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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

It's Time to Move Forward Now with an Honest and Fact-Based Transit Plan to Serve Scarborough Residents

Dear Residents,

A bad deal for Scarborough residents keeps getting worse. The cost of the 1-stop subway proposal has risen to $3.346 billion, a 50% increase from when the project was first announced in early 2016. As the cost is going up, Staff are projecting that fewer people will actually want to use the new line. The new report states that the subway will only attract 2,300 new daily riders. That means that the City would be paying approximately $1.45 million for every new rider that the stop gains.

The competing plans that will be debated at Council next week are the same as when I wrote to you about it in a newsletter last July. A 1-stop subway to the Scarborough Town Centre (STC), as shown below:



Or, for approximately the same City funding, we can choose instead to build 2 LRT lines with 24 stops. One line 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 have included this picture of the proposed 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).



Unfortunately, the Mayor and some others have declared a "war" over this issue to justify the unjustifiable. They have falsely stated that those wanting a larger network of LRTs for Scarborough have delayed the process.

In fact, providing rapid transit to Scarborough has only been delayed by Council's flip flop from a fully-funded LRT to a 3-stop and then 1-stop subway. The changing and uncertain subway costs and plans are the reason the issue keeps coming back to Council. Assertions otherwise are disingenuous.

Another specious argument put forward by 1-stop subway proponents is that only a subway stop will stimulate economic development at STC. That is a falsely exclusive causal relationship. While a subway stop could help support growth at STC, so would an LRT line. The LRT would actually provide 2 stops in the projected growth precinct. 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 access the video by clicking on the above picture, you can access it through this link)


Asking for the Facts

I have submitted several questions regarding transit options for Scarborough that need to be clarified before Council votes next week. It is very concerning that, at a council meeting last July, City Council may have been falsely led to believe that the LRT would take longer to build than it actually would. In addition, there are several basic questions remaining with regard to the 1-stop subway proposal's funding and ridership. Regardless of what transit plan Council chooses, it is important that the decision be made honestly and based on evidence rather than political interests.

I want Scarborough residents, along with all Torontonians, to have access to rapid transit to improve the quality of their lives.

I have included my full communication to the City Manager below for your review. It is also included in next week's City Council agenda:

March 21, 2017

City Manager's Office
11th Floor, East Tower, City Hall
100 Queen Street West
Toronto, ON M5H 2N2

Dear Mr. Wallace,

Questions Re: Transit Options for Scarborough

As you know, transit plans in Scarborough have gone through a number of iterations. A 7-stop, traffic-separated LRT was initially approved in 2007, and reconfirmed several times, including the "MOU Plan" between former Mayor Ford and Metrolinx, as shown in the March 31, 2011 Ontario government press release below:


Fig. 1


The project, along with 3 other LRT lines in Toronto, was reconfirmed on February 8, 2012 at a Special Meeting of Council.

The shift to a subway in Scarborough was first approved as a 3-stop subway in October of 2013 for $3.56 billion. The plan significantly changed on January 28, 2016 when Staff presented a 1-stop subway just to Scarborough Town Centre and a 17-stop eastern extension of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT for approximately the same funding as the previous 3-stop plan, as stated on page 3 of EX 11.5 – Scarborough Transit Planning Update:

"Initial estimates indicate it is possible to construct the extension of Line 2 and the Crosstown East for a similar order-of-magnitude cost and in a similar timeframe as the three-stop Scarborough Subway extension originally proposed."

Unfortunately, the estimated price of the subway, excluding financing and other costs, has risen by more than 50%, leaving the 17-stop Crosstown extension unfunded. At the upcoming Council meeting of March 28, 2017, Council will, for the first time, have an opportunity to decide whether to proceed with a 1-stop extension of the Bloor Danforth subway for $3.346 Billion as identified in EX 23.1 Next Steps on the Scarborough Subway Extension.

I am submitting the following questions as there are several significant matters pertaining to this item that require clarification before Council makes a decision on the future of transit in Scarborough.


Master Agreement

The Master Agreement between Metrolinx, the City of Toronto, and the TTC signed in 2012 stated that the Province would pay 100% of the capital costs associated with the Scarborough LRT as shown in the excerpt below from page 1 of Schedule G in the Master Agreement:


Fig. 2

Question: Is the Master Agreement between Metrolinx, the City of Toronto, and the TTC still valid?


