The dark underside of the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension

 

Keith Sibley, Bechtel Director at the TYSSE construction site, May 4, 2015.                                                                                                 Joell Ann Vanderwagen

 

Bechtel’s contract for the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension signals privatization of new transit delivery

For the most part, mainstream media has bought the political spin about the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension (TYSSE) being pulled from the brink of disaster to become a win-win for the TTC and the people of Toronto and Vaughan.

The reality is that this project marks another private-sector takeover of transit megaprojects – and a harbinger of crippling indebtedness for the TTC and Toronto as a whole.

The top-notch TTC managers overseeing construction of the TYSSE were replaced with American construction and engineering firm Bechtel in March 2015, and privatization of the TTC has continued ever since. This has opened another major front in a three-pronged attack on the TTC: to de-fund existing services, dismantle public control over the delivery of new transit lines and download regional responsibilities and costs (TYSSE to Vaughan, Yonge subway extension to Richmond Hill) onto a local service provider. Correspondingly, it has contributed to a drastic hollowing out of TTC expertise gained over decades of managing transit projects.

In March 2015, the TTC and the city of Toronto, together with York Region, committed to paying $150 million for 46 Bechtel personnel to manage delivery of the TYSSE by December 2017. This was a silent coup. While Toronto Mayor John Tory and TTC Chair Josh Colle demonized in-house TTC management, TTC CEO Andy Byford beheaded the TTC’s Project Expansion Department to provide cover for the huge multinationals takeover of new-project management.

In his December 16, 2017, newsletter, Tory glories in the TYSSE opening and revisits the original delays and cost overruns of the project, describing himself and Byford as saviours:

The day after I was elected, TTC CEO Andy Byford told me that this project was badly behind schedule and over budget. He developed a plan to fix the schedule and focus the work. Because the previous administration has completely mismanaged the project, the subway was looking like it was going to open in 2019. Because of my interventions, and the good work of Mr. Byford and his team of the TTC, we got the subway back on track and it will open to the public on Sunday.

However, a close look at the two studies on the TYSSE that Byford commissioned in early 2015 shows that the mayor’s pronouncements are disingenuous.

Enter Bechtel  

The $3.2-billion TYSSE is an 8.5-kilometre, six-station extension running between Sheppard West station in the south and Vaughan Metropolitan Centre in the north. It was supposed to open in 2015 but was delayed by the death of a worker, design changes and disputes between TTC management and contractors.

At the TTC’s March 2015 board meeting, Chair Josh Colle endorsed Byford’s prior decision to fire TTC managers Sameh Ghaly and Andy Bertolo, blaming them for TYSSE delays and the subsequent $400 million in cost overruns. To support his position, Colle cited the two reports: a peer review by an Expert Panel of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), and an assessment conducted by Bechtel, the San-Francisco-based, global engineering, construction and project-management firm.

The APTA Peer Review Panel had been asked by Byford to examine the “scheduling and budgeting strategy of the TYSSE.” Contrary to Colle’s statements about the APTA report, the panel members did not blame TTC management for the delays. In fact the panel praised managers, stating, “TTC is devoting considerable effort to reset the project” and that delays were not due to TTC management, but to “contractor work, funding-decision making, and inexperience of contractors working in Canada.” In general, the APTA peers expressed great respect for the TTC’s management capacity under Chief Capital Officer Sameh Ghaly and Project Manager Andy Bertolo. Previously, the TTC’s professional excellence had been recognized with an international award for having delivered the Sheppard subway project on time and on budget.

In contrast, Bechtel Canada Co.’s assessment blamed TTC management for the delays and cost overruns. The Bechtel report said, for example, that TTC management adopted a “non-collaborative approach,” and that “[t]he relationship between each Contractor and the [TYSSE] Project [managers] is strained due to friction over how the contract is being administered.”

The Bechtel report also asserted that  contractors appear to be capable of delivering the project and finishing the work as soon as possible … The consistent complaint from the Contractors is that, without the required support from the Project staff on resolving issues, the present schedule dates will be pushed out farther.

Curiously, the Bechtel report analyzed costs and contractor claims for the TYSSE project, even though financial information of such a commercial nature is normally privileged (the TTC may make such information accessible to an accounting firm it hires). A freedom of information application produced Order MO-3347, stating (page 7, [33]) that Bechtel’s review of the TYSSE project “is not dissimilar in form and content to an audit report.”

