Kathleen Wynne, the Premier of Ontario, was right to put a stop to the quixotic attempt by the Transportation Minister, Glen Murray, to revisit the multibillion-dollar transit plan for the Toronto region. By the same token, Mayor Rob Ford should cease and desist from his advocacy of major changes to the plan.
Mr. Murray has only been in this portfolio since February. He has declared that he is passionate about transit, which is all very well, but further questions on routes, types of vehicles, transportation patterns and load factors seemed self-indulgent.
Passion is needed, rather, for the timely and cost-efficient completion of projects that have already benefited from years of planning.
Mr. Murray ought to have reflected on the findings of the Toronto Region Board of Trade’s recent discussion paper on transit. It’s the one that describes traffic congestion and the “fraying” public-transit system as a “major threat to the long-term prosperity and well-being of the Toronto region.”
That study quotes a U.S. Department of Transportation document that describes the 401 highway through Toronto as “officially the busiest stretch of freeway anywhere in North America.” No small achievement, given the gridlock that afflicts some major U.S. cities.
It also states that Toronto “is the worst performer in Canada and near the bottom of global rankings based on Statistics Canada and comparable international data.”
Here’s what Toronto’s major business organization went on to say in its discussion paper: “A point made loud and clear throughout our consultations was that the time for talking and thinking about the problem of gridlock was over.” Apparently Mr. Murray had not heard that message.
Metrolinx, a provincial Crown agency, has produced its $34-billion transit blueprint for the Toronto region, called the “Big Move.” It is about to recommend a strategy for taxes and fees to pay for the next phase. After years of study and negotiation involving multiple layers of government and jurisdictions, there has been a sense of momentum. Key projects have already started.
Fortunately, Mr. Murray has been chastened. The work can go on.