Once Upon A Time There Was A Transit Plan…

August 12, 2015

Transit planning in Toronto is becoming more and more like one of the fables of yore. Tales told to teach children a valuable moral lesson. grimmFailure to absorb said counsel would result in rather… a-hem, a-hem… grim doings like throwing an old blind woman into an oven or cutting off your toe to fit into a shoe. Not so much happy-endings as, can you fucking believe what just happened?!

Read yesterday’s Toronto Star article from Royson James, Politicians ignore disaster coming down the track, and decipher the moral of the story, if you dare. Massaged ridership numbers. Deliberately downplayed costs. Overt political meddling in the planning process. What glimmer of enlightenment do you glean, standing as we do right now in the dark, foreboding forest?

Here, Little Red Riding Hood. Take this basket of goodies to your ailing grandmother. grimm1Take the shortcut to grannie’s house through that wolf-infested thicket of woods.

What could possibly go wrong?

Which is exactly where we’re sitting, waiting for staff reports to come back this fall on the feasibility of Mayor John Tory’s signature SmartTrack plan as well as the alignment of choice for the Scarborough subway. Here, Toronto. Take this basket of goodies to your transit ailing system. Please ignore the wolves at your door.

What could possibly go wrong?

Now, it’s easy to cast the villain in this tale. Emerging from under the bridge, Rob “Subways, Subways, Subways” Ford plays the ogre. Once with the perceived power to do so (what politicians like to call their ‘mandate’) in his grasp, he killed off a perfectly good and provincially funded transit plan with no realistic alternative in place. grimm3Just killed it dead. Because he could.

The fact is, however, Rob Ford is nothing more than the inciting incident of this story. His madness could’ve been stopped in its tracks by people wielding far more power than he did. While city council was probably correct in not forcing him to bring his Transit City Dead motion immediately up for a vote during his brief but impressive ascendancy, and handing him an “official” stamp of approval, others could’ve stood firm in the face of his onslaught.

That is the real moral of this story. Political cravenness and calculation in the face of inchoate populism. Good governance brushed aside for good poll numbers. Doing the right thing? Define the word ‘right’.

Lies added to lies, multiplied by lies to the power of three. Compounded lies, all in the service of expediency and to the detriment of public policy. Everyone became a subway champion (under and above ground). Remember. grimm2Don’t take what you think is the best course possible. Take the one that’s most popular.

That’s the lesson of Toronto’s transit fable. Have no conviction. Disregard facts and evidence. Cater first and foremost to popular opinion. (I mean, come on. It’s not like I’m the only person advocating we burn the witch, am I right? Burn the witch! Burn the witch!!) Never, no matter what, whatever you do, stand up to a bully especially if he really, really popular. No good can come of it.

It’s a morality tale devoid of any morality or ethics. A story with far more villains than heroes. Taking and retaining power is all that matters, kids. If you want to get ahead in this life, best void yourselves of scruples as soon as you can. Integrity and principles are for suckers, boys and girls. Learn that now and save yourself a boatload of anguish and misery later.

The End.

grimly submitted by Cityslikr


Transit Treachery

March 4, 2015

Our list of municipally elected transit villains is well known. Why, just in the past 4+ years alone, names fly off the top of your head. villainRob Ford, Karen Stintz, Glenn De Baeremaeker, and all the subway lovers who enabled them. We elected them. We re-elected them. They are our responsibility, our bad.

Yet, I am going to make a bold, perhaps controversial assertion here.

They are but bit players in this sad, sad drama we call transit planning here in Toronto. Supporting actors in our mad tragi-farce, farcedy. Wilfully self-unaware fall guys, the lot of them. Patsies. Patsies, not pasties. Mmmmmmm… pasties.

