Last week was a big one for finally getting transit projects moving — but at what price to public input?
The province showed it is ready to build more rapid transit routes, including busways in York Region and TTC rail lines in Toronto. Eglinton Avenue will get light rail service between Kennedy station and Pearson airport. A third of the distance will be underground. The Scarborough RT will be upgraded at last — and extended.
On Friday, provincial and federal representatives also announced a long list of smaller improvements to GO Transit, among them a new station closer to downtown Barrie.
These projects differ from past promises because it’s clear politicians expect them to be built, and fairly soon — although an Eglinton line won’t be ready before 2015.
Moving faster is also the reason given for last Monday’s surprise announcement that GO Transit and the planning agency Metrolinx will be merged. This has always been in the cards, despite warnings from GO’s board of directors to take it slow.
The kicker is a new combined board will have no elected officials; each member is to be appointed by the provincial Liberals. It’s inferred the local politicians who currently oversee Metrolinx are a hindrance to speedy implementation of transit projects. This bunch is certainly prone to turf fights and yet they managed to approve — unanimously — the recent regional transport master plan.
The new amalgamated board may indeed move quickly, especially if it simply takes its orders directly from the province. If that’s so, we’re just trading the messiness of local politics for the questionable priorities of Queen’s Park.
The problem with proposing new transit lines is someone always disagrees — with the cost or the route. There can be so many opposing views nothing gets built, as has happened in the GTA for the last two decades.
Yet in bulldozing “NIMBY” concerns you can also exclude valuable input from residents and, yes, their local politicians. The province gets a freer hand to make decisions but it has a history of choosing lines that cost too much and serve transit riders poorly.
Let’s hope the new Metrolinx/GO board will somehow avoid politics and spend our money wisely.
Transit quick tip
Drop that map
• To those people who are tempted to walk away with the maps from subway cars, please don’t. They are there for travellers in need. Instead, email firstname.lastname@example.org to get one.
– Toronto-based transport writer Ed Drass covers transit issues every Monday; email@example.com.