TRANSIT: Federal parties differ on funding transit/infrastructure in Toronto area

News Oct 06, 2015 by Rahul Gupta City Centre Mirror

While it may not get the headlines, the need for infrastructure renewal has turned out to be a recurring issue for the upcoming federal election. All four major parties have committed billions in new funding to address the nation’s massive infrastructure deficit, estimated at more than $120 billion and rising by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

In the case of public transit expansion the need is no less acute.

The country’s major urban centres experience tens of billions of dollars in lost productivity thanks to traffic congestion – $11 billion annually in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) alone according to the Toronto Region Board of Trade. And while it would appear parties have at last recognized the need to construct new transit infrastructure, the needs are many after decades of dithering and stagnation.

“We have missed a generation of transportation investment in this region,” said Matti Siemiatycki, a geography professor at the University of Toronto who studies local transportation infrastructure policy and planning.

“Especially in the case of public transit we haven’t kept pace with the growth of ridership or the community. We’re adding a million people to the region every 10 years, and the transportation network hasn’t kept pace.”

When it comes to Toronto at least, none of the funding amounts promised by the Conservatives, Liberals, NDP and the Green party, comes anywhere close to the city’s myriad needs, said Moaz Ahmad, a local transit commentator.

“It’s not sufficient for Toronto, and definitely not sufficient for the rest of Canada,” said Ahmad, who frequently tweets about local and regional infrastructure developments via his Twitter handle @GTAMOVEnetwork.

“We have four different parties who have four different points of view of where they will make their investments.”

The Conservatives have faced criticism from critics and other levels of government for ignoring urban issues such as traffic congestion, as well as failing to come up with a meaningful long-term national funding plan despite nearly 10 years in power. For its part, the Harper government did promise $1 billion annually for a new fund dedicated to transit in this year’s fiscal budget, although the new money doesn’t kick in until 2019.

The Liberals have pledged a massive investment for transit, $5.65 billion over the next four years. But that money is for the entire country, and it’s estimated it will cost at least $2 billion per year for 25 years just to complete Metrolinx’s Big Move expansion plan for the Toronto region.

The NDP has long spoken of the need for funding infrastructure; the party even released a local platform committing $12.9 billion for GTA needs for the next 20 years, which could be enough to cover the TTC’s entire 10-year capital funding deficit, but little else for the region.

Unlike the other parties, the Green party promises substantial funding dedicated for national rail systems such as VIA rail. But even with recent polls suggesting the party is poised to make a breakthrough federally, there’s no realistic scenario where it will form government.

All in all, despite the generous amounts of funding proffered for infrastructure, it won’t be enough to reverse the building deficit, said Ahmad, nor will it be able to improve ever-increasing commute times within the Toronto region, which are among the worst on the continent.

Beyond money, none of the four main parties have indicated how they will work with lower levels of government to deliver new infrastructure.

“As much as we need a lot more money from the federal government, we also need it to work together with municipal and provincial governments on delivering transit people can actually use,” Ahmad said.

While the federal government has historically committed funding on an ad-hoc basis, of late there has been a “building boom”, said Siemiatycki, with projects such as the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, Union Station renovation, Queens Quay redevelopment, Spadina subway extension and others either built or well under construction.

“These projects take time to build, and we are building,” he said. “The key question is where the money is going to come from for the next generation of investment.”

What’s also concerning is the lack of clarity on how Toronto and other municipalities will pay for operating the services, once new transit is built. Siemiatycki said he would like to see money allocated within funding envelopes set aside to account for operating and maintaining the new services.

“It’s not just up-front investment, you can’t frontload the money in the first four years (of the project),” he said. “These projects rarely cover their operating costs.”

Like Ahmad, Siemiatycki said he hopes to see an ongoing commitment for transit improvement regardless of which party ends up winning on Oct. 19. Whoever that is will have to lead a national conversation involving all levels of government if Canada is to turn the corner on Toronto and other cities’ infrastructure deficits, which is a task too large for any one party.

“I think it’s unlikely any party will be able to provide enough funding to fill the gaps, he said. “This has to be a co-ordinated effort from all three levels of government.”

