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Cooperation key to making TTC the Safer Way for everybody, says CUPE 5089 president

TORONTO, ONTARIO–(Marketwired – March 9, 2016) – The president of the union representing the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) special constables believes riders, TTC employees, and management, must work together to make Canada’s largest transit system the ‘Safer Way’ for everyone.

“Every day, our members are out there doing their utmost to ensure the safety of riders and TTC staff,” said James Bingham, president of Local 5089 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE 5089).

“They do this job under incredibly challenging circumstances and limited resources. No one benefits from armchair quarterbacks taking pot shots in the media,” he added.

Bingham was responding to published reports regarding safety and security issues on certain TTC routes.

“The key to addressing these issues is not attacking the people who are sworn to protect TTC riders and employees. No one is served by such an approach whether we’re talking about safety and security, overcrowding, making sure the buses, streetcars and trains arrive on time, or ensuring the system meets acceptable standards of cleanliness,” said Bingham.

“Rather, we should be working together to ensure all aspects of the TTC have the resources and the support they need to improve the system and make sure everyone – riders and staff – get to their destination safely and on time,” he added.

Yesterday, Bingham spoke with TTC Chief Executive Officer Andy Byford to discuss safety and security on the system. Byford indicated his strong support for the members of Local 5089 and current model of Transit Special Constables.

TTC Special Constables are sworn Peace Officers appointed by the Toronto Police Services Board. Special Constables have been conferred with the same authority as a Police Officer to enforce various Federal and Provincial statutes where an offence occurs on any TTC vehicle or property.

Metrolinx doled out $1.3 million in grants

Agency should be focused on transit, critics say

GO Transit
A GO Transit train exits Union Station. (Jack Boland/Toronto Sun files)

TORONTO – Metrolinx doled out $1.3 million of taxpayers’ cash in five years to sponsor studies, academic papers and conferences through a grant program.

Critics are asking why the agency, tasked with expanding public transit across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, was giving out grants at all.

But Metrolinx brass defend the “Community Partnership Program” and its successor, the “Promotional and Marketing Sponsorship Policy.” The agency spent the money to help increase the “dialogue” on public transit, spokesman Anne Marie Aikins said.

“We have periodically sought potential partner organizations that are interested in initiating projects to increase this dialogue,” Aikins said in an email. “Sharing knowledge across the transit and transportation sector is an important step in building a region that works and moves well.”

Documents obtained by the Toronto Sun through a Freedom of Information request show Metrolinx spent the cash on 41 different agreements from October 2010 to March 2015.

“This program was designed to be temporary,” Aikins said.

Aikins said the first program ran from 2010 to 2013. Following a review in 2012, it changed the next year. The cash continued to flow, but at a diminished rate under a new policy in 2014 and 2015. Every proposal was reviewed to “ensure it had developed measurable goals and objectives and expectations for return of investment (ROI), and reporting requirements,” Metrolinx said.

Metrolinx launched the grant program with a flash of spending on two separate days in October 2010.

On Oct. 14 and 22, five grants were awarded respectively to the Toronto Board of Trade, University of Toronto’s Munk School, the Toronto City Summit, Sustainable Prosperity, and Toronto Forum for Global Cities. They totalled $140,000.

At its height, in 2012, 11 grants totalling $411,000 were handed out. In 2013, the grant spending peaked at $456,470, including its largest single grant of $185,000 to the Evergreen Foundation for a transit study and report.

But that same year the grant program appears to have come to an abrupt halt. A $5,000 grant was awarded to the Canadian Automobile Association March 28, 2013. It’s nearly a year before another grant is awarded on March 11, 2014.

At that point, Metrolinx reviews and revamps its policy, and the flow of cash — once in the hundreds of thousands of dollars — slows to a trickle. The agency gives out $54,959 in 2014 and $28,500 by April 2015.

Progressive Conservative transportation critic Michael Harris said Metrolinx should not be handing out grants.

“Metrolinx’s job should be to build and manage transit, period,” he said.

Harris questioned why the grants weren’t subject to Ontario’s procurement rules, where companies would have been required to compete to provide the services.

“Taxpayers expect that when the government gives contracts out that there has to be a transparent process and that businesses compete for the government’s business,” he said.

