SmartTrack’s Next Steps

After a day-long debate, Toronto Council has approved continuing along the path set by Mayor John Tory to study and possibly to build the transit lines branded as “SmartTrack”. Although this proposal is now much different from the scheme that was Tory’s campaign centrepiece, the idea of SmartTrack continues to receive broad support among Councillors.

The debate covered a lot of ground with two related threads: how would Toronto actually pay for SmartTrack, and how much of the larger transit network many hope to see will actually be built.

Council has yet to consider a long-term financing strategy and possible “revenue tools” (new taxes in plain English) to deal with the combined capital and operating budget demands of the would-be network. Although there was much talk of the lost decades of underinvestment in transit, Council has yet to show that it really is ready to spend Toronto dollars (as opposed to  money from any other source) at the level that will be needed. City staff will present a report on financing options in a few weeks, and the reaction to this will be telling.

What Did Council Approve?

Below is a consolidation of the staff recommendations and amendments adopted by Council arranged to keep related issues together. For full information, please refer to the detailed record of the item.

Note that in all cases where approvals relate to “SmartTrack” this includes both the six new GO stations and the Eglinton West LRT extension unless otherwise noted.

Process:

  • (1) Adopt the “Summary Term Sheet and Stage Gate Process” which includes details of the many parts of the proposed agreements and (2) authorize the City Manager to negotiate and execute agreements with the province to implement this.
  • (3) Request staff to report at Stage Gate 5 for final approval of full funding for SmartTrack. A report on more definitive costing and the financing funding strategy has been requested for an earlier step in this process. See (18) below.
  • (4) Approve the confidential staff recommendation regarding settlement of the Georgetown corridor funding issue. See also recommendation 15.

Technical and Planning:

  • (5) Proceed with planning and design for the six SmartTrack GO stations, report back to Council, and launch the Transit Project Assessment Process (TPAP). This was amended by two further requests that the work include improvement of:
    • the placement and access points of the Liberty Village Smart Track Station to maximize connectivity, and
    • pedestrian connections to the existing Exhibition Place Station for both Liberty Village and Exhibition Place.
  • (6) Confirmation of city support for transit supportive land use plans for areas around the SmartTrack and GO RER stations. Amendments related to this included:
    • Amending the development strategy for public lands at stations, including air rights, to create ongoing operating revenue streams from development resulting from that strategy.
    • Directing the Chief Planner to report in January 2017 with options to develop a comprehensive plan for managing development and growth related to transit expansion.
    • Confirming that the Official Plan as well as other plans, bylaws and policies, are not changed by this decision on this item. The intent of this is to forestall any claim for additional density by would-be developers in advance of the passing of updated plans for area affected by transit projects.
  • (7) Proceed with planning and analysis of the Eglinton West LRT extension up to Stage Gate 3 including finalization of stops and grade separations, provide a scope for this project up to the Renforth Gateway, and provide a class 4/5 estimate of the project’s cost, and conduct the TPAP. Note that this is a more restrictive approval seeking more detail than in the case of the ST/GO stations in (5) above.
  • (8) Request a financial contribution from Mississauga and Pearson Airport to the outside-416 portion of the Eglinton West extension.
  • (9) Ensure that the proposed new station design at St. Clair and Keele includes improved road operations and is co-ordinated with the St. Clair West Transportation Master Plan. A significant part of this would be the widening of the underpass east of Keele Street to remove the existing choke point.
  • (10) Request Metrolinx to consider grade separations at Progress and at Danforth on the Stouffville corridor, with the proviso that any option closing existing roads would not be considered. This was amended at Council to add requests for grade separations at Passmore, McNicoll, Huntingwood and Havendale.

At Council, there was an attempt to have items (7) and (8) deferred until after the Waterfront Transit Reset report is considered by Council in 2Q17, effectively putting both of the proposed Etobicoke LRT proposals on the same approval timeframe. The deferral motions did not pass.

