King Street Update: March-April 2019 Part III (Revised)

May 13, 2019 at 9:00 am: In response to a reader’s comment, I have modified the analysis of operations at Dufferin Loop to split out time spent within the loop itself from queuing southbound on Dufferin approaching the loop.

This article continues the analysis of 504 King operations in early 2019 with the following posts:

A major problem with 504 King car operations at both Dundas West and Broadview Stations is the queuing of streetcars approaching the station but unable to enter because the platform space is occupied. As the route changed over from the “standard” length streetcars around which these stations were designed to the double-length Flexitys, what had been an occasional nuisance is now a daily experience.

Living near Broadview Station, I am quite aware of this problem (not to mention the flocks of 505 Dundas buses which are quite another matter), but with the TTC’s May 12, 2019 schedule changes that will add running time to 504 King, there is the potential for this problem to become even worse. This article looks at the situation at all four of the loops used by the 504A/B King service: Broadview Station, Distillery, Dufferin and Dundas West Station in April 2019. I will update this information when data for May is available and a before-and-after comparison will be possible.

Unlike the travel time charts in other articles where the route segments extend over many city blocks, the “map” used for this analysis is very finely-grained with screenlines at spacings of under 100 metres. Please refer to the Appendix to this article for notes about methodology and the choice of screenline locations for calculation of travel and queuing/layover times.

The chart below is taken from my summary of the May 12 service changes.

  • During most weekday periods, the number of streetcars in service goes up, but the headway stays the same or gets wider. The result is that cars have more time to get from one end of the line to the other.
  • During weekday early evenings, headways widen from 6’30” on each branch to 8’00” and running times are increased.
  • On weekends, there is a combination of wider headways and/or added cars to produce additional running time.

From the actual data showing time spent by streetcars at the four terminals of the 504 King route (Broadview Station, Distillery Loop, Dufferin Loop and Dundas West Station), it is far from clear than any additional running time is actually needed during many periods of operation. The TTC appears to be making a broad brush change to the schedule rather than targeting fixes to periods and locations where they will actually improve service.

Moreover, at a recent meeting of City Council, TTC staff advised that there would be more cars on King starting in May, but neglected to mention that this would not improve the scheduled service level, and in some cases would actually reduce service. Further changes on 504 King are expected in the fall, but the details are not yet available.

Apologies to readers for the plethora of charts in this article. I have used excerpts from chart sets for each location and included a link to the full sets for those who want them.

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Analysis of 501 Queen: January-April 2019 (Part I – Headways at Neville Loop)

A recent report by the CBC on May 8 claimed that the “transition to new streetcars will help alleviate short turns on major routes”. TTC spokesman Stuart Green, citing the May 2019 CEO’s Report, said that a large increase in short turns during March 2019 was caused by, among other things, the mix of new and old cars on the route with the strong implication that things will be better once Queen goes 100% low-floor in late June.

The CEO’s Report cites various factors:

Over the five-week period, the 501 Queen route made up approximately 40% of all short turns. This increase on the 501 route was due to several factors:

First, the reduction in Run-As-Directed (RAD) streetcars beginning in Week 8 (from 6 a.m./p.m. to 3 a.m./p.m.) has hurt the operational flexibility to respond to incidents and service gaps on all routes.

Second, the Queen route is largely serviced by CLRVs. These legacy vehicles experienced a high number of mechanical delays and disablements in March.

Finally, the Queen route is in a transition period with LFLRVs making up a small portion of the vehicles on the route, mixing with the CLRVs that have historically operated on the route. The different speed and operating characteristics of the two vehicle types inherently leads to more bunching and gapping on the route. [p 37]

The situation on Queen is even more complex than this and includes factors not listed in the CEO’s report:

  • Weather varied substantially over the winter months and yet short turns were at a substantially lower level in January and February.
  • Many delays on streetcar routes were caused by the City of Toronto’s failure to clear snow resulting in many cars parking foul of the tracks.
  • There is a persistent problem with uneven headways (bunching and gapping) leaving terminals, and little evidence of attempts to evenly space service. The mix of vehicle types can compound this problem depending on the capacity of the “gap car”.

From a rider’s point of view, irregular service and short turns may be indistinguishable especially for someone beyond a common short-turn location. On the east end of Queen, this is Woodbine Loop. It does not matter whether a 20 minute gap to Neville is caused by a short-turn at Woodbine, or because the service is running in packs separated by long gaps. In practice, most of the scheduled service does reach Neville, but it neither arrives nor leaves on a reliable headway (the time between cars).

At the May 8 TTC Board Meeting, Acting CEO Kirsten Watson noted that there had been a change in operational strategy in April whereby operators who were “late” to the schedule short-turned by trading vehicles with another car near a terminal rather than physically short-turning their own car. The result is that the operator gets back on time while their original car continues to the terminal.

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Subway Upload I: The Getting Ontario Moving Act

Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek introduced Bill 107, the Getting Ontario Moving Act, in the Ontario legislature on May 2, 2019.