Whether or not it was proper to grant Bechtel access to financial and other information about the project, this access indisputably gave Bechtel Canada Co. an unfair advantage from which to advise and influence the TTC Board regarding replacing TTC project staff with 46 Bechtel personnel. As Stephen Bauld, a Canadian government- procurement expert, wrote in Daily Commercial News,

Conflict of interest problems also arise where the consultant has an interest in the outcome of the study that the consultant is hired to conduct, or where the consultant’s prospect of further employment is likely to be influenced by the advice given,”

The Bechtel report was never released publicly. Brenda Thompson obtained a heavily redacted copy through a Freedom of Information appeal 17 months after Ghaly and Bertolo were fired and the $150-million, sole-source contract (for delivery of the TYSSE by December 2017) had been awarded to Bechtel.

Tory, Colle and Byford surely knew who they were going to dance with: Bechtel’s long and dubious history is well documented. In The Profiteers, author Sally Denton commented, “When I started out this book, I saw Bechtel as the corporate arm of the U.S. government. But by the end of the book I saw the government as the public policy arm of Bechtel.” The following summarizes an account of Bechtel’s past performance:

In 1985, Bechtel partnered with rival Parsons Brinckerhoff to oversee the Boston Big Dig Central Artery/ Tunneling Project, at a projected cost of $2.6 billion and expected completion in 1998. Numerous delays and overruns led to a December 2007 delivery and a price tag of $24.3-billion — the most expensive highway project in U.S. history. Various state and federal agencies spent millions on more than 15 separate investigations of the project’s managers, which included Bechtel-Parsons Brinckerhoff, for “shoddy design, construction and engineering, fraud and corruption.”

The overlooked TYSSE option

At the March 26, 2015, TTC board meeting, Byford presented his recommendations for speeding up the TYSSE completion, giving the commissioners four options, shown in Table 1, below (from the TTC report). However, Byford had already largely precluded options 3 and 4 with the pre-emptive firing of top TTC construction managers a week earlier, on March 19.

https://www.ttc.ca/About_the_TTC/Commission_reports_and_information/Commission_meetings/2015/March_26/Reports/4_1_TYSSE_Final_Report_and_Presentation.pdf

At the urging of Byford and Colle, the board approved Option 1: sole source management. This recommendation went to City Council on March 31, 2015.

What Byford and Colle neglected to tell either the TTC Board or city councillors was that an earlier study suggested two other options. In 2014, a recovery and risk-analysis workshop for TTC Project management, facilitated by Parsons Brinckerhoff, had created two options, shown below, indicating that $263 million was required to finish the TYSSE project.

Option 1 shows that by keeping TTC managers in charge of the project and spending $95 million to resolve contractor claims, delivery could be accomplished by December 2017 – as it was under Bechtel.

Taken from Bechtel Canada -Toronto -York Spadina Extension assessment, page 5-1, February 2015

TBM = tunnel boring machine

However, 2014’s Option 1 was not included in the report that Byford presented to the TTC commission’s March 2015 meeting. His report said only that contractor claims would be addressed “with a further report to the Board by the end of 2015.” Thus the TTC board presented City Council, at its March 31, 2015 meeting, with only the recommendation to authorize Byford to hire an unnamed “outside contractor” to manage the TYSSE project—sole source, with no tendering.  

The recommendation raised suspicion amongst progressive councillors and a contentious, five-hour debate ensued.

Watch the March 31, 2015 Toronto Council meeting (1:07:10) video.

 They were being asked to accept Byford’s reasoning without having access to the information that informed it. The TTC report was held back from councillors who were not members of the TTC Commission until the night before the council meeting. These same councillors were denied access to the Bechtel assessment and APTA peer review on the basis of confidentiality. To further limit debate, Tory had his deputy mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong introduce a motion to lump the TYSSE sole source recommendation item together with another item requesting a report on TTC delivery options which effectively reduced the time allowed for questions from ten minutes to five. The recommendation was approved 40 to 3.

Read a transcript of the council debate here.

Byford’s sole source turned out to be Bechtel, the same contractor hired to study the project—in contravention of normal conflict-of-interest protocols. On April 10, 2015, The TTC board approved the contract with Bechtel to take over management of the project for $150 million. Council gave final approval to take $60 million from York Region and $90 million from the city’s reserve fund to pay for the 46 Bechtel personnel.

A complaint was submitted to Toronto Auditor General  Beverly Romeo-Beehler on May 24, 2017 but her office declined to investigate.

March to more privatization

Did the public pay $150 million to Bechtel to deliver the TYSSE by December 2017 for the benefit of Toronto and York Region residents? Or was this an opportunity for one of the largest construction firms in the world to move in on the TTC by demonizing in-house TTC management?”

