2022 Ontario Election

Posted on: April 2nd, 2022

Early in 2022, CodeRedTO was approached by a provincial political party for our advice on selected transit topics. As a non-partisan advocacy group, our advice is available to all, and our responses can be found below.

The growth and operation of our public transit systems across Ontario depends quite heavily on the provincial government’s choices and priorities. Those priorities frequently change as is shown below, leading to delayed improvements, increased congestion, and increased emissions.

Promises

As a review, here are the new transit promises and changes to existing plans in the winning party’s platform in each of the last four elections. Changes announced outside of election campaigns are excluded.

2007:

  • Yonge North Subway expansion to Highway 7
  • Increasing speed and reducing emissions by electrifying the GO Lakeshore line and expanding capacity on all GO lines
  • Expanded express bus service across Highway 407
  • Two rapid transit lines across Hamilton
  • Toronto’s full seven-line Transit City LRT network

2011:

  • full-day two-way GO service on all corridors
  • GO refund for delays of 15 minutes (in service)

2014:

  • Expansion of GO all-day, two-way service, including regional express service every 15 minutes, and electrification on all lines starting with the UnionPearson Express (some elements under construction)
  • Expansion of GO service to Kitchener-Waterloo and Guelph (in service)
  • Brampton Queen Street Rapid Transit (in planning)
  • Dundas Street Bus Rapid Transit (in planning)
  • Durham-Scarborough Bus Rapid Transit (in planning)
  • Hamilton Rapid Transit (funded, in planning)
  • Hurontario-Main LRT (under construction)
  • East Bayfront LRT (unfunded)
  • Relief line (rebranded Ontario Line by later government, funded, begins construction in 2022)
  • Yonge North Subway expansion to York Region (in planning)

2018:

  • Line 4 Sheppard extension
  • All expansions to Crosstown will be underground only

Questions

Below are the questions provided to CodeRedTO, and our responses. We hope this information is helpful for all candidates.

What priorities do you want to see the next provincial government implement when it comes to transit for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area?

 

  1. We must move away from a car-first orientation.
  2. We must move away from short-term budgeting.
  3. Repairing the damage of COVID-19 cannot wait.

“The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is projected to be the fastest growing region, with its population increasing by 2.9 million, or 40.9 per cent, from 7.1 million in 2020 to almost 10.0 million by 2046.” – Ontario.ca

It is vital to recognize that there is no room for more cars. Simple geometry tells us that a 40% increase in the number of cars on the road is not tenable. Therefore the first priority must be a massive change in the transportation mode share, moving trips from personal vehicles into shared vehicles, mass transit, and active transportation. There is no room for any policy which even just maintains the existing structure of subsidies for car drivers.

This shift is not a gentle one. Significant changes to driver costs and incentives are required, and significant changes to the transportation network itself. This will include fewer car lanes and more protected bike lanes,, more restrictions on and higher costs for car travel, including reductions in space for parking, lower costs for transit, and eventually closing entire sections of urban centres to private vehicles so that emergency vehicles and active transportation have enough space to move smoothly.

A second key priority is improved and predictable operations funding to provide more frequent and reliable transit service Historically, provincial priorities have focused on network expansion, leaving cities to fund operations. But as residents move across city boundaries for school and work, this creates a mismatch between the tax base and the required transit network for future goals. This is visible as an example in the high quality construction of York Region’s Viva Bus Rapid Transit, which even during afternoon peak at Highway 7 & Highway 404 has a schedule of only five buses per direction per hour, or fewer than 800 riders per hour.

Public transit is not a directly profitable endeavour. Transit is a service which enables economic activity, investment, and education, and operates at a loss in many parts of the network, but removing transit from low-ridership areas would create negative impacts due to increased private vehicle congestion and household costs.

Annually, transit agencies and municipal councils must assemble sufficient funding to address the shortfall between desired transit service and cost recovery from fares and advertising. This annual scramble impacts transit service levels, which can decrease attractiveness of transit and therefore reduce ridership, again leading to congestion and higher household costs. These in turn impact economic growth such as the location of new retail and office employment.

Stable, predictable, and increased operations funding allows transit providers to provide attractive and high-performance routes to build ridership and reduce car usage across the region. It also allows long-term strategies to be implemented without fear of damaging budget cuts negating previous work.

One of the most confounding challenges we face in implementing these priorities is the damage of COVID-19. It goes without saying that foremost is the damage to individuals, families, and the health system. The economic damage both to the private sector and the government’s budgets, and the public transit damage due to shifting work patterns and shifting mode share cannot be ignored.

