Metrolinx Marries GO, Dumps Pesky Politicians

Today the Government of Ontario announced that GO Transit and Metrolinx would be merged together in one agency.  Some sort of takeover was contemplated in the original Metrolinx legislation which proposed that GO become a division of Metrolinx, but this part of the bill was never proclaimed.

Since last fall when the Regional Transportation Plan emerged, some at Metrolinx have spoken darkly, and usually privately, about how the politicians are getting in the way of accomplishing Metrolinx’ manifest destiny.  Not long ago, a report on the innocent matter of cross-border fare integration showed Metrolinx’ staff’s true colours and their hunger for power over local transit agencies.  Now Queen’s Park has stepped in.

This is hardly a shotgun marriage, but it came as a big surprise to the local politicians who make up the current Metrolinx board.  This group has been accused of being dysfunctional and obstructionist when in fact anyone who actually watches the board at work sees a truly collegial group of senior politicians who are trying to do the right thing both for their own cities and for the region as a whole.  The 416-vs-905 dynamic everyone thought might doom Metrolinx never developed.

Problems lay, however, in Metrolinx staff and its Chair, Rob MaacIsaac.  Although the agency professed to want as much public input as possible, this was stage managed to produce feel-good support for Metrolinx work, and dissent was actively discouraged.  When the Board asked for a few extra months to fine-tune the RTP, a process that anyone who saw early drafts will know made a huge improvement to the final product, they were seen as delaying progress even though the plan did come out on time.

If anything, the foot-dragging lies at Queen’s Park and in Ottawa, neither of which has shown much love for actually paying for transit projects.  Lots of promises, but no money.  Indeed, the whole concept of multi-party funding schemes is a guarantee of inaction.

What will be the effect of this merger?  In the short term, many things are unknown, but there is good reason to worry that Queen’s Park may actually have derailed the very agency that was on the verge of building a regional network. Continue reading