A new discussion paper says misconceptions are holding Toronto back from a mature transit discussion.
The paper was written by the Transit Investment Strategy Advisory Panel, put together by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.
The panel is set with the task of coming up with recommendations about the future about the Greater Toronto Area’s transit situation. On Monday, the panel released the first of three discussion papers outlining the Hard Truths About Transit in the Toronto Region.
The biggest myth according to the paper is that subways are the only viable alternative to transportation. The document points out subways cost more than double to build, operate and maintain than other forms of transit and that you have to match demand instead of anticipating the demand to come from building the transit.
“What matters is matching the right technology to the proposed route,” Dr. Anne Golden said in an interview with Metro Morning. “You want to link it to what the expected ridership would be otherwise you’re going to spend a huge amount of money and won’t complete the network.”
This is a controversial statement with Rob Ford supporters being so heavily invested in subways and the Scarborough subway extension recently passing city council.
“The interesting thing about whatever position politicians take is that they wouldn’t take that position unless they felt it was what the public resonated with, panel chair when asked if this was a political document,” Golden said when asked if the document was political. “We’re focusing on the education side. Politicians won’t use those arguments if they don’t resonate with the public.”
Matt Elliott, a Metro News columnist who closely follows city politics, says it is a political document.
“Who they’re going after is that Ford nation, Rob Ford supporter idea of transit planning,” Elliott said. “The narrative that the mayor is saying is that subways are the best always, subways will create development by themselves, and that we can fund subways without increasing taxes or fees.”
The panel itself was put together after Metrolinx released its Revenue Investment Strategy in may which came to the conclusion that revenue would have to be raised for transit expansion and made several recommendations including a one per cent raise to the HST, a raise in property taxes, and a five cent per litre gas tax.
“You look at all the work that Metrolinx did last year on the revenue investment strategy and now it feels like we are going through yet another process that will almost inevitably lead to the exact same conclusion,” Elliott said.
The sixth hard truth in the paper is that funding for the transit project cannot come from cutting spending alone and that additional money will have to be raised.