The real culprits here, the progenitors of this city’s — the region’s — diseased public transit, Ian McShane’s Teddy Bass to Ben Kingsley’s Don Logan, is undoubtedly the provincial government. Ultimately, Queen’s Park pulls all the strings, fiscally, jurisdictionally. Theirs is the final yea or no although they would demur, preferring to project an image of sage partnership with its municipalities. Who us? We’re just sitting here minding our business, happily signing the cheques. Are you sure you don’t want a subway with that?

Follow the timeline with me on our current misadventure.benkingsley

In 2007, the city and province announced a grand plan, Transit City, as a step in the right direction to dealing with Toronto’s increasingly problematic congestion. We often forget that the project was more than just new LRT lines, 7 of those in total, running some 120 kilometres. New bus rapid transit routes were also in the mix along with increases to existing services. Looking at the original Transit City map, what is immediately apparent is the plan’s scope of bringing better transit into the long under-served inner suburban areas of the city.

Back then, the provincial government was picking up the tab for Transit City as part of their bigger regional transit vision, MoveOntario 2020. Unfortunately, the economic crisis and meltdown got in the way and, more attentive to politics than good governance, it scaled back Transit City to just 4 LRT lines. villain7Argue as we might about if the move made any economic sense but what we can say with a fair degree of certainty is that this change of plans instilled in Transit City a sense impermanence, assailability. Just more lines drawn on a map.

December 10th, 2010. Newly elected mayor, Rob Ford, unilaterally declares Transit City dead. That noise you heard coming from Queen’s Park? **Crickets**

Again, we can debate in hindsight whether or not city council should’ve stepped in and demanded the mayor bring the matter to a vote. Ford was as popular as he would ever be at this point. Had city council pushed, he may well have received the go-ahead to rip up the master agreement with Metrolinx and officially bury Transit City. Whether through wisdom or pure shocked inertia, city council stood pat, allowing the mayor enough time and rope to leave himself dangling.

The inaction on Queen’s Park in defense of Transit City is equally opaque and open to question. Remember though, they are the big bosses, the final arbiters, the holders of transit plans in their hands. They could’ve stepped in and stopped the insanity in its tracks. That power was theirs.villain1

Instead, they blinked. Deeply unpopular in the polls and facing almost certain defeat in the general election to be held the following year and not looking to have to face down the self-proclaimed Ford Nation flank in Toronto, the Liberal government shrugged and told the mayor and city council, Whatever you want to do. (It probably also didn’t hurt that any delays to the transit plan formerly known as Transit City would save the deeply indebted Liberals from immediately having to spend any money.)

Unsurprisingly, Rob Ford stumbled and fell flat on his face. City council seized control of the transit file from him. With only a 2 year delay to show for it, some semblance of order seemed to be on the horizon. Of course, it wasn’t. City council, led by a TTC commissioner eyeing the mayor’s office in a couple years, began dialogue on another transit plan, mostly pie-in-the-sky, unfunded schemes called One City. More lines on a map including – what the hell was that? – another Scarborough subway, this one a replacement for the proposed Transit City LRT extension of the Bloor-Danforth line.

It bears repeating at this point that, once more, the Liberal government could’ve put their foot down and put an end to the discussion. villain3They have the power to do that, rule by fiat pretty much. That is the nature of our municipal-provincial relationship. They didn’t, thereby perpetuating the farcical shitshow.

They’d been reduced to a minority status and their grip on power was tenuous. No false moves that might embolden the opposition to trigger an election. So just more of the, Whatevs.

But this is where the provincial government’s motives get really, really murky. During a by-election in Scarborough-Guildwood, the Liberals dubbed their candidate, Mitzi Hunter, the ‘subway champion’. Sorry, what?! Increasingly, Scarborough MPPs (many of whom were former Toronto city councillors) went public with their preference for extending the Bloor-Danforth line with a subway rather than LRT. Everybody now had picked up the Rob Ford chant of Subways! Subways! Subways! Scarborough deserves a subway!

