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Transit City becomes Transportation City – Mayor Ford’s evolving Plan

One of the first things transit guru, Steve Monro says about planning public transit is, ‘don’t start by drawing a line on a map’. The better way he says is to create a “Ridership Growth Strategy”. That means (and I’m paraphrasing here – comments, corrections are welcome), you choose areas where growth in ridership could happen; create a new infrastructure plan that would encourage that growth; cost estimate the needed infrastructure to see if a projected increase in ridership would make the plan cost effective.  Over time planners build a catalog of possibilities, then politicians, advocates and electors can choose.

Munro states:

“Now we see all of the options, we balance them against each other in the context of available funding, and we choose.”

(from Grand Design for Transit Main Report – page 3)

This planning model was instituted under David Miller’s watch and the result was Transit City – a series of integrated but separate projects, the implementation of each dependent on funding from the Province of Ontario.

So now Mayor Ford has a better idea, and the ‘Grand Design’ is in a garbage pale somewhere. Mayor Ford has made his bed now he has to lay in it. His election team played on a tax revolt sentiment (that was probably more of a blow-back from the financial collapse of 2008 and the huge bail outs of corporations, some of whom left, with all our money, for cheaper labour markets elsewhere) and which Ford parlayed into a vindictive “end the gravy train” meme (aimed at local politicians) and it’s accompanying “war on the car” mythos (aimed at cyclists and the TCC).

(For some reason, when people are mad they ignore the obvious difference between a Wall Street Banker and say, a lowly bureaucrat down at City Hall, a garbage worker, a street car driver, or a cyclist – any target, the nearest target – upon which to vent their rage will do it seems.)

Also part of the Ford election team’s game was a transit policy that promised to destroy Miller’s Transit City and  get those dam street cars off the streets by building subways.

So what is this great subway plan?

Transportation City

Metrolinx, the provincial transit planning think tank held a public meeting with Rob Ford’s transportation team last week. A first glimpse into the details of Ford’s “Transportation City” plan.

Steve Munro was in attendance and wrote it up.

From Steve Munro’s Transit Blog: Metrolinx Contemplates Ford’s Subway Plan
February 19, 2011

[...]

On Tuesday, representatives of Mayor Ford met with Metrolinx with an updated version of Ford’s subway plan:

  • Extend the Sheppard subway west to Downsview and east to Scarborough Town Centre (STC)
  • Extend the Danforth subway northeast to STC
  • Build the Eglinton LRT in tunnel from Jane to Kennedy
  • Operate express bus service on Finch West
  • Build a new subway yard at a location to be determined

The total cost for this plan is pegged at $13.3-billion of which two thirds is the original Metrolinx funding that would have gone to the Transit City routes and the remainder is new money the City would raise via development levies and tax increment financing.

[...]

The two subway extensions in the plan are expensive and result in the cutting four of the five LRT corridors in the Transit City plan that would have connected all corners of the city. As far as the capacity of Ford’s “Transportation City” plan as opposed to the “Transit City” vision, it’s an astonishing difference.  A Pembina Institute paper released last week, “Making Tracks to Torontonians” (which I haven’t read it yet) breaks down the numbers. Leith Dunick talks about the institute’s findings in an article  at tbNewsWatch, “Transit City a better bang for Toronto’s buck, report concludes“:

“Ford’s plan would also service far less people, with only 61,000 people living within a 500-metre radius of the new subway stations, compared to 290,000 in the light-rail scheme. Twenty-two more communities, many with low-income populations, would also be serviced under the LRT plan.”

The Eglinton-Crosstown LRT

City of Toronto - Phase One - Eglinton-Crosstown LRT

Eglinton-Crosstown LRT - Phase One (via toronto.ca - link)

The city of Toronto web site says the Eglinton-Crosstown LRT, a 20 km line from Jane to Kennedy, has begun construction. Core samples are being drilled right now all along the 11 km underground midtown section (Keele Street to Laird Drive) – so engineers can design the station and tunnel construction techniques. Two tunnel boring machines are also under construction at a cost of $54 Million. Also, 200 LRT cars have been ordered from Bombardier, which have a $137 million penalty in the contract for canceling. Plus, planning is well under way for a LRT car barn at Leslie Street and Lake Shore Boulevard.

