Ontario’s GO Transit and Metrolinx to be combined into one agency
In the Toronto region, the Toronto Transit Commission provides transit service within the city and GO Transit, a separate agency, runs buses and commuter rail throughout the rest of the region, from Hamilton in the west to Oshawa in the east. Today, an agency called Metrolinx serves as a master planner, deciding which transit lines will be built and how much to subsidize each service, though the two other agencies contribute to the discussion with their own projects and plans. Yesterday, however, Ontario Transport Minister Jim Bradley announced that the province would attempt to legislate a merger between GO Transit and Metrolinx into a broader agency that would have the power both to plan transport services and to provide them. The TTC, under the direct control of the city of Toronto, will remain separate.
The province makes a good point in arguing that consolidating transit planning and service provision will provide better, more efficient transit and quicker implementation of major projects. I’ve pointed out in the past that major discombobulation between transit agencies and a regional planner produces difficulties for average riders attempting to use the systems and ultimately slows down project completion timetables.
The merger, for all its good aspects, is problematic in its proposed execution. Regional chairs who currently sit on the board of Metrolinx would be replaced by transportation “experts” who supposedly would make better decisions about how to invest limited funds. The change in policy is an open challenge to local politicians who want to have a say in how transit is used in their areas. The city of Toronto, which is the biggest contributor of funds towards regional planning, would lose out in the process as it would lose political authority over the agency, though the new vice-chair of the agency promises that “the new body will consult with all the stakeholders.” How believable is that?
While they are advantages of having “experts” control the decision-making process, ultimately, politicians should be determining how to use public funds; otherwise, these public bodies cease to be democratic organisms. We have a collective responsibility to keep public decisions as democratic as possible, so let’s hope to see these merger plans altered over the next few.