Category Archives for "Urban Transit"

May 31

Progress is Steady on Yonge Subway North Extension

By Transport Action Ontario | Latest News , Urban Transit

Metrolinx continues to advance this $4 to 6 billion, 8km project to extend the Yonge Subway northward into York Region.  The activities over the past 2 years provide interesting insights into major transit project management and execution. 

As readers recall from our last posting (June, 2021), there was extensive controversy and resident anger about the chosen route in the northern segment through Markham/Thornhill (“green route”).  Residents were concerned that this ran under dozens of residential properties.  In mid-2021, Transport Action Ontario (TAO) suggested an alternate route (“yellow route”) using cut and cover under the vacant Langstaff lands.  This was much more popular with the community.  Metrolinx studied the yellow route extensively, and finally concluded in early 2022 that it was technically feasible, but not preferred due to higher cost, complex construction, technical constraints (tighter curves, steeper inclines, slower train speeds), and impacts to future development.

Possibly in an attempt to placate local residents, Metrolinx announced that a 40 – 50 meter deep station at Royal Orchard Blvd would be added to the project, with station costs borne by the Province’s Transit Oriented Communities program.

In February, 2022, York Region Council approved the green route. The amended Environmental Project Report was completed by Metrolinx one month later.

In September, 2022, a contract was awarded to complete early upgrades to Finch Station to accommodate the extension (electrical and fire connections).  Construction is underway.  Work is also underway for advance utilities relocations along Yonge St.  Agreement has also been reached with CN for use of their corridor for the at-grade portion of the extension.

The procurement plan for the project will involve two major contracts:

  • Advance Tunneling contract, planned as a Design-Build-Finance.  The RFQ was released in April, 2023. Release of the RFP is planned for late 2023 with contract award in 2024.  Excavation for the launch shaft is expected in late 2024, and arrival of the tunnel boring machines in late 2025.  Two twin bore tunnels are planned.
  • Stations, Rail and Systems contract, likely to be a Progressive Design-Build.  Timing TBD.

Metrolinx is also engaged in corridor protection.  Under the Build Transit Faster Act, lands in the corridor have been designated as Transit Corridor Lands (TCLs).  Both TCLs and lands within a prescribed distance (eg 30 meters) must obtain a Corridor Development Permit prior to construction (eg pool, building, shed).  This restriction is registered on title in the Land Registry Office.  To date, there have apparently been no issues with designations or permits.

Metrolinx is also negotiating with property owners for temporary or permanent property acquisition.  In some cases, only subsurface acquisition will be required. No information is publicly available on how this is working out.

Finally, workshops are being held with municipal staff on station design.  No information is yet available to the public on this topic.

In conclusion, following resolution of the controversial routing issue, progress on this project appears to have been steady.  TAO looks forward to a continued smooth path. 

Apr 16

Advocacy Summary for April, 2022 – April, 2023

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

Transport Action Ontario’s annual general meeting (AGM) was held in Toronto on April 15, 2023 in a hybrid format. The meeting followed a pro-forma agenda, including Treasurer’s report and election of officers and directors for the upcoming year.

The major part of the meeting was devoted to the President’s report, which summarized the extensive advocacy work undertaken by the organization all across the Province over the past 12 months. In total, work was conducted on about 30 items, with some successes and good progress on others.

For members and subscribers who were unable to attend the AGM, the President’s Report is attached as a FYI.

Mar 11

Federal Funding Needed to avoid Public Transit Death Spiral

By Transport Action Ontario | Latest News , Urban Transit

 During summer, 2022 the federal government engaged in public consultation on a proposed $3B/yr Permanent Public Transit Fund.  The purpose was to “support the expansion and upgrading of public transit and active transportation networks in communities across Canada”.  This wording implies that the funding will be for capital projects, not operating funds.

 One of the comments made by Transport Action on the posting was that the funding ought to also include operating cost support.  Now, 6 months later, the need for federal operating cost support is as large as ever.

 The pandemic has broken the public transit funding model.  Prior to the pandemic, the federal government was only involved in capital funding, through such programs as the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program.  The role of funding public transit operations was traditionally left to provinces (e.g. Ontario Gas Tax program) and municipalities.  In most cases, municipalities were the primary funders of operations, but have limited fiscal tools beyond politically unpopular property taxes and user fees.

 With the precipitous drop in transit ridership and farebox revenue in 2020, the federal government intervened with the provinces to provide emergency operating support though the Safe Restart Agreement, which was renewed in 2022.  This support prevented a complete collapse in transit service. Despite passenger revenues declining by 57% overall in 2020-2021, service levels only declined by 9%.  

Ridership is now at only 70% of pre-pandemic, although has recovered more for off-peak service and bus routes versus peak-hour rail routes, due to continued work-from-home practices. Overall ridership is unlikely to recover to pre-pandemic totals for quite a time. Thus the operating funding problem has not gone away.  Before the pandemic, 40-70% of transit operating budgets for transit systems were paid for through fares.  With fare box revenue reduction and financial assistance from other levels of government drying up, transit systems face the threat of a death spiral.  This is a vicious cycle of service cuts and fare hikes that push people away from transit, further decreasing revenue leading to further service cuts. This has huge negative consequences  on traffic congestion, carbon emissions and to shift workers and low-income riders.

 The death spiral may already be starting.  Montreal has killed most of its frequent bus network.  The TTC 2023 budget is proposing a 5% service cut versus 2022 and a 3% fare hike (most riders).  Despite a proposed increased subsidy from the City of Toronto, an additional subsidy is  being sought from the provincial and federal governments.  There is no answer yet on this request.

 We urge the federal government to stop the public transit death spiral with additional funding. This could be in the form of operating subsidies, or “restructuring” funding to align service patterns with new demand patterns. In the GTHA, the feds could also provide support for region-wide fare integration, which would undoubtedly boost ridership. Action is needed in the upcoming federal budget.

 (with thanks to Nate Wallace, Environmental Defence, for background information)

Oct 26

Comments on Draft Transportation Plan for Eastern Ontario

By Transport Action Ontario | Highways and Bridges , Intercity Rail and Bus , Latest News , Urban Transit

In April, 2022, Ontario released the last of its regional transportation plans – this one for Eastern Ontario. Transport Action Ontario (TAO) has reviewed this plan. In general, we find it to be long on ideas but short on specific actions. The highway-centric nature of most of the actions is a concern. TAO feels that more emphasis on public transit, intercommunity public transportation and freight rail is needed.

Our comments can be viewed below.