Provincial Transportation Debate

Below is a list of 45 questions that were submitted by Transport Futures, RCCAO, Move the GTHA, TTCriders, InterCityRail Steering Committee and members of the live audience. Though there is overlap, we've done our best to categorize them under the four debate headings. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough time to answer all of them during the 2-hour debate but you can watch/listen to the responses for those questions that were posed by moderator Steve Paikin.

A. Highways, Roads and Safety

A1. The government has promised that $25 billion will be invested in roads over the next 10 years ($2.5 billion/year). If elected, what percentage of this amount would your party allocate to:

  • Highways
  • Asset Management
  • Complete Streets
  • Active Transportation
  • Transportation Demand Management (including mobility pricing infrastructure)
  • Vehicle to Infrastructure Communications for Automated Vehicles
  • Other capital or operating costs?

Of these options, what would be your party’s priorities between 2018 and 2022? What would they be between 2022 and 2028?

A2. What role do you see active transportation and other services playing in providing first and last mile options to commuters to and from urban centres in southern Ontario?

A3. Truckers must move goods to market in order to keep the economy humming. However, they share finite road space with passenger vehicles which often causes congestion, delays shipments and leads to long driving hours. How will you prioritize goods movement so it can be more efficient and safe?

A4. "The 2013 Ontario Road Safety Annual Report indicates that one person is killed every 17 hours on Ontario roads, costing society well over $14 billion annually.”  In 2016, there were 775 deaths and 67,381 injuries. What does your party plan to substantially decrease Ontario deaths and injuries in keeping with international Vision Zero objectives?

A5. Our transportation system is critical to moving goods. Freight is the fastest growing component of transport emissions and is expected to emit more than passenger movement by 2030. What will your party do to help goods move more efficiently on our highways and city roads? How will you support industry in becoming more efficient?

A6. Transportation problems are often caused by bad urban planning. How would you improve civic planning to alleviate commuting problems?

A7. There has been much talk over the past decade, about the need to rethink the way our legal system deals with motor vehicle operators who kill or maim vulnerable road users on Ontario's streets. Dark humour has long held that "if one wants kill with impunity in Ontario, a car is the recommended weapon of choice."  In the shadow of the more recent rental van murder on Toronto's streets, what will you do to ensure that Ontarians are afforded a more transparent accounting of how the Darcy Allan Sheppard case was handled, and how will your party repair damage already done to Ontario's perceived commitment to the concept of equal justice for all, regardless of personal mobility choice?

A8. Q for Steven Del Duca: Road deaths among pedestrians are increasing in cities and yet the provincial Liberals rejected a comprehensive Vulnerable Road User Law in favour of minor amendments masquerading as the needed changes. Why?

B. Transit, Intercity Travel and Smart Mobility

B1. The future is difficult to predict, but there are clues that car sharing, automated and connected vehicles will become dominant. How do you think these trends will impact how we get around (especially as millennials are choosing not to drive)? Can AVs support public transit or will this new mobility be a threat to transit? If elected, would your government create incentives to ensure that AVs are shared rather than owned in the traditional sense?

B2. In its 2018 budget, the Liberals slated $79B for transit over 10 years – an increase of $23B over 2017 Budget, including $11B for High Speed Rail.  On May 9, Doug Ford and the PCs promised additional $5B for transit based on the Liberal’s 2017 Budget, an $18B decrease. The NDP has promised $180B for infrastructure over 10 years but the platform is not clear what percentage is specifically for transportation infrastructure. The Green Party will increase public transit infrastructure funding to a maximum of $8.05 billion per year. To all parties: Based on professional evidence and advice, which transit projects will be your priorities and which ones will take a back burner or be cancelled? Do you support a range of transportation options such as LRT, Bus Rapid Transit, cycling lanes and walking? Why should cities like Kitchener-Waterloo have LRT when Scarborough, which has only slightly more population, have a subway?

B3. The Environmental Assessment (EA) for the proposed Kitchener to London high-speed rail project excludes other alternatives, including improved services on existing passenger rail routes in southwestern Ontario. Considering the Liberal government has estimated the cost of the project at $11 billion, how can we be assured that this represents the best value for money and acceptable risk for Ontario taxpayers, when possible alternatives may be deliverable at lower cost and risk and much sooner than the seemingly optimistic 2025 date indicated in the final high-speed rail report?

B4. A $150 million High Speed Rail EA is now underway and the Liberal budget allocates $11B to build it. It appears that the Liberal government restricted the EA to include only 250 kph HSR in a dedicated corridor between London and Kitchener? Would your party open up the EA to look at other transportation options to link Southern Ontario, including high performance rail that integrates VIA with better bus service and possible car sharing? Would these options have less impact on rural Ontario?

