Transforming the way we move

Transforming the way we move

Posted on April 24th, by Move the GTHA in Discussion. No Comments

As we approach the May 1st provincial budget which will lay out a proposed path forward on transit financing for the region, the discussion about transit investment has never been hotter. In this context, Metrolinx Chair Robert Prichard delivered the following keynote address to the Empire Club on April 23rd, 2014. He delivers a compelling vision on how Metrolinx has and will transform mobility in the region.


Metrolinx:  Transforming the Way We Move
J. Robert S. Prichard
Chair, Metrolinx

Greater Toronto is a terrific success story.  Our city and region are booming.  We are growing and thriving.  We are the envy of cities almost everywhere.

Toronto has become a magnet for people from across Canada and around the world.  Greater Toronto is already the 5th largest urban agglomeration in North America behind only Mexico City, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.  We are adding about 100,000 people a year as one of the fastest growing regions in the western world.  In 20 years, we will have added the equivalent of the entire city of Montreal – Canada’s second largest city.

We are one of the most diverse, wealthiest, healthiest, safest and most tolerant societies the world has ever seen.  Toronto is regularly ranked as one of the world’s most livable cities – 4th in The Economist’s 2013 ranking.

This success must be the starting point for any discussion of transit and transportation. Our challenge is a direct consequence of our success.  Put differently, we have a high class problem:  our success as a city region has outstripped our infrastructure to accommodate our growth.  What was adequate in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s is not adequate for Greater Toronto in the 21st century.

We are playing catch up.  We have a lot to do.  If we fix it, we can keep growing and becoming even stronger.  If we fail to fix it, our future will be constrained and we will have missed a great opportunity.  Congestion, not growth, will become our dominant symbol.

It falls to Metrolinx to lead in fixing this – to ensure Greater Toronto has transit and transportation infrastructure worthy of the great urban region we have become, to transform the way people move within the region, and to enhance both the quality of life and economic prosperity in the region.

And what a privilege it is to have this assignment.  It is so personal.  We can all relate to it.

Take my family for example.  We have a home in the centre of Toronto and a farm in Durham, near Uxbridge.  To get to work, depending on the weather and my schedule for the day, I ride my bike (as I did today), take the Spadina subway or the St. Clair streetcar, or drive my car.  To go to the farm on Friday evening, I can skip the traffic and take the GO train to Whitby followed by the GO bus to Port Perry, or the train to Lincolnville followed the bus to Uxbridge, where my wife, Ann, picks me up.  Or I can drive up the DVP and then the 404, hopefully with one or more of my sons as a passenger so I can use the fast HOV lanes.  And when I get caught in the rain in the city, I jump on the Bay Street bus or take my bike on the subway to avoid being drenched.

No one mode of transit could possibly meet my needs.  And transit in no single part of the region could possibly meet my needs.  I depend on the whole palate:  an integrated network of different modes for different needs, at different times, for work and for play, across the region.  And I have this in common with every other resident in the region.  We need to get around easily, quickly and reliably.  It makes all the difference. We all know how frustrating it is when caught in traffic or on a train or subway that isn’t moving.  Good mobility makes our lives better.  Simple as that.  And the same is true for the movement of goods.

We are not alone in needing to close the gap between the city’s needs and its current reality.  Most fast growing urban regions experience a lag between their needs and their infrastructure, with rising congestion the result.

Indeed, Toronto in an earlier era suffered this same fate.  As Toronto came of age in the early 20th century and began to grow, it became clear that strengthened public transit would be essential to our continued growth.  But the original proposal for a Yonge Street subway was rejected in a referendum in 1912, deferring the project for over 30 years.  It was only in the development boom that followed the Second World War that the project regained traction and was finally approved by referendum in 1946.  We now take the subway for granted, but it was a long time coming.

