The Broadway Subway, No Value For Money

Despite a growing number of supporters, such as the business community, the City of Vancouver; most of the regional mayors, the provincial NDP and their combined sundry of shills clamouringAi?? for a SkyTrain Broadway subway, many serious questions remain unanswered. The following op-ed commentary published by The Toronto Star questions whether the concept of building a heavy rail subway to replacing the aging Scarborough light metro amounts to a subway a billion-dollar boondoggle?

The key phrase in the article is; “An expert panel established by city council found an LRT superior to a subway on all counts: funding, economic development, transit service, sustainability and social impact.

It is strange that the likes of Mayor Greggor Robinson, Geoff Meggs, various business groups and Chamber’s of Commerce have come to an opposite conclusion about a Broadway subway, but then, real transit experts have never been asked.

A no value-for-money case can be made for the Scarborough subway extension, yet Toronto’s Mayor John Tory and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne continue to support it.

Back in BC,Ai?? TransLink has not even done such a study for the proposed Broadway SkyTrain subway, yet actual planning is under way.

The Broadway subway could be Vancouver’s billion dollar boondoggle which offers the taxpayer, no value for money, unless the taxpayer is assembling land along Broadway for major development!

By: R. Michael Warren
Published on Sat Jan 03 2015
Is the Scarborough subway another billion-dollar boondoggle?

There isnai??i??t a value-for-money case for the Scarborough subway extension. Yet Mayor John Tory and Premier Kathleen Wynne support this expensive ai???vanityai??? subway. At the same time they keep telling us their rapid transit investments are based on careful cost-benefit analysis.

Tory ducks the Scarborough subway controversy by saying the decision has been taken by council. And he doesnai??i??t want to put ai???a stick in the eyeai??? of the Liberal government.

This is political pandering to Scarborough voters and the Wynne Liberals. Tory has neglected to make the case for a three-stop subway link that will cost $3.56 billion (USD $2.02 billion) ai??i?? $1.6 billion (USD $1.35 billion) more than a modern seven-stop light-rail transit line.

Tory chose this political strategy despite knowing that three highly qualified and independent groups had already recommended an LRT.

Metrolinx favoured replacing the aging RT with a modern LRT link that would cost $1.8 billion (USD $1.52 billion).

An expert panel established by city council found an LRT superior to a subway on all counts: funding, economic development, transit service, sustainability and social impact.

The Pembina Institute also supports an LRT for Scarborough. They maintain it would deliver twice as much service for every dollar invested.

By any measure, the subway option shouldnai??i??t even be on the table.

The 30,000 riders per hour subway capacity is overkill.

Peak ridership is expected to grow to only 9,000 by 2031.

The subway option will cost about twice as much and, according to Pembina, attract only 23 million riders a year compared to 31 million for an LRT.

By supporting a subway, Tory is placing a $910-million (USD $772.2 million) tax burden on the shoulders of Toronto taxpayers.

Fully $745 million (USD $632.1 million) of this has to come from a property tax surcharge ai??i?? which amounts to $41 a year (USD $34.79) for 30 years for the average homeowner.

Thatai??i??s on top of the tax hikes that will inevitably flow from the rest of Toryai??i??s election agenda.

But when it comes to Toryai??i??s own SmartTrack plan, he stresses it will not burden local taxpayers and must go through a rigorous examination process.

He said recently, ai???The express purpose of what weai??i??re doing here is to move forward with a fact-based, transparent process.ai???

This begs the question: why does SmartTrack get a comprehensive ai???fact-basedai??? analysis while the Scarborough subway doesnai??i??t?

Part of the answer rests with Wynne, who backed the subway option in an effort to win seats in vote-rich Scarborough.

Tory went along in pursuit of Liberal support for his mayoralty bid and for future favours.

Wynne compromised sound transit planning while chasing the 2013 byelection seat in Scarborough-Guildwood and more recently in the June provincial election.

She committed the $1.4 billion (USD $1.18 billion), originally meant for an LRT, to the subway link, knowing it was not the best financial or operating option.

During the last election Wynne promised all future transit infrastructure investments would be based on ai???rigorous business case analysis.ai???

She still hasnai??i??t explained why this decision-making process isnai??i??t being applied to the Scarborough transit link.

Her political strategy worked.

The Liberals won all five Scarborough seats.

But if the subway link is built, these seats will cost taxpayers an additional $1.6 billion (USD $1.35 billion) and saddle Scarborough with a transit solution thatai??i??s inferior to an LRT.

Does all this have a familiar ring?

Surely by now Wynne has developed the ability to see a billion-dollar boondoggle coming down the track.

