What do you say we kill this Scarborough subway nuttery once and for all? With city council meeting next week to consider the City Manager’s subway report it requested back in July, there seems to be a real opportunity to put a fucking nail in the coffin of this nonsense. A silver bullet through its already malfunctioning heart.
We can chalk the underground madness up to a giddy summer revelry. The heat and mint juleps got to our better judgement. Our collective fever’s now broken and we can come to our senses. A little bit self-conscious about our embarrassing outburst of irrationality but, hey, who hasn’t at least once followed a very bad idea down the rabbit hole?
“The purpose of this report,” city staff writes, “is to inform Council that the terms and conditions for supporting the McCowan Corridor Subway have been met with the exception of the $1.8 billion ($2010) commitment from the Province [italics mine].”
“With the exception of”, in fact, negates the very claim that statement makes of all the terms and conditions for supporting city council’s preferred subway route in the McCowan corridor. Not all the funding from the two senior levels of government has been secured and, in an ideal world, that would automatically kill the subway plan and revert back to the LRT. There was a lot of chatter about the poison pill motions that were voted in favour of at the July council meeting that would ensure the city wouldn’t go ahead with building a subway without all the other money it asked for in place.
Taken at their word, a majority of council is obligated to vote against a Scarborough subway.
Yeah. My eye just popped a blood vessel writing that last sentence.
Even assuming that ain’t going to happen, the city manager’s table for the necessary property tax increases to pay for the city’s portion for the subway build, .5% in each of the next two years and .6% the year after that, dedicated solely to the Scarborough subway, should give many of the councillors pause.
Let’s call those numbers a best case scenario. It doesn’t include cost overruns, interest rate increases, credit rating changes, capital maintenances, etc., etc., that the city would have to assume with a subway (that it wouldn’t with the LRT). We’ll refer to the city manager’s numbers as ‘for starters’.
Even if they were spot on, these property tax hikes will pressure not only other demands for revenue tools to build more necessary transit infrastructure throughout the GTA as part of the province’s Big Move but for the basic ongoing operations of the TTC and its capital budget for things like state of good repair. The TTC chair is already demanding more money for the transit system after years of a flat lined budget from the city and fare increases. In an atmosphere where voters are still only very reluctantly willing to consider new taxes and levies to go to enhanced transit infrastructure, saddling the public with property tax increases for a vanity project of dubious need seems counter-productive to the wider goal.
Never mind the kind of pressure this would put on the rest of the city budget. You start with a .5% property tax increase for the Scarborough subway, how much more will council be willing to stomach to help pay for other basic city services and capital outlays? Going into an election year, it’s difficult to imagine many councillors signing up for the kind of bump needed in order to avoid cutting programs and other infrastructure needs.
And that’s what this is all about, all that it’s ever been about. Next year’s election. A handful of councillors have bought into the notion that being on the bad side of the Scarborough subway issue will imperil their political future. Fearful in the face of an angry Ford Nation, they’ve traded in common sense for a slab of red meat to feed their constituents. They’ve jeopardized the city’s transit planning prospects for nothing more than individual advantage.
But I truly believe they’ve miscalculated.
The biggest proponent for the Scarborough subway has put himself into an awkward position, re-election wise. Mayor Ford has held steadfast in his view folks can only afford a property tax increase of .25% and not one per cent more. Clearly, that’s well short of what’s needed. So, he’s either going to have to get behind a tax increase he’s made a career of railing against or be a subway supporter in name only, unwilling to cough up the dough to make it happen.
While logic hasn’t always been the strongest suit of those supporting the mayor, I think there’s another factor his council colleagues need to consider going into next week’s transit debate. Just how potent a force is Mayor Ford going to be in 2014? With the news of his occasional driver and full time friend Sandro Lisi’s arrest Tuesday on drug related charges and today’s whammie about the police following the mayor’s movement with air surveillance, it’s increasingly impossible to see him remaining a viable candidate outside of his hardest of hardcore support.
So let’s move beyond the crass political calculations of this transit debate where one of the variables is the mayor and his Scarborough Deserves A Subway legion. In a letter to the city earlier this week, Metrolinx once again points out that the preferred option remains the Scarborough LRT. More stops providing better access to more people. No property tax increases to build it. No money burned in sunk costs. All costs overruns and other financial changes picked up by the province. Ready to go now and not 5 years down the road.
Andy Byford, the TTC CEO, has been very emphatic if diplomatic in pointing out that the next subway Toronto actually needs is a relief line, providing transit users in the north and east of the city (including, yes, Scarborough) a less congested route into the downtown core that by-passes the already at-capacity Yonge line. It could easily be called the Scarborough Relief Line. Here, Scarborough. There’s your subway.
A genuine do-over has presented itself to city council next week. An opportunity for councillors to re-right a previous mistake, made with the worst of intentions but under a lot of self-inflicted duress. That’s a situation that doesn’t happen very often in life. Let’s make the most of it and put this sad, sorry spectacle behind us.
— hopefully submitted by Cityslikr