Figures needed to see if PC pledges are the real deal
The Ontario Progressive Conservatives have effectively launched their 2007 election campaign with promises to direct gas taxes to roads, bridges, highways and transit systems.
PC leader John Tory also made an eye-catching commitment to hold GO Transit managers accountable for late trains. Tory told the Toronto Star, “If they don’t meet their own standard they’ll suffer the same fate that other people suffer in business, which is you lose your job.”
After a spate of late and cancelled trains in early January 2007, I asked GO Transit chief Gary McNeil: What is a realistic expectation for GO service?
He replied, “We want to be on time 100 per cent. But if we can get to 90 per cent on a regular basis, even in bad weather, then I think we’re doing very well.”
To my ears, his comments did not constitute either a promise or an official performance standard.
If readers know of such benchmarks for North American transport providers, whether public or private, please send them to me.
On Monday, I asked Tory how he would ensure accountability for transit operations.
While unsure whether GO has had a firm on-time policy, he did say, “I don’t think it’s reasonable to hold them to a standard of perfection. When we have snowstorms and train traffic on tracks they don’t control and things like that, of course you’re going to have — mechanical breakdowns do occur. But I just think that the notion of putting out into the public, both a reasonable, and reasonably high, standard of performance that the travelling public would have the right to expect from GO Transit, is something that I think is absolutely essential.”
The Conservatives also unveiled a list of transportation fixes for the GTA, promising to streamline funding by directing all provincial gasoline and fuel taxes to transportation within five years.
After speaking both with the PC leader, as well as party transport critic John O’Toole on this issue, it’s not yet clear to me whether this will amount to substantially more than the governing Liberals have been putting into various projects — or whether it simply repackages the same number of dollars in a stable, predictable form.
For their part, the Grits called the Tory transport promises “hardly ambitious.”
It’s still early in the campaign, but the official opposition has set the tone by hitting on sensitive issues to commuters — such as GO delays and traffic gridlock. We’ll have to wait for more specific monetary figures to see if the PC pledges amount to a real attack on congestion or mere emotion-stirring.