The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) operates one of the most heavily utilized transit systems in North America, but funding for the agency has been limited. To address the financial situation, the mayor has suggested that the province take over the system and use its stronger balance sheet to finance more improvements at lower borrowing costs than TTC or the City of Toronto could muster.
The proposal was raised during the last mayoral campaign, but many questions remain unanswered. An opinion piece by Sevaun Palvetzian lays out some of the outstanding items.
There are lots of questions around how a new plan might be carried out. Will the city get any say over what gets built where and when, or how to keep the existing system in good repair? What role will the business sector play? How will the planning and funding of subways fit into the larger transit puzzle with LRTs, buses and other municipalities’ transit? Will the province fairly compensate the city in exchange for debts taken on by the city, given Toronto owns the land, stations and tracks worth billions and has been the primary investor in this system for decades?
The transfer of the transit system would include the transfer of the transit system's land holdings, which many believe are valuable assets that should remain in the City's control. Per the Toronto Sun:
Outspoken opponent Councillor Josh Matlow said he does not believe the city should be drawn into a process that will help Ford upload Toronto’s subway system, land value and potential air rights.
Who will control the development rights, including air rights, around the stations in the future? To achieve the financial benefits of provincial control, locals may have to give up some authority over development. I'll be sure to keep watching this debate over value capture in one of the most dynamic development markets in North America!
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Ian Carlton is a transportation and land use expert specializing in transit-oriented development (TOD). He helps clients - including transit agencies, planning departments, and landowners - optimize real estate development around transit.
Special thanks to Burt Gregory at Mithun for permission to use the Portland Streetcar image above.