Building a subway extension into Scarborough has all the hallmarks of a spending scandal.

Itai??i??s unlikely that Wynne or Tory will still be around for the opening in 2023.

But tax-weary Toronto and provincial voters will be.

And by then theyai??i??ll still be paying for an overbuilt and underused transit white elephant.

Thereai??i??s still time for Wynne and Tory to put the Scarborough transit link through the same rigorous value-for-money analysis they say is being applied to every other transit investment.

It would go a long way toward showing theyai??i??re serious about making transit decisions based on costs and benefits rather than wasting money on parochial politics.

R. Michael Warren is a former corporate director, Ontario deputy minister, TTC chief general manager and Canada Post CEO. r.michael.warren@gmail.com

Comments

22 Responses to “The Broadway Subway, No Value For Money”
  1. Rico says:

    Your lovely bold quote is specific to the Scarborough line….which pretty much everyone agrees should not be a subway.
    Strangely enough you have commented enough on the phase 2 Broadway study that you should not be able to claim it has not been done…

    Zwei replies: The same is true for Broadway, NO VALUE FOR MONEY SPENT! I really wish you guys stop looking at picture books on trains and subways and actually talk to real experts. The Broadway subway is an international joke, create to inflate property values on Broadway. I call that a criminal enterprise.

  2. Richard says:

    You really need to do some research before you post. There has been extensive cost benefit analysis done on Broadway that is much better than what was done in Toronto. Analysis was done until 2041 as opposed to only 2031 in TO. Ideally it should be done for 30 after the projected start of operation but 20 years is still much better than 10 years. Here it is. Read the whole thing carefully. The benefits are summarized on page 84.
    http://www.translink.ca/~/media/Documents/plans_and_projects/rapid_transit_projects/UBC/alternatives_evaluation/UBC_Line_Rapid_Transit_Study_Phase_2_Alternatives_Evaluation.ashx

    And Scarborough is so different from Broadway that you can’t draw any conclusions from that. You should know better by now. This nonsense does nothing to help your cause.

    Zwei replies: Actually no, there has not been a truly independent cost benefit study done for Broadway except for completely dishonest pro SkyTrain ones. Unfortunately Richard, I communicate with real transit experts and everyone I have talked to has said that the current subway planning for Broadway is utter nonsense. Even TransLink’s own ridership projections show that about 6,000 persons an hour would use the subway by 2040! I’m sorry to be blunt, but TransLink’s studies are pure bullshit, always have been and always will be. No one builds with SkyTrain anymore, get used to it!

  3. Richard says:

    Uh, read the study. At the busiest section, by 2041, the ridership is projected to be 12,000 ppdph.

    Cities all over the world are building automated metros. You should know that. Surface light rail is mainly only being used in smaller cities and in the burbs or on low ridership routes in regions that are Vancouver’s size or larger.

    And the Scarborough LRT is grade separated light rail as is SkyTrain. Except that it has a higher cost per km than the Evergreen Line and likely the Canada Line as well.

    Seems like you are only talking to people that agree with or at least don’t want to disagree with you. Certainly they are not looking objectively at the numbers.

    Zwei replies: Please Richard stop the bullshit,you demean yourself.

    You confuse two issues: 1) building of metro’s and 2) Signalling.

    Yes metro’s are being built, mostly in Asia because the cities they are being built in have the population that will provide the mass of ridership that would justify a metro. Remember metro’s are built when traffic flows exceed 15,000 to 20,000 pphpd. Yest, cities like Honolulu are building with light-metro but their politicans and bureaucrats have been so groomed by the light metro crowd they have become as dull as our politico’s.

    You fail to mention that Scarborough is being torn down and despite the recommendation by a board of experts for LRT, politicians promised a subway, Hmmmm!

    ATC or automatic train comes under the term signalling and signalling is to maintain the safe operation of a railway/transit line. As technology has progressed ATC has come into the vogue as it has become cheaper to install.

    But is is you claim that LRT is only used on minor transit routes, which displays your complete ignorance of the issue. prior to the advent of what we call modern LRT in the late 1970′s, there were about 350 traditional tramways or streetcar line in operation in major cities around the world (you forgot about these) and the thinking of the day that these traditional tram line would be mere historical footnotes by today; well that prophesy was grossly inaccurate. As the cost of subway construction, operation and maintenance started to bankrupt transit authorities and even cities (Toronto), the quite cheap to operate trams and streetcars survived and today, use modern articulated low-floor trams and employ modern signalling, in fact those 350 tram networks have evolved into major people movers in city’s like Moscow, Berlin, Zurich, Melbourne, Amsterdam, Brussels, Den Haag, Rome, Milan, Lisbon, etc. Now Paris is rebuilding its tram lines and the City of London is actively planning for trams to reenter the City of London.