B5. Due to the recent U.S. congressional hearing with Facebook and the inevitable move to more regulatory oversight, now could be the ideal time to make the case for appropriate policies, standards and regulatory measures in a world with automated vehicles.  What measures would your respective parties take to ensure citizens are able to move around cities and towns in effective ways, especially if public bus routes are threatened by AVs?

B6. There are a lot of transit projects currently under construction or planned, what are your plans to continue to move those along as opposed to cancelling contracts and slowing things down? What transit projects will you prioritize? What is your position on expediting the much needed Toronto Waterfront LRT?

B7. What is stopping us from adding stops to the Scarborough Subway Extension, once the one-stop line is complete?

B8. The province has allocated $1.48 billion to the Scarborough Subway Extension but the facts don’t support such a massive spend with limited value. Will your government:

  • assess the Gatineau Hydro Corridor as an alternative transit route?
  • reject waste and scheming in favour of fact-based LRT?
  • support an enquiry (as per Section 215 of City of Toronto Act) into how the SSE has stayed afloat?
  • develop open and clear processes for review of large projects ahead of funding them?

B9. How would your party prevent automated vehicles from disrupting municipal bus systems (just as Uber and Lyft disrupted municipal taxi systems)?

B10. Please comment on the impact of ride sharing services (e.g. Uber, Lyft) on urban congestion and transit use? Does ride sharing help or hinder in this regard, and to what end?

B11. New developments in shared mobility and technology (e.g. connected and autonomous vehicles) are changing the way people move around our cities and could have dramatic impacts on mobility, congestion, road safety and the environment. How would your party work with experts to identify possible possible futures, how you would try to position Ontario to be a leader, and to help transportation organizations prepare for change?

B12. If elected, what are your party’s plans regarding “low-hanging fruit” opportunities such as telecommuting, improving efficiency of existing infrastructure (shared uses) and zoning?

B13. Will you invest in GO service expansion along with surface triage measures requiring political will (e.g. busways on DVP and other corridors; extension of Bloor/Danforth bike lanes)?

B14. In April 2017, Rail Engineer, a UK trade magazine, published an article by Clive Kessell titled “Main Line Automatic Train Operation (ATO) Evaluated”. The author concluded that (1) “a skilled human driver can better the ATO performance” and (2) “low adhesion during variable weather and climactic conditions is the biggest problem” for ATO systems in open cut rail areas. Why is the provincial government/Metrolinx allowing private contractors to finance, develop, build, operate and maintain transit using an ATO signalling and computer based train operation system evaluated as not fully safe in open cut rail, which we have in Ontario?
B15. Currently the GO Transit Regional Express (RER) Program is being tendered and will offer 15-minute service that is electrified on select GO lines. Will your party commit to continuing to build GO RER, including 15-minute service and electrified trains?

B16. Q for Rod Phillips: According to an October 2014 story about then Toronto Mayoral candidate Doug Ford, he pledged to “inject $30 million into TTC bus service and treat the relief line as the first of several subway priorities, followed by Sheppard and the tunneling of the east end of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT ...” [emphasis added]. Would a (Premier) Ford still view the Relief Line as a top priority, or as a project that would detract from his standing amongst the electorate from across the province? Would he base the Province’s support for transit project priorities on independent analysis? Would he be willing to back off the subways mantra in favour of other mobility options?

B17. Q for Rod Phillips: Does the PC Party support existing commitments for SmartTrack, Finch West and Waterfront LRT?

B18. Q for Rod Phillips: Why does the Conservative platform propose extending the Yonge subway line north to Richmond Hill when the Yonge line south of Finch is already over capacity? Shouldn't the Relief Line be the first priority?

C. Leadership, Governance and Communications

C1. Should Metrolinx continue to operate with an appointed board of directors or should the board be made up of elected officials? Or both?  Should all local transit authorities in the GTHA be merged under the auspices of Metrolinx?

C2. Building transit is expensive so capital and operating costs are usually considered and debated by politicians and the public. Once built however, the public will pay a fare to use the transit. When it comes to highways and roads, however, capital and operating costs – as well as environmental impacts -- are only considered through the EA process but not much is debated by the public, unless there is a special interest. And when they are built, roads do not have user charges associated with them – other than the new 407 East and 412 – and eventually 418. How would you communicate highway costs to the public so they understand that roads, like transit, are not free?

C3. The politicization of transportation infrastructure decision making has frustrated many industry professionals who have left senior roles in both Toronto and the Province of Ontario, apparently for greener pastures. Many politically directed infrastructure projects were questioned by those made responsible for their execution on the grounds they were not evidence-based. Several of these projects failed to deliver value for money because justifying evidence was ignored in favour of political optics. Examples include the Sheppard subway and Union Pearson Express. What can be done to both ensure that future transportation infrastructure projects are evidence-based and that we retain critical senior management skills over the long term?