Comparison

The business case analysis before Council only provides a relative comparison between two 1-stop subway options. 

Question: Has the City ever provided a business case analysis that directly compared the subway extension (3 or 1-stop version) with the 7-stop LRT in Scarborough?


Transit Project Construction Issues

On July 4, 2016 a briefing note produced by the TTC (Attachment 1) appeared on CP24 regarding the possibility of moving forward with a 7-stop LRT from Kennedy to Sheppard, serving the existing RT route along with Centennial College and Sheppard. The contents of the briefing note were cited numerous times by Staff and Councillors during the Council meeting of July 12, 2016. This briefing note has still not been publicly posted on the website of the TTC or the City of Toronto.

The briefing note makes a number of assertions regarding the construction of the 7-stop LRT that require clarification prior to the upcoming Council meeting.

First, the briefing note assumes that the start of LRT construction would have to wait until work on the Eglinton Crosstown was completed at Kennedy. However, as the excerpt below from an April 25, 2012 Metrolinx Board Report states, Metrolinx was explicitly planning to start at the north end of the line first to speed up construction time:


Fig. 3

Question: Was the City/TTC aware of new information that would prohibit starting to build the Scarborough LRT at the north end of the line to expedite the construction process?

Further, an excerpt from page 1 of the same 2012 Metrolinx Board Report, shown below, states that, at the time, the Eglinton Crosstown was expected to be completed in 2020 and the Scarborough LRT's completion date was 2019:


Fig. 4


While the completion dates have changed, these construction timelines required that work occur simultaneously at Kennedy Station to facilitate both projects. As depicted in the diagram below, the Eglinton Crosstown was to occupy the below-grade platform, while the Scarborough LRT would enter at-grade.


Fig. 5


The briefing note states that, as a result of the Eglinton Crosstown, the Scarborough LRT is "physically precluded" at Kennedy Station without mentioning that space below-grade would now be available for the Scarborough LRT platform, further improving the transfer to the Bloor-Danforth subway.

Question: Is the City/TTC aware of a reason why Metrolinx would not be able to construct platforms at Kennedy Station for both the Eglinton Crosstown and the Scarborough LRT, as was originally planned, but with the platform levels for the two projects switched?


Design Completion

There have been several concerning inconsistencies regarding the stated level of design completion for both the 7-stop Scarborough LRT and the 1-stop subway that require clarification before Council votes later this month.

During the Questions to Staff portion of the debate on EX 16.1 Developing Toronto's Transit Network Plan to 2031 at the July 12, 2016 Council meeting, Councillor Colle asks the Deputy City Manager, Cluster B, a question on the design completion status of the Scarborough LRT (scroll to the 4hr:45min mark of this video to view):

Councillor Colle: "There's been a lot of discussion around, uh, the percentage of where we are, at design for various projects, and we were told recently for the, call it, 2008-9-10 LRT that that's at about 5 per cent design? Or it was at that time? Is that a fair number?"

DCM: "So, um, Madam Speaker, ah, we've had some discussions as a follow-up. Some elements are at 5 and some are at 10 per cent. That was the information we got from Metrolinx the other day." 

The Deputy City Manager's response is seemingly at odds with the information presented by Metrolinx in the April 2012 Board Report included above (Fig. 3), which states that the longest portion of the line, between Kennedy and McCowan, was at 30% design completion.

Question: Did Metrolinx provide City Staff with information regarding the design completion status of the Scarborough LRT that contradicted their April 2012 Board Report, which claimed that the Kennedy to McCowan portion of the line was at the 30% design stage?

During the same question period, Councillor Colle asks a follow-up question about the design completion status of the 1-stop subway extension to Chief Project Manager for the Scarborough Subway Extension:

Councillor Colle: "And where would the subway be at design percentage of design completion? Around 5 (per cent) I think I've heard?"

Chief Project Manager: "Uh, we're currently at about 5 per cent, yes."

The Chief Project Manager's answer is reinforced by the chart below from the Staff report presented at the July 2016 Council meeting which states that the cost estimate provided was "developed at approximately 5% design": 


Fig. 6


A similar chart included in the Staff Report before Council later this month states that the 1-stop subway extension is still at 5% design.

