Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for May 26th, 2007

Regional Planning

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One of the ways to find material to put into a blog is to use Google News and its alerts. I was thinking about setting one up on “regional planning” – but as this article points outs

It lacks an emotional spark, and nobody has joined it up with a publicity campaign that would commend it to busy, preoccupied people. Therefore it never reaches the wider world of movie-goers, TV-watchers, players of video games, workplace automobile commuters, seniors, juniors, and moms and pops who drive to school to pick up their children.

And the only reason I looked at that article was that it was the first one in three pages of Google links that was not about the United States. And it may seem surprising, given what we Canadians like to think – and say – about Americans and their free market ways. But it is clear that communities – and their media – in the US take regional planning very seriously indeed.

It may be because it actually matters what is in the regional plan because that is a condition of getting federal funding. And that is critical for most infrastructure (that big word again) but especially for transport. It would be unthinkable for someone like a state Governor or Secretary of Transportation to simply announce a $2bn project as a “done deal” and just go through the motions of patently insincere “public consultations”. Indeed, in most states the citizens actually get to vote on projects such as the extension of light rail, and the widening of a freeway.

That does not happen here. The province yesterday announced a “request for qualifications” for a P3 contractor to build the Highway 1 expansion which includes the twinning of the Port Mann Bridge. As though it was going to happen. The endorsement of the environmental assessment is simply taken for granted. Because the officials at MoTH know that the EA is not really going to look at what the highway expansion will do to the environment or the regional growth strategy. They know the greenhouse gas forecasts are as bogus as their dismissal of the transit alternative. They know they are going to increase sprawl, and generate lots more traffic, and drain the transportation budget. You can hear them now in 2014 telling why we “cannot afford” the promised LRT – or even rapid bus – across the new bridge. Because transit is seen as something that might be nice to have but it not as essential as the opportunity to sell more houses and more cars and make more money by building things.

I am going to use my tombstone again, and I make no apology for doing so. Thank you for reading this. I’ll bet very few people do. The article on this blog that gets the most hits is the one where David Berner chose to copy the title from a frankly pornographic novel.

Tombstone

Written by Stephen Rees

May 26, 2007 at 12:51 pm

One-fee transit card eases pain of commute

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Article – The Mississauga News – Mississauga.com

I read this article with a strange sense of déja vu.  I came to Canada in October of 1988 to work as a consultant. The firm that had recruited me from London had won a contract under the Fares Integration and Service Co-ordination program to create a single ticket that would allow commuters in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) to cross municipal boundaries. The hardest thing we had to do was come up with a ticket acceptable to the TTC and GO transit. And the greatest opposition came from the TTC staff. That is very nearly twenty years ago.

 A new one-fee GTA Fare Card to be introduced as a pilot project in Mississauga will put speed in the travel time of commuters, says Minister of Transportation Donna Cansfield.

Well once upon a time, GO Transit riders got free bus rides to the station on municipal buses (outside what was then Metro Toronto) because the GO parking lots were full and this was cheaper than building more. The Twin Pass was actually two tickets – because the TTC was mag/swipe and GO was optical. And the only way that got through the bureaucracy was that someone at the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) cut the Gordian knot and said “Give them all a $20 discount and we will pay for it.” So all the careful research into cross elasticities and revenue models went out the window, and our contract was not renewed and I had to go find another job. Not that I am bitter or anything. After all the new job saw me spend my winters in the Caribbean.

I have often wondered how far up the MTO that decision went.  And I do know that one of my colleagues at the engineering firm had recently left MTO because he was furious about a new senior official being parachuted into the job he wanted, in the name of employment equity, despite a notable lack of qualifications in the female, not an engineer, candidate appointed.

So the quick and dirty fix may have put an end to the bickering, but, it seems, did not to solve the problem, since they are still trying out “pilot projects”. And of course everyone in the GTA knows that systems that have worked well in other places – large metropolitan areas with many transit providers and municipal governments – could not possibly work in Greater Toronto. I was going to provide links but frankly you could pick almost anywhere outside Canada and find they have had revenue sharing systems in place for many, many years.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 26, 2007 at 12:18 pm