    By comparison, Broadway’s puny ridership barely demands a streetcar.

  4. Rico says:

    Hi Zei,

    From your reply to Richard, ‘Even TransLink’s own ridership projections show that about 6,000 persons an hour would use the subway by 2040!’……maybe you should read the link it shows more than 13,000pphpd in 2041. Oh and since you are calling the Translink study bullshit maybe you should compare with other projects and see how they are doing…..oh wait the Translink studies usually UNDER estimate ridership (Remember your predictions for the Canada Line?)…..

    Zwei replies: TransLink’s ridership figures are an alchemy of thier own and TransLink has over stated ridership by at least 10%, the Canada Line maybe by over 20%. (Two two car trains on the Canada Line are not carry 120,000 people a day for if they were every transit agency in the world would be here watching the miracle).

    According to TransLink’s own figures the traffic flows at VVC/Clark; Great Northern Way and Mains St. would be around 12, pphpd and then those stations West would be Less; Cambie 6,000 pphpd; Oak, 5,000, and further decreasing as one travels towards UBC. Hardly the numbers to justify a subway.

  5. eric chris says:

    @Richard, lifecycle benefit analysis on page 84? What is that Richard? Please do enlighten us. How did SNC Lavalin arrive at conclusions which contradict mine and all the other engineering firms in Canada, USA and Australia?

    I’ll tell you how with subjective hocus pocus. Here is what matters:

    Carbon emissions = worst for RRT or s-train (taking into account buses added)
    NPV cost = worst for RRT
    Overall commuting time = worst for RRT

    Let me elaborate: selection of the subway option to UBC is based on the study which TransLink paid SNC Lavalin to perform. SNC Lavalin stands to make about $400 million in profit if TransLink secures funding for more hub to hub transit in the plebiscite. TransLink will then choose SNC Lavalin to construct the subway reaching only one-half the distance to UBC.

    This $400 million for the subway extending only part way to UBC is more than the cost of the at grade tram line carrying more people than the subway and reaching all the way to UBC. TransLink is trying to fleece taxpayers for SNC Lavalin to make a bunch of money under the guise that the subway carries more people than the tram line based on false information in the report prepared by SNC Lavalin having a vested interest in the subway going ahead.

    Even if the subway might reduce road congestion, despite the fact that the statistics don’t support this hypothesis, the tram line will reduce just as much road congestion, actually more as it approaches point to point transit attracting more riders than hub to hub transit (subway). At the same time, the tram line will replace all the diesel buses on Broadway; whereas, the subway adds diesel buses to increase overall operating costs, carbon emissions and air pollution.

    Clearly, something is amiss with the subway plan of Gregor Robertson who is likely implicated in the fraud to bilk taxpayers. I’d like to see a moratorium on any further transit spending until the fake study by TransLink can be investigated by an independent body of engineers who are from out of province as the engineers at the City of Vancouver lack credibility and qualifications. They are essentially corrupt and don’t have the level of engineering understanding to comment.

  6. Haveacow says:

    I guess I’m the lone voice who actually believes in this case, Scarborough would be better served by a subway than a LRT. After all I only practiced, worked and grew up there! Still no one, not even the experts have said how much it is going to cost to start fixing the raised ROW from Midland to McCowan Station, which is already 30+ years old. No one has budgeted it and its not in the LRT conversion costs. The last estimate was from the 90′s and it was $500+ million then, for rehabilitating that 3.2km long raised section, sometime around 2022. The LRT line will still not be able to fix the 5-10 minutes you have to add to your travel time due to having to switch from the subway to LRT (4 floors away from each other) at Kennedy Station. The only option I saw that was able actually correct the issue was to total the whole god dammed station to improve the passenger flow and I know that, is not in the budget. Plus no one has considered the new traffic from all the development that will result when the CPR finishes its sale of the Agincourt (Toronto) Marshalling and Classification Yard which is right at the end of the Subway line at McCowan and Sheppard Ave. The land is massive and easily worth $2-5 Billion maybe more, just considering the size of the place at 1.5+ sq.km. I used to work there its big! It could easily hold 5000-10000 people redeveloped and that’s at relatively low density not the high density development policy that the City of Toronto has been pursuing.

    Zwei replies: From what I been told from other sources in Toronto, that the light rail option would be much cheaper and have a greater draw than a subway. From what I can see, the Scarborough LRT would be LRT in name only as it is would be built as a light metro a la Seattle.

