Transit

The TTC's First Electric Bus Hits the Streets of Toronto

As the Chair of the Toronto Transit Commission, I was pleased to be joined by Mayor John Tory and Marco Mendicino, MP for Eglinton-Lawrence to launch the TTC's first battery-electric bus (eBus).
 
This eBus hit the streets of Toronto after undergoing a series of tests since April. It can be spotted along the 35 Jane route from Jane Station (Line 2) to Pioneer Village Station (Line 1) with a special exterior wrap. The TTC's fleet now contains clean-diesel, hybrid-electric, and battery-electric buses.
 
While the TTC was already an environmentally-friendly way to travel around the city, the eBus takes it one step further. These eBuses are considered to be truly green as they operate on battery power, have zero tailpipe emissions, and are charged with electricity that is 100% nuclear and emissions-free.
 
This is an exciting milestone for the TTC as part of its green initiatives. By the first quarter of 2020, Toronto will have 60 new eBuses and one of the largest electric mini-fleets in North America. As TTC Chair, I am proud that the TTC is becoming an industry leader.
 
The new eBuses are just one part of the TTC's commitment to becoming 100% emissions-free by 2040. For more information on how we are working to modernize service, innovate for the long term, and plan for climate change, please visit the TTC's website.

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TTC Capital Investment Plan (CIP)

With over 104 cranes in the sky, Toronto is now the fastest growing city in North America. Our population is projected to rise from 2.93 million in 2017 to 3.91 million in 2041, an increase of 33.5 percent. As the third largest transit system in North America, one of the most significant challenges for the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) is maintaining and improving our network to meet future demand.
 
This winter, the TTC published the 15-year Capital Investment Plan (CIP), 2019-2033. The CIP is the first-ever comprehensive report on the various initiatives required to maintain and improve our existing transit network.
 
The numbers are staggering. Over the next 15 years, the TTC will require $33.5 billion in capital investment to improve capacity and keep the system in a state of good repair. Of the investment required, $23.7 billion is currently unfunded. As the new TTC Chair, I've directed TTC staff to continue to provide honest assessments of our capital needs and financial challenges going forward.  
 
The TTC's major capital challenges were exacerbated by the Province's sudden cancellation of planned capital funding over the next ten years earlier this spring. Under the previous government, the Provincial Gas Tax contribution to Toronto was set to increase on a yearly basis. Despite a campaign promise to the contrary, the Province suddenly cancelled the planned increase last month. As a result, the TTC will lose $1.1 billion over the next ten years.  
 
At the April meeting of City Council, I moved a motion asking the Province to restore this critical funding. The TTC had already budgeted $585 million for major capital projects including the Line 2 subway car fleet overhaul, bus improvements, and track upgrades.
 
The TTC needs a plan for transit expansion, but more importantly, we need a plan to maintain and improve our existing network to serve Torontonians for decades to come.

Transit Expansion in Toronto

In March, the City Manager released a comprehensive update on transit expansion planning in Toronto. This report makes it clear that the TTC and City have made significant progress on our planned transit expansion projects to-date.

I’ve been pushing to prioritize and accelerate the construction of the Relief Line for the past eight years both as the Councillor for Don Valley West and the new TTC Chair. The Yonge Line is one of the busiest transit lines in North America, with an average of 730,000 riders every weekday. The report confirms that the Relief Line remains our top transit priority and includes a recommendation allocating federal funding available through the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund to the project.

Without any significant changes, shovels could be in the ground to construct the Relief Line as early as next year. In February, I was joined by the Mayor to announce a new plan to fast-track construction by 2-3 years. TTC staff are making significant progress on the detailed design and will be prepared to proceed with procurement shortly.

The transit report identifies three other major projects ready to move to procurement and construction within the next year: the SmartTrack Stations Program, Exhibition Loop Streetcar Connection and Line 2 East Extension. The expansion of Bloor-Yonge Station will also be accelerated to accommodate growing ridership on Line 1.

On April 10, the Province announced an ambitious transit network plan building on the priority projects identified by the City. While we welcome the additional funding committed to Toronto’s subway system, we still have many questions about the costs, plans, and timelines for the proposed projects. City staff are beginning to assess the changes and will be reporting back to City Council with their findings.

An Update on Metrolinx’s Eglinton Crosstown Project

As you may know, Metrolinx is an agency of the Government of Ontario currently overseeing construction of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. Crosslinx is an amalgamated group of the various contractors and subcontractors actually delivering the construction work.

Bayview

After numerous meetings with Metrolinx, Crosslinx, and the Provincial government about the traffic and safety impacts of the Bayview and Eglinton intersection closure, I am pleased to advise that this intersection will re-open later this spring.

Mount Pleasant

Crosslinx is currently in the process of installing tent structures to cover their shallow excavation at the future Mount Pleasant Station. Three tents will be used to cover the work area for a period of 4 months. The entire structure will fit within the limits of their current construction site and I’ve been assured that there will be no impacts to motorists or pedestrians.

Leslie

Last month, Metrolinx held a public meeting to present their traffic plan for Leslie and Eglinton that will require implementing northbound turn restrictions from Eglinton to Leslie for eight weeks beginning in July.

