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.
This is the second round following preliminary sessions in June-July. The planners reviewed overall goals in light of changing demand patterns and system-wide rerouting associated with the closing of Line 3 SRT and opening of Line 6 Finch West. (The network changes for Line 5 Eglinton Crosstown were dealt with in the 2022 ASP, although there has been slight tweaking.)
Some of the 2022 Plan’s proposals have not yet been implemented, although they remain on the books as “approved”:
8 Broadview: Extension south from O’Connor to Coxwell Station
118 Thistle Down: Extension northwest to Claireport Crescent
150 Eastern: A new route from downtown to Woodbine Loop (on hold due to potential construction disruptions)
In 2023, there are considerably more proposed changes than in 2022, and for the purpose of consultation the TTC broke the system into segments. Each of these is detailed later in this article.
Consultation is now underway with the following planned schedule:
October-November: Public consultation. (See schedule above.)
Late 2022/Early 2023: Councillor briefings
February 2023: Final report to the TTC Board
Spring 2023: Implementation begins
Through 2023: Five Year Service Plan “reset” continues
The 2023 Annual Service Plan web page includes a deck of panels that will be used for the consultations. In this article, some maps are taken from that deck, and some from presentations to community groups.
One key point we will not know until late 2022 or even early 2023 will be the TTC’s budget target. How will this shape service changes, be they additions, re-allocations or cuts? Mayor Tory talks about supporting transit, but we will see just what this means when he tables the City’s 2023 budget.
Note: I have not included all of the information posted by the TTC here, and I urge readers to review the presentation panels and any other information the TTC publishes as this process goes on.
Although this article is open for comment, is you have specific concerns and wish to participate in the consultation process, be sure to complete the TTC’s survey or otherwise communicate your feelings to the TTC. I am not the TTC Planning Department, and grousing to me, or proposing your own maps here will not feed into the process.
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:
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.
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.
Among the projects discussed are several that relate collectively to the Bloor-Danforth Modernization Project (Line 2) that was originally proposed when Andy Byford was CEO. It was always a report that was “coming soon” to the Board, but after Byford’s departure, references to it vanished without a trace. I will return to the collection of BD Modernization projects later in this article.
A major problem for decades with TTC capital planning was that many vital projects simply were not included in the project list, or were given dates so far in the future that they did not affect the 10-year spending projections. This produced the familiar “iceberg” in City capital planning where the bulk of needed work was invisible.
The problem with invisibility is that when debates about transit funding start, projects that are not flagged as important are not even on the table for discussion. New, high-profile projects like subway extensions appear to be “affordable”.
There is a danger that at some point governments will decide that the cupboard is bare, and spending on any new transit projects will have to wait for better financial times. This will be compounded by financing schemes, notably “public-private partnerships” where future operating costs are buried in overall project numbers. These costs will compete with subsidies for transit operations in general. Construction projects might be underway all over the city, but this activity could mask a future crisis.
Please, Sir, I Want Some More!
The current election campaign includes a call from Mayor Tory for added Federal transit funding including support for the Eglinton East and Waterfront East LRT lines, not to mention new vehicles of which the most important are a fleet for Line 2.
The Waterfront East project has bumbled along for years, and is now actually close to the point where Council will be presented with a preferred option and asked to fund more detailed design quite soon. This is an area that was going to be “Transit First”, although visitors might be forgiven for mistaking the 72 Pape bus as the kind of transit condo builders had in mind as they redeveloped lands from Yonge east to Parliament. Some developers have complained about the lack of transit, and the further east one goes, the greater a problem this becomes.
The Eglinton East extension to UTSC was part of a Scarborough transit plan that saw Council endorse a Line 2 extension with the clear understanding that money was available for the LRT line too. Generously speaking, that was wishful thinking at the time, and Eglinton East languishes as an unfunded project.
