Staff Report # 1 – Highbury Facility Rebuild

Staff Report #1

January 25, 2023

To All Commissioners

Re: Highbury Facility Rebuild


That the report e NOTED and FILED.


Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program – Public Transit Stream

At the February 27, 2019 meeting, the Commission approved in principle the Strategic Assessment of LTC Facility Needs and Path Forward report, and directed administration to utilize the Path Forward as input into the preparation of multi-year Operating and Capital budgets covering the period 2020-2023. The report was prepared in light of the then-approved BRT corridors coupled with the growth plans for the remainder of the conventional service, which would result in the eventual need for additional bus maintenance and storage space. The Highbury Facility project was placed on the Commission’s 10 year Capital Budget program as a place holder noting at the time there were no available sources of funding identified.

In the month following, Municipal Council directed civic administration to submit 10 projects to the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program Public Transit Stream (ICIP-PTS) noting the program uses a cost-sharing formula of 40% Federal-33% Provincial-27% Municipal dollars to fund capital projects that:

  • improve the capacity of public transit infrastructure;
  • improve the quality and/or safety of existing or future transit systems;
  • improve access to a public transit system; and,
  • improve capacity and/or quality of pathways and/or active transportation.

Municipal Council approved the following ten public transit and active transportation infrastructure projects for submission for funding consideration under the ICIP-PTS program:

  • Downtown Loop
  • East London Link
  • Wellington Gateway
  • Expansion Buses
  • Bus Stop Amenities
  • Intelligent Traffic Signals
  • Adelaide Street Underpass Active Transportation Connections
  • Dundas Place Thames Valley Parkway Active Transportation Connection
  • Dundas Street Old East Village Streetscape Improvements
  • Oxford Street / Wharncliffe Road Intersection Improvements

At the time of submission, the Highbury Facility project was not deemed as high a priority as other projects and as such was not included in the project submission. In June 2019, the Province pledged $103.2 million for these projects and, in August 2019, the Government of Canada announced $123.8 million in funding. The City of London contribution was $79.9 million. After this process, London had an available total allocation of $148.6 million in funding. $119.3 million of the remaining funding had been associated with the planned North and West corridors of the rapid transit system; however those projects were not submitted to ICIP-PTS for consideration. The remaining $29.3 million was not associated with a specific project.

After receiving approval for the 2019 projects as well as a suite of active transportation projects in January 2022, London has $119.3 million in remaining allocated Federal and Provincial funding, allowing for the delivery of at least $163.4 million in capital works based on the contribution formula.

The Federal Budget 2022 made changes to the schedules for both the submission and completion of projects under the ICIP-PTS program. The previous submission deadline of March 28, 2024 was accelerated to March 31, 2023, while the deadline for project completion was extended from October 2027 to October 2033. As a result, civic administration recommended reallocating London’s remaining ICIP-PTS funding to the construction of the new LTC Highbury Avenue Facility as this project could meet both the revised submission and construction schedules. On August 2, 2022, Municipal Council approved the following:

That, on the recommendation of the Deputy City Manager, Finance Supports and the Deputy City Manager, Environment and Infrastructure Civic Administration BE DIRECTED to work with London Transit Commission staff to develop a joint application to the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program Public Transit Stream (ICIP-PTS) for a new LTC facility on Highbury Avenue to accommodate transit service growth and the conversion of the LTC fleet to zero-emission buses.

In response to this direction, administration retained the consultant that completed the original Facility Assessment (Arcadis IBI Group) to update the document to include consideration for the transition to a zero-emission bus fleet as well as to provide a more comprehensive costing estimate that could be utilized for the funding application (see Enclosure I for Commissioners only).

At the meeting of December 13, 2022, Municipal Council approved the following:

That, on the recommendation of the Deputy City Manager, Finance Supports and the Deputy City Manager, Environment and Infrastructure with the concurrence of the General Manager, London Transit Commission Civic Administration

  1. BE DIRECTED to submit London Transit Commission (LTC) Highbury Avenue Facility Demolition and Rebuild – Project 1 to the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program Public Transit Stream (ICIP-PTS);
  2. The budget for the project BE APPROVED in accordance with the Source of Financing Report attached hereto as Appendix “A”; and,
  3. Civic Administration BE AUTHORIZED to carry out all budget adjustments required to establish the budget for the LTC Highbury Avenue Facility Demolition and Rebuild.

