Comment 81948

By Sigma Cub (anonymous) | Posted October 18, 2012 at 16:36:46

They were called “quick wins” — a list of transportation projects across the region published by Metrolinx in 2007 that could be turned around without the usual long wait and billion-dollar bill.

Ranging from bike racks to express bus lanes, the list was meant to persuade the public that the province’s fledgling Toronto-area transportation authority was serious about confronting congestion.

Five years later, it’s not clear that the public is convinced, or that Metrolinx has had any impact on the space squeeze commuters face in their cars or on transit, with daily round-trips averaging 80 minutes — among the longest in North America.

Even Metrolinx boosters, such as the Toronto Board of Trade, that believe the problem demands a regional solution fear the agency has been constrained in leading what needs to be a transformational change as a further 2.6 million people flood the region over the next 20 years.

“Metrolinx needs to be allowed to lead,” says board of trade CEO Carol Wilding.

“They were set up for a particular purpose; they were given authority. They need to be able to move forward with their mandate. The province needs to allow them to do what they were set out to do. We continue to believe that quite strongly.”

Wilding made the comment recently while discussing strategies to find the $40 billion Metrolinx still needs to complete its Big Move regional transportation plan.

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak is floating the idea of a supersized Metrolinx — merging the TTC’s rail operations with GO Transit and potentially giving it responsibility for critical arteries such as the Don Valley Expressway and Highway 427.

Following the resignation Monday of Premier Dalton McGuinty, the issue could be up for public debate sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, the agency’s harshest critics suggest Metrolinx has most notably offered a smokescreen for inaction by the province, which has offered municipalities no help with paying the operating subsidies that are draining their own scarce revenues.

Toronto Councillor Gord Perks said Metrolinx has “handed out a lot of big books with pretty maps. They’ve provided an exciting new brand; they’ve had meetings; they’ve acted as a training ground for a string of young professionals in the communications area.”

But, “for people who ride transit, Metrolinx is of no benefit.”

Some suggest the agency has been handed an impossible task: breaking through gridlock with scant resources. The Liberal government committed more than $10 billion to Toronto-region transit, most of it allotted to five mega-projects — four LRTs in the city and bus rapid transit in York Region.

But its Big Move plan, released in 2008, prescribed $50 billion worth of projects over 25 years — and provided no recommendations on where the remaining $40 billion would come from. Now, with Queen’s Park in a state of suspended animation, the prospect of decisive action on taxes and tools appears to be fading.

Hamilton's "Quick Win" pitches:

In all, staff has presented 10 potential projects totalling an estimated $106 million in “one-time” capital funding that would meet the Metrolinx criteria and included:

• James Street (north end) Rail Station infrastructure to support GO Transit and Via Rail service (funding committed under a separate announcement);
• Cycle and pedestrian network and/or infrastructure investments (funding committed under a separate announcement);
• Vehicle improvements - 60-foot Hybrid articulated fleet on the balance of the B-Line;
• Intelligent Transportation systems - new GPS/CAD/AVL on all Transit vehicles (HSR & DARTS), automated stop announcement on HSR fleet, and security cameras on HSR fleet;
• Downtown Multi-model Transportation Terminal - funding for an expanded McNab Street terminal;
• Improvements to the current B-Line service - upgrade to full Rapid Transit;
• New Waterdown Commuter Link to Aldershot GO Transit station, Burlington GO Transit Station, Burlington Downtown Terminal and Hamilton Downtown Terminal;
• New Airport, Mohawk College, Hamilton Hunter Street GO Transit Station, Downtown, Waterfront, James North GO/Via train station Rapid Transit connector service;
• New South-mountain, Ancaster, Industrial Park, East Mountain Power Centre, Eastgate Mall Rapid Transit connector service;
• New Ancaster Meadowlands, Central Mountain, Centre Mall Rapid Transit connector service.

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