For many years, the TTC has know it would need a new fleet for Line 2 BD. The T1 trains on that line were delivered between 1995 and 2001, and their 30-year design lifespan will soon end. As of the 2021 version of the 15 year capital plan, the replacement trains were an “unfunded” project, and the project timetable stretched into the mid 2030s.
City budget pressures were accommodated a few years ago by deleting the T1 replacement project from capital plans. Instead the TTC proposed rebuilding these cars for an additional decade of service. This would stave off spending both on a new fleet and on a new carhouse, at the cost of assuming the trains would actually last that long. The TTC has found out the hard way just what the effect of keeping vehicles past their proper lifetime might be, and that is not a fate Toronto can afford on one of the two major subway lines. The T1 replacement project is back in the list, but there is no money to pay for it.
Finally, a signature John Tory project is SmartTrack which has dwindled to a handful of GO stations, some of which Metrolinx should be paying for, not the City (East Harbour is a prime example). If we did not have to keep the fiction of SmartTrack alive, money could have gone to other more pressing transit needs.
When politicians cry to the feds that they need more money, they should first contemplate the spending room they gave up by ignoring parts of the network and by putting most if not all of their financial nest-egg into politically driven works. It does not really matter if Ontario has taken over responsibility for projects like the Scarborough Subway because one way or another the federal contribution will not be available to fund other Toronto priorities. The same is true of the Eglinton West LRT subway.
Any national party could reasonably say “we already helped to pay for the projects you, Toronto, said were your priorities”, but now you want more? A related issue for any federal government is that funding schemes must be fitted to a national scale, and other cities might reasonably complain if Toronto gets special treatment.
Doug Ford wants his pet transit projects built now and will sweep away any opposition. His agency, Metrolinx, is more than happy to oblige if only to make itself useful.
There was a time when the Tories hated Metrolinx as a den of Liberal iniquity, but Phil Verster and the gang made themselves useful to their new masters with new plans. Ford returned the favour with legislation giving Metrolinx sweeping powers in the Building Transit Faster Act. In particular, Metrolinx has review powers over any proposed activity near a “transit corridor” (anything from building a new condo to extending a patio deck) lest this work interfere with their plans. They also have right of entry, among other things, to perform their works.
Operative language in the Act is extremely broad about “transit corridors”:
Designating transit corridor land
62 (1) The Lieutenant Governor in Council may, by order in council, designate land as transit corridor land if, in the opinion of the Lieutenant Governor in Council, it is or may be required for a priority transit project. 2020, c. 12, s. 62 (1). Different designations for different purposes
(2) The Lieutenant Governor in Council may designate the land for some of the purposes of this Act and not others, and may later further designate the land for other purposes of this Act. 2020, c. 12, s. 62 (2) Notice and registration
(3) Upon land being designated as transit corridor land, the Minister shall,
(a) make reasonable efforts to notify the owners and occupants of land that is at least partly either on transit corridor land or within 30 meters of transit corridor land of,
(i) the designation, and
(ii) this Act; and
(i) register a notice of designation under the Land Titles Act or Registry Act in respect of land described in clause (a), or
(ii) carry out the prescribed public notice process. 2020, c. 12, s. 62 (3); 2020, c. 35, Sched. 1, s. 4.
Building Transit Faster Act, S. 62,
Note that there is no requirement that land actually be anywhere near a transit project, merely that it “may be required for a priority transit project”.
“Resistance is futile” should be the Act’s subtitle.
In various community meetings, the assumption has been that the “corridor” corresponds to the bounds of Metrolinx’ property, but that is not the case. A much wider swath has been defined in several corridors reaching well beyond the wildest imaginations of what might be affected lands. Needless to say this has not endeared Metrolinx to affected parties for “transparency”.
This applies to the “priority” corridors: Scarborough Subway Extension, Richmond Hill Extension, Eglinton West Extension and, of course, the Ontario Line.
In addition, there are constraints around GO Transit corridors, as well as separate Developer’s Guides for LRT projects in Toronto and on Hurontario. Note that these predate the election of the Ford government, and rather quaintly refer to the Eglinton West and Sheppard East LRT corridors. Although it is mentioned in the text, the Eglinton West Airport Extension is not shown on the map.