By including the Eglinton Crosstown LRT project in the new “Transportation City” plan it looks to me like The Mayor’s Office wanted to avoid a myriad of cancellation costs and bad press. Ford says only that he can sell the 150 LRT’s we don’t need to other cities – and for a profit he says.  (I doubt the sticker price goes up when you’re between a rock and a hard place.)

Google Map of Eglinton-Crosstown LRT - with tunnel high-lighted

Google Map of Eglinton-Crosstown LRT - with tunnel high-lighted (link to Google Map)


City of Toronto: Eglinton Crosstown Underground LRT - image title: "Example of underground LRT Minneapolis" - BikingToronto FreeWheel

Eglinton Crosstown LRT - an example from Minneapolis (via toronto.ca - link)

$8.3 Billion now $13.3 Billion

The total cost of this new plan is $13.3-billion, less the $8.3 Billion already promised to Transit City leaves $5 Billion to be raised by the city (!) through development levies and tax increment financing.

Development Levies

Development levies are one time charges (probably in the millions of dollars range in this case – depending on the size of the project) that the city would charge developers for the right to build along the new subway route. A tax on business in reverse, the tax payers build the infrastructure and a corporation who wants to build near that infrastructure would pay a one time levy to help pay for the infrastructure. This money would come in slowly as development along these kinds of infrastructure usually takes decades.

Tax increment financing

The city would borrow the $5 Billion it needs and pay it back through projected new tax income from  development along the new line – based on projections of the increase in property values along other such developments in the history of such things.

***

The Ford team’s idea of extending the Danforth Subway past Warden to Scarborough Town Centre was meet by a lot of sideways looks from the MetroLinx Board. They have countered that the Scarborough Rapid Transit line should be refurbished and become an extension of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT corridor as it would better facilitate the over all strategy of linking north west to north east – and they say the added volume of passengers funneling into the Bloor/Danforth line in the Ford plan would overwhelm station infrastructure (width of corridors, size and number of entrances). By planning towards an across midtown model the Metrolinx board thinks that rider volumes down the Young/University/Spadina lines would be significantly lower.

Finch West LRT nixed

City of Toronto image: Transit City - Finch West LRT

Finch West - not a part of Transportation City

Finch West is the kick in the head, in my opinion, this is a high volume corridor that was to get an LRT line in the Transit City plan. Transit users along Finch are now riding buses, and the volume of users along Finch is amongst the highest in the city. Added to that is the idea that these new routes were in part about providing new Canadians an opportunity to integrate and succeed through good public transportation. As an underdeveloped and lower income area people really count on transit – but Mayor Ford’s subway plan leaves them out in the cold. It’s one of four corridors that cannot be built with subways in the mix – and so while almost doubling the cost of the project Transportation City leaves Finch crowded with buses – and no room for Ford’s cherished cars.

Finch residents are organizing to save their LRT line. From the Toronto Sun Feb. 19, 2011: “Volunteers want LRT plan back on track“, by Jonathon Brodie:

[...]

“(Ford is) going to find that he’s going to really peev off a lot of these communities and a lot of these neighbourhoods that supported him.”

The mayor won’t have to look far for frustration.

“It’s really overcrowded and then what happens because of traffic you’ll see three buses lined up waiting to go and two of them will get filled and one will be empty,” said Vanessa Hunt, vice-president of campus life at York University.

“Then there will be no bus along the line for 45 minutes, and people are stuck in the cold waiting,” she said after a couple hours of door-knocking.

The canvassers finished with 200 signatures.

[...]

Thanks to Facebook group, “Save Transit City” for the link.

mh



Posted: February 23rd, 2011
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TTC service cuts go into effect March 27, 2011

Mayor Ford wants all city entities to balance their budgets for 2011.

The TTC is different than other services the city provides, it is subsidized by several levels of government. Each trip costs the system about $3.oo to provide but the TTC only raises $2.00 per trip through fares — it loses $1/ride. In 2011 TTC staff expect ridership to increase by 5 million trips – so in January they proposed a 10 cent fare increase and a “service reallocation” that will save the system $7 million.

The changes to service are scheduled to go into effect in about a month (see Steve Monro: “TTC Service Changes Effective March 27, 2011“). A fare increase may be introduced in September depending on how big the increase in ridership is over and above the 5 million extra trips staff are projecting (2009 – 2010 ridership increased by 15 million trips).

