Move Ontario 2030?

Today’s Ontario Budget announced that as part of Expenditure Management, spending on Metrolinx projects will be delayed and a program that funded bus replacements will be cancelled.

In the current fiscal environment, the government has revised the scope and timing of some capital investments. To help manage infrastructure spending over the coming years, the government will:

  • Work with Metrolinx to phase construction of transit projects, which would result in approximately $4 billion in appropriation savings and reduced borrowing over the next five years
  • Eliminate the Ontario Bus Replacement Program and include bus replacement costs as eligible expenses under the gas tax funding program, which supports municipal transit. The government acknowledges that municipalities have current commitments under the Ontario Bus Replacement Program, and will work with them to ensure these commitments are met by providing one-time funding of almost $174 million in 2009-10.

This will specifically delay work on all Transit City projects as well as VIVA’s BRT network.  Over the next few months, Metrolinx will have to figure out a new project list.  The 15 and 25 year plans of “The Big Move” are now in tatters.

I can read the events pessimistically in the sense that the hoped-for level of transit funding will never occur.  Certainly major expansion is on the back burner, and there is no announced funding to support operating costs of local transit systems.  Alternately, an optimistic view is that the approach is “not now” because the revenue needed to fund transit growth demands some new form of taxation, and with an election in 2011, nobody at Queen’s Park wants to address the issue.

Sadly, I tend to be a pessimist based on past experience.  Jobs, health care and education are portfolios that touch all parts of Ontario, while transit is Toronto-centric.  Only when the economy is booming, or appears to be as it was only a few years ago, can Queen’s Park afford to announce large-scale spending in a new area.  Now, Queen’s Park has not just capped its commitments, it has retrenched.

According to the Globe and Mail,

The government is asking Metrolinx, its regional transportation agency, to submit a proposal phasing in the projects for a total of $4-billion in savings over five years, starting in 2010-2011. An official said it would take a few months for the government to decide which projects will be delayed.

That $4-billion is almost half of the previously announced $9.6-billion commitment to Metrolinx projects, and quite serious cuts or deferals will be needed to achieve this level of saving.

Almost certainly, the Finch LRT line will be delayed and cut back in scope.  The proposed section from Yonge to Don Mills and Sheppard, added to the project by Queen’s Park, never made sense and is an easy casualty.  However, the western end of the line may also be truncated at Finch West Station (Keele and Finch) if it is built at all.  This would leave open the whole question of how a northern “crosstown” route would be created either on Finch, or via a western extension of the Sheppard Subway to Downsview.  Whatever the choice, there’s no money to build it today.

The Scarborough RT has already been announced as cutting back to Sheppard rather than continuing to Malvern.  The challenge here is that the RT itself is wearing out and may not survive until 2015 when it is supposed to be an integral part of the Pan Am Games transit service.

The Sheppard LRT is already under construction, and this project is likely safe because of its location in the network sharing infrastructure with the SRT.

The Eglinton LRT, most expensive of all Transit City projects, is the easiest to defer while producing large scale budget savings.  No substantive work has been done yet, and even if it stayed on schedule, the airport connection (a holy grail of Pan Am Games supporters) would not be ready for 2015.  No doubt, the technology debates for this route will continue to rage in political, professional and blogging circles.

Other parts of Transit City are much less advanced in planning, and these may simply fall off the table without a strong advocate at the city level.  Jane does not make sense without at least one of Finch or Eglinton that would share a carhouse.  Don Mills would connect with Sheppard, but the combined fleets required for Sheppard, the SRT and Don Mills would probably exceed the capacity at Conlins Road Carhouse.  Scarborough/Malvern only makes sense if there is an aggressive plan to increase population density in the corridor.  In effect, only a Scarborough subnetwork of Transit City may remain.

Subway advocates have little to cheer for in this announcement.  The Transit City funding that some would redirect to subway construction is unlikely to reappear, and very expensive projects such as the Downtown Relief Line and Richmond Hill extension will have to fight hard for capital.

Waterfront West, that poor orphan of the Transit City network, is almost certainly dead at this point, and I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the Bremner Boulevard streetcar either.

