Why an improved TTC is essential!!
Annual Scorecard; 80-minute average commute slowest of 19 cities
Megan O’Toole, National Post
Toronto’s commute times are a “glaring downfall” in the city’s economic picture — even worse than the notorious traffic snarls in Los Angeles, according to a new Board of Trade report.
Toronto, with an average total commute time of 80 minutes, ranked dead last among 19 urban centres, the board found in its annual prosperity scorecard, which compares Toronto with metropolitan areas around the world in 34 categories to measure how the city is competing in the global economy.
Overall, Toronto finished fourth in the ranking, but the report highlights a discrepancy between the city’s strong ability to attract labour and its mediocre economic performance.
“Our most glaring downfall is our embarrassing finish on commuting time,” board president Carol Wilding said, noting Toronto lags behind the legendary Los Angeles by 24 minutes, earning a grade of D.
Building the city’s public transit infrastructure is critical to improving productivity, Ms. Wilding said, but that will become more difficult in light of the province’s “disappointing” move to delay key Transit City projects.
In last week’s provincial budget, the McGuinty government announced plans to postpone $4-billion in Toronto transit infrastructure spending over the next five years, meaning some of the city’s planned rapid transit lines could be delayed well beyond 2020.
“I don’t think we can back down in terms of advocacy for that funding,” Ms. Wilding said.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates traffic congestion in Toronto costs the country more than $5-billion annually in lost productivity, while the Ministry of Transportation’s bi-annual review of traffic congestion indicates average speeds on some of Toronto’s busiest sections of roads are being recorded at 38 kilometres an hour.
About 70% of Torontonians drive to work, the Board of Trade found, highlighting what Mayor David Miller calls the province’s “wrong-headed” decision to delay Transit City.
“There’s a huge competitiveness problem with our lack of transit,” Mr. Miller said.
Though Transit City is his legacy, the Mayor said he does not regret his decision not to seek a third term, noting “nobody can credibly run for mayor of this city … without supporting these investments.”
Despite Toronto’s poor showing in the commuting time category, the city placed fourth overall in the board’s 2010 scorecard — the same ranking as last year. A total of 24 urban centres were included in the report, though data are not available for each city in every category.
Toronto ranked second only to Barcelona in labour attractiveness, but sat at 11th place in terms of overall economy; the discrepancy is a “perplexing riddle” that must be addressed, Ms. Wilding said.
“Toronto’s high ranking masks the troublesome weaknesses that will undermine our ability to maintain our position in future editions of this report,” she warned. “Toronto’s poor economic performance is threatening the very liveability that we are all so proud of.”
The city earned high marks in areas such as affordability, diversity and strength of education, yet performed poorly on GDP growth, a key driver of future prosperity.
The city also fell short on access to venture capital and is “leagues away” from top-ranked Hong Kong in productivity growth, Ms. Wilding said.
“In one domain we’re a world leader, but in the other domain we lag behind our competitors,” she said, noting unless we improve on the economic side, we risk falling behind on our ability to draw top talent.
“This discrepancy between labour attractiveness and our economic performance is not just an idle curiosity,” Ms. Wilding said. “It is a major and pressing public-policy and private-sector challenge.”