As the Crosstown project continues, I will continue to ensure that concerns I hear from residents are communicated directly to senior staff at Metrolinx.

If you are interested, you can register to receive updates from Metrolinx directly here: http://www.thecrosstown.ca/newsmedia/whats-new/construction-updates. You can also call the East Crosstown Community Office at 416-482-7411 or visit 660 Eglinton Avenue East. I would also encourage you to contact your local Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) with any questions or concerns.

TTC Fare Evasion

As a regular transit user, I know how frustrating fare evasion is for the residents of Toronto who consistently pay to travel on the TTC. Every dollar lost through fare evasion is one less dollar available for much-needed service improvements.  
 
In February, the City's Auditor General released a comprehensive report assessing the cost of TTC fare evasion. Based on an extensive investigation, the Auditor General estimates that the current fare evasion rate is about 5.4%, meaning that the TTC lost close to $64.1 million in passenger revenue in 2018. The highest rate of fare evasion was identified on the streetcar network, where it is estimated that 1/10 passengers do not pay their fares.
 
The recommendations included in the report will guide the TTC's action plan moving forward as we approach full transition to the PRESTO farecard system. This year, the TTC is planning to further enhance the existing fare inspection.Currently, the TTC is in the process of rolling out new technologies to discourage fare evasion across the network.
 
Despite the difficult transition to the new system, PRESTO will provide the TTC with an opportunity to track fare evasion more consistently and accurately than ever before. For the first time, the TTC will have the ability to cross-reference PRESTO ridership data with the number of "boardings" registered by automatic passenger count technologies on buses and streetcars. As I always say, you cannot manage what you cannot measure. This valuable data will give us a better picture of ridership and allow us to identify priority routes. 
 
I hear from residents across Toronto concerned about PRESTO equipment that seems to always be malfunctioning or out of service. At the February TTC Board Meeting, I moved a motion reaffirming the Board's commitment to ensuring that Metrolinx delivers the agreed-upon service levels for fare collection equipment.
 
Throughout her review, the Auditor General observed fraudulent usage and distribution of the Child PRESTO cards. In response to these findings, I moved motions to request that Metrolinx implement visible or audible differentiators for all discounted fare categories. I was very concerned by the high instance of fraud and will be investigating this issue closely in the coming months.

As the new TTC Chair, I look forward to implementing vital revenue protection initiatives and continuing the Auditor General's important work to identify gaps in the TTC's fare collection system.

Relief 'en route' at Bayview and Eglinton

After numerous conversations with Metrolinx and Crosslinx regarding the traffic and safety implications of the current configuration of the Bayview and Eglinton intersection, I am pleased to advise that this intersection will re-open later this spring and return to its previous configuration.
 
In other Crosstown-related news, Crosslinx is in the process of installing tent structures to cover their shallow excavation at Mount Pleasant station site near Mount Pleasant and Eglinton. Crosslinx will require 3 tents to cover their work area for a period of 4 months. The entire structure will fit within the limits of their current construction site, without having to change the traffic set up. Water runoff will be contained within the site as the tents will not go past any construction fences. I have been assured that there will be no impacts to motorists or pedestrians.

Finally, Metrolinx will be holding a public meeting this Thursday, April 4 regarding plans for construction at Leslie and Eglinton. Please find more details on the meeting below:

Date: Thursday, April 4, 2019
Time: 7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Location: Japanese-Canadian Cultural Centre (6 Garamond Ct.)
 
As the Crosstown project continues, I will maintain my efforts to ensure that concerns I hear from residents about aspects of the project are communicated directly to senior staff at Metrolinx.
 
If you are looking to receive updates and information from Metrolinx directly, you can sign up for their e-news distribution list here: http://www.thecrosstown.ca/news-media/whats-new/construction-updates. You can also call the East Crosstown Community Office at 416-482-7411, or visit in person at 660 Eglinton Avenue East (at the Northeast corner of Bayview and Eglinton).

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Downtown Relief Line

I use public transit every day to get to and from City Hall so I know first-hand the frustration caused by the significant capacity and reliability issues on Line 1. This is why I have been a strong advocate for fast-tracking the Downtown Relief Line. In Don Valley West, this project will deliver substantial improvements for residents who use one of the three transit stops in Ward 15 to get around our city.
 
Earlier this month, I was pleased to make an announcement about the status of this vital project. The TTC, supported by the City of Toronto, is taking decisive action to deliver the relief line 2-3 years earlier than initially planned. This means that the project will be finalized in 2028/2029, rather than the original completion date of 2031. I will continue to advocate for opportunities to reduce this timeline further if possible.
 
The plan to expedite this work includes:

  • Accelerating design work to ensure the project proceeds on pace;

  • Speeding up property acquisitions along the route;

  • Moving ahead with utility locates; and

  • Acquiring the technical equipment needed for construction.

These preparations will be completed in a parallel manner rather than in sequence. This plan, which has been allocated an additional $162 million in this year's TTC budget, will allow us to get shovels in the ground as soon as possible.

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