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]
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.