Flickr user Richard Eriksson
The Toronto region is about to see a $29 billion infusion into its transit and road networks.
In the Loop is your round-up of what’s going on in the transportation world, posted in conjunction with Talking Transit.
Transportation is not the end goal of any meaningful planning process—rather, it is a means to an end. Appropriate investments in transportation can help produce healthy, sustainable and livable communities where people want to live and work.
That’s why the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) is a strong advocate for transit-oriented development (TOD). Last month, MPC introduced its page on the City of Chicago’s new TOD Ordinance, which allows higher densities and fewer required parking spaces on land located within a close distance of rail transit stations. The TOD Ordinance, along with appropriate design standards and financing tools, will help reinforce the growth that is already occurring in infill locations throughout the Chicago region.
That growth would be helped by the expansion of the region’s transportation network. Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn’s Northeastern Illinois Public Transit Task Force, which relied on supporting documentation from MPC and other groups, released its recommendations in March for improving the governance, ethics, performance and financing of regional transit organizations. One vision for those recommendations is the “Transit Future” concept developed by the Center for Neighborhood Technology.
Around the world, funding for adequate public transportation is of paramount concern in order to ensure that a growing population is served by effective bus and rail links. This week, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced that she intends to pledge $29 billion for transportation over the next 10 years, including $15 billion for transit service in the Toronto region. That pledge would be funded through a redirection of certain provincial sales taxes and fuel taxes.
Among other projects, these funds will go toward new light rail lines and subways in Toronto, in addition to all-day, two-way 15-minute service on all regional commuter rail lines. The funding may also offer the opportunity to connect Toronto and London, Ontario (about 200 kilometers to the southwest) with a new high-speed rail line. Considering the Chinese experience, where the high-speed rail network has been so successful that it is displacing the domestic airline industry, that might be a good bet for the province’s transportation options.
California may also be able to move forward with its proposed high-speed rail line (which will begin construction next month) thanks to the infusion of new revenues. California Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has announced that he would like to dedicate 20 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas cap and trade revenues—expected to bring in up to $5 billion a year—to the high-speed rail project.
Steinberg also wants to use this steady stream of future revenues to pay for other important transportation-related investments. He proposes that 40 percent of revenues be allocated to sustainable communities and affordable housing located near transit stations; 30 percent be used to expand and operate local transit networks; and 10 percent be directed to ensuring that streets are “complete,” offering walking and biking amenities. His proposal is under evaluation by the state senate.
Not everyone wants to use public funds to pay for these new transportation investments, though. Iconoclast Texans, for example, are hoping that they can fund a new high-speed rail line between Dallas and Houston with private funds alone. It’s probably a stretch given the significant public investments required for high-speed lines elsewhere, but you never know.