Before Bechtel got the TYSSE project, Metrolinx had already taken over the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, which had also started under Ghaly and Bertolo at the TTC Expansion Department. As a result of the Metrolinx takeover, in-house TTC expertise was eliminated and the project was delayed by two years, while Metrolinx invited private consortia to bid on a complex contract to design, build, finance and maintain (DBFM) the Crosstown.

Now SNC-Lavalin, Grupo ACS, Dragados and OHL (a Spanish multinational that tunnelled the TYSSE) have a 30-year, $9.1-billion contract to design, build, finance and maintain the Crosstown line. Only the operation may be left to the TTC. Meanwhile, the project has significantly ballooned in duration and cost.

The Auditor General of Ontario has repeatedly brought to light poor cost- and project-control by Metrolinx and its contractors. Yet Metrolinx continues to do relatively little in response to these warnings, and allows costs to mount with little oversight. As well, study after study has also shown that privatization results in higher financing costs, ultimately passed on to the taxpayers.

Next on the horizon is the $3.35-billion – and climbing – Scarborough subway extension. This one-stop project is set to be a DBF (design, build and finance). If all new city transit infrastructure is to be delivered privately and the TTC loses in-house capacity to oversee these projects who will protect the public interest against the Bechtels of this world?

By Brenda Thompson with Joell Ann Vanderwagen and Rosemary Frei

SmartTrack funding approval puts the cart before the horse

Update on April 25, 2018 approval of SmartTrack by Toronto Council 

Last month, a delegation of Scarborough residents and transit advocates spoke to City Council’s Executive Committee regarding the SmartTrack Stations and Metrolinx Regional Express Rail (GO RER) programs (agenda item EX:33.1). We objected to Mayor Tory’s plan to replace the existing five Scarborough RT stations with one GO/SmartTrack station at Lawrence East and a one-stop subway from Kennedy station to Scarborough Town Centre (STC). 

 Watch Anil Lewis, who resides near the Lawrence East RT station, speaking to the mayor’s handpicked committee here. Read how the Lawrence East GO RER/SmartTrack station will leave more transit riders on buses here 

Scarborough subway boosters who wanted a station at Lawrence and McCowan were offered the Lawrence East GO/SmartTrack station instead. But it is not a good substitute for transit riders who rely on the Scarborough RT.  

 GO/SmartTrack is a separate line from the Scarborough subway, and would only connect to it at Kennedy station, not at the STC terminus.  Replacing five SRT stops with two north-south lines will take commuters downtown, but it won’t get them around Scarborough. The SRT connects to downtown as well as to Lawrence, Midland, Ellesmere, STC and McCowan. A seven-stop LRT to replace the RT – as originally planned – would add stops at Centennial College Progress and Sheppard Avenue East.   

But that’s not all. A seven-stop LRT would let you transfer from a bus at no extra cost and wait no more than five minutes for the next train. Not so with SmartTrack.  

Notwithstanding the Lawrence East GO/SmartTrack station’s inadequacy as a replacement for the RT stop, Scarborough Transit Action supports GO RER/SmartTrack if it can attract enough riders to help reduce overcrowding on the Bloor/Danforth subway line. A 2016 study by University of Toronto professor Eric Miller concluded that RER service every five minutes for a TTC fare would serve more than 300,000 daily riders. (Charging GO fares would cut ridership by up to two-thirds.) 

 

http://uttri.utoronto.ca/files/2018/02/SmartTrack_Final_Jan-27-18.pdf (pg. 41)

 

Since 2016, the number of SmartTrack stations promised has been cut from 22 to six, and with service levels and full fare integration unresolved, ridership is predictably less:  

TTC/GO/SmartTrack fare integration 

Because SmartTrack is “local” GO service with additional stations in Toronto, it has been included in the discussion around fare integration between TTC, GO and Union Pearson Express. The April 26, 2018, Metrolinx decision improved the affordability of using these services under the following terms: 

  • $3 Presto adult fare between all GO stations within the City of Toronto. 
  • Discounts of up to $1.50 for transit users who transfer between these municipal transit networks and the TTC using Presto. 
  • The province will replace lost revenue for the next three years, so the TTC does not need to raise fares to make up the revenue shortfall. 

