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Lorinc vs. Munro: TTC 2.0 or TTC RIP?


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At a packed Board of Trade speech last week, Rocco Rossi vowed that as mayor, he would “put everything on the table” in negotiations with the province over the future of the TTC (and, by implication, its murky relationship to Metrolinx).

Rossi seems to be implying that the TTC’s very status as a city agency may be in play if he wins. Rival George Smitherman doesn’t appear to disagree. In an interview with The Star, Smitherman (who’s found religion on the topic of contracting out) mused about outsourcing bus routes to private operators, as is done in London. He’s been vague about the rest of his TTC plans (the precondition to all changes, he said in an email, is the city getting its “house in order”), although he praised Metrolinx and called for more seamless transit within the region in a speech to the Board of Trade last December.

Time to call these guys out. If elected, are they planning to have council ask the province to upload all, or part, of the TTC to Metrolinx? And if so, what are the arguments? And what would drive the province to agree?

Spacing contributors John Lorinc and Steve Munro bring the debate out of the rhetorical shadows.

The Case For Uploading

In the past sixty years, the TTC has served Toronto well, concentrating growth within the former Metro boundaries and driving intensification closer to the core. In the 905, by contrast, municipalities and the province failed to invest comparably in transit, leading to today’s gridlock, productivity losses, and sprawl.

The region’s transportation crisis, however, cuts across municipal borders.

When 905ers end up on the TTC, Toronto taxpayers subsidize their fares. And when 416ers get stuck in traffic in York Region on their way to work, 905 taxpayers pick up the tab for road repairs. The reverse commute on the Don Valley Parkway and the peak period crush on the northern end of the Yonge subway line are symptoms of the dearth of a meaningful regional transportation strategy.

Following the lead of other large metropolitan areas like London, Madrid and Vancouver, Queen’s Park established Metrolinx in 2006 to address the problem, and it subsequently assigned the new agency to run GO Transit.

Then, in 2008, Metrolinx approved “The Big Move,” a long-term $50 billion vision to reduce congestion and increase transit use across the GTA/Hamilton with subways extensions, bus rapid transit/light rail corridors, etc. While Metrolinx is now building two of the new Transit City lines and other “quick start” projects with provincial cash, the Big Move strategy still lacks a sustainable long-term financing plan, i.e., road tolls, congestion charges, parking levies, and other user fees.

Metrolinx will only fulfill its mandate if the agency can exercise significant planning and operational control over the TTC, GO and other 905 transit agencies.

There’s no reason why individual agencies like the TTC shouldn’t retain their corporate identities, local marketing, and customer relations efforts, as is the case with Greater Vancouver’s Translink. But the improvements envisioned in The Big Move can’t happen with the current patchwork system that militates against inter-municipal coordination, especially when it comes to planning large capital projects.

Evidence? Just look to the long-running stalemate over the smart card. Unlike most major transit systems, the TTC has resisted the introduction of new fare media while Queen’s Park has pushed for it as one of the conditions for provincial funding (Presto will debut in the 905 later this year, but will be only available for limited use in Toronto for the time being.)

Perhaps more importantly, if the Liberals want to persuade GTA residents that The Big Move must be financed at least partly with new user fees such as road tolls, they have to assure voters they’ll get results. And that means creating a single authority with the clout to make the system work in a comprehensive way.

Looking ahead 25 years or more, Queen’s Park also wants to realize a return (not just financial, but also social and environmental) on those multi-billion-dollar transit investments by making the most of service integration – smart cards, system information, ease of movement between lines, coordinated schedules, and so on.

Ultimately, though, this is about imagining life in the GTA in 60 or 80 or even a hundred years, a time when the concentrating effect of the greenbelt (and global warming) should be very evident on development patterns across the region, not just in the core.

By then, I’d hope the GTA is a far less congested place than it is now, with yet another generation of integrated transit service. We could, in theory, follow Madrid’s lead, with a regional agency driving a new generation of subway expansion to other parts of the 905, besides Vaughan city centre.

Indeed, the decision to extend the Spadina line up to Vaughan arguably marked the moment when the TTC ceased to be a creature of the 416. The embattled agency did what it had to do inside the old Metro borders.

Now it’s time to move on.

The Case Against Uploading

What should transit do for our city? What expectations does the TTC fail to meet? What goals do we have that Metrolinx might ignore?

Those who would lead Toronto prefer to hand our single largest municipal agency to provincial control and abdicate any responsibility for the future of our transit system. This will save Toronto the cost of subsidizing the TTC, but what does the city lose in the process?

Toronto has much better transit service than the 905 municipalities because of population density and a history of good transit policy decisions.

Toronto’s Official Plan presumes aggressive improvements to transit service in support of added density on major streets. Will Metrolinx share this view or starve Toronto of better transit?

Toronto’s fare policy combines a uniform fare for short and long distance riders to encourage transit commutes, and extensive pass use to make transit an “all you can eat” option for the best customers. Metrolinx/GO is a fare-by-distance system. Do people from Scarborough or Rexdale want to pay more than twice their current fare to commute to the core area? Who will subsidize their rides if Metrolinx controls the TTC?

Toronto Councillors quickly complain when TTC service in their wards falls short of constituents’ desires. Who will they turn to with Metrolinx running the system? How much effect can they have on a secretive board that meets publicly every few months, and then only to rubber stamp a handful of staff reports?

Metrolinx’ neither knows nor cares about local transit services. The Big Move is all about regional trips. It ignores the huge gap between transit service in the 905 and the local demand GO’s expanding network will create on 905 bus networks. The Big Move assumes that local systems will pay for whatever is needed. What happens if GO is the local system?

The GO model – parking lots in the suburbs and a big TTC subway conveniently sitting at the heart of the network downtown – does not work for reverse commuting or for trips that neither begin nor end on the GO network.

GO takes the easy projects – converting existing rail corridors for commuter use and running a network of express buses mostly on existing roads. Where is the commitment to creating new corridors? Where is the commitment to developing transit markets rather than letting pent-up demand fall into GO’s lap?

Funding for The Big Move is uncertain. Metrolinx remains on a tight year-to-year budget and there is no sign of a dedicated revenue stream from any source. Policy is announced by the Premier, not from a detailed public discussion of revenue sources or how best to spend them.

Would Toronto and the 905 municipalities be required to contribute to Metrolinx budgets as they now do to GO? How would Toronto be compensated for the billions in municipal investment and associated debt it has paid in the “Toronto share” for TTC assets?

Would municipalities have the option to contract with Metrolinx for better than “standard” service on routes within their borders, or would Toronto be forced to accept whatever works for Newmarket, Burlington and Durham?

Unified service requires only the will to operate and fund the network. Each transit system budgets independently today and is never sure of future subsidies. Anything that reduces farebox income or drives up service requirements without compensating revenue is a major issue for every GTA transit systems. While the TTC continues to expand, 905 systems retrench.

How can Metrolinx “take over” the TTC, an organization with three times the employees and over eight times the ridership of GO Transit? What is the real aim here? Does Metrolinx plan to outsource the entire TTC, or have new companies assume existing operations with major changes to the labour contracts?

If TTC management is inept, as candidates allege, where is the cadre of transit experts poised to take over their jobs? Metrolinx, GO and the TTC use the same consultants to plan and design their networks. Will they magically become models of quality and efficiency just because they report to a provincial agency?

If the issue is union wage rates, benefits and working conditions, why have arbitrations consistently gone in the union’s favour? Why didn’t Queen’s Park impose settlements when they had the chance?

Why do we assume that a new set of political cronies, friends of Queen’s Park, will do any better than the crew at City Hall?

Metrolinx and the Liberals must be honest with Toronto’s voters. Nobody knows what “uploading” means beyond making the TTC someone else’s problem. Would-be Mayors can slip through the campaign without any detailed transit policy.

We must decide what we want from our transit system. Only then we can decide how to achieve those goals, including how to pay for them. “Uploading” isn’t a solution. It is a smokescreen to avoid the real debate.

photo by Wylie Poon



  1. Toronto’s transit system is marred by a baffling resistance to internationally accepted best practices — including, as Lorinc correctly points out, regional transit integration. In light of this, Munro’s position is disappointing, not to mention content-free … how many rhetorical questions can one cram into a single article?

  2. I vote for consolidation or TTC RIP. I do not believe Metrolinx is capable of handling the TTC because people at Metrolinx aren’t that bright and many don’t have practical experience (only high level policy/research experience).
    So my proposal would be to significantly reform Metrolinx as GTAH’s transit/transportation authority. A consolidation of all the different transit authorities in the GTAH (TTC, Mississauga, Brampton Transit, York Region Transit/VIVA, etc.). That’s the only way to promote integration of a system.
    The new Metrolinx will also set standards in all aspects of local/regional transportation such as parking standards (max and min), freight movement, etc.

  3. Steve raises many good points about current problems with the TTC and the regional authorities, but if we put faith in the belief that these issues can eventually be addressed, I’m starting to think that John’s arguments in favour of a regional transit model might make more sense.

