Toronto's Board of Trade wants the province — not cities — to handle public transit

If the GTHA and Waterloo Region really want a modern transportation network, the province should take over all of the work of local transit agencies like the TTC, the Toronto Region Board of Trade is recommending.

Ontario says it has no plans to consolidate services, TTC not commenting on plan

Metrolinx currently operates GO trains and buses. But should the province convert it into Superlinx and take over for local transit agencies, too? (Michael Charles Cole/CBC)

If the GTHA and Waterloo Region really want a modern transportation network, the province should take over all of the work of local transit agencies like the TTC, the Toronto Region Board of Trade (BOT) recommends.

Ontario's transportation minister says there are no plans to consolidate GTHA transit authorities in response to the proposal. But the BOT's report says it is feasible for Queen's Park to upload the various services, and that municipalities like Toronto — which could save some $93 million per year plus some $15 billion more in unfunded capital liability — would benefit.

Metrolinx, the province's transit arm that oversees transit in the Golden Horseshoe, would get a new name in the change, becoming Superlinx in the BOT's proposal. 

"Municipalities have significant state of good repair backlogs and a long list of unfunded transit priorities," said Jan De Silva, the board's president and CEO, in a news release.

"The board's proposal will take the pressure off municipalities while ensuring the province has the authority to maximize its investments and get transit built."

De Silva says transit growth is slowing down when it should be speeding up in her view, something that's "concerning" for the region. Commuters, she says, deserve more than to be stuck sitting in traffic.

Those riders would also benefit from an integrated system where new lines are added 

TTC chair says there are other ways province can help

TTC Chair Josh Colle says while it's worth discussing transit governance, there are better ways to improve this city's system than the province uploading the entire thing. (David Donnelly/CBC)

TTC Chair Josh Colle says the recommendation seems "misguided."

Colle says while he welcomes discussions about transit governance, he can't see the province being better able to manage local service needs like bus routes.

Instead of uploading the service entirely, Colle says he'd like to see the province offer the TTC more support in other ways.

"The issue is that the province has been out of funding operations for so long that it causes strain," he said.

Mayor John Tory echoed those remarks while speaking with reporters.

"We have, on our plate now, a lot of transit projects I want to get funded first — and most of them are — but I want to get the rest of them funded. I want to get them built," Tory said.

Tory says his office will review the report, but he says the focus should stay on matters like fare integration. 

TTC says it wasn't consulted on plan

The BOT estimates the takeover would cost $3.4 billion per year, but says the province could do it without raising taxes. How? Queen's Park would take in transit fares, worth some $1.9 billion, as well as $1.2 billion in payments from municipalities (money that would have gone to subsidizing public transit), while the rest would come from revenues from unlocked real estate opportunities and other developments.

Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca issued a statement to CBC Toronto thanking the board for the report and suggesting it will be reviewed in the future.

"Our focus remains on delivering critical transit projects that the people of this region are depending on, and working with our partners at all levels of government to do so."

TTC spokesperson Stuart Green says the agency was not involved in the board of trade's work and will not comment on the strategy.

The move also comes on the heels of the Ontario PC party's announcement that, if elected, it would spend $5 billion on building subways in Toronto, essentially covering the capital costs of the Scarborough subway extension with the potential of putting unused money toward other projects like the downtown relief line. 

Metrolinx recently laid out its future transit plans in a major report. The BOT says its proposal is a response to that document.

About the Author

John Rieti

John Rieti covers city hall and city issues for CBC Toronto. Born and raised in Newfoundland, John has worked in CBC newsrooms across the country in search of great stories. Outside of work, catch him running or cycling around, often armed with a camera, always in search of excellent coffee.


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