This makes SmartTrack more affordable, but the Presto discount is not the same as full fare integration. Full fare integration would be to pay just one TTC fare to and from SmartTrack to GO or UP Express. If the Lawrence East GO/SmartTrack station is to replace the Lawrence East RT station or a subway station at Lawrence and McCowan, it shouldn’t cost more than one TTC fare to transfer from the 54 Lawrence East bus. 

 

Lawrence East GO/SmartTrack vs. SRT and Scarborough LRT 

The only advantage of the Lawrence East GO/SmartTrack station is that riders will not have to take buses during construction as they would with the Scarborough LRT.  But Scarborough LRT construction could begin at Sheppard Avenue East, allowing two new stations to be built before shutting the RT. Given the choice between riding on buses permanently after the RT is dismantled and riding on buses temporarily, most transit riders – knowing they would gain two new rapid transit stops – would likely put up with the inconvenience of LRT construction. 

 SmartTrack service frequency unresolved 

Below is the city’s estimate of SmartTrack service including Lawrence East: 

https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2018/ex/bgrd/backgroundfile-113940.pdf

 

But is this realistic? There are unresolved technical issues around eight- and five-minute service that neither the city nor Metrolinx is talking about: 

  • A modern signaling system is needed to run five-minute trains, but there is no mention of new signalling for SmartTrack. 
  • The GO/SmartTrack trains’ bi-level Electrical Multiple Units (EMUs) will make it difficult to provide five minute-service. It takes a long time for passengers to load and unload bi-level trains since they have fewer doors than subways or LRT cars, and some passengers will be descending from the upper deck.   
  • The GO/SmartTrack RER’s Stouffville track is also used for freight. Eight-minute SmartTrack service violates current freight train regulations, which require 15 minutes between trains.  
  • At Union Station, difficulty getting trains in and out and platform design creates a bottleneck. 

It is disturbing how little Metrolinx and the city have discussed or explained SmartTrack frequency. At the March 2018 public consultation meeting in Scarborough, Metrolinx officials announced that “local service would be every 15 minutes” – a far cry from  the city’s claim of eight- and five-minute service.  

Frequency is crucial to SmartTrack’s success, and should have been resolved soon after the U of T report showed five-minute service was required to make it viable. Instead, Council approved a funding and financial strategy before signing a service level agreement with Metrolinx, the operator of the trains. The city is now committed to spending $1.46 billion for SmartTrack.   

The GO/Lawrence East SmartTrack station will not rescue the $3.35+ billion, one-stop Scarborough subway boondoggle. And in prioritizing both of these lines for funding, much-needed east-west rapid transit lines like the Eglinton East LRT must compete with the Waterfront LRT and the relief subway line for scarce transit dollars. Meanwhile, the provincially defunded Sheppard East LRT from Don Mills to Morningside has all but disappeared from the city’s list of priority projects.  

Watch Jamaal Myers speak to the Executive Committee about going ahead with the Eglinton East LRT instead of the Scarborough subway here  

Scarborough needs a rapid transit network. Prioritizing the Scarborough, Eglinton East and Sheppard East LRTs would bring much-needed connectivity to our outer neighbourhoods. Toronto needs relief from overcrowding on the Bloor/Danforth line. But we shouldn’t have to sacrifice one for the other. If we allow Mayor Tory and his allies on council to chart the course on transit, we could forfeit both. 

Brenda Thompson

Sign our petition for the seven-stop Scarborough LRT

Ten reasons why Lawrence East GO/SmartTrack station will hurt transit riders here.

Lawrence East SmartTrack will leave more riders on buses here.

Read our submission to the SmartTrack Transit Project Assessment Process (TPAP) here.

 

 

Does Mayor John Tory really want to build the Eglinton East LRT further into Scarborough?

On Tuesday, May 22, Toronto City Council voted to proceed with plans to extend the Eglinton East LRT, despite the fact there is no money to pay for it. An extended Eglinton East LRT network is consistent with our wish for a robust, reliable, well-functioning public transit network in Scarborough but there’s one problem — Mayor John Tory continues to spend all of the approved funding on the Scarborough subway.

The Eglinton East LRT extension to Malvern, formerly known as the Crosstown East LRT, formerly known as the Scarborough-Malvern LRT, has already been studied, planned and designed for the last decade. It would have been built many years ago, but for lack of political will to pay for the project.

On the other hand, Mayor Tory stubbornly continues to promise Scarborough residents a one-stop, $4B subway station to Scarborough Town Centre within the next ten years, when a seven-stop Scarborough Centre LRT would add more stations and leave money available to immediately construct and open the Eglinton East line to Malvern within the next five years.