    Some unsettling news for subway fans is Seattle’s big dig, or waterfront tunnel may be abandoned in the near future, details to come.

  7. Haveacow says:

    Actually no one outside the liberal government’s inner circle has even been measuring the cost of the redoing of the raised ROW on the Scarborough RT. The reason its seems less expensive to build the LRT is that, the upgrade required isn’t part of the LRT cost. They also didn’t cost the 100 new buses and at the least, 1 new bus garage plus 250-300 extra drivers the TTC will need to implement the Bus Bridge service while the RT is converted to LRT. Currently you see, had Mayor Ford not been in charge, the TTC had planned to have Sheppard LRT running by late 2013-early 2014 and the Finch LRT running by late 2015-early 2016 which would have freed up considerable number of buses/drivers using currently using both runs and there many sub routes and all day express buses like the Finch West and the Scarborough Rocket Expresses. With the current situation the TTC is regularly operationally about 200 buses short and has the need for no fewer than 1 if not 2 bus garages. The current fleet of 1835 buses is just not enough. A new subway line will save 5-10 minutes from the current travel time on the Bloor Danforth Line (Line #2) will not need to be shut down a year or two after it opens because the raised ROW is falling down. When you add all these non budgeted items into the construction of the LRT budget the subway comes as being only slightly more expensive than the LRT but has a dramatically higher capacity that will be needed because the conversion of the Agincourt (Toronto) Rail Yard to a medium and high density residential neighborhood.

    You see, The City of Toronto (population currently 2.7 million) has realized it needs a population of 3+ million people living within the city borders to produce the taxes to cover all the increased costs of the coming downloaded services from both the Feds and Province expected between 2017-19, plus future city needs in transportation and other municipal services. They realized this years ago (1980′s) that the then Metro Toronto population of around 2.1-2.2 million (the area currently occupied by the current City of Toronto, not to be confused with Greater Toronto Arera or the Greater Golden Horseshoe which have much larger populations) which had been steady since the early seventies needed to expand. Even then the Metro level of government could barely produce enough taxes to continue to afford its services. The growth in the City’s population has been part of a long term project that has been on going since then. The idea to use non residential land to do this was part of a long term plan. The large and dramatic density increases inside the City of Toronto’s mostly unused urban and industrial land has been the result. Most of the traffic (55%) within the city are people who don’t live within the city but outside of it. At the least 2 million single occupant cars coming into the city each day.

  8. Haveacow says:

    Oh one other thing, the expert panel that found that LRT was better than a subway was for the Sheppard LRT/ Subway debate, not the Scarborough extension of the Bloor Danforth Line. Although both are in the former City of Scarborough, they are different lines. The Toronto Star and Sun often make these kind of mistakes. Different line, different details. Each line has to be studied by its own merits and conditions, separately!

    I repeat, I don’t think the Broadway Skytrain Extension as planned is the best answer, for many reasons I have already stated here.

    The extension of the Bloor Danforth Subway (Line #2) instead of the LRT conversion of the Scarborough RT is a better option in my professional opinion. It is not perfect but it is better! However, the Sheppard Avenue East Line should be an LRT and not an extension of the Sheppard Ave Subway (Line #3) again for many reasons I have already stated. In fact, I think the Subway Trains should be removed on the Sheppard line and converted to use the LRV’s and be a continuance of the LRT line. Then extend the Sheppard LRT line west from Yonge Street to meet the Yonge University Spadina Subway line extension (line #1), currently under construction at the Sheppard West Station.

  9. Haveacow says:

    Sorry, The Toronto Globe and Mail, Star and Sun also make these mistakes, including me!

  10. zweisystem says:

    Thanks for the update. I would rather let those in Toronto fight their transit battles, but on the radio a so called transit expert was claiming that experts found that Subways were more cost effective than LRT and the same would be true in Vancouver. I found it interesting that not everyone back east is of the same opinion.

  11. eric chris says:

    @ Haveacow, I respect your preference for the subway. Maybe you’re right.

    I’ll be frank and tell you that I do not agree with high density development around major transit trunk lines. I think that they make the city much less livable.

    Trunk lines certainly do allow you to cram more people into the city at the expense of wide open spaces and parking which is considered “bad” and a waste. Well, I lived in Singapore for one year. Even though I enjoyed the adventure in my 20s and shared a penthouse suite with two other drillers from the UK, I really couldn’t handle the people on top of people and the locals were envious of me being from Australia with lots of wide open spaces and cars!

    Let’s be honest for a moment. Do trunk lines increase transit use or merely concentrate transit users?