This is an omnibus bill amending several other Acts to implement various policies, one of which is the first stage of the “upload” of responsibility for subway extensions and new builds from the City of Toronto. Schedule 3 of the Bill amends the Metrolinx Act. In brief, the amendments provide for:

  • The Cabinet (legislatively known as “The Lieutenant Governor in Council”) may “prescribe a rapid transit design, development or construction project as a rapid transit project that is the sole responsibility of Metrolinx”. For such projects, the City of Toronto and its agencies are barred from taking “further action” on the project, and all of the project’s “assets, liabilities, rights and obligations” can be transferred to Metrolinx. Such projects are known as “sole responsibility projects”.
  • The Cabinet may prescribe that a project is “subject to the Minister’s direction”, and for such projects “the Minister may issue directives to the City of Toronto and its agencies”, and the Cabinet may require that “a specified decision about the project be subject to the Minister’s approval”. Such projects are known as “direction and approval projects”.

These provisions address two separate types of project organization. In the first case, control of and responsibility for a project is transferred completely to Metrolinx. In the second, a project could remain in the City’s hands but be subject to Ministerial direction and approval.

Sole Responsibility Projects

Where a project is declared to be a sole responsibility project, the City of Toronto is barred from undertaking a project “that is substantially similar and in close proximity to” such a project. Why Toronto would attempt to duplicate a provincial project such as the extension of Line 2 in Scarborough is a mystery, but Queen’s Park clearly wants to ensure this does not happen. An exception provides that the Minister “may authorize” the City to undertake work on a sole responsibility project.

The Cabinet may order the transfer of City assets related to a sole responsibility project “with or without compensation”. The list of “assets” is quite extensive and includes real estate. This begs the question of how such property becomes “related” to a project as opposed to simply being property previously owned by the City.

The City is required to participate in this process and “take all such actions as are necessary and practicable to give the Corporation possession of property transferred”.

Direction and Approval Projects

A project could be left nominally under the City’s control, but subject to Ministerial direction, in particular that “a specified decision with respect to the project” could be subject to Ministerial approval. The City is barred from taking action that would arise from a decision without such approval. In other words, the City cannot launch work that could be in conflict with a Ministerial approval that has not yet been granted.

Legal Protection

Many of the amendments address the transition of projects from the City to the Province and preclude legal action against the parties for the implementation of the new regime.

What the Legislation Does Not Address

The legislation is completely silent on matters of capital or operating costs of projects undertaken by or under the direction of the province. Specifically, there is nothing to explain:

  • Any aspect of capital cost sharing that might be sought or imposed by the Province on the City of Toronto or other municipalities for sole responsibility projects.
  • The future operation of projects created under the “sole responsibility” or “direction and approval” regimes.
  • The subdivision of “maintenance” costs between the Province and the City of Toronto or any other municipality.

The “other shoe” still to drop is the question of uploading the existing subway network. This is a much more complex transfer that will be the subject of future legislation.

This is the bare bones of legislation needed to give Metrolinx control over rapid transit construction so that Ontario can “get on with the job” of building transit, but much more is involved in actually doing the work.

Minister Yurek is good at repeating his talking points including the bogus claim that there has been no rapid transit expansion for decades. Taking pot shots at the City for alleged chaos in transit planning is easy, although both Premier Ford and the Conservative Party have rampant amnesia about their own contributions. Now Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario will have to deliver rather than just posturing.

TTC Updates Flexity/CLRV Replacement Schedule

Over past months there has been some inconsistency in TTC statements about the fate of the “legacy” CLRV and ALRV fleets with conflicting information that

  • some legacy cars would survive into early 2020,
  • all of these cars would be retired by the end of 2019,
  • all of the buses now operating on streetcar routes would be available for bus service improvements in 2020.

It is self-evident that these statements cannot all be true.

The situation is now clarified in two reports on the TTC Board’s Agenda for May 8, 2019.

The CEO’s Report includes the following:

On streetcar services, we’ll address crowding through the continued rollout of new high-capacity, low-floor streetcars. Low-floor vehicles are expected to be on all streetcar routes by early 2020.

Supplementary bus service may be used on some routes during the busiest times.

With the continued delivery of new low-floor streetcars, we are advancing their deployment on more routes.

Currently, the 504 King, 509 Harbourfront, 510 Spadina and 512 St Clair are fully served with low-floor streetcars. We began deploying these streetcars on the 501 Queen in January 2019. We expect that all service on Queen, between Humber Loop and Neville Park Loop will be operated by low-floor streetcars by early summer.

Subsequent routes for streetcar deployment will be: 511 Bathurst (summer 2019), 501 Queen (Long Branch Loop to Humber Loop, fall 2019), 506 Carlton (late 2019), and 505 Dundas (spring 2020). Low-floor streetcar service on Kingston Road will be introduced in 2020 following a review of streetcar services as part of our Five-Year Service Plan. [pp 11-12]

The CEO’s Report now shows the decommissioning plan for all legacy cars in 2019 as “Projected” [p 39].