It’s like the boss, when you ask if you can cut out early to take your kid to soccer practice, tells you ‘no’ while winking and nodding his head ‘yes’. villain2No. *wink, wink, wink, wink* Quitting time is 5pm. *wink, wink, wink, wink* You cannot take your kid to soccer practice. *Nodding ‘yes’*

So it went. City council took the bait, cancelled plans for the fully funded by the province Scarborough LRT, taking upon itself all the risks and liabilities of building a subway instead, beginning with about $75 million it was on the hook for for cancelling the LRT plan, the plan the province covertly encouraged them to cancel. The Liberals scored a majority government last June and then pretty openly expressed its preference for who Toronto should elect as its next mayor, John Tory, a candidate with transit plans of his own, SmartTrack which, just so coincidentally, meshed nicely with the province’s own regional rail plans, and a candidate with no plans to reopen the Scarborough subway debate if elected.villain4

Why do I feel the need to revisit this recent, sordid history now?

On Monday at the Executive Committee’s budget meeting, buried oddly near the bottom of the 2015 Water and Waste Water Rate Supported Budget, a budget that doesn’t usually get the same spotlight its operating and capital budget brethren receive, a report surfaced revealing that the city and Metrolinx (the provincial transit body) had been negotiating a $95 million bill Toronto was expected to pay for infrastructure upgrades that were happening along the Union-Pearson-Georgetown rail link. Hey! You want out-of-town visitors and commuters moving smoothly around your city? Pay up. That shit don’t come for free.

So, a city struggling to balance its operating budget (which it is provincially mandated to do) and with limited access to revenue to do that (and an even more limited propensity to access the tools it does have, admittedly) villain5is being told to come up with nearly $100 million to help pay for infrastructure improvements that will ultimately more directly benefit another level of government with increased taxation through economic growth. Oh, and the cost overruns on the main terminal of that rail link? You’re on your own, Toronto.

It is clearly evident that this city is more than capable of fucking itself. What’s becoming less apparent is why we have to continue putting up with a second fucking from a senior level of government more concerned about its own well-being than the municipalities it is purportedly looking out for. As my good friend MookieG77 said on the Twitter yesterday, this is just another form of provincial downloading onto cities.

While the idea of pushing for provincial status for the GTA remains quixotically out on the fringes of political discourse, it’s just not seeming that crazy an idea currently. For 20 years now, Queen’s Park has not acted much like a partner, albeit a senior partner in its relationship with Toronto. The dynamic is more like an occupier. villain6Happy to take our money but less interested in providing sound oversight or reasonable leadership unless it provides some tangible gain for them in return.

If we’re going to go down in some sort of ignominious flame out, let it at least be one of our own making and not imposed by a government who views us as little more than a liability, a vote rich and money laden liability.

rebelliously submitted by Cityslikr


Subway Ground Down

January 28, 2015

I really don’t want to be writing this. Like the Toronto Star’s Ed Keenan, I’m tired of it, of the Scarborough subway debate. Just as likely, you’re sick of it too. notthisshitagainThere’s gathered a great storm of ennui, a wave of yawn. Just Get On With It has now become the default position. Build Something!

But…but…There’s always the but.

In Keenan’s article today he points to a recent Forum Research poll that shows, given the full options of what Scarborough would get if we spent $3+ billion on transit there, 61% of Torontonians would pick the Scarborough LRT extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway line. A healthy majority of those living in Scarborough too favoured the LRT option given to them.

Just yesterday, as I was railing about the $75-85 million the city is in the midst of handing over to the province via Metrolinx for the work already underway on the Scarborough LRT that council cancelled, I cited a Leger poll from back in February 2014 that showed similar numbers. 61% of respondents preferred the Scarborough LRT option over the subway. 56% of those living in Scarborough leaned that way also.

So why the fuck are we here, spending billions of dollars building something the majority of Torontonians don’t want?

Public enemy number 1, of course, is Rob Ford. Subways, subways, subways, am I right? scarboroughsubwaybellowThe people want subways.