C4. An April 27, 2018 opinion column in the Globe and Mail by Charles Lamman and Hugh McIntyre of the Fraser Institute observed that the federal government is essentially missing in action on core Canadian transportation infrastructure planning. Consequently, the provinces are proceeding with initiatives that lack any sort of coordination or effective modal integration. Considering that the federal government will receive funding requests for these projects, why is there no move toward a master inter-governmental transportation plan, either national or regional, that would yield increased fluidity to the movement of freight and people and thereby improve our overall competitiveness and productivity?

C5. Will you commit to keeping transit publicly owned, operated, and maintained?

C6. If your party forms government will you respect municipal government’s transit priorities, or will you prescribe specific projects that government is tied to?

C7. The Liberals and PCs have announced plans to upload TTC subways to the province, and Liberals will “change the ownership model” of heavy rail assets. Does this mean privatized subway lines and higher fares?

D. Funding, Financing and Transportation Demand Management

D1. Currently 2 cents/litre of provincial gas tax revenues is distributed to 99 municipalities to help them pay for local transit. The balance of 12.7 cents/litre goes to general revenue. Though the Liberals have promised to increase the rate to 4 cents/litre by 2021-22, gas prices are also increasing which could cause a major shift to electric vehicles, ride hailing, car sharing and active transportation. This will most likely result in an overall decline in gas tax revenue. Dynamic mobility pricing (road tolls and parking that vary based on demand) could make up for these lost revenues and manage traffic. Do you support mobility pricing? If not, what other ways would you propose to generate revenue and reduce congestion?

D2. According to The Globe and Mail, Metrolinx is one of the largest parking lot owners in Canada, operating more than 70,000 spaces – 25,000 of which were built in the last decade. Though each stall can cost up to $40,000 to build, the majority are free for car drivers to use. Because everyone pays for the capital and operating costs of parking through their transit fares, the 18% of passengers who arrive at GO stations by transit and active transportation subsidize the 92% who arrive by car.  Would your government institute paid parking at all GO stations with a comparable decrease in daily GO fares as a way to increase modal split and reduce parking capital costs? 
D3. Move the GTHA published a report in 2016 that identified a $30 billion capital funding gap to complete the projects outlined in the Big Move. Despite some continued investment, our most recent research puts the current funding gap at $26 billion. How will you go about raising the money to fund these projects? How much funding will you commit for new public transit projects, and how will you pay for it? 
D4. The TTC is overcrowded [25% of surface routes are regularly overcrowded] and unreliable. How much will you contribute to run the TTC, so that riders can have better service and more affordable fares?
D5. How will you pay for all the proposed transit across the province? Road tolls? Gas tax? Income tax? Other?... and why?
D6. Considering the P3 privatization failure of the Union Pearson Express in which SNC-Lavalin walked away from the project ¼ way through construction and fares were $27/rider and (almost) nobody rode it...:
  • what is your party position on privatization of public transit and use of P3s to build public infrastructure?
  • when considering the substantial infrastructure investments discussed during today’s debate, how will your party apply a live cycle assessment model to ensure that these investments are not only sustainable and resilient, but also protect tax payer investment?
D7. On February 1, 2017, the Liberal government began tolling the publicly owned 407 East and 412 Highways in northern Durham Region where virtually no transit exists. A few days before, they prevented the City of Toronto from installing tolls on the DVP and Gardiner Expressway stating that not enough transit exists in that highway corridor – though there is plenty more than in Durham. The PCs and NDP would have followed suit. To be consistent with the policy of not allowing Toronto to toll the highways it owns and operates, would your party, if elected, remove 407 East and 412 tolls and cancel the installation of tolls on the soon-to-be-completed 418 and 407 East extension? Would you also cancel the High Occupancy Toll lane pilot project between Oakville and Burlington and the planned installation of HOT lanes on 427 North? Why or why not?
D8. Land use planning is the flip-side to transportation planning. With the amount of transit being built and proposed to be built, building housing and employment around transit stations is the only way to get the best return on our transit investments. What will your party do to make sure the public gets the best return on transit investments?
D9. Q for Jessica Bell, NDP: Will the NDP's transit operating funding be contingent on service expansion or would it be possible for municipalities to simply use it to replace their local funding?
D10: Q for Steven Del Duca, Liberal Party: Why is your party continuing to use P3s to design, finance, build, maintain and operate the LRTs being built in Ontario and awarded to SNC-Lavalin and Bombardier the 30-year maintenance P3 contract on the Eglinton Crosstown?