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Transit

As you know, given the fact that almost as many people commute from Toronto, as they do going in to our city on a daily basis, I have been advocating for a regional approach to building a transit network. Implementing a regional sales tax, tolls or other tools across the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) would create new, and dependable, revenue streams paid into by everyone in our region rather than have any one city cover capital expenses through their property tax base.

 

Tolls or a regional sales tax would also offset the current burden on transit riders to pay for the preponderance of transit costs solely through the fare box. My motion for Toronto and GGH municipalities to enter into negotiations with Metrolinx (the provincially mandated transit planning body for Toronto and the GGH) was recently adopted at Executive Committee and will come to full Council in July. This motion requests the City Manager to work with Metrolinx to explore a variety of regional funding mechanisms with officials from across the GGH to move forward with a regional transit funding plan. Any funding initiative should be done on a regional basis to mitigate unintended consequences including job loss and consumer avoidance. Ultimately, we want the City of Toronto to have a leading seat at the table with its partners as Metrolinx's process moves closer to fruition.

 

Metrolinx has stated that it will deliver a $40 billion transit funding plan to support the Big Move Plan early next year that will include all the municipalities in the GGH. I believe it may be prudent to read this report, and consider a shared and regional system, before Toronto offers to assume a OneCity approach.


I will continue working with Council to create a transit funding model that delivers on the priorities that matter most to residents. Moreover, I submit that while we debate how best to expand our transit system, we must always keep in mind that addressing the current, unacceptable overcrowding on the Yonge subway line during rush hours, and state of good repair, must be our top priority while we introduce more riders to the system. The new transit lines already approved by Council, and supported by Metrolinx, are moving forward including Finch Avenue, Sheppard Avenue and the Eglinton Crosstown. These projects will be paid for by a "one-time" funding allocation from the provincial government.


Your feedback is very important to me and I will continue to keep you informed as this discussion progresses. I am committed to creating an efficient, reliable and accessible rapid transit system that helps reduce gridlock and connects our region, neighbourhoods and residents. The path we take must be both visionary and evidence-based, fully funded and fiscally responsible.

 

Ultimately, I am pleased that we are now debating how exactly we should fund transit expansion- rather than whether there's a need to have a plan at all.

Sincerely,

Josh Matlow
Toronto City Councillor
Ward 22-St.Paul's
www.joshmatlow.ca

Let's Move Forward Now with a 24-Stop Rapid Transit Network for Scarborough

Dear residents,


Many of you know that I have been advocating for an evidence-based transit plan in Scarborough for several years now. For those who haven’t been following recent developments, if you thought a 3-stop subway for $3.56 billion was a bad idea, Council might actually choose to build a single subway stop rather than a 24-station LRT network for Scarborough.


The Plans



The $3.2 billion 1-stop subway shown in the map above would provide fast service from Scarborough Town Centre (STC) to Kennedy Station. It would also eliminate the need to transfer at Kennedy Station. But Scarborough is a big place, comprising 35% of Toronto’s land area. What about the rest of Scarborough that would be left on the bus?



For approximately the same City funding, we can choose instead to build 2 LRT lines. One would have 7 stops using the existing RT corridor to link STC and Centennial College to Kennedy Station. This project is part of the signed Metrolinx Master Agreement, and would be mostly funded by the provincial government. Then, with money saved by moving forward now with the approved LRT, Council could fund a new 17-stop extension of the Eglinton Crosstown through Kennedy, serving Kingston Rd, UofT Scarborough and several neighbourhoods in between.



I include this picture of the Centennial College station as a reminder that the 7-stop LRT will go through its own corridor on trains that have the same top speed as a subway (80 km/h).

 

Who Are We Building Transit For?

Combined, the LRT lines would provide rapid transit to the 96,200 existing residents and employees who are within walking distance of a station. That's 6 times more than a 1-stop subway. The 24 LRT stations’ geographic coverage better matches the needs of residents who want more than just to leave Scarborough.


As this map demonstrates, 48% of trips are local compared to just 23% ending downtown. The peak hour ridership for the subway is projected at 7,300 passengers, which is higher than the current RT but less than half the capacity of the LRT which is capable of handling 16,000 passengers per hour in one direction. Further, ridership projections for a 1-stop subway predict almost 8,000 fewer daily users in 2031 than the current 5-stop SRT has now.