  4. We need to separate merging/consolidating transit authorities from uploading as these are not the same issue.

    I see no particular merit in uploading, but I do see room for better integration and service standards.

    First, I would suggest small scale mergers, where this makes sense (not trying to pile a dozen transit systems under 1 tent).

    Merging Oakville, Burlington, and Milton Transits into the Halton Region Transit Authority would make sense, as would Niagara Regional Transit.

    Some argument could also be made for Bringing Mississauga and Brampton together as Peel Region Transit. That level of integration would help make suburban service more seamless, but be more manageable while retaining local accountability.

    In addition, there is some room for Metrolinx to set minimum standards of service (but not maximums) to ensure greater service in suburban areas,and more adoption of best practises.

    As examples.

    All municipalities shall:

    1) Deliver transit service on a grid system
    2) Have a core network of routes which all operate 7 days per week, 18 hours per day, minimum

    3) All regions will run their ‘core’ services at every 20min OR better.

    4) Common loading standards will ensure no overcrowding.

    5) Passes will be usable across municipal

    That to me is the base solution.

    The other details (ie. TTC customer service) are best worked out at the local level.

    Transit Capital should be toll-supported, regionally.

    Transit operation should be largely local.

  5. Munro’s position is disappointing, not to mention content-free … how many rhetorical questions can one cram into a single article?

    It seems to me that the onus to establish that uploading will actually solve any of the TTC’s problems would fall on the people espousing it. Steve is pointing out, unrelentingly if somewhat repetitively (that is, from a number of important but overlapping vantage points ) that vague-but-popular notion of a provincial TTC takeover is, itself, essentially “content-free”.

  6. Andrew is dead on. “Toronto’s transit system is marred by a baffling resistance to internationally accepted best practices” — the entire recent history of the TTC in a nutshell.

    Originally, the TTC was great at learning from other cities and copying what worked well, updating and adapting as they went. The streetcars came from the PCC design established by a number of American cities. The subway cars and stations were lifted from New York. The underground bus-subway station concept was copied from Boston. However, something changed in the 1980s. Either the TTC got burned by using untested technology like the Scarborough RT, or got lazy after decades of awards and compliments, or simply lost adequate funding but ever since the system has resisted the components of a transit system that are taken for granted elsewhere — weekly passes, elimination of the token, electronic fare cards, vending machines that take credit cards, merchandising the brand, modern websites and trip planners, developing air rights, countdown boards, modern graphic standards, regional integration… all of these have been either ignored or implemented after a huge fight.

    At this point I would say to go with what works elsewhere, and that means regional integration. SF Muni is the only major city-only agency left, and even they have BART (which does more lifting than GO does here).

  7. John wins.

    I agree with Andrew’s assessment. Steve’s barrage of rhetorical questions seem superficial. So what about Toronto’s official plan! As if that document has any bearing on reality. Take for instance the employment forecasts. The city is already more than 1/4 of a million behind its forecasts.

    Transit must serve the place of residence : place of work relationship. Transit growth should be geared towards addressing that.

  8. If there were any guarantee that our current level of service in Toronto would be maintained (and expanded as imagined by the OP) by Metrolinx, and we could only expect improvements like those that Lorinc describes, integration would be a win-win. However, what’s the likelihood of great improvements without trade-offs in local service or local expansion? There are no magic bullets.

  9. Go regional, and the TTC/transit becomes much less politically avoidable – certainly at the Provincial level, less so at the Feds (but still, a bit, at the Feds).

  10. I think Munro nails the concerns that I have about uploading the TTC to the province. Funding decisions made by a region-wide board will almost certainly dilute the 416’s influence in favour of 905ers whose politicians will nix rapid transit downtown in favour of parochial vote-getting projects like extra bus routes to the most outlying of suburbs. This would be the GTA’s equivalent of the “bridge-to-nowhere” in Alaska.

    If uploading happens, don’t expect the completion of Transit City or the Downtown Relief Line any time soon.

  11. The argument for uploading seems to be that a pig in a poke (Metrolinx) is better than the possibly-sickish pig that we have now (TTC+other agencies).

    Actually, the argument seems to be:

    1) We have regional transporational gridlock due to sprawl;
    2) Metrolinx is a regional transportation planning agency;


    3) Giving Metrolinx operating control over all GTAH transit agencies is necessary and desirable

    For instance, a desirable result would apparently be an integrated fare card. That’s nice, but it does absolutely zippo nothing at all to stop sprawl or gridlock.

    The vision of phoning up Rob Pritchard to complain about a big gap on the Queen car is kind of amusing, though.

    According to Lorinc, “Metrolinx will only fulfill its mandate if the agency can exercise significant planning and operational control over the TTC, GO and other 905 transit agencies.”. Of course his whiz kids from U of T (“Great Minds for a Great Future”) will have all the issues that are currently bedevilling the TTC’s 460 million riders, like service frequency and employee demeanour, sorted in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.

  12. I believe in regional integration but with the Georgetown corridor being Metrolinx’s first major project I would be terrified of having Metrolinx take over the TTC network.

    Metrolinx may dream green and big, but when it comes down to implementation they stink. They dream of more people walking and biking but will be putting huge walls in between communities.

    They dream of people getting around quickly and easily without their car, yet don’t invest in electric trains that are faster and can stop in many more communities.

    They waste money on strategies such as pollution monitoring systems where when and if the pollution is bad, nothing will actually happen. (they’re not going to stop transit if their diesel trains pollute too much!)

    At least (even after years of work) the St. Clair LRT is a clean and green transit solution. The people in Toronto will pay for the poor planning on Metrolinx’s part for years to come.

  13. My vote on this one is with Steve. I think John makes very good points for why a regionally integrated transit service would be beneficial, in theory. However it is also true that Metrolinx is an unexperienced organization with very little transparency. Before Toronto hands over the system that we built up over decades of hard work, the province has to demonstrate that it can manage it.

  14. I think there could be some kind of hybrid — maybe the subway goes to metrolinx and subway expansion. But the last thing we need is the transit is this city to get further away from the public, not closer. And by that I mean, the larger the organization the greater the chance it becomes ‘removed’ from the day-to-day reality. Is someone really going to care about a Queen streetcar short-turn in Metrolinx’s office?

    If the big stuff like construction and planning ae taken over by Metrolinx I could live with that, but for day-to-day operations I wouldn’t want that removed form the TTC’s hands just yet. I think any kind of reform of the Commission from the new mayor will be the first step in understanding whether the City needs to cede control of the TTC.

  15. Maybe this is all nonsense: just give the TTC the money it once had. Done.

  16. It’s not as though the TTC is in a big hurry to solve the problems on the Queen streetcar, either.

  17. After reading the comments here (and the article of course!) it seems to me that gap is those who do not trust Metrolinx as it exists today (through personal experience like Steve Munro and Jason here), and those who are looking at what Metrolinx could be. I know Steve has been a number of Metrolinx-run cnsultation sessions and he has blogged about his less-than experiences. Jason seems to be referring to the ARL/GSSE/”Blue22″ fiasco which as I recall Metrolinx “volunteered” to take on.

    The question I pose to both of you (and others who follow who will agree) is: Assuming a blank-slate (carte-blanche, if you will), what would it take to make a TTC upload to Metrolinx feasible? In other words, what would Metrolinx (or, perhaps, the TTC) have to look like for an upload to work?

  18. I think both sides have valid points but I also think that Steve is maybe being a bit short sighted. Of course Metrolinx, in it’s current role, size and employee make-up can’t take over the TTC, “an organization with three times the employees and over eight times the ridership of GO Transit”. but I don’t think there’s any doubt that if the job was given to Metrolinx the required staff and labour and their expertise will be adjusted for. But then again, that’s probably why we see so many questions in Steve’s argument: the transformation of Metrolinx from being mostly a planning agency to an operating agency needs to be well defined before anyone can argue if it’s a good idea or bad.

  19. Somewhere in between is where the answer lies. The subway system is so heavily used by 905 commuters that it makes no sense for people in Toronto to have to subsidize it, especially as it expands into York Region. Subway construction is also clearly beyond the fiscal capacity of the city and should be handled by the level of government with the taxing power to get something done. Bus and streetcar routes are something that should probably be left in the hands of the TTC as these are used mostly by Toronto taxpayers and there scheduling and service is very locally sensitive.

  20. Judging by how responsive Metrolinx has been so far its the last thing I want running my local transit. Vancouver gets electric, we get costlier dirty diesel.

  21. Steve’s article was certainly a slow burn and asked a lot of needless and answer-less questions before making a point, but once he hit his stride, I think he made the more convincing argument.

    The question should not be “Who MIGHT do things better?” but should rather be “Do you want the ability to succeed or fail on your own terms?”.

    With exactly ZERO real evidence to support the idea that Metrolinx would be any “better” at servicing the needs of Toronto transit users, the temptation should be to stick with the devil we not only know, but can control. The TTC, for good or ill, is ours and it’s longterm growth (or demise) should be dependent on us.