In the United Kingdom, London presents much the same story.  London is now properly celebrated for its transportation governance with Transport for London and its current massive Crossrail project.  But it is worth remembering that Transport for London was created only in 2000, born of heavy congestion as London boomed.  And the Crossrail project was first imagined in the 19th century, revived in the 20th century, named in 1974 and only broke ground in 2009.  It is a great success now but it took time, sustained effort and major investments to make it so.  We will need the same.

Transit projects are inherently difficult.  They are expensive – measured not in millions but billions.  They typically require financial support from multiple levels of government, are technically and environmentally demanding, and take years to plan and build.  The planning cycle usually extends well beyond the life of any one government.  Elections intervene and new governments can mean new plans.  Transit projects affect citizens directly, where they live and where they work.  As a result, they are intuitively understood by citizens and evoke a high level of citizen engagement and interest.

Everyone I meet on the subway, in the boardroom or at the dinner table has an opinion, often strongly held, about what needs to be done about transit.  Polling in Toronto today reflects intense citizen engagement with transit issues.  They usually rank first among voter concerns, but these same voters are often divided on the right way forward.  There are honest differences of opinion among good people disagreeing on the best solutions. The Scarborough LRT versus Scarborough subway debate is an excellent example of the phenomenon:  competing views, not always well grounded in evidence and analysis, but strongly held and nearly equally divided.  Not surprisingly, our politics reflect this.

Excellent planning and analysis based on evidence are essential to resolving these issues.  They should be given every opportunity to prevail.  But they alone are not enough.  In the end, the choices must also be shaped and secured by a strong public and political consensus that we are on the right track.

It is in this context that we at Metrolinx do our work.

Metrolinx is an organization of transportation professionals – experts who have made their careers in getting people and goods to where they need be.  They deal in analysis and evidence, benefits and costs, alternative technologies and capacities, innovations, network effects and the like.

We are measured by the quality and clarity of our work.  We are not partisan.  We are not elected.  We serve.  And we serve best by giving the best advice we can and implementing our plans as effectively and efficiently as possible.

We are not the ultimate decision-makers.  That is the responsibility of the governments we serve.  But the better our analysis and advice, the more persuasive we will be in making sure the right choices are made.

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This month we mark the 5th anniversary of the new Metrolinx.  I want to report on our progress to date and set out the path ahead.

We have made major progress and are poised for much more.  We have had some disappointments, but they pale relative to the successes.  We have tangible achievements and positive momentum.  I am absolutely confident that the future of transit in the GTHA will be better than the past.

The original Metrolinx was created by the Province of Ontario in 2006.  Led by Rob MacIsaac and Michael Fenn, and guided by a board made up principally of mayors and chairs from the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, Metrolinx was charged with developing a regional transportation plan responsive to the growing region’s needs.  In 2008, with a unanimous vote of its board, Metrolinx produced The Big Move, a bold twenty-five year, $50 billion plan to transform our transit infrastructure.  It was good work.  The plan won the Canadian Institute of Planners Award of Excellence.  The Province embraced the plan and made a multi-billion dollar commitment to it – at almost $11 billion, the largest single financial commitment to transit in the history of Canada.

To implement The Big Move, in early 2009 – just five years ago – the Province merged the original Metrolinx with GO Transit, and reconstituted the Board of Directors of Metrolinx, replacing elected official with a lay board under the continued leadership of Rob MacIsaac.  I had the good fortune to be appointed as the first president and CEO of the new Metrolinx, tasked with helping to assemble the board and recruit a permanent CEO to lead the organization.

On both counts, we did very well.  We were fortunate to attract an outstanding board which is every bit as strong and committed as the boards of our leading public institutions and corporations in Canada.  Then, Bruce McCuaig, previously Deputy Minister of Transportation, agreed to join us as our President. He is doing an absolutely outstanding job, recruiting and leading a very strong staff of transportation and planning professionals totally dedicated to our mission.  It is a privilege to work with all of them.  They are terrific.

