Raging Bullishly On Subways

February 29, 2012

Following along with Toronto’s ongoing transit struggles, let’s call them, and I have a Raging Bull moment. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the movie but there’s that scene after, I don’t know, the 23rd fight between Jake LaMotta and Sugar Ray Robinson, LaMotta’s lost the middleweight title (or failed to regain it from Robinson), been beaten to a bloody pulp (again) and he staggers over to his opponent’s corner. “I never went down, Ray. You never got me down, Ray. You hear me? You never got me down.”

Kind of reminiscent of Mayor Ford and his Sheppard subway plan, don’t you think?

Leading face first with not much defence to speak of, he just bulls forward, taking shots to the head and body, swinging wildly in retaliation, landing significantly fewer punches than his opponents. “You’ll never take subways from me, Karen. The people want subways, Karen. You hear me? The people want subways.”

Having attended a couple transit meetings and discussions this week and listening to the subways versus LRTs argument, it’s hard not to conclude that it’s really a bit of a mismatch at this point. Proponents of LRTs cite academic studies pointing to the reasons why the inner suburbs of Toronto shouldn’t expect subways, the lack of necessary density being one of the prime reasons why. There’s also the question of money, austere times being what they are. LRTs are less expensive to build and maintain. So, they’ve got cost and suitability going for them.

Subways?

Errrr….. ummmm…. uuuuhhhhhh… They go fast! Downtowners have them. Why can’t the suburbs? Suburban dwellers are not 2nd class citizens. The St. Clair right of way was a disaster! The mayor has a mandate to build subways. The mayor has a mandate!

Did we mention that subways go fast?

Mayor Ford and his councillor brother, Doug, took to the airwaves last Sunday for two hours of unobstructed time (minus the ads, news and traffic reports) to make their subway case. Instead, they talked to Wendel Clark about the state of the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise, chatted Oscars and Norman Jewison and basically recited their transit script (see paragraph 6) over and over again, allowing Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti to chime in with his opinion on the matter. “Hey, guys. Subways are great. Let’s build one under Finch sometime. Talk to you soon.”

No expert testimonials to back their plan. No objective study explaining why building subways would be worth it in the long run. No one-on-one, face-to-face debate with an LRT supporter. Just glib and unsubstantiated rhetoric from a couple knuckleheads with no interest in public transit except as an election issue. Well that, and keeping it off the streets they drive their big vehicles on.

Now, in the final rounds and up against the ropes, the mayor is desperately looking to land a haymaker – boxing’s version of the Hail Mary Pass (in this case case, why don’t we call it the St. Jude) – to try and salvage at least a split decision on the Sheppard subway. Something, anything in order to avoid being completely and utterly sidelined… unless of course that’s exactly what he wants. Like Jake LaMotta, he’s throwing the fight, deliberately losing this battle in order to win the wider war of re-election.

“Now he [Mayor Ford] can argue that, by thwarting him, council denied suburban voters their right to have underground transit like downtowners do,” as Marcus Gee surmised in his Globe and Mail article last week.

So the Sheppard subway isn’t really for the suburbs, the transit deprived Scarborough. It’s for Mayor Ford. Rather than step back and accept the fact that he’s on the losing side of this, that his failure to deliver a feasible, reasonable, sensible plan to replace Transit City that he single-handedly declared dead has left him on the verge of suffering a TKO, he’s picked it up to use a club to bludgeon his way back into the hearts of Ford Nation.

“You never got me down, Ray. You hear me? You never got me down.”

Maybe the mayor has become a little punch drunk.

In a recent Angus Reid poll that showed nearly an even split between those wanting subways and those wanting LRTs, some 57% of those asked said they had no interest in paying tolls, congestion or parking fees, increased taxes to build subways. Pretty much a prerequisite if they’re going to be built. Gordon Chong, the mayor’s handpicked representative to write a report on the viability of a Sheppard subway said as much. As has the mayor in recent days. As has the Toronto Sun.

No, wait. It didn’t. In fact it pretty much called out Mayor Ford for even broaching the subject of increased taxes or any sort of user fees. The Toronto Sun. Called out the mayor. No taxpayer money even if it meant no subways.

The Toronto Sun, people.

But Mayor Ford soldiers on. Even at the time of this writing, he’s holed up in his office with developers, the Board of Trade and a councillor or two, trying to hammer out a deal to get his subway built. There are rumours being floated of a proposal to reinstate the vehicle registration tax that would go to help financing subway construction.

The VRT, people.

This is getting ugly. Somebody outta stop this fight. The mayor’s gonna  get really hurt.

Maybe Mayor Ford shouldn’t be preparing for re-election in 2014. Maybe he should be working on some material in order to play host to some adult cabaret show down in Florida. “I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody…”

deniroly submitted by Cityslikr


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