    I agree with Steve completely that wanting to upload appeals most to people who don’t want to admit that there are larger problems with our city’s system of governance, both in general and as it specifically relates to how we manage the TTC. Uploading to Metrolinx doesn’t solve any of those problems.

    So what’s needed going forward? A little honesty and focus would be nice. It’s all well and good for Steve or anyone to say that the TTC is a “much better” service than anywhere in the 905. OK, so what? That feels good to say, but it doesn’t mean anything. Is the TTC in it’s current form good enough for Toronto today and is our planning good enough for Toronto 20 years from now?

    If the TTC is broken, we can fix it. All it takes is a little courage and a lot of patience. We’re usually good with the former and horrible with the latter. We fix a problem like that and suddenly planning out new ridership strategies is going to seem a lot easier.

  22. In the case for uploading, Mr. Lorinc makes a strong case for a Greater Toronto Transit Authority serving residents in the 416 and 905 region. However, has he given much thought as to what a resident in the 519 region might think of this? Or how about 613? Or 705?

    One thing the debates surrounding Toronto’s upcoming election show is that the challenges facing the next council are big — bigger, perhaps, than the council is designed to handle. As all sorts of issues, from transit to garbage collection to economic development, now spill outside of Toronto’s boundaries, the need for a regional manager becomes ever more clear. Just one problem: the provincial government seems unwilling to give us just that.

    In 1954, when the province of Ontario created the municipality of Metropolitan Toronto, they created an agency that would assure the competent management of Toronto’s regional issues without sacrificing local concerns. The two-tier system worked by allowing the local councils to remain to deal with local issues, while at the same time providing a forum for discussion of regional concerns to take place. But this only worked because of one key criteria: in 1954, the boundaries of Metropolitan Toronto encompassed most of the urban region that was Toronto. By the late 1980s, that percentage had dwindled to near 50%.

    Today, the province refuses to create a regional manager for the GTA, instead opting for piecemeal special purpose bodies like Metrolinx to tackle the matter on an issue-by-issue basis. They’ve been leery of regional governance for the GTA since the 1970s when Bill Davis refused a recommendation by former premier John Robarts to expand Metro’s boundaries to encompass Mississauga, Vaughan, Markham and Pickering.

    And why would they want to cut their own throat? A regional government for the GTA would encompass almost half of the province’s population, and an even higher percentage of Ontario’s taxes. It would certainly threaten the dominance of Queen’s Park, creating an elected official that theoretically spoke for half of Ontario.

    But the issues of the region of Toronto aren’t going away, and they have to be managed lest the economy of the whole of Ontario is threatened. Which is probably why Dalton McGuinty has taken the steps he has done to effectively act as the regional manager for the Greater Toronto Area. This is probably why the prospect of a Metrolinx takeover of the TTC is on the table.

    Unfortunately, this is likely to fuel greater resentment from the other regions of the province, particularly the north and the rural east, who feel that Queen’s Park is paying less and less attention to their issues and more attention to Toronto’s problems. Already, you’re starting to see the polarization of the province along these lines, and the risk exists that should the government of Ontario shift, the regional manager that Queen’s Park represents (such as it is) may disappear entirely.

    It seems unlikely, still, that the province will create a true regional government for the Greater Toronto Area. It’s even more unlikely (by a factor of ten) that the alternate solution of breaking the 416 and 905 area codes into a province in their own right is going to happen. So, what’s to be done? What’s to be done?

  23. I can’t help but worry that if Metrolinx were to take over all TTC operations, our local service (which is vastly superior compared to the 905) would suffer as a result. There are only so many operating dollars to go around, and to improve service throughout the sprawling 905 region, something would have to give in the 416. At most, let Metrolinx plan, coordinate and execute regional transit expansion. But leave operations with the TTC and the other local agencies.

    As for the TTC itself, it needs to find inexpensive ways to improve the system. Examples are: cleaner stations and vehicles, more courteous staff, headway based scheduling on heavy surface routes, and implementation of true signal priority, especially on transit ROWs.

  24. The worst thing about Steve Munro’s article is the sheer fatalism of it – that Metrolinx=GO and integration of TTC into Metrolinx means GOish style operations all over Toronto. Nothing from the TTC would pass into Metrolinx. Woe unto all of us, etc.

    It seems hard to see how a reverse takeover of an organisation eight times the size wouldn’t have an impact of some sort. Certainly in Vancouver’s case you would find plenty in Coquitlam (Evergreen line) and Surrey (Interurban light rail) who find Translink overly skewed to downtown interests with suburban needs put on the never-never.

    If Toronto was to assert itself within Metrolinx (since it would then become its largest municipal funder) maybe things like massive parking garages at stations would become less important and local integrated transit more frequent and usable in the 905. At the moment we can only look on and shake our heads (although given the whinging that went on about free metropass parking last year we can’t claim to be streets ahead in our thinking there).

  25. James, thank you for a nuanced and insightful analysis. I agree with you fully – transportation (an an effective, well-connected transit network is an important part of this) is an issue that extends far outside the jurisdictional boundary of “City of Toronto.”

    Steve makes a number of good points, the main thrust being that Metrolinx does not have the current capacity (budgetary, staff, etc) to deal with integrating something like the TTC. However, I cannot help but feel that Metrolinx is still in its infancy, and there is a lot of wiggle room to redefine its roles and responsibilities. Surely adding the TTC to Metrolinx would require a Provincial Act anyways, so there would be an opportunity to address many of the issue Steve and many others have already articulated.

  26. Oh, Steve, I normally love you, but I got dizzy with all those question marks… no problem with what you said; it’s how you said it.

    And the winner is:
    John Lornic: 629 words, 5 questions
    Steve Munro: 808 words, 23 questions

    On another note, and there is no real answer to this, but I am just so surprised at how bad things seem to be for the TTC over there, and I wonder how much of this is a real management problem and how much is merely because it’s a hot topic and it’s easier to complain than to praise.

    We’re not as big as TO is, but we seem to have a very similar setup here (a big STM that handles the métro and busses, AMT that handles the regional commuter trains, each suburb that has its local bus company, a history of cutbacks even as our suburbs expanded, aging infrastructure…) Add to that the fact that I had always half-believed the myth that Toronto works well and conscientiously and efficiently, and Montréal is too disorganized and parties too hard to get anything serious done.

    And yet, I have nothing but praise for transit here. Sure the métro stops running every so often, it’s crowded at rush-hour, busses are late (or early), and we had a fare hike in January. But it is hardly the fever pitch head-chopping feeding frenzy that seems to be going on over there, so is this a case of whining, or is transit in TO (and the TTC) as bad as y’all are making it out to be?

  27. I’ve been watching the comment thread here all day, and thought it’s about time to add a few thoughts. My article, and indeed John’s too, isn’t intended as the definitive statement on either side. However, too many people talk of uploading the TTC to Metrolinx without addressing just what this would mean or how it would be done.

    In a theoretical perfect world without bureaucratic and political rivalries, a regional agency would make perfect sense, provided that it knew that services and planning exists both for regional and local purposes. Metrolinx is not that agency, and I am no surer of how we could transform it than I know the magic solution to the woes of the TTC.

    What we do know is that Metrolinx is secretive, hypersensitive about criticism and aggressive toward those it perceives as its enemies. Some of this may be changing with the new faces in the organization, but it’s not changing fast enough.

    My article contains many questions because these are issues the uploading advocates don’t address, much less answer.

  28. Mark, I see your point, but so far it seems that Toronto government and Provincial government find it hard to get along. We need our governments to relax, trust each other and compromise.

    This would be the best solution for Toronto/TTC to get more fully involved in the planning of “The Big Move”, so things that seem at such a disconnect wouldn’t be.

    I feel like all that Metrolinx cares about is getting 905ers in and out of the Toronto fast. We need a more well rounded vision than that. More GO and TTC integration would be a good start.

    Why should I have to go south to Union Station to pick up a train to go north to Newmarket when the GO tracks are a few blocks from my house? Why can’t a GO train stop at Queen and Dufferin to take me downtown in 5 mins instead of sitting on a Queen streetcar for 45 mins?

    We need more express/collector integration. Right now it’s either one or the other.

  29. I will agree that we need an agency to coordinate, and force when necessary, cooperation between the various local authorities; however I would not want Metrolinx responsible for the operation of local transit as I do not think that they would be responsive to local needs, especially with an unelected board. I would not even want Mississauga and Brampton transit amalgamated because they each seem to have different priorities and I don’t think that Mississauga’s would work in Brampton or vice-versa. Despite this they do cooperate and run service into each others area and accept each others transfers.

    I think that there is a need for Metrolinx to coordinate and oversee inter regional service and to simplify the process of cross boundary transit. I think that it would work better if it had those pesky politicians put back on the board.

    The province has a history of forcing things onto the TTC that have not always been to their benefit; ICTS (SRT in Scarborough) natural gas buses to replace trolley buses, hybrid diesel electric buses that were not ready for heavy transit use, etc.