These numbers suggests that the subway will run empty most of the day. While people want transit to get them to work or school in the morning, they also need transit to go shopping, see a movie or visit with friends and family.

As Toronto Star report Ben Spurr notes, the LRT network also does a better job of delivering transit access to marginalized communities by serving 25,900 people living in 5 Neighbourhood Improvement Areas (NIAs) and 3 former Priority Neighbourhoods. The 1-stop subway would only serve 1,700 NIA residents.

 

Development Potential


This slide from a City Planning presentation illustrates the potential of the STC precinct by overlaying the area’s street pattern (red), and boundary (blue), on a map of downtown Toronto. Tasked with providing a planning rationale for a subway stop, the City's Planning staff have developed a remarkable proposal for the area that would transform STC’s parking lots and ring roads into a more urban, pedestrian-friendly street grid.


It is unfortunate that some have falsely created an exclusive causal relationship between this visionary plan and the 1-stop subway. That’s simply misleading. The LRT would have more than double the capacity to serve projected ridership and its east-west alignment would better facilitate expansion of the STC area with an additional stop at McCowan – a flaw in the subway plan that City Planning already identifies in its report shown below.


This chart cites the enhanced development potential of an extra stop in the eastern portion (McCowan Precinct) of the STC area as being an advantage of a subway route along the current RT corridor.



As the above map shows, the 7-stop LRT is already planned to travel in the corridor used for the current RT and has a stop in the McCowan precinct of the STC area. That's one of the reasons why our Chief Planner previously stated that an LRT, rather than a subway, would better stimulate economic development, while also serving more low-income residents as well as students.


(If you are unable to click and play the embedded video above, please use this link)

 

“Torontonians just want us to start building something”


The suggestion implied by users of this now familiar refrain is that the 1-stop subway will be faster to build than the LRT. The recommendation before Council suggests otherwise:


“3.  City Council request the City Manager and the Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Transit Commission to remove from consideration the 3-stop McCowan Scarborough Subway Extension (SSE) and continue to develop an SSE Express option, by conducting the following:

a.  retaining the services of a third-party rail transit construction and cost –estimation expert to undertake a risk assessment and detailed review of the TTC's 5 percent design cost estimates for the McCowan corridor and other possible express subway alignment options”


Three important points that I think are worth highlighting in that recommendation: first, moving forward with the 1-stop option will require going back on the previous 3-stop plan. Second, the one stop subway is only at the 5% design stage. Finally, Staff are recommending that alignments other than McCowan be explored. In short, no one is going to pick up a shovel and start digging a tunnel after the vote, if Council chooses the one-stop subway.



It’s also important to note that Staff are presenting a completion date and cost that assumes a choice not even available to Council. The above chart states that the 1-stop subway will be in service by 2025, assuming that Council approves an alignment next week. But, as previously mentioned, the recommendation regarding the subway does not provide that option. This is a significant discrepancy that must be cleared up before Councillors vote on this issue.


The 7-stop LRT, on the other hand, was at 100% design stage and shovel-ready in 2010. In fact, it was originally slated to be in operation for the Pan Am Games last year. However, circumstances have changed since then and two changes will have to be considered.


The first, and most significant, is a redesign of the LRT platform at Kennedy Station.



The diagram above, depicting the 7-stop LRT in red at the “concourse” level, is from the 2010 approved Environmental Assessment. After Council rejected the plan in favour of a 3-stop subway in 2013, Metrolinx allowed for the Eglinton Crosstown terminus (in blue) to take the concourse level. While a different alignment would be required (the Crosstown is east-west while the Scarborough LRT is north-south), the obvious solution is to run the 7-stop LRT from the subway level. The change would involve additional design work but it would result in a further improved transfer to the subway.


The other change required would be at Lawrence station. The LRT shares the same corridor with the Stoufville GO line for a portion of its 7.6 km. An additional commuter station at Lawrence was recently announced as part of GO RER/SmartTrack at the same proposed site of the LRT stop. There is a strong possiblity that having both stops in the same place would either not be technically feasible or justified from a ridership perspective. I would anticipate that this issue would require some investigation from City Staff and Metrolinx, but it doesn’t strike me as a particulary complex issue.


