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Ontario continues to emphasize transit investment in 2018 Budget

The following is the analysis of the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) and the Ontario Public Transit Association (OPTA) from the Ontario Budget Lock-Up in Toronto.

Ontario will continue with its ambitious plans for transit investment in 2018. The provincial government released its annual budget on March 28 and inside were a number of exciting programs for transit systems and Ontarians. This budget was released with a provincial election only two months away and included investment in many sectors across the province.

With regards to transit, in addition to longer-term commitments like the Moving Ontario Forward Fund and the Gas Tax Fund (as well as other legacy programs); commitments like the proposed high-speed rail between Toronto and Windsor were further funded, federal-provincial investments in transit were formalized and a new proposal for fare integration in the GTHA was initiated. The Province of Ontario will also explore whether major transit assets, such as Toronto’s subway system, would benefit from being uploaded to the province to “allow for a better sharing of costs for transit expansion between the province and the City of Toronto.”

These varied investments add up to a $79 billion commitment to transit over the next ten years—up from $56 billion in last year’s budget.

The biggest ticket item was $11 billion of new money for transit which will be an initial investment towards the Toronto-Windsor High Speed Rail project. This project is currently in the environmental assessment process. The line would have seven stations in Windsor, Chatham, London, Kitchener, Guelph, and Toronto Union Station with a connection at the Toronto Pearson Airport.

Much of the remainder of new funding from this budget will go towards fulfilling the 10-year bilateral agreement, signed on March 14, 2018. Through this next phase of transit investment, the federal government will be investing $8.3 billion while the provincial government will be investing $7.3 billion (about $3 billion of which is funding new to the 2018 budget). This funding will be distributed to transit systems within the province based on ridership and will invest in projects that improve public transit and work towards improving system service areas and/or improve the modal share of transit and active transportation.

Through this agreement the federal government cost share of projects will be a maximum of 40%, while the provincial cost share will be a minimum of 33%. The province will be working with municipalities to nominate priority transit projects to submit to the federal government by September 30, 2018.

For the very first time in the province, transit will be funded through proceeds from the new Cap and Trade system. These new funds will go to a proposed regional fare integration plan between 11 transit service providers in the GTHA. This system could work similarly to when, in January 2018, the province introduced a fare discount to PRESTO card users who transferred between GO Transit or the UP Express and the TTC. While not all systems involved have been named, the budget did mention that municipal systems that connect to the TTC, such as York Region Transit, Mississauga’s MiWay, Brampton Transit and Durham Region Transit are potential systems for fare integration. The exact amount of funding for this initiative, as well as how, when and where fare integration will occur, is still subject to negotiations.

The budget promises that taking GO Transit within Toronto will cost users $3 per trip. Also, PRESTO card users at certain GTA GO stations will see fare reductions when taking GO Transit back and forth to Union Station. Finally, all GO Transit trips under 10 kilometres will cost PRESTO card users just $3 per trip within the GO Network.

Also outlined in the budget was $140 million in funding to build new bike lanes, bike lockers, and first mile/last mile transit solutions. This initiative will also be funded through the cap and trade system’s revenues.

Smaller programs that were also highlighted include a previously announced $40 million for a Community Transportation Grant Program, which is meant to improve transit service to underserved areas. All submissions are currently closed for this program.

The budget also highlighted $490 million over the next ten years through the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission to repair railway tracks, bridges and trains.

Finally, new electric ferries will be making their way to the province. The budget said the government will be moving forward with procuring two new electric ferries to connect the mainland with Amherst and Wolfe Islands.

For more information please reach out to Jeff Mackey at mackey@cutaactu.ca

 

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