    I agree that there needs to be a simplified ticketing system but why invent a totally new system when there are others that work. Is Dalton going to create a new export industry for Ontario that will rival ICTS? Leave the local systems alone but there should be more cooperation and interregional service. This is the place for Metrolinx: run Go and get (FORCE?) the local agencies to work together.

  30. I can certainly see why uploading the TTC makes many people nervous…and I’d also agree that uploading by itself does little to insure an improved region-wide transit system. That said, the GTA is in desperate need of region-wide planning, not just with respect to transit but with transportation, economic planning, land-use (including density targets and zoning), etc. The main reason we are in our current mess is because individual GTA municipalities each have way too much power to make decisions which they may see as being in their own interest, but which end up screwing the other GTA municipalities, as well as the region as a whole. I don’t blame the municipalities (or their respective agencies such as the TTC which focus on issues within specific municipal boundaries). The fault lies with the province for failing to put proceed with a governance structure that would enable the region to function much more effectively.

  31. Of course, as samg says, the GTA needs to have integrated planning to solve transportation and sprawl woes.

    The thing is, the Toronto region has played with regional planning since at least the 1940s. 1970’s Toronto Centred Plan was an outcome of MTARTS (Metro Toronto and Region Transportation Study) of the 1960s. The conclusions made by MTARTS led to discussions similar to those we’re having today. It even led to the creation of GO Transit.

    I have recently read two of John Sewell’s books that go over the history of regional planning in the Toronto area: “The Shape of the City: Toronto Struggles with Modern Planning” (1993) and “The Shape of the Suburbs, Understanding Toronto’s Sprawl” (2009). (Personally, I found the former book a better read.)

    The short answer is, having seen the history of grand provincial plans in the past, I don’t have any automatic belief in Metrolinx, a grand provincial agency (with, as mentioned before, a “$50 billion vision”)–the history of the GTA is replete with grand and expensive visions that never worked out.

    Pro-upload people say “that’s being negative!” but I’m left with an “okay, show me what will be different this time” attitude. Or a ‘fatalistic’ “those who don’t learn from history are condemmned to repeat it”.

    The Toronto Centred Plan failed because, while the vision was great, execution was botched. Local jurisdictions were allowed to do what they wanted, and various other provincial agencies abetted them. Those who wanted to contain sprawl found themselves under great pressure to allow it, while those who thought sprawl was dandy were helped out nicely. (York Region was supposed to have a population of maybe 40,000 by 2000. The provincially-constructed “Big Pipe” changed all that in a hurry.)

    The parallel with uploading the TTC to Metrolinx is that the province proposes or disposes grand plans, but it has always been up to the municipalities to carry out these plans. Stuff at the provincial level has always sounded great, but the province itself has a history of either not following through, or alternatively allowing various agencies to sabotage the work of other agencies.

  32. The biggest problem with TTC is that it is a large, very bureaucratic entity.

    But if it is amalgamated with all other GTA’s transit systems, it will become even larger, more bureaucratic, and less responsive.

    It is preferable to keep each regional transit system autonomous and accountable to the corresponding municipal government. Then, we have some room to experiment with different ways to deliver transit service. For example, TTC is publicly owned, while YRT hires contractors; we can compare the two and discover strengths and weaknesses of either approach.

    However, the province / Metrolinx should play a role in some issues, for example the cost of cross-border trips.

  33. If we want to have a working city, we have to have a workable region. This city can only thrive in the long run if it pulls its weight in a competitive world economy, and if at the same time it weathers some tough transformations in the way the world powers itself. That means regional coordination. Ideally, we as the largest city in the region, the “anchor” city and the city that gives the region its name would mature and take the lead. But that will only happen if the next mayor steps up and takes the attitude that “failure is not an option”. When I asked him about a regional approach to transportation issues, at a forum in 2006, Mayor Miller answered that he couldn’t bring the other mayors and community leaders to the table. But if this region ends up paying extortionate prices for gas while everyone who planned sensibly rides to work by train, nobody will much care who to blame.

    Therefore, I will answer Steve Munro’s implied question about how this will work by saying that we have the job of making it work.

  34. Ed,

    I can point to one grand provincial vision that did work well: Metro. While the 416 suburbs may not be Copenhagen-esque in terms of density and design, the fact is that Metro did manage to focus growth and infrastructure. I think Metro’s success is connected to the TTC’s — for all it’s faults, the TTC is still one of the busiest transit systems in North America, with one of the highest cost-recovery ratios, and that’s because Metro succeeded in producing a sufficient amount of density across the 416. Certainly, this is hardly a guarantee that Metrolinx would achieve the same. And I’d say that neither Greater Vancouver nor the Region of Madrid enjoyed that kind of certainty, either. Nor, indeed, did the Govt of Ontario in the early 1950s, as it prepared to embark on one of the very first examples of two-tier municipal government anywhere in the world.

  35. The last thing we need is subways in 905 – there just isn’t the density or the public transit mindset. BRT, LRT, & all day GO service make much more sense there.

    I greatly respect both authors, but Metrolinx’s lack of actual operating experience & dictatorial secrecy worry me greatly.

    Although TTC’s recent history of cock-ups (this week: non-functioning Metropass vending machines. What’s gonna go wrong next week?) do not inspire much confidence at all either.

    A European style vision for the GTHA transit system is needed – coordinated & integrated transit planning, implementation & operation, one fare media, distributed information, and responsible transit operators. So far we have none of these, have barely on them. Nor does it appear that Metrolinx can lead us there.

    Hence, status quo is the safest choice.

  36. Is the density of the Spadina line north of Eglinton any different to that of large parts of the the 905? In housing they look about equal, but by demographics the 905 probably has more persons per household.

  37. OK let me try to answer some of Steve’s questions.

    What should transit do for our city?
    A. Move people to where they want to go.

    What expectations does the TTC fail to meet?
    Service, cleanliness, and cost.
    What goals do we have that Metrolinx might ignore?
    A. Ideology.

    This will save Toronto the cost of subsidizing the TTC, but what does the city lose in the process?
    A. The ability to bankrupt itself in building and operating transit city.

    Toronto’s Official Plan presumes aggressive improvements to transit service in support of added density on major streets. Will Metrolinx share this view or starve Toronto of better transit?
    A. Toronto’s official plan also assumed that the city would create jobs, it hasn’t. Having people live in the city and work outside of it will be a bigger determinate to transit utilization that service quality.

    Toronto’s fare policy combines a uniform fare for short and long distance riders to encourage transit commutes………Who will subsidize their rides if Metrolinx controls the TTC?
    A. So sprawl is OK so long as you traverse it by transit, is what you are saying.

    Toronto Councillors quickly complain when TTC service in their wards falls short of constituents’ desires. Who will they turn to with Metrolinx running the system?
    A. Practical, not political decisions should be guiding transit.

    The GO model – parking lots in the suburbs and a big TTC subway conveniently sitting at the heart of the network downtown – does not work for reverse commuting or for trips that neither begin nor end on the GO network.
    A. And transit city does not work when Toronto is the bedroom community for the 905.

    GO takes the easy projects – converting existing rail corridors for commuter use and running a network of express buses mostly on existing roads. Where is the commitment to creating new corridors? Where is the commitment to developing transit markets rather than letting pent-up demand fall into GO’s lap?
    A. You seem to think this is a bad thing.

    Would Toronto and the 905 municipalities be required to contribute to Metrolinx budgets as they now do to GO? How would Toronto be compensated for the billions in municipal investment and associated debt it has paid in the “Toronto share” for TTC assets?
    A. It could be repaid by the province once it has returned the billions it received previously. That investment has been primarily utilized by city residents but partly paid for all Ontarians. You also seem to ignore the huge indirect benefits that the city received.

    How can Metrolinx “take over” the TTC, an organization with three times the employees and over eight times the ridership of GO Transit?
    A. Change the name on their pay stubs.

    What is the real aim here? Does Metrolinx plan to outsource the entire TTC, or have new companies assume existing operations with major changes to the labour contracts?
    A. It is something they should look into.

    If TTC management is inept, as candidates allege, where is the cadre of transit experts poised to take over their jobs? Metrolinx, GO and the TTC use the same consultants to plan and design their networks. Will they magically become models of quality and efficiency just because they report to a provincial agency?
    A. That is a bit of a straw-man. The consultants are frequently asked to work on specifics. They are not given carte blanche. Just as important as planning is the execution (Hello St. Clair).

    If the issue is union wage rates, benefits and working conditions, why have arbitrations consistently gone in the union’s favour? Why didn’t Queen’s Park impose settlements when they had the chance?
    A. Politics

    Why do we assume that a new set of political cronies, friends of Queen’s Park, will do any better than the crew at City Hall?
    A. Because they would be hard pressed to do worse.

  38. I haven’t read the debate or comments in detail, but I do want to share an observation: our current transit networks specialize in local commutes, and we need to focus on long distance/regional commutes. With the exception of certain routes, we really don’t have any infrastructure for frequent long distance travel. Yes, you can travel from Rouge Hill to Rexdale on a single TTC fare, but it is unappealing to choice riders and tedious for those who are transit reliant. Even Transit City, a multi-billion transit project of unprecedented proportions, will focus exclusively on local commutes.

