Category Archives for "Urban Transit"

Oct 20

Guest Speaker: John Bakker on Electrification

By Transport Action Ontario | Events , Intercity Rail and Bus , Urban Transit

We invite you to join us for a guest speaker meeting on Wednesday October 23rd in Toronto, or Friday October 25th in Ottawa.

John Bakker, Emeritus Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Alberta, and past Western vice-president of Transport Action Canada, now resident in the Vancouver area, will speak on Transportation Electrification Strategies for Western Canada discussing passenger rail, urban light rail, and freight. 

John served as civil engineering consultant for the Edmonton LRT, North America’s first modern light rail system, in 1978. Together with John Schnablegger, he also authored Ottawa’s 1996 Rapid Transit study, which was the basis for the decision in 1997 to implement the Ottawa Light Rail Pilot Project, from Greenboro and Carleton University to Bayview, and now forms the Trillium Line in Ottawa’s LRT system.

Toronto Meeting

Date: Wednesday October 23, 2019
Time: 5:30 to 7:30 pm
Location: St. Paul’s Bloor Street | 227 Bloor Street St. E, Toronto, Room 206

The nearest TTC subway stations are Bloor-Yonge and Sherbourne.

Ottawa Meeting

Date: Friday October 25th, 2019
Time: 5:00 to 6.30 pm (doors open at 4.30 pm)
Location: Bronson Centre | 211 Bronson Avenue, Ottawa, Room 221

The Bronson Centre is served directly by bus route #10 Hurdman from Lyon O-Train Station, or by bus route #11 from downtown or the west end to Somerset and Bronson, two blocks south of the Centre. Free parking is available on the side streets around the Centre or in the parking lot at the rear off Nepean Street.

Photo: A “Rolling Highway” through the Alps in Switzerland – An option for the Rockies? 

Aug 27

Greater Toronto Fare (and Service) Integration Moving Slowly – Needs More Commitment

By Transport Action Ontario | Latest News , Urban Transit

Setting up a region-wide integrated transit fare system across the 11 transit agencies of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) has been a goal of transit planners for over a decade.  Metrolinx’s 2007 Regional Transportation Plan (The Big Move) proposed Big Move #6 as “Implement a region-wide integrated transit fare system by 2012 that allows users to pay a seamless, integrated fare for all transit systems across the region”. 

The work to meet this objective has not gone well.  The first five years were largely spent on getting the Presto card and hardware up and used by riders, and ensuring that all transit agencies, especially the Toronto Transit System (TTC), used the system.  Serious policy work on fare integration did not start until late 2013.  The key barriers to integration were identified as:

  • Different fares for similar journeys in different parts of the region
  • Double fares resulting from lack of fare integration between GO and TTC and between TTC and neighbouring transit providers

Various fare models were developed and analyzed over the next three years, including

  • Modify the existing system (reduce barriers)
  • Create new zone-based system
  • Create new hybrid system – fares by distance and flat fare
  • Fares by distance
  • Fares by mode
  • Fares by time (eg 2 hours travel on one fare)

In September 2017, Metrolinx concluded that modifying the existing system captured considerable benefits and was least disruptive/least complex, by avoiding the need for centralized fare setting and revenue allocation.  Four specific “step-by-step” strategies were set:

  • Discounts on double fares (GO-TTC)
  • Discounts on double fares (905-TTC)
  • Adjustments to GO’s fare structure
  • Fare policy harmonization

Transport Action Ontario agrees with this incremental approach to removing obvious fare irritants.

Limited progress on these strategies has occurred since that time

  • In January, 2018, the Wynne government initiated a $1.50 co-fare between TTC and GO, representing a discount of about 50%, and committed to  a subsidy of about $40M for a three year period to compensate for lost revenue by GO Transit and TTC.  This July, the Province announced it would halt the subsidy in 2020. Metrolinx has stated it will continue to offer the discount on TTC transfers to GO and has urged TTC to match the transfer discount to the TTC.  TTC has indicated that a detailed cost benefit analysis will be conducted prior to a decision in September.
  • In Spring, 2018, the Wynne government announced a $1.50 discount between TTC and adjacent 905 transit providers, and provided a 3 year subsidy of $70M to account for lost revenue.  This promise died when the Liberals lost the election.
  • In Spring, 2018, the Wynne government also announced a reduction in the fare for short GO trips, providing a subsidy of $90M over three years.   This promise also died when the Liberals lost the election.  However, in Spring 2019, the new provincial government did reduce GO fares for shorter trips to $3.70 minimum, while raising them for longer trips.  This more closely aligns fares  to local transit fares and may provide some relief to the subway network. In this case, Metrolinx has indicated that no additional provincial subsidy was offered, meaning that GO just “ate” any revenue loss.
  • In Summer, 2018, TTC implemented a two hour transfer policy, consistent with that offered by 905 agencies.   This is the first concrete example of fare policy harmonization.

In addition to fare integration, there is the related problem of service integration. Currently there is a frustrating absence of a “customer service” attitude when more than one transit agency is involved. One bad example is where a 905 transit agency (eg YRT or Miway) bus route goes to a subway station within Toronto (eg Finch or Islington). There is a “closed door” policy wherein riders boarding within Toronto cannot use the 905 bus to go to the subway, even if convenient and available. They must wait for a TTC bus, even if inconvenient.

