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Thursday, December 13, 2012

So, how is Metrolinx doing?

Currently, the Ontario Government funds two agencies responsible for rail: the ONTC and Metrolinx. The government's desire to divest the ONTC is apprently justified by the perception that the services are a bottomless money pit that no amount of subsidy can possibly fill.  Metrolinx, however, is lauded as being a model transportation agency, with new routes and services being announced every month.  The latest report from Ontario's Auditor General sees Metrolinx in a slightly less rosy light.

It seems that Metrolinx isn't as cost-effective as the government would like it to be.  PRESTO, the new smart card system, is one of the most expensive in the world and is expected to cost over $700 million.  The system, which is designed to offer seamless transfers between transit systems, won't be fully implemented in the TTC network until 2016, one year after the Pan-Am Games.  The renovation of Union Station is over budget and will cost more than $270 million.  Track improvements at the station are also proving costly, with the final bill expected to be $38 million.  The rail link to Pearson Airport, slated to open in time for the 2015 Pan-Am Games, is likely to need more subsidies as the report suggests that ridership will be lower than expected.

It is nearly impossible to run a public transit system without subsidies, but this report also shows just how unrealistic the government's two-tier system is.  Metrolinx and the ONTC both need subsidies, yet the ONTC is somehow less worthy of them.  Compared to Metrolinx, the ONTC serves a very small group of people, but the service is minimal at best.  In the densely-populated Toronto Area, Metrolinx provides a variety of improving services to millions of people, it seems with infinite capital available when it is needed.  The north-south divide is clear.
CBC.ca News - Ontario may write off $1.4B in unpaid taxes, AG says

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