Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak’s plan to create — pause for dramatic effect — ONE MILLION JOBS includes a pledge to “put the province in charge of all rail-based transit and major highways in the GTA.”
In subsequent interviews, Hudak has clarified that by “all rail-based transit” the PCs don’t actually mean all rail-based transit. They’d leave out Toronto’s streetcar system, even though it seems reasonable to say streetcars do run on rails.
Anyway, under Hudak, streetcars would stay with the TTC. And the pledge wouldn't mean taking control of the planned rail-based transit lines on Finch or Sheppard, or the LRT in Mississauga and Hamilton. He says he’ll just cancel those.
So, through process of elimination, we get to the core of Hudak's plan to upload Toronto’s subway system to a provincial agency, freeing it from TTC control.
This is a disastrous idea for Toronto, one that would dramatically hurt the TTC’s ability to offer quality service across the city. If Toronto voters needed another reason not to support the Ontario PCs, this is it.
Toronto’s subway system can’t just be cleaved off from the rest of the TTC’s operations. The TTC operates a complete transit network, with buses and streetcars feeding into subway corridors. Separating that network by uploading a key piece of it threatens the system's ability to provide efficient service.
Toronto’s subways are often described as profitable because they draw high ridership, but this is an oversimplification. Subway ridership greatly depends on inter-connectivity with surface routes, which generally require higher subsidies — if those subsidized surface routes vanished, subway ridership would drop significantly. As would the system’s supposed profitability.
Under Hudak’s plan, there would be a genuine risk of that happening. City hall would be left with a surface system that looks a lot like a hopeless money-loser on their operating balance sheets, while the province would gain an asset that shows an annual surplus. But those subway profits would still be largely driven by surface ridership subsidized by Toronto taxpayers.
In effect, Hudak’s plan is a recipe for Toronto to continue to pay more than its fair share for transit operations, or else cut bus service and ultimately hurt transit ridership. It’s also a recipe for dysfunction.
And for what reason?
Hudak bases his plan on a notion that transit planning in the GTA has been messy — which is certainly true — and streamlining the GTA’s transit agencies will help get things done more quickly. But this ignores that most of the squabbling we’ve seen around transit planning has been driven by provincial electioneering and bait-and-switch funding promises. But, anyway, even if we buy Hudak’s rationale, why stop with the TTC’s subways? Why not propose uploading the entire TTC system, preserving network connectivity?
But — oops! — that would mean Queen’s Park would actually have to spend money providing transit service.
This post was originally published at http://www.metronews.ca/views/toronto/ford-for-toronto-matt-elliott/2014/05/21/hudaks-plan-to-upload-subways-is-a-raw-deal-for-toronto.html on 2014-05-21T00:00:00.000Z