The grants were advertised annually, according to Metrolinx, and applications were evaluated by senior staff and then approved by its board of directors.

“Initiatives completed under these programs were not considered to be procurements, but instead were partnerships with community-minded organizations and conferences to build dialogue around the development of the region’s transit and transportation system,” Aikins said.

Cheri DiNovo, NDP urban transportation critic, called the grant program “another boondoggle.”

The grant system might look like a good way to spread Metrolinx’s message by banding together with progressive groups, but it has done nothing to build transit, she said.

“This seems like a public relations exercise to make them look forward-thinking on the transit file when in fact transit is a mess,” she said.

This isn’t the first time critics have questioned Metrolinx’s partnership spending. In August 2013, the agency was embroiled in a scandal over its promotional partnerships program when it was revealed Metrolinx had paid $30,000 to sponsor the Toronto International Film Festival and inked a deal to sponsor an NFL game in Toronto, both in 2011.

In each case, staff were given tickets for free or at a cut rate. The incident prompted an internal review and policy changes.

It also led then-transportation minister Glen Murray to meet with Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig to ensure the agency was “no longer in the cash transaction business.”


According to documents obtained by the Toronto Sun, 41 agreements were signed with 27 different organizations, many applying successfully multiple times.

Here are a few examples:

  • The big winner appears to be the Evergreen Foundation, which operates the Evergreen Brickworks. It received four different grants totalling $420,000 between March 2011 and February 2013. The cash was used to plan and host a transit expo, and research and write a pair of transit studies for Metrolinx.
  • In January 2012, Metrolinx agreed to pay the Centre for Ethical Orientation $50,000 to research and write a report on “trust and transformation” within its organization. Then on July 12, 2012, another agreement was struck with the consulting firm to pay an additional $50,000 to complete the project.
  • In July 2014, Metrolinx awarded $20,000 to Air Rail News Ltd., which hosts conferences on “air-rail intermodality.” The cash was used to sponsor the 2015 event in Toronto a year after the organization gave Metrolinx’s UP Express several awards. “The UP Express was awarded Project of the Year award at ARN’s 2013 and 2014 editions of the event,” the contract agreement with Air Rail News says. “ARN has proposed and Metrolinx has agreed to enter into a sponsorship agreement both to support the Event and to promote the UP Express.”
  • In a note provided to the Sun, Metrolinx points to a series of townhall or roundtables hosted by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Automobile Association, and CultureLink Settlement Services. It cites the projects as having had “clear deliverables” with reporting criteria and relevance to the GTHA.

GTHA awash with transit projects


Eglinton Crosstown LRT
Ongoing construction on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT project snarls traffic along a section of Eglinton Ave. from Leslie Ave. to Bayview Ave. January 28, 2016. (Jack Boland/Toronto Sun)

TORONTO – A number of provincial highway and transit projects will begin or are already underway in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area this year.

As well, there are plans to build a number of High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes in major highways around Toronto.

The Ontario government has announced that it intends to establish a system of High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes that will be free only to those vehicles with multiple occupants.

It begins with a QEW HOT pilot this summer, and Hwy. 427 follows.

Premier Kathleen Wynne has said that spending on infrastructure — to be funded in part by HOT lanes — will create jobs, stimulate the economy, and ease gridlock.

Here are some of the projects underway around the GTA:

* Hwy. 401: Widen for HOV lane from Credit River Bridge to Hwys. 401/403/410.

* Hwy. 410: ($156.7 million) Widen for HOV lane from south of Hwy. 401 to Queen St. in Mississauga and Brampton.

* Hwy. 427: ($82.8 million) Widen for HOV lane in each direction and rehabilitation of underpass structures.

* Hwy. 400: ($77.6 million) Pavement and culvert rehabilitation, median barrier reconstruction from north of Canel Rd. to Innisfil Beach Rd.

* Hwy. 401: ($90.4 million) Bridge replacement and widening across Milton.

* Hwys. 401/404 and DVP: ($23.6 million) Rehabilitate four bridge structures, resurface from east of Warden Ave. to west of Leslie St.

