This report began as a question asked by Tony Coombes, the founding executive director of the Neptis Foundation, who passed away earlier this year.
It then continued as a conversation between Tony and Michael Schabas, the report’s author.
Both Tony and Michael were colleagues during the early days of the Canary Wharf project, when Canada’s powerhouse development company, Olympia and York (O&Y), set out to build a new city centre in east London. Tony hired Michael as O&Y’s Vice-President of Transport, to conceive, plan, and make the business case for the Jubilee Line Extension that would link London’s Underground to the new city, and to upgrade the Docklands Light Railway.
Many years later, Michael and Tony reconnected during one of Michael’s visits to Toronto, his hometown. Metrolinx had just released The Big Move, the $36 billion regional transit plan. Questions were raised as the two began a series of conversations about the Plan.
What evidence suggests that the projects in the Big Move will double the number of transit riders and significantly reduce congestion in the region, as promised by Metrolinx?
Does each project offer good value for money?
Do all the projects add up to a substantial regional transit network or is the Big Move just an amalgam of projects put forward by diverse sponsors?
How do the projects in the Big Move relate to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, its land use equivalent?
The discussion continued, and when it looked like the Big Move was going to be derailed by political considerations, Tony asked Michael to use his unique skills and experience to provide an evaluation of the Big Move and its component projects.
The Big Move has a laudable vision and goals, but if it does not deliver on them through its projects, public confidence in transit-building in Toronto region will suffer for many years to come.
Schabas’s report attempts to peel back the layers of the Big Move and examine the business case for each project. He uses numbers provided by Metrolinx on their website, and from GO Transit and the TTC or from the original transit agency that conceived each project. The report asks the tough questions and reaches some conclusions that may be difficult to accept six years into the implementation of the Big Move. But the report also identifies opportunities for change and concludes that there is still time to make changes, and build the transit that the Toronto Region needs for today and tomorrow.
The report is therefore not only dedicated to, but a legacy of, Tony Coombes, a man who refused to stop asking the tough questions and always sought out the best regional solutions.
Read the full report here.