Finance:

  • (13) Approve $71m for preliminary planning and design on SmartTrack (the 6 new stations plus the Eglinton West LRT)
  • (14) Include $2b in net capital requirements for SmartTrack (stations plus LRT) in the city’s 10 year capital projections.
  • (15) Approve $95m for settlement of the Georgetown South issue with the province.
  • (16) Approve $62m for Toronto’s share of 5 grade separation projects.
  • (17) Approve $60m for GO capital expansion (2 stations at Bloor/Lansdowne and at Spadina on the Barrie corridor). This was amended to ask that staff work with Metrolinx on including the study and design of the Railpath along the Barrie line between Bloor and Dundas West.
  • (18) Request staff to develop the financing and funding strategy, and report back when a class 3 cost estimate is available for a definitive Council commitment to the SmartTrack project.

Two additional amendments ask for:

  • strong TTC in developing procurement options, and
  • negotiations with the province for resumption of operating subsidies.

Commitment to the full cost of the new stations and the Eglinton West LRT will not occur until much more detailed cost estimates come back to Council over the next year (or possibly more). In the event that Council opts not to proceed with any component for which Metrolinx has spent money on development prior to the point of final approval, Council will be responsible to reimburse Metrolinx for its costs.

With respect to the additional grade separation studies requested for the Stouffville line, it is unclear how work on this would be funded, although one might expect Metrolinx to respond with a request for some up-front payment and guaranteed participation in funding if any of these goes ahead.

The Status of Other Major Transit Proposals and Projects

Planning and building any part of SmartTrack should be seen in the wider context of other transit needs and schemes, let alone wider demands on the city’s operating and capital budgets.