* Hwy. 401: ($51 million) Rehabilitate bridges, lanes and construct additional lane between Dufferin St. and Avenue Rd.

* Aberfoyle Bus Facility: Being expanded.

* Ajax GO Station: Pedestrian bridge under construction.

* Barrie GO line: Double track expansion from York University to just north of Rutherford Dr., signalling system.

* Bermondsey Crosstown Stop: Study, preliminary design.

* Birchmount Crosstown Stop: Study, preliminary design.

* Bramalea GO station: Snowmelt system under construction.

* Brock Rd./Hwy. 407 Park and Ride: Under construction.

* Bronte GO Station: Platform construction and parking expansion.

* Burlington GO Station: New building.

* Eglinton Crosstown: Along with the Crosstown line, construction of the stations is underway including Avenue Crosstown Station, Bathurst Crosstown Station, Bayview Crosstown Station, Caledonia Crosstown Station, Chaplin Crosstown Station, Don Mills Crosstown Station, Dufferin Crosstown Station, Eglinton West Crosstown Station, Kennedy Crosstown Station, Mount Dennis Crosstown Station, Oakwood Crosstown Station, Pharmacy Crosstown Stop, Yonge-Eglinton Crosstown Station

* Finch West LRT: Study, preliminary design.

* Gormley GO Station: Under construction.

* Guildwood GO Station: Building rehabilitation.

* Mississauga Transitway: Under construction.

* Oshawa GO Station: New building.

* Spadina subway extension, Downsview Park TTC/GO Station, Finch West Station, Hwy. 407 Station/GO Bus Terminal, Pioneer Village Station, Vaughan Station, York University Station all under construction.

* Square One GO Bus Terminal: Building under construction.

* Union Station: Signal system replacement, general revitalization.

* Viva BRT: Improvements under construction.

Internal Metrolinx reports pointed to lower Union-Pearson train fares

Metrolinx knew before launching Toronto’s train to the airport last summer that prices in the $10 to $15 range were popular and would attract more riders, according to internal data, but pressure to recoup costs helped push the prices much higher.

The decision to set the cash fare for the Union Pearson Express at $27.50 has turned into a serious black eye for both the regional transit agency and the provincial government, which is keen to get the train breaking even quickly.

The gambit backfired. In spite of discounts, relatively few people were willing to pay the higher ticket price. The train was bleeding money. With the number of passengers falling short of expectations, officials eventually accepted that the fare structure would not achieve what they wanted.

Under increasing pressure from Queen’s Park, Metrolinx is cutting fares by more than half, effective March 9. The new price of $12 – or $9 with a Presto fare card, and less for riding only part of the distance – brings the cost into line with figures identified in the research done before the train launched. The new fares also jibe with the results of focus groups the agency did in January.

With the new ticket prices, though, the goal of having a train that breaks even – a key government requirement that contributed to the high initial fares – has become mathematically almost impossible unless costs can be reined in somehow.

After disclosing selected, and previously private, findings from several internal reports to The Globe and Mail late Friday, Metrolinx offered no further comment on the weekend. ?In a statement late Sunday, though, the agency added that “the pricing was intended to optimize ridership and revenue to move towards the recovery of costs on the operating side of the budget.?” The statement noted that setting the fares lower would have meant a “significantly longer” time for the UPX to reach break even.

“We went with our best judgment,” Metrolinx chair Rob Prichard said last week after a special board meeting to approve sharply lower ticket prices. “The first [fare] was a judgment, the [new] one’s a judgment. We’re confident this will increase ridership … but at the end of the day, there’s no magic formula that turns it out. It’s a matter of judgment.”

The new information provides insight into the conflicting pressures that were on the transit agency as it sought to find the right fare for the UPX.

According to the materials released by Metrolinx, an Environics survey in 2014 found that half of respondents thought $12 would be a good value for the train. A redacted portion of a report done in 2013 by the consulting firm Steer Davies Gleave showed that more people would ride the train if it cost $10 to $15 than at a higher price. But the lower costs mentioned in the latter report would have led to another problem. Agency spokeswoman Anne Marie Aikins explained in an e-mail on Friday that the lower fares would mean “longer periods to achieve cost recovery.”