There is an interactive map page on which one can explore the bounds of areas where Metrolinx asserts various rights of review, control and entry. It is tedious, and one must wait for all of the map layers to load to get a complete picture. But fear not, gentle reader, I have done the work of wandering through the GTHA on this map and taking screenshots to show each line. I have attempted to maintain a consistent scale for the snapshots of the maps. All of them are clickable and will open a larger version in a new browser tab.
Readers should note that the areas of influence/control for Metrolinx corridors discussed here are separate from the effects of MTSAs (Major Transit Station Areas) on development around rapid transit and GO stations, a totally separate topic.
I will start with the Ontario Line because it is the most contentious, but Metrolinx territorial ambitions do not stop there.
The raison-d’être for the report is to obtain the authorization to increase staffing by 34 positions that would be funded by Metrolinx, but would be part of the TTC’s stucture. Many aspects of projects underway by Metrolinx depend on TTC input and acceptance because they affect lines the TTC will operate and, at least partly, maintain. A new Transit Expansion Assurance Department within Engineering & Construction. The authorization include provision for temporary expansion beyond 34 should this be required.
This move is intriguing because it implies Metrolinx has accepted that it cannot build new lines completely on their own without TTC input, especially when they will operate as part of the TTC network.
The report also requests authorization for:
[…] the Chief Executive Officer, in consultation with the City Manager, City of Toronto where applicable, to negotiate a Master Agreement and/or other applicable Agreements with the Province and/or any other relevant provincial agency for the purposes of the planning, procurement, construction, operations, and maintenance of the Subway Program, in accordance with Board and City Council direction, and to report back to the Board on the results of such negotiations. [pp. 2-3]
There is a great deal more involved in building and operating transit projects than holding a press conference with little more than a nice map. Now comes the hard part of actually doing the work. Whether Metrolinx will negotiate in good faith remains to be seen, but the TTC and Toronto appear to be less willing to hide Metrolinx’ faults in light of the Presto screwups.
Another recommendation has a hint that all is not well with consultations, as that should be any surprise to those who deal regularly with Metrolinx.
Request Metrolinx to conduct meaningful engagement with the TTC’s Advisory Committee on Accessible Transit (ACAT) as part of the Project Specific Output Specification (PSOS) review and design review for all projects within the provincial programs. [p. 3]
The operative word here is “meaningful”. ACAT has already complained of difficulties with Metrolinx including such basics as poorly designed elevators on the Eglinton Crosstown line that cannot be “fixed” because they have already been ordered.
Right from the outset, the TTC claims to have a significant role, a very different situation from the days when Metrolinx claimed it would be easy for them to take over the subway system.
The TTC continues to play a key role in the planning, technical review, and implementation of all major transit expansion projects in Toronto and the region. These include the Toronto Light Rail Transit Program and the provincial priority subway projects, referred to collectively as the “Subways Program”: the Ontario Line; the Scarborough Subway Extension; the Yonge North Subway Extension; and the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension. [p. 1]
In support of the staffing request, the report goes into great detail on many projects:
Two projects are not listed among the group above, but there is a description buried in the section on Bloor-Yonge expansion.
Overall subway system capacity and service expansion
Any discussion of the Line 2 renewal project
There is no discussion at all about renewal and expansion of surface service. This is just as important as new lines, but it is not seen as “expansion” with the political interest and funding that brings. Yes, this is a “rapid transit” report, but the core network of subway lines dies without the surface feeder routes, and many trips do not lie conveniently along rapid transit corridors.
The map below shows the location of most of the projects, but there are some odd inclusions and omissions.
The RapidTO bus corridors are not included.
City-funded GO stations at St. Clair/Old Weston, Lansdowne, King/Liberty, East Harbour and Finch/Kennedy are shown.
