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Glen Murray's Plan for Better Transit and Roads

Monday, January 7th 2013 5:56:56am

Candidate Calls For Super-Ministry To Get Moving, And Getting Rid Of The Gardiner


For immediate release

Toronto - As Premier, Glen Murray will apply his deep experience and knowledge in urban affairs to get transit and traffic moving in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, and across Ontario too.

In a major speech to the Toronto Board of Trade today, Murray says he will create a new Super-Ministry to get the transit lines and roads that are badly needed to connect communities and workplaces across the region.

“Helping Ontarians get around the GTHA is a province wide concern - our economy and jobs depend on it, and it’s important to keeping our quality of life the best in the world,” he says.

“The issue is connectivity - the different communities, workplaces and neighbourhoods in the built-up parts of Ontario need to be better connected to each other through better roads and transit. And this means the ministries and agencies assigned to do this need to be better connected too.”

This Super-Ministry will combine roles from the Ministry of Transportation, Infrastructure Ontario, Municipal Affairs and Housing, and the province’s Growth Secretariat.

As well, Glen Murray as Premier would upload some or all of the local transit authorities’ responsibilities to Metrolinx. “Some of my colleagues have suggested this move, and I think it’s smart,” he says.

Murray also said he is against toll roads, because middle-class Ontarians pay enough already.

And he offered details on how to get the private sector to invest in better transit and transportation - including helping to pay to tear down the Gardiner Expressway while improving west-side access to Toronto.

“It’s no longer good enough to just say, ‘let’s get the private sector involved.’
We need to listen and learn, and lead,” he says.

For example, a developer can be given air rights over a subway line, but then the developer should be expected to pay part of the cost of a new station. This kind of proven approach - used in many major cities around the world - will take private-sector involvement from wish to reality.

Murray says that these deals need to be planned and organized at the same time as our private sector develops new projects.

Glen Murray’s leadership campaign of ideas and action is built on renewal for Ontario families and our economy:

• Tax cuts for the middle class and small business
• No-money-down university or college tuition
• Cities and towns that work
• Smart government that listens - working together to protect and renew our hospitals and social services.

For more information:
Emily Kirk
647 668 1076
emily.kirk@renewliberal.ca


BACKGROUNDER
GLEN MURRAY FOR ONTARIO LIBERAL PREMIER
TRANSPORTATION THAT WORKS
FOR ONTARIO AND THE GREATER TORONTO AND HAMILTON AREA


The Challenge

As Ontario’s economy grows after overcoming the worst recession in more than six decades, more than ever we need to get transportation right. Traffic, commuter congestion, inadequate transit and connections are costing the economy in southern Ontario alone $6 billion a year in lost productivity. These losses don’t even include the loss to peoples’ quality of life - the times when Mom is late getting home from work for dinner, when Dad misses his kids’ soccer practice or concert, when it’s too late to put on the barbecue because it took too long to get back on time.

The problem is getting worse - and it needs to better. As Premier, Glen Murray - with his experience as a big-city mayor and established expertise in urban and environmental issues  - knows how to get it done.

The challenge, while daunting is straightforward. Ontario is going to grow by 4 million people in the next 30 years, and 3 million are going to move to the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). This growth is good for Ontario and for our economy, but our transportation has to keep up for us all to benefit.

Another challenge is that our roads can’t necessarily handle the traffic. In Toronto the Gardiner Expressway is badly in need of repair, and there’s still no consensus in the city about what to do about it or how to pay for what will be done.

The provincial government has already committed $12 billion to improve transit in the region, and it’s starting to work. New transit lines are being built in Toronto, along Eglinton, Sheppard and Finch Avenues and from Union Station to Pearson Airport. The Toronto subway is being extended into the 905 region and there are already new subway cars and new light rapid transit (LRT) cars on the way.

Previous PC and NDP governments actually filled in the excavations that had begun for subway projects, or built costly lines that don’t have enough riders to be sustainable - there are so few riders along Toronto’s four stations along Sheppard Avenue East that the TTC has threatened to close it because the ridership is four times less that it needs to be to be cost-effective.

Since 2003, Ontario Liberals have changed the conversation about transportation - finally, the province began to think of the GTHA as a region, with regional transportation needs. Ontario Liberals set up the framework to start getting Ontario moving forward - putting resources into Places to Grow, Infrastructure Ontario, the Growth Secretariat and Metrolinx.

Glen Murray understands that we need to do much, much more - and we need to get going now.

Fight For Our Fair Share From Ottawa - But Don’t Wait

As with most other Federal transfer programs, Ontario does not receive its fair share from Ottawa for transit and transportation. As Premier, Glen Murray will fight for proper federal support for Ontario’s transit and transportation infrastructure - it’s a matter of fairness.

But Ottawa’s contribution cannot be a precondition to moving forward now.