The 2019-2023 Accessibility Plan includes:

By the end of 2019, the remainder of the order of low-floor streetcars is expected to be received and the TTC plans to retire all high floor streetcars from regular service. [p 27]

The Five-Year Service Plan mentioned above will not be out until December 2019, but with the Capital Investment Plan now showing spending on a further order of streetcars in the mid-2020s, there will be an extended period where expansion of streetcar capacity will be limited to whatever can be provided with supplementary bus service. From King Street, we know that there is a latent demand for better service on the streetcar network, but actually addressing that will be challenging in the current climate.

Crowding is a problem on all parts of the system, but the political focus is on new subway lines that will not address most of these problems, and certainly not in the short-to-medium term. The CEO’s Report now includes a table showing crowding levels, although on a system-wide basis, not for individual routes.

These numbers should be understood in the context of “periods” as defined in TTC schedules. There are five periods through the day:

  • Weekdays: AM Peak / Midday / PM Peak / Early Evening / Late Evening
  • Weekend: Early Morning / Late Morning / Afternoon / Early Evening / Late Evening

The transition points between these periods vary from route to route depending on local demand patterns.

In the chart below, the combination of routes and periods shows that in the first quarter of 2019, 41 bus routes were overcrowded during 82 periods, but this means the combination of one route and one period. With 82 representing only 4.5% of the total, this means that there are over 1,800 possibilities for the bus fleet.

The methodology of counting weekend days individually yields 15 periods overall for most routes. (Some routes do not operate in the Early AM period on the Sunday schedules.) The reason for this is that there is a common schedule for all weekdays, but separate schedules for each of the weekend days. However, this methodology consolidates the majority of the service (weekdays) into only one third of the period count undervaluing the number of riders affected by weekday problems. Moreover, crowding that varies by day-of-week could be masked by averaging over a five-day period.

There also appears to be a mathematical problem for the subway where 7 periods are claimed to be 13.5% of the total. This implies that there are over 50 subway “periods”, but with only 3 lines and 14 periods per line (no early Sunday service), this is impossible (it is unclear where the SRT fits in here). This chart needs work to improve its content.

Reliability of the new Flexity fleet bounced back from a big dip in January 2019, but the mean distance between failures of 13,223 km is still below last year’s performance and less than half of the contracted target. This does not bode well for any move to extend the existing contract with Bombardier.

CLRV reliability continues to track at under 4,000 km MDBF, and the TTC no longer publishes stats for the ALRVs as they have been out of service over the winter. The May schedule plans show a return of five ALRVs to 501 Queen, but this is tentative and the affected runs might simply show up with CLRVs or Flexitys. The CEO’s report notes:

As this legacy fleet is scheduled to be decommissioned by end of this year, maintenance staff will continue to ensure the vehicles are safe to operate in service. However, technical efforts moving forward are being shifted to the new LFLRV fleet and to providing Bombardier with additional assistance. [p 40]

King Street Update: March 2019 Part II

In the first part of this review, I extended previous charts showing travel times through the Jarvis-Bathurst “pilot” area to the end of March 2019. This installment turns to the question of headway reliability – how regularly do streetcars arrive – as opposed to how long they require to cross the pilot district. A rider’s experience is affected by both of these factors, not to mention the basic question of “can I get on” when a streetcar does show up.

Although one end of a journey might be within the pilot, many trips on the King car begin or end beyond the pilot’s limits. They are affected by service quality along the whole route, not just in the core. This article begins by looking at March 2019 service at Yonge Street, and then moves further afield including the termini of the route.

The weather varied considerably over March 2019, but this did not play a big factor in the data overall, and statistics for most weeks and locations are similar. The larger issue is that service at the terminals is irregular most of the time, and this makes it impossible to have a properly “blended” service in the central part of the route.

The measurement shown in this article are taken at various screenlines along the route.

  • Southbound on Broadview crossing Danforth (leaving Broadview Station)
  • Northbound on Cherry crossing Mill (leaving Distillery Loop)
  • Westbound on King crossing Parliament (blended service from 504A/B). Note that any short turns coming south on Parliament are not included.
  • Westbound on King crossing Yonge
  • Southbound on Dundas crossing Bloor (leaving Dundas West Station)
  • Northbound on Dufferin crossing Springhurst (leaving Dufferin Loop)
  • Eastbound on King crossing Strachan (blended service)
  • Eastbound on King crossing Yonge

Headway Reliability at Yonge

The service at Yonge Street includes both the 504A and 504B branches of the King route. Their schedules normally have the same headway and so in theory this should be a blended service of cars alternating between destinations on a combined headway half that of each branch.

There are various ways of presenting the headway data each of which reveals a different aspect of the operation.

Headway Scatter Chart

Each dot on the chart represents one car with different colours for each day. The horizontal position is the time of day, and the vertical position is the headway in front of the car when it crossed Yonge Street. Note that because of the farside stop, few values are right at the zero line because cars tend to wait their turn and do not cross within the same 20-second interval used by the vehicle tracking system.