The two issues cited above will require some additional work but, even with those revisions, the LRT is inarguably far more advanced than the subway. Perhaps that’s why someone found it necessary to release a TTC briefing note earlier this week that presented some rather unrealistic scenarios that made the possiblity of a return to the 7-stop option seem more difficult than it needs to be.


The most egregious suggestion was that construction on the LRT could not begin until the Crosstown Station at Kennedy was finished in 2021, making the completion date late 2026. With all due respect to the TTC, this makes no sense. There has been no explanation, reasonable or otherwise, provided as to why construction couldn’t start on the other 7.6km of the route first. Start at Sheppard. Start in the middle. Start anywhere else. Finish at Kennedy Station. Or, given that the Crosstown platform would be constructed on top of the LRT platform, it is reasonable to think that work could be done on both at the same time.

 

Cost Considerations


The same briefing note used the later construction date to escalate the costs of the LRT to $3 billion due to inflation, creating sticker shock amongst some members of Council. This stated rise in cost is misleading. An escalated cost due to inflation does not mean an increase in the real cost. The value of the commitment remains constant.



As shown in the Master Agreement, the provincial government committed its project funding in 2010 dollars. Paying the inflated cost of that contribution in the year of expenditure does not change the impact to the Province in real terms.


Of more importance, and notably absent from the TTC briefing note, the LRT is a provincial project.



Queen’s Park is responsible for both the initial capital costs and, as shown in this section of the Master Agreement (Page 95 – Schedule G), the ongoing maintenance costs as well.


There is some disagreement as to whether the City would be responsible for operating costs. The wording in the agreement seen above states that the TTC will operate the LRT “under contract with Metrolinx”. The agreement further states that “an operating agreement between Metrolinx and the TTC will be prepared…on commercial terms”. It seems clear to me that Metrolinx will pay the TTC to operate the LRT, but others are steadfast in alternative interpretations.


Either way, all of the ongoing costs associated with the subway will be Toronto’s responsibility.



The above chart shows the 60-year Life Cycle costs (2016 dollars) for the 1-stop subway. The City will be responsible for $1.76 billion in recapitalization costs (replacing tracks, signals, trains, tunnel segments, etc) and $1.087 billion in operating and maintenance costs.


To be fair, let’s say that the operating costs for the LRT would be borne by the City. And, because the operating and maintenance costs aren’t broken out, let’s say that the maintenance costs are a very low percentage of the $1.087 billion. Together, that leads to a very conservative estimate of $2 billion in ongoing costs the City will have to pay for the subway that it would not be responsible for with the LRT.

 

Priorities


When we choose to build large infrastructure projects that benefit relatively few people, like the underused Sheppard subway, poorly planned Union-Pearson Express (UPX), and unnecessary Gardiner East rebuild, there is less funding available to serve your real needs.


A 24-station LRT network would not only provide more transit for Scarborough residents but would also leave an average of at least $33 million extra every single year for the next 60 years available for daycare spaces, youth recreation programs, parks, libraries, and affordable housing.


Despite a steady diet of populist rhetoric, the project isn’t even that popular. Poll after poll shows that Scarborough residents see through pandering statements, caring more about whether new transit will take them where they need to go rather than the type of vehicle.


Council will meet on July 12 with an opportunity to put people before politics. Let’s move forward move with 24 stops for Scarborough.

 

Preliminary Discussion Points Concerning New transit Network Modelling

The transit network modelled in EX 13.3 is not the network that will ultimately be before Executive Committee in June. However, UofT (on behalf of the City) will be using the same model to project the network that Council will be asked to support. In that context, there are a number of results from the model presented as an appendix to EX13.33 that are concerning. Based on my preliminary reading of the materials, the following are a few reasonable discussion points as we move forward:

 

  • Scarborough subway (McCowan with 3 stops and without Smart Track) has an AM peak hour ridership of 13,700 westbound into Kennedy

 

  • Relief Line (Pape via Queen- most likely scenario according to the Chief Planner- without SmartTrack) has an AM peak hour ridership of 12,500

 

  • Staff have provided the reason for this being that there will be significant ridership from buses that would feed into a Scarborough subway, while Relief Line riders would have a larger network, and therefore more options, to rely upon

 

Yet……

 

  • The Scarborough subway in the 3 stop McCowan alignment goes from 13,700 to 12,600 riders in the AM Peak hour with 15 minute SmartTrack, a loss of 1,100 riders

 

  • The Relief Line goes from 12,500 to 11,600 riders in the same scenario, a loss of 900 riders. Despite the larger number of transit options available to downtown users, that supposedly accounts for the lower ridership on the Relief Line, the sensitivity on the line is about the same as for the Scarborough subway.

