In Praise of Unsexy Infrastructure
New federal money for TTC planning studies, accessibility, bike lanes, and the Railpath deserves our attention.
In Toronto, no one wins elections for ensuring water comes out of your tap or the streetcar comes on time. You can lose votes if these things don’t happen, and that’s because this is basic infrastructure that we take for granted. Politically, there are few votes to be won by investing in it, and a misaligned incentive to spend a lot on the latest Shiny New Thing.
After all, the number of votes to be won by a particular project bears little relationship to the public good it serves. It is with this in mind that today’s federal announcement about hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure spending details in Toronto and Ontario is welcome, because it’s mostly not for new and shiny baubles but items we can really use.
The federal government will contribute $474 million toward transit-related projects from 2016-17, as it will match funds by the City for shovel-ready projects. This money is spread across dozens of projects, from the small (TTC skylight replacement program, $85,000) to larger investments (TTC Orion VII Diesel and Nova Artic Bus Rebuild Program, $41.5 million). There’s $10 million to improve bus stop accessibility, money for planning studies for SmartTrack, Eglinton West and East LRTs, the Downtown Relief Line, and waterfront transit design.
There’s $42 million worth of bike-related projects too, including more than $11 million for the recently announced Railpath extension. There’s money to add Bike Share Toronto to 50 TTC stations, and bike parking to 40 TTC stations. There’s also funding for the Dufferin Street North cycle track ($700,000), the Flemingdon Park-Thorncliffe Park cycling connections ($1.5 million), and Eglinton Avenue East bike lanes.
Many of these investments are necessary but go under the radar. If we want better investments in our city’s future—the stuff we really need rather than white elephants—then the impact shouldn’t go ignored.