We took as our Vision “Working Together to Transform the Way the Region Moves” and made it our Mission “To Champion and Deliver Mobility Solutions for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area”.  And then we got to work.

We were given a five-fold mandate:

First, improve and grow GO Transit as the backbone of regional transit.

Second, build new infrastructure, both for GO Transit and with our partner transit agencies, starting with the first funded projects under The Big Move.

Third, develop PRESTO as an electronic fare card for all transit systems in the region as an essential foundation for seamless fare integration in the region.

Fourth, prioritize the next wave of projects to keep implementing The Big Move, and do a full review by 2016 to ensure we are still on the right course.

Fifth, make recommendations for sustained funding of the Big Move.

We have made major progress on all five elements of our mandate.

Let me start with GO Transit.  I am so proud of what the GO team has achieved.  Created in 1967, GO Transit now delivers over 65 million rides a year and is one of the most successful urban rail systems in the world.  Where service quality was once unreliable, it is now exemplary.

Guided by a Passenger Charter, and backed by an on-time guarantee, GO Transit delivers a first class passenger experience.  Last year, GO Transit was the winner of the Outstanding Public Transportation Achievement Award from the American Public Transportation Association – the Oscar for transit systems in North America ‑ a major achievement.

GO is delivering more service and more riders every year.  We are expanding GO train and bus service across the region including to Kitchener‑Waterloo.  More communities want us to reach them and, resources permitting, we will keep growing.  We are revamping Union Station to triple the GO Transit concourses and improve the platform environment.  On our seven corridors, we have over 100 projects underway to increase capacity.  And this past summer, we launched 30-minute all-day two way service on the Lakeshore corridors – the largest expansion in GO’s history.  We are receiving rave reviews and have grown off-peak ridership by 30 percent.

GO is critical to reducing congestion in the GTHA.  Our congestion challenge is not an issue limited to the city core.  Rather, it can be found across the region, on the QEW, DVP, 401 and other highways.  We need regional solutions to regional congestion and GO is an extraordinary asset on which we can build.  Now that it is firing on all cylinders, we can and will do much more.

Our second mandate was to get going with the new transit projects and we have.

The biggest complaint I hear is that nothing is happening.  That is dead wrong.  We have over 200 projects planned and underway as part of the first wave of fully funded projects under The Big Move.  Highlights include:

  • We are building the Eglinton Crosstown LRT which will run from Weston Road in the west to Kennedy in the east with an 11 kilometre tunnel in the middle where the street is narrow and the road traffic heaviest.  The Crosstown will have 25 stations and stops, links to 54 bus routes, three subway stations and three GO Transit lines.  It will be a transformative addition to Toronto’s transit network.  It is a big project with a $5.3 billion budget.  We are digging the tunnels now and will complete the project for service in 2020.
  • In York and Peel Regions, we have dedicated Bus Rapid Transit lines under construction with our municipal partners.  The first section of York’s Viva Rapidway opened last summer and is an outstanding success.  More sections will open every year until we are done. The same will be true for the Mississauga Transitway.
  • The Union Pearson Express, our dedicated fast rail service from Union Station to Pearson International airport linking Canada’s two busiest transportation hubs is largely built now and will open for service in the first half of next year.  This project has been talked about for 20 years.  Metrolinx was given the task to deliver it only three years ago.  We will deliver on time and on budget.  There will be a train every 15 minutes all day, both ways, offering a reliable and comfortable ride in 25 minutes right into Terminal 1.  And you can get on or off at Bloor West or Weston as well.
  • While a TTC project and not Metrolinx’s, the Province is the largest financial contributor to the Spadina Subway extension which will take the subway past York University all the way to Highway 7 in Vaughan.  The extension will open in 2016.