Not to diminish his role in the mess but let me say this. At the very least, Rob Ford and to a lesser extent, his brother Doug, truly believed that subways were the way to go. As committed car drivers, public transit was something of a puzzle to them. They hated streetcars that blocked up the middle of the roads. Buses they tolerated because they were easier to get around. But underground transit? Out of sight, out mind, out of the way.

Because the folks voted for him, giving him a mandate, they too wanted subways. Subways, subways, subways! Like the classic bullshitter that he is, Rob Ford (and again, to a lesser extent his brother) actually believed the bullshit he spouted. He didn’t need no stinkin’ polls to tell him what he knew in his heart, heard every day from the folks he met in line at Tim Horton’s.

This is not to excuse him. He served as the bullhorn for the subway cause. The self-appointed guardian of the taxpayers’ nickels and dimes stubbornly contributed to throwing away of billions of dollars of their money to further a cause he willfully knew nothing about.notthisshitagain1

The larger question though is, how, with these numbers, 4+ years after the debate started, 4+ years after the People Want Subways campaign slogan metastasized into a corrupted conventional wisdom, we’re determined to plunge ahead into this madness? The villainous list is long. Rob Ford becomes little more than the inciting incident in this story, a preening, comic foil Malvolio.

The true monsters in this sorry-assed tale sit up at Queen’s Park. First in the form of the skittish Dalton McGuinty Liberal government, seemingly dead in the polls and facing an election in 2011. In the face of the first (and only true surge) of Ford Nation, they quickly buckled when the newly elected mayor unilaterally declared Transit City dead. Hey. If you say so. Whatever. They would survive the initial assault, holding on to power but reduced to a minority government.

But imagine if instead they had stood their ground, stood up in the face of what was little more than a noise-making machine. Was subway support really ever as strong as the mayor and other Scarborough politicians came to claim it was? Certainly Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker didn’t think so in 2012 when city council wrestled the transit file from the mayor and re-instated Transit City.

At this point of time, it seemed cooler heads had prevailed. Subways, subways, subways had been revealed to be little more than the dying bluster of a mayor who’d soon be sidelined to little more than a cranky observer. Pheee-ew, right? We narrowly dodged that bullet.

But then…

What the hell happened?

Well, here’s where the story gets nothing short of clusterfuckery.

New leader of the provincial Liberals, new premier, new beginning, we’re told. They start to get their sea legs, win a by-election or two including one in Scarborough-Guildwood with Mitzie “The Subway Champion” Hunter. A by-election where, curiously, her NDP opponent, former TTC chair Adam Giambrone, an early Transit City advocate, docilely nods in a similar subway support direction.

Suddenly everybody loves subways! notthisshitagain2Egged on by Scarborough MPPs, city council lurches once more, agreeing to scrap the Scarborough LRT in favour of a subway. A subway the city will now have to contribute to building and maintaining. Scarborough deserves nothing less than a subway, we are told.

Except, still, with the options laid out for them, residents would opt for the LRT.

Despite that, here we are. The Liberals are back as a majority government. They now have both the city and federal government pitching in to build a Scarborough subway. They have a new mayor who, despite his claim to prudent fiscal management, campaigned on a pledge not to reopen the subway debate and is perfectly content to just piss away 10s of millions of dollars in order for that not to happen. In addition to which, his signature transit plan, SmartTrack, is offering even more city money to help the provincial government build their regional transit system.

And all the Scarborough pro-subway city councillors who ran for re-election last year are back. (Interestingly, so is the one very vocal pro-LRT Scarborough councillor, Paul Ainslie, easily re-elected.) notthisshitagain4The debate is over. The people have spoken. They want subways.

Except, apparently, they don’t. Or more precisely, if given an option, they’d take LRTs. It’s the politicians who want subways.

