Transit Toronto is sponsored by bus tracker and next vehicle arrivals. TransSee features include vehicle tracking by route or fleet number, schedule adherence, off route vehicles and more advanced features. Works on all mobile devices and on any browser.
Supports Toronto area agencies TTC, GO trains, MiWay, YRT, HSR and GRT, as well as NY MTA, LA metro, SF MUNI, Boston MBTA, and (new) Barrie.

Metrolinx swallows Go Transit -- what next?

Posted: March 30, 2009, 9:48 PM by Rob Roberts Kuitenbrouwer, GO Transit

In the train business, coupling cars is a delicate operation. Today the Province of Ontario tabled legislation at Queen’s Park that will hitch Metrolinx — up until now a regional transportation planning body — to the head of GO Transit, to create a new agency that will at once plan and build regional transit, and run the trains.

Rob Prichard, chief executive of Torstar, is becoming conductor of the new Metrolinx. Torstar had in February announced Mr. Prichard’s departure in May, and paid him an $11-million severance; at the time he told us, “I literally have no set plans. Zero. Not a thing.”

Well, today Mr. Prichard, 60, has some plans. To borrow the lingo of Thomas the Tank Engine, he is becoming Sir Topham Hatt.

In the Thomas books, the “fat controller” runs the railway with an iron fist; in the new Metrolinx, Mr. Prichard will not be saddled by any pesky elected officials on his board of directors. Currently six politicians sit on the GO Transit board, including the mayors of Richmond Hill, Brampton, Oakville and Pickering. Seven politicians sit on the board of Metrolinx, including Hazel McCallion, the mayor of Mississauga, and David Miller, the mayor of Toronto. The new Metrolinx will have no politicians at all; replacing them will be “experts in planning, finance and development.”

Mr. Prichard, who will earn $215,000 a year, is a Transitional Advisor, he says, and hopes the new Metrolinx can recruit a new chief executive within a year.

It’s hard to tell what this means for agencies like the Toronto Transit Commission. Granted, the TTC seems a bit out of favour with the province these days because it is putting its priority on projects within the City of Toronto, such as its Transit City network of light rail lines on Sheppard, Finch and Eglinton avenues, among other routes. Still, let’s not forget that the TTC is almost 10 times the size of GO or the new Metrolinx; the TTC will move 470 million passengers this year, compared to 55-million on GO Transit.

The government apparently has no plans right now for Metrolinx to take over the TTC or other transit systems. But the legislation does allow Metrolinx to own transit lines that are regional in nature, which means Metrolinx may end up owning the subways to Vaughan and Richmond Hill.

Peter Smith, the chairman of GO Transit who becomes vice-chair of the new Metrolinx, promises, “the new body will consult with all the stakeholders.” And he says commuters are the big winners: “They will see more expansion of service and faster starts on construction projects.”

Toronto city council does have at least one strong card in its hand: the city has not yet inked a deal it negotiated to sell the huge, abandoned West Wing of Union Station as a new headquarters for GO. Metrolinx will presumably have to play nice if it wants that swanky address, which is at ground zero for any regional transportation network that Metrolinx should plan to perfect.

All this said, certainly it’s nice to see the Government of Ontario taking regional transit seriously after at least a generation of neglect.

“This is not about the 416 or the 905,” says Paul Bedford, Toronto’s former chief planner, who will sit on the new Metrolinx board. “It’s about both.”