Question: Given that there has been significant work done on the 1-stop Scarborough Subway Extension between July 2016 and March 2017, why is the project design status not moved beyond the 5% completion status cited in July 2016?


Funding Source Issues

There are a number of unanswered questions regarding funding sources for the 1-stop Scarborough Subway Extension that require clarification prior to Council voting on the issue.

The chart below provides a breakdown of the funding sources for the subway extension:


Fig. 7


Recommendation 6 in the Staff report that contains the above chart reads:

City Council request the Province of Ontario and Government of Canada confirm the sources of funding for the provincial and federal commitments to the Scarborough Subway Extension.

The wording of this recommendation raises a number of questions regarding the degree to which Council can depend on the funding amounts indicated, including:

Question: Has the City determined whether the $660 million committed by the previous federal government will be considered a separate contribution under the Build Canada Fund or will the City have to apply for the project under phase 2 of the Investing in Canada Fund, thereby decreasing the amount of funds available through this program? Will the contribution be escalated under either funding source?

Question: Has the City determined whether the provincial government has agreed to the $1.99 billion escalated contribution cited in Fig. 7? Has the provincial government agreed to transfer the full contribution all at once?


Travel Patterns

One of the proposed main advantages of the 1-stop subway extension, in comparison to the original LRT plan, is the elimination of the transfer at Kennedy station. The main benefit of the elimination of the transfer is a faster travel time downtown. As shown below in the map from the 2011 Transportation Tomorrow Survey, downtown travel accounts for 23% of all transit trips that begin in Scarborough: 


Fig. 8


Also evident in the map is that few riders from Scarborough get off the subway at destinations along the Bloor-Danforth line prior to the core.

As depicted in the rapid transit map below, it would appear that Scarborough commuters going downtown would have a much faster ride on SmartTrack/GO RER.


Fig. 9


Question:
How many riders during the AM peak and throughout the day are predicted to transfer to and from SmartTrack/GO RER at Kennedy Station?

Thank you for your attention in these matters. I look forward to responses that provide me and my colleagues with adequate time to review.


Sincerely,



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

 

----------------------------------------------------------------------



Attachment 1



Briefing Note
Date: June 29, 2016

Issues Relating to Re-introduction of LRT Replacement for Line 3 (SRT)
Background
The original proposal - to replace the aging Line 3 Scarborough (SRT) with a 7-stop LRT line, extending to Sheppard Avenue East, is shown in the attached schematic.  This note summarises the primary tasks that would have to be undertaken in the event that the LRT solution was re-introduced. It is intended to assist in the event of any questions on this matter at City Council. It is important to note that these figures are estimates only and have been escalated, as noted below.

Discussion
The Environmental Assessment (EA) that was approved for the LRT project in 2010 must be updated, and formally amended, to address the following elements:

  1. Complete Redesign of the EA-Approved LRT Connection at Kennedy Station:  The most complex aspect of the conceptual design work on the LRT was the connection at Kennedy Station.  The recommended solution, shown in the attachments in plan and cross-section views, consisted of a large one-way LRT loop with the LRT station directly on top of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT (ECLRT) station. As Metrolinx’s plans for the ECLRT were finalised after Council approved subway technology in October 2013, they did not make any provision to protect for the LRT connection. This LRT connection is now physically precluded by the current ECLRT plans and an entirely new design would have to be developed.
  1. New Ridership Forecasts: As with the subway extension, ridership forecasts for the LRT would have to be updated using the City’s new forecasting model and reflect changes in the transit network in Scarborough.  This would include Smart Track/RER - with several options re service frequency and assumed level of fare integration – and options with and without the Sheppard East LRT and the easterly extension of the ECLRT.
  1. Review Potential Conflicts with GO/RER: A new design concept for a Lawrence LRT station must be developed that incorporates the current plans for a Smart Track Station at Lawrence Avenue.  In addition to identifying and resolving any issues at Lawrence Station, the LRT plans would have to reviewed with Metrolinx to  and identify and resolve any conflicts as the running structure is in the same corridor.
  1. Assess LRT Maintenance and Storage Facility (MSF) Options:  Subject to confirmation of a consistent maintenance/operating/ownership model for three LRT lines in Scarborough, an adequate location for MSF facility would have to be identified.  This could mean an interim solution (eg. a Bellamy yard was included in the original LRT EA) with a future consolidation at the previously planned Sheppard/Conlins yard.
  1. Closure of Line 3: finalise plans for the bus replacement service when Line 3 is shut down, including the associated temporary bus terminals and storage facility.
  1. Re-examine Bus Terminal Concepts at Stations: The previous number of bus bays to be confirmed for all stations.


vii)        Update Schedule and Capital Cost

viii)       EA Amendment Public Meeting: It is expected that at least one public meeting would be necessary as part of the process to amend the LRT EA.