Setting fares for transit can appear deceptively simple, with researchers producing models that show how many people will ride at different prices. But it quickly gets complicated, forcing policy or political decisions about how to balance ridership and cost. Metrolinx is currently tackling the thorny issue in its attempt at regional transit fare integration.

While agencies such as the Toronto Transit Commission have the straightforward goal of carrying as many people as possible, Metrolinx found itself with a more complicated calculus trying to price the UPX.

Metrolinx wanted a price lower than a limousine, and were taking into account as well the cost of other such trains and the highway coach then running to the airport. Aware that the provincial government had given them the project with the expectation that it would recover its costs within a reasonable time, the agency also wanted to maximize fare-box revenues. And it did not want the trains to get too crowded.

The new fare structure is expected to boost the number of riders, although it remains to be seen if passenger levels will climb enough to produce as much fare-revenue at the reduced price as at the unpopular old one.

“We want to attract as much ridership as possible,” Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig said on Tuesday evening after the special meeting of the board.

“Our hope is we’re going to be attracting more and more riders to the service. … The trains are more and more full as people start to use the system, become familiar with the service, become more and more loyal to the service. That’s really what this is all about, is how can we build the ridership?”

ATU Shows Solidarity with Striking Barcelona Metro Workers

Amalgamated Transit Union international president Larry Hanley expressed strong support for the Barcelona Metro workers’ strike at the Mobile World Congress after unanimously rejecting a proposed contract.

“I want to express the strong support of all of our members with striking Barcelona Metro workers at the Mobile World Congress,” says Hanley, who heads up the largest transit union in North America. “This attack on public transit and workers is happening across the world. It isn’t just about jobs it’s about protecting transit service that commuters, seniors and people with disabilities rely on each day.”

Hanley asserts the attempt by Barcelona Metropolitan Transport to make more Metro jobs temporary is representative of what workers are facing across the world.

“As fellow transit workers we recognize the struggle to fight these tactics,” Hanley said. “This strike sends a loud and clear message to the world business leaders gathered in Barcelona that working people will not stand silent and the ATU’s stands in solidarity with Barcelona Metro Workers in their fight.”

Union-Pearson price drop proof Metrolinx not trustworthy: TTC union

The TTC workers’ union and a residents’ group say poor forecasting on the airport train casts doubt on other Metrolinx projects

Lea, a massive boring machine, is being used to burrow a path for the $4.9 billion Eglinton Crosstown LRT.

Lea, a massive boring machine, is being used to burrow a path for the $4.9 billion Eglinton Crosstown LRT.

The head of the TTC workers’ union is calling for an independent public inquiry into Metrolinx in the wake of the provincial agency’s decision to drop the fares of the Union Pearson Express.

Metrolinx’s failure to project adequate ridership for the $456 million airport train casts doubt on other projects it manages including the $9.1 billion Eglinton Crosstown LRT, said Bob Kinnear, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113.

Meantime, he called on the TTC board to demand the numbers on the TTC’s operation of the Crosstown. Metrolinx will be in charge because it is contracting the TTC to run the trains and it has contracted a private provider to maintain the LRT, he said.

But there is no clear understanding of how operating subsidies will be shared, said Kinnear.

“We believe the provincial government will not subsidize the operations of that line to the degree we need,” he said.

The city is already subsidizing the TTC’s existing operations by about $500 million, or a third, a year.

“Add 20 per cent to a $500 million cost, you’re talking tens of millions of dollars. Fares are going to go up substantially higher, service levels, particularly in off-peak, will be substantially lower, and the subsidies will be substantially higher. The provincial government has not given us any indication with all this expansion what the level of funding is going to be for the TTC,” said Kinnear.

“We’re saying that 10 years from now the subsidy rates of transit in Toronto are going to be substantially higher (for the city) than they are now and it’s because of Metrolinx,” he said.

TTC commissioners should be demanding numbers (on what) the projected costs to the city are going to be in the next 10 years. If they don’t do that they’re negligent in their responsibilities, he said.

“(With one exception) none of them have asked any questions. The scary part is I don’t think they know what to ask.”

In a statement Thursday, Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins noted the agency is managing more than 200 projects worth $16 billion and that “the majority of our projects, like UP Express, are delivered on time and on budget.”

