Friday, February 15, 2008

Pretty sure I don't like this

Chet mentioned this a while ago, but it seems to actually be something that McGuinty wants to do. My reaction? Yeah, this is probably going to suck.
The TTC should be taken over eventually by the province's new transportation authority to provide "seamless" public transit in the Greater Toronto Area, says Premier Dalton McGuinty.

McGuinty, whose government has a 12-year, $17.5 billion transit expansion plan for the GTA, said yesterday the province would like to eventually integrate the TTC into the fledgling Metrolinx regional authority, and could do so without additional funding.
I don't make a lot of friends defending the TTC on a regular basis, but this is a large corporate body that's been running on diminishing funding for the last 15 years or so. And while McGuinty's promise of more cash for construction and infrastructure is nice, it's fundamentally not the problem. Not even close. Cities have no problem funding infrastructure over the long term: large infrastructure projects have (mostly) predictable costs: construction and interest payments on debt, costs that municipalities have historically borne well.

The problem with the TTC is the same problem with the city at large: not capital spending, but operations spending. Running libraries, schools, transit, not to mention a police force larger than Canada's force in Afghanistan, requires a modern tax base to fund. McGuinty has been unwilling to actually give cities the money they need to run their operations, or let them raise their own, but in this he's just following every other premier. Instead, McGuinty wants to amalgamate a municipal service, something with a bad history in this province, and continue to not address the actual problem at hand. (Read the above quote again -- "without additional funding...")

Oh, any kind of real merger would inevitably raise fares even more than they already have, as Toronto commuters effectively subsidized new suburban passengers. This already happens in effect as people who live downtown subsidize people living in Scarborough and North York, for example. Integrating the TTC in to a larger system would only increase this effect.

Now, that's not to say we don't need a regional transit plan. I'm a big fan of anyone who wants to seriously think about moving people around this region who's not entirely in love with more highway ashphalt. But the TTC isn't even the proper solution to this problem. GO Transit is, and i nthe 1980s a Liberal government proposed GO ALRT -- and abandoned it. Looking back, ALRT would have really been a revolution in the GTA: high speed commuter rail ("driverless" as in computer controlled) on its own rights of way. Today, we're still stuck with the piddling GO trains buying their time on CN's tracks. If we had that system in place today, it's hard to imagine how much easier people-moving would be in this region. Not to mention it would be possible to effectively expand the system incrementally as the Golden Horsehow metastasizes outwards.

1 comment:

Catelli said...

At a higher level, this makes some sense. We need to have one easy to use transit system that surpasses municipal borders. Being able to pay one fair to board a bus or train in Kitchener and then be able to use all the available systems to get to an intended destination in Toronto is quite attractive.

Manualyl synchronizing schedules and paying different fares to different services is an impediment to effective transit for people crossing municipal borders.

That being said, could the province effectively and efficiently run an Ontario wide transit system? Probably not. Just looking at how GO service is managed is enough to make me cringe.

More's the pity that. I think the idea is sound in a perfect world, but realistically, we'll fuck it up massively.