Metrolinx, the provincial agency charged with rebuilding the GTA’s neglected transit grid, is resurfacing after its rushed marriage with GO Transit earlier this year. The “old” Metrolinx was overseen by regional politicians who have been turfed. The new board — all provincial appointees — meets today to start building the huge transport plan approved by those same politicians.
The province has already announced funding for several projects named in the strategy — known as the “The Big Move” — and Metrolinx is expected to complete them quickly. The five priority jobs are: Light rail lines along Finch, Sheppard and Eglinton avenues, exclusive bus lanes along Highway 7 and Yonge Street in York Region, as well as rehabilitating and extending the overcrowded Scarborough RT.
Metrolinx had better get cracking — its political masters in Queen’s Park are impatient.
What’s unclear is how the province is going to deal with the many unfunded transit projects still on the list. Even though Metrolinx has scads of experts evaluating which are most worthy, the provincial cabinet can pick and choose at its whim.
There are signs that “bang for the buck” can trump politically-motivated planning: The much-criticized scheme to revive train service to Peterborough is apparently a lower Metrolinx priority than expanding busy GO rail corridors like Georgetown and Milton. That’s smart.
However, the federal Conservatives suggested the Peterborough run, and who knows what behind-the-scenes pressure continues. Yet Ottawa is helping pay for the Sheppard LRT line, which will serve many people per dollar spent. Let’s hope the feds choose frugal projects from here on in.
Nonetheless, they and the provincial Liberals can just ignore advice from the Metrolinx board.
In my view, the new board of directors (you can inspect their credentials at metrolinx.com) and the many experts who support them have a clear obligation to denounce or distance themselves from politicized planning and vote-focused projects.
The efficiency of our transport network is more important.