Subways – Red Flags in Ontario – Should The Same Be Happening Here?

It now seems Ontario’s big subway plans are costing more, a lot more to build than what was first proposed as exampled by the Toronto York Spadina Subway Extension, whose cost soared over from $1.5 billion to $3.2 billion!

TransLink is blithely planning away for both a hugely expensive SkyTrain subway under Broadway and an equally expensive, yet extremely ill-planned LRT for Surrey, oblivious to the extremely high costs and dubious outcomes for both projects.

But what would one expect from the career bureaucrats, who are afraid to come clean on the real cost of both projects, TransLink is afraid to come clean on the real costs of the proprietary SkyTrain light-metro!

With TransLink, it is never about providing good transit planning, rather it is to make the taxpayer’s poor as those in TransLink, earning six figured salaries, don’t have any concept on those who cannot afford to pay more taxes for their ill planned excesses.

Toronto is sounding alarm bells, but on the West Coast, TransLink remains deaf.

Workers at the York University stop of the Spadina subway extension during a media tour in January. The project's budget has been exceeded by over a billion dollars and KPMG's report offers ideas on how to avoid that familiar phenomenon in future.

Workers at the York University stop of the Spadina subway extension during a media tour in January. The project’s budget has been exceeded by over a billion dollars and KPMG’s report offers ideas on how to avoid that familiar phenomenon in future.Ai??Ai??(Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star)

By Ben SpurrTransportation Reporter
Tues., Sept. 27, 2016

A review of the TTCai??i??s procurement policies is raising red flags about the transit agencyai??i??s ability to manage expensive capital projects, detailing billions of dollars in cost overruns and oversight practices that fall below public-sector standards.

The report, which will be debated at Wednesdayai??i??s TTC board meeting, was authored by consulting firm KPMG. The company examined nine capital projects that the TTC launched over the past decade-and-a-half and had combined initial estimated costs of $5.1 billion. Of the nine, six incurred inflated expenses that together totalled $2.9 billion more than original estimates.

They included the Toronto York Spadina Subway Extension, whose cost soared over from $1.5 billion to $3.2 billion, and the Leslie Barns streetcar facility, whose price jumped from $345 million to $507 million. Three of four smaller-scale capital projects KPMG studied also saw budgets rise above initial projections.

The report, which council commissioned in March 2015, determined that the TTC is operating at a ai???low-standardized level of maturityai??? in the delivery of capital projects. Thatai??i??s below KPMGai??i??s benchmark for public-sector organizations. KPMG scored one TTC department as operating at an ai???informalai??? level, which means the consultant found that projects lacked documentation and standardized policies.

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2 Responses to “Subways – Red Flags in Ontario – Should The Same Be Happening Here?”
  1. Rico says:

    I just want to point out your quote talks about the TTC projects in general….and although the article talks about 9 projects your quote talks about 2… of which is the streetcar barn….at 500 million. Remember that number next time you propose a ‘cheap streetcar’ needing lots of vehicles in one of the most expensive realestate markets in Canada.

    Zwei replies: As usual, you haven’t a clue what you are talking about. Yes the streetcar barn is expensive, so expensive one would think TransLink designed it.

  2. Haveacow says:

    Guys a streetcar barn costs $500 Million because of the expensive designs and very specialized equipment that can only be bought from a few producers. Its the same for any rail based technology when you talk about heavy maintenance facilities. In the case of the Leslie barns the building’s shear size dwarfs your own heavy maintenance facilities for the Skytrain. The cost of the ancillary land to purchases and bringing them into a positive environmental operation used up to 20-23% of the project’s budget. These cost increases for the Leslie Barn project was due to the ever increasing cost of cleaning up the soil on a site which was heavily contaminated. Remember this was built in an area of the city that has been industrial for over 150 years! This area was part of an industrial complex that built over 100 ships (including 45 Flower Class Corvettes, 3 Frigates and 2 Destroyers as well as many other Auxilary ships) for the Royal Canadian Navy during WW2 alone. Much of the development costs for certain projects private or public, in the Toronto Portlands area or near the waterfront in general has to have 150-200 years of industrially polluted soil to cleaned up before construction can begin.

    Both the subway extension and the Leslie Barn both suffered from many years of provincial and local government over involvement which changed scope of both projects. The subway extension was planned and ready to go in 2005 but suffered interference at least 3 times from the province which changed the project scope again and again forcing the TTC to change and update the EA process, causing delay and forcing up costs. The extension of the subway line beyond Steeles Avenue and the City of Toronto border was not part of the original project. Extending the line into York Region by itself, added 4 years to the project timeline. All while, the TTC had to wait for the regional government in York Region to decide whether they could afford to help pay for or even wanted the subway line at all.

    Local Environmentalists and their friends at Toronto city hall forced the TTC to build one of the worlds largest green roofs in North America for the Leslie Street Barn. That single cost alone was an extra $50 Million in extra design and building complexities. The project also includes a very large park on the rest of the property all on soil which had to be shipped out and cleaned and then brought back to the site (how soil remediation actually works). Not to mention a contractor who had never built streetcar track before and was accepted because the public wanted the TTC to take the lowest bidder costs estimates, instead of working with a more experienced builder who had an initial higher costs. But in hind site turned out to be a bargain compared to the mess the new contractor made of the access track work on Leslie Street. Sometimes we stay with more expensive suppliers because they know how to do the job properly and the new guys who often promise lower costs, end up screwing up because they are totally inexperienced and have essentially lied about their abilities and expertise.

    Bombardier has screwed up royally trying to build 100% low floor LRV’s in their North American production facilities. But no one is going after the politicians who demanded that Bombardier build the LRV’s here in North America going against Bombardier’s suggestions that wasn’t a good idea. No one has ever built a massive order (almost 400 units) of 100% low floor LRV outside of Europe before. Our workers and their North American supply chain factories even though they were Bombardier factories, were not good enough or experienced enough to build the far more difficult 100% low floor LRV instead of the much technically simpler 70% low floor LRV’s that have been built in North American factories up until now. Do we now abandon Bombardier for Alstom or Siemens or another LRV builder? Siemens doesn’t have a North American friendly LRV model that is 100% low floor. Their widely popular and purchased S70 LRV is only a 70% low floor design (Calgary’s and San Francisco’s S200 LRV is the high floor version of the S70). Siemens wants to produce a 100% low floor LRV for North America but their Sacremento California factory will need a massive upgrade, they don’t want to pay for. Alstom is an experienced builder of 100% low floor LRV’s but only ancillary manufacturing and final assembly of their North American friendly Citadis Spirit LRV is done here in North America, everything else was done and shipped in from Europe. Therefore only about 10-15% of the LRV’s technology for the Ottawa contract is actually Canadian content!

    The moral of this whole story is that its not that simple a problem. I have said before one for the reason’s our project’s cost more is because we allow people to sue at any point of the process which EU and many Asian countries would never allow. The Japanese, Chinese and European governments partially or in the case of China and some nations in the EU, 100% fully subsidize raw material and construction equipment purchases for transport based infrastructure projects above a certain size. Thus greatly decreasing construction costs but it sure raises your taxes. Several European countries penalize land holders who sell their land at high market costs for government infrastructure projects putting a big lid land speculation cost increases. Essentially, some European central governments can legally tell you what your land is worth and the price you must sell it to them. You can do very little about it, except refuse to sell the land. In countries like Germany or France you can legally be compelled to sell your land to the government, its not an easy process (it involves lawyers, courts and a lot of time) but it is used . Try that here and watch the lawyers go virtually giddy at the thought of all that court time, fighting that one issue out in public.

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