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Transit Funding Proposal for the GTA

TF_BubblesContext: Winning Entry at the 2013 Global Engineering Innovation Competition (GEIC)

March 17, 2013

The ThinkFresh Group, working in collaboration with Lindsay Roxon, entered the 2013 Global Engineering Innovation Competition, held by the Toronto Chapter of Engineers Without Borders. The theme of the contest was to find innovative ideas and solutions for transit under 3 categories – encouraging transit friendly development in the GTA, increasing funding for transit, and how to more effectively share the road with transit vehicles.

We had met Lindsay through the social finance community and we were keen to work with her on a projects that would utilize her talents in social finance analysis. Entering this contest felt like the perfect opportunity and we set to work right away on the innovative funding theme.

Lindsay was interested in exploring the use of infrastructure bonds – similar to ones used around the world to finance bridges, tunnels and transit, which we both agreed was a good idea. We were most interested in pushing through some of the more innovative ideas being used in transit systems around the world we had studied including land value capture (most famously implemented by the MTR in Hong Kong) and creating a more democratic dialogue around transit (which we felt was best done through a funding referendum such a Proposition R in Los Angeles).

Our proposal combined the three ideas together as part of a system – run a referendum first for a sales tax increase, use the increase to leverage a series of infrastructure bonds and finally implementing land value capture at all new stations as part of the overall planning of these transit hubs. We called out proposal Paying The Way: Financing GTA Transit Expansion in the 21st Century an Beyond.

Our proposal was selected as one of the finalists, which would mean that we would be presenting at the final competition – and sharing a stage with Paul Bedford, former Chief Planner for the City of Toronto who was the keynote address! Recognizing that we’d have to step up our game, we prepared a fun little Prezi to explain our idea to the audience and judges.

On March 23, 2013 we presented our final proposal in front of a crowd of over 100 people. Points were awarded by judges and there were also points allocated through people’s choice voting. After a nervous few hours of evaluation and voting, the judges ascended the stage to announce that we had won! We couldn’t believe it! Our moment standing with the giant prize cheque and the GEIC plaque on stage was one that we definitely won’t be forgetting anytime soon!