Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Draft RTP Delayed

One of the recurring issues I've heard about the Regional Transportation plan was the timeline. With the Premier strongly desiring a final plan in the fall, the resulting timeline meant holding public consultation during the summer months - a time usually avoided due to the fact that many have totally checked out when it comes to politics and planning.

Today, Metrolinx formally announced that the draft Regional Transportation Plan and Investment Strategy will be delayed until September. While this means that the public consultation for the plan will occur during the time when the public are most available and attentive, it also means that the plan might miss the cutoff for the 2009 Provincial Budget. Without a specific plan available to the Province, they will only be able to give funding to general service improvements, not for specific capital projects.

There has been a lot of speculation as to what has caused this delay. Some argue that the Premier was simply not ready to deal with some of the policies many people expected to see in the investment strategy. But, according to Metrolinx Chair Rob MacIsaac, the province has yet to see the investment strategy. I may be cynical, but I would expect the Province to be privy to a sneak peak at the plan before it is disclosed to the public. If that hasn't happened, then it suggests to me that it simply isn't finished - a theory that David Harrison shares. Metrolinx has a strong desire to ensure that the investment strategy and the RTP come out at the same time, in order to avoid derailments from the "how are we going to pay for this?" camp. If the funding plan isn't ready, then the transit plan isn't ready.

While I do subscribe to that theory, I'm certain there is a bit of truth to the other factors - either consciously or subconsciously. The plan needs to be approved by the public to stand the test of time, and it needs to be politically viable - there's no denying that, be you cynical or not. But, when the plan finally is released, we'll have a document that, for the first time, sets outs a roadmap for our future. And, that document will be politically acceptable and shaped by an attentive and engaged public.

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At 7/10/2008 8:24 a.m. , Blogger David Harrison said...

Here's the thing, Andrea. I have a hard time seeing how, with just two weeks to go, they suddenly realize that two more months are required. It may be that they simply need a bit more time but it is impossible to book another board meeting in the summer due to vacations, and so they are stuck with a two month delay. Given that, they may as well use the extra time to improve the plan, provide more details, and generally do what they can to make a stronger case.

What concerns me is that the government, while not having seen the final release, surely has a good sense of what is coming. After all, we do, and we're just reading public documents and reading between the lines. I hope that the delay is simply a matter of spending a bit more time polishing it, rather than a result of any resistance on the part of government to consider it. Certainly, McGuinty has rejected tolls on several occasions in the past.

A political storm is coming once this thing is released, so more preparation can only be a good thing. They are going to have to make a strong and complelling case that reaching into people's pockets to the tune of $4 billion a year (spread across roughly 6 million people in the GTAH) is justifiable given the benefits. Already we can see the "taxpayers pay too much already" comments starting.

At 7/11/2008 12:29 a.m. , Anonymous waterloowarrior said...

I think David may be correct in his analysis. From my experience in government, sometimes at the last minute you realize you've missed something and can't make the deadline, or have previously underestimated the amount of work you still need to do. While this may only require a few days/weeks more of work, because of schedules it may require a report to be postponed for a month or two. This may not be the case, but it could be possible. The people at Metrolinx are great professionals and I look forward to seeing the Draft RTP.


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