Lurking in the background of this mess is the question of transit financing.  When Metrolinx was created, we heard bold statements about an “investment strategy” that would create transit lines out of thin air with no provincial exposure to debt costs until future decades.  The accounting sounded like a Wall Street Ponzi scheme even then, and it’s clear now that building a huge transit network on the never-never was simply not workable.

The original Metrolinx board, mainly politicians from the GTA governments, became restive about financing not just for their bold plans, but for the local network improvements that would be essential as feeders to the regional network.  For their troubles, they were dumped and replaced by a gaggle of private sector experts whose main public contribution thus far has been to sit meekly at Board meetings and rubber stamp whatever reports are placed in front of them.  If they are making some miraculous contribution to the future of GTA transit, it is invisible.  The Board will head off for its annual retreat next week, and it might well consider how to make itself and its “Big Move” relevant.

The single most important part of any transit plan is the money to build it.  This comes either from existing income streams (unlikely given that they’re all spoken for and the government is in deficit) or from some new levy.  The opponents of new taxes will rail against government waste all they like, but the real truth is that major new programs like this are not affordable unless someone pays for them.

Private sector “partnerships” are nothing more than accounting sleight-of-hand.  Money must still be spent to build lines, and more money must be found to operate them.  At the end of the day, we the riders and taxpayers pay the cost.  One may argue about the relative efficiency of private and public sector project delivery, but even the most optimistic savings on that account won’t come near bridging the gap between project costs and available funding.

Some argue that “transferring risk” to the private sector will make them sharpen their pencils and deliver projects on better schedules and at lower cost.  Sadly, the private sector hates risk and has two basic approaches to it:

  • boost the contingency in their pricing to allow for the risk they must assume, or
  • be prepared to walk away from their contract if the penalties for non-performance wipe out any hoped-for profit (in effect limiting the “risk” to the sunk investment)

One mayoral candidate has raised the issue of road tolls suggesting a $5 fee for using Toronto’s DVP and Gardiner Expressways with the money going to fund a large subway network.  Leaving aside whether I agree with that network, there are larger issues here:

  • Any road toll must exist on the entire expressway network, not just the “Toronto” component.  This brings in the 400-series highways that are under Queen’s Park’s control.
  • Tolling will drive some traffic onto local streets making local gridlock even worse than it is now.
  • If motorists are to bear the cost of transit expansion, why should this only be applied to expressway users?  What about a regional premium in gas tax?
  • Why should the cost only be borne by motorists?  What about a regional sales tax?
  • Will transit operations continued to be funded from local property taxes, or will new transit revenue streams such as sales tax be shared between operating and capital budgets?

The existing Ontario Bus Replacement program is itself “replaced” with “eligibility” to use gas tax revenue.  This sounds good, but in fact the annual gas tax revenue to Toronto (less than $75-million from Queen’s Park) is less than one quarter of the ongoing capital spending for the existing TTC system.  There is no “spare” gas tax money available to replace the roughly $10-million annually the TTC expected to receive from OBRP.

For comic relief, read about MoveOntario 2020 on the Premier’s website.  It is a product of a very different time.

72 thoughts on “Move Ontario 2030?

  1. Steve, this budget move by the Dalton and the Liberals is a clear signal that he is unhappy with the current transit leadership down at city hall. This budget is a clear indictment of the inept leadership of Miller and his so-called failure of a protege Giambrone. This budget is great news for the future of transit. Transitcity was always a pipe dream and building LRT’s was going to create bigger problems on many or those streets. We need subways only!!!!!!

    Steve: I do not agree, but we’ve had this argument a zillion times already. You will wait a very long time for your subway network if that’s what you think is coming from Queen’s Park.

    If there’s any organization to be disappointed with, it’s Metrolinx whose plans are wildly optimistic about ridership and have even more cockeyed cost estimates than the projections for Transit City.

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  2. Ahh, this is incredibly frustrating.

    I fear that none of the Mayoral candidates will be able to champion the need for sustained TTC operations funding, while also championing the need for sustained transit expansion funding (or mechanisms that allow the raising of funding). Miller certainly did his best at this, and in my mind his leadership will be sorely missed.