  • The Spadina Subway extension to Vaughan (TYSSE) is scheduled to open at the end of 2017, although startup costs will affect the TTC’s operating budget before any passengers are carried. For 2018, the current estimate of the annual operating cost to Toronto is $30 million including whatever marginal fare revenue the extension will bring in. This line’s capital was covered roughly one third by each level of government, with about 60% of the municipal share falling to Toronto based on the proportion of the route within its boundaries.
  • The Scarborough Subway from Kennedy Station to Scarborough Town Centre remains the subject of much debate. Although its capital cost is already covered by money from all three levels of government, the proportions are unequal, and any increase to the overall Scarborough transit scheme will be on the city’s tab. The extension will be part of the TTC’s operation along with the net new operating cost, an unknown amount at this time. A critical issue will be whether the cost estimate overall will hold or increase before final project approval, and how this will affect what actually gets built.
  • The Eglinton Crosstown LRT is now under construction by Metrolinx between Kennedy Station and Mount Dennis (at Weston Road) with a planned 2021 opening, subject to issues about vehicle delivery. This project’s capital cost is funded totally by Ontario, but operating costs will be billed back to Toronto at an anticipated annual net amount of about $40 million in then-current dollars.
  • The Eglinton East LRT extension from Kennedy Station to University of Toronto Scarborough College is part of the Scarborough package approved with much fanfare earlier in 2016. The capital cost is part of the same “pot” as the Scarborough Subway extension, but how much will actually be available after that extension’s scope and price are firmed up remains to be seen. This will be an early test for Council. Does it really believe in a “network”, are councillors willing to accept the extra cost as part of building our city, or is the argument still dominated by an outlook claiming that tax restraint must take precedence. An updated Scarborough report is expected in coming months.
  • The Eglinton West LRT extension from Mount Dennis to the Renforth Gateway (at the western city boundary) and then north to Pearson Airport is part of the SmartTrack package. Funding for the line is still uncertain because city plans depend on contributions from Ottawa (likely as part of the Liberal’s infrastructure program), from Mississauga and the airport authority (GTAA) for the portion outside of Toronto. This extension is now the more expensive portion of “SmartTrack”, and ironically appears to survive mainly because of that branding despite opposition from some Etobicoke councillors.
  • Like the central part of the Crosstown, the two extensions would be operated at the city’s expense even though the lines would be owned by Metrolinx.
  • The Metrolinx GO RER program is provincially funded, although the matter of the municipal contribution to GO’s capital remains a sore point between Queen’s Park and the GTHA. Toronto will pay for six new stations as part of SmartTrack and will also contribute to two stations on the Barrie corridor (Bloor/Lansdowne and Spadina). GO RER’s net operating costs will all be a provincial responsibility, and the amount of service that will actually operate depends on future subsidy levels for Metrolinx. Similarly, the full build-out of RER fleets, electrification and service levels will depend on future provincial budget decisions.
  • The Relief Line remains under study thanks to a provincial infusion of $150 million, and both city and TTC staff emphasize that it is a necessary part of Toronto’s future network. While some relief to Yonge line crowding will come from GO RER and the new SmartTrack stations, this will only blunt but not stop the growth in subway demand. A big problem, as readers have discussed here at length, is the project’s scope and the perception that it is intended for a comparatively small part of the system’s ridership, downtowners. The further north the eastern RL branch goes beyond Danforth (to Eglinton or even to Sheppard), the more it performs a service for the city as a whole, but this benefit is routinely underplayed relative to the cost of a new north-south subway. Major capital spending for the Relief Line would not begin until the mid 2020s, but this will still compete with other city priorities.
  • Waterfront LRT to the west is popular with councillors from southern Etobicoke and has begun to overshadow the shorter eastern LRT line in debates. Both parts of a future waterfront network are under review with the “Reset” study now in progress that has only progressed to the point of developing a moderately long list of options. The strategy appears to be to keep this list as open as possible as long as possible so that political fights over the details are held off at least until there is a better understanding of what will work and what the options might cost. Like the RL, waterfront transit has suffered from being perceived as a “downtown” project despite the scale of development it will have to serve.
  • The Finch West LRT is still on the books, and Metrolinx hopes to begin work in this in 2017. There remains some opposition to the line, and it will be a test of the Wynne government’s resolve to see whether actual work is pushed back beyond the 2018 election.
  • The Sheppard East LRT is also still on the books, although it is no secret that many politicians at City Hall and Queen’s Park would love to see this sacrificed for a Sheppard Subway extension. The LRT would be a provincial project with some federal money. There has not yet been any cost sharing commitment to a subway replacement from any government in part because the cost is unknown. It will almost certainly be greater than the LRT line, and like the extension north from Kennedy, will serve a considerably smaller part of Scarborough than the LRT would have. Any decision on this point is likely to fall to the next provincial government, although it will likely be part of the electioneering to reinforce the “subway champion” brand by all parties if this scheme gains traction at Council.
  • The Richmond Hill extension of the Yonge Subway is a project long-sought by York Region, but the idea is tangled up with network relief from GO RER, the Relief Line and other capacity improvements still pending for the existing subway. Some of these, such as added operating cost for more trains on Line 1 YUS, and capital cost for station capacity impeovements, will fall to Toronto. Whether any of the funding pools now thought to be available for transit projects generally will still be available by the time a decision on Richmond Hill faces council, indeed whether this decision will even be in Toronto Council’s hands, are questions for a future beyond any of the existing governments.
  • Not to be forgotten for its demand on city funding is the surface transit system including the bus and streetcar network. While billions in new projects preoccupy debates, a long-standing problem faces Toronto with population growth, much of it “downtown”, that has not been matched by additional transit. Indeed, transit service today is little changed from twenty years ago largely because the TTC streetcar fleet sits roughly at late 1990s levels, and traffic congestion has been responsible for service cuts to stretch the available fleet. Current operating budget plans at the TTC foresee a major shortfall in 2017 that appears unlikely to be addressed by a supposedly pro-transit council and mayor, and this will almost certainly continue into the 2018 election year. On the capital side, the TTC requires an additional batch of streetcars beyond the 204 now on order from Bombardier. Both the financing and supply of this fleet expansion are on shaky ground. As for the bus fleet, TTC management seems more preoccupied with simply replacing its existing fleet of hybrid buses with diesels rather than actually expanding the level of bus service to Toronto.

In this context, the SmartTrack decision is only a small part, and Council has yet to be presented with a comprehensive view of the effect building a real transit network, rather than a few lines, will have on its budget and future financing requirements.

 

Travel Times on Queens Quay West

At a recent TTC Board meeting, the question arose of just how well Queens Quay operated as a transit street and how long it took the streetcars to navigate through the new setup.

Staff claimed that they had added six minutes to the schedule to compensate for problems, but this really didn’t give the full picture. Not to miss a chance to carp, Councillor Minnan-Wong latched onto this number and worked it into the debate at Council when the “Waterfront Reset” report was up for debate. The report passed without amendment, but the seeds of disinformation have been planted.