    Subways, s-trains and b-lines never remove drivers on their own. What happens is that after they are implemented, the city takes away parking spaces to force drivers working in the downtown to take their new trunk line. In Vancouver: UBC, TransLink and engineers have all conspired to restrict parking in downtown Vancouver and UBC – forcing drivers going to UBC and downtown Vancouver to take transit.

    This is self-defeating. That is, other drivers who don’t have to travel to UBC and downtown Vancouver just seize the opportunity to use the road space freed up by the other drives who can’t drive. Do you see the paradox that making drivers drive less makes drivers drive more?

    Trams work at getting the buses off the roads to reduce the road congestion by transit. It is actually transit causing much of the road congestion. Ironically, drivers are being blamed for congestion by transit. Look at Toronto – complete mess due to subways and buses getting transit users to the subways. I don’t want to rehash and read these two insightful articles for the truth:

    “Which leads us to this question: When are politicians going to get over the ideological allure of transit and address the realities? Studies show it doesn’t really conserve resources, because all those big, fuel-burning buses frequently have just a few people on board. And transit is s-l-o-o-o-o-o-o-w, and often uncomfortable.”

    http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2011/08/25/kelly-mcparland-public-transit-stinks-statscan-confirms/

    “This theory drives much of our preoccupation with building highly expensive urban transit – subways, light rail, dedicated bus lanes and more – because, the argument goes, we break the cycle of dependence on the car and cut congestion by shifting resources away from road building and into transit.

    Except it’s not true. As urban geographer Wendell Cox likes to say, this idea that road construction only worsens congestion is like believing that building more maternity wards will cause more babies to be born.”

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/economy-lab/sick-of-congestion-build-roads-not-transit/article16107135/

    Drivers are resourceful and will find a way to get to where they want to go. They can find short-cuts and back roads. Subways are merely being used as get rich quick schemes by greedy pigs making taxpayers fund their subways for the scumbag developers to build leaky and slum condos along the subway lines – to be perfectly honest.

  12. Haveacow says:

    There was a study that claimed that Skytrain and Subway technology was better than LRT back in T.O. but it was put forward by a gentleman and his taxpayer group. This group was run by a gentlenman who had big ties to the Canadian Tax Payers Federation. This is a pro business anti union group that up until 10 years ago wanted transit abolished because it was publicly funded. There findings was a financial attack at unions and had almost laughable results when the choice of transit technology came up. Simply a system that was driverless was better than anything with a human/union operator. Other costs of operation were simply ignored or were just wrong.

    Zwei, Its been my opinion that, when considering technology for a proposed rapid transit line, the best individual technology can for each line can change, line to line. The best overall technology however should score high in each individual line study. Lately that has been LRT and BRT to lesser extent. Given the general development type,building styles, densities and consumer preferences in North America for the last 40 years, LRT/BRT has proven to have the best affordable results in getting people to ride transit.

    LRT in particular, has been very effective at crossing boundaries that have been occupied in the rail transit technology industry by cheaper lower capacity technology as well as in the higher than LRT capacity categories. Thus the product has been able to evolve, unlike the technology in the Light Metro industry that has little by little backtracked from a major transit technology to occupy a niche market technology. YES, LIGHT METRO SYSTEMS STILL GETS ORDERS BUT, the numbers of those orders are dwarfed by the larger capacity traditional Metro/Subway market that has adapted and improved so that, higher capacity users that might have used Light Metro Technology can now affordably build full scale Metros. At the other end, transit properties that might have ignored LRT because they were definitely into the capacity requirements of a heavier Light Metro are now easily swayed by LRT systems that are approaching near Metro capacity capabilities. LRT’s ability to handle a much more varied number of running ROW’s than the Light Metro Market Vehicles adds to its allure.

    HOWEVER, NEVR ASSUME LRT IS THE BEST TRANSIT TECHNOLOGY IN EVERY INDIVIDUAL SITUATION. Needs often can produce environments that make LRT the last technology a user should ever choose. Every line must be studied individually.

  13. Rowley Banks says:

    Well that was easy then Richard, you’re correct surface Light Rail is only being used in smaller cities or on low ridership routes in regions that are Vancouver’s size or larger.
    The following is a list of smaller cities, Vancouver’s size, that have current tram/streetcar, heritage tram/heritage streetcar, or light rail systems as part of their regular public transit systems

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Public_transport_system_map_of_the_USA.png

    You & Rico are like a pair of old women arguing over the contents of the bargain box in a Thrift store.

  14. Richard says:

    @Rowley

    Uh, look at the transit ridership in those cities. It is just a fraction of Vancouver’s thus proving my point.

    San Fran does have high ridership but that is because of BART which is similar in function to SkyTrain. Their LRT is underground in the core and was expensive to construct.

