STANDING COMMITTEE ON GENERAL GOVERNMENT
COMITÉ PERMANENT DES AFFAIRES GOUVERNEMENTALES
Monday 4 June 2012 Lundi 4 juin 2012
The committee met at 1403 in room 228.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Good afternoon, folks. Welcome to the Standing Committee on General Government, here today to consider a motion that was put forward from the Conservative caucus, a traffic congestion study.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Our first presentation: Bruce McCuaig, Judy Pfeifer. Good afternoon. Welcome. As you’re aware with regard to your presentation, you have 20 minutes for your presentation. Time that you do not use will be divided among members to ask questions, but you have the 20 minutes and then there will be 20 minutes for questions among members of the committee. So you can simply state your name and you can start when you’re ready.
Mr. Bruce McCuaig: Very good. Thank you very much and thank you for the invitation to appear before you today. My name is Bruce McCuaig. I’m president and CEO of Metrolinx. I’m joined on my right by Judy Pfeifer, who is the vice-president of strategic communications.
Thank you very much for this interest in something that I believe is so critical to the future of the people of the greater Toronto and Hamilton area, that relates to our economic competitiveness, quality of life and the environment. There’s no question that we do have a challenge and a problem here in this region, and that problem is called congestion. But we also have a solution and that solution is called the Big Move, the regional transportation plan for the greater Toronto and Hamilton area. In the next few minutes, I just want to give you a very brief overview of Metrolinx, the congestion challenge, the Big Move and steps that we’re taking through the investment strategy to move in that direction. There is a slide presentation that’s in front of you and I’ll be following through on that for, ease of following from your perspective.
On slide two, Metrolinx is a relatively young agency. It was created in 2006. It’s important that our mandate area encompasses the greater Toronto and Hamilton area, which we consider to be an integrated city region from an economic perspective. We have basically three objects or mandate areas: We plan for the future; our objective is to deliver projects on time and on budget; and we integrate transit and transportation across the region, which we believe is key to making sure that we have a modern and efficient transportation system for this region.
On slide number three, you’ll see that we have three operating divisions at Metrolinx. People are very familiar with the ubiquitous green and white GO Transit system, but we also have the Presto integrated fare card and air-rail link as our two newest operating divisions.
Very briefly, on slide number four on GO Transit, it has just recently celebrated, in the last couple of weeks, its 45th year of operation. What was started as a small pilot project carrying a few thousand passengers on a daily basis has now grown to a region-wide system that carries about 216,000 passengers each and every day across a fairly comprehensive rail and bus network that is one of the largest commuter systems in North America. GO Transit merged with Metrolinx in 2009, and we look at ourselves as the Metrolinx organization being responsible for policy, planning, the long-term vision of where we’re moving towards; and GO Transit as one of our key instruments or mechanisms in order to deliver on that vision for the future.
On slide number five, just some metrics about GO Transit. We have 61 million riders on an annual basis now. We are growing at about a rate of 7% to 8% on an annual basis. We do recover about 80% of our operating costs from the fare box, which is among the highest in North America. And we’ve grown by a significant margin over the past five years: 21%. We’re very proud of the fact that GO Transit is operating at 94% on-time performance. That’s part of what we’ve called our passenger charter, our promises that we’ve made to our customers about issues that are important to them: on-time performance, comfort, safety, satisfaction. We’ve taken the unique step of posting our promises and our commitments on our website and reporting back to our customers on a real-time basis.
In the past year—just to give you a sense of some of the achievements and the outcomes at GO Transit—we’ve extended service to Kitchener. We have a new station in Barrie. We’ve opened up 4,500 new parking spots. We’re piloting weekend service to Barrie. We have new trains on the Milton corridor. We’ve just ordered 60 new cab cars, bi-level coaches, for the rail system. We’ve implemented Presto on the bus and rail network. We’ve launched the GO mobile application, which provides real-time information to about 120,000 of our customers. We’ve launched the award-winning Let GO Know survey tool so that our customers can provide real-time feedback to the organization.
On slide number six, our second operating division is the air-rail link. Our target is to launch, in early 2015, new service from Union to Pearson Airport, with 25–minute service door to door and with stops at Dundas West and Weston. The vehicles have been ordered, the construction is under way, and we’re moving towards delivery of this project on time and on-budget.
On slide number seven, there are currently about five million people who travel on an annual basis from the downtown area to Pearson, and right now they have no alternative but essentially to get in their car, a taxi or a limousine. We’re projecting that, in the first year alone, we’ll be taking approximately 1.2 million vehicles off our roads through this new service. Again, our objective is to be ready in time for the Pan Am/Parapan Games in 2015.
On slides eight and nine, there’s a little bit of information on the Presto fare card, a smart card system that enables transit riders across the greater Toronto and Hamilton area to move within and between transit systems using one single card. This is an important part of our vision, part of our legislative mandate to move towards a more integrated delivery of regional and local transit services. We’re now live across the GO Transit system on both the rail and bus network, on seven municipal bus systems across the greater Toronto and Hamilton area and at 14 subway stations.
We are just gearing up now to roll out across OC Transpo in Ottawa, and we expect to be fully deployed in the TTC system in 2015. Currently, we have 180,000 customers who carry Presto in their purses and wallets. We anticipate we’ll have 400,000 customers by the end of the year, growing to four million to six million customers once we’ve fully deployed in 2015. Our customers tell us that they love Presto. It’s simple, easy to use, no lineups, no worry about cash or transfers, and they can register their cards to protect against loss or theft. Those are their words, not our words.
The next few slides talk about some of our congestion challenges in the region. Going to slide number 11, you can see the geography that we deal with at Metrolinx: a highly complex geographic and governance environment with multiple levels of government and multiple transit authorities. It’s what I would position as one of Canada’s three global cities—Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. The issues that we’re facing are different than the kinds of issues we see in other urban centres because of the size, the complexity and the multiple jurisdictions that you need to manage and deal with as you deliver on transit and transportation projects.
On the following two slides, you see the snapshot of the congestion in 2001 and what our models tell us it will look like in 2031. In 2001, we estimated that congestion cost the economy about $6 billion on an annual basis, and that’s money to individuals and business, with impacts on time and reliability. The average commute time is approximately 82 minutes to and from your work on a daily basis.
On the following slide, in 2031, you see a business-as-usual forecast for the future, where we have 2.6 million people moving to the region, as well as seven million more trips and, again, in a business-as-usual model, that 82-minute average commute time would grow to about 109 minutes. Now, we know that’s not going to happen and one of the reasons it’s not going to happen is because we do have what we believe is an effective solution to our congestion challenges, and that’s the Big Move that is focused on how we accommodate that 2.6 million people, as well as actually reducing our average commute times to what I said was 82 minutes currently down to about 77 minutes.
Our solution is transforming the transportation system in the region through the Big Move. This is a plan that was endorsed by the Metrolinx board of directors, the province and municipalities in 2008, and we’re moving on its implementation now. It’s a 25-year integrated transportation plan that deals with all modes of transport across the region.
Our objective is to double the transit mode share, triple the length of rapid transit, putting transit within two kilometres of 75% of the population, but also dealing with other forms of transportation like active transportation, the regional highway and road system and also not just looking at the movement of people, but also considering the movement of goods, because goods movement is a significant part of the importance of our regional transportation system. It’s also connected to land use in the context of the growth plan for the greater Golden Horseshoe, as well as the greenbelt plan for this region.
On the following slide, you’ll see a schematic of what our current system looks like today. I’m going to, from a transportation planning perspective, call this a radial system. It’s very effective. It’s designed to carry people from the outlying areas to downtown Toronto. It really is quite efficient, actually, and effective in carrying a large number of people from the outer suburban regions into Toronto downtown. But what it doesn’t do is effectively connect people to the other growth nodes that are occurring across the greater Toronto and Hamilton area. If we flip over to the 2031 picture, in essence, the outcome of the Big Move is to put in place a grid of north-south and east-west rapid transit lines that connect the 51 nodes and centres that have been identified across the region through the growth plan, through the municipal official plans. When I say “rapid transit,” I essentially mean subway, heavy rail, bus rapid transit, light rail transit, transit that is on a dedicated right-of-way.
On slide 19 you’ll see that we’ve already started on the implementation of this program. We have an unprecedented amount of investment under way, with about $16 billion in investment. It really is the largest program that we’ve had in a generation. I won’t go through all those projects in their totality, other than to say that these will have a significant positive benefit for the people who live and work in this region as we move to complete these projects.
We also have a variety of smaller projects under way, things that we’ve called quick wins, on slide 20, that really are focused on local transit, transit procurement in terms of making our joint efforts more efficient across the transit operators, things like Smart Commute and carpooling.
Slide 21 has an example of one of our larger projects. It’s our partnership with York region on the York Viva rapidways program. Bus rapid transit has the benefit in that you can phase in the delivery over time, and the first elements of this system are going into service in 2014, with completion in 2019. It’s a $1.4-billion program, and I’m pleased to say, again, that we are on time and on budget.
The next two slides outline some of the projects that are under way in the city of Toronto, or planned in the city of Toronto. On the map you can see that there are essentially four projects—and I’m going to really focus in on the crosstown project, which is the orange line that cuts across the middle of the page, which is under construction as we speak now, with the launch shaft being built at Eglinton and Black Creek. We are going to be taking delivery of tunnel-boring machines this summer and we will be starting the first tunnel drive this fall for that critical east-west line.
On slide 23 you can see the program that was endorsed at the Metrolinx board in April and how this is built in as well—consideration for the use of alternative financing and procurement in the delivery of these projects.
Union Station is another key hub. It’s the largest passenger terminal that we have in Canada, let alone this region, and we have the atrium and the rail shed under construction as we speak. The atrium will be completed in 2015 and is part of a larger program to refurbish Union Station. If you’ve been down to Union Station recently, you know it’s under complete construction between the subway station, the GO concourses and the train shed itself. So it’s going to be, over the next few years, a significantly different place.
On slide 25, I just really wanted to emphasize the scale of the amount of work that we have under way in the region right now with a number of programs and the progress we’re making in the delivery of transit and transportation around the greater Toronto and Hamilton area. Obviously the size of the font was intended to represent the size of the project. But we have about 70%, for example, of the GO Transit network under construction as this point in time.
So building all this, on slide 27, creates jobs. It creates employment income. It creates GDP growth. It generates new tax revenues. One of the important things about investing in transit and transportation is that the majority of the investment remains right here in the province of Ontario; about 71% of the work is translated into work here in this province.
In terms of personal benefits, on slide 29, as we move to implement the Big Move, among the personal benefits that families and individuals will see is that we can again reduce commute times by up to 32 minutes of what it would have been if we went with the business-as-usual approach. That of course means more time for people with their families. We also think it’s important to point out that if we can help a family, a household, defer the purchase of another vehicle, that’s the equivalent of putting about another $9,000 every year into their family household budget on a net basis, which again we think is an important benefit.
From an environmental perspective, on slide 31, clearly transit plays a significant role on improving air quality, and the implementation of the Big Move will, for example, reduce greenhouse gas emissions in this region by about 40%.
How do we get there is the key point. On slide 33, I would suggest that we get there by making an integrated approach to transportation a priority for business and government. We need to explain to the communities and the citizens why transportation is so important to their collective future, and find new and innovative ways to raise dedicated and sustainable funds. I’ll talk a little bit more about that over the next few slides.
On slide 35, we have an interesting provision in our legislative framework that drives us to deliver to the Minister of Transportation and the heads of council of all the municipalities, by June 1, 2013, an investment strategy which includes proposals for revenue-generating tools intended to support the implementation of the transportation plan. So we have a legislative obligation to prepare that document, and that’s what we’ve been focusing our attention on now and will be spending a considerable amount of time on over the coming months to deliver.
On slide 36, three challenges I’d like to briefly talk about are: How do you actually build a compelling package of initiatives for the community, for individuals and for families; how do you determine the actual tools; and, how do you build public support?
On that first piece, about building that compelling package of initiatives, on slide 37, we think it’s important that we demonstrate benefits across the entire region, that we look at deliverables not just in the long term but also in the short and medium term; that we think about all modes of transportation. It’s just not transit. It also has to be roads. It also has to be active transportation. It also has to be goods movement. We need to think about the delivery schedule and accountability and reporting back to the public. We can’t just focus on new infrastructure; we also have to think about the quality of the existing system, improve the customer experience and make our decisions on an evidence-based approach.
On slide 38 are examples of potential projects that I’ve taken from the Big Move. So these aren’t projects that I’ve made up, these are projects that have gone through a planning process, have gone through a public engagement process, have gone through an approval process, and these are the kinds of projects where an investment strategy would support their implementation over the next years. Again, you can see that we’ve tried to identify projects from across the region that meet some of those criteria that I just outlined a few moments ago.
In terms of determining the tools, on slide 39, we need to be thinking about a regional approach. I believe that we’ve outgrown our ability to solve our transportation challenges municipality by municipality. We need to look at how the systems all work together and how we can work together in terms of the tools, their size, their scale, the issues related to their implementation, the impact on transportation demand, the impact on the economy and quality of life more generally.
We’ve looked around the world, on slide 41, at different approaches. The bottom line is that there’s no perfect business case out there in any of the centres that we’ve looked at. They’ve developed their plans based on history, tradition and culture. I guess the other message is that we are not alone, that many urban regions are facing the kinds of challenges that we’re facing in terms of building a sustainable transportation system.
On slide 42, in terms of building public support, some of the things that we think are key to success are building an awareness and making it personal to citizens in terms of what’s in it for them, their family and for their neighbourhood; making sure that we’re building partnerships with champions in the business community as well as local communities, not just in Toronto but across the entire region.
In closing, I’d like to suggest that perhaps there’s no other investment that can do as much to protect or enhance our competitiveness as a region, and our quality of life as a region, as the investment and the efforts that we make in regional transportation. This is something that we’re very much focused on at Metrolinx. The public has said that they want to see some significant outcomes and benefits, and we’re driving to see if we can make that happen.
Thank you very much for your attention.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Thank you very much for your presentation.
We’ll move to questions. Mr. O’Toole, we’ve got about six or seven minutes each.
Mr. John O’Toole: Thank you very much, Mr. McCuaig. I’ll just start by saying I think the current organization of Metrolinx and the governance model is a vast improvement, allowing you to make decisions without having to satisfy the TTC all the time in every decision.
I am a user of Presto every day. I use transit; I use the GO train and your system. I would say it is really quite reliable and affordable. I have a few questions on the efficiencies of Presto.
I would also say that from our premise, these special hearings on this congestion issue are a really good starting place in terms of putting some things on the table, and yours are long-range. I looked at the Big Move some time ago when it was first announced. I think you have to have a vision; I understand that. When I think of a vision, I think of the economy where we currently are. I’m sort of entrenched in the cement that we’re stuck in at the moment. It’s $5 billion a year for five years; that’s basically the ask. But $5 billion when we can’t balance our budget is an important—this isn’t your fault, by the way; it’s Premier McGuinty’s fault. I need that to be on the table. When we make these promises, you need some innovative solutions, and I get that.
I have been here 17 years, and I found that it was just impossible to drive. It was four hours a day, two hours each way, for me, and probably some part of that for Joe Dickson and others from Durham. So I looked at it—and I think you’ve made service improvements.
On the politics of it, though, they’ve promised now, for two elections, to take the GO train to Bowmanville. It’s not in your capital plan anywhere. It’s on some picture here, but that’s not the money. I question, Durham region—I’ll put this on the record too: I see Cliff Curtis here, from the region of Durham. I’m not insensitive to that, but I think there’s a time lag here in taking the GO train to the north side of the 401. It’s a complete waste of time. I’ve said this in these PICs and all this stuff; now it’s my time to respond to what you’ve given us. All the traffic that’s stuck in the Oshawa yard is from Port Hope and Cobourg and Peterborough. You should take it further east. Take it to Cobourg or Port Hope. That’s where it should go. Orient all the transit north and south—the bus, the flexible transit option.
I’m not against transit. I think it’s an excuse—that infrastructure, to take it across to the CP track on the north side, it’s somebody’s pipe dream. I have no idea who these people are dealing with, but the reality is, when they move it to the location where it’s scheduled to go in Oshawa, there will be nothing but congestion. You can’t get in or out of the parking lot now during bus time, even at Whitby now. That’s all people moving west to catch the other train, the later train or whatever it is. I think that’s important.
Now, on Presto, and your couple-of-minute response that I’ll leave you: The Presto card is a fully integrated card with Ottawa and with other jurisdictional areas—and I’ll tell you why. It should actually be a SIM card. When I walk by with my BlackBerry—that’s how this stuff’s going to work in the future. These extra cards—they’re fun; I hope they’re translatable into the new SIM-card-friendly solution.
I would also ask, in one part of this presentation, to acknowledge the studies that I’ve seen. As I’ve said, the commute time from where I live, according to this report, from Oshawa, is 111 minutes. We’re almost last. We’re near Saskatchewan in terms of the ranking in this report. I see no relief, absolutely no relief, in anything you have said today or the pictures you’ve shown me.
Could I have more time? Because this is impossible.
The reason I say this is because—
Mr. John O’Toole: No, no, lookit, it’s fine. He gets all the time; he can talk all afternoon.
Here’s the deal: When I took courses in geography and planning, it was called Christaller’s central-place theory, about transit works where there’s density. I have GO buses going by sheep farms in my riding, so that the trip is an hour. Do you understand? It’s because they don’t get any of the gas money unless they have transit. You need transit where there’s density. I can’t get to the GO train from where I live without my car, and you’re planning on taking away my commuter car here, saving me $9,000 a year. That’s what you say in one of your slides: It saves the average family $9,000 by ditching their car.
There’s so much going on here. Transit is good; I use it. Transit works where there’s density. Work on the density part of it, where there’s three million people sharing the road and the rest of it.
All of this stuff here—there’s one line in here roughly that I’ve seen on your part on surface transit, flexible transit, which is the roads. I don’t think I’ve used all the time, but I’ll give you a couple of minutes. You can respond if you wish. I’d like to have a direct link with you. In fact, I’d like to be on the Metrolinx board. The most important thing we can do for our economy is to get it right and try to satisfy all the people.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Thanks, Mr. O’Toole. He’s got 30 seconds, if he wants it.
Mr. John O’Toole: I’m going to give him my cellphone number so he can call me.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Mr. McCuaig, do you want to respond very briefly? If they want to keep talking, you’re not going to have time to respond. There’s about 30 seconds that you’ve got.
Mr. Bruce McCuaig: Very quickly, I’m glad that you’re satisfied with the reliability of the system. To be clear, our plan is a 25-year plan at $50 billion, so about $2 billion a year. The plan that we’re developing for Ottawa for Presto: It will be an integrated card. We are looking at mobile payments, which would mean that your SIM-enabled mobile device would be able to be a payment vehicle, as well as debit and credit cards.
We are looking at a variety of initiatives for Durham region, including, as you said, the GO train extension to Bowmanville, moving to more two-way, all-day service, as well as supporting the Durham bus rapid transit system.
I agree that density is key to serving a more efficient and effective transportation system. We’re not asking you to give up your car; we’re just suggesting that we need to give people more choices.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Thank you very much. NDP caucus: Go ahead.
Mr. Jonah Schein: I’m going to be sharing my time with Mr. Marchese today, but Mr. McCuaig, thank you for coming in.
I represent the riding of Davenport in Toronto, and it sits right next to the air-rail link, so I’ve got some questions about that project. I’m very happy that Metrolinx has supported electrification, that you’ve expressed your support for that. But my community really wants to know if there’s a timeline for when that’s going to happen. When I met with Metrolinx recently and they discussed the Pan Am Games as a deadline, they suggested that we’ve been trying to get electrification on GO service for almost 40 years, and that having a deadline was a really important way to actually make things happen. So that’s my first question: Is there a deadline target for electrification?
Mr. Bruce McCuaig: Right. Thank you for that. The board did support the electrification of the GO Lakeshore and Georgetown corridors, which include the air-rail link, and the air-rail link was identified as the first priority for the electrification of the system. We have received endorsement from the province to launch the planning, design and environmental assessment work for that electrification of the air-rail link. We are targeting the completion of the environmental work in 2014 or thereabouts, with the earliest stage for electrification, subject to funding decisions and approval of the environmental work, in the 2017-18 horizon.
At the same time, we have been given a mandate to deliver the air-rail link for the Pan Am Games, so we’re moving towards the delivery of that project for 2015.