 

  • The McCowan 4 stop subway, was projected to have 17,400 AM Peak Hour riders without SmartTrack

 

  • In 2012, the TTCs Downtown Rapid Transit Study found that the Southbound am peak hour ridership for the University-Spadina subway is 19,300.

 

  • If we put the peak point at, say, between Museum and Queen's Park before the government workers and students get off and you're probably not picking up a ton more riders at that point....that's accumulated ridership from 9 stops- with all the surface routes that feed into them, plus whatever feeds in from Downsview, and all the riders coming from the Bloor-Danforth line to the busiest employment areas in the whole country
    • The large government complex, several huge hospitals, UofT, the financial district

 

  • How is it remotely possible that four stops in Scarborough would accumulate a similar amount of ridership heading into Kennedy station?
   
   

A lack of accountability and transparency on the costs of the Scarborough subway extension

January 23, 2015

 

Dear residents,

 

In today's Toronto Star, Jennifer Pagliaro wrote an important story revealing how many tax dollars will be wasted on sunk costs if the Scarborough LRT is cancelled (there may be more). The article also quotes City Manager, Joe Pennachetti, suggesting that the full amount is hidden within this year's City budget. Moveover, the City Manager has not reported back to City Council on Metrolinx sunk costs, as directed by Council. To read the full 2013 agenda item, please click here.

 

Along with the unacceptable waste of tens of millions of tax dollars, this lack of accountability and transparency is deeply concerning.

 

In addition, I have yet to receive an adequate reply to my letter to Staff regarding the unexplained and sudden increase in the ridership projection used to justify the Scarborough subway extension.

 

Sincerely,

 

Josh

   

NOTICE OF MOTION: Making the Union-Pearson Express Fare More Affordable, Competitive and Fair for Toronto Residents

NOTICE OF MOTION: Making the Union-Pearson Express Fare More Affordable, Competitive and Fair for Toronto Residents

 

Moved by:

 

Councillor Matlow

 

Seconded by:

 

Deputy Mayor Kelly

 

SUMMARY:

 

Metrolinx's Union-Pearson Express line is a welcome addition to Toronto's transit network. For too long, our city has been one of the few world centres without rapid transit to its International Airport.

 

While residents are pleased that this critical infrastructure appears to be on budget and will be ready to open for the Pan-Am games next year, they have some major concerns with emerging cost details that limit the accessibility of this line. These troubling details include potentially high fares and a fee in lieu of parking paid to the Greater Toronto Airport Authority.

 

While the passenger fare has yet to be confirmed, media reports have estimated that the new line could cost riders upwards of $30 per trip. This cost may, or may not, have an effect on business or international travelers but it would barely be competitive with taxis or limousines for residents. Common sense would dictate that if a resident living anywhere other than downtown (within close proximity to Union Station) can get picked up from their house and taken to the airport for about $50-60, they may opt to spend the extra money to avoid the additional time as the cost differential is not that substantial. Further, a couple or a family might find it actually more expensive to take the Union-Pearson Express. The passenger fare must be made accessibile for Toronto residents.

 

Another troubling consumer cost detail associated with the Union-Pearson Express is the $1.85 fee passengers are being charged for not parking at the airport. The City of Toronto and other municipal governments in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area are actively encouraging residents to use public transit. This fee would penalize air travelers for making a choice that helps fight congestion. This potential fee runs counter to our public policy goals and should not be implemented.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS:

 

  1. City Council directs the City Manager to request that Metrolinx the passenger fare for the Union-Pearson Express at a rate that is affordable for most Torontonians and competitive with other forms of transportation to Pearson Airport
  2. City Council directs the City Manager to request the Greater Toronto Airport Authority to not require Metrolinx to implement a $1.85 parking fee to the passenger fare for the Union-Pearson Express

You can download a printable PDF of my letter by clicking here.

   

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