The wavy coloured lines are best fit curves threaded through the data to show how the values behave over the course of the day. Note that even though the dots for each day may be in different locations, the overall values as shown by the trend lines is quite similar for each day. In other words, one day is very much like another.

The scheduled combined headways of the King branches in March were:

  • 2’38” in the AM peak
  • 3’30” in the midday
  • 3’00” in the PM peak
  • 3’15” in the early evening
  • 4’30” in the late evening

The trend lines lie generally on the scheduled values as one would expect at the middle of the route where there should be no effects from short turns and all service is present.

The full Service Summary for 504 King is shown below.

Averages and Deviations

Another way to look at the same data is to see the hourly averages and standard deviations (a measure of how dispersed the values are around the average).

On this chart, each week’s data is displayed in a different colour (the red line corresponds to the week 1 data on the previous chart). The solid line shows the hourly average values and the dotted lines show the standard deviations. The latter values are of some concern because they lie close to the averages. This indicates that the band of data values around the averages for over half of the headways is close to the scheduled headway itself. In other words, many cars are running two headways apart, and by implication others are running very close together. This is evident in the scatter diagram, but the chart of averages and SDs shows that this is a consistent pattern for all weeks in the month.

Note that “week 1” actually is six days long because March 1 is a Friday and is included with the following week.

Quartiles

The chart below shows the week 1 data in “block and whisker” format breaking down the range for each of four quartiles.

Each column displays the data for one hour within week 1.  The green and blue boxes show the range of the second and third quartiles with the dividing line being the median value for the data. The red “whiskers” at the bottom show the range of the first quartile data, while the upper purple whiskers show the fourth quartile.

This chart shows that one quarter of the service operates well below the median headway, close to zero, and another quarter operates well above reaching values of 10 minutes and more throughout the day. The other half of the service lies within the green and blue boxes. The shorter this box is, the closer to the scheduled headway half of the service is operating, but the “whiskers” ideally should not be so long.

This is a simplified view of the scatter chart above. From a rider’s point of view, wait times are important and more people will accumulate at a stop during a wide headway than a narrow one. More riders “see” the gaps (and following bunches) even though the average and median headways might be close to the scheduled values. This also affects crowding on cars.

Weekends show little difference. The Saturday data are shown below, and the Sunday data are quite similar except for the early morning hours.

All of the charts above are for westbound service. The eastbound charts are quite similar. Full sets for both directions are available below.

A classic argument about transit service is that bunching is inevitable given the vagaries of traffic and the impossibility of running precisely to a schedule. By the time the service reaches Yonge in either direction, what might have been a well-behaved service has fallen apart. At least that’s the story. However, when we look further away, this is not born out by the data.

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TTC Service Changes Effective May 12, 2019

The May 2019 service changes bring a number of adjustments across the system:

  • Routes that serve post-secondary institutions have reduced service levels reflecting the lighter demand for summer enrollment.
  • The seasonal extension of 121 Fort York – Esplanade to Ontario Place and Cherry Beach begins, and the 175 Bluffers’ Park weekend service returns.
  • Many routes have “service reliability” adjustments which, for the most part, consist of giving more running time and/or recovery time to buses with slightly increased headways.

Construction projects beginning with this schedule period:

  • Davisville Station paving work will see the 14 Glencairn and 28 Bayview South routes interlined. They will not stop in the station. Also, peak period 97B Yonge service will only serve the southbound stop at Davisville. 11 Bayview and 97 Yonge northbound services will continue to use the station but will change loading spots as the work progresses.
  • Jane Station paving work will displace the 26 Dupont and 55 Warren Park services to Old Mill Station. They will serve Jane Station at on-street stops. 35/935 Jane services will offload in the station, but will load on Jane Street northbound.
  • Constuction work at the Wheel-Trans Lakeshore Garage will close the operators’ parking lot for several months. During this time, service to the garage will remain on 83 Jones, but a new 383 Wheel-Trans Shuttle night bus will operate from Queen and Coxwell west to Leslie and south to Commissioners. The eastbound route will use Eastern Avenue from Leslie to Coxwell.
  • Construction work at Eglinton West Station by Metrolinx will close the station during overnight hours. The 363 Ossington will be cut back to Oakwood and Eglinton and will operate as 363B from 2:12 am which will be the last southbound trip from the station.

Service on the Scarborough RT will be improved by extending the peak period service to 11 am in the morning, and to 9 pm in the evening. There is no change in the peak service level of 5’00” headways due to the ongoing reconstruction of the fleet which leaves only 5 trains available for peak service plus 1 spare.

Peak period service on 72 Pape will be modified by decoupling the 72B Union Station branch from the 72C Commissioners branch. Rather than attempting to operate the same headway on each service, the two will run independently of each other with improved service on the 72C branch and reduced service on 72B to Union.

The last of the old “Rocket” services, 186 Wilson Rocket, will be rebranded as 996 Wilson Express with no change in service levels.