Mr. Jonah Schein: To follow up on that, I have some more questions about this project—just to put some urgency behind it. To me, it seems like the Pan Am Games, while really important, is perhaps a bit of a false deadline to put in place, because we know that this is going to cost more to build this rail first using diesel trains and then to go electric, and in the meantime it’s going to have real health implications for folks in our community.
I have a question, though, about a couple of things. One is a question about the 1.2 million riders that you project. I’m wondering if you have a figure now on how much that service is going to cost riders. Do we know how much the fare is?
I want to ask my follow-up as well right now, which is that we’ve had a debate in this city about transit in Toronto and we’ve had huge support for electrification of this line. But we’ve also had support from Conservatives in the Legislature about trying to put subways in places where there’s no traffic. City council in Toronto supported the idea of building the air-rail link as sort of a downtown relief line on the west end. I was wondering if you’ve had any time to look at that as an option and what that would mean for the city in terms of relief of congestion.
Mr. Bruce McCuaig: In terms of the cost model, the fare model for the air-rail link, we have not yet come to a determination on what the fare is going to be. We’re going to be operating and opening the system in 2015, so I would anticipate we’ll be finalizing the fare structure in 2014 or thereabouts.
In terms of looking at the role of the air-rail link in the broader transit system, we have to remember that, first of all, it’s sharing the corridor with GO Transit, and that GO Transit rail, which we’re investing in significantly in the Georgetown corridor so that we can improve the level of service, can provide basically the transit and commuter service along that corridor, and that the air-rail link is more focused on the movement of people to and from the airport from downtown as well as the intermittent stations. So we have to look at how the overall transportation system is supposed to work together and we see the air-rail link having one function and the Georgetown GO services having a broader transit and transportation function.
Mr. Jonah Schein: I guess my concern, though, is that if we don’t know the fare cost, how do we know that we’re going to be able to fill those trains from the airport? If that fare is comparable to a taxi ride or sharing a taxi, then why wouldn’t people just get in a taxi and get a direct route home? So I don’t know how we project those numbers at this point.
Mr. Bruce McCuaig: Right. I understand the question and the comment, and we will be working very carefully to make sure that we are going to be filling those cars and we are going to be removing about 5,000 vehicles per day from our road system. Our modelling would suggest, with that objective, we’re actually going to be reducing air quality emissions in the regional airshed through the air-rail link.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: Mr. McCuaig, I have a quick question—and welcome, and to you, Ms. Pfeifer.
The report is very rosy, until it gets to page 33, when we talk about finding new and innovative ways to raise dedicated and sustainable funds, because that’s where your problem lies, right? In terms of what you’re going to be able to do in the next 20 or 30 years, it’s all about where the money’s going to come from. There have been many studies by Pembina and the board of trade has raised questions. You’re familiar with this field, because you’ve obviously checked it out across the globe in terms of what other people are doing.
What are the easiest things that you could propose right now that we should be doing? There’s some other complicated stuff the government’s going to be very uneasy about, but surely you must have some easy suggestions that we could start with by way of how we raise money to be able to make some of the projects that you talked about come to reality.
Mr. Bruce McCuaig: I think our first step is actually engaging with the public about what is going on in other jurisdictions, what are the kinds of projects that could be funded, what are the tools that could be used. I think it’s actually premature for me to be saying X, Y and Z are the actual tools, because we actually should be taking that out to the public for a broader conversation. We’re planning to do that in the fall, and that leads into the schedule that we have to deliver our advice to the province and the municipalities by June 2013.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: I see. So the only time you’re going to be able to tell us the revenue tools is by 2013?
Mr. Bruce McCuaig: No. We expect, when we’re out engaging with the public in the fall, that we’re going to be reporting on the work that we’ve done, what we have learned and what we think are the potential approaches that we could apply here—
Mr. Rosario Marchese: And that’s your engagement with the public in terms of the revenue tools? Is that it?
Mr. Bruce McCuaig: Absolutely.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): That’s time. Thanks, gentlemen.
Liberal caucus, questions? Mr. Dhillon, go ahead.
Mr. Vic Dhillon: Thank you very much, Mr. McCuaig, for your presentation. My question is about light rail transit. We know public transit reduces traffic congestion and light rail is meant to do just that. Some on the other side think that the light rail will take up a dedicated car lane and that the impact will be the exact opposite. Could you give us an accurate description as to how light rail transit works?
Mr. Bruce McCuaig: Absolutely. First of all, I think we need to distinguish between light rail transit and streetcars. I think they’re very different technologies. Our experience with streetcars here in the Toronto context shows them operating basically in mixed traffic, stopped behind cars turning left and having people crossing the road to go out and board and unload from the streetcars. LRT is going to be different. It’s on a dedicated right-of-way. There are signals where passengers move on and off the system. They’re a higher capacity, basically double or thereabout capacity over the streetcars, in terms of the number of people they carry. The average speed is more like a subway average speed, particularly when they’re fully grade-separated, but much faster than our streetcars here in the Toronto context. The reliability of the trip is much better, as well, because they’re on a dedicated right-of-way.
In terms of road space, our objective is to minimize the reduction of road space for other road users. For example, on the Finch corridor—that is one of the projects—in essence, we can provide the right-of-way in the median for the LRT without having to take away any of the road space available for other road users because of the size of the right-of-way that’s in that corridor.
Mr. Vic Dhillon: Now, with respect to GO Transit, there has been a considerable amount of investment made over the past couple of years. Would you know, approximately, how much the ridership has increased over the last, say, 10 or 11 years and what it means in terms of the number of cars that would be off our roads?
Mr. Bruce McCuaig: Absolutely. I mentioned in my presentation that ridership over the past five years, if I can use that figure, has grown by 21%. Over the past year, it has grown between 7% and 8%. We’re finding that the GO Transit service is becoming more and more attractive to more users. A single, 12-car, bi-level rail coach for GO Transit carries up to about 2,000-odd people. That removes about 1,600 cars from our road—that single train alone. When you think about employment growth in downtown Toronto over the past generation, as it has grown, there has been no increase in carrying people by car; it has basically all been carried by the GO train and the TTC. It’s a significant contribution, and it eliminates the need to be building more road space.
Mr. Vic Dhillon: Thank you.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Thank you very much. That’s time for your presentation. We appreciate you coming in today.
Mr. Bruce McCuaig: Thank you very much for your time.
REGIONAL MUNICIPALITY OF DURHAM
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Next presentation: region of Durham. Good afternoon. Welcome to the Standing Committee on General Government. As you’re aware, you have 15 minutes for your presentation. There will be 10 minutes for questions from members. If you don’t use any of that time, we’ll simply divide the time up for questions. If you want to state your name for the purposes of our recording Hansard, and you can begin your presentation when you’re ready.
Mr. Clifford Curtis: Certainly. I’m Clifford Curtis. I’m the commissioner of works for Durham region. With me is Susan Siopis. She’s director of transportation and field services for Durham region.
I would like to thank you for the opportunity to come and present. We immediately accepted this invitation because it’s an overwhelming problem in Durham region. This has consistently been the number one issue when we survey our ratepayers as to what their concerns are. If you follow through on the slides, we’ll catch up.
Just a little bit of background on Durham region: Durham region is the largest geographic region in the GTHA. It’s larger than Hamilton and Halton, in terms of population, but approximately 80% of our geographic area falls within the greenbelt. We have a current population of about 633,000. Current employment in Durham is about 225,000.
For the 2031 growth forecast in Durham, we’re expecting to have just shy of a million people and employment of about 350,000. The bottom line is that there’s not going to be enough jobs in Durham for the people who live there, so people will be forced to commute out of Durham to find employment. Most of that leads people towards the western portions of the GTA.
The region’s footprint does include significant and extensive environmental features such as the Oak Ridges moraine, Rouge Park, the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve—all protected in the greenbelt plan. Our larger urban areas are all concentrated along Lake Ontario and they generate the majority of the travel demand for both roads and transit into the GTA.
There are some environmental issues that form serious constraints for us in putting road links through to Toronto, particularly the Rouge River park and West Duffins Creek.
The rural communities present their own challenges. As I said, 83% of the region’s land base is rural but only 8% of our population lives there. There are challenges to provide services, and we have impacts on goods movement, particularly things like aggregate movement, and on road maintenance. There are impacts on small hamlets and small urban communities, particularly due to the increase in urban commuter and recreational traffic that goes through their communities.
Now, just a quick snapshot of what our current and existing conditions are for travel demand: In a typical morning during the week, there’s about 200,000 trips that originate in Durham. About half of those trips are Durham residents leaving the region to go to work. About 70,000 head west to Toronto or York. GO rail does an excellent job getting people to downtown Toronto. That works great, about two thirds of the work trips there being on transit. For the areas outside of Durham, such as York region, the transit share is very low or nil; it’s just hard to get where they need to go on transit, so they drive their cars.
Although Durham is the largest region geographically in the GTA, it’s highly dependent on commuter routes at its western boundary. These routes are severely constrained in terms of road capacity and transit connectivity. Capacity in Durham is further reduced in that Highway 401, the collector and express lane system, abruptly terminates beyond Brock Road, and so we go from basically six lanes that we can go on down to three lanes, so there’s always a bottleneck in the afternoon and in the morning. The 407 currently ends at Brock Road. The good news: The 407 will be extended—we’re looking forward to that—but it still only gets us as far as Oshawa.
There’s a lack of connectivity between the local transit systems—Durham region transit and York region transit—Viva—and the TTC. The integration with the GO bus services is also a problem. And that discourages the interregional use, because there’s no smooth transition between the systems.
However, there are a number of good-news stories that have come forward on provincially initiated or funded projects in Durham. The 407 east, the first phase, is announced and is awarded. We expect to be driving on that in 2015. That gets us over as far as Harmony Road. By 2017, we’re hoping to have phase 2(a) down to Taunton Road in the municipality of Clarington, followed by 2020, when we expect to have the highway all the way over to 35/115.
Highway 7 is currently under a widening project, and we expect that that’ll be operational and open for traffic in 2013. We’re currently working on Highway 2 transit priority measures. Stage 1 is under way. We’ve completed the environmental assessment and we’re into detailed design.
The Lakeshore East GO extension EA has been completed and a commitment’s been made by Metrolinx to build the rail maintenance facility in south Whitby by 2015. There have been new parking structures built to service some of the parking constraints in Whitby, Ajax and Pickering. There’s a pedestrian bridge over the 401 at Pickering to get from the plaza to the GO station.
There’s also an MTO project to build the Holt Road interchange basically in Courtice, and that’s to serve the refurbishment of the Ontario generating station, Darlington nuclear. As well, we hope that that will flow into the planned new build.
Just a little bit of context about Highway 401: Highway 401 is the most important commuter, goods movement and recreational corridor in the GTA. We are the eastern gateway to get into the GTA. Everything coming from Quebec comes through Highway 401. I guess there has been a lot of work done on the environmental assessment and the planning with MTO, but there are no firm commitments to actually add additional lanes through Durham at this point in time.
Similarly, with Highway 404, the extension is under way in York region, but at this time, there’s no commitment to extend it into Durham. Although we’re extremely happy to get Highway 407, there were a number of deferred interchanges on the expansion. That means that people spend more time on the regional roads to get to an interchange so that they can actually get on the 407.
We had a transitway that has been planned on the 407—a BRT or an LRT corridor—but it isn’t currently proposed in the construction project.
We are grateful that GO will be extended to Bowmanville as part of the Big Move. It’s in the 2020 plan, but again, the timing for that is unknown and uncertain.
Highway 2 BRT: we have Quick Win. We are doing work through Pickering and Ajax, but it needs to be extended through Whitby and easterly.
There’s support for a transit hub carpool at Port Union Road for effective integration of the GO bus, DRT and TTC support. We’d like to be able to drive in there and drop passengers off so they can hook up to the GO, but again, the timing on that is unknown.
There are car lots coming along some of the GO-DRT interface facilities, and we look forward to that, but the EAs haven’t started yet.
Last but not least, we would really like to see a GO train extension to the new community of Seaton sooner rather than later. Seaton—and we’ll talk a little bit more about that on the next slide—is going to be a big deal for both Durham and the GTA.
We’re planning for an ultimate population of 70,000 people in Seaton and 35,000 jobs. The province is about a 50% owner of the developable land there. We think that the forecasts are achievable with respect to the population. It’ll be a bit of a stretch to get that many jobs there, but we will do our best to make sure that happens.
We did complete a study between York, Durham and Toronto to see what transportation initiatives would be required to service the Seaton community. We identified several: widening of Steeles Avenue from two to four lanes in the short term; new 407 interchanges at Whites Road and Rossland Road extension; Highway 7 widening from Donald Cousens Parkway to Brock Road, which is currently a two-lane rural cross-section; some work on 14th Avenue extension to get rid of a jog elimination and connect it to Whitevale Road; and of course the one I mentioned previously, the Seaton GO rail extension. We think that these are required so people can actually get in and out of Seaton and make the community work.
To summarize, Durham is the eastern gateway to the GTHA. The population is growing. Employment opportunities within Durham are not growing at quite the same rate, so people will be forced to commute out to Toronto and York to find work.
We need increased east-west linkages through Durham, particularly at our boundary with Toronto and York region, for moving people and goods by car, bus, truck and train.
Improvements that will mitigate congestion in the east end of the GTHA include: the Highway 407 extension to Highway 35/115, which is in the cards and for that we’re very grateful; widening of the 401 into Durham; additional lane capacity along our border with York and Toronto, particularly in the vicinity of Seaton; extension of the GO rail line to Bowmanville; and stronger linkages between Durham Region Transit, GO Transit, TTC and York Region Transit.
That concludes my presentation. I’d be glad to accept questions.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Thank you very much for taking the time to do that.
Mr. Marchese, the NDP caucus is up first.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: Thank you, Mr. Curtis, for the presentation. I’m interested to know what it is that the region has been asking for, either of Metrolinx and/or the Ministry of Transportation or the minister in particular. I’m particularly interested in the fact that you say 79% of the trips are auto.
Mr. Clifford Curtis: Yes.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: Does that concern you? Is that a big issue? How do you think the region could improve that? Is there an ask of Metrolinx and/or the Ministry of Transportation?
Mr. Clifford Curtis: Absolutely. The overarching plan is in place: GO Transit expansion so we can get people to downtown. The problem that we do have is it’s difficult for people, if they’re not going to downtown Toronto, to actually get there by transit. Metrolinx has a plan to strengthen the grid so that you can actually get into York by transit, but for the near future and the intermediate future, you will have to make that trip by car.
We’re grateful the 407 has been extended. We’d like to see it extended as quickly as possible, right to 115. But in the meantime, a lot of the transportation is going to be by car in the short to medium term.
What we would like from the province, particularly the Ministry of Transportation, is to fast-track some of the lane additions through Durham, basically from where they terminate in Ajax right through at least to 115, so that we can keep the goods moving freely through there.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: Right. It appears to me that much of what you’re asking for talks about the use of cars, really, and trucks. We see here the Highway 407 east, Highway 7 widening, Highway 2—there’s a transit priority measure, whatever that says. But we’re talking about mostly use of cars rather than other ways of getting people around. I understand interconnectivity is a big issue, and I really agree with that, but are we looking at other ways of connecting with them without—
Mr. Clifford Curtis: Well, we are. It’s a twofold ask that we have. We are looking for extensions to GO service.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: Right, you mentioned that. I got that.
Mr. Clifford Curtis: GO is excellent at getting people downtown. If you want to go to downtown Toronto, get on the GO. It’s faster. You’ll get there sooner. The rest of it: Once you decide that you’re going to go to, say, Unionville, it’s really tough to get there.
The other thing is we have a lot of truck traffic that goes through Durham. Trucks aren’t going to get on the commuter train. We’d like to get as many cars out of the way so that we can get the truck traffic through, but there are a lot of heavy vehicles that use the 401. Hopefully, they’ll use the 407 once it’s constructed. But you’re never going to be able to get away from a robust 400-series highway system for the movement of goods.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Okay. Thank you.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: We’re right out of time?
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Yes, that’s time for your caucus. We’ve got to move on.
Mr. Dhillon, go ahead.
Mr. Vic Dhillon: Thank you very much for your presentation. Ever since we brought in the gas tax program for municipalities, Durham region has received approximately $40 million. Can you give us some examples of how the government tax program has helped Durham and how you think it will have a future impact on congestion in Durham?
Mr. Clifford Curtis: Well, the gas tax funding is split between two primary uses. One is transit; transit gets quite a bit of the gas tax funding. We’ve been buying more buses so we can expand our system. We’re also working on bus rapid transit on Highway 2, so the buses will have priority. That’s where part of the gas tax funding goes.
The rest of it, up to this date and for the next eight years, we’ve got directed to a somewhat controversial energy-from-waste incinerator in Durham region. After eight years, that money should be freed up. It will either be available for transit or for some road expansions within Durham itself.
We’re doing a reasonably good job of keeping up with our internal road system in Durham region so that people and transit can move around fairly effectively. Where we run into problems is where we have the boundary issues with Durham and York and Durham and Toronto. Because there’s a rather large valley there, we’re very restricted in the number of roads that we have across that feature, the Rouge Park and the Rouge Valley. We don’t see that that will be expanded dramatically in the short term. Until those are expanded, we just can’t move even buses or vehicles out of Durham. We’re pretty much stuck with the existing roads. We can widen them slightly, but we’re never going to have really good and robust links with the rest of the GTA, like York enjoys, like Mississauga enjoys, like the ones to the west enjoy. We’re geographically constrained.
Mr. Vic Dhillon: With respect to the GO train service, we’ve also made considerable investments in that area and there are a lot of projects that are proposed in the region of Durham’s transit plan. What do you think are some of the more higher-priority ones?
Mr. Clifford Curtis: Well, as was mentioned in the previous presentation, the GO trains are full every day going into Toronto and coming back out; they are at 110% capacity. We need a little extra capacity in the existing lines. Once that’s done, then I think the next priority from us would be to get it extended easterly to Bowmanville so that more people can have access to the GO station and the GO train. Still, most of the flow out of Durham does end up in downtown Toronto.
Mr. Vic Dhillon: Thank you.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Conservative caucus: Mr. O’Toole, go ahead.
Mr. John O’Toole: Yes, thank you very much for an excellent presentation from Durham region—very comprehensive and very much appreciated. I really do believe the effect of being here and being anxious—it fills in the blank; you say it’s an overwhelming problem in Durham. I kind of agree. In the last 15 years—I think I said the regional chair said something that we’re kind of ignored in Toronto. It’s a statement I read in the paper recently. I’ll leave it at that.
I want to concentrate on a couple of things. The first one is to acknowledge the litany of broken promises by the McGuinty government, quite honestly. I don’t mean—I know Joe is here and I don’t blame Joe entirely for it. But here’s the deal: They had promised the 407 for about the last three elections. Now, fool me once—you’ve heard that one. Well, it’s unforgivable. You were very polite, and I understand that, that you’re cap in hand, saying, “Thank you.” This is wrong. It’s a government with no vision for Ontario. This is about the jobs in the economy that are leaving Durham or not coming to Durham because of the—
Mr. John O’Toole: Just a moment, Vic. I didn’t interrupt you. You’ve got your job and you’ve read the notes very properly.
But my point being, this is a burden and you’re—now, I’m duty bound to say that Clarington filed a report by engineers, like yourself, saying that it was going to cost $80 million. I think it was Oshawa that put a price tag of $31 million. In everybody—I see Mr. Dickson’s picture in the paper with Tracy MacCharles. We weren’t even notified that the Premier was there to make these announcements. Then the media asked me what did I think of that great news, that he dropped a cheque for $83 million on the table.
To me, about the 407—I’m going to give this to you: As far as I know, there was nobody who wanted to operate the 407 east. In fact, I have a copy of the report, which if I have time—I could ask for more time. But there was a report issued in 2010 by the TAO group that said there was no need of the 407 east of Oshawa. They filed that report in 2010. Now, we know that they cancelled it and they were going to go to Simcoe Street. It just shows how much they know about Durham. Simcoe Street does not go to the 401 eastbound. You can’t get there from there. There is no eastbound exit onto the 401. You have to go back on to some back side street. This is the truth. Now they’ve said Harmony Road, because they’ve realized they made a mistake. Now they say Harmony Road. You can’t get a twin pup trailer onto the 401 eastbound. All the vehicles, all the traffic, are going eastbound. If they were not going eastbound, they would have already got off at Lakeridge. Do you follow me?
Mr. Clifford Curtis: I follow.
Mr. John O’Toole: And it’s just completely—they have not even been there. I’m putting it on the record today. I challenge them that Harmony—you go up over the 401 and then there’s a very short turning radius, and this was reported to me by a very reputable transportation company, and there’s no merge lane to get onto the 401. It’s shameful, because all the traffic going is going to be commercial.
