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TEA's statement on Metrolinx's Investment Strategy

For the first time in over a generation, we now have hope that traffic congestion and the air pollution it causes in Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) may be reduced. This is thanks to the May 2013 release of an Investment Strategy by Metrolinx, the provincial agency given the task of planning and building a massive region-wide transit expansion plan called The Big Move.

This Investment Strategy proposes a set of new, dedicated revenue sources that, if adopted by the Province, would raise the money needed to pay for transit expansion in Toronto and the regions around Toronto.

For well over a decade, TEA has been calling for investment in transit expansion, with funding to come from all orders of government. We’ve done so because transit expansion makes environmental and economic sense and because Torontonians need more and better transit.

The Metrolinx Investment Strategy is vitally important to Toronto’s future. We urge all MPPs to read it carefully and to seriously consider the recommendations in the report. We also urge all MPPs to work towards supporting a set of revenue tools that will pay for the building, maintenance and operations of The Big Move.

However, TEA does have some concerns with the Investment Strategy. Specifically, it fails to address a key issue: paying for transit operations.

In 2008, Metrolinx proposed that they would include transit operations revenue in their Investment Strategy. Unfortunately, Metrolinx did not do this in May 2013. The revenues projected as part of their Investment Strategy will likely only pay for the capital expenditures required to build The Big Move. In other words, the proposed Investment Strategy will likely not raise enough money to pay for transit operations.

Metrolinx's effective silence on how to pay for transit operations is part of a larger problem with the current conversation about transit: it ignores the more immediate issue of who pays for the daily operations of transit systems once they are built.

As past TTC reports (p. 8) have shown, over 70% of the daily costs to run the TTC are paid for by TTC users. This is the highest percentage of comparable North American cities. Put simply, TTC riders are paying too much. This cannot continue.

The Metrolinx Investment Strategy answers the question of how to raise money to build The Big Move. Now, we need to expand the transit funding conversation to include new revenues to pay for existing and new transit operations. The sooner we make transit fares more affordable, the sooner more people will start using transit and that helps relieve traffic congestion and reduce pollution.

So far, the only recent report on possible revenue tools for the Investment Strategy that has addressed transit operating costs is Toronto's $2.5 Billion Question, a report released in May 2013 by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). It notes that $2.5 billion, not $2 billion, must be raised annually to build and operate transit that will relieve the traffic congestion and reduce pollution. The report also suggests a new revenue source dedicated specifically to transit operations.

That’s why the Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA) calls on elected officials in Toronto and at the Ontario Legislature to not only seriously consider Metrolinx’s Investment Strategy but also consider including more dedicated revenue sources to help pay for transit operations across the province.

TEA also calls on Torontonians to contact their elected officials and urge them to adopt an Investment Strategy that raises enough money to build and operate The Big Move and to properly fund existing transit systems.

Read more about Transit Funding and TEA's work on this issue.