The proportion of 501 Queen service between Neville and Humber operated with Flexity low floor cars will continue to increase, especially on weekends. Actual numbers could be higher than those shown in the schedule. In theory, the schedule provides for five ALRVs on the 501 service, but this is subject to availability. Either CLRVs or Flexitys would be substituted.

504 King service will see changes to the schedule during all periods, although this mainly involves adding running and recovery times, as well as some stretched headways.

  • Peak headways stay the same but with longer times through the addition of 3 cars in the AM and 4 cars in the PM.
  • Early evening service sees the greatest change with a move from service every 6’30” on each branch to every 8’00”. If nothing else, this might placate business owners on King Street who complained that service during this period was excessive.

Construction at Roncesvalles Carhouse has progressed to the point where much of the 504A Dundas West to Distillery service will now operate from that location rather than from Leslie Barns.

The growth of the Flexity fleet, combined with remaining “legacy” CLRVs and ALRVs and construction at Roncesvalles is causing problems for overnight car storage. Service on 304 King will be improved from every half hour to every 15 minutes, and similar changes will occur on other overnight routes in coming months. The reconstruction of old facilities moves to Russell Division in 2020, and so this problem is not going away soon. The TTC is also working on a plan to build a yard for 24 cars at Hillcrest as a base for 512 St. Clair, but this is only in the design stage.

2019.05.12_Service_Changes (Version 2, April 20/19 at 5:40 pm)

TTC 2019 Fleet and Capacity Plans Part III: The TTC Responds

In the first two installments of this series, I reviewed plans for the subway system and the surface bus and streetcar networks. These reviews triggered many questions which I sent off to the TTC.

We have all been a little pre-occupied with other matters recently, and it took a while for the TTC to reply. Thanks to Stuart Green and the staff at TTC who pulled this together.

Each question is formatted with two or three sections:

  • My original question
  • The TTC’s reply
  • My observations on the reply, if any

The text has been lightly edited for formatting purposes.

Apologies to readers seeing this post with no background. It is based on information in two previous articles as well as a general review of the TTC’s Capital Budget detailed briefing books, known as the “Blue Books”. This article covers a variety of issues some of more interest to general readers than others. If you need clarification, please leave a comment.

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King Street Update: March 2019 Part I

On April 16, 2019, Toronto Council by vote of 22-3 endorsed making the King Street transit and pedestrian priority area between Jarvis and Bathurst permanent. This is the first of two articles updating the collections of statistics I have been publishing about King Street since the pilot began in November 2017. This article reviews travel times and line capacity in the pilot area. The second will turn to service reliability both in the pilot area and in the outer parts of the 504 King route.

My thanks to the TTC for the raw vehicle tracking data on which these analyses are based. Presentation and interpretation of the data are entirely my own.

As a refresher, service on King between Jarvis and Bathurst was provided by two routes for much of the pilot period:

  • 504 King between Dundas West and Broadview Stations
  • 514 Cherry between Dufferin and Distillery Loops

Service on the 504 was generally more frequent than on the 514.

In 2018, there was a temporary change in service over the summer to a new design. This was reversed in September, but at Thanksgiving weekend in October the new arrangement became permanent:

  • 504A King between Dundas West Station and Distillery Loop
  • 504B King between Dufferin Loop and Broadview Station

Service on the two branches is generally the same so that, in theory, cars alternate in the central section of the route where service is supposed to be twice as good as on the outer ends. A detailed history of service changes was included in the October 2018 update.

The balance of this article includes charts that have been published previously, but with the data extended out to March 31, 2019. The winter season shows expected effects such as a dip in travel times over Christmas Week when traffic is very light, and a peak at January/February corresponding to a major snow storm. The effects vary depending on time of day.

To view any chart at a larger size, click on it. Full chart sets are available as pdfs at the end of each section.

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61 Questions And Counting (Updated)

Update: Council’s action on this report has been added at the end of the article.

As I write this article on April 17, 2019, it has been three weeks since Toronto learned that Premier Doug Ford’s love for rewriting transit plans would turn Toronto’s future upside down. Ford’s special advisor Michael Lindsay wrote to Toronto’s City Manager Chris Murray first on March 22, and then in an attempt to paper over obvious problems with the provincial position, on March 25.

Just over two weeks later, Ford announced his transit plan for Toronto, and this was followed by the 2019 provincial budget.

A hallmark of the process has been a distinct lack of details about design issues, funding and the future responsibility for an “uploaded” subway system. In parallel with these events, city and TTC staff have met from time to time with Lindsay and his team to flesh out details and to explain to provincial planners the scope of TTC’s needs, the complex planning and considerable financial resources required just to keep the trains running.

On April 9, Toronto’s Executive Committee directed Murray to report directly to Council on the effect of provincial announcements, but his report did not arrive on Councillors’ desks until early afternoon April 16 with the Council meeting already underway.

The report reveals a gaping hole in the city’s knowledge of provincial plans with a “preliminary” list of 61 technical questions for the province. So much for the idea that discussions to date have yielded much information. Click on any image below to open this as a gallery.