The reason the province is going to operate—well, they’re going to contract it. They’re going to pay them a flat fee. We’re going to be back paying for policing, maintenance, repairs, all that stuff. It’s tragic.
Why did they promise it?
Mr. John O’Toole: Listen to me. If they promised it and didn’t know about these obstacles, that’s—if they promised it and didn’t know about them, they’re incompetent. Do you understand? You’ve got it all mapped out here in a very credible way.
Now, I really feel that the other one is Holt Road. My view, humbly—you know I’m going to be humble here: Holt Road should have been the link road because that’s where all the commercial value for Durham region is going to come—and eventually, St Marys Cement will be the largest harbour in the GTA. We know that. That’s where all the ships and containers will come in, and they’ll deconsolidate. It should be a transit terminal. That’s where the link should be. Not only that, in Durham region, unlike the rest of the regions, we’re going to be tolled on the links from 401—anyone who wants to get off, there’s tolling. All the other ones, it’s integrated into the transit in York region. The Holt Road improvement is good—but they’re doing an interchange study right now in Durham. I’m sure you know that. They haven’t even acknowledged that Lambs Road—and I’ve written to the minister on this—they wouldn’t even know where Lambs Road was. There’s a public meeting tonight on—anyway, I’ll let you respond.
Mr. Clifford Curtis: Well, there are a number of issues I can’t respond to, but I will respond—
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Excuse me, sorry. You’ve got 30 seconds—
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): That’s the time.
Go ahead, sir. You can respond.
Mr. Clifford Curtis: Generally, we look forward to the extension of 407 to Harmony. It will have an impact on the region. But it is important to continue on with the next phases as quickly as possible so we do get the linkages down to the 401.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Thank you. We appreciate you coming in today.
REGIONAL MUNICIPALITY OF YORK
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Our next presentation: York region. Good afternoon, folks. Welcome to the Standing Committee on General Government. You’ve got, as you’re aware, 15 minutes for your presentation and 10 minutes for questions among members. Just simply state your name for the purposes of our recording Hansard—or anybody who will be speaking for the presentation.
Mr. Bruce Macgregor: Thank you, Mr. Chair. My name is Bruce Macgregor. I’m the chief administrative officer for the region of York. I’m joined today by Ms. Lina Bigioni, who is the director of government relations and the executive assistant to our chairman, Bill Fisch. Mr. Fisch regrets not being able to be here himself due to a family commitment. As I work through this presentation, you’ll see that his passion and our council’s passion for transportation and transit improvements is rooted in the wishes of our residents and their constituency.
I’ll be referring today to materials that are in your portfolio. I’ll be going through this presentation deck. I’ve also added to your portfolio, right under the presentation, a recent report our council received in 2011 on alternative sources of funding for transportation infrastructure. That report makes reference to some good work done by the Toronto Board of Trade and the Toronto City Summit Alliance, which is also attached for your ease of reference.
Referring you to slide 2, my presentation today is intended to give you a bit of an overview of York region, the current state of traffic congestion in York region, some of the initiatives that we’ve been undertaking over the last decade and more to address that traffic congestion—and also leave with some solutions relative to the overall challenge of providing all of the services that are really necessary at this point to take on what our residents feel is their greatest concern.
Just moving to slide 3, to provide some perspective on York region: You’ve heard, of course, from our neighbours in Durham region, a region that we work in partnership with on many infrastructure initiatives. We are located immediately north of the city of Toronto. Like Durham region, a fair amount of our land—in fact, about 70% of our land—is covered by the greenbelt and the Oak Ridges moraine, preserved for natural purposes. Notwithstanding that, our share of growth, both population and employment, in the growth plan that was completed in 2006 is among the highest in the growth plan. We have been preparing for that inevitability with the delivery of infrastructure in all areas but in particular in transportation. Since 2001, in just over 10 years, our population has grown by 42%, with corresponding employment growth of over 34%.
We are fortunate to have a diverse economy and to be also growing in one of the areas that’s critical to overcoming transportation gridlock, and that is resolving the relationship between live and work and making those two things come together in closer proximity.
Referring now to slide 4, just an overview of York region, some of our larger urban municipalities, Markham, Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Aurora and Newmarket, but also with the predominantly rural municipalities of King, Whitchurch-Stouffville, East Gwillimbury and Georgina, extending from Steeles Avenue on the north limit of the city of Toronto right up to Lake Simcoe.
A few stats there, the most relevant of which on that slide are to do with our investment over the last 10 years in transit. It’s not an investment that we’ve relied on strictly with assistance from the province of Ontario, although we are very grateful for that, but also with, in some elements, some funding from the federal government and a commitment by our regional government as well. You can see that in capital costs the numbers are sizable, in the hundreds of millions of dollars; as well, we deal with an operating budget of over a billion dollars for the transit services that we provide in York region. Clearly, York is a growing and important part of the overall GTA economy.
Slide 5 is an illustration for you of the last five years of polling. Annually, we go to our residents in a statistically relevant poll and query them on a number of issues. In particular, we always include a question calling out the most important local issue, and you can see, with a little bit of a change, a fluctuation—the economic downturn of 2008—consistently our residents rank transportation as the foremost concern over a number of others that I’m sure you’re aware of and hear from your constituency on as well. Clearly, one in three York region residents recognizes the frustrations and the effects on their personal lives of transportation challenges and gridlock; namely, in that effort of getting between their home and their workplace.
Moving to slide 6 as I flip from that one, this is an important slide and I’ll ask you to try and remember the scale of the vehicles here. York region is a vehicle-centric community, like many in the GTA. Our numbers are, and have traditionally been, a little higher in terms of overall car ownership. The rate of car ownership in the region of York is about 1.8, on average, per household, versus a GTA average of 1.4. I think, as I move through this presentation and you see some of the limitations of public transportation that we’ve been faced with up until this last decade, you’ll realize how we’ve grown to become that car-dependent.
You can see that a fair portion of automotive travel is across that north-south boundary, or across that east-west boundary, with the traffic moving north-south into and out of Toronto, clearly 1.3 million vehicles a day. You can see as well, though, the graphic describing about 400,000 cars moving east and west. I should describe this in a little better detail. This graphic portrays what is called by transportation engineers cordon counts. It’s the total traffic across that imaginary boundary—in this case not such an imaginary boundary. The cordon is the Toronto boundary between Toronto and York region. That’s our heaviest travelled corridor, with over 1.3 million trips. The little arrows to the side indicate the percentage growth over that same period between 2001 and 2011. You can see there is significant growth—about 10% to 15%—on the Toronto-York boundary, but also substantial growth, in particular I note, as my colleague from Durham region was saying just a few minutes ago, on the Durham boundary.
On the subsequent slide, again, an effort to illustrate the dependence, still, on automobile as a primary source of travel and one that we are trying desperately, with land-use decisions and transportation decisions, to overcome.
As I flip you to the next slide entitled “Surrounding provincial highways are experiencing an increase in travel,” this is a graphic simply to illustrate the amount of traffic on the highway. You can see Highway 400 running north/south on the west side of York region and Highway 404 also running north/south, only running to Newmarket now and under construction to be advanced up to the town of Georgina. More significantly, on our southern boundary is Highway 407, the toll highway that I know many of you are familiar with, and people certainly pay for that privilege. The numbers on those arrows are to illustrate the amount of traffic on those highways and the percentage of that traffic having either an origin or destination in York region, so there’s no question that the provincial highway system is very critical to our continued success.
Likewise, the next graphic, which looks similar but portrays GO train service, I draw your attention to. We’ve included in your portfolio, on the left-hand side, a larger graphic if you need to see this up closer. This graphic is an attempt to illustrate the level of GO train service. If you look at the Lakeshore line, the thickness of that line portrays fairly significant service, accommodating almost 46,000 rides out to the east and some 55,000 to the west, to the Oakville, Burlington and Mississauga communities.
You’ll see, relatively speaking, that the lines that extend to the north for GO services aren’t quite as robust in level of service. You’ll see it in the arrows; those arrows depict the number of trains operating daily. For example, on the Lakeshore line extending out into Durham region, you’ll see 34 trains inbound in the morning, 31 trains on the way out—actually, that’s all-day service. You’ll notice that the service up to York region communities is somewhat constrained—five trains, typically; four or five trains southbound in each of those three lines in the morning and about the same amount heading back in the p.m.
We struggle on those lines, of course, with the limitations of railway ownership and the frustration of chicken and egg—having the ridership to increase the service, but the ridership, of course, demanding increased service. I think if you can recall back to the slide with the number of car trips, many would say the opportunity is certainly there.
I move you now to an important project for us on the next slide, entitled “An effective transit must integrate; Yonge subway extension vital.” This is a graphic that identifies—you can see the underlying green GO rail network. You can also see a blue network on that map which extends east/west across Highway 7, north/south across Yonge St. and, up on Davis Drive in Newmarket, again east/west. That’s our bus rapid transit system. It’s the system that our council has pursued to provide rapid transit within our communities. You can see the integration of all of our communities in that respect and, as well, the focus of service on intensification corridors of Highway 7 and Yonge St. We’re seeing now the tradition of maximum 20-storey heights give way to 30 storeys and more as those areas begin to intensify and provide mixed use, in many cases, of not only residential condominiums but office spaces as well—a further commitment to a lasting legacy in the investment in transit.
I’ve provided a slide on slide 11 which gives this committee some context of the various forms of rapid transit that you’ll hear from as deputants speak to you. This is a complicated slide, but just to orient you to it: on the vertical axis, the bottom is an arterial lane, an HOV lane, and moving up through an arterial lane, expressway lanes, giving you some indication of capacity on the horizontal axis. You can see that a typical lane is in the 1,000 to 2,000 persons per hour capacity. As you move up in the form of transit, a bus in mixed traffic, for example, that bar extends from approximately just under 1,000 all the way up to 3,000 to 4,000 persons per hour. The star in the figure illustrates the best-recorded practice in the North American marketplace.
As I move you up just above that bus in mixed traffic—which was how we rolled out our BRT service in a staged implementation. Viva phase 2 is BRT. If you could do me a favour and write “BRT” beside that, that row would apply to virtually any BRT service. You can see that a well-designed bus rapid transit system is capable of moving 10,000 persons an hour. You can see as well that the best practice in North America is at the peak end of that range. If you move up a little bit, you can see streetcars are a little less effective because they have the challenge of operating in mixed traffic. GO rail is very effective; heavy rail, commuter-based rail and dedicated rights-of-way, up to 20,000 persons per hour. Light rail is something less than that. What’s interesting about light rail is you’ll see that, while it has the potential to go up to about 18,000 persons per hour, the actual best measured experience in North America is quite consistent with the best measured experience in bus rapid transit systems. Subway, of course, is the prime mover of people in urban areas. You can see that the potential for subways exceeds what’s shown on this scale of 30,000.
I want to draw your attention as well to the column on the right-hand side of this graph, which reflects the costs. You can see that bus rapid transit comes in at an approximate cost of $21 million per kilometre as opposed to an LRT system of twice that amount, at $54 million, and of course a subway at considerably more but, again, with considerably more capacity. That information is vital because our council has made conscious decisions to spend not only their money but provincial money and federal money wisely and not to over-commit to levels of transit that won’t be needed for decades to come. That speaks to the commitment to BRT.
I want, on slide 12, to certainly give some credit to a very successful partnership between the province and York region—challenged, of course, as we grow incrementally and as we get and develop the governance mechanisms to get things under way. We’ve been under construction with the Spadina subway for some time now, aiming towards a 2015 completion and a large $2.6-billion extension of the Yonge-University subway line, in partnership with the city of Toronto, the TTC, the province of Ontario and the government of Canada. Metrolinx is the major funding partner for our rapid transit expansion; that’s taking our fleet of bus rapid transit vehicles, putting them on a dedicated corridor on Highway 7 and Yonge Street and delivering on the promise of rapid transit to York region residents.
Slide 13 takes you to what we see as the keys to unlocking traffic congestion and the revenue tools that in particular will keep us going. Our biggest frustration is finding the revenue sources to build what’s necessary and also to operate and maintain what’s necessary. Currently, our transit system relies on about 63 cents out of every dollar coming from the property taxpayer in York region. We recover only about 37 cents—a necessary part of growth; a far cry from what the TTC is able to accomplish, with numbers closer to 70% or 80% recovery from the fare box.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Excuse me. That’s about your time, 15 minutes, so I need you to wrap it up if you want to make a few closing remarks. Then we get some time for questions, and you can elaborate on that.
Mr. Bruce Macgregor: I will.
You can see our emphasis on slide 13 is one of revenue sources.
On slide 14, I offer some suggestions with respect to the Metrolinx investment strategy that you heard about earlier today, something that is desperately needed to get on with the issue of funding this service. The notion, we contend, of “everybody pays, everybody benefits” is one to keep in mind—a number of sources I won’t get into the details of.
The Yonge subway, for us, is a critical project. It’s going to be what we’ve referred to as the missing link. Some 700 buses will be on that section of Yonge Street once our rapid transit is in place, making that awkward connection to the subway.
You can see, in closing, Mr. Chair, on slide 15, all of the impacts that you’re intending to address through this committee. I’d just draw your attention to that picture. It’s not intended to mean that if we put a bus on the street, we’ll take all those cars off. However, it does mean that those cars in that picture illustrate the number of people who could be sitting on that Viva bus.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Thank you. The Liberal caucus is up first. Questions? Mr. Sergio, go ahead.
Mr. Mario Sergio: Thank you for coming; a wonderful presentation. Good to see you again, Ms. Bigioni, from the wonderful region of York.
I had to stop at slide 12, an interesting slide here. What brings me there is the fact that you have already expanded Viva, the rapid transit. You have now the Spadina subway. You have an expanded GO service throughout the region. Of course, on top of that you have, if not the fastest, one of the very fast-growing municipalities, residentially and otherwise. I can see the money that has been allocated here with respect to rapid transit and the Spadina subway. On top of that, if you can tell us what does this do to the municipal region of York there. But also, you have Highway 400, which cuts right in the middle, with 404 and a bit of the 407. We’re told the expansion is supposed to come in the next few years. York region, I think, is one of the first that—how do you see the investments that have been provided assisting you, York region, with traffic and congestion?
Mr. Bruce Macgregor: The investment to date is a welcome relief to a somewhat disregarded element of growth. We’re fortunate. We don’t plan for growth, as I remind some constituents who call us; we actually have to react to it. Planning for it makes us better in reacting to it. We are fortunate, in the Toronto area, to be growing at the rate we are. The necessity is for all services at the same time. There isn’t one win here. I wouldn’t pick highways over transit. I wouldn’t pick GO rail over local rapid transit. We need everything, and we need, more importantly, those intermodal opportunities where our transit connects with GO and gives people opportunities to jump off that radial inclination that takes you to the heart of Toronto and then have to ride north—opportunities to connect, as we will shortly on the Spadina line at the Sheppard subway, as we can with the resolution of the Yonge extension at the Richmond Hill link and terminal at Highway 7. There are a number of those opportunities around the GTA that we really have to capture.
Mr. Mario Sergio: Is the region contemplating further expansion of the York-Spadina subway into the region?
Mr. Bruce Macgregor: Not at the present time. I can tell you that as we plan those extensions, we always think in the longer term of where they might go, but it’s not currently on the map. The only reason for that would be the huge priorities elsewhere. This extension now takes the terminus from Downsview up to York University, three stops, and then another three stops into York region. A vital and necessary expansion will provide the catalyst for the Vaughan urban centre north of the university and as well, of course, serve the university. If you were to visit York University in the area they call the commons in the centre of the university, it looks more like a very aggressive bus terminal than it does a commons.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Thank you. That’s time for questions.
Conservative caucus. Mr. Smith, go ahead.
Mr. Todd Smith: Thank you very much, Mr. Macgregor, for coming in today and telling us all about York region and the traffic problems that do exist there. I was not surprised that the government member stopped at slide 13; there are 14 others that very capably display the problems that exist in transportation in York region. The one that struck me was slide 5 and the fact that over 30% of people in York region find this the number one issue. You can look at many areas outside of the GTA where health care and education and debt and deficit and these types of problems that exist are the biggest concerns. But obviously, it’s a huge problem in the GTA. I think it’s one that we needed to have this meeting today and Wednesday to discuss, because it’s something that needs to be addressed. I noticed that despite the fact that this government has been in power for nine years now, things aren’t getting better when it comes to the fastest-growing area of the GTA, when it comes to—at least not the public opinion that things are getting better in York region. This Environics poll is quite telling about the unpredictability of transportation in and out of York region on a daily basis. I have some stats here from the MTO talking about the speeds that people are travelling down the 404—26 kilometres per hour is the average speed down the 404 to the Don Valley Parkway. There are just no other alternatives, or very few other alternatives.
Maybe, if you could, just tell me a little bit about the Metrolinx plan that was explained earlier. Do you think that will be the solution to improving things in York? It doesn’t appear that there is a whole lot of extra runs added for York region.
Mr. Bruce Macgregor: I think the Metrolinx plan is vital to York region’s continued success and growth. We are in the course of connecting our communities. Our official plan is like many: It has centres, hubs and corridors. Those are the areas where intensification is planned. That’s where the rapid transit services are heading to as we speak and where the funding is committed to right now. In the longer term, we do require better connections on GO. We do require continued commitments to highways and continued service commitments in all transit modes.
Mr. Todd Smith: Do I have time?
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Briefly.
Mr. Todd Smith: Subway: You mentioned it earlier. Do we need more subway into York region?
Mr. Bruce Macgregor: I probably couldn’t get the words “Yonge subway” out enough for the purposes of the recordings of this committee. It is vital and it will be increasingly vital in the next five years as we complete the other transit imperatives. It will be noticeably missing. I mentioned 700 buses plying that Yonge Street corridor. It’ll be hard to get a car through there, actually, in the event that we don’t get the subway in place. It is the cash cow of the TTC, as we all know.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Mr. Schein, go ahead.
Mr. Jonah Schein: Thank you, Mr. Macgregor, for coming in. I had some questions about funding. Obviously, folks are having struggles with funding our transit systems across the province, but a few things have made it worse. I wanted to hear from you about the challenges you’re facing. Specifically, how has the decline in provincial operating funding impacted transit in York region?
Mr. Bruce Macgregor: I wouldn’t say “the decline in provincial operating funding”—I would say that the province has struggled, as most governments do, with the scarcity of resourcing and trying to deal with health care, education, and of course also with the imperative that our residents see in transportation.
We are greatly relieved to have the gas tax and to have some permanency to gas tax revenues. We think, though, there’s a need for more. One of the challenges you face when you start planning for this kind of rapid transit is looking around the world, and nowhere in the world can they afford the levels of service that are necessary with simple reliance on property tax.
Mr. Jonah Schein: Can you speak specifically to how big that gap is in operating your transit system, in terms of funding?
Mr. Bruce Macgregor: I think it’s reasonable, in the context of York region, to expect a recovery from fares of 40% to 50%. I mentioned earlier that we’re at about 37%, 38% right now as we grow. We’re now building the kind of community that will be transit-dependent, and we expect to get to that in the next 10, 20 years.
Mr. Jonah Schein: The implications of the cancellation of the bus replacement program—have you seen an impact on your fleet of buses?
Mr. Bruce Macgregor: It’s hard to put an impact to that one. It was a short-lived program. As you probably know, it was in existence for a couple of years. So we fall back, again, on the gas tax, which is an important and permanent source of revenue.
I think as you get into the details of the Metrolinx funding strategy, we’ll need to see something. I understand the reservation with imposing taxes. I think that authority needs to be in the hands of municipalities who desperately need alternative sources of funding.
Mr. Jonah Schein: Lastly, do you have any concerns or projections around extending the Yonge line? How do you see capacity on that line with making it longer?
Mr. Bruce Macgregor: I think the capacity issue is one that’s being dealt with in the right order. The Spadina subway extension cuts off some of the transit—Brampton, for example, delivered riders to the Finch subway.
By the way, the Yonge subway ends at the Finch terminal. It’s been that way since 1973. It’s hard to imagine, in a growing area like Toronto, to have a subway terminus that has been there that long at that location.
The advantage of getting the Spadina line, getting some of the traffic off on the Spadina line, and the further advantage of extending the Yonge line up to Richmond Hill, provides an opportunity for riders to choose, because GO comes together at Richmond Hill. There’s an opportunity for riders who are destined for Union Station to jump on the GO train, with a normal fare system on both sides, and for those who are going to, for example, employment centres in uptown Toronto to jump on the subway. I think it’s a win-win.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): It’s time. We appreciate your presentation. Thanks for coming in today.