Here at FreeWheel we like lines on maps; so I’m going to start with two maps. Below are maps of Mayor Ford’s balanced 2011 operating budget at the TTC – proposed service “reallocations” that may or may not help the regime avoid fare increases this year.

Proposed Cuts:

steve munro Projected Cuts March 2011.jpgStaff Speak: “Service Reallocations” means ‘Cuts to Services’

Proposed Improvements:

Steve Munro Projected Improvements Fall 2011Staff Speak: “Projected Improvements” means Projected Improvements :)

(images are linked to larger images at stevemunro.ca)

I’ve learned not to have an opinion on this stuff, because on further inspection one usually turns out to be wrong; but from a glance at these two maps it looks to me like the Wards that voted for Ford are getting cuts to service; while the wards that voted against Ford are getting improvements to service.

Make of it what you will – it’s complicated. Finch for example is getting more buses but that’s nothing new, volumes along Finch are high and increasing every year. Under Mayor David Miller’s LRT plan Finch was to get a line that would have moved twice as many people with half the vehicles along a 17 km stretch.

mh



Posted: February 23rd, 2011
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Transit City money – I was Wrong

In an article here yesterday, $8.3 Billion earmarked for Transit City should go to Solar Power development I opined that government money earmarked for a broad network of LRT lines – now possibly going to be spent on a few kilometres of Subway – would be better spent on research and development of solar and wind energy generation technology. Funding is on the table now for a renewal of public transit, I was a fool to suggest that it be spent anywhere else – however ill-considered The Mayor’s Office ‘planning‘ may be.

Yesterday’s piece, in hindsight, was me trying to point out how the new Mayor’s agenda mirrored events unfolding around sustainability issues in the U.S. – and especially in the State of Wisconsin. I stand by that part of the piece – the neo-con agenda represented by The Mayors Office mirrors very well the Tea Party dominated Republican Party reactionary back-lash to President Obama’s Recovery and Re-investment program.

***

Last night I spent some hours reading Steve Monro’s blog. He’s an expert on transit issues and his vision of a broad LRT network for the city that in some part became the Transit City plan is the result of a lifetime of advocacy and research.

I learned a lot, and very quickly realized I needed to publish this retraction.

To be clear – in my opinion Public Transit is a “great leveler”, a indispensable institution of a democracy.  It equalizes opportunity for all on a scale so immense it is difficult to measure. The fact that you can travel from one side of this great city to the other for less than $3.00 is amazing. That you can do it comfortably, safely and reasonably quickly is a testament to the technology and the visionary character of the civilization that grew and supports the institution of public transportation. Public transportation is also a great way to move the economy to a more sustainable footing, a great way to decrease carbon emissions massively, and quickly.

To correct any confusion I am responsible for creating around this complex issue I am writing a new article on the changes The Mayor’s Office wants to make to the public transit plan – this time with facts and informed opinion from several experts in the field.

Stay tuned.

Update:

Feb. 23, 2011 – Post on the changes The Mayor’s Office wants to make to the public transit plan: “Transit City becomes Transportation City – Mayor Ford’s evolving Plan“.

mh



Posted: February 22nd, 2011
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$8.3 Billion earmarked for Transit City should go to Solar Power development

Via “Mother Jones“, and PBS – “Need to Know“.

Futurist Ray Kurzweil Isn’t Worried About Climate Change

Author, inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil famously and accurately predicted that a computer would beat a man at chess by 1998, that technologies that help spread information would accelerate the collapse of the Soviet Union, and that a worldwide communications network would emerge in the mid 1990s (i.e. the Internet).

Most of Kurzweil’s prognostications are derived from his law of accelerating returns — the idea that information technologies progress exponentially, in part because each iteration is used to help build the next, better, faster, cheaper one. In the case of computers, this is not just a theory but an observable trend — computer processing power has doubled every two years for nearly half a century.

Kurzweil also believes this theory can be applied to solar energy. As part of a panel convened by the National Association of Engineers, Kurzweil, together with Google co-founder Larry Page, concluded that solar energy technology is improving at such a rate that it will soon be able to compete with fossil fuels.

I caught up with Kurzweil when he was in New York promoting a new documentary about his life to ask him about his optimistic views on the usually gloomy subject of energy and climate change.

Lauren Feeney: You have made a prediction about the future of solar energy….

