Where Should Metrolinx Be Going? (Part 1)

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.

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TTC 2009-2013 Capital Program (Part 2)

In this section, we will see the complete mess that Toronto’s transit funding is in.  Years of putting off a proper funding arrangement coupled with a naïve hope that Ottawa will fund 1/3 of capital projects leaves us with a huge menu of projects and expectations, but no money to pay for them.

As before, the material is the TTC’s presentation, reformatted to simplify it in this medium, with my comments appearing in italics.

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TTC 2009-2013 Capital Program (Part 1)

The TTC presented its Capital Budget at last Wednesday’s Commission Meeting, and included a few surprises.  Before I go into the details, a few general observations:

  • Through judicious project deferals, the TTC has managed to keep its annual funding request down to a level within the City’s spending target, but this is getting harder and harder to sustain.  There is only so much work we can push off into future years and it’s all starting to pile up.
  • The budget assumes a considerable contribution from other levels of government who may not be predisposed to meeting the TTC’s request.
  • The scale of the TTC’s budget is quite large and its impact on the need for Provincial funding is substantial over and above whatever might be done under the MoveOntario2020 program.
  • Detailed costs for projects are shown over a five-year span, but many of these extend well beyond 2013.

In the material that follows, I have converted some of the presentation to plain text and left other parts as scanned images to keep the total size down.  My own comments are interspersed with the TTC presentation and they are in italics.

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