Early-pandemic fears of public transit as an especially-dangerous space have proven unfounded. In fact, due to the modern ventilation systems and strong filtration, and its frequent air- and rider-exchange, public transit vehicles are in some ways safer than other indoor spaces. Public health protections such as properly-worn masks and avoiding large crowds remain appropriate as in all indoor spaces, and the vital role of mass transit in enabling our mobility also remains.

However, many riders have adjusted travel patterns and spending choices to avoid public transit. The sunk cost of car ownership, estimated at well over $10,000 per year (compared to an annual TTC pass at $1,700), and the perceived immediate gratification of instant access and custom travel paths, can easily drive personal decision-making away from more efficient and lower-emission public transit. Not everyone can make this choice, but the choices create more congestion and damage mobility for everyone across the region.

As we (hopefully) move out of COVID-19’s largest impacts, the repair of this mode shift is urgent. If public transit remains infrequent, crowded, and unreliable, riders will stay away. This will reduce transit revenue, increase congestion, and reduce economic recovery in a damaging negative-feedback loop. The only path to a positive-feedback loop is public transit which is attractive due to accessibility, affordability, frequency, and comfort. In short, more transit options for more residents sooner.

Do you have a priority list when it comes to new transit projects?

 

  • Projects which could have the greatest impact on ridership and network resiliency will aid us in catching up to the unmet ridership needs across the GTHA. Previously-studied projects with completed Environmental Assessments can be launched and completed on a shorter timeframe.

The best prioritization comes from transparent evaluation of costs and benefits by an independent organization not beholden to voters nor to a single jurisdiction. Elected MPPs have different incentives when considering transit projects as compared to transit planners and transportation engineers.

Historically, transit projects in Ontario have often been selected, modified, or canceled to serve political goals rather than regional mobility and development goals, or despite seemingly lower-priority ridership projections. Controversial decisions, each of which has positives and negatives, include:

  • Relief Line removed from 1985 plan in 1990
  • Eglinton West Line cancelled mid-construction in 1995
  • Vaughan Metropolitan Centre added to Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension in 2006
  • Kirby and Lawrence East GO stations planned in 2016
  • Scarborough Centre LRT from Kennedy to Malvern approved in 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2012, and cancelled in 2010 and 2013
  • Scarborough Subway Extension approved in 2013, and expanded in 2018
  • Eglinton Crosstown West LRT modified in 2018 to be fully-underground
  • Ontario Line replacement for former Relief Line proposed in 2018 as partly above-ground

There will always be public pressure and political concerns around selecting projects. Our history of advancing one project at a time by definition pits regional neighbours against one another, but transit must be considered as a network that requires advancement region-wide.

Projects which could have a large impact on ridership and network resiliency could include:

  • More buses, in dedicated lanes, everywhere, now. More transit riders use buses than use rail both in Toronto and across the GTHA, and improved bus service is a fast and affordable way to improve mobility for the largest number of people.
  • Waterfront East rapid transit, to support existing development in progress. This project completed its Environmental Assessment in 2010, but remains unfunded while new buildings continue to appear along its studied alignment.
  • Ontario Line (a.k.a. Relief Line) to Eglinton or farther, to reduce pressure on overcrowded segments of Line 1 and the Bloor-Yonge interchange.
  • GO Expansion (a.k.a. Regional Express Rail) across the GTHA, and new non-Union Station service, to increase network resiliency and travel speed for regional travel and reduce average travel distance on local services and subways.

What are your recommendations for the relationship between the Province of Ontario, Metrolinx, and local transit agencies?

 

  1. Separate voter oversight from project competition
  2. Mandate project and policy decision transparency

Metrolinx was formed to create a regional governing body for public transit. It was reformed years later to reducethe involvement of elected municipal officials in decisions. However, the decisions themselves simply moved to the provincial cabinet table. Recent announcements on transit initiatives owned by Metrolinx have been issued directly from the Ministry of Transportation or the Premier’s office, rather than the ostensibly-independent agency. This undermines trust in transit planning decisions, and reduces transit’s effectiveness by privileging popular projects over effective ones.

If a new water main is required, political parties don’t argue over it during an election. When engineers describe the type of pipe required for that new water main, the government doesn’t override the requirements and place a larger pipe in a different location instead. But transit planning and decision-making is not treated the same way.