As for the Crosstown, Aikins said: “Part of the master agreement says that operating agreements must be in place two years before the line opens. So that isn’t completed as yet.”

The line is expected to open in 2021.

Kinnear is not the only one expressing concern about Metrolinx’s forecasting.

A residents’ group called Options for Davenport raised doubts Thursday about the forecasts for riders on the Barrie GO tracks. The group is fighting a plan to build a giant rail overpass to accommodate a GO expansion expected to provide service to five times the 17,000 people a day who ride on that corridor.

“Local residents have had serious doubts about these projections and have been expressing those concerns since last year. The dismal ridership on the UPX has shown these doubts are well placed,” the group said in a press release.

Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca announced Tuesday that the airport train prices will be halved effective March 9 to help attract riders. Metrolinx officials admitted that they had no hope of hitting their target of 5,000 riders a day by the end of the year under the original price structure.

The cost of a one-way ride on UPX will go down from $19 to $9 for Presto card holders, $12 from $27.50 for non-card users. Family and airport worker passes and tickets will also be reduced. In the meantime, riders get a voucher for a free ticket to compensate them for the difference.

Planners want public’s input on ‘motherlode’ of GTA transit

Transit planners are courting residents’ take on the mega-projects designed to transform the way Toronto moves.



What Toronto’s rapid transit network could look like in 15 years, according to recommendations from the city of Toronto and the TTC. The Crosstown LRT would be extended west to the airport jobs hub and northeast to the Scarborough campus of U of T. The subway would reach the Scarborough City Centre. Emerging neighbourhoods along the eastern waterfront would be connected via LRT. The first phase of the relief line would carry riders south from Pape Station along Queen St. at Nathan Phillips Square. More Torontonians would hop on the Stouffville and Kitchener GO lines via SmartTrack.

Toronto’s chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat calls it the “motherlode” of transit. She’s referring to plans that will add miles of rapid transit to the city and surrounding region in the next 15 years and beyond, connecting communities in ways that have been dreamed about for a generation.

The veil comes off the next phase of expansion at a series of meetings around the city and region starting Tuesday.

It’s an unprecedented public consultation incorporating seven provincial and city-led projects — from SmartTrack and electrified GO service, to a relief subway along Queen St. and a 17-stop eastern extension of the Crosstown LRT.

The scope of the meetings reflects the mega-expansion going on in transit in Toronto and the surrounding municipalities, said Keesmaat.

But a new network-based approach to planning is also finally come to the fore. It will transform the way we live and move in the Toronto region, she said.

“Historically the city advances one project at a time, and the thinking is, when that project is built then we’ll start planning for the next project,” said Keesmaat.

But it was clear that approach wouldn’t allow Toronto to catch up on the 20-plus years in which there was no transit investment.

There was a realization, she said, “That to address the backlog in transit infrastructure we need to be advancing a whole series of projects at one time in parallel.”

The result is a series of maps that show how the spine of Toronto transit — subways, GO tracks and streetcar rights-of-way — will steadily fill in with new rapid routes including trains, LRTs and busways.

“Because we’re taking a network-based approach, it means we want to be aligning all the projects and bringing them together and considering one in relation to the other,” said Keesmaat.

The 18 open houses, including seven in Toronto, are meant to inform and invite discussion, said Anne Marie Aikins of Metrolinx, the provincial agency that is jointly hosting the events and splitting the $80,000 related costs.

In some cases, such as the regional transportation plan review, the focus will be on informing residents that Metrolinx’s original Big Move transit plan is up for revision. But when it comes to where to build new lines and stations, options are being refined and, in some cases, eliminated. The province and the municipalities need to know how the public is on board with the plans or respond to objections.

These consultations will be done about twice a year going forward, said Aikins. Different communities will inevitably focus on different projects among the seven being presented in this round.

“We’ve never done this big of a public consultation, but then we’ve never done this big a transit expansion,” she said.

The first public meeting is Tuesday at Jean Vanier Catholic Secondary School in Scarborough. Other meeting dates through March 22 are on the Metrolinx website and the city’s site.



