John Tory Launches SmartTrack Study

At the December 5 meeting of Toronto’s Executive Committee, Mayor Tory walked a motion onto the floor to launch a study process for SmartTrack in conjunction with various agencies and consultants. Of particular interest is paragraph 2:

2. City Council authorize the City Manager to retain the following specialized services to support the review of the SmartTrack plan:

a. the University of Toronto to support the planning analysis and required transit modeling;

b. Strategic Regional Research Associates for assessing development scenarios along the SmartTrack alignment; and

c. Third party peer reviewers of all SmartTrack analysis.

Paragraph 2.b refers to an organization, SRRA, which has been involved in proposals that evolved into SmartTrack before. Iain Dobson, a member of the Metrolinx Board, is listed as a co-founder of SRRA in his bio on their website. He is also listed as a member of the Advisory Board to the University of Toronto Transportation Research Institute.

I wrote to Metrolinx asking whether Dobson has a conflict of interest with the consulting work contemplated by Tory’s motion and his position on the board. Here is their reply:

Metrolinx has strong policies guiding Board directors and employees on conflict of interest

• This matter has arisen today and discussions are underway to determine what is the appropriate course of action, after gathering and considering the facts

• In considering this, the most important factor is protecting the public interest

• While a final direction is being determined, the Board director will not be involved in discussions involving Regional Express Rail and SmartTrack

[Email from Anne Marie Aikens, Manager, Media Relations]

Background reports that led to SmartTrack can be found on the Canadian Urban Institute’s website and on the SRRA Research site.

What is striking, in brief, is that SmartTrack arose from a desire to link many potential development sites, some on the fringes of Toronto, while ignoring large spaces in between. Moreover, the claimed ridership is based on a high level of commuter market penetration and a level of service more akin to the core area subway system than to suburban nodes.

I will review these papers in a future article.