Rethinking governance to enable seamless regional travel

Imagine being able to travel from Hamilton to Oshawa, or from Pickering to Richmond Hill on a single ticket. And imagine buying that ticket online from a website that coordinates the schedules involved while offering you a discount for travelling during off-peak hours. Could such a thing happen in the GTHA?

With 30 municipalities in the region, nine different transit service providers (one of which is among the largest in North America), and six years of regional transit planning behind us, isn't it time to ask why we still don't have seamless cross-regional travel?

That is why the Neptis Foundation has published two new posts on its website. The first post is by Michael Schabas and examines what fare integration and smart pricing look like by comparing London's Oyster card with Metrolinx's proposed PRESTO card. The second post articulates why transit governance matters. As David Quarmby, former director at Transport for London (Tfl) suggests, the key to an integrated regional transit system, one that will actually get people out of their cars and onto transit, is getting the governance right and using it well.

As the transit discussion takes off again during election year, there's plenty of talk - the Scarborough LRT-vs-subway battle, the Downtown Relief Line vs the Regional Relief strategy, varying ideas about how to optimize GO Transit - but these debates are sideshows to the main event: getting a system that treats the region as one big transit network.

And isn't it time to ask what politicians will do to address the governance gridlock in the GTHA?

Voters and reporters need to press politicians on these issues. These are the questions we need to ask both provincial and municipal candidates:

"What will you do to bring the 416 and 905 together as one region for transit?"

"What is your plan for improving regional congestion?"

"How does your party plan to ensure seamless travel by transit across the region?"

These questions are intended to spark the kinds of conversations we need to have in the GTHA now. We do not yet have firm answers, but if the questions are never asked, the solutions will never emerge.

Why PRESTO isn't yet an Oyster?
Governance: The Third Rail that powers integrated regional transit
Review of Metrolinx's Big Move
GO Transit and the promise of regional express rail
Op-Ed Toronto Star: Metrolinx needs an overhaul to get transit on track