    Alternative funding methods such as gas taxes, sales taxes, tolls, etc, which have been used elsewhere, such as in the USA, to fund capital expansions might be part of the solution, and is something that all levels of government should look at closely.

    Since Metrolinx is the body that is responsible for executing the Move Ontario 2020 plan, then they should get serious about finding ways to fund it. The Province should have announced that they are committed to Move 2020, but need to assess alternative methods of raising money, rather than just announcing its essential demolition.

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  3. I give up on ever having good transit in Ontario. The Liberals are all about cuts cuts cuts, and if you try to tell me the Tories will be any better I have an Orion VI to sell you. The message here is that if you take transit, the government will wring you for every penny it can to balance the books so that car driving 9-to-5ers can have the lowest tax rates possible.

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  4. The only work started on Sheppard East is the grade separation at Agincourt, so I wonder if it could be delayed. Though that starts a strange game of jenga, as we obviously need the Scarborough RT replacement, and to serve it, it is dependant on the carhouse off Sheppard. (Sheppard, I still see as TC’s “weakest link”.)

    Eglinton-Crosstown is the line I think most people are for and will serve the most riders, the most ridings, and as a defacto subway is TC’s flagship and the one line that will show the most progress. Eglinton’s been through this before. I’d hate to see that one take the hit.

    Finch is a nice, solid tram corridor, but I see that one as the route most likely to get Dalton’s axe. I’m not sold on Viva II, as it is a real disjointed network of bus lanes. The part that needs it, Yonge between Finch and Highway 7 and north, is off the table as York really wanted that subway extension.

    So if I had to choose, it’d have to be Scarborough RT replacement first above everything else (and I guess Sheppard because of the carhouse connection), then Eg-Crosstown, then Finch East, then finally Viva.

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  5. At least one decision is assured to me now… I was on the fence about whether I should leave Toronto and go the US…. what was keeping me back was the fact that Toronto would be phenomenally better in the next few years… TransitCity was a large part of that…. looks like greener pastures for me now

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  6. This was bound to happen. TC was announced almost three years ago, and shovels needed to get into the ground much sooner to save it. There’s a $100 mill class action lawsuit now in progress against the City and the Province for St. Clair … so I’d say things are shifting again, away from light rail. The SRT will have to be replaced, but if the rest of the network dies a slow death, wouldn’t it be cheaper to continue using ICTS there? The turnaround time to get it up for the games would be faster. At least the Spadina subway extension is safe in all this, or is it?

    Nothing will ever get built these days because it simply takes too long to get shovels into the ground. Compare this to the past … the Bloor-University subway was announced in 1958 and construction started the year after. Makes you wonder where they got the money in those days.

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  7. If I was to spend money on improving transit in Toronto, I’d rather it be spent increasing service on GO and increasing integration between TTC an GO in Toronto. Infrastructure is already present in the GO corridors. It would be cheaper than building the entire transit city.

    To prove my point: Finch East and Steeles East require over 100 buses at peak hours to ferry everyone from Markham Rd. to Finch Station (30 km). If we could get more of them onto the GO Stouffville line, wouldn’t that reduce the number of buses needed? While there is the problem of capacity at Union, it should prove easier to overcome than building transit city (e.g. restrict freight train travel within GTA during rush periods to ensure smooth GO travel times).

    Steve: The problem with your scheme, as so many have pointed out here, is that everybody on the Finch and Steeles East routes is not going downtown. They want transit to many other parts of the city, especially in an east-west direction. GO can help to bleed off the truly core-oriented traffic leaving the “local” network to handle the other trips, but it is not a panacea. All those people stuck in traffic jams on east-west roads, notably the 401, would make little use of new GO rail operations.

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  8. I would be really disappointed to lose Eglinton Crosstown. Eglinton has needed rapid transit for ages and every time it’s close a politician gets in the way.

    How about trimming the TYSSE back. Have it terminate at York U. There isn’t enough money to operate it is there?

    Steve: There may be no transit left running south of Finch Avenue, but there will be a subway to York U and the lands of Vaughan to the north. Too many important people backed that particular horse for it to drop out of the race.