GO funded stations at Woodbine Racetrack, Mount Dennis, Caledonia and Park Lawn are shown.
The planned improvement at between TTC’s Dundas West and GO’s Bloor station is not shown, nor is any potential link between Main and Danforth stations.
SmartTrack stations are shown, but there is no discussion of how GO or ST service would fit into the overall network.
The following two maps have attracted a lot of attention, although they do not tell the full story. Much as I am a streetcar/LRT advocate, the presence of the entire streetcar network here is misleading, especially in the absence of the RapidTO proposals. Some of the streetcar lines run in reserved lanes, although thanks to overly generous scheduling some of them are no faster than the mixed-traffic operations they replaced (notably St. Clair). However, most of these routes rank equivalently to the bus network in terms of transit priority. If we are going to show the streetcar lines, why not the 10-minute network of key bus route?
The map is also distorted by having different and uneven scales in both directions. The size of downtown is exaggerated while other areas are compressed.
For example, the distance from Queen to Bloor is, in reality, half that of Bloor to Eglinton and one quarter of Eglinton to Finch. It is also one quarter of the distance from Yonge west to Jane or east to Victoria Park. For comparison, the TTC System Map is to scale, and it shows the city in its actual rectangular form.
This map gives an impression of coverage, but masks the size of the gaps between routes as one moves away from the core. Bus riders know all about those gaps.
By 2031, the network is hoped to look something like this. No BRT proposals are shown, but we do see the waterfront extensions west to Dufferin, and east to Broadview (East Harbour). Also missing are the GO corridors which, by 2031, should have frequent service and (maybe) attractive fares. They are (or should be) as much a part of “Future Rapid Transit” as the TTC routes.
This map is trying to do too much and too little at the same time. It also reveals a quite selective view of “regional” transit.
I am not trying to argue for a map that shows every detail, but it should exist (a) in scale and (b) in formats with overlays showing major parts of the network and how they relate to the overall plan. When people concentrate on the pretty coloured lines, they tend to forget the other equally important parts of the network.
Attachment 3: Waterfront Transit Network – Union Station-Queens Quay Link and East Bayfront Light Rail Transit. [Note: The properties of this attachment were incorrectly set by the authors. Although it really is Attachment 3, it appears on browser tabs as if it were Attachment 2 for the Scarborough Extension.]
Much of the LRT network still at some stage of design or construction is a remnant of the Transit City plan announced in 2007. Pieces have have fallen off of that network proposal, notably in Scarborough, but also a few key links that would have knitted the network together allowing sharing of carhouse and maintenance facilities. Confusion about the planning, ownership and funding scheme for parts of the network complicates the situation further.
Although the province has announced that it wishes to take over “the subway”, the boundary is unclear because a previous government decided to take over at least part of the Transit City LRT network, notably the Eglinton/Crosstown and Finch West routes. The Ford government prefers to put as much transit underground as possible, but if Toronto wants to extend an existing route (for example on Eglinton East), the city’s preference will be for surface construction to keep cost within its ability to fund projects.
The Globe and Mail reports that Metrolinx has entered into a deal with Alstom, who are already building the LRV fleet for Ottawa, to produce cars for at least some of the Metrolinx projects in the GTHA. In effect, Metrolinx is looking to cut its ties to Bombardier whose car deliveries are long overdue, although the actual mechanics of this will depend on contract negotiations and whether Bombardier actually does manage to produce cars in time for the Eglinton Crosstown line’s opening.
The Alstom cars will go to Eglinton, unless Bombardier comes through, in which case they will be repurposed for the Finch and Hurontario lines. Given the opening dates planned for those lines, a decision to extend the Alstom order would come well before opening day unless the current target dates for Finch and Hurontario were changed.
Metrolinx and Bombardier still must go through a dispute resolution process, but is it clear that Metrolinx feels that they are on solid enough ground to make this move.