Ray Kurzweil: One of my primary theses is that information technologies grow exponentially in capability and power and bandwidth and so on. If you buy an iPhone today, it’s twice as good as two years ago for half that cost. That is happening with solar energy — it is doubling every two years. And it didn’t start two years ago, it started 20 years ago. Every two years we have twice as much solar energy in the world.

Today, solar is still more expensive than fossil fuels, and in most situations it still needs subsidies or special circumstances, but the costs are coming down rapidly — we are only a few years away from parity. And then it’s going to keep coming down, and people will be gravitating towards solar, even if they don’t care at all about the environment, because of the economics.

So right now it’s at half a percent of the world’s energy. People tend to dismiss technologies when they are half a percent of the solution. But doubling every two years means it’s only eight more doublings before it meets a hundred percent of the world’s energy needs. So that’s 16 years. We will increase our use of electricity during that period, so add another couple of doublings: In 20 years we’ll be meeting all of our energy needs with solar, based on this trend which has already been under way for 20 years.

People say we’re running out of energy. That’s only true if we stick with these old 19th century technologies. We are awash in energy from the sunlight.

Read the rest…

The doubling of the efficiencies and the halving of cost projections that Ray Kurzweil extrapolates always have to do with leading edge technologies. The theory doesn’t hold with old technologies that have been around for a while, like the internal combustion engine – on the dieing technology side of the equation, progress is a lot flatter – but I fully agree with Kurzweil’s prediction in the case of solar energy.

The only problem I see is that the climate scientists say we have only 10 years before we reach the tipping point in carbon content in the atmosphere – the point when the carbon we have released will cause warming that will have catastrophic consequences. We need to speed up the doubling in this case. One of the interesting things we know from the experience of technological progress is that if governments seed certain areas of research we can accelerate progress in specific areas (see The Manhattan Project).

Part of U.S. President Barack Obama’s Financial Stimulus Plan – American Recovery and Re-investment Act – was a renewing of the economy based on sustainability. Specifically, Obama proposed a national high speed rail program that some states are building right now. Obama’s  vision though, is being shot down by reactionary Republicans like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker – who’s attack on collective bargaining rights of state employees was immediately preceded by a scraping of a $800 Million Federal grant for a high speed rail link between Madison and Milwaukee (stopping it will cost Wisconsin $14.25 million in money already spent – HuffPost: 11/ 8/10 )

(Remind you of anything – like Mayor Rob Ford – Transit City? Scraps the $8.3 billion LRT project and then goes after the TTC union’s right to strike, privatizing garbage collection, reducing city services, lay-offs of city workers and staff… .)

Transit City - $8.3 Billion over 10 years gone thanks to Mayor Ford.

So while reactionaries like Mayor Ford are busy busting unions and destroying the middle class – and thus further reducing the tax base, can the more progressive Ontario Provincial Government of Premier Dalton McGuinty please spend the remaining portion of that CAN$8.3 Billion on development of solar and wind power – please?

References:

Mother Jones – Feb. 16, 2011: “Futurist Ray Kurzweil Isn’t Worried About Climate Change

PBS Need to Know Broadcast, “The Daily Need” blog – Feb. 16,2011: “Futurist Ray Kurzweil Isn’t Worried About Climate Change

Wikipedia: “The Manhattan Project

Wikipedia: “American Recovery and Re-investment Act of 2009

Michael Holloway’s FilterBlogs – Feb. 18, 2011: “The Real News Network on Wisconsin Protests

Huffington Post – 11/ 8/10: “Jim Doyle: High-Speed Rail Decision Will Be Left To Scott Walker, Republican Successor For Governor, Who Has Vowed To Kill It

Wikipedia: “Transit City

mh



Posted: February 21st, 2011
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Sustainable Transportation Infrastructure Heaven

I found this via “I Bike Toronto“.

Myth versus the reality of cycle tracks: calm comfort in Holland

- by herb on February 15, 2011

I watched it in full screen and set the play/pause to work with my space bar (one click on the screen with your mouse and your space bar then works as a pause/play button).

It’s FULL of information – to get it all you’ll probably want to pause it regularly.

In ten minutes I learned SO much about sustainable transportation infrastructure. Great ideas; I especially like the way sensor technology has been optimized for safety at intersections – or “junctions” as the video says.

mh



Posted: February 18th, 2011
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