Sunday, March 18, 2007

More on the Transit City - Cost approaching $10 billion

The TTC has a habit of low-balling the estimated costs of capital projects. Given that this an engineer-run organization rather than a customer-oriented one, this is not surprising. LRT projects could keep TTC engineering and planning staff busy for a while. If working of EAs (Environmental Assessments) is part of your job description at the TTC, this is the ultimate gravy train. It doesn't matter if the scheme is good for riders or the city in general.

Despite the staggering cost estimate, it appears that the scheme is being low-balled. The TTC does this consistently - so no surprise here. One obvious delusion is the plan to use only 240 vehicles. Although the vehicles would be larger than todays CLRVs, and even so than the ALRV versions, the 240 vehicle fleet size works out to an unrealistic load factor in terms of riders per service hour.

Applying the benchmark from Calgary C-train (122 riders per service hour) , using 240 vehicles for 175 million passengers a year would require vehicles to be in service an average of 16 hours/day. This doesn't seem realistic.

I would expect LRT ridership/service hours on the proposed routes to be lower than the Calgary benchmark. Why ?

a. Other than the Eglinton line's central segment, one of the lines will be serving a dense employment district.
b. The speed of service will not match that in Calgary. The C-train lines are cut under most intersections of any size. There are at grade crossing - but most are in industrial/warhouse areas. (Check out Google Earth as a good way of investigating this.)
c. I'd expect station spacing (if there are actually stations) to end up being about 400 metres. (Longer than this and residents will demanding local bus service.) This will slow the service - reducing passengers/service hour.
d. Calgary's LRT runs in large part on completely segregated ROW (i.e. no vehicles and no pedestrians. This allows trains to run at high speed between stations. This won't be possible with the proposed lines here - other than sections in tunnels - due to pedestrian safety requirements.

More realistic would be 100 boardings / hour or necessitating about 386 vehciles (I'm using the Calgary benchmark of about 12.3 hours in service/day).

With extra yard/maintenance space, the difference adds about $1 billion to the price tag.

Information is now trickling out about some of the other truth-stretching. TTC Commissioner Milcyn Peter Milczyn has been quoted indicating that the price tag for the critical tunnel section of the proposed Eglinton line is twice the estimate put forward. The proposed line on Jane will need 1-2 km of tunnel at the South end - minimum. This is not included in the estimates - which assume at grade construction only.

In addition, the so-called 'Transit City' plan does not include other wish list lines. We're already under the gun for $1 b note for the streetcar replacements for existing streetcar routes.

Is the price tag close to $10 billion yet - yes it is.

1 comment:

N. Clawson said...

You might be interested in the poll results on the Transit City website - overwhelming popularity for the Eglinton line - underwhelming for everything else.