Finding The Better Way

A political case could probably be made for Premier Dalton McGuinty, his Minister of Municipal Affairs, Kathleen Wynne, and Transportation, Bob Chiarelli, to seize the moment and reframe the transit debate in Toronto. Our mayor has been staggered by a series of largely self-induced setbacks. He no longer commands a vaunted political force (if he ever did) under the banner of Ford Nation. His Transportation City plan is fraying around its already fuzzy edges. While not needing to shore up support in Toronto or the GTA, the Liberal government could lock it down for the foreseeable future by being seen to elevate the transit issue in importance here.

But really, should a political case have to be made stepping up for transit? Look around, listen. It’s not just car-hating, bike riding, downtown pinko elites demanding action. Carol Wilding and the Toronto Board of Trade have been beating the drum for a while now. Transit planning and funding have not kept up pace with the growth of this city and region. It is a situation now past the point of deleteriousness. Not just for Toronto or the GTA but for the province and the country. (Uh oh. Is that an example of the self-importance the rest of Canada hates us for? Ah, fuck `em. Oops. Too smug?)

If a politician wants to leave a positive mark, a legacy if you will, at some point of time they have to step forward and do the right thing and not just the expedient or most popular. Take a stand on an issue that may not curry them favour with a wider swath of the electorate but says, this needs to be done. Fifty years ago, for no discernible reason aside from Cold War fuelled hyper patriotism, President Kennedy exhorted his country to send a man to the moon. Less than a decade later, mission accomplished. Surely to christ we’re capable of building a viable transit system or, at least, a working portion of one in that kind of time.

It’s hard to see how, however, as our functionaries continue to play footsie instead of getting down to serious business. Witness yesterday’s ceremonial breaking of ground for the Eglinton crosstown LRT and the insipid press release it inspired. Jobs! Secure future! Jobs! New global economy! Jobs! Did we mention Jobs!

Unwritten went the fact that under the rejigged plan for the Eglinton LRT that now sees it buried underground for most of its 25 kilometres or so, sinking funds for the previously planned LRTs along Finch and Sheppard along with it, there’s uncertainty about how exactly to cross the Don Valley. Can you say cost overruns and delays? The $650 million in ‘leftover funds’ from building the Eglinton LRT has already dwindled to about $200 million before construction has barely begun, none of which is being fronted by the province to the mayor in order for him to help jump start development of an extension for the Sheppard subway which he promised could be built entirely with private funding. It has now been downgraded to a station by station concept, pay as you go kind of thing that will only succeed in keeping Toronto further and further behind the necessary transit curve.

A brewing monumental clusterfuck is what we’re facing and it’s time for the province to forcefully step in and get this thing back on track. It should be clear by now that Mayor Ford and his team is not up to the task. In fact, a convincing argument could be made the he is now nothing more than an obstacle to transit planning in this city.

At least make the case that before we proceed much further this has to go back to city council for a more serious debate and vote. We’re no longer talking about a simple rearranging of funds that had already been allocated to build transit. There’s going to have to be additional money provided by someone. It’s hard to see how another environmental assessment can be avoided whatever way they come up with as a plan to cross the Don Valley along Eglinton. This is now beyond the scope of simply the mayor and the TTC. The entire city council, and the city itself needs to have a say in how we go forward.

Now I thought that was the case right from the beginning when the mayor declared Transit City dead. I didn’t see how he could do that single-handedly and most of those who sprang to his defence did so with greyish technicalities. I was surprised the Premier played along. In hindsight, I’m glad he did. Mayor Ford’s popularity was higher than it is now, his clout more substantial. He just might’ve been able to bury Transit City for good and we’d be right back to scratch as we seem to find ourselves regularly on the transit portfolio.

Forced to sell his plan to council now, the outcome is nowhere near as foregone. With the bad news keep on a-coming, what councillor in their right mind would stand up to be counted as backing the mayor’s Transportation City plan? It’s going to cost more and deliver less transit to the city. Yes, if we go with Transit City, there’ll be ‘streetcars’ back on the street but that’s his millstone to bear. How many councillors went out on the hustings touting that to voters?

No, Transit City is not perfect. The province made it a little less so when it blinked in the face of a darkening economy a couple years ago and pulled some funding back off the table. But it still delivers reliable transit to parts of the city that will continue to be woefully underserved without it. Let’s call it a reasonable start to an increasingly daunting problem facing us.

An argument could be made to let the mayor dangle further, bluster ahead with his plan and watch it disintegrate further with each successive misstep. That will only squander valuable time and money both of which are at a premium presently with very little prospect of any increased rosiness in the near future. It’s time to stop playing political football with this, push aside the mayor and get on with building proper transit with the serious intent he’s shown no inclination in having.

adultly submitted by Cityslikr

2 Responses to Finding The Better Way

  1. Sol Chrom says:

    Agreed. While the “give him enough rope” strategy must be awfully tempting for the province, there’s more at stake here than just letting RoFo hang himself.

    Good transit planning isn’t just good policy — it may be less than a decade before climate change is irreversible. We can’t keep building everything around the car.

    Oops. Did I just start up the war again?

  2. Sonny says:

    The Sheppard Stubway was started and constructed under a Conservative Mayor & Premier. So now you’re getting maybe one stop?!

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