If there’s a more salient example of why we’ve become so cynical and disengaged, I can’t immediately think of one. It’s little wonder we’re bored of this debate. Our elected representatives aren’t listening to us. What’s the use of continued talking?

repeatedly submitted by Cityslikr


All So Depressingly Familiar

June 2, 2014

Sadly, none of it comes as much of a surprise. For anyone following along with the disaster of a transit debate since about 2010, screaminginfrustrationsince the then newly elected mayor of Toronto declared Transit City dead, little of John Lorinc’s Spacing series seems at all revelatory or shockingly improbable. But seeing more of the gory details, right there in black and white bytes, makes for some seriously disheartening and infuriating reading.

The sheer arrogance of the principals involved in the Scarborough subway/LRT debate is nothing short of monstrous. From Premier Kathleen Wynne, her Transportation and Infrastructure Minister, Glen Murrary, to councillors Karen Stintz and Glenn De Baeremaeker, all seemed to operate under the presumption that their own personal political survival or advancement trumped good transit planning. Expert advice was ignored or buried. Numbers, in terms of projected costs and ridership, were massaged. shellgameSound arguments and reasoned decision making replaced by stoking the fires of regional resentment.

“It will be over my dead body that Scarborough goes wanting for high speed, rapid transit,” Glen Murray said last summer. Subways, folks. People want subways, subways, subways.

While transit activists and government appointed commissions did their upmost to promote a rational discussion about transit building in this city, elected officials at both Queen’s Park and at Toronto City Hall undercut all that work and goodwill by quietly scheming behind the scenes to push a Scarborough subway plan that made absolutely no sense except for trying to ensure some electoral advantage. friendlyfireIt’s one thing to fight a fight against a known enemy. It’s an entirely different matter when you’re knee-capped from behind by supposedly friendly-fire.

This is the root of political apathy. When good governance is sacrificed at the altar of electoral expediency. It’s not leadership. It’s not public service. It’s the very reason so many people are fed up with politics.

Perhaps what’s most appalling about this entire clusterfuck is how those many of us hoped would stand opposed to the popular fiction that arose around this post-Transit City debate — that the only worthwhile form of transit to build is the underground kind of transit which is nothing more than a car driver’s fantasy – not only cowered in the face of it but did their best to help propagate it. For a by-election seat here, a mayoral run there, in reaction to robo-calls from a spent political force, a city’s desperate and long overdue need for an infusion of public transit has been jeopardized. whackamoleBecause if Scarborough deserves a subway, what about residents along Finch Avenue West or Sheppard Avenue East? Why should they suffer under the ignominy of 2nd-class transit?

Once you pull that thread, you wind up now having to contend with the likes of the Sheppard Subway Action Coalition (h/t CodeRedTO), another campaign spreading false and misleading information about transit choices many of us had thought already decided on. It’s policy whack-a-mole. A game played not just by hack politicians like Rob Ford but every politician prioritizing their career over judicious, fact-based governance.

Back in 2009, the provincial government restructured the regional transit planning body, Metrolinx, fictionalicejpgbooting elected officials from the board in order to rid regional transit planning of any whiff of politics. It was a laudable goal in intention made laughable in implementation. Over the past 4 years, transit planning in Toronto has been about nothing but politics. Bad, craven, self-serving politics, at that.

If that old maxim is true, that we get the politicians we deserve, unfortunately what seems to follow, is we also get the transit we deserve. Remember that, the next time you’re waiting for what seems like forever for the next bus or crammed tightly into that subway car. There’s nobody else to blame for that than ourselves.

indignantly submitted by Cityslikr


Giving Ourselves A Wedgie

September 14, 2013

I was watching the National’s At Issue panel Thursday night – I believe it behooves me to occasionally seek out what white people are saying about current events, talkingheadsespecially the ones who only have regular recourse to a national newspaper once or twice a week – when the topic of the charter of Quebec values came up.

As a godless heathen, it’s a subject I’ve largely avoided paying much attention to. People and their religious symbolism is something of a mystery to me. But live and let live, I say. As long as no one is forcing me into a garment I have no interest in wearing, have at it. I will keep my views to myself except to note that if a crucifix is regarded as a cultural object maybe so too is a hijab.

