Gardiner Conundrum

Deep down in my bones, at the most visceral of visceral levels, I stand opposed to the selling of public assets to private interests. It always seems like some desperate measure and seldom turns out very well at the public end. justnotrightOf course, that may just be the confirmation bias punching its way to the surface.

But then, Councillor Adam Vaughan, whom I nearly always agree with, floats the notion of selling off or leasing out the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway. What?! Yesterday on Metro Morning, the councillor went full on Ford and touted mysterious ‘telephone calls’ he’d been getting from ‘major investment firms’ and ‘consortiums’, apparently drooling over the prospect of gobbling up some crumbling infrastructure. What next, Adam? Folks in line at Timmies, telling you to go for it?

During the interview, Councillor Shelley Carroll, whom I nearly always agree with, calls Vaughan’s idea an ‘insane fantasy’. Exactly, Shelley. If we’re going to start tolling the roads, why not keep the profits instead of handing them to the private sector to make off with like bandits. An insane fantasy indeed.waitwhat

Which is probably why Councillor Doug Ford agrees with Councillor Vaughan about it. Wait. What?! Get out of town! Those two guys?

“I’m glad that Councillor Vaughan is taking a page out of my playbook that I’ve been preaching for the last two years,” said the councillor and Mayor-brother, “maybe he got hit over the head over the weekend.”

For that reason alone, I now want to sell the roads to the private sector and watch as Councillor Ford slowly and inevitably realizes to his horror exactly how P3s work in the real world. Nothing comes for free. One way or another we will pay for the use of the Gardiner. I’m not sure the councillor fully understands that concept yet.

Of course, that’s not really all that constructive and might simply be cutting off my nose to spite my face. And when it comes to being spiteful, let’s leave that up to the master on the matter, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong. From Robyn Doolittle of the Toronto Star:

Public works and infrastructure chair Denzil Minnan-Wong said [Chief Planner Jennifer] Keesmaat needs to get on board with a staff recommendation to carry about $505 million of rehabilitation work over the next decade on two sections of the Gardiner.

darkhelmet“She’s in favour of spending the tens of millions that’s required to keep the Gardiner up while we could wait for six, seven, eight years to get an environmental assessment done, then flushing all that money down the toilet and maybe tearing the Gardiner down,” he said.

Ms. Keesmaat’s transgression? Suggesting before throwing a half billion dollars blindly at the problem of the Gardiner, how be we go back to that Environmental Assessment that we were already $3 million into before Mayor Ford came to power and Councillor Minnan-Wong took over at Public Works. You know, that one that got mysteriously shelved. The one that might’ve already been completed and on the table to give us some educated direction going forward.

If you could indict someone for disingenuous douchery, the Public Works and Infrastructure chair would be up to his eyes in legal paperwork. Unfortunately, that’s not illegal behaviour. Just terrible, destructive politics.

Not only was Ms. Keesmaat being quite reasonable in her suggestion that we think before we spend but she said out loud what road warriors like councillors Ford and Minnan-Wong refuse to accept and those like Vaughan and Carroll can only nibble around the edges of. According to Robyn Doolittle again, Toronto’s chief planner said she is opposed to spending massive sums on infrastructure focused on “moving more cars.”completelynuts

That’s what this all comes down to.

The future of transportation services in this city.

Single rider, private vehicle use is the least efficient, most expensive way of moving the biggest number of people. We’ve been heavily subsidizing it for over half a century now. Now’s the time to pay the piper. That bill’s come due.

The best way to go about achieving that? I guess that’s what this current tussle is about, at least among the politicians who are looking ahead and not back. Councillor Minnan-Wong is fighting yesterday’s war and should be treated accordingly.

It’s all well and good to think that if tolls are the way to go, why don’t we just start tolling and reap the profits. But in governments’ hands, it’s always political and subject to the whim of the day.nowisthetime Just like Rob Ford came to power vowing to kill the Vehicle Registration Tax, it’s easy to imagine another candidate pledging to kill tolls.

So sell it smartly to the private sector and be done with it. Let those who want to drive, bitch and moan at the major investment firms and consortiums not City Hall. And if you think you’re going to avoid paying by taking another, ‘free’ route? We’ll keep that congestion fee option tucked in our back pocket.