MINISTRY OF TRANSPORTATION
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Our next presentation, folks, is the Ministry of Transportation. Good afternoon. Welcome to the Standing Committee on General Government. As you’re aware, you have 20 minutes for your presentation, and we have allotted 30 minutes for questions for your presentation. So whoever will be speaking, just simply state your name for the purposes of Hansard, and you can start your presentation when you’re ready.
Ms. Carol Layton: Thank you, Chair. I appreciate the time, and I appreciate the opportunity.
I’d like to introduce some of my colleagues that I have from the Ministry of Transportation. I have Andrew Posluns on my left, who is our director for our transit policy branch; I have Gerry Chaput, who is the assistant deputy minister with our provincial highways management; and I’ve got Rob Fleming, who is our assistant deputy minister for road use and safety. The reason that I’ve got transit, highways and road use and safety represented with me here is just to show that—the purpose of this committee is to look at traffic congestion. I want to illustrate in the presentation that all aspects of the Ministry of Transportation serve a purpose in actually supporting relieving congestion on our highways and in our cities.
First of all, thank you for the invitation. I have about 21 pages in this presentation, and I’m going to focus on three areas: really quickly touching down on the mandate of the ministry and what we do and how we do it; secondly, the challenges that we all face in addressing traffic congestion; and third, how MTO is dealing with it, both now and into the future.
On slide 3, I start by certainly recognizing or outlining the importance of an efficient, reliable transportation network—the full network—to our economy and our quality of life. Our transportation networks certainly help Ontario to work and they also help Ontarians to get to work. We know that transportation touches every person, every business every day, and all economic sectors rely on transportation as an input to production, to deliver goods and services to customers, and to move people efficiently for work and for other trips.
Our roads and highways connect small and large communities, businesses to markets, enable the movement of resources from remote areas to areas where they can be processed and also where they can be used by the wider economy. Our transportation networks have to be maintained and they have to be built upon thoughtfully and, most importantly, sustainably for all of us today as well as for future generations.
On slide 4, I talk about the mandate of the Ministry of Transportation. Our mandate is certainly to manage and maintain the province’s transportation system, support our economic competitiveness by planning for and investing in critical transportation infrastructure, and build on our record as a leader in road safety, which is something I’m going to talk about at the end of this presentation. Therefore, we have responsibility for building and continuing to maintain the 16,600 kilometres of highway network that we have in the province; over 2,700 provincial bridges, overseeing—and you heard earlier from Bruce McCuaig, the agency Metrolinx with the great work that it’s doing; and also implementing, I would say, aggressive safety legislation as it relates to roads and road users; licensing 9.2 million drivers in the province of Ontario and registering 11.4 million vehicles. Of course, we also work with our municipal partners to fund public transit systems across the province.
What slide 5, then, does is to certainly articulate our vision, as well as our five priorities that I’m going to take you through fairly quickly. Our vision is to be a world leader in moving people and goods safely, efficiently and sustainably, and to support a globally competitive economy and a high quality of life. Our priorities are working to increase transit ridership; promote a multimodal transportation network; improve the provincial highway, bridge and border infrastructure; integrate the principle of sustainability into our policies and into our operations; and also promote road safety. Today I’m going to speak about each of these particular areas.
I would first, though, like to just touch down on the cost of congestion. There’s economic cost, as we all appreciate—this is on slide 6—due to lost productivity, increased transportation costs, which also gets translated into higher prices. We appreciate also that there are social costs, as people spend more time sitting in traffic. I’ve heard a lot about that as I listened to some of the earlier presentations.
There are environmental costs, as well. We know that about 30% of greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation sources. In recent years, there have been a number of studies that have attempted to calculate the financial cost of congestion. I know that one of the references that Bruce McCuaig used earlier was the reference to about $6 billion annually in terms of, in a sense, a lost cost of the economy to congestion.
On page 7, then, we also identify some of the challenges that we have in tackling congestion in our urban centres, and that certainly is about every year 100,000 people moving into the Toronto region. By 2031, the greater Toronto and Hamilton area is expected to grow by about 50%—certainly one of the faster growing urban areas in North America. Ottawa, by 2021, is projected to be the centre of a metropolitan region of 1.6 million people. We also appreciate that automobiles historically have been the predominant mode of transportation for commuters in our cities but that expanding highways through urban areas isn’t always feasible or desirable. Therefore, building the infrastructure necessary to address congestion will require sustained investments in projects. We also appreciate that those projects take many years to complete.
Integrating various public transit systems so that commuters can move seamlessly and conveniently across municipal boundaries requires strong partnerships and effective planning. We appreciate that to get people out of those automobiles and on to transit they have to feel that they’ve got a system that’s reliable, a system that is easy for them and certainly one that is effective and meets their needs.
To address the five priorities that I’ve talked about, first of all, one, taking action to reduce congestion: We are working to increase transit ridership through the various programs that Bruce has talked about and others have referenced here. That does mean providing efficient and convenient public transit options so people will choose to leave their car at home. We’re promoting an extensive multimodal transportation network that will provide businesses with more flexibility in how they transport goods as well.
Over on slide 9, you can see that part of our strategy is to provide good public transit, and this strategy is working. Ontario has made investments in transit, and there are now 132 million more passenger trips taken on municipal transit than just nine years ago. This translates into 110 million fewer car trips on our roads. The chart on the right of that slide on page nine highlights the large volumes that our transit systems are handling each year: as you can appreciate, hundreds of millions of rides.
On slide 10, we also know that to make transit convenient and attractive, we must improve the integration of neighbouring systems to provide a seamless trip for riders across municipal boundaries. You heard about a lot of this in the first presentation today, and that is the fact that the province created Metrolinx to coordinate regional transit planning and to ensure that we’re all working together to build efficient and effective public transit systems. As you also saw in the presentation done by CEO Bruce McCuaig, the agency has certainly been very active. They developed the comprehensive regional transportation plan for the GTHA called the Big Move, which is the transit road map for the foreseeable future. They’re also focusing on customer service improvements, and Metrolinx is implementing the Presto fare card in the GTHA as well as in Ottawa to allow transit riders to travel seamlessly between different regional transit systems.
Now I’d move you over to page 11. I think, because you’ve listened to Durham, and you’ve listened also to York region and also to Metrolinx, you’ve heard about some of these different projects, but I’ll reference a few others as well. In Ottawa, up to $600 million is committed to light rail transit, the largest single transit infrastructure investment in the history of the city. In Waterloo region, the province has committed $300 million for their rapid transit system. Earlier, Bruce talked about the various Toronto projects for the GTHA. You’ve heard about bus rapid transit with Bruce Macgregor recently. He also spoke about the overall $2.6-billion extension of the Toronto-York Spadina subway into York region, the province’s commitment of about $870 million of that. You also heard about the air-rail link; that will connect Pearson Airport with Union Station which, I think you also heard, is the busiest transportation hub in the country.
Of course, we appreciate that there are other partners in the funding of that initiative, Union Station, with the city of Toronto and the federal government being a vital funder of that. If you have been down to Union Station recently—and it looks as though some people have—it’s one heck of a construction site, but the vision of that will be fantastic when it’s done in about three or four years or so.
The second priority after transit ridership is to promote a multimodal network, and MTO is actively promoting a multimodal transportation network that will support the efficient movement of people and goods. A network gives businesses the flexibility to choose among many different modes of transportation, whether that is air, rail, truck or marine. Currently, we’re working with the government and private sector partners to develop an Ontario goods movement strategy which will allow us to maximize the efficiency of all of our transportation modes. Our goods movement strategy will build upon the success, for example, of the long combination vehicle program, which has shifted some freight movements away from rush hour and enables more goods to be carried per truck.
It’s fair to say, though—on slide 13—that you need a blueprint to work from. In the greater Golden Horseshoe area, the blueprint that the Ministry of Transportation as well as Metrolinx has been guided by has been that growth plan for the greater Golden Horseshoe introduced in around 2006 which developed a pretty impressive plan for compact urban form and built boundaries. But in it also are just those principles that should guide us around maximizing the investments that we do as we continue to meet the needs of growing population centres.
We also, though, are looking at longer-term corridor studies—and I’ve got two other referenced on this particular page, on 13—that allow us to best facilitate the efficient movement of people and goods through the Halton, Hamilton and Niagara areas.
I’ve talked about transit ridership, and I’ve talked about multimodal. The third one I’d like to talk about is the highway, bridge and border infrastructure. I talked about 16,600 kilometres of highways that we’re maintaining in the province of Ontario and over 2,700 bridges. We can appreciate the importance of our highway and bridge network to make sure that we do have an efficient system that is vital to the prosperity of the economy and helps ensure that our quality of life is sustained. But we also appreciate that much of our infrastructure is over 50 years old, and therefore we are putting a great deal of effort into the rehabilitation of the highway and bridge network. The need for highway expansion to accommodate population growth and keep freight moving efficiently is also significant.
At MTO, we use our southern and northern highway programs to set strategic directions, which are updated every year, and actually to ensure that the investments have the greatest impact in terms of highway condition and improved connectivity, taking that fiscal context into consideration as well. Projects are chosen using an asset management approach that ensures the right investment is made in the right place at the right time.
This year, the ministry is investing $2.4 billion in highway and bridge construction across the province, and you’ve heard certainly about the 407 east extension. Other ones included widenings of Highway 401, Highway 417 and also the Windsor-Essex Parkway, which leads us to the busiest border crossing in the country.
Also, MTO is investing in the near north and northern Ontario as well, with the vital links between rural areas and trade corridors and population centres with Highways 11, 17 and 69 that I show on slide 15.
I wouldn’t want to leave this presentation without touching on the fact that we bring a lot of innovation into how we deliver on transportation infrastructure. That too can have an impact on congestion. A really good example is the rapid bridge replacement technology that the ministry has used three times now in Ottawa, once on the Aberdeen Bridge around the St. Catharines area. We’re going to be doing another one on the 401 this summer, where rather than taking two or three years to replace a major bridge, and the congestion that therefore brings with it, with reduced lanes available for traffic, with the technology of rapid bridge replacement, we’re able to do it overnight. In fact, the Carling Avenue bridge replacement that we did over the long weekend at the end of July this past summer was replaced in just 15 and a half hours and had a significant impact certainly to the local economy in terms of the delays to traffic just overnight as opposed to over a few years. We’re looking forward to doing one this fall, where the entire ramp off the eastbound 401, which forms a bridge over Bridgeland Avenue in the Yorkdale area, will be replaced. We’ll probably have bleachers up for people who want to come and watch, because we usually have a crowd for these overnight replacements.
Number four is about increasing sustainability and mitigating congestion. I think what’s important here is the fact that our efforts to enhance sustainability and reduce those harmful GHG emissions complement our efforts, also, to reduce traffic congestion. We’ve amended the Public Vehicles Act to encourage more carpooling. We’re promoting active transportation as an alternative to driving, such as walking and cycling, and we’ve built expanded high-occupancy vehicle lanes to encourage more passengers per vehicle.
We also reference on slide 17 encouraging the greater use of electric passenger vehicles. More recently, we’re working with Infrastructure Ontario to also support the people’s adoption of these cars or purchase of these electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles through an initiative that will provide charging infrastructure around the urban areas so that people don’t have that anxiety of leaving their house with that electric vehicle and wondering if it’s going to have enough electricity for them to make their way back.
On the final few pages, I really want to make sure that we also focus in on safe roads and what that also means. Road safety may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about congestion, but reducing collisions on our roads also does mean fewer delays. As you can see on slide 18, Ontario’s road-fatality rate is now the lowest ever recorded right now, certainly in Ontario. For the last decade or so, we have been either the first or second for the lowest in North America. In fact, at the top of the slide as well, we are currently number 3 in the world in terms of having the lowest fatality rate for 10,000 licensed drivers.
The complementary page is on page 19, where you can see the many different policies and legislation and regulations that have come into effect over the years, at the same time that we’ve had a growing population of people driving vehicles. On slide 4, I reference that Ontario has 9.2 million drivers, and yet you can see, even with that growing population of people who are in vehicles and driving cars, that we’ve had a decline in our fatality rate.
This particular chart also is powerful in that it actually shows you the point at which some of our significant legislation has come into effect: more recently, speed limiters for large trucks; warn range sanctions for blood-alcohol content; the ban on hand-held devices; earlier than that, street-racing legislation; one person, one seat belt. They go backwards in terms of the different policies we’ve done. We’d be happy to take you through any of that.
I think it’s also fair to say that although we’ve had the best year ever, and that’s based on 2009 results, at 564 fatalities—one fatality is too many. Ontario did have 564 in 2009, when this was recorded. In the coming years, we’re going to continue to focus on combatting aggressive, distracted and dangerous driving; continuing the fight against impaired driving; and also applying rigorous standards to commercial carriers, including conducting safety blitzes.
As I head towards my final slide, on page 21, just to conclude: Easing congestion requires a number of solutions and many, many partners to work together. We have to get people out of cars and onto transit and also onto other modes. We need to strategically expand our highway network and keep it well maintained. We must ensure that the business community has choices that work best for them. We need to ensure that our system is safe and sustainable.
Our success is critical to our economy and to our environment and also to our quality of life. I guess you could call that the triple bottom line that certainly guides a lot of the work at the Ministry of Transportation.
I would like to thank all of you for inviting MTO here today. We welcome any questions that you may have.
The Acting Chair (Mr. Joe Dickson): Thank you very much. We’ll now turn the questioning over to the PCs. You have 10 minutes. Yes, you can speak, John. You can even ask questions.
Mr. John O’Toole: Yes, thank you very much, Chair. I do appreciate the presentation. I also appreciate the magnitude of the challenge, the changing pressures, if you will, and the emphasis on newer modes in Places to Grow. All those policy initiatives at the highest level are changing how we get there from here.
We heard a very valid presentation from Durham, which—I believe that they’re just completely ignored. I’m not the only one saying that. I don’t want to be rude. The second one is York region. Certainly, there are more cars going northbound on the Don Valley Parkway than southbound, because you are gridlocked in Toronto, and gridlock means the economy is not working. Some people put the number at $6 billion annually, and that’s ultimately why we’re here. None of this am I blaming on you.
I just want to start with the first thing that I’ve heard in this very limited amount of time we’ve done, which is, show me the money. In fact, there’s a very excellent report by York region, and it’s quite dense—probably not dense enough, actually—asking: Where’s the funding for the alternatives? It’s not just for the Big Move—$2 billion additional, which does not include operating. This is new money in the context of a collapsing economy, according to Don Drummond. It’s not me; I’m just repeating what I read.
I would guess I’ve established the fact—and we’ve established today—that it’s all about the money. The alternative funding is taxing more, some way or other.
Transit doesn’t drive the economy. It gets rid of these people going places, but the economy doesn’t travel on buses, unless you consider people travelling on buses. I could put you out 10 years from now. I have children who work in Hong Kong; they live there. I have one in London, England; I have one on the Isle of Man. They’re all in the knowledge-based economy: lawyers and financial people. They don’t go to work. Why would you be going to a bank or a law firm in downtown Toronto in 20 years? It’s at home. This solution of putting everybody on a bus to get there—I think it’s no vision at all, because what I hear is, most people—the bus rapid-transit solution for Durham—I don’t know anybody who’s getting on the bus. It doesn’t go anywhere. It leaves you off in the middle of the rain or the snow, 20 minutes from where you want to go.
I’m not criticizing you. I know how hard it is. You can’t build a road everywhere. But they said in York, as well as Durham, that about 70% of the purpose for trips involves a car. That’s the reality. I know you’re going to suck $2 billion out of the economy every year for additional transit money. I’m more concerned about jobs and the economy, linking that into your model here.
The provincial approach to gas tax does not work in my riding and, I think, in Prince Edward–Hastings. Their transit is roads and bridges.
I will leave it there, because my colleagues—I’ll probably get a chance to come back, but my colleagues will probably say something.
There is a question in there: Where’s Durham, and where’s the money? Don Drummond doesn’t think there is any—but it’s not your fault.
Ms. Carol Layton: First off, if I could, when you first started to talk about why is everybody hopping in a car and heading to downtown Toronto, it’s something that certainly I appreciate as well. To deal with congestion, certainly the free-flowing roads and highways are important. Transit is important, but it’s many more things. You mentioned it as well, as did I: building the complete community, so the communities that are compact, they’re intensified—
Mr. John O’Toole: Places to Grow is all bunged up, too. Places to Grow—look at the number of jobs in Durham, for instance, or in York. Actually, Places to Grow needs to give bigger job numbers for Durham region. They’ve written and complained and even today in their presentation. The numbers aren’t there. Where are the people? What are the jobs? What are the jobs? But—
The Acting Chair (Mr. Joe Dickson): I wonder if she could finish her statement please.
Ms. Carol Layton: Yeah, I mean, I just can’t respond to that exactly. I do have to admit that when I was the Deputy Minister of Revenue, I was happy to be able to ensure that the 12,000 people impacted by the harmonized sales tax were able to continue to work at Oshawa, so they were able to negotiate good job security for those people.
But I guess the point there is, what is there for Durham region? The presenter also did speak about the 407 east extension, and I appreciate that it’s a multi-year extension. It’s going to be done in phases, but that’s still going to be pretty impactful as far as the jobs that it’s going to create in that area and bring a vital transportation conduit further east; likewise, a number of road improvements in and around the region of Durham as well to support also local road improvements that are impacted by that highway 407 east extension as well.
I certainly appreciate here that I’ve heard from a few presenters that desire for GO Transit to go beyond Oshawa. We saw in that presentation that Bruce McCuaig made that radio—he said currently today, GO transit is oriented as a radio sort of network, but it’s ultimately going to be a grid network. That will take time. That will take an identification of what lines are first, in terms of priorities. It’s all going to be based on, certainly, the business case rationale for that.
The other point I just want to make is that things like two-way all-day on the existing transit line as opposed to extending will be another thing that would help deal with capacity. So there’s a number of different factors there. But I also want to circle back to another point that you talked about, and that is that carpooling and telecommuting. You talked about that a little bit, with the flexibility that you need in terms of where workers work. Those are all other things that we’re going to need to help address the sort of issues that we’re dealing with—
Mr. John O’Toole: My colleague has a question, too.
Ms. Carol Layton: Sorry.
Mr. Todd Smith: I did want to ask you specifically about the Peel region where traffic is a terrible problem. It’s affecting commerce in the area; obviously economics. Well, we have numbers here. The average cost of excess congestion experienced by commuters in Peel region is $845 million a year. Actually, a report that came from the MTO in 2008 showed the findings of the statistical comparison indicate that 11 segments in the morning peak period are statistically slower in 2008 than they were in 2006. So things aren’t getting any better in Peel region, in the Brampton area. What is being done there to improve things? It’s not getting any better; as a matter of fact, according to this study, it’s getting worse in Peel region.
Ms. Carol Layton: So again, I would refer to the presentation that Bruce made about the different investments that are going to be happening along the different corridors through GO transit over time, in the busy Peel, Mississauga region as well; and also the support of the permanent gas tax and what that would do, certainly in supporting—
Mr. Todd Smith: Is there anything right now that can be done to improve the gridlock problems on the 410 or the 401? I know in other jurisdictions, in other large North American cities—and let’s be honest, the greater Toronto area is the worst in North America right now when it comes to gridlock. What are those other cities doing that Toronto isn’t doing? What can we be doing right now that we’re not doing?
The Acting Chair (Mr. Joe Dickson): You have just over one minute.
Ms. Carol Layton: What the province is doing is the best with what it is doing with the resources and that is expanding where you need. We have a southern highway program that looks at all those areas where—and we do pretty extensive transportation demand management studies to look at the flow of traffic and to see where there are delays; work to see where those pinch points are. Is it intersection improvements that are needed? Is it highway expansion? There is some 401 expansion happening in particular right now, more through the centre of the city, as well. But—
Mr. Todd Smith: With all due respect, the people in Brampton are telling us that they don’t want any more studies. They want to see some action. They want extra lanes. They want subways. They want something that’s going to allow them to get to work and then get back home to see their families in a sufficient amount of time.
The Acting Chair (Mr. Joe Dickson): That’s just about the end. You have about 10 seconds to wrap up.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: Sorry, we have to go around.
The Acting Chair (Mr. Joe Dickson): In the time frame of 10 seconds.
Ms. Carol Layton: —other than to comment that I’ve heard the concerns that you’ve expressed there. I’m not sure whether there are any other highway projects that I’ve missed. I’m looking to Gerry Chaput, who’s my—
Ms. Carol Layton: I don’t think so, no.