It is time to cancel the near $4B Scarborough subway project, reinstate funding for the Scarborough Centre LRT, and use the remaining funds to pay for an extended Eglinton East LRT to Malvern. If Mayor Tory really wants to build the Eglinton East LRT, he should explain to Scarborough residents, Toronto taxpayers and TTC riders how he intends to pay for it.

Milan Gokhale

Transit is supposed to serve people. Which of these routes serves more priority neighbourhoods and people?

Mayor John Tory continues to promote the myth that he is building a subway for Scarborough, but it doesn’t appear that he has actually visited many neighbourhoods in Scarborough.

Transit riders in Scarborough know well that it is useless to build a subway station if almost no one can walk to the station. The network building potential for high value rapid transit, like LRTs and BRTs, is washed away from the agenda by a political dynamic that begins with the concerns of car drivers and ends with a hostility towards useful transit. By talking to transit riders, we know that good transit moves beyond fixing a single route. It involves thinking about how to spend $3B to benefit the most number of people.

These images tell the story best. Mayor Tory, who are you really building transit for?

 

Take Action to Save our Stations

Emailinfo@scarboroughtransitaction.ca to join us at the Executive Committee meeting April 17 at 9:30 a.m. – City Hall, 100 Queen Street West, Committee Room 1.

Ten reasons why Lawrence East SmartTrack/GO station will hurt Scarborough transit riders

  1. It removes rapid transit access. Four RT stations: Lawrence East, Ellesmere, Midland and McCowan will be eliminated and replaced with one SmartTrack/GO station at Lawrence and a one-stop subway to Scarborough Town Centre.

  2. You will pay more. TTC riders with a Presto card traveling on the 54 Lawrence East bus will have to pay a total of $4.50 to take SmartTrack at Lawrence East station.

  3. It will be hard to get to. Riders on the 54 Lawrence  bus will have to get off at the Lawrence East overpass and walk down several flights of stairs or take an elevator to get to the Lawrence SmartTrack/GO platform.

  4. You will wait longer. Instead of every four minutes riders will wait 15 minutes for “local service” via  SmartTrack.

  5. You will be on buses permanently. The Lawrence East RT station will remain open during construction of the SmartTrack station but once the Scarborough subway is complete, the SRT will be dismantled leaving more TTC riders on buses, forever.

  6. You will spend more time on buses. More than 16,700 existing riders use the four RT stations that will close.  They will have to take the bus, drive or walk to where they want to go.

  7. No more rapid transit from Lawrence East to Scarborough Town Centre – and no replacement bus service either. There is no plan to run a 54 Lawrence East bus to the new Triton (STC) bus station after the Scarborough RT is shut down. Riders will only be able to ride an express 54 Lawrence East bus to Kennedy Station.

  8. You will  wait ten years to replace the Scarborough RT with a one-stop subway and one SmartTrack station when we could be replacing the SRT with the seven-stop Scarborough LRT to Centennial College Progress and Sheppard Avenue East in five years.

  9. Our public money is being wasted. Why spend $3.7-billion for a one-stop subway and one SmartTrack station when we could replace the SRT with a seven-stop LRT for a lot less?

  10. Scarborough’s Priority Neighbourhoods are being ignored. With the money for the one-stop subway and the Lawrence East SmartTrack/GO station we could be building a 24-stop Scarborough and Eglinton East LRT, bringing a real rapid transit network to seven Priority Neighbourhoods.

Sign our petition for the seven-stop Scarborough LRT

Lawrence East SmartTrack will leave more riders on buses here.

SmartTrack funding approval puts the cart before the horse here.

 

Build the Eglinton East LRT publicly now!

There is $3.56 billion for rapid transit in Scarborough. John Torys’ one-stop subway extension has already claimed most of this money and it would take 10 years before it was up and running. This leaves the Eglinton East LRT without funding and without a clear plan as to when it would be built.  It means most people in Scarborough would continue to be without access to rapid transit for years and years.

But the Eglinton East LRT could be built faster, less expensively and it would serve more people than the one-stop subway extension. So, we say “Build the EELRT now!” Eglinton East LRT to Sheppard East would have at least eighteen-stops, could be built publicly and could be operating by 2022.