And hey, if Councillor Vaughan is right and engaging in a P3 will kick in federal infrastructure funds and ‘regionalize the cost’ of maintenance, why not? Cities should not be solely responsible for roads that serve the greater area.

Still… there’s that nagging feeling, deep in my bones. Lost revenue. Loss of control. Enriching the private sector while draining the public purse.

But this is a conversation and decision we need to have right now and not some time after we’ve thrown half a billion dollars at a problem that will do nothing more than handcuff another generation.

discombobulatedly submitted by Cityslikr

6 Responses to Gardiner Conundrum

  1. You can’t sell it for what it is truly worth without bringing up its state-of-good-repair. Even if we awarded the right to buy it, the post-award negotiations would begin and before you know it, the City would be getting stuck with that bill by whatever Private sector entity you can name.

    So, in the interest of throwing another Blue Sky Idea into the mix, how about this for your consideration: Toll or no toll, we in the east end don’t fill up the section east of York St with volume because we don’t all need it. We have faster options that lead us to points further north on the DVP, thus avoiding the volume there. And it is too short a section since the Leslieville section came down so we are never going to bother with it if we have to pay a toll that only gets us from the Parkway to the Jarvis ramp. This is where we differ from the West end. We only have about a third of the downtown to drive across to get to the core. From the west, many have two thirds to traverse to get to the financial core.

    SO, take down the section east of York St, repair ALL of the rest of the Gardiner and while it is closed for repairs, install the ramp technology for tolling. Hell, you could even install plain old “Toonie Baskets” like they have on tolled interstate highways. When you re-open, the tolls, even if only a loonie or a toonie, would be in place and bringing the City anywhere from $200 to $300 million every year. That’s at a minimum. That’s what makes the whole enterprise a very clearly recoverable loan in the same sense that the current Union Station revitalization is being done by the City as a recoverable loan after the long, disastrous private sector bid process left us high, dry and out of pocket.

    Footnotes:
    1)The rail problems that Cllr Vaughan thinks exist at the foot of the DVP actually do not. I checked.

    2)The fact that we only get help from the Feds if we go with a privatization model should not be the reason to privatize. If selling such key infrastructure was such a good deal for cities, the Harper government would not have to dangle such a big fat carrot as the cumbersome and expensive P3 fund to get us to do it. And let’s look at that carrot. The first hidden cost comes when we don’t get anything from their fund unless we contribute some of our own debt, anyway. The interest costs will be ours to pay later, oh wait, shoot, we just gave away the annual toll revenue that would have repaid that interest to the Gardiner’s new private owner.

    3)I believe Torontonians are only now talking about tolls because they want to see it paying for a better city. Today and every day, not just one time. Handing the profits of the 407 highway off to the Private Sector has not given us a better Province. In fact, they are so desperate for cash that even though that tolled highway is turning a profit for another year for the Private entity that runs it, the Province is desperately hunting for a place to put another sad gambling palace up to scrape a little more casino money out of us sad gullible citizens.

    • Ron Wheeler says:

      Thank you for the reasoned explanation Shelley. Perhaps next time you would consider using a forum such as this to express and explain your position rather than shooting off a cryptic objection on twitter and Facebook.

      Once again….a complete cost analysis should be demanded and pursued to provide an option that makes practical and feasible sense.

      And to Slikster…you call on Denzil’s effort to whip city staff is to be applauded.

    • whatafoolbelieves says:

      Ms Carroll you make a wonderful argument if your name is Paula Fletcher Ward 30 all those things you hold for Leslieville are true, it is east/west commuting for the most part.
      Nevertheless you are Shelley Carroll Ward 33 The Peanut and commuting is north/south eg 404,Vic Pk, Don Mills, Leslie. All of those arteries eventually are in proximity of dumping commuter traffic on the DVP and by extension the east end of the Gardiner..It might be prudent for you to consider your Ward constituents anfd their traffic diffidulties before expanding your thought process to other wards.

  2. Sonny says:

    The Gardiner should be brought down over time. I would like to see those right wingers from the West have to pay to come into work in Toronto. Maybe the Province will grant more money to Toronto for subsidizing the wealthy commuters…

  3. funeralfire says:

    Many large cities when having a large expense on a roadway like the Gardiner would set up temporary tolls. They simply collect tolls until the debt from the construction job is done then remove the tolls and move on to the next project. This way the expense is paid by the people who use it.

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