Make transit a political issue

Opinion Oct 02, 2017 by James Bow Kitchener Post

While we wait with baited breath for LRT vehicles to start to move in Waterloo Region, we should consider how lucky we have it here.

According to regional Coun. Tom Galloway, Bombardier-willing, the region's ION LRT will open to the public around May 1 next year.

The region also has plans to dramatically revise our bus network when this happens. Residents are invited to offer feedback on the proposed changes either on the Grand River Transit's website, or at public consultation events happening later this month.

In addition to this, construction should soon begin on the new regional transit hub at the corner of King and Victoria.

The community's public transportation options are improving, and the region appears committed to doing what is needed to continue to improve things. In this, we face a much better future than Toronto.

In spite of attempts by the provincial government and local governments to improve public transportation in the Greater Toronto Area, the area is not keeping up with the transit expansion needed to manage the region's growth.

Worse, in spite of committing to a state of good repair following the fatal subway crash back in August 1995, the list of deferred or unfunded maintenance projects is growing. The City of Toronto alone faces a budget shortfall of $2.8 billion over the next 10 years.

Like it or not, Toronto's problems are our problems. We participate in the same economy as the other municipalities of the Greater Toronto Area. Traffic congestion consumes more than $5 billion in lost productivity each year in this province. 

For thousands of us each day, continuing inaction on the public transit portfolio means longer commutes, increased stress and decreased quality of life.

It didn't used to be this way. Before Rob Ford, and before the provincial government backtracked on some of its funding provinces, Toronto was making progress on public transit maintenance and expansion. It is shameful that we've slipped back.

Part of the issue, I believe, is that public transit is too easy for politicians to ignore. Ontario got into this mess in the late 1980s and early 1990s because politicians at multiple levels felt that they could cut public transit with little political blowback.

After all, what was one less bus trip at the end of a service day? What was pushing back maintenance on a tunnel wall or a track section for a week or a month? The system could cope with these small cut and people wouldn't notice.

Except that small cuts multiply into big cuts, which people do notice. Even at the federal level, our government's inaction on VIA Rail's maintenance threatens to cut service in the next couple of years, not through spending reductions, but through blatant neglect.

Around the beginning of this century, voters in Toronto and in Waterloo Region came to understand the importance of public transit to their quality of life, thanks to grassroots organizations like Rocket Riders and TriTAG. In several elections, they voted for more spending on public transit.

Here in the region, while our record isn't perfect, we continue to benefit from that foresight. The LRT is being built and the bus system is being improved.

But Ontarians need to make public transit political again, and make politicians who ignore the issue pay at the ballot box. All Canadians need to do this with VIA Rail.

And just because we in Waterloo have escaped this issue doesn't mean we can't fall back into these bad habits. Write your councillors and members of parliament.

Tell them public transit is important.

***

James Bow is a writer and a father of two in Kitchener, Ont. You can follow him online at bowjamesbow.ca or on Twitter at @jamesbow.


Make transit a political issue

Opinion Oct 02, 2017 by James Bow Kitchener Post

While we wait with baited breath for LRT vehicles to start to move in Waterloo Region, we should consider how lucky we have it here.

According to regional Coun. Tom Galloway, Bombardier-willing, the region's ION LRT will open to the public around May 1 next year.

The region also has plans to dramatically revise our bus network when this happens. Residents are invited to offer feedback on the proposed changes either on the Grand River Transit's website, or at public consultation events happening later this month.

In addition to this, construction should soon begin on the new regional transit hub at the corner of King and Victoria.

The community's public transportation options are improving, and the region appears committed to doing what is needed to continue to improve things. In this, we face a much better future than Toronto.

In spite of attempts by the provincial government and local governments to improve public transportation in the Greater Toronto Area, the area is not keeping up with the transit expansion needed to manage the region's growth.

Worse, in spite of committing to a state of good repair following the fatal subway crash back in August 1995, the list of deferred or unfunded maintenance projects is growing. The City of Toronto alone faces a budget shortfall of $2.8 billion over the next 10 years.

Like it or not, Toronto's problems are our problems. We participate in the same economy as the other municipalities of the Greater Toronto Area. Traffic congestion consumes more than $5 billion in lost productivity each year in this province. 

For thousands of us each day, continuing inaction on the public transit portfolio means longer commutes, increased stress and decreased quality of life.