The Acting Chair (Mr. Joe Dickson): We’ll now go to the third party. Mr. Marchese.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: Thank you for coming. I’ve got a couple of questions, and then my colleague has one or two questions as well.
The transit experts are recommending increasing investment in HOV lanes as a proven way to reduce the number of single-occupancy vehicles on the road. You speak to that in your report, on page 17. But as far as I understand, the government is cutting funding for HOV lanes. Why would you do that?
Ms. Carol Layton: First of all, we have made some significant investments with I think it’s 83 kilometres of HOV lanes right now that we have, to support the flow of traffic. The decision to not cut, but to in a sense defer any new commitments to any new HOV lanes—other than what we’re going to be doing in Ottawa, because there are some, I believe, on Highway 417—is one that had to be made in the context of the broader issues that we’re dealing with around fiscal planning and trade-offs.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: As I understand it, you’re cutting $229 million, which relates to highway expansion and HOV lanes. How much of that relates to cuts to HOV? I understand deferral, but out of that $229 million, I think there are some cuts to HOV as well. Are you saying no, or are you saying it’s simply deferred into some unpredictable future?
Ms. Carol Layton: It’s deferred to a period of time when we can actually accommodate more HOV lanes in our fiscal planning.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: So all the cuts that you’ve made refer only to highway expansion, not HOV lanes.
Deferral: How much are we deferring by way of HOV expansion?
Ms. Carol Layton: Gerry, I’m not sure whether you have that answer.
Mr. Gerry Chaput: We don’t have the specific numbers. The expansion plan includes both HOV and additional lanes—
Mr. Rosario Marchese: But there’s no breakdown.
Mr. Gerry Chaput: I don’t have the number broken down, no.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: I see. The Pembina Institute said a cost-effective way to reduce congestion is to convert one lane along the QEW, all 400-series highways, and inner-city highways. I think it’s a good suggestion. Why isn’t the government thinking about committing one lane—
Ms. Carol Layton: You’re referencing the reference of one lane on the 400-series all over to HOV lanes?
Mr. Rosario Marchese: Yes.
Ms. Carol Layton: We’re aware of that study, and the ministry is looking at that, because there are certainly other viewpoints on the impact of HOV lanes and what that means in terms of the flowing of traffic.
I guess it’s fair to say that we do do pretty extensive modelling of our major highway corridors and where we need HOV lands and where we don’t, and how we can deal with the congestion.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: So we’re monitoring.
Ms. Carol Layton: Monitoring; modelling.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: Thank you.
Mr. Jonah Schein: Thanks for the presentation. Last year, we got a million dollars in Ontario in support of cycling in this province. That’s compared to $200 million that’s invested over two years in Quebec. I’m wondering, why is funding so low in Ontario in support of cyclists?
Ms. Carol Layton: Certainly, Minister Chiarelli has spoken about that more recently. There is work that the ministry has been doing, looking at cycling. We can appreciate that cycling is a great form of transportation for people. It encourages fitness; it encourages a different form of use for folks. It also is something that we look at in the context of road safety, because, again, having the safest roads in North America is something that we would like to continue to have as well.
I guess the other point I’d make is that there certainly is a demand for cycling on our secondary highways. The majority of cycling does occur, though—I also appreciate this—on the municipal road network. We do not have, as you’ve indicated, what Quebec has, which is a comprehensive network throughout the province, but that’s exactly what Minister Chiarelli has charged us to do: look at all the different areas right now, because there are, as you look around the province of Ontario, various pockets of good cycling networks. So how do we bring this all together into a more comprehensive thing?
Mr. Jonah Schein: So I guess my follow-up is, back in 2010, the Minister of Transportation said that a comprehensive cycling strategy for the province of Ontario was imminent; it was just a couple of months away. We’re still waiting for that strategy. Is there any timeline? Can we expect to see that—
Ms. Carol Layton: Yes, there is. It’s coming. Minister Chiarelli addressed the Share the Road cycling summit not too long ago and committed to a draft one in the foreseeable future, in a number of months.
Mr. Jonah Schein: Do you expect that it will be an internally focused policy for the MTO, or will it be a public framework of action to inform transportation policy in Ontario?
Ms. Carol Layton: He’s committed to a document that I believe is going to be one that would be available for people to consult. He would like to do consultation on it and have people provide input into it.
Mr. Jonah Schein: But no timeline of when that’s coming.
Ms. Carol Layton: I think in his actual speech he talked about sometime this summer, with a draft policy.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: Promoting carpooling through legislative amendments and constructing new carpool lots—these legislative amendments: Are they coming?
Ms. Carol Layton: No, they’re in existence. I think they date back to 2007; do I have that right, Rob? Is that right? Carpool lots.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: So they were introduced? We’re not talking about new amendments but rather amendments that have been made.
Ms. Carol Layton: Existing. Amendments that have already been made.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: Gotcha. Are there any reports that you are producing or have available that you would like to table with this committee?
Ms. Carol Layton: What we’re producing, actually—the other one that I referenced in my presentation is a goods movement strategy; it’s work that is not finalized yet, but this is another one that the different sectors—air, rail, marine, road, truckers—are all calling for as well, because you can appreciate that the movement of goods is also important. But the movement of goods and the movement of cars—we need to have that intermodal, multimodal work. So that’s work that is very actively under way in the Ministry of Transportation as well.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: Okay, thank you.
The Acting Chair (Mr. Joe Dickson): Thank you. Mr. Dhillon?
Mr. Vic Dhillon: Thank you very much, Chair. Thank you, Ms. Layton, for your presentation. I just want to mention about Brampton; I think things are going really good with the Züm bus system, although construction is still going on for the new terminals. I have heard from constituents about the benefits that they’re getting from the use of this new form of transit. Parents and students are telling me how much easier it is to commute to Mississauga and Toronto. But it’s unfortunate that not enough people are using the 407 because of the tolls and how our government’s hands were tied when the previous government sold the 407 and how we’re not able to impact the high fees for usage.
Getting back to the transportation of goods and people, we know that we need, on a forward-going basis, innovative techniques to improve the flow of traffic. Could you let the committee know about the innovative methods that the ministry is employing over the next years to get people and goods flowing?
Ms. Carol Layton: A good example of one is the long combination-vehicle program, which was a pilot in August 2009 and then was made permanent in March 2011. What’s interesting about that particular program is that those carriers—we have about 100 carriers; two permits per—ultimately four permits. From the start of that pilot to pretty well now, it has saved two million litres of fuel and reduced GHG by about 8,300 tonnes, but more than that, you end up with, on one vehicle, carrying a much larger freight, albeit light and bulky freight. So that is one example of what we’re doing to address, certainly, the movement of goods. There are other methods like using intelligent transportation systems to make sure that there is very good intelligence and the proper queuing up of traffic as well; and of course, different highway corridor planning that we’re doing that will also support the movement of goods. The 401 widening that we’re doing is a critical one to restore an asset for another 50 to 70 years of life as well.
Mr. Vic Dhillon: As well, you’ve spoken about need for the promotion of a multimodal transportation network in Ontario. Can you explain what the ministry is doing in terms of creating and promoting this type of network?
Ms. Carol Layton: The multimodal network is one that’s going to look at, again, the support of goods movement. It’s looking at air, rail, marine, as well as trucking, and look for the hubs of connectivity. In many ways, a lot of the stakeholders out there more or less say to us that “It’s all there; just connect the dots for us.” So it is about a strategy. There was extensive work done, working with the federal government as well as with the province of Quebec, on something called the continental gateway, although that exact product has not been released. There’s an awful lot of detail behind that which will support the multimodal work that we’re doing.
Therefore, regulatory policy work where we can support infrastructure work will be important as well. Other investments, border investments, are critical, with the Windsor border but other borders as well, such as Sarnia; and then the use of intelligent transportation systems as well, as trucks approach.
We’re also working with our federal colleagues around the perimeter security work as well, which is vital in terms of the many different projects that they have under way and the role that we will play in supporting the flow of goods, certainly throughout the province and downward into the US, which is our largest trading partner.
Mr. Vic Dhillon: Our government—we’ve invested over $600 million in HOV lanes across the province. Are there any plans for more HOV lanes?
Ms. Carol Layton: The 83 kilometres that we have right now are the plans that we have right now for the HOV lanes. Of course, everything is always—as priorities change and as the fiscal plan improves, we can certainly look at other options as well.
Mr. Vic Dhillon: Now, we’ve made record investments in transportation and public transit. Aside from what we can see, are there any other projects that your ministry has to help ease congestion?
Ms. Carol Layton: I’ve talked about the goods movement strategy that we’re working on; the government has also talked about the intercity bus industry as well that we’re looking at. There’s a role for private carriers; we’ve talked an awful lot about public transit today, but there is also re-examining the role for private carriers for people and how they can get into communities. That’s another significant initiative that we have under way.
We’ve talked certainly about the cycling strategy and also talked about just other intermodal ways to support transportation and the flow of people and goods.
Mr. Vic Dhillon: One of the biggest drawbacks, if you can say, of congestion is that there are a lot of vehicles stuck in traffic, idling. Not only does it impact their movement, but it also affects our environment. What’s MTO doing to develop strategies with respect to that?
Ms. Carol Layton: Strategies to address the impact of cars stuck in traffic? Well, I think a very important statistic to appreciate is that every 1% increase in the share of transit versus travelling by car will reduce the GHG emissions by about 25,000 tonnes a year. Therefore, this relates to all the whole purpose of this committee, and that is, what can we do to relieve congestion? I’ve talked about it in the context of transit; I’ve talked about it in the context of highway expansion where we can; I’ve talked about it in the context of long-term corridor planning; and I’ve talked about it in the context of also making sure that those roads that people travel on are safe and therefore keep the great statistics that we have around reduced—fewer—collisions than our neighbouring subnational jurisdictions, so that that also supports the free flow of traffic. When you have free-flowing traffic, you’re going to have fewer people idling in cars. But we also have the encouragement of the electric vehicle through a subsidy program that we’ve had for a few years. Also, as I’ve indicated, looking through a recent RFI that went out on the system on where would we put in a charging infrastructure network so that that anxiety for people of driving an electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid vehicle is lessened and they’re willing to make that change to cars that themselves have zero emissions.
Mr. Vic Dhillon: Thank you very much. Thank you, Chair.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Thank you.
Mr. Jonah Schein: I just have a request of the deputy minister before she leaves. Is that okay? Just briefly.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Okay. Go ahead.
Mr. Jonah Schein: I’m just curious if you have any internal reports at all about reducing congestion through supporting people to work from home or subsidizing transit passes for people in lieu of free parking. I’m curious to see if you have anything like that that you could share with us.
Ms. Carol Layton: Actually, the subsidizing of passes—I’m not aware of that. There have been some pilots that have been done, not in terms of supporting, but pilots that have been done with the Ontario government where our own employees have participated in telecommute-type work, so work-at-home projects. There are a number of different ministries that have done small pilots. It’s not our ministry but probably the host ministry of those employees that has actually compiled the statistics. We actually have a pilot under way right now in our own ministry as well where we’re trying to pull that together. So it would not be a full report, but I could certainly look into that more closely.
Mr. Jonah Schein: Okay. Does that include car sharing as well as an option?
Ms. Carol Layton: The car sharing—I think, through Metrolinx, with the work that they’re doing with the smart commute, I could look into that with them as well.
Mr. Jonah Schein: I appreciate it. Thank you.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Okay, thank you very much. Requests for information?
Mr. John O’Toole: Just a quick one: Are you aware of areas or countries that try to incent people through tax and other measures to get out of the car and into transit, to get them to make the move? This is important. In my own experience, it’s very important to make the move.
Ms. Carol Layton: I think Bruce McCuaig, in his presentation, spoke about—he looked around the world. So for example, congestion pricing that you’ll see in the UK—
Mr. John O’Toole: Yes, they price them out of their car—
Ms. Carol Layton: Well, I mean, the investment strategy itself is going to be looking comprehensively at every method. Whether it’s a fee or a tax or whatever, ultimately, somebody makes a decision.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Thanks for your presentation. We appreciate you coming in today.
Ms. Carol Layton: Thank you, Chair.
CITY OF TORONTO
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Our next presentation: the city of Toronto. Good afternoon. Welcome to the Standing Committee on General Government.
Mr. Denzil Minnan-Wong: Good morning—or good afternoon. It’s been a long day. You stay in your office all day and all of a sudden you walk outside and it’s the end of afternoon.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): You’ve got 15 minutes for your presentation and 10 minutes for questions. Just state your name for the purposes of our recording Hansard, whoever may be speaking, and you can begin when you’re ready.
Mr. Denzil Minnan-Wong: My name is Denzil Minnan-Wong. I’m a city councillor for the city of Toronto. I’m also chair of the public works and infrastructure committee. With me is Myles Currie, and he’s with our transportation department.
I’d like to say thank you for convening the Standing Committee on General Government. As the chair of the Toronto public works and infrastructure committee, I’m pleased to appear before you to discuss congestion and what can be done to help.
We’re all concerned about congestion. Toronto is Canada’s largest municipality and a significant economic hub, comprising 11% of Canada’s GDP, topping $144 billion in 2011. Our most recent data indicates that during a typical 24-hour weekday period, over 2.7 million vehicles cross our city boundaries. The board of trade has said that traffic congestion costs the GTA $6 billion annually in lost productivity. For those who travel in Toronto on bikes, on foot, in transit or in cars, congestion is a daily battle.
First, a few facts about congestion in Toronto: The population and employment of Toronto and surrounding municipalities is growing every year. This is an indication of a strong and healthy economic environment; however, as a result, congestion in the city of Toronto continues to increase as well. Here are some of the indicators that illustrate the effects of congestion in and around our city.
Peak periods: The peak periods for travel have become increasingly longer. Historically, peak travel hours were considered to be between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., and 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. These peak periods have increased considerably over time, resulting in increased driver frustration and negative impacts on the environment, as well as financial costs.
Directional flow: While Toronto is still the largest generator of vehicle traffic flow in the GTA—predominantly inbound to Toronto in the morning and outbound in afternoon—the traffic volumes in the reverse direction have increased significantly over the past 25 years. In some locations, like the Peel-Toronto border, the inbound and outbound traffic flows are about the same during the peak periods, so the same traffic numbers back and forth.
Travel time: Recent travel time studies conducted on both the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway found that the average time to travel along these roadways during the morning and afternoon rush hours is approximately two times longer than during optimal free-flow conditions. Even at midday, the average travel time for the roadways is 1.5 times the ideal travel time. More time commuting means less time doing business or time spent with your family.
Unpredictability: Not only is the travel time excessive, it is also unpredictable. Studies indicate that the variation of travel times on key Toronto roadways is increasing. The unreliability and uncertainty of not knowing how long a trip will take adds to driver frustration.
Toronto has known for a long time that there is a need to take action to mitigate traffic congestion and improve traffic operations. So what are we doing? We in Toronto are developing an intelligent traffic systems strategic plan that will assess and make recommendations to better use the traffic systems on our expressways and our arterial roads. The plan will also identify performance measures that would be used to evaluate the effectiveness of these strategies.
We are also addressing the needs of the arterial road users by replacing our traffic management systems with the latest in traffic signal control technology, and we haven’t stopped there. Recently, we have initiated a review of technologies to monitor and manage traffic on our arterial roads with the goal of improving traffic operations and providing road users with information to assist them with their travel and decision-making.
We are also looking specifically at the travel conditions in Toronto’s downtown area. We have recently initiated a downtown transportation operation study that will examine the causes of congestion in the downtown area and what can be done to address these problems. We hope this study will identify some quick fixes that can be implemented to move people more efficiently in the city’s downtown core. In a nutshell, we’re looking to technology and best practices to help improve traffic flow. While these short-term initiatives are a start, a long-term strategy is necessary to take us through to the next decade and beyond.
The city has an inventory of over 5,600 kilometres of roads, 970 bridges and major culverts, 7,900 kilometres of sidewalks, 2,200 traffic signals and 290 kilometres of off-street bike trails. It is critical to maintain this infrastructure, which has an estimated asset value totalling $12 billion, in a state of good repair in order to provide safe and efficient operating conditions for the city’s residents, businesses and visitors. This is crucial not only for the economic health of the city, but for the GTA and province as a whole.
The current backlog of transportation rehabilitation needs is over $300 million. While this represents less than 3% of the transportation infrastructure asset value, it is a huge figure. At the current funding level, this backlog is expected to increase to $750 million in 10 years. What will help? For starters, funding and partnerships.
The recent provincial-municipal roads and bridges review, in which the city participated, served to highlight the shared provincial and municipal fiscal challenges to build and repair Ontario’s infrastructure, estimated to require $100 billion. The review concluded that the long-term sustainability of roads and bridges requires continued investment by all levels of government. Much of this investment should go towards major infrastructure expansion in the city of Toronto that, I would respectfully submit, would have significant regional and provincial importance. For example, the widening of Steeles Avenue, from Markham Road easterly to the town of Pickering border, would not only serve both the city of Toronto and the region of York, but also the development of the provincially owned Seaton lands to the east. Another example: The millions of dollars being spent to improve and reconfigure the Gardiner Expressway ramps will benefit each and every GTA resident who drives into the city to work.
The construction of key missing links, road and bridge widenings, and grade separations are examples of major infrastructure improvements that help us manage and address congestion. The problem is that transportation planning is still seen by too many to be a municipal function. Toronto and the other municipalities are reliant on property taxes to fund much of the city’s transportation infrastructure needs, both in terms of state-of-good-repair and growth-related improvements and enhancements. This is not sustainable. The city will consider and pursue all the funding mechanisms at its disposal, but an infusion of funds from the province is necessary to address our needs if we ever hope to effectively tackle congestion.
At the moment, both Toronto and Ontario are undertaking processes to alleviate congestion. In March 2012, council adopted a motion to prepare a long-term rapid transit funding strategy outlining revenue tools to finance rapid transit. One of the more controversial revenue tools I expect to be debated by city council is congestion pricing. I see congestion pricing as a tool neither government can continue to ignore. I, for one, see the provincial government leading the charge—no pun intended—in implementing congestion pricing on a regional basis during peak congestion periods. This will encourage the use of public transit, reduce the number of vehicles on the road during peak rush hour periods and provide funds that are desperately needed to fund transit and infrastructure projects.
As the city of Toronto develops long-term strategies to address congestion, looking to technology, policy, infrastructure and transit at the same time, Metrolinx and its report, The Big Move, are identifying how rapid transit will be built across the GTA.
To be effective, our governments must integrate our planning exercises. The implementation of a regionally integrated intelligent transportation system may be the most cost-effective approach to tackling congestion in the GTA that could be applied province-wide. Large municipal infrastructure projects require significant federal and provincial funding. Provincial and federal funding through the Building Canada Fund and other programs has helped us dramatically in addressing some of our infrastructure needs and temporarily stalling the growth in our backlog. But short-term infusions of funds only help to accelerate the implementation of some of our overdue projects.
There remain big needs. Our infrastructure is aging and the demands are increasing. We must be able to roll out long-term plans to effectively address our infrastructure challenges.
You will soon hear from our colleagues at the Toronto Transit Commission about the importance of public transit in the congestion equation and solution. However, we cannot overemphasize, and certainly not overlook, the importance of active transportation to reduce the demands for travel by automobile. As chair of public works, I have personally championed cycling as a way to reduce the number of cars on the road. This means both protecting and accommodating cyclists in our city.
That is why we will be implementing separated bike lanes on Sherbourne Street later this year, the first in Toronto and the first of what will be a 14-kilometre network of downtown separated bike lanes. It is also why we will be presenting to our city council later this week an extensive and ambitious bikeway trails plan, comprising over 77 kilometres of new trails in our rail corridors, hydro corridors, parks and ravines.
In regards to single-vehicle occupancy, in 1985, the a.m. and p.m. peak occupancy was 1.23 and 1.26 persons per vehicle, respectively. In 2008, the a.m. and p.m. peak numbers dropped to 1.07 and 1.09 persons per vehicle, respectively. As such, there is a great need to reduce the number of single-vehicle-occupant trips taken each day in the city, trips that modes of transportation like transit and the bicycle are well suited for.
And it is in this area that the province can really help—with amendments to the Highway Traffic Act and the municipal class environmental assessment process to support, promote and encourage cycling and walking. This will send a clear and strong message to the residents of Ontario that we’re doing everything we can to address the traffic congestion problem that we currently face on a daily and increasingly frustrating basis.