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  9. Steve, this is why I have higher hopes for outsourcing to a private builder-owner model, like the Canada Line in Vancouver.

    Sure, getting the province to buy one would be preferable, but it just doesn’t happen that way any more.

    Steve: All that does it get the asset off of Ontario’s books, it does not eliminate the need to pay for it.

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  10. Steve: Ah but he wants to keep the 905.

    I wouldn’t be so sure… he wants the (sub)urban area of the GTA to stop taking all of the gov’t attention from what he considers the neglected needs of rural areas. Significant portions of the 905 are not considered rural. It’s almost poetically ironic because while the rural Ontario communities think that the GTA is taking all the attention away from them, the GTA (particularly the 416) think that the rest of the Province is taking all the attention away from the GTA. I suspect the Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP would be quite happy even if Toronto took a significant chunk of the 905 with it as a separate province, so long as there are fewer (sub)urban ridings that he has to compete with to get attention to his constituents. That would allow rural issues to be addressed, which was the main thrust behind the idea.

    Steve: And the “Rest of Ontario” would definitely be a have-not province. We could have fund raising drives for them from time to time.

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  11. Hmmm,… where can Metrolinx find $4 Billion to phase OUT? Why not start with that $2.8 Billion 8.6 km 6 station Spadina Subway extension with its $100 million per designer station. Oh, that’s right, the province doesn’t want to phase out projects that’s already started,… have they even started digging, yet??? But of course, Primer Dalton McGuinty and his Liberal friends wouldn’t want to mess with the $2.8 Billion Spadina Subway extension that was actually proposed by them (& not the TTC or City of Toronto!),… that coincidentally goes right to the “maple”-believe area of Vaughan City Centre (currently full of big box stores) which happens to be former Ontario Liberal Finance Minister Greg Sorbara’s former riding. But of course, politics never have anything to do with building subway lines.

    If any line screams out LRT line,… its the Spadina extension. Should have been routed as above ground LRT as current Downsview station to York university Rocket 196 bus up Dufferin to private bus only roadway near York.

    Hey, why not focus on ridership! Phase out the lines that have lower ridership per km. Phase out the lines that cost the most per ridership. I’m sure on both of these criteria, the Spadina Subway extension to VCC would stick out like a sore thumb.

    The city of Toronto can’t really complain too much since it’s not paying one penny towards the $9.6 Billion Move Ontario 2020/2030 project. But the City of Toronto did put $600 million into the Spadina Subway extension project,…. somehow, I think if Toronto was to “Phase Out” that $600 million,… Queens Park would figure a way to find another $600 million for the Spadina Subway extension. Anyways,… that’ll give Toronto another $600 million for Transit City LRT.

    If the Eglinton crosstown LRT line gets phased out,… that’ll be strike two on Eglinton,… remember the Eglinton Subway line that was cancelled by Bob Rae and the NDP government.

    Steve: It was cancelled by Mike Harris, not by Bob Rae whose government actually embraced a program of subway building to prop up the construction industry through the 1990s recession. If you’re going to slag a party, at least get the right one.

    Beggars can NOT be choosers. And obviously, if Toronto wants a real working transit system,… it needs to be able to fund new lines itself. The DVP and Gardiner expressway are owned by the city of Toronto,… and they carry a lot of 905ers into downtown Toronto,…. time to charge Road Tolls! Hey, the province have been urging Toronto to use its newly given taxing powers! Problem is the city of Toronto has been taxing its own citizen too much. Road tolls can be political suicide for municipal politicians,… but if done right can bring a huge financial windfall. The city of Toronto should have a 407 style electronic toll system along DVP & Gardiner Expressway,…. and charge cars from 905 a much higher rate than those registered in 416. Electronic toll systems gets the license plate number and Ontario MTO database knows whether the car is registered in 905 or 416. 905ers don’t vote in city of Toronto election,… so they really won’t have a say about their higher road toll.

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  12. What could happen is that we get a Scarborough RT that runs to Sheppard, and then assumes the route of the Sheppard line out to UTSC. This would solve all the problems of the province- fixing what actually broke, building a carhouse somewhere, and the all-important Pan-Am Games, while spending not a penny more than would be absolutely necessary. It would still, however, leave Scarborough in pretty good shape.

