Correction: April 16, 2013 at 5:45 pm:
Responses to some questions (Q4-Q7) in this article were originally attributed to Metrolinx. In fact these responses came from the Minister’s office based on policy information collected there. Text of the article has been changed accordingly (italics).
Back on March 14, I wrote about a conversation I had with the newly created Minister of Transportation, Glen Murray. We ran short of time, and I left questions about transit financing and the role of local systems for an email followup.
It took a month, but the responses have come in, some verbatim from the Minister, some the Ministry office to which the more “technical” issues were forwarded.
I added a supplementary question about the Metrolinx Investment Strategy and the actual level of spending based on information in the Five Year Strategy. The question and the Ministry’s response appear at the end of this article.
The exchange is unedited. Judge for yourself how forthright these responses might be.
The first three responses came from Minister Murray’s as a verbatim transcript.
Q1: With the planned growth of GO Transit to a two-way, all day operation and increased frequency of service, access to/from stations must be provided by local transit. Parking is effectively at capacity and moreover is a service for inbound commuting traffic that arrives early enough to use it. All-day and counter-peak riders are not served by parking. Local transit systems are, if anything, retrenching in their operations, not building. What financial assistance will be provided (capital and operating) to recognize the additional demand placed on local systems to act as feeder/distributors to the GO network?
We are trying to coordinate. For instance, Barrie has had a 30% increase in their public transit capacity with seven new transit hubs coming to their city, and they are coordinating with our hubs which will allow us to have transit expanded to Barrie. This is a model we would like to see across the GTHA: stronger integration of local transit service with the GO Service. The other piece is for parking lots and parkades: those should be transitional and we should be working with the municipalities to build transit services. Obviously this has a lot to do with walkability and transit-friendliness of neighbourhoods, so Places To Grow and The Big Move have been implemented in an integrated fashion, so we are moving to more development that is more transit friendly and we can reengineer existing development to be more walk-able and more transit friendly is really the way forward.
Q2: Local municipalities including Toronto now pay a portion of the GO Transit capital budget through development charges. Toronto’s share recently has been $20m/year. Given the substantial additional funding needed for GO expansion, will the local contribution to GO be “uploaded” to the Province (funded either from general revenue or from the new tools)?
I have not considered that yet, and that would be a result of a conversation with municipalities. Right now, the province is carrying the vast majority of the cost for The Big Move, and moving forward, we hope to see stronger partnerships with municipalities and with the Federal government.
Q3: Local municipalities now receive a share of provincial gas tax. (Toronto currently gets about $160m of which $90m is directed to the TTC’s operating subsidy, and $70m to the capital budget.) Will this continue under new revenue tools, or be rolled into them. In other words, will the $2b annual in “new” money be partly offset by loss of existing subsidy streams? All three of these are, I realize, issues which could be construed as part of coming budget discussions, but they are obvious questions local municipalities will ask. Has any of this been incorporated in work on the Investment Strategy?
Those will all be factors that we will consider in the investment strategy.
The next three come from the Minister’s Office:
Q4: TTC estimates that opening the Spadina extension will cost an additional $14-million annually net of new revenues. (This comes from info in their 2013 detailed budget papers.) This is clearly a regional project. What role will Metrolinx/Ontario take in funding this, or will Toronto taxpayers (or transit riders) shoulder the entire cost either through added local subsidy or transit service cuts to divert resources to the Spadina line?
The Province has not made a direct commitment to fund the operating costs of the Toronto Transit Commission’s (TTC) Toronto York Spadina Subway Extension. Because of the interregional aspect of the extension, an Executive Task Force, including representatives from the City of Toronto and York Region is in place and is responsible for overseeing the development and construction of the project. The TTC is the Project Manager (except for the passenger pick up and drop off facilities and bus terminals located in York Region – to be managed by York Region).
The TTC will be responsible for the full operating costs of the subway extension from Downsview Station to the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre in York Region and receive all revenue from the service, with the exception of the operating costs and revenues for bus terminals and passenger pick up and drop off facilities located York Region, which will be maintained and operated by York Region.
It is important to note Municipalities are eligible to use their annual Provincial gas tax funding towards public transit capital and operating expenditures at their discretion.