In the interest of clarity and accuracy,  rare commodities at City Hall, here is a review of what has actually been happening.

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514 Cherry Opening Ceremonies

The 514 Cherry streetcar had its official opening on June 18, 2016, although regular service will begin on June 19 at 7:45 am. The route will operate between the new Distillery Loop near Cherry and Mill Streets in the Distillery District and Dufferin Loop at the western entrance of the Canadian National Exhibition grounds.

20160619Map514Changes

This is only the beginning of what should be a much larger network in the eastern waterfront, but work on that stalled thanks to the previous administration at City Hall. The impetus to restart on a serious basis will be funding of the Don River realignment and the active development of the land south of the railway corridor. Some idea of the potential network is shown in the following illustration from the Gardiner Expressway realignment study.

Cherry Street will be realigned south of the railway and will cross the Keating Channel on a new bridge including provision for streetcar track. New track along a realigned Queens Quay East will meet up at Cherry and provide the link to Union Station. Also shown (dotted) below is the proposed southerly extension of Broadview Avenue including streetcar track from Queen to Commissioners Street (out of frame below this illustration). Track on Commissioners would link east from New Cherry Street at least to Broadview and thence to Leslie Street and the southwest corner of Leslie Barns.

GardinerFig7HybridAlternative

For the occasion, five streetcars were on hand:

  • Flexity 4421, the newest of the cars in service
  • ALRV 4225
  • CLRV 4140
  • PCC 4500
  • Peter Witt 2766

4421 laden with many passengers and a few politicians set off from Distillery Loop after the usual speechifying such occasions bring, and made a round trip to Dufferin Loop. On its return, the original four cars were still waiting, but in due course the whole parade set off back to the carhouse.

An amusing note from our journey was that the car stopped at (and even announced) most of the stops along King Street that are scheduled to be taken out of service on June 19. This will be the only time that a 514 Cherry car served those stops. No, we did not have a photo op at each one to mark its passage.

Already there is word that operators are displeased with the absence of a loo at Distillery Loop. It’s a shame the Canary Restaurant isn’t still in business at Front Street where streetcars stop right at the door. I suspect this would have been a favourite layover point.

The TTC appears to be slightly confused about the location of the eastern terminus of 514 Cherry. According to the schedule website, this would be Cherry Beach Loop which is somewhat further south across both the Keating Channel and the Ship Channel, a lot sandier, and notably without any track. Not even any Swan Boats.

20160619_514_CherryBeachLoop

 

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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A Messy “Reset” For Waterfront Transit Planning (Updated)

The first of two public meetings on the City of Toronto’s so-called “reset” of transit plans for the waterfront was held on May 25, and a second is to follow tonight (May 26).

The presentation deck from these meetings is now available online.

Updated May 27, 2016 at 5:30 pm: The preliminary evaluation grids for various routing options have been added to this article following the original discussion of each section of the study. This raises an obvious question of how options can be scored before important factors such as demand projections, design and costing are known, and whether the preliminary scores will bias the discussion and evaluations to occur in Phase 2 of the study. Scroll down to the end of each section for the additional material. (Apologies for the resolution. The grids are not available online, and I am limited by the quality of the paper copies distributed at the meeting.)

There is a lot of material to digest here, and the process is not helped by several factors:

  • Council has imposed a very short timeframe, considerably less than would normally be taken for the scope of work.
  • All proposals that have ever been on the table for the past few decades and a few new schemes are up for discussion, including some that should have been discarded quite early in the process. In part this is due to the many incomplete studies of various sections of the route that never got to the point of killing off the unworkable options.
  • The City and consultant staff presenting this material are not intimately familiar with the details of many proposals, nor with the history of how they came to be part of past studies.
  • Conflicting goals of previous studies, not to mention of today’s Councillors and community groups, make a “one size fits all” solution impossible.
  • Beyond identifying a few locations where GO/Metrolinx might add stations in the Lake Shore corridor, there is little discussion of the role GO/RER can and, equally importantly, cannot play in handling travel.
  • There is very limited origin-destination or demand information with which to validate or compare proposals, or to put them in the wider context of competing demands for transit funding.
  • A vital consideration for any network is the effect on travel times. After spending millions (or even billions), how would the speed and capacity of travel have improved?
  • The real meat of any discussion remains for an as-yet unapproved “Phase 2” study that would include [text taken from the presentation]:
    • Feasibility studies (including but not limited to demand forecasting, operational assessments, further developed cost estimates);
    • Potential Environmental Assessment(s) or amendments to existing Environmental Assessment(s);
    • Pursuing the implementation of short term strategic improvements that minimize long term throwaway costs; and
    • Advancing a Business Case and pursue funding opportunities.

