Those Who Do Not Read History Are Doomed…………….

………….to make the same expensive mistakes.

In Toronto, metro madness is the order of the day, but the overlooked story is the Scarborough R/T, SkyTrain’s first cousin, being torn down because it will be soon “life expired”.

The current debate is whether to build a hugely expensive one stop subway to replace the SRT or a cheaper LRT that will carry more people.

This echo’s our SkyTrain’s dubious history.

The Expo Line was going to be light rail, until the then Social Credit Premier, Bill Bennett, made a private deal with Ontario Premier, “Bill Davis”, to purchase the unsalable ICTS light-metro, recently renamed ALRT.

The Millennium Line was going to be light rail as well, because of the poorly performing and expensive ALRT SkyTrain light metro, but then NDP Premier Glen Clark made a private deal with Bombardier which acquired ALRT’s technical patents and renamed ALM (then owned by Lavalin, which went bankrupt) system and rebranded it as ART.

Supposed to be able to carry 30,000 pphpd, the present SkyTrain can only manage 15,000 pphpd, as the stations are too small and a lack of electrical supply constricts capacity and about $3 billion needs to be spent to increase capacity.

American Engineer and transportation expert, Gerald Fox, easily shredded the Evergreen Lines business case.

The Evergreen Line Report made me curious as to how TransLink could justify continuing to expand SkyTrain, when the rest of the world is building LRT. So I went back and read the alleged Business Case (BC) report in a little more detail. I found several instances where the analysis had made assumptions that were inaccurate, or had been manipulated to make the case for SkyTrain. If the underlying assumptions are inaccurate, the conclusions may be so too.

And his summation devastating.

It is interesting how TransLink has used this cunning method of manipulating analysis to justify SkyTrain in corridor after corridor, and has thus succeeded in keeping its proprietary rail system expanding. In the US, all new transit projects that seek federal support are now subjected to scrutiny by a panel of transit peers, selected and monitored by the federal government, to ensure that projects are analyzed honestly, and the taxpayers interests are protected. No SkyTrain project has ever passed this scrutiny in the US.

Yet, in Vancouver it is business as usual, SkyTrain is planned and built in a vacuum, where unpleasant and invented facts keep SkyTrain planning going. Myopic bureaucrats, doing the bidding of dishonest politicians, keep SkyTrain going; and equally dishonest academics, afraid of being found out being the charlatans they are, keep SkyTrain going.

This is the sad legacy of those who refused to study transit history and have doomed Metro Vancouver in repeating the same expensive transit mistakes.

More reasons to stop the Scarborough subway

Four decades after the TTC, its riders and Toronto ratepayers got stuck with Bill Davisai??i??s RT white elephant ai??i?? the Scarborough RT ai??i?? professional transit planning advice is again ignored in favour of pandering to the Scarborough electorate.

 

The Scarborough RT pulls into the McCowan Station in 2017.

The Scarborough RT pulls into the McCowan Station in 2017.Ai??Ai??(Rene Johnston Toronto Star / Toronto Star)

By R. Michael WarrenOpinion
Wed., April 18, 2018

In 1981, as TTC chief general manager, I recommended the Kennedy subway station be connected to the Scarborough Town Centre by a streetcar line on a separate right-of-way. It was the best value-for-money option.

It would easily handle the 30 year projected ridership and provide excellent rider access. It cost a quarter of the other option: a Rapid Transit (RT) line using unproven ai???Intermediate Capacity Transit Systemai??? (ICTS) technology.

As is happening today, pure, parochial politics interfered.

It provided 20,000 riders per hour capacity. Today the RT line has only reached 5,000. It was supposed to be driverless. But drivers had to be added.

Four decades later, the TTC, its riders and Toronto ratepayers are stuck with Bill Davisai??i??s RT white elephant. Professional transit planning advice was ignored in favour of pandering to the Scarborough electorate.

Sound familiar?

There are many well known reasons why Mayor Toryai??i??s expensive, stubborn support for a one stop ai???vanityai??? subway connection will produce another transit white elephant.

A city-created Expert Panel found a modern LRT was superior to a subway extension on all counts: cost, transit service, economic development, sustainability and social impact.