We have made less progress than we hoped on our plans for LRTs on Sheppard and Finch and our plan to replace the Scarborough RT.  We believe LRTs are an excellent solution for routes that need more than bus service but lack the ridership demand to warrant a much more expensive subway.  However, absent a live working LRT in Toronto, we have had difficulty maintaining the necessary political consensus to allow these projects (apart from the Crosstown) to proceed on the original timetable.  We continue with essential preparatory work, but don’t yet have shovels in the ground.

I won’t rehearse the full Scarborough debate here.  Suffice it to say, we will likely only know Toronto’s lasting intentions after the new City Council is elected this fall.  Absent Toronto as a fully committed partner, we cannot proceed with any project even though the Scarborough RT is in urgent need of replacement.

Metrolinx has been consistent in its analysis and recommendation from a transit perspective:  the Scarborough LRT was and is the right solution.  At the same time, we respect that the ultimate decision is for governments, not us, and when all three levels of government landed on a subway as the preferred approach and the federal and city governments brought their cheque book with them, we acted to ensure the additional cost would not be borne by Metrolinx or the Province, that our sunk costs would be recovered from the City, and our other projects would be protected.

Some wish we had resisted the subway more vigorously; others wished we would recommend a subway.  We did neither.  We did our analysis made our views public, did our job and respected the ultimate authority of political decision makers.

We remain committed to the three Toronto projects and have the funds committed to ensure they can go forward.  The need is clear.  We will get there, but it is taking longer than we would like.

In total, however, this is unprecedented level of investment and building.  We are on the move.

The Big Move identified an electronic fare card as an essential building block for our integrated regional transportation system.  It is not just about convenience; it will facilitate true integration.  We have ten transit systems in the GTHA – TTC and GO are best known but Mississauga, York, Durham, Oakville and others have their own.  Passengers travel across the boundaries of these different systems – from York to Toronto, or Toronto to Mississauga, Durham to Toronto or Hamilton to Burlington.  These passengers expect an integrated experience and fare, something we can only deliver with an electronic payment system.

To this end, we have built PRESTO.  We now have over 1 million PRESTO card holders and our users love it.  It makes their travel easier and better.  It elevates the experience, bringing it into the 21st century.  Once PRESTO is fully deployed on TTC in about three years, we will have more than 2.5 million cardholders and the entire region will be using the same card.  Ottawa has also embraced PRESTO where it is up and running well.

To integrate ten transit systems and service over 6 million people makes PRESTO one of the most complex fare card projects in the world – not a surprise given the size, growth and complexity of the GTHA.  With PRESTO, we are ahead of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago and closing the gap with acknowledged world leaders like London and Hong Kong.  Recently, Washington DC, following a competitive process, chose the PRESTO technology for its transit system.

Some say we should have chosen an off-the-shelf product instead of building PRESTO.  But there wasn’t one and isn’t one that could meet the complex needs of our region.  Some systems might meet the needs of a single transit agency; none could meet the integrated needs of ten.  Others argue PRESTO cost too much, but simultaneously point to London’s Oyster card and ask why we can’t have a card like that.  The reality is London’s cost more than PRESTO.  Adjusted for the size and complexity of our region, the cost, while certainly substantial, is in line.

We are confident that once we have PRESTO fully implemented, the case for true fare integration across the region will become irresistible.  We will have the electronic fare card to make it possible and the improvement in the regional transit system will be palpable.

Planning and prioritizing the next wave of projects to implement and keeping The Big Move up to date is the fourth dimension of our mandate.  We are the custodians of The Big Move and we must constantly give life to it, not just by building projects but by updating the plan based on the best evidence available.  We need to ensure the plan we inherited remains the right plan with the right priorities for tomorrow.  The Big Move is a living document, a clear guide to all we do, but open to change as new evidence and needs emerge.

Our planning responsibilities are unique.  We are the only regional authority.  That is not to detract from the importance of each of the 31 municipalities that constitute the GTHA or the work of the other 9 transit agencies in the GTHA.  But it is to recognize that none of them – neither the municipalities nor the agencies – focuses on the region as a whole and all the ways in which the many parts of the region interact.

