the new alignment for the streetcar tracks and underpass at the GO corridor. The old Cherry Street signal tower, a remnant of the days when the rail corridor was operated with manual switchgear, will be shifted east from its current location south of Distillery Loop to accommodate the new tracks.

For those unfamiliar with the area, Cherry Street will have three water crossings. From north to south on the map above:

  1. At the Keating Channel, a pair of new bridges (one for road traffic, one for LRT) are located west of the existing Cherry Street crossing. The LRT bridge is in place, and the road bridge immediately to the west will soon follow.
  2. The new outlet of the Don River is under construction, but still dry. If the WELRT goes south to the ship channel, there will have to be an LRT span here just as at the Keating Channel. The road bridge is in place waiting for New Cherry Street to be completed to connect with it.
  3. At the Ship Channel, Cherry Street will veer east back to its current alignment and use the existing bascule bridge. There is no intention for the LRT line to cross this channel.

A two-span bridge takes Commissioners Street over the future Don River (outside of the map above). Today, there is only a road span in place, high and dry over the new riverbed. When and if the Broadview streetcar extension to Commissioners is built along with an east-west link from Cherry to Broadview (and maybe beyond to Leslie Barns), then a transit bridge will be added.

There is a video on Waterfront Toronto’s media site with a May 2022 flyover of the project.

The new alignment for Cherry Street is now under construction.

Cost Containment

The currently projected cost for the WELRT is over $2-billion 2021$. Various design options for both the underground and surface portion of the line are under review, but there are few details of this work in the report.

A value engineering exercise is underway by the TTC which includes consideration of scope refinements, such as a refined 4-platform solution at Union Station and some improvements to the Ferry Terminal Station at Queens Quay. [p. 14]

Queens Quay East

There are still plans to fill part of the Yonge Street slip, and the report mentions a future park east of the skip. However, it is silent on the scheme to reorient the entrance of the Harbour Castle hotel to face east toward the slip.

Parliament Slip will also be partly filled and this will allow the WELRT to continue straight east on the new alignment of Queens Quay to reach New Cherry Street. This is intended to become a major destination in the eastern harbour.

Construction Phasing and Co-ordination

The WELRT be built in an area that already is a major construction site for projects including the Ontario Line, the GO corridor expansion, and the realignment of the Gardiner/DVP connection.

Still outstanding is the question of building and opening the new streetcar route across Queens Quay first so that it can operate independently of the Bay Street tunnel and the planned extended closure for reconstruction at Union and Queens Quay Stations.

The Next Round

A Stakeholders’ meeting is planned for June 20, and these usually precede a wider public consultation round. There are many questions to be answered about just which options are now on the table.

The next major report by the project will be to the new Council in the second quarter of 2023 as part of a wider review of Waterfront revitalization. By that time, design work will be at the 30% level for whatever option staff will recommend.

One obvious challenge for this and many other projects is that funding to build them is not in place, and they will compete with other priorities for attention.

Eglinton East LRT Update, June 2022 (Revised)

Revised June 9, 2022: A section has been added at the end of the article based on the discussion at the Executive Committee meeting.

Two reports are on Toronto’s Executive Committee Agenda for June 8, 2022. Between them, they provide updates for various rapid transit projects around the city.

Rather than attempting a single, omnibus article covering all of the projects, I will break the review apart on a line-by-line basis. This is the first in a series of articles.

I will update this article if any further details come out in the Executive Committee meeting.

A Scarborough Network

Several projects over coming decades will change the transit map in Scarborough including the Line 2 Danforth Subway extension to Sheppard, the Line 4 Sheppard Subway extension to McCowan, the Durham-Scarborough BRT, GO service expansion on the Lakeshore East and Stouffville corridors, and the Eglinton East LRT.

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The Cost of Running Line 5 Crosstown

At its meeting on April 14, 2022, the TTC Board will consider a report about the arrangements with Metrolinx for operation of Line 5 Crosstown. This line, at least from a budgetary standpoint, is expected to open late in 2022.