Voter oversight over public funds is important. Elected representatives are best placed to determine overarching goals and funding structures on the advice of staff, while professional engineers and planners are best placed to recommend the area and technology, and to prioritize projects within limited funding envelopes.

Hand-in-hand with independent advice is transparency in decision-making. Any and all staff guidance, inputs, weighting, conflicts, ministerial mandates, and outputs must be public.

Hidden deals, thumbs-on-scales, and a lack of a full cost/benefit analysis of all possible options damage public trust. Decisions contrary to professional advice due to a preference for a certain style of train, or for a certain end-point within a different riding for political purposes, reduce public support for vital transit funding and growth if we are to grow as a region and meet emissions objectives.

It’s well known that governments are eager to fund (parts of) projects but pay less attention to programs and policies. What should a new government’s most important non-project priority be?

 

  1. Sufficient capital and operations funding for strategic planning to build network capacity and ridership
  2. Reliable and frequent local service linking residents to rail and rapid transit throughout the region
  3. Improved integration of regional network by removing “double fares” when crossing boundaries

Having stable, predictable, long-term operating & capital funding gives professional planners and municipalities the ability to make strategic changes to build transit network capacity and popularity. Improved operations funding must be prioritized, urgently, as this enables significant economic and educational mobility, housing accessibility, and decreased emissions.

Secondly, an enabler of transportation mode-share shifting is improved local “last mile” service in the GO service area. As the 905 municipalities continue to grow and expand their urban cores, regional congestion from private vehicles will also grow. It is vital that all residents have flexible and frequent transit within their local area, not only parking garages beside GO stations. When building highways we build on- and off-ramps; regional transit needs the same thing. A shiny new station with only a parking lot does nothing to build for the future of that community, especially in urbanizing areas.

Finally, the other widely-known tool for building regional transit strength is fare integration which simplifies and rationalizes transit choices for riders without inadvertently punishing any transit agency due to the reduced farebox revenue. Transit may be a reasonable choice for a larger group of riders through gentler fare escalation enabling more or faster travel options.

Example: travel from Ellesmere & Morningside to Queen’s Park

  • TTC + GO + TTC: $9.13, 57 minutes
  • TTC alone: $3.25, 80 minutes

Conclusion

It must become and remain well-understood across the political spectrum and across jurisdictions that car-first transportation is not sustainable, and only mass transit and active transportation can unlock our shared economic, social, and climate goals. The status quo is not an option.

CodeRedTO is available to any political party, agency, or organization seeking non-partisan information and discussion of public transit topics. Email info@CodeRedTO.com any time.

Line 3 Scarborough bus replacement options

Posted on: October 12th, 2021

The TTC is seeking feedback on future Line 3 bus replacement service when the line closes in 2023, and would like to share and seek feedback on a shortlist of bus routing options for the Line 3 bus replacement service. Your feedback, along with technical work, will help the TTC develop the final recommended plan that will be presented to the TTC Board in January 2022 for approval. Visit line3bus.ca or see details below to learn more and ways to share your feedback.

The three options

Option 1 (TTC recommendation): Convert the Line 3 right-of-way to two-way roadway

  • Buses will operate on the Line 3 Right-of-Way between Kennedy and Ellesmere Stations, and on-street along Ellesmere Road and Brimley Road, to provide a fast and reliable journey towards Scarborough Centre.
  • New stops at Tara Avenue will be added to provide connection to the local community.
  • Adaptive re-use (parkland, cycling, special events, …) will be possible between Ellesmere and McCowan stations.
  • Requires a different routing for up to two years while the roadway is constructed, but allows more reliable and rapid bus service throughout the remainder of the Line 2 extension construction period, which could last until the mid-2030’s.

Option 2: Midland northbound and Brimley southbound

  • Buses will operate one-way on Midland and Brimley in each direction (northbound/ southbound). This couplet operation allows for better signal optimization to deliver faster travel times for customers.
  • Full Line 3 Right-of-Way would be available for adaptive re-use.
  • If Option 1 is chosen, this option could serve as a short-term solution while the Line 3 infrastructure is being converted for bus operation.
  • Could experience construction delays near Kennedy station on Eglinton.

Option 3: Kennedy to Lawrence, then Brimley northbound and Midland southbound

  • Bus operation will be similar to Option 2 except buses will operate along Kennedy south of Lawrence.
  • There is potential for a more direct southbound routing on Midland pending confirmation of Metrolinx construction plans.
  • Full Line 3 Right-of-Way would be available for adaptive re-use.
  • If Option 1 is chosen, this option could serve as a short-term solution while the Line 3 infrastructure is being converted for bus operation.

