Category Archives for "Urban Transit"

May 29

Yonge North Subway Extension Reaches Milestone, but Challenges Remain

By Transport Action Ontario | Latest News , Urban Transit

The Yonge North Subway Extension (YNSE), from Finch Station in Toronto to Richmond Hill Centre in York Region, is one of Ontario’s four priority subway projects. Transport Action Ontario has long supported this project, in conjunction with a relief line for the Yonge Subway, as ridership on the extension is expected to easily meet subway thresholds.

The project recently reached a milestone with the signing of the “Ontario-York Region Transit Partnership Preliminary Agreement”, which outlines the responsibilities of each level of government. However, the project still faces significant challenges, which include:

  • Federal funding. The project is looking for 40% federal commitment, but currently there is nearly zero. The funding instrument that the feds have been using is their PTIF-2 program, which allocates money to municipalities based on current population and current transit ridership, not growth potential. Toronto is using their $4.9B allocation on other projects in the City. York Region has received $200M from PTIF-2, which will be directed to YNSE, but is obviously insufficient.
  • Municipal funding. The Province is looking for a capital commitment from York Region of about 15%, or $1.1B. Much of this will come from Development Charges, but the Region will need new revenue tools, e.g. land transfer tax like Toronto has. This requirement for municipal funds is different than the Ontario-Toronto transit agreement inked last fall, where the municipal contribution on the 4 subway projects within Toronto was agreed to be zero.
  • Capital cost escalation. The capital costs are rumoured to have increased dramatically, from the $5.6B cited in the agreement to over $9 B. There is talk about reducing the number of stations and perhaps changing the alignment.
  • Operating and maintenance costs. The agreement also specifies that York will have a responsibility to share in the operating and maintenance cost subsidy. This is new for York and is in contrast to the Spadina subway extension to Vaughan, where Toronto picks up 100% of operating and maintenance costs.

An updated Initial Business Case is slated to be presented to the Metrolinx Board soon, perhaps in June. It should be an interesting discussion, particularly about capital cost reduction ideas!

Mar 20

Hamilton LRT Project Update

By Transport Action Ontario | Latest News , Urban Transit

Our earlier posting of December 18, 2019 expressed our disappointment with cancellation of this LRT project. Since then, we have continued to be active on this file. On December 31, 2019, we wrote the Auditor General of Ontario expressing our concerns with the rationale and process of cancellation. We had a productive meeting with the Auditor General in February, and are hopefully that they will act on our concerns. Our letter is attached.

As part of the cancellation announcement, the Province stated it was still committed to a investment of $1 billion towards future transit and transportation in Hamilton. A Task Force was set up in January to recommend how this funding is to be used. According to media reports, the Task Force reported back to Minister Mulroney on March 16, but the report will not be made public at this time. Stay tuned!

Mar 14

Audit of Scarborough Subway Extension (SSE) Decision Making

By Transport Action Ontario | Latest News , Urban Transit

As readers know, the 2019 Provincial Budget re-introduced a 3-stop subway extension project for Scarborough. Transport Action Ontario has long expressed concerns about the SE, and felt that other alternatives, such as Smart Spur, need to be studied. See our most recent post of April 7, 2019.

In February, Metrolinx published a Preliminary Design Business Case for the SSE. Remarkably, the business-as-usual case considered for comparison was a surface bus network that has never been proposed by anyone!

Transport Action Ontario has written the Auditor General of Ontario expressing our concerns that no proper Initial Business Case has ever been undertaken for this project. This would involve a proper apples-to-apples comparison of 5 alternatives:

  • Upgrading the existing Scarborough Rapid Transit with new vehicles
  • 7-stop LRT, as proposed in 2007
  • Smart Spur in conjunction with GO Expansion, as proposed in 2015
  • One-stop underground subway, as proposed in 2016
  • Three stop underground subway, as proposed now

Our letter to the Auditor General is attached. We look forward to a response.