    While local commutes are not a bad thing, keep in mind that a fair percentage of people outside downtown have or have access to a car. Assuming we don’t want people to sell their cars (our government just bailed out the auto industry after all), and rather provide an alternative mode for certain trips, $2.50-$3.00 each way is expensive. With 2-3 litres of gas in a fuel inefficient 20MPG vehicle, you can go 17-25 kilometers. If you go with a fuel efficient ‘econobox’, the distance traveled can be much further. And when you factor in that moderate local commutes can be easily done by cycling, it further makes choice riders wonder why they should spend this money to take transit.

    The reality is that we have not evolved transit planning enough since the mid 20th century. We still plan as if we all live in high density areas and that cars are a high luxury. The result is congested roads and “poor people” transit to address them. We need both efficient LOCAL AND REGIONAL transit to get people across the region quickly, and to get them as close to their destination as possible.

  39. In many ways the story of the development and growth of Toronto is the same story that every big North American city has seen play out in its streets and council chambers. As a young big city, Toronto has tracked fairly consistently about 50 to 100 years behind New York whether the trend topic is crime, transit, municipal amalgamation, etc.

    If you look in the online archives of the New York Times, there are dozens and dozens of editorials and opinions from 1950-1973 dealing with the crisis in transportation and the ensuing creation of a regional agency, first to run the commuter railroads, then take over all city subways and toll roads, then eventually annex all suburban bus transit systems as well. Since I am a firm believer in history repeating itself, I think it is inevitable that the same path will be followed in Toronto. And why not? Yes, a million details to work out but the big picture remains that if it works for all of the following cities, why not Toronto:


    (Bonus points if you know the cities for all of the above. Extra bonus points if you know what the acronyms actually mean…)

    I mean, other than San Francisco and, er, Detroit, I can’t think of another big city that still keeps its transit system as a creature of the local municipality. No specific argument can change that fact.

  40. iSkyscraper, Sound Transit is a misnomer. The Greater Seattle area has nearly half a dozen transit agencies: Sound Transit, Community Transit, Metro (King County), Pierce County, and Washington State Ferries.

    In fact, a lot of the bus routes that Sound Transit “runs” are actually run by King, Pierce or Sonomish transit agencies.

    As for Vancouver and it’s wonderful Translink, think again. The replacement of the all-elected board with the all-appointed board has done nothing to make Translink better and has merely removed it one more step from the people it directly serves.

  41. Oops, I meant RTA(IL) instead of CTA. Other RTA is RTA(OH).

  42. iSkyscraper, I think Chicago’s CTA still qualifies as a creature of the municipality. The mayor still has the majority appointees on the board.

    From the CTA’s website:

    The board consists of seven members, four appointed by the Mayor of Chicago and three by the Governor of Illinois. The Mayor’s appointees are subject to the approval of the Governor and the Chicago City Council; the Governor’s appointees are subject to the approval of the Mayor and the Illinois State Senate.

  43. Steve, actually the 905 municipalities (Durham, York, Peel, Halton and HLT) no longer give GO Transit their own money, a practice that stopped over the past few years. Toronto also doesn’t technically provide its full share.

    Under the original Greater Toronto Services Board (now defunct) formula, those municipalities, the feds and the province were supposed to split the costs for GO’s growth-related capital expansion plans (except for items such as, for example, BRTs and Barrie rail) three ways.

    For the municipal one third share, Toronto was to pick up 44% and the 905s 56%.

    Toronto never agreed to the formula and never paid any money for the first few years. Since 2005, however, it agreed with the Province on a deal. It now pays $20 million per year of property taxes to GO, and the current 10 year forecast envisions that dropping to $160 million over the 2010-2019 period. That’s well short of their 44% of one third share.

    Since 2006, all the 905 municipalities stopped using any property taxes to give GO. It only forwards GO the money it collects in development charges, which isn’t close to enough. The Province hasn’t allowed them to update their DC by-laws.

    The 905 and Toronto both won’t agree to pay the full freight until the Province agrees to allow them to somehow set up a region-wide development charges by-law for GO Transit capital projects (methinks this is one of the funding avenues Metrolinx will see for itself in future) but they can’t do that legally because there is no GTA government which can create by-laws.

    My own reading of the tea leaves on Metrolinx plus Bill 163 is I think the Province is leading towards creating such a GTA-wide government in charge of planning and transportation issues (which they’re already doing at MAH and MTO), but with legal government powers such as the ability to collect DC money.

    The Feds have never paid their one third share, though they’ve committed to paying about that percentage of the GO TRIP program. They obviously are also contributing to other regional transit projects.

  44. There are two types of transit integration – paper and physical. The “paper” integration, which is proposed, means that there are and will be for the foreseable future only limited number of the mode-transfer points (T.O. likes to call it “hubs”) – the advantage for a passenger is, that he/she can buy the tickets at many locations within the region, but otherwise it does not help at all. For example, how would the “paper” integration help passengers on the Scrb. and/or Danforth GO stations, where nearest TTC stop is quite far away?
    The physical integration means, that there are many trabsfer points within the system. Good example for an addition would be Summerhill GO/TTC station, which is of course private above ground. – Proponents of the TTC takeover mix the two and are really imaginning many other things. For these reasons their idea should be rejected.

  45. I reviewed recent statistics for the various GTA transit agencies (Toronto, plus Peel, Halton, York and Durham Regions, and GO Transit) last night. I wanted to see how the various partners of a super-Metrolinx (i.e. amalgamated GO and local systems) would compare. Here’s how a few key indicators shake out.

    TTC serves 46% of the GTA population; other local systems serve 54%.

    TTC carries 78% of all transit riders; other local systems, 13%; GO, 9%.

    TTC operates 63% of the service (measured by revenue km); other local systems, 24%; GO, 12%.

    TTC has 66% of total transit revenues (mostly fares); other local systems 12%; GO, 21%.

    TTC comprises 62% of total operating expenses; other local systems, 20%; 18%.

    TTC has a revenue/cost ratio of 74%; GO, 81%; other local systems, average of 43%.

    What this all means is that you would have some interesting political dynamics at play in a super-Metrolinx. You have the TTC carrying the vast majority of riders, operating the vast majority of service, and operating the most efficiently (other than GO, which can charge a premium fare). On the other hand, the other local systems serve more than half the GTA population. How would Metrolinx allocate funding for day-to-day operations, and where would the funding come from? Would the board / commission be balanced by population or by ridership?

    In some ways this seems reminiscent of the elimination of zone fares in Toronto in the 1970s — on one hand it supported service expansion and development intensification in the 416 suburbs, but permanently turned TTC operating surpluses into deficits.

  46. Yes, CTA has a local board but the oversight and dollars come from RTA. To translate Chicagoan in Torontoese:

    The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) is the financial and oversight body for the three transit agencies in northeastern Illinois–the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra, and Pace–which are called Service Boards in the RTA Act. RTA serves Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties.


    Metrolinx is the financial and oversight body for the three transit agencies in the GTA — the Toronto Transit Commission, GO Transit and Horseshoe***— which are called Service Boards in the Metrolinx Bill. Metrolinx serves Halton, Peel, York, and Durham regional municipalities and the Cities of Toronto and Hamilton.


    *** fictional agency that merges all Halton, Peel, Durham, York, Missisagua, Brampton, Hamilton etc. bus lines into one large operator, like Pace does for Chicago

  47. Yes, the TTC is broken and yes, we need more regional transit integration, but surely uploading the TTC to Metrolinx is not the answer. This super-agency has alredy proven to be unresponsive to the particular transit needs of Toronto. These two examples will suffice: 1. sending diesel-fuelled trains into the downtown core; 2. replacing badly-needed subway expansion with LRT streetcars. The future of cities will be linked to the quality of its public transit and I don’t want Toronto to become second- rate.

  48. It’s a difficult choice. Something needs to be changed. The 2nd author (Steve Munro) is long on rhetoric – short on solutions.

    Munro states that Toronto has a good history of transit policy decisions. I’m trying to think what these might have been??? Let’s think:

    – poor choice of Low Floor buses (should have gone with the Novabus LFS in uses in Montreal, Halifax and many other cities.)
    – decided to keep streetcars running – without any long term plan for how to acquire compatible vehicles as a reasonable cost
    – poor planning and execution of the Spadina LRT
    – poor planning and execution of the St. Clair ROW
    – horrible performance on the website/trip planner – consider that Montreal has had an interactive travel planner on it’s website for eight or so years – and now has Google enabled. Meanwhile, the TTC is still in beta for its home-built system
    – being left at the blocks in terms of updated fares systems.

    …I could go on – without even touching on service, cost and labour issues.

    Munro seem to have it in for Metrolinx. I understand that he has long-cultivated connections with the TTC – especially on the political end. Could a potential loss of influence be colouring his view?