Virtual public meeting

October 19, 2021, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

Register and join: line3bus.ca/publicmeeting
(or join by phone at 647-558-0588, meeting ID: 863 2651 3488)

Online survey

Visit: line3bus.ca/survey until October 29th

You can also complete the survey by mail
(call 647-424-2286 or email klamparero@swerhun.com)

Line 3 Station pop-ups

October 21, 2021

  • Kennedy Station 7:30 – 9:30 a.m.
  • Scarborough Centre Station 3:30 – 5:30 p.m.

October 25, 2021

  • Midland Station 7:30 – 9:30 a.m.
  • Ellesmere Station 3:30 – 5:30 p.m.

October 28, 2021

  • Lawrence East Station 7:30 – 9:30 a.m.
  • McCowan Station 3:30 – 5:30 p.m.

EVENT SEPTEMBER 27: Christof Spieler, author of “Trains, Buses, People”

Posted on: August 30th, 2021

CodeRedTO welcomes back Christof Spieler, author of “Trains, Buses, People, Second Edition: An Opinionated Atlas of US and Canadian Transit“, to speak with our community September 27th about lessons Toronto and the GTHA could learn from other cities’ experiences. If we want to learn, that is.

Register to join us September 27th at 8pm via Zoom link.
(Use code CODEREDTO2021 for 20% off preorders at SpacingStore.ca and stick around for some “door” prizes!)

Book cover for the second edition

Trains, Buses, People, Second Edition: An Opinionated Atlas of US and Canadian Transit


Christof Spieler is an engineer and planner, a senior lecturer at Rice University in the architecture and engineering schools, and spent eight years on the board of Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO). He’s also a member of the American Public Transit Association’s Sustainability and Urban Design Working Group, which drafts national standards on transit and urban design, a contributor to NACTO’s Transit Street Design Guide, a member of the Central Houston Transportation Committee, and a board member at TransitCenter in New York.

Christof Spieler presented at a CodeRedTO event in 2019 and we are thrilled to welcome him back (virtually!) to launch “Trains, Buses, People, Second Edition: An Opinionated Atlas of US and Canadian Transit“, which now covers every rail transit and bus rapid transit system in the United States and Canada!

“For all of their hardcore infrastructure, urban transit networks are essentially human creations, and understanding what makes them successful is essential for building successful cities. Supported by urban histories and incisively presented data, Christof Spieler sets the rules of engagement for effective transit and offers a roadmap for achieving it.” — Janette Sadik-Khan, former NYC Transportation Commissioner

Register to join us September 27th at 8pm via Zoom link.

A Post-Vaccine World Needs Strong Public Transit

Posted on: January 4th, 2021

 

Opinion by Cameron MacLeod
Executive Director, CodeRedTO

In response to losing up to 90% of their ridership and revenue due to Covid-19 last spring, transit systems across North America suspended up to 90% of their service. However, they retained easily 90% of their costs. Resulting budget shortfalls led to dire warnings about the end of public transit as we know it. As 2020 ends, many agencies have restored significant service levels, and governments have provided cash infusions to mostly replace missing fare revenue. These are positive signs, but transit remains at risk.

While the TTC has reinstated most employees, the distribution of their service is dramatically different. That’s a good thing, as they’ve learned more precisely where essential worker and non-car-owning riders travel. In Toronto that means strong ridership in the northern halves of Scarborough and Etobicoke. The largest drops in ridership can be found on routes between wealthier areas in central Toronto and the financial district as those daily commuters now work from home. The TTC could run the subway at half-capacity and it still might not feel as crowded as in previous years, even as they increased bus service elsewhere. Modifying service is normal but does not resolve increasing pressures on operations funding, and expansion choices.

We know transit funding and service before COVID was not sufficient. The TTC regularly cut service in one area to address greater needs elsewhere, rather than adding more buses driven by operators they couldn’t afford to pay.

The funding was also not sustainable, as massive capital expenditures arrived each election without accompanying operating dollars. For example, the Vaughan subway extension is projected to cost the TTC $30 million more per year to operate than it will bring in revenue.

Finally, the funding is unpredictable by choice. Toronto City Council provides the TTC with about $790 million of its $2.1 billion operating budget, debated and contested each year, and often accompanied by fare hikes greater than inflation. Queen’s Park used to make a substantial contribution to the TTC’s operating funds, but now focuses solely on expansion. The lack of predictable funding from dedicated revenue sources complicates any long-term planning and service consistency to keep people moving efficiently.