But anyhoo…

My interest in the chat was peaked when the Toronto Star’s Chantal Hébert suggested the whole thing was little more than a wedge issue for the Parti Québécois. A way to galvanize the sovereigntist vote, largely outside of Montreal, in order to form a majority government. wedgeissuDivide and conquer, and all that.

Again, I don’t know enough about that particular issue to weigh in further than I already have but wedge politics, am I right? The surest sign a politician or party has run out of positive ideas. As was stated on the show last night, wedge politics is the evil twin of good policy. It benefits a few at the expense of the majority.

We’re watching it right now a province away here in Toronto with the never-ending saga of the Scarborough subway. This has been a wedge issue used by Mayor Ford to keep suburban and downtown voters at each others’ throats. When the words ‘deserves’ and ‘2nd class’ are bandied about in favour of something, you know you’re dealing with a wedge issue. There’s no rational or logical reason behind it. It doesn’t stand up to the light of day yet you can’t put a stake through its heart to kill it for good.

Like any effective wedge issue, the Scarborough subway is not good policy. robfordstreetcarsIt’s good politics in the sense of a useful tool to maintain a faithful base of support but terrible long term public policy.

It ultimately wouldn’t matter if the mayor was left to his own devices to try and use suburban subways for re-election. If everybody recognized it for what he was doing and just went ahead with the business of carrying out good policy. Unfortunately, too many politicians have reared up in fright, trembling at the prospect of being painted as anti-subway, anti-Scarborough, anti-suburb.

And it’s not just councillors looking out for their own best interests. The provincial government too has scrambled desperately to get on side, even to the point of turning their back on a transit plan years in the making. So determined are they to be seen as Scarborough subway proponents champions that even the premier is sabre-rattling her intention to ignore whatever city council decides and disregard the signed Master Agreement that’s still in place stating that a LRT line is to be built from the Kennedy subway station up to Sheppard Avenue. Replacing that with a shorter, 2 stop subway makes absolutely no sense, fiscally or transit wise.

“We will keep our commitment to the people of Scarborough to build the subway in Scarborough…,” the premier proclaimed on Thursday.wedgeshot

Whether or not it makes any sense. We said we would (at least as far back as the August 1st by-election campaign). The people of Scarborough said we should. That’s good enough for us.

Is it a surprise to anyone that voters have grown cynical and apathetic? Our politicians can’t even be bothered pretending that it’s not self-interest driving them rather than leadership or good governance. Who needs bold ideas when you can just exploit differences and divvy up just enough of the electoral spoils to maintain power?

I’d be much more indignant if the tactic didn’t work so well. Politicians wouldn’t do it if it didn’t, right? The question is, why do we so easily allow ourselves to be put into warring camps and exploited for political gain? In Quebec, I guess there’s a certain degree of tribalism at work. wedgiePure lainism and all that. But even that’s showing some serious cracks in it.

How did we become so tribal over an ill-advised subway extension?

It really doesn’t seem like something to circle the wagons over especially when there’s a much better alternative in place. Yet here we are, ready to plunge forward because enough of the potential electorate has been persuaded they’re being short-changed and are deserving of better, whatever that means. I guess if we’re simply looking out for number one, if we can’t see past our own little shires, there’s no reason to expect better instincts from our politicians.

splitly submitted by Cityslikr


Ask And Ye Shall Receive

September 5, 2013

Late Tuesday afternoon, we were told that the provincial Minister of Transportation, Glen Murray, would be holding a press conference the following day with important news regarding a certain Scarborough subway. raisedeyebrowEyebrows raised. Oh really? I honestly thought they’d let that die after having survived the by-election, relatively unscathed. No federal funding forthcoming. The mayor hasn’t so much as lifted a finger to find some additional financing. It was a great idea. The Liberal government really want to get it up and going but… alas, it was just not meant to be.