    And name calling is a sure sign you don’t have an argument that makes any sense at all.

  15. eric chris says:

    @Richard, TransLink has its own special way of counting riders and it differs from everyone else. Ridership is about 250,000 people (daily on weekdays) and about 60,000 people on Sundays and holidays, for the 2.4 million population in Metro Vancouver.

    On Saturdays, the ridership is between 60,000 people to 250,000 people. TransLink recycles many riders and gives the illusion that there are more riders than there really are. Okay?

  16. Rico says:

    Eric,

    Translink is a member of the APTA (just like pretty much every other transit organization in the USA and Canada) and uses the same standardized way of counting riders as all the rest. Infact the APTA has a lot of useful stuff on their website, check it out.

    Zwei replies: Sorry Rico, TransLink doesn’t, they use there own method based on an alchemy of there own devising.

  17. Rico says:

    Accuracy
    •Are there duplicate records?
    No. APTA performs a primary check of the data and contacts individual agencies about questionable data.
    •Are there outliers in the data?
    No.
    •Are data missing for individual records? If so, how are they identified?
    Some transit agencies do not report data for all modes; occasionally, an agency will report only two of the three months of the quarter for a mode. Because of these problems, APTA has developed a procedure to ignore such modes when calculating the extrapolated totals. The period for reporting the data to APTA is 90 days. If the data are not reported within the time period, APTA will estimate the data based on the previous data it has received from that agency.

  18. Haveacow says:

    Translink does use total boardings (unlinked trips) not complete trips (linked trips), Rico has a point it is very common in the industry because unless you use a trip counter generator formula, counting boardings is simply faster and easier. Is it a little misleading yes, but compared to having to make sure every transit company in North America uses the same counting method, the same family of conversion of boardings to complete trip formulas, counting passengers is a real pain. Rico Transit Agencies don’t all use the same methods because it is pain for many reasons and some transit agencies are so underfunded that they do not even have the ability to make accurate counts just estimates.

    When you do have that rare group of government or industry specialists that tabulates transit stats from all over N.America and applies a common theme to them, it is quite special. The APTA does do that, they make quite a few errors because they have no choice but to trust the base data from the agencies they get before they run it through there systems. That’s why many years ago in Ontario, the Minisrty of Transportation (MTO) and the Canadian Urban Transit Association had grown so frustrated with this industry issue they created the Ontario Urban Transit Fact Book. They make sure all Ontario Transit systems gather data, the same type of data produced the same way, then tabulate it in a readable book form for Transportation Specialists. As a professional planner and a (fully paid up) CUTA member I am given this data and it is quite revealing.

    They restrict the access of this data from the general public because, it is very expensive, time consuming and and contains sensitive information. This is a major effort for CUTA to produce, collect and requires a great deal of time to get the final data into a technically correct but, readable form. The terms used are professional industry terms mostly that, require a great amount nuanced understanding because in the wrong hands could be used rather explosively.

    Case in point. A few years ago people from the Ottawa Sun got access to the figures and they found out that, Ottawa’s Transit Company, O.C. Transpo, was taking the most money per taxpayer bill than any transit agency in Ontario. Almost twice the amount Toronto was paying per tax payer. They ran with this and claimed that O.C. Transpo. was a wasteful organization which needed to be struck down, they were unyielding. What the Sun didn’t understand was that hidden in this information was a structural issue in the collection of the Taxes. Ottawa only took the transit levy from Residential Property Taxes not the local Commercial Taxes. Most other Ontario agencies took from both residential and commercial thus the average tax bill for transit was very much lower in those cities. Little nuances like that can make a big difference, the Sun has never said it was wrong and O.C. Transpo’s share of the average tax bill wasn’t that much larger than the Ontario average. Had the people from the Sun read the definitions section first they would have been warned that, this kind arithmetic issue can happen and it is imperative to check details within the municipality itself but that would take away their big headlines.

    The ironic thing was that, the really big story about O.C. Transpo was right in front of them. Had they just asked someone who really understand what data actually meant they would have got a much better story. O.C Transpo was inefficiently running so many deadhead buses that, almost 1 in every 5 km. they traveled was not collecting fares at all and by that losing a tremendous amounts of money. Something that O.C. Transpo. really should have been raked over the coals for. It showed a big overreliance on buses and the Transitway instead of investing in LRT, or other transit technologies and could have brought about more LRT sooner.

