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TTC's new bus garage gleaming - and empty

It will cost $300,000 to heat Mount Dennis facility, idled due to budget cuts and manufacturing delays

Nov 12, 2007 04:30 AM
Tess Kalinowski
Transportation Reporter

The TTC’s $92 million Mount Dennis bus garage - three years in the planning and building - is finally only six weeks from completion.

But the opening party will have to wait. It’s doomed to stay empty for the next year, an expensive casualty of the city’s financial struggles. To heat the empty building will cost $300,000 a year.

It highlights how, despite this week’s fare hike which was to pay for enhanced service, plans to improve TTC service won’t be fully realized until at least 2008. Instead, riders will have to wait until February before the TTC starts bringing about half its routes back up to what it considers “tolerable” standards. And those 77 overcrowded bus and streetcar routes can be upgraded without opening the garage.

So how did the TTC end up with a brand-new empty building?

It started this summer when the city issued orders to cut $30 million from the TTC’s 2007 budget. Moving quickly, TTC commissioners postponed beefing up surface routes.

Then the bus manufacturer was hit by a strike, meaning the arrival of new buses would have been delayed anyway, TTC chair Adam Giambrone said.

However, even opening the new garage a year from now isn’t guaranteed unless city council approves the TTC’s proposed operating budget, expected to come up for discussion at the commission later this month. “This facility is tied to the introduction of our peak level improvements planned for fall 2008,” Giambrone said. “If you don’t do the service improvements, you don’t open the garage.”

The 23,000-square-metre facility, larger than many hockey arenas, has space for about 200 buses, including about 70 of the 150 articulated models the TTC expects to have in two years. The garage is also equipped to repair the TTC’s expanding fleet of hybrid buses.

Mount Dennis won’t have the range of repair services available in the TTC’s historic Harvey shops near Dupont and Bathurst Sts., but it does have 15 hoists, a paint shop, body shop, machine shops, a de-greasing station for heavy-duty cleaning, a bus wash and administration and communication offices.

The Mount Dennis garage predates the city’s green plan, but it does incorporate a range of environment-friendly features not found in most of the TTC’s other nine car houses. “From an environmental approach, we try to make sure we’re using the latest and greatest,” said project manager Richard Thompson.

Windows along the ceiling line mean there’s more natural light, so fixtures automatically shut off when there’s enough daylight. Outdoor lighting is equipped with photocells. There are motion detectors on lights in areas that receive minimal use, and speed doors that lift in seconds to minimize heat loss. Air curtains on the garage doors will also help maintain the temperature inside.

The next garage is scheduled to be built on McNicoll Ave., but that’s not likely to happen for five or six years, Giambrone said.

The bus stops here

These are some of the operating costs of the 23,000-square-metre facility

$300,000: annual cost of heating Mount Dennis bus garage when non-operational

$600,000: annual cost of heating when operational

101 mechanics: and other employees to be stationed at Mount Dennis

$3.5 million: anticipated cost of operating garage in 2008

$18 million: cost of operating garage in 2009

150 hybrid buses: operating in TTC fleet