Now that a heavy rail spur along Eglinton has been scrapped from the plan, the public is being asked to weigh in on the extension of the Crosstown LRT west of Mount Dennis instead. Planners are looking at potential station locations and how the LRT would connect to the airport jobs hub.

Relief line

City planners are unveiling their preferred route from Pape station down to Queen St. to a potential new hub at Nathan Phillips Square. This is the route that best reduces crowding at the TTC’s Yonge-Bloor station and the south end of the Yonge subway. It doesn’t add to congestion at Union Station and supports foot and transit connections in the downtown, including the financial district and Regent Park.

Scarborough subway extension

The public can weigh in on the most recent plan to extend the Danforth subway a single stop to the Scarborough City Centre to encourage job growth there. The preferred route would be along McCowan Rd. The plan also includes an eastern extension of the Crosstown LRT up Morningside Ave. to the U of T campus.

Electrified GO service

The province wants to electrify five of the seven GO lines to create all-day, two-way service at 15-minute frequencies in key sections. In addition to powering 262 km of track, the project involves building six substations and 11 switching stations, and installing barriers or building 78 overhead bridges.

New GO/SmartTrack stations

Provincial agency Metrolinx is looking at a “short list” of 50 station locations as part of its electrified GO expansion. Some of the most likely immediate locations are in the city to connect SmartTrack riders. They include stops at St. Clair, Liberty Village, Bathurst-Spadina, Unilever, Gerrard-Carlaw, Ellesmere, Lawrence and Finch.

Integrated fares

A zoned or fare-by-distance system are among the options being considered to make it easier to cross municipal borders on transit. It’s considered a critical piece of making SmartTrack succeed. “There is excellent data, if the fare isn’t integrated, people won’t pay twice,” said Toronto chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat. “As a result you have a bizarre situation where there’s a GO train going by that is half empty and a subway or a bus that is absolutely crammed full of people.”

Regional transportation plan review

Metrolinx is updating its 2008 regional transportation plan, the Big Move. All the priorities set out in that document are being reviewed. New information and changes that have already occurred, such as the plan for Scarborough transit, will be incorporated.

How would Metrolinx and TTC integrate SmartTrack and regional express rails?


Metrolinx and the TTC are working to integrate their Regional Express Rail (RER) and SmartTrack transit systems. METROXLINX.

Metrolinx, a provincial agency, is in the midst of expanding its electric rail system, at the same time the City of Toronto is working to implement Mayor John Tory’s SmartTrack transit plan. Ahead of a Metrolinx board meeting on Wednesday, the agency released an enormous PDF about the state of their plans to integrate the two transit networks.

It’s the latest in a long string of studies and analysis about the future of Toronto’s transit.

“It’s very easy to teach transport planning here, because nothing changes,” Murtaza Haider, an associate professor at the Ted Rogers School of Management, said Tuesday.

Joking aside, Haida said that if SmartTrack has changed since Tory’s election campaign, “that’s good news.”

“Had it stayed the way it was envisioned, without any real [expert] input, that would have been a dangerous thing for us, from a funding and ridership perspective.”

The goal of the integration is to help commuters taking both long and short trips on electric rails, as well as reduce congestion across Toronto, Metrolinx said. It could mean regional express rail (RER) service trains, which typically travel long distances without stopping (compared to subway or light-trail transit), would make more frequent stops. It could also mean a split between express and local service, using the same corridors.

go rer regional express metrolinx
Metrolinx and the TTC are working to integrate their Regional Express Rail (RER) and SmartTrack transit systems. METROXLINX.

Metrolinx and the City of Toronto are considering four options:

A: Increased frequencies, five new stations

B. Express and local service, eight new stations

C. Committed RER frequencies, seven-eight new stations

D. Committed RER frequencies, four-five new stations

All options include an LRT on the Eglinton West corridor, with the number of stations to be determined; and all options include the 11 existing stations in the City of Toronto and Markham on the Kitchener and Stouffville corridor.

One key issue is fare integration, Haider said. In its report ahead of the board meeting, Metrolinx said it will soon begin consultations about fare integration.

“How do we price it so that A, it generates enough ridership, and B, at the same time, it doesn’t create a multi-tiered system,” he said.