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Transit merger talks to resume

Ajax, Pickering staff to resolve major issues

By Stan Josey
Toronto Star Durham Region Bureau Chief

A proposed amalgamation of Ajax and Pickering transit services is back on track.

Pickering Councillor Maurice Brenner said a call from Ajax Mayor Steve Parish raised hopes the outstanding issues in the amalgamation plan can be resolved by senior bureaucrats in both municipalities.

One controversial issue had been Ajax’s insistence that Pickering’s buses adopt the automated, smart-card fare system used by Ajax.

Brenner said Pickering was concerned with the initial cost of the conversion to the automated fare system. Ajax has now agreed to discuss the fare system further while allowing amalgamation talks to proceed to the next stage.

Brenner said it also appears the two municipalities will be able to reach agreement on a compensation package for Ajax because it is bringing more assets into the amalgamation.

Brenner said Pickering is willing to pay Ajax $178,000 up front as its share of additional assets. These assets include the Ajax transit centre on Westney Rd., which is destined to become the headquarters of the new amalgamated transit service, according to Brenner.

Because of the developments, Brenner withdrew a motion before Pickering’s executive committee Monday night to ask the Greater Toronto Services Board to mediate the amalgamation dispute.

The two municipalities hope to conclude planning for the new joint transit service around March, but negotiations of legal and labour issues will delay the actual implementation of a single transit system another year, Brenner said.

Richard Parisoto, Ajax’s chief administrative officer, said his town remains committed to the transit amalgamation and he is confident a deal can be worked out.

“The big winner in this thing will be the transit user in both municipalities,” he said.

Brenner said a committee has been formed to address the creation of a single transit system for the entire Durham Region and talks are proceeding slowly on this plan.