Pro­posed high-priced city tran­sit czar a very red her­ring

Bet­ter to con­cen­trate on long-stand­ing is­sues that keep ex­pan­sion plans mov­ing too slowly

Bayview Post - - News - Karen Stintz is a for­mer city coun­cil­lor, elected in 2003, and was a chair of the TTC. She lives in Ward 16 with her fam­ily.

The re­cent chat­ter of up­load­ing the sub­way to the prov­ince has died down, but the idea is still sup­ported in some cir­cles, in­clud­ing the Toronto Re­gion Board of Trade. One of the ma­jor rea­sons for sup­port­ing the idea is the no­tion that tran­sit will get built faster.

Un­der­stand­ably, Mayor John Tory does not want to hand over con­trol of North Amer­ica’s third largest tran­sit op­er­a­tor to Doug Ford. In an at­tempt to get ahead of the is­sue, he rec­om­mended a tran­sit czar.

The pri­mary rea­son that tran­sit doesn’t get built is be­cause the prov­ince and its mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties can’t agree on what should get built and how the projects should get funded. No tran­sit czar is go­ing to fix that co­nun­drum.

The czar, so we are told, will clear all hur­dles to en­sure rapid tran­sit will be built rapidly.

The highly paid po­si­tion will work to re­move all ob­sta­cles at the TTC, the city and the prov­ince to guar­an­tee lines are built on time and within bud­get.

It is a great idea. Un­for­tu­nately, the role is des­tined for fail­ure in the cur­rent en­vi­ron­ment.

For the past 15 years, gov­ern­ments have grap­pled with how to build tran­sit projects faster. Once a leader in build­ing tran­sit, the TTC suf­fered sig­nif­i­cant rep­u­ta­tional harm when tran­sit projects were not built on time.

The so­lu­tion was to cre­ate Metrolinx, which is an agency of the gov­ern­ment of On­tario tasked with op­er­at­ing GO Tran­sit and build­ing tran­sit across the Greater Golden Horse­shoe.

Metrolinx has suc­cess­fully ex­panded GO Tran­sit ser­vice, built the Union Pear­son (UP) Ex­press to the air­port and is con­struct­ing the Eglin­ton Crosstown LRT line.

But have tran­sit projects been built faster since the agency’s in­cep­tion in 2007? Not re­ally. The sta­tus of the cur­rently ap­proved projects is also un­clear with the change in gov­ern­ment.

Al­though Metrolinx has a grand tran­sit ex­pan­sion plan, ev­ery mu­nic­i­pal mayor has a dif­fer­ent grand tran­sit ex­pan­sion plan.

The Metrolinx plan is called the Big Move, and Mayor Tory’s is called SmartTrack, part of which he has said will serve as a down­town re­lief line. Since none of the plans are funded, they are made and re­made with each meet­ing of city coun­cil or pro­vin­cial elec­tion.

Sev­eral years ago there was great fan­fare about the need to fund tran­sit. Tax­a­tion was re­named “fund­ing tools” for bet­ter pub­lic con­sump­tion. Since the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment of the day didn’t want to make a de­ci­sion on any one par­tic­u­lar tax, it passed the buck to the lo­cal coun­cils for their rec­om­men­da­tions.

Not sur­pris­ingly, each lo­cal coun­cil rec­om­mended the tax that would have the least im­pact on their res­i­dents. No fund­ing tool was adopted and tran­sit ex­pan­sion re­mains un­funded.

Build­ing tran­sit projects is com­pli­cated. They take time, and there will be de­lays, and a tran­sit czar won’t be the fix for those prob­lems.

How­ever, help is needed in re­solv­ing how tran­sit projects are se­lected and how they should be funded, whomever can fig­ure that out will be do­ing a great ser­vice.

The city and the prov­ince set to bat­tle over con­trol of tran­sit?

KAREN STINTZ

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