TRANSIT: Federal parties differ on funding transit/infrastructure in Toronto area

Toronto has lost a generation of transit funding, failed to keep pace with growth

News Oct 06, 2015 by Rahul Gupta City Centre Mirror

While it may not get the headlines, the need for infrastructure renewal has turned out to be a recurring issue for the upcoming federal election. All four major parties have committed billions in new funding to address the nation’s massive infrastructure deficit, estimated at more than $120 billion and rising by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

In the case of public transit expansion the need is no less acute.

The country’s major urban centres experience tens of billions of dollars in lost productivity thanks to traffic congestion – $11 billion annually in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) alone according to the Toronto Region Board of Trade. And while it would appear parties have at last recognized the need to construct new transit infrastructure, the needs are many after decades of dithering and stagnation.

“We have missed a generation of transportation investment in this region,” said Matti Siemiatycki, a geography professor at the University of Toronto who studies local transportation infrastructure policy and planning.

“Especially in the case of public transit we haven’t kept pace with the growth of ridership or the community. We’re adding a million people to the region every 10 years, and the transportation network hasn’t kept pace.”

When it comes to Toronto at least, none of the funding amounts promised by the Conservatives, Liberals, NDP and the Green party, comes anywhere close to the city’s myriad needs, said Moaz Ahmad, a local transit commentator.

“It’s not sufficient for Toronto, and definitely not sufficient for the rest of Canada,” said Ahmad, who frequently tweets about local and regional infrastructure developments via his Twitter handle @GTAMOVEnetwork.

“We have four different parties who have four different points of view of where they will make their investments.”

The Conservatives have faced criticism from critics and other levels of government for ignoring urban issues such as traffic congestion, as well as failing to come up with a meaningful long-term national funding plan despite nearly 10 years in power. For its part, the Harper government did promise $1 billion annually for a new fund dedicated to transit in this year’s fiscal budget, although the new money doesn’t kick in until 2019.

The Liberals have pledged a massive investment for transit, $5.65 billion over the next four years. But that money is for the entire country, and it’s estimated it will cost at least $2 billion per year for 25 years just to complete Metrolinx’s Big Move expansion plan for the Toronto region.

The NDP has long spoken of the need for funding infrastructure; the party even released a local platform committing $12.9 billion for GTA needs for the next 20 years, which could be enough to cover the TTC’s entire 10-year capital funding deficit, but little else for the region.

Unlike the other parties, the Green party promises substantial funding dedicated for national rail systems such as VIA rail. But even with recent polls suggesting the party is poised to make a breakthrough federally, there’s no realistic scenario where it will form government.

All in all, despite the generous amounts of funding proffered for infrastructure, it won’t be enough to reverse the building deficit, said Ahmad, nor will it be able to improve ever-increasing commute times within the Toronto region, which are among the worst on the continent.

Beyond money, none of the four main parties have indicated how they will work with lower levels of government to deliver new infrastructure.

“As much as we need a lot more money from the federal government, we also need it to work together with municipal and provincial governments on delivering transit people can actually use,” Ahmad said.

While the federal government has historically committed funding on an ad-hoc basis, of late there has been a “building boom”, said Siemiatycki, with projects such as the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, Union Station renovation, Queens Quay redevelopment, Spadina subway extension and others either built or well under construction.

“These projects take time to build, and we are building,” he said. “The key question is where the money is going to come from for the next generation of investment.”

What’s also concerning is the lack of clarity on how Toronto and other municipalities will pay for operating the services, once new transit is built. Siemiatycki said he would like to see money allocated within funding envelopes set aside to account for operating and maintaining the new services.

“It’s not just up-front investment, you can’t frontload the money in the first four years (of the project),” he said. “These projects rarely cover their operating costs.”

Like Ahmad, Siemiatycki said he hopes to see an ongoing commitment for transit improvement regardless of which party ends up winning on Oct. 19. Whoever that is will have to lead a national conversation involving all levels of government if Canada is to turn the corner on Toronto and other cities’ infrastructure deficits, which is a task too large for any one party.

“I think it’s unlikely any party will be able to provide enough funding to fill the gaps, he said. “This has to be a co-ordinated effort from all three levels of government.”