Metrolinx press release (May 12, 2017):
METROLINX STATEMENT ON ALSTOM / BOMBARDIER
TORONTO: May 12, 2017 – Metrolinx is taking a major step forward to ensure that the Eglinton Crosstown LRT opens on time, and that our other LRT projects are on track.
We are making great progress on the Eglinton Crosstown and are well on our way to launching this outstanding new service as scheduled in 2021.
Now, we are pleased to be able to say we have certainty that there will be trains to run on this line. That is because we are entering into an agreement with Alstom as an alternative supplier of light rail vehicles. Alstom will build 17 vehicles for the Finch West LRT project and, if necessary, 44 for Eglinton Crosstown. If Alstom vehicles are not needed for Eglinton Crosstown, they will be reassigned to the Hurontario LRT project.
We know for sure that Alstom’s light rail vehicles work. They are currently producing quality vehicles on-time for Ottawa’s Confederation Line LRT project.
We are going through a dispute resolution process with Bombardier, but that could take 8-12 months, and we can’t wait that long to determine whether Bombardier will be able to deliver.
We are hopeful that Bombardier can get its program on track. However, the steps we are taking give us a safety net if it turns out Bombardier is unable to fulfil its contract.
Our end goal remains opening our LRT projects on time with high-quality vehicles that will provide excellent service to the people of this region. This new contract with Alstom provides flexibility to ensure that happens.
President & CEO, Metrolinx
Bombardier Statement (May 12, 2017)
From Marc-André Lefebvre, Head of Communications and Public Relations, Canada
Bombardier is ready, able, and willing to deliver these vehicles to the people of Toronto on time. As the Minister and Metrolinx are well aware, these vehicles can be ready ahead of schedule and well before a single track has even been laid on the Eglinton Crosstown.
In fact, the Metrolinx pilot vehicle is ready, undergoing qualification testing, and Bombardier is right now producing vehicles for the Region of Waterloo that are identical to those that will be used on the Eglinton Crosstown. All 14 of those vehicles will be delivered to Waterloo by the end of this year.
We believe what’s best for the people of Toronto and Ontario is that we work together to ensure taxpayers are not on the hook for another cancelled contract. We’ve met each and every major LRV delivery milestone in the last eight months and the proof will be in the performance of these vehicles in Waterloo and on Eglinton. We have addressed the issues raised in the past and we are confident this will be upheld in the dispute resolution process.
We are committed to working with Metrolinx to find a clear path forward; one that ensures the transit riding public has the most efficient, comfortable and reliable transit system in the world.
I will update this article as more information becomes available.
Just think, this could have been Scarborough. While Toronto has utterly cocked up its transit planning, with substantial help from Queen’s Park, Ottawa has built and is about to open the first phase of their line.
At the recent meeting of the TTC Board, Vice-Chair Alan Heisey proposed that the TTC and Metrolinx Boards should meet regularly to discuss issues of mutual interest. Such a meeting took place a year ago, but despite the best intentions at the time, nothing further came out of this. As Heisey said “It’s not as if we don’t have things to talk about” citing fare integration, Presto, the Crosstown project and SmartTrack. Using fare integration as an example, with some discussion already afoot about just what this entails, it will be better to have these discussions earlier rather than later, said Heisey. The TTC should be in front of discussions on how an integrated system will be structured in Toronto.
Heisey went on to mention that at a recent meeting of the Toronto Railway Club, of which he is a member, he learned things about the Crosstown contract he did not know such as that the operation of the Mount Dennis yard will not be done by the TTC, and that although the TTC is supposed to be operating the line, the company delivering the project would really like to do this work. This is the sort of information Heisey hopes would come out in a joint meeting, and he proposes that the TTC host the event (as Metrolinx did in 2016).
It is no secret that far more information is available outside of formal Board meetings at both TTC and Metrolinx than one ever hears on the record. Those of us who attend Metrolinx meetings regularly know that “information” is thin on the ground at these events where the primary function appears to be telling the staff how wonderful they are and luxuriating in the ongoing success of everything Metrolinx, and by extension the Government of Ontario, touches. “Seldom is heard a discouraging word” could be the Metrolinx motto.
