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Board of Trade recommends new system for GTHA transit

By Andrew Macklin 07:11AM November 27, 2017

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To build a modern transportation network across the GTHA and Waterloo region, we need to upload all municipal and regional transit agencies to the Province. The Toronto Region Board of Trade is releasing an uploading strategy to show how this is possible.

The Board’s strategy is a response to Metrolinx’s Draft Regional Transportation Plan. It proposes uploading transit planning, construction, operations, and real estate commercialization across the region to a single provincial agency, dubbed Superlinx. Uploading the region’s 11 transit operations would generate significant benefits for riders, taxpayers and municipalities.

This proposal would:

  • Create a unified platform, with scale to spread innovation and smart technologies;
  • Build the transit lines and service, better and faster than is currently possible;
  • Produce enhanced cross-boundary services, particularly at the Toronto border;
  • Offer superior integration of schedules and timetables;
  • Swiftly deliver a single, fair, and integrated fare model for the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor;
  • Maximize land use for housing, commercial, and public services; and
  • Lead to less time and money wasted on politicization and intergovernmental conflict.

“Municipalities have significant state of good repair backlogs and a long list of unfunded transit priorities,” said Jan De Silva, president and CEO, Toronto Region Board of Trade. “The Board’s proposal will take the pressure off municipalities while ensuring the province has the authority to maximize its investments and get transit built. We’ve spent 20 years talking about moving money to transit, it’s time we move transit to the money.”

To demonstrate the plausibility of its concept, the Board outlines a scenario where all transit assets, debts, future capital costs and operations would be uploaded to the province which has growth revenues and no legal limits on capital debt. Some property tax revenue would also be swapped to Superlinx to support the transition. In the scenario, the upload delivers tens of millions in tax room to finance affordable housing, road repairs or other infrastructure.

With municipalities no longer responsible for rising operating costs and state of good repair this could mean proposed annual savings of:

  • $93.3 million for Toronto (plus release from more than $15 billion in unfunded capital liability)
  • $7.4 million for Hamilton
  • $13 million for York Region

In 2014, the Board put forward four governance models to accelerate transit development in the region. It has been three years and progress has not been realized. The existing, fragmented transit development and operating model is not meeting the needs of taxpayers, the business community or transit users. Critically, it’s also not meeting the needs of the province or municipalities.

“Transit growth is slowing down when it should be speeding up—this is concerning,” said De Silva. “Toronto is a vibrant, global city-region but our residents struggle to quickly, efficiently and cost effectively get to work each day. Our region’s residents and workforce contribute daily to Canada’s economic centre and they deserve better than sitting in traffic. This plan is how we will get there.”

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