Non partisan, Pembina Institute, concluded the LRT offered the best value for the taxpayer dollar. They forecast the original three stop subway would cost twice as much as a seven stop LRT ai??i?? and attract eight million less riders a year.

Metrolinx recommended replacing the aging Scarborough RT with a modern LRT. A subway is ai???not a worthwhile use of money.ai??? The province is willing to pay the $1.8 billion cost of an LRT.

The cost of Mayor Toryai??i??s one-stop subway extension could easily balloon from the approved $3.35 billion to beyond $4 billion. This will exceed the total government approved funding envelope of $3.56 billion. And thatai??i??s up from $2 billion only three years ago.

Just before the July 2016 vote a misleading TTC memo to council falsely escalated the cost of the LRT to $2.7 billion from $1.8 billion by pushing the completion date forward by an incorrect six years.

The subway option places a $910 million tax burden on the shoulders of Toronto ratepayers ai??i?? $745 million of this has to come from a property tax surcharge for the next 30 years.

TTC staff will have updated cost and ridership estimates by September. City staff says they canai??i??t release the estimates until January 2019 ai??i?? well after the November election. How convenient for the mayor and council.

Last week, Star reporter, Jennifer Pagliaro, uncovered further reasons to question the subway decision.

The July 2016 decision in favour of the one stop subway over an LRT was based on exaggerated design information by city staff, rushed input from consultants and on ai???hand-drawnai??? sketches.

City staff also ai???significantly down played the progress of the seven stop LRT alternative ai??i??ai??? The LRT was actually 30 per cent design complete at the time of the vote. Council was told it was only 5 to 10 per cent. Staff claimed the subway design was 5 per cent complete when it was closer to 2 per cent.

Tory has said, ai???There is no doubt the original decision to cancel a planned LRT in Scarborough and extend the subway instead was made without enough information or process ai??i??ai??? Tory is repeating the flawed process heai??i??s says heai??i??s against by ignoring the overwhelming case against a subway and refusing to initiate a value-for-money analysis of the two options,

When Tory talks about his SmartTrack plan heai??i??s committed to a cost-benefit analysis on each station. ai???The express purpose of what we are doing here is to move forward with a fact-based, transparent process.ai??? So why not on the Scarborough subway?

If Tory is really committed to transparent transit decision making he should demonstrate that obligation. If he has nothing to hide with respect to the Scarborough subwayai??i??s costs and ridership, he should direct city staff to report the latest cost estimates before the November election.

And he should call for a value-for-money analysis of the two options before further council action. Mr. Mayor, if you stand for transparency, act like it.

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

2 Responses to “Those Who Do Not Read History Are Doomed…………….”
  1. Shawn Bond says:

    If they started building with LRT then it would make sense to keep expanding with LRT.

    Vancouver made decision to start building with different technology, so makes sense to stay with same technology. Yes, the original line to surrey needs to be upgraded to increase capacity, there was plan to do this over 10 years ago. Vancouver only needs two more extensions, to UBC and Langley.

    Zwei replies: Er, no. SkyTrain is a dated proprietary railway and cost much more to build, maintain and operate than LRT, why keep building with it? You do not see any extension to the Wuppertal Shwebebahn monorail, yet it was the first all electric transit system in the world. SkyTrain uses dated tech and is considered obsolete.

    The Canada Line is not Innovia SkyTrain, rather it is a conventional metro built as a light metro and is not compatible in operation with the Expo and Millennium/Evergreen lines. in fact, the Canada Line has a lot more in common with LRT than with the Innovia SkyTrain.

    The region can easily build 4 km of LRT to every 1 km of SkyTrain. It just makes sense to change.

  2. Gold says:

    Vancouver used to have 6 lines of LRT before 1960. Interurban was a kind of LRT. It became obsolete when highway1 was built.

    Zwei replies: Actually they were not obsolete, rather BC Electric did not want to invest the money for renewals and upgrading. There was a plan to operate the PCC cars in coupled sets from Downtown Vancouver to New Westminster (and even talk extending some servcie to Surrey) but the union insisted on drivers and conductors on every tram and the project was deemed non viable.

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