 

To these I would add a critical factor that always affects provincial projects: cost inflation. It is rare to see a provincial project with an “as spent” estimate of costs. Instead, an estimate is quoted for some base year (often omitted from announcements) with a possible, although not ironclad, “commitment” to pay actual costs as the work progresses. This puts Ontario politicians of all parties in the enviable position of promising something based on a low, current or even past-year dollar estimate, while insulating themselves from overruns which can be dismissed as “inflation”. The City of Toronto, by contrast, must quote projects including inflation because it is the actual spending that must be financed, not a hypothetical, years out of date estimate from the project approval stage.

That problem is particularly knotty when governments will change, and “commitments” can evaporate at the whim of a new Premier. If the city is expected to help pay for these projects, will the demand on their funds be capped (as often happens when the federal or provincial governments fund municipal projects), or will the city face an open-ended demand for its share with no control over project spending?

Unlike the city, the province has many ways to compel its “partner” to pay up by the simple expedient of clawing back contributions to other programs, or by making support of one project be a pre-requisite for funding many others. Presto was forced on Toronto by the threat to withdraw provincial funding for other transit programs if the city did not comply. Resistance was and is futile.

How widely will answers to these questions be known? The province imposed a gag order on discussions with the city claiming that information about the subway plans and upload were “confidential”. Even if answers are provided at the staff level, there is no guarantee the public will ever know the details.

At Council on April 16, the City Manager advised that there would be a technical briefing by the province on the “Ontario Line” (the rebranded Downtown Relief Line) within the next week. That may check some questions off of the list, or simply raise a whole new batch of issues depending on the quality of paper and crayons used so far in producing the provincial plan. It is simply not credible that there is a fully worked-out plan with design taken to the level normally expected of major projects, and if one does exist, how has it been produced in secret entirely without consultation? The province claims it wants to be “transparent”, but to date they are far away from that principle.

The Question of Throwaway Costs

Toronto has already spent close to $200 million on design work, primarily for the Line 2 East Extension (formerly known as the Scarborough Subway Extension, or SSE). The province claims that much of this work will be recycled into their revised design, and this was echoed by TTC management at a media briefing. However, with changes in both alignment, scope and technology looming, it is hard to believe that this work will all be directly applicable to the province’s schemes.

The city plans to continue work on these lines at an ongoing cost of $11-14 million per month, but will concentrate on elements that are likely to be required for either the city’s original plan or for the provincial version. The need to reconcile plans has been clear for some time:

In order to minimize throw-away costs associated with the Line 2 East Extension and the Relief Line South, the City and TTC will be seeking the Province’s support to undertake an expedited assessment of the implications of a change at this stage in the project lifecycle. The City and TTC have been requesting the Province to provide further details on their proposals since last year, including more recently through ongoing correspondence and meetings under the Terms of Reference for the Realignment of Transit Responsibilities. [p 4]

The city/TTC may have asked “since last year”, but Queen’s Park chose not to answer.

The city would like to be reimbursed for monies spent, but this is complicated by the fact that some of that design was funded by others.

Provincial Gas Tax

As an example of the mechanisms available to the province to ensure city co-operation, the Ford government will not proceed with the planned doubling of gas tax transfers to municipalities. This has an immediate effect of removing $585 million in allocated funding in the next decade from projects in the TTC’s capital program, and a further $515 million from potential projects in the 15 year Capital Investment Plan.

At issue for Toronto, as flagged in the questions above, is the degree to which this lost revenue will be offset by the province taking responsibility for capital maintenance in the upload process. Over half of the planned and potential capital projects relate to existing subway infrastructure, but it is not clear whether the province understands the level of spending they must undertake to support their ownership of the subway lines.

Public Transit Infrastructure Fund (PTIF)

City management recommends that Council commit much of the $4.897 billion in pending federal infrastructure subsidies from PTIF phase 2 to provincial projects:

  • $0.660 billion for the Province’s proposed three-stop Line 2 East Extension project instead of the one-stop Line 2 East Extension project; and
  • $3.151 billion for the Province’s proposed ‘Ontario Line’ as described in the 2019 Ontario Budget, instead of the Relief Line South. [p 3]

This is subject to an assessment of just what is supposed to happen both with proposed new rapid transit lines and the existing system in the provincial scheme.

Mayor Tory has proposed an amendment to the report’s recommendations to clarify the trigger for the city’s agreeing to allocation of its PTIF funds to the provincial plan, so that “endorsing” the plan is changed to “consider endorsing”. Reports would come back from the City Manager to Council on the budget changes and uploading process for approval that could lead to the city releasing its PTIF funds to the province.