As someone who has worked for years in hopes of better transit service to the waterfront, all of this is quite disheartening. So many competing ideas are on the table, so many competing priorities, and so little desire to spend pervades the discussion. We may end up with nothing at all.

Growth in the Waterfront

The need for better transit to many parts of the waterfront is quite obvious to anyone who looks at the forests of new condo towers along the water and neighbourhood close by to the north. Much of the projected population growth in Toronto is located in the southern part of the city (an area considerably bigger than the traditional “downtown”), but transit improvements there always come second (at best) to proposed expansion elsewhere. Where suburban subway boosters take a “build it and they will come” approach to subway advocacy and treat rapid transit as a trigger that will, they hope, bring new population and jobs, the waterfront already has both, and is growing apace without adequate transit support. Improved transit to the eastern and western waterfront rank in the top five performers of the City’s “Feeling Congested” study.

201605_PopEmpGrowthto2041

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This growth will not all arrive “tomorrow”, but it certainly will build in over coming decades. Already, access by transit across the waterfront is inadequate, and this will only get worse as time goes on.

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Spring and a PCC Arrive at Harbourfront

With Victoria Day weekend and the arrival of unquestionably late spring weather in Toronto, people are turning out in droves on Queens Quay: pedestrians, strollers, bladers, cyclists, streetcars and more than a few bewildered motorists.

The TTC will operate one PCC on Sunday afternoons from now through Labour Day weekend on the route. No fare is charged, and a free transfer is possible to the subway at Union Station.

TTC Service Changes Effective June 19, 2016

Many changes will affect TTC operations with the onset of summer schedules for 2016. These include both the usual seasonal changes to service levels, several construction projects affecting routes, and the restructuring of routes serving the waterfront.

Updated May 24, 2016 at 7:30 pm: Preliminary information on construction diversions at Broadview Station has been added to this article.

2016.06.19 Service Changes

The information in the spreadsheet linked here is organized into three sections:

  • Routine, mainly seasonal, changes
  • Groups of changes related to specific projects and route reorganization
  • Construction project calendar

20160619Map514Changes

The 514 Cherry streetcar route begins operation running via a short spur south from King to Distillery Loop. Initially this will run with a mix of Flexities and CLRVs pending an increase in the fleet of new cars. Eventually track on Cherry will extend under the rail corridor and south into the Port Lands, but that is a project still years away and subject to the usual wrangling at Council about capital spending priorities.

In the 2016 Budget, the TTC Board and Council chose not to fund the new service with additional money, and so this operation will be implemented by cutting service on the outer ends of the 504 King route. Peak service will operate every 8-9 minutes, and off-peak periods, the line will operate on a 15 minute headway with five cars. A blended service on King is impractical given the large difference in frequencies between the 514 and 504 routes. Whether the Cherry cars actually pull out onto King into gaps and carry passengers, or merely slip in behind King cars and let them do the work remains to be seen.

The 172 Cherry Street bus has been replaced by an extended 72 Pape over a new route serving Queen Quay East, and by a new 121 Fort York – Esplanade bus that will operate on, at most, 15 minute headways, a considerable improvement over the former 172 Cherry.

Sunday Stops

The TTC continues its program to remove Sunday Stops from the system with removal of stops at the following locations.

20160619SundayStops

Streetcars Return due to Bus Shortage

With the onset of construction season, and despite the summer service cuts, several streetcar routes will be partly or completely replaced by buses: 512 St. Clair, 511 Bathurst, 506 Carlton. This will be offset by the return of streetcar service to the 502 Downtowner and 503 Kingston Road Tripper lines, as well as full streetcar service on 504 King with no bus trippers. Service will likely revert to combined streetcar/bus operation in September thanks to the late deliveries of new Flexity streetcars by Bombardier.

