No simple, single cure for transportation woes
For our mayoral candidates the "red rocket" seems to have become their "silver bullet" in the endless pursuit to find a solution to our transportation challenges.
The electorate are looking to politicians and decision-makers to ease commuter woes, and no one seems to have the heart to tell them that common wisdom and professional opinion suggest there really isn’t a single answer for something as complex as the way the citizens of Greater Toronto choose to move around the region each day.
Rocco Rossi is the latest mayoral candidate to position himself as a transit "super-hero" by promising to build two kilometres of track every year, over the next decade. Rossi says the city can afford the $4.5 billion price tag if it sells Toronto Hydro and other assets, and then uses that cash to clear the $2.5 billion debt. It seems that once someone dons the Captain Transit cape nothing can get in the way of their mission.
Mr. Rossi’s financial plan to fund his transit quest isn’t entirely apparent to me, however, in his words, The City of Toronto is rich in assets and together we own a lot of stuff’, and it seems that he and the Toronto Board of Trade don’t consider Toronto Hydro to be central to the operation and mission of the city.
That's beginning to sound like the same pretzel logic and voodoo economics the Mike Harris "common-sense revolutionaries" proffered up in the mid-1990s to clear a provincial deficit prior to an election. In that boondoggle we saw a prized public transportation asset sold to the highest bidder. Considering the tolls collected each year by the ETR 407 total a half a billon dollars a year it’s no wonder taxpayers continue to lament that decision.
What’s encouraging is that all of the candidates support transit expansion in some form or another, and some of the financing schemes being offered up are also on the mark. The challenge is that regardless whether we choose subways, buses or light rail transit (LRT) these systems once built require on going operation, maintenance and ultimately replacement. If, as Rossi suggests, we sell assets to pay for capital expansion how will we afford the other on-going (operational) expenses?
People move around the city in a variety of ways, at all times of day and for many different reasons. How we use the transportation system is based on many considerations – where we live and work, our disposable income, our age, our health, our recreational interests, our diet, and more. The notion that a "single fix" approach is out there, if only we could find it, is preposterous, and the search itself stymies creativity, collaboration and partnership. Humans are complex beings and our mobility needs and the transportation challenges they present demand sophisticated solutions.
With the run up to the municipal elections candidates across the GTA will form an opinion regarding "how they would solve the traffic problems in their community." What remains to be seen is whether someone emerges that has the acumen to fully understand the problem, the humility to admit they don’t have all the answers and the courage to deliver solutions they know will be unpopular.