The Status of SmartTrack

Part of the city’s PTIF funding, $585 million, is earmarked for the six new stations to be built on the Weston, Lake Shore East and Stouffville corridors. The future of these stations is cloudy for various reasons:

  • The Finch East station on the Stouffville corridor is in a residential neighbourhood where there is considerable opposition to its establishment, and grade separation, let alone a station structure, will be quite intrusive.
  • The Lawrence East station on the Stouffville corridor would be of dubious value if the L2EE includes a station at McCowan and Lawrence. Indeed, that station was removed from the city plans specifically to avoid drawing demand away from SmartTrack.
  • There is no plan for a TTC level fare on GO Transit/SmartTrack, and the discount now offered is available only to riders who pay single fares (the equivalent of tokens) via Presto, not to riders who have monthly passes.
  • Provincial plans for service at SmartTrack stations is unclear. Originally, and as still claimed in city reports, SmartTrack stations would see 6-10 trains/hour. However, in February 2018, Metrolinx announced a new service design for its GO expansion program using a mix of local and express trains. This would reduce the local stops, including most SmartTrack locations, to 3 or 4 trains/hour. I sought clarification of the conflict between the two plans from Metrolinx most recently on April 3, 2019 and they are still “working on my request” two weeks later.

Some of the SmartTrack stations will be very costly because of the constrained space on corridors where they will be built. The impetus for Council to spend on stations would be substantially reduced if train service will be infrequent, and the cost to ride will be much higher than simply transferring to and from TTC routes. Both the Mayor and the province owe Council an explanation of just what they would be buying into, although that could be difficult as cancelling or scaling back the SmartTrack stations project would eliminate the last vestige of John Tory’s signature transit policy.

The Line 2 East Extension

The City Manager reports that the alignment of the provincial version of the three-stop subway is not yet confirmed, nor are the location of planned stations. Shifting the terminus north to Sheppard and McCowan and possibly shifting the station at Scarborough Town Centre will completely invalidate the existing design work for STC. This is an example of potential throwaway work costs the city faces.

The design at Sheppard/McCowan will depend on whether the intent is to through-route service from Line 2 onto Line 4, or to provide an interchange station where both lines would terminate. The L2EE would have to operate as a terminal station for a time, in any event, because provincial plans call for the Line 4 extension to follow the L2EE’s completion.

An amended Transit Project Assessment (TPAP) will be needed for the L2EE, and this cannot even begin without more details of the proposed design.

The Ontario Line

Although this line is expected to follow the already approved route of the Relief Line between Pape and Osgoode Stations, the map in the provincial budget is vague about the stations showing different names and possibly a different alignment. This could be a case of bad map-making, or it could represent a real change from city/TTC plans to the provincial version.

A TPAP will definitely be required for the extended portions of the line west of Osgoode and north of Pape. A pending technical briefing may answer some issues raised by the city/TTC including details of just where the line would go and what technology will be used, but the degree of secrecy to date on this proposal does not bode well for a fully worked-out plan.

Council Decision

The item was approved at Council with several amendments whose effects overall were:

  • The City Manager and TTC CEO are to work with the province:
    • to determine the effects of the provincial announcement,
    • to negotiate principles for cost sharing including ongoing maintenance and funding arrangements, and
    • to seek replacement of funding that had been anticipated through increased gas tax transfers to the city.
  • The city will consider dedication of its PTIF funding for the Line 2 extension and for the Relief Line to Ontario’s projects subject to this review.
  • The city requests “confirmation that the provincial transit plans will not result in an unreasonable delay” to various transit projects including the Relief line, the one-stop L2EE, SmartTrack Stations, Eglinton and Waterfront LRT lines.
  • Discussions with the province should also include:
    • those lines that were not in the provincial announcement,
    • compensation for sunk design costs,
    • phasing options to bring priority segments of the Relief Line in-service as early as possible,
    • city policy objectives such as development at stations, and
    • public participation on the provincial plans.
  • The City Manager is to investigate the acceleration of preliminary design and engineering on the Waterfront and Eglinton East LRT using city monies saved from costs assumed by the province.
  • The City Manager is to report back to Council at its June 2019 meeting.

Former TTC Chair Mike Colle moved:

That City Council direct that, if there are any Provincial transit costs passed on to the City of Toronto as a result of the 17.3 billion dollar gap in the Province’s transit expansion plans, these costs should be itemized on any future property tax bills as “The Provincial Transit Plan Tax Levy”.

This was passed by a margin of 18 to 8 with Mayor Tory in support.

Planning for Line 1 (YUS) Growth

At its meeting of April 11, the TTC Board considered several reports that bear on the question of future demand and capacity on Line 1 Yonge-University-Spadina.

Also discussed were the planned subway closures in 2019 which I covered in a previous article, and a contract amendment to the ATC signalling consultant to cover extending the implementation period for the Line 1 project.

This segment of the meeting contained far more technical material than we usually see at the TTC Board, but it was long overdue, especially with a large contingent of new Board members in 2019. Too many Board debates touch only the surface of issues without an appreciation for what is “under the covers” within this large organization, the largest single entity within the City of Toronto and its agencies.

Who Watches the Watchers?

