Special Report: Light Rail

Ontario Government Proposes Changes to Metrolinx

A bill just tabled by the Ontario Government will merge Metrolinx with GO Transit and replace the current Board of municipal politicians with appointed transportation planners.

By Ryan McGreal
Published March 31, 2009

The Ontario Government just tabled legislation [PDF link] to merge Metrolinx, the regional rapid transit authority for the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton (GTAH) with GO Transit, the longstanding operator of interurban commuter rail.

Under Bill 163, the Province will replace the Metrolinx Board with an appointed 15 member board of transportation planners and project management specialists who, the government hopes, can speed the process and get money flowing into projects more quickly. The bill prohibits elected officials or employees at any level of government from sitting on the board.

At the same time, the bill moves the administration of the GO Transit System under Metrolinx and integrates the Regional Transportation Plan more closely with the Places to Grow framework and the official plans of the municipalities in the GTAH.

GO Transit chair Peter Smith will serve on the new Metrolinx board of directors.

Among the new powers the bill affords to Metrolinx are the power to enter into commercial contracts to design, develop, construct and maintain transportation systems, and to acquire or lease property as required to carry out the Regional Transportation Plan.

The Globe and Mail reports that Robert Pritchard, just leaving a position as the CEO of Torstar Corporation, has been picked to oversee the transition.

Observers have been anticipating such a move as progress at Metrolinx has been slower than the Province has hoped.

Rumblings emerged in mid-February when a report in the Toronto Sun suggested that the nine-member Metrolinx Board, selected by the municipalities and composed mainly of GTA+H Mayors and Regional chairs, suffered from "red tape, funding disputes, resident opposition and parochial decision-making".

Metrolinx chair Rob MacIsaac is quoted saying, "What's clear to me from the Premier is that he wants action and I think that's a message that all of the transit operations across the region should be cognizant of."

Last year, Metrolinx punted on its investment strategy after board members, possibly concerned about political fallout, were reluctant to investigate new revenue streams - e.g. highway tolls - to carry out the Regional Transportation Plan beyond the funds committed by the Provincial Government.

This change to the Metrolinx governance structure come fast on the heels of a massive new Provincial funding announcement that places an emphasis on transit and on integrating regional transportation in the GTAH to stimulate the economy in the short term and to relieve gridlock in the longer term.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By Letrominx (anonymous) | Posted March 31, 2009 at 11:38:52

This is good news ... as long as the new board is transparent and clearly accountable to someone (transport minister?). As it stands, Metrolinx is in danger of having it's best ideas watered down by over cautious politicians afraid to ruffle there constituents.

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted March 31, 2009 at 12:25:34

Letrominx said "As it stands, Metrolinx is in danger of having it's best ideas watered down by over cautious politicians afraid to ruffle there constituents."

Agreed, I'm so sick of seeing people in authority making decisions without really knowing what they are talking about. How many of those on the previous board actually did any work to learn even a fraction of what the new board will bring to the table? Local government should get a voice but it shouldn't be the only one, and it especially shouldn't slow progress though petty politicking.

Hopefully this new board can cut through some of the red tape and focus on getting shovels in the ground.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted March 31, 2009 at 14:57:14

So if we add this change to the whack of federal and provincial money in last week's budget, does that add up to LRT on the BLine sooner rather than later...?

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By TomC (anonymous) | Posted March 31, 2009 at 15:43:13

Let's just hope the Hammer has one or two voices on the new board. I nominate Ryan...

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By Bystander (anonymous) | Posted June 30, 2009 at 17:02:43

I think mayor HAZEL McCALLION is correct, no business can survive with the no of red tapes and procedures that binds government works. If you want to move things faster then you have to do away some of the stumbling blocks out of the way. It is very easy to move things forward when you are not following the procedures, but it is really remarkable to move thing with all the people going in different directions.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 30, 2009 at 18:17:51

is that how she managed to pave over a ton of farmland with virtually nothing, at an alarming rate??

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