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Today's Ontario Budget and Public Transit

I haven't absorbed all of Ontario's new budget yet, so I will hold back my general comments on it. However, here's what they say about their plans for public transit:

Increasing Public Transit, Improving Roads and Bridges

More public transit will mean less gridlock, keep people and business moving, and improve quality of life. To support public transit, the government will:

  • introduce proposed legislation to create a new Greater Toronto Transportation Authority (GTTA), to co-ordinate transportation investment and planning in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). The GTTA would have a mandate to reduce gridlock and ensure the free movement of goods and people across the GTA by creating an integrated transportation system for the region;
  • invest $992 million in highway rehabilitation and expansion through the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines in 2004-05; and
  • provide $448 million in transit to expand GO Transit services; develop the new Bus Rapid Transit system in the GTA; undertake technical studies and environmental assessments for the Ottawa O-Train and Waterloo Region's Light Rail Transit; begin York Region's Quick Start program; and renew municipal transit fleets across the province. In addition, Provincial support for the TTC will include funding to undertake an environmental assessment for the possible future expansion of the Spadina subway to York University.

Elsewhere on the same page they also promise to:

  • [deliver] on the commitment to make two cents of the existing provincial gas tax available to municipalities for public transit over three years, beginning in October 2004;

All in all, nothing terribly new or surprising here. A few comments:

  • I'm glad to see them fulfilling the 2-cents-of-gas-tax promise, albeit spread over a few years. This is no surprise since I think it has already been accounted for in the City of Toronto budget. Hopefully, the October start date doesn't mess that up. Anyway, the big question -- that remains unanswered here -- is how will this cash be divvied up? Will it be per rider, or per capita?
  • Let's be clear about the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority. If it helps anybody, it will only be 905ers. (That is, unless it makes decisions about new spending on the basis of new riders per dollar invested, which is pretty unlikely given political realities.) I'd love to see the province help transit in 905-land, but first we need to know that it isn't a lost cause. It would be a great disappointment for the province to dump hundreds of millions into suburban transit projects if they aren't used, especially if viable City projects go unfunded. That would suck, for all concerned.
  • What is interesting is this bit about "an environmental assessment for the possible future expansion of the Spadina subway to York University". I don't know what sort of money this will cost, and it may just be a few dollars to get a little excitement happening. On the other hand, it could be set-up for a reelection-year promise to build the subway. Whether or not this would be a good idea is open to debate. The logical side of me knows that we'd be better off with that money spent on state-of-good-repair, or on other projects with better promise, but I still can't help but like the idea of a York tube.



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