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  13. What are those old 25-35 range year old buses that you see on 6 Bay, you know those that were around when I was in highschool and that you could ring 100 times a minute instead of the modern ones where you can only ring once until STOP REQUESTED goes off? What is the model name?

    Are we going to be stuck with those buses? I can’t believe they are still around. GO Transit buses are better, by the way I went to Streetsville to Scarborough Centre Bus Terminal (via York U) and the 407 West part I finally rode on one of those double deckers, totally awesome, totally no way that the TTC will have those anytime soon?

    I am going to kiss the Scarborough-Malvern line bye bye.

    The WWLRT (Bremner) was never going to occur anyways.

    Steve, just out of curiosity, taking the 85 from Don Mills to Meadowvale it taxes x minutes, one of the reasons for the SELRT is that it will save time because it will be on it’s ROW away from traffic like the 509/510/512.

    How is it possible to estimate the time now since there is no ROW? Also since ridership will increase by the time SELRT then won’t that slow down?

    If SELRT has to pick up 5000 people in one day along the route to Don Mills it will take x amount but if it has to pick up 8000 people in one day along the route to Don Mills it will take a lot longer to pick up those people.

    Steve: No, there will be more vehicles running by the time the demand goes to up, and the delay time per vehicle will stay the same, assuming service and demand stay in balance.

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  14. Did any highway projects get on the list to be delayed or canceled? Why is that the transit projects are the first to be delayed or canceled? Shouldn’t the 427 extension or the 401 widening in Mississauga be on the list?

    Steve: No road project was touched, but then none of them have billion dollar pricetags.

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  15. Steve says: There may be no transit left running south of Finch Avenue, but there will be a subway to York U and the lands of Vaughan to the north. Too many important people backed that particular horse for it to drop out of the race.

    When Metrolinx formed and were using all their wonderful new metric to figure out their top X number of wishlist lines to build in Y amount of time. The Spadina subway extension never fit into their own criteria,… but it had funding from before MetroLinx was formed and thus was untouchable then. Of course MetroLinx being a not so independent arm of the provincial government,… doesn’t give MetroLinx much balls.

    Anyways,… it’ll be interesting to see which lines the province,.. err, I mean MetroLinx decides to Phase Out.

    Hey, what happened to the GTA being in severe gridlock traffic congestion that’s choking off Ontario’s economic engine. Amongst the worst traffic congestion in North America. It’s costing Ontario businesses billions of dollars lost productivity (and costing the Ontario government in lost taxes).

    So instead of funding public transit line now,… the Ontario government wants to phase it out later,… how is that going to help the Ontario economy. Well,… since we the people can’t rely on efficient public transit, more of us will need to buy cars just to get around. Oh, and that’ll help the auto sector,… and Ontario has a number of car plants,… providing jobs for Ontarians? And doesn’t Ontario owns part of GM & Chrysler now. See,… so our provincial government actually does have a plan for us! 🙂

    Steve: The 2007 announcements of MoveOntario are sadly comical in the current context. All of the justifications for spending on transit have gone right out the window.

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  16. I’d prioritize things thus:
    1. Scarborough LRT replacement
    2. Eglinton LRT
    3. Viva BRT
    4. Finch LRT
    5. Sheppard LRT

    Scarborough has to be replaced and LRT is the more reliable and proven technology of the two. We can keep the current yard location and adapt it for LRT if Sheppard isn’t built.

    Eglinton is a vital line. The underground section in the core would open up a lot of the city for entertainment and development, while the whole line would vastly improve commute times for many people and add a lot to the network. Finally, it can interline with Scarborough LRT, and the new Kennedy station design specifically allows for this.

    Viva is at pre-BRT already, and separated lanes/”rapidways” would speed it up even more and improve reliability. Granted, I’m a bit biased as I ride Viva Pink from Warden to Finch station all the time.

    Finch has a nice design, but it’s not as useful from the network perspective as Eglinton while buses can still carry the load.

    Sheppard has a really awkward design because of the mix of modes, and pressing ahead with it is bound to generate lots of knee-jerk bad publicity from the usual suspects. Overruling them would take political capital that can be better spent elsewhere. The corridor doesn’t need higher order transit yet. We might as well delay a decade or two until there’s a case for extending the subway.

