About 200 people sat down Thursday night to discuss the future of Toronto’s transportation system.
Metrolinx, formerly the Greater Toronto Transit Authority, hosted the third in a series of seven public meetings on Thursday about its plan for the future of Greater Toronto’s transit system.
The plan, called The Big Move: Transforming Transportation in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, calls for $50 billion in new transit projects over the next 25 years.
Its initiatives include an express rail service that would improve the speed and capacity of current GO lines, subway extensions outside Toronto and the creation of four new east-west rapid transit corridors from Halton to Durham.
Mark Ciavarro, Metrolinx manager of investment strategy and projects, said the public meetings provide people with an opportunity to discuss the company’s strategy for raising the necessary funds.
“We want to open the dialogue and have people chip in,” Ciavarro said. “A lot of people, not surprisingly, said, ‘We don’t want to pay more taxes.'”
Currently, Metrolinx has secured $11.5 billion in funding from the provincial government, enough to implement its mandate until 2015.
The transit authority also hopes to secure $6 billion dollars in federal funding, meaning it will need to raise $32.5 billion between 2015 and 2033. Ciavarro said Metrolinx recognizes the cost, but also the long term advantages the system will provide as a worthwhile investment.
“People certainly wouldn’t want to be paying more, (but) this type of spending is valuable for the economy,” he said.
Transit expert Eric Miller, director and professor at the University of Toronto’s Cities Centre, agreed that an improved transit system will stimulate the economy. He estimated that the economy loses approximately $6 billion per year due to congested roadways, which reduce workplace productivity.
“The best way to change that is to have an improved transit system,” he said. “Further, if you have any concern about greenhouse gases, we have to get cars off the road as soon as possible.”
Scott Lansche, a call centre operator who’s lived in Toronto for 20 years, attended Thursday night’s meeting. He said he does not oppose the notion of paying higher taxes for improved transit, so long as Metrolinx delivers on its proposals.
“More money in transit is always a good thing,” he said. “(Metrolinx is) making the right noises, (but) there’s room for improvement.”
Miller agreed. He cites the transit authority’s complacency as the reason taxpayers such as Lansche now find themselves on the hook for necessary transit upgrades.
“The reason we have to spend so much now is that we haven’t been spending money in transit in a significant way for 20 years,” he said.
The final Metrolinx public meetings take place tonight (Oct. 29) in Oakville, Ont., and tomorrow (Oct. 30) in Hamilton, Ont. For more information, visit www.metrolinx.com.