It didn't used to be this way. Before Rob Ford, and before the provincial government backtracked on some of its funding provinces, Toronto was making progress on public transit maintenance and expansion. It is shameful that we've slipped back.

Part of the issue, I believe, is that public transit is too easy for politicians to ignore. Ontario got into this mess in the late 1980s and early 1990s because politicians at multiple levels felt that they could cut public transit with little political blowback.

After all, what was one less bus trip at the end of a service day? What was pushing back maintenance on a tunnel wall or a track section for a week or a month? The system could cope with these small cut and people wouldn't notice.

Except that small cuts multiply into big cuts, which people do notice. Even at the federal level, our government's inaction on VIA Rail's maintenance threatens to cut service in the next couple of years, not through spending reductions, but through blatant neglect.

Around the beginning of this century, voters in Toronto and in Waterloo Region came to understand the importance of public transit to their quality of life, thanks to grassroots organizations like Rocket Riders and TriTAG. In several elections, they voted for more spending on public transit.

Here in the region, while our record isn't perfect, we continue to benefit from that foresight. The LRT is being built and the bus system is being improved.

But Ontarians need to make public transit political again, and make politicians who ignore the issue pay at the ballot box. All Canadians need to do this with VIA Rail.

And just because we in Waterloo have escaped this issue doesn't mean we can't fall back into these bad habits. Write your councillors and members of parliament.

Tell them public transit is important.

***

James Bow is a writer and a father of two in Kitchener, Ont. You can follow him online at bowjamesbow.ca or on Twitter at @jamesbow.


Make transit a political issue

Opinion Oct 02, 2017 by James Bow Kitchener Post

While we wait with baited breath for LRT vehicles to start to move in Waterloo Region, we should consider how lucky we have it here.

According to regional Coun. Tom Galloway, Bombardier-willing, the region's ION LRT will open to the public around May 1 next year.

The region also has plans to dramatically revise our bus network when this happens. Residents are invited to offer feedback on the proposed changes either on the Grand River Transit's website, or at public consultation events happening later this month.

In addition to this, construction should soon begin on the new regional transit hub at the corner of King and Victoria.

The community's public transportation options are improving, and the region appears committed to doing what is needed to continue to improve things. In this, we face a much better future than Toronto.

In spite of attempts by the provincial government and local governments to improve public transportation in the Greater Toronto Area, the area is not keeping up with the transit expansion needed to manage the region's growth.

Worse, in spite of committing to a state of good repair following the fatal subway crash back in August 1995, the list of deferred or unfunded maintenance projects is growing. The City of Toronto alone faces a budget shortfall of $2.8 billion over the next 10 years.

Like it or not, Toronto's problems are our problems. We participate in the same economy as the other municipalities of the Greater Toronto Area. Traffic congestion consumes more than $5 billion in lost productivity each year in this province. 

For thousands of us each day, continuing inaction on the public transit portfolio means longer commutes, increased stress and decreased quality of life.

It didn't used to be this way. Before Rob Ford, and before the provincial government backtracked on some of its funding provinces, Toronto was making progress on public transit maintenance and expansion. It is shameful that we've slipped back.

Part of the issue, I believe, is that public transit is too easy for politicians to ignore. Ontario got into this mess in the late 1980s and early 1990s because politicians at multiple levels felt that they could cut public transit with little political blowback.

After all, what was one less bus trip at the end of a service day? What was pushing back maintenance on a tunnel wall or a track section for a week or a month? The system could cope with these small cut and people wouldn't notice.

Except that small cuts multiply into big cuts, which people do notice. Even at the federal level, our government's inaction on VIA Rail's maintenance threatens to cut service in the next couple of years, not through spending reductions, but through blatant neglect.

Around the beginning of this century, voters in Toronto and in Waterloo Region came to understand the importance of public transit to their quality of life, thanks to grassroots organizations like Rocket Riders and TriTAG. In several elections, they voted for more spending on public transit.

Here in the region, while our record isn't perfect, we continue to benefit from that foresight. The LRT is being built and the bus system is being improved.

But Ontarians need to make public transit political again, and make politicians who ignore the issue pay at the ballot box. All Canadians need to do this with VIA Rail.

And just because we in Waterloo have escaped this issue doesn't mean we can't fall back into these bad habits. Write your councillors and members of parliament.

Tell them public transit is important.

***

James Bow is a writer and a father of two in Kitchener, Ont. You can follow him online at bowjamesbow.ca or on Twitter at @jamesbow.