One Step Forward…

Listening to veteran transportation planner Ed Levy on Metro Morning today talk about the province’s latest foray sighinto the choppy political waters of transit building in the GTA, I felt for the guy. He and the likes of Steve Munro, and all the others who’ve been following this sorry tale for much longer than I have. How else do you respond to the question, Well, what do you think? A shrug. A sigh. A sad, slow shake of the head.

The equation is remarkably easy.

This region is in desperate need of transit and transportation infrastructure upgrades. It has been woefully neglected for at least 3 decades. We are now paying the economic and social costs for this lack of investment.

Pretty much everyone is in agreement on this. Time to get busy. The clock is ticking. We must roll up our sleeves and get down to transit building business.

That’s where the consensus all goes to shit. agreetodisagreeThe perpetual sticking point. How do we pay for it?

Nothing about this is going to come cheap. If it did, public transit would be everywhere. We wouldn’t be having this ongoing conversation. Parse it any way you want, it is an expensive proposition, a pricey necessity for the proper functioning of any sizeable city.

It’s going to cost us. All worthwhile investments do. So, pony up, shut up and let’s get on with it.

On the other hand…

Yesterday’s Liberal government announcement of $29 billion in money directed toward transit and transportation building throughout the province, $15 billion of that in the GTA, over the next 10 years is not nothing. It only seems like that because there’s been a long, deliberate build up to this point. There’s something anti-climactic to the announcement. holdonaminuteI’m sorry, what? That’s it?

Part of the problem is that the money’s not new. What did the Minister of Transportation call it? Repurposed revenue. If these guys spent half as much time coming up with smart ways to convince the public to buy into the need to pay for transit as they did polishing up weasel words and phrases to mask their continued ambivalence in confronting this issue head on, we’d already have the Yonge Street relief line built and paid for.

This is $29 billion already coming into the province through gas taxes and the HST paid on gas. The government is simply dedicating that amount in this particular direction. Which is fine and good, a start at least. Where it’s being pulled from is anybody’s guess at this point. We’ll cross that bridge (after it’s been retrofitted) when we get to it.

The other glitch in the announcement is that the $1.5 billion coming the GTA’s way annually over the next 10 years is still below the goal of $2 billion a year Metrolinx has said would be needed to fund the capital side of its Big Move build. All in good time, we were assured by the premier and minister of transportation. willywonka1More will be revealed with the upcoming budget.

This is where the politics comes in to play. Unfortunately, politics always comes in to play. The $29 billion was the opening gambit (after what? A 6 year overture?) by the government. How would the opposition parties react? Were they going to sign on or in any other way show their hand on this?

The trouble for the Liberals right now is two-fold. One, they have no spending credibility, lost amidst the scandals plaguing them. Ehealth. Ornge. Gas plants. Trust us to get it right this time, folks.

It’s a scenario that could be easily dealt with if there was a serious alternative being put up on offer. But this is the second problem. Out there on the extreme is the official opposition pretending like building transit is free and easy. You want subways? We’ll give you subways. And it won’t cost you a thing. Just a nip and tuck there. Bob’s your uncle. Remember the last time the Progressive Conservatives were in power and all those subways they buil—No, wait. Strike that.

We have proof negative of exactly higotnothingow this approach to building transit works here in Toronto. It doesn’t. Remember when our current mayor was running for office back in 2010 and he guaranteed us he could deliver subways here, there and everywhere without any additional revenues? Uh huh. That’s the exact bill of goods Tim Hudak’s trying to sell us again.

Unfortunately, the third party at Queen’s Park, the NDP, are tilting heavily toward similar populist pandering. Corporate taxes is their mantra. Rolling back a decade’s worth of corporate tax cuts will pay for everything we want while eliminating the deficit apparently. A different angle on the too good to be true pitch.

And then we all flip the table and walk away from the discussion. Politicians, we bellow! Where have the true leaders gone, we ask? If only Bill Davis. If only… If only.

Until we start punishing those elected representatives who believe that in concocting fairy tales of no money down, whome1no interest until forever as the surest way to secure office, this song will play on repeat. We will still be bitching about the state of our public transit 10 years, 20 years from now. We will still be reading posts like this. We will be explaining to our grandchildren how it was our politicians let us down, how they failed to tackle the most pressing issues of our time.

We will still be absolving ourselves of any responsibility for the gridlock that has continued to worsen and the deplorable state of ill-repair our trains and streetcars and buses operate in. Like the generation before us, we will wipe our hands clean and successfully pass the buck to the next to deal with.

repeatedly submitted by Cityslikr

5 Responses to One Step Forward…

  1. Sonny says:

    On transit Hume…
    http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2014/04/15/its_high_time_for_some_realism_about_transit_hume.html

    This fun mayoral candidate is having an event the same day as another clown…
    http://www.sketchyformayor.com/?page_id=30

    • Sonny says:

      Two steps back would be Hudak cutting other services to “pay.”

      Flaherty was part of the Harris government that cut funding to the TTC. The downtown area near St. James is largely closed off for a Whitby/Oshawa MP that bad mouthed the Province as Finance Minister saying “Ontario would be the last place he would invest”

      • Eric says:

        Indeed. Both Flaherty and his odious wife represent the Oshawa area — so why did his “state funeral” obstruct Toronto streets? Answer: to remind Toronto of who’s boss, and to jam the media. Also, payback for Layton’s funeral when Harper had to listen to a lot of political twaddle (as he would see it) about inclusiveness, consultation, human needs and other irrelevancies.

        Flaherty’s contribution to Toronto transit was to reject the idea of a national transit strategy and financial support, especially to the big bad capital of Ontario, which Harrisites like him hate. Recently he offered $660 million of public money for the unneeded, very expensive and far off Scarborough Stubway — but wait, that was simply a federal contribution to Rob Ford’s re-election campaign.

        Oh, and a few budgets ago he promised to revive a commuter rail route from Havelock/Peterborough to Toronto — because it passed through his riding. Naturally, he failed to deliver, while continuing to starve VIA Rail (as Harper is doing to Canada Post and the CBC).

        Flaherty and Hudak: two birds of a Harrisite feather. If Hudak wants subways, it’s only because of the (imaginary?) Rob Ford bandwagon. Certainly the government he was part of only slashed provincial support to the TTC, both capital and operating.

  2. Simon Says says:

    Liberals are telling us what they think “we want to hear”. As much AFUITBS talks about taxes, the public has no appetite for hearing about new taxes, fees, levies.

  3. Bets says:

    I think some of the public does have an appetite and probably more than we think. And we already have new fees and levies. Seen your water bill lately, bought a transit pass, paid for any program or service in the City the past few years?

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