Indeed the TTC has become infected with a similar problem recently where whatever new award(s) they manage to win take pride of place at meetings while serious discussion about ridership and service quality await reports that never quite seem to appear. Budgets do not offer options conflicting with Mayor Tory’s insistence on modest tax increases. Getting an award for the “We Move You” marketing campaign is cold comfort to people who cannot even get on a bus or train because there is no room.
Oddly enough, when TTC Chair Josh Colle contacted his opposite number at Metrolinx, Rob Prichard, the word back was that such a meeting might have to await the appointment of a new CEO. The position is now held on an acting basis with the departure of Bruce McCuaig to greener pastures in Ottawa. That is a rather odd position to take. Is Metrolinx policy and strategy so beyond discussion that without a CEO, they cannot have a meeting? How is the organization managing to push trains out the door, let along host an almost endless stream of photo ops for their Minister?
Commissioner De Laurentiis agreed that there are many issues, and warmed to the idea, but suggested an information sharing/exchange session as opposed to a formal meeting. She concurred that the type of information Heisey is gathering “accidentally” should come the Board’s way formally.
Vice-Chair Heisey noted that he was told he could not see the Crosstown’s Operating Agreement because it was confidential. For what they’re worth, here are a few handy links:
These do not include the operating agreement for the line because, I believe, it does not yet exist beyond a draft format and the intention is not to formalize it until a few years before the line opens in 2021. However, aspects of the proposed agreement are certainly known to TTC staff. Whether their interpretation matches Metrolinx’ intent is quite another issue.
Other topics for a joint meeting suggested by Commissioner Byers included Accessibility, and the working relationship between Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario including the topic of risk transfer.
For those who have trouble sleeping, the Crosstown agreement makes interesting, if tedious, reading. One section deals for pages on end with the contractual arrangements between Metrolinx who will procure and provide the fleet, and the project provider who must test, accept and operate (or at least maintain) the cars. This is a perfect example of the complexity introduced by multi-party agreements with the 3P model. Each party must define at length its roles and responsibilities where a consolidated organization would deal with the whole thing in house. Of course some would argue that this simply shows how keeping parts of the overall procurement within Metrolinx adds layers of complexity that a turnkey solution might avoid. That’s a debate for another day, but an important part of any future project design.
Chair Colle observed that just because you invite someone over to your house, they don’t necessarily accept, and the TTC could find itself without a dance partner. Heisey replied that we should invite Metrolinx to dinner and tell them what the menu will be. Dinner invitations are often accepted. Colle observed that any one or two of the suggested items could “keep us well nourished”.
Mihevc added to the list by suggesting both the Finch and Sheppard LRT projects. That should be an amusing discussion considering that Metrolinx and City Planning have gone out of their way to be agnostic on the subject of Sheppard East’s technology considering that there are Councillors and (Liberal) MPPs who would love to see a subway extension there, not LRT. Both Boards, not to mention their respective management teams, would go to great lengths to avoid implying any sort of commitment beyond the next announcement of another GO parking lot or a long-anticipated subway extension’s opening date.
The biggest problem with the Metrolinx-TTC relationship is the province’s heavy-handed approach whereby any move away from the “official” way of doing things will be met with a cut in subsidy. Indeed, despite increasing outlays from Queen’s Park on transit, they keep finding more ways to charge Toronto for their services. The City gets more money on paper for transit, but spends some of it to buy provincial services in a monopoly market. Even if Metrolinx invites Toronto to dinner, they will expect the City to foot the bill.
As a public service, if only to forestall imminent starvation of the TTC Board, the balance of this article explores some of the issues raised by Commissioners.
[For readers in the 905, please note that this is a Toronto-centric article because it deals with issues between the TTC and Metrolinx. Municipalities outside of Toronto have their own problems with the provincial agency, not least of which is its undue focus on moving people to and from Union Station.]