Starting at Kennedy station, the Eglinton East LRT to Sheppard East would bring rapid transit to U of T Scarborough and Centennial College Morningside campus as well as six priority neighbourhoods in east Scarborough:

  • Kennedy Park
  • Eglinton East
  • Scarborough Village
  • West Hill
  • Highland Creek
  • Morningside

These neighbourhoods  have suffered from a rapid transit deficit for too long. A city report on the Eglinton East LRT shows these neighbourhoods have a higher than average transit usage but they can only access half  as many jobs as other transit riders in Toronto. We need to bring rapid transit to these neighbourhoods now:

The EELRT would create 1,900 new jobs within walking distance of the stations. And having the TTC  deliver, operate and maintain the line would also mean more stable good jobs for our youth, right here in Scarborough.

The EELRT would provide a quick, convenient connection to downtown and more than seventeen destinations in east Scarborough:

STOP LOCATIONS

  1. Kennedy subway
  2. Midland
  3. Falmouth
  4. Danforth
  5. McCowan
  6. Bellamy/Eglinton GO
  7. Lawrence
  8. Markham
  9. Eglinton/Kingston
  10. Scarborough Golf Club
  11. Guildwood
  12. Celeste
  13. Galloway
  14. Kingston/Morningside
  15. Beath
  16. Ellesmere
  17. U of T Scarborough
  18. Military Trail

If it were extended to Sheppard East it could connect with the  Sheppard East LRT providing a much needed connection to northeast Scarborough.

LRTs create greater opportunities for community renewal, redevelopment and walkability. Tell Mayor Tory and council we shouldn’t have to wait ten years for a one-stop subway. Build the Eglinton East LRT to Sheppard East now!

Build the Eglinton East LRT publicly, now!

  

Dear Mayor Tory and Toronto councillors,

**your signature**

   

Mayor Tory and Council don’t keep us in the dark about Scarborough subway costs

JohnReiti/CBC

Torontonians should know the costs of the Scarborough Subway Extension before casting a vote in the October 2018 municipal election.

  

Mayor Tory and Toronto Council

I am asking you to release the upcoming report on Scarborough subway costs before the October 2018 municipal election.

An update on the costs of the Scarborough Subway Extension is slated for September, and the public has a right to this information as soon as it is available. It is undemocratic to withhold it until January 2019.

Candidate's running in the October 2018 municipal election should be able to take a position on the Scarborough Subway Extension knowing the latest cost estimates and the public has a right to the latest information on costs before casting a vote.

Don't keep us in the dark about Scarborough subway costs.

Sincerely,

**your signature**

   


Latest Signatures
53 Mr Eric M. M1B2S9 May 24, 2018
52 Mr Roger B. M4B 3J1 Apr 09, 2018
51 on Leslie C. M1C 1P9 Mar 30, 2018
50 on Cara M. M4B 3J1 Mar 28, 2018
49 Ms Abby B. M6R 1Z6 Mar 08, 2018
48 Ms Amelia S. M6K 1J9 Feb 21, 2018
47 Mr Cy S. M5V 3A6 Feb 20, 2018
46 Mrs Lisa S. M6K 3B4 Feb 20, 2018
45 Ms Helen Q. M6R1h6 Feb 19, 2018
44 Ms Linda H. M6S 4G4 Feb 19, 2018
43 Ms Catherine O. M5R2X8 Feb 19, 2018
42 Ms Be B. M2J 2C1 Feb 19, 2018
41 Ms Yuen Chun C. M2M4M6 Feb 19, 2018
40 Mr Douglas B. M4V1R4 Feb 19, 2018
39 Ms Margaret R. M6H 2Y2 Feb 19, 2018
38 Ms Ann R. M5R 2X3 Feb 19, 2018
37 Mr Dan C. M5V3Z7 Feb 19, 2018
36 Dr. Barry M. M4W 3G9 Feb 19, 2018
35 Ms Emmay M. M4C3H4 Feb 19, 2018
34 Mr Mark T. M1E5B6 Feb 19, 2018
33 Ms Lyn A. M6E 2Y4 Feb 19, 2018
32 Ms Beryl P. M6A3E8 Feb 17, 2018
31 Ms Charles L. M6G3C5 Feb 17, 2018
30 Mr Don S. M2H 2M7 Feb 16, 2018
29 Mr David S. M5J2E5 Feb 16, 2018
28 Ms Bruno C. M3H 2L9 Feb 15, 2018
27 Ms Sandra M. M5T 1B8 Feb 15, 2018
26 Mr Marco C. M3H5V5 Feb 14, 2018
25 Mr Mark W. M5A 0G1 Feb 14, 2018
24 Mr Gareth C. M4Y1C9 Feb 14, 2018
23 Mr Louie O. M2N4J8 Feb 14, 2018
22 Mr Matthew L. M4Y 1C9 Feb 14, 2018
21 Mr Dave M. M4y1n3 Feb 14, 2018
20 Ms Leonie T. M1E 4V9 Feb 14, 2018
19 Mr Tim G. M5S 2K5 Feb 14, 2018
18 Mr Kevin H. M4Y1R2 Feb 14, 2018
17 Ms Erika W. M6H3J2 Feb 14, 2018
16 Mr Herman R. M4J3X8 Feb 14, 2018
15 Ms Effie V. M1T 2J5 Feb 14, 2018
14 Mr Stefan K. M4X1X2 Feb 14, 2018
13 Mr Ralph C. M4C1G9 Feb 14, 2018
12 Mr Eric M. m6g 2s2 Feb 14, 2018
11 Mr John R. M4J 4W7 Feb 14, 2018
10 Ms Sharon H. M4K 3P3 Feb 14, 2018
9 Ms Rosemary B. M1G 1Z2 Feb 14, 2018
8 Mr Kevin S. M4Y 1M8 Feb 14, 2018
7 Mr Menath D. L6C 2C7 Feb 14, 2018
6 Mr Kirk B. M5E 0A2 Feb 14, 2018
5 Ms Stephanie S. M5S 2T9 Feb 14, 2018
4 Mr Vincent P. M1E 1T7 Feb 14, 2018