Highbury Avenue Facility Rebuild Business Case

In February 2019 the London Transit Commission approved in principle the Strategic Assessment of LTC Facility Needs and Path Forward completed by the IBI Group. The Strategic Assessment of LTC Facility Needs study report confirmed the LTC’s future facility needs based on projections of service, fleet and employee growth, and assessed options for replacing the Highbury facility including the option of a new site.

The first aspect of the review was an assessment of the Highbury facility; a number of the key findings are set out below:

  • The main buildings were then 70 years of age and well past their economic and design life;
  • The building materials and, particularly, the concrete floors in the maintenance and storage areas, were in poor condition and deteriorating;
  • The workplace areas and environment are sub-standard to current, modern facilities; and
  • The existing buildings were energy inefficient and the interior layout, particularly in the maintenance and storage areas, presents on-going operational challenges.

Modifications and additions undertaken in 1990/91, 1993/94 and 2002/03 increased vehicle storage space, servicing and maintenance capacity as well as administrative office space. However, because of the design of the original structure, particularly with respect to roof height, spacing of column supports within the building and the office layout, the use of the building as a bus garage has involved compromises in the location of the vehicle maintenance, storage, servicing functions and in the layout of the parts repair, stockroom and office areas. As well, the location and orientation of the original building on the site has required separate buildings to be constructed to accommodate added vehicle storage and servicing and maintenance requirements rather than having these functions conveniently grouped together.

The next step in the review involved determining the future facility needs with respect to the number of buses and employees anticipated to be operating out of each facility. Future growth plans, including the implementation of bus rapid transit corridors were included as part of this consideration. The fleet size estimates for various horizon years were estimated on an order of magnitude basis giving consideration for known plans at the time, noting any expansion will be subject to the availability of operating and capital funding requirements. Fleet size and total employee estimates were utilized to determine the size of facility that would be required to meet future needs.

Once the size of the facility was determined, the next step in the process was to identify options to meet the need. Two options were identified for assessment; rebuild a facility on the current location or build a new facility at a new location and sell the existing facility upon completion. Given the site size requirement of 7.2 hectares, identifying vacant sites in London was challenging. The review identified two sites in southwest London, and also conducted an assessment for comparative purposes on a theoretical site in the vicinity of Oxford Street and Veterans Memorial Parkway.

Based on the identified site locations, an analysis was undertaken with respect to the “deadhead” costs (the operating costs associated with buses travelling to the start of service and back to the garage when they are not in revenue service) of operating out of each of the identified locations. The southwest location as compared to the existing Highbury location would result in an annual operating premium of approximately $633,000 based on current service levels, increasing to $867,800 by 2047. A northeast location would have a higher annual operating cost premium of $996,300 today, increasing to $1,378,000 by 2047. The difference between the southwest and northeast locations reflects the fact that a northeast location would be more remote from the centre of the LTC’s service area requiring buses to travel further. Extending these estimates over the horizon period to 2047 resulted in an estimated additional operating expenditure of $18 million for the southwest location and $28 million for the northeast location.

Given the significant incremental costs associated with moving the facility, a detailed assessment of the feasibility of constructing a new facility at the existing Highbury location was undertaken. The complicating factor with respect to this option was the need to continue to be able to service and maintain a significant portion of the fleet while construction is ongoing. A number of options were considered during this assessment phase, with the final recommended strategy being to rebuild on the Highbury site in a phased manner, providing the ability to continue to service and maintain buses while construction is ongoing. The phasing plan would require the relocation of employee parking as well as the need to secure an indoor heated facility to park buses overnight for an extended period of time. This plan would also require a number of the buses currently operating out of the Highbury facility to be transferred to the Wonderland facility during the construction period.