Improvements or amendments to various policies and processes can also address the problems and constraints associated with another type of gridlock: the legislative and jurisdictional gridlock that often inhibits our ability to effectively address our congestion problems in a timely manner.
We look forward to working with you to identify what legislative changes are required to make this a reality. For us to move people and goods, reduce congestion and support our economy, we need to work together.
In summary—this probably should have been the first sentence—we need additional funding, continued partnerships, integrated regional solutions, changes to legislation and incentives to promote alternate modes of transport. This is our recipe for solving gridlock.
Toronto’s residents and businesses have waited too long. So has the GTA. The time to strengthen our partnership to address congestion is now. We all look forward to working toward that common goal.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Thank you very much for your presentation. Questions starting with the NDP caucus: Go ahead, Mr. Marchese.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: Thank you for the presentation. I agree with you in the last comment you made about a cycling policy from the province that we’ve been waiting for for two years. We understand that it’s coming soon in terms of the promotion of cycling infrastructure that Quebec is doing so very well and we’re so lagging behind. We’re waiting for that report.
Does the city have any incentives to get people out of their own cars with their own employees?
Mr. Denzel Minnan-Wong: Myles?
Mr. Rosario Marchese: Any incentive—any strategies?
Mr. Myles Currie: There are strategies, none that are financial with the exception that the city staff do receive a reduction on the Metropass for the TTC, so they can purchase a monthly pass at a lower rate than if they were to buy individual tickets.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: So they would get a reduction on their Metropass if they leave their car at home?
Mr. Myles Currie: Well, they have an option to purchase a Metropass.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: Right.
Mr. Myles Currie: It’s not tied to leaving your vehicle at home.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: Not tied.
Mr. Myles Currie: As well, we have car-sharing and carpooling initiatives—nothing mandatory, but initiatives—that we recommend.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: How is that working? Do we know?
Mr. Myles Currie: It’s still in its early days, but we are finding that people are taking that up, plus they’re looking at telecommuting as well.
Mr. Myles Currie: We are starting to track it. It’s not measured right now.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: It would be a good idea, no?
Mr. Denzil Minnan-Wong: We also have other things that encourage cycling, to try to make it convenient. At certain places in the city, at city buildings, we have bike stations where people can park their bikes, lock them up in a covered area, where they won’t suffer from the climate or from vandalism.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: Good idea.
Mr. Denzil Minnan-Wong: And also, we try and make shower stations available so that people can come and clean up before they go to work.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: And do we track the use of those facilities?
Mr. Denzil Minnan-Wong: Pardon me?
Mr. Rosario Marchese: You have showers, shower facilities.
Mr. Denzil Minnan-Wong: Yes.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: Do we track how often that gets used by different people? Is that good, is it great, is it getting better?
Mr. Denzil Minnan-Wong: Yes, we do. We also have, for the general public, the Bixi program in the downtown core, which you would see driving around the downtown, where people can pick up a bike. Even if they drive down, you can go to an appointment—
Mr. Rosario Marchese: I think it’s great. If you have any studies or however you’re tracking the use of the shower facilities—because I think that’s important. I’m not going to ride my bike down from Lawrence and Bathurst because we just don’t have facilities to shower. It’s a bit of a disincentive. So if you have a study, would you please send it to us?
Mr. Wong, you talked about, “I, for one, see the provincial government leading the charge ... in implementing congestion pricing.” You say, “I, for one”—
Mr. Denzil Minnan-Wong: Yes.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: —meaning you have a voice. Do the other councillors agree with you on this congestion pricing, and what exactly do you mean by congestion pricing?
Mr. Denzil Minnan-Wong: I’m speaking for myself as a councillor, not for the whole council. We’re grappling with this issue of congestion pricing, which is the buzzword for road tolls. We’re struggling with this. I think there are various views and opinions on our council. I believe, with regard to congestion pricing, that it has to be done on a regional basis because if you just, for example, put it in one jurisdiction, the economic impact would be significant. Businesses will decide not to set up in Toronto, people will decide not to come into Toronto. We’re one economic unit and so one jurisdiction cannot be—
Mr. Rosario Marchese: I agree with that.
Mr. Denzil Minnan-Wong: —negatively impacted over another. So the most effective way to do it is to have regional pricing so everyone is treated similarly, so there is not any negative impact—
Mr. Rosario Marchese: I was about to ask you whether—if Toronto does it alone, wouldn’t that have financial implications—
Mr. Denzil Minnan-Wong: It would.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: And you’re just saying it would.
Mr. Denzil Minnan-Wong: I also believe that in terms of the congestion pricing as well, there are a lot of people who don’t have the financial means to afford it, so we should only do it where it’s absolutely necessary. My view is, you should only do it during the rush hour, because there are a lot of people who need to get downtown who’ve actually paid through their taxes for these highways. Perhaps there should an opportunity during the day, when the roads aren’t as full, so other individuals who may not, as I say, have the means to pay for those tolls could get on those roadways as well.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: Thank you, Denzil. He’s got a question.
Mr. Jonah Schein: Councillor, I appreciate that on page 5 you said that “there’s a great need to reduce the number of single-vehicle-occupant trips taking place each day in the city....” I guess my question is, are you going to do studies about congestion and safety before the bike lanes on Jarvis disappear? Are there any plans to study the impacts before that?
Mr. Denzil Minnan-Wong: In terms of the bike lanes on Jarvis, council made that decision. That ship has sailed, so to speak, or that car has left the garage. That decision is made. What we’re doing is, we’re providing another safe-route alternative a couple of blocks over on Sherbourne. Instead of a painted line on a north-south corridor in the east part of the downtown, we’re providing them with a separated bike lane where they’ll be able to ride safely. It is called a cycle track. It’s the first of its kind in the city of Toronto. I think you’ll find a lot of people pleased with that.
My belief is that certain roads should be used to get in and out of the city, where we need to move vehicles, but then there are other roads that we can use for cyclists and provide a safe, connected route for them.
Mr. Jonah Schein: Thank you.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Thank you. Next caucus. Mr. Sergio, go ahead.
Mr. Mario Sergio: I’d like to welcome the councillor, a companion from the good old days. We call them the good old days, before Toronto became Toronto. Metro council? You were not with Metro council?
Mr. Denzil Minnan-Wong: I was on city council, yes.
Mr. Mario Sergio: I remember Mr. Sam Cass, when he was the essence of transportation in Toronto here. But thanks for coming and bringing a presentation to our committee.
Nowadays in Toronto, wherever you look there is construction—new projects, maintaining some of the old ones. You have three major ones under way now, even though it may not be your choice, of subways versus LRT, but we have three major projects costing millions of dollars.
You have mentioned that you require some $100 billion soon. We know that the province is shelling out two thirds of all the transportation money in Toronto. Is the federal government participating to some percentage in all the infrastructure and transportation expenses in Toronto?
Mr. Denzil Minnan-Wong: Firstly, it was a pleasure to serve with you on North York council.
I would note that the $100 billion that’s referenced on page 6 is related to Ontario’s infrastructure needs; it’s not the city’s. Our infrastructure needs: We have a current backlog of $300 million. That’s going to increase, if we don’t invest more money, to $750 million over the next 10 years. I think that there has to be a recognition by all levels of government that infrastructure is a problem. I’m speaking not only to our roads and bridges, but I think also your numbers speak to the big projects, the transit funding. We do need that funding if we’re going to expand. It can’t come off the property tax base. That’s just not a reasonable arrangement. The federal government has actually been a good partner in providing funding; we’re really pleased with what they’ve done.
Actually, one of the problems that I also mentioned in terms of federal funding—we mentioned the infrastructure projects. One of the real challenges that we face—I don’t know if you’re aware of this—is that when the infrastructure programs did come up, we couldn’t fund our programs because they weren’t ready. Many of the projects they would have approved but for the fact that we had to do EAs. We would have gotten them done. If the EA process would have been expedited, a lot of projects in your ridings, you could have seen them happen if the EAs had been completed.
Mr. Mario Sergio: I have one more question. I know you have three major projects, some of them under way right now. I believe it’s perhaps the major project coming in a long way for the city of Toronto. But you have also mentioned that you have this long-term transportation or traffic strategy going on. Have you already identified some of the future projects in this strategy that you’re conducting, and are there some major projects that you envisage in the future in this strategy?
Mr. Denzil Minnan-Wong: Well, I can speak to one of the projects that’s going to get under way this year that I think would have an effect on a number of members here. You know, we have the Bay-York interchange, and I don’t know if your residents tell you—any of you who come in from Mississauga or Oakville, when you hit the downtown and you hit Bay and you try to get up to Queen’s Park, it’s just an absolute nightmare. Part of our long-term strategy is to look at some of these infrastructure projects to actually break that gridlock, so what we’re doing is we’re redesigning the interchanges to take that congestion—redesigning the intersection to put it on Simcoe Street, to get traffic moving. In some ways, that helps more people from outside Toronto than inside Toronto, because for all those people who come in from, as I say, the Mississaugas and Oakvilles and Hamiltons, traffic is going to move better. That’s a big project for us. That’s $20 million.
We’re looking at those types of big projects. We’re looking at small ways to make traffic move better, but some of them require a larger fix, require a larger investment of money that is not of assistance just to the residents of the city of Toronto but to the GTA as well.
Mr. Mario Sergio: Any timing on that?
Mr. Denzil Minnan-Wong: We plan to, I think, start this fall. How long is it going to take, Myles?
Mr. Denzil Minnan-Wong: It will take about a year to do that.
Mr. Mario Sergio: Okay. Thank you very much.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Conservative caucus: Mr. Smith, go ahead.
Mr. Todd Smith: Thanks, Chair, and thanks, Councillor, for coming in and addressing this very important issue for the city of Toronto, the GTA. Six billion dollars a year is what you say gridlock is costing the city of Toronto. Obviously, it’s a huge issue when we’re seeing businesses leave the province of Ontario at an alarming rate as well.
I can tell you, being an eastern member, from Prince Edward–Hastings, which is in eastern Ontario, the Belleville area, that a lot of people in my riding aren’t coming to the Toronto area anymore, because they don’t want to sit on the Don Valley parking lot for two hours to get into town. So it’s a huge issue that needs to be addressed. As the member from Durham said earlier today, why would anybody want to come in? This is something that should have been dealt with seven, eight, 10 years ago, but has been pushed off to the back burner.
There’s a KPMG study that showed that 90% of business executives out there say that the availability of top transportation infrastructure directly affects where they expand and locate their business operations, so I think it’s time the province started treating transportation policy as economic policy, because it is costing billions of dollars and we have to alleviate this gridlock problem. As a Toronto city councillor, when you hear stats like that and you know that people are leaving the province and leaving the city, or not coming to the city, at alarming rates, it’s a serious issue.
I have to ask you, because you’re a Toronto city councillor: We’ve been talking a lot about the fact that Toronto city council just can’t seem to make a decision when it comes to the $8 billion that has been set aside by the province, when it comes to which way to go. We had a mayor who was elected, on quite a resounding election result, to build subways.
Mr. Denzil Minnan-Wong: I think we all recognize the gridlock problem, and it’s increasing, and so we’re doing what we can now to alleviate that. I think part of this problem, as I said, is a funding problem.
With regard to the transit issue that you raised about not being able to make a decision, we made a decision, and I was on the other side. I was on the losing side of that decision, but you can’t always win in politics. You can’t always be on the winning side in government, of course. But I think the reality is—and I think that we can all agree with this, or I hope we can all agree—that the public wants progress.
While you don’t always get your way, on the transit file in the city of Toronto, people need a solution. What I preferred was the subway, which was the first-class decision, or the LRT, which I think was the second-class decision. You know, first-class ticket or second-class ticket, they just want to be on the train. So I think we’ve made a decision and we’re going to move forward.
Mr. Todd Smith: Very good. Thank you.
Mr. John O’Toole: Very good. Thank you very much, Denzil. A pleasure, your presentation. Toronto is important. I think no one disputes that.
You did use a couple of terms that are a bit troubling. You said the current system is “not sustainable.” We’ve heard pretty well from every presenter, “Where’s the money?” That’s kind of what we’ve heard, and you’ve said it as well.
Now, you’ve come up with a couple of new tax ideas—basically they’re taxes. Congestion charges are taxes.
But I am intrigued by the ITS, intelligent transportation systems, or strategy. There’s something there, and I suspect that’s something I’d be interested in to move or expedite traffic and the economy, because they’re linked. Have you got anything to respond to that at all, the ITS? I’ve heard presentations from these people that—
Mr. Myles Currie: Well, the city of Toronto—we do have an ITS system. We have a traffic management system. We don’t call it that today, but that’s what the buzzword is in the industry. We are in the process of enhancing. One particular area is our traffic adaptive system within our arterial road network. It’s about 20 years old, antiquated, failing, unfortunately. So that’s one area we want to focus on, but we see it as seamless; we don’t see Steeles or Peel or the boundaries in the east end as boundaries. Traffic doesn’t see boundaries. So one of the things that we’re recommending is an integrated ITS strategy so that we can look at using the same platform, the same technologies, throughout the entire GTA. To have individual systems that don’t support each other will be counterproductive.
Mr. John O’Toole: You have a tremendous deficit and all of that; you just said your system’s out of date. You’ve $12 billion in assets and you call that completely unsustainable. That’s really the issue. If you become any more gridlocked, do you have a strategy short term, and what would that be, for this committee? What would you leave on the table here as a must-do? Would it be more bicycle lanes? What would be a must-do, if it was about the economy? And they’re inextricably linked.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Thanks. Final question, so go ahead and provide an answer to that.
Mr. Denzil Minnan-Wong: Myles could answer that. He’s a public servant.
Mr. John O’Toole: If he could give some ideas to the committee—
Mr. Denzil Minnan-Wong: But from a politician’s point of view, the elephant in the room for us is transit funding. So, as health care is to your government, so is transit to our government. One of the most effective ways that you can deal with gridlock is getting people out of cars. You have to make it convenient. You have to make it efficient. So unless there’s sufficient money to fund transit—and I’m just not talking capital. We’re going to get these things built, but then we have to pay for it. Back in the days of Bill Davis there was money for sustainable transit funding. That was taken away by one government and not replaced by every government after that. So I think we’re all responsible for that arrangement, and until there’s something done about that, we’re not going to be able to get as many people out of cars. I’d take transit to work if I could, but it takes me too long to get here.
Mr. John O’Toole: I have one thing, an article in the paper that says that the whole thing of Transit City—in the paper it says that the real issue is that “the TTC is already trying to insulate itself from … the traffic chaos everyone knows is coming when construction starts.” They’re going to blame everything on the province—
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Mr. O’Toole, thanks for your comments.
Thanks for your presentation.
Mr. Denzil Minnan-Wong: Thanks for cutting me off. I didn’t want to answer that last one.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): I was actually trying to cut him off.
Mr. John O’Toole: That’s okay. I’ve got lots to say.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Thanks for your presentation.
Mr. O’Toole will be happy to know that the next presentation is the Toronto Transit Commission.
TORONTO TRANSIT COMMISSION
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): So the next presentation: Toronto Transit Commission. Welcome to the Standing Committee on General Government. As you’re aware, you’ve got 15 minutes for your presentation and 10 minutes for questions among members. Just simply state your name for our recording purposes, and you can begin your presentation when you’re ready. Thank you.
Mr. Andy Byford: Okay. Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for the invitation to present to you. I’m Andy Byford. I’m the chief executive officer of the Toronto Transit Commission. My colleague is Mitch Stambler, who’s head of service planning, again at the TTC.
Mitch has kindly agreed to drive the slides so that I can focus on talking to you and speaking with you.
So, my kickoff: Transit is the best, most realistic and most achievable means of reducing traffic congestion in urban areas. This has been concluded through many international studies done by organizations such as the World Bank, the OECD, the FCM and the United Nations etc. Other environmentally sustainable transportation modes such as walking, biking or carpooling may be helpful, but only transit offers all of these features: It is compatible with virtually any type of land use, be that commercial, residential or industrial; it is accessible to people of all differing levels of income and mobility; it offers high capacity which is expandable; and it is sustainable and environmentally friendly.
I think we’d all agree that congestion in Toronto is real and it is problematic. A recent study undertaken by Metrolinx and the board of trade concluded that traffic congestion in the greater Toronto area currently costs the local economy $6 billion in lost productivity every year. A recent Environics poll conducted for the Globe and Mail found that 90% of residents agree that GTA traffic congestion has reached “crisis proportions.” This is an increase of more than 20% from a similar poll conducted in 2010.
Transit currently plays a vital role in keeping Toronto’s economy and transportation system moving. In the central area of Toronto alone, almost 80% of all trips are made on transit. The more travel which is attracted to transit, the fewer cars that will be on the road and the less traffic congestion that will occur.
The TTC has been working very hard to make transit more attractive to a wide range of customers for all of their travel purposes, including discretionary trips like shopping and recreation, and not just the necessities of work and school trips.
Working within our available resources, the TTC has improved the frequency and the quality of peak period service by increasing the number of vehicles and operators on the routes highlighted on the map that you can see on the screen.
The TTC has invested significant resources into improving our off-peak services, with an emphasis on ensuring that every part of Toronto has service all day and throughout the evening hours, every day of the week. All the routes highlighted on this map have had such improvements implemented. Again, they are the ones that we highlight on that map before you.
The TTC is working hard to make its system accessible to everyone: people with disabilities, people who use mobility devices, people who are frail and elderly, people who use baby carriages, and people who are too old or too young to be eligible to drive. In addition, all TTC buses are now accessible. The TTC’s new subway cars offer even higher levels of accessibility than do our previous subway cars—and that’s an example there of the interior of one of our rocket trains.
The TTC is in the process of acquiring new low-floor, accessible streetcars—again, the imagery is before you. That’s the ramp that will be deployed; it’s a two-stage ramp that will be deployed for people requiring the ramp, to go up on a scooter device. Those low-floor, accessible streetcars will progressively replace our older and non-accessible streetcars.
The TTC is also working to make transit a viable option for people who are already committed to sustainable modes of transportation, but for whom their current travel requirements may be too challenging.
Our efforts are paying off. The TTC’s ridership has been increasing significantly in recent years, hitting a major industry milestone of 500 million passenger journeys in 2011, as you can see on the graph, and we are trending towards another all-time high this year of 512 million passengers, with a likely further increase through to 520 million in the not-too-distant future.
In contrast to many other cities, the TTC’s ridership consists of more off-peak riders than peak period riders, which means that Torontonians are choosing to take transit not just to get to work, but also to go shopping, to go to the movies and to go to their doctors etc. I can certainly say that’s not the case in other cities that I’ve worked in—in London and in Sydney. It’s quite unusual, actually, to work at a property where off-peak ridership is increasing, more so than peak ridership. It’s quite unusual, actually. This is the foundation for a truly sustainable city, where people’s lifestyles are evolving in a non-car-oriented way.
Transit is the best way to combat congestion in a big city like Toronto because it is able to carry large volumes of people in a highly efficient and compact way which makes best possible use of limited available road space.
Here are some illustrations for you. Every TTC bus full of passengers replaces about 50 cars. Every TTC streetcar full of passengers replaces about 70 cars. Every TTC new high-capacity streetcar—which we’re rolling out—full of passengers will replace about 120 cars. Every TTC subway train full of passengers replaces about 1,000 cars. In fact, with the very high frequency of service which the TTC operates on the Yonge subway, for example, that one line alone replaces over 140,000 car trips during the busiest hours of the morning and afternoon peak periods. You can imagine how much more congested the roads would be were those 140,000 car trips taking place. With a daily ridership of 1.6 million passengers, the TTC replaces the equivalent of almost 1.5 million car trips per day in Toronto.
The implementation of Toronto’s light rail plan is projected to divert very significant volumes of car travel to this new form of rapid transit, which will reduce or help slow down the growth of congestion in Toronto, while simultaneously reducing transportation-related greenhouse gases. We are very grateful for the provincial government’s investment in light rail transportation, which is, in reality, an investment in a superior quality of life for all Torontonians, a healthier environment and a more livable and attractive city.
Traffic congestion affects the TTC just like it does all other users of the road. Over the last 10 years, the TTC has added a total of 28 buses and streetcars to its existing services exclusively for the purpose of offsetting the slower travel speeds which are resulting from worsening congestion. These additional resources add no capacity to the system, nor do they improve service quality. Rather, they just help the TTC to tread water. But they have cost the TTC over $37 million in vehicle purchases and have added $15 million to the TTC’s annual operating costs.
In order for the TTC to combat congestion, we have implemented and continue to implement various mitigation measures and investments.