    Does Translink’s using of boardings instead complete passenger trips mean that they are essentially dishonest? No! Lazy, careless, a little misleading, yes! The practice of using just straight passenger data can be very problematic. Unfortunately, if they start using some of the other more common transit data points that would show context and nuance it becomes too complex for most people who know nothing about transit and they most likely will just tune out because it takes too long to understand. It may take an extra of 5-10 seconds to fully understand, way too much time in this society of instant gratification. So like most agencies they dumb it way down, almost to the point of uselessness.

    Lastly, its the issue of intent that most transit agencies grimace at when it comes to data use. They have to provide data because they are public agencies. They have no control when it comes to how the data is used. Can you blame them when every scrap of data that they gather can possibly used against them! I know we must have open transparent public agencies but, talk about a no win situation. Be honest, no matter how open and transparent you want them to be there are probably people out there who think that is not enough! Where do you stop! Some information especially, legal information for example has to be kept in confidence by law but, even that is too little access for some people.

    The question of how transit data is used was so masterfully shown last year with the Pembina Institute’s Fast City Transit Study. The study showed which Canadian cities had invested the most in transit and the result measured using several data points. Every city paper and Transit Blog in this country, used the same data to show how much better everyone else’s transit system was compared to how poor their local agency was, including this blog! What was staggering was that the same data was used in each case to show how better everyone else’s system was and how their local system was going to hell in a hand basket. It was hilarious! All were completely negative, can you blame transit agencies for being a little deceptive sometimes when it comes to data, given this type of environment. The funniest thing was that the most conservative commenters used tis data to show how privatizing transit would solve these issues. This is the most ironic thing of all, the open nature and relative ease of collecting data on transit by the public would be immensely harder if not impossible with private companies even, if they are providing a public service!

    Zwei replies: I have been told by at least 3 ex BC Transit/TransLink types that the actual counting of “bodies” entering the system, is done by a combination of spot checks and vehicle loadings at key points, which then is applied to a formula to provide the numbers. It is a complicated process and fraught with mistakes but as one ex TransLink type told me, “the higher ridership numbers we provided the happier everyone was!”

    From the late 80′s until the mid 90′s, was the standard “SkyTrain ridership was up over 10% this year”; but when an actual calculation was made from firm numbers, the ridership figure was very much higher than could be carried by the mini-metro and after the Sun printed a letter alluding to this nonsense, the 10% figure was not used again. I have the same feeling that this is how the Canada Line’s ridership is being calculated, as there is something very fishy with TransLink’s numbers and the $145 million annual payment to SNC Lavalin to operate the line.

    Of course TransLink does not use the cost per revenue passenger because it is over 33% higher than cities like Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto. All TransLink is interested in is high ridership to pretend that they are doing things right.

  19. Justin Bernard says:

    I have to make a few corrections to Haveacow’s post on the Scarborough Subway. I live in Toronto and frequently go to Scarborough, so I keep up on the news here.
    The Scarborough LRT is projected to cost around $1.8 Billion dollars for a 9.9 km line with 7 stations. It would’ve followed the existing Scarborough RT route. This includes an extension to Malvern. The costs included refurbishing the elevated structure, reconfiguring the stations for LFLRVs. and a fully grade separated extension from McCowan to Malvern.
    The TTC commissioned a report that actually concluded refurbishing the RT to handle MarkII Cars was the best solution. Keep in mind, this was before Transit City was released. After TC was released, it made more sense to convert the line to LRT to link up with the Sheppard East LRT and Malvern LRT line. In other words, it made no sense in keeping a proprietary technology surrounded by LRT.
    Metrolinx favoured converting the SRT to LRT. An expert panel commissioned by the City determined LRT was the superior choice, and to top it off, it was already fully funded by the province and ready to be built.
    Politics and self-serving politicians changed all that.

    Don’t think for a second, this subway extension was the result of sound planning. This subway is the result of politics and flawed polling that led politicians from all levels believing a subway will garner votes in vote rich Scarborough.
    I won’t be able to do justice on how we ended up with a $3.56 billion 3 stop subway that’ll cover less area than the fully funded 7 stop LRT, Worse yet, the City will have to cover the $1.7 billion extra cost of the subway. The city is already having problems funding existing transit and other services, and yet the moronic councilors voted for a 30 year property tax increase, just so they can ensure votes. It got so bad, some Liberals MPP were calling themselves “subway champions” during the 2011 election, with a number of scarborough councillors flip-flopping from LRT support to subway support.
    The peak ridership for the subway is projected to be 9’100pph by 2031. That is lower than the minimum TTC requirement for a subway!
    This subway is going to be a bigger disaster than the Sheppard subway. I’ll be honest, if the province was fully paying for the subway, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. It’s the fact that we’ve cancelled a fully funded LRT line, and saddled the city with a potentially crippling 30 year debt for a subway that will attract 5 million more riders a year than LRT, that makes this subway a white elephant.
    The latest news on the subway is that one councillor is pushing for a 4th stop on the subway, because in his words “It’s no use having a subway, if no one can have access to it.”
    Yeah..
    Toronto politics is screwing transit again. The cycle never ends.

    http://www.insidetoronto.com/news-story/5229115-scarborough-subway-extension-needs-eglinton-danforth-stop-de-baeremaeker/

    http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2015/01/03/is_scarborough_subway_a_billiondollar_boondoggle.html

  20. Justin Bernard says:

    Sorry, the city is on hook for $910 Million, I forgot the Harper government gave the city $660 million as a vote gift to Rob Ford.