How do we get the politics out of transit planning?

The politicization of subway planning in Toronto began in 2002 with the $10/ride subsidized Sheppard line to nowhere.  In 2006, then-Finance Minister Greg Sorbara, finagled a secret deal to extend the Spadina subway beyond York University to an industrial field in Vaughan.

Nothing has changed. The appetite for vote-buying vanity projects among politicians is stronger than ever: a prime example of this is that despite global notoriety for being a white elephant, the $3.35-billion, one-stop Bloor/Danforth extension to the Scarborough Town Centre is going forward.

Another example is the Lawrence East and Kirby SmartTrack stations. Last summer, Ben Spurr of the Toronto Star reported Transportation Minister Stephen Del Duca had pressured the Metrolinx board to approve both stations despite the fact that the original business-case analysis showed that they  should not be built. Metrolinx eventually released the business case report publicly and announced it would revisit its analysis.

Don’t hold your breath.

At the December 12, 2017 inaugural Metrolinx Town Hall, the agency’s new CEO Phil Verster gave the government carte blanche for interfering with its decisions, saying: “If an elected official makes a decision different to our [business-case-analysis] advice, that’s not a ‘wow’ moment, that’s democracy.”

If Mayor Tory has his way, construction of the Scarborough subway will begin without anyone knowing if it is  a wise use of public resources. Councillor Josh Matlow has presented Toronto council with multiple opportunities to find out. As it happens, “fiscally-responsible” members will do anything to avoid the facts when a multi-billion-dollar subway is at stake. They voted 13 – 27 against  Matlow’s December 6 city-council motion for a value-for-money analysis comparing the one-stop subway with the shovel-ready seven-stop Scarborough LRT.

Four years ago, a review of Metrolinx’s Big Move conducted by Neptis Foundation found that although the regional transit authority had committed to “issuing a Benefits Case Analysis (BCA) for every project” and using the analyses to prioritize new transit lines, neither Metrolinx nor the city were doing BCAs consistently.

The BCA for the $3.2-billion Spadina subway extension to Vaughan has never been released publicly and the BCA of the Scarborough Subway Extension will not be released until after the next municipal election in October 2018.

The public is growing tired of the lack of transparency and accountability in transit planning.

In 2013, Premier Wynne appointed Anne Golden chair of The Transit Investment Strategy Advisory Panel. The Panel’s report: Making the Move  found the public had: “low trust in transit decision-making” and that there was a need for “evidence-based and transparent” transit planning and to “depoliticize decision making.”

The Panel made many recommendations. Among them was Recommendation #18:

… all projects approved by Metrolinx and elected officials must have up-to-date, publicly-available, business case analyses that validate the investment, taking into account life-cycle capital, operating, maintenance, and financing costs.”

 The report emphasized the analyses should include operation and maintenance costs and their “relationship to fares and whether a new project would be a financial burden to the system or a source of additional revenue.”

Had Toronto Auditor General Beverly Romeo-Beehler included in her 2018 Work Plan STA’s request for a value-for-money analysis of the Scarborough subway, Panel Recommendation #18 would have been fulfilled. Her refusal to do so is telling. She also refused to do this as part of her report on our complaint regarding the summer-2016 TTC Briefing Note.