For streetcars, we have implemented three reserved rights-of-way where streetcars are physically separated from adjacent traffic and congestion and are therefore insulated from congestion, both current and future. These three lines are the 509 Harbourfront streetcar, the 510 Spadina streetcar and the 512 St. Clair streetcar. All of these lines are enjoying considerable success, with ridership increasing faster than the system-wide average.
We very much look forward to implementing the new light rail lines in comparable rights-of-way. These new lines will have wider station spacing than downtown streetcar routes, all-door boarding, and fare payment using the Presto card, so they will move at twice the speed of current streetcar routes and with much greater reliability and efficiency. There are huge customer service and operational benefits in the light rail lines that we are about to start building in conjunction with yourselves.
On the bus front, the TTC has opened its first-ever bus rapid transit line to York University. That, too, is enjoying tremendous success with high ridership. Again, the map shows you where that high-capacity bus rapid transit line is.
Like a streetcar right-of-way, a bus rapid transit facility provides a high-demand bus route with its own bus lanes—usually physically separated—in order to allow the buses to operate quickly and reliably without being affected by traffic congestion. There are other opportunities for bus rapid transit lines in Toronto, and some are currently the subject of TTC feasibility studies or environmental assessments, as we show on the map.
To assist other bus routes whose speed and reliability have declined as a result of traffic congestion, the TTC is embarking on a plan to implement queue-jump lanes at locations of chronic congestion. These lanes will allow buses, each of which carries 50 to 60 passengers, to bypass queues of congested automobile traffic, where each vehicle typically carries only 1.1 passengers. Indeed, with a finite and unexpandable supply of road space, our collective objective should be to effectively move people, not vehicles, and this can be done best with public transit. This photo shows how one transit vehicle can replace the need for many, many road-congesting, space-consuming and environmentally polluting private automobiles.
In conclusion, congestion in Toronto is real, and it is having a measurable and perceptible negative effect on people’s quality of life. While many theories and hypothetical ideas have been put forward over the years on how to combat congestion—such as staggered hours, car pools and telecommuting—the only real, enduring, realistic, achievable and socially acceptable solution is public transit. The TTC is very proud to be a major part of the solution to traffic congestion in Toronto.
Thanks again for letting us speak with you, and we welcome your questions.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Thank you very much for your presentation. The Liberal caucus is up. Go ahead, Mr. Dhillon.
Mr. Vic Dhillon: Thank you, Chair.
Thank you very much for your presentation. What other types of transit systems have you dealt with most frequently in your career, and how do they compare with Toronto’s transit system?
Mr. Andy Byford: My career has spanned the London Underground; two of the former British Rail train operating companies, so that’s heavy-rail mainline operation; and, most recently, RailCorp in Sydney, Australia, which is a heavy-rail system supplemented by coaches on what’s called the CountryLink network. So primarily it has been rail operations, a bit of bus operation, but it has been a mix of very high frequency metro operation and heavy rail.
How does it compare? The big difference is that the TTC operates a multi-modal system. It’s quite unusual in that respect, in that we operate bus, subway, streetcar, SRT—in Scarborough, obviously—and Wheel-Trans. That is all one company, using transfers within a paid area, in multi-modal interchanges.
I have to say, I think people probably don’t realize how lucky they are to have that system. I think fundamentally it’s still a very good system. The actual fundamental design is really good.
Having said that, compared to other cities, compared to other big cities—I’d cite London and Paris as two examples—the provision of high-density subway networks is very, very low compared to other systems that I’ve worked in. It’s good that, in conjunction with the province, we’re expanding the LRT system to pick up major arterials, but in my professional opinion we also urgently need to tackle subway capacity.
Mr. Vic Dhillon: So based on your experience in other jurisdictions, what do you feel needs to be done to improve service with the TTC?
Mr. Andy Byford: I think, as I said, we certainly need to expand capacity in terms of the means by which we move high numbers of people, particularly in the peak hours, in the main directions of traffic, or the main flow directions. So the Yonge line, albeit we can expand capacity a bit with automatic train control and with the rocket trains which are being rolled out, is practically at capacity even now, in the peak, so we do need to add subway capacity.
I think the other huge benefit would be, between ourselves, to provide stabilized funding over a protracted period. So a 10-year stabilized—and forgive me if I use an English expression—ring-fenced funding—in other words, guaranteed funding—to provide stability and certainty of funding over a 10-year period would be a huge step forward.
I was in London a month ago on a conference, and I was speaking with my former colleagues at London Underground, who have said the single biggest thing that has helped them now totally upgrade the London Underground system, the oldest underground system in the world, has been to have secured, via local government—i.e., London government—and national government a 10-year guaranteed funding stream so that they can expand capacity and capability and actually modernize the system, even in the middle of a double-dip recession. So they absolutely know what funding they’ve got and they can invest with certainty. That would help us hugely.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Very briefly. Go ahead.
Mr. Vic Dhillon: As you mentioned about your previous position, the national government was funding the transit system. Do you feel that the federal government should be funding the Toronto Transit Commission, as the province is already on the hook for two thirds of the costs so far?
Mr. Andy Byford: My view would be that Toronto is pretty much the economic engine of certainly Ontario but also, to a large extent, Canada. I would hope that—
Mr. Andy Byford: Sorry. Yes, of course; Alberta. Bear in mind, I’m not from here. Alberta clearly is also an economic driver.
I would have thought that a sensible funding mix would be a mix of city, provincial and federal funding, to recognize the fact that if Toronto works, Ontario works.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Thank you. That’s time for questions, Mr. Dhillon. We’re going to move on to the next caucus.
Conservative caucus: Mr. O’Toole.
Mr. John O’Toole: I don’t mean this cynically, but welcome to Canada. I have two daughters who live in London, and I’m quite familiar with the wonderful subway system they have there.
I have a couple of questions. I like the new governance model, where the TTC doesn’t run Metrolinx. I hate to tell you that, but I think that’s allowed them to get the Presto card and all that stuff going. We need central governance, if you’re going to have a central system.
This article here: “TTC, Metrolinx: “Give Us Transit, Not Excuses”—it’s a good article. It’s forecasting that the new Transit City plan, on Eglinton or wherever it is, is going to cost more and take longer. Do you agree? Do you think the paper is wrong? Are you going to come in on time and on budget? And would you put your job on the line?
Mr. Andy Byford: The provenance—
Mr. John O’Toole: No, it’s fair.
Mr. Andy Byford: No, that’s okay. The provenance of that article will be from the independent study that we had commissioned by the American passenger transit association. The reason we asked them to come in was because I was very keen to make sure that we were not being under-ambitious in our time scales or overly cautious. We asked them, as independent peer reviewers, to look at what we had concluded was a potential risk on budget and also on schedule.
Having said that—
Mr. John O’Toole: Yes, well, I’ve got a couple—
Mr. Andy Byford: Having said that, if I might just answer, I would be the happiest man in the world, as chief executive of the TTC, to be completely proven wrong. I really want to get these LRTs built. What I said very clearly at the commission meeting was that we’re flagging concerns. However, the decision has been made, so I can guarantee you that I am all-out co-operating with Metrolinx to get these lines built.
Mr. John O’Toole: I followed the Transit City argument, and you’re moving ahead—good for you.
A couple of questions: What’s the budget for the TTC? I could probably look this up, but you could give it to me.
Mr. Andy Byford: Which budget do you mean?
Mr. John O’Toole: The budget for the TTC: capital and operating.
Mr. Andy Byford: The annual budget for capital is around $5 billion. The annual operating budget is $1.5 billion.
Mr. John O’Toole: So it’s about $6.5 billion. What’s your fare box revenue? What’s the percentage of revenue from the fare box?
Mr. Andy Byford: The percentage is unusual, actually, in that we’re 70% covered by fare box; 30%, subsidy, which is the exact inverse of, say, Sydney.
Mr. John O’Toole: That’s actually pretty good.
You want stabilized funding. What does that mean? Under the current delivery model or under some future delivery model? Have you got some idea of what you want? We know the Big Move wants $2 billion more per year—perhaps a billion. Would that include capital?
Mr. Andy Byford: I think it would depend on what we’re aiming to do. Obviously, the funding envelope will be as big as we collectively want to expand the system. It was less around the quantum I was referring to; it’s more about the certainty. In any big business, you would not make business decisions based upon almost a hand-to-mouth, year-on-year budget. You would have certainty about what your funding was, going forward, and therefore you could make investment decisions with confidence. That—
Mr. John O’Toole: I guess the other thing is—
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Sorry, that’s the time for the Conservative caucus.
NDP caucus: Mr. Schein, go ahead.
Mr. Jonah Schein: Welcome to town. It’s nice to have you here, and thanks for the presentation.
Actually, I have a follow-up question to the question that Mr. O’Toole was asking, and it has to do with the timeliness of the Eglinton LRT. There has been, as we know, an independent study saying that it looks like it might be behind schedule.
Part of that looks like it might be because Metrolinx has committed to a P3 model, a public-private partnership. It won’t actually start building until 2014 because they’re waiting for that bid to go out. Do you have any concerns about the model that they’re using to build?
Mr. Andy Byford: Sure. It’s not to say that it’s definite. What we were doing was flagging, in our professional opinion, what we believe is—it’s not impossible, but we were saying that it’s highly challenging. The main concern we had and have, notwithstanding the direction to proceed now—and I’ve just made the case to your colleague that we will fully cooperate, obviously—the main concern was that if you don’t actually start the construction until 2014 because you’re having to do this exercise to garner private investment, if you’re starting there but you’ve got a declared deadline of 2020, that pretty much compresses the construction, start to finish, into four years, which we believe, but also we asserted, is really going for it, and that would necessitate a huge disruption along Eglinton Avenue.
Now, to be fair to Metrolinx, they don’t agree with that. Their view is that it can be done, and given the commission’s direction the other day, as far as I’m concerned the debate is over. We now fully cooperate with Metrolinx to make that happen.
Mr. Jonah Schein: But in your view, is there not a better model that would allow construction to begin immediately and avoid that gridlock?
Mr. Andy Byford: Well, the paper that we submitted to the commission argued that the TTC model—which has been somewhat misreported as only the TTC way. What we proposed was that it should be a hybrid and that we should use the P3 model for elements such as the SRT replacements, the Scarborough rapid transit replacement, and the yards—the greenfield sites, if you like—and that the TTC model should be used to actually do the line construction and the stations. We felt that was a safer means of construction. So it was never about TTC or Metrolinx; we actually proposed a hybrid.
The way I look at it, though, is that we are where we are, the decision has been made to proceed in the way that was announced at the commission the other day, and I am fully engaged with Metrolinx to do that.
Mr. Jonah Schein: Thanks—and I’ll be very brief because my colleague wants to get in. We heard from Councillor Minnan-Wong that the operating subsidy is insufficient. Do you agree with that?
Mr. Andy Byford: Well, certainly, going forward, because we’re now building where the new lines will be built—it’s great to actually have the investment to build them, but you’ve then got to operate them. So absolutely, there needs to be more operating budget assigned to reflect the fact that the actual network will be bigger. I agree.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: A quick statement and then a quick question. It would be wonderful, and I agree with you, to have predictability, and it would be great to have the province and the federal government commit to a steady flow of funds on a year-to-year basis, rather than relying on the mercy of a nice government, provincially or federally, for funding. It’s a shame that we have to go year by year, in terms of unpredictability and what we’re going to get.
I want to talk locally about a problem I have in the area. My riding is Trinity–Spadina, right downtown, where condominiums have been going up every day like wild mushrooms. I have a quote. The New Yorker writer John Seabrook once put it this way: “This is the way the world ends,” he says. “Not with a bang but with a traffic jam.” That’s the way I see it happening in my riding. If you want to get out of the city and you’ve got to get to the highway on Strachan, or Dufferin, or Bathurst, or Spadina or York Street, it’s just impossible and it’s getting worse, and we’re building more and more condominiums.
Do you have a sense of how we’re going to deal with some of these, through a transit perspective, particularly along King Street, where we need to improve our streetcar lines so that they go more frequently—
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): If there’s a question, let’s give him time to answer. We don’t have time to keep going.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: Fine. There’s the question.
Mr. Andy Byford: I reference my earlier comments, that at some point we do have to address the issue of subway construction, because that is the single most effective way of dealing, I believe, with moving the masses downtown—so a downtown relief line, probably an east-west line of some sort. But I agree with you. I’ve been here long enough to see the unbelievable expansion in condos; they’re just going up everywhere. We will very soon have a problem around the Lakeshore because we have huge numbers of condos going up. We need to tackle that and provide transit to move the people that are going to live there. Ideally, you get the transit in before the condos open. You don’t want to be playing catch-up. So for a myriad of reasons, we really do need to address this funding issue.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Thank you very much for your presentation. That’s the time we have. Thanks for coming in.
CITY OF OTTAWA
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): The next presentation: city of Ottawa. Good afternoon. Welcome to the Standing Committee on General Government. We appreciate your being here today.
Ms. Schepers, I understand you just need a second to set up your PowerPoint presentation.
Ms. Nancy Schepers: While this is starting, I will take a few moments just to introduce myself. I’m Nancy Schepers. I am the deputy city manager with the city of Ottawa. I am responsible for all planning and infrastructure construction within the city of Ottawa. You have copies of my presentation.
While this is being done I could start, if you would like, Chair?
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Go ahead. That would be great. When that comes on, we can just catch up with it.
Ms. Nancy Schepers: Chair and committee members, it is a pleasure to be here. I certainly welcome this opportunity to update you on the work that the city of Ottawa is doing to ensure and to secure the mobility future in Ottawa. Today I hope to provide you with an understanding of the work under way, the work to come in the immediate term, and some of the partnership opportunities we see for senior orders of government to support our transportation and land use decisions, and our vision for a successful and livable city.
We’re being very prudent in Ottawa, so I got to come all by myself and use the technology, as well.
We all understand that healthy cities don’t just happen. They result from good planning and sustained efforts to see those plans through. Failure to plan results in wasted money and lost opportunity that can never be recaptured.
Similarly, failure to find ways to maximize value from our investments can hurt progress. Budgets are tight, and the question of where each dollar is spent to address congestion is a real challenge. Success is critical.
So Ottawa’s approach to smart growth and efficient mobility is set out through our official plan and our transportation master plan. These plans are refreshed to ensure they adapt and adjust to changing realities. In Ottawa, that review is starting now and by the end of 2013 will be complete.
In our last planning refresh in 2008, we set out to increase the proportion of people travelling by transit in the morning peak from 23% in 2005 to 30% by 2031. Our goals were, of course, not limited to transit, but included increases in other modes of transportation, like cycling and walking, as well as working to limit the peak demand. Transportation systems are, in some ways, like electrical power systems. For both, peak demand drives system planning because failure to meet its strain causes the system to fail. Avoiding system failure and moving people efficiently is as much a quality of life issue as it is key to our local economy. People and assets stuck in traffic are not productive. When I see traffic congestion, I see frustrated people, but I also see a terrible waste of money.
When it comes to our ability to address congestion, Ottawa is well positioned to achieve significant success. Our average commute is 7.8 kilometres, which is quite something, given our size, stretching 90 kilometres from east to west. We have seen an approximate 20% increase in annual transit ridership over the last decade and we have the highest level of commutes by bike in Canada, despite the weather.
In this vein, the city of Ottawa has a focused plan to maximize mobility. We are, first and foremost, growing transit ridership through investments in better and more reliable service; balancing investment in all modes of transportation, with strategic expansion of the road, cycling, and pedestrian network; and, finally, partnering with our commuters by getting them better, real-time information they can use to avoid peak hour congestion and work around snags that will occur even in the best traffic networks.
Here’s a powerful fact that underscores how important investing in transit is to our future: With the same, dedicated, three-and-a-half-metre strip of land, you can move 2,000 people an hour in cars or you can move 22,000 people an hour on rail transit.
We are proud of the fact that Ottawa is well known around the world for its innovative bus rapid transitway system. It has allowed for efficient transportation planning, from the outer suburbs into the core, and has been internationally recognized for its success. As a bus-based system, our transitway and transit priority lanes provide a reliable, fast and cost-effective alternative to the automobile. Many of these transit priority lanes are on highways—the key benefit of productive, strategic co-operation with our provincial partners.
Ottawa has one of the highest levels of public transit use for a city our size in North America. This is the result of both partnership and planning. Today, the city of Ottawa, as the planning authority for land use and transportation, continues to make the decisions we need to ensure continued success long-term.
Even in the earliest planning of the transitway system, it was recognized that meeting future ridership demand was going to require a tunnel through the downtown. That time is now.
As more than 180 buses an hour per direction course through our downtown on dedicated lanes, they carry more than 9,000 passengers each way to meet demand at peak. But we have reached our limit. Now adding extra buses simply slows every other bus down. A picture speaks 1,000 words, and this next slide illustrates our current situation well. It is a reality I see every day from my office window.
What you see in front of you is the result of 14 sets of traffic lights and the need to wait for north-south traffic through the core. While our traffic engineers have done a miraculous job of optimizing the signal timing to allow 180 buses an hour in each direction to navigate in mixed traffic through our downtown on dedicated lanes, I’m sure you can imagine the effect of any traffic incident on a downtown street. Any glitch causes backups, slowdowns and dramatic drops in system productivity. Any effort to manage congestion that does not address the downtown bottleneck is doomed to failure.
Fortunately, with $600 million in strategic investment from the provincial government and $600 million from our federal partners, combined with $900 million from the city itself, we are tackling the downtown bottleneck with our new light rail transit investment. Transit is our city’s number one priority. We have advanced several transit investments as part of the infrastructure stimulus program, in particular the southwest transitway extension to Barrhaven Town Centre and the Baseline Station upgrades, which were built in concert with the Algonquin College trade centre building. We’re fortunate in that we were well along in the planning of those projects when the stimulus program came up, which allowed us to implement them within the strict time frames that were dictated in that program.
What we need now is a sustained commitment from our partners, because providing reliable transit is a long-term plan with long-term needs that outstrip the capacity of a property tax base.
This graphic that you see in front of you here shows the current transit investment priority for the city of Ottawa. It is shown in yellow on this map and is essentially a conversion of our existing bus rapid transit to fully segregated rail service from Tunney’s Pasture in the west to Blair Road in the east, with the inclusion of a tunnel through the downtown bottleneck. As you can see, this project will form the backbone of our transit system, freeing transit from congestion in the downtown core. The project is 12 kilometres in length and includes 13 stations and is geared to service the city’s growth and realize productivity gains for transit.
I will also draw your attention to the red line. That is the current O-Train system. Today, that system provides a 15-minute service. By 2014, we will be providing eight-minute service during peak, in time to assist with mobility challenges that we anticipate during construction of the LRT line.
We are following best practices in the competition to build Ottawa’s new light rail transit system. We have attracted the most capable firms from around the world into three impressive teams, requiring each of them to compete to design, build and maintain the system for 30 years. We will be holding the successful team’s feet to fire over the next three decades by requiring up to $400 million in financing from that team for the project. This is how the best systems in the world are built: taking full advantage of private innovation and demanding accountability for performance over the long term to ensure best value for our mutual taxpayers.
As with any major construction project of this scale, an important consideration is how mobility will be managed during the construction period. The city approached the government of Ontario with a request to accelerate and integrate its plans to the widening of the 417 between Nicholas and what is known by Ottawa residents as the split, where Highways 174 and 417 diverge. The section to be widened is shown in the shaded area that you can see highlighted on the screen. I know it’s difficult to see, but as a point of reference, the current transitway parallels the highway and is shown in red.
I am pleased that Minister Chiarelli and the government were quick to understand the benefits of moving together to link projects. As a result, the widened lanes will be built as one bundled project, enabling the competing teams to fully integrate the projects in their proposals and take responsibility that both project schedules align. The extra lanes will provide an alternative corridor for the bus rapid transit system while that section of the transitway is converted to rail so that transit service can be maintained through seamless coordination of works on the 417 in combination with the LRT.
At the same time, the city will be aggressively pursuing both traffic system and transportation demand management initiatives to flatten the peak demand, and this progress will benefit the construction and pay lasting dividends. Ottawa is looking to the example set by Calgary’s work shift program, as reductions in peak demand can be achieved simply by engaging businesses and institutions in allowing their employees to work differently. In the interim, the city has initiated an aggressive asset renewal program called Ottawa on the Move to help maximize our existing transportation system during construction.