  21. eric chris says:

    @Rico, I’m well aware of APTA and any transit organization willing to pay the membership fee for APTA can join. In fact, I relied on data from APTA and TransLink to show that transit creates more road congestion, air pollution and carbon emissions than not having transit. Download the calculations:

    http://www.railforthevalley.com/latest-news/zweisystem/eric-chriss-study-not-having-transit-is-more-environmentally-sustainable-than-having-transit-in-vancouver/

    Both TransLink and the COV have tacitly accepted these calculations as true. So, for TransLink and the COV to continue to lie about transit reducing road congestion to endorse TransLink’s fraudulent study purporting that the subway has more passenger capacity than LRT – is baffling. It is just a matter of making sure that TransLink and the COV cover the court costs for citizens to go after them in court and the timing is perfect with the mayors about to start their scheme to defraud taxpayers.

    Now, about the number of people who use transit. I’m not interested in playing your game where you throw out red herrings for others to chase for you. How about you look up the data on the transit use here and compare it to transit use in other cities based on the number of transit users in the total population for us to compare apples to apples. Okay?

    It is going to require critical thinking and deductive reasoning which you lack. So, I’m not expecting anything but more distractive comments from you.

    From what I recall from the APTA data, about 10% of the population (total) in Vancouver uses transit. About 6% of the population uses transit in Seattle. Getting around Seattle is much easier due to the greater number of roads. I’ll let you verify what the percentage of the total population uses transit in Vancouver relative to the rest of Canada. I think; you’ll find that Vancouver’s transit use is not much different from anywhere else in Canada (Montreal, Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa… Toronto).

    Regardless, we have almost no roads and bridges and our road congestion is the worst in Canada, as a result. Unless we catch up with another 30 bridges here to spread out the traffic, we will not solve road congestion.

    What you and other shams typically present is transit use by the “working population” without looking at the big picture. In Vancouver, I believe that it is just under 20%, mostly due to the lack of road space and parking in downtown Vancouver where the buses getting transit users to the s-trains clog up the roads to grind traffic to a halt. However, as you know, Vancouver has no real economy and relatively few people work. Many people spend their days relaxing, smoking pot and generally doing nothing.

    Many people in Vancouver are filthy rich and drive around in their fancy cars. They have no use for transit. They never will. I live in Point Grey which is one of the most exclusive areas in Vancouver on the 99 B-Line route. I don’t know any of my neighbours who use transit. If the subway is built, they will never use it.

    I took transit daily for many years as a student. I backpacked and took transit in OZ and NZ for months. Both Melbourne and Adelaide have the most user friendly and efficient transit systems – slow trams with closely spaced stops making the commute faster than hub to hub transit with distantly spaced stops. There were few buses clogging up the roads in Melbourne and Adelaide, and I don’t recall ever taking a bus in Melbourne or Adelaide. Taking buses off the roads reduces road congestion, and really it is the trucks and buses clogging up the roads, not the cars.

    At the risk of coming across as anti-transit, I’m not, transit has a time and place in the lives of people and is suited for people when they are young, foot loose and carefree. As people age and have kids, they find that driving makes life easier and safer. In the same way that you outgrow playing in the sandbox, you outgrow transit – at least for the majority of people and the ones who never get off transit are usually stuck in a financial rut. Most middle aged adults have outgrown transit – the perverts, hassles and annoyances of transit. They have matured and have gone from being a transit using burden to society to a useful car driving member of society – I can hear the groans.

    Anyhow, you show us Rico how hub to hub transit here is working to reduce road congestion. Show us how transit increasing road congestion reduces road congestion. Explain how transit at 2 AM is “to reduce” road congestion rather than “to provide” transit for people who can’t drive when there is no road congestion, 80% to 100% of the time.

    You can’t. TransLink can’t. Hub to hub transit is a fraud patched together with polluting FTN diesel buses driving up the cost of transit, and the more hub to hub transit that we build – the worse it gets.

    .