Network expansion pressures also change, as we see a greater need for reliable rapid transit for essential workers which cannot be addressed with costly tunnels alone. We know a relief line (whatever its name or technology) from the east into the core will be needed in 10-12 years when it opens, but we will also need the Jane LRT, the Eglinton Crosstown East (to UTSC and Malvern) and West (to Pearson Airport) extensions, and Waterfront East LRT to the rapidly-developing Port Lands.

When we are back to “normal,” people may be afraid to ride transit if insufficient service makes it overcrowded, and there is a possibility many will choose private car travel. If only 10% of the TTC’s ridership makes this choice, that is roughly equivalent to an entire additional Gardiner Expressway of cars. Losing these rush-hour riders would also reduce the TTC’s efficiency, as the subway’s operating cost doesn’t change much whether empty or full, leading to significant budget impacts.

The competition for funding will likely intensify, as vital health care and vaccination programs will understandably tempt governments to delay or cancel other projects, as seen in previous economic shocks. The Eglinton subway was cancelled in 1995 while under construction, and funding for the Crosstown and Finch lines were delayed in 2009.

We know that public transit is vital to a healthy economy and community, but as federal legislators spend more time on airplanes than buses, federal support for transit tends to be late, conditional, insufficient, and one-time-only. As former New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan tweeted in December 2020, “Public transportation carries 10x more people than airlines yet Congress thinks it needs $1 billion less aid. Not everybody rides transit but everyone is dependent on those who do.”

In the post-vaccine world, if we do not invest in transit, ridership will remain low and private car congestion will skyrocket—and transit agencies will put more pressure on city budgets. It is essential that we choose a sustainable future state, and not fall into the old habit of just shrugging and accepting an inadequate transit system.

Ward 17 Don Valley North Transit Town Hall

Posted on: July 9th, 2019

On July 8, CodeRedTO presented on preparing for future transit conversations, at Councillor Shelley Carroll’s Transit Town Hall.
Click here to download the full presentation.

CodeRedTO Executive Director Cameron MacLeod discusses carbon emissions and physical space impacts.

CodeRedTO advisor Professor Patricia Wood walks through how transit decision-making processes can perform better for us.

Reviewing feedback and learnings from attendees helps improve content in future.

CodeRedTO Statement on Sidewalk Toronto Proposal

Posted on: June 25th, 2019

Over the last six months, CodeRedTO has participated in Sidewalk Toronto’s consultations with stakeholders, community groups, and residents. The new proposal centres the vital and much-delayed Waterfront East LRT.

CodeRedTO regularly participates in transit-related consultations on projects, including the Relief Line, the Line 2 East Extension, and SmartTrack. As a non-partisan source of transit research & data, contributing to mobility projects helps improve transit debate in Toronto.

CodeRedTO has no position on proposal topics outside our area of expertise and research. However, the inclusion of waterfront light rail, directly described to us as a “non-negotiable” element, is inarguably positive. No successful waterfront future can depend on private vehicles.

City of Toronto planners have long deemed waterfront light rail a priority. The choice to follow city planners’ lead on higher-order transit service, and the rapid implementation opportunity which follows when funding is identified, is noteworthy.

This proposal’s focus on sustainable, mixed-use transit-oriented development, use of an existing approved but unfunded East Bayfront LRT plan, and explicit minimizing of private car travel, may also provide a useful reference for many choices soon to be made about our public spaces.

Our future is environmentally, economically, and geometrically tied to public transit. We welcome Sidewalk Toronto’s strong commitment to the City’s plan for light rail connecting TO’s core & eastern waterfront. Too long delayed, this LRT line must be part of any waterfront plan.

CodeRedTO Statement on Provincial Transit Funding Announcement

Posted on: April 10th, 2019

This morning Premier Ford and Minister of Transportation Jeff Yurek announced a $28.5 billion plan to expand the Toronto transit network, including a Relief “Ontario Line” from the Eglinton Crosstown into the downtown core and onward to Ontario Place. Other projects proposed include more stations on the Line 2 East Extension fully funded by the government, and the Eglinton Crosstown connection to Pearson airport.

CodeRedTO welcomes the announcement of provincial capital investment in the expansion of Toronto’s transit network, and especially the longer Relief Line which provides a higher return on investment and higher level of Line 1 relief.

Provincial investment is a necessary part of the City of Toronto being able to engage in recent transit funding offered through the federal government, and it is good to see both the federal and the provincial governments making such significant contributions to transit. Improved and expanded transit is necessary for economic growth in the entire Toronto region, whose success is both a provincial and national economic engine.