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  17. I knew it was too good to be true. Move Ontario 2020 is dead just like all those other grand plans such as ALRT. Remember that fiasco? Now we have the latest version of it. Much of Move Ontario did not make sense especially Jane LRT at ground level on the south end portion. Eglinton would be a disaster based upon the complete incompetence of the TTC and Toronto that ruined businesses along St.Clair Avenue West when it was dragged out and changed and changed with little regard to the effect it was having on people especially small businesses which also line Eglinton. The LRT would not serve the public properly due to distance between stops. The present bus service is an improvement of a couple of years ago. It just needs better management for headway based scheduling plus add express buses during rush/main hours.
    Now, it we could just get rid of that idiotic Airport train!

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  18. It may be that Duncan looked at the low public support for the TTC and decided this was a year they would accept cuts in capital funding (which doesn’t show up immediately).

    Are the SRT cars really done by 2015 or can they be rebuilt? What about getting some Mk Is from Vancouver now that the Olympics are done and their MkIIs are in service?

    Steve: Vancouver wants full replacement cost for the Mark I cars. That’s why we didn’t buy them the first time such a scheme was proposed. As for rebuilding, the Toronto fleet has already been through one rebuild, and the control systems are not exactly reliable (as anyone who uses the line regularly can attest). If that’s the route we do wind up taking, I hope someone remembers how we had the chance to replace the RT and blew it.

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  19. Alas I think that Gary McNeil and Metrolinx were told before last Monday’s meeting to scale back the construction cost for GO and the Georgetown line and that is why the number of trains and the amount of construction has dropped way back.

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  20. “Steve: All that does it get the asset off of Ontario’s books, it does not eliminate the need to pay for it.”

    Steve, way to skirt around the point. Nobody says it would be free, but at least if we had a private builder owner (Canada Line style), SOMETHING would get built, and not cancelled due to change in priorities or change in government.

    The current funding scheme only results in cancelling projects before they are completed.

    Steve: The private builder only built the Canada line because they had a guaranteed customer. This was not a speculative project. The real problem we have had here is that Metrolinx screwed around with Transit City just long enough that we didn’t get seriously underway because we spent too much time fighting the attempts to sole-source a turnkey project for ICTS on Eglinton.

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  21. Just goes to show you that we can’t depend on the provincial govt. I actually have to agree with Sarah Thomson Toronto needs to take ownership of their own destiny. Though a subway maybe a bit too much. I don’t know what’s the big deal on funding transit through toll fees. New York and London do it.

    I’ve yet to see what Smitherman or Rossi has to offer in regards to transit. Though I don’t think Sarah will ever win the Mayoral race at last she has the political balls outline a concrete platform when it comes to transit.

    Subway advocates, LRT advocates whatever you want to position yourself as. Today’s is a prime example that we can no longer trust the government to create good public transit, it time for us to take matters into our own hand.

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  22. This is a long shot. If Mr. Miller believes that Transit City is worth saving, he should take a gamble. Since he is not seeking a re-election, he should at least try to do the right thing. If the Government of Ontario will not fund Transit City it, he should threaten to seek a leveraged loan from the World Bank. Imagine the shame that Mr. McGuinty cannot solve its own problem within its border.

    Looking at the current Greece and Portugal, the mere threat of going to the IMF won these countries’ a European bailout. If Transit City’s ridership numbers are true, there is a business and envrionmental case for this project. This will qualify for a World Bank loan. World Bank has traditionally financed transit and there is no shame in it. The Shinkansen network was built with World Bank money.

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  23. Steve said:

    “There may be no transit left running south of Finch Avenue, but there will be a subway to York U and the lands of Vaughan to the north. Too many important people backed that particular horse for it to drop out of the race.”

    Oh how I hope they find that the soil conditions are so poor around Black Creek that the increased cost of tunnelling forces them to stop. Unfortunately, part of me can’t help but wonder just how high would it have to go to become unacceptable enough to convince the government to stop pushing the line north of Steeles.

