The LRT Plans are far from Perfect

 

When I landed in at the Beijing airport earlier this year, I went through customs and immigration, grabbed my luggage, and walked by a fast and advanced subway station on the way to grab a cab.

Beijing is not alone in having a subway station attached to a major city airport. Most European countries afford travelers the same convenience.

So why, in one of the biggest cities in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, do travelers have to take a wildly expensive cab or city bus to get from Pearson to their destination? (And please don't write "first world problem!" as a response. China isn't quite a fully developed country yet and they managed to make life easier for people). 

Because the GTA suffers from poor public transportation, that's why. It's poorly planned, poorly run and overall shocking in its mediocrity. 

Everyone knows this, but few have been willing or able to do much about it.Torontohas always suffered from inadequate public transport (complaints range from streetcars being too archaic and cumbersome to limited subway stations being poorly maintained), and the rest of the GTA --Mississaugaincluded -- has flailed along with it. Sauga is especially in trouble, with the needs of traffic control butting heads against vast urban expansion in the City Centre core. As the city grows -- and condos pop up like brick and mortar weeds -- the gridlock worsens. Saugans know this. Hazel knows this. So, what to do? 

Well, the proposed Hurontario-Main LRT is a semi-solution, designed to take the edge off traffic rather than dramatically decrease it. We actually talked about the LRT last year, and it looks like the project, identified as a priority by Metrolinx, is still a go. Having said that, there have been some hurdles. In fact, earlier this month, an irate Mayor McCallion balked at Brampton Mayor Susan Fennell's sudden change of heart regarding the Sauga-Brampton LRT after Fennell proposed a new bus route instead. 

According to a recent story in the Toronto Star, several Brampton city counselors were also surprised at the mayor's apparent flip-flop and her assertion that Metrolinx's funding plans (which include possible parking levies, HST increases, elevated development fees and a gas tax increase to fund the province's entire Big Move initiative and, by extension, Sauga's LRT) were "job killers." 

While Fennell's 11th hour revelation was certainly frustrating (and the "job killers" part is probably an exaggeration), she may be reacting to actual public grievances. If there's another terrible truth, it's that GTA-ers (and, well, people in general) all want something for nothing. Everyone wants bigger and better subways, trains and fancy buses reaching far and wide, connecting Pearson and Union Station and Square One and UTM and so forth, but few people want to swallow parking levies and HST hikes to get them. 

To be fair, Mississauga residents already pay much higher property taxes than their more urban neighbours to the east, and in the City of the Car, transportation costs -- gas, maintenance, insurance -- are already formidable. And since the LRT is only proposed to run north and south when a sizeable portion of the city travels east and west, people are wondering if the LRT will cancel out higher gas taxes. 

So there is certainly room for debate. 

But warranted debate or not, it's hard to argue that the LRT isn't a start. 

It's coming late -- very, very late -- in the game. It's coming long after GTA residents have spent years decrying the vehicular horror show that is rush hour (and non-rush hour) traffic. It's come long after Sauga, a formally quiet if not expansive suburb, suddenly played host to fast-growing condos and businesses and couldn't accommodate the increased human and vehicle traffic. 

While other Canadians may disagree, the truth -- and it's not an opinion, it's a fact -- is the GTA is the corporate hub of the country. It's the home of the country's banking, corporate and entertainment sectors and it houses over 5 million people. It is shameful that the hub of one the world's most developed countries can't adequately transport tourists and business travelers quickly, cheaply and easily from Pearson to the downtown core of any GTA city. It is shameful that in Sauga, a city with high taxes and expensive real estate, lower and middle-class people and families are almost required to drive almost every day because of poorly managed, run and maintained public transportation systems. 

So, are new taxes and fees a burden? Absolutely. Is the proposed LRT a perfect solution? Of course not. But it's a start. And it's better than nothing.  

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