While the current TTC Relief Line plan could begin construction in 2020 with confirmed funding, modifications to technology and alignment inevitably create some delay. The addition of a new technology mode to Toronto’s rapid transit network could bring potential benefits in the form of procurement or construction speed, or reduced day to day operations cost. But it also brings risks in the “learning curve” without any existing network off of which to build, and increased costs for duplication of maintenance facilities and spare vehicles. It will be vital to manage these risks to bring the best overall result within the remaining time before Line 1 crowding becomes dangerous.

It is also important to note that all “megaprojects” experience delays and cost increases, some required and some political. In fact, nine out of ten billion-dollar-plus projects go over budget. The research clearly shows that the most important elements of megaproject management are in the planning: evidence-based, transparent process, and a rigorous business case.

Missing from this proposal is the high-priority Waterfront East LRT, which will serve to enable access and transit-oriented development already in progress. Both the City and Province must align on this project rapidly to ensure travel patterns are built appropriately.

We also have concerns about the process to date. As we move forward, we hope the province will engage the city in an appropriate partnership and align on the planning of transit, particularly before making public announcements that have a material impact on existing city plans and spending.

We also hope that partnership results in a provincial commitment to improving the funding of the operations and maintenance of the existing transit system in Toronto. The TTC remains the least subsidized transit agency in Canada and the United States, and it is currently not able to provide a level of service appropriate to its ridership.

According to the American Public Transit Association’s report Open for Business: The Business Case for Investment in Public Transportation, “every dollar spent on public transportation generates $4 in economic returns.” We note that the City has to finance its own share of these capital expansion projects, in addition to the federal and provincial contributions. We hope to see the City revisit its budget and make a serious plan to find the necessary capital for the most worthwhile investments.

The King Street Transit Corridor should be made Permanent

Posted on: April 3rd, 2019

2 April 2019

TO: Mayor John Tory, Councillor Paul Ainslie,
Councillor Ana Bailão, Councillor Gary Crawford,
Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong,
Councillor Frances Nunziata, Councillor James Pasternak, Councillor Michael Thompson
RE: Executive Committee Agenda Item
EX4.2: The Future of King Street – Results of the Transit Pilot

“the King Street Pilot is a model for transit improvement and should be made permanent immediately”

To the members of the Executive Committee:

CodeRedTO supports better transit options for more residents across the city and region, using all the tools available to improve economic and personal mobility. This includes mass transit expansion, better performance for existing transit, integrated active transportation infrastructure, and dedicated reliable funding to support community and business transportation needs.

The King Street Pilot program took Toronto’s busiest surface transit route, and converted it from an unreliable, slow, mockery of transit into a rapid, dependable artery which is 81% more reliable for business and community members. Tens of thousands more transit riders began using King Street, and now over 80% of people traveling King Street in the core use transit as part of their journey.

Now that the King streetcar is significantly more reliable and consistent for riders, more hop-on and hop-off decisions can be made to visit local retailers, even during short timeframes like a short employee lunch break. In fact, 76% of King Street users in a survey indicated they’ve visited local retailers just as much or even more since the pilot began.

While personal cars on and near King Street are a minority of road users, the side-effects of transit network development are important to monitor. City Staff measured personal car travel times in nine locations nearly twice daily across two months, and in only one location did travel times increase more than 90 seconds on average, on Dundas. In three of nine locations car traffic was more than 30 seconds faster!

When we consider the increased transit ridership, the increased transit reliability, the limited impact to other road users, the reduced carbon emissions, the improved active transportation potential, and the extremely low capital expenditure, it is clear that the King Street Pilot is a model for transit improvement and should be made permanent immediately. There is insufficient justification to reverse or limit any of the modifications made in the pilot, and CodeRedTO strongly urges City Council to maintain enforcement and to make King Street our permanent model for future transit corridor prioritization.

Sincerely,

Cameron MacLeod
Executive Director, CodeRedTO

A few more thoughts….

Posted on: April 2nd, 2019

A blog post by CodeRedTO advisor and volunteer Patricia Wood, on her appearance on TVO’s The Agenda.

Eighteen minutes isn’t a lot of time, especially when you have to share, so here’s a few more thoughts on the panel from TVO’s The Agenda that aired April 2, 2019 on subway upload negotiations between the Province & City.

