I have always tried to keep my analysis of transit issues non-partisan, as traffic congestion doesn’t care if you are a conservative or a liberal or a new democrat. In order to keep our economy moving, keep our quality of life high and keep our environment healthy, we have to implement solutions that work.
According to an article appearing in the Toronto Star, Ontario Conservative Party leader Tim Hudak says that, if elected, he would upload the Toronto subway system to Metrolinx, have that agency be the exclusive builder and operator of an expanded rapid transit system, and build new subway lines as opposed to surface light rail lines. Assuming that these promises are able to be kept, I have no problem with this. When it comes to provincial control versus municipal control of assets, I have always felt that as long as the system functions as part of a seamless network the back-end administrative scheme does not matter much. In other words, riders should be able to use any combination of transit agencies – municipal, provincial or contracted – to reach their destinations on a consistent, integrated fare. When it comes to subways versus light rail, I have always felt that subways can meet the same planning policy objectives as light rail can – the only question is if the added cost is justifiable. If someone with money to burn is willing to pay the extra cost to build and subsidize them I will certainly not refuse them.
I do have concerns about Mr. Hudak’s comments regarding public sector employees, but this is not related to his political strips. When I graduated from high school ages ago, I was filled with civic pride and looking forward to a career in the public service. Nowadays, a public sector worker has to deal with unknown job security; wages that may or may not ever keep pace with inflation; and observers who are quite willing to insult professional abilities, qualifications and even workers personally. Frankly, I worry that the times we live in have turned many talented individuals off of working for the public service. When I graduate from Mohawk College in a few years, I will again have to choose between pursuing a public sector or private sector career. For the first time in my life, I cannot say in which direction I will turn.
While Metrolinx will release its long-awaited investment strategy in June of next year, the City of Toronto is about to embark on a public consultation process to discuss options for raising the necessary revenue to fund the transit expansions we need to carry us into the future. According to a report by the city manager, the options on the table are quite diverse, but it is likely that a selection will be needed to ensure that traffic congestion doesn’t get any worse and (hopefully) gets better.
[Edit: According to a recent report, Metrolinx and the TTC had come to an agreement where the TTC will operate the new LRT lines under construction. This is worthy of mentioning, but I don't feel it changes the substance of the post below. There remains much confusion about what AFP actually means, regardless of the contractor being a public agency like the TTC or a private corporation like Bombardier or Veolia. Of course, I am curious as to what concessions (if any) the TTC made for Metrolinx to suspect the competitive bidding process - as the provincial agency could have easy told the TTC to put in a bid alongside everyone else.]
As one may have heard, Metrolinx has decided to use a private partner to built, maintain and operate the Eglinton Crosstown LRT line instead of turning over responsibility to the TTC. The province’s term for this kind of contract is “alternative financing and procurement” (AFP), but the more common industry term is “build-operate-maintain”. Since this story broke I have read a wide range of doom-and-gloom scenarios of what this means, but the common thread among them is what I feel to be a misunderstand of what this decision means for the rider experience and administration of the project. In this post, I would like to take the time to dispel some of these myths. Debate is healthy on this and all other subjects, but we need to ensure that we know what is (and what is not) being proposed or else the debate will end up chasing after a thousand red herrings. While I have not seen any proposed contracts in this matter, I will try my best to describe how they are typically structured.
The following is a post which was recovered when my last blog deleted itself from the internet. Due to a recent article in the Vancouver Province and a story about actor Ryan Gosling, both about the interaction between bicyclists and others, I feel that the time is right to repost it. Enjoy!
In the last few years, I have noticed the word “taxpayers” used much more frequently in our political lexicon. I’d like to take this opportunity to call on politicians to strike this term from their vocabularies in favour of a term more befitting of the citizenry. I feel that when a politician uses this term, it implies that they only consider the needs of a select group of citizens rather than the needs broader community. The term implies two classes of citizens, where those who are “taxpayers” receive preferential treatment in policy-making, while those who are not “taxpayers” must hope for some trickle-down benefit.
I do not own property, nor do I make enough money for significant amounts of income tax to be deducted. But, does this mean that my opinions and needs are of less value than those of the head of my neighbour’s household? Those who are not required to pay taxes still have a stake in the success of cities, provinces and countries. Respect for taxpayers, or whatever the buzzword of this election cycle is, should not come at the cost of respect for all those who desire a better community.
According to an article in the Brampton Guardian, the provincial government will soon announce a review of the Ontario Municipal Board – the quasi-judicial body best knowns for hearing appeals of planning and development-related decisions made by municipalities. Most commonly, a land-owner will appeal the rejection of a development permit application to the board, but there have been instances where citizens have appealed an approval. Over the years, the board has gained a reputation of overriding the official plans of municipalities and allowing unwanted development. Until I entered planning school, this negative perception was one that I shared. But, as I learned more about the planning process, my opinion changed to something that will make most of my neighbours see red. Continue reading