Timing
From the point Council directs staff to proceed with an LRT solution, a very rough estimate would be that it would take approximately 12 to 18 months to present a revised plan to obtain Council and MOE approval. This is very much dependent upon the time required to identify, and obtain acceptance of, a new connection at Kennedy Station.

The construction at Kennedy Station is the key element on the critical path for the LRT and depending if the preferred design is above or below grade, construction could range from approximately 3.5 to 5 years.  If staff are directed to proceed in July 2016 and assuming construction cannot begin before the ECLRT work at Kennedy is completed in 2021, a quick preliminary evaluation suggests the LRT could be operational in early 2026 to late 2027.

Funding
With the change in technology, confirmation of contributions from funding partners may be required.

Order of Magnitude Comparison

The October 2013 Council report indicated the Province had announced $1.8B ($2010) for construction of SRT as LRT, to Sheppard. Of the $1.8B, the Province committed $1.48B ($2010) to the SSE.  As a minimum, staff believe the $1.8B should be the starting point, which would have to be updated through proper design to address the changes noted above.
The $1.48B has recently been reported as the total cost of a seven stop LRT.  To facilitate a high level cost comparison of the current subway estimate to the costs of an LRT at this time, the $1.8B was escalated to an end of 2025 opening (2% per year from 2011 to 2013 and 4% per year from 2014 to mid-2023), adding SRT Life Extension and SRT Shutdown service.

$1.8B escalated                                                      $2.7B
SRT Life Extension                                             .108
SRT Shutdown                                                  .171
Total                                                                 $2.979B
Prepared By
Rick Thompson, Chief Project Manager, Scarborough Subway Extension
416-590-6870

 

Keeping You Informed & Engaged: My Analysis of the SmartTrack Proposal Before Council this Week

 

Dear residents,

This week, Council will decide whether to proceed with Mayor Tory’s revised SmartTrack plan as Toronto’s top transit priority. Since the release of the Staff Report, the mayor has received a great deal of criticism for not fulfilling his campaign promise of delivering 22 stations in 7 years with the City’s funding portion completely paid for by Tax Increment Financing (TIF). As I’ve written previously, I commend Mayor Tory for accepting that the Western Spur (new heavy rail line to the airport) portion of his plan is unworkable. As your councillor, the question I’m considering now is whether or not the plan as presented this week is well thought out, reflects Toronto residents’ priorities for transit, has a transparent financing plan and is worth a large investment of your money.

The Plan

The new SmartTrack plan consists of 6 stations added in Toronto to the Province’s GO Regional Electrified Rail (RER) plan and, in lieu of the Western Spur, a western extension of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT (this was part of the earlier “Transit City” Plan). The cost of both projects is $3.7 billion – it is estimated that Toronto is responsible for $2 billion of that total cost.

Additional RER Stations


























The Province’s RER plan entails electrifying existing GO tracks, which facilitates new trains that can stop and start much faster than the current diesel trains. This technology makes it feasible to add stations to a line and provide more frequent service. As depicted in the map above, the province is already providing a number of stations in Toronto. Council will consider funding additional stations at St. Clair West, Liberty Village, East Harbour (Unilever site), Gerrard, Lawrence East and Finch East.

While I support the concept of better utilizing existing GO lines to serve Toronto’s transit needs, there is simply not enough information in the staff report provided to Council to determine whether these 6 stations are a good investment. There was a fairly detailed reportpresented to Council in July 2016 that looked at several scenarios for adding additional GO RER stations but none of the scenarios modeled match what’s being put forward now. The report supporting the current plan does not provide ridership projections or apply a social equity lens to determine the demographics of the users. There is no analysis of development potential or even how much it will cost to build each station. It is not yet known how frequently the trains will run or whether accessing trains at these stations will require a TTC or GO level fare. This missing information is necessary to reasonably assess any transit project.