First, thank you to Steve Paikin and Brian Kelcey and the TVO team. A meaningful exchange on detailed policy elements has been hard to find on this topic from the province, so I’m glad we found a little of it at TVO.

As I mentioned, the research we’ve done at CodeRedTO shows that you can have good governance with all kind of governance models. But that doesn’t mean it’s no big deal if we switch oversight of transit from the City to the Province. The first problem with that, of course, is that you don’t just take apart a functional agency on a whim. It needs work, but it’s not broken.

I was asked about whether the province or the city will bring more certainty to “making my transit experience better,” and I wish I had also emphasized what a success story the TTC is. Like most other TTC riders, I have many complaints about the system and the service, but there is also no question it is a leader. It has the second-largest ridership in Canada and the US, second only to New York City. Even more importantly, Toronto has the highest mode share on public transit. It is the only city in the region to have made a dent in getting people out of their cars. The King Street Pilot report just revealed that only 34% of people moving through that area travel by car. For the city as a whole, it’s about 50%. But in our neighbouring municipalities, it’s over 70%, and in some cases over 80%. In Burlington, 86% of commuters drive to work. Toronto and TTC are not the problem; they are the model.

So the suggestion that anyone else should take over the planning or decision-making of the TTC is speculative, to say the least. Not only has the TTC managed to continue to build ridership and improve service delivery in very difficult circumstances, but it has achieved success in areas few other systems have—such as suburban bus service. By providing a decent frequency of service, the TTC now has many of its busiest bus routes in suburban areas. Most American cities have never succeeded in getting suburbanites on the bus in significant numbers, because (they say) “people will never get out of their cars” and “there’s no demand.” They cut bus service, which makes it less reliable and fewer riders take it, and on we go into a downward spiral.

The TTC has—most of the time—taken a different path, and it’s been a successful one.

The Board of Trade and others say the Province’s proposals are not mere disruption, that they are made with professional advice. Where is that advice? Where are the business cases? Where are the ridership studies, the social and economic benefit studies? Where is the consultation? Where is Michael Lindsay’s report? Where is the justification for further delays to many of these projects? Where is the justification for prioritizing Richmond Hill over the Eglinton East LRT or the Waterfront LRT? Why aren’t the last two even on the list anymore?

There shouldn’t be this many questions outstanding, if the legislation is just weeks away, as is rumoured.

None of the Province’s rationale for its proposals is public. There is clearly support for its choices, but whether that support goes beyond political strategists and developers remains to be seen.

Where is the money coming from?

We are also told that there is a lot of money coming, that we will like the forthcoming budget. That also remains to be seen. It is important to recognize that no money is on the table, and the source of any money is not clear. The only thing the Province has put out there was a plan for selling the air rights of stations to private interests. A line of experts in real estate development and business (not the most radical bunch) immediately quashed that idea. The revenue generated from such initiatives is NOWHERE near what is required for building subway infrastructure. Are they going to borrow the capital? How much capacity does the Province have to do that right now? Are they going to privatize subway lines?

All of the above questions are not rhetorical, nor snark. They are real questions to which we need answers. This important discussion remains vague and opaque.

If the Province puts up some money, and the federal government is persuaded to contribute, the City will still be required to contribute a fair sum, which is not currently in our budget plans. That is a serious issue.

And there’s the question of money for operating and maintenance. Even if the Province paid 100% of the bill for building new transit, that wouldn’t mean the TTC could afford to operate it. The extension past York University to Vaughan, for example, has low ridership, and running the trains on this new extension is costing the TTC an extra $30 million a year. The system is already the least subsidized in Canada and the United States. Without more subsidization, fares would have to increase significantly to operate any new extensions or service would have to be cut. The Province has suggested it will contribute $160 million a year. That is also nowhere near what is needed. Most other systems in Canada and the US have dedicated revenue streams from taxes or governments that bring in at least $500 million every year. Those other systems are also much smaller and carry millions fewer riders than the TTC.

There are all kinds of other issues to address with the TTC, but there is no getting around the fact that it simply needs more money to deliver service appropriate to its ridership.

Should we be at the table?

One last question I thought we might discuss is whether or not the City should be at the table, participating in these talks. In an ideal scenario, the City and the Province should have a real conversation about the best way to move forward in improving planning, funding and governance of transit in the city and the region. This would normally a long-term, public discussion, possibly led by a joint task force. Instead we have a closed-door process and a very tight timeframe. The City is certainly in a difficult position. If it participates, it gives legitimacy to a process that may not in fact take the position and concerns of the City seriously. If it does not participate, then the Province can argue it is uncooperative and so will act alone.

