N O Are The First Two Letters In Nothing

June 29, 2012

This needs to be said.

Our parents and grandparents and great grandparents mobilized and defeated Nazi Germany. So, surely to god we can build a better transit system. Is that really too much to expect?

The hand-wringing and bed wetting and patronizingly stern tsk, tsk, tsk, we’ve seen this all before m’eh reactions to Wednesday’s One City public unveiling seem a little over-the-top in their underwhelmed haughtiness. Blah, blah, blah, “…the real issue that calls the OneCity plan into question: The fact that it will never, ever happen,” sniffs the National Post’s Matt Gurney. “A Tax Attack,” screeched the Toronto Sun, followed by “Taxaholics” yesterday.

Of course, the mayor hated the plan. As did his brother. Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti warned of seniors reduced to eating cat food if the plan ever saw the light of day. Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong riffed on anything Mayor Ford and the Toronto Sun said.

Others like Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday and Councillor Michael Thompson didn’t like the fact proper procedures weren’t followed in bringing the plan public. “A political move to try and make the mayor look bad,” said the Deputy Mayor to the Toronto Sun’s Don Peat. “I’m appalled actually,” Peat quotes Thompson, “that the mayor’s office has not been consulted on this particular, very important issue.” On the CBC’s Here And Now Wednesday, Councillor Peter Milczyn suggested the architect’s of One City, TTC Chair and Vice-Chair Karen Stintz and Glenn De Baeremaeker were “up to something”.

Whatever could you mean by that insinuation, councillor?

Is One City a perfect transit plan? Of course not. Many reasonable voices have pointed that out and elaborated on their concerns. John Lorinc. Steve Munro. Edward Keenan. David Hains (here at this site yesterday). Matt Elliott.

It’s just a kick start to the conversation the city needs to have before it falls into the inevitable post-subway-versus-LRT debate torpor that could set in with the belief that our transit situation has been settled for good. No, it hasn’t, folks. We’ve only just begun…

One complaint about One City that I’ve seen repeatedly so far bemoans the fact that it’s just another talky talky plan, some variation of something everyone’s heard before, and that has inevitably landed in the dustbin. We’ve discussed ourselves into substandard public transit. Enough, already! As if, like mushrooms, all the words sown under a damp shadow of neglect will suddenly, magically sprout up into a working, joyful 21st-century transit system.

I’m only guessing here but isn’t it this type of miserly, parochial foot-dragging that’s got us into our current mess? I’d love a DRL but we simply can’t afford it. Why do they get a subway and we don’t?! All we ever do is talk! Just stop talking and do something! Like what? I don’t know. We can’t afford it anyway.

Ad infinitum and here we are in 2012 discussing another big idea transit plan. *yawn*

“Wow! Those Germans really cut a swath through France, didn’t they,” points out the rest of the unoccupied world. “They look like a real tough nut to crack. Maybe we should just lie low for a bit. Keep quiet. Let them tire themselves out a bit.”

Wouldn’t it be great to be a part of something that contributed positively to the future instead of yet another generation dissuaded by indifference and big scary numbers? Pick one. $30 billion? $50 billion? $500 billion? Half a trillion dollars to build a world class transit system from Hamilton to Oshawa, from Lake Ontario to Lake Simcoe. Daunting. Yes. Absolutely necessary. Yes. Achievable. Well.. errr, ahhh, geez… that’s a lot of money. I mean, how are we going to—

[Annoying game show buzzing noise.] Wrong answer.

Cost is just half the equation. The half fiscal hawks only ever focus their sights on. The price of not doing it slowly but relentlessly, exponentially tally up. Lost productivity. Decreased liveability. A gridlocked future our children and grandchildren will simply move away from in search of a better, more prosperous life.

For the want of a nail, the kingdom was lost and all that.

Nothing is easier than saying no. Isn’t that how a two year-old takes a first stab at independence? Isn’t that how we’ve found ourselves in the transit mess we’re in now?

No one, and I mean no one, has suggested One City will be the answer to our transit troubles. Let’s embrace the spirit of its intentions. An agreement that the status quo is no longer tenable, and hasn’t been for about two decades now. We can do better. We have to do better. And there’s going to be sacrifices involved. The rainy day’s here and we need to, as the currency of the day seems to be, put some skin into the game.

After all, in the scheme of things, it’s only building transit we’re talking about here not defending the world from a totalitarian scourge.

cheerleadingly submitted by Cityslikr