Saving Transit City

Just over two weeks ago, the wheels came off Transit City and many more plans for new transit routes in the GTA.  Queen’s Park, feeling poorly after bailing out the auto industry and promissing tidy sums for non-transit portfolios, decided to defer $4-billion of spending on The Big Move, the GTA’s transit master plan.  The effect was felt most by Transit City whose projects were those already prepared, out the door and ready to build.  Whether the work on VIVA that is also part of the first batch of funded projects will be affected, we don’t yet know.

Metrolinx has been handed the thankless task of figuring out what to do, and they’re being very quiet about it.  Word on the street is that nothing is to be annouced until the May 19, 2010 Metrolinx board meeting.

For months, it was no secret that Metrolinx was working with the TTC to rein in costs on Transit City so that the projects would stay within the funding envelope, and some trimming was expected (if only by way of creating a “phase II” for some projects).  As long as the total stayed within the announced funding, all would be well, or so everyone thought.

Now, Queen’s park wants to push spending (and associated debt) out into future years, and wants to “defer” about half of their previously committed funding.  Reaction at the municipl level was predictable with the Miller administration openly attacking Queen’s Park for renegging on a promise.  Would-be mayors are thrilled with the opportunity to have someone else delay Transit City so that candidates don’t seem obstructionist.  Meanwhile, such bastions of anti-Miller sentiment as the Toronto Star and the Board of Trade have both criticised the transit cutbacks.

The unhappiness does not stop at the 416 border.  Politicians who were expecting funding for transit improvements including BRT and LRT now wonder openly whether their projects will ever see the light of day.

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