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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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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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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Eglinton East & Waterfront LRT Updates

Toronto’s Executive Committee considered a report on the current status of the Eglinton East LRT and Waterfront East LRT projects at its meeting on December 10, 2020.

The primary function of this report is to authorize continued study, not to set priorities nor to discuss funding schemes. As such, its recommendations passed easily because it preserves the convenient fiction of progress without actual commitment. The real battles come when there are $30 billion worth of transit projects and less than $10 billion to pay for them.

In a beautifully ironic touch, the same morning brought news from the Toronto Star’s Jennifer Pagliaro that the Scarborough RT would not last long enough to avoid a shutdown well before the Scarborough Subway could be completed. That announcement raises a raft of questions about Toronto’s transit future that go well beyond Scarborough itself, and I will turn to those issues in a separate article.

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Toronto’s Omnibus Transit Report: Part III

This is the third and final part of my review of the transit reports that will be before Toronto’s Executive Committee on April 9, 2019, and at Council a week later.

In part one, I reviewed the financial issues presented in the reports together with the Scarborough Subway Extension, now known as the Line 2 East Extension (L2EE).

In part two, I turned to SmartTrack, the Relief Line and the Bloor-Yonge station expansion project.

This article reviews the streetcar/LRT projects as presented in the current set of reports.

Relevant documents include:

  • Main report: Toronto’s Transit Expansion Program – Update and Next Steps
  • Attachment 1: A status update on all projects
  • 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.]
  • Attachment 4: Eglinton East LRT
  • Attachment 5: Eglinton West LRT

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.

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Council Approves Tory Transit Plan, Attempts Pet Project Revivals

Toronto Council has approved the transit plan for Toronto featuring Mayor John Tory’s SmartTrack line and the Scarborough Subway after a long debate on July 14, 2016. Notwithstanding severe problems with financial pressures and the blind faith needed to expect that the entire package can actually be funded, Council added a few pet projects that never quite fade from view thanks to the efforts of individual members.

LRT proposals for Eglinton East and West survived the vote largely because they are part of larger packages – SmartTrack in the west, and the Scarborough Subway Extension in the east. The subway debate has so polarized camps that “LRT” is synonymous with third class transit simply because it was the heart of the “non subway” option. Without the bitterness of the SSE that required subway advocates to paint LRT in the worst possible light, its potential role in Toronto’s future network might not have been so poisoned while other cities embrace this mode.

Staff recommendations in the report were amended in some respects, and a few new clauses were added, notably one asking for City staff to pursue a co-fare arrangement with GO Transit.

The Waterfront Transit Reset report is a separate agenda item and, at the time of writing, Council has not yet dealt with it.

The Finch West and Eglinton Crosstown LRT projects are under Metrolinx, and they are already underway to varying degrees.

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Toronto’s Network Plan 2031: Part VI, Crosstown East LRT Extension

This article deals with the report Eglinton East LRT Preliminary Options Analysis which is before Toronto’s Executive Committee on June 28. It is part of a large package of transit proposals that have been discussed in several previous article in this series.

The Crosstown East, as it is now known, was originally the Transit City Scarborough-Malvern LRT line. It had fallen off of the map as part of the Transit City cutbacks imposed by Queen’s Park, but was resurrected early in 2016 as part of the “optimized” Scarborough network of a one-stop subway to STC from Kennedy, SmartTrack service in the GO Stouffville corridor, and the LRT to University of Toronto’s Scarborough Campus (UTSC).

With the recent announcement that the subway proposal will soak up more of the funding already earmarked for Scarborough than originally thought, the LRT line could be in jeopardy again. This would be quite ironic given that it was used as a sweetener to bring some members of Council onside with the one-stop subway plan. Indeed the LRT provides the majority of the benefit in the “optimized” scheme through its many stops close to residents who otherwise would not be on a rapid transit corridor. The package would not look as good for many of Toronto’s planning goals if the LRT line were omitted, but by bundling the stats, subway advocates can make the subway appear better than it would be on its own.

Of the reports before Council, this is the simplest of the proposals in that the options to be reviewed are quite similar differing only in whether the line would end at UTSC or continue north to Sheppard. The latter option dates from a time when it would connect to the Sheppard East LRT and a proposed carhouse at Conlins Road. Such a connection remains possible if Queen’s Park ever overcomes its aversion to LRT on Sheppard (or more accurately, its aversion to telling the Scarborough Liberal Caucus it will never see a subway extension there).

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Scarborough Subway Ridership and Development Charges

The Star’s Jennifer Pagliaro reports that City Council has approved a confidential settlement with BILD, the Building Industry and Land Development Association, to avoid an Ontario Municipal Board hearing that could lead to rejection of the Bylaw implementing the Development Charges intended to pay for the Scarborough Subway. The matter was before Council in confidential session on June 7, 2016.

Staff miscalculations on the ridership of the Scarborough subway will leave taxpayers on the hook for millions more, after city council voted to settle a dispute with developers.

According to a secret report before council on Tuesday, the contents of which were shared with the Star, the city’s lawyers advised councillors to accept a settlement with the group representing developers, the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD).

The settlement, which reduces the amount builders will have to pony up to help finance the subway, is expected to cost the city as much as $6 million in lost revenues.

If the settlement is for only $6 million, the City should consider itself lucky because the calculation underlying the DCs is based on flawed ridership estimates and an out of date network design. Moreover, the original authorization appears to double count subway revenue with both a special Scarborough Subway Tax and Development Charges to recover the same costs.