In preparation for the submission of an ICIP-PTS funding application for this project in response to direction from Municipal Council, the consultant was retained to undertake an update to the 2019 study which included:

  • Confirmation of facility needs and new facility layout;
  • Consideration of the transition to a zero-emission bus fleet;
  • Class D costing estimate of the project; and
  • Cost estimates for the required off-site bus storage and employee parking, detailed design of the new facility and consulting/engineering fees to get to the tender phase of the project

During the report update process, administration undertook a tour with the consultants of the recently completed bus maintenance facility in Waterloo Region, which is similar to scope and size of the planned Highbury facility. The updated report, which has been prepared as a Business Case, confirmed the facility needs identified in the 2019 study remain accurate, noting that accommodation of the charging infrastructure associated with electric buses would not impact the capacity of the completed facility. The design concepts were modified to ensure the appropriate servicing bays, hoists and cranes for servicing electric buses could be accommodated within the proposed footprint.

Given the need to continue to operate from the Highbury facility during construction, the initiative has been broken down into two projects, with each project having multiple phases. The project also includes operational expenses associated with the need to store some of the bus fleet off site during the construction period.

Project 1 of the initiative has been submitted for consideration under the ICIP-PTS funding. This project includes the following six phases:

  • Phase I – Demolish building and tent at the south end of the property
  • Phase II – Build a maintenance area, administration offices and employee parking
  • Phase III – Demolish east part of existing bus garage
  • Phase IV – Build new service lanes and part of new bus garage
  • Phase V – Demolish existing service lanes and administrative offices
  • Phase VI – Clean up existing maintenance bay to store buses

The detailed cost estimates for Project 1 are set out in the table below:

Highbury Facility Project 1 Cost Estimates

Project Component Cost (millions)
1. Demolition and Construction costs – Phases I-IV $ 173.0
2. Design Fees 12.0
3. Demolition and construction costs – Phases V-VI 5.0
4. Conversion of maintenance area to storage and contingency 4.5
5. Temporary site for bus and employee parking (including site prep) 4.0
6. Shuttle operating costs (2 years) 1.0
Total $ 199.5

Completion of Project 1 would result in an improved maintenance operation for all buses at the Highbury facility, and when complete, would have a comparable bus storage space to today. While there is some newly built bus storage associated with this Project, it is limited to 50 buses, and continued transition to zero emission buses will be dependant upon completing Project 2, the estimated costs of which are set out in the table below.

Highbury Facility Project 2 Cost Estimates

Project Component Cost (millions)
1. Building Cost Phase 7 $ 92.0
2. Design Fees 6.0
3. Escalation and Phasing (Dependant upon project timing) 30.0
5. Temporary site for bus and employee parking (including site prep) 2.5
6. Shuttle operating costs (2 years) 0.5
Total $ 131.0

The primary component of this Project is the demolition of the remainder of the old Highbury facility and the rebuild of the remaining bus storage. There is currently no associated source of funding for Project 2; however it will be included in the next multi-year budget submission for capital projects. Given the phasing approach incorporated into this plan, transit operations could continue to operate with little impact should there be a delay between the two Projects. The most significant impact associated with a long delay between the two Projects will be the ability to continue to transition the conventional transit fleet to zero-emission buses.

The one cost element that has not been incorporated into this business case and related costing is any site remediation that may be required as demolition and reconstruction occur. These impacts are anticipated to occur during Project 2 given the current understanding of where any soil contamination may be located on the site.

Current Project Status

The Business Case and accompanying application documents for funding under the ICIP-PTS program have been submitted to the Province of Ontario for consideration. London Transit and civic administration are liaising with staff from the Ministry of Transportation with respect to any questions they may have regarding the project or the accompanying funding application.The deadline for Provincial approval of the project for their portion of the funding is March 31, 2023. Once this approval has been granted, the application is forwarded to the Federal government for approval. In preparation for Federal consideration, additional work is being undertaken by the consultant to complete the required Climate Lens Assessment.

Subsequent to approval from the Federal Government, a request for proposal will be issued for the detailed design of the new Highbury Facility. This level of design will be required in order to undertake the tendering process for the actual construction work. Depending on approval timelines, it is anticipated the earliest that construction would begin on the Highbury Facility Project 1 is spring of 2025.


I – Highbury Facility Replacement Business Case (Commissioners only)

Recommended by:

Craig Morneau, Director of Fleet & Facilities

Mike Gregor, Director of Finance

Concurred in by:

Kelly S. Paleczny, General Manager