Category Archives for "Urban Transit"

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.

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.