TRANSIT: Federal parties differ on funding transit/infrastructure in Toronto area

Toronto has lost a generation of transit funding, failed to keep pace with growth

News Oct 06, 2015 by Rahul Gupta City Centre Mirror

While it may not get the headlines, the need for infrastructure renewal has turned out to be a recurring issue for the upcoming federal election. All four major parties have committed billions in new funding to address the nation’s massive infrastructure deficit, estimated at more than $120 billion and rising by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

In the case of public transit expansion the need is no less acute.

The country’s major urban centres experience tens of billions of dollars in lost productivity thanks to traffic congestion – $11 billion annually in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) alone according to the Toronto Region Board of Trade. And while it would appear parties have at last recognized the need to construct new transit infrastructure, the needs are many after decades of dithering and stagnation.

“We have missed a generation of transportation investment in this region,” said Matti Siemiatycki, a geography professor at the University of Toronto who studies local transportation infrastructure policy and planning.

“Especially in the case of public transit we haven’t kept pace with the growth of ridership or the community. We’re adding a million people to the region every 10 years, and the transportation network hasn’t kept pace.”

When it comes to Toronto at least, none of the funding amounts promised by the Conservatives, Liberals, NDP and the Green party, comes anywhere close to the city’s myriad needs, said Moaz Ahmad, a local transit commentator.

“It’s not sufficient for Toronto, and definitely not sufficient for the rest of Canada,” said Ahmad, who frequently tweets about local and regional infrastructure developments via his Twitter handle @GTAMOVEnetwork.

“We have four different parties who have four different points of view of where they will make their investments.”

The Conservatives have faced criticism from critics and other levels of government for ignoring urban issues such as traffic congestion, as well as failing to come up with a meaningful long-term national funding plan despite nearly 10 years in power. For its part, the Harper government did promise $1 billion annually for a new fund dedicated to transit in this year’s fiscal budget, although the new money doesn’t kick in until 2019.

The Liberals have pledged a massive investment for transit, $5.65 billion over the next four years. But that money is for the entire country, and it’s estimated it will cost at least $2 billion per year for 25 years just to complete Metrolinx’s Big Move expansion plan for the Toronto region.

The NDP has long spoken of the need for funding infrastructure; the party even released a local platform committing $12.9 billion for GTA needs for the next 20 years, which could be enough to cover the TTC’s entire 10-year capital funding deficit, but little else for the region.

Unlike the other parties, the Green party promises substantial funding dedicated for national rail systems such as VIA rail. But even with recent polls suggesting the party is poised to make a breakthrough federally, there’s no realistic scenario where it will form government.

All in all, despite the generous amounts of funding proffered for infrastructure, it won’t be enough to reverse the building deficit, said Ahmad, nor will it be able to improve ever-increasing commute times within the Toronto region, which are among the worst on the continent.

Beyond money, none of the four main parties have indicated how they will work with lower levels of government to deliver new infrastructure.

“As much as we need a lot more money from the federal government, we also need it to work together with municipal and provincial governments on delivering transit people can actually use,” Ahmad said.

While the federal government has historically committed funding on an ad-hoc basis, of late there has been a “building boom”, said Siemiatycki, with projects such as the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, Union Station renovation, Queens Quay redevelopment, Spadina subway extension and others either built or well under construction.

“These projects take time to build, and we are building,” he said. “The key question is where the money is going to come from for the next generation of investment.”

What’s also concerning is the lack of clarity on how Toronto and other municipalities will pay for operating the services, once new transit is built. Siemiatycki said he would like to see money allocated within funding envelopes set aside to account for operating and maintaining the new services.

“It’s not just up-front investment, you can’t frontload the money in the first four years (of the project),” he said. “These projects rarely cover their operating costs.”

Like Ahmad, Siemiatycki said he hopes to see an ongoing commitment for transit improvement regardless of which party ends up winning on Oct. 19. Whoever that is will have to lead a national conversation involving all levels of government if Canada is to turn the corner on Toronto and other cities’ infrastructure deficits, which is a task too large for any one party.

“I think it’s unlikely any party will be able to provide enough funding to fill the gaps, he said. “This has to be a co-ordinated effort from all three levels of government.”