Q5: Have the budgetary requirements of increasing operating subsidies — both from increased scope of operation and from declining cost recoveries — been taken into account in provincial planning?
Yes, as part of the provincial budgeting process for GO Transit, Metrolinx seeks the resources needed from the province to provide a regional transit service that is sustainable, attractive and able to meet the objectives of The Big Move. This includes addressing the operating cost implications of any planned GO service improvement. As a result, the province does take into account the anticipated operating needs of the new services introduced in its planning. It should be noted, however, that as new GO Transit services are implemented, the specific operating implications vary depending on the nature of the service improvement being made. Not all new services introduced will result in declining cost recoveries.
Q6: Have there been any discussions about the comparative costs and problems of handling all inside-416 travel on a TTC network, including rapid transit buildout, versus the potential role of GO?
If you are asking whether any thought has been given to the TTC assuming all public transit, including GO transit operations, in the 416 area, the answer is no. In 2009, the Metrolinx Act was amended to allow for a Metrolinx ownership model for new priority regional transit infrastructure in the GTHA. A Metrolinx ownership model assists in bringing a regional perspective to transportation planning and implementation of projects of regional significance. It also helped create a sustainable funding model by using provincial investments to build provincial infrastructure. Metrolinx is working closely with the City and the TTC on the implementation of the rapid transit projects, and have agreed that the TTC would operate the four LRT lines under an operating agreement with Metrolinx- including vehicle operators, station operations, safety and security and train control.
On the Spadina subway, the Ministry is clear — it’s up to Toronto to foot the bill, possibly by diverting some of the gas tax subsidy the city now receives to pay for this regional service. How much service within the 416 will be cut, or how much will overall fares rise, to pay for this? Without question, Toronto made a bad deal in accepting responsibility for all of the future costs, but at the time they may have had reason to expect a special subsidy.
On that last question, the Ministry completely missed the point. One major component of the “crisis” in regional travel is the capacity of services into the core area. With GO taking the stance that it’s purpose is to serve “regional” trips, and its hostility to any suggestions that it take up inside-416 travel, this demand falls entirely on the TTC even though parts of the outlying 416 are actually further from the core than parts of the 905 served by GO. Capacity planning should be based on a unified network regardless of who runs the trains.
The fundamental question is whether there has been any planning to support local transit costs that are driven by the expansion of the regional network, not to mention the extra costs that Metrolinx itself will face from service expansion.
These should be integral parts of the “Investment Strategy”. Simply hoping that the municipalities will pony up funding for better local transit is an abdication of leadership by Queen’s Park.
How Much Revenue Does Metrolinx Need?
The Metrolinx Five Year Strategy contains a chart showing the funding sources out to 2020/21:
This is contained on Page 24 of the document.
Q7: All of the discussion to date has focussed on the “next wave” with the assumption that this will consume a good deal of the money from the new revenue tools. What does that extra $2b pay for (especially the part that isn’t “committed” funding) and where will the money come from? Is Metrolinx really a $4b annual program, not a $2b one, especially after the “committed” projects in the “first wave” have been completed.
The annual $2B Metrolinx figure refers to the additional revenue required to fund the capital costs of the Next Wave of transit projects.
As you know, Metrolinx is currently developing an Investment Strategy, which will include proposals for revenue tools that could be used to support The Big Move, its regional transportation plan for the GTHA (of which the next wave is a part). Metrolinx is required by legislation to deliver its strategy to the province and the heads of council in the GTHA by June 1, 2013. Once the province receives the strategy, it will consider Metrolinx’s recommendations and move forward as appropriate.
Well, yes, we know that, but the Ministry has dodged the question of what the added $2b will pay for.
The chart is also interesting because it clearly implies spending would begin on the “Next Wave” well before the First Wave has finished. Readers may remember how the rollout plan for Transit City (and the First Wave) was extended because the terribly overstretched Toronto construction industry could not possibly absorb the work. Somehow, we are going to build up to a $4b/year spend rate if that chart is to be believed.
Defending new revenue tools will be hard slog, politically. I cannot help feeling that Metrolinx and the Ministry are making up policy as they go along, and have no real idea of the money to be spent and how they will manage both regional and local funding needs. In Ontario’s new Premier, we have a strong advocate for transit and added funding. I only wish that the policies her agencies are generating were more coherent.