All that Council was provided was a lump sum, preliminary cost for the stations and a basic overview of some design issues at each station.


Eglinton Crosstown West Extension




As shown in the map above, the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension is a continuation of the line currently under construction to at least Renforth Drive in Etobicoke, on Toronto’s municipal boundary with Mississauga. And the at least part is the problem.

The Staff report requests $420 million from the City of Mississauga and the Greater Toronto Airport Authority to cover the cost of the line in their respective jurisdictions. This request was met with surprise and anger by the local mayor and councillors, placing a connection to Pearson in doubt.

I have long been a supporter of extending the Crosstown further west but the utility of the extension is greatly diminished if the line stops short of the airport. Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat stated last week that, while the line travels through relatively low-density areas with limited development potential in Etobicoke, reasonable ridership would be generated by the Airport Corporate Centre office district and the airport itself. Both of these trip generators would not be directly connected if the line stopped at Renforth.


Network Approach?

Also absent from this report is any context regarding where these lines fit into Toronto’s transit network. The City’s Planning Division spent years developing the Feeling Congested framework to assess the utility of transit projects.



Top 5 Performing Rapid Transit Projects

A.   Relief Line (subway)
E.   Don Mills LRT
N.   Scarborough Malvern LRT
R.   Waterfront West LRT
V.   Waterfront East LRT

Next 5 Top Performing Rapid Transit Projects

C.   Durham-Scarborough BRT
F.    Eglinton LRT West Extension
K.   Jane LRT
P.    Steeles LRT/BRT West
W.   Relief Line East Extension

(Source: City Planning)

The above map shows the rankings of proposed transit lines using City Planning’s evaluation criteria. The Eglinton Crosstown West Extension is the 7th ranked project and additional GO RER stations aren’t considered.

If Staff are, in effect, recommending that SmartTrack be built ahead of other projects that were deemed to perform better, such as the Relief Line, some explanation needs to be provided.


Financing
Equally concerning as the lack of information on the plan itself, is the absence of a clear funding strategy. Even more concerning are some of the financing mechanisms put forward in the Staff report.

Tax Increment Financing

During the 2014 Mayoral campaign, John Tory pledged to fund the city’s portion of SmartTrack entirely through a mechanism never before used in Ontario called Tax Increment Financing(TIF). Under a TIF, infrastructure is funded by capturing property tax revenue in the area surrounding the new asset that presumably wouldn’t have been created without the initial investment.



(Professor Kevin Ward, Dept of Geography, University of Manchester)

A public investment in a new stadium on a greenfield site (for example, the Canadian Tire Centre where the Senators play in Kanata outside Ottawa) is a classic example of how, if employed, a TIF might have had merit. In this example, a TIF may be a reasonable funding tool as any new restaurants, hotels, or souvenir stores in close proximity could reasonably be attributed to the stadium. The idea is that, over time, the government recoups its investment from the new property tax revenue at no cost to municipal ratepayers. As well, the municipal services required in the area could be minimal if it is largely commercial.


(Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata, Ontario)

Using a TIF to fund SmartTrack, however, is deeply problematic.

The City proposes the establishment of TIF zones around certain stations built as part of SmartTrack. Analysis by Strategic Regional Research Associates (SRRA), under contract by the City, states that 23,737 new condo units and almost 11 million sq/ft of new office space will be built between 2017 and 2042 as a direct result of SmartTrack. The preliminary recommendation of Staff is to capture 50% of the property tax, estimated at $950 million over 25 years, generated by this growth through TIF to fund SmartTrack.

The SRRA report attached to the City’s staff report, however, was produced in January 2016 using the 22 stop version of SmartTrack instead of the pared down version now being considered. The assumptions underpinning the new projections have not been included for consideration. Residents and Council cannot even assess where SRRA are suggesting the new growth will occur.

Based on the January report, one can reasonably assume that most of the growth projected will occur in the sites close to downtown, such as the Unilever site and Liberty Village. In these high growth areas, it is dubious to attribute new development to the introduction of a station. Liberty Village, for example has no problem attracting growth, is almost built out in the residential section, and much of the employment-designated area in the western portion has heritage protection which limits development opportunities. The residents of Liberty Village desperately need new transit because of the density that already exists. To suggest that significant new growth will occur as a result of that needed transit does not match up with the reality on the ground.