Glen Murray’s Transportation Plan

In Toronto, three out of four working people downtown don’t drive to work, but have to struggle for a place on the bus, streetcar or subway. At a busy intersection in 905, where Beaver Creek Drive meets Highway 7, near Highway 404, more than 90 per cent of people must drive to work - there’s simply no other practical way to get there.

As Premier, Glen Murray will bring in a well-thought-out plan for getting Ontario moving. It builds on the steps Ontario Liberals have taken so far, but it goes much, much further.

It’s based on four principles, and a few practical steps that are easy to understand.

Thinking Bigger

The first is that we need to think bigger about transportation in our region.

We can’t assume that everything will happen smoothly between our government and its agencies - the Ministry of Transportation, Metrolinx, the TTC and GO.

We need to understand that helping Ontarians get around the GTHA is a province wide concern - our economy and jobs depend on it, and it’s important to keeping our quality of life the best in the world.

The issue is connectivity - the different communities, workplaces and neighbourhoods in the built-up parts of Ontario need to be better connected to each other through better roads and transit. And this means the ministries and agencies assigned to do this need to be better connected too.

That’s why as Premier, Glen Murray will set up a Super-Ministry - responsible for solving this gathering transportation crisis quickly and getting it right.

This Super-Ministry will combine roles from the Ministry of Transportation, Infrastructure Ontario, Municipal Affairs and Housing, and the province’s Growth Secretariat.

As well, Glen Murray as Premier would upload some or all of the local transit authorities’ responsibilities to Metrolinx. “Some of my colleagues have suggested this move, and I think it’s smart,” he says.

An expanded Metrolinx will also include governance reforms to ensure strong representation from all stakeholder communities and forceful advocacy within provincial decision-making. Putting more responsibility across regions into Metrolinx will help ensure that everyone is working together, and getting the job done.  

A Super-Ministry with a strong Minister and a strong civil service assigned to get the region’s transportation moving, combined with a more forceful, expanded Metrolinx, will bring the province into a stronger leadership role. It will also look at new models of funding and planning, with more private sector involvement.

Engaging The Private Sector In Transportation

It’s no longer good enough to just say, “let’s get the private sector involved.”
We need to listen and learn, and lead.

Developers and employers have to buy into our transit before we commit to building it. This will ensure the long-term sustainability of those lines, and most importantly, give employees better options to drive or take transit.

For example, we should engage the private sector in planning and investing in our new subway stations - stations that cost hundreds of millions of dollars each. By engaging the private sector in building these stations we will ensure that when they are built the employers will locate there, so there will be ridership to sustain and support the lines.

Up to now, we have been haphazard across the region in approving development without thinking of how people are going to get these new offices and communities.

This is critical. Those who simply say “private investors will pay” are not doing their job. To make new transit construction happen with serious private sector funding, we need to do a lot of things differently.  

• We need to adjust the municipal planning regime.

• We need to change the way transit projects get advanced, and get approved - the procedure, the timelines for doing the work and the deadlines for completing it.  

• We need to retool our infrastructure agency so that transit concessions are considered alongside major urban development initiatives at the same time as development is planned, not later.  

• Any time a new community or office or business development is planned, the developers and our government and agencies should spell it out: how are people going to get there and back, from work to home? And once we’re clear on what transportation is needed, we need to agree on how much it will cost and who will contribute.

• We need to financially-package transit opportunities so they are attractive to the kind of long-term capital that is realistically needed for these kinds of investments.

For example, a developer can be given air rights over a subway line, but then the developer should be expected to pay part of the cost of a new station. This kind of proven approach - used in many major cities around the world - will take private-sector involvement from wish to reality.

These deals need to be planned and organized at the same time as our private sector develops new projects. We should also be talking with our major pension funds about engaging them in partnership investments in transit - the return on investment can be immense for properly planned transit that truly links people between their communities and their work.

The Hudak PCs want to more or less dismantle our big pension funds, and this is wrong - we can secure the pensions of tomorrow by investing in the transit of today.

Better Transit And Better Roads

There will be no war on the car under Premier Glen Murray. We need to plan better transit and roads.

Major roads and major transit simply belong together, and for a province like Ontario - as important economically as many sovereign countries - it makes no sense to govern one of them at the provincial level and another at the municipal level and wait for the differences to be sorted out.

As Premier, Glen Murray will be prepared to look at assuming new responsibilities for transportation that’s vital to our economy - such as assuming some provincial responsibility for the future of the Gardiner Expressway.

We need to look at transit and roads together for a simple reason: they go together.

There will only be a political consensus to move ahead on transit, forged across the GTHA, if it also includes a consensus to plan and move ahead on major roads.  

Glen Murray knows from his experience as CEO of the Canadian Urban Institute that transit and roads have to go together. For example, in Los Angeles, they held two votes on transit financing. The first one was to fund transit only and it failed. Then a serious offering was made to bring suburban drivers into the pool of beneficiaries, the political equation changed and the initiative moved ahead.