Oh well. That ol’ LRT is just gonna have to do, I guess…

Then came word yesterday morning before the minister’s press conference that, no, in fact, subway plans were still alive and kicking. Minister Murray and some faceless folks over at Metrolinx had been hard at it, busily revisiting and revising, ahead of the city council imposed September 30th drop deadline to deliver up a Scarborough subway. scribblingNo siree, bob. Queen’s Park wasn’t playing politics with this. They said they were the subway champions. They will be the subway champions.

And boom!

There it is.

The Scarborough subway, running from Kennedy station all the way up to… Scarborough Town Centre?

What kind of holy fuckery is this?!

The good Minister of Transportation couldn’t be serious, could he?

This story must be some sort of feint, a PR exercise to lower expectations, lower than low, so that the real plan they’ve been concocting throughout the summer will emerge, smelling all fresh and rosy. amimissingsomethingThere is no way in fucking hell the minister, this Member of Provincial Parliament for Toronto Centre can step up with anything even close to a straight face and announce a $1.4 billion expenditure on a subway that runs an even shorter distance than the much reviled RT now runs. He can’t possibly re-route the fucking the thing along the RT route when much heated debate had been expended at city council in June about interrupting that service and using a shitload of buses in its place while the subway was being built.

It. Just. Couldn’t. Be.

We are announcing that we are putting $1.4 billion into extending the subway to Scarborough Town Centre.

Apparently, I was wrong. Hardly the first time I’ve missed the mark, predicting which way a political wind will blow. Probably not the last. amimissingsomething1[Note to self: stop predicting things.]

I must not be seeing the bigger picture on all this. The one beyond the first blush of pure political brinkmanship, of simply some demented bumper car ride initiated back in 2010, on his very first official day of work when Mayor Ford unilaterally declared Transit City ‘dead’. This can’t be the end point. The Scarborough subway people have been clamoring for, Gollum-like, as some sort of symbol of equality.

“Today is a great day, they’re getting subways in Scarborough,” Mayor Ford pronounced. “We’re getting subways for Scarborough. I campaigned on it. Promise made, promise kept.”

That’s it? Subway Supporters of Scarborough (SSS™©®) are that easily appeased? No new extension further into subway-less regions of Scarborough. Simply a re-jigging of a pre-existing line. Burying (maybe) what is now elevated, with fewer stops and a terminus ending before the current one does.

youcanbeseriousIf we’re going to insist on being pandered to, we might want to extract a little more from the arrangement.

As it stands right now, this proposed subway does nothing to help the transit weary in Scarborough. In fact, as a line drawn on a map, it can only exacerbate what problems there are already. Looking at it and listening to its most ardent defenders, it’s hard not to think the only purpose this serves is to mollify those with their noses out of joint over the perceived slight of being subway deprived.

You wanted subways, Scarborough? We gave you subways. Enjoy!

When this discussion first got started, there were grand plans to extend the Sheppard subway east until it met Eglinton where the LRT would all be underground. Once that was in place, we could close the loop, bringing a subway all the way down to meet the Bloor-Danforth subway.

When that idea foundered on the rocks of Where the Fuck Would the Money Come From?, a more modest proposal emerged. Replace the proposed Scarborough LRT with a 3 stop subway, from Kennedy station up to what would be the Sheppard LRT. emptycupNot as all encompassing as the previous plan, and not without its serious concerns but a Scarborough subway nonetheless.

This is what it comes down to? This Sheppard subway redux is the measly result of all the fuss, all the indignation, all the foot-stomping and petulant screaming? We need a comprehensive transit network plan for a woefully under-served quarter or so of this city but we’ll settle for two lousy subway stops in the one spot in Scarborough that isn’t faring too badly when it comes transit service already?