(Liberty Village)

report on the use of TIFs in Chicago by the Cook County Assessor’s Office found that the financing tool was ineffective:

“Despite the extensive use of TIFs in Chicago there is little empirical evidence of the effectiveness of TIFs in promoting economic growth, while there is some indication that they benefit disproportionately from already occurring growth.”

Even if new growth could be directly attributed to SmartTrack, capturing 50% of the new property tax specifically for a transit project will require the city to find commensurate funds to provide services for the projected residential communities. Unlike in the previous greenfield arena example, residential development requires libraries, community centres, parks, child care, and other basic amenities that contribute to our quality of life. Former City Manager Joe Pennachetti stated that TIFs are the “same thing” as a property tax increase in an article on TIFs by Daniel Dale in the Toronto Star during the 2014 election.


Next Steps

City Staff have sequenced the project using a “Stage Gate” process that offers Council several points at which it can opt to not continue with SmartTrack. The project is currently in Stage Gate 3, but as previously mentioned, the public is still missing basic information.




I have no doubt the Stage Gate process could have potential benefits for the management of large transit projects but, in this instance, key pieces are moving forward without critical information. Nowhere is this more evident than in the timing of the funding plan. The Staff recommendation states that a firm funding strategy will only be provided after Council completely commits to the project in Stage Gate 5:

18.  City Council direct the Deputy City Manager and Chief Financial Officer to:
…report back to Council with the implementation of this recommended strategy once the capital cost estimates have been refined to a Class 3 level and Council confirms its definitive commitment to the project.”

It is absurd to suggest that the City would obligate itself to invest billions of dollars into a project with no idea how it will be funded.

To further complicate matters, the Province has given the City until November 30, 2016 to decide whether it wants to commit to $71 million in pre-construction work, including planning analysis and property acquisitions, related to the 6 additional GO RER stations. As well, Council is being asked to assume liability for an unidentified amount of sunk costs to be paid to Metrolinx if the City decides at a later date that the project is not worth pursuing.

While I’m unclear as to the reasons why this incomplete report was only provided last week, despite Metrolinx notifying the City in June of the deadline, the result is that Council has been put in an unreasonable position. Either we blindly commit the City to a project with little information or forego a potentially worthwhile transit investment for Torontonians.

On the whole, I believe this to be an even worse process than the one that resulted in Council choosing the One-Stop subway in Scarborough. I’m not suggesting that the SmartTrack project itself is worse, but there was far more information available, as often misleading and incomplete as it was, to the public and Council during the Scarborough transit debate. Prior to the unfortunate Scarborough vote, there was at least a transparent funding plan in addition to some, albeit imperfect, planning analysis. While the report before us this week at Council is named Transit Network Plan Update and Financial Strategy, there actually is no clear and transparent financing strategy included in the document.

The SmartTrack report does not provide the mayor or Council with sufficient information to make an informed decision, given the money and resources being requested.

Some have suggested a distracting and simplistic narrative: that we should simply build anything, just build it. That you're either for transit or against it. That anyone who raises legitimate concerns about SmartTrack is a “Debbie or Douglas Downer” and only looks for ways to say “no” rather than “yes”. I believe most Torontonians see through that rhetoric and are more thoughtful than that. I also don't believe that that messaging is fair to those who are raising reasonable and sincere questions and/or concerns.

In fact, that kind of binary decision-making is why we’re still subsidizing the woefully underused Sheppard subway and led us to proceed with spending over $3 billion for one subway stop in Scarborough when there was a demonstrably better option on the table.

I share Toronto residents’ frustration about the lack of progress on public transit over many decades. Far too often, politics has come before people when it comes to transit planning and the decisions made. I want our city to focus on relieving the existing overcrowding on our subway, bus and streetcar lines and expand out rapid transit network to truly connect Toronto's neighbourhoods. Ultimately, many residents will continue to be reliant on their cars until we finally have a transit system that is accessible, affordable and actually gets people where they need to go.

On your behalf, I will continue to advocate that we move forward now on building transit that’s based on evidence and Toronto’s real and pressing needs, with honest and transparent financing strategies.

Sincerely,

Josh

 

   

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?
   
   

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