Construction Work on College Street

Several projects on College Street West have been timed to occur over the summer of 2016.

  • Special track work replacement at Bathurst and at Lansdowne
  • Removal of safety islands at Bathurst eastbound and at Bay Street both ways
  • Expansion of the safety island westbound at Bathurst
  • Water main upgrades on College and on Lansdowne
  • Streetscape improvements on College

The effects of these will be:

  • 506 Carlton will operate with buses in the west and streetcars in the east on weekdays, and with buses over the entire route on weekends. The weekday services will overlap between Church and Bay. This will continue throughout the summer.
  • 47 Lansdowne will divert around the construction area via Dufferin Street.
  • 511 Bathurst will be operated by buses until the next schedule change at the end of July diverting around construction via Spadina between Harbord and Dundas.
  • The 509/511 bus shuttle on Fleet Street will be replaced by the 511 bus service.

Details of the service diversions are in a separate article.

When streetcar service returns to Bathurst Street, the cars will operate into Exhibition Loop so that through service is provided until the Labour Day weekend. In September/October, service will be cut back again to Fleet Loop for a track replacement project in Exhibition Loop.

St. Clair Construction

Major construction work at St. Clair and St. Clair West Stations will require removal of streetcar service over the summer and early fall. The approach ramps at St. Clair West were not rebuilt during the line’s reconstruction, and the track must be replaced. The entire 512 route will be operated with buses through the summer, and streetcars will return from St. Clair West to Keele in September. Full streetcar service will resume on the Thanksgiving weekend in October.

Buses will not be able to enter either station during this project. At St. Clair Station, all bus service will loop on street via Avoca, Pleasant Boulevard, Yonge and St. Clair with transfer connections at the Pleasant Boulevard entrance. At St. Clair West Station, the 90 Vaughan bus will be extended south to Bathurst Station, and routes 33 Forest Hill and 126 Christie will be interlined. All buses will make an on street transfer connection at St. Clair West.

Broadview Station Construction

The bus loop at Broadview Station will be rebuilt over the summer and all bus services will loop on street via Erindale, Ellerbeck, Danforth and Broadview using an on street transfer. Given the frequent congestion of streetcars on Broadview awaiting entry to the station, the bus service will add to the congestion at Danforth northbound. The arrangement of on street stops for the four bus routes affected here has not yet been announced. Running time has been added to allow for the around-the-block loop except in cases where there was already enough recovery time in the existing schedule.

Updated May 24, 2016: Brad Ross at the TTC has provided the preliminary construction notice for the service and street changes. In addition, the Brick Works shuttle bus which normally loads on Erindale outside of Broadview Station will be relocated to Chester Station.

Bayview Services Reorganized

Peak period frequent service on 11 Bayview now ends at Davisville & Bayview, but this will be extended to Sunnybrook Hospital with every second bus running through to Steeles.

The 28 Bayview South route serving the Brick Works now operates only on weekend daytime hours, but will provide service during all periods.

Victoria Park North

Service in York Region on Victoria Park will now be provided by York Region Transit. The 24D Victoria Park branch to Major Mackenzie will be dropped and all service will turn back at Steeles Avenue. The 224 Victoria Park North route will cease operation.

Richmond Street Construction

All Downtown Express services will divert westbound from Church to Peter while Richmond Street is rebuilt from Victoria to York. Whether there will be any provision to assist the left turns west-to-south at Peter that will block 501 Queen Service (itself forced to divert and turn south at Spadina for water main construction) remains to be seen.

Waterfront Transit “Reset” Phase 1

In November 2015, Toronto Council directed that a consolidated review be conducted of the many overlapping proposals for transit improvements in the waterfront .

City Council direct City staff, working with the Toronto Transit Commission and Waterfront Toronto, to undertake a Phase 1 review of waterfront transit initiatives and options, and provide a status update to Executive Committee in the first quarter of 2016, such review of waterfront transit initiatives and options to include the proposed ShoreLine (closing the gap on the dedicated streetcar right-of-way between St. Joseph’s Hospital and Exhibition Place), the relocation of the Humber Loop, the Park Lawn – Lake Shore Transportation Master Plan currently underway, the possibility of a new GO Transit stop at Park Lawn, the proposed Legion Road extension, the proposed AM peak turning restrictions on Park Lawn Road from the Gardiner Expressway, the Mimico By the Lake Secondary Plan (Mimico 20/20), the Long Branch Avenue Study, and 2150 Lake Shore Boulevard West (former Mr. Christie bakery site).

