Nope, There's Still Not Enough Money to Fund Regional Transit Projects
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Nope, There’s Still Not Enough Money to Fund Regional Transit Projects

New report reveals $30-billion funding gap for projects across the GTHA.

In 2008, Metrolinx unveiled a regional transportation plan to connect the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. It would boast 1,200 kilometres of rapid transit across the region—what Metrolinx boasted as a “landmark achievement.” The Crown agency dubbed it “The Big Move.”

Eight years later, transit advocacy organization Move the GTHA has revealed startling numbers in a new report: these regional transit projects face a $30-billion funding gap.

The report asks a critical question in its apt title: “Are we there yet?” The answer: nope. We’re not even close.

To date, the municipal, provincial, and federal governments have pledged nearly $40 billion for about 519 kilometres of rapid transit across the GTHA. A majority of that money—about $31 billion—has come from the Province. But it’s still not enough.

Move the GTHA has found that there is still a $28-billion funding gap to be filled to maintain regional transit projects within The Big Move. That includes more than 700 kilometres of rapid transit that have yet to be funded. (The Big Move has an estimated price tag of $68.1 billion.)

The GTHA also lacks funding for upkeep and rehabilitation of these new projects, which can amount to billions within years. The report estimates that by 2022, maintenance costs will soar to $1.6 billion per year, and increase as time passes.

Our city is no stranger to a lack of funding for transit. Just last week, we lamented the TTC’s operating budget pitfalls, which put the Commission $231 million short of maintaining service levels for 2017. Meanwhile, Toronto’s transit has notoriously fallen behind other major cities in North America due to failures to invest.

Investing in transit could do the GTHA well. Public transit projects help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve the walkability of neighbourhoods, and stimulate the economy.

There’s a cost to not investing too—a 2006 Metrolinx report estimated that annual negative economic impact of GTHA congestion to be $2.7 billion. And building out the fully funded Big Move is just a baseline—it would only prevent current levels of congestion from getting worse.

What to do? Move the GTHA suggests a transit summit, in which all levels of government reassess the current investment plan. It’s a noble proposal, one that can act as a reminder of why The Big Move matters in the first place, which is that our cities can grow and prosper when our governments invest their money in worthy projects.