Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Metrolinx Slurps Up Hamilton Bus Fare Money to Pay Sunshine List Jobs in Toronto

One of the reoccurring themes of this blog is the ongoing centralization of government jobs serving the province to Toronto, much like what goes on in Bangkok versus the rest of Thailand.

The Star has a good article on Metrolinx charging 905 cities a higher percentage of bus fares to support Presto, the agency's mediocre fare collecting product.

Some councillors in the 905 region are fuming about a potential new deal for the Presto fare card system and are accusing the provincial transit agency of gouging smaller municipalities while giving Toronto a sweetheart deal.

For the past year 905 municipalities have been in negotiations with Metrolinx over a new operating agreement for Presto, the provincially owned fare card system used by transit systems across the region.

A deal has yet to be reached, but a report that went before the regional council of Durham Region last Wednesday revealed tentative terms of a potential 10-year deal.

According to the report, by 2021 the seven transit agencies in the 905 could have to pay a commission to Metrolinx equal to up to 9 per cent of fare revenue they collect through Presto. The municipalities currently pay a commission of 2 per cent, which Metrolinx uses to pay the operating costs of the fare card regime.

Under the terms of a deal the TTC inked with Metrolinx in 2012, the Toronto agency pays a commission of 4.65 per cent.

Before Presto, Hamilton would have received all their transit fares for the HSR. Now using Presto, potentially Hamilton could have to pay 9% of their fare revenue to Metrolinx, which is based in Toronto. On the 2012 Sunshine List, Metrolinx had 262 people making over $100,000 a year. That's a prime example of jobs that were originally done in Hamilton, now effectively centralized in Toronto. This begs the question of whether losing 9% is worth it compared to the hassle and expense of collecting a cash or ticket fare. 

The province enforces Presto by gas tax revenues the province shares with municipalities (in a method highly weighted toward Toronto). What is more ridiculous is that the TTC gets a massive break from Presto compared to other cities (plus the jobs working on the payment system stay in Toronto).

Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger should propose to the province to move Metrolinx to Hamilton from Toronto. Being a regional agency (and providing Presto to Ottawa) there's no reason it has to be in Toronto and future workers could live in a much cheaper city and much cheaper digs than Union Station.

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