Although this motion dwells extensively on the western waterfront, all of the proposals for improvements between western Etobicoke and Woodbine Avenue in The Beach are under review.

Two public meetings will be held to present the initial status of the review and solicit comments.

Central Location
Date: Wednesday May 25, 2016
Time: 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Open house begins at 6:00 p.m., followed by a presentation at 6:30 p.m.
Location: 235 Queens Quay West, Toronto, ON M5J 2G8 at Brigantine Room at Harbourfront Centre (major intersection is Queens Quay West and Lower Simcoe Street)

West Location
Date: Thursday May 26, 2016
Time: 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Open house begins at 6:00 p.m., followed by a presentation at 6:30 p.m.
Location: 95 Mimico Avenue, Toronto, ON M8V 1R4 at John English Junior Middle School in the auditorium (closest major intersection is Royal York Road and Mimico Avenue)

At this point, the specifics of options for various segments of the waterfront are only at the conceptual stage. The intent is not to choose specific alignments because factors such as future demand, construction and operational issues, interaction between proposals and cost will be dealt with in detail in a Phase 2 study, if approved, later in 2016.

Presentation materials for these meetings are not yet available online. When they are published, I will update this article.

This phase has a very tight turnaround because a report will go to Executive Committee as part of the overall review of transit proposals on June 28, 2016, and thence to Council in July.

Toronto Council Endorses Transit Plan, Seeks Background Details

At its meeting of March 31, 2016, Toronto Council passed several motions relating to the proposed rapid transit plan for the city.These evolved first as a set of staff recommendations, then amendments at the Executive Committee and finally amendments at Council. The changes along the way give a sense of how the attempt at a general approach taken in the new transit plan by staff can be warped into an emphasis on individual projects while losing sight of the overall purpose. This is not new in Toronto’s political theatre, but the city and region are at a crucial time when the “big picture” of the transportation network is essential. The challenge for those who would lead this process is to find a responsible balance between wider priorities and local concerns without making every decision only on political merits.

Many of these motions involve requests for additional reports, and at one point there was some concern about whether city staff could actually handle the workload. One might ask whether the city should be making such important decisions if staff are unable to produce sufficient background material and simply want approval trusting their recommendations. While studying issues to death is a well-known delay tactic, rushing decisions without all the details is a classic method of railroading through decisions the city might regret later. There is certainly nothing wrong with asking for a more thorough study of items that have been omitted, provided that the same requests do not surface over and over again.

If anything, Council has been woefully underinformed on transit options, priorities and tradeoffs, and such an environment “debate” often has little to do with the real world. Will every Councillor read every page of every study? No, but at least the material will be there to answer questions, support the good ideas and counter the dubious schemes. We hear a lot about “evidence based planning”, but this can be a double-edged sword where “evidence” might not support fondly-held proposals.

This article groups Council’s motions by topic so that readers do not have to sort through the relationship of recommendations and amendments.

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TTC Board Meeting Follow-Up: March 23, 2016

The TTC Board met on March 23. In earlier articles, I have already reviewed the agenda, and discussed ridership statistics.

Arising from the debate on ridership, the Board passed a motion to revisit the whole issue of actively pursuing ridership growth. The motion by Commissioner Shelley Carroll reads:

That TTC staff report back to the Commission by the third quarter of 2016 with a development plan for a comprehensive multi-year strategy to address current ridership stagnation and to achieve a steady rate of ridership growth annually thereafter.

This is particularly important going into the 2017 budget year when there will be pressure to accommodate both the start of new expenses for the Spadina subway extension (TYSSE) and strong growth in the Wheel-Trans budget. Debates and decisions about which options might be pursued to improve transit and attract riders need to have more background than the annual need for politicians to have something to announce. At the very least, changes should be thought out with specific benefits beyond the photo ops.

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