Are we even at the table?

In fact, it’s worth asking if the City is even “at the table.” Where is the real table? The letters from Cabinet Advisor Michael Lindsay and Deputy Minister Shelly Tapp raise real concerns. That first letter contained unforced errors that should never have seen the light of day. The most odd is the assertion that tunneling the Eglinton West LRT extension of the Crosstown had not been previously considered. If the table the City sits at is the actual site of negotiations, planning and decision-making, then surely this idea was floated. In which case, it would have been shot down immediately as false.

Either the idea was never floated before it went in the letter, which means “the table” is not where plans are made, or the idea was floated and corrected, but the correction was ignored, which means “the table” is not where plans are made.

Whether the City should or should not be at the table is ultimately a less important question than where the real decisions are being made. Is this whole process about building more of what the city and the region need, or is it about creating a system where the province can build whatever it wants without asking for consent?

When I deputed to Executive Council for CodeRedTO a couple of weeks ago, I was asked to consider the possibility that the Province didn’t have any real plans yet. It is crystal clear that the Province has plans. It is not so clear that they are open for discussion.

Tricia Wood is Professor of Geography and co-founder of the City Institute at York University. She has particular interests in democratic practices and people’s mobility. She is also an urban affairs columnist for Spacing.ca.

Toronto City Builders Oppose Subway Upload in Open Letter to Mayor Tory and Council

Posted on: February 21st, 2019

February 21, 2019

For Immediate Release

Toronto, ON—This morning, a group of prominent civic leaders and city builders released a public letter to Mayor John Tory and Toronto City Council members to urge them to defend Toronto’s local subway system against an upload by the provincial government, which they say will weaken the city. The signatories include former mayors of Toronto, including David Crombie, Barbara Hall, Art Eggleton and John Sewell, plus former TTC Chair Maria Augimeri and former Vice Chair Joe Mihevc.

The letter outlines concerns regarding the City’s loss of transit efficiency, planning power and future financial investment potential with the deal, and warns against following the disastrous precedents set in New York City and Melbourne. It says the Mayor and Council must demand greater transparency and justification from the Province, in addition to more time to conduct due diligence and public consultation.

As a signatory to the letter, CodeRedTO is posting the release and letter as a service in the interests of the best possible circulation of the letter. It is available online at www.coderedTO.com (HTML | PDF).

QUOTES

David Miller, Former Mayor of the City of Toronto: “Transportation and transit planning is at the heart of what a city does, and the proposed takeover by the province is simply wrong. The subway was predominantly paid for by the residents of Toronto and TTC riders. It is a crucial local service and it must remain a unified system.”

Richard Florida, Professor, University of Toronto: “The proposed subway upload is an attack on Toronto and threatens to prioritize suburban expansion over expanded ridership in one of North America’s most gridlocked cities. A great city like Toronto needs to be able to govern itself, not have one of its key assets taken over by a Province that is hostile to its needs.”

Patricia Wood, Professor, York University: “The province’s proposal is another blow to local democracy in Toronto. City Council made its position against the upload clear; the province is forging ahead regardless. And the purpose of the upload appears to be to prevent Toronto from having a say in determining its transit priorities. A city of 3 million people should not have so little say in its own development.”

Joe Mihevc, Former Toronto City Councillor, TTC Commissioner and Vice-Chair of TTC Board of Commissioners: “It is noteworthy that the TTC will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in 1921. The TTC was originally formed precisely to integrate the various privately-owned, disparate systems into a single system that could deliver public transit in an equitable manner. It was a deep step in the building of our city and precisely the reason why the Ontario government’s plan to balkanize its structure and governance needs to be vigorously opposed.”

 

CONTACT

There is no central contact for media requests; please direct all media inquiries and interview requests to signatories directly.

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CALL your City Councillor, and tell them that you want rational, affordable, and rapid transit in Toronto to benefit everyone, not just one small section of the city. Rapid transit to Malvern, Morningside, Jane & Finch are achievable if we learn from successful transit networks around the world.

TELL your friends and family that subways are amazing - they really are! - but with limited funding we have to make rational decisions about whether to support more residents or leave people waiting for crowded buses for decades longer.

Did you know: The bus routes on Finch have over 85% of the ridership of the (much shorter) Sheppard Subway, and the bus routes on Eglinton already have over 140%! The lengths differ but the need is common in many areas of the city. We are decades behind and need better transit options for our residents now, not just small extensions that use up all the budget.

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