    First, in terms of public consultation, Metrolinx was more receptive than the TTC. There was (maybe still is) an extensive (if a little confusing) web-based facility for the public to comment in plans. In contrast, the public have had no avenue (other than a few rushed meetings) to comment on Giambrone’s Transit City plan. The TTC’s idea of a consultation is to present preferred alternatives – which are in fact ‘done deals’.

    The biggest problem with the Munro essay is that it assumes that an ‘uploaded’ TTC would simply become Metrolinx and GO. It’s complete nonsense – as an example – that a newly constituted regional operating authority would apply GO style solutions everywhere. So what is GO has parking lots at many stations? The TTC has big commuter parking lots too – so does Calgary Transit. Montreal has big parking lots for the Laval extension – but less so on the Island. So what? OC Transit – because of the BRT solution has relatively little .

    A regional operating authority would be neither GO nor Metrolinx. What might it look like? Let’s consider that before Toronto was amalgamated, the TTC spanned old-Toronto and the then suburbs – it WAS a regional operation for many years. Now the old ‘burbs are part of the city – and we are wondering how to evolve the governance and management structures.

    In Montreal today, the MTC (STM) operates across municipal lines – both on the Island and in the South Shore and more recently into Laval. The Montreal experience shows that it is possible to come up with funding and fare policies. Munro leads us to believe that it’s not possible here in the GTA.

    The most baffling part of the Munro essay is his question about the ‘cadre of transit experts poised’ to come in and fix things. This is perhaps the least obvious – but potentially most important in the long term – benefit of an re-organization to the regional level. The TTC lost two very qualified and successful general managers due to political interference – these being David Gunn and Rick Ducharme. To attract the best leadership candidates, it must be clear to potential GMs that they will be able to lead and manage. I’m not sure this will ever be possible with the status quo. Top people don’t want to be lapdogs in an over-politicized environment.

  49. I’d like to comment on the points raised by “bigred85”. The current debacle (and it is nothing short of a debacle) of the transit planning is in the appointment of the CEOs, GMs and chairs within the transit authorities. The typical nonsense coming from TTC was at a time of the mr. H.M. chair years, when he said, that he does not like streetcars, but likes LRT. His reason: the former “heavy”, the latter “light”. METROLINX is not any better as the chair knows absolutely nothing about transit. – The result is absolute avoidance of issue or mini-crisis points. (a) Would any of the proponents of the transit schemes be able to show to people a well-built trasportation corridor that includes LRT? (b) Would the CEOs/GMs be able to show to the public well-built electrified railway station or corridor(?) (c) The final arguments against these political appointees can be heard from the “Junction”, where a contruction of the GO ramp had to be suspended due to high levels of noise,

  50. MBTA (Mass. Bay TA, Boston)
    SEPTA (S.E. Penn. TA, Philly – though all trips across the river are handled by NJT or PATCO)
    MTA (Metro. TA) – New York (though same as Philly above, all trips across the river handled by NJT or PATH)
    MTA(MD) – Maryland Transportation Administration – serves Baltimore City, Baltimore County and serves most of MD with the big exceptions being Metro Washington local transit and Annapolis.
    CTA – Chicago TA, though this is in a strange oversight and funding arrangement with RTA(IL).
    MARTA – Metro. Atlanta Rapid TA (the official slogan, at least)
    LACMTA – LA County Metro TA
    WMATA – Washington Metro Area TA – everything except commuter rail, run by the two adjoining states.
    CATS – Charlotte (?)
    RTD – Denver (Reg. Tr. Dist.)
    DART – Dallas
    Metro(TX) – Houston
    Metro (MO) – actually the BDA – Bi-State Development Agency, which operates freely across the Mississippi River state line, just like WAMTA. Serves, amongst dozens of municipalities, East St. Louis (is there any other St. Louis?)
    Metro Transit(MN) – Twin Cities and area
    ValleyMetro – Maricopa County, AZ (Phoenix), though Tempe offers its own transit circulator system in addition to the base regional system.
    NJT – Jersey
    PAT – Port Authority of Allegany County (Pittsburgh)
    TriMet – Portland, OR
    SoundTransit – Sea-Tac
    UTA – Utah TA
    MTS – Milwuakee?

    Here’s another one for you, iSky – the closest one to Toronto: NFTA – Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority – doesn’t only run the transit system, but also the airports and harbour.

    I find it interesting how many systems are creatures of the states – MTA, MBTA, MTA, SEPTA, Baltimore, (whose system map has the governor’s face on the back), and how some systems are state-wide – Rhode Island, Delaware First State, New Jersey, or serve a huge chunk of it (like CT Transit). BC does follow this model, though.

    There’s a few systems in Canada that follow a regional model – BC has Translink, and a province-wide transit system everywhere else; there have been regional transit systems for years in places like Ottawa and Hamilton before amalgamation made them creatures of the cities.

    The province of Quebec has had a good tradition of regional transit authorities, but usually split somewhat – Quebec City has two systems (based on north and south of the St. Lawrence, now both recently amalgamated cities); there’s the South Shore on Montreal, and AMT operates the Commuter Routes, but also coordinates the local CITs (small intermunicipal transit systems outside of Montreal, Laval and urban South Shore) and is now taking over all rail (including Metro) expansion projects in the region.

    Translink, a service of a loose regional governance board, works well. West Vancouver even chooses to own and operate its own buses (which have a different paint scheme, and have the city coat of arms on the top of the front) within Translink’s fare and route structure. Metrobus, serving Metro St. John’s, operates across municipal boundaries quite well, so did Metro Transit in Nova Scotia until the Halifax Regional Monsterpality was created.

    There are places in Ontario where regional transit is sorely needed, more so than anywhere in the Toronto area. The #1 case for regional transit is Niagara – 5 local transit systems (only Thorold has had St. Catharines operate its system), none of which link to each other except at Brock U or Niagara College, and they only do so when they’re is in session, though there are finally now a few token runs between Niagara Falls and Fort Erie.

    The other one is Essex County. Windsor does operate outside its boundaries, but only to Detroit (!), and the suburbs – LaSalle, Tecumseh, Lakeside, Amherstburg, don’t have the service. Leamington, to the south, has a little shuttle bus system, but does not connect to anything, nor are there proper intercity buses – a regional bus to Kingsville, Essex and Windsor could do so much.

    One could also make a strong case for a Quinte Transit, amalgamating Trenton (Quinte Access, primarily serving seniors and the disabled) and Belleville Transit, one of the best small-city operators around, but only leaves its borders to serve a community college. Interestingly, it is possible to take subsidized public transit all over from Belleville – to Picton, to Napanee and Deseronto, even a commuter route to Madoc and Marmora, but not to nearby Trenton.

    There is some hope: next door to Essex County, in Chatham-Kent, they finally figured out a network of rual connector bus routes to serve all the small towns surrounding Chatham, which was amalgamated into Kent County’s towns and townships. And Grand River Transit revolutionalized transit in Waterloo Region – finally connecting Cambridge with Kitchener in 2001 (!) and now operating into Elmira to the north.

  51. I won’t reply to specific postings but in a more general manner.
    Firstly, the proposal to reintroduce a intermediate tier government for the GTHA is absurd. The original incarnation of “appointees” was comparable to that model of democracy, the Senate. The elected version had the suburban dwarf’s controlling the agenda, thus leading to expensive debacles like the Sheppard Subway. None of the regions would agree to a representative democracy, that’s just not the Canadian way!

    The agency responsible for coordinating services in the GTAH is the province of Ontario (as in Government of Ontario aka GO). Sadly they are too afraid to get their hands dirty so they invent solutions like Metrolinx (hereafter referred to as GO) to deflect their inability to stand up to the development industry and stop urban sprawl. This is the same province which refuses to dismantle the Ontario Municipal Board (formerly the Ontario Railway and Municipal Board… guess what they meant by Railway?).

    Local transit belongs in local hands, GO is quickly getting out of the business because it is a dirty, nasty business with customers that have high expectations. GO is abandoning Yonge Street service to and from Newmarket to YRT and VIVA. This was a Grey Coach route before GO and a Toronto and York Railway (TTC) route before that. The trip on VIVA is almost 20 minutes longer than the GO express service. In fact to Finch Station it is about the same amount of time as the radial run to Hogg’s Hollow was in the 1920’s. Now that’s what I call progress.

    Secondly the comparisons to US jurisdictions is not valid. Most US cities have a true strong mayor concept with tiny councils. Some have local councils but the US tends toward small government as a general rule. Many of the regional transit operators (SEPTA for example) are run by the state department of transportation directly (GO anyone?).

    Lastly I emailed the Minister of Transportation after the recent musings by the premier and other liberal caucus members regarding having GO take over the TTC. My note was regarding a bad day of service on the King car and what the province planned to do about service. You won’t be surprised, I’ve yet to get a response from her but I did hear from Mr Giambrone. She doesn’t care, I’m not in her riding.

  52. Maybe Michael Vanner can think about this.

    In Toronto, he is apparently able to get a response from a councillor about a bad day of service on a streetcar. In Philadelphia could he do that – I’m not sure.