We recently met with Metrolinx staff to review the events of the past few years.  On fare integration, staff indicated that it was their belief that the Province would not be providing any more fare integration subsidies.  Any reduction of double fares would come from the affected agencies, either asymmetrically (unilaterally) or bilaterally.  For example, it would be possible for York Region Transit to unilaterally accept transfers from TTC at a lower rate, independent of whether TTC would reciprocate.    Staff also indicated that umbrella agency working groups were studying service integration and policy harmonization ideas, and to expect announcements soon.

Transport Action Ontario is disappointed with the slow progress of fare and service integration and urges all agencies and governments to commit funds and resources to this important area.

Aug 27

Federal Funding Committed for two Toronto Transit Projects

By Transport Action Ontario | Latest News , Urban Transit

On August 26, 2019, the federal government confirmed more than $1B of funding for two Toronto rapid transit projects – capacity improvements at Bloor-Yonge subway station ($500M) and construction of 6 new Smart Track (ST) stations  ($585M).   The funding comes from the PTIF-2 program which will direct about $4.9B to Toronto transit over the coming 11 years.   For further details on PTIF, check the Transport Action Ontario (TAO) report “Update on Federal Funding Commitments for the GTHA” in May, 2019.  As can be read, the Smart Track funding is not a surprise,  as Prime Minister Harper had previously committed similar funding.

The Bloor-Yonge capacity improvement project is a solid, badly-needed project with little controversy. It will build/modify platforms on both Lines 2 and 1 and add stairs, escalators and elevators.

However, there is considerable strategic uncertainly about the Smart Track stations.  See Figure below.    

The following summarizes key facts on the stations:

  • There is no question that stations at all 6 locations are needed.  TAO’s seminal report in 2013 on “Regional Rapid Rail” recommended new GO stations at all 6 locations.
  • However, changes to the proposed subway network may put the viability of several of the ST stations in question.  The proposed Ontario Line (subway) includes stations near the ST stations at Gerard-Carlaw, East Harbour and King-Liberty.  Similarly, the proposed Line 2 Subway Extension includes a station near the ST station at Lawrence-Kennedy.  These may impact rider demand for these ST stations.
  • There is also uncertainty about the role that Transit Oriented Development will play in station construction.  New provincial policy indicates that developers must contribute to the costs of new stations, in return for development rights.  It is unclear if this stipulation will apply if federal funding is in place, or if there is developer interest in the ST stations.

TAO will continue to track this funding and the projects and advocate for the best use of taxpayer dollars.

Jun 05

Update on Federal Funding Commitments for Greater Toronto and Hamilton Transit

By Transport Action Ontario | Latest News , Urban Transit

With an upcoming federal election in October, Transport Action Ontario has reviewed federal funding support for transit capital maintenance and expansion in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). No matter how the numbers are displayed, the current federal commitment is very low versus a target of 33% or more.

The federal government must up its game! And the provincial and federal governments need to cooperate to deliver the funds!

Our full report can be viewed here:

Jun 02

GO Expansion Project moves to next phase of procurement

By Transport Action Ontario | Latest News , Urban Transit

Transport Action Ontario has long supported the GO Expansion project (formerly Regional Express Rail). In fact, our 2013 report “Regional Rapid Rail” was an important precursor to the provincial project announced in 2014. As readers recall, GO Expansion proposes 15-minute all-day two-way service on core parts of 5 GO train corridors. The province has committed $13.5B for capital construction.  

The province has now taken a major step towards procurement of this massive project. The procurement of this project has proceeded in 3 stages:

  • A number of specific track, station and grade separation projects went to market in 2017/2018.  Some of these, such as work on the Stouffville corridor, are under construction.  Others are still in the tender process, or may be woven into the “On-Corridor” package described below.
  • A second procurement package was released in early 2018 to construct 12 new stations, including 6 for Toronto’s Smart Track.  However, in November, the province withdrew the tender and announced it would pursue a new Transit Oriented Development  approach that would have the private sector fund station construction in exchange for development rights.  Since then, two new stations (Mimico and Woodbine) have been announced under this approach.
  • The third tender package is called “GO Rail Expansion On-Corridor Works”.  Interestingly, it uses outcome based specifications where the winner is required  to meet key performance specs such as x trains per day between points A and B, trip times, on-time performance, etc. It is up to the proponent to figure out how to achieve this most cost-effectively – whether to electrify or not, construct new track or not, use other innovations.  As with all large transit contracts in Ontario, it is a Public Private Partnership (P3), where the winning bidder is responsible for  Design-Build-Partial Finance- 30 years of Operation- 30 years of Maintenance.  Media estimates of contract value is $18B ($9B capital + $9B op/main).   On May 30, the province announced the 4 qualifying teams and issued a Request for Proposals (RFP). 

Another interesting aspect of this “On-Corridor” tender is that the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB)  will finance up to $2B of the contract, only its second transit deal in Canada.

The release of the RFP and the CIB financing for the “On-Corridor” project  are good news, as they signify solid government commitment to this massive and vitally important project.

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