The Scarborough subway has become so politicized municipal accountability officers are reluctant to hold council itself and city administrators accountable for the quality of stewardship over public funds. Who then will ensure the facts are on hand when the final decision on whether to spend $3.35-billion, or more on a one-stop subway goes before council?

In 2017, Metrolinx produced A Metrolinx Comprehensive Business Case Framework for Evaluating Transit Projects. The new business case framework would provide evidence that a proposed project was a “good use of public funds.” It would include a section on “Context and Options” and demonstrate:

…that a sufficiently broad range of solutions has been considered and the options developed from this long list of solutions have been selected through a transparent and defensible process. These options are evaluated against a base case which considers a “business as usual” scenario. (Page 2)

A consistent framework for objectively assessing transit projects is a step in the right direction. So far city planning has avoided the “business as usual” scenario omitting crucial information that would assist council in making an informed decision.

Contrary to the Metrolinx framework, the initial business case for the one-stop Scarborough Subway does not include a comparison with the Scarborough RT, the line it is intended to replace. Instead, it is compared with the three-stop subway; a project that does not even exist.

An earlier business case conducted by Arup consultants for the city planning  was never released publicly. It only became available after Toronto Star reporter Jennifer Pagliaro obtained a heavily redacted copy through Freedom of Information. Find a more detailed explanation of what is missing in the Arup report here.

It is a similar situation for the Lawrence East SmartTrack station. Mayor Tory is touting it as a replacement for the Lawrence East RT station that will be eliminated with the build out of the Scarborough subway.  A proper evaluation would include a comparison with the Lawrence RT station. Instead GO RER, another incomplete project, is being used as the base case.  

We know that to justify a subway, ridership should be between 9,500 and 14,000 per hour and the projected ridership for the Scarborough subway is 7300, half of what was originally projected. We don’t know if the BCA slated for 2019, will show whether or not the Scarborough subway will be a financial burden on the rest of the TTC or a source of additional revenue. We are still waiting to find out which framework the planning department uses to conduct Business Case Analyses of new transit lines in Toronto.

The 2017 Metrolinx framework is subject to review and approval by the Metrolinx Board.  A Business Case Analysis and Benefits Management  memorandum was tabled at the December 7, 2017 Metrolinx Board meeting.  If adopted, it would also ensure BCAs were released publicly in a timely manner:

In every case, public transparency and accountability will be improved where these business cases are made public in advance of relevant Board decisions.

The original business case for the seven-stop LRT included a comparison with the Scarborough RT. The same should apply to the one-stop Scarborough subway and it should be released publicly, before the 2018 municipal election.

Brenda Thompson – December 13, 2017

 

 

We need a value for money analysis of the one-stop Scarborough Subway Extension now!

Brenda Thompson

Toronto’s Auditor General Beverly Romeo-Beehler presented her report on the TTC Briefing Note to the Audit Committee on Friday, October 27th. The note, distributed selectively, before a crucial council vote in 2016, showed the costs of the seven-stop Scarborough LRT would be almost as high as the $3.2 billion one-stop Scarborough Subway Extension.

The Toronto Auditor General (AG) concluded that the LRT cost estimate of $2.97 billion was within an acceptable range. But there is no explanation as to why a seven-stop LRT would cost almost twice as much as the proposed eighteen-stop Eglinton East LRT to U of T Scarborough, pegged at $1.56 – 1.67 billion.

However the AG did agree that if we were to go back to replacing the Scarborough RT with an LRT, construction could begin in 2018, not 2021 as stated in the TTC Briefing Note.

Unfortunately, the AG’s report took a very narrow focus when in fact the complaint submitted by Scarborough Transit Action and allies asked for a much broader investigation.

The complainants asked for a value-for-money analysis of the one-stop Scarborough Subway Extension.

The Scarborough subway was approved in 2013. It quickly received funding priority without a comparison with other transit projects in the city’s official plan. Millions have been spent on design and planning without any analysis to determine if it would be good value for money. We have no conclusive evidence that the $3+ billion we are poised to invest would actually result in an improvement over the existing SRT or even an LRT.

The AG has a mandate to assist ‘city council in holding itself and city administrators accountable for the quality of stewardship over public funds and for achievement of value for money in city operations.’

The AG report states a value for money analysis ‘may form part of a future audit’.

We need more than a maybe. We need a value for money analysis of the Scarborough Subway Extension now!

The AG’s 2018 Audit Work Plan will go to council on Wednesday December 6th

Read our letter asking Mayor Tory and Council for a value-for-money analysis here