Recent news of a 50% reduction in expected Scarborough Subway ridership from 14,100 to 7,300 passengers in the AM peak hour reignited political debate on the viability of the subway scheme. However, these numbers are not just hypothetical indicators of how the line might perform, they are integral to the calculation of Development Charges (DCs) that would help to fund the City’s share of this project.

See also my previous articles:

The formula to calculate development charges is complex, but at its heart is one key measure: how much of a new transit project will benefit existing properties versus future development. If the primary role of a new subway is to improve the lot of current riders, then only a minority of its cost can be recouped by DCs (and thus from future purchasers of new properties).

Toronto allocates DCs on a city-wide basis rather than assigning each project only to the neighbourhoods it will directly serve. These charges already help pay for many projects as shown in the introduction to the study establishing the level of new charges for the SSE.

The Council of the City of Toronto passed a Development Charges (DC) By-law, By-law 1347-2013 in October 2013, for the recovery of capital costs associated with meeting the increased needs arising from development. The effective date of the Bylaw was November 1, 2013. The recovery of DCs is on a City-wide basis and relates to a wide range of eligible City services:

  • Spadina Subway Extension
  • Transit
  • Roads and Related
  • Water
  • Sanitary Sewer
  • Storm Water Management
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Library
  • Subsidized Housing
  • Police
  • Fire
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Development-Related Studies
  • Civic Improvements
  • Child Care
  • Health
  • Pedestrian Infrastructure

For commercial property, there is some justification to this because increased mobility makes travel to jobs simpler well beyond the location of any one project. For example, the Scarborough Subway might be held out as a way to stimulate growth at the Town Centre, but it would also reduce commute times to other parts of Toronto, notably downtown.

For residential property, especially for the large proportion of new development downtown, this link is less clear, and DCs on new condos can wind up funding transit projects of little benefit to the new residents.

This split is part of the eternal battle between sharing the cost of public services across the city and charging them locally or by user group.

In the case of the Scarborough Subway Extension (SSE), the split between new and existing beneficiaries was determined by the change in ridership projected with the subway project. The benefit was allocated 61% to new development and 39% to existing riders. The ratio is high because, at the time of the calculation, the projected peak hour ridership for the SSE was estimated at 14,100 compared with a base value of 5,500. Both of these numbers are suspect.

The base value was factored up from actual SRT ridership of 4,000 per hour to 5,500 to represent the load the subway would have had were it to exist in 2015. That value of 4,000 is equivalent to a load of about 240 per train when the peak service was 17.14 trains/hour (3’30” headway) as in 2012. However, by 2013 service had been cut to 13.33 trains/hour (4’30” headway) to reduce equipment requirements on the aging line. That is the service operating today, although a further cut to 12 trains/hour (5’00” headway) is planned for June 20, 2016. Some of the demand that would be on the SRT travels via alternate routes, some is packed into fewer trains, and some has probably been lost to the TTC. What the ridership might be today were the RT not capacity constrained is hard to tell, but it should certainly be higher.

The high value for future subway ridership combines with the low value for presumed current demand to load much of the SSE’s cost onto new development.

The situation is complicated by two competing ridership estimates:

The contexts for the three estimates differ, and this goes some way to explaining why the numbers are so far apart:

  • A line to Sheppard will attract more ridership than one ending at the STC.
  • A subway station at Sheppard, in the absence of improvements to the GO corridor such as RER and SmartTrack, will attract ridership from Markham just as Finch Station does from the Yonge corridor north of Steeles.
  • Removal of the station at Lawrence East, coupled with new GO corridor services, will reduce demand on the subway.

There is no guarantee that the land use, job and population assumptions underlying the three estimates are the same, especially when the highest number was produced in the context of boosting the importance of STC as a growth centre.

What we are left with, however, is the likelihood that the level of DCs allocated for the Scarborough Subway project were based on the most optimistic scenario for new ridership, and a network configuration quite different from what will actually be built. If the calculation had been done on the basis of lower ridership numbers, the DC revenue available to fund the Scarborough Subway would have been considerably lower.

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A Cat’s Cradle of Transit Plans (Updated)

Updated June 6, 2016 at 11:30 pm: The chart of the demand profile for the Eglinton East LRT has been updated by City Planning to correct an error in labelling where inbound and outblound values were reversed. The new chart has been placed into this post, and the link to the source pdf has been updated below.

Public consultation sessions are coming to an end on the “motherlode” of transit projects (as they were described earlier this year by Toronto’s Chief Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat). This process will soon bring a consolidated set of reports and recommendations for Council. So far, the presentations have been subdivided between various projects.

A major challenge for politicians, the media and the general public is to sort out all of these schemes and to understand how they all fit together. This is not just a question of how we will finance all of the projects, but of how each project and the choices made for it will affect everything else. Where typical studies in Toronto might have wrestled with whether a new line should go under street “A” or “B”, and where the stations might be located, today’s work requires understanding of how the network will evolve over time and how it will work as a whole in a few decades.

The process is complicated further by having municipal (City Planning & TTC) and provincial (Metrolinx) components, and the secretive nature of Metrolinx studies means that some vital information about its projects is not yet public. The Metrolinx reports are expected to appear on their Board’s agenda for June 28, and this implies public availability sometime in the preceding week.

The consolidated City reports should be available on June 21 when a briefing session is to occur at City Hall a week before the June 28 Executive Committee meeting.

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