Greater Toronto has no single government spanning the region short of the provincial government itself.  Contrast that with London where the Greater London Authority spans over the 32 boroughs that constitute London, creating a government squarely focused on the needs of the entire region and not just the individual boroughs.  The Greater London Authority includes Transport for London, the London-wide super-agency charged with all forms of transit and transportation, planning and operations.  The Mayor chairs both bodies.

Ontario has not chosen this path for Greater Toronto, preferring the autonomy and local control inherent in our approach.  We have a regional growth plan but there is no regional institution concerned with land use or growth, nor for water and wastewater infrastructure, economic development, waste management or other policy areas.  Metrolinx is the only regional institutional mechanism to support the single economic region of the GTHA.  This underlines the centrality of our work and doubles the importance of our planning role given transit and transportation infrastructure must both shape and serve the region.

To do our work well, we must work with all the municipalities in the region – all 31 of them.  It is through this work that we gain local insight and input, and learn the priorities of the elected officials and public servants in each municipality.  But in the end, we must always ask what will serve the region best.

Our distinctive regional role and perspective is well illustrated by the current discussion about the Relief Line in Toronto.  Within the City of Toronto, most of the focus has been on a proposed new subway line to run from an eastern point on the Bloor subway south west to downtown Toronto, providing “relief” for the Yonge Street subway, and potentially permitting its extension north to Richmond Hill.  Our good friend and partner, Andy Byford of the TTC, and many others, including most mayoralty candidates, have identified this subway as a top priority for Toronto.

Metrolinx brings a different, complementary perspective to the issue, seeing the Yonge corridor crowding as a regional issue needing a regional solution – providing “relief” not just to Yonge Street subway, but to the need to move more people in and out of downtown from the north and northeast of the GTHA.  As a result, we are doing our study of the issue in full partnership with the TTC, the City of Toronto and York Region.  Our broader regional lens looks at how a number of solutions may help including more fully utilizing the GO corridors through this part of the region and relying on fare integration to remove price disincentives arising from different TTC and GO fare policies.  Working together with the TTC, we will get to a good multi‑faceted solution.

This joint regionally focused effort is the value added Metrolinx brings to the planning table, transcending the perspective of any one municipality or transit provider and focusing on the region as a whole.  By working collaboratively with our partners, we can develop the most effective and efficient solutions that will serve the most people at the least cost.  We can also ensure the prospect of “relief’ is not held hostage to the 10-20 year time frame for planning, funding and building a new subway by acting earlier on faster wins that can be part of the overall solution.

Let me return to The Big Move.  The Metrolinx Act requires that our plan be reviewed not later than 2016.  We have already started.  We are asking how we can make a good plan better.  What have we learned since 2006-2008 when The Big Move was first written that would cause us to change it?

We are consulting widely.  We welcome advice.  We have made public our proposed Next Wave projects. These are excellent projects that call out for action.  GO expansion.  Hurontario LRT.  Subway expansion.  Durham-Scarborough BRT.  Hamilton LRT.  And numerous more.

We will continue to listen, learn and put forward the strongest analyses and evaluations we can, not only of the individual projects but of their network impacts to ensure we capture their contributions to strengthening regional transit and transportation solutions.  We recognize that governments, not Metrolinx, will make the ultimate decisions, but we are confident our work will lead to better, more informed decisions.

Paying for the infrastructure we need to keep pace with our booming region is essential.  Transit and transportation infrastructure is expensive.  It takes a long time to deliver as we must work in a densely populated and built urban region.  In the short-run, it is easy to put off and avoid these cost with delay and deferral.  But in the long-run we all suffer the economic, environmental and quality of life costs that arise from under-investments in infrastructure.

One need only observe the over-crowded roads, trains, subways, streetcars and buses in Greater Toronto to see the consequences today of our neglect.  It is not worthy of us as a community.  It short changes all of us.  And those that will follow us. The annual economic cost is over $6 billion a year and growing.  It is an intolerable and unnecessary burden on our region.