Tolls Are Not The Answer

Beyond private sector financing, there is a lot of speculation that the solution to financing transportation is through tolls for cars and trucks. Lots of people are calling for an “adult conversation” about road pricing, property tax hikes, and even regional sales taxes.

This is understandable - drivers are the ones who use the roads.

Glen Murray does not think it’s the right way to go.

Glen Murray does not think Ontario families should pay more right now in the GTHA.

The middle class is taxed out.  They need relief.  Road and transit users are taxed out.  

As Ontario Liberals, we have to recognize that cranking charges on people who commute to work is forcing revenue measures on hard-working taxpayers who are just trying to get around, and who are in many cases well below the middle-income level.  

We simply cannot expect hard-pressed commuters in Agincourt, Rexdale, Brampton, Halton, Stoney Creek or Whitby to just come forward with money that they simply do not have.

We need to ask less of those who can afford less, and more from those who are getting the greatest benefit from transportation investment - the private sector.  

Transit adds immense value to private development, if the private sector is encouraged to develop alongside good transit and roads.

To meet the employment needs of the GTHA in the next 30 years, we’re going to need 100 million square feet of new office space.

We should start thinking now about where this will work best, and how people will get to these places every day.

And we should work with private developers to plan for this, together. Ontario can provide incentives for developers, such as density bonuses in return for significant private investment in new transit lines and roads. This is done much more extensively in other parts of the world - it’s time to do it in Ontario too.  

The Gardiner Expressway

Ontarians in the North, East and Southwest probably don’t think much about the Gardiner Expressway. Southern Ontarians are frustrated by it - it’s crumbling and crowded, and yet they need it to get into the city from the west by car.

And like it or not, it’s vital - the Gardiner is one of the principal routes into the core of our province’s economic engine.  At between 80-100,000 cars each day, it’s a significant part of the entire GTHA’s infrastructure.

Various studies and experts disagree about the pace of its deterioration.  But everyone agrees that we need a solution fast, before someone gets hurt and the Gardiner becomes unusable.

Glen Murray’s personal view is that the Gardiner needs to come down.

Boston and San Francisco are moving well without the elevated expressways they used to have.

In Boston’s case it was costly and in San Francisco’s it was because of an earthquake but both cities function well without their highways in the sky now.

New York stopped building them altogether back in the 1970s. It’s time for Ontario to think big, and that means thinking about how to get beyond this road relic of the 1950s.

As Premier, Glen Murray has a plan. First, we need to make sure there’s alternative access by car to the city. It’s not realistic to expect 100,000-plus people to hop on bicycles and pedal in from Oakville.  

So we need to plan alternative access to the city core from the west - this is one of the tasks our new super-ministry will be asked to take on. It will also need to address the broader questions:

How do we keep it all moving and build solutions at the same time?

How will we pay for an undertaking of this size?

The best way is to leverage development along the Gardiner corridor, working with developers to pay in return for development rights along the way.

There will be no free rides for those who work with us. Bringing down the Gardiner will create tremendous value for both the public and private sector players

Developers who will benefit from these streams of traffic and the value they create will bear some of the cost of the infrastructure, so all can share in the benefit of the investment.

There’s only one way all this can happen. The province must lead.

Capital funding from Queen’s Park can and should play a part.  But before Glen Murray and Ontario Liberals ask taxpayers in Thunder Bay or Elgin County to help foot this bill, he will make sure we’ve done everything we can to leverage Toronto assets.  

For example, we can do a lot more to put the Toronto’s west-end Waterfront to work, and help pay for better transportation along the western corridor.

Decades have gone by since former Toronto mayor David Crombie recommended that the Canadian National Exhibition Lands be amalgamated with Ontario Place and developed into an exciting new neighbourhood and a waterfront recreational space on par with the best in the world. And 15 years ago the Toronto Waterfront Task Force started the ball rolling in the central and eastern part of the city’s lakeshore.  A year ago, after the province closed Ontario Place, John Tory’s Task Force came up with a number of good ideas worth considering.

What are we waiting for? As Premier, Glen Murray would use his background in city building and getting disparate stakeholders to work together to make sure we get going now, not in the distant future.  

The CNE Lands are underused much of the year - this is property that could be working to help pay for solving our western transportation problems.

By working together and developing the CNE Lands and into a medium-density neighbourhood that maintains its stock of heritage architecture, the province and the city could realize a one-time, major dollar benefit.  Private sector experts calculate that this benefit is sufficient not only to redevelop Ontario Place into the world-class attraction that everyone wants, but also to provide much of the funding needed to deal with the Gardiner and the western approaches to downtown Toronto.

We need provincial leadership and we need to be open to ideas we’ve looked at casually up to now.

It’s time to do more than consider. It’s time to listen, learn - and lead.

For more information:
Emily Kirk
647 668 1076
emily.kirk@renewliberal.ca