With the Draft Regional Transportation Plan due out in September and a brief consultation period thereafter, I’ve decided to stake out some basic positions in advance. Will Metrolinx give us a plan, or merely a warmed-over rehash of MoveOntario 2020? Will they propose realistic financing both for capital projects and the increased scope of transit operations, or will they assume money will somehow be made available in budgets they don’t control? Will the plan recognize the importance of local services, or fixate on regional, commuter-oriented lines? Will the plan meaningfully address issues of congestion and the environment?
These questions and more should provide yardsticks to measure the draft RTP and the associated financing strategy.
What Is the Metrolinx Mandate?
Metrolinx operates under a legislative requirement to produce a Regional Transportation Plan including:
- all modes of transportation,
- intelligent transportation systems and other innovative technologies,
- compliance with provincial and local policies, strategies and Official Plans,
- the integration of local transit systems with each other and with GO Transit,
- reduced congestion, commute times, and emissions,
- development that supports transit and optimization of transit infrastructure,
- a rolling five-year capital plan and associated investment strategy.
[Greater Toronto Transportation Authority Act, 2006, Section 6 (2)]
Notably, sections of the legislation involving the takeover of GO Transit by Metrolinx (43 to 45) and the creation of a consolidated fare card (7) have not yet been proclaimed.
The question of compliance with local plans is quite intriguing. Many of the strategies for handling transportation demand will require changes in the way the GTA is developed. Densities and land use patterns in place for decades will not achieve transit supportive development, and yet the imposition of new rules will almost certainly require that local plans be brought into line with Metrolinx goals.
I hesitate to say “provincial goals” because we never quite know how serious Queen’s Park is about changing the built form of the GTAH. A further problem is that the provincial goals change with the political weather, and all we need is one term of a laissez-faire, pro-development government, and all the controls will vanish in an instant. Once the rules give developers the right to build, taking away that right is contentious and expensive. We’ve seen this strategy in Toronto itself (complain when the left wing is in power, grab all you can when the right wing takes command), and there’s no reason to believe Queen’s Park would be any different.