Our statute required us to make recommendations by June 1, 2013 on how to sustain investments in transit infrastructure to complete The Big Move.  Our report was followed by Anne Golden’s Transit Investment Panel report – and Anne is now a member of our board.  Our reports emphasized the need for sustained financial support specifically dedicated to the projects within The Big Move.  Sustained means being insulated from the ups and downs of annual budgeting, avoiding the on-again, off-again pattern of earlier times that is so inconsistent with the multi-year nature of building transit infrastructure.  Dedicated means being protected from other demands for funds, no matter how compelling, knowing that if funds are diverted, progress will stop and our current dilemma will repeat itself.

Our reports were thorough and comprehensive, reviewing best practices globally.  Our numbers and analysis have not been challenged.  It was good work.  We recommended potential new revenue sources including increased sales and gas taxes, but these recommendations did not find favour in the current political climate deeply resistant to such increases.  So be it.  These are the judgments politicians must make and I respect them for it.

From Metrolinx’s perspective, the critical issues is that we have the sustained, dedicated funds to keep moving forward.  How these funds are raised or re-allocated from other purposes is not ultimately our concern.  That is for governments to decide, not us.  Our concern is to be able to keep building, keep moving forward and keep moving people throughout the region better.

It is from this perspective that we so warmly welcomed Premier Wynne’s announcement last week at the Toronto Region Board of Trade.  She released the Ontario Government’s Moving Ontario Forward Plan – an ambitious plan to build new infrastructure across the Province.  These funds would be sustained over ten years and dedicated just as we recommended.  The Premier’s plan outlined major infrastructure improvements across the province with an investment in transit of $15 billion over 10 years for the GTHA and an emphasis on projects we have already identified through The Big Move and the Next Wave priorities.

Some tough choices will still be required, but this is a great step forward, exactly what we needed to keep moving forward.  I am enormously encouraged.  These funds are on top of all the funds previously committed which amount to about $16 billion.  Together, this means we will have over $30 billion committed to The Big Move.

A key priority initiative that the Premier outlined is what we call Regional Express Rail – 15-minute electric train service across the GO rail network.

This is vitally important to us.  It would move the most people at the least cost.  It will help to alleviate highway congestion across the GTHA.  The project contemplates making the GO train corridors virtual “surface subways” with service so frequent and fast that the trains became an irresistible substitute for driving, thus significantly mitigating traffic congestion.  Imagine going to the GO station confident that the next train will be along soon, just like when we go to a subway station.  How liberating and convenient that will be.

The GO Regional Express Rail initiative is the next natural step in our progression:  from a commuter service, to two way all day service on Lakeshore, to electrified Express Rail on all seven corridors within a decade.  For us at Metrolinx, it is the realization of a central element of our vision reflected in The Big Move.  It will transform the way the region moves:  fast, convenient, safe and reliable, building on our Passenger Charter and customer centric approach to service.

We will build on the work we have already done on electrification and on the Environmental Assessment for electrification of the Union Pearson Express.  We will deliver a plan in the coming weeks to implement our Express Rail vision.  It is another big step forward, the kind of step that reflects our full possibilities as a region and an agency.

I hasten to acknowledge we have a decade of work ahead of us to make this vision a reality.  But with sustained and dedicated funding in hand, we can and will do it.  And it will transform the way we move.

Despite all of our progress, some cynics may suggest that our vision and plan will be merely ephemeral, part of electoral posturing and all subject to evaporating following municipal and provincial elections.  That is not my view.  I don’t doubt elections matter and will make a difference.  They should.  That’s why we have them.  But our greatest asset is the broad public and political consensus that has developed across the region:  that our congestion is unacceptable; that major new infrastructure is required; that it requires significant new sustained and dedicated investment; and that the time to act is now.