There is a long agreement between Toronto and Metrolinx about how the costs are shared and who does what, and a much longer Project Agreement between the province and Crosslinx, the private consortium that built and is responsible for maintenance of the infrastructure and equipment.

Within the TTC report, these two documents are referred to as the “TOFA” and the “PA”.

Even with Toronto keeping any revenue the line generates, the net result will be an increase in the TTC’s costs. On an annualized basis, the net new cost to Toronto is $62.6 million annually. This is not surprising, but a fascinating point about this table is that the maintenance contract and other non-labour costs total $52.8 million while the labour and benefits for TTC staff (station, on-train, supervision) amounts to only $26.4 million.

This illustrates the substantial cost of owning and maintaining infrastructure as opposed to running the trains.

Responsibility for aspects of the route are divided among the parties as shown below.

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A New Vision for Cherry Street

Last June, I posted a long article about plans for the Waterfront East LRT and the designs as they were then proposed. See Waterfront East LRT: June 2021 Update.

Although the next full project update will not come to Toronto’s Executive Committee until the end of March 2022, a revised proposal for the treatment of Cherry Street was presented to Waterfront Toronto’s Design Review Panel on February 23. I have only included a selection of illustrations from the presentation deck in this article, and I recommend that interested readers browse the full set.

As described in the June 2021 update, the link from the existing Cherry Street trackage under the rail corridor to New Cherry Street will be made through a new tunnel through the rail berm east of the existing Cherry Street underpass. However, the original plans for the area involved a small forest of, yes, cherry trees and this has proved impractical. The water table is very high and the underpass is a low point in the surrounding terrain. Any high water event would flood the area.

The new design starts from the premise that the water should be controlled and included as part of the landscape with a marsh around the new transit corridor as the proposed solution.

The illustration above shows the area where Distillery Loop is today. The Cherry Street signal tower is a landmark that, in the proposed alignment, would be shifted east. An alternative scheme leaves the tower where it is and the streetcar tracks swing east around it.

To put this in a wider context, here is a map of the overall waterfront area showing various projects. Only the area outlined in red is the subject of the current report.

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Infrastructure Ontario January 2022 Update

Infrastructure Ontario has issued its quarterly update of projects that are in the planning and procurement stages. This affects several parts of the Ontario government, but my focus here is on transit projects.

The spreadsheet linked below tracks the past and current updates to show how the projects have evolved. There are two sections: one for active projects and one for projects with no currently reported info (typically for projects that are now in construction or completed, or that have been withdrawn).

Where a cell is coloured yellow, there is a change from the October 2021 report. Several cells are coloured light yellow. There is new text, but the only real change is to say “Jan-Mar” instead of “Winter”, and similarly for other seasons. This eliminates a point of confusion in past reports.

The substantial changes in this round are:

  • The Ontario Line North Civil, Tunnels and Stations contract dates have slipped by one quarter, and the contract type has changed from DBF (Design, Build, Finance) to TBD (To Be Determined). This covers the OL infrastructure work from East Harbour to Science Centre Station.
  • The Yonge North subway extension has been split into two projects: one for the tunnel and the other for the stations, rail and systems. The projected dates for the tunnel contract are unchanged, but for the stations project they are TBD.
  • A new line has been added for the Eglinton West LRT tunnel between Jane and Mount Dennis.
  • All of the GO expansion projects have slipped into 2022 for contract execution, but with dates early in the year. This implies an imminent flurry of announcements just in time for the coming election. These projects are running a few years behind their originally planned dates.
  • The contract type for the GO OnCorr project which includes future operation and maintenance of the system has changed from DBOM (Design, Build, Operate, Maintain) to “Progressive DBOM” which appears to provide earlier design input from prospective builders as well as a better (from the bidders’ point of view) allocation of risk between Metrolinx and the P3.
  • The Milton GO Station project has not been updated since October 2021. It is possible that this work is paused pending a resolution of issues between Metrolinx and CPR about all-day operation on this line.