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TTC Issues: Ridership Up and GTA Transit Amalgamation

Ridership is up 3% on the TTC compared to last year. The report gives credit to "the introduction of transferable monthly passes, a hot job market and a spike in gasoline prices earlier this year".

Obviously this should help the TTC given that federal and provincial gas tax funding is divvied up proportional to ridership.

The same article says that the Yonge subway line is at capacity during the morning rushhour. That means that, besides a York University subway and a Scarborough subway, we should also be considering a Downtown Relief line.

There is a renewed push to create a Greater Toronto Transportation Authority (GTTA).

I was opposed to this plan when I heard about it in 2003, but the devil is in the details. Depending on how it is constructed, it might not be all bad.

My concern in the past was that a GTTA would just further dilute transit spending in the region, by investing more and more money in areas that have less and less return in terms of passenger value. The TTC and the City of Toronto should have no interest in participating in a scheme that would invest money on projects outside the City that could have benefited 10 times as many passengers if spent in the City.

On the other hand, efforts made to coordinate plans, routes and transfers could certainly be valuable.

One reassuring comment, therefore, was this interview with Hazel McCallion by Ed Drass:

Last week I asked Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion how to choose among the dozens of multi-million dollar projects across the Greater Toronto Area. She answered, “You bring together (those agencies) responsible for transportation in the GTA, you look at all the needs of all the municipalities, and you set the priorities. Often the money is not allocated either based on need or priority - it’s on who can do the most strenuous lobbying. That’s got to end.”

One way to cut through the confusion, although not necessarily the political manoeuvring, is to have a single body scrutinize each project, compare it to the others and rank them in a agreed-upon, transparent way. The provincial government has committed to creating a so-called Greater Toronto Transportation Authority (GTTA), which McCallion says is “long overdue. I don’t know when they’re going to get it off the ground and make it happen.”

A system that allocates transit funding where it could do the best good is certainly welcome. However, it seems to be much more likely that a GTTA would divert money to politically-popular projects that produce less bang for the buck.

This is all the more likely if we get the GTTA that the private sector is pushing for. They want a 13-member board comprised of 7 private sector transportation experts and 6 representatives from the 6 regional municipalities, including Hamilton.

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