Jan 31

Input to Ontario 2020 Budget Consultations

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus , Latest News , Northern Ontario , Southwestern Ontario , Urban Transit

The Ontario government is asking for public input into Budget 2020. Transport Action Ontario has made the following submission, focussing on the public transportation sector.

Northern Ontario

  • Provide funding to implement the Ontario Northland and Metrolinx study on passenger train and bus renewal in Northern Ontario
  • Work with the federal government to save the Huron Central Railway, ideally under Ontario Northland management

Southwestern Ontario

  • Provide funding to initiate firm steps to implement some of the Action in the recently released draft transportation master plan.  Particularly important are concrete steps on Actions 6 to 8, which deal with improving passenger rail on existing rail corridors owned by freight rail companies.  Work needs to be initiated with the freight rail companies and with VIA Rail.

Urban Transit

  • Increase the gas tax share directed to urban transit.  This had been promised by the Ford government during the election campaign, but was not kept.
  • Initiate a study to permit Ontario municipalities to use new revenue tools, such as a piece of the provincial sales tax, a land-transfer tax, or authority for road tolls, to fund critical infrastructure such as public transit or roads.
  • Develop a program to subsidize transit fare integration in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Areas in order to reduce two-fare walls between agencies like TTC-GO and TTC-York Region Transit.

General

  • Include environmental and climate change considerations when reviewing transportation modal options.  Any provincial transportation proposals are then more likely to meet with broader public approval.
  • Expand the highly-successful Community Transportation Grant Program and improve regional coordination/planning/oversight and shared service models.  See our letter to Jeff Yurek (Minister of Transportation at the time) of February 4, 2019 and re-sent to Minister Mulroney in July.
  • Expand the HOT lane program on Ontario expressways.

Photo: Daniel Vorndran

Dec 18

Statement on Cancellation of Hamilton LRT Project

By Transport Action Ontario | Latest News , Press Releases and Open Letters , Urban Transit

Transport Action Ontario issued the following statement on December 18, 2019 regarding the cancellation of the Hamilton LRT project.


Transport Action Ontario is profoundly disappointed with the Ontario government decision to cancel the Hamilton LRT project. Work had been underway on this project for many years, with over $160 million expended by Metrolinx on design and property acquisition, with more than 60 properties acquired and residents relocated. There are many troubling aspects about this decision.

Without completing the RFP process, the province’s figure of $5 billion (including 30 years of operating costs) is even more of a guesstimate that the previous government’s forecast. Other LRT projects in Ontario have come in at a much lower figure than this. The fact that the government will not release the third-party report that generated the $5 billion figure is also very troubling.

A business-friendly environment for investment and job creation requires political stability and long-term infrastructure planning. Businesses have been making investments in Hamilton for several years based on the promised LRT. This is a slap in the face that will also make businesses think twice about planned investments along other promised transit corridors in the GTA. This cancellation contradicts Ontario’s objective of being “open for business”. 

It is not clear from the Minister whether all the proven benefits of LRT have been fully considered. Downtown air quality in Hamilton would see significant improvement from the reduction of engine emissions, toxic PM2.5 particulates, brake and tire dust. The negative health effects of these airborne compounds in vehicle traffic-dense areas and their heavy burden on health care costs are alarming the health research community. Higher incidence of respiratory diseases and reduced brain function are, they say, a direct result of poor air quality. LRT in Hamilton would help to alleviate this growing problem.

There is a demonstrated need – economically, socially and environmentally – for the Hamilton LRT. Meanwhile the expert panel that reviewed the widely-opposed 413 GTA-West expressway project found that the need for it could not be adequately demonstrated and that tax dollars invested in transit and road alternatives would do more to reduce congestion. That report has now been deleted from the Ministry of Transportation website, and the $5 billion+ project restarted. The government has thus opened itself up to the perception that it has resurrected a known boondoggle at Hamilton’s expense.

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