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Eves' New Transit Initiative is a Joke
08/05/2003

Yesterday, facing an upcoming election and having done nothing whatsoever to address the issues of transit and gridlock, the Eves government threw a useless bone to suburban Toronto voters. Pathetically, the media ate it up, including the Toronto Star which unfurled a screaming front-page-wide headline this morning.

Here's what the plan amounts to: The provincial government is contributing forty million dollars to cover one third of the cost of installing a new, electronic farebox system that will be shared by all GTA transit systems other than the TTC. Lower fares are not part of this program, nor are discounts for riders transfering between different systems. The projected benefits, when the technology works, are (1) participating riders will find it slightly more convenient to board a vehicle and pay quickly, and (2) riders who use multiple systems will be able to reach into the same part of their wallet every time they get on a bus or train, no matter what system it is. This will make the two-hour three-bus ride between nowhere and nowhere much more enjoyable.

Thankfully, the TTC isn't involved (with a small exception) in this initiative, which boasts a particularly poor price-to-benefit ratio. The core of professionals at the TTC know more about the business of transit than everyone in Queen's Park and the other GTA services combined. From the Toronto Star:

Mitch Stambler, the TTC's manager of service planning, said the commission is more concerned about improving and maintaining the system than sinking $140 million into a new fare system, and adds that research shows seamless transit cards do not increase ridership.

"We've done a huge amount of market research about what people want from transit and invariably ... people inside the city of Toronto and people in 905 want fast, frequent, reliable service, and how they pay their fare always ranks very, very low on things that are important to people," Stambler said.

"It's hard to justify spending a huge amount of money at the TTC for something that has never been demonstrated to actually attract more riders."

The province could have done something much more useful with this $40 million, even if all it did was use it to reduce fares across the GTA by a nickel, for one year.

Obviously, with an election rumoured to be on its way, the Tories were looking to score some quick and easy points. A compliant Toronto Star was willing to help them along. In the long run, however, this government's score on transit, transportation, gridlock, and "smart growth" issues is still well below zero.


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