A troubling aspect surfaced regarding the status of the Automatic Train Control (ATC) project and the question of why its delivery date will be so much later than originally planned. Some of this gets murky because of discussions earlier in the day in a private session, but there were two clear outcomes:

  • There is a clear implication that information about the status of the ATC project was withheld from the Board who have only recently come into knowledge of what is actually happening.
  • The Board wants an oversight/audit function to ensure that what management tells the Board about projects is actually credible.

On the second point, Commissioner Ron Lalonde moved, and the Board approved.

That the CEO of the TTC implement a function independent of the project management that would review major project implementation and report quarterly to the CEO and to the TTC Board on the status of major projects and on their compliance with TTC project management policies.

This is an astounding motion in that it effectively says nobody in management can be trusted to do their jobs and report accurately to the Board. One might reasonably ask why the CEO himself is not subject to such oversight, considering that the situation from which this motion arises clearly was the product of the previous CEO’s term. That “Transit System of the Year” award would be rather tarnished if the organization were provably misrepresenting its accomplishments.

The complaint, as raised by Vice Chair Alan Heisey, was that the Board had been told repeatedly that the ATC project was on time and on budget, only to find that it was not. He cited a November 2017 status chart from the CEO’s Report showing “green” status for the project. In fact, this status continued into the March 2018 report which was the last one published in that format. The set from November 2016 to March 2018 appears below (click on any item to open as a gallery).

Throughout the six versions of this dashboard, the ATC project remains at an estimated cost of $563 million and a completion date of Q4 2019. Only the to-date expenditure and percent completion rise (from $266m to $381m, 47% to 68%), albeit with an anomalous lack of progress between November 2016 and March 2017 which show the same values. Note that the percentages are of spending versus final cost and they do not necessarily reflect the proportion of the work that is finished. For example, as I write this, only 40% of Line 1 is under ATC control (Vaughan to Dupont) with a further extension south (to St. Patrick) pending in May.

Reports on the status of major projects vanished from the CEO’s Report after March 2018, and these were eventually replaced as part of a quarterly report from the Chief Financial Officer. The first of these reports, in January 2019, flagged a schedule and budget problem with the ATC project.

Schedule reassessment: An operational review concluded that the required closures for Phase 3, the significantly longest continuous phase, were overly disruptive to customers. The multiple closures required would have shut down all subway service from St. Clair to St. Clair West stations. To mitigate this impact on our customers, a revised plan divides the area into three sub-Phases 3A, 3B and 3C. The project team is reviewing the schedule with the contractor to develop a mitigation plan.

For operational reasons it was necessary to advance Phase 6 (Wilson Yard) and implement it prior to both Phases 1 and 3. This Phase was extremely complex, requiring it be divided into 3 manageable sub-Phases which had schedule impact. These changes will delay the project scheduled completion date to 2021. [pp 16-17]

The idea of subdividing phase 3 was already being discussed for exactly the reasons stated above before 2018, and this was hardly news. Other extensions to the completion date arise from timing on competing projects (about which more later in this article). The need to reschedule Phase 6 was obvious from the moment the TYSSE to Vaughan opened and operations at Wilson Yard became a choke point on loading and unloading service from the line.

By the April CFO’s report, there was a further source of delay:

An operational review concluded the implementation of Automatic Train Protection (ATP) on maintenance workcars and Line 4 TR trains is required for efficient travel speeds in ATC areas to work zones and maintenance facilities.

The project team has reviewed the impact of these changes and performed a schedule reassessment. The revised project in-service completion date is 2022. [pp 18-19]

A consultant’s review of the ATC project by Transit Systems Engineering found that the ATC project itself was well-run, but that a combination of focus on getting the line ready for TYSSE opening in late 2017 together with a failure to fully appreciate other works that ATC and the planned capacity increase would trigger push out the completion date for the project. TSE did not criticize management of the ATC project itself, and indeed recommended that this team remain intact because of their knowledge and experience. It is ironic that a report dated January 13, 2019 makes this recommendation a month after the former ATC Project Director left the TTC to join Andy Byford in New York City.

The TSE report states:

… the installation of the ATC system would appear to be on-schedule and on-budget to meet the revised delivery date of Q3 2021 at an overall cost of $663M. [p 6]

This is different from the 2022 schedule now presented to the Board, and the changes noted in the April CFO’s report must have been “discovered” after the TSE review. I put that in quotation marks because a project to make the maintenance fleet ATC-compatible already existed in the 2017 Capital Budget, and the project remains in the 2019 version.

On the subject of keeping the Board informed, I really cannot avoid mentioning the management decision taken during the election interregnum in 2018 to rebuild rather than replace the T1 trains now used on Line 2 Bloor-Danforth. This has pervasive effects on other project schedules including:

  • delay of ATC implementation on Line 2 and the service improvements this could bring,
  • the future of Greenwood Yard and its availability for the Relief Line,
  • the timing of Kipling Yard (the Obico property) and
  • the choice of signalling on the Scarborough extension.

None of this was brought to the Board’s attention, and it was “approved” as one of many items buried within the Capital Budget with no explicit analysis or “heads up” for the Board.

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