    M. Briganti said:

    “The SRT will have to be replaced, but if the rest of the network dies a slow death, wouldn’t it be cheaper to continue using ICTS there?”

    Not really. In addition to the costs of rebuilding the line to handle the Mark II’s or getting the Mark I’s from Vancouver somehow, you also have the issue of yard capacity that needs to be expanded to handle the increased service and expansion of the RT. At the same time, you would then have two lines in that part of Toronto with equipment that can’t be used anywhere else on the TTC which is something you really do not want to have.

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  24. Karl,

    Murdoch specifically excluded the 905 belt from his proposal, which was more punitive than serious. He said that the province of Toronto would still depend on Ontario a lot because it would have only one windmill to power it, and “we” would have nuclear power plants. “We don’t need Toronto” he said.

    The retort would be that if indeed his proposal is about giving all Ontarians, from Bay Street to North Bay, the best possible government that serves their needs, then the 905 region has to go with the 416 in its own province. And if that’s the case, we’d have two nuclear power plants, and Niagara Falls. I don’t know what he’d say to that.

    A province of Toronto won’t happen, of course. You’d need a constitutional amendment. But what about devolution? The province has the authority to devolve some of its powers and responsibilities to new regional parliaments, such as what now exists in Scotland. Maybe we could abolish the county and regional levels of government, de-amalgamate the megacities, and then carve up the province into five regional parliaments, leaving Queen’s Park to deal with truly provincial matters. I talked about this idea here.

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  25. I find it ridiculous to support the expansion or upgrading of anything VIVA beyond Yonge Street. Highway 7 doesn’t have the ridership to justify anything like a busway- 4 000 people per day on the Orange line? so that’s what a subway goes for these days. If York Region gets a busway with those kind of numbers (even the 7-8 000 per day on VIVA purple) then they’d better offer up something pretty special for the 23 000 people per diem on Bathurst. And what about the 40-something 000 on King? They don’t even get new streetcars for another few years.

    Steve: And the City of Toronto is paying 2/3 of the cost of the new streetcars.

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  26. The city definitely needs some new revenue streams and I kinda like the idea of road tolls. I’d go for the low-tech $5 please method because then you get the optics of it as well. Four toll plazas: Gardiner just east of 427, Black Creek Dr. S of the 401, Allen Rd. S of the 401 and DVP S of the 401.

    Oh wait, one more. What’s University Ave north of College, Queen’s Park Crescent? I’d toll that puppy.

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  27. “There may be no transit left running south of Finch Avenue, but there will be a subway to York U and the lands of Vaughan to the north. Too many important people backed that particular horse for it to drop out of the race.”

    But doesn’t Toronto have to cooperate for that line to be built? Can’t Toronto now say that no, we’re not going to build that line, we’re going to focus on our own priorities? Why can’t Miller just walk away from that deal, like the province is walking away from its commitments?

    Steve: Unfortunately, Queen’s Park could retaliate by walking away from other shared cost projects and we’d be right back in the same place, if not worse. Queen’s Park is concentrating on portfolios that will get them the most votes in the election next year.

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  28. Was the Big Move to be financed with standard Government of Ontario debt issuances?

    Steve: If you read the original materials in Queen’s Park’s announcement, they were planning to borrow money, one way or another, but not actually recognize and start paying down the debt until each line in the network came into operation. This is the same sort of accounting that is used, I believe, in Hydro construction where, eventually, the capital debt is retired, in theory, out of future customer rates. However, transit capital has no corresponding revenue stream because almost none of the capital costs show up in the operating budget and, through that, at the farebox. Any provincial capital spending on transit must translate to future debt costs that will be paid either as part of the general debt, or expensed against transit systems whose revenue comes from, wait for it, the same tax stream that would pay the debt directly.

    McGuinty’s original announcement likened the scheme to house building. Someone builds you a house, and you then assume a long-term mortgage. Paying it off takes forever, and entails more interest than principal, but in a pinch you always have the house to sell. In the case of a new subway line, selling is only an option if you want to transfer the capital debt to another entity (such as a private corporation) and pay them to own and operate the line. Or you could stick it to the City and make that cost part of the local transit system’s cost base to be carried from fares or City taxes.