There is room for debate on the details but not on the agenda and direction.  Regardless of political persuasion, congestion, traffic and transit are at the top of the public’s concerns.  Woe to any government at any level that ignores this reality for Canada’s largest city region and economic engine. Deferring yet again is not an option.

We at Metrolinx must not engage in politics or harbor political preferences and we don’t.  We are public servants in a public agency.  But we are public advocates as well.  It is right for us to speak out about the region’s needs and to applaud when positive announcements are made.  We will keep doing that.  We hope to have reason to applaud often.

We would also like to have more to applaud from Ottawa.  We have received important support from Ottawa for Union Station, parking garages for GO, the Sheppard LRT and other projects, but we need more.  We need sustained, systematic and dedicated support for urban transit in Canada’s major cities.  There is no investment Ottawa could make that would do more to increase productivity and enhance economic growth than to reduce congestion and improve the movement of people and goods in our most important urban areas.  It is good economics and good policy and should be good politics.

The province and the cities can’t bear this load alone.  The infrastructure deficit is too great.  We need an active and committed partner in Ottawa.  The late and much missed Jim Flaherty understood this well.  He regularly rode the GO trains from Whitby and knew what a difference they made.  He invested in GO and Union Station and made a real difference.  I hope Ottawa will build on that legacy.  It could make a powerful difference to our prospects and pace.

I will finish with a comment on governance.  A persistent question I get is why don’t we have elected politicians on the board of Metrolinx to ensure public accountability and responsiveness to the 31 municipalities that constitute the GTHA.  Given the importance of these issues, don’t we need politicians governing the agency and making the calls?

The short answer is that our statue prohibits it.  No elected official or government employee from any level of government can serve on the board.  All members of the board must be lay citizens.  This was a deliberate choice made by the Province in 2009 when the new Metrolinx was created.

I think it was the right choice.  In my view, we don’t need more politics in transit planning and implementation.

We are politically accountable to the Province, appointed by Order in Council and reporting to the Minister of Transportation.  We have an important partnership and working relationship with the Province.  We also work with all the municipalities within the region.  We accept without qualification that these governments make the final decisions and that these are ultimately political choices.

Would it be better if some municipalities were represented on our board by elected officials?  It could not be all of them given there would be 31 municipalities vying for representation.  A representative of any one municipality would be inherently conflicted, balancing her duty to her municipality with her duty to our regional mandate, bound never to favour her municipality over the interests of others.  It would be a difficult assignment for sure, and even more difficult to enjoy the full confidence of those municipalities not represented.

In my view, it is better to clearly delineate and distinguish our role as public servants from the ultimate decision-making authority of our municipal and provincial political masters.  Let us focus with our staff on planning, analysis, evidence, operations and implementation.  Let politicians make the ultimate decisions which they are uniquely mandated and skilled to do.

That said, we have recommended a change in our board, not to add elected officials but to draw closer ties with our municipal partners.  We have recommended that our board be increased from 15 to 18 members, and that six directors be appointed by the Province on the nomination of the municipalities, one from each of the six regions – Toronto, York, Durham, Hamilton, Peel and Halton.  We believe these nominees would underline our regional mandate while bringing a deep knowledge of parts of the region from which they would be drawn, making our strong governance even better.

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Many have advice on how we can do better.  Indeed, I don’t know many people who don’t have advice on how we can do better!  We welcome that advice.

But the one argument I never hear from serious commentators is that we don’t need Metrolinx, an agency with a comprehensive regional mandate to improve how people move and to reduce congestion in the region.  No one could seriously imagine the GTHA today without Metrolinx and The Big Move.  We need a strong and effective Metrolinx helping drive the region forward.

We are making major progress; we have great momentum; we have an amazingly good staff and board; we are excited about what lies ahead; and we have the public championing our cause at every turn.  We feel privileged to be able to serve and confident an even more successful GTHA lies ahead.

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