Metrolinx to Own and Control Rapid Transit Lines

By Ryan McGreal
Published August 04, 2009

Metrolinx, the provincial body charged with integrating public transit across the GTA and Hamilton, published a July 13, 2009 letter [PDF link] from John Howe, the general manager, investment strategy and projects to the Metrolinx Board that explains the new Provincial Framework for Metrolinx projects, specifying that Metrolinx will retain ownership and control over its designated rapid transit projects.

The letter refers specifically to the "Big Five" rapid transit projects in Toronto and York that are already identified as the top five funding priorities for the organization.

While the proposed rapid transit lines for Hamilton are not explicitly mentioned, the letter does make reference to "the bold, collaborative steps necessary to achieve the shared vision of building the regional transit network of the future - starting with the initial five priorities".

The letter explains that retaining ownership under Metrolinx "will allow the province to amortize its $10 billion investment over the useful life of the new transit assets in a fiscally responsible manner."

Metrolinx will be responsible for approving project scope and budget, and for approving the terms and conditions of owning, constructing, operating and maintaining the new assets, in consultation with Toronto and York partners.

The procurement of construction services, transit vehicles and other project capital requirements will also be the responsibility of Metrolinx, working closely with municipal partners.

The plan is for Metrolinx to establish "performance-based operating and maintenance agreements" with the local municipal governments and transit operators in which the projects reside.

In addition, Metrolinx remains committed to "partnerships and cooperation" with municipalities, though any municipal changes to the organization's plans will require Metrolinx Board approval.

All Metrolinx-funded and -owned lines will be integrated with the Presto integrated farecard system, laying to rest fears that the ownership structure might lead to fragmentation of transit service.

The paper also confirms, as Metrolinx officials have suggested, that the province has directed Metrolinx to budget for "baseline" project costs, with municipalities responsible to pick up additional costs over and beyond the baseline costs that Metrolinx has established through their project cost eligibility criteria.

City of Hamilton rapid transit staff are "continuing to work with Metrolinx to see how this impacts Hamilton's plans for Rapid Transit."

New Metrolinx Board

The province announced earlier this year that it was going to replaced the Metrolinx board of elected local politicians with appointed policy experts to cut through the perceived parochialism of the elected board and get projects moving more quickly.

The actual appointees were picked mainly from the areas of high tech manufacturing, corporate and commercial law, publishing and communications, culture and tourism, human resources, mortgage financing and securities - with very little representation from urban planning and transportation.

Hamilton's representative on the new Metrolinx Board is Richard Koroscil, the President and CEO of Hamilton International Airport.

Metrolinx staff are preparing a Benefits Case Analysis (BCA) on rapid transit in Hamilton, studying whether the lines should be light rail transit or bus rapid transit. The BCA was to be presented to the Metrolinx Board in July, but that has been delayed until the fall.

(Props to Citizens at City Hall (CATCH) for reporting on the new Metrolinx Framework when no one else in the media seemed to notice.)

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 wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By Metro Links (anonymous) | Posted August 04, 2009 at 16:18:17

Woah metrolinx board....can you say 'patronage appointment'? What happened to the technocrats and policy experts? No way, better make some room for a mortgage securities manager, you know, since they've done such a great job the last few years...

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By Dave Kuruc (anonymous) | Posted August 04, 2009 at 17:13:28

How about we appoint someone who is in charge of an airport?

Wait. We already have! Dang - airplanes...light rail. Same thing.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted August 04, 2009 at 17:19:57

All I see is a bunch of the elite getting paid more money, meanwhile, so many others in the province struggle on next to nothing.

Is this more like the ehealth board? The elite taking from the people to live in grandiose style while the rest are impoverished?

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By Really? (registered) | Posted August 05, 2009 at 07:54:03

eHealth Jr sigh And I thought something positive was going to happen...

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By realitycheck (anonymous) | Posted August 05, 2009 at 12:44:40

In all fairness, the Board of Directors of any organization are chosen more for their overall general leadership and decision-making qualities. Specific skill sets like urban planning are represented at the staff level so they can do the heavy lifting and report recommendations based on their specific skill set to the board.

Nonetheless, it must be noted (and recognized) that the Metrolinx board includes a former mayor, the former CEO of GO Transit, and two professional urban planners (including the former chief urban planner for the City of Toronto), so there is significant experience in urban planning and transportation present at the table.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted August 05, 2009 at 15:21:13

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

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By Yeahbut (anonymous) | Posted August 12, 2009 at 12:51:40

Except, A Smith, in a democracy, I'm the government. If government is stealing from me, I'm stealing from myself. Thus, it is up to me to discipline myself.


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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted August 12, 2009 at 22:11:54

Yeahbut >> in a democracy, I'm the government. If government is stealing from me, I'm stealing from myself.

If everybody is the government, then why do we send people to jail if we don't pay taxes to ourselves? If we're all in this together, then it doesn't matter if we pay our taxes. Whatever money you keep for yourself will be spent by you (the government), so the tax collectors shouldn't have a problem with this.

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