    However, in the practical reality, Philadelphia trolleys work pretty well. I’ve been on then many times – and have a close relative who uses them almost daily.

    So – is there a correlation between being able to send horror story letters to elected officials and having good service? Or does good service come from a governance structure and practice that attracts and retains strong management? I think it’s the latter.

  53. My piece is long on questions and short on solutions because that is precisely the problem with the advocates of a Metrolinx takeover. If I had wanted to write a much longer piece (assuming Matt would even tolerate it), I would have answered at least some of the questions. The big problem is that in many cases Metrolinx just doesn’t know what a takeover would mean because they have never thought the process through. Grab the power and worry about how to make it work later.

    When I spoke of good transit policies, this referred to the idea that we would run good service to as much of the city as possible, and would cultivate off peak traffic, not just commuter trips. The fare structure supports this policy.

    I make no excuses for the incompetence of the St. Clair project, but that was not entirely the TTC’s fault. The website leaves much to be desired too, and generally the TTC needs to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century on technology issues.

    The “cadre of transit experts” does not exist, in the sense that there isn’t a crew just waiting for the call. My whole point is that GO/Metrolinx uses the same collection of consultants as the TTC, and GO itself is a much simpler operation. They don’t have the expertise in house to “fix” TTC operations or planning.

    In all likelihood the same crew who run the TTC today would run it under Metrolinx, and little would change. Metrolinx itself ignores local transit in The Big Move and sees itself only as a provider of “regional” transit (whatever that means, once one eliminates the 416/905 barrier).

    Metrolinx has a very bad history of public participation. Yes, they have a website, but do they listen? Just ask the folks along the Georgetown corridor. Much of Metrolinx consultation around The Big Move was to encourage cheerleading for support of what they had already planned, and there was even a scheme (proposed, but possibly not implemented) to salt public meetings with shills, Metrolinx supporters who would give the impression that the public was more pro-Metrolinx than might otherwise be the case. That shows the attitude Metrolinx has to public participation.

    For its part the TTC hasn’t done as well as it might on several projects either, and Adam Giambrone’s tendency to support staff over the public can be unseemly at times. This doesn’t change the fact that at least through City Council there is an avenue to challenge what the TTC does, whereas at Metrolinx there is nothing.

    The comments about vehicles are interesting.

    Re buses, the TTC has a long history with Ontario Bus Industries and its successor companies that stems from pressure from Queen’s Park going back two decades. The most recent batch of hybrids came to us thanks to a federal government policy that would only subsidize “green” technology. If we bought a hybrid, even though it was more expensive and untried, we got a subsidy. Otherwise, not a penny from Ottawa.

    On streetcars, the original decision to keep streetcars was followed by the development of what became the CLRV. An earlier design, descended from the PCC, was under development in the 1960s, but work was halted when Queen’s Park unveiled the GO Urban technology that was going to replace everything. When that project ran aground was work on new streetcars acquired new urgency, and for a time LRT had a shot at being the new intermediate technology. Then came ICTS.

    More recently, the next generation of streetcars was subjected to all sorts of wrangling between Council, the TTC and various governments. The original plan was to rebuild some of the existing fleet and to buy some new 70% low floor cars. This scheme was changed with a view to going 100% low floor. Then we went through the whole fiasco of figuring out how to pay for the cars.

    Repeated delays, plus political pressure to make the system 100% accessible well before the 2026 legislative deadline, lead to replacing the whole fleet even though this was not technically or legally required. This is a political, not a technical decision by the TTC.

    Anyone who thinks that Metrolinx won’t be affected by politics need only look at how major announcements at Queen’s Park work. They come from the Premier’s office, not Metrolinx.

    Enough commentary for one reply.

  54. Nice to hear that Mr. Vanner actually heard from Councillor Giambrone regarding his issue … because there are many people in his Ward who have found him to be much much less responsive when they try to get through to him. I think few people would challenge that we need improved regional planning for transit…I’m not convinced though that uploading TTC to Metrolinx is either a necessary or sufficient condition for this to happen.

  55. Steve, your posts avoid several important points:

    1. The TTC is characterized by archaic operating standards and poor service, neither of which have changed in the decade and a half that I have lived in Toronto. You say we can hold council responsible for these failures … so how’s that going? You yourself have a poor track record on holding feet to the fire: you say on the one hand that we can hold our elected representatives responsible, and yet on the other you were a prominent supporter of Adam Giambrone for mayor, who (as you note) tended to side with the interests of management over riders. More generally, TTC board members rarely face serious challenges to their re-election; in particular, Howard Moscoe still has a job in spite of his poor leadership.

    And as long as we’re talking about responsibility in the strictly theoretical sense, the government’s MPPs in the GTA could theoretically be held accountable for the performance of Metroninx, just as city councillors can theoretically be held responsible for the TTC.

    In any case, it seems unlikely that service could worsen in a Metrolinx takeover.

    2. If the province played a minor role in TTC funding, then you would have a point about a Metrolinx takeover being a power grab. Yet your capsule history of TTC capital purchases makes clear the vital — and leading — role played by Queen’s Park; the TTC enjoys the benefits of provincial funding while seemingly being unable to avoid the drawbacks (like politically motivated purchases). Surely two things are true: TTC capital purchases would be more straightforward if the system’s managers were closer to those with the real money; and second, the province could no longer ignore the need to directly fund transit if they were directly responsible for providing it.

    3. Most importantly, why is Toronto special, in that a regional transit authority is a bad idea? Anyone who has traveled to a city with such an authority can see the obvious benefits; are you saying that everywhere except here, such bodies are immune to the issues you describe?

  56. IN reading Mr. Munro’s response, a quite from Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest”:

    “To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”

    In the case of Toronto and the TTC, the problems seems unending. Are we to ascribe this to misfortune? In my opinion, no. A series of failures over decades is indicate of systemic internal problems.

    Bureaucracies develop inertia an bad habits over time – if not down right graft. David Gunn had had begun to shake up the TTC. (Circumstances around his departure are troubling. It is not an unreasonable conjecture that the ATU gave H.M. the word to find a way to get Gunn to leave.)

    Munro has been an ardent supporter of Adam Giambrone. This is at odds with his criticism of political interference in the TTC. Even before becoming TTC chair, Giambrone was deeply bedded down with Bombardier. (Remember that Bombardier sent out invitations to a Giambrone fundraiser. Even Kyle Rae had to admit that Giambrone has been micro-managing at the TTC. So is political interference OK as long as its by politicians whose dogma one shares?

    In regards to bus procurement, the issue has nothing to do with the federal government. The federal government only specified that the buses be hybrid – not that they be purchased from Orion. Nova Bus formally announced a LF hybrid in late 2006. A customer the size of the TTC could have had discussed this with the manufacturer as an option.

    Even subsequent to the poor performance of the Iron hybrids the TTC has found excuses for not considering alternatives. For example. last October the commission stated thatNova buses weren’t being considered because they used “the off-set diesel engine in lieu of the required T-drive configuration” – a fact which hadn’t prevented the buses from being used successfully elsewhere! (This is an example time worn game of playing with specs so that chummy firms win the business.)

    Another statement from the TTC report ” Once Nova has demonstrated the durability of the new design (i.e. approximately one to two years in revenue service) Nova will be considered for future competitive requirements beyond 2012.” Now if Orion had been asked to demonstrate this durability, that statement might have some credibility.

    Interesting model for public transit governance is Sydney, Australia. The NSW government (and not the city) runs the various operations as separate operating companies -e.g the extensive ferry system and the City Rail system (part way between commuter rail and rapid transit.) Many bus routes are privately operated. Despite being anything but monolithic (and perhaps because) the system works well – and is very visitor friendly and customer oriented.

    Here are some examples from our trip to Sydney:

    – Believe if or not, in most Sydney buses, the drivers will give change.
    – The booth attendant at the St. James City Rail station helped us understand how to use the day pass for the City Rail and Sydney Ferries (which are actually separate entities) to get a discount at the Taronga Zoo. (Yes a booth operator who does more than grunt.)
    – When we asked the concierge how to get from the Sheraton downtown (and this is quite the fancy end of the Sheraton chain) to Bondi Beach, the concierge recommended the bus. Instead of the Toronto model of multiple transfers on the rather indirect route – the bus took us right to the beach.
    – On the way back, the bus company had agents circulating to sell tickets for the express return service.

    Imagine these things in Toronto?! Not with the current mindset. It’s disappointing that fresh thinking is rejected out of hand by people who claim to have an interest in good service.

  57. Andrew, you comments seem to be taking the discussion in a completely different direction.

    You write:
    “1. The TTC is characterized by archaic operating standards and poor service, neither of which have changed in the decade and a half that I have lived in Toronto.”

    John Lorinc is talking about uploading the TTC to solve a “regional transportation crisis”. I fail to see how any “archaic” operating practices of the TTC have caused sprawl and gridlock. Anyway, if the discussion is going to turn into “I think the TTC sucks and maybe a change of owners will fix that”, maybe we can also discuss why GO sucks and why its ownership should change, too.