    Just imagine if we sold GO Transit to the folks who own Highway 407, and left the riders and cities of the GTA to pay not just the operating costs, but also to service the capital debt for the system and its ongoing repairs.

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  29. I like the idea of tolling Gardiner, DVP, Allen, and Black Creek to raise funds for transit.

    And I don’t think that tolling 401 is a co-requisite. Tolling 400-x highways is more complex since it must be done by Queen’s Park, and moreover, it would affect cars and trucks that have nothing to do with Toronto, just travel through the city because this is how the 401 is designed.

    In contrast, Gardiner, DVP, Allen, and Black Creek all lead into the city core, hence almost all cars using them head to a destination in the core. It is only fair to ask them to pay for better transit.

    Regarding a regional gas surtax or sales surtax, I am not sure that those would be more fair than road tolls. It is quite difficult to draw a “fair” boundary of the region where such surtaxes are levied. Many 905 residents use TTC regularly, and hence at least some parts of 905 need to be included. On the other hand, many other 905 residents, and even 416 residents, must drive to work every day because their jobs are in 905 and they have no viable public transit option; then, why should they pay more than residents of rural Ontario in exactly same situation?

    Road tolls are actually more fair. You pay for what you use.

    Finally, I understand your concern Steve about the tolls driving some traffic onto local streets; but there is no ideal solution, and any practical solution will have some drawbacks.

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  30. I can’t remember what he said exactly but I seem to recall, that around the time Toronto was asking for federal stimulus money (and matching provincial funding) for streetcar replacement, then Infrastructure Minister George Smitherman made a snarky remark to the effect of, Toronto shouldn’t ask for streetcar funding because it has already been given its number one priority, funding for its light rail lines.

    Steve: If nothing else, this crisis in transit funding and planning must force all candidates out into the open on the transit debate. The debate must be informed by what our needs for transit and our options to serve those needs, not by continued attempts to fight a Mayoral campaign against candidates who are not on the ballot. If we must debate subways, or LRT, or BRT or commuter rail, do this on the merits, not on the name of the politician associated with each option.

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  31. I should have known this was going to happen. Just another disappointment in a long history of transit going nowhere in this city.

    We have to be honest here. Transit isn’t a priority. So projects get shelved. It’s a endless cycle in this province. I don’t see any future government reversing this trend. Not in my my lifetime.

    And Dalton absolutely has to go. You cannot believe a word that comes out of his mouth. His liberals will not get my vote next election.

    The way this city is managed and handled is just embarassing and we expect to host events like the Pan Am games and think we deserve the Olympics? It’s a joke….

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  32. Ken said: “Let me keep this short and sweet. I just want to say that the idea of putting tolls on highways is ridiculous.”

    So ridiculous that the consortium behind the 407 are laughing all the way to the bank. (Sorry)

    On a more serious note, what is the current funding arrangement for the Transit City cars that are going to run on the Sheppard East line? I’m asking because I can’t recall if a portion of the budget is set aside for their purchase or if it was going to be handled separately. (yes, I am implying a scary thought with that question)

    Steve: The Sheppard East cars are included in the budget for that line.

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  33. Turn the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway into electronic toll-roads to help pay for Transit City, but with rebates for users who pay the Toronto vehicle registration.

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  34. Why do people assume this delay is about David Miller? Amazing. People are not that dense, are they?

    Steve: There has been a concerted media effort to paint all transit ills as being Miller’s and Giambrone’s fault. Meanwhile Metrolinx and GO get away with all sorts of things including poor public consultation, secrecy about planning, outright conflicts about their corporate goals and a staff:passenger ratio that is much, much higher than the TTC’s.

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  35. Regarding the Shinkansen, other than the Tokaido Line, it is not a model to follow. It became the biggest single source of debt for the Japanese Government as they expanded the Shinkansen network with political lines and ultimately forced the 1987 privatization of Japan National Railways in to 7 Japan Railway corporations (Hokkaido, East, Shikoku, Central, West, Kyushu, and Freight), plus a Shinkansen Debt Settlement body.

    Steve: This sounds like the “stranded debt” of Ontario Hydro.

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