We all can roll our eyes, shake our heads and mutter about the uselessness and self-serving of our politicians of every stripe and at all three levels of government. In this story alone, there is plenty of villainy to go around. But if our demands are so easily met, if our expectations and understanding of an issue as fundamental to the proper functioning of this city as public transit is are so superficial and little more than slogan thin that we can be assuaged with a token gesture which qualifies as nothing more than in name only, well, come on, folks. scratchedbellyThere’s nobody else but ourselves to blame.

The people wanted subways. The people got a subway. If all we ask of our elected representatives is for them to pander to us, we will be pandered to. That’s one prediction I’m fairly confident I’m right on.

 — postulatingly submitted by Cityslikr


The Unravelling

August 30, 2013

Let’s not think of Mayor Ford’s “things are unravelling as they should” assessment of the Scarborough subway plans as some sort of goofy, normcrosbyNorm Crosby malapropism. A funny little slip of the tongue. Utterly meaningless except for the mocking opportunities it presents.

Obviously, he didn’t really mean to say that.

Or did he?

What if that statement was just as frank an admission as the previous day when the mayor admitted to smoking a lot of pot? How are the plans for building the Scarborough subway coming along, Mr. Mayor? Unravelling, as they should.

This would come as a surprise to almost no one except maybe anyone who really believed that anybody actually intended to build the subway, either as an extension of the Bloor-Danforth line or the mayor’s earlier Sheppard subway pipe dream. Unravelling? Of course. None of this was ever supposed to ravel in the first place.

Signs of the unravelling began almost as soon as city council voted to convert the former Transit City LRT plans for the B-D extension to a subway instead. catsoutofthebagFull of provisos and contingencies that had to be met before proceeding in earnest, the council vote had a built-in self-destruct mechanism, beginning with the demand for $1.8 billion from the province which, in fact, was nearly an additional half a billion dollars above what had already been agreed to.

(That math? The $1.8 billion already marked for the Scarborough LRT, some $400 million for the Kennedy station redesign that was going to happen with either an LRT or subway. Council wanted that $400 million plus another $400 million.)

The day after the vote, the provincial transportation minister, Glen Murray called a press conference for a big announcement, complete with Subway Champion and Liberal candidate for the Scarborough-Guildwood August 1st by-election, Mitzi Hunter. Hey everybody! Guess what! hediditThe province is giving $1.4 billion for the subway extension! Hoo-rah!!

But even Mayor Ford stated up front the subway dream would be dead if the province didn’t come up with the fuller $1.8 billion. Cue the finger-pointing and blame gaming as the clock started to run down before council had to make another final decision. This time we mean it, man.

Then yesterday, Minister Murray dialed up the damping down of subway expectations, suggesting that the federal money needed to build the subway probably wasn’t in the cards. He plans on meeting the federal transportation minister, Lisa Raitt, this week [update: a meeting now cancelled by Raitt, according to Murray.] but didn’t seem to be holding out much hope. “When you put a 416 area code in front of a transit project, the cheques disappear.”

Oh dear.

For his part, Mayor Ford was planning to talk with the prime minister last night at a fundraising BBQ. As of this morning, no news on how that all worked out. pretendingPerhaps everybody’s looking to bury the good news later this afternoon, ahead of the long weekend. As politicians are want to do.

So it unravels slowly toward the September 30th deadline council set to have all the funding questions answered. If the money’s not in place? We’ll just revert back to the original LRT plans, again. No harm, no foul. Everybody concerned can hold their heads high and tell the public that they tried to build them their Scarborough subway but somebody else failed them.

Local politicians can point at the province and say they didn’t step up to the plate. The province can return fire, claiming it paid what it promised which is still the lion’s share of the price tag and, besides, if the city wants a subway so bad, maybe it needs to think a little harder about generating more of the revenue. youdontsayAnd what about the feds? Why aren’t they at the table, putting some skin in the game? Unsurprisingly, Ottawa will continue to look the other way. I’m sorry, what? Were you talking to me?

So I think Mayor Ford made no mistake when he spoke to the issue. Things are most definitely unravelling as they should.

unsurprisingly submitted by Cityslikr