    “3. Most importantly, why is Toronto special, in that a regional transit authority is a bad idea?”

    If everyone else is jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge, you would jump too? Maybe if you explained all those “obvious benefits” you can see in those other cities with an *integrated* regional transit authority, we could try and answer your opening rhetorical question.

    (Of course, the GTA already *has* a regional transit authority: GO Transit. Or does GO Transit not fit your definition of “regional transit authority”?)

  58. GO Transit does not fit the definition of “regional transit authority” because while it is A regional transit authority with jurisdiction over commuter rail and some buses it is not THE regional transit authority with jurisdiction over ALL transit within the region.

    If you’ve noticed a trend in my comments on Spacing, it’s that I like to point out how other cities handle situations discussed locally in Toronto. The issue of regional transit authority is one of those glaring cases where it is just…so…odd that Toronto is different than its peers. Ignorance, or bliss?

    Now, if someone really wanted to defend this setup from my mighty list of acronyms, they could probably make a case that as one of the few cities that did not empty out into a doughnut wealth-distribution diagram (i.e. empty or impoverished inner city), it makes sense to keep the TTC local. If the year were 1950, all those US cities would still have municipally-run agencies too. They switched to regional models first because their workers and wealth fled to the regions first, and you need an agency like Maryland Transportation Administration when the white collar and blue collar workers formerly residing in Baltimore are now scattered in the suburbs or working in Washington. Their fares, and their votes, were needed to keep transit running.

    While not a doughnut by any means, Toronto does now have a 50/50 relationship or worse with the 905 in terms of population, jobs, office space and wealth so based on sheer sprawl alone I still think it is time to read the tea leaves and go super-regional. Yes, I still want the Queen car to run on time but I want the money paying for it to come from the overall region that is powered by a successful Toronto.

    (Sean, nice work – MTS was San Diego)

  59. Ed, others have argued that a provincial takeover of the TTC would reduce accountability and lead to poor service. My argument is that accountability is currently a myth, and service is already poor. So my comments are entirely in the context of the wider conversation.

    As far as benefits are concerned, others have described them above. But from a rider’s perspective, the clearest one is a single fare across all modes and for all trips.

    My third point above was a non-rhetorical question: why does Toronto not need this, when it works well in other cities? If reasonable, intelligent people were jumping off the Brooklyn bridge, wouldn’t you stop to ask why they were jumping and you weren’t?

  60. Whichever option creates the largest total transit budget.

    How’s that for a pragmatic answer? 🙂

  61. Dear All,

    I’m surprised so little attention is paid to the elephant in the room. Can you guess what it is?

    I don’t believe for a minute that the Province wants to operate the TTC (Metrolinx is a provincial agency). Here are some Munro-esque questions that I think prove the point:

    Does the Province want to deal with figuring out how much service should be on the Main 64 (the Stambler Special) in the evening period?

    Does the Province want to handle grievances from ATU members relating to assults by customers?

    Does the Province want to settle the placement of bus shelters?

    Does the Province want to negotiate fees for street festival-related road closures which disrupt operations?

    Does the Province want to co-ordinate track repair with watermain work or road repair?

    Does the Province want to comment on every development proposal near a subway station?

    Does the Province want to assume the 2010 $430 million operating subsidy the City provided, or the $9 billion 10 year capaital plan?

    Of course not. They don’t want the TTC. What is going on?

    Easy. Remeber that less than 2 weeks ago, the former Deputy Premier speculated on privatizing some parts of the TTC. It’s been over a decade since the Province paid anything like their share of the cost of running transit. The City and Mayor have become increasingly forceful about them taking up their financial share, and the Province needs a strategy.

    So, like many other governments before them faced with the expense of operating a critical public service and lacking the courage to collect the necessary taxes they have turned to the magical thinking of privatization. Why else do they review all Big Move projects for triple P opportunities?

    Of course this won’t work. Google “london tube privatization” to see how badly this can go. Buses cost what buses cost, so does diesel, and track. Letting the Province take our transit system from us doesn’t reduce any of those costs. Somebody will have to pay more if we want better transit. Adding $100s of million in transaction costs, and a healthy profit margin for som private “partner” to financial shortfall will only make matters worse.


  62. As an update I received a response from the “Transit Policy Branch” of the “Policy and Planning Division” of the Ministry of Transportation, interestingly dated March 11 (same as my post). The response absolves the province of any involvement in the day-to-day operation of the TTC (or local transit in general). It does tell me about all the investment the province is making in transit and how committed they are to transit.

    The reply also notes that any complaints about the TTC service should be sent to Gary Webster.
    The reply is vague on the issue of who runs the TTC now or in the future.

    In reply to Bigred85 customers that complain are still customers. The people that aren’t customers don’t complain. And when it comes to public services the services a person doesn’t use are usually the services that should be cut.

    My experience is that if senior management isn’t hearing anything (good or bad) the assumption is that everything is rosy.

  63. In response to Gord Perks – the councillor I assume – I would expect a better response from someone who has a full time job representing us.

    The province and the city both represent us – so it’s not a question of ‘want’ – it’s a question as to what will serve us best.

    All the questions you ask have obviously been answered in Sydney Australia – where the state (= to our province) is the owner of the transit operating companies (primarily by the State Transit Authority of New South Wales). Going by the authority’s financial statements – it has an operating surplus.

    Melbourne, Hong Kong, & Stockholm have long relied in large part to private operators to run transit operations.

    To have a councillor is so closed-minded that he will not look around the world for alternatives is distressing.

    In terms of cost, the requirements for subsidy would not be so big if the TTC (and those who have been supposedly ‘minding the store’) had not let costs run out of control);

    Just going by the the David Miller years – cost per km has gobe up waaay faster than inflation – even when taking fuel costs into account:

    2003 – 2004: + 2.58%
    2004 – 2005: + 2.31%
    2005 – 2006: +7.17%
    2006 – 2007: +8.99%
    2008 – 2009: +3.68%

    I’ll leave Councillor Perks with a few questions:

    1. How can you justify the cost increases – per KM – at the TTC – especially since it hasn’t resulted in stellar service?
    2. Why would a provincial government wan to subsidize an operation refuse to take responsibility for managing costs? (Do you think they can’t see the numbers?)
    3. Why are you so closed minded to new ideas?

  64. Bigred,

    Happy to oblige, but before I do let’s look at Stockholm for a second, since everyone is so excited about it lately.

    The government subsidy per passenger in Stockholm is roughly 4 times the subsidy in Toronto. At that level the TTC could provide an astonishing quality of service irrespective of who owned and operated the system.

    To your questions:

    1. Yes the subsidy per km has been going up. So has the subsidy per boarding. So has the number of hours and kilometres of service and so has the ridership.

    This has been a deliberate effort called the Ridership Growth Strategy. As I said above more money leads to better service. Better service means more riders. It’s why we set a record for ridership in 2009 and are growing ridership in a recession.

    It costs more per rider because the marginal cost of attracting a new rider is always higher than the average cost of existing riders.

    2. The TTC provides more trips for less money than any comparable system in the developed world. It gets the job done frugally. The province should pony up because this is the cheapest way to meet several of the legislative goals such as containing sprawl (Places to Grow Act and Planning Act) air quality (Ontario Environmental Protect Act and Health Promotion Act) and Climate change.

    3. Privatization is not a new idea. As a transit activist I helped fight it off 15 years ago when the Harrisites were looking at it. It’s been tried over and over again and always produces the same results: a) the operator goes broke at tax payer expense b) costs go way up or c) costs stay the same but service and safety go way down due to corner cutting. I’m not opposed to new ideas. I’m opposed to old ones that we know don’t work.


  65. One major factor in increasing cast would be the mandated switch to low floor buses which carry fewer passengers and require higher maintenance.

  66. The spectre of Metrolinx is not as scary as it’s made out to be. The goal of Metrolinx is not interference in day-to-day operations of the local transit networks, but strategic control of infrastructure development. No one is crying foul about Metrolinx funding four new ‘Rapid Transit” lines for the TTC. Any objects are over use of streetcars instead of subways, and rightly so.

    People are not bound by an imaginary line between Regions; we need to stop building our transit systems as if they were. We have been getting better at this recently, but still the 416/905 breaks are clear. Let Toronto run the TTC, but let Metrolinx do the heavy lifting for design and implementation of major capital works projects.

  67. One major factor in increasing cast would be the mandated switch to low floor buses which carry fewer passengers and require higher maintenance.

    Comment by Darwin O’Connor

    Where did you get that bullshit idea from? Those buses are great for the elderly and the handicapped. and are better than expensive services like Wheel-Trans. Are you trying to say that we shouldn’t be helping the handicapped and the elderly be able to travel across the city better?

  68. @Neville – what Darren said isn’t reason to get rid of the buses, just an explanation for why we need more buses now to move the same number of people.

    The major problem coming up is using those low capacity buses on the replacement routes for the SRT during its rebuild and TTC not ordering articulated coaches for pre-LRT routes like Jane.