The Discovery of a Transit Agenda

The Toronto Board of Trade recently issued a press release calling for a permanent national transit funding strategy.  Included in the release is a list of Ottawa’s spending promises in the GTA, although notable by its absence is comparable information for Provincial or Municipal shares in these projects.

As regular readers here will know, I have my doubts about the viability of a national funding scheme specifically because of this unpredictability and the inevitable three-way fights that arise over funding and eligibility.  If Ottawa is to be part of transit funding, I agree that this needs to be on a permanent basis and with a formula that transit agencies can rely upon to plan their long-range budgets.  Project-based funding is at the whim of day-to-day policy and politics.

Later this month, the Board of Trade has a session about Vancouver’s Transit Revolution and the wonders that innovative financing can bring.  For a more jaundiced view of the Vancouver situation, visit Stephen Rees’ blog.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Urban Institute will present Designing Transit Cities on November 19-20, 2009.  This will include a free public session in City Council Chamber on the evening of November 19, and a number of paid-entry sessions on November 20.

This program is co-sponsored by the City of Toronto, the Toronto Society of Architects, the Cities Centre at UofT, the TTC and Metrolinx.

Oddly, these “Canadian” organizations have assembled guest speakers all from the United States.  What does this say about their perception of Canadian planning?

There is supposed to be a separate website at www.transitcities.org, but it leads right back to the main CUI page with no additional info.

With two major organizations publicising the importance of transit to urban areas, I can’t help wondering how their programs, not to mention those of would-be mayoral candidates, would differ from and improve on transit plans already in place.

8 thoughts on “The Discovery of a Transit Agenda

  1. All large cities here in Canada need such a federal source of funding that is always in place, but, like you said Toronto has had good funding announcements already. The big one is the extension of the University/Spadina line to York U. and beyond. That project is going ahead. Their are also approved funding announcements for three of transit cities lines, the much needed Eglinton Crosstown, Finch West and Sheppard East.

    All these announcements are needed and I am grateful for but, I have heard the phrase mentioned that we need “Long-term and Sustained Funding”, not just these recent announcements among others. Maybe the economy will rebound and the sitting government will forget about needed transit improvements and the project announcements will dry up. One thing about this national transit funding stategy is that it won’t be such a political fight to get funding for future transit projects.

    Steve, if Ignatieff is successful in forming a coalition gov’t, will that mean that the already announced projects would be in jeopardy of losing their funding. I am definitely not a conservative but I do appreciate the federal announcements for transit funding that has come recently. I think if a national transit agency were in place it wouldn’t matter who is in power – there will always be funding for reasonable transit projects I imagine.

    Steve: In theory, the answer depends on which project you are talking about and how far the detailed agreements have progressed. In practice, the Liberals and the NDP have no intentions of shutting down funding already announced and, if anything, can be expected to continue in the same vein given past practice. However, the absence of a standing program means that Toronto and other cities must still argue for every project they want funded.

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  2. “With two major organizations publicising the importance of transit to urban areas, I can’t help wondering how their programs, not to mention those of would-be mayoral candidates, would differ from and improve on transit plans already in place.”

    Um … Not at all? Or was that meant to be a rhetorical question?.

    Steve: Considering the many negative comments about the current Mayor Miller, including those from the Board of Trade, I am amused to see his policies endorsed.

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  3. George S. wrote “[i]All large cities here in Canada need such a federal source of funding… Their are also approved funding announcements for three of transit cities lines, the much needed Eglinton Crosstown, Finch West and Sheppard East.[/i]”.

    That [comment] makes it sound like the Feds provided funding to Eglinton and Finch, which were 100% funded by the province, along with the SRT rebuild and extension, and the VIVA expansion. The only federal funding we’ve seen this year is about $300-million for 1/3 of the Sheppard East LRT, compared to about $9-billion by the province.

    I’m not advocating that the Feds should be paying the bill, but let’s put credit where credit is due, and note that the Province has been paying 97% of the funding for the new projects announced this year, compared to 3% by the feds.

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  4. > As regular readers here will know, I have my doubts about the viability of a national funding scheme specifically because of this unpredictability and the inevitable three-way fights that arise over funding and eligibility.

    Makes me wonder whether we should leave the feds completely out of transit (except for VIA) and make transit solely provincial jurisdiction.

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  5. No Feds… like the Davis era. The Feds paid for other things that are now provincial jurisdiction in the Davis era. This may be setting expectations too high. Since Ottawa’s downloaded everything, they should spend some money on cities where people actually live, instead the deserted arctic.

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