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Green TRIP reveals a lot about attitude toward transit

It's been twenty months to the day since the provincial governmentpledged $2 billion in "Green TRIP" funding for transit, but the programstill hasn't produced much of anything except excuses.

It's been twenty months to the day since the provincial government pledged $2 billion in "Green TRIP" funding for transit, but the program still hasn't produced much of anything except excuses.

Announced in July 2008, just before the record peak in oil prices, Green TRIP was created when the province seemed to have more money than it could possibly spend. By the time that money needed to be committed in the formal budget process, however, oil prices - and government revenue projections - had tanked.

Their easy way out was portraying transit funding as a victim of hard economic times, an excuse that's easier to believe if you don't know about the $7.8 billion Ontario found for rail transit in Toronto just last year.

With the economic justification fading, the government's now pinning the blame on cities for not coming up with "innovative" proposals - "real, good-type stuff," as transportation minister Luke Ouellette put it.

Presumably "innovative" doesn't include Edmonton's plans to triple the length of its LRT system and spur an urban renaissance with the help of recently-perfected low-floor technology.

Funny that, since LRT was specifically mentioned twice in 2008's introductory press release, along with "planning and design of transit-oriented developments in new residential areas."

The latter point sounds a lot like the city's plans to redevelop Edmonton City Centre Airport, plans that are largely dependent on the province stepping up to help fund the NAIT LRT line.

In the two years since Green TRIP was announced, the city has been busy at work, prioritizing existing urban areas and planning for LRT to Mill Woods, West Edmonton, and NAIT. The province hasn't produced so much as an application form.

There's also a push at council to see the LRT completion schedule pushed up to 2017. The province, on the other hand, wants to stretch the $2 billion out until at least - wait for it - 2017.

Ultimately, the problem is that the provincial government holds the purse strings and can do whatever it pleases - like favouring suburbs and opening up the public pot of money to private proposals. With official decision criteria yet to be released, they're free to criticize proposals indiscriminately.

Of course, they'll eventually wear out this excuse and have to move on to another one. But the longer this drags on, the more people will realize what the provincial government would be wise to admit: they just don't care that much about transit.

 
 
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