As you may know, Ottawa and the province work together on ensuring vehicle traffic flows well on our road network. The city operates a state-of-the-art traffic control centre. A traffic incident management group with representation from MTO coordinates the response to unforeseen incidents to minimize disruption from accidents throughout the transportation network. A network of over 180 traffic cameras reports in to the one control centre with one integrated management team. We’re now implementing a traveller information system to get that real-time information into the hands of residents through variable message signs, the Internet, and social and conventional media. This real-time information will allow residents and businesses to better plan their commutes or choose not to travel at all.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): We’re a little bit over time, and I know you had a little bit of set-up, so if you want to just take a minute and see if you can—
Ms. Nancy Schepers: Okay. I’m almost finished.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): That would be great. Thank you.
Ms. Nancy Schepers: As part of updating its transportation master plan and official plan, priorities will be established for future investment needs that will in part drive Ottawa’s development charges bylaw review in 2014.
There are many ways that the province of Ontario can contribute to supporting Ottawa in delivering on our transportation plans. You can help by:
—renewing your commitment, more vital than anything else, to provide one third funding for public transit infrastructure. We simply cannot afford to build what is needed unless you do so;
—revising the policy on DCs around the collection to support transit; for example, the non-statutory exemptions and the non-residential discounting policy. To be clear, this does not mean increasing the total collected, just rebalancing how they are apportioned. We also would like to explore calculating DC charges based on planned spending rather than historical spending in order to meet future infrastructure needs;
—working closely with your municipal partners to step up with integrated solutions that use all the new technology tools to provide a complete picture of municipal and provincial traffic;
—installing changeable message signs early in construction programs so they can contribute to traffic management as we improve infrastructure; and
—ensuring provincial funding models are flexible enough to allow us to target priority transit investment.
Finally, I want to thank you for your interest in Ottawa’s mobility future. I know that we are all committed to the goals I’ve discussed today, and I look forward to working with you over the coming years to continue to turn good planning into practical realities in the capital.
I’m pleased to take questions.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Thank you very much for your presentation. The Conservatives are up first. Mr. MacLaren, go ahead.
Mr. Jack MacLaren: Ms. Schepers, in planning for transportation, have you worked with Gatineau to coordinate their needs? Because there’s an awful lot of people from Gatineau and Hull who go back and forth by car or public transit to work, and play too.
Ms. Nancy Schepers: We do work very closely with Gatineau, and in fact, in preparation for our transportation master plan update, the origin-destination work that we do is done completely seamlessly with them so that we all share the same picture of where people’s origin and destination is. That assists us in terms of the overall planning for meeting those needs.
Secondly, clearly, within the transit system, we are in the process of doing an integrated transit plan. Our priority project does envision that it would be able to capably handle STO passengers, so again, we’re working together with them on that, as well as short-term operational improvements and, of course, with Quebec and Ontario, working towards a new interprovincial bridge.
Mr. Jack MacLaren: Have you also considered in your transportation planning the people who travel from the rural areas into Ottawa? Because there’s quite a number of them who work downtown. And especially your new light rail system—has some consideration been given, at the ends of the rail transportation system, to pick up these people by bus or parking area or whatever?
Ms. Nancy Schepers: By all means. In terms of the rural area, we understand the full origin-destination for the entire city, which includes the rural area, and you will note that we do have a number of park-and-rides, and they typically tend to be closer to the rural areas. That would encourage rural folks to certainly park and ride. In addition, transit does free up space on the highway, and it’s good for all citizens of Ottawa.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Thank you. That’s—
Mr. Jack MacLaren: One more.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Sorry, Mr. McLaren, we need to move on. It’s time—
Mr. Jack MacLaren: Just a question. I’ll be very quick.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Very quick. If this is important to you, very quickly.
Mr. Jack MacLaren: It is. Thank you.
You’re going to be using the Presto card system, I understand, in Ottawa. Is it going to be compatible with the card system that Gatineau has for their transportation system?
Ms. Nancy Schepers: I understand that there will be interoperability. We already do that with STO today, in terms of being able to transfer from one system to the other seamlessly.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Thank you.
NDP caucus: Mr. Schein, go ahead.
Mr. Jonah Schein: I’m not sure if I heard you correctly, but I thought that you were saying something about trying to change the peak times by having people work at home. Is that correct, and could you elaborate on that?
Ms. Nancy Schepers: Council has just adopted a transportation demand management strategy, and there are a number of different elements to that. Part of that is trying to encourage people to work from home or time-shift their work, talk to universities to potentially start classes later, different things that we can do to flatten the peak.
Mr. Jonah Schein: That’s just in the study phase right now? That hasn’t been implemented?
Ms. Nancy Schepers: No. It has been approved, and we are moving aggressively to implementation.
Mr. Jonah Schein: That’s new.
The other thing is that you also spoke about that you have set targets and timelines for increasing cycling and walking in Ottawa—is that correct?
Ms. Nancy Schepers: The transportation master plan does set goals with respect to modal share with cycling and pedestrian and transit. They will be updated as part of our refresh in 2013.
Mr. Jonah Schein: And do you feel like you’re on target? Are you going to hit those targets, do you think?
Ms. Nancy Schepers: We have to—I mentioned to you that we are the highest cycling in North America, so I would say that we are doing extremely well. We have a number of projects that are on the books that will certainly support the cycling network and pedestrian network, both. With respect to our transit modal share, with the growth in ridership we are experiencing, I would say yes.
Mr. Jonah Schein: Thank you.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Liberal caucus: Mr. Naqvi, go ahead.
Mr. Yasir Naqvi: First of all, Ms. Schepers, thank you very much for coming down to Toronto for this presentation, and through you, I want to thank the leadership of Mayor Watson, the council and the staff on public transit in Ottawa. I think we’ve come a long way and we’re going in the right direction.
One area that you mentioned just earlier on in your introduction that I wanted you to highlight for the members of the committee is around the steps the city is taking as it relates to the alternative modes of transportation: biking, walking and other modes. What’s the vision there, and what are a few of the specific things that you have been doing in Ottawa?
Ms. Nancy Schepers: Thank you very much for the question. This time around, when we update the transportation master plan, we will do it in concert with the pedestrian and the cycling plan, so they will be all done together.
We have a number of initiatives under way. I mentioned Ottawa on the Move. We are able to accelerate a number of overdue renewal investments in our road system, and at the time, we’re also looking at cycling gaps. There’s a number of sections of cycling network in particular where gaps exist that we will be able to invest in. Again, it will support us when we get to our construction program, where that will be a much safer and more acceptable alternative.
We have several environmental assessments for pedestrian bridges that are under way. We have design under way for another pedestrian bridge across the Rideau River. We have experienced a lot of successes, as you know, with the Somerset Bridge over the Canal in terms of the usage and the numbers. So there’s a number of things. We also have the first fully segregated bike lane in Canada, and our numbers are far exceeding our expectations. We’re exceeding 2,500 a day right now which, for being this early in the game, is really exceptional.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Thank you very much for coming in for your presentation. That’s the time we have today.
Ms. Nancy Schepers: Thank you.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Okay, folks. The last presentation of the day: Kapsch TrafficCom. Where’s Paul? All right, good stuff. Welcome to the Standing Committee on General Government.
Mr. Paul Manuel: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My name is Paul Manuel, and I represent Kapsch TrafficCom. Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak on the issue of traffic congestion in Ontario. Needless to say—
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Sorry, just before you get started, as you’re aware, you’ve got 10 minutes for your presentation. Time you don’t use will be divided among members to ask questions. We’ve got five minutes for questions divided among the caucuses after you’re finished. Thank you very much, and go ahead with your presentation.
Mr. Paul Manuel: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. As I was saying, many of you are already aware that the gridlock problem has reached a point where it’s drastically affecting the economy, the environment and everyday life.
Kapsch TrafficCom is an intelligent traffic and tolling technology provider based in Mississauga. The company develops and delivers primarily electronic toll collection systems, especially for multi-lane free-flow traffic, and offers technical and commercial operation of these systems. In addition, we offer traffic management solutions focused on safety and control, electronic access systems and parking management systems. We design and manufacture tolling technology for the Highway 407 ETR here in Ontario, as well as the entire E-ZPass system that you may have heard of in the United States, with 22 million users. Kapsch is a world-leading supplier of end-to-end tolling solutions in many countries, including very large national systems.
Our expertise in these areas has provided an in-depth understanding of the damaging effects of gridlock. Gridlock on Ontario’s roads is becoming increasingly detrimental to the environment, to the economy and to people’s quality of life. One of the main examples of this is the bottlenecks within Toronto at the interchanges of 400-series highways.
The millions of hours Ontarians spend each year in traffic have significant economic and personal repercussions. In the GTA, the average commuter is spending 80 minutes stuck in traffic, taking away from both their jobs and their families.
It also has a drastic impact on businesses in the Toronto area. As the Toronto Board of Trade noted last year, gridlock cost the local economy a staggering $6 billion in lost productivity. Compounding these issues is the fact that governments don’t have the funds to pay for new infrastructure.
As part of the effort to tame the provincial deficit, Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan announced a series of measures that include reducing transportation infrastructure spending and deferring some significant highway improvements. With all governments in deficit-fighting mode, it does not bode well for addressing the infrastructure deficit.
The problem has also been identified by experts in the field. A study of 25 global metropolises commissioned by Siemens Canada identified solving transportation issues as the number one priority for a global city.
Specifically for Canada, over 60% of experts identified transportation infrastructure as the most important factor in attracting investment in Canadian cities, with 90% of these experts naming transportation infrastructure as being the most in need of investment over the next five to 10 years. The state of Ontario’s transportation infrastructure is quickly becoming its biggest impediment to competing on a global stage.
The problem has been identified over and over again, but there are solutions. The technology Kapsch designs has major implications for how governments deal with easing gridlock. Intelligent traffic technology for urban environments is increasingly regarded by traffic and city planners as a necessary instrument to reduce congestion, regulate traffic volume and traffic flow, reduce wasted fuel and reduce harmful emissions.
Infrastructure projects carry hefty price tags, but in Ontario we too often ignore the possibility of using our transportation infrastructure as a tool for creating new streams of revenue to fund these projects. By tolling new highway or road projects, governments will have the capability to pay for construction and generate more revenue for general operations and maintenance.
We also need to consider adding capacity to existing public highways and paying for those upgrades through road user fees for the use of those specific new lanes. It is a system, used in several other jurisdictions, called managed lanes, and the technology exists to make it work smoothly and accurately.
Road tolls also benefit the average motorist. Every driver has a stake in congestion-free, well-maintained roads. According to the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association, there’s no such thing as a free road. But tolls have more benefit to motorists than, say, gas taxes. When we fill up at a gas station, those revenues can be used for a variety of infrastructure projects, and not just roads and road improvements. Tolls can directly improve the driving experience, getting us home faster. Where road user fees are directed to mass transit, everyone benefits by having less cars on our roads.
In the greater Toronto area, we can always use additional road lanes to alleviate congestion. One example of using tolls to benefit drivers is to turn Ontario’s 450 planned kilometres of high-occupancy vehicle lanes to high-occupancy toll lanes, or HOT lanes. This allows a single occupant commuter to enter the HOV lane by volunteering to pay a toll.
In our eyes there are only two real options: no new highways and transit and the continued problem of gridlock, or we reduce gridlock by building more transportation capacity and using it to raise new revenues.
While tolls tend to temper traffic on tolled facilities, the same technology can be used for light infrastructure traffic monitoring and traffic management. With information of passing toll transponders, a transportation authority can shape road-building and maintenance priorities. Ontario already employs a number of traffic monitoring techniques such as loops and other vehicle counting technologies, but they only provide high-level volumes and do not reveal the travel patterns that are critical to a better understanding of vehicle routings. Adding transponders and additional video monitoring would be an economical way to monitor traffic at new sites in our region.
These technologies also have the ability to help reduce harmful carbon emissions. There are several studies showing that intelligent transportation systems, ITS, and particularly electronic toll systems, reduce vehicle emissions. By reducing the stopping and the starting of vehicles and making roadways more free-flowing, carbon emissions are reduced.
Many urban areas around the globe employ tolls. While bridges and tunnels are typical tolled locations, cities such as Singapore, Stockholm and London, England are just a few of the high-profile sites where tolls are collected in urban environments. Interurban tolls are also a fact of life in the northeastern United States.
Kapsch employs tolling technology on highway systems around the world: Melbourne, Australia; Poland; Austria; Chile; the Czech Republic; Switzerland; Mexico; and all over the United States. These are only a few of the examples, because we have over 250 installations in 41 countries, with 17,000 lanes equipped with tolling technology, and—it’s not shown in writing—more than 58 million transponder-equipped users worldwide.
Electronic toll collection is a common and rapidly expanding option for regions around the globe facing congestion issues.
As I’ve just demonstrated, road tolls are not only common throughout other parts of the world, they’re essential to controlling traffic congestion and raising funding for transportation infrastructure.
In Canada, politicians have been less inclined to discuss intelligent traffic technology as a potential solution to congestion woes. Maybe this is because they believe the public is opposed, and in the past that would be right to assume. However, many recent studies have shown that the public is beginning to support the idea of toll roads.
For example, a survey by Environics Research showed that nine out of 10 people in Toronto and the surrounding region think that congestion has reached “crisis proportions,” and they’re willing to consider radical solutions to gridlock. A majority would even support the construction of an underground pay-as-you-go option under the Gardiner Expressway.
When people understand the benefits of tolled roads to them directly, they tend to be more supportive of tolls, but there has to be a net gain for them personally. For example, if new lanes were added to Highway 401 and they were tolled, people would accept it as long as they still had access to the free lanes. They will accept it if they have a choice, if they still have a free alternative, and provided that none of the existing free lanes are taken away.
Highway 407 is a great example. It’s a less-congested alternative to the Highway 401 corridor, and people have the choice of paying to travel that route or to deal with gridlock and stay on the 401. There has been little public backlash to the notion that the Highway 407 eastern extension through Durham region will be tolled, at least for the reason that people who do not wish to pay the toll have the choice to remain on the 401.
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to speak to you about these issues. I hope my presentation has given you a glimpse of some of the existing solutions to gridlock. Are there any questions?
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Thank you very much for your presentation. The NDP caucus is up first. Mr. Marchese, go ahead.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: Thank you, Mr. Manuel, for the presentation. Can I ask you one question? You’re interested in getting cars off the road, too, with your technology. Would you support a provincial sales tax of a quarter per cent or half a per cent or 1% as a way of raising money to build transit infrastructure across the province, which is what we desperately need? Would that be an equally good solution for you?
Mr. Paul Manuel: I believe that road tolls are not a panacea to solve all transportation funding issues, and by the same token, the alternative that you suggest, on its own, is perhaps not the best alternative—and this is just a personal opinion. Kapsch is not expert in this, but my personal opinion is that you need a mix of these solutions, as described by the Toronto Board of Trade funding the Big Move. There are parking fees, cordon access fees to the central business districts, road tolls or a variety of user fees and taxes.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: So you’re suggesting that the province uses all of these options, including the technology that you’re connected to?
Mr. Paul Manuel: A selection of them, yes, sir.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: Thank you.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Liberal caucus: Mr. Dhillon, go ahead.
Mr. Vic Dhillon: Thank you for your presentation. Are there any other jurisdictions in Canada, other than Ontario, looking at setting up a toll system?
Mr. Paul Manuel: Well, there are toll roads in other regions of Canada. As a matter of fact, there’s one being deployed right now on the Port Mann Bridge connecting Vancouver to the inland areas on route 1. That’s an active project I happen to know about. There are an awful lot of tolls associated with bridge facilities—not necessarily in an area like ours, where there are no distinguishing physical features where you have to build infrastructure to cross a gap, at least where they don’t exist today, and so it’s less obvious that we need tolling in this area. But we do need to fund infrastructure. There are plenty of examples of toll facilities in Canada, and ones that are under way, mostly associated with things like bridges.
Mr. Vic Dhillon: How is your technology different from other companies’?
Mr. Paul Manuel: We have a very high-performance system designed for open-road multiple lanes, which is what you see on Highway 407. For example, if you were on Highway 407, some of the virtual toll gantries are designed for very high-speed traffic, and it’s a measure of the performance of the system. There are other systems in the world that don’t have that kind of capability. We use a certain type of technology, called active technology, that allows certain capabilities, and not all of the technologies are created equal.
Kapsch internationally provides technology of different types to different regions of the world. Transponders are using radio spectrum that is regulated by the federal governments of each country, so technologies have been adapted for each of the regions of world. Here in Ontario, we use certain Industry Canada radio spectrum rules, and the product that Kapsch manufactures in Mississauga and supplies to the 407 meets all those requirements and still delivers the very high performance that the 407 demands.
Mr. Vic Dhillon: Okay, thank you.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Thanks. Conservative caucus: Mr. Smith, go ahead.
Mr. Todd Smith: Thank you for the presentation. We’ve heard from all kinds of different presenters here today. They all want money: $2 billion for the Big Move from Metrolinx, and $2 billion for the TTC. We don’t know exactly what the number would be to solve the problem in the Ottawa area, but I’m guessing probably $2 billion; that seems to be the theme.
Have you studied actually how much money could be generated—do you have any estimates as to how much money could be generated by putting tolls up in the GTA?
Mr. Paul Manuel: In my recollection, from the Toronto Board of Trade document “Funding ‘The Big Move,’” they talked about covering the shortfall in the Metrolinx $25-billion plan by applying a road toll of 10 cents per kilometre on all the 400-series highways, the DVP and the Gardiner. As I stated previously, my personal view is that that’s not the panacea. We need to look at different ways of funding.
But in the information package, the one that’s bound, I’d like to draw your attention to page 19, which is the toll revenue generated by the E-ZPass Interagency Group in the northeastern United States, for which Kapsch is the exclusive supplier. This is a group of 24 toll agencies across 14 states. They’re the largest interoperable toll system in the world. Just to put it into perspective, they have about 3,500 toll lanes and 22 million users. Their annual toll generation from electronic tolling is about US$4.7 billion a year. It’s the largest group of tolling in the world, actually, and in the northeastern United States, that is the amount that they’re generating.
Those tolls range across all the agencies. They don’t have harmonized toll rates per distance travelled. It’s all over the place. It might be $10 to cross through a toll gate to get into New York, for example, and it might be 25 cents to pass through a similar gate in an interurban environment. It’s all over the place. But just to give you a perspective, they’re talking anywhere in the order of $4 billion to $7 billion or so per year in revenue from all of the northeastern United States. We’re looking for a lot more than that. So we need other solutions, and this is part of it.
Mr. Todd Smith: Thanks very much.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Thank you very much. That’s time for your presentation. We appreciate your coming in today.
Mr. Paul Manuel: Thank you, Mr. Chair and committee.
The Chair (Mr. David Orazietti): Folks, the committee is adjourned.
The committee adjourned at 1755.
Monday 4 June 2012
Traffic congestion G-305
Mr. Bruce McCuaig
Regional Municipality of Durham G-311
Mr. Clifford Curtis
Regional municipality of York G-314
Mr. Bruce Macgregor
Ministry of Transportation G-318
Ms. Carol Layton
Mr. Gerry Chaput
City of Toronto G-325
Mr. Denzil Minnan-Wong
Mr. Myles Currie
Toronto Transit Commission G-330
Mr. Andy Byford
City of Ottawa G-334
Ms. Nancy Schepers
Kapsch TrafficCom G-338
Mr. Paul Manuel
STANDING COMMITTEE ON GENERAL GOVERNMENT
Chair / Président
Mr. David Orazietti (Sault Ste. Marie L)
Vice-Chair / Vice-Président
Mr. David Zimmer (Willowdale L)
Ms. Sarah Campbell (Kenora–Rainy River ND)
Mr. Michael Coteau (Don Valley East / Don Valley-Est L)
Mr. Joe Dickson (Ajax–Pickering L)
Mr. Rosario Marchese (Trinity–Spadina ND)
Mr. David Orazietti (Sault Ste. Marie L)
Ms. Laurie Scott (Haliburton–Kawartha Lakes–Brock PC)
Mr. Todd Smith (Prince Edward–Hastings PC)
Mr. Jeff Yurek (Elgin–Middlesex–London PC)
Mr. David Zimmer (Willowdale L)
Substitutions / Membres remplaçants
Mr. Vic Dhillon (Brampton West / Brampton-Ouest L)
Mr. Jack MacLaren (Carleton–Mississippi Mills PC)
Mr. John O’Toole (Durham PC)
Mr. Jonah Schein (Davenport ND)
Mr. Mario Sergio (York West / York-Ouest L)
Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes
Mr. Yasir Naqvi (Ottawa Centre / Ottawa-Centre L)
Clerk pro tem / Greffière par intérim
